Why did New York, Pennsylvania, and the other Middle Colonies become so ethnically, religiously, and politically diverse?

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Middle Colonies, which included New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were known for their diversity. There were reasons for this.

William Penn set up Pennsylvania. As a Quaker, he understood the concept of religious persecution. The Quakers were persecuted because their religious views and practices differed from those in some European countries. William Penn wanted to establish a place where people of many religions could live together and practice their own religion. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Mennonites, and Jews also settled here.

The Dutch originally settled New York. The Dutch were also known for their tolerance of different religions.

Because the economy of the Middle Colonies was more varied than that of the New England and the Southern Colonies, people of many different backgrounds settled there. As a result, some people with brilliant minds came to live there, including Benjamin Franklin. There was more of a free flowing of ideas in the Middle Colonies in part because of the different religious groups and economic activities there.

The Middle Colonies were more diverse than the New England and the Southern Colonies.

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thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The Middle Colonies were ethnically, religiously and politically diverse because of the many different settlers and migrants who were in these regions. The British gained control of the Middle Colonies (which were formerly known as New Netherlands) from the Dutch.

People arrived from different parts of Europe and brought with them different religions, cultures and political inclinations. The Middle Colonies sought to protect the settlers by establishing laws that protected the freedom of religion which attracted a majority of the settlers. The groups had to tolerate and coexist together for their mutual benefit.

Politics also took a diverse approach because some of the settled groups such as the Dutch preferred authoritarian governments while others, such as the English, preferred democratic governments.

Due to open migration, these Middle Colonies featured a variety of people arriving from different regions and they brought with them their different cultures. The Middle Colonies were populated by Swedes, Finns, English, French, Germans and other groups of European origin.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The most important reasons for this are the facts that New York was settled first by the Dutch and that Pennsylvania was explicitly founded on the basis of religious tolerance.  These factors helped to make the middle colonies more diverse than other areas.

The New England colonies were settled by Puritans.  Their societies were not particularly hospitable to those who were different from them so people who were not English Puritans did not tend to settle there.  The Southern colonies were dominated by a plantation economy and did not attract many immigrants.

By contrast, the middle colonies were more welcoming.  New York and New Jersey already had Swedes and Dutch and Finns who had been the first settlers.  Pennsylvania was founded on religious tolerance and advertised itself in Europe on that basis.  Penn advertised in the German language (in Germany, of course), thus attracting many Germans who were from religious minorities such as the Mennonites and the Moravians.

For these reasons, the middle colonies became more diverse than other areas in a number of ways.

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