Jamestown vs Massachusetts Bay

1 January 2017

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement. Its founding expedition was launched by the Virginia Company of London, purely for profit. The 144 men who set sail for America in 1607 were entrepreneurs, meaning that their main reasons for settling in Virginia were for economic gain. The expedition was chartered by James I of England, making the future site of Jamestown a royal colony, and therefore supported by England. The men who traveled to Virginia were not known for their work ethic; they would rather have other people do the hard work for them.

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The majority of their work upon reaching Jamestown consisted of searching for gold, lumber, tar, pitch, and iron. These items were wanted for export by England. Because the settlers spent time searching for profit instead of food, and also because of the poor settlement site, Jamestown had a very harsh beginning. The men were ill prepared to handle local diseases, so many of them died. The Company had not sent women to settle with the men, meaning that there were no significant households and no permanence in the community.

After what became known as the “starving time,” ships arrived with supplies and a governor, which greatly helped the economy of the colony. The colonists discovered tobacco, a profitable crop which required large areas of farmland and more labor. The headright system was adopted, which brought in more settlers, this time including hard working craftsmen and women, which helped diversify the community. Virginia’s society was primarily based on African labor and the suppression on nearby Indians. In 1624, James I revoked the charter of the Virginia Company, bringing Jamestown under direct control of the crown until 1776.

The Massachusetts Bay colonies were founded about twenty years after Jamestown. A large number of Puritan merchants obtained a grant of land for Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and acquired a charter form the king to create the Massachusetts Bay Company. This meant that Massachusetts and New Hampshire were part of a Charter Colony—supported by a Company instead of the crown. A large migration of 17 ships and 1,000 people set sail for New England for one reason: to build a Puritan refuge. Their main goal was religious freedom instead of economic gain; the Puritans only wanted freedom from the crown.

They elected John Winthrop as governor, and soon established several towns within New England. The Puritans were hard working people. They believed that their work ethic led to material success, which was evidence of God’s favor. Because of this, the Puritan settlers were quick to establish farms and set up communities based on family and hard work. They had a rough beginning, as well, but nowhere near as bad as Jamestown. Their belief in building a “city upon a hill” inspired the community to stay close to God and family. This dominance of families caused a feeling of commitment to the community and a sense of order among settlers.

However, Massachusetts Bay was a theocracy- meaning there was no separation between church and state. The Puritans had no more religious freedom than they had in England. This just encouraged them to work even harder for the betterment of the community. Both colonies were faced with hard beginnings; settling in a new world among unknown diseases and natives is hard enough without having to worry about finding food and shelter. However, these hardships ensured that the survivors were tough and capable, meaning that the colonies would prosper in the future.

Both seemed to be run similarly, as far as distribution of power: both had systems of counties, run by the governor, which were then broken into smaller parishes. Both colonies survived and played a role in the development of the US, allowing for diversity because of the difference among settlers. While Jamestown was more likely to behave (according to England), the Massachusetts Bay area obviously became a bit more of a problem. The Puritans resented English control from the beginning, which probably led to such events as the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, etc. Both colonies had a major role in the development of American history.

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