Compare the settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts in regard to their founding religions, forms of government, and landholding patterns. It is noted that settlers to New England had a greater life expectant than those to colonies south of the Chesapeake Bay. Why?

Massachusetts had a charter form of government, was mostly Puritan, and had primarily small merchant or craftsman communities. Virginia was a crown colony, Anglican, and had large farms. Life expectancy was longer in New England because of fewer diseases and a society built around close family units.

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Throughout the colonial period, and particularly in the 17th Century, there were vast differences between the Colony of Massachusetts and the Colony of Virginia. Most early settlers in Massachusetts were Puritans. These were religious dissenters who came to North America to practice their Calvinist form of worship away from the domineering influence of the Anglican Church, the official denomination of England. Virginians, on the other hand, were by and large Anglican. Unlike in Massachusetts, the Church of England was a powerful political and religious force in Virginia.

Massachusetts was established by way of a charter. This allowed the colonists there to create their own governmental system. As Puritans, they established a rather theocratic system with elected assembly members and governors appointed by the Crown. This gave Massachusetts a rather autonomous form of government. In 1624, King James revoked the charter of Virginia and set it up as a crown colony. This meant that the English monarchs had more direct control in Virginia than in Massachusetts. However, Virginia retained a locally elected legislature known as the House of Burgesses.

In Massachusetts, the area around Boston Harbor developed rapidly. It provided a deep-water anchorage that made it a desirable place of settlement for commercial purposes. However, the central and western parts of the colony remained sparsely settled. Poor soil conditions and a short growing season meant that the region was not well suited for large-scale agriculture. However, by the end of the 17th Century, the exodus or death of Native American peoples meant that English settlers could be found throughout the colony. Virginia had much better conditions for agriculture. This led to the establishment of large farms. Many were dedicated to growing tobacco. To supply a labor force for these farms, large numbers of indentured servants and African slaves were brought to Virginia.

The first waves of English settlers in both New England and the Chesapeake colonies experienced very high mortality rates. However, after a few decades, New Englanders tended to live well into their sixties or seventies. It is thought that the absence of mosquito-borne diseases and the close-knit familial structure of society helped to prolong life expectancy in New England. This was not the case further south in the Chesapeake colonies. The warmer climate there fostered more diseases, notably malaria and yellow fever. Furthermore, more of the Virginian population was engaged in hard labor, which tends to increase mortality rates.

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