America's eastern seaboard lacks large cities along the coast north of Boston. Few major overland routes extend inland from this coast, and interior cities are generally smaller than those along the ocean. This area, comprising northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York, can be referred to as the New England.
Five hundred years before Columbus "discovered" America, Leif Ericson and a crew of 30 Viking sailors are believed to have explored the Maine coast and may have landed and tried to establish a settlement here. In 1498, six years after Columbus landed in the West Indies, John Cabot, an Italian sailor in the employ of King Henry VII of England, sailed into North American waters and may well have explored the Maine coast, although there is no concrete evidence of it.
A century after Cabot's voyage a number of European ships briefly visited the area, some of them putting ashore to make repairs and process fish catches. The first settlement was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Because the Popham colony didn't survive the harsh Maine winters, Jamestown enjoys the distinction of being regarded as America's first permanent settlement.
At many points on the Atlantic seaboard, physiography had a specially noticeable influence in the direction of colonial growth. New England was a physiographic unit isolated from the rest of the English colonies, having its peculiar people, institutions, and modes of thought. The soil was, as a rule, poor, making agriculture almost from the beginning a subsidiary occupation. Its sea frontage and excellent harbors, abundant pine forests and the presence of exhaustless fisheries pointed the way to sea faring occupations, for which originally the people seem to have been but poorly prepared.
Fishing and commerce led to manufacturing, and all three were helped rather than hindered by the prevailing restrictive theory of national commerce, while the lax enforcement of the navigation acts, a policy which Walpole favored, prevented the application of even the ordinary hindrances to independent commercial development on the part of these American colonies. It followed naturally enough that by the middle of the eighteenth century the New England colonies had begun to be serious industrial rivals of the mother country, and were, besides, in full possession of well understood English precedents to support the various stages of their growth.
The New England people are frequently called Yankees, from the best authority, that of the late learned Heckewelder, that the Lena Lenape, a tribe of Indians belonging to the Six Nations, on the arrival of our fore fathers to these shores, pronounced the word English, Yengees. The word was thus originally spelt, but in the course of years, in common with thousands of other Indian names and phrases, it became corrupted to Yankee. The first settlers of New England were English, or Englishmen, from Old England; and however the term Yankee, or English, may be applied to New Englanders—the descendants of the Puritans consider the term honorable to themselves, and reproachful only to those who misapply it.
Over the years, the challenges of "making do" through long northern New England winters, combined with a frugal nature have shaped a distinctive Yankee outlook on life – one that is industrious, self-reliant, optimistic, independent, yet very community minded. The New England expression, "Use it up, wear in out, make it do, or do with out" is symbolic of this outlook.
When Europeans began to pour into America, they gave to the various countries they entered the general denomination of terrce novae, or Newfoundlands. From the time of Francis I, that name indicated the regions afterwards known as Florida, Canada, and Labrador, as well as the island which then, as now, bears this designation. But when the different countries became better known, and were oftener visited, they had assigned to them particular appellations, which distinguished each from all the others; still those names were often changed, and always wrongly applied, while the territories they designated were of uncertain limitation.
A number of early attempts were made to colonize the coast north of Massachusetts. Several grants of land were issued by the Council for New England, notably that to Mason and Gorges. In 1629 these men divided their territory, Mason taking that between the Merrimac and the Piscataqua, to which he gave the name New Hampshire, and Gorges that from the Piscataqua to the Kennebec, a district known as Maine. Large sums were spent by both, but their settlements were little more than fishing hamlets.
At the beginning of the Civil War in England, Massachusetts annexed the New Hampshire towns on the ground that her charter of 1629 gave her all territory east as well as west from a point three miles north of the source of the Merrimac River, but the towns were allowed to govern themselves and to send representatives to the general court of Massachusetts until in 1679 New Hampshire became a royal province. During the Commonwealth Massachusetts extended her jurisdiction over most of the towns in Maine also, and although obliged by a commission from England (1665) to relinquish her control temporarily, she reasserted her authority until Maine was purchased from the Gorges heirs by Massachusetts (1678). The territory east of the Kennebec River was granted to several court favorites, but was practically unoccupied because of the opposition of the French.
With New Hampshire and New York colonist laying claim to Vermont, there was a period of confusion in the 18th century as their land grants and titles overlapped. In the turbulent years leading to the American Revolution, several acts of rebellion took place in Vermont that were not against the British Crown, but against the province of New York. Vermont's famous "Green Mountain Boys," a group of colonists from New Hampshire organized by Ethan Allen in 1770-71, were among those harassing and attacking Vermont settlers with land titles issued from New York. Vermont organized itself as an independent republic and was admitted to the Union as the 14th State in 1791.
Maine was at one time part of Massachusetts. It became a separate state in 1820, becoming the 23rd state admitted to the United States of America, although its northern borders were not finalized until 1842.
Northern New England is distinguished for its varied surface. Mountains in immense ranges, bold spurs, and solitary eminences; beautiful swells, extended valleys, and alluvial intervales meet the eye in every direction. Large rivers, unrivalled for their rapid courses and hydraulic power; brooks, rivulets, expansive lakes, countless ponds; and a sea coast of more than six hundred miles, decorated with delightful bays, harbors, and romantic islands, form and beautify the outline of a picture of Northern New England.
Tourism and retail shopping has always been a major factor in the regional economy of Northern New England and Canada. The Northern New England Border Corridor is a vital trade route between the United States and Canada. It links five Canadian Provinces and three New England States. The Northern New England Border Corridor is also the shortest route between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Montreal and Canadian points west.
The New England is near, even astride, major routeways, but not on them. Ocean transportation can easily bypass the region, putting it in a transportation shadow that has produced slow regional economic growth and even stagnation. Southern New England is a part of metropolitan America. Northern New England, for the most part, is not. It is much more like Canada's Atlantic Provinces.
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