Comparing the Colonies Section 1: Introduction

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Comparing the Colonies

Section 1: Introduction

In Chapter 6, you read about the first English colonies in North America. In this chapter, you will learn about other colonies. These, too, were on the Atlantic coast of what would become the United States.

In 1707, England and Wales joined Scotland under one government. This nation was called Great Britain.Its people were the British. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had 13 colonies in North America.

There were three regions within the colonies: the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies. The regions had distinct geographic features, including landforms, natural resources, and climate. Their economies were based on local products and services. An economy is the way in which people use resources to produce, sell, or trade goods and services to meet their needs and wants. Some colonies had governments that were more democratic than others.

The map and matrix below help organize facts about the three colonial regions. Use these tools to remember this information.
Section 2 - The New England, Middle, and Southern Colonial Regions

People came to each of the colonial regions for different reasons. Each region had its own geography. Each region offered settlers special choices and ways of life.

The New England region included the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It had rocky soil, dense forests, and natural harbors that gave easy access to the sea. New England’s economy was built on small farms, lumbering, fishing, shipbuilding, and trade. Most New England colonists were Puritans. They wanted to change the practices of the Church of England, or the Anglican Church. Religion was an important part of their lives.
The Middle Colonies included New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This region had rich soil. Farmers raised livestock and grew crops. They sold pork, beef, wheat, and barley (a type of grain) to other colonies. The Middle Colonies had a diverse population. The region’s strong economy attracted people from other European countries besides Great Britain, such as Germany and Ireland. These people practiced many different religious beliefs.
The Southern Colonies included Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.This region’s geography favored cash crops. Rich men came to this region from Great Britain. They grew cash crops such as tobacco and rice on plantations. Plantations needed many workers. At first, landowners used American Indians and indentured servants to plant and harvest plantation crops. Indentured servants also worked in other places in the colonies. Soon, Southern landowners began to replace these workers with enslaved Africans.

Section 3 - Massachusetts Bay: New England Colony

You read in Chapter 6 about the Pilgrims who came to Massachusetts in 1620. They were Puritans who wanted to leave the Church of England. Another group of Puritans also sought religious freedom.

Led by John Winthrop, the group formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They settled in New England in 1630. These Puritans wanted to freely practice their religious beliefs in their new home. The rugged geography of New England did not make the Puritans give up their plan. The soil was rocky, and winters could be harsh. But there were also vast forests and clean water. The winter cold killed insects and germs that caused disease. Colonists in New England often lived longer than people in other regions.

The region supported many industries. Colonists grew crops and raised animals on small farms. Men cut lumber from trees to build houses and trading ships. Fishing also provided food. Some colonists became skilled whalers. They made oil and candles from whale fat.

Massachusetts had a more democratic government than most countries in Europe. At first, only Puritan men could vote. As time passed, all men who owned land could vote. The colonists met at town meetings to solve local problems. They made decisions by majority rule. This was the first truly democratic form of local government in the colonies. Settlers elected representatives to the colony’s lawmaking body. John Winthrop was elected governor 12 times between 1630 and 1649.

Section 4 - Rhode Island: New England Colony

From its start, Rhode Island offered people religious freedom. In 1631, a young minister named Roger Williams began to criticize the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He thought that government and religion should be separate. These leaders forced him to leave the colony in 1635.

Williams spent the winter with some American Indians. In 1636, he started a town called Providence. It later became the capital of Rhode Island. Rhode Island welcomed people with different religious beliefs.
Puritan Anne Hutchinson also lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She spoke out against some Puritan practices and beliefs. In 1637, she was put on trial for her religious ideas. The court found her guilty and forced her to leave the colony. She, too, moved to what became part of Rhode Island. There she could practice her beliefs.
Rhode Island’s geography helped colonists build a strong economy. Narragansett Bay and local rivers provided fish and routes for travel and trade. Men trapped animals and traded the furs. The forests supplied timber. The soil in southern Rhode Island was good for farming. Winters were sometimes harsh. But summer rains helped crops grow.
Many Rhode Island colonists were farmers. They raised livestock. They grew corn, apples, and onions on small farms. Other colonists were traders. Ships from Rhode Island carried rum, wool and flax. Flax is a plant from which linen cloth and oil are made. Traders sold these goods in England and in the West Indies. Some colonists became rich in the trade of enslaved West Africans, even though few Rhode Island colonists themselves owned slaves.
Rhode Island was one of the most democratic colonies. At first, most men could vote for the colony’s governor and local officials. Later on, only men who owned property could vote. But voters did not have to practice a certain religion.
Section 5 - New York: Middle Colony

The colony that the British named New York was first settled by people from the Netherlands. The Netherlands (often called Holland) is a country in northern Europe. Its people are the Dutch. The Dutch came to the area to set up fur-trading posts. 

