Their whole population amounted in the middle of the eighteenth century to about 1,200,000 whites and a quarter of a million of negroes; nearly a fourth of that of the mother country. The wealth of the colonists was growing even faster than their numbers. As yet the southern colonies were the more productive. Virginia boasted of its tobacco plantations, Georgia and the Carolinas of their maize and rice and indigo crops, while New York and Pennsylvania, with the colonies of New England, were restricted to their whale and cod fisheries, their corn harvests and their timber trade. The distinction mdeed between the Northern and Southern colonies was more than an industrial one. In the Southern States the prevalence of slavery produced an aristocratic spirit and favoured the creation of large estates; even the system of entails had been introduced among the wealthy planters of Virginia, where many of the older English families found representatives in houses such as those of Fairfax and Washington. Throughout New England, on the other hand, the characteristics of the Puritans, their piety, their intolerance, their simplicity of life, their love of equality and tendency to democratic institutions, remained unchanged.
In education and political activity New England stood far ahead of its fellow colonies, for the settlement of the Puritans had been followed at once by the establishment of a system of local schools which is still the glory of America. "Every township," it was enacted, "after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall appoint one to teach all children to write and read; and when any town shall increase to the number of a hundred families, they shall set up a grammar school".
Great however as these differences were, and great as was to be their influence on American history, they were little felt as yet. In the main features of their outer organization the whole of the colonies stood fairly at one. In religious and in civil matters alike all of them contrasted sharply with the England at home. Religious tolerance had been brought about by a medley of religious faiths such as the world had never seen before. New England was still a Puritan stronghold. In all the Southern colonies the Epis-pal Church was established by law, and the bulk of the settlers clung to it; but Roman Catholics formed a large part of the population of Maryland. Pennsylvania was a State of Quakers. Presbyterians and Baptists had fled from tests and persecutions to colonize New Jersey. Lutherans and Moravians from Germany abounded among the settlers of Carolina and Georgia. In such a chaos of creeds religious persecution became impossible. There was the same outer diversity and the same real unity in the political tendency and organization of the States. Whether the spirit of the colony was democratic, moderate, or oligarchical, its form of government was pretty much the same.
The original rights of the proprietor, the projector and grantee of the earliest settlement, had in all cases, save in those of Pennsylvania and Maryland, either ceased to exist or fallen into desuetude. The government of each colony lay in a House of Assembly elected by the people at large, with a Council sometimes elected, sometimes nominated by the Governor, and a Governor either elected, or appointed by the Crown. With the appointment of these Governors all administrative interference on the part of the Government at home practically ended. The colonies were left by a happy neglect to themselves. It was wittily said at a later day that " Mr. Grenville lost America because he read the American despatches, which none of his predecessors ever did." There was little room indeed for any interference within the limits of the colonies. Their privileges were secured by royal charters. Their Assemblies alone exercised the right of internal taxation, and they exercised it sparingly. Walpole, like Pitt afterwards, bet roughly aside the project for an American excise. "I have Old England set against me," he said, "by this measure, and do you think I will have New England too?" Even in matters of trade the ripremacy of the mother country was far from being a galling one.
There were some small import duties, but they were evaded by a weil-undcrstood system of smuggling. The restriction of trade with the colonies to Great Britain was more than compensated by the commercial privileges which the Americans enjoyed as British subjects. As yet, therefore, there was nothing to break the good will which the colonists felt towards the mother country, while the danger of French aggression drew them closely to it. But strong as the attachment of the Americans to Britain seemed at the close of the war, keen lookers-on saw in the very completeness of Pitt's triumph a danger to their future union. The presence of the French in Canada, their designs in the west, had thrown America for protection on the mother-country. But with the conquest of Canada all need of this protection was removed. The attitude of England towards its distant dependency became one of mere possession: and differences of temper, which had till now been thrown into the background by the higher need for union, started into a new prominence.
If questions of trade and taxation awoke murmurings and disputes, behind these grievances lay an uneasy dread at the democratic form which the government and society of the colonies had taken, and at the "levelling principles " which prevailed.
To check this republican spirit,to crush all dreams of severance, and to strengthen the unity of the British Empire was one of the chief aims of the young sovereign who mounted the throne on the death of his grandfather in 1760. For the first and last time since the accession of the House of Hanover England saw a King who was resolved to play a part in English politics; and the part which George the Third succeeded in playing was undoubtedly a memorable one. In ten years he reduced government to a shadow, and turned the loyalty of his subjects at home into disaffection. In twenty he had forced the American colonies into revolt and independence, and brought England to what then seemed the brink of ruin. Work such as this has sometimes been done by very great men, and often by very wicked and profligate men; but George was neither profligate nor great. He had a smaller mind than any English king before him save James the Second. He was wretchedly educated, and his natural powers were of the meanest sort. Nor had he the capacity for using greater minds than his own by which some sovereigns have concealed their natural littleness. On the contrary, his only feeling towards great men was one of jealousy and hate.