DBQ: Chesapeake and New England

Eric Cunningham

Even though the New England and the Chesapeake regions were both
settled largely by people of English origin, the two regions had developed
into two distinct societies by 1700. The cause of this division is clearly
identified by three prominent factors, which are differences in religion,
geographic location, and economy. These differences set a huge precedent
in how the colonies were to be run later on and even to this day as states
are being run.

The first reason for why the colonies developed in such a fashion is
because of the differences in religion. The first settlers which arrived
at Roanoke in 1585 came for one and only one purpose in the beginning and
that purpose was gold. They hoped to arrive and see huge masses of gold
just lying there waiting to be picked; however, they soon realized this
wasn’t the case. This is in direct contrast to the group of separatist
Puritans known as the Pilgrims which arrived at Plymouth in 1620. This
group hoped to find religious freedom in the New World although they
themselves would not tolerate any other religion that what they practiced.

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These Pilgrims had a type of iron fist rule on the colony with strict codes
of worship. This was reflected when their first governor, a man by the
name of John Winthrop was elected in 1630. In Document A, an excerpt from
one John Winthrop speeches, the governor clearly states the colonies
purpose to be closely knit together and model city of Christianity as he
says, “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own,
rejoice together, labor and suffer together… We must consider that we
shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” Rich
and poor, the town of Springfield Massachusetts, according to Document D,
would not exceed forty families and would share everything so that everyone
would be taken care of. This tightly weaved community idea and strict
religious concepts are very different from the Chesapeake colonies views.

The Chesapeake colonies adopted an almost unspoken policy of “every
man for himself.” Instead of closely knit, religious communities where
families were appointed a plot of land to live, the majority of people in
the Chesapeake region came as single men who became subsistence farmers.

By the inspection of Documents B and C, which were ship’s lists of
emigrants bound for the New World, one can see this quite easily. The list
in Document B gives a list of families bound for New England in 1635, while
the list in Document C shows sixty-four single men mostly in their twenties
bound for Virginia with only eleven women on board. These people did not
come looking for freedom of religion; they came simply looking for wealth
and a better life.

The next reason that colonies became so divided was due to the fact
that there geographic locations were so different. The Chesapeake region
suffered greatly because of illnesses in the colonies. Malaria from
mosquitoes as well as other diseases handicapped them from having a large
growth rate because the medicines at the time were so ineffective at
treating the illnesses leading to so many people’s deaths. The New England
colonies did not have such a problem because there were not as many insect
related diseases there. As mentioned before, the New England colonies were
very tight. This helped the Puritans know exactly what was going on with
everyone in the community, especially since church attendance was the law.

However, the Chesapeake colonies, because of the way they were settled, did
not demand church attendance due to the fact that an average distance of
thirty miles or more could be between a colonists home and the nearest
church. For this reason the colonists in the Chesapeake region simply had
worship services in their own homes.

Finally and perhaps the most important reason the colonies developed
so differently, was because of the differences in how they developed
economically. The Chesapeake region had remarkably fertile soil. However
the colonists made a fateful move that shaped the way the country would
develop by planting tobacco. The nicotine rich weed flourished in the
region; unfortunately the colonists soon realized that tobacco drained the
soil of its nutrients. The crop was so demanded in Europe however, that
the colonists continued to grow it because of price willing to be paid by
Europeans to get it, thus becoming its main staple crop.This greed
caused the land to be destroyed at a great rate, and instead of finding a
way to fix it, the colonists simply picked up and moved westward. As this
happened, they pushed further and further into Indian lands. This westward
expansion caused the London government to issue its Proclamation of 1763.

This Proclamation stated that the colonists were not to move west of the
Appalachian Mountains, even though some already had, straining the
relationships with the Native Americans.

The New England region was not so fortunate in finding any kind of
staple crop that could grow in their very rocky soil. This being the case
they soon had to turn to trading as the French did as well as shipbuilding.

The demand for timber was great in Europe since its own supply had long
been on the brink of exhaustion. Since the Chesapeake region cleared its
lands for tobacco growing, the heavily wooded area New England became the
prime provider of the raw material. This region also had good relations
with the Iroquois tribes, mostly due to the fact that the French had allied
themselves with the Huron and engaged the Iroquois in war. Because the New
Englanders had these better relations the Natives helped them greatly in
cultivation methods, as well as how to trap game for the fur trade.

In conclusion, the reason that the Chesapeake and the New England
colonies developed so differently are evident through their religious
beliefs, their geographic locations, as well as the development of their
economies. Because of these reasons, though both were predominately of
English descent, the New England and Chesapeake colonies developed into two
distinct societies.