settlers had a variety of reasons for seeking a new homeland. The Pilgrims of Massachusetts were pious,
self-disciplined English people who wanted to escape religious persecution. Other colonies, such as Virginia,
were founded principally as business ventures. Often, though, piety and profits went
success at colonizing what would become the United States was due in large part to its use of charter companies.
Charter companies were groups of stockholders (usually merchants and wealthy landowners) who sought personal
economic gain and, perhaps, wanted also to advance England's national goals. While the private sector financed
the companies, the King provided each project with a charter or grant conferring economic rights as well as
political and judicial authority. The colonies generally did not show quick profits, however, and the English
investors often turned over their colonial charters to the settlers. The political implications, although not
realized at the time, were enormous. The colonists were left to build their own lives, their own communities,
and their own economy -- in effect, to start constructing the rudiments of a new nation.
early colonial prosperity there was resulted from trapping and trading in furs. In addition, fishing was a
primary source of wealth in Massachusetts. But throughout the colonies, people lived primarily on small farms
and were self-sufficient. In the few small cities and among the larger plantations of North Carolina, South
Carolina, and Virginia, some necessities and virtually all luxuries were imported in return for tobacco, rice,
and indigo (blue dye) exports.
industries developed as the colonies grew. A variety of specialized sawmills and gristmills appeared. Colonists
established shipyards to build fishing fleets and, in time, trading vessels. The also built small iron forges.
By the 18th century, regional patterns of development had become clear: the New England colonies relied on
ship-building and sailing to generate wealth; plantations (many using slave labor) in Maryland, Virginia, and
the Carolinas grew tobacco, rice, and indigo; and the middle colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
Delaware shipped general crops and furs. Except for slaves, standards of living were generally high -- higher,
in fact, than in England itself. Because English investors had withdrawn, the field was open to entrepreneurs
among the colonists.
1770, the North American colonies were ready, both economically and politically, to become part of the emerging
self-government movement that had dominated English politics since the time of James I (1603-1625). Disputes
developed with England over taxation and other matters; Americans hoped for a modification of English taxes and
regulations that would satisfy their demand for more self-government. Few thought the mounting quarrel with the
English government would lead to all-out war against the British and to independence for the