How did the right to private property shape the historical development of the American colonies?  How did the right to private property shape the historical development of the American colonies?  

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The right to private property was establish by colonial governor Thomas Dale. He did this the year after Jamestown and the colonists were struggling through the worst hunger and desolation period. 

At first, most of the colonists were indentured servants, so they had no right for much, and their attitudes and states of mind were null.  Yet, after granting the right for property, the Virginian newspapers reported, quote

"As soon as the settlers were thrown upon their own resources, and each freeman had acquired the right of owning property, the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans – an aptitude for all kinds of craftsmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention."

Furthermore, Jamestown began to bloom with prosperity, and began receiving more and more visitors from all over Europe. According to historians, even John Rolfe was quoted as saying that ever since the colonists were granted this right,

"(colonists were seen) gathering and reaping the fruits of their labors with much joy and comfort."

You could argue, like the article included says, that the right to private property was the catalyst to the idealization of the American Dream



pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is such a broad question that I think your teacher or textbook must have a specific answer in mind.  Please check for that.

The right to private property was not an American development.  This right was protected very strongly by the British law.  Because the American colonies were British, they also had the right to private property.

Private property shaped the American colonies because the right to own your own property implied other rights.  If you have the right to own your own property, then you have the right to do what you want with that property.  If you have the right to do what you want with your property, then you must have the right to make decisions for yourself.  If you can make decisions for yourself, you have the right to participate in governing yourself (democracy).

So, because so many Americans had a lot of private property (land, especially) they had more of this feeling that they had a right to rule themselves.  In this way, property helped make Americans believe they had the right to rule themselves.


dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the late 17th century political philosopher John Locke seized the opportunity to further the rights of Englishmen. Just one year after the Glorious Revolution culminating with the English Bill of Rights, Locke wrote two essays on government.  The second of the two argued that the people had the freedom to control themselves as well as their possessions, including property.  Locke believed in the natural rights of life, liberty, and property and that those rights came from God not the king. These ideas were recognized as the Social Contract Theory. The political philosophy of private property traveled across the Atlantic with the English as they established their colonies in the new world.  Although there were disputes over who owned what land from time to time, the concept of private property was not challenged simply because they understood private property as their right as Englishmen.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
One of the ways settlers were attracted to the colonies was with free or cheap land. In some cases, settlers came as a group, espeically religious groups, and each person was given land. In any case, land was much cheaper and more plentiful than in England.
mkcapen1 | Student

Prior to coming to America many of the people had no ability or hope of ever owning a piece of land for themselves.  They had come to America to establish a better life free from religious or other forms of persecution.  They also longed to have ownership instead of having to work for others with no hope of ownership.  They wanted to feel experience the fruit of their won labors as they developed their land.  America had a mass of land available for the taking.  By allowing them to set-up ownership of private property it allowed the individuals to create the environment that they had not been allowed to have in England.    Ownership of land also meant that they could be as aggressive in making the land work for them or as digressive as they wanted.  There were no demands on the quota of neither what the land would produce nor consequences from others if the land did not produce.  Their development as individuals was in their own hands.

Ownership of land also brought independence and power to the individuals.  The individuals were able to secure resources from the land and as some gained more than others, power emerged.  In addition, this sense of independence led to the eventual confidence of the colonists which resulted in their refusal to follow British law and to recognize they earned should not be shared with the King of England.