Over the course of the eighteenth century, do you believe the British colonies continued to resemble England itself, or was there a growing distinctiveness becoming apparent between the colonies and the mother country? Use examples from three of the following categories to explain your answer: political structures, labor systems, legal practices, or population characteristics.

Through the eighteenth century up until the War of Independence, the colonies did show differences from England in terms of population, labor, and government. Yet, the basic ideal of government and society inherited from the mother country and deriving from the changes that had gradually occurred throughout the history of England and Great Britain as whole was maintained and enhanced in North America. It was the wish to fulfill this ideal that led to independence.

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Until 1776, or even until 1783 when independence was finalized, many of the North American colonists continued to think of themselves as English. This in itself, perhaps paradoxically, is part of what led to the drive to rebel against Britain: the colonists believed that their rights as Englishmen were being...

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Until 1776, or even until 1783 when independence was finalized, many of the North American colonists continued to think of themselves as English. This in itself, perhaps paradoxically, is part of what led to the drive to rebel against Britain: the colonists believed that their rights as Englishmen were being denied to them. The history of England and of Great Britain as a whole for over 500 years had included a gradual development of a form of democracy and of the idea that there was a basic equality among people, represented in Parliament, despite the fact that the state was still being ruled by a monarch.

The individual colonies could be seen as microcosms of the English constitutional system, with a governor and legislatures, such as the House of Burgesses in Virginia. But none of the colonies was self-governing, so they differed from England, politically, in a negative sense. The governors, appointed by the king, had most of the power, and the legislative bodies did not have the same degree of power that Parliament had in England.

This was a basically dysfunctional system in the colonies. It was what led to the desire for change, culminating in the outbreak of the rebellion in 1775. As stated, it was the perception of this difference between the political process in the colonies—populated as they were by people who desired the rights of Englishmen—and the relative freedom exercised by the people of Britain that led to the secession from the Crown.

The labor system of the colonies was different from that of Britain for the obvious reason that much of it was based on slavery. But even apart from this, the ideal of agricultural labor in the New World, especially in the northern colonies, was that of yeoman farming, in which a family would own its homestead and work the land it owned. This differed from the usual system of agriculture in England and Europe, descended as it was from feudalism, in which large estates and tracts of land were owned by the upper class and worked by the peasantry.

The desire for a more egalitarian way of living in which every family would own property was one of the causes of American settlement by Europeans and of the continuous drive westward for more open land on which everyone could establish their own claim. Unfortunately, the presence of Indigenous peoples did not stop the settlers from regarding the boundless continent as consisting of millions of acres of land as theirs for the taking.

Finally, in terms of population, the colonies were different from Britain not only because of the presence of Native Americans and African Americans. The people of European descent in North America were already, in 1775, a mixture of nationalities. Thomas Paine, in his revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense, indicated that over half the population of Pennsylvania was of non-English background. Not only were there the other nationalities from Great Britain—Scottish, Welsh, and Irish Protestant—but there were also large numbers of people of German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and French Huguenot descent. North America had already become the proverbial "melting pot" long before independence was declared.

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