In the colonial era, before 1776, the west was of high priority for settlers and politicians. The American frontier began when Jamestown, Virginia was settled by the English in 1607. In the earliest days of European settlement of the Atlantic coast, until about 1680, the frontier was essentially any part of the interior of the continent beyond the fringe of existing settlements along the Atlantic coast. English, French, Spanish and Dutch patterns of expansion and settlement were quite different. Only a few thousand French migrated to Canada; these habitants settled in villages along the St. Lawrence River, building communities that remained stable for long stretches; they did not simply jump west the way the British did. Although French fur traders ranged widely through the Great Lakes and mid-west region they seldom settled down. French settlement was limited to a few very small villages such as Kaskaskia, Illinois as well as a larger settlement around New Orleans. Likewise, the Dutch set up fur trading posts in the Hudson River valley, followed by large grants of land to rich landowning patroons who brought in tenant farmers who created compact, permanent villages. They created a dense rural settlement in upstate New York, but they did not push westward.
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