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CHAPTER I: Of the Settlement of the English Colonies, and of the political Condition of their Inhabitants. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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Of the Settlement of the English Colonies, and of the political Condition of their Inhabitants.
 The Extensive Continent which is now called America, was three hundred years ago unknown to three quarters of the globe. The efforts of Europe during the fifteenth century to find a new path to the rich countries of the East, brought on the discovery of a new world in the West.1492 Christopher Columbus acquired this distinguished honor in the year 1492, but a later navigator Americus Vespucius who had been employed to draw maps of the new discoveries, robbed him of the credit he justly merited of having the country called by his name.1493 In the following year 1493, Pope Alexander the sixth, with a munificence that cost him nothing, gave the whole Continent to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This grant was not because the country was uninhabited, but because the nations existing there were infidels; and therefore in the opinion of the infallible donor not entitled to the possession of the territory in which their Creator had placed them. This extravagant claim of a right to dispose of the countries of heathen nations, was too absurd to be universally regarded, even in that superstitious age. And in defiance of it, several European sovereigns though devoted to the See of Rome undertook and successfully prosecuted further discoveries in the Western hemisphere.
1496 Henry the seventh of England, by the exertion of an authority similar to that of Pope Alexander, granted to John Cabot and his three sons a commission, “to navigate all parts of the ocean for the purpose of discovering Islands, Countries, Regions or Provinces, either of Gentiles or Infidels, which have been hitherto unknown to all christian people, with power to set up his standard and to take possession of the same as Vassals of the crown of England.”1498 By virtue of this commission, Sebastian Cabot explored and took possession of a great part of the North American continent, in the name and on behalf of the king of England.
The country thus discovered by Cabot was possessed by numerous tribes or nations of people. As these had been till then unknown to all other Princes or States, they could not possibly have owed either allegiance or subjection to any foreign power on earth; they must have therefore been independent communities, and as such capable of acquiring territorial property, in the same manner as other nations. Of the various principles on which a right to soil has been founded, there is none superior to immemorial occupancy. From what time the Aborigines of America had resided therein, or from what place they migrated thither, were questions of doubtful solution, but it was certain that they had long been sole occupants of the country. In this state no European prince could derive a title to the soil from discovery, because that can give a right only to lands and things which either have never been owned or possessed, or which after being owned or possessed have been voluntarily deserted. The right of the Indian nations to the soil in their possession was founded in nature. It was the free and liberal gift of Heaven to them, and such as no foreigner could rightfully annul. The blinded superstition of the times regarded the Deity as the partial God of christians, and not as the common father of saints and savages. The pervading influence of philosophy, reason, and truth, has since that period, given us better notions of the rights of mankind, and of the obligations of morality.1496 These unquestionably are not confined  to particular modes of faith, but extend universally to Jews and Gentiles, to Christians and Infidels.
Unfounded however as the claims of European sovereigns to American territories were, they severally proceeded to act upon them. By tacit consent they adopted as a new law of nations, that the countries which each explored should be the absolute property of the discoverer. While they thus sported with the rights of unoffending nations, they could not agree in their respective shares of the common spoil. The Portuguese and Spaniards, inflamed by the same spirit of national aggrandizement, contended for the exclusive sovereignty of what Columbus had explored. Animated by the rancour of commercial jealousy, the Dutch and Portuguese fought for the Brazils. Contrary to her genuine interests, England commenced a war in order that her contraband traders on the Mexican coast, claimed by the king of Spain might no longer be searched. No farther back than the middle of the present century, a contest concerning boundaries of American territory belonging to neither, occasioned a long and bloody war between, France and England.
Though Queen Elizabeth and James the first denied the authority of the pope of Rome to give away the country of Infidels; yet they so far adopted the fanciful distinction between the rights of heathens and the rights of christians, as to make it the foundation of their respective grants. They freely gave away what did not belong to them with no other proviso, than that “the territories and districts so granted, be not previously occupied and possessed by the subjects of any other christian prince or State.”1578 The first English patent which was given for the purpose of colonising the country discovered by the Cabots, was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Sir Humphry Gilbert, but this proved abortive.1584 Soon after she licensed Walter Raleigh, “to search for heathen lands not inhabited by christian people,” and granted to him in fee all the soil “within 200 leagues of the places where his people should make their dwellings and abidings.” 1585 Under his auspices an inconsiderable colony took possession of a part of the American coast, which now forms North-Carolina. In honor of the Virgin Queen his sovereign, he gave to the whole country the name of Virginia. These first settlers and several others who followed them, were either destroyed by the natives, removed by succeeding navigators, or died without leaving any behind to tell their melancholy story, for they were never more heard of. No permanent settlement was effected till the reign of James the first. The national ardor which sprung from the long and vigorous administration of Queen Elizabeth, continued to produce its effects for some time after she had ceased to animate the whole. Her successor though of an indolent disposition, possessed a laudable genius for colonisation. Naturally fond of novelty, he was much pleased with a proposal made to him by some of the projectors of that age “for deducing a colony into that part of America commonly called Virginia.”1606 He therefore granted letters patent to Thomas Gates and his associates, by which he conferred on them “all those territories in America, which were not then possessed by other christian princes or people, and which lay between the 34th and 45th degree of north latitude.” They were divided into two companies, the first consisting of adventurers of the city of London, was called the London company, the second consisting of merchants of Plymouth and some other Western towns, was called the Plymouth company. The adventurers were empowered to transport thither as many English subjects as should willingly accompany them; and it was declared “that the colonists and their children should enjoy the same liberties as if they had remained, or were born, within the realm.”1607 The month of April 1607, is the epoch of the first permanent settlement on the coast of Virginia, the name then given to all that extent of country which now forms thirteen States. The emigrants took possession of a peninsula on the Northern side of James-river, and erected a town which in honor of their sovereign they called James-Town. They soon experienced the embarrassments  which are the usual lot of new settlers. In a few months diseases swept away one half of their number. Those who survived were greatly chagrined by the many vexations incidental to their new and forlorn situation.1609 In 1609, the Southern or London company surrendered their rights to the crown and obtained a new patent. There were then added to the former adventurers, many of the first nobility and gentry. To them and their successors were granted, in absolute property, the lands extending from Cape Comfort along the sea coast, southward 200 miles, from the same promontory 200 miles northward, and from the Atlantic westward to the South sea. Licence was given to transport to Virginia, all persons willing to go thither. The colonists and their posterity were declared “to be entitled to the rights of subjects, as if they had remained within the realm.” The company being thus favoured by their sovereign, were encouraged to proceed with spirit in supporting and extending their settlement, but before this was thoroughly accomplished, a great waste of the human species had taken place. Within 20 years after the foundation of James-Town was laid upwards of 9000 English subjects had, at different times, migrated thither, but diseases, famine, wars with the natives, and the other inconveniences of their new settlement, had made such havoc among these adventurers, that by the end of that period, there remained alive only about 1800 of that large number. The same and other causes continued to operate so forcibly that, notwithstanding frequent accessions from new adventurers, Virginia in 1670, sixty three years after the settlement of James-Town contained no more than 40,000 inhabitants.
1620Thirteen years elapsed after James-Town began to be built before any permanent establishment was effected in the Northern or second Colony. Various attempts for that purpose had failed, nor was the arduous business accomplished, till it was undertaken by men who were influenced by higher motives than the extension of agriculture or commerce.1620 These men had been called Puritans in England, from their earnest desires of farther  reformation in the established church, and particularly for their aversion to certain popish habits and ceremonies, which they deemed sinful from their having been abused to idolatry. Such was the intolerance of the times, and so violent the zeal for uniformity, that popular preachers of this sect, though men of learning and piety were suspended, deprived, imprisoned, and ruined, for their not using garments or ceremonies which their adversaries acknowledged to be indifferent. Puritanism nevertheless gained ground. On experiment it was found that no attempts are more fruitless than those which are made with the view of bringing men to think alike on the subject of religion. The leaders both of Church and State were too little acquainted with the genuine principles of policy and christianity, to apply the proper remedy for preserving peace among discording sects. Instead of granting a general liberty of conscience, compulsory methods were adopted for enforcing uniformity.1593 An act was passed for punishing all who refused to come to church or were present at any conventicle or meeting. The punishment was imprisonment till the convicted agreed to conform, and made a declaration of his conformity. If that was not done in three months, he was to quit the realm, and go into perpetual banishment. In case, he did not depart within the time limited, or returned afterwards without a license, he was to suffer death. Such is the renitency of the human mind to all impositions on conscience, that the more the Puritans were oppressed, the more were they attached to their distinguishing opinions, and the more did their sect prevail. Several of them suffered death, in preference to purchasing an exemption from legal penalties, by doing what, in their opinion, was wrong. It was afterwards resolved to send others, who had equally persevered in their non-conformity, into banishment. Many chose to avoid these evils by voluntarily exiling themselves from their native country.
