HOW THE COLONIZATION ERA ‘AFFECTED AUTHORS
The atmosphere of which a writer adapts to affects his/ her works. The writer’s environment, and the churnings of history that feed the writer, gives him the material whereby he can construct, and create in. History, in this instance the colonization of the American continent, dictates what and how he is to write. Authors such as John Smith, William Bradford, and St. Jean de Crevecoeur are all examples of this. The atmosphere or society these authors were in directly affected the attitude, tone, genre, etc. of their works. This can be shown by both facts in history and their actual writings of that period.
During the 17th century Pilgrims, which were a group of Separatist Puritans, disliked being in England and wanted to go to America for the right to practice their religion freely (and in 1620 they received a patent from Virginia which allowed them to settle in New England aboard the Mayflower). In 1606, King James I granted a charier authorizing overlapping grants of land in Virginia to two separate joint-Stock companies, one based in London and the other in Plymouth.
Captain John Smith planned to conquer New England’s “goodly, strong, and well-proportioned (Indian) people” and establish an English colony there. He then led the Virginia Company of London to successfully establishing the colony. His work The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles told about his colonization process and explorations, as he described America as a Utopian society. As mentioned in his work, Smith maintained satisfactory relations with the Indians, as shown by his letter to Queen Anne when he says ‘That some ten years ago being in Virginia, and taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan their chief King, I received from this great savage exceeding great courtesy, especially from his son Nantaquaus…. And his sister Pocahontas, the King’s most dear and well-beloved daughter, being but a child of twelve-or thirteen years of age, whose compassionate pitiful heart, of my desperate estate, gave me much cause to respect her….” Smith prevented Virginia from disintegrating. This is shown in his piece, as he tries hard to persuade people to come to America as shown by his statement “And surely by reason of those sandy cliffs and cliffs of rocks…. who can but approve this most excellent place, both for health and fertility”. This is also more evidently shown in the statement “My purpose is not to persuade children from their parents, men from their wives, nor servants from their masters… but that each parish, or village, in city, or country… or young married people that has small wealth to live on, here by their labor my live exceeding well.” He concludes by saying that even though hard work is needed to be a successful colonist in America, it is all worth it and is for the better. All of these examples show that the environment Smith was in influenced his writing (because his writing was mostly convincing people that America was a good place to colonize). In general, his solicitation was purposed to secure new colonists in America.
In contrast to Smith’s piece, which tried to reflect a strong image of America, de Crevecoeyr’s Sketches of Eighteenth Century America discussed in more depth the hardship of living in America. His writing describes the flaws of America because the environment he was in must have influenced his thinking. He wrote that to a typical American colonist”… all that appears good, just, equitable, has a necessary relation to himself and family. He has been so long alone that he has almost forgotten the rest of mankind except it is when he carries his crops on the snow to some distant market.” He also wrote that “He has had to struggle alone through numbers of difficult situations and inconveniences; he, therefore, deals hardly with his new neighbours.”
Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation also described the colonization of New England, in particular a colony in the mouth of the Hudson River. He describes the voyages, which included many storms and other tribulations, on way to colonizing the colony. His writing was much less connotative then Smith’s piece, and that’s reflected in the purpose of his writing because Smith described things in much more detail so he can praise America in contrast to Bradford, who wasn’t writing to accommodate people to America.
Many factors in America dealt with the colonization process. Literacy in the 18th century was very high in New England. An estimated 90% of the population was literate (this was because they were so involved with religion thus requiring them to read a lot). Religion became a major factor in the colonies, especially during the Great Awakening, which represented an unleashing of anxiety and longing among ordinary people living in a world of oral culture-anxiety about sin, and longing for salvation. Throughout the colonization of America, Indians were always a big factor. The colonists consistently had wars with the Indians, mostly because the colonists were trying to take their land. Slavery was also another major issue in the colonization of America. African-American slaves were worked very hard (many times they were worked to death). They were treated brutally and unfairly. Slavery was the biggest factor in economic prosperity because they cultivated the cash crops. The independence of the colonies was gained when, after a colonial conflict in reaction to British taxes like the Tea Act, the second continental congress declared independence and wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Thus, all of these events leading to the colonization of America influenced writing during, and after, that period. The works of Smith, Bradford, and de Crevecoeur serve as a basis for future writings on the history of colonization. The atmosphere created in these works is reflected by the society during that time. That Is why the environment an author is in so greatly affects his/her pieces of literature. For example, Smith might not be able to write many of the things he did in his work in today’s time because today’s society might oppose or disdain some of his ideas or his stylistic approach to his conclusions. Therefore, the society or setting present at a specific time is indicative of pieces of literature, as in the colonization of America.