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CHAPTER III.: history of emigration from europe to north america in the seventeenth century. - William Godwin, Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind 
Of Population. An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind, being an Answer to Mr. Malthus’s Essay on that Subject (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820).
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history of emigration from europe to north america in the seventeenth century.
The discovery and the planting of North America form one of the most interesting epochs in the history of human nature. As long as there is tyranny and oppression among any of the governments of mankind, as long as it is possible for a human being to come under the burthen of unmerited disgrace, as long as there shall exist a pride in man that disdains servitude, and a spirit of industry anxious to free itself from vexation and constraint, so long will emigration form a feature in the history of our race. One of the blessings indispensible to the welfare of man in society, is the prerogative he shall possess of removing himself from the yoke of a government that, for whatever reason, has become intolerable to him. One of the great mischiefs of the Roman government under the emperors, was, that a man who had the misfortune to fall under the displeasure of the despot, or who could no longer brook the condition of the polity that ruled over him, had no refuge to which he could fly: the boundaries of the empire and of the known world were almost the same. His situation was something like that spoken of in the Psalms of David: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy right hand shall reach me.”
The condition of the European world became greatly improved, in this respect, upon the dissolution of the Roman empire. This favoured portion of the globe, by means of that event, was broken into several governments; and he who was dissatisfied with one, could remove himself into the sphere of another. Yet the remedy was imperfect. He who could not bear “the ills he had,” might chance to “fly to others that he knew not of,” and that might prove still more intolerable. He removed himself, it may be, from the scene of his oppression, and he might come under a yet bitterer despotism and persecution.
The discovery of North America, and the manner in which it was planted, struck these objections to the root. In proportion as the territory was cleared, and the savages retired back into the woods, here was a vast portion of the teeming earth, from Cape Breton north, to the boundaries of Florida, that opened wide her bosom, and tendered a hospitable welcome to every exile. He whom the iron of oppression had pierced to the soul, and he whom visionary notions of civil or religious independence had driven from his native clime, equally found himself at home and at rest on the shores of North America. Here was no government to gall him. The refinements of oppression had not reached this happy soil: here was no scheme of civil policy, which, under the hollow pretence of a paternal care for its subjects, shackled the native freedom of enterprise, and sought to reduce the commerce of man with his God within the control of the “traditions of men.”
The discovery of North America may almost be said to have added a new element to nature, and a new faculty to man.
One of the first considerable British settlements that was made in this part of the world, was effected in New England by the Brownists and Puritans, flying from the intolerance of king James the First, and still more of his son and successor, king Charlesa . The foundations of Boston and some other considerable towns in that state, were laid in or about the year 1630a. Charles dismissed his parliament early in 1629, with the declared intention of never calling another. Henceforth all that opposed his measures in church cr state were laid at his mercy; and it is well known that Laud and his colleagues dealt out nothing but tyranny to those whom they regarded as their enemies, in the shape of heavy fines, tedious imprisonment, and the pillory. It is computed that above fifteen hundred persons went into voluntary exile in New England in the year 1630, among whom were several of respectable, families, and in easy circumstancesb . Shortly after, we read that the number of freemen greatly increased, so as to induce them, instead of attending the general courts in person, voluntarily to have recourse to the expedient of sending representatives. who might transact business in their namec . In 1635, among crowds of new settlers, came Hugh Peters and sir Henry Vanec. In 1637 the government of Charles became so much alarmed on the subject, as to induce it to issue a proclamation, forbidding any one to emigrate to New England without leave from the court: and the first consequence of this proclamation was the stopping eight ships, in which were embarked sir William Constable, sir Arthur Ha-zelrig, Hampden, Pym, and Oliver Cromweld . But, notwithstanding every precaution that could be used, the embarkations of the following year were more numerous than evere : and it is computed that, from the first settlement of the Brownists to the year 1640, twenty-one thousand two hundred British subjects passed over to New England, and two hundred thousand pounds, a vast sum for those days, were expended in fitting out ships, transporting settlers, and purchasing stockf . Thus did this colony not grow up by insensible degrees, but seemed to “rise like an exhalation.”