1606A congregation of these Puritans, under the pastoral care of Mr. John Robinson, being extremely harassed for their religious opinions, resolved to elude their persecutors by removing to Holland.1620 They continued there  ten years, and by hard labor, earned a living. Though they were much esteemed and kindly received by the Hollanders, they were induced by very cogent reasons to think of a second removal. The morals of the Dutch were in their opinion too dissolute; and they were afraid that their offspring would conform to the bad examples daily before them. They had also an ardent desire of propagating religion in foreign lands, and of separating themselves from all the existing establishments in Europe, that they might have an opportunity without interruption of handing down to future ages the model of a pure church, free from the admixture of human additions. America, the colonising of which, then excited a considerable share of public attention, presented a proper theatre for this purpose. After serious and repeated addresses to Heaven for direction, they resolved to cross the Atlantic. An application on their behalf, was made to their native sovereign King James, for full liberty and freedom of conscience, but nothing more could be obtained than a promise, that he would connive at and not molest them. The hope that, when at the distance of 3000 miles, they would be out of the reach of ecclesiastical courts, induced them nevertheless to venture. They sailed 101 in number from Plymouth, in September and arrived at Cape Cod in the November following.1620 Before landing they formed themselves into a body politic, under the crown of England, for the purpose of “framing just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices,” to which forty one of their number subscribed their names, and promised all due submission and obedience. After landing they employed themselves in making discoveries till the 20th of December. They then fixed on a place for settlement, which they afterwards called New-Plymouth and purchased the soil from its native proprietors.1620 These adventurers were now at the commencement of a long and dreary winter, at an immense distance from their former habitations, on the strange coast of an uncultivated country, without a friend to welcome their arrival, or a house to shelter them. In settling down on bare creation they had every  obstacle to surmount that could prove their firmness, or try their patience. The climate was unfavourable; the season cold and pinching. The prospect of obtaining a supply of provisions, by cultivating the stubborn soil, required an immensity of previous labor, and was both distant and uncertain. From the disorders occasioned by their tedious voyage, with insufficient accommodations, together with those brought on them by the fatigues and exertions unavoidable in a new settlement, and the rigor of the season, they buried forty four persons, nearly one half of their original number, within six months after their landing. Animated with a high degree of religious fervor, they supported these various hardships with unabated resolution. The prospect of an exemption from the tyranny of ecclesiastical courts, and of an undisturbed liberty to worship their creator in the way that was agreeable to their consciences, was in their estimation a sufficient counterbalance to all that they underwent.
This handful of people laid the foundation of New-England. From them and their subsequent associates have sprung the many thousands that have inhabited Massachusetts, New-Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode-Island. The Puritans, to which sect these primitive emigrants belonged, were a plain, frugal, industrious people, who were strict observers of moral and social duties. They held, that the Bible was the sole rule both of faith and practice—that every man was bound to study it and to judge of its meaning for himself, and to follow that line of conduct and mode of worship, which he apprehended to be thereby required. They were also of opinion that no churches or church officers had any power over other churches or officers, so as to control them—that all church members had equal rights and privileges—that the imposition of articles of faith, modes of worship, habits or ceremonies, was subversive of natural rights and an usurpation of power, not delegated to any man or body of men. They viewed church hierarchy, and especially the lordly pomp of Bishops, as opposed to the pure[,] simple, and equal spirit, of christianity. Their sufferings for non-conformity disposed them to reflect on the nature  and extent of civil authority, and led to a conviction that tyranny, whether in church or state, was contrary to nature, reason and revelation. There was a similarity between their opinions of government, and those which they held on the subject of religion. Each strengthened the other. Both were favourable to liberty, and hostile to all undue exercise of authority.
It is matter of regret, that these noble principles of liberty ceased to operate on these emigrants soon after they got power into their hands.1631 In the eleventh year after their settlement in America they resolved, “that no man should be admitted to the freedom of their body politic, but such as were members of some of their churches,” and afterwards, “that none but such should share in the administration of civil government, or have a voice in any election.” In a few years more, they had so far forgot their own sufferings, as to press for uniformity in religion, and to turn persecutors, in order to accomplish it. No better apology can be made for this inconsistent conduct, than that the true grounds of liberty of conscience were then neither understood, nor practiced by any sect of christians. Nor can any more satisfactory account of so open a dereliction of former principles be offered, than that human nature is the same in all bodies of men, and that those who are in, and those who are out of power, insensibly exchange opinions with each other on a change of their respective situations. These intemperate proceedings were overruled for good. As the intolerance of England peopled Massachusetts, so the intolerance of that Province made many emigrate from it, and gave rise to various distant settlements, which in the course of years were formed into other Provincial establishments. Connecticut, Rhode-Island, and New-Hampshire, were in a great measure shoots from the old venerable trunk Massachusetts, and their early growth was much accelerated by her impolitic zeal for uniformity. The country which was subdivided into these four Provinces had been called New-England ever since the year 1614. The propriety of classing them under one general name became more evident from their being settled by the same kind of people, who were  strongly connected with each other by blood, uniformity of manners, and a similarity of religious and political sentiments. The early population of this Northern country was rapid. The Puritans, harrassed for their non-conformity in England, passed over to it in great numbers. In the short space of twenty years from its first settlement 21,200 settlers arrived in 298 vessels. About the year 1640, from a change of affairs, the emigration from Old to New-England in a great measure ceased.
Maryland was the third English colony settled in North America, but the first which from its beginning, was erected into a Province of the empire. The first and second colonies were many years governed by corporations, and in a manner subversive of natural liberty, but the third was from its first settlement ruled by laws enacted in a provincial legislature. The first emigration to Maryland consisting of about two hundred gentlemen, chiefly of the Roman Catholic religion, sailed from England in November, 1632, and landed near the river Potowmack in the beginning of the subsequent year.1633 Calvert their leader purchased the right of the Aborigines, and with their consent took possession of a town, which he called St. Mary’s. He continued carefully to cultivate their friendship, and lived with them on terms of perfect amity. The lands which had been thus ceded were planted with facility, because they had already undergone the discipline of Indian tillage. Food was therefore easily procured. The Roman Catholics, unhappy in their native land, and desirous of a peaceful asylum, went over in great numbers to Maryland. Lord Baltimore, to whom the Province had been granted, laid the foundation of its future prosperity on the broad basis of security to property, and of freedom in religion. The wisdom of these measures converted a dreary wilderness into a prosperous colony, because men exert themselves in their several pursuits in proportion as they are assured of enjoying in safety those blessings which they wish for most. Never did a people enjoy more happiness than the inhabitants of Maryland under Cecilius the founder of the Province. While Virginia persecuted the Puritans, her  severity compelled many to pass over into this new Province, the Assembly of which had enacted, “that no persons, professing to believe in Christ Jesus should be molested in respect of their religion, or in the free exercise thereof.” The prudence of the one colony, acquired what the folly of the other had thrown away. Mankind then beheld a new scene on the theatre of English America. They saw in Massachusetts the Puritans persecuting various sects, and the church of England in Virginia, actuated by the same spirit, harassing those who dissented from the established religion, while the Roman Catholics of Maryland tolerated and protected the professors of all denominations. In consequence of this liberal policy, and the other prudent measures adopted by the rulers of this Province, it rapidly increased in wealth and population.
The distractions which convulsed England for 25 years preceding the restoration in 1660, left no leisure for colonising; but no sooner was Charles the Second restored to the throne of his ancestors, than it was resumed with greater spirit than ever.
