Massachusetts Bay Colony

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How were the early colonies of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania different?

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Both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were settled by religious separatists from England. The various Massachusetts plantations that later became a unified colony were settled earlier than Pennsylvania and by Puritan groups which did not endorse religious freedom. Instead, the Puritans consciously imposed their form of faith and worship on all inhabitants...

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Both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were settled by religious separatists from England. The various Massachusetts plantations that later became a unified colony were settled earlier than Pennsylvania and by Puritan groups which did not endorse religious freedom. Instead, the Puritans consciously imposed their form of faith and worship on all inhabitants of their colony and persecuted those who pursued a different path.

In contrast, Pennsylvania was founded by a Quaker, William Penn, who insisted on religious freedom in the colony, opening it to settlement by persecuted religious groups other than Quakers. These included Swiss and German anabaptists sects. This changed the flavor of the colony by infusing it with a variety of cultural and ethnic groups.

Penn, following the Quaker peace testimony, also pursued peaceful relations and reconciliation with Native American groups in the colony. This led to a less bloody and antagonistic history—at least initially—between colonists and natives than was the case in Massachusetts.

Pennsylvania was more amenable to farming than Massachusetts, which relied more on fishing and trade to generate wealth. Both, however, became wealthy colonies, and their major cities, such as Philadelphia and Boston, were centers of colonial power.

Pennsylvania's example of toleration of diverse religious groups had a longer lasting impact on the American way of life than the Puritan theocracy, for the United States early on embraced the ideal (if not always the reality) of religious freedom.

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There were differences between the colonies of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. One difference is from where the settlers came. Most people who went to Massachusetts were from Great Britain, while Pennsylvania had settlers from many different countries including Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland.

Both colonies were established so people could freely practice their religion. However, there was a big difference, because, in Massachusetts, people were expected to practice the Puritan religion, while, in Pennsylvania, people could practice whatever religion they wanted to practice. The Puritans left Great Britain because they were persecuted for their religious beliefs and wanted to go to a place where they could practice their religion freely, yet when they arrived in Massachusetts, they persecuted people who believed differently than they believed.

The jobs were different in each colony. In Massachusetts, there was limited farming because the soil was rocky and the climate was less suitable for farming. Many people worked as shipbuilders, fishermen, manufacturers, or traders. In Pennsylvania, the land was more fertile and the climate was better suited for farming. Wheat was an important crop that was grown by the people who farmed. Besides farming, there also were people who worked in industries and people who were involved in trading.

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While both colonies were settled by the English initially, Pennsylvania soon saw immigrants from Germany and Holland who were looking for religious freedom. Although Massachusetts was settled by those who were looking for religious freedom, once here, the Pilgrims stifled religious freedom of other groups. The soil in Pennsylvania proved to be better for crops and by 1700, Pennsylvania was considered the breadbasket of the colonies. Massachusetts farmers produced enough for their families but not enough to export. This colony used shipbuilding and whaling as its paths to prosperity. William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, also reached a deal where all land had to be purchased from the Native Americans, whereas the Pilgrims took it mainly through conquest and unfair land deals. While religion was important to both colonies, it was in Massachusetts and the rest of New England in general where religion became a major factor in the social life of the colony.

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These colonies were different for a variety of reasons. First of all, Pennsylvania settlers mainly were Dutch, Swedish, German, and Scotch-Irish. These colonies were considered the Middle Colonies and were mostly Quaker, yet freedom of religion was allowed. These colonies also had good relations with the Native Americans. Iron ore was their most important natural resource which allowed them to manufacture goods such as plows, tools, and cooking utensils that they could export for profit.

The Massachusetts settlers were mostly English, and these colonies were considered New England Colonies. The settlers were Puritans and did not allow freedom of religion. These colonies also did not have good relations with the Native Americans and war eventually erupted. The rocky coast and cold climate made farming difficult, and their major industry was lumber and shipbuilding. They also exported rum.

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These colonies differed in a number of ways.  These ways included:

  • Ethnic/national background.  Massachusetts was essentially settled only by people from England.  In Pennsylvania, there were also Scots-Irish people and Germans.  
  • They differed economically to some extent.  Massachusetts was much more dependent on the sea with shipping and fishing as major industries along with rum distilleries using molasses shipped in from the Caribbean.  By contrast, Pennsylvania was dominated by farmers, largely producing grain.  
  • Religion.  Massachusetts was settled by the Puritans and was meant to be dominated by them.  Pennsylvania, of course, was settled by Quakers and was meant to be a much more tolerant and religiously diverse colony. 
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