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America, but must be noticed in order to understand the recent problems of America.
During the three hundred years since America was Who came first settled by white men many sorts of people have to
America ? come to its shores, but for our purpose the character of those who came first is particularly important because they did much to shape the institutions of the country, its government, its schools, its religion, its mode of life. Those who came later came very largely because they liked what these first settlers had done, and in most respects the later comers fitted into the system which they found when they arrived, although in some respects they certainly modified it, notably in such matters as the observance of Sunday. The early settlers were for the most part of the middle or lower class. This was particularly true in New England. There were, to be sure, a few landholders and gentry among the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but the great majority were not of this class. None of the nobility came to these colonies. Farther south there were in the Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina colonies members of the gentry. The Dutch also had some large estates, but with the exception of the coast region in the south the country came to be peopled more and more by those who were not well off in the Old World and sought a place here to better their fortunes. The great landholders of Europe, the lords who were already in conditions of power, of wealth, had nothing to gain by coming here. They naturally stayed at home.
We are not to think that people of the middle and lower classes were necessarily entirely different in their bodies and minds from people of the nobility,
The fact is, however, as we have seen in earlier chapters, that when a conquering band of warriors invade a country they tend to make a distinct class and to reduce the other dwellers to a lower class. Then the children of the first class are brought up to look upon themselves as superior to others. They are constantly reminded of this distinction by their whole training and education. They follow a different kind of occupation. They are either rulers or in the army or in the professions. They do not engage in manual labor. They own practically all the land and get their support largely through this ownership, while the others carry on farming and trading. The son of the farmer or trader expects to be a farmer or trader. He is educated for this. Hence, although the children of the two classes may not be so different at birth, they come to be increasingly different as they grow up. In America, although a few of the gentry came over, and although in certain parts of the country they kept a certain amount of class feeling and class pride, they for the most part did not have any such complete control of land or government as to make a subject-class out of the rest of the people. So many of the other classes came and were enabled because of free land and the influence of the frontier to become prominent in all departments of life that the mixing in all kinds of ways soon began. All settlers went to the same church, to the same town meetings, families intermarried, and in course of time, when common schools were established, children went to the same school.
In the Old World property in land was almost always originally gained by what has been called the divine right of grab. The Celts seized upon the land of
Britain and largely took it away from the previous dwellers. The Saxons drove off the Celts or made them laborers on the land. The Normans in turn claimed all the land of England by conquest. The Saxons were mostly reduced to the condition of villeins, who had certain rights as tenants but did not own the land they worked upon. The land in Great Britain has ever since been largely owned by the few rather than by the many.
One of the most important features in the New World was that practically every colonist who settled in America either owned land from the beginning or soon came to own it. Today nearly half the population in the United States live in cities or large villages. But this is a recent condition which is setting new problems for democracy. In all the earlier years when America was shaping its ideas and its government, the people lived largely under rural conditions. The colonists were very largely farmers, and those who were not farmers usually owned at least their own homes. A group of settlers in a town near the coast would live there until their sons grew up and wished to set up their own homes. Then they would petition the authorities of the colony to survey a new tract and open it to settlers, so that the sons could own farms and homes. After the Revolution the public lands in the Middle West, and later the great tracts of prairie and upland still farther West, were open to settlers. Almost any one who was willing to work and to endure the hardships of the pioneer could own a homestead. It required persistence and courage; it meant going without many comforts of civilization; it meant loneliness, and often danger. Many city dwellers of today would prefer to rent a steam-heated, electric-lighted
flat cared for by a janitor, close to street cars, theaters, and offices, rather than to own a piece of land if they must chop their wood, build their fires, plow, sow, harvest, care for cattle and horses, make cheese and butter, clothing and candles. Two hundred, and even one hundred years ago, there was no such choice open. But the men and women did not shrink. They prized the independence and freedom that they gained by owning their own farms. They were willing to pay the price. They were made more sturdy and vigorous upholders Sf liberty in other ways because they were accustomed to rely upon themselves and to be independent owners of their own homes.
The influence of the frontier
Man has been making inventions for thousands of years. These make living easier and none of us would wish to go back to the days before there was machinery, before steam and electricity did the hard and exhausting labor. We should not like to exchange our railroads for the ox team. Women would not choose to spin and weave all the linen of the household or to make the garments worn by themselves and their families. We should not wish to give up the daily newspaper, the frequent mails, the telegraph and telephone. Yet can we say that in putting all these inventions to work for us we have not lost something, although we may have gained a great deal? We have gained in wealth and comfort, but this wealth and comfort have come very unevenly to different classes. We no longer all live in practically the same kind of houses and do the same kind of work. It was the evil of the conquest by the king and his band of warriors that classes were formed which had different occupations. The fighter and ruler looked down upon the manual worker. At
the present time our differences in wealth and education have something of the same effect in making different classes. The man who is manager, or even the clerk who works in the office, is not in quite the same class with the man who works with his hands, although it may be the latter is earning a higher wage. The girl who works in a store is likely to look down upon the girl who does domestic work. In the frontier conditions of early life in America such differences of occupation were small. Practically the whole people were farmers. All men and all women worked with their hands. The young woman who went to another family to help with the work was not regarded as necessarily inferior in social standing to the family whom she helped. The man who could fell his tree in the most workmanlike fashion or plow the straightest furrow, who was the best shot with his rifle or wisest in the lore of the forest, was respected by his fellows without regard to ancestry. Pews in the meeting-house, to be sure, were allotted to men in the order of their importance in the community, but this was not firmly fixed, and in any case the men all met together within the same meetinghouse. Town meetings and the various gatherings for
raising” houses and barns, harvesting crops, and other occasions of coöperation tended toward democracy. Those who remained in the cities on the coast clung to the Old World distinctions far more than those who pushed on in successive migrations into the wilder
The frontier has been a continual school of democracy in American life.
America in colonial days and for the first years after The the Revolutionary War was a nation of farms. But Industrial about the time of the Revolution by which the United Revolution