Development Of The Virginia And Massachusetts Colonies
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Wealth is powerful when it is obtained by someone, but even more powerful when it is not. When people are striving for riches they tend to put that need above everything else. People will go through all sorts of difficulties and obstacles to make it in life. Striving for wealth and power is something that brings both positive and negative results. During the colonial period the development of the Virginia and Massachusetts colonies was greatly influenced by the effects of the search for riches and power. Each area had common basic interests, but the ways in which they went about attaining these goals were in most views different. Prosperity was the major goal of everyone, but each settlement had its”˜ own idea of the kind of prosperity it wanted and the way in which it was to be accomplished.
Early Virginian settlements themselves revolved around making money. This was mainly due to the fact that the early settlers were predominantly a group of disorderly single men. They had little interest in families or society, they were there simply to make money. They were not interested in building lives in the colonies, they planned to make money quick and go back to Europe wealthy. Their motives were selfish and individualistic, due to this they became extremely competitive and suspicious of other men’s motives. The settlers kept to themselves because they feared that everyone was out to get them and their wealth. Trust was hard to come by in the colony, if you trusted someone it was seen as weakening your defenses. This was a vast contrast to the foundations of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony. In this northern settlement the main concerns were built upon the needs of the community as a whole, not the individual.
Families comprised the main population of the Bay colony. They had come here for many reasons, but ultimately for a better life. There goals included obtaining prosperity, but for the survival of the community, not for personal gain. There was a strong sense of communal responsibility, which was not present in the Virginia colony. The Bay settlers worked together to built a lasting and functioning society. They were driven by a common goal, to create a religious haven. This connected the settlers and offered an interpersonal connection between them all. In the Bay colony churches were built and community gatherings were created, the Virginians did not participate in either of these events. Helping a neighbor in the Bay area was seen as assisting in the colony’s prosperity, in Virginia it was seen as taking away from your individual wealth. This difference in social structure causes many problems for the Virginian’s.
The first years of the Virginia settlement were very harsh, because instant riches were not found and the men were unwilling to work together. The values of the colony were nothing but dysfunctional and were leading it straight to ruin. There was no gold or spices to be found in the area, therefore there was no instant wealth. Instead of working together to survive the times, the settlers resorted to violence and anger. This caused even more of a gap between each person, there was no community, just a collection of individuals. Eventually the colony found it’s version of gold, the tobacco industry entered the area. Tobacco cultivation rescued the settlement, and ultimately ruined any possible form of society. Since tobacco could be grown almost anywhere, it was planted everywhere. The construction of churches or any other communal building was deterred simply because its development took away land which could be used for planting.
The tobacco plant depleted the land of nutrients quickly, so the people spread out in search of new land to use. This put more space between each settler, there was no sense of community or society. The tobacco market was one of instant return, settlers could make good money quick. The individualistic ways, which were at first bringing down the colony, were now boosting its economy. But in doing so the settlers gave up on a real society, they lost most personal contact with one another. People were viewed as either free or dependent; those were the only two social classes used by the settlers. As a result of this classification system, those who were dependent were usually treated and regarded as less than human beings. Therefore, indentured servants and slaves were seen as nothing more than tools with which a profit could be made. The development of the Mass. Bay colony took a much different route than the Virginian one had. Although there were hard times during the settlement, the people worked through them together.
Unlike the Virginian colony, the Bay area was not dependent on any one source of income. They had created churches, insuring a sense of stability and belonging, also education was an important part of their society. By having educated individuals the colony could grow prosperous in many ways. Most of the settlers were merchants and shop owners, shipping companies were also a large profit industry. Although the Bay area’s wealth was not instant, it was steadily growing buy the time Virginia had even begun the tobacco cultivating. In Virginia these sources of income would not have been affective, because of the lack of unity among the people. A baker could only survive if they had buyers for their product, but in Virginia the settlers were so spread out it would be impossible to make a living. The Mass. Colony was a working society, and without that unity they would not have survived, nor would they have prospered.
The search for wealth was a major influence in many people’s decision to settle in the New World. They were told of quick and easy riches that were awaiting them in the colonies. These Englishmen had hopes of wealth that were powerful enough to risk their lives and possessions for. Many of them flooded into the colonies, but there was one problem, the wishful hopes they had of America were nothing like its reality. There was no instant wealth just lying around waiting to be picked up. Many came over as indentured servants, in return for passage to America, they sold they’re labor for a designated number of years. The lives of these people were for the most part harsh and unkind, they were fed just enough to keep them alive, and worked until they could go no further. Many of them worked on plantations where disease and sickness were a part of everyday life. The owners did not care about their servants; they were beaten or abused, and then, replaced when they wore out. Once they lived out they’re time of servitude they were given a fifty acre plot of land.
For the males this meant a chance at a new life, they were now landowners and could therefore vote. The women were not allowed to own land, the fifty acres was put into a dowry for when they got married. This then gave them the power of choice, they were able to look for the wealthiest young men to marry. These people made sacrifices and endured many hardships in order to gain some small measure of wealth. In the Massachusetts Bay colony there was not as large a population of indentured servants as there was in Virginia. The lives of those servants who did reside in the northern colony were not easy, but they were not as harsh and demeaning as in the south.