1662Soon after that event the restored monarch granted a charter to Connecticut, which had been previously settled by a voluntary association of persons, who held the soil by an Indian title, without any authority from England. By this charter King Charles established a pure democracy. Every power, legislative, judicial and executive, was invested in the freemen of the corporation, or their delegates, and the colony was under no obligation to communicate its legislative acts to the national sovereign.
1663In the year following, a royal charter, with a grant of similar powers, was conferred on Rhode-Island and Providence plantations. These, like Connecticut, had been previously settled by emigrants chiefly from Massachusetts, who as an independent people had seated themselves on land fairly obtained from the native proprietors, without any authority from the parent state. This colony was originally planted on the Catholic principle, “That every man who submits peaceably to the civil authority, may  worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, without molestation,” and under all the changes it has undergone, there has been no departure from that broad basis of universal toleration.
1663In the same year a patent was granted to Lord Clarendon and others, comprehending that extent of country, which now forms the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Carolina though settled originally as one government, was about the year 1728 divided into two. Georgia was, in the year 1732, formed by George the Second into a distinct Province.
In the year 1664, King Charles the Second gave to his brother James Duke of York, a patent which included New-York and New-Jersey. These Provinces had been previously settled by Dutch Colonists, and held as terrirories of the United Netherlands, but they were easily reduced to the obedience of the King of England, who claimed the country by the right of prior discovery.1664 The Duke of York in the same year, gave a deed of New-Jersey to Lord Berkely and Sir George Carteret.
1681Seventeen years afterwards King Charles gave to William Penn, a patent for Pennsylvania. Mr. Penn some time posterior to this, obtained a farther grant of the land on the Western side of the River Delaware, and South of Pennsylvania, which was formed into a separate Government, and is now the State of Delaware. Notwithstanding these charters Mr. Penn did not think himself invested with the right of the soil, till he had purchased it from the native proprietors. In the charter of Pennsylvania; there was no express stipulation as had been inserted in all other Colonial patents “that the Pennsylvanians and their descendants should be considered as subjects born within the realm.” But clauses were inserted, providing that “acts of Parliament concerning trade and navigation, and the customs, should be duly observed.” And it was also stipulated, [“]that no custom or other contribution should be laid on the inhabitants or their estates, unless by the consent of the Proprietary, or Governor and Assembly, or by act of Parliament in England.” The omission of the first clause, the insertion  of the second, and the reservation in favor of Parliament, in the last, may have been occasioned by difficulties which had then arisen about the rights of the Colonists and the power of Parliament over them. Massachusetts had before that time questioned the authority of Parliament to tax them and legislate for them. The general clause that the Colonists should retain all the privileges of Englishmen had already been made, the basis of claims against which some in the Mother Country had many objections. Perhaps the ruling powers of England were sensible, that they had previously delegated too much of independence to their Colonies, and intended to be more guarded in future, but their caution was too late. Had it been seriously intended to control the natural order of events, by the feeble force of words and clauses in a charter, the experiment ought to have been tried from the first, and not reserved for that of Pennsylvania, which was one of the last granted to the Colonies. Near a century after, Dr. Franklin, when examined at the Bar of the British House of Commons explained the matter by saying “that the inhabitants from the first settlement of the Province relied, that the Parliament never would or could by virtue of that reservation tax them, till it had qualified itself constitutionally for the exercise of such right, by admitting Representatives from the people to be taxed.”
In the rapid manner just related, was the English North American Continent parcelled out into distinct Governments. Little did the wisdom of the two preceding Centuries foresee of the consequences both good and evil, that were to result to the old world from discovering and colonising the new. When we consider the immense floods of gold and silver, which have flowed from it into Europe—the subsequent increase of industry and population, the prodigious extension of commerce, manufactures, and navigation, and the influence of the whole on manners and arts[—]we see such an accumulation of good, as leads us to rank Columbus among the greatest benefactors of the human race: but when we view the injustice done the natives, the extirpation of many of  their numerous nations, whose names are no more heard—the havoc made among the first settlers—the slavery of the Africans, to which America has furnished the temptation, and the many long and bloody wars which it has occasioned, we behold such a crowd of woes, as excites an apprehension, that the evil has outweighed the good.
In vain do we look among ancient nations, for examples of Colonies established on principles of policy, similar to those of the Colonies of Great-Britain. England did not, like the republics of Greece, oblige her sons to form distant communities in the wilds of the earth. Like Rome she did not give lands as a gratuity to soldiers, who became a military force for the defence of her frontiers: She did not, like Carthage, subdue the neighbouring States, in order to acquire an exclusive right to their commerce. No conquest was ever attempted over the Aborigines of America. Their right to the soil was disregarded, and their country looked upon as a waste, which was open to the occupancy and use of other nations. It was considered that settlements might be there formed for the advantage of those who should migrate thither, as well as of the Mother Country. The rights and interests of the native proprietors were, all this time, deemed of no account.
What was the extent of obligations by which Colonies planted under these circumstances, were bound to the Mother Country, is a subject of nice discussion. Whether these arose from nature and the constitution, or from compact, is a question necessarily connected with many others. While the friends of Union contended that the King of England had a property in the soil of America, by virtue of a right derived from prior discovery; and that his subjects by migrating from one part of his dominions to another, did not lessen their obligations to obey the supreme power of the nation, it was inferred, that the emigrants to English America, continued to owe the same obedience to the King and Parliament, as if they had never quitted the land of their nativity. But if as others contended, the Indians were  the only lawful proprietors of the country in which their Creator had placed them, and they sold their right to emigrants who, as men, had a right to leave their native country, and as subjects, had obtained chartered permission to do so, it follows from these premises, that the obligations of the Colonists to their parent State, must have resulted more from compact, and the prospect of reciprocal advantage, than from natural obligation. The latter opinions seem to have been adopted by several of the Colonists particularly in New-England. Sundry persons of influence in that country always held, that birth was no necessary cause of subjection, for that the subject of any Prince or State, had a natural right to remove to any other State or quarter of the Globe, especially if deprived of liberty of conscience, and that, upon such removal, his subjection ceased.
The validity of charters about which the emigrants to America were universally anxious, rests upon the same foundation. If the right of the sovereigns of England to the soil of America was ideal, and contrary to natural justice, and if no one can give what is not his own, their charters were on several accounts a nullity. In the eye of reason and philosophy, they could give no right to American territory. The only validity which such grants could have, was that the grantees had from their sovereign, a permission to depart from their native country, and negotiate with the proprietors for the purchase of the soil, and thereupon to acquire a power of jurisdiction subject to his crown. These were the opinions of many of the settlers in New-England. They looked upon their charters as a voluntary compact between their sovereign and themselves, by which they were bound neither to be subject to, nor seek protection from any other Prince, nor to make any laws repugnant to those of England: but did not consider them as inferring an obligation of obedience to a Parliament, in which they were unrepresented. The prospects of advantage which the emigrants to America expected from the protection of their native sovereign, and the prospect of aggrandizement which their native sovereign expected from  the extension of his empire, made the former very solicitous for charters, and the latter very ready to grant them. Neither reasoned clearly on their nature nor well understood their extent. In less than eight years 1500 miles of the sea coast were granted away, and so little did they who gave, or they who accepted of charters, understand their own transactions, that in several cases the same ground was covered by contradictory grants, and with an absurdity that can only be palliated by the ignorance of the parties, some of the grants extended to the South Sea, over a country whose breadth is yet unknown, and which to this day is unexplored.
Ideal as these charters were, they answered a temporary purpose. The colonists reposed confidence in them, and were excited to industry on their credit. They also deterred foreign European powers from disturbing them, because agreeably to the late law of nations, relative to the appropriation of newly discovered heathen countries, they inferred the protection of the sovereign who gave them. They also opposed a barrier to open and gross encroachments of the mother country on the rights of the colonists; a particular detail of these is not now necessary; some general remarks may, nevertheless, be made on the early periods of colonial history, as they cast light on the late revolution. Long before the declaration of independence, several of the colonies on different occasions, declared, that they ought not to be taxed but by their own provincial assemblies, and that they considered subjection to acts of a British parliament, in which they had no representation, as a grievance. It is also worthy of being noted, that of the 13 colonies, which have been lately formed into States, no one (Georgia excepted) was settled at the expence of government. Towards the settlement of that Southern frontier, considerable sums have at different times been granted by parliament, but the twelve more Northern provinces, have been wholly settled by private adventurers, without any advances from the national treasury. It does not appear, from existing records, that any compensation for their lands was ever made to the  Aborigines of America, by the crown or Parliament of England; but policy as well as justice led the colonists to purchase and pay for what they occupied. This was done in almost every settlement, and they prospered most, who by justice and kindness took the greatest pains to conciliate the good will of the natives.
