During the sixteenth century European settlers began migrating into newly founded North American territories. Eventually these fledgling communities would develop into district and independent societies



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During the sixteenth century European settlers began migrating into newly founded North American territories. Eventually these fledgling communities would develop into district and independent societies. While both the New England and Chesapeake Colonies were founded primarily by those of English origins, differences in geography and motivation would lead to economic, societal, and political differences.

Established, motivated, and fueled in large part by financial endeavors, the industries of the two colonies would become a vital factor in their development. Differing in climate and geography, the economics of the New England and Chesapeake colonies grew apart from one another. The New England settlers who landed further north discovered poor, rocky soil, with an inconsistent climate, supplemented with good coastline for harbors. As such they developed few agricultural roots, and instead turned to fishing, shipbuilding, furring and perhaps most notable, trading. John Porter, a deputy clerk to Edward Throughgood, compiled a list of emigrants bound to New England (Document B), showing that mostly families came to settle this location, due to the lack of need for a hard labor system. This led New England colonies to develop stable, close knitted communities. However the Chesapeake colonies, developed in a region rich with nutrient abundant soil, and became heavily focused on agriculture. These southern colonies would instead build a financial structure around the growth and export of cash crops, primarily cotton and tobacco, creating an economic dependency on the North for trading ties, and a shocking lack of industrial diversity. As shown in a July 1835 list of Emigrants bound for Virginia (Document C) primarily young male works came over as a result, leaving the colonies with to few women to support internal growth. Furthermore, as seen in Governor Berkley’s publication on the inability to defend Virginia (Document G) the southern agrarian colonies of Maryland and Virginia economies depended greatly on imported servants and slaves, unlike the New Englanders. With a fairly stead supply of unpaid workers, immigrants looking for work were deterred from settling either colony, hurting any chances of additional social, ethnic, or economic variation. While it should be noted that similarities existed, primarily the lack of industrial or services business in either area, overall the distinctions in economic types would lead the colonies into different political and social region.

The social structure in the Chesapeake and New England regions evolved into those of noticeable distinct cultures due to differences in family organization, demographics, and motivations for settling. Differences in community planning also attributed to the social rift between the colonial regions. The New England region, mostly attracting emigrating families as shown in John Porter’s List of Emigrants Bound for New England (Document B), had a demographic best suited towards the establishment of a long-term civilization. The Articles of Agreement written for Springfield, Massachusetts in 1636 (Document D) show that those who helped establish the region made detailed plans in order to coordinate settling. Allocating land equally and fairly, the articles act as a blueprint, which helped the New England colonies, develop into groups of small tightly knitted communities, greatly affecting the culture that would emerge. The Chesapeake colonies alternatively developed with a lack of planning, motivation, and as detailed in the Ultimo’s, July 1635 List of Emigrants Bound for Virginia (Document C), women, to create a permanent civilization. With a large population of unpaid slaves or indentured servants, as well as a feudalistic system ruled by wealthy planners, the colonies instead grew into widely scattered yet large plantations, governed by a linear caste system that to an extent persists to this day. The cultural gaps created by the coerced labor system in the Chesapeake colonies led to social tensions and strife not present further north. Represented in Bacon’s “Manifesto” written to Governor Berkeley in 1676 (Document H), poor indentured servants and freemen became alienated by aristocratic planters and eventually lead to the infamous revolt, leaving cultural fear spread throughout the Chesapeake colonies. While similarities persisted, primarily residual British cultural traits, the overwhelming distinctions led the two groups in different directions socially.

While both the New England and Chesapeake colonies were subordinate to their controlling power, Great Britain, they still developed individual political and religious systems. The New England colonies were founded fundamentally for the need of a religious sanctuary. After the Anglican Church grasped control of England, radical separatist protestants, or puritans, saw fit to flee their homeland and soon established haven in America. Not surprisingly religion grasped control of the government in the newly established New England colonies as well, and close ties with the early government soon led to the creation of a Puritan theocracy. John Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity written in 1630 (Document A) details how many came to these northern colonies to create a religious utopia, and provides an accurate example of how imperative religion was to the social development. However in the southern colonies of Virginia and Maryland, colonies established more for monetary than religious incentive, the same degree of devotion was not present. Perhaps best represented in the Maryland Act of Toleration, the Chesapeake colonies instead leaned towards a greater acceptance of different religions, unlike their Puritan neighbors, and Maryland became a haven for Catholics, a group currently shunned in most parts. Similarly the tendencies of the colonies governing bodies also differed. As mentioned earlier the politics of New England became heavily entangled in religion, resulting in a strict, and at times oppressive theocratic regime. Again the Chesapeake colonies moved in a separate direction, creating, along with the first initiatives of religious tolerances, primitive representative government, most notable the Virginian House of Burgese. It is imperative that similarities including inklings of Democratic styled politics that to an extent emerged in both regions be acknowledged, however this does not negate the importance politics and religion had in the development of New England and Chesapeake into distinct societies.



The Chesapeake and New England colonies of North America, while settled by primarily by those of English descent, grew into obviously distinct establishments. Differences in colonial motivation, religious and government practices, social organization, and economic and geographic factors, were responsible for molding the infant territories into mature and individual organizations. While a shared heritage helped maintain unavoidable similarities, the overwhelming differences ultimately showed how despite shared temporal and ethnic conditions; civilizations can take surprisingly different paths.


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