Strict Religion Rules New England

Even while Plymouth struggled for existence, other settlements were founded nearby. The one that occupied the Massachusetts Bay region (Boston) after 1630 played a significant part in the development of all New England. Established by 25 men who had obtained a royal charter and led by Governor John Winthrop, the Massachusetts Bay settlers were determined to succeed and promptly turned to the stern business of making a living.

Within the first 10 years 65 preachers arrived, and the development of a theocracy in Massachusetts took place as a consequence of its leaders' deep convictions. In theory, church and state were separate, but actually they were one, all institutions being subordinated to religion. Soon a system of government that was theocratic and authoritarian evolved. At town meetings, however, there was opportunity for discussion of public problems, and settlers received a certain amount of experience in selfgovernment. Although the towns developed around the church organization, the whole population, by the very exigencies of frontier life, shared in civil obligations. Still, for years, the clergy and conservative laymen attempted to maintain conformity.

They did not succeed in binding the minds of all their citizens. Roger Williams, a rebellious clergyman, questioned both the right of taking the Indians' land and the wisdom of keeping church and state united. For spreading his "new and dangerous opinion against the authority of the magistrates," he was banished from the colony by the general court. He found refuge among friendly Indians in neighboring Rhode Island and soon established a colony there based on the concepts that men might worship as they wished and that church and state would be forever separate.

But heretics were not the only ones who left Massachusetts. Orthodox Puritans too, seeking better lands and opportunities, made their way from the colony. News of the fertility of the Connecticut River Valley, for instance, attracted the interest of farmers having a difficult time with poor land; many were ready to brave the danger of Indian attack to obtain level ground and deep, rich soil. Significantly, such groups, in setting up a government, extended the franchise by eliminating church membership as a prerequisite for voting. Other Massachusetts settlers filtered into the region to the north, and soon New Hampshire and Maine were colonized by men and women seeking liberty and land.

For a map of the colonial period click here

While the Massachusetts Bay Colony was indirectly extending its influence, it was growing apace at home and expanding its commerce. From the middle of the century onward, it grew prosperous, and Boston became one of America's greatest ports. Oak timber for ships' hulls, tall pines for spars and masts, and pitch for the seams of ships came from the northeastern forests. Building their own vessels and sailing them to ports all over the world, the shipmasters of Massachusetts Bay laid the foundation for a trade that was to grow steadily in importance. By the end of the colonial period, one-third of all vessels under the British flag were American-built. Surplus food products, ship's stores, and wooden ware swelled the exports. New England shippers soon discovered, too, that rum and slaves were profitable commodities.

Society in the middle colonies, the second great division, was far more varied, cosmopolitan, and tolerant than in New England. Pennsylvania and its appendage, Delaware, owed their initial success to William Penn, a Quaker whose aim was to attract settlers of numerous faiths and nationalities. Determined that the coiony snould set an example of fair and honest dealing with the Indians, Penn negotiated an agreement which, scrupulously observed, maintained peace in the wilderness.

The colony functioned smoothly and grew rapidly. Within a year after Penn's arrival 3,000 new citizens came to Pennsylvania. The heart of the colony was Philadelphia, a city soon to be known for its broad, tree-shaded streets, substantial brick and stone houses, and busy docks. By the end of the colonial period, 30,000 people, representing many languages, creeds, and trades, lived there. The Quakers, with their talent for successful business enterprise, had made the city one of the thriving centers of colonial America.

Though the Quakers dominated in Philadelphia, elsewhere in Pennsylvania other strains were well represented. Germans became the colony's most skillful farmers. Important, too, was their knowledge of cottage industries-weaving, shoemaking, cabinet-making and other crafts. Pennsylvania was also the principal gateway into the New World for immigrating Scotch-Irish. These were vigorous frontiersmen, taking land where they wanted it and defending their rights with rifles. Believing in representative government, religion, and education, they were the spearhead of a new civilization as they pushed ever farther into the hinterland.

Mixed as were the people in Pennsylvania, it was in New York that the polyglot nature of America was best illustrated. By 1646, the population alone the Hudson River included Dutch, Flemings, Walloons, French, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Portuguese, and Italians - the forerunners of millions to come.