How do the motivations of the settlers affect the way Virginia and New England were colonized?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When people today speak of American exceptionalism, they invariably refer back to Bradford's "city on a hill" in Plymouth. They do not usually refer to the colony on the Chesapeake, and with good reason. After the well-documented struggles at Jamestown, Virginians settled into cash crop agriculture, which was deemed the most profitable use of the land. This brought them into almost immediate conflict with area natives, with whom they struggled bitterly. It also necessitated the importation of cheap labor, first in the form of indentured servant, debtors, Southeastern Indians, and convicts, and then, by the late seventeenth century, African slaves. The colony was marked by social inequality almost from its formation, with friends of royal governors like William Berkeley receiving immense tracts of land. Social elites propped up their positions with a firmly established Anglican Church, in which most served as vestrymen.

New England settlements, while by no means averse to exploitation and violence toward area natives, were founded as havens for Puritans, and as such tended to draw from the lower middle classes, especially in southeastern England. Many entered with experience in farming and with trades, which, along with the different terrain, contributed to New England's diverse economy. New Englanders utilized slaves and indentured servants in considerable numbers, but mostly in household roles, or as laborers on small farms.  Like Virginia, the colonies had established churches, but they were not Anglican, but Puritan, later known as Congregational. Male church members served as the colony's elites, along with an emerging merchant class. Unlike Virginia's counties, there was broad political participation at the local town level.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Virginia Company was founded by the London Company, a joint stock company as a profit-making venture. Although originally it was thought that gold could be mined in the region, this proved unsuccessful, and they reverted to the cultivation of staple crops, primarily tobacco as a means of profit. The Company eventually began awarding tracts of land (fifty acres for every paid passage) as a means of populating the colony and generating more profits for the stock holders. Even Indentured Servants, who provided labor tantamount to slave labor, had the promise of their own fifty acres at the end of the servitude. The staple crops grown at the colony were then shipped to England for sale. The motive was, pure and simple, economic profit.

The New England colonies were colonized for the purpose of establishing a model Christian community. Profit was not a motive, in fact it was considered improper to charge more than a fair amount for goods and services. The colony was developed by the Massachusetts Bay Company, whose charter did not provide for an office in England. John Winthrop took advantage of this, and took the charter with him to New England so there was no controlling connection with England and the colony. The motive for the colony as stated by Winthrop was to be a "city upon a hill;" a "model of Christian Charity." Winthrop's idea of a model community was one in which dissent was not tolerated; those who disagreed were frequently banished.

It is perhaps an oversimplification to connect Indian wars with the motives of the Jamestown settlement. Although there was frequent bloodshed, the same was true in New England. Both areas considered Indians to be somewhat less than human, and exterminated them with abandon.