England's early colonies were private ventures undertaken ostensibly with the approval of the Crown. This approach differed sharply from that of other
A European country, especially Spain, but it was dictated by the peculiar circumstances of England's development in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Crown was committed to expansion, wealth, and the pursuit of national glory, but the royal treasury was too small to make these dreams become reality. Moreover, the Tudors and early Stuarts focused most of their attention on other matters. Henry VIII did much to solidify the
powers of the monarchy, but his thoughts were often dominated by his struggle with Rome and by the problem of a male heir. Elizabeth further centralized royal authority, oversaw the creation of the Church of
England, and tried to neutralize internal religious and political dissent while protecting England from the growing threat of Catholic Spain. James I, King of the Scots and the first Stuart king of England, fought with Puritans and Parliament and brought the government into serious financial difficulties.
Charles I, his son, doubled the mistakes of his father and led England to civil war.
The wealth of England during this time was to be found among great landowners and the benefactors of England's rapid commercial expansion-the merchants. Thus, not surprisingly, England's colonial ventures were undertaken by these persons who individually, as proprietors, or collectively, as companies, sought to increase their wealth and the nation's power. Some of their attempts were disastrous failures-such as Roanoke. As they gained experience, however, they achieved some success. The growth of representative assemblies in Anglo-America involved one of the most interesting facets of our colonial story. They developed from models in
Massachusetts and Virginia. However, in neither colony did the Crown intend to create representative government. In Virginia, the House of...