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New England Vs. Chesapeake
Early English colonies in America hardly resembled the union of men and women that would later fight against England and build a new country. In fact, until the mid-eighteenth century, most English colonists had very little, if anything to do with the settlers in neighboring colonies. They heard news of Indian wars and other noteworthy events, not from the colony itself, but from England. The colonies in the New World appeared completely different and the prospect of any unity between them seemed impossible. The colonies in New England and the Chesapeake exemplify the many differences in the culture and lifestyles of the settlers, created mainly because of the fact that their founding fathers had held separate intentions when they came to the New World.
The New England and Chesapeake colonies were both settled by immigrants from England, the New England colonies being founded by the English from East Anglia, an area in eastern England. Though this was an area thriving with small towns that they had generally liked, they decided to flee England due to religious persecution. Hundreds of families, men, women and their children, came in search of a New World where they could practice their beliefs freely. They founded colonies such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island as model Christian societies. Their cities upon the hills were guides, the lanterns, for those lost in the darkness of humanity, as John Winthrop meant by his famous statement. They formed a society of strict religious participation, actually very much resembling their homeland. In the beginning, many called themselves Puritans, and kept things very simple and plain, concentrating on what was important to them. They used the community to achieve their goals, building new towns and enjoying the social aspect of their religion. At the same time, they were committed to remain working hard to keep their community productive. They believed the “idle hands” were the devil’s workshops.
An issue that really defined a split between the societies was the slavery conflict. The northerners in New England held true to their belief that every man shall be equal and no one should be enslaved, while the southerners in the Chesapeake area strongly believed in the use of slavery. At the same time the New Englanders worked to help end slavery by preaching to others about the injustices, they worked diligently to make education in their society strong. Most people in the towns were literate so that they could read their Bibles and study them in detail with their friends and family. Some colonists were artisans or merchants. Others were small-town farmers, making sure that every member of the community had a reasonable share of God’s land. The northern colonies were renowned for being rich in furs, timber and fish. They were especially noted for developing into a very successful trading region. The New England colonies made up the middle class society whose focal points were family, education and religion. The society remained non-capitalistic, yet still buzzed with much activity.
On the other hand, the Chesapeake region had a “cash crop” get rich quickly mentality. This aristocratic region consisted of Virginia and Maryland, two colonies that seemed to be exceedingly materialistic. Evidently, their lives were based more on their liquid assets than on God or family. The Englanders who saw the opportunity to take advantage of the popularity of a brand new crop they had discovered settled the Chesapeake area. These “gold diggers” were mainly upper-class men of wealthy families aspiring towards coming to the New World to create a large profit for themselves. These colonists were not fleeing England seeking religious or social freedom, but clearly only to add more wealth to their names. Tobacco soon became the primary crop seen growing on almost every one of these wealthy men’s plantations, which created tremendous amounts of money to add to their fortunes. Of course almost every plantation had African slaves working on the land. These colossal estates came to depend on their slaves to run their farms and slavery became a common, yet feared, way of life for many Africans.
Unfortunately for these Chesapeake colonies, due to swampy land in much of the area, towns were not part of the landscape or lifestyle as they were in the north. This area was a place of fierce competition with a very minute sense of community, as opposed to the thriving northern colonies surrounded with warm and inviting community towns. The strong focus on family, education or religion was not a main highlight in the lives of Chesapeake colonists, except in Maryland, where the Calvert family did indeed form a haven for Catholics.
These two regions of the New England colonies and the Chesapeake colonies did in truth share the common fact that their settlers were all of English origin. Of course when they first set sail, even before they reached the New World, they began to separate into two distinctly different societies already. The clearly evident reason is because these “pilgrims” came to the New World each pursuing something different. The New England settlers were longing to find a more suitable land of opportunity where they could better their lives and gain religious freedom. They wanted very much to create a society where they could focus on their family, religion and education. Where as the Chesapeake settlers, they were clearly hoping to “strike gold” in the New World. Many hoped they could improve their social status even more by gaining large profits from growing and selling such items as tobacco. The New England colonists came and made a quite simple society and the Chesapeake colonists created a more aristocratic society. Their society seemed to care more about their wealth and power more than anything, where as the New England society grew to be one with important focus’. These two regions may have shared that same origin and spoken the same English language, but they rarely “spoke of similar things.” Because of this culture barrier, a separated north and south was created, causing two distinctly different societies to evolve.
Word Count: 1008
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