Politics in the Colonial Southern Colonies

Elite aristocrats in the southern colonies used religion and Anglican customs to grow their wealth and concentrate political power in the hands of affluent white men. Southern colonies were more rooted in British and European traditions than the New England colonies, which emboldened the notion of slavery and feudalism. While the northern colonies were more diversified with trade, crafts and industry, the southern colonies were almost entirely agricultural. Consequently, life, culture and politics in the southern colonies of America was very different from life in the northern colonies from the very beginning.

Religious Influence

The northern colonies were, in most cases, founded by British religious minorities such as the Puritans and Protestants. The southern colonies were predominantly Anglican. Politically this had a strong influence on the development of the South. As members of England's official religion, this tied the South much more firmly to the political traditions of England and the social and cultural traditions of Europe. This included many of the the traditions of feudalism and a class-based society that felt entitled to their privileges and lifestyle.

System of Feudalism

The southern colonies had a smaller population than those in the north and an even smaller number of land owners. As had been the case in feudal Europe, a small group of elites, many of whom had owned land in England. actually owned the land and others lived and worked on the land. This meant that even where the colonial governments were free to make decisions independent of England, the bulk of the southern population had no political power.

Political Structure

The southern colonies were largely governed by a governor sent from England. The governor was advised by a colonial legislature that was largely composed of and dominated by the planter class. The planter class were those who owned the land, leaving little room for anyone else in this political structure. Anglicans were used to such a class system in England and adopted the model of a strong central government made up of society's economic elite.

Slavery and Agriculture

In a feudalistic, aristocratic society built around agriculture, a large underclass works the land. In feudal Europe, this work force was comprised of the peasant class who had little choice but to remain on the land. The new colonies offered more mobility and greater amounts of available land. Agricultural workers could always go elsewhere in search of better fortunes. In the southern colonies, slaves and indentured servants substituted for Europe's peasant class.