What are the motives of English colonization of North America and their impact on Native American culture?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Motives for English colonization vary by the area, as do the motivations. Impact on the Native Americans was detrimental in almost every instance.

Those who settled the Chesapeake Colonies, primarily Jamestown, did so purely for profit. The area was subsidized by the London Company, a Joint Stock Company, which offered 50 acres of land for every person with a paid passage, the famous "head right" system. Those who originally came searched for gold and failed miserably; but later with the cultivation of tobacco, earned a profit by selling it to the mother country. The New England Colonies were established to create a new "city on a hill," to use John Winthrop's words. Also settled by a Joint Stock Company, the Massachusetts Bay Company, Winthrop had the foresight--if not devious design--to take the Company's charter with him, so all headquarters of the company were in the Americas. Those who settled there hoped to establish a model community, an example of what Winthrop called "A Model of Christian Charity." The Middle Colonies were settled primarily for reasons of religious tolerance. Maryland was founded as a refuge for English Catholics, and Pennsylvania, by William Penn as a place where almost all Christian religions were tolerated. Interestingly South Carolina, a southern colony, was the first colony to accept Jewish colonists. The colony did so not for reasons of religious tolerance, but as a way of increasing its European population. The last colony established, Georgia, was established as a refuge for English debtors as an alternative to debtor's prison.

Treatment of the Indians was cruel everywhere with the exception of Pennsylvania. The New England settlers considered them the lost tribe of Satan, even though Indians had aided in their original survival when they were ill equipped on arrival in the Americas. They frequently confiscated their lands, and attacked them mercilessly. During the Pequot War, an entire tribe was wiped out. The Southern colonies were not much better. The colonists there stole Indian stores of food and allowed hogs to destroy Indian crops. When the Indians responded by attacking, they were treated as vermin to be destroyed. Treatment of Indians in the North and South exceeded any rational description of decency. Once in the North, Indians were given blankets because of a cold weather; but the blankets were infested with the smallpox virus. In the South, a group of Indian chiefs were invited to discuss terms of peace and were served wine, which was poisoned. Only in Pennsylvania were they treated humanely. William Penn insisted on paying a fair price for Indian land, and relations with the Indians were so good that the people of that colony often left their children with the Indians when they had to be out of town.