It is in vain to look for well balanced constitutions in the early periods of colonial history. Till the revolution in the year 1688, a period subsequent to the settlement of the colonies, England herself can scarcely be said to have had a fixed constitution. At that eventful era the line was first drawn between the privileges of subjects, and the prerogatives of sovereigns. The legal and constitutional history of the colonies, in their early periods, therefore, affords but little instruction. It is sufficient in general to observe, that in less than eighty years from the first permanent English settlement in North America; the two original patents granted to the Plymouth and London companies were divided, and subdivided, into twelve distinct and unconnected provinces, and in fifty years more a thirteenth, by the name of Georgia, was added to the Southern extreme of previous establishments.
To each of these, after various changes, there was ultimately granted a form of government resembling, in its most essential parts, as far as local circumstances would permit, that which was established in the parent state. A minute description of constitutions, which no longer exist, would be both tedious and unprofitable. In general, it may be observed, that agreeably to the spirit of the British constitution, ample provision was made for the liberties of the inhabitants. The prerogatives of royalty and dependence on the Mother Country, were but feebly impressed, on the colonial forms of government. In some of the provinces the inhabitants chose their governors, and all other public officers, and their legislatures were under little or no controul. In others the crown delegated most of its power to particular persons, who were also invested with the property of the soil. In those which were most immediately dependent on the King, he exercised no higher prerogatives over the colonists than over their fellow  subjects in England, and his power over the provincial legislative assemblies, was not greater than what he was constitutionally vested with, over the house of commons in the Mother Country. From the acquiescence of the parent state, the spirit of her constitution and daily experience, the colonists grew up in a belief, that their local assemblies stood in the same relation to them, as the parliament of Great Britain, to the inhabitants of that island. The benefits of legislation were conferred on both, only through these constitutional channels.
It is remarkable, that though the English possessions in America were far inferior in natural riches to those which fell to the lot of other Europeans, yet the security of property and of liberty, derived from the English constitution, gave them a consequence to which the colonies of other powers, though settled at an earlier day, have not yet attained. The wise and liberal policy of England towards her colonies, during the first century and [a] half after their settlement, had a considerable influence in exalting them to this pre-eminence. She gave them full liberty to govern themselves, by such laws as their local legislatures thought necessary, and left their trade open to every individual in her dominions. She also gave them the amplest permission to pursue their respective interests in such manner, as they thought proper, and reserved little for herself, but the benefit of their trade, and that of a political union under the same head. The colonies, founded by other powers, experienced no such indulgences. Portugal and Spain burdened theirs with many vexatious regulations, gave encouragement only to what was for their own interest, and punished whatever had a contrary tendency. France and Holland did not adopt such oppressive maxims, but were in fact not much less rigorous and coercive. They parted, as it were, with the propriety of their colonies to mercantile associations, which sold to the colonists the commodities of Europe, at an enormous advance, and took the produce of their lands, at a low price, and, at the same time, discouraged the growth of any more than they could dispose of, at excessive profits. These oppressive regulations were followed  with their natural consequences: The settlements thus restricted advanced but slowly in population and in wealth.
The English colonies participated in that excellent form of government, with which their parent isle was blessed, and which had raised it to an admirable height of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures. After many struggles, it had been acknowledged to be essential to the constitution of Great-Britain, that the people could not be compelled to pay any taxes, nor be bound by any laws, but such as had been granted, or enacted, with the consent of themselves, or of their representatives. It was also one of their privileges, that they could not be affected either in their property, their liberties or their persons, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of their peers.
From the operation of these general principles of liberty, and the wise policy of Great Britain, her American settlements increased in number, wealth, and resources, with a rapidity which surpassed all previous calculations. Neither antient nor modern history can produce an example of colonies governed with equal wisdom, or flourishing with equal rapidity. In the short space of 150 years their numbers increased to three millions, and their commerce to such a degree, as to be more than a third of that of Great Britain. They also extended their settlements 1500 miles on the sea coast, and 300 miles to the westward. Their rapid population, though partly accelerated by the influx of strangers, was principally owing to internal causes. In consequence of the equality of fortune and simplicity of manners, which prevailed among them, their inhabitants multiplied far beyond the proportion of old nations, corrupted and weakened by the vices of wealth, and above all, of vanity, than which, perhaps, there is no greater enemy to the increase of the human species.
The good effects of a wise policy and equal government, were not only discernible in raising the colonies of England to a pre-eminence over those of other European powers, but in raising some among themselves to greater importance than others. Their relative population and wealth, were by no means correspondent to their respective  advantages of soil and climate. From the common disproportion between the natural and artificial wealth of different countries, it seems to be a general rule, that the more nature does for any body of men, the less they are disposed to do for themselves.
The New-England Provinces, though possessed of comparatively a barren country, were improved much faster than others, which were blessed with a superior soil and milder climate. Their first settlers were animated with a high degree of that religious fervor which excites to great undertakings. They also settled their vacant lands on principles of the wisest policy. Instead of granting large tracts to individuals, they sold the soil in small farms, to those who personally cultivated the same. Instead of disseminating their inhabitants over an extensive country, they formed successive settlements, in townships of six miles square. They also made such arrangements, in these townships, as co-extended the blessings of education and of religious instruction, with their settlements. By these means industry and morality were propagated, and knowledge was generally diffused.
In proportion to their respective numbers, it is probable that no other country in the world contained more sober orderly citizens, and fewer who were profligate and abandoned. Those high crimes which are usually punished with death, were so rare in New-England, that many years have elapsed, in large populous settlements, without a single execution. Their less fertile soil disposed them to a spirit of adventure, and their victorious industry rose superior to every obstacle. In carrying on the whale fishery, they not only penetrated the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson’s Bay, and Davis’ straits: But pierced into the opposite regions of polar cold. While some of them were striking the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others pursued their gigantic game, near the shores of Brazil. While they were yet in their infancy as a political society, they carried on this perilous business to an extent exceeding all that the perseverance of Holland, the activity of France, or the vigor of English enterprize, had ever accomplished. A spirit of liberty prompted their  industry, and a free constitution guarded their civil rights. The country was settled with yeomanry, who were both proprietors, and cultivators, of the soil. Luxury was estranged from their borders. Enervating wealth and pinching poverty, were both equally rare. Early marriages, and a numerous offspring, were common—thence population was rapid, and the inhabitants generally possessed that happy state of mediocrity, which favors the improvement both of mind and body.
New-York adjoined New-England, but did not encrease with equal rapidity. A few by monopolizing large tracts of land, reduced many to the necessity of being tenants, or of removing to other Provinces, where land could be obtained on more favourable terms. The encrease of population, in this Province, was nevertheless great, when compared with that of old countries. This appears from the following statement of their numbers at different periods. In 1756, the Province of New-York contained 83,233 whites, and in 1771, 148,124, an increase of nearly two for one, in the space of fifteen years.
Pennsylvania was at first settled under the auspices of the celebrated William Penn, who introduced a number of industrious inhabitants, chiefly of the sect of Quakers. The population of this country advanced, equally, with that, of the New-England Provinces. Among the inducements operating on foreigners to settle in Pennsylvania, was a most excellent form of provincial government, which secured the religious as well as the civil rights of its inhabitants. While the Mother Country laboured under an oppressive ecclesiastical establishment, and while partialities of the same kind, were sanctioned by law, in some of the American Provinces, perfect liberty of conscience, and an exact equality of all sects was, in every period, a part of the Constitution of Pennsylvania.
