The Middle Colonies

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What challenges did the middle colonies face?

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One of the main challenges for the Middle Colonies of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware was the cultural diversity brought by the many nationalities and religious groups which settled in them. Unlike culturally homogenous New England, or the agriculturally homogenous South, these different groups and industries had to coexist, bringing rich diversity but making a uniform colonial government difficult. Dutch, Germans, Swedes, Irish and Scots brought their folkways and systems of local civic and church government to the areas where they settled. Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, Presbyterian and Lutheran groups were well represented, creating a climate of religious tolerance from the beginning.

The environment and the economy were diverse as well. There were forests with trees for ship-building; rich agricultural lands for grain; rockier ground in the northernmost areas, where manufacturing became the principal industry; and large cities such as New York City and Philadelphia, where art, crafts and literature could flourish. The central location of these colonies on the Atlantic coast made the shipping of resources, and of ideas, easy.

In the western areas there was a second challenge, represented by the constant fear of conflict with the Native inhabitants, who still wished to defend their lands from English conquest. This challenge intensified after the French and Indian War of 1756–63, which was a spill-over of the Seven Years War in Europe between France and Britain. In the colonies, the Natives had sided with the French, creating lingering friction between them and the settlers.

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The middle colonies faced several challenges. In some ways, these challenges were similar to what the New England colonies and southern colonies faced. However, there were some differences.

The middle colonies faced the challenge of getting started. The people had to learn about the land and climate. They had to figure out what jobs would and wouldn’t be successful. All colonies faced these concerns, but one difference for the middle colonies is that the colonies closer to New England were different than the colonies closer to the South. As a result, the middle colonies had a varied economy. In New York and New Jersey, there was more manufacturing because the climate was cooler and the soil was rockier. In Pennsylvania and Delaware, there was more farming because the soil was fertile and the climate was more suited for farming. Thus, the middle colonies had to adjust to having a diversified economy. In New England, there was mainly manufacturing while in the South there was mainly farming.

The middle colonies had much more diversity than the southern colonies and New England colonies. There was much more religious freedom in the middle colonies. Many people of different faiths came to live here. Quakers, Lutherans, and Presbyterians are examples of some of the different religious groups that lived here. This also attracted people of many nationalities to the region. People from various northern European countries, including France, Germany, and England, settled in the middle colonies. As a result, the middle colonies were known as a melting pot where people of different backgrounds and religions were able to live side by side.

The middle colonies were also concerned about attacks by unfriendly Native Americans. This fear was present in all of the colonies. Once the French and Indian War ended, the threat of Native American attacks increased. The Native Americans and French lost that war and England gained much of the land France had. The Native Americans were concerned the English would take away their land and the lucrative fur trade.

There were many challenges that the middle colonies faced. They faced them and successfully dealt with them.

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