The colonies of the New World were formed by a very diverse group of people. The colonists had personal reasons for settling in America. Socially, politically, and religiously they all differed. I will explain their backgrounds on each and then tie it all together showing you how our country came to be an equal nation of all these peoples.
First of all, the colonists were socially different. Most of the first settlers were not the first born men in the family. They were the younger brothers who had no inheritance and wanted to create their own estates for themselves and their families. Another group of people came to the world as indentured servants. In fact, this accounted for three-fourths of the emigrants in the 17th century. They offered their services to someone for usually five to seven years in exchange for transportation to the New World and food and clothing while working out their commitments. There were very few upper class people who ventured in to the great wilderness. But America did show to be a dumping ground for convicts who were sent there to work off their crimes. They were usually sent as indentured servants, only against their free wills.
Secondly, political backgrounds varied between the colonists. A lot of people came to get away from England and their bureaucratic and insufficient way of governing. In the colonies there was no aristocracy. No nobles, no lords enforcing the King”s laws were present. The colonists were mainly working class people. They made their own means for survival. They had ventured on to a new continent just hoping to start anew. And they did. In 1619 the House of Burgesses was formed to make laws for the colonies. Virginia was the birthplace of democracy. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were the first written “constitution” in English, placing limits on government. John Locke was a man of great influence in the beginning, a political philosopher who proclaimed that all men have the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. This was another step towards democracy. The colonies were made up of industrious, church going men and women looking to break away from British government.
Last, but not least, the founders of the United States were by all means religiously diverse. England as a rule was a Roman Catholic country, where the Pope showed unconditional guidance. Then there was the Anglican Church created by Henry VIII where the King was in charge. And even then there was radical John Calvin standing in the back preaching about predestination to whoever would listen. His ideas struck through all of Europe before too long. Through the 1500s and 1600s severe religious conflicts surfaced. So here we have all these people being bantered with different religions. What do you do? Head out, get religious freedom. Thus, many of the colonists were seeking just that, religious freedom. So on to the New World. Now there obviously is a rainbow of religion. Pietists, Mennonites, Amish, Dunkards, Moravians, Deists, Quakers, etc. We could go on. Don”t forget the Puritans. In the colonies, congregational churches dominated New England while Anglicans were prevalent in Virginia. Quakers settled in Pennsylvania and Catholics in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The development of our country and how we evolved is in direct connection with the differences between our founding fathers. We began as working class, industrious people, working every day to survive in a foreign land. That hard work gave us pride in ourselves and our achievements enough to take charge of the colonies, and rise up against the unjust control England had over us. We were the ones in the New World laboring while they just reaped the benefits of our hard work.
Also, the political backgrounds made colonists find a new way of governing. The idea of nobles was pretty far fetched in the colonies given that the majority of our population was working class. Also, the most important political idea in America was the equality of men. According to John Locke”s philosophy, all men were created equal and have the unalienable rights to life, liberty and property according to God. (Later the latter changed to the pursuit of happiness.) Thus, the predominant idea in the Declaration of Independence was equality. The end result was democracy. Freedom of speech, the writ of Habeas Corpus, freedom of the press, and more followed for United States citizens. It may have taken a while longer for women and African Americans to get their rights established, but the foundation was laid out for them.
We can”t forget religious diversity in America. This was a major reason people came to the New World to begin with, religious freedom. This was hands down non-negotiable and became a standard in America. All the different religions available in America gave people the opportunity to express the religion and god of their choice, without persecution.
In conclusion, our country today has been built from the foundation up by working people with goals of developing a free country with a democratic government. I believe we succeeded. And we have only those socially, politically, and religiously diverse people to thank for coming together and creating the United States of America we live in today.