The British N American colonies 1763 What were the Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces in the British Empire? What were the Advantages and Disadvantages of the being in British Empire? To what extent was there unity and identity in the British N American colonies in 1770 To what extent did Americans share common institutions? Social Institutions
Political Institutions Some observations by historians. “In short, the British Empire in 1763 was perhaps more economically self-contained and more prosperous than any other that had ever before existed. Nor is this all. No better testimony to its enlightened character can be offered than the fact that between 1763 and 1775 there existed not simply one religion, as was the case within the French, Spanish, and Portuguese empires, but four different Christian faiths which were established by law in various areas: the Anglican, the Presbyterian, the Congregational, and the Roman Catholic; while many other faiths were quietly tolerated. In addition there were even colonies with no religious establishment. These varied achievements together with the spirit of enlightenment stamped the old Empire as truly the wonder of the world. Yet within a decade it was to be torn asunder by internecine strife.” “Here then, briefly, is a picture of life in the thirteen continental British colonies in 1763. That it was possible to have achieved so much-to have built so solidly, to have gained so many economic advantages, and to have attained to such prosperity-was due to the fact that up until the outbreak of war in 1754 most of the settlers had been able for generations to devote their entire energies to peaceful activities, with a sense of profound security (outside of the alarm in Georgia when the War of Jenkin's Ear broke out in 1739). Not since Queen Anne's War at the beginning of the century had any part of these older colonies before 1754 suffered serious devastation at the hands of an enemy, and merchant ships flying the merchant flag of Great Britain felt free to sail the seas with an equal sense of security when bound on truly lawful trade. That this security had been paid for at a price is indubitable; that it flowed from the power that the British armed forces could apply at any time to an enemy nation or to pirates that sought to disturb the tranquility of the Empire is equally axiomatic.” “British subjects in America, excepting of course the Negroes, were then the freest people in the world, and in many respects more free than anyone today. They argued and then fought, not to obtain freedom but to confirm the freedom they already had or claimed. They were even more advanced in the practice of self-government than the mother country. There was slight pressure from ancient custom, and few relies of feudalism. Land tenure was fee simple in New England, and subject elsewhere only to a light quitrent which was generally evaded. There were no tithes to support an established church. Maximum wages were not fixed, as in most European countries, nor were the rural laborers at the mercy of tyrannical justices of the peace, as in England and Ireland. Americans were exempt from naval press-gangs. Some form of military training was obligatory, but actual service in time of war was voluntary.
Since the Zenger libel case in New York in 1735, almost complete freedom of speech, press, and assembly was enjoyed.' Trades and professions were open to the talented - there were no guilds or corporations or exclusive professional associations; indeed, very few professional men of any sort, other than lawyers, physicians, and divines. The hand of government rested lightly on Americans. Connecticut, for three years running, levied no taxes except local rates for roads and schools. In the absence of banks, merchants lent money privately, and the frontier offered an easy escape from debt. Victory had removed the French menace to security, and would have ended the Indian menace too, had Americans been content to live east of the Appalachians. Social classes existed, but, to British visitors like Janet Schaw, a "most disgusting equality" prevailed.
It did, near the wilderness. The frontier of settlement in 1763 left the coast near the Penobscot river in Maine, cut irregularly across New Hampshire and the disputed lands which later became Vermont, pushed up the Hudson to Lake George, and up the Mohawk about 100 miles from Albany. Thence it slashed across the southeast corners of New York and Pennsylvania and hugged the Appalachians until reaching North Carolina, where again it dropped down to the sea. Scattered settlements had already been made throughout the interior of the Carolinas and eastern Georgia.
This settled area of 1763, which two centuries later had a population approaching 100 million, then included about a million and a half people, almost one-third of them Negro slaves. By 1775 it had increased by another million. The bulk of the population was engaged in agriculture, but visiting Europeans regarded the country as a wilderness because over go per cent of it was still forested. Only near the Atlantic, in sections cultivated for over a century, could one have found anything resembling the farming areas of Iowa, Illinois, or Nebraska today. Elsewhere, and especially in the South, farms and plantations lay miles apart, separated by forest.”