Essay #1

Although New England and the Chesapeake regions were settled largely by people of English origin, by

1700 the regions had evolved into two distinct societies. I have described both societies in an attempt to

demonstrate their developments.

Virginia Colony

In 1607 a group of merchants established England’s first permanent colony in North America at

Jamestown, Virginia. They operated as a joint-stock company that allowed them to sell shares of stock in

their company and use the pooled investment capital to outfit and supply overseas expeditions. This joint

stock company operated under a charter from James I with a concern for bringing Christian religion to the

native people. However, most of the settlers probably agreed with Captain John Smith that the real aim

was profit rather than religion.

Profits were elusive in the early years; expectations of gold and other minerals, trade with Indians for

beaver and deer skins were not to be had by the colonists. Many Virginia colonists died of dysentery,

malaria and malnutrition. The Virginia Company sent a diverse collection of people to Jamestown; there

were artists and glassmakers, as well as unskilled servants. Both types of people adapted poorly to the

wilderness conditions. Relations between the colonists and the Indians were bitter from the beginning.

John Smith dealt with the Indians by shows of force and the Indians withdrew trade with the English.

Many settlers died of starvation in the first years.

The discovery that tobacco would grow in the Chesapeake region was a salvation for Virginia. The planters

shipped the first crop in 1617 and thereafter tobacco cultivation spread rapidly. By 1624, Virginia was

exporting 200,000 pounds of tobacco; by 1638 the crop exceeded 3 million pounds.

The cultivation of tobacco caused Virginia’s planters to find a reliable supply of cheap labor. To fill this

need, planters recruited immigrants from various countries. These immigrants were called indentured

servants. They willingly sold a portion of their working lives in exchange for free passage across the

Atlantic ocean. Many of the indentured servants were unemployed and held the lower class on the social

ladder from their places of origin.

Life for indentured servants was often a nightmare. If diseases did not kill them, many succumbed to the

brutal work routine that harsh masters imposed upon them. When the remaining servants neared the end of

their contract, masters would find ways to add time to the contracts.

The profitable tobacco crops created an intense demand for land. As more and more colonists settled along

the rivers that flowed in Chesapeake Bay, the local Indian tribes retaliated. The murder of an Indian

captain triggered a fierce Indian assault that dealt a staggering blow to Virginia. This attack led to the

bankruptcy of the Virginia Company. The surviving planters felt they had justified reasons for the

destruction of the Indians. As more settlers arrived, more pressure was placed on the Indians for land.

Wars over land was provoked in 1644 and again in 1675. In each of these conflicts, the colonizers were

victorious. The native population of Virginia was reduced to less than 1,000 by 1680.

Immigrants to the Chesapeake Bay region found existence difficult. Many immigrants arrived as

indentured servants and could not marry until their time was paid. Once marriage was made, diseases

claimed many within about seven years. Few children growing up could expect to have both parents alive.

Widows and widowers often remarried soon after the death of their spouse, creating a complex web of

family life. Because of mortality, the Chesapeake settlers remained, for most of the seventeenth-century, a

land of immigrants rather than a land of settled families. Social institutions such as churches and schools

took root very slowly.

The Chesapeake region architecture showed the fragility of life in the tobacco growing environment.

Settlers at first built primitive huts and shanties. After establishing crops, planters improved their habitats

but still built ramshackle one-room dwellings. Even as Virginia and Maryland matured, cheaply built and

cramped houses remained the norm. Life was too uncertain and the tobacco economy was too volatile.

Massachusetts Bay Colony

While some English settlers scrambled for wealth on the Chesapeake, others were seized by the spirit of

religion. These individuals were known as Puritans. They aimed their efforts at reforming the corrupt new

land. They wanted the