Compare the settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts in regard to their founding religion, form of government, and landholding patterns. It is noted that settlers to New England had a greater life...

Compare the settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts in regard to their founding religion, form of government, and landholding patterns. It is noted that settlers to New England had a greater life expectancy than those to colonies south of the Chesapeake Bay. Why?
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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts were quite different.  The Virginia colony was established in 1607 by English gentlemen looking to strike it rich in the New World and then leave.  While religion was not their primary focus, they were Anglican, and they supported the Church of England.  Once family groups established themselves in the colony, they established Anglican churches.  Since there was no gold to be had in the area, the settlers of the region looked to cash crops in order to make their money.  Tobacco proved to be the main cash crop and, since tobacco takes a significant toll on soil nutrients, the Virginia planters needed large plantations in order to grow enough tobacco consistently.  The planters used indentured servants and eventually slaves to work the fields.  In terms of government, Virginia was ruled by a colonial governor, and there were high property requirements for one to be engaged in the political life of the colony.  

The Massachusetts colony was established in 1620 with the arrival of the Pilgrims.  The Pilgrims left England due to their disagreement with the Anglican Church.  These Pilgrims were Calvinists.  They believed that God had chosen people to go to Heaven as "the elect." One proved one's membership of this select group by being successful here on Earth.  The idea was that God showed his favor to the elect by making them successful in life.  The Pilgrims came as family units.  They established meeting houses first for their governmental and religious needs.  Life centered around the town meeting and the Church. Only church members could vote.  The town meeting was quite democratic, and, although a royal governor was technically in charge of the colony in the late 1600s, most business was carried out at the local level in the town meetings.  Massachusetts colonists lived on self-sufficient farms that were worked by the entire family, and they also worked in maritime trades such as shipping, whaling, and fishing.  These were often more lucrative than farming due to the short New England growing season.  Since many who came to the colony were tradesmen, members of this colony were also known for their carpentry skills and creating other finished products.  

Life expectancy was higher in New England than it was in Virginia due to climate.  The initial settlers of Jamestown made the poor choice of settling near stagnant water, which proved to be a breeding place for mosquitoes.  Many of these settlers died due to yellow fever and malaria.  The mosquito-borne diseases killed thousands in Virginia.  When the settlers realized that slaves from Africa did not catch the diseases as readily as whites, plantation owners' demand for slaves skyrocketed.  

corinnedolci eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite being founded during the same era in history by people from the same nation, the settlements in Virginia and Massachusettes had very different characteristics.

Founded in 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, was settled by representatives of the Virginia Company of London. Though they had a shared Protestant background, the settlers' goal was to find gold, spices, and wealth (they were hoping to get in on the same profits the Spanish were enjoying as they colonized Central and South America). As a result, their society was modeled after the mercantilist monarchy from which they came: the colony was ruled by a governor appointed by the king. Communities came to be centered around large agricultural plantations needed to support life in the swampy terrain. Later, agricultural plantations shifted to growing tobacco for export.

Landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620, the colonists in Massachusetts had very different intentions. They were Puritans, a religious group that had been persecuted in England. Puritans believed in predestination and an all-powerful God. They traveled to the New World so they could live free of religious persecution. In a document known as the Mayflower Compact, these settlers determined to govern themselves through town-hall-style meetings. Some consider the Massachusetts colony to be a theocracy because the Puritans' religious leaders and laws also governed the greater society. Towns in Massachusetts centered around the church, and homes featured individual farms.

Life expectancy in New England surpassed life expectancy in the Virginia Colony. The primary reason for this is environmental. The climate of Virginia is more conducive to tropical maladies, primarily malaria, that resulted in high fatalities. Further, the Massachusetts colony had greater economic success sooner, thriving sooner as a result.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Virginia was settled by Anglicans (from the Church of England) in 1607. In 1624, the original charter that had been granted to the Virginia Company was replaced by a royal charter, and Virginia became a royal colony ruled by the House of Burgesses (established in 1619) and a colonial governor. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, on the other hand, was founded by Puritans, Protestant dissenters who wanted to "purify" the Anglican Church of what they perceived were Roman Catholic elements. The Massachusetts Bay Company had a charter that they transferred to the colony itself, so the colony managed to have a great deal of control over its own affairs. It was ruled as a theocracy in which only church members could vote and in which little dissent was tolerated. This charter remained in place until 1684, when it was revoked.

Landholdings in Virginia tended to be larger, as the elite members of society owned plantations on large tracts of land. They grew tobacco and other crops in land that was swampy and that bred malaria, lowering life expectancy in the Chesapeake. In Massachusetts, people tended to own smaller plots of land surrounding organized towns, and, as the land was colder and less swampy, life expectancy was longer.