Context is everything!
It seems that when we Americans review our history, we tend to think that our history is independent of external events or influences. For example, the settlement of the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies are viewed from hindsight, without consideration of the events in Europe that affected them.
A more accurate and honest appraisal of the early English settlement efforts in the Americas would have to include at least the following considerations:
- The Jamestown and Plymouth colonies were not the earliest European settlements in North America.
- The Puritan establishment of New England as a theocratic state was deeply affected by both the English Civil War (1638-1646) and the European Wars of Religion that stretched from approximately 1520-1650.
- The Tidewater and South Carolina colonies were deeply affected by the English Civil War, but in opposite ways from New England.
One of the oddest patterns of historical perspective that we have in the USA is to believe that only New England and Jamestown were important historical events. We discount or ignore the fact that other nations settled in the region (broadly defined) and that the English were relative late-comers. For example:
- Fort Pentagouet (Castine, Maine) was settled by the French 7 years (1613) before the Plymouth Colony was established (1620).
- Port-Royal, the capital of the province of Acadia, was established by the French in 1605. A British force from Virginia attacked Port-Royal and burned down the town in 1613, but it was rebuilt nearby.
- San Miguel de Gualdape was a short-lived settlement from 1526, probably in GA.
- St. Augustine in Florida was founded by the Spanish in September 1565 and is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States.
- Charlesfort was founded by the French in 1562 at what is now Parris Island, SC, and replaced by the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena in 1566.
- Ft. Caroline was established by the French at what is now Jacksonville, FL in 1564, but was destroyed by the Spanish soon after. It was intended to be a refuge for Huguenots.
- Anastasia Island, FL was built as a lighthouse in approximately 1566 (or after) and was attacked by Sir Francis Drake (English) in 1586.
- Fort San Juan, a Spanish outlier settlement in NC, in 1567.
So, as you can see, the Eastern seaboard was a veritable beehive of activity, as the European sea powers explored, tested the market, and attempted to settle North America. The Spanish were first, the French on what is now Canada were second, and the English a distant third. That's if you don't count the Vikings from several hundred years before.