By the 1700s, New England and the Chesapeake region had developed very distinct societies.  This dichotomy can be traced from the very foundation of the colonies.  The New England colonies were founded as examples of pure religion, each was to "be as a city upon a hill."1  In contrast to this worthy cause, the Chesapeake colonies were originally founded during the great search for gold, and later continued as slave-supported plantation colonies.  The New Englanders would come to prosper through their hard work, thrift, and the quality of their commitment to God and each other.  The South, conversely, prospered because of the quantity of her land and the great staple crops harvested there.
    New England, unlike the Southern colonies, was settled from the outset by complete families, intending to create new lives of freedom in the virgin soil of the New World.  One early shipment of passengers2 contained a minister and a large family, a few tailors and clothiers, and several husbandmen (small farmers) along with their families.  The companionship (and responsibility) presented by a large, nearby family combined with the steadfast Puritan virtues of diligent labour and meticulous attention to their livelihoods resulted in prosperity for the many small businessmen and farmers of New England.  Furthermore, the Christian values of charity and benevolence towards one's fellow man resulted in tightly knit communities that strove to care for every member thereof.3  The colonial theocratic governments also sought to further the welfare of the populace by enforcing God's Biblical laws, thus strengthening the people's support for the government (respect of authority is required by the Bible, and respect for a government that can hang you is required by common sense).  Finally, the rugged land of New England did not yield the verdant growth of crops that allowed the Chesapeake colonies to prosper on agriculture alone.  This led to an economy based on business, banking, and shipping, and strikingly devoid (in most places) of that peculiar institution so vital to the economy of the South: slavery.
    Unlike the New England colonies, the Chesapeake colony of Virginia never made any pretense of being a religious settlement.  Aside from a vague support for the Church of England, there was little spiritual enthusiasm among the early Virginians (at least in comparison with the New England Puritans).  It was first and foremost a profit-making venture, dedicated to the proposition that all the investors should receive dividends commensurate to their investments.  Most of the original settlers were lone men who had left their families behind4 in order to attend to the territory that was to (hopefully) yield gold for King and Country and (most importantly) the shareholders.  During the colony's initial years, "there was no talk...but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold...."5  Gold was, unfortunately, not abundant, but rich, fertile land was.  The investors in the Virginia Company quickly seized upon the ancient vocation of farming as a substitute for gold-mining, and paid for the passage of numerous indentured servants, and later, slaves to the New World.  This created a very stratified agrarian society in contrast to New England's commercial community.  This was characterised by a fear of the lower classes so intense that, at times, the upper classes would not go off to defend their colony for fear of leaving their homes undefended against the indentured servants and slaves they were masters over only when they could enforce their dominion with whip and gun.6  Controlled by the aristocratic planters, the southern governments did not display the charity (supposedly) so integral to the Puritan administrations.  Their arrogance towards the rustic peoples of the western regions and the poor servants and slaves of the seaboard eventually did lead to a few minor examples of the feared underclass uprising.  One of these was Bacon's Rebellion, justified by its leader, Nathaniel Bacon, because the wealthy government officials did nothing for the defense or economic well-being of the poor men whom he led.7
    So, by 1700, the New England colonies were already marked by the commercial tendencies that would dominate that region in the years to come.  The Chesapeake region was also on its economic and social path, that of near-feudal agricultural colonies maintained by an oppressed lower class for the benefit of small yet powerful hereditary aristocracy.  Banking was against breeding.  Shipping was opposite slavery.  Rum competed with cigars.  By 1700, the North, while not yet hostile towards the South, was already distinct enough that the divisions that would not be mended for nearly two hundred were unquestionably entrenched in colonial lifestyles.

[1]Document A . John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

  [2]Document B.  Ship's List of Emigrants Bound for New England

  [3]Document E describes measures to set wages and prices in Connecticut in order to adequately sustain every member of the community.  Wage and Price Regulations in Connecticut, 1676

  [4]Document C shows mostly single men with no identified trade as "Emigrants Bound for Virginia."  Ship's List of Emigrants Bound for Virginia

  [5]Document F.  Captain John Smith, History of Virginia

  [6]Document G.  Governor Berkeley and His Council on Their Inability to Defend Virginia Against a Dutch Attack, December 1673.

  [7]Document H.  Bacon's "Manifesto," Justifying his rebellion against Virginia Governor Berkeley in 1676.


This page last updated 15 September, 2003.