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- Formation of the Union - 6/46 -

[Sidenote: Economic conditions.]

Thus, partly from circumstances, and partly by their own design, the colonies in 1750 were developing a political life of their own. Changes of dynasties and of sovereigns or of ministers in England little affected them. In like manner their social customs were slowly changing. The abundance of land favored the growth of a yeoman class accustomed to take part in the government. Savage neighbors made necessary a rough military discipline, and the community was armed. The distance from England and an independent spirit threw great responsibility on the assemblies. The general evenness of social conditions, except that some men held more land than others, helped on a democratic spirit. The conditions of the colonies were those of free and independent communities. On the other hand, colonial life was at best retired and narrow; roads were poor, inns indifferent, and travelling was unusual. The people had the boisterous tastes and dangerous amusements of frontiersmen. Outside of New England there were almost no schools, and in New England schools were very poor. In 1750 Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) were the only colleges, and the education which they gave was narrower than that now furnished by a good high school. Newspapers were few and dull. Except in theology, there was no special instruction for professional men. In most colonies lawyers were lightly esteemed, and physicians little known. City life did not exist; Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Charleston were but provincial towns. The colonies had only three industries,--agriculture, the fisheries, and shipping. Tobacco had for more than a century been the staple export. Next in importance was the New England fishery, employing six hundred vessels, and the commerce with the West Indies, which arose out of that industry. Other staple exports were whale products, bread-stuffs, naval stores, masts, and pig-iron. The total value of exports in 1750 is estimated at £814,000. To carry these products a fleet of at least two hundred vessels was employed; they were built in the colonies north of Virginia, and most of them in New England. The vessels themselves were often sold abroad. With the proceeds of the exports the colonists bought the manufactured articles which they prized. Under the Navigation Acts these ought all to have come from England; but French silks, Holland gin, and Martinique sugar somehow found their way into the colonies. The colonists and the home government tried to establish new industries by granting bounties. Thus the indigo culture in South Carolina was begun, and many unsuccessful attempts were made to start silk manufactures and wine raising. The method of stimulating manufactures by laying protective duties was not unknown; but England could not permit the colonies to discriminate against home merchants, and had no desire to see them establish by protective duties competitors for English manufactures. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania did in a few cases lay low protective duties. Except for the sea-faring pursuits of the Northern colonies, the whole continental group was in the same dependent condition. The colonists raised their own food and made their own clothes; the surplus of their crops was sent abroad and converted into manufactured goods.


[Sidenote: Slave trade.] [Sidenote: The sections.]

In appearance the labor system of all the colonies was the same. Besides paid white laborers, there was everywhere a class of white servants bound without wages for a term of years, and a more miserable class of negro slaves. From Nova Scotia to Georgia, in all the West Indies, in the neighboring French and Spanish colonies, negro slavery was in 1750 lawful, and appeared to flourish. Many attempts had been made by colonial legislatures to cut off or to tax the importation of slaves. Sometimes they feared the growing number of negroes, sometimes they desired more revenue. The legislators do not appear to have been moved by moral objections to slavery. Nevertheless, there was a striking difference between the sections with regard to slavery. In all the colonies north of Maryland the winters were so cold as to interfere with farming, and some different winter work had to be provided. For such variations of labor, slaves are not well fitted; hence there were but two regions in the North where slaves were profitably employed as field-hands,--on Narragansett Bay and on the Hudson: elsewhere the negroes were house or body servants, and slaves were rather an evidence of the master's consequence than of their value in agriculture. In the South, where land could be worked during a larger portion of the year, and where the conditions of life were easier, slavery was profitable, and the large plantations could not be kept up without fresh importations. Hence, if any force could be brought to bear against negro slavery it would easily affect the North, and would be resisted by the South; in the middle colonies the struggle might be long; but even there slavery was not of sufficient value to make it permanent.

[Sidenote: Anti-slavery agitation.]

Such a force was found in a moral agitation already under way in 1750. The Puritans and the Quakers both upheld principles which, if carried to their legitimate consequences, would do away with slavery. The share which all men had in Christ's saving grace was to render them brethren hereafter; and who should dare to subject one to another in this earthly life? The voice of Roger Williams was raised in 1637 to ask whether, after "a due time of trayning to labour and restraint, they ought not to be set free?" "How cursed a crime is it," exclaimed old Sewall in 1700, "to equal men to beasts! These Ethiopians, black as they are, are sons and daughters of the first Adam, brethren and sisters of the last Adam, and the offspring of God." On "2d mo. 18, 1688," the Germantown Friends presented the first petition against slavery recorded in American history. By 1750 professional anti-slavery agitators like John Woolman and Benezet were at work in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and many wealthy Quakers had set free their slaves. The wedge which was eventually to divide the North from the South was already driven in 1750. In his great speech on the Writs of Assistance in 1761, James Otis so spoke that John Adams said: "Not a Quaker in Philadelphia, or Mr. Jefferson of Virginia, ever asserted the rights of negroes in stronger terms."