Quaker simplicity, industry, and frugality, contributed, in like manner, to the flourishing of that Province. The habits of that plain people correspond, admirably, with a new country, and with republican constitutions. Opposed to idleness and extravagance, they combined the whole  force of religion, with customs and laws, to exile these vices, from their society. The first Quaker settlers were soon followed by Germans, whose industry was not inferior to their own. The emigrants from other countries who settled in Pennsylvania, followed these good examples, and industry and frugality became predominant virtues, over the whole Province.
The policy of a Loan-Office was also eminently beneficial. The Proprietaries of Pennsylvania, sold their lands in small tracts, and on long credit. The purchasers were indulged with the liberty of borrowing, on interest, paper bills of credit, out of the Loan-Office, on the mortgage of their lands. Perhaps there never was an institution which contributed more to the happiness of the people, or to the flourishing of a new country, than this land Loan-Office scheme. The Province being enriched by the clear interest of its loaned paper, was thereby enabled to defray the expences of government, with moderate taxes. The industrious farmer was furnished with the means of cultivating and stocking his farm. These improvements, by increasing the value of the land, not only established the credit of the paper, but enabled the borrower, in a few years, to pay off the original loan with the productions of the soil. The progressive improvements of Pennsylvania may be estimated from the increase of its trade. In the year 1704, that Province imported goods from the Mother Country, amounting in value only to £11,499 sterling, but in 1772, to the value of £507,909, an encrease of nearly fifty for one, in little more than half a century.
In Maryland and Virginia, a policy less favourable to population, and somewhat different from that of Pennsylvania, took place. The Church of England was incorporated with the first settlement of Virginia, and in the lapse of time, it also became the established religion of Maryland. In both these Provinces, long before the American Revolution, that church possessed a legal preeminence, and was maintained at the expence, not only of its own members, but of all other denominations. These deterred great numbers, especially of the Presbyterian  denomination, who had emigrated from Ireland from settling within the limits of these governments, and fomented [a] spirit of discord between those who belonged to, and those who dissented from, the established church.
In these and the other Southern Provinces, domestic slavery was common. Though it was not by law forbidden any where, yet there were comparatively few slaves any where, to the Northward of Maryland. The peaceable and benevolent religion of the Quakers, induced their united opposition to all traffic of the human race. Many individuals of other denominations, in like manner discountenanced it, but the principal ground of difference on this head between the Northern and Southern Provinces, arose, less, from religious principles, than from climate, and local circumstances. In the former, they found it to be for their interest to cultivate their lands with white men, in the latter with those of an opposite colour. The stagnant waters, and low lands, which are so frequent on the shores of Maryland and Virginia, and on the coasts, and near the rivers in the Southern Provinces, generate diseases, which are more fatal to whites than blacks. There is a physical difference in the constitution of these varieties of the human species. The latter secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin than the former. This greater degree of transpiration renders the blacks more tolerant of heat, than the whites. The perspirable matter, thrown off by the former, is more foetid than that of the latter. It is perhaps owing to these circumstances, that blacks enjoy better health, in warm and marshy countries, than whites.
It is certain, that a great part of the low country in several of the provinces must have remained without cultivation, if it had not been cultivated by black men. From imagined necessity, founded on the natural state of the country, domestic slavery seemed to be forced on the Southern provinces. It favored cultivation, but produced many baneful consequences. It was particularly hostile to the proper education of youth. Industry, temperance, and abstinence, virtues essential to the health and vigor of both mind and body, were with difficulty  practised, where the labour of slaves procured an abundance, not only of the necessaries, but of the delicacies of life, and where daily opportunities and facilities were offered, for early, excessive, and enervating indulgences. Slavery also led to the engrossing of land, in the hands of a few. It impeded the introduction of labouring freemen, and of course diminished the capacity of the country for active defence, and at the same time endangered internal tranquility, by multiplying a species of inhabitants, who had no interest in the soil. For if a slave can have a country in the world, it must be any other in preference to that, in which he is compelled to labour for a master. Such is the force of habit, and the pliancy of human nature, that though degrading freemen to the condition of slaves, would, to many, be more intolerable than death, yet Negroes who have been born and bred in habits of slavery, are so well satisfied with their condition, that several have been known to reject proffered freedom, and as far as circumstances authorize us to judge, emancipation does not appear to be the wish of the generality of them. The peasantry of few countries enjoy as much of the comforts of life, as the slaves, who belong to good masters. Interest concurs with the finer feelings of human nature, to induce slave-holders to treat with humanity and kindness, those who are subjected to their will and power. There is frequently more happiness in kitchens than parlours, and life is often more pleasantly enjoyed by the slave, than his master. The political evils of slavery do not so much arise from the distresses it occasions to slaves, as from its diminishing the incitements to industry, and from its unhappy influence on the general state of society. Where it is common, a few grow rich, and live in ease and luxury, but the community is deprived of many of its resources for independent happiness, and depressed to a low station on the scale of national greatness. The aggregate industry of a country, in which slaves and freemen are intermixed, will always be less than where there is a number of freemen equal to both. Nothing stimulates to industry so much as interest. The man who works for another, will contrive many artifices to make  that work as little as possible, but he who has an immediate profit from his labor, will disregard tasks, times and seasons. In settlements where the soil is cultivated by slaves, it soon becomes unfashionable for freemen to labor, than which no greater curse can befal a country. The individuals, who by the industry of their slaves are released from the necessity of personal exertions, will be strongly tempted to many practices injurious to themselves and others. Idleness is the parent of every vice, while labor of all kinds, favours and facilitates the practice of virtue. Unhappy is that country, where necessity compels the use of slaves, and unhappy are the people, where the original decree of heaven “that man should eat his bread in the sweat of his face” is by any means whatever generally eluded.
The influence of these causes was so extensive, that though the Southern Provinces possessed the most fruitful soil and the mildest climate, yet they were far inferior to their neighbours in strength, population, industry, and aggregate wealth. This inferiority, increased or diminished, with the number of Slaves in each Province, contrasted with the number of freemen. The same observation held good between different parts of the same Province. The sea coast which, from necessity, could be cultivated only by black men, was deficient in many of the enjoyments of life, and lay at the mercy of every bold invader, while the Western Country, where cultivation was more generally carried on by freemen, though settled at a later period, sooner attained the means of self defence, and, relatively, a greater proportion of those comforts with which a cultivated country rewards its industrious inhabitants.
In the Southern Provinces, the long credit given by British merchants, was a principal source of their flourishing. The immense capitals of the merchants trading to the North American Continent, enabled them to extend credit to the term of several years. They received a profit on their goods, and an annual interest of five per cent on the sums for which they were sold. This enabled the American merchant to extend credit to the  planter, from whom he received a higher interest than he paid in Great-Britain. The planters being furnished, on credit, with slaves and every thing necessary for the cultivation of their lands, when careful and industrious, cleared so much more than the legal interest with which they were charged, that in a few years of successful planting, the difference enabled them to pay their debts and clear their capital. By the help of credit, a beneficial intercourse was established, which redounded to the benefit of both parties.
These causes eminently contributed to the prosperity of the English Provinces. Others, besides co-operating, to the same end, produced a warm love for liberty, a high sense of the rights of human nature, and a predilection for independence.
The first emigrants from England for colonising America, left the Mother Country at a time when the dread of arbitrary power was the predominant passion of the nation. Except the very modern charter of Georgia, in the year 1732, all the English Colonies obtained their charters and their greatest number of European settlers, between the years 1603 and 1688. In this period a remarkable struggle between prerogative and privilege commenced, and was carried on till it terminated in a revolution highly favourable to the liberties of the people. In the year 1621, when the English House of Commons claimed freedom of speech, “as their ancient and undoubted right, and an inheritance transmitted to them from their ancestors;” King James the First replied, “that he could not allow of their style, in mentioning their ancient and undoubted rights, but would rather have wished they had said, that their privileges were derived from the grace and permission of their sovereign.” This was the opening of a dispute which occupied the tongues, pens and swords, of the most active men in the nation, for a period of seventy years. It is remarkable that the same period is exactly co-incident with the settlement of the English Colonies. James, educated in the arbitrary sentiments of the divine right of Kings, conceived his subjects to be his property, and that their privileges were  matters of grace and favour flowing, from his generosity. This high claim of prerogative excited opposition in support of the rights of the people. In the progress of the dispute, Charles the First, son of King James, in attempting to levy ship-money, and other revenues without consent of Parliament, involved himself in a war with his subjects, in which, after various conflicts, he was brought to the block and suffered death as an enemy to the constitution of his country. Though the monarchy was restored under Charles the Second, and transmitted to James the Second, yet the same arbitrary maxims being pursued, the nation, tenacious of its rights, invited the Prince of Orange to the sovereignty of the island, and expelled the reigning family from the throne. While these spirited exertions were made, in support of the liberties of the parent isle, the English Colonies were settled, and chiefly with inhabitants of that class of people, which was most hostile to the claims of prerogative. Every transaction in that period of English history, supported the position that the people have a right to resist their sovereign, when he invades their liberties, and to transfer the crown from one to another, when the good of the community requires it.
