Compare and contrast the colonies of Virginia and Masschusetts in the 17th century.

1 Answer | Add Yours

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

During the sixteenth century, the Massachusetts economy was mixed, consisting of farming and shipping/shipbuilding; whereas in Virginia, the economy was almost entirely agriculturally based. Massachusetts did not have the headright system which was prevalent in Virginia and other Southern colonies; plus its climate and geography did not lend itself to large scale agriculture. The opposite was true in Virginia; for that reason, Virginia's economy was almost entirely based on the large scale production of staple crops, primarily tobacco.

Religion was an important factor in Massachusetts; not so in Virginia.  Massachusetts residents were required to be church members in order to vote for members of the General Court. Everyone was encouraged to practice moderation except for piety, which was to be practiced zealously. Even so, the authorities of Massachusetts were not great believers in democracy. Rev. John Cotton once commented:

 Democracy I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed? As for monarchy, and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved, and directed in scripture, yet so as referred the sovereignty to himself, and setteth up Theocracy in both, as the best form of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the church.

Government in Virginia was by the House of Burgesses. Since only those who held land could vote, its members were primarily the large landowners, who also comprised the magistrates and other authorities. Religion was not as important in Virginia as in Massachusetts; in fact the Anglican ministers who served Virginia churches were careful not to offend the leading citizens of the area with their sermons. The gentry of the community paid the minister's salary, and if they were not happy with him, he could be shipped off on short notice.

Although slavery was far more prevalent in Virginia than in Massachusetts, it existed in both colonies. In fact, after independence, Massachusetts was the first of the newly independent states to legalize slavery.

 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,952 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question