The Colonies by 1763: a New Society?

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The Colonies by 1763: A New Society?

By Don Oliverio

Between the settlement at Jamestown in 1607 and the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the most important change that occurred in the colonies was the emergence of a society quite different from that in England. Changes in religion, economics, politics and social structure illustrate this Americanization of the transplanted Europeans.

By 1763, although some colonies still maintained established churches, other colonies had accomplished a virtual revolution for religious toleration and separation of church and state. The Anglican Church was the only established denomination in England. In contrast, the colonies supported a great variety of churches. The largest were the Congregationalist, Anglican, and German churches, but many smaller denominations could be found through the colonies. In addition to this, a high percentage of Americans didn't belong to any church. These differences could be attributed to the fact that many of the Europeans who immigrated to America didn't fit in to or agree with the churches in their homelands.

In a similar economic revolution, the colonies outgrew their mercantile relationship with the mother country and developed an expanding capitalist system of their own. In England, the common view was that the colonies only purpose was to compliment and support the homeland. This resulted in a series of laws and protocols called the mercantile system. While this system had its benefits, it placed harsh restrictions on who the Americans could trade with. For example, as directed by the Navigation laws, Virginia tobacco planters who played by the rules could only sell their products to England, even if other countries were offering a higher price. The Americans answer to this was to largely ignore the mercantile system and smuggle their products to other ports.

Building on English foundations of political liberty, the colonists extended the concepts of liberty and...
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