The English Colonists were from their first settlement in America, devoted to liberty, on English ideas, and English principles. They not only conceived themselves to inherit the privileges of Englishmen, but though in a colonial situation, actually possessed them.
After a long war between King and Parliament, and a Revolution—these were settled on the following fundamental principles.
That it was the undoubted right of English subjects, being freemen or freeholders, to give their property, only by their own consent. That the House of Commons exercised the sole right of granting the money of the people of England, because that house alone, represented them. That taxes were the free gifts of the people to their rulers. That the authority of sovereigns was to be exercised only for the good of their subjects. That it was the right of the people to meet together, and peaceably to consider of their grievances— to petition for a redress of them, and finally, when intolerable grievances were unredressed, to seek relief, on the failure of petitions and remonstrances, by forcible means.
Opinions of this kind generally prevailing, produced, among the colonists, a more determined spirit of opposition to all encroachments on their rights, than would probably have taken place, had they emigrated from the Mother Country in the preceding century, when the doctrines of passive obedience, non resistance, and the divine right of kings, were generally received.
That attachment to their sovereign, which was diminished in the first emigrants to America, by being removed to a great distance from his influence was still farther diminished, in their descendants. When the American revolution commenced, the inhabitants of the colonies were for the most part, the third and fourth, and sometimes the fifth or sixth generation, from the original emigrants. In the same degree as they were removed from that parent stock, they were weaned from the partial attachment, which bound their forefathers to the place of their nativity. The affection for the Mother Country, as far as it was a natural passion, wore away in successive generations, till at last it had scarcely any existence.
That mercantile intercourse, which connects different countries, was in the early periods of the English Colonies, far short of that degree, which is necessary to perpetuate a friendly union. Had the first great colonial establishments been made in the Southern Provinces, where the suitableness of native commodities would have maintained a brisk and direct trade with England—the constant exchange of good offices between the two countries, would have been more likely to perpetuate their friendship. But as the Eastern Provinces were the first, which were thickly settled, and they did not for a long time cultivate an extensive trade with England, their descendants speedily lost the fond attachment, which their forefathers felt to their Parent State. The bulk of the people in New England knew little of the Mother Country, having only heard of her as a distant kingdom, the rulers  of which, had in the preceding century, persecuted and banished their ancestors to the woods of America.
The distance of America from Great Britain generated ideas, in the minds of the colonists, favourable to liberty. Three thousand miles of ocean separated them from the Mother Country. Seas rolled, and months passed, between orders, and their execution. In large governments the circulation of power is enfeebled at the extremities. This results from the nature of things, and is the eternal law of extensive or detached empire. Colonists, growing up to maturity, at such an immense distance from the seat of government, perceived the obligation of dependence much more feebly, than the inhabitants of the parent isle, who not only saw, but daily felt, the fangs of power. The wide extent and nature of the country contributed to the same effect. The natural seat of freedom is among high mountains, and pathless deserts, such as abound in the wilds of America.
The religion of the colonists also nurtured a love for liberty. They were chiefly protestants, and all protestantism is founded on a strong claim to natural liberty, and the right of private judgement. A majority of them were of that class of men, who, in England, are called Dissenters. Their tenets, being the protestantism of the protestant religion, are hostile to all interference of authority, in matters of opinion, and predispose to a jealousy for civil liberty. They who belonged to the Church of England were for the most part independents, as far as church government and hierarchy, were concerned. They used the liturgy of that church, but were without Bishops, and were strangers to those systems, which make religion an engine of state. That policy, which unites the lowest curate with the greatest metropolitan, and connects both with the sovereign, was unknown among the colonists. Their religion was their own, and neither imposed by authority, nor made subservient to political purposes. Though there was a variety of sects, they all agreed in the communion of liberty, and all reprobated the courtly doctrines of passive obedience, and non-resistance. The same dispositions were fostered by the usual  modes of education in the colonies. The study of law was common and fashionable. The infinity of disputes, in a new and free country, made it lucrative, and multiplied its followers. No order of men has, in all ages, been more favourable to liberty, than lawyers. Where they are not won over to the service of government, they are formidable adversaries to it. Professionally taught the rights of human nature, they keenly and quickly perceive every attack made on them. While others judge of bad principles by the actual grievances they occasion, lawyers discover them at a distance, and trace future mischiefs from gilded innovations.
The reading of those colonists who were inclined to books, generally favoured the cause of liberty. Large libraries were uncommon in the New World. Disquisitions on abstruse subjects, and curious researches into antiquity, did not accord with the genius of a people, settled in an uncultivated country, where every surrounding object impelled to action, and little leisure was left for speculation. Their books were generally small in size, and few in number: A great part of them consisted of those fashionable authors, who have defended the cause of liberty. Catos’ letters, the Independent Whig, and such productions, were common in one extreme of the colonies, while in the other, histories of the Puritans, kept alive the remembrance of the sufferings of their forefathers, and inspired a warm attachment, both to the civil and the religious rights of human nature.
In the Southern Colonies, slavery nurtured a spirit of liberty, among the free inhabitants. All masters of slaves who enjoy personal liberty will be both proud and jealous of their freedom. It is, in their opinion, not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege. In them, the haughtiness of domination, combines with the spirit of liberty. Nothing could more effectually animate the opposition of a planter to the claims of Great-Britain, than a conviction that those claims in their extent, degraded him to a degree of dependence on his fellow subjects, equally humiliating with that which existed between his slaves and himself.
 The state of society in the Colonies favoured a spirit of liberty and independence. Their inhabitants were all of one rank. Kings, Nobles and Bishops, were unknown among them. From their first settlement, the English Provinces received impressions favourable to democratic forms of government. Their dependent situation forbad any inordinate ambition among their native sons, and the humility of their society, abstracted as they were from the splendor and amusements of the Old World, held forth few allurements to invite the residence of such from the Mother Country as aspired to hereditary honors. In modern Europe, the remains of the feudal system have occasioned an order of men superior to that of the commonality, but, as few of that class migrated to the Colonies, they were settled with the yeomanry. Their inhabitants, unaccustomed to that distinction of ranks, which the policy of Europe has established, were strongly impressed with an opinion, that all men are by nature equal. They could not easily be persuaded that their grants of land, or their civil rights, flowed from the munificence of Princes. Many of them had never heard of Magna Charta, and those who knew the circumstances of the remarkable period of English history, when that was obtained, did not rest their claims to liberty and property on the transactions of that important day. They looked up to Heaven as the source of their rights, and claimed, not from the promises of Kings but, from the parent of the universe. The political creed of an American Colonist was short but substantial. He believed that God made all mankind originally equal: That he endowed them with the rights of life, property, and as much liberty as was consistent with the rights of others. That he had bestowed on his vast family of the human race, the earth for their support, and that all government was a political institution between men naturally equal, not for the aggrandizement of one, or a few, but for the general happiness of the whole community. Impressed with sentiments of this kind, they grew up, from their earliest infancy, with that confidence which is well calculated to inspire a love for liberty, and a prepossession in favour of independence.
 In consequence of the vast extent of vacant country, every colonist was, or easily might be, a freeholder. Settled on lands of his own, he was both farmer and landlord—producing all the necessaries of life from his own grounds, he felt himself both free and independent. Each individual might hunt, fish, or fowl, without injury to his neighbours. These immunities which, in old countries, are guarded by the sanction of penal laws, and monopolized by a few, are the common privileges of all, in America. Colonists, growing up in the enjoyment of such rights, felt the restraint of law more feebly than they, who are educated in countries, where long habits have made submission familiar. The mind of man naturally relishes liberty—where from the extent of a new and unsettled country, some abridgements thereof are useless, and others impracticable, the natural desire of freedom is strengthened, and the independent mind revolts at the idea of subjection.
