The Making Of An American

For a century and a half since the settling of America, there were forces at work creating a new man in the New World – an American.
When you view these forces independently, they can be overlooked but the cumulative effect began to create a national consciousness in the 1760s and 1770s.

The first of these forces was Geography. Isolated by an ocean that could be bridged only by sail, it helped break the ties with the Old World. The colonists were forced out of necessity to fend for themselves. Self-reliance, ingenuity, and independence were forged during the years of settlement.
When problems arose in the colonies, the mother country was more like a distant cousin. Threats from Indians, pirates, French, and Spanish were mostly dealt with by the colonists themselves.

A second force that contributed to the shaping of an American, was the way that the land was settled. Private ownership of property was an attractive incentive for settlers from Europe and helped shape the American attitude.
A man who owned property had a stake in society, and on his land, he was the master of all he surveyed. That power gave him greater independence and a broader vision for the future. Something that his father had never known in the old country.

Another force was the diversity of the colonists who settled here. Not everyone was British. While the English language and institutions were prominent, many had a non-English heritage. Germans, French, Dutch, Swedes, Finns, and Scots by the thousands made up a significant number of the population.
This was important when tensions with the British crown increased. Many non-English Americans took part in supporting the independence of their adopted homeland.

Colonial self-government was another important force in developing American nationalism. Colonial governments consisted of a governor, his councilors, and an elected assembly. With only a few exceptions, the colonial governors were not a strong political factor. While they did owe their jobs to the king, their salary was paid by the colonial assembly.
By the time we get to the early 18th century, we have elected houses such as the House of Burgesses in Virginia, the House of Representatives in Massachusetts, and the House of Delegates in Maryland.
The “power of the purse” and the authority to initiate their own legislation made these legislative assemblies the most powerful forces in the governing of their colonies.

But a fifth force was the growing sense of confidence and optimism that prevailed among the American colonists. Following the French and Indian War, the American troops had stood shoulder to shoulder with British regulars and realized they were equal, if not better than the best the King had to offer. More and more, the British were viewed as invaders, rather than protectors.

These five forces would contribute to the making of an “American”; making a truly unique and independent nation of people. May God bless America and may we be reminded of the heritage which made us great!

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