The Puritans saw themselves as the new ‘Chosen Nation’ of God and thought that it was God’s will that they leave their corrupt homelands behind, sever their ties to the corrupt English society and forge a new ‘Truly Christian’ society in America (Conforti 48).
The Puritans were not the only ones seeking to start a fresh and pure society in America, in the late 17th century, a mass immigration of English Quakers to America occurred with the blessings of the King of England who wished an end to the religious conflict between the Quakers and the Anglican religious authorities. Led by William Penn they formed utopian communities in the present day Pennsylvania and Delaware (Conlin, 52).
While the rejectionist beliefs of religious partisans was the main reason for the rise of a unique American identity, there were several other factors at work as well; the English society was heavily afflicted with the class system. In the English society, social standing was strongly connected to ancestral ownership of land. The landless peasants of ignoble birth had few opportunities to improve their lot in life; in the New World poor White people had more opportunity to employ their talents and labor in order to better their lot in life, become rich and gain a better social position (Murrin 78). Gradually in the America, the importance of a person’s lineage was considerably reduced and the wealth and property a person had became the most important factor in their social standing.
Another factor which separated Americans from the English was the political system of the American colonies. The government of England had strong central management. Each American colony, on the other hand was autonomous, and its citizens had more say over how their government was run. It is no wonder then, that many of the citizens of the American colonies reacted with outrage at the English government’s efforts to exert central control over the colonies in the late 18th century (Murrin 196).
A fourth important reason for the erosion of the ‘English’ identity was the presence of a large number of people in the society who were not from an English background at all. These included the Irish Americans, the slaves brought over from Africa, the Native Americans, the Spanish, the French and the Dutch who all had a large presence in one area of the colonies or another (Henretta, Brody and Dumenil 109). The result of interaction with all these different nationalities resulted in an erosion of the ‘English’ identity in the populace of the colonies and the forging of a new uniquely ‘American’ identity.
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