The Social Character of the Early American Colonists - North American Colonies

Taken from The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century (1898) by Edgar Sanderson

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called "flying machines", journeying in two days from New York to Philadelphia, were introduced at the end of this period. A postal system, of which Benjamin Franklin was one of the earlier directors, was established for the whole country.

There were marked differences of social character and life between the peoples of the three different groups of colonies, and, in political and military affairs, when the day of trial came, much divergence of spirit was revealed. The colonists of New England, who dwelt in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, were largely Puritan: strict in morals, simple in life, possessed of free and popular institutions, and of intellectual power which was brilliantly shown in oratorical and literary effort, then and in later days. From New England sprang America's most original metaphysician, Jonathan Edwards, born in Connecticut, in 1703, author of the Freedom of the Will, and founder of a school of Calvinistic theologians. Daniel Webster, one of the most moving of American speakers, was born in New Hampshire. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the brilliant describer of early New England life, as author of Twice-told Tales, The Scarlet Letter, and The House of the Seven Gables, was of Salem, in Massachusetts. Longfellow first saw the light in Portland, Maine, a state founded in 1820, and forming, in 1807, the year of the poet's birth, a part of Massachusetts. Dr. Channing, the great preacher, liberal theologian, and opponent of slavery, a graduate of Harvard, was a native of Rhode Island. Emerson, the wise philosopher, lofty in spirit, quaint and delicate in utterance, is one of whom Boston is justly proud. Motley, the vivid and accurate historian of the Dutch Republic, was a man of Massachusetts. The same state produced Bancroft and Prescott, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell.

The Middle Group of colonies, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, had people of very mixed race. The Dutch in New York, the Swedes in Delaware, German Protestants, Huguenots, Welsh emigrants, with the other British settlers, furnished many shades of social and commercial character. The main occupations were mining and agriculture. There was, during the war against Great Britain, a lack, at various times, of public spirit and self-sacrifice in the cause. One famous politician, Benjamin Franklin, won his renown as a citizen of Pennsylvania, though he, like so many of the illustrious men above named, was … continue reading »

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