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Download 1.2 Southern, Middle, and New England Colonies
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1.2 Southern, Middle, and New England Colonies Historians (people who study history for a living) traditionally divide the British colonies into three geographic regions. The New England colonies included Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The middle colonies consisted of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The southern colonies were made up of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Some colonies were established as royal colonies, governed directly by the king through an appointed royal governor. Other colonies were proprietary or charter colonies. Proprietary colonies were colonies granted to a group of private owners for development, while charter colonies were colonies to which the crown granted a charter for the purpose of establishing a government. Georgia was the last colony Britain established in North America in 1733. It began as a charter colony and became a royal colony in 1752. Southern Colonial Society As mentioned when we discussed Virginia, southern society tended to be divided between rich plantation owners, poor farmers, and slaves. Southerners generally accepted class distinctions and the idea that the wealthy, upper class (known as the gentry) is superior to the lower, poorer class. People believed that male members of the upper class should be the ones in positions of power and authority. Public education did not exist for some time in the southern colonies. Any education that occurred among poorer southerners took place in the home. Meanwhile, wealthy southerners either schooled their children at home, hired private tutors, or sent them to Europe to receive a formal education. Unlike colonies further north, Great Britain established the southern colonies predominantly for economic reasons rather than religious (Maryland, which was started as a colony for Catholics, was the one exception). For this reason, rich landowners tended to remain part of the Church of England (Anglican Church) because it was in their political and economic interest. Over time, Methodist and Baptist congregations became common among poorer southerners and settlers along the frontier because they were willing to adopt new methods for reaching rural areas. Southern Colonial Economy Tobacco became incredibly popular in Europe and ended up being an important cash crop for Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. Meanwhile, the hot and wet climates of South Carolina and Georgia made rice and indigo important crops further South. Southern colonies also produced tar, pitch, and turpentine from the abundant forests that existed in the region. The South's reliance on staple crops (crops that are in large demand and provide the bulk of a region's income) like tobacco and rice led to the rise of the plantation system and the South's heavy reliance on slavery as well. Because these large plantations tended to lie along rivers and inland waterways, plantation owners often had direct access to shipping without having to first transport their products over land to major ports. As a result, the South did not develop the major centers of commerce and large cities that arose in the North (i.e., New York, Boston, and Philadelphia). New England Colonies In addition to wealth, there were other reasons people came to North America. Religious dissent (disagreement with the Anglican Church) was one of the most common. Since Europeans strongly identified religion with nationality, English leaders viewed any protest or refusal to follow Anglican church teachings as a betrayal. As a result, those with different religious views saw North America as a place to escape persecution. One such group was the Puritans. They wanted to establish a community built solely on "pure biblical teaching" rather than Anglican traditions. In 1620, a group of Puritans established a colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts. These Puritans became known as the "Pilgrims" and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Later, another group of Puritans settled further north and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. New England's Colonial Economy Rather than raising cash crops, the New England colonies relied heavily on the Atlantic Ocean. Shipbuilding, trade, and fishing became leading industries in the region. New Englanders transported goods from England to other regions, like the West Indies. From these regions, they acquired products like sugarcane, molasses, and rum that they could then trade for African slaves, etc. As a result, Boston, Massachusetts became a booming urban center for shipping and New England commerce. Although New Englanders farmed as well, their farms tended to be smaller and for the primary purpose of allowing families to be self-sufficient. New England Education The Puritans had a strong sense of faith, family, and community and were the first British colonists to promote public education. Puritans believed that everyone should be able to read the Bible. Therefore, they put a high priority on literacy. This emphasis on education eventually spread to other fields as well. In 1647, Massachusetts passed laws requiring public schools for towns of 50 families or more. In addition, towns of 100 or more families were required to establish grammar schools for the purpose of preparing young boys for college. Generally, only boys attended these schools, while girls were trained for "womanly duties" at home (although there were some exceptions). New Englanders also founded two of the nation's earliest colleges: Harvard and Yale. Initially, the primary purpose of these colleges was to train ministers. New England Government In New England, the first efforts at self-government were defined in the Mayflower Compact. The Puritan settlers at Plymouth drafted this document while still on board the Mayflower (the ship that transported them to North America). It established an elected legislature and asserted that the government derived its power from the people of the colony. It also implied the colonists' desire to be ruled by a local government, rather than England. This belief in representative government often took the form of town meetings, in which local, tax-paying citizens (usually property owners) met together to discuss and vote on issues. Once again, it gave citizens a say in their government and helped to firmly establish a belief in democratic ideals. However, despite advocating representative government in principle, the Puritans still believed firmly that government should seek to enforce the will of God rather than satisfy the will of the people. For this reason, power tended to rest in the hands of church leaders and could often be very authoritative, dictating to colonists what the rules of their society would be. Religion and Dissent The Puritan church was a central part of life in New England. In Massachusetts, for instance, every settler had to attend and support the Puritan church. Dissenters (those who disagreed with church leaders) were often banished from the colony. Eventually, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson both left Massachusetts because they disagreed with teachings of the Puritan church in the colony. Each played key roles in the