The seventeenth century was the wake of relations between the native inhabitants of North America and English immigrants. The English were not the earliest explorers to land on the North American soil since other European traders, fishers, and explorers had already visited (Tetek, 2011). The first significant visit by an English man was in 1602 when Bartholomew Gosnold toured Cape Cod's and Martha's Vineyard area. Despite the native Indians' interest in European goods, the exploration came to an end after violent incidences occurred between the locals and the Europeans. Gosnold went back to England but had expectations of forming trade relations with North America in the future. Later, a group of Europeans landed in North America in search of religious freedom. This paper, therefore, aims at discussing the impact of both religion and economic factors on English colonization of North America.
Economic factors played an important role in motivating the English people to form colonies in North America. They wanted to gain power and wealth by expanding their territories to new areas (Counce, 2011). However, they were preceded by other European nations such as Portugal and France who had already claimed the modern-day Central and South America (Kelly, 2018). The English also wanted a share of the 'gold' as other European nations had boasted of acquiring in the 'New World.' Pre-colonial English authors exaggerated about the immensity of resources that were found in the 'New World.' The authors intended to convince capitalists and merchants to cross the Atlantic and venture into trade and amass wealth. They also argued that the 'New World' would offer employment opportunities to the unemployed English men and the chance to own land (Counce, 2011).
After several unsuccessful attempts to establish colonies in the 'New World,' the English finally formed their first permanent settlement in Jamestown in 1607 (Benjamin, 2006). This was after the England King; James 1 gave a group of merchants a charter in 1606 under their captain, John Smith. The principal aim of these merchants was to settle in Virginia, find gold, and send it back to England. The founded the Virginia Company which funded their voyage and settlement in Jamestown. However, their early years in this new place were characterized by challenges. They faced starvation, stricken by diseases, and did not find the gold that they had longed for (Kozloswki, 2010). The situation became worse when John Smith traveled back to England for supplies. Therefore, approximately half of the colonists died while others decided to go back to England.
The hope of restoring Jamestown was rekindled when another colonist, John Rolfe introduced tobacco farming in 1612 (Kozlowski, 2010). British aristocrats funded the new venture, and later tobacco exports to England became possible. The demand for tobacco in England increased tremendously, and it became the cash crop in Virginia. Moreover, the Virginia Company formed a policy that allowed the colonists to own land (Kelly, 2018). The demand for labor also increased, and landowners started importing laborers who included indentured servants and slaves. Therefore, economic and social growth was witnessed in Jamestown.
Apart from economic factors, religion had a more significant impact on the colonization of North America. This was characterized by the rise of Puritanism in the England church(Kang, 2009). Puritans were followers of John Calvin who wanted to bring reforms and purify the England church (Tetek, 2011). They detested the hierarchy in the church and preferred a more straightforward way of conducting services, based on the Bible. However, their rise was faced by rejection and persecution from the English government and the church The Puritans, therefore, were forced to migrate from Europe and seek for settlement in the 'New World.'
The Puritans reached North America in the 17th century as English pilgrims. In 1620 they founded their first colony in Plymouth and would later form colonies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Haven (Kang, 2009). Apart from fleeing persecution, the Puritans aimed at establishing their strong religious beliefs and permanently settle in America. The Separatists, who were part of the Puritans wanted total separation from the English state church. They, therefore, established new churches in New England and greatly influenced the religious beliefs of the Americans.
Many changes characterized the Puritans' relationship with the Native Americans. When the Puritans initially settled in Plymouth, they hardly survived as they were afflicted by diseases and starvation (Tetek, 2011). The Native Americans had a hostile attitude towards them due to their previous unpleasant encounters with the English. Despite the Puritans' attempt to interact with them, the locals freed and watched their actions from a distance. However, a courageous Indian approached their settlement in March 1621, after they had spent their first winter in Plymouth (Whitehurts, 2002). The Indian gave them information about their neighbors since he could speak English. This encounter paved the way for friendly relations as the natives taught them how to grow corn and find fish. The Pilgrims and the people of Wampanoag even celebrated the first Thanksgiving together.
The Puritans' hope to extend their religious beliefs to the Native Americans was not an easy task. The signing of the Massachusetts Bay Company's Charter was aimed at influencing the inhabitants of New England to adopt the Christian faith (Salisbury, 1982). The Native Americans, however, were unwilling to let go of their cultural beliefs smoothly. Moreover, the Puritans had strict rules to those who wanted to convert. They had to disown their cultural ways and adopt the European lifestyle fully. The first Indian converts were influenced by the perception that the English were powerful; hence, their God was even more powerful (Simmons, 2010). This was supported by the fact that the English survived the diseases that had wiped out many native tribes.
In conclusion, the 17th century marked the beginning of the permanent settlement of the English in North America. Like other European nations that had already established colonies in Central and South America, the English were driven by the desire to gain power and wealth. After several unsuccessful attempts, they were able to form colonies in the northern part of America. Religion and economic factors were a great motivation to the establishment of settlements. Economic factors drove the settlers in Jamestown while religious factors motivated the Puritans who settled in Plymouth. The English colonists, therefore, contributed to the economic and social changes that occurred in North America.
Benjamin, T. (2006). Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450.Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-865843-4.
Counce, J. (2011). Imagining the New World: Indians, Colonists, and the Environment in the Early Settlements of New England.
Kang, N. (2009). Puritanism and its impact upon American values. Review of European Studies, 1(2), 148.
Kelly, Martin. (2018, October 19). Facts About the Jamestown Colony. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jamestown-facts-104979Kozlowski, D. (2010). Colonialism, Key Concepts in American History. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60413-217-5.
Salisbury, Neal. Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and Making of New England, 1500-1643. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Simmons, William S. "Cultural Bias in the New England Puritans' Perception of Indians". Jstor.org. Web. 20. March 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1916857
Tetek, R. (2011). Relations between English settlers and Indians in 17th century New England (Doctoral dissertation, Masaryk University, Faculty of Education).
Whitehurts, S. (2002). A Plymouth Partnership: Pilgrims and Native Americans. PowerKids Press. ISBN 0-8239-5810-8
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