American history during the colonial times has mainly focused on the thirteen states that were under British colonization that later came to form the United States of America. These thirteen states included Pennsylvania, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, North and South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
These colonies claimed their independence from British colonization during the American Revolution which was viewed to be an Anglo-centric approach that shaped the history of the United States. The story that follows the American Revolution has created several distortions over what happened during the past two centuries (Taylor xv).
One of these distortions was that colonial historians could not differentiate the legitimate areas that fell under British colonization. These areas until recently have been identified to be the eastern seaboard of North America between Maine and Florida. Colonial history was therefore based on geographical areas that were seen to be relevant in explaining the history of America.
The second distortion was that many of the thirteen states that fell under British colonization were neglected when it came to compiling historical information. This neglect not only applied to the indigenous inhabitants of America but also to immigrants such as Africans and Europeans that were within the U.S. during that time. Other areas that were neglected included the eastern part of North America, Canada, the West Indies and Latin America (Taylor xv).
The British colonization of America began during the 16th and 17th century. These British colonialists were from different parts of England and they had different sets of beliefs when it came to religion, and culture. They also had different reasons for migrating to America with colonialists who settled in New England running away from the religious persecution that was taking place in England during that time.
The emigrants who settled in the South had moved from England in search of better land to conduct their farming activities and also take advantage of the unutilized land in the states that formed Chesapeake to create wealth for themselves (Rushforth and Mapp ix)
In 1700, the migration differences together with the different religious and cultural divisions led to the formation of Chesapeake and New England. Chesapeake or the Southern part of America was made of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania while Northern part of America also known as New England was made up of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts (Taylor 139).
The New England colonialists also referred to as the Puritan separatists were focused on the community, religion, shared values and beliefs while the Chesapeake British colonialists were focused on creating wealth by growing tobacco, mining for gold and trading with the Native Americans for food or money (Taylor 160).
Madison’s distinction of the two areas as highlighted by Taylor was evidenced when he noted that the British colonialists had instituted a policy in 1617 referred to as the head right system that would enable other European immigrants to settle in Chesapeake by offering them highly valued land so that they could increase the wealth of the regions. The head right system was successful as it saw more British citizens migrating to America to practice agricultural activities and mining activities.
In 1620, 102 pilgrims who were escaping the religious mutiny going on in England landed in Massachusetts without a royal charter which means they were not representing King James I. They found Massachusetts to be undisputed because 90 percent of the native Indians had been wiped out by smallpox. As soon as they arrived, they created their own charter known as the Mayflower which allowed their colonization of Massachusetts to grow.
The Mayflower colony was later used as a model for future Puritan settlements in America by focusing on religion, shared values, culture, beliefs and work ethics. The cultural differences and contracting views that existed between these two groups served to separate not only the British colonists but also the Native Americans during that time (Rushforth and Mapp ix).
The Puritan Separatists who were running away from religious persecution in England created an intolerant environment in New England because they saw themselves to be more godly that the other British colonialists. Their religion which was mostly focused on the family was characterized by a lot of piety with one clergyman for every 600 Puritans (Taylor 188).
The religion in the Chesapeake area was less severe with the Anglican Church being the main predominant force in the area. In terms of economy, the Chesapeake economy was mostly focused on the growth and sale of tobacco as well as slave trade and mining. The slave trade relied heavily on the tobacco plantations which needed many workers to plant and harvest the commodity (Taylor 140).
The tobacco industry raised enough money to import and export more slave workers who would be used in the plantation fields thereby increasing the production of tobacco. These activities saw an increase in the economy of Chesapeake which was not the same case for New England.
The economy mostly focused on shipbuilding, fishing and farming which was done on a small scale. Since the New England religion mostly focused on family and not economic gain, the amount of farming done was enough to feed one’s family. There were many family owned farms that created a secure household competency (Taylor 140). The New Englanders religious beliefs prevented them from hiring outside help or using slaves for economic purposes.
Whatever surplus the family’s garnered from their farming activities saw the wealth being distributed equally amongst the farmers and tradesmen living in the region. Because New England had a decentralized system of governance, the Chesapeake colonialists as well as the American Natives despised the New Englanders by referring to their system of governance as republicanism (Taylor 161).
According to Ulrich, the role of women in New England was divided into that of a mother, neighbor, mistress, heroine, Christian, housewife and deputy husband. These roles were described according to what effect they had on the New England society and the church.
The New England male community treated its female population in both a positive and negative way during the period of 1650 to 1750 although the negative treatment of women was more common (Ulrich 6). The Puritan laws outlined by the New England religious doctrines required women to submit to their husbands without question. When two people were married under New England law, they became one person under the law.
The legal existence of the woman was therefore terminated during the course of the marriage because her legal existence had become incorporated into that of the husband. Women who were married under New England law could not do anything without the permission of the husband (Ulrich 7). Women Chesapeake were viewed differently and treated with respect when compared to those in New England.
Rushforth, Brett and Paul Mapp. Colonial North America and the Atlantic World. London: Pearson Prentice Hall. 2009.
Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: the settling of North America. New York: Penguin
Publishers. 2001. Ulrich, Laurel. Good wives. New York: Vintage Books. 1991.