Describe how the New England, Middle, and Southern colonies of North America were settled and how they developed differently.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The emergence and settlement of the different regions of Colonies foreshadowed diversity and dichotomy.  The divergence that would come to define the new nation as it matured and developed was evident, as was the challenge to balance both spiritual fulfillment and economic accumulation of wealth.  This paradigm was evident in the establishment of the New England Colonies, a dynamic that would repeat itself in the settlement and development of other colonies.  

The New England Colonies were primarily established for religious freedom. The desire to embark on a quest to establish a "redeemer nation" for spiritual salvation motivated the Puritans to settle Massachusetts.  Being Separatists, the Puritans felt the need to start anew, fueling the desire to settle in the new region of the new world.  Freedom in the spiritual sense motivated the Puritan Separatist. Roger Williams was a part of this movement in Massachusetts and when he feel out of favor with the Puritan majority, he was banished to Rhode Island and settled there out of spiritual freedom. Religious freedom also played a role in the settlement of Maine.  The development of both colonies was geared towards spiritual identity and religious freedom, evident in the emphasis on farming and "humble" living amongst its citizens.

For others in New England, the drive for freedom helped to establish new Colonies such as Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.  In these colonies, the need for freedom expanded from the spiritual into the realm of the economic.  The ability to make and keep one's money and have control over their own economic conditions of being was seen as important as spiritual freedom.  Leaders like John Mason in New Hampshire, Hooker in Connecticut, and John Mason in New Hampshire settled to enhance their scope of freedom in a broad sense.  This manifested in how these colonies developed as both spiritual freedom beacons, but also in trading and economic advancement along the New England seaboard in the form of fishing and emerging agricultural trade.

The dual settlement and advancement for economic and spiritual freedom that took hold in the New England colonies was even more evident in the Middle Colonies.  The shipbuilding and dependence on ports seen in New England continued in the Middle Colonies in cities like Philadelphia.  Colonies like New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were settled for the need to establish trade routes and economic expansion.  These areas were conceived as realms where goods could be produced, traded or sold for profit.  Taking the New England model to another level, the Middle Colonies developed and settled for economic to a greater extent than their New England Counterparts.  It became clear that the desire to make and keep money which began in New England quickly expanded into greater realms and settings in the Middle Colonies.  In the case of Maryland and Pennsylvania, religious freedom helped to establish these settings.  Catholics in Maryland and Quaker freedom in Pennsylvania were the motivating factors in the establishment and development of their colonies.  Pennsylvania perfectly embodied the dichotomy between economic advancement and spiritual fulfillment.  On one hand, groups such as the Quakers sought religious freedom, but at the same time, a bustling metropolis such as Pennsylvania served as a hub for economic advancement.

In the settlement and development of the Southern colonies, "cash was king."  The first colony settled was done so because of purely economic interests.  Jamestown in Virginia was seen as a venture designed to magnify economic profits.  Little in way of spiritual identity was its motivator.  Rather, it was about the potential to develop economic markets and generate wealth.  Certainly, with crops such as tobacco, this was realized as an economic possibility.  Such thinking motivated the settlement and development of the Southern colonies.  Virginia and the Carolinas were founded because of the crops that were in abundance.  The ability to generate profit from crops such as tobacco, rice, or indigo helped to sustain and develop trade with other colonies and England.  As the plantation lifestyle took hold, development of the Southern colonies existed in agriculture for profit and trade.  This extended into the enslavement of Africans, individuals whose job was to maintain the plantations and themselves become a valuable commodity to be traded and bartered.  Enhancing the development of the Southern colonies for economic reasons would be Georgia, which was seen as a prison for people who could not pay off their debts as well as protection from potential threats from Spanish expansionism.

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rachellopez's profile pic

rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Northern colonies were created by people looking for religious freedom. They focused mainly on shipbuilding and trading. This gave them a strong urban community and created a place where there was no need for slavery. However, Southern colonies strongly depended on slavery. They had a large demand for crops such as tobacco which required slave labor. Middle colonies focused on shipbuilding as well as agriculture and had a strong economy, better than the North's.

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