The Story of colonisation in America may be summed up in one word—energy. While such muSt be the ¿lory in every like enterprise, there seemed to have been something well-nigh superhuman in the American case. While, as we have seen, at the firSt date appearing above the colonics had but secured a firm foothold, at the latter a nation had been made and was ready to be born.
Climate undoubtedly had its part—that American4 air and sudden changes are exciting, or at leaSt Stimulating, is evidenced by the whole character of our people.
But did not the opportunity presented have ¿till greater effect? Save for the few, those who came to our shores had, in one direction or another, been among the "held down." Freedom, both to succeed and to carry out one's own ideas, seemed at laSt at hand. Naturally some prospered better than others, so that an aristocracy of success developed in every colony— for in essentials humanity does not change—"plus ga change, plus c'e$t la meme chose " But, given ability and "luck," there was here nothing, at leaSt, to forbid any man taking his rightful place.
The suppressed religionist—and how many of them were that—was now to find a home where he could worship the God of his conception in his own manner. A very cruel God they imagined often, who damned without Stint for honeSt relaxations or harmless pec cadillos; but so they conceived Him. And so they worshipped Him, and having themselves found freedom, Straightway proceeded to put the yoke of persecution, or ostracism, upon the neck of every other man who did not hold their conception. I need not instance cases—they are too well known. And the Anglican church established itself by law wherever an opportunity was given it to do so and did not prove itself much more tolerant than at home. Indeed, toleration was not eSteemed a virtue in those days and was scarcely practiced elsewhere than in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The rule was to "contend for the faith"—as each of the disputing bodies saw it for themselves—and they contended mightily. We cannot deny that they were earnest.
A grinding fight for life itself was the lot of the firSt settlers, particularly in New England's Stern climate and rock-Strewn soil. And they were poor, those early Pilgrims—small tradesmen, petty farmers, and workmen. Though in their hardness they pitied not themselves or others, our hearts go out to them. But soon, through unceasing energy in this new land, they knew more of comfort than they had ever known before.
The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were in better case and were well supplied with goods. Difficulties were there too, but they succeeded againSt heavy odds in wreSting a living and often wealth from soil or sea.
In the various colonies, adventurers, redemptioners, solid men, all had their chance. Strife for Profit and Power—the two great well-springs of human a&ion— functioned royally. The seaboard settlements became small cities, with many comforts and teeming life; the wilderness was honeycombed as far as Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
And these pioneers were their own mailers: what wonder that independence grew in the spirit of America? For a.new land, production became enormous, not only in agriculture, including rice and tobacco, but in liveStock, furs, lumber and the like. Household art and manufactures flourished; iron was mined. As a people we were self-supporting and prosperous, bringing from abroad only luxuries and foreign products, such as tea, coffee, fine textiles, china and porcelain, fashionable attire, pictures, and European books. And for these we had abundance to ship in return.
Not only the land but the sea gave us wealth. The fishing, whaling, and trading industries grew to large proportions. We built ships and sailed them till England itself grew mutinous at our competition. In times of war between England and other powers, privateering againSt the enemy was profitable indeed, and much loot, including the fineSl silks and wines, found its way into our seaboard homes. In times of peace we carried on a huge trade with the WeSt Indies, Europe, and the EaSt. And—as bunkum finds short shrift in this brief chronicle—be it said that smuggling, slave-trading, privateering, or evasions of the law founded the wealth of many an American family.
If Energy was the keynote of our success, the word Jealousy rather well covers the cause of the growing tension between the homeland and ourselves. On the English side it is of course too embrasive an expression; for the American colonies then occupied a very small portion of the attention of the British nation as a whole: but time and again the enterprise of those colonies proved a thorn in the flesh of British merchants and shippers, and those interests made themselves very di&in<itly heard in government circles.
Of the new America there were, naturally, two conceptions. One of them was this: England had founded, nurtured, and protected the colonies, and they were hers. The founding had been at the sacrifice of life and treasure; it had been done through much enterprise. The recompense to Spain of her conquests in the new continent had been millions in gold. In our success we should, as colonies, be a paying investment, and, to put it succinctly, England "needed the money/' Furthermore and finally, as colonies, we should be well under control. InStead of such a result, we were in many ways becoming competitors, and we were distinctly reStive and rebellious under kindly guidance. So, on the one hand.
On the other, we had through superhuman effort wrought out our own salvation from Starvation, disease, and massacre by the Red Man. If England had protected us from France and Spain, so had our men, as soldiers, fought side by side with Englishmen in foreign wars. Our success was deserved, and we purposed to reap its benefits. We were Englishmen, yet we had no voice in the affairs of England; and, what was much more to the point, regulations and taxes, juSt or unjuSt, might be placed upon ourselves without let or hindrance, because of our lack of representation in the British parliament.
MoSt of the royal governors placed over the provinces were here for their enrichment and that of their satellites: many were autocratic and overbearing, cared little for the welfare of the people, and exploited the province for the benefit of Great Britain. But—the Colonial Assemblies held the purse for the payment of government, and they used their power. When the firSt Continental Congress met, the end was at hand.
Material prosperity and social eminence are not all of life, and the long lift of men juStly to be called great who sprang from American soil and were foremost in its affairs upon the eve of revolution attests the intellectual cultivation we had reached. Some of us, because of the wrong-headedness of his earlier eulogists, formerly rather disliked Washington as an able prig: now that we know the man, he looms as very human and probably greatest of them all. Another, born in New England, and emigrating to Pennsylvania, seems especially typical of America—Benjamin Franklin. MoSt good enterprises, from fire-insurance to philosophical societies, had their beginnings in Philadelphia, and in moSt of these that genial, humourous man, of comfortable figure but tireless energy, was foremoSt. Of lowly origin and in his success pursuing his own ways, he was not greatly in favour among the aristocrats; and, doubtless to his own gratified amusement, was idolised by the politeSt court in Christendom —that of France.
Our progress in the arts was, for a new nation, very satisfactory: in architecture, furniture, and decoration in the Chippendale period, after 1760, it was phenomenal. But that is not yet: we shall now see the furniture of the Queen Anne-Early Georgian type.
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