Jan 9, 2020
category: History

The great migration of Europeans to North America began in the 17th century. Trickle of several hundred English settlers in three centuries developed into a flowing stream of millions of immigrants. For a variety of reasons, they were leaving their homeland to form a new civilization on a loosely populated continent. Most European immigrants left their homeland in order to obtain big economic opportunities, and this was often complemented by a desire to get religious freedom or determination to get rid of political oppression. On the new land colonists met Indian tribes, with whom they had many conflicts. However, the settlers would hardly be able to survive without the friendly help of Indians, from whom they learned to grow local varieties of vegetables, pumpkins, courgettes, beans and corn. Huge forests provided them with materials for building houses and ships, and producing household items, as well as valuable raw materials for export. First colonies in the New World, in general, had a similar history of development. They met the same problems on the new continent, but survived and made the first step in the formation of the United States of America.

The Virginia Company and the Company of Plymouth were the first companies to receive the right to organize colonies in the New World. Officially they declared that their main target was to proclaim Christ, but in reality they were looking for copper, gold and silver. Having planned to found cities on the coast of North America, in 1606, three ships of the expedition led by Christopher Newport sailed from England. After a voyage of 12 weeks, they arrived in the New World. In search of a suitable place to settle, colonists sailed for about sixty kilometers along the river. Finally, on May 14, 1607, they settled on the land and called it Jamestown. It became the first permanent English settlement in the New World. However, nowadays there is no town in that location.

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Historians estimate that at present, people have been living in the state of Virginia for more than 12 000 years. At first, colonists of Virginia built a wooden fort, named Fort King James. Later, it was renamed to Jamestown. It became the first permanent British settlement in America. The official historiography of the United States considers Jamestown the cradle of the country. The first years of living in the colony were extremely difficult. According to some reports, during the hungry winter of 1609-1610 less than 60 people survived.

When the first Europeans came to the lands of Virginia, Indians had already lived there. They presented three ethnic groups: Algonquin, Iroquois and Sioux. The first English settlers arrived in Virginia at the beginning of the 17th century. The location of Jamestown was very convenient in terms of protection. In the conditions of permanent conflicts with unknown tribes, it was a good place. However, it was bad for farming and hunting, and also there was a lack of drinking water. So the new colony was initially not self-sufficient and heavily dependent on supplies of provision from England. However, being located on the river, it permitted to keep relations with the Old World, which helped to receive news, food, and new forces. Later it helped to launch the trade of tobacco with England. It helped to maintain the economy of the colony, as all the attempts to establish good trade relations with the native tribes of Virginia failed.

The peace established with the Indians was very weak. Moreover, many colonists died from diseases and hunger. The colony was trying to establish better relations with the Indians. On June 1610, the new governor arrived in Jamestown with food stocks and new settlers. He started a war with the Indians, known as the first Anglo-Powhatans war. Maybe, peaceful co-existence would have totally changed the history of the land. Nevertheless, after winning in the numerous wars, the colony became a good trade location and important strategic partner. On April 1613, the settlers and the Indians concluded peace. The piece with the Indians lasted thirty years. Around the same time, the settlers discovered that the lands of Virginia are good for tobacco growth. Since that time, tobacco has become the major product for export and the basis of the economics of Jamestown.However, for the cultivation of tobacco planters needed more and more land. They cut down forests, where Indians hunted. It led to new conflicts. New towns emerged near Jamestown. There was built the first steel plant, used for the production of iron ore in local mines. It required strong labor force and caused the appearance of slaves. The colony acquired a group of Angolans and brought two English privateers. According to James Oakes, these were the first Africans in the American colonies. It was the beginning of the use of black slaves in America.

