Life in the Thirteen Colonies

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Which English colony was the best place to live in the 1600s?

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The answer to this is going to depend on your individual values. If you value close family ties and a community united by a strong work ethic, then perhaps Massachusetts would be the colony for you. However, if harsh weather, threats from Native Americans (King Philip's War, for instance) and puritanical religious impositions are not your style, then look elsewhere.

Rhode Island may be a good choice. It was founded on the idea of religious freedom and was much less stodgy than the rest of New England. Rhode Island colonists of the 17th Century tended to have decent relationships with the Native Americans there, although there were the occasional conflicts. Even during the 1600s, the city of Newport was a thriving port town, meaning there were many opportunities to grow one's wealth in this colony.

If you came from wealthy stock and were well connected, then I might suggest Maryland. Unlike the other colonies, Maryland was organized closer to the feudal Medieval model. If you were granted one of the colony's estates, you could rest easy having your indentured servants and tenant farmers do much of the work while you reaped the benefits.

As most of the other educator answers here suggest, Pennsylvania was one of the best colonies to live in for most people at the time. Farmers enjoyed rich soil and a decently long growing season. Merchants in Philadelphia did a lively trade. All religions and backgrounds were welcome. Relations with Native Americans were stable for the most part. This made Pennsylvania relatively well-rounded overall.

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I too would choose Pennsylvania as the best colony in which to live in the 1600s, assuming that one is a white European. Pennsylvania did not have an economy that relied on slavery, so one would have been largely freed of involvement with that institution. In addition, William Penn, a Quaker, founded the colony on the principle of religious freedom. Therefore, unlike in Puritan New England, an individual was allowed to worship as they saw fit. Penn even gave land to German and Swiss Anabaptists being persecuted for their religious faith, and he kept the colony open to Jewish settlers.

The state had fertile soil and was an easy place to grow wheat, a cash crop that was not dependent on slave labor. The Quakers did their best under Penn to maintain cordial relations with the indigenous people, so, at least early on, settlers could feel relatively safe from attack. With a healthy social foundation, religious freedom, tolerance of multiculturalism, peaceful relations with Native Americans, and ample economic opportunity, Pennsylvania would have been an attractive colony in which to settle.

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The best colony to live in would have been Rhode Island, officially called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Founded by Roger Williams, a dissenter who fled Puritans in Massachusetts, Rhode Island granted its inhabitants freedom of religion. This right was enshrined in the Royal Charter of 1663, granted by the British king, Charles II. The colony was a haven for religious minorities, including Quakers and Jews, who, according to some sources, arrived as early as 1658 from Portugal. Rhode Island took an enlightened stance on issues such as slavery and witchcraft. For example, the colony abolished witchcraft trials and outlawed slavery for whites and blacks in 1652. The colony also outlawed capital punishment. These were novel and forward-thinking stances to take in the 1600s. 

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Pennsylvania would be my choice for the best colony in which to live in the 1600s. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that there was religious freedom in Pennsylvania. Unlike other colonies, the people who lived in Pennsylvania were free to practice whatever religion they wanted. This may explain why so many people of different nationalities and religions came to live in this colony. Pennsylvania was known as the melting pot because people from so many different backgrounds lived here.

Pennsylvania was a good place to farm. Being closer to the southern colonies than New England was allowed the people to deal with a better climate for farming and having more fertile soil to use for growing crops. Many farmers grew wheat. Wheat was the cash crop of Pennsylvania. It was called the breadbasket colony because of all the wheat that was grown. Additionally, there were some industries in Pennsylvania, so people that didn’t farm, could work in these industries.

Because of the religious freedom and the variety of jobs, Pennsylvania would have been my choice for the best colony in which to live in the 1600s.

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If we include the late 1600s, I would pick Pennsylvania as the best colony in which to live.  Unlike the South, there was not much slavery in Pennsylvania, which makes it attractive.  Unlike New England, it was not dominated by Puritans.  In fact, Penn was committed to the idea of freedom of religion.  That would have been a major plus for me at least.  Finally, the climate would have made Pennsylvania a nicer place to live and an easier place to farm than the New England colonies would have been.  For this combination of lack of slavery, good climate, and freedom of religion, Pennsylvania would have been the best place to live.

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