The British, however, wanted this land for themselves so that British settlers in New England could move westward. In 1664, the British captured the colony. England’s king gave the land to his brother, the Duke of York. New York’s geography made it a good place to settle. New York Harbor was ideal for shipping and trade. The valleys of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers were well suited to farming and trade. Iron, a useful mineral, was found in this region.
Winters in New York were cold, and summers were hot and humid (moist). But there were long growing seasons in the valleys and along the coast. So farming was easier here than in New England.
New York’s economy offered colonists good jobs in many industries. Farmers grew wheat, corn, vegetables, and tobacco. Other colonists became miners, lumbermen, sailors, trappers, and merchants. Some workers were indentured servants or enslaved Africans.
Colonists had little power in New York’s government. Governors appointed by the king were controlled by England. The governor appointed other officials and enforced the laws.
Section 6 - Pennsylvania: Middle Colony

Quakers were another religious group whose beliefs differed from those of other churches. Quakers had no priests or ministers. They would not fight in wars. English Quaker William Penn was jailed several times for his beliefs. He wanted to start a colony where Quakers could live safely. In 1681, England’s King Charles II granted land in North America to Penn. Penn founded Pennsylvania there.

Penn welcomed people from many countries to his colony. They practiced different religions. Penn also treated American Indians with respect. Therefore, they lived in peace with the colonists. Although many Quakers opposed slavery, Penn permitted people to bring enslaved Africans to the colony.
Pennsylvania’s geography provided many resources. The Delaware River Valley had rich soil for farming. There were forests for timber. Other raw materials included coal and minerals like iron and copper. Rivers offered easy transportation. Winters were cold and snowy, but the climate did not discourage colonists.
The colony developed a strong economy. There were jobs in many industries. Farmers raised dairy cattle. They also grew wheat and vegetables such as corn. People worked as miners, lumbermen, and merchants. Many Quaker merchants and farmers became rich.
The king approved Penn’s appointment of the colony’s governor. A General Assembly met to pass or reject laws made by a council. All men who owned property could vote for members of the Assembly. In 1696, the colony became more democratic when the elected members of the Assembly gained the power to write laws.
Section 7 - Maryland: Southern Colony

Cecilius Calvert, an English nobleman also known as Lord Baltimore, started the colony of Maryland in 1634. He hoped to make money from the colony. Lord Baltimore also wanted to provide a safe place for Catholics like himself. In England and in some of the colonies, Catholics were treated harshly.

Maryland’s geography was well suited for planting and selling tobacco. This crop grew well in the hot, steamy summers. Chesapeake Bay was a route to the ocean for most settlers. Farmers near the bay could ship their crops to England and other places. Unfortunately, the climate also encouraged mosquitoes that spread deadly diseases.
There were many kinds of jobs in the colony. Most colonists worked on small farms. They grew tobacco, corn, wheat, and fruit trees. Some farmers raised cattle for beef and milk. Other industries included lumbering, shipping, and fishing. Some men made money by buying and selling slaves. Some wealthy families owned tobacco plantations. Enslaved Africans and indentured servants did most of the work there.
Most colonists had little power in Maryland’s government. Lord Baltimore made his brother, Leonard Calvert, the governor of the colony. At first, Calvert made the decisions. Then, in 1637, he allowed the colony to have an assembly. For the most part, only white men with property voted for members of the assembly. Over time, more non-Catholics moved to the colony. Calvert had the assembly pass a law to protect Catholics’ right to vote and to serve in the government. These rights were denied to Catholics in some of the other colonies.

Section 8 - Georgia: Southern Colony

The Southern Colony of Georgia was started in 1732 for two main reasons. First, the British government wanted to keep Spanish troops from moving north from Florida.

Second, some wealthy British men wanted to help poor people avoid going to debtors’ prison. A debtor is someone who owes something to another person.At that time, people went to jail if they could not pay their bills. Sending debtors to Georgia rather than to jail gave them a new start. They had a chance to earn a living in the new colony.

Georgia’s geography was ideal for growing certain crops. Farming became the key industry in the colony. Winters were mild. Summers were long, hot, and humid. This climate was good for growing indigo, a plant used to make blue dye. The southern part of Georgia was mostly swamp. This land was ideal for growing rice. Later on, farmers grew tobacco and cotton.
People in Georgia also had other jobs. In the north, settlers cut down forests. They sold the lumber for homes. Then they used the cleared areas as farmland. Some colonists earned a living by trading goods with American Indians.
At first, only the rich men who had started the colony took part in running the government. They passed laws that they thought were best for the colony. They did not permit slavery. In 1752, however, these men turned control of the colony over to Great Britain’s King George II. The king allowed white male voters to elect an assembly. However, he could overturn any law the assembly passed. New laws made slavery legal, and it soon became widespread.
Reading Further - Choosing a Career in the Colonies

The British colonies attracted hundreds of thousands of immigrants. In Europe, most people worked at the same jobs their families had always done. But in the colonies, a young man had some choices. These choices varied among regions. What kinds of jobs did each of the three colonial regions offer?

