The colonies of Massachusetts and Virginia were located in separate regions of the New World and had many social and economic variations. The very laws and ideas these people have put into work are what have shaped America into the county it is today. When looking at these two colonies we know one thing is for sure, trade, land, religion, and natural resources were vital parts of their being. In this free-response essay I will contrast the colonies by how their societies were ran and how their economies affected their way of life.
Before I discuss the differences in these two colonies, I would like to give you some background information on them. Massachusetts was a New England Colony founded by John Winthrop in 1628. King James the first founded Virginia in1607. The first colony of Virginia was Jamestown. Massachusetts’ first two communities, Boston and Salem, were developed around the same time. Both Virginia and Massachusetts were royal colonies. The economies of the colonies of Massachusetts and Virginia were centered around different resources, but each colony flourished in its own way.
Virginia centered around the fact that land was plentiful, but labor was scarce. Many landowners had large portions of land but not enough workers to cultivate it. In Massachusetts, the land was not fertile so their economy centered around the fishing and ship making industries. Therefore, Massachusetts’s most profitable resources were timber and fishing. Land was less fertile in Massachusetts due to the harsh climate and short growing season. One thing that helped Massachusetts economy was that they could also take out the “middle man” when trading by using their own ships and merchants.
Due to the fertile land in Virginia, their most profitable resource was tobacco. Virginia’s land was fertile due to the warm climate and immense rainfall. Virginia had plenty of staples to exchange for English goods. The Massachusetts colony had a lack of staples for exchange, but they had better waterways for trade routes with other countries. The societies of both colonies were affected by their economies. The economies varied so greatly that it is only evident that their societies do as well. Virginia was considered an Anglican colony.
In 1642, the Governor of Virginia, William Berkeley, decided that everyone in the colony should be Anglican. People who were not Anglican were asked to leave the colony immediately (this included the Quakers and the Puritans). The scattering of the population in the Southern Colonies made enforcing this law difficult. The people of the Massachusetts colony were mainly Puritans, but they had a “purified” version of the Anglican Church. For the Puritans the church was the center of their everyday life, but they took their land and goods just as seriously.
The settlers lived by Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “Love your neighbor but don’t pull down your fence. ” In Massachusetts, tension made believers challenge authority, which was repressed in the 1630’s and again in the 1650’s. The Anglicans had more farming concerns than religious concerns. They leaned more toward ritual than personal religious experience. When it came to the Africans in the colonies: Africans were a minority in the Massachusetts colony, but in the Virginia colony, they were quite numerous. African Americans were needed more in the Southern Colonies because they needed laborers to work in the fields.
Massachusetts had fewer slaves because their land was less fertile. The slaves they did have were used more as indentured servants. Massachusetts’s slaves had a more relaxed way of life compared to the slaves of the south. The slaves of the south did strenuous work in the heat for many hours a day with little food and clothing. Lastly, in Virginia, the English manors became southern plantations and in Massachusetts, the New England village became the New England town. The huts of Jamestown were soon replaced with lavishing brick houses.
In the seventeenth century, the “colonial” style emerged in Virginia. These mansions had spectacular gardens and glass windows imported from Europe. These plantations were also known for their grand, moss-covered oaks. The Virginian farmers were known for their luxurious living and exceeding hospitality. The people of Massachusetts initially lived in tee-pee or cave-like structures. These houses gave way to small-framed houses made from clapboards. Massachusetts has snow-filled winters, so they had very steep roofs that were covered with grasses.
By the end of the seventeenth century, New England houses were centered around a fireplace, and like the Virginia Mansions, had glass windows. It is easy to say that both of these Colonies are vastly different. I think that without these differences, America, as we know it today could be substantially different. When looking back on the societies and economies of these colonies I see that no matter how religious or non-religious, agriculturally inclined or otherwise, we as a people have our intuition and aptitude to bring us through whatever hardships we may face. I think that is what makes this country so great.