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Reasons For English Immigration To the North American Colonies


Prior to 1650, many Englishmen immigrated to the New World,
specifically to the North American Colonies. These
immigrants fled from a society that they found to be
displeasing in many specific ways. Although economic and
political values led to much of the English migration to
the New World, religious tumult in England was undoubtedly
the main cause for the immigration.
James I, who believed in the divine right of kings, thought
he was allowed to disobey Parliament because he answered to
no one but God. He started a conflict with Parliament that
gained momentum under Charles I's reign. This conflict
finally sparked a civil war lasting seven years, during
which time the government unsympathetically persecuted its
citizens, driving many of them out of the country. 

Furthermore, England's unstable economy and inflation led
to much poverty. The demand for a certain raw material like
wool could put many slaves out of a job if the landowner
suddenly decided it was more profitable to raise sheep;
thus requiring only a small fraction of the work force.
Inflation also made life hard for the poorer people, who
found they could no longer pay for basic necessities.
People saw that moving to the North American Colonies was a
great money-making opportunity. Growing sugar on islands
off the North American coast was so profitable that one
man's capital may have spilled over to a relative who lived
generations later. People were also quite excited about the
idea of Capitalism, the economic system in which one makes
even more money by investing his capital in a growing
business, for example. Finally, people saw that the vast
fields in the New World would yield much produce, and that
moving to the Colonies was an opportunity too good to pass
Religious conflict, however, was the main factor
contributing to the English migration to New England. The
Catholic Church had become too intense on individuals and
their everyday life, and Protestantism seemed to be the
best alternative for many people. Also, King Henry VIII had
established the Anglican Church, which he strongly enforced
upon the Englishmen. Protestants and Catholics in this
society were shunned by their neighbors, fined by the
government, and even sent to jail. The English nation was
in a state of religious turmoil with no religion to unify
its citizens. 

In addition, Religious warfare had become extremely gory,
and the amount of bloodshed was immense, simply because of
each side's belief that any killing of the enemy was good
since God was on their side. People did not know where to
turn, and began looking toward the North American Colonies. 

Certain Protestants, however, took the Reformation a step
further and tried to simplify or "purify" the Anglican
Church, since they believed that even Anglicanism was not
as much a reform from Catholicism as they wanted. These
Protestants were called Puritans, and they believed that
they did not need priests, Anglicanism, or its Church, but
that they, alone, could talk to God. Such a feeling was
common to all the Protestants, so they decided that they
would attempt to create a Protestant nation in North
America. Since they knew that changing the ways and customs
of an existing society would be far too difficult, they
left England and headed straight toward the New World. 

Some of the Puritans even believed in typology; that their
life was a repetition of the Bible, and that they were
compared to the ancient Hebrews, who fled from Egypt only
to wander in the desert for forty years before entering the
promised land. They believed that while they temporarily
settled in the Colonies, England would be destroyed, and
that they, the "saving remnants", as they called
themselves, would later return and resettle it as the
promised land. After a couple of generations with no word
of Europe's long awaited destruction, though, the colonists
decided that they would create a permanent settlement in
the New World, since perhaps this was the promised land.
Many people from England fled to the New World during the
late 1500s and early 1600s. Their country was in a state of
economic, political, and religious tumult, and they saw
great potential in the New World. They were displeased with
the Catholic Church and all of England, so they came to the
Colonies to start anew, and create what was, in their eyes,
the perfect society. 



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