The New England Colonies

For Sam, it was an exciting time. He would soon be an adult. In the British colonies, he could decide his own future. What kind of work should he choose? Sam lived in New England. He was part of a large family. He had seven brothers and sisters. They all worked on the family farm. It provided most of the basics the family needed. Sam liked life on the farm. Perhaps he’d become a farmer. After all, that is what most people in New England did. He might leave his family’s home to work for a time at a neighbor’s farm so that he could make some money. When he was a little older, he could marry. As a wedding present, his parents might give him a small piece of land. He and his wife could build a home and run a farm, as his parents had done. He could picture himself and his wife attending church and taking an active part in village life. And they could raise a big family. They would be comfortable, if not rich.

Although Sam liked farm life, he had another dream. He longed to earn a living from the sea. New England had many fine harbors. And not far off shore were some of the world’s finest fishing grounds. The fishing industry provided jobs for thousands of people. Whaling was another seafaring industry. It was hard dangerous work. But Sam was drawn by the promise of adventure. New England whaling ships sailed the world. He could travel to new and amazing places. Young Sam had exciting options. He would choose his future soon.
The Middle Colonies

Farming was also the most common job for colonists in the Middle Colonies. There was plenty of fertile land. The climate allowed farmers to raise important crops, such as wheat. But the Middle Colonies were known for something else, too. The region had two large cities: New York and Philadelphia. Life for residents of these places was very different from life for people in the countryside.

For one thing, the cities offered a great variety of jobs. Some people worked in the shipyards. Row upon row of workshops and stores employed many other colonists. It was in one of these enterprises that young Caleb would be seeking his future as a skilled worker.

Caleb’s father had arranged for his son to become a printer. Soon, Caleb would begin training for this job. He would have to learn to perform many tasks. To learn these skills, Caleb would need to become an apprentice. While still a young teenager, he would have to leave home to live with a master printer. The printer would teach Caleb all about printing. The printer would also provide food and housing for Caleb. In return, Caleb would work for the master printer as he learned the skills of printing.

Caleb’s training would last several years. When it was finished, he could expect to get a paying job. If Caleb were ambitious, he might someday try to set up a shop of his own. 

It would be risky! He would need money for supplies. The business might fail. But a person who took risks could prosper. If his business thrived, he could become wealthy. And there was plenty of opportunity in the bustling big cities of the Middle Colonies. In the future, their economies would grow into the economic system that the United States uses today. Caleb was nervous about moving away from his family. But he knew that he must get good training. He was ready to learn how to be a skilled printer and to make his place in the growing economy of colonial America.

The Southern Colonies

Thomas lived in South Carolina, one of the Southern Colonies. His family owned a large rice plantation. Carolina rice was the best. Family members were able to sell this product for a high price and earn a good income. With this money, they were able to purchase the items they needed and could not produce themselves. They could afford many luxuries, as well.

Thomas was getting older, and he had begun thinking about his future. The chances were very good that he would inherit his family’s plantation. After all, he was the oldest of the surviving children of his family. He had had an older brother and sister. They had both died at an early age. Sadly, this was not uncommon in the colonial South. Disease was a serious problem in the wet, warm climate. In fact, Thomas was lucky that both of his parents were still alive. One of Thomas’s friends had lost both of his parents and had had no other choice but to become a servant to another family.

But for Thomas, the future seemed bright. He would one day take control of the family plantation. He would manage the workers, most of them slaves, who produced the large rice crop. Since there were few villages or town centers, such as those found in New England, people tended to gather at each other’s houses. He and his wife would entertain friends and visitors at home. And he would play games such as cards and pool with his friends. These were favorite pastimes in the colonial South.

Thomas was pleased about his future. After all, he had been raised to lead such a life. There were few other choices for wealthy young men in the colonial South. To run a large and prosperous plantation was a promising future for a Southern man.

Choices for Some Colonists

Unlike many men in Europe, young men in the British colonies could often choose what work they did. Many colonists worked on farms, especially in the Southern Colonies. In the Middle and New England colonies, varied industries offered more choices.

Women, however, had more limited choices. They were expected to take care of a house and a family. There were few other careers open to them. If women were paid to do a job, it was most likely a job as a household servant. Women might hold such a job until they married.
Poor people also had few choices. Some people signed agreements to work as indentured servants. This meant that they would work for a master for a period of years to pay off money they owed. The agreement might last from four to seven years. Indentured servants sometimes worked on plantations or in homes or shops in the towns. After their term of service ended, they might receive some money or land to begin a new life. Many people came to the American colonies as indentured servants. They paid off the cost of the ocean trip through work. Life for an indentured servant was hard. They often suffered harsh treatment. But they did have the hope of eventually being free to build a new life.
There were also many workers in colonial America who were enslaved. In the early colonial era, people owned slaves in all the colonies. Most slaves, however, lived in the Southern Colonies. Almost all the slaves were from West Africa. Their white owners considered them property. Slaves had no control over their own lives. Now and then, an owner might free a slave. However, this was rare. And even former slaves had few rights. They also had fewer job choices than whites. And worse, freed slaves faced the ongoing threat of being forced back into slavery.

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