Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Compare and Contrast: New England and the Mid Atlantic

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Compare and Contrast: New England and the Mid Atlantic Colonists began arriving in the Americas in the early 1600’s. Some were seeking wealth and opportunity in the New World, others fleeing from persecution in their native country. Two distinct regions of the 13 British colonies were New England and the Mid Atlantic and though the two areas were governed by the British, in some ways they were quite different. Though they share similar backgrounds, the New England and Mid Atlantic regions differed in the structure of their economy, their tolerance of religions, and the structure of their self-government.

The North American colonies were all rich with resources; as part of the mercantilist system, raw materials were what the colonists sold to England for profit. Each region had their own specific contribution to this system; colonists in the Mid Atlantic region grew crops such as wheat, rye and flax. The climate and soil of the Mid Atlantic region was well suited for the cultivation of grains, and the Mid Atlantic colonies became known as the “bread basket colonies”. By contrast, the New England region experienced long, cold winters and had rocky soil unsuitable for an economy based on farming.

The New England region mainly traded furs, timber, and fish. Religion was a very important aspect of colonial life; many people came to America in search of religious freedom. The New England colonies were predominantly Puritan, and the Puritans wanted everyone to worship as they did. In order to ensure the Puritan way of worship was practiced, punishments were given to those who did not oblige. There was greater religious diversity in the Mid Atlantic region, including Quakers, Catholics, and Protestants.

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The Mid Atlantic colonies were the most diverse in America, and such an assortment made the dominance of one religion difficult. Finally, the colonial regions all had forms of self-government as they sought to assert local control. In the different regions, the priority of the colonies was very important in the formation of the governments. In the New England colonies, strict democratic law was practiced. Only men in good standing with the church were allowed to voice their opinions at the town hall meetings which decided laws.

By contrast, in the Mid Atlantic colonies landowning men were represented, and political power was in the hands of the wealthy. The colonies of North America have similar origins and purposes, but are quite different in many ways. The New England and Mid Atlantic regions of colonial America were similar because of their role to England, the importance of religion and the fact that they were self-governing, but were different because of the resources found in each region, religious tolerance, and how one received the right to take part in politics.

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