The Colonists were also preserved from the contagion of ministerial influence by their distance from the metropolis. Remote from the seat of power and corruption, they were not over-awed by the one, nor debauched by the other. Few were the means of detaching individuals from the interest of the public. High offices, were neither sufficiently numerous nor lucrative to purchase many adherents, and the most valuable of these were conferred on natives of Britain. Every man occupied that rank only, which his own industry, or that of his near ancestors, had procured him. Each individual being cut off from all means of rising to importance, but by his personal talents, was encouraged to make the most of those with which he was endowed. Prospects of this kind excited emulation, and produced an enterprising laborious set of men, not easily overcome by difficulties, and full of projects for bettering their condition.
The enervating opulence of Europe had not yet reached the colonists. They were destitute of gold and silver, but abounded in the riches of nature. A sameness of circumstances and occupations created a great sense of equality, and disposed them to union in any common cause,  from the success of which, they might expect to partake of equal advantages.
The colonies were communities of separate independent individuals, under no general influence, but that of their personal feelings and opinions. They were not led by powerful families, nor by great officers, in church or state. Residing chiefly on lands of their own, and employed in the wholesome labours of the field, they were in a great measure strangers to luxury. Their wants were few, and among the great bulk of the people, for the most part, supplied from their own grounds. Their enjoyments were neither far-fetched, nor dearly purchased, and were so moderate in their kind, as to leave both mind and body unimpaired. Inured from their early years to the toils of a country life, they dwelled in the midst of rural plenty. Unacquainted with ideal wants, they delighted in personal independence. Removed from the pressures of indigence, and the indulgence of affluence, their bodies were strong, and their minds vigorous.
The great bulk of the British colonists were farmers, or planters, who were also proprietors of the soil. The merchants, mechanics and manufacturers, taken collectively, did not amount to one fifteenth of the whole number of inhabitants. While the cultivators of the soil depend on nothing but heaven and their own industry, other classes of men contract more or less of servility, from depending on the caprice of their customers. The excess of the farmers over the collective numbers of all the other inhabitants, gave a cast of independence to the manners of the people, and diffused the exalting sentiments, which have always predominated among those, who are cultivators of their own grounds. These were farther promoted by their moderate circumstances, which deprived them of all superfluity for idleness, or effeminate indulgence.
The provincial constitutions of the English colonies nurtured a spirit of liberty. The King and government of Great-Britain held no patronage in America, which could create a portion of attachment and influence, sufficient to counteract that spirit in popular assemblies, which, when left to itself, illy brooks any authority, that interferes with its own.
 The inhabitants of the colonies from the beginning, especially in New-England, enjoyed a government, which was but little short of being independent. They had not only the image, but the substance of the English constitution. They chose most of their magistrates, and paid them all. They had in effect the sole direction of their internal government. The chief mark of their subordination consisted in their making no laws repugnant to the laws of their Mother Country—their submitting such laws as they made to be repealed by the King, and their obeying such restrictions, as were laid on their trade, by parliament. The latter were often evaded, and with impunity. The other small checks were scarcely felt, and for a long time were in no respects injurious to their interests.
Under these favourable circumstances, colonies in the new world had advanced nearly to the magnitude of a nation, while the greatest part of Europe was almost wholly ignorant of their progress. Some arbitrary proceedings of governors, proprietary partialities, or democratical jealousies, now and then, interrupted the political calm, which generally prevailed among them, but these and other occasional impediments of their prosperity, for the most part, soon subsided. The circumstances of the country afforded but little scope for the intrigues of politicians, or the turbulence of demagogues. The colonists being but remotely affected by the bustlings of the old world, and having but few objects of ambition or contention among themselves, were absorbed in the ordinary cares of domestic life, and for a long time exempted from a great proportion of those evils, which the governed too often experience, from the passions and follies of statesmen. But all this time they were rising higher, and though not sensible of it, growing to a greater degree of political consequence.
1745One of the first events, which as an evidence of their increasing importance, drew on the colonies a share of public attention, was the taking of Louisbourg from France, while that country was at war with Great-Britain. This enterprize was projected by Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, and undertaken by the sole authority of  the legislature of that Colony. It was carried by only a single vote to make the attempt, but after the adoption of the measure, there was an immediate union of all parties, and all were equally zealous in carrying it into execution. The expedition was committed to General Pepperell, and upwards of 5000 men were speedily raised for the service, and put under his command. This force arrived at Canso, on the 4th of April: A British marine force from the West-Indies, commanded by Commodore Warren, which arrived in the same month, acted in concert with these land forces. Their combined operations were carried on with so much judgment, that on the 17th of June the fortress capitulated.
The war in which Louisbourg was taken, was scarcely ended when another began, in which the colonies were distinguished parties. The reduction of that fortress, by colonial troops, must have given both to France and England, enlarged ideas of the value of American territory, and might have given rise to that eagerness for extending the boundaries of their respective colonies, which soon after, by a collision of claims to the same ground, laid the foundation of a bloody war between the two nations. It is neither possible nor necessary to decide on the rights of either to the lands about which this contest began. It is certain that the prospects of convenience and future advantage, had much more influence on both, than the considerations of equity. As the contending powers considered the rights of the native inhabitants of no account, it is not wonderful that they should not agree in settling their own. The war was brought on in the following manner. About the year 1749, a grant of 600,000 acres of land in the neighbourhood of the Ohio, was made out in favour of certain persons in Westminster, London, and Virginia, who had associated under the title of the Ohio company. At this time France was in possession of the country, on both sides of the mouth of the Mississippi, as well as of Canada, and wished to form a communication between these two extremities of her territories in North-America. She was therefore alarmed at the scheme in agitation by the Ohio company  in as much as the land granted to them, lay between her Northern and Southern settlements.1753 Remonstrances against British encroachments, as they were called, having been made in vain by the Governor of Canada, the French, at length, seized some British subjects who were trading among the Twightwees, a nation of Indians near the Ohio, as intruders on the land of his most Christian Majesty, and sent them to a fort on the South side of Lake Erie. The Twightwees, by way of retaliation for capturing British traders, whom they deemed their allies, seized three French traders and sent them to Pennsylvania. The French persisting in their claims to the country on the Ohio, as part of Canada, strengthened themselves by erecting new forts in its vicinity, and at length began to seize and plunder every British trader, found on any part of that river. Repeated complaints of those violences being made to the Governor of Virginia, it was at length determined to send a suitable person to the French commandant near the Ohio, to demand the reason of his hostile proceedings, and to insist on his evacuating a fort he had lately built. Major Washington, being then but little more than 21 years of age, offered his service, which was thankfully accepted. The distance to the French settlement was more than 400 miles, and one half of the rout led through a wilderness, inhabited only by Indians. He nevertheless set out in an uncommonly severe season, attended only by one companion. From Winchester, he proceeded on foot, with his provisions on his back. When he arrived and delivered his message, the French commandant refused to comply, and claimed the country as belonging to the King his master, and declared that he should continue to seize and send as prisoners to Canada, every Englishman that should attempt to trade on the Ohio, or any of its branches. Before Major Washington returned, the Virginians had sent out workmen and materials, to erect a fort at the conflux of the Ohio, and the Monongahela. While they were engaged in this work, the French came upon them—drove them out of the country, and erected a regular fortification on the same spot. These spirited  proceedings overset the schemes of the Ohio company, but its members both in England and America, were too powerful to brook the disappointment. It was therefore resolved to instruct the colonies to oppose with arms, the encroachments of the French on the British territories, as these Western lands were called. In obedience to these instructions, Virginia raised three hundred men, put them under the command of Colonel Washington, and sent them on towards the Ohio.May 28, 1754 An engagement between them and a party of French, took place, in which the latter were defeated. On this Mr. de Villier, the French commandant marched down with 900 men, besides Indians, and attacked the Virginians. Colonel Washington made a brave defence, behind a small unfinished intrenchment; called Fort Necessity; but at length accepted of honorable terms of capitulation.
