16 Apr 2022


Colonial New England, Chesapeake Colonies, and the Great Awakening

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In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Europeans colonized many areas in the current America. They sent people in the east of North America to two main locations. One was known as the New England, and the other was the Chesapeake. As it entered the 1700, the areas came to become one unit and began to frustrate the colonizers socially, economically and politically. Although they were both largely colonized by English people, they had many differences which contributed to the civil war. Chesapeake was mainly made up of Virginia, Maryland, the New Jerseys and Pennsylvania. The first colony was known as Jamestown and was made of one hundred and four colonies (Goldfield, 2001). 

Chesapeake was mainly farmers, the 2nd sons of gentries and indentured servants. Their aim was to find valuables like gold and silver along the James River and also to find a cure for syphilis and take home to make money from. They settled in good fertile lands with large tobacco plantations to get rich quickly and prosper from the tobacco. They ruled the area until the rise of Captain John Smith who took over the place in a ruthless way killing many of the initial colonizers. There are those that survived and took refuge with the Indians who trained them on how to cultivate corns (Goldfield, 2001). 

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New England was made of the following regions: Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Haven which currently known as Connecticut. The founding fathers of New England had different aim compared to Chesapeake. Although economic prosperity was one of their goals, spiritual matters were their main aim to coming into the new world. The Pilgrims and Puritans moved in family units searching for a place to practice their beliefs without persecution. They settled in an infertile rocky land with thick trees thus migrating in such of their own land (Hawke, 1966).

Religion was one of the big differences between the two regions especially after Henry VIII was out of the Catholic Church of Rome. The church was under the leadership of the English parliament, but not all the people in England were willing to accept the difference in leadership which led them to migrate because they strictly puritans. Chesapeake had two different social classes which included the rich class and the indentured servants who worked in the tobacco plantations as slaves. It was a wide community with distant relationships with different social class margins while the New England’s had very close relationships and close community where everyone knew each other. They believed everyone was equal, and no one should be considered a slave had more freedom to themselves due to this fact. They mainly focused on school and education compared to Chesapeake, who was mainly focused on profits and economic benefits (Hawke, 1966).

The economy of Chesapeake was one agricultural based industry which was tobacco as the only cash crop that brought in large amounts of wealth. The growth of industries also boosted the slave trade industry while New England had a diverse economy which included job specialization because they focused on education; they also sold timber, did small scale farming and did some fishing too. Both colonies had a court system where they elected their own legislative and governor; they both had a sense of democracy in that they gave a voice to the people (Hawke, 1966). 

According to Stout, the New England colonist was more successful because they were located along the coast which made it easier for Europeans to get to them. They also had larger population leading to efficient settlement across the land. In the end, the large groups helped in trading and boosting the economy. The New England colonists created a simple society while the Chesapeake colonists formed a more upper-class society. They seemed to care more about their wealth and power whereas the New England society focused on growth in different perspectives. Though they share the same origin and speak the same language, they rarely had similar ways of living and because of these differences; the south and north were separated creating two different societies (Stout, 2011).

The great Awakening was a religious revival that swept through the American colonies during the 1970s. It led to the growth of Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist Churches. These caused Christianity to evolve into a personal and deep sense of spiritual conviction. The religious and political groups stopped fighting during the 17th century after the Church of England was put under leadership which caused other religions to be suppressed. This was the first major event for both New England and Chesapeake that broke their differences (Kidd, 2007). Religion thus became a pass time, and not everyone took it seriously. Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were both highly respected Christian leaders with a reputation as powerful preachers. They both preached about equality among the people. Although they had a few similarities, they differed in their ways of preaching. 

Whitefield was known as a powerful preacher who preached about life, sinners and judgments. He used to preach with fury and anger which attracted massive crowds whereas Edwards was known as a more logical and careful preacher who spoke with passion and sorrow during his sermons. Edwards was a settled Pastor overseeing a local congregation while Whitefield, on the other hand, preached all over the world (Kidd, 2007). According to Loy (2003), the greatest impact was that it prepared America for its War of Independence. The revivalism taught people to be confident and to be able to convert. Even though the Great Awakening increased membership and strengthen churches, it also brought division in churches all over Britain. It also led to an explosion of missionary activity among Native Americans. It also brought out the importance of the movement against slavery. It led to the founding of a couple of learned people. It made people believe in one God and develop a more personal and deeper relationship. The mind-set that God’s will was the only way was disbanded, and they viewed themselves as more capable of performing the task. The fact that they came together as Christians to worship helped them to make sacrifices together for their land in times of need (Loy, 2003).

In conclusion, the First Great Awakening was a result of powerful preaching, which convinced the listeners to seek repentance and knows God in their own personal way teaching them that everyone is responsible for their actions (Taylor, 1999). It also challenged the authority in New England as people learned that political power was in their own hands and not the elected colonists. The Great Awakening brought about the animosity between the traditionalists, who believed in rituals and doctrine, and the new comers who trusted in being emotional and having a personal commitment to God. It was a way by which the colonists were challenged socially (Loy, 2003). The religious revival emphasized on Christian ideals of love and fellowship. It also provided power between the preachers and listeners.


Edwards, J. (1972).  The Great Awakening  (Vol. 4). C. C. Goen (Ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Goldfield, D. (2001). The American journey : A history of the United States.

Hawke, D. F. (1966).  The colonial experience . MacMillan Publishing Company.

Kidd, T. S. (2007).  The Great Awakening . Yale University Press.

Loy, D. (2003). The great awakening.

Stout, H. S. (2011). The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in colonial New England. Oxford University Press.

Taylor, E. (1999).  Shadow culture: Psychology and spirituality in America from the Great Awakening to the new age . Counterpoint.

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