Describe the characteristics of the English colonies in the Chesapeake region, the Carolinas, the middle colonies (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware), and New England prior to 1700.

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The economy of the Chesapeake, particularly Virginia, was based on agriculture, including the cultivation of tobacco and cotton, and the colony began importing slaves in 1619. A pyramidal social hierarchy developed in which white planters were at the top and white indentured servants and slaves were at the bottom. After Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the white planters decided to increasingly rely on slavery rather than indentured servitude, given the restive class of white indentured servants who resented the rich elite. The system of slavery became increasingly harsh over time. The Carolinas were founded by settlers from Barbados and were involved in raising indigo, rice, cotton, and other crops. They brought with them a harsh form of slavery. Both the Chesapeake and the Carolinas were largely Anglican in religion.

The middle Colonies, particularly Pennsylvania (which was founded as a Quaker colony), and New York (founded originally by the Dutch, who permitted Jews and other religious minorities to enter), practiced religious tolerance. Their agriculture was based on cultivating crops such as wheat and other grains, and they had far fewer slaves than the deep south. 

The New England colonies were originally founded as theocracies and places for the Puritans, who faced persecution in England, to practice their religion freely. They were, however, largely intolerant of other religions, save in Rhode Island, a colony based on religious tolerance. The settlers arrived as families and lived in planned communities ruled by the church and the family. As the soil was rocky, New England had far fewer slaves than in the north and ran small industries, built ships, and ran small farms. The New England colonies emphasized the importance of literacy (to read the Bible) and had early forms of primary public schools. They also had some of the first colleges, including Harvard, founded in 1636. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The New England colonies were colonies in which the economy depended mainly on manufacturing and trade. While there was some farming that occurred, it was mainly subsistence farming. The soil was rocky, and the climate was cooler than in other regions. Thus, the growing season was also shorter. With forests and rivers nearby, and with excellent ports, manufacturing and trade were important economic activities. Slavery existed, but it was in a limited fashion. Many Puritans lived in most of the New England colonies. While they freely practiced their religion, other religions weren’t tolerated. The only exception to this was in the colony of Rhode Island, which had religious toleration.

The middle colonies had a mixture of economic activity. Colonies such as New York and New Jersey had more manufacturing than farming. Colonies such as Pennsylvania and Delaware had more farming. The middle colonies were known as the breadbasket colonies because a lot of grain was grown there. There was religious tolerance throughout the middle colonies, especially in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The middle colonies had more slaves than the New England colonies had but fewer slaves than the southern colonies had.

The Chesapeake Colonies and the Carolinas had many slaves, as farming was very important in both places. The Chesapeake Colonies were known for growing tobacco while the Carolinas grew indigo, rice, and cotton. The climate in both regions was very suitable for farming. The climate was very mild. Additionally, the soil was very fertile. Slaves were used extensively in both regions to help with the farming. Most people in the southern colonies followed the teachings of the Church of England.