Question "Although the thirteen American colonies were founded at different times by people with different motives and with different forms of colonial charters and political organization



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The American colonies did become more alike over time. By the time of the Revolution their basic forms of government were similar and increasingly they shared a culture defined by tolerance for religious diversity. They were also bound together by the growth of the Atlantic trading economy, which in turn sparked a rising disparity between the rich and poor throughout the colonies. However, since there were also still some significant differences between the colonies, the statement is only partially correct.

One of the ways in which the colonies were most similar was in their political systems. There were some variations in terms of how governors were chosen, based upon whether they were royal, proprietary, or charter colonies. By the time of the Revolution most colonies were royal colonies in which the governors were appointed by the king, but in a couple they were appointed by the colony's proprietor and a few more they were actually elected by the people. Other than that, their political systems tended to be pretty similar, since all of them enjoyed a representative form of government with an elected assembly.

The general trend throughout the colonies was also for greater religious tolerance. In the beginning the most religiously intolerant colony was Massachusetts. By the time of the Revolution, however, their religious enthusiasm had waned and they became less concerned about enforcing religious conformity. Throughout the colonies tolerance for religious diversity had been increased by a couple of factors. It became increasingly difficult for colonial authorities to support having just one church supported by the government out of everyone's taxes because there were simply too many different churches whose members actively resisted this idea. This explosion of religious diversity in the 18th century was in part because of immigration from places other than England, and in part because of the Great Awakening, out of which came several new religious movements who tended to support the idea of separation of church and state. Another factor in the growth of religious tolerance was the influence of Enlightenment thought, which stressed reason over faith as the proper way to understand the world. While Enlightenment thinkers generally did believe in the concept of a God, they were far less likely to believe that there was only one way to worship God. These factors tended to push all of the colonies towards a greater acceptance of religious diversity and a growing separation between church and state.

The growth of the Atlantic trading economy increasingly tied the colonies together, but there remained important differences between the colonial regions. By the time of the Revolution all of the colonies witnessed a significant increase in the amount of overseas trade. They also all traded within the confines of the British mercantile system, created by the Navigation Acts of the 17th century. However, the different colonial regions experienced this growth of trade differently. The South became increasingly dependent upon the export of agricultural crops raised using slaves. The North also exported some crops, but they tended to be those that were less labor intensive, like wheat, and slavery was not nearly as important an economic institution. The Northern economy also began to be more diversified, since they were more likely to engage in activities such as shipbuilding and more likely to become the merchants who were actually moving goods to and from the colonies. Thus, by the time of the Revolution there was a growing difference between the economies of the North and the South.

Socially, all of the colonies saw the growth of class differences between the rich and the poor, but they also remained dissimilar in the types of people who inhabited the various colonies. In the South the success of plantation agriculture led to the rise of a very wealthy and powerful planter class, while in the North it was the mercantile elite which rose to the top. In both cases society became much more stratified, with a growing gulf between the rich and the poor. However, in terms of population, they were also increasingly different. Because of slavery, a much larger population of African-Americans inhabited the South. There was quite a lot of non-English immigration from Europe at this time as well, but where they settled varied widely. Initially the most popular location for both German and Scotch-Irish immigrants was Pennsylvania, although many Scotch-Irish ultimately did move into the Southern backcountry. New England was different because very few immigrants settled there. Thus, while there were some social similarities, there were also significant differences.



It is generally true that the colonies became more similar by the time of the Revolution. They shared a fairly common experience of representative government, growing religious tolerance, the growth of connections to the Atlantic economy, and an increase in social stratification. However, there were also significant differences that remained, particularly between the Northern and the Southern colonies.


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