Why would people travel to a continent that was newly discovered? They knew very little about the land and less about the people already living here. Europeans came for multiple reasons. They came for money, freedom of religion, to go back to the good old days, adventure, marriage and some were even forced. No matter how they got here they all had to adapt to a new way of life, and unfortunately that cost a lot of lives. However, eventually they were able to band together and accomplish what was needed to survive.
Europeans came to America for the three G s: Gold, Gospel, and Glory. They hoped to find gold, pearls or, at least, valuable spices. Many people came to the New World for the freedom to practice their religion. Others came as heroes. They could come and develop a settlement and then be looked upon later as a hero or savior. The largest motivator for people to move to America was greed. It is the fourth and most dominant, yet unmentioned G. People came because they wanted land, money and to find a trade route that did not pass through the Muslim world. Europeans wanted a lot from the New World, yet they knew nothing of the territory they had just discovered.
America was full of challenges that would need to be overcome. At least 20% of all colonists died during seasoning, the first one to three years, on the new continent. These people died for various reasons: disease, rebellious natives, a poor work ethic, and poor nutrition.
The first settlement, Jamestown, was settled on swampy land in 1607 by a group of men. Men were there to make money, not to settle down. Consequently, 84% of the population was male while the remaining 16% were female. Most of the men in the colony were between fifteen and twenty-four years old and there was one woman for every five or six men. Therefore, when a woman was widowed, she remarried within a few months. Although it may seem harsh, many women came to America because they knew there would be men to marry. Unfortunately, there was very little population growth in Jamestown, especially with all the diseases caused by the swampy environment.
The land in the Jamestown area very fertile, and therefore the majority of it was used for growing tobacco. There were also several deep water ways that allowed for easy transport of crops to the ocean for trade. However, that meant there was very little farming being done and the long winters ended after many had died from starvation. Since the land was so fertile there were a lot of indentured servants in Jamestown. Approximately 75-80% of the population was working for their passage to America, but many of them died as well.
In 1630 another settlement was founded, but it had a much different purpose. Puritans searching for freedom settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They wanted a settlement they could control. Puritans wanted to abolish the Church of England, and confine church membership to those who they felt were saved. The colony urbanized very quickly. The quick urbanization was partially caused by the Puritans use of local Indians. Puritans used Pequots for trading and learning the land. Puritans believed in Commonwealth and therefore everything was shared equally between citizens of the community. The community always came first. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was a relatively successful colony, but it did have several conflicts with local natives.
The Pequots were trading partners with the Puritans. However, when the Puritans began using another tribe for trade the Pequots caused a war. During the war in 1673 two European settlers were killed and in return the Europeans killed 400 women and children Pequots by attacking an unguarded village.
People arrived in the colonies for many reasons and reacted to the land in as many ways. There was no true American concept throughout these early settlement periods; people considered themselves to be tied, only, to the settlement they lived in. However, America is truly a multi-cultural society today. I think the dollar bill says it best, e pluribus unum, one nation from many.