The Compare and Contrast Analysis of the New England Middle and Southern Colonies

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What are the Southern Colonies?

Southern Colonies (the 1600s – 1750): Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

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I think that a comparative and contrastive analysis of the New England and Southern Colonies should be carried out on several factors. 

Ethnic Groups  and Conflict 

As tobacco farming surged in the southern colonies (specifically Virginia), more colonists began to arrive and push further into Native Lands and this led to a great deal of conflict among the two groups as both believed they were entitled to the land.

Europeans felt entitled because:

  • They just believed they had a right to it.
  • They had an official charter from the king stating they had the right to the king.
  • They believed that the Native Americans “weren’t using it” as the Natives tended to live in nomadic societies and didn’t have permanent settlements on land.
  • Also believed they were more powerful (more advanced weaponry, technology, etc.) (also Aristotelian ideology; natural inferiority).

Native Americans felt entitled because:

  • They were there first.
  • They had lived, farmed, hunted, etc. on this same land for generations LONG before the European colonists arrived.
  • One of the major conflicts was Bacon’s Rebellion.

The growth of the plantation system also led to the immense demand for manpower which was supplied through slave labor from Africa. The harsh conditions they experienced also led to more conflicts.

The fear of rebellion also led to “Slave Codes”. These codes were specifically created to restrict slaves’ behavior based on only one thing: color.

One of the most horrid parts was known as “The Middle Passage”. The slaves would be ‘packed’ as “efficiently” as possible. They would be laid down with barely any room to move or even breathe.

Many died of disease, starvation, and some simply of despair (would jump off the board to avoid being slaves).

Education Issues 

Wealthy children were largely taught by tutors or governesses at home due to the distance between plantations and any community educational establishments, which were less common in the southern colonies than farther north.

For less wealthy farmers in the region, the large number of time children and adults spent laboring on farms and plantations caused education (in the form of homeschooling) to be limited.

The stratification of the South translated into the extent of education the colonists received.

Upper-class white men had the best education, followed by laborers, upper-class women, and lastly the slave classes who received little to no education.

Two defining factors of southern education were the emphasis on religious education and grooming children for their eventual lives as plantation owners. Boys would sometimes go to boarding school in England and return to the colonies to assist their families in managing their estate.

An important part of a Southern boy’s education was plantation management. In contrast, girls’ education focused on keeping the home and they were not sent off for boarding school, as their education wasn’t as important.

African slaves were rarely educated to prevent them from rising above their lower statuses.

Once the social system of white plantation owners and subjugate slaves was firmly established, efforts to educate slaves were strongly discouraged.

Native Americans were also not a part of the education systems of the south because they preferred to educate themselves.

Religious Groups and Issues 

In Virginia, everyone had to attend the Anglican Church. In the 1700s, Baptists started to increase so they demanded a change and wanted to be a part of the leadership but they were often persecuted and not included.

Church of England was the official church of the colonies of the south. It wasn’t followed and because there weren’t many rules placed resulting in the south had more religious freedom.

Maryland started as a safe place for Catholics because they were discriminated against in England so Celius Calvert established the colony for Catholic refugees. In England, the Great Fire of London was blamed on Catholics and Catholics couldn’t hold positions in office. Even though this colony was a haven for Catholics, many first colonists of Maryland were Protestants.

In 1649, Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act, the first law in the New World designed to encourage religious tolerance. In 1654, Puritans took control of the colony so the religious freedom act was outlawed and anti-Catholic actions occurred in the colony.

When the Africans came to America owners didn’t want to Christianize them because they would count as their “brothers and sisters”. Eventually, a lot of Africans did convert to Christianity but usually didn’t follow the Church of England like their Anglican masters but followed the Baptist sect.

Even when slaves did Christianize, they remained slaves; they weren’t set free even if counted as “brothers and sisters” of the masters.

Churches in the South were much fancier than the churches of their New England counterparts which were often really plain due to the Puritan way of life.

Significant Events/People 

William Berkeley was a colonial governor of Virginia. He was appointed to the colony by King Charles I. To expand his tobacco farm and the economy around it, he experimented with modifiers to increase the growth of tobacco.

