By 1500, America was colonized by a diverse group of settlers from many countries. People from Spain, France, The Dutch Republic, and England came in search of fortune, freedom from religious persecution, and for a variety of other reasons. Spanish colonists established themselves in St. Augustine, located in present-day Florida. This colony was used as an important military outpost. It was often involved in armed conflicts with other European countries such as France and England.
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Conversion of native peoples to Catholicism was one of the main goals of Spanish colonies, as well as military opposition to other colonies. Dutch colonies were more focused on international trade of materials such as furs. However, when Dutch colonies failed to attract citizens, the Dutch Republic bought and transported slaves to make up for the lack of workers and improve the economic state of the colony.
In addition, Dutch colonies were more accepting of people from non-Catholic faiths. The practice of patroonships was utilized to make the colonies less costly for the Dutch Republic. However, the economy of Dutch colonies was not as active as the government had hoped it would be. France established its first colony in Quebec to be a fur-trading outpost. The climate of the area made life difficult, which deterred settlers from coming to the area. The inhospitable weather made positive contact with native people essential for the colonists. In return, the French provided weapons to support their wars.
Jesuits, Protestants, and Catholics were present in French colonies despite their differences. English settlements were established much later than others but were also much larger in scope. Almost a dozen colonies were established by the English in America, and they encouraged emigration from all the previously mentioned countries (Corbett et al., 2014). This approach created a very diverse society with representatives of Puritan, Quaker, and other religious backgrounds.
Personally, I found the description of colonial Massachusetts to be very appealing. Colonial America appears harsh in both physical and moral sense. People died from hunger, disease, and armed conflict almost constantly, and this atmosphere negatively affected their moral compass to the point that slavery was seen as a positive and ethical practice. Massachusetts, in comparison, seems to be an almost regular European town with education, medical facilities, and other buildings associated with European “civilization” being present in a country where even a school was a rarity. I am not a religious person, but knowing that I could practice almost any religious belief without persecution is also appealing to me. With a variety of businesses starting to be established in the area, I could find a job in a store or perhaps try to start my own firm (TheChamberlinChannel, 2014).
I understand that I would not be able to become a noble, but establishing myself as a member of the middle class in Massachusetts seems like a distinct possibility. The lack of competition from established European companies and the availability of materials such as fur, wood, and tobacco could be used to create a local business that would sell these products at a discounted price in comparison to those that are imported from abroad. With the popularity of the Massachusetts Bay port, the business could then expand into exports to Europe and other countries.
I would like to ask the following question to the class. Do you think you would be interested in starting a business in the colonies, or does the idea of starting a settlement in the wilderness sound more appealing?
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TheChamberlinChannel. (2014). The diversity of colonial communities 1700 1750 . Web.
Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T. J., Vickery, P. S., & Waskiewicz, S. (2014). U.S. history. Houston, TX: OpenStax College.