Plymouth colony existed in 1620 -1699 in the South of Massachusetts. Along with Jamestown, the two colonies were the oldest settlements in the New World. New Plymouth was the first major settlement on the territory of New England. It symbolized the beginning of a massive British colonization of the continent. It was founded in November 1620. The pilgrims arrived on the ship ‘Mayflower’. The legal foundation of the colony was signed on its board. According to James Thacher, “the establishment of a colony and an Independent Church was their primary objection”. The settlement of Massachusetts Bay played an important role in the religious development of the whole continent. The 25 founding colonists had a Royal Charter. For the first ten years of its existence, there were 65 Puritan clergies. With the support of the colonists, they strengthened the power of the Church. Formally, the clerics had no secular authority, but in fact they ruled the colony. In a short time they developed a system of the government, which was theocratic and authoritarian at the same time. The colonists could talk about public affairs, and people acquired some skills of self-government. The clergy and conservative parishioners tried to maintain a society in a religious conformity, following the dogmas of the Church. Being deeply religious people, Plymouth colony was devoted to tradition. Many of them have become an integral part of the American culture.

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Compared to Jamestown, first years of New Plymouth in the first half of the 17th century were heavy, but on the whole colonists adapted to the harsh climate, the thin soils and foreign environment. The population of the colony was small. There were only about two thousand settlers in 1640. However, the territory of New Plymouth was significant. The economy of Plymouth was simple and weak. Unlike neighbors, Plymouth did not have enough money in budget to lead a big trade. Besides, New Plymouth did not have a good river to trade as Jamestown had. Its bay was shallow. All this contributed to the development of the shipping industry. Fishing has developed only in the second half of the 17th century.

Relations with the Indians were friendly rather than hostile. It allowed colonists to trade with them, exchanging English merchandise and maize grown by the colonists for the beaver and otter pelts. The Church in the first half of the 17th century did not have any financial difficulties. The number of its members increased, and most of the colonists led a respectable life. In general, the leaders of New Plymouth had to experience the gratitude to God for the success they gained in the new lands.

Neighbors of the European settlers were Indian tribes of the Algonquin language group (particularly the Wampanoag, and Pequot). Initially, relations between the pilgrims and Indians were peaceful. Those who first settled in New Plymouth, agreed on a mutual peace with the Wampanoags. The tribes helped the colonists. Without their help, it was unlikely that the colony would have survived. The Indians gave food and corn for cultivation to the settlers. Wampanoag actually rescued New Plymouth colonists from starving. A treaty of peace lasted for forty years. The first major conflict between colonists and Indians was the Pequot war in 1636-1637. This war became the starting point for the formation of colonies in Connecticut and New York. In 1643, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven and Plymouth created a Confederation of the colonies to repel attacks of Indians or other colonies.

The living standards of major colonists were approximately the same. Each household of Plymouth and Jamestown ensured themselves to a greater or smaller extent. The colonists experienced frosty winters in their dark wooden houses, ate from simple tin ware or special trays. In summer they cultivated the land. Most of the men in both colonies could read. Although in the first half of the 17th century in New Plymouth there was no schools, parents were required to take care of their children’s education. The leaders of the Plymouth colony had a large library, reflecting their desire for knowledge. The books were transported to Plymouth from England via Boston and cost money. Relationship with the motherland colonists were maintained through correspondence and news from arriving ships.

Both colonies were trading with the old trade and Indian tribes. According to Jon Butler, “merchants and traders in Jamestown marked the earliest tobacco growth in the 1610s and 1620s, while in Massachusetts they arranged the colony’s first agricultural exports in the 1630s and 1640s”. Besides, the colonies raised artisans. In the end of the 1680s, they obtained overwhelming importance: “the rise of artisans and skilled craftsmen reshaped the colonial economy, and provided the colonies with finished products”.

First colonists of the North America did not have equal possibilities. Besides, they had different religions and social status. But there were many things in common. Having arrived at a new continent, they faced the same problems like the economic feasibility of the colony, internal disagreements and attempts to survive. In addition, the main danger to the colonies represented Indians. Both colonies had conflicts with Indians that changed the future of the continent and established a basis for the formation of the United States of America.

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