His friendly policies toward Native Americans led to the rebellion by some of the colonies which became Bacon’s Rebellion.

Eliz Lucas Pinckney (South Carolina). She developed Indigo as a cash crop, changing the agricultural economy in South Carolina. Indigo was a major export of the colony and had great demand in England. She held power revolving around the agricultural economy. While her father was in the West Indies, she managed his 3 plantations.

Nathaniel Bacon – a colonist of the Virginia Colony. Famous as the leader of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, which was when the Virginia colonies rebelled against Berkeley’s policies toward the Native Americans. It did not succeed in driving the Natives away from Virginia but was able to send Berkely back to England. Said that there was corruption in the government under Berkeley. Burned Jamestown on September 19, 1676.

Cultural Arts 

African Americans brought their musical traditions such as African-style drums and reed instruments. Occasionally, slave owners taught their slaves to play European-style music on violins or fiddles for white audiences.

The banjer (or Banjar) was brought from West Africa, an instrument that eventually formed the banjo in the nineteenth century. Gradually, African American musicians began to incorporate their musical ideas into European music.

Georgian architecture dominated the southern colonies and was characterized by classical-style columns and arches and interior symmetry. During the early 18th century, colonists had become quite wealthy and wanted to refine their houses to display their affluence.

The Navigation Acts restricted the importing of non-English products which restricted colonists from importing from countries other than England. Because colonists’ had to import English furniture and houseware, Georgian architecture mimicked many aspects of Renaissance architecture in Europe.

There were also Dutch influences: red brick and white stone with white-painted wood trim were typical.

Common items in plantation homes were fine clothes, imported furniture, clocks, china and silver, tapestries, non-religious books, teapots, sugar bowls, cups, saucers, and the tea table.

Although it is not considered fully developed literature, John Smith’s records illustrated daily life in the Jamestown colony which became heavily influential. Additionally, William Bryd’s plantation diary described the life of the southern colonial gentry and another work, History of the Dividing Line, describes his impressions of the wilderness and portrayal of Indians as beasts.

The most popular type of painting was portraiture, especially by plantation owners (portrayed with wigs), and was often heavily present in mansions, especially on the first floor and ballrooms.

Children played a variety of games: sack races, tag, marbles, hopscotch, and leapfrog to name a few. They also enjoyed flying kites, swimming, and fishing. When there was poor weather, children played with wooden toys and spinning tops indoors. A game called ninepins was similar to bowling in which pins would be arranged in a three-row fashion and the goal was to knock all the pins with a ball. Another game was a race in which two people would roll a hoop and try to get their hoop to a side faster than the other person. These hoops, however, were often difficult to roll.

Economic Endeavor

The Southern economy was based on plantation-style agriculture and export of cash crops (tobacco, indigo, rice) and thus developed few large urban centers of trade and industry. 

The area had good soil, long growing seasons, and many waterways for ease of transportation. Tobacco is mainly grown in Virginia and Maryland (Chesapeake region). Rice & indigo are mainly grown in Carolina and Georgia plantation economy depended heavily on slaves to do the intensive physical labor required for agriculture. Using Native Americans or lower-class whites as indentured servants became economically unfeasible. Slaves also brought African agriculture knowledge & techniques for growing rice and indigo. 

Through the export of cash crops, the South became the wealthiest region in British North America. Most of this wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few large plantation owners, but the small plantation owners who constituted the majority of the white landowning class were still relatively wealthy in comparison to other colonies. 

Due to the Navigation Acts, the majority of exports were sent to Britain, and these southern exports formed a significant majority of all colonial exports. Significantly smaller economic pursuits included the production of naval stores such as tar, turpentine, and lumber in North Carolina. While landowners could and oftentimes did grow enormously wealthy through planting cash crops, the volatility of the market and the seasons meant that even the largest plantations were vulnerable to ruin. The tobacco economy was especially precarious and experienced repeated boom-bust patterns due to overproduction and the consequent price drops.

In conclusion, colonization of the Americas brought three distinctly different peoples from distinctly different places around the globe. The Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans that now inhabited what would become the United States would form the foundation of modern-day America.


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