Another colony which was planted about the same time was that of Maryland, by one of the most virtuous of mankind, Cecilius lord Baltimore. The colonists of Maryland were the Roman Catholics of the British dominions. This set of men, who faithfully adhered to the religion of their ancestors, were treated much more opprobriously, and experienced a bitterer persecution, than the Puritans; while these last, themselves suffering from a similar cause, were the fiercest in calling for the execution of the sanguinary laws against men, who it was fashionable to say held principles incompatible with all civilisation and government. The first settlers in Maryland, who sailed from Great Britain in 1632, were two hundred Catholic gentlemen with their families and adherentsg : but they were speedily followed by much greater numbersg; and during the first two years lord Baltimore himself spent the sum of forty thousand pounds upon his colonyi . At the Restoration the inhabitants are said to have amounted to twelve thousand personsk and in sixteen years afterwards to have increased to sixteen thousandl
Such was the recorded emigration, to the coasts of North America from the island of Great Britain (stimulated by religious and political oppression), which was begun and nearly matured under the rule of Charles the First. It is exceedingly probable that the real number of emigrants from these considerations surpassed the number that is set down.
But it will perhaps be supposed, that when this cloud had passed over, the emigration ceased, and the colonies were left to what has been called their natural increase. Alas, where is the government, of which its subjects do not think they have reason to complain? Where is the history, every chapter of which does not abound with convulsions, intolerance, persecution, the calamitous defeat of one party, and the vindictive triumph of another? Where is the nation, multitudes of whose people do not suffer great adversity, and harbour in their minds grievous discontents?
While New England became thus considerable from the causes I have mentioned, another colony was established at the same time, or a little earlier, in Virginia. The first peopling of Virginia with British settlers appears to have risen principally from the spirit of enterprise and the general love of adventure. But, when the arms of king Charles sustained defeat in the field, Virginia afforded as advantageous a retreat for the cavaliers, as New England has before done for the Puritans; and it prospered accordingly.
Meanwhile the victory of the republicans was but temporary; the wheel turned round; and Charles the Second was restored eleven years after the death of his father. Mr. Chalmers says, this was “an age, when all men's minds were inflamed either with the desire of emigration, because they were unhappy in England, or with an anxiety to acquire distant territory, because their sovereign was profuse of what cost him nothingm .” And he adds elsewhere, “As numbers during the reign of Charles II. suffered more from what they dreaded than from what they felt, they naturally deserted a land where they were miserable, in order to enjoy that freedom and property which were now offered them as the price of their change of habitationn .” I have the misfortune to differ from Mr. Chalmers in two of the sentiments conveyed in this last sentence: first, I would say that where people “are miserable,” it cannot fairly be said that they have nothing to complain of in point of “feeling;” and secondly, I cannot admit, that under the act of uniformity, the conventicle act, and the five-mile act, directed against a party, which had lately controled the state, and more recently had put the crown on the head of the sovereign, that party did not sustain grievances at least as substantial, as those experienced by the Puritans in the reign of the father. Be this however as it will, my subject is no otherwise concerned than with the fact, that “all men's minds were at this time inflamed with the desire of emigration.”
Another memorable colony which gives lustre to the annals of Charles the Second, was led forth by William Penn, and founded the walls of the city of Philadelphia. This colony consisted almost entirely of Quakers, a sect, that in its origin was treated more contumeliously than almost any other upon record. Its founder was, “in prisons oft, in hunger and nakedness, whipped from tithing to tithing,” and repeatedly drummed out of the cities and market-towns he thought proper to visit. At length a generous individual rose out of their own body, who found means to lead forth this despised people into the distant wilds of America, there to endow them with the rights of men, to enable them to worship God as seemed meet to their own consciences, to respect themselves and be respected, and so founded a tribe and an establishment of men, the simplicity of whose manners, and the sobriety of whose proceedings have been the wonder of the world. A certain number of these sectaries having sailed before, Penn himself embarked with two thousand adventurers in the year 1682. He immediately chose the site, and laid the foundation of his capital city; and he “enjoyed the satisfaction of having completed the settlement of six-and-twenty sail of people to content, within the space of one yearo .” Speedily “it became a gainful branch of commerce from the West of England, to carry passengers to Pennsylvania, because the spirit of emigration pervaded a dissatisfied peoplep .” Accordingly, the first assembly of the legislature of this colony, “consisting of seventy-two delegates from the six counties into which Penn had divided it,” took place in the December of the very year, in which their great legislator first set his foot upon the Transatlantic shoreq .
