After America had been discovered and explored by the European nations, it was considered by several of the most ambitious ones as worthy of being settled and claimed as a part of their empires. In this unit we shall see how an advanced civilization was transplanted to a primitive environment. The English, as rivals of powerful Spain, were interested in obtaining new lands and greater natural resources. Lands were considered desirable because of their precious metals and also because of crowded conditions at home.
The English were successful in transplanting their institutions by reason of their control of the seas, and their ability in promoting and governing the colonies. From a small beginning in Virginia in 1607, settlement continued, one colony after another being planted, until, after a period of 126 years, Georgia, the thirteenth colony, was founded. At first the pioneers built their homes along the river banks and the sea coast from Maine to Florida, but as the number increased, they began to penetrate the back country. The settlement of America was only another step in the westward movement of civilization.
Many of our present-day institutions had their origin in this period. The early immigrants strove for religious liberty, freedom of the press, and local self-government. From the small group of a hundred who settled at Jamestown they grew into a self-governing nation. We are interested in their home life, their ways of living, their problems, and their dangers. We respect and appreciate them, for they endured great hardships and overcame many obstacles in order to accomplish what they did; and today we enjoy the blessings made possible by their sacrifice. Their interest in schools and in churches attracts our attention, for these early people laid the foundations for our education and religion. Our cultural heritage is the result of their wisdom.
Settlements were made also by the French, Spanish, and Dutch, with the result that a struggle for the control of America was inevitable. This finally led to the French and Indian War, a part of a world embroilment which ended in 1763, with victory for the English, the outcome of which gave assurance that the institutions and ideals of America, built on the foundations laid by the English “sea dogs” of the sixteenth century, should remain English. However, French influences are still found in those sections in which French settlers predominated.