How were the New England, middle, and Southern colonies of North America settled and developed differently?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Virginia in the South was the very first strong, long-lasting, and prosperous colony settled by the English. The colony began as Jamestown when King James I gave a charter to a company called the Virginia Company, formed by English businessman. The purposes of the businessmen were purely financial gain--they sought gold and a water route that would make lucrative trading with the East much easier. In December of 1606, the businessmen set sail with 104 settlers, all "artisans, craftsmen, and laborers," and landed on what they dubbed Jamestown Island in May 1607 (Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, "History of Jamestown"). Though Jamestown suffered its "starving time" during the winter of 1609 to 1610, the 60 surviving settlers along with newly arrived Governor Lord De La Ware continued to build the colony and achieve peace with the Powhatan Indians. By 1619, the Virginia colony had grown to a population of 1,000 settlers, including the first women and Africans. The first Africans were free men paid to develop the Virginia cash crop, tobacco.

In contrast to the South, the Northern colony called Plymouth was settled not for monetary gain but for religious freedom. The Reformation spurred by Martin Luther resulted in a Protestant Church being formed in separation from the Catholic Church, but it also resulted in various degrees of Protestantism. The Puritans developed very strict religious ideals, and the Separatists, also called the Independents, were the strictest Puritan sect (University of South Florida School of Information, United States History, "The Separatists"). Prior to settling in North America, English Separatists actually settled in the Dutch Netherlands in 1608 but became disatisfied with their new home. So, in 1620, the Separatists set sail on the Mayflower for North America. They had been aiming for Jamestown but had gone off course and landed on what is now called Plymouth Rock in Cape Cod. Unlike the Southern colonies that could grow cash crops, climate and soil made farming a bit more difficult in the Norther colonies. Therefore, the Northern colonies relied onĀ subsistence farmers, meaning they grew just enough to live on, not enough to earn a profit, and gained profits from the fishing, whaling, and shipbuilding industries.