founding of Rhode Island as a new colony. In addition, Thomas Hooker also disagreed with the church and left Massachusetts in 1636 to found Connecticut. He and his followers wrote a new body of laws for their settlement known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. It stated that the government's power came only from the "free consent of the people" and set limits on what the government could do. Such principles eventually provided a foundation for the government of the United States following the American Revolution. Eventually, unrest in Massachusetts took its toll. The colony lost its charter in 1684. In 1691, despite the Puritans' best attempts to resist the Crown, Massachusetts became a royal colony under the leadership of the king's appointed governor. The Crown also established a new, representative legislature and abolished the requirement that every member must be a member of the church. The Half-Way Covenant and the Salem Witch Trials Puritanism affected society in other ways as well. Original settlers to New England shared deep religious convictions that led them to travel across the Atlantic to establish a new homeland. As many of these settlers died and a new generation took their place, many Puritans feared that their offspring would not share the same "conversion experiences" (experience of coming to true faith in Christ). Since a valid "conversion experience" was necessary to obtain Puritan church membership, this threatened the very core of New England society. To fix the problem, the church adopted the Half-way Covenant. It established partial membership in the church for the children and grandchildren of full members regardless of any conversion experience. So long as the partial member was baptized, he/she was considered a church member but without certain privileges (such as voting on church matters). Church leaders hoped that, despite growing attraction to the non-religious world around them, many younger Puritans would eventually see the value in full church membership as a result of being partial members and would eventually forsake secularism in favor of Puritan teachings. Some Puritans, however, opposed the Half-way Covenant and saw it as a sinful compromise. In 1692, commitment to protect the Puritan faith resulted in one of the darkest episodes in American history- the Salem Witch Trials. Claiming that they had been possessed by the devil, several young girls in Salem, Massachusetts accused various townspeople of being witches. Before it was over, colonial authorities actually brought the accused to trial and condemned a number of them to death. New Englanders and Native Americans At first, relations between colonial settlers and Native Americans in New England were peaceful. Native Americans actually taught the Pilgrims of Plymouth how to raise corn that helped them survive the harsh winters. Eventually, however, a series of wars broke out as settlers continued to move west, pushing Native Americans off lands that they had occupied for generations. Finally, in 1675, a Native American leader known as "King Philip" (his Native American name was "Metacom") united Native Americans in New England in an unsuccessful attempt to drive out English settlers. Despite killing nearly 2000 colonists, Metacom's forces eventually had to retreat when the settlers struck back. Colonial soldiers finally cornered Metacom in a Rhode Island cave and shot him through the heart, putting an end to the conflict. The confrontation became known as King Philip's War and resulted in English colonists gaining firmer control over New England. Middle Colonies Sandwiched between the New England and southern colonies were the middle colonies. Because of their geographic location, the degree of religious tolerance, and the fact that other nationalities (i.e., the Swedes and Dutch) had successfully colonized parts of the region prior to England, the middle colonies were the most culturally diverse. Mid-Colonial Economy The middle colonies depended on both farming and commerce. Farmers raised staple crops like wheat, barley, and rye. Unlike the southern colonies, however, the middle colonies also boasted large cities like New York and Philadelphia. These urban centers were home to diverse groups of people and a variety of businesses. In addition, they were important ports for shipping products overseas. Because of the nature of the economy, slaves in the middle colonies were not as numerous as in the South and they often worked in shops and cities, as well as on farms. Because of waterways that granted colonists access to the heavily wooded interior, the middle colonies also benefited from a thriving fur trade and forged an economic relationship with Native Americans like the Iroquois. Diversity in the Middle Colonies As mentioned before, the middle colonies featured a more diverse population than either of the other two colonial regions. Under the leadership of William Penn, Pennsylvania became a homeland for Quakers. This religious group did not recognize class differences, promoted equality of the sexes, practiced pacifism (non-violence), and sought to deal fairly with Native Americans. They also made Pennsylvania a place of religious tolerance, thereby attracting not only the English Quakers, but German Lutherans, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and Swiss Mennonites as well. Because New York was originally a Dutch colony, its residents spoke languages other than just English and exhibited a great deal of cultural diversity and religious differences. Jews, as well as Christians, made New York their home, making the city site of the colonies' first synagogue (place of Jewish worship). Because of the diversity and tolerance that the middle colonies tended to offer, the region featured a frontier that was continually pushing west as more and more settlers made their way from other colonies and overseas. Meanwhile, as urban areas continued to grow and develop (Philadelphia eventually became the colonies' largest city), a social order also emerged. Merchants who dealt in foreign trade formed the upper class "aristocracy" of the region, while sailors, unskilled workers, and some artisans comprised the lower classes. The middle class consisted of craftsmen, retailers, and businessmen. From "New Amsterdam" to "New York" The area we know as New York was originally settled by the Dutch (Europeans from the Netherlands). They named their new colony "New Netherland" and, in 1625, established its key trading post at the mouth of the Hudson River: New Amsterdam. The Dutch colonists quickly built a very successful trading industry with Europe and other colonies. They traded furs, local goods, and agricultural products like wheat and rye. Because of its location, New Amsterdam also became a key port that featured inhabitants from various countries. As a result, much of the diversity mentioned earlier arose during the days of Dutch colonization. England did not fail to notice New Netherlands’ prosperity. In 1664, King Charles II decided he wanted the region and declared the entire area under the rule of his brother, the Duke of York. Unable to resist the British, New Amsterdam surrendered and was immediately renamed New York. With its most prized city lost, the rest of New Netherlands soon surrendered to the British as well. The entire colony of New York was now in English hands.