Foundations

In the fifteenth century, the Portuguese began the European exploration of the New World that culminated in Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. These early adventurers were followed by explorers from other European nations, particularly Spain. Britain’s earliest attempts at colonization, first at Roanoke and then in Jamestown, New England, and the West Indies, continued the process of European expansion into the Atlantic. During this expansion, the slave-labor-based plantation complex, centered on sugar production, developed. The West Indies and coastal Brazil possessed the perfect environment for sugar cultivation, and Portuguese trade enclaves in West Africa provided slave laborers. Britain’s establishment of colonies occurred within an already established and defined system of expansion in which colonization played a role in the development of European state structure. That is, the need to govern colonies reinforced the bureaucracy of the centralized government back in the home country. Early English colonization efforts were primarily private ventures through joint-stock companies. The private financing of these efforts meant that the colonies were intended as profit-making ventures, providing the foundation for colonial economic development. English colonization began with the Virginia Company’s settlement at Jamestown, where settlers suffered through a decade of starvation, brutal discipline, and strife until the first successful tobacco harvest in the late 1610s. The subsequent tobacco boom led to the development of a plantation-based economy on mainland North America, which reinforced the profitability of colonization. Virginia’s tobacco production supports the staples thesis focus on exports and helps explain the rise of African slavery. Virginians discovered that an abundance of land, once appropriated from its original inhabitants, necessitated affordable labor to work it. While Virginia experimented with several labor systems, including indentured servants, African slavery proved the most effective solution. North American Economy, 1750. The North American economy in colonial times was largely geared toward the output of raw materials from forests, mines, and farms. (Carto-Graphics) A counter to the staples thesis occurred twenty years later with the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There, the Puritan founders came not to create dividends for their investors but to obtain religious freedom. To accomplish this goal, they needed to find ways to survive and thrive in the New World. The region they settled in was ill suited for plantation agriculture, and so small, family farms developed instead. New England was mainly settled by these farmers; however, a more diversified economic system of agricultural production, manufacturing, and trade developed over time. As these first colonial ventures were established, the English Civil War (16381660), which was caused by political, religious, constitutional, social, and economic factors, interrupted the focus on colonization for over a decade. The most important colonial result of this conflict involved a second wave of settlements, governed by a newly created mercantile system. The foundations of this system came during the Puritan Commonwealth period, when Parliament defined the economic relationship between England and its colonies. Mercantilism, as an economic philosophy, was not yet a cohesive body of thought in the seventeenth century. Adam Smith first used the term in his 1776 Wealth of Nations, but it can best be defined as a system designed to generate revenue and wealth for the state. Some basic tenets of mercantilism, a mixture of feudal and capitalist economic beliefs, had previously existed, such as the concept that wealth was finite and the desire to create a favorable balance of trade was a key to prosperity. Early English mercantilists, such as Thomas Munn, argued that foreign trade constituted the best way for England to increase its treasury, and the Navigation Acts embodied these ideas. The Navigation Act of 1651, in an attempt to reduce the Dutch role in the carrying trade, stipulated that all goods imported into England and its colonies must arrive on English ships, with predominantly English crews. (The act excluded goods coming from Europe to England.) In 1660, another parliamentary act set the nationality of crews at least at three-quarters Englishmen and defined a set of enumerated goods, including tobacco, cotton, sugar, and indigo, which could go only from the colonies directly to England. The 1663 Staple Act required that all goods shipped from Europe to the colonies first go through England. Through this re-export trade, the British government controlled the flow of goods from the colonies to Europe and vice versa. In 1673, the final Navigation Act regulated trade between colonies by requiring every ship carrying enumerated goods either to give a bond if sailing to England or to pay the duty up front if sailing to another British colony. While the Navigation Acts successfully increased England’s wealth, a major problem was the difficulty of enforcement. The strengths and weaknesses of the Navigation Acts benefited both England and the colonies. While they restricted colonists’ trade with other countries, they also limited other nations’ intrusion into colonial trade. Meanwhile, the second wave of colonization started with the eight lord proprietors of the Carolinas and ended with the founding of Georgia. The major difference between the first and second wave of settlement was that the latter occurred through the Crown distributing proprietary grants. The proprietary system involved granting large tracts of land to individuals or groups. Following the 1664 conquest by the English of New Netherland, which was renamed New York, this colony was divided into two, when the Duke of York presented proprietary grants to Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley to form New Jersey. The next proprietary grant was to William Penn, who hoped to create a Quaker commonwealth in Pennsylvania. The final colony, granted to twenty-one trustees, was Georgia. All of the grants focused on land and the desire to make it productive, while ensuring state revenue. What quickly happened was that the complex and hard-to-enforce proprietary systems, often modeled upon feudal practices, broke down, and land ownership was dispersed. Whether within the proprietary tenant system or the developing system of private ownership, the new colonies, like those before them, centered their early economic development on agricultural production. Over time, diversification and specialization occurred in three colonial regions. From north to south, these regions were the New England colonies, the Mid-Atlantic colonies, and the Southern colonies. Within these regions, environmental and geographic variations further defined each colony’s economic opportunities. In New England, the often sandy, rocky soil did not prohibit farming, but it did limit production. Most New England farms were small and family run, and they produced mainly for a local market. For this reason, New England developed a diversified economy. The Mid-Atlantic colonies contained productive farmland, more suited to the production of wheat and corn than of cash crops. These crops required control of both land and labor, although these staples were not as labor-intensive as the cash crops grown farther south. The food surplus in the MidAtlantic region provided an export commodity, but these colonies also developed a diversified economy for local consumption. Of the three regions, the Southern colonies were the least diversified because of the plantation system, within which landowners utilized almost all available land and labor in the production of one or two crops such as tobacco in Virginia and rice and indigo in South Carolina. The Southern plantation system created a slave society where the economic, social, and political system evolved from the control of land and labor. During the course of the eighteenth century, the Southern economy did become more diversified. It is worth noting that while such economic differences defined each region, their economic interaction and consumption of similar commodities muted many of these differences.Castle On The Cheap: 4. Foundations travelquaz

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