Utopia in Colonial America

Utopia in Colonial America In the seventeenth century, there were two different versions of utopia. When a person hears the word utopia, a different thought will come to each different person’s mind. A utopia can be anything, as long as it brings joy to the specific person.

In Colonial America, all people went over to the new world with a fantasy of their perfect place. In fact, two very important historical figures had extreme views on North America. While John Smith viewed The New World as new land where he could make limitless money, John Winthrop viewed it as a City Upon a Hill in which he could bring glory to god.According to Creveour’s observations in 1769, Smith’s vision seemed to prevail.

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Smith envisioned The New World as the perfect place to make a profit. In A Description of New England, Smith writes, “If a man work but three days in seven, he will get more than he can spend…” (Smith 56). Smith is trying to convince people to come over to the new world, and he believes that by mentioning glory and riches that could be easily earned, people will flock over.

His vision is to make a large amount of money in his new home.Smith writes, “…fish but an hour, to make more than they eat in a week: or if they will not eat it, because there is so much better choice; sell it” (Smith 56). Smith is exaggerating the conditions in the new world, so that people will want to venture over. He knows that by making it seem that everything is very easy to do in the new world, every person in Britain will immediately come over. Smith writes, “The masters by this may quickly grow rich… to a general and an incredible benefit, for king, and country, master, and servant” (Smith 57).Here, Smith once again brings up money and becoming wealthy. The interesting thing is that he then begins to connect it to the king and country.

He not only wants money, but he wants his money to benefit everyone and help the Royalty in England. This is surprising because he seems to want all the money to stay in the colonies, but he connects it all back to England. In the 1700’s an unknown English artist painted the “Booton Hall Portrait”. This is a portrait of the native princess, Pocahontas.

The artist painted Pocahontas in royal clothing, and with an ostrich-feather-fan.These two details show how important money and power must have been to the British and colonists. Smith’s utopia revolves around one thing, and that is money, and he makes it very clear to everyone. Winthrop viewed the New World as a City Upon a Hill, and wanted to glorify God using his Puritan values. In A Model of Christian Charity, Winthrop writes, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill” (Winthrop 86).

The term “City Upon a Hill” is interesting because he is already beginning to view his new city as a very godly and powerful city.When Winthrop envisioned New England, he wanted it to be grounded in Puritan values and to glorify god. When he built a city upon a hill, he wanted to actually be closer to heaven and god. He felt this would help him bring more glory to god because everyone would be able to see. Winthrop writes, “The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord” (Winthrop 85) Winthrop is telling everyone that if they bring glory to god, they will have a wonderful life in the new colonies.

He is very strong in his Puritan beliefs and believes that The New World can become the perfect place for Puritans like himself.Winthrop wants to see everyone in the new world come together and praise god, so that everybody can be happy in the new world. Winthrop writes, “When God gives a special commission He looks to have it observed in every article” (Winthrop 85). Winthrop strongly believes that God is requiring them to be good. He thinks that the only way to live is through devoutly following and praising God with everything that is done. Winthrop thought that if everyone does not follow Puritanism, the colony would completely fail.

Although Winthrop’s version of utopia makes him happy, it would not have been a very practical idea for a developing nation. Although both Winthrop’s and Smith’s ideas had their benefits, Smith’s version of utopia ultimately prevailed. In 1769, while visiting the New York Colony, Creveoeur writes, “…no ecclesiastical dominion…” (Creveoeur). Creveoeur wrote that there was no dominant religious power.

Winthrop believed that the New World needed to be grounded in Puritan beliefs, and strongly praise god. Creveoeur clearly does not see any secular religion in the colonies, so that is one indicator that Winthrop’s utopia did not remain.Creveoeur writes, “The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe” (Creveoeur). Smith had the idea that all men would become rich very easily in the New World. While it might not have been as easy as he thought, and people might not be quite as rich as would have liked, there was very little poverty and almost all people were relatively equal.

Crevoeur seems to be describing a land that is similar to Smith’s utopia. Creveoeur writes, “…each person works for himself” (Creveoeur).In Smith’s Description of New England, he mentioned that a man would be able to work for himself and still be able to make a decent living.

This seems to still be the case in 1769. All three of these quotes show that over 150 years later, Smith’s version of utopia still exists. Out of the two utopias that Smith and Winthrop envisioned, only one would stand the test of time. Smith’s utopia was still around in 1769. Even though Winthrop had some great ideas, Smith’s utopia was more practical for the New World colonists.

Overall, Smith’s utopia worked well enough and helped shape the transformation into America.

Author: April Wilson


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