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The American Colonies: Economics, Population, and Religion

Updated on October 28, 2014

Economics of the Colonies

In the early parts of the settlements, Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas took their economic gains from such product as tobacco and cotton, gaining impressive yields through indentured servitude for better opportunities for one’s family later on. There was also the fact that most of the colonists in the region were Anglican, therefore taxes were added to the colonist’s deeds and standards. It is important to note that because of the slow construction by the colonists, many churches were unbuilt or took a while so religion was of a secondary importance to the colonies of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas.

In New England, the entire picture was different, considering Puritan religion was a very strong part of the colonies in the region, but this in effect allowed for a very strong economy based on hard work and dedication to their higher power. This placed strong workmanship skills but created a government that was unlike any other colony based on its religious views, thus allowing for new sets of laws and setting up friendships with Indian tribes around them to produce corn, soy beans, and other crops that otherwise wouldn’t be obtainable to the colonists at the time

In the middle colonies, things were a mixture of religion and economy, but the freedom of religion allowed a very diverse mixture of individuals and families to colonize the area, adding to it’s success. There was rich soil in the region, therefore the economic importance of crops such as wheat and other farmable product was seen as influential in both the tribes around them and the exportation to other colonies and ultimately Great Britain. The production of wood and other ship-building functions of the colonies attracted many from the trade, the abundant forests offering much eventual income, therefore adding unrest to the colonies in 1776 because of the economic strength and freedoms of the colonists at the time.

The Populations of The Colonies

The populations of the colonies were of a very diverse nature, depending on where the location was, whether in the north, middle, or southern colonies. The middle colonies should be noted first that each landholder was typically offered 40-60 acres to produce the netted material needed for economic growth, but it was also unfortunate that over half of the land-holders were Dutch and German in a sense, allowing for an aristocracy, but one that was very strong economically. Mortality became more common as one went south of the middle colonies, yet declined as one followed the road northeast. This was mainly because of the establishment of numerous colonists, increased living standards of the housing sector, and fish farming techniques, acquired from a ship-building industry that thrived from the densely wooded areas. Therefore, the mortality rates decreased as the mixture of ethnical viruses and various outbreaks from the Indians declined and social interactions took place much more often, in both moral and militant ways.

In the Northern Colonies, things had taken a different path, requiring much following in Christian Standards, mainly Puritan, but also with Quaker’s that the puritans accused of infiltration and corruption of religion. This caused hard work ethics, and with increased trade to corn and other native adapted product, began a triangular trading system with the lower parts of the colonies and Great Britain, France, and Spain, among other wealthy countries in Europe. It should be noted that by 1750, over 1 million inhabitants had colonized the eastern board of North America, and the infant mortality had actually dropped in the colonies in comparison to their British counterparts.

In the southern Colonies, the economic power came from the large plantation owners that presented cotton and tobacco to be the main source of income. This integrates the population patterns of the southern colonies, slavery becoming dominant after indentured servitude was unpopular along with being unfair to potential prospects. The ratio between slaves and their owners were almost ten to one, creating a monopoly over the south, and creating a very heavy driving economic force that became the keystone behind the civil war almost one hundred and fifty years later.

Religion in the Colonies

In the northern colonies, the impact of Puritan influence created very communal and traditional housing situations, proclaiming that everything should come from the bible. This could come in the form of no curtains in houses, to allow for open view for everyone to see, to the very harsh laws of flogging, hangings, and burnings. All of this created a fear of both god and fellowmen, creating a paranoid state within the colonies, although the economic impact was solid because of the structuring of all rather than oneself through god, or so they explained so violently in a Quaker’s Eyes.

In the Middle Colonies, there was a very diverse religious openness from the start, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, along with Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Catholics. This allowed for exclusive diversification of culture, thereby maximizing capital income, especially in the ship-building industry. This also in turn allowed for the building of many different churches in the region, thus creating a sense of colonial bonding that the British would see after the many different taxes imposed over the upcoming decades.

The Southern Colonies were many Anglican, but became Catholic and Protestant in minority values. Religion was a big part of the colonies in this area, yet they focused more on the gains of Tobacco and Cotton to fund their Anglican values through the building of churches. The family life in this area was also very traditional; the mother normally cooking for the children and/or a slave would do this work for them, while the owners of the plantation would go to town to find the food to supplement the growing populations of the plantations. All in all, all three sections of the colonies helped to create the footsteps into the growing resistance against rising taxes on all products, from tea to chop-sticks.


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    • BakerRambles profile image

      BakerRambles 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thanks Thomas I appreciate the compliment, I'm actually going to be writing quite a few articles on colonial america not only for everyone but to enlighten myself on where I came from on a cultural level.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      hi Mark...

      Excellent article on colonial American society! I'm always impressed by the three (very different) cultures that emerged from the British colonization efforts in the 17th century. You have captured the diversity very well.

      Voting Up and sharing!



    • BakerRambles profile image

      BakerRambles 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thank you sue swan, I always appreciate your warm compliments. I havnt seen you in a while, do you have a Facebook account?

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      A very interesting read.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • BakerRambles profile image

      BakerRambles 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Wow, thank you I didn't know that at all. I appreciate your extra information to add, it's refreshing.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 5 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Good Article, BR. I learned when I was researching my book on the Civil War that some of the religious cross over in the colonies was that the colonists took to scalping the way Native Americans did when they fought; although, it was more economics since they were paid per scalp by the British government, than religion in gaining the 'power' of the one scalped. Thought you might find that interesting.