Throughout the development of North America’s settling colonies, including the Chesapeake, New England, and Middle Colonies, there came plenty of agreements and conflicts that came with it. They all sought freedom, better lives, and, for some, riches, but little did they know their people would walk into the line of life and death. Of course, settling in North America meant running into other inhabitants, American Indians, and each colony’s relationships with them start off on a good foot but, with some, unfortunately, end off on the wrong foot. Each colony evolved and made its own rules, following religion. From the Catholics of Chesapeake to the Puritans of New England and the various religions of the Middle Colonies, there were plenty of factors that promoted and limited religious freedom in each area. Differing religions cause various people, like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, and events, like the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to play significant roles in New England. Although these settlers from each area had similar motives to start anew, they had different visions and outcomes on what was a “better” life.
Chesapeake, New England, and the Middle Colonies all started with the same aim, freedom. These colonies’ entrepreneurs sought wealth, the religious sought freedom of worship without government intervention, and others sought equality (Foner 40). To some degree, the gain of freedom for some ended in the depletion of freedom for others. Indentured servants, people who do labor for a certain amount of years in exchange for a trip to their desired destination, became the norm for most emigrating populations, like the Chesapeake and New England colonies (Foner 51). At least a quarter of newcomers in each area were servants (Foner 51). Since tobacco became a large commodity in Chesapeake’s growing economy, servants, specifically men, were highly demanded (Foner 51). New England’s Puritans sought for, the most Christian way, liberty and self-government (Foner 55). John Winthrop, the governor of the color, acknowledged the differences in natural and moral liberty. “Natural” liberty meant acting out without restraint, “a liberty to do evil.” “Moral” liberty meant “a liberty to that only which is good.” However, he believed that true freedom depended on “subjection to authority,” (Foner 55). Quakers of the Middle Colonies saw liberty in a different light. They saw it as a universal entitlement, something that didn’t belong to one specific individual (Foner 80).
Each area had similar relationships with American Indians. They all started off with healthy relationships, trading and trying to keep peace and harmony. Upon Chesapeake’s existence, they had compromised with Indians, but conflict arose when they found out settlers wanted to establish a permanent colony (Foner 46). This resulted to the Uprising of 1622, where Powhatan’s brother, Opechancanough, wiped out a quarter of Virginia’s colonist population of 1,200 people, leading to war between the two peoples, but soon proved settler supremacy amongst the Indian population. They alienated the remaining, local Indians and forbid them from entering any areas of European settlement without permission Foner 46). As for New England, they were able to survive through the help of Indians (Foner 55). Because of this, the Pilgrims invited their Indian allies to a harvest feast to celebrate. The Middle Colonies formed an alliance in which the imperial ambitions of the English and Indians reinforced one another called the Covenant Chain (Foner 76). The sweetness between colonists and American Indians quickly turned sour as war and outbreak took over. The struggle to control their fur trade soon caused the Pequot War in 1636-1638, most Pequots getting killed or sold to slavery (Foner 64).
Although there were similarities, Chesapeake, New England, and Middle Colonies differed in many ways, mainly in religion. Chesapeake’s religion mainly constituted with Catholicism, although a majority were Protestants (Foner 53). Chesapeake mainly gave the royals upper class positions; Virginia’s governor was appointed by the crown and was mainly developed by local elites while Maryland gave all authority to a single individual, Cecilius Calvert, who was the son of King Charles I (Foner 53). New England colonies stood with Puritanism, those who were dissatisfied with the Protestant Reformation (Foner 54). They were against the Catholic tradition of authority, and, rather than having the lineup from kings to bishops, they preferred local congregations to choose clergymen and determine modes of worship (Foner 54). Instead of devoting themselves to church, they urged seeking truth through reading the Bible and listening to educated ministers. The Middle Colonies were the most diverse in religion, most being Quakers. William Penn believed in spiritual freedom and harmony between everyone (Foner 80). His Charter of Liberty offered “Christian liberty” to all who affirmed a belief in God and did not use their freedom to promote “licentiousness”. Churches weren’t existent and attending religious services weren’t mandator (Foner 81). Because of their contrasts in religion, this also caused different degrees of religious freedom within each colony.
Religion played a major role in New England, and certain people and events made a huge impact on these colonies. Roger Williams rejected the Church of England in order to have pure Christianity and believed in religious freedom as long as they were a law-abiding citizen (Foner 60). Inspired by God, Anne Hutchison applied ideas from the Bible and demanded better treatment for women and Indians (Foner 61). The Salem Witchcraft Trials started in Massachusetts during the 1690’s when a couple of sick girls were allegedly affected by witchcraft and suffered from nightmares (Foner 90). Upon this chaos, more and more people began to accuse others of witchcraft, and this caused death for many. This phenomenon became a huge problem, knowing that accusing the innocent meant avoiding prosecution. Realizing how serious it became, the governor of Massachusetts got rid of the Salem court and ordered the remaining prisoners to be released (Foner 91). Because of this, the colonists began to relied on scientific facts instead of magic.
Chesapeake, New England, and Middle Colonies went through many hardships to gain freedom, even with their life on the line. Occupying territories where others have already inhabited caused many problems, but some ended with great compromise. Because each area had different ideas of what freedom meant, they used religion as a way to run their societies and others try to reject it. Roger Williams, Anne Hutchison, and the Salem Witchcraft Trials impact New England brought the people to be open to the idea of change and regulating corrupt ideas and systems.
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