The New England and the Southern colonial settlements were united in several areas that created the opportunity for each group of colonies to grow. However, these groups of colonies took divergent paths when it came to the founders’ motives to settle the New World, the importance of religious and social orientation, economic approaches and political developments. These different approaches were ultimately successful beyond the early founders’ expectations.
Both the New England and Southern colonies enjoyed some common conditions that enabled them to grow. First, the colonies were loyal to the English crown and considered themselves English citizens, subject to their mother country’s laws. They also shared a common language. Finally, England inadvertently helped the colonies develop a sense of autonomy by essentially ignoring them while dealing local issues such as the English Civil War in the 1650’s.
A fundamental difference between the New ...view middle of the document...
The role of religion and social life was vastly different in the Northern colonies from those in the South. For example, the Pilgrims lived in community, collectively agreeing to simple democratic, majority-rule decision making, aiding one another as they struggled to survive in the first two years and, in 1621 celebrated their bounty in the first Thanksgiving in New England. The Puritans enjoyed simple pleasures such as eating, drinking and singing. In contrast, Jamestown worshipped gold as their god and struggled mightily, nearly collapsing from starvation, malnutrition and disease until Captain John Smith and later, Lord de la Warr took charge, forcing discipline on the populace. Still, they struggled to work together and gather provisions to survive the winters.
In New England, the settlers in Plymouth hunted beaver for pelts, fished and cut lumber and soon became prosperous. Similarly, Massachusetts Bay Colony turned fur trading, fishing and ship building into major industries. In the South, plantation industries (commercial agriculture on the backs of indentured or slave labor) were the primary drivers to the economic engine, successfully growing and exporting tobacco, rice and other crops.
In politics, the New England colonies generally took democratic approaches to governing. The Puritans arriving on the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact, agreeing to basic democratic government and majority rule. Similarly, the Connecticut River colony established a democratically controlled government through a document called Fundamental Orders. In the Southern colonies, Virginia was the first colony to establish representative government when, in 1619, the House of Burgesses was established. However, in 1624, King James I revoked the Virginia Company charter and made Virginia a royal colony under his control.
While blessed with the same conditions as an incubator to grow their settlements, the New England and Southern colonies took generally different paths toward colonization. Beginning with the founding fathers’ visions, and through the lens of religion, social, economic and political pursuits, these regions down different and ultimately, successful paths toward prosperity.