Virginia vs. Massachusetts Two of the first two regions of America to be colonized, Virginia and Massachusetts had many similarities. However, their differences are what defined their society and economy and made them unique. Virginia and Massachusetts differ socially in terms of religion and demographics and economically in terms of production focus and labor usage. A main societal difference between the colonies in Virginia and the ones in Massachusetts is religion. Whereas the Virginian colonies were declared as Anglican, the colonies of Massachusetts were Puritan.
An important point to be made here is that Massachusetts’ colonies were actually founded for religious reasons. The Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution in Europe. Another difference is that while other religions were tolerated to a certain extent in Virginia, there was basically no religious toleration in Massachusetts. All other religions were banned in Massachusetts and people were forced to convert to the Puritan religion. Another societal difference is in the area of demographics.
For starters, when colonists first arrived in Virginia, they were pretty much all men. This was because Jamestown was founded for economic purposes. However, in Massachusetts, whole families voyaged across the ocean because the establishment of colonies in Massachusetts was based on religious reasons. Ultimately, this meant that there were many more women and kids in the Massachusetts colonies in comparison to the Virginian ones. Another demographic difference was the colonist vs. slave ratio.
In Virginia, slaves were commonly used for labor, so the percentage of slaves in the total population was much higher than it was in Massachusetts, where slave labor was not used. This caused society in Virginia to be more diverse, not only religiously, but also racially. An economic difference between Virginia and Massachusetts is the production focus of the two areas. Originally, Virginia was colonized for economic reasons. People went there to make money. Therefore, instead of focusing on the important task of keeping a stable food source, they chose to search for old. This led to starvation and a very difficult start for the colony. On the other hand, in Massachusetts, the colonists started off by focusing on sustainable crop development in order to develop a stable society. Because of this, they were able to avoid starvation. In addition to different original production focuses, the two areas also had different production focuses later on. Virginians eventually learned to focus on the production of cash crops, the main one being tobacco. Large plantations were created in order to maximize production.
Cash crop farming was a good focus for Virginia because of its plentiful land and humid weather. In Massachusetts, the land wasn’t fertile, so crop farming became more for food instead of industry and the focus switched to more profitable resources, such as timber and fishing. From this came ship building, which combined the two elements. Timber was also used for furniture and other wood products that were shipped back to England. Now, where did these colonies get the labor force to produce these items? Another economic difference between Virginia and Massachusetts was the labor force used.
In Virginia, there was plenty of land, but not enough labor. Since the colonists were lazy, they used slave labor to farm their crops. This mainly consisted of indentured servants, who were under a contract to work for a specific owner. Their voyage to America would be paid for by the owner, but they would then have to work for that person until their debt was paid off. This often took anywhere from 5 to 7 years. However, many indentured servants died before they could fulfill their contracts because they were stricken by disease. Over time, immunities were developed and contracts were fulfilled more often.
At this point, slave imports became regular in Virginia. In contrast, slave labor was not used in Massachusetts. Instead, they relied on their own hard work. Unlike the lazy colonists of Virginia, the colonists of Massachusetts were able to keep up their production just doing everything themselves. Each family member played an important role, even the kids. This led to rapid population growth, as kids were relied on more and more to help support the farm or family. Also, in contrast to Virginians, the people of Massachusetts believed that people should be equal.
Therefore, the rich shared their wealth with the poor, lessening the gap between rich and poor. However, in Virginia, wealth was extremely important, and one’s wealth was measured by the number of slaves owned or the size of his plantation. In conclusion, while the colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts were similar in some ways, differences in things such as reason for founding and climate and land fertility and availability eventually led to even more differences, such as labor force, production focus, men to women ratios, and colonist to slave ratios.