Note: Today we’re talking about “Why the United States Speaks English” Before we begin, I know that the USA has no “Official” language. When I say “We speak English in America.” I’m discussing the idea that when someone travels to the United States, they don’t try to learn Spanish, or German, or Pashto. When someone travels to the United States, they start to learn English. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about English being the language of the United States.
This isn’t usually a political blog, and this article isn’t meant to be. However, it does deal quite a bit with the founding of the country, but this is about history, not current events. So as long as we’re on the same page, let’s check this out.
English Wasn’t Always on Top in the US.
For a time, the new world was an unclaimed paradise, at least from European standards. Anyone who had a boat and a crew could come and carve a new life for themselves. Vast tracks of unclaimed lands and clean air were unheard of in Europe. It was paradise, ready to be tamed. The colonizing world was much different than the world of today. The world of the 21st century only has one major superpower, (Although there are a few rising to power.) The 17th century world had a multipolar power struggle. France and England had been at each other’s throats off and on for centuries. Spain had suffered a major defeat, but was still fighting for its place. The Netherlands had spent it’s time building a merchant network that was unrivaled, and Portugal wasn’t going to be left behind. If European power was going to survive, they needed to find more space somewhere.
The 13 original colonies:
Anyone who has studied even a bit of American history can tell you how many colonies there were. What many people don’t realize is that there were many more than just 13 colonies. Those thirteen colonies are the ones that rebelled, but those were British colonies. Spain, France, and even Sweden, all found a foothold in this magnificent, unexplored world. Some the British captured from other forces. New York was not originally British. The Dutch settled New Netherland in 1614, and captured by the British in 1664. That means for about 50 years, the main language in what is now New York wasn’t English, but Dutch.
No One Expects the Spanish Institution
Spain wasn’t about to be left behind. Famous explores like Hernan Cortez went to work pillaging the natives, looking for gold. Poncé de León took a crew to find the Fountain of Youth or, depending who you ask, a cure for syphilis. Spain had a handful of attempts at starting a colony in what is now the USA. They tried Virginia, Florida, and a few other coastal areas. The fort in North Carolina fell apart after most of the soldiers there were killed, or died from other causes. The new world wasn’t an easy place to live, and the high failure rate of colonies only reinforced that fact in the minds of Europeans. The Spanish didn’t give up though, and were attracted to the great wealth in the Caribbean and South America
Don’t forget about France!
Jacques Cartier made a claim on North America in the year 1534. They had three notable colonies. One in Maine, another in South Carolina, and another in Florida. These colonies failed for a few different reasons. The one that stuck was Quebec. In 1534, Samuel Champlain founded the colony of Quebec. The fact that this city is still around speaks of the quality of the French endurance. They didn’t get chased away by the difficulties, or the natives. In fact, what makes the French influence in the new world unique is the cooperation they fostered with the native tribes. If we’re looking only for a reason that we speak English, it isn’t because the French failed.
Even the English had their share of risks and failures. Jamestown was the first successful English colony on the map. Even so, Jamestown saw almost half of its colonists die during the first winter. Still, the colonists endured, and as more settlers came they started to flourish in the New World. Some other colonies weren’t so lucky. “The Lost Colony” was originally known as Roanoke. Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish a colony just off the coast of North Carolina. Raleigh wasn’t new at this. He had been exploring for the Queen for years. In fact, he is the reason we have a state called Virginia (After Queen Elizabeth I, The Virgin Queen.) in 1587, Raleigh ordered John White to establish more than one hundred families and men to establish the colony of Roanoke. The problem is that they got there late, and couldn’t plant crops. John White returned to England for supplies, but couldn’t return for three years… by the time he returned, the colony had vanished… To this day, there are theories, but no sure information about where the settlers went…
BUT WHY DO WE SPEAK ENGLISH?
Much like the language they spoke, the English colonies were successful for a number of reasons. Some have attributed the colonies success to the supremacy of the English navy. They were well armed, and very capable of supporting their colonies. While other European colonies were blessed, and supported by the crown, British colonies weren’t only dependent on His Majesty’s whims. The British colonies were blessed by the crown, but mainly funded by businesses, corporations, or wealthy patrons. This means that when the French crown decided to abandon a colony, it was done.
When the Spanish royalty no longer thought the endeavor was worth the cost, it was put to an end. However, because the British colonies had a much broader funding base, the choice to continue wasn’t just one person’s decision. While Spain and France had a foothold in the new world, they weren’t as self-sufficient as quickly. That sufficiency lead to independence. Independence lead to inspiration. Inspiration lead to rebellion, and the creation of a new land. The British rebellion of 1776 inspired others to follow suit, and new countries sprang up over the next century. Basically, the United States speaks English because the British were first to secede.