The Bay colony did have it’s own set of social classifications, a person was either a visible saint (chosen to go to heaven) or not. In order to become a visible saint a person had to have a vision of some sort from god, this was to tell them that they were saved. After the supposed vision, one must convince a board of church leaders that the experience was truthful. Once this had occurred the colonist was deemed a visible saint, this put them above other community member both spiritually and economically. Only a visible saint could vote in church or secular matters, therefore only a handful of people made decisions for the whole colony. Religious tensions eventually lead to rough times for the Bay colonies.
Another consequence of Virginia’s individualistic society was in the area of military defense. The settlers were to wrapped up in gaining personal wealth, to even be bothered with attempting to defend themselves. On March 22,1622 they were attacked by Indians, they paid for their mistake with 347 of their lives. Directly after this horrid event many colonists began to see that a social reform was needed. Speeches were given by local rulers announcing that shortsighted dreams of tobacco fortunes would be laid aside and the people would join together. In spite of the massacre and the speeches, nothing was done, the settlers continued with their old ways. All they were concerned with was how the massacre had impinged on their own personal profit making. The settlers saw defense as a deduction in their profit, because while one planter was out fighting, another was home making money. Also, they were not to comfortable with arming the indentured servants and poverty stricken people, because they were afraid the lower class would revolt. They preferred to try and get help from British forces, instead of defending themselves, but that idea failed repeatedly.
They wanted a cheap and dependable military force, which would call for no support from them. They had such an obsession with private profits, that they could not be bothered to protect themselves. Once again they paid the price for their actions, except this attack was more damaging than the first. It showed the colonists that if they continued in their greedy solitaire ways, eventually it might lead to their demise. The Massachusetts Bay colonies had an underlying motive of greed as well, but unlike the Virginians it motivated them to work together. The colonists saw the Indians as a threat in a few areas, they were taking up land that could be settled and they were a physically harmful. In light of these views many colonists pulled together and attacked the Indian groups.
At one point in time there was a compromise made between the Mass. colony and the Connecticut colony concerning an area of land which both sides wanted. The problem was the land was controlled by a group of Indians, so the two settlements decided that who ever defeated the tribe first got to keep the land. After the slaughter and enslavement of the Native Americans Conn. was deemed the winner and the land was there’s to inhabit. Many conflicts arouse between the northern colonists and the Indians due to the constant demand for more land by the settlers. The Bay area was offensive towards the Indians, they did not lack the unity needed to defend themselves against the natives, unlike the Virginian’s.
Slavery was another aspect of Virginia’s history that was influenced by a quest for wealth. At first colonists were simply using Africans as they did white servants, after a certain amount of years they were freed. But as time passed the colonists began to realize a need for a constant cheap labor force. This was when they created a true form of slavery, it was made impossible to become a free black person. The southern economy had expanded, and was no longer dependant on a singular income. Slaves became a vital part of Virginia’s economy, they were used for the cultivation of rice, tobacco, and indigo. The life of a slave was a usually a short and painful one. They were captured, and taken from their native homeland, in shackles. The conditions under which they were transported were inhumane, and unsanitary. They were packed into a vessel like a heard of cattle, the slave traders tried to fit as many as they could aboard. The slaves were stricken with disease, and made to sleep on the hard wood planks of the ship’s floor.
During a rough passage the skin over their elbows might be worn away to the bare bones. Slaves did not only die due to harshness of the journey or the ship’s crew. At times the slaves were well fed and maintained, but they dies simply because they had no will to live. It is a terrible thing when one man’s need for wealth exceeds another man’s right to live. Although slavery was not as abundant in the northern colonies, it was in existence throughout all the settlements. At this point in time the slave industry was not yet a popular one, it was in the early stages of introduction. Unlike in Virginia, slavery was not a major component of the Bay area’s prosperity. Virginia was supported mainly by agriculture, the basis of the northern wealth was businesses and industry. The slaves that did reside in the northern areas lived bleak lives, but they were better of than those in the Virginia areas were. Although life was cruel for any slave, it was usually more severe in the southern colonies.
The Massachusetts and Virginia colonies seem to have been created upon the same fundamental motives. Due to the types of and beliefs of the people in both areas, the settlements developed in different ways. Although there were many other reasons for the way that Early Virginia developed, the quest for wealth seems to be the most influential. It is amazing how something so good as prosperity for one man, can lead to a harsh and short life for another. If Virginia had not been so individualized, and concerned with personal gain, the history of the colony may very well have been different.
The creation of strong communal values in the Massachusetts colony set it on a road to success, but the belief that it had a godly right to take whatever it wished in order to further its’ prosperity endangered its’ survival. Also the strong connection between church and state caused many problems for the colony. When religious beliefs began to break apart from original ones the political world of the area began to collapse. In the end both colonies were evenly prosperous and conflict stricken, they were on an even level with each other in most aspects. If either colony had not been so firmly set in its’ ways of greed and power, either one may have developed differently. Therefore the history of our country may have been altered as well.