The Chesapeake and New England Colonies: A Comparison
During the late 16th century and into the 17th century, European nations rapidly colonized the newly discovered Americas. England in particular sent out numerous groups to the eastern coast of North America to two regions. These two regions were known as the Chesapeake and the New England areas. Later, in the late 1700's, these two areas would bond to become one nation. Yet from the very beginnings, both had very separate and unique identities. These differences, though very numerous, spurred from one major factor: the very reason the settlers came to the New World. This affected the colonies in literally every way, including economically, socially, and politically.
The Chesapeake region of the colonies included Virginia, Maryland, the New Jerseys (both East and West) and Pennsylvania. In 1607, Jamestown, the first English colony in the New World (that is, the first to thrive and prosper), was founded by a group of 104 settlers to a peninsula along the James River. These settlers hoped to find gold, silver, a northwest passage to Asia, a cure for syphilis, or any other valuables they might take back to Europe and make a profit. Lead by Captain John Smith, who "outmaneuvered other members of the colony's ruling and took ruthlessly took charge" (Liberty Equality Power, p. 57), a few lucky members of the original voyage survived. These survivors turned to the local Powhatan Indians, who taught them the process of corn- and tobacco-growing. These staple-crops flourished throughout all five of these colonies.
New England was north of the Chesapeake, and included Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Haven (which soon became part of Connecticut). The New Englanders were largely Puritan Separatists, who sought religious freedom. When the Church of England separated from Catholicism under Henry VIII, Protestantism flourished in England. Some Protestants, however, wanted complete separation from Catholicism and embraced Calvinism. These "Separatists" as they were called, along with persecuted Catholics who had not joined the Church of England, came to New England in hopes of finding this religious freedom where they would be free to practice as they wished. Their motives were, thus, religious in nature, not economic. In fact, New England settlers reproduced much of England's economy, with only minor variations. They did not invest largely in staple crops, instead, relied on artisan-industries like carpentry, shipbuilding, and printing.
The Chesapeake and New England attracted different types of settlers and, by 1700, the populations differed enormously.