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Colonizing the West

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Submitted By kmcrockett
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Colonizing the West
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Comparing Colonization After the establishment of the United States, explorers continued the expansion of the nation by organizing new settlements to the West. Settling a new town is an incredibly hard task. I have examined three articles by historians who discuss the experiences of two very different settlements and the task they undertook to settle new colonies in different locations for very different reasons. The Mormon settlement in Utah had a different reason for colonization than the settlement at Jamestown as shown through their financial pursuits, leadership examples, basic resources and differences in geography.
One of the historians, Karen Kupperman, writes about the settlement of Jamestown. She writes that “even the most privileged [suffered] from food shortage, disease, absence of family and friends, opposition from inhabitants of the land, and sheer exhaustion” (pg. 19). Not every place is similar with the same resources. Each comes with unique characteristics and conditions. She starts off by explaining how organizing settlements in the Northern hemisphere was very different than in the Southern hemisphere. The only model the British had to follow for colonizing was South America. In the North there was no gold or silver to mine for profit nor a large number of natives to enslave. Because of these lacking traits it was difficult to find people who would finance the trip to colonize Jamestown. This brings up the most important factor when looking at colonization: money.
Another one of the historians, Dean May, writes from a Mormon angle about a similar experience of colonization by the Mormons. He describes how Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, was faced with a hard decision when he was asked by President Polk, the United States President, to enlist a multitude of Mormon men to help fight the war against Mexico. May writes, “[Young was] desperately in need of hard cash to finance the migration [Westward so he] lent his support to the recruitment” (pg. 66). Just as European explorers, Brigham Young knew the most important resource needed to settle a colony was money.
Another aspect of colonization examined in the texts is leadership. A leader is either appointed or elected and is entrusted to govern and make sure order is kept. The leadership style of Brigham Young over the saints is examined, both as a secular leader as the territories first governor and as the leader of the Mormons’ church. An example of Young’s leadership is given when describing Young as a “people person” who would talk with his people and check how they and their families were doing. May continually discusses how Young would go to each settlement and lead among the people. He was a friend who gained the trust of his followers and led with a firm handshake, not by an iron fist. The contrast in leadership between Brigham Young and the governors appointed by England is vast.
Kupperman discusses the leaders of Jamestown quite differently. Nearly a third of the passengers on the ship were classified as gentlemen, or men of higher class. These men, born to high ranking families, were chosen as the leaders of the newly formed settlement. Looking at this, a question arises; just because a man was born of higher class, does that mean he knows how to lead? (pg. 25). Overall, the British were leading from across the ocean with local leadership ruling with an iron fist. One example does arise with John Smith and how he was involved with the people and exploring the territory. These examples discussed in the readings help us look at the characteristics of a leader that are needed for settling a new colony.
It is also important that the people in a colony keep it running by producing the basic necessities of life: food and water. As mentioned, not every place is the same. Choosing a place that has the resources needed to sustain life is important. May discusses when the first Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. They did not see much, but they did see a land that was suitable for crops and livestock as well as rivers that would safely quench the thirst of the people and water the crops. Kupperman acknowledges the importance of food and water when starting a colony. Water was present in streams around the region and was used all year round. The geography of the region however, caused trouble during the summer months. During this time the rivers would shrink allowing the ocean waters to come further up the river. This ocean water was festering with salt and minerals that were making the colonists and their animals sick (pg. 31). It turned out to be a horrible problem causing many deaths.
It was also discussed how the colonists had trouble growing crops and often traded with the Indians so they not starve. The reason for the colonists’ trouble is not known, but the Indians were able to grow crops. Unlike the colonists, the Mormons had an easier time growing crops. The soil was rich and perfect for farming which was a benefit of the geography.
Paul Reeve, a current professor of history at the University of Utah, discusses, as if from a Mormon side, another form of crop that was grown in Southern Utah: cotton. As Brigham Young was sending able bodied men out to settle other towns around the Utah Territory he examined the geographies of the different places and thought about what would be an effective way to use the land and which crops to grow. It was determined that the saints would be sent down to grow cotton and other warmer-climate crops. In addition to this, livestock would be placed on the land because of its grazing fields. All of these examples are great evidence that show how choosing a location that has the resources to sustain life is important.
Comparing the settlements through the articles, it was clear to see that the two colonies were built on two different work ethics, which is the main argument of the authors. The Mormons migrated Westward, established homes and stayed awhile, but the British settled Jamestown mainly to produce profit. Evidence of this is shown by Kupperman’s article. The financers of the journey did not know how their investment would turn out so specific men were chosen for the journey; men who could increase the chances for a bigger profit. Many men who had skills as stonecutters, diamond cutters and goldsmiths were chosen over carpenters or blacksmiths. Usually men with skills in farming and carpentry would be important when settling a colony, but the British had their eye on other things. Kupperman writes, “[John] Smith complained that the company cared more about the expected profit than about setting up a truly functional society” (pg. 25). These men were only there to get a profit and leave, so when no profit was found they did stopped working. This posed a problem for the colonists when gold, silver and diamonds were not found.
In contrast to this, both May and Reeve discuss why the Mormons settled their towns. “Young chose carefully the families for this mission. Most were farmers, but the list of occupations represented included everything from blacksmith and wheelwright to vintner, drum major, and hatter, reflecting Young's attempt to furnish a ready-made, well-rounded community that could take care of itself” (pg. 151). He did this because the Mormons were sort of refugees running from persecution. Utah became a great refuge for them to live their lives in peace. Young set out to colonize multiple settlements stretching from present day Idaho, down through the Utah territory to the Pacific Ocean. They did not just want to settle one colony, exploit the resources and get out, they wanted to establish a home, unlike the colonists at Jamestown. Reeve talks about how “they were expected to grow …crops in an effort to increase the economic self-sufficiency of the Prophets Great Basin Kingdom” (pg. 151). They wanted self-sufficiency because they planned on staying there forever. This shows evidence that these two colonies were built on two different work ethics which is the main argument that the authors discuss. My response comes from looking at the evidence in articles where we see great historical significance about two very different styles of colonizing. The people at Jamestown were following the model of colonies in South America and found out that those methods would not work. They relied on the native inhabitants of the area to help them survive. The Mormons, specifically their leader Brigham Young, had multiple examples of starting a new settlement. The United States was expanding and explorers had already surveyed the land. The Mormons had good ideas of how to start once they got there, while the settlers at Jamestown did not. The articles teach us about Utah’s history and how it was modeled after successful colonies. This is how the articles relate. I agree with the interpretations of the authors because of this evidence of why each colony was organized.…...

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