Many cultures blended
After 1680, England ceased to be the chief source of immigration, as great numbers came from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, and France for varied reasons. Thousands of Germans fled Europe to escape the path of war. A host of Scotch-Irish left northern Ireland to avoid the poverty induced by government and absentee-landlord oppression. From Scotland and Switzerland came people also fleeing the specter of poverty. Immigration tended to move in waves, but over any period of years it was a steady stream. In 1690, the population amounted to about a quarter of a million. It doubled every twenty-five years until in 1775 it numbered more than two and a half million.
For the most part, non-English colonists adapted themselves to the culture of the original settlers. This did not, however, mean that all settlers transformed themselves into Englishmen abroad. True, they adopted the English language, law, customs, and habits of thought, but only as these had been modified by conditions in America. And in the process of the amalgamation of these later immigrants with the original English colonists, further cultural modifications were effected. The final result was a unique cultural blend of English and European continental characteristics conditioned by the environment of the new world.
Although a man and his family could shift from Massachusetts to Virginia, or from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, without making many basic readjustments, yet distinctions were marked between individual colonies. They were even more marked between groups of colonies.
The several settlements fell into three fairly well-defined sections. One of those was New England which became chiefly commercial and industrial, while in the south, a predominantly agrarian society was, developing. Geography was the determining factor. A glaciated area, the New England region was strewn with boulders. Generally the soil, except in rare spots in river valleys, was thin and poor, and the small area of level land, the short summers, and long winters made it inferior farming country. But the New Englanders soon found other profitable pursuits. They harnessed waterpower and established mills where they ground wheat and corn or sawed lumber for export. The coastal indentations made excellent harbors which promoted trade. Good stands of timber encouraged ship-building, and the sea was a source of great potential wealth. The cod fishery alone rapidly formed a basis for prosperity in Massachusetts.