Such was the colonisation, from England only, in the course of the seventeenth century. I possess no such accounts of the emigration from Scotland and Ireland: but the much greater convulsions and calamities with which those parts of the British dominions were visited, leave me no room to doubt of its extent. The unhappy and beautiful country of Ireland has at all times been the victim of English ascendancy, and of the unsparing rigour of English despotism. The barbarism and ignorance in which we plunged our sister island, were the causes why she did not keep pace with us in receiving the light of the Reformation; and the difference of religious creed which sprung out of this, afforded a new and abundant defence for all the severities and all the tyranny which the governing country exercised towards contumacious Papists. Whoever calls to mind the ferocious manner in which the Irish rebellion, and as it has sometimes been called the Irish massacre, broke out in 1641, and the sanguinary proceedings employed by Cromwel and Ireton in suppressing it, will be at no loss for an idea of the convulsions that shook that devoted country. Again, in the close of that very century, Ireland became the scene of new devastations. James the Second made his last stand in the plains of Ireland, and such was the system of the prince who ravished from him his crown, that the Revolution under king William is remembered with a horror and detestation by her natives, equal to the love and veneration with which it is contemplated by the friends of freedom in England.
From Ireland let us turn to Scotland. Charles the First found presbytery established as the national system of church-government there, and he was persuaded by Laud and others, to set out upon an adventure to establish episcopacy and a liturgy in all their glory in his native kingdom. The contention lasted for years, and served as the first step in that memorable civil war, which ended by depriving the king of his head. After an interval came the Restoration of Charles the Second: and this event served as a signal, bringing on the Scots, who had been foolish enough ten years before to fight for this prince in the battle of Worcester, and so to lay themselves bare to the vengeance of Cromwel, one of the most atrocious specimens of misgovernment in the history of the world. The act of uniformity, the conventicle act, and the five-mile act, under which the presbyterians and dissenters of England groaned, were but as the little finger of tyranny, compared with what was perpetrated beyond the Tweed. The names of the duke of Lauderdale and others stand upon record, as hardly to be matched but with the Caligulas and Neros of Roman story.
The reign of king William, which was a blessing to England, was scarcely less calamitous to some of the Scottish tribes, than it proved to the Irish.
The year 1685 witnessed the revocation of the edict of Nantes, under the auspices of which the Protestants of France had possessed the comforts of toleration for nearly a century. It is well known to what a degree that measure depopulated France of multitudes of her most useful and industrious citizens, and not a few of these went over and settled themselves in the countries now bearing the name of the United States of North America.
The German settlements of persecuted Protestants, or otherwise, have been by no means inconsiderable.
I will conclude this chapter with extracting a short passage enumerating the various sets of adventurers, who originally constituted the population of this country.
“New England was settled altogether by Englishmen, except an Irish colony in the hilly part of one county of Massachusets, and a few Scottish and Irish settlements in New Hampshire. With these limitations, the New England population is at this hour entirely of English origin. The same source also supplies a great majority of the people in the middle, and a still larger portion in the southern states. The Germans make about a fourth of the population of Pennsylvania, and a part of the inhabitants of New York and New Jersey. They are however fast yielding their language, habits and customs to the predominance of the English. The same may be said of the Dutch, settled in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. A few French Protestants fixed themselves at New Rochelle and Staten Island in the state of New York, and at Charles Town in South Carolina. The Irish emigrants are found principally in Pennsylvania and Maryland; and many are scattered over New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, and some other states. Those who are Catholics from the middle and south of Ireland, compose the bulk of the day-labourers in our large cities: the Protestants from the north of Ireland, generally become agriculturists in the interior of the country.
“The Scots, who are for the most part intelligent, industrious, good citizens, have settlements in New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Some Swedes are found in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland: and some Swiss have fixed their abode in the state of Indiana. Some small Welch settlements have been made in Pennsylvania and New Yorkr .”
[a]Robertson, History of America, Book X.
[d]Hume, Chap. LII. Chalmers, Annals of the United Colonies, p. 160.
[e]Robertson, ubi supra.
[f]Robertson, ubi supra.
[g]Chalmers, p. 207.
[i]Chalmers, p. 208
[k]Chalmers, p. 226.
[l]Chalmers, p. 363.
[o]Chalmers, p. 644.
[q]Chalmers, p. 645.
[r]Bristed, America and her Resources, Chapter VII.