The first successful colony in America was in Jamestown, Virginia, established 1607. When it was first founded, the colony contained only several hundred people. During the two hundred years that followed the population increased greatly, due in part to massive immigration from the Old World. By 1790 the colony housed a little under four million people. The high rate of immigration stemmed from a number of different motivators, including the peoples’ hope for a better lifestyle than the one they experienced in the Old World, religious zeal, cheaper land and higher wages for manual laborers, and overpopulation in England.
Farmers and manual laborers were attracted to America by the prospect of higher wages and lower costs of living. “Most of these people were of the ‘industrious’ sort–craftsmen, yeomen farmers, and small merchants…” (Document A). Since the New World sought these types of laborers to further the economy and lacked a sufficient number of them, the demand increased, and with it the wages. The cost of living was also lower because the New World was virtually unpopulated and there was a low demand for residence as compared with England; subsequently, the costs were lower. According to William Penn, “their labor will be worth more than it is in England and their living will be cheaper.” (Document 1).
Religious types, especially the Puritans, were drawn to America by the possibility of converting natives and spreading the message and lifestyle that they upheld to others through example. They hoped for “new souls” to be “won for God.” (David Cressy article). By establishing what they considered to be an ideal and pious community, these colonizers wanted to build a new home for Christianity, extended from its confines of the Old World. One man who brought people like this to America through his words was John Winthrop, who said that colonization would carry the benefit of “service to the Lord.” (Document 3). Winthrop was a prominent leader of the English Puritans in their voyage to the Massachusetts Bay to build such a colony.
Another motivation for immigration was the hope of a better lifestyle by the settlers. “Many left depressed…regions in search of a new start.” (Document A). Some people felt oppressed by the English government and wanted freedom from it. Also, many people who were denied the privilege of land ownership in England believed that they could fulfill this wish in the New World. As mentioned before, land was cheaper in America due to a fairly low demand for it, which increased the probability of one being able to own it. Therefore, the possibility of land ownership and a new start was an attraction for the colonizers.
Some of the people that emigrated, however, were not actually motivated to do so by the attractions of the New World. Instead, overpopulation in England and pressure from the government pushed them out of the country and into America. Since the pioneers of the colonies wanted them to flourish and needed inhabitants to achieve this goal, the government encouraged unemployed or idle Englishmen to settle there. “…Thousands of Englishmen were forced off the land and unwelcome itinerants became a common sight…constituting a problem.” (Document 2). The solution to this problem was to ship the unwelcome men off to America, which is what the government did, and was a partial reason for the population boom.
Different people were attracted to the New World for different reasons, such as the wish to own land, better one’s lifestyle, or promote Christianity. These attractions paired with overpopulation in England were the reason that so many people emigrated to colonial America. The new area presented a whole fresh realm of possibilities that England did not offer, and as a result, the unemployed, unhappy and/or restless went there in search of satisfaction and something new. Various literature written by educated men of the period promoted emigration and helped spread the word of these prospects. These reasons are what account for the large number of that people moved to colonial America in the seventeenth century.
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