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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3126

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: British America.]

By the end of the eighteenth century the term "Americans" was commonly applied in England, and even the colonists themselves, to the English- speaking subjects of Great Britain inhabiting the continent of North America and the adjacent islands. The region thus occupied comprised the Bahamas, the Bermudas, Jamaica, and some smaller West Indian islands, Newfoundland, the outlying dependency of Belize, the territory of the great trading corporation known as the Hudson's Bay Company, and-more important than all the rest-the broad strip of territory running along the coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Altamaha River.

[Sidenote: Boundaries.]

It is in this continental strip, lying between the sea and the main chain of the Appalachian range of mountains, that the formation of the Union was accomplished. The external boundaries of this important group of colonies were undetermined; the region west of the mountains was drained by tributaries of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi rivers, and both these rivers were held in their lower course by the French. Four successive colonial wars had not yet settled the important question of the territorial rights of the two powers, and a fifth war was impending.

So far as the individual colonies were concerned, their boundaries were established for them by English grants. The old charters of Massachusetts, Virginia, and the Carolinas had given title to strips of territory extending from the Atlantic westward to the Pacific. Those charters had lapsed, and the

only colony in 1750 of which the jurisdiction exercised under the charter reached beyond the Appalachian mountains was Pennsylvania. The Connecticut grant had long since been ignored; the Pennsylvania limits included the strategic point where the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers unite to form the Ohio. Near this point began the final struggle between the English and the French colonies. The interior boundaries between colonies in 1750 were matters of frequent dispute and law-suits. Such questions were eventually brought to the decision of the English Privy Council, or remained to vex the new national government after the Revolution had begun.

[Sidenote: The frontiers.]

At this date, and indeed as late as the end of the Revolution, the continental colonies were all maritime. Each of them had sea-ports enjoying direct trade with Europe. The sea was the only national highway; the sea-front was easily defensible. Between contiguous colonies there was intercourse; but Nova Scotia, the last of the continental colonies to be established, was looked upon as a sort of outlyer, and its history has little connection with the history of the thirteen colonies farther south. The western frontier was a source of apprehension and of danger. In northern Maine, on the frontiers of New York, on the west and southwest, lived tribes of Indians, often disaffected, and sometimes hostile. Behind them lay the French, hereditary enemies of the colonists. The natural tendency of the English was to push their frontier westward into the Indian and French belt.

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