Did the colonists leave for political or economic reasons?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume that you are asking why the English settlers left England to colonize the Americas.  If so, the best answer is to say that they left England for both political and economic reasons.  We should also note that their political reasons were also mixed with religious reasons.  However, I would say that the majority of people left for economic reasons.

The most noteworthy English colonists who left for political reasons were the Puritans.  These were the people who came mostly to New England.  Early in the colonial period, the Puritans were a major faction in English politics.  They generally supported the Parliament in its efforts to get more power from the monarchy.  The Puritans were dissenters in two ways.  They believed that the Church of England was impure and needed to be purified by making it less like the Catholic Church.  They believed that the monarchy had too much power and that Parliament should have more.  This made it attractive for some Puritans, at least, to leave England and move to the colonies.

However, the majority of English colonists were motivated more by money than by politics and/or religion.  As an example of this, we have the large numbers of indentured servants who came mostly to the Chesapeake region.  These were people who were economically desperate enough to feel that it was a good idea to sell themselves as slaves for a designated period of time in return for passage to the New World.  There were others, higher up the economic ladder, who came to the American colonies because they felt they would be able to own their own land there.  All of these people, as well as others, were coming for the economic opportunity and not for political/religious reasons.

Thus, I would say that colonists left England for both reasons, but that most of them came for economic reasons rather than political ones.

robyn-bird96's profile pic

robyn-bird96 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

The colonists left England for both political and economic reasons.  If you divide the colonies into the north and the south, you can kind of draw the line as to the reasons why the colonies were settled.  In the north, in New England, the Puritans settled the land for both political and religious reasons.  The Puritans were big supporters of the Parliament as well as dissidents against the Church of England, so America was really attractive to them. Other religious groups settled in the north as well.  In Pennsylvania, William Penn established a haven for his Quaker friends, after having the land given to him by King Charles II as a political favor. New York, however, despite being in the north, was a more economic port.  Originally New Amsterdam, it used to be a Dutch colony, but after a skirmish, the English took the colony and renamed it New York.  This was a key trading post.  Maryland, likewise was religiously established.  England, a Protestant nation, didn't like Catholics, so many Catholics went to Maryland to escape religious persecution.

In the south, these are the more economically established colonies - Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia.  Here, charters were established so that indentured servants would work on plantations to grow crops for the mother country.  Eventually, many plantation owners would own slaves, which was another form of economic growth/exploitation. 

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