New England vs. Chesapeake Colonies

New England vs. Chesapeake Colonies

New England vs. Chesapeake Colonies When Columbus first landed on the shores of the Bahamas, he thought he had discovered a new passage to the Indies. However, what he had discovered was even more valuable. With the discovery of an entirely new and unique world came the greed and competition from European countries. This competition, paired with the uncertainty of life in Europe, led to many explorers following in Columbus’s trail to discover North and South America. Eventually, England seemed to dominate in North America, and created colonies such as the New England and Chesapeake colonies.

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These colonies, while both English in origin, evolved socially, economically and religiously into two completely different regions by 1700. The Chesapeake and New England colonies attracted different types of settlers and, by 1700, the populations differed greatly. In New England, society was made up of mostly white and English settlers. As shown in a ship’s list of emigrants (Document B), most emigrants were families with husbands and wives, along with their children and some servants.

Many of these people came for the religious freedom that was offered in the New World. The Chesapeake colony, on the other hand, was focused on tobacco, and therefore attracted single men who could work as indentured servants. Later on, the majority of the population would become African Americans. In Document C, a ship’s list of emigrants to Virginia, it shows seventy five emigrants, all of which are single, and sixty four of which are men. The lack of women eventually led to more cultural diversity in Virginia as well, because many mulatto children were born.

Along with their social differences, the two colonies differed in their economy. The Chesapeake colony was more focused on profit than New England. As stated earlier, the Chesapeake colony was dependent upon their tobacco plantations. This led to the evolution of slave trade, and an increase in the number of indentured servants. When more profit was gained, more labor was required. This turned into a cycle that left the Chesapeake tobacco flooding the European market. New England also farmed, but not on the same scale as the Chesapeake.

Most farms were large enough to sustain a family, but only gained some profit. Many New England families considered religion and their families much more important than money. This is clearly shown in Document E, which discusses the wage and price regulations. The document mentions that receiving only moderate profits would enable people to better serve their neighbors and God. Also, New England differed from the Chesapeake in the fact that they didn’t focus on just one area in the economy.

Instead many New England families were also involved in fishing and trapping, and some with shipbuilding. Religion was also a factor in the difference between the two colonies. Most people were drawn to New England because of the promise of freedom of religion. Ministers were abundant and the followers even more so. In fact, New England had the highest ratio of ministers to people in the New World. The religious zeal is shown in Document A, which contains a sermon made by John Winthrop to his followers as they made their way across the Atlantic.

Winthrop referred to their new colony as “a city on a hill” because the people wanted to set an example of how to live life for all the people that lived in Europe. Document D also shows the religious zeal through the fact that the settlers tried to set rules to make sure each person had their fair share in society. They didn’t attempt equality for all, but chose to try in God’s name to give everyone a chance at both earthly and heavenly happiness. In the Chesapeake region, religion was much less intense.

There was an established church, but not until 1692. Even then, most people did not willingly participate in religion. One cannot deny that the Chesapeake and New England settlements had similarities. However, what made them so unique and different were their differences. In fact, they were so dissimilar that it would be difficult to able to discern they were both English settlements without prior knowledge. By 1700, the Chesapeake and New England settlements had evolved socially, economically and religiously into two very distinct colonies.


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