The New England Colonies

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

Compare and contrast the English colonies in the Chesapeake and New England.

Quick answer:

The Chesapeake and New England colonies were alike in that they both had some degree of democracy, had established churches, and faced high mortality rates at first. They were different in that they were established for different reasons and centered around different industries.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both the Chesapeake and New England colonies faced extreme mortality in their early days of settlement. The settlers of Jamestown faced malaria and yellow fever as they settled too closely to brackish water. The settlers of Jamestown also did not know how to farm, and many of them starved to death. In New England many died due to exposure to the elements and a lack of food since the Pilgrims arrived in late fall. Both the Chesapeake and New England colonies would fight wars with Native American groups as the settlements grew and started to encroach on Native American land.

The Chesapeake was settled largely as an economic venture. The original goal was to find gold and a waterway to China. After these did not materialize, the settlers eventually turned to cash crops such as tobacco and cotton. Due to the scarcity of labor needed to run plantations, the settlers turned to indentured servants, poor English people looking to work off their passage to the New World. The indentured servants worked for the length of their contracts and then they were free. Many did not make it to the end, succumbing to diseases such as malaria.

Chesapeake planters turned to African slaves. They found slaves to be a better source of labor due to their ability to survive and that one did not have to free one's slaves or their offspring.

New England was settled as a way for Calvinists to practice their religion as they saw fit without interference from the Church of England. These families created self-sufficient farms and mainly used the community and their children for labor, though some New England residents would own a few slaves before the American Revolution. The church was the most important building in town and the residents of New England settled very closely together. New England created the first form of government in the New World with the Mayflower Compact.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Chesapeake colonies, starting in Jamestown in colonial Virginia, were generally populated by people who wanted to make money, including people who had been held in debtors' prisons in England and indentured servants. The harsh conditions of early Jamestown, including the "Starving Time," meant that there was a high mortality rate and that families could not establish themselves. In addition, many of the early settlers were single men, so the settlement was not, for the most part, populated by families. As a result, women were generally under less control by their families and had more power than they did in other colonies. Colonists in Jamestown turned to growing tobacco to survive, and the first slaves were recorded arriving in the colonies in 1619. Over time, the colony increasingly turned to slavery. Most of the colonists were members of the Church of England, or the Anglican Church. Later, Maryland was founded along similar lines, though it was at first a colony that offered religious freedom for Catholics. 

Colonial New England, on the other hand, was populated by religious dissenters (first, Pilgrims who broke away from the Church of England and later Puritans who stayed within the church but wanted to purify it). The Puritans saw themselves as a model to the rest of the world—a "city upon a hill," and placed a high value on literacy and education. The inhabitants were settled into families, as they immigrated largely as families, and their towns were rigidly controlled by the church. Young people and women were under the strict control of the patriarchal church and family structure. As the soil in New England was rocky, many colonists turned to small-scale industries such as shipbuilding over time, and there were far fewer slaves than in colonial Virginia.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were similarities and differences between the English colonies in New England and the English colonies in the Chesapeake. Some of the colonies in the Chesapeake included Maryland and Virginia. Some of the New England colonies included Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

One difference was the jobs in each region. In the New England colonies, there wasn’t as much large scale farming. Subsistence farming was common because the soil was rocky and the growing season was shorter. There was more manufacturing in New England. Mills were common. Shipbuilding was an important activity as was fishing. In the Chesapeake colonies, there was more large scale farming. The soil was very fertile, and the climate was better suited for farming.

A few other differences existed. There were fewer slaves in the New England colonies than in the Chesapeake colonies. The people of the New England colonies came for religious reasons. The Chesapeake colonies were formed to hopefully make money.

There were some similarities with these colonies. English was the language that was spoken in both sets of colonies. The King chartered both sets of colonies. As a result, these colonies had English roots.

While there were more differences than similarities, some similarities did exist  between the New England colonies and the Chesapeake colonies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Historians generally discuss the ways in which the Chesapeake colonies and the New England colonies were different.  These differences are said to have created completely different societies whose differences even helped to bring about the Civil War. 

While these two regions were very different, they did have similarities.  For one, these areas were largely colonized by English people.  This was in contrast to places like Pennsylvania, which had more people from other European countries.  As another similarity, both of these areas had some amount of democratic rule.  They had elected assemblies that provided a voice for their people in government.  Finally, both of these regions had established churches and tax money went to support those churches.

However, there were many important differences as well.  The most important of these is that the Chesapeake colonies’ economy was generally dominated by large plantation owners.  Most of the labor for these plantations was provided by unfree workers.  By contrast, New England’s economy was dominated by small farmers and by merchants and artisans in cities.  This made for a much more egalitarian society.  As another difference, the New England colonies were settled by families and became very family-oriented.  By contrast, the Chesapeake colonies were often settled by single people and thus had less social cohesion.

These are some of the most important similarities and contrasts between the two.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How did the English colonies in the Chesapeake and New England differ from one another in purpose?

These colonies were founded for very different purposes.  The colonies in the Chesapeake were founded solely for the purpose of making money.  They tended to be very highly stratified with a few rich people dominating their governments, society, and economy.  By contrast, the colonies in New England were settled much more for religious purposes.  They were settled by groups of families that wanted to live in a place where their particular religious beliefs would dominate.  They were very much more egalitarian than the Chesapeake colonies.  In these ways, the two regions were settled for very different reasons, which led to them having very different types of societies.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on