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Distribution and Physical Conditions.
slaves. Of these some three hundred thousand lived in the southern colonies, the remainder being owned and employed in the North, mainly in New York and Rhode Island. Subtracting the negro population from the total population of the two divisions, it is found that there were about seven hundred thousand whites in the North and not far from five hundred thousand whites in the South. Probably between four and five hundred thousand of the colonists were immigrants - including in this estimate seventy-five thousand negro slaves, for the slave-trade was then in active operation. The population of the colonies, therefore, was divided by race distinctions, by colour, and by length of exposure to colonial institutions. It would appear, in point of fact, that the problem of assimilating thė “foreign element” was certainly not less serious in 1760 than it has been at any other time in the history of the country. This was especially true because a majority of these recent immigrants were not English either by birth or by speech. Among them were some of the most prominent leaders in the Revolution. For example the first two great financiers of the United States, Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton, were born outside of the colonies -- and it may be added that Albert Gallatin, the only man among the early financiers who can claim a place with these two men, was like them born without the limits of the United States. Notwithstanding the great diversity of the population, race conflicts seem to have been very rare, and, except in New England, the immigrant was everywhere welcomed as an addition to the wealth of the country.
The colonists then inhabited that portion of North America which lies between the thirty-first and the forty
Physical fifth parallels of north latitude and between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains. To understand the history of this people, it is necessary to know something of the conditions of life prevailing in this
region of their activity. One of the first things which impresses the student is its general suitableness for colonization. There were scarcely any swamps to require expensive and longcontinued draining, although, on the other hand, the land was covered with forests which had to be cleared away before husbandry could be begun. The new land was provided, however, with an agricultural product — the well-known Indian corn or maize – which throve on an irregular cultivation and supplied the colonists, after a few months, with the means of existence. Furthermore, this region was accessible from the sea to an extent scarcely equalled by any other country on the earth's surface. The colonies, therefore, were easily reached and easily made to produce enough food to save the colonists from starvation. The next thing to be noted is the fact that the climatic
conditions were extraordinary. The following
table, extracted from Professor Whitney's United products.
States, will well repay a cursory examination.
It will be noted, for instance, that while the difference between the mean yearly temperatures of Aberdeen (Scotland) and San Fernando (Spain) is seventeen degrees, the difference
Climate, Products, and Employments.
between the mean yearly temperatures of Nain (Labrador) and Norfolk (Virginia) — situated in nearly the same latitudes as Aberdeen and San Fernando, is thirty-four degrees, or exactly double. Perhaps the dissimilarity of the climates of Europe and America can be best elucidated by comparing the climatic conditions of New York and Norfolk on one side of the Atlantic with those of Naples and San Fernando on the other side. The difference in latitude is about four degrees in each case. The difference in the temperatures of the coldest months in the European cities is four and one-half degrees against a difference of twelve degrees on the western side of the Atlantic. It may be added that, proceeding southward from Norfolk, a region is soon reached where the winters are comparatively mild. This sudden change in the isothermal lines indicates a great variety of climatic environments within a comparatively small area, with a corresponding diversity of agricultural produce, and, indeed, of general employments as well. New England, for example, produced fair crops of potatoes, onions, and Indian corn, provided the farmer devoted much labour and care to their cultivation. The Middle Colonies yielded large crops of Indian corn and wheat, at the cost of much less labour and
Virginia produced tobacco of excellent quality and in great abundance; and the extreme southern colonies were remarkably well suited for the cultivation of rice and cotton. It can be seen, therefore, that in 1760 a small population, scattered through a region eleven hundred miles long and three hundred miles wide, produced commodities associated in other lands with the northern, temperate, and tropical zones.
This great diversity in employments and in conditions of life reacted on the habits and ideas of the people of the several sections and made against polit
employments. ical union throughout the whole history of the people inhabiting this country. Thus the New Englanders, able to wring a bare subsistence only from the soil, became,
almost of necessity, manufacturers, mechanics, and merchants.
the social structures of the different sections.
geneous in its very variety. It is difficult to conceive of class distinctions in a country where one man performed many functions each year, and was perhaps, at one and the same time, interested in half a dozen employments — by turns a farmer, an artisan, a fisherman, or a trader, as the
seasons or the work demanded. The chief inequality was in that of accumulated wealth; and the Calvinistic dogmas of the Congregational Church did much toward equalizing the lots of the rich and the poor. In the Middle Colonies the case was different. There the merchants of the great cities and the tillers of the river valleys were far apart in their ideas of life. The farmers of Central and Western Pennsylvania were the earliest and most earnest of democrats, holding ideas abhorrent to the feelings of their fellow colonists in Philadelphia.
In the South, society was based on an aristocratic model. There, land was held in large estates by a com
Virginia. paratively small number of land and slave
In Virginia, these landowners possessed entire power in State and Church, tempered to a very slight extent by the presence of a royal governor. At the first glance, few positions in life seemed more desirable than that of the successful Virginia planter. In company with the Maryland planters, he possessed a monopoly of the British tobacco markets. Excellent tobacco was produced in North Carolina; but, at that time, it was scarcely known outside the tobacco colonies. This was due to the fact that the most practicable route from the North Carolina tobacco fields to the seaboard was through Virginia. The tobacco growers of the latter colony imposed a small duty on all tobacco imported into Virginia and thus excluded North Carolina tobacco from the markets of the world. The whole life of Virginia was dominated by the exigencies of tobacco culture. Large plantations, slave labour, poor and wasteful cultivation, a single crop with its attendant fluctuations, all appear to have been the direct result of tobacco growing. There was one commercial town in the tobacco colonies-Baltimore in Maryland. But Baltimore belonged to the valley of the Susquehanna and not to that of the Potomac - it was to most intents and purposes a Pennsylvania seaport.