« PreviousContinue »
THE UNITED STATES.
THE history of the United States virtually begins with the emigration of the various bands of English settlers who pitched their tents in the forests of North America. The different Colonies which rapidly sprang up one after the other were nothing else than the United States in embryo; and in following, however generally, their growth and development, we shall discover the origin of those traits and institutions which suddenly converted a group of youthful Colonies into a galaxy of sovereign States.
Before entering on any delineation of the incipient States, it may be well to refresh the memory of the general reader with some of the dates connected with the annals of North America.
In 1492, America was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
In 1497, John Cabot, believing he could reach the East Indies by the North-West Passage, induced Henry VII. of England to aid him, and though he failed in his original project, he was the first to discover Newfoundland, Labrador, and Canada. In 1512, Florida was discovered by Ponce de Leon. In 1534, Canada was occupied by the French, and held till 1763. In 1541, the Mississippi river was discovered by De Soto.
In 1584, the English, under Sir Walter Raleigh, landed in Virginia, thus named after the virgin Queen Elizabeth.* In 1608, John Smith founded Jamestown. This was the first permanent settlement in North America. In 1609, Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson river, and Hudson's Bay, both named after him. In 1614, the Dutch founded a Colony on the site afterwards called New York, which they then termed New Amsterdam. In 1620, the Puritans landed at Plymouth. In 1623, the Dutch occupied Delaware, and in 1627, the Swedes followed them, but in 1664, the English dispossessed both. In 1633, Maryland was settled by the English under Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore, and Carolina was also inhabited by the English in 1663, the latter having been previously colonized by the Spanish and French. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English, who then changed its name to New York, after the Duke of York. In 1681, William Penn established a Quaker Colony at Philadelphia. In 1732, an English Colony settled in Georgia, so named after George II. Whilst the coast was thus occupied, Europeans were making their way into the interior. In 1683, Lasalle, starting from Canada, descended the Mississippi, and took possession of Louisiana, named after Louis XIV., where, in 1699, a French Colony was established. In 1717, New Orleans was founded by the French, and in 1735, also Vincennes in Indiana. England, jealous of the French possessions in America, engaged in war with France in 1754, and by the Treaty of Paris, 1763, became owner of all
*For some time after this the whole country was called Virginia, from Florida on the south, belonging to the Spaniards, to Canada on the north, belonging to the French.
North America save a portion of Louisiana. She did not, however, long retain the sovereignty of this vast empire, for in 1776, the English Colonies rose against the Mother-country, which was forced, in 1783, reluctantly to give them up.
So much for dates: now for a glimpse of the colonial epoch of the United States.
MOST of the English settlers of all the Colonies were loyal subjects of their successive Sovereigns, from James I. to George III., for they abandoned the Mothercountry purely from a spirit of enterprise, and in hope of wealth.
The first emigrants to Virginia, 1607, were a reckless band of adventurers in search of gold. These were followed later by artisans and agriculturists of the lower class.
This was not the character, however, of another batch of emigrants who, though not insensible to worldly advantages,* entertained projects of a more aspiring description. They were enamored of certain turbulent ideas in religion and politics, for which they were ready to sacrifice everything but their lives. To save these, they fled from England to Holland, 1610, but they saw
*The Rev. Cotton Mather, in his History of New England, copies from a manuscript circulated among the Puritans at the time the various considerations that induced them to emigrate. The following is one of them: (C Sixthly: The whole earth is the Lord's garden, and He hath given it to the sons of Adam to be tilled and improved by them. Why then should we stand starving here for places of habitation, and in the meantime suffer whole countries as profitable for the use of man to lie waste without any improvement?" It is plain the Puritans of 1620, with all their " thick-coming fancies" on religion and politics, were a practical people, and their love of theory did not make them indifferent to the ownership of the "Lord's garden" beyond the seas.
little prospect of carrying out their wild schemes among the phlegmatic Dutch, and resolved to embark for the wilderness. They did a wise thing for themselves and posterity those Puritans who embarked at DelftsHaven, 1620, for nowhere on earth, save in the trackless desert, could such theories as theirs be consummated.
The Puritans were the lineal descendants of Luther's rebellion. No sooner was the Roman Church successfully assailed by the first Reformer, than, as we saw, crop after crop of new rebels sprang up. John Knox's Scotch Presbyterians were the immediate progenitors. of these stiff-necked Dissenters south of the Tweed. This new revolutionary Sect proposed to abolish everything but God Himself. Hierarchy, liturgy, music, pontificals, fasting, kneeling, the sign of the cross-all these were abominations borrowed by Rome from Pagan times. They undertook to restore Christianity to its native purity, and considered themselves entitled to the novel appellation of Puritans. The religious discussions then raging in England sharpened the wits of men, and the Puritans must have been the keenest of all to start a new Sect. In fact, they were in religion. downright levellers, sweeping away everything in doctrine or worship then existing.
It was not likely they would bridle their daring spirit when they had got thus far. Having defied all authority in Church matters, they were sure sooner or later to question authority in State matters. This became so palpable even in Queen Bess's reign, that she and my Lord Burleigh considered them more pestiferous than the Catholics, and launched statute after statute against them.