From the eagerness discovered by both nations for these lands, it occurred to all, that a rupture between France and England, could not be far distant. It was also evident to the rulers of the latter, that the colonies would be the most convenient centre of operation, for repressing French encroachments. To draw forth their colonial resources, in an uniform system of operations, then, for the first time, became an object of public attention.1754 To digest a plan for this purpose, a general meeting of the Governors, and most influential members of the Provincial Assemblies, was held at Albany. The commissioners, at this Congress, were unanimously of opinion, that an union of the colonies was necessary, and they proposed a plan to the following effect, “that a grand Council should be formed of members, to be chosen by the Provincial Assemblies, which Council, together with a Governor, to be appointed by the Crown, should be authorised to make general laws, and also to raise money from all the colonies for their common defence.[”] The leading members of the Provincial Assemblies, were of opinion, that if this plan was adopted, they could defend themselves from the French, without any assistance from Great-Britain. This plan, when sent to England, was not acceptable to the Ministry, and in lieu thereof, they  proposed “that the Governors of all the colonies, attended by one or two members of their respective Councils,” which were for the most part of royal appointment, “should from time to time concert measures for the whole colonies—erect forts, and raise troops with a power to draw upon the British treasury in the first instance: but to be ultimately re-imbursed by a tax to be laid on the colonies by act of Parliament.” This was as much disrelished by the colonists, as the former plan had been by the British Ministry. The principle of some general power, operating on the whole of the colonies, was still kept in mind, though dropped for the present.
The ministerial plan laid down above, was transmitted to Governor Shirley; and by him communicated to Dr. Franklin, and his opinion thereon requested. That sagacious patriot, sent to the Governor an answer in writing, with remarks upon the proposed plan, in which by his strong reasoning powers, on the first view of the new subject, he anticipated the substance of a controversy, which for twenty years employed the tongues, pens and swords, of both countries.
The policy of repressing the encroachments of the French on the British colonies, was generally approved, both in England and America. It was therefore resolved to take effectual measures for driving them from the Ohio, and also for reducing Niagara, Crown-Point, and the other posts, which they held within the limit claimed by the King of Great-Britain.
To effect the first purpose, General Braddock was sent from Ireland to Virginia, with two regiments, and was there joined by as many more, as amounted, in the whole, to 2200 men. He was a brave man, but destitute of the other qualifications of a great officer. His haughtiness disgusted the Americans, and his severity made him disagreeable to the regular troops. He particularly slighted the country militia, and the Virginia officers. Colonel Washington begged his permission to go before him, and scour the woods with his provincial troops, who were well acquainted with that service, but this was refused.1755 June 9 The General with 1400 men pushed on incautiously, till he  fell into an ambuscade of French and Indians, by whom he was defeated, and mortally wounded. The regulars, as the British Troops at that time were called, were thrown into confusion, but the Provincials more used to Indian fighting, were not so much disconcerted. They continued in an unbroken body under, Colonel Washington, and by covering the retreat of the regulars, prevented their entirely being cut off.
Notwithstanding these hostilities, war had not yet been formally declared. Previous to the adoption of that measure, Great-Britain, contrary to the usages of nations, made prisoners of 8000 French sailors. This heavy blow for a long time, crippled the naval operations of France, but at the same time, inspired her with a desire, to retaliate, whenever a proper opportunity should present itself. For two or three years, after Braddock’s defeat, the war was carried on against France, without vigor or success, but when Mr. Pitt was placed at the head of the ministry, public affairs assumed a new aspect.1759 Victory, every where, crowned the British arms, and, in a short time, the French were dispossessed, not only of all the British territories, on which they had encroached, but also of Quebec, the capital of their ancient Province, Canada.
In the course of this war, some of the colonies made exertions so far beyond their reasonable quota, as to merit a re-imbursement from the national treasury; but this was not universally the case. In consequence of internal disputes, together with their greater domestic security, the necessary supplies had not been raised in due time, by others, of the Provincial Assemblies. That a British Minister should depend on colony legislatures, for the execution of his plans, did not well accord with the vigorous and decisive genius of Mr. Pitt, but it was not prudent, by any innovation, to irritate the colonies, during a war, in which, from local circumstances, their exertions were peculiarly beneficial. The advantages that would result from an ability, to draw forth the resources of the colonies, by the same authority, which commanded the wealth of the Mother Country, might in these circumstances  have suggested the idea of taxing the colonies by authority of the British Parliament. Mr. Pitt is said to have told Mr. Franklin, “that when the war closed, if he should be in the ministry, he would take measures to prevent the colonies from having a power to refuse or delay the supplies that might be wanted for national purposes,” but did not mention what those measures should be. As often as money or men were wanted from the colonies, a requisition was made to their legislatures. These were generally and cheerfully complied with. Their exertions with a few exceptions were great, and manifested a serious desire to carry into effect the plans of Great-Britain, for reducing the power of France.
In the prosecution of this war, the advantages which Great-Britain derived from the colonies, were severely felt by her enemies. Upwards of 400 privateers which were fitted out of the ports of the British colonies, successfully cruised on French property. These not only ravaged the West-India islands, belonging to his most Christian Majesty, but made many captures on the coast of France. Besides distressing the French nation by privateering, the colonies furnished 23,800 men, to co-operate with the British regular forces, in North-America. They also sent powerful aids, both in men and provisions, out of their own limits, which facilitated the reduction of Martinique, and of the Havannah. The success of their privateers—the cooperation of their land forces—the convenience of their harbours, and their contiguity to the West-India islands, made the colonies great acquisitions to Britain, and formidable adversaries to France. From their growing importance, the latter had much to fear. Their continued union with Great-Britain, threatened the subversion of the commerce, and American possessions, of France.
1763After hostilities had raged nearly eight years—a general peace was concluded, on terms, by which France ceded Canada to Great-Britain. The Spaniards having also taken part in the war, were, at the termination of it, induced to relinquish to the same power, both East and West-Florida. This peace gave Great-Britain possession  of an extent of country equal in dimensions to several of the kingdoms of Europe. The possession of Canada in the North, and of the two Floridas in the South, made her almost sole mistress of the North-American Continent.
This laid a foundation for future greatness, which excited the envy and the fears of Europe. Her navy, her commerce, and her manufactures had greatly increased, when she held but a part of the Continent; and when she was bounded by the formidable powers of France and Spain. Her probable future greatness, when without a rival, and with a growing vent for her manufactures, and increasing employment for her marine, threatened to destroy that balance of power, which European sovereigns have for a long time endeavored to preserve. Kings are republicans with respect to each other, and behold with democratic jealousy, any one of their order towering above the rest. The aggrandizement of one, tends to excite the combination, or at least the wishes of many, to reduce him to the common level. From motives of this kind, a great part of Europe not long since combined against Venice; and soon after against Louis the XIVth of France. With the same suspicious eye, was the naval superiority of Great-Britain, viewed by her neighbours. They were, in general, disposed to favour any convulsion which promised a diminution of her overgrown power.
The addition to the British empire of new provinces, equal in extent to old kingdoms, not only excited the jealousy of European powers, but occasioned doubts in the minds of enlightened British politicians, whether or not, such immense acquisitions of territory would contribute to the felicity of the parent State. They saw, or thought they saw, the seeds of disunion, planted in the too widely extended empire. Power like all things human, has its limits, and there is a point beyond which the longest and sharpest sword fails of doing execution. To combine in one uniform system of Government, the extensive territory then subjected to the British sway appeared to men of reflection, a work of doubtful practicability:  Nor were they mistaken in their conjectures.
The seeds of discord were soon planted, and speedily grew up to the rending of the empire. The high notions of liberty and independence, which were nurtured in the colonies, by their local situation, and the state of society in the new world, were increased by the removal of hostile neighbours. The events of the war, had also given them some experience in military operations, and some confidence in their own ability. Foreseeing their future importance, from the rapid increase of their numbers, and extension of their commerce; and being extremely jealous of their rights, they readily admitted, and with pleasure indulged, ideas and sentiments which were favourable to independence. While combustible materials were daily collecting, in the new world, a spark to kindle the whole was produced in the old. Nor were there wanting those who, from a jealousy of Great-Britain, helped to fan the flame.