Document Based Question essay – ap united States History Regional Colonial Differences in British North America



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November 15, 2012 Zachary Ford

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Document Based Question essay – AP United States History

Regional Colonial Differences in British North America

In the 17th century, British North America had been settled by a preponderance of English settlers. These settlers developed the Massachusetts Colony in the North, The Virginia Colony in the South, and the Pennsylvania Colony in between. Entirely different – if not polar – social and economic systems developed in the midst of the three English colonies (Massachusetts Bay, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) because of Religion, Geography, and Government.

Religious freedom, as the rationale for settlement in the Massachusetts Bay colony, was granted to all colonies in British North America (primarily because King George wanted to rid of the Puritans and cared not to enforce religion 3,000 miles away). Because of this, Puritans who were once persecuted by the Church of England (Protestants) could now practice religion in British North America – particularly the Massachusetts Bay colony. The fact that the Massachusetts Bay colony was settled by Puritan communities causes the colony to have a family revolved social system that the Virginia colony lacked. Document B states, “Puritans took the relationships within the family as a very serious religious concern”. In contrast, the Virginia colony was settled primarily by single men looking for the wealth (wealth that was now unavailable in England as a result to the Laws of Primogeniture and Land Enclosure) that could be sucked out of agriculture in large, which left little room for religion or a family based social system. Document C depicts tobacco (the main cash crop in Virginia) which demands laborious attention to grow, leaving little leisure time for the Virginia colony to develop a close social system; such as the Massachusetts Bay colony.

Along with a family based social system, the Massachusetts Bay colony was involved in government more so than the Virginia colony. “… Where the laws rule and the people are a party to those laws; and more than this is tyranny, oligarchy, and confusion” (Document H) which is William Penn’s statement of government affair. Document B describes the construction of free public schools and family hierarchy organization which indicates the Massachusetts Bay colony’s involvement in government practice. In contrast, the Virginia colony expresses a sense of disorganization concerning government affairs. Document F indicates the loss of Captain Smith as one major confliction which lead to the famine and death that occurred. During the polarization of the social and economic systems between the Massachusetts Bay and Virginia colonies, a blending mush of social and economic systems was developing in the Pennsylvania colony. Document I depicts William Penn’s layout of Pennsylvania, which indicates a family-government social system – similar to the Massachusetts Bay colony. The Pennsylvania colony had its Virginian social and economic portion as well as the previously discussed Massachusetts Bay characteristics. Document A records the ethnicity issues indicating the need for a labor force (indentured servants). Labor demand points out the economic similarity of agricultural cash crops in the Pennsylvania and Virginia colonies.



The Appalachian Mountains played an essential part in the diversification of primarily the economic portion between the Massachusetts Bay and Virginia colonies. Geographically, the Appalachian Mountains held their roots far from the coast – in accordance to Virginia – but began to hug the eastern coast as it ran north into the Massachusetts Bay settlements. This allowed for an agricultural cash cropping economy in the southern colony of Virginia in contrast to the mixed ship building economy in the northern Massachusetts Bay colony. Document G explains the passage of an indentured servant to the Virginia colony to labor on a plantation. This would only be possible with the geographic location of the Appalachian Mountains, as would the restrictions of land in the Massachusetts Bay colony (document D). The physical map of the colonies would be validation of the mixture of both the Massachusetts Bay and Virginia colonies in the one colony of Pennsylvania, for it would rise to a blend of agriculture and commerce.

The British North American colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Virginia, and Pennsylvania all developed completely different economic and social systems while disregarding the fact that they were of English preponderance. Government issues, the geographical layout of the continent, and religious beliefs all lead up to the uprooting mentality which would lead to the American Civil war – almost two centuries away.

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