Life in the Thirteen Colonies

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Compare and contrast England’s Jamestown and Plymouth colonies: Who settled each colony? Why did they come to the New World? What was their relationship with the Native Americans, and why?

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Jamestown was settled primarily by single men who hoped to profit from the colony originally by searching for gold. The colony was chartered by the Virginia Company, and had a number of rough years. Their relationship with the Indians was good at first, in fact the Indians helped them survive during their first winter; taught them how to plant corn, and were generally helpful though not altogether friendly. The relationship soon went downhill as the colony grew and more land was needed to cultivate tobacco. The colonists tended to confiscate Indian lands and blamed any resistance on the Indians. At times their treatment of the Indians was brutal; in one instance a group of chiefs was invited to a peace conference, and offered wine to seal the deal. The wine was poisoned and the chiefs all died. In another instance, a planter forced an Indian Queen into a creek where he shot her and then drowned her children.

Those who settled New England came to establish a model community. They came in family groups under the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Interestingly, the charter of the company made no provision for offices in England. John Winthrop carried the charter with him to New England and thus separated the colony from English control for a number of years. Winthrop himself described the reason for establishing the colony:

For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee haue undertaken, and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. Wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of God, and all professors for God's sake. Wee shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into curses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whither wee are a goeing.

The settlers there were also helped by the Indians, primarily one Indian named Tisquantum whom they called Squanto. He spoke English, which to them was a sign of God's favor. The Indians again showed them how to plant corn and survive; however in time the colonists there began confiscating Indian lands as the colony grew. The colonists soon concluded that the Indians were the "lost tribe of Satan," and treated them accordingly. Two Indian wars erupted, the Pequot War and King Philips War, both with devastating consequences for the Indians.

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