BIBLIOGRAPHIES.--Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History_, V. 560-622; Channing and Hart, _Guide_, §§ 131-132.

HISTORICAL MAPS.--No. 2, this volume (_Epoch Maps_, No. 5); Labberton, _Historical Atlas_, lxiii.; B. A. Hinsdale, _Old Northwest_, I. 38, 63 (republished from MacCoun, _Historical Geography_); S. R. Gardiner, _School Atlas_, No. 45; Francis Parkman, _Montcalm and Wolfe_, frontispiece; Oldmixen, _British Empire_ (1741); _Mitchell's Map_ (1755); _Evans's Map_ (1755); school histories of Channing, Johnston, Scudder, Thomas.

GENERAL ACCOUNTS.--Geo. Bancroft, _United States_, III. chs. xxiii., xxiv., IV. (last revision, II. 419-565); R. Hildreth, _United States_, II. 433-513; W. E. H. Lecky, _England in the Eighteenth Century_, II. ch. viii., III. ch. x.; B. A. Hinsdale, _Old Northwest_, ch. v.; W. M. Sloane, _French War and Revolution_, ch. viii.; Bryant and Gay, _Popular History_, III. 254-328; J. R. Green, _English People_, IV. 166-218; Abiel Holmes, _Annals of America_, II. 41-123; Geo. Chalmers, _Revolt of the American Colonies_, II. book ix. ch. xx.; T. Pitkin, _Political and Civil History_, I. 138-154.

SPECIAL HISTORIES.--Francis Parkman, _Montcalm and Wolfe_ (2 vols.), latest and best detailed account; G. Warburton, _Conquest of Canada_, (1849); T. Mante, _Late War_ (1772); W. B. Weeden, _New England_, II. chs. xvi., xvii.; M. C. Tyler, _American Literature_, II. ch. xviii.; Theodore Roosevelt, _Winning of the West_, II.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS.--John Knox, _Historical Journal_ (1757-1760); Pouchot, _Mémoires_ (also in translation); Franklin, _Works_ (especially on the Albany Congress); Washington, _Works_, especially his _Journal_ (Sparks's edition, II. 432-447); Robert Rogers, _Journal; Documents relative to the Colonial History of New York_, X.--Reprints in _American History told by Contemporaries_, II.


[Sidenote: International rivalry.]

"The firing of a gun in the woods of North America brought on a conflict which drenched Europe in blood." In this rhetorical statement is suggested the result of a great change in American conditions after 1750. For the first time in the history of the colonies the settlements of England and France were brought so near together as to provoke collisions in time of peace. The attack on the French by the Virginia troops under Washington in 1754 was an evidence that France and England were ready to join in a struggle for the possession of the interior of the continent, even though it led to a general European war.

[Sidenote: Legal arguments.]

The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 (Colonies, § 112) had not laid down a definite line between the French and the English possessions west of the mountains, According to the principles of international law observed at the time of colonization, each power was entitled to the territory drained by the rivers falling into that part of the sea-coast which it controlled. The French, therefore, asserted a _prima facie_ title to the valleys of the St. Lawrence and of the Mississippi (§ 2); if there was a natural boundary between the two powers, it was the watershed north and west of the sources of the St. John, Penobscot, Connecticut, Hudson, Susquehanna, Potomac, and James. On neither side had permanent settlements been established far beyond this irregular ridge. This natural boundary had, however, been disregarded in the early English grants. Did not the charter of 1609 give to Virginia the territory "up into the land, from sea to sea, west and northwest"? (Colonies, § 29.) Did not the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Carolina grants run westward to the "South Sea"? And although these grants had lapsed, the power of the king to make them was undiminished; the Pennsylvania charter, the latest of all, gave title far west of the mountains.

[Sidenote: Expediency.]

To these paper claims were added arguments of convenience: the Lake Champlain region, the southern tributaries of Lake Ontario, and the headwaters of the Ohio, were more easily reached from the Atlantic coast than by working up the rapids of the St Lawrence and its tributaries, or against two thousand miles of swift current on the Mississippi. To the Anglo-Saxon hunger for more land was added the fear of Indian attacks; the savages were alarmed by the advance of settlements, and no principles of international law could prevent frontiersmen from exploring the region claimed by France, or from occupying favorite spots. There was no opportunity for compromise between the two parties; agreement was impossible, a conflict was a mere matter of time, and the elaborate arguments which each side set forth as a basis for its claim were intended only to give the prestige of a legal title. In the struggle the English

Formation of the Union - 6/46

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