Choosing a Colony Essay
When deciding what colony would have been the best to settle in during the late 1600s and early 1700s, there are many deciding factors to weigh. Pennsylvania would clearly be the most favorable colony to settle because of their good relations with the Native Americans, the religious freedom given to colonists, and their liberal government. First, and possibly foremost, is the colony’s relationship with the natives. One of the most important factors when it comes to deciding where to live, whether in modern times or colonial times, is safety.
And in colonial America, the biggest safety threats in most colonies were attacks from the natives. This is because the settlers of these colonies believed they were superior to the natives, and often intruded on their land, upsetting them and causing conflict. This mainly occurred in New England, the Southern colonies, and New York. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, had very good relations with the natives during this time period because of the Quakers’ belief that all people are equal in the eyes of God.
This belief applied to the Native Americans as well. According to Richard Townsend, “as our worthy Proprietor (Penn) treated the Indians with extraordinary humanity, they became very civil and loving to us” (“Early Settlers in Pennsylvania”, American Spirit pg. 64). Without the threat of imminent attacks by the natives, like in the other colonies, Pennsylvania would be by far the safest colony, and therefore the one most preferable to settle.
But safety is not the only factor when making a decision like this one, and Pennsylvania had other important things for settlers, such as religious freedom. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, religion was very important when colonizing because in the South, colonies were almost exclusively Anglican, while in New England, Puritanism was the dominant religion. In Pennsylvania, Quaker was the dominant religion, but Quakers were tolerant of all peoples, so religious freedom was guaranteed to all settlers.
This is very significant, especially if a potential settler was not a Puritan or Anglican, because in other colonies, they would be persecuted. Another, less obvious benefit from having religious freedom is, again, safety. When there is religious exclusivity in a colony, there will always be dissenters that disagree with the accepted religion and conflict with the community leaders, like Roger Williams or Anne Hutchinson in Massachusetts. Religious dissenters may seem harmless, but they may spur on a revolt, that could endanger members of the community.
That is why tolerating all religions in Pennsylvania would prevent religious revolts spurred on by dissenters, making the colony safer as a whole. Religious freedom and safety from Native American attacks make Pennsylvania an appealing place to settle, but colonists may also be looking for a colony with a liberal government. In Europe, a monarchy was the most common form of government, and people that were moving to the New World wanted more political power. In other colonies, the government was often more liberal than in Europe, but still giving little power to the people.
In fact, Massachusetts, a colony that gave its settlers more political power than most others, was still far from democratic. Says John Cotton in a description of Massachusetts’ government, “Democracy I do not conceyve that ever God did ordeyne as a fitt government” and “monarchy and aristocracy, they are both of them clearely approved. ” His opinion is that “if the people be governors, who shall be governed? ” (“John Cotton Describes New England’s Theocracy”, American Spirit pg. 49).
In stark contrast, Penn founded Pennsylvania to experiment with liberal and democratic ideas. He established a representative assembly to govern the colony, an extremely modern and liberal government for the time period. This would appeal to settlers because they would have political power and a say in the governing of their colony, unlike in Europe, the place they left behind. A liberal government is very important to make one colony preferable over another, giving Pennsylvania a clear advantage.
Each English colony had their pros and cons, with some colonies being favorable in some areas and less so in others. Despite this, Pennsylvania is the clear winner when it comes to best colony to settle because of their liberal government, their toleration of all religions, and their fabulous relationship with the Native Americans. The combination of these three important factors made Pennsylvania the premier settlement of North America in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.