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Except for settlements and outlying clearings, the colonial area, even near the sea, was densely covered with forests and contained to the end of this period many wild and desolate tracts of dismal swamp, drifting sand, and tangled jungle destined to remain for decades regions of mystery and fear, the resort of only fowl and beast, and the occasional refuge of criminals and outlaws. Gradually, as the years passed, the wilderness disappeared before the march of man, the wooded and rocky surface was transformed into fertile arable fields and pasture, the old settlements widened, and new settlements appeared. The number of colonists increased, and the pioneers steadily pushed back the frontier, setting up towns and laying out farms and plantations, rearing families, warring with the Indians and trading with them for furs, and turn . ing to the best account the advantages that a bountiful though exacting nature furnished ready to their hand.
To the west of the colonists lay the boundless wilderness; on the east lay the equally vast ocean, the great highway of communication with the civilization of the Old World to which they still instinctively turned. If the land furnished homes and subsistence from agriculture, the sea, while
also furnishing food, afforded opportunities for commerce and travel. Only by water, for the most part, could the colonists reach the markets to sell their fish, furs, and agricultural produce and to purchase those necessary articles of food, dress, and equipment which they could neither raise nor manufacture among themselves. Sometimes they trafficked in short voyages to neighboring colonies, and sometimes they sailed on longer voyages to England, the Continent, the Wine Islands, Africa, the West Indies, and the Spanish Main. Though ; the land and its staples often shaped the destiny? of individual colonies, the most important single factor in bringing wealth and opportunity to the colonies as a whole was the sea. Those who journeyed upon the Atlantic thought as little of crossing the water as they did of traversing the land, and travelers took ship for England and the West Indies with less hesitation than they had in riding on horseback or in chaises over dangerous and lonely roads. :
The colonial domain thus comprised regions ;, which differed conspicuously from one another in climate, soil, and economic opportunity. But the races which came to dwell in these new lands were no less diverse than the country. At the close of
the period here under review, that is, in 1763, the total white population of the region from Maine to Georgia was not far from 1,250,000. It is estimated that something more than a third of the inhabitants were newcomers, not of the stock of the original settlers. These newcomers were chiefly French, German, and Scotch-Irish. There were also in the colonies about 230,000 negroes, free and slave, 29,000 in the Middle Colonies, 16,000 in New England, and the remainder in the South. The influence of the non-English newcomers on colonial life was less than their numbers might suggest. The Scotch-Irish belonged rather to the back country than to the older settlements and — except in Pennsylvania, where they were something of a factor in politics — were not yet in the public arena. Their turn was to come later in the Revolution and in the westward movement. The same may be said of the Germans. Not many Germans in the colonies became as well known as John Peter Zenger, whose name is indissolubly associated with the liberty of the press in America. The Germans, however, as farmers contributed greatly to the prosperity of the communities where they cultivated their lands. Huguenots, Jews, and Highlanders remained in numbers near the coast and
took part in the social, political, and commercial life of the older communities. The Huguenots and the Highlanders became influential planters, merchants, and holders of political office, men of enterprise and standing. The Jews on the other hand had no social or political privileges and made their mark principally in the field of commerce and trade.
Northernmost of the regions over which these many races were scattered lay New England, extending from the wilds of Maine through a beautiful rolling country of green fields and tree-clad slopes, to the rocky environs of the White Mountains, the Berkshires, and the Litchfield Hills. Here, according to the humor of a later day, the sheep's noses were sharpened for cropping the grass between the stones, and the corn was shot into the unyielding ground with a gun. Central and eastern New England was a region of low mountain ranges and fairly wide valleys, of many rivers and excellent harbors — a land admirably adapted to a system of intensive farming and husbandry. The variety of its staples was matched by the diversity of the occupations of its people. Fishing, agriculture, household manufactures, and trade kept the New Englander along the coast busy and made him shrewd, persistent, and progressive. He was
unprogressive and slow in the more isolated towns and villages, where the routine of the farm absorbed the greater part of his time and attention.,
In 1730 the New Englanders numbered, roughly, 275,000; in 1760, 425,000 or about a third of the entire white population of the thirteen colonies, and at the close of the Revolutionary War, 800,000. Somewhat less than half of these were under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Connecticut stood second in size and Rhode Island and New Hampshire were nearly equal. The New Englanders lived in compact communities along the coast and up the river valleys wherever land and opportunity offered, and in self-governing towns and cities, of which Boston, with about twenty thousand inhabitants, was by far the largest."
The people of New England were mainly of English stock, with but a small mixture of foreign elements. . The colony of Connecticut was the most homogeneous on the Atlantic seaboard. In parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine,
* Boston outrivaled in size every city in America except possibly Philadelphia, and as to which of the two was the larger is uncertain. Birket and Goelet, both writing in 1750, give diametrically opposite opinions on this point. Birket says that Philadelphia “appeared to be the largest city in our America," while Goelet calls Boston “the largest town upon the Continent.”