Why Did Colonists Come to America?

The colonists came to America in the 16th and 17th centuries for several reasons, particularly practical motivations that related to their homeland, such as overpopulation, religious persecution and poverty. For these reasons, many colonists came to America seeking economic opportunity and the freedom to practice their religion without having to fear the government.

England had developed an unstable economy and, as inflation and poverty grew, English immigrants chose to seek out new sources of economic prosperity in the New World. Many of these colonists were indentured servants. They bargained their freedom for seaward passage to the New World. These young men and women were unmarried and sought to work off their debts and begin their new life in the colonies, where capitalism had made the ventures of growing sugar, tobacco and cotton promisingly profitable ventures. Some colonists that came to the American colonies were not sent by their own will, though. Great Britain sent an estimated 50,000 convicts to the American colonies during the 17th century.

Religious freedom was also a motive for the colonists. Religious groups, such as the Puritans and pilgrims, sought to establish their religion in a new land, away from the tumultuous political climate and dangerous religious conflict in England, where civil unrest and persecution were rampant. These religious groups established some of the first major colonies in the New World, including the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony.