Similarities Between Northern and Southern American Colonies
The Northern and Southern colonies had many similarities between the years of 1607 to 1763, but the idea that they were more similar than different is vastly incorrect. The economy in the Southern colonies was based off of planting and slave labor, which was very common, while land in the Northern colonies, for the most part, was not fertile enough to support planting. Another difference between the North and South was that government and the church had very close ties in the North, compared to a representative self-government in the South, separate from any church.
People and towns were too far apart for churches to flourish in the South, whereas in the North, religion was very important and often taken to extremes. In the Southern colonies, tobacco was a huge crop, and the economy of several colonies was based almost entirely off of it. The history of tobacco is relatively short—by 1612, John Rolfe had perfected methods of growing tobacco that eliminated most of the bitterness of the leaf. After the first boatload of tobacco was sent to Europe, the European people quickly developed a high demand for it, one which American colonists were more than happy to fulfill.
Because of the sudden incredibly high demand for tobacco, colonists were overwhelmed, and planted tobacco anywhere they could, including the ground next to the street and between graves. The tobacco-growing frenzy was so huge that colonists in the South had to import some of their foodstuffs at first, for they were not able to grow it themselves with all their land being used for tobacco. Because the crop of tobacco robs the soil of its nutrients so quickly, the demand for land exponentially increased, which led to an increased need for workers, preferably cheap, which is when wealthy planters turned to slavery.
In comparison, the land in the Northern colonies was mostly glaciated soil, with stones in the dirt forced to the surface after every winter. Because of the rocky soil, staple crops did not grow well and so black slavery was not profitable in the North. Colonists who realized they would not be able to make much of a living off of the land became good at other things. Shipbuilding, fishing, and commerce were among the main professions in Northern colonies, due to the excessive fishing opportunities. Governing styles is another major difference between the Northern and Southern colonies.
The first self-controlled government was established in Virginia, one of the Southern colonies, in 1619, the House of Burgesses. This was somewhat similar to the British parliament, met once a year in Jamestown, and was made up of twenty-two people. These twenty-two people were the governor of the colony, six prominent citizens hand-selected by the governor, and fifteen burgesses, or representatives, from varied locales, usually the larger plantations in the area. Overall, the people controlled the government in the South. This fact could be disputed about Northern government.
In the Northern colonies, the government was more inclusive than it had been in the past in that all freemen could vote. Freemen were adult male landowners who belonged to the Puritan congregation. All male property owners could be involved in town government, regardless of whether or not they were Puritan. They would participate in town meetings, where matters large and small were discussed, debated, and solved by the people of the town themselves. According to the doctrine of the covenant followed by Northern colonists, the role of government was to enforce God’s laws, which applied to both believers and non-believers.
Even with the government being so religious, clergymen were not allowed to hold an official political office, which led to the idea of the separation of church and state. The separation of towns was more of an issue in the South than the separation of church and state, in terms of religion. Because of the vast amounts of land needed by plantation owners to grow tobacco and other staple crops, towns and people were spread out, which slowed urban development significantly and also made the establishment of churches and schools difficult and expensive.
Nevertheless, there was still religion in the Southern colonies—the vast majority of colonists were Anglican. In the Northern colonies, there were many churches, of several religious groups. Puritans and Quakers were the dominant religious groups in the North, though Quakers would not abide by laws set by the Puritans, so they were fined, flogged, and banished. In one extreme case, four Quakers, one a woman, who defied expulsion from their colony, were hanged.
An extremist Puritan by the name of Anne Hutchinson claimed that a holy life was no true sign of salvation, and that the truly saved were going to heaven no matter what they did in their life, so they would not need to obey neither God’s nor man’s law. At the time, this was considered antinomianism and extreme heresy, so Anne was banished from her colony and forced to move. In conclusion, the Northern and Southern colonies did have many things in common, but the thought that they were more similar than different from the year 1607 to 1763 is an immense misconception.
In the Northern colonies, it was not possible to grow staple crops because of the rocky soil, so settlers turned to other ways to make a profit than agriculture and slavery, while in the South, slavery and tobacco farming were the sole source of income for several colonies. The government in Northern colonies had close ties to the Puritan church, while in Southern colonies the style of government leaned towards self-representative. Churches were not common in Southern colonies, while they were of utmost importance, and often taken to extremes in Northern colonies.