September 6, 2013
The Chesapeake and New England: A Tale of Two Colonies
England was late to the colonizing game, lagging behind both France and Spain. But when England did set foot in the New World it left its mark. The early English colonization of what is now America can be broken down into two main settlements, the Chesapeake colony and the New England colony. The Chesapeake colony, which originated as the Jamestown colony in Virginia, was settled in 1607. The Chesapeake colony wound up relying on tobacco as its main source of revenue and using African slaves to get the work done. To the north, the New England colony was founded in 1628 by the Massachusetts Bay Company. It ended up religiously oriented with a strong focus on work ethic and family. The colonies had the potential to be almost identical settlements, as they were settled by the same country, only score and one years apart. Yet the colonies diverged into two separate settlements which seemingly had more contrast than similarity. While this divergence may seem like a mystery, the reasons can be found in the history of the people and the difficulties they had to deal with in the New World. Although both the Chesapeake Bay and New England colonies were settled within 25 years of each other, they evolved into very different societies, which can be attributed to the differences in how the geography of their respective locations, the cultural practices they brought over from England, and their respective motives intertwined.
The differences in the evolutions of the Chesapeake and New England colonies are apparent in their economic, and cultural stances during the late 1600s. The Chesapeake, or Virginia colony, became agriculturally charged. It was a boomtown with the Tobacco rush that swept the colony. The settlers there focused on agriculture on a larger scale, creating large land holdings, which could only be managed by using slavery. Though they originally used indentured servants, the Chesapeake colony switched to slavery when they found it more profitable and culturally friendly (Morgan 75). The New England colony, also known as the Massachusetts Bay colony, was a more family oriented society. It focused mainly on the Congregationalist Puritan church and on maintaining a close nuclear family. While they worked agriculturally, it was not about large-scale operations but about family farming. Because they did not pursue these large agricultural goals, they found no need for African slaves, instead using a limited amount of indentured servants as needed. By the late 17th century, the Chesapeake and New England colonies had manifested into different dwellings no longer reminiscent of each other. The Chesapeake Bay colony’s development was the result of the swampy geography, their cultural mores from southern England, and the money motive behind the expedition. The geography had the potential to be beneficial for the Chesapeake colony but instead was a nightmare. The climate of the Chesapeake was warm and the land was low and marshy. This elongated the growing season but created serious health issues within the colony. The warm water was a mosquito breeding ground and encouraged the spread of diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and amoebic dysentery. (Fischer 57). The land of Virginia was extremely fertile, perfect to farm, but the colonists did not take advantage of it instead slacking off and taking short shifts (Fischer 57). Because the colonists were relaxed in their work ethic they failed to produce enough food to support themselves in the winter. This created a “starving time,” where the mortality rate went through the roof and some colonists resorted to cannibalism (Divine 38). This was not the case for long though. As early as 1613, settlers discovered that tobacco was marketable and started to put all their time and effort into farming it (Davidson & Lytle 27). Tobacco became so popular that colonists no longer felt the need to farm staple...
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