Political, Social & Economic Differences Between the Northern & Southern Colonies During the 1600s

Political, Social & Economic Differences Between the Northern & Southern Colonies During the 1600s

The diversity of the U.S. traces back to its beginning when the northern and southern colonies were established. Northern colonies were founded by pilgrims who wanted religious freedom, whereas southern colonies were founded to grant colonists opportunities for land ownership. Their differences in political, social, and economic issues shaped our country into what we are today. However, such differences caused strife and a lack of understanding that eventually led to the Revolutionary War.

1 Political Differences

Charter colonies, which gave a company the right to settle in America, mainly lied in the north. Royal colonies, however, were settled in the name of the King of England and were governed by the House of Burgesses. The Massachusetts Bay Company received a charter and was required by law to hold meetings with appointed stockholders and officers. All freed men were eligible to vote in such arrangements. In Virginia, on the other hand, an appointed colonial governor chose his council. Colonial governors were less in touch with their citizens since they rarely traveled from England to America.

2 Social Differences

In the New England colonies, the Puritans and Quakers built their societies on precepts of the Bible, whereas southern colonies relied on a conventional, class-based society. New Englanders valued education and promoted literacy to understand the Bible. In societies like those of the Quakers, even women were granted an education. Young men were expected to earn a trade or work towards a religious or political career. In Southern colonies, many people lived on large farms, known as plantations. There was less emphasis on education since many of the inhabitants were slaves or indentured servants.

3 Agricultural Differences

The geographical environment impacted the economy and agriculture of southern colonies. Farming cash crops, such as corn and cotton, was a vital way to make a living for southerners. They exported agricultural products to both New England and Europe. Many farmers relied on slavery for agricultural use. Farmers raised tobacco, corn, and grains in Virginia. They also raised rice and indigo in South Carolina and Georgia. The slaves maintained a separate and distinct culture through a Gullah dialect, which is a mixture of African and English vocabulary.

4 Manufacturing Differences

Northern states relied more heavily on manufacturing, or the creation of products. The cold, harsh winters prohibited long growing seasons for agricultural production in northern regions. Colonies such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island participated in the triangle trade. Craftsmen imported naval equipment, textile, and rum to England. Northern colonies purchased cotton from their southern counterparts, and then sold textile to England. Rum was also "shipped to the western coast of Africa to be traded for slaves," according to Bryant University. New England's rum distilleries were integral to the sustainability of the triangle trade.

Nicole Newman is a Dartmouth College associate who works in Tiltfactor Laboratory, Dartmouth's premier game design center. Her research has included investigating the digital humanities through "Writing as a Dimensional Artifact" and "Evolution of the Ghetto: The Decline of America’s Inner Cities," a research initiative on urban design.