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New England colonies Essay

From the outset, the New England colonies were distinctly different from the Chesapeake colonies, even thought they confronted many of the same problems. Critically, the New England colonies were founded as theocracies rather than as conventional civil governments. They formed tight-knit social organizations, largely closed to outsiders, and settled land on the firmly held belief that they were God’s people. The Puritan belief in their possession of divine grace made them feel distinctly superior to the Indians.

Believing in their superiority, they also believed that they had a right and a duty to bring a civilized outlook and civilized view to the territory in which they landed. (Nash 71-72; Norton 32 ) The New England colonists envisioned their new settlements as “Citty on a Hill. ” (Nash 72) However, they faced many problems to carry this vision into reality. Internally, they found it necessary to impose rigid controls on all who challenged their authority.

To this end, Roger Williams and later Anne Hutchinson were banished (Nash 73-75; Norton, 37), and Quaker agents were brutalized and even hung when they appeared in Massachusetts. Nash 135) One of the critical “rights” which the Puritans asserted was the right to claim land not occupied in a typical European manner. This meant that the Puritans felt free to take what land they could, because the native people of Massachusetts were spread over wide areas, and did not reduce land in the typical European fashion. (Nash 78, 80-81; Norton 40)

The Puritans might have converted the Indians, but this simply did not fit their social plan. For the most part, they expended all available resources simply settling the area. In this regard, New England proved a hard place to deal with. Nash 76) Unfortunately, as the Puritan settlement grew, they eventually met organized resistance from the Pequots. The Pequots sought an alliance with the Naragansetts, but that tribe preferred to ally with the colonists. In the conflict that followed, the Pequots proved no match for the tactics, technology and mercilessness of the colonists, who shocked their Narragansetts allies with the brutality with which they crushed the Pequots. (Nash 84-86)

Early settlements in the Chesapeake region were established expressly as business outposts. Nash 46) The goal of these settlers as explicit: to reap a profit on investment. (Nash 46-47) Their experience showed the folly of these hopes. Settlers wasted time digging for non-existent precious metals, neglecting efforts to supply themselves. Each year, many succumbed to starvation. (Nash 49-50) Only when the Virginia Company agreed to allowing settlers to become immediate landowners and the settlers realized the potential profits of tobacco did these colonies begin to grow and flourish. (Nash 51-53; Norton 36)

In their relations with native Americans, the Chesapeake colonists began under orders to avoid offending the native population if possible, Despite these orders, relations soured as the English kept encroaching on ever wider area of land. This led to a siege of Jamestown that reduced the settlers to starvation, followed by retaliatory attacks that gradually crushed the Indian resistance. In 1644, after another brutal war, the Virginians entered into a treaty by which they guaranteed the Indians certain lands in return for a cessation of Indian attacks on white settlements. Nash, 63-64)

While New England and the Chesapeake colonies had to address the same problems of raising food and fighting native peoples, the makeup of the colonies caused them to have very different experiences. In New England, a tight-knit social structure allowed the colonists to stand maintain effective pressure against the native tribes. The fierce independence of Chesapeake settlers made them easy prey until they attained sufficient numbers to counter the natives.


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