With the founding of Jamestown began the growth of what would be known as the thirteen colonies. By the time of the Revolutionary War, each of these different regions along the eastern coast had decidedly different characteristics. Once there were thirteen, these British colonies could be divided into three geographic areas: New England, Middle and Southern colonies. Each of these regions had specific economic, social and political developments that were unique.
New England Colonies
These colonies were: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. These lands were known for being rich in forests and fur trapping. There were also numerous harbors that were located throughout the regions. This area was not known for having good farmland. Most of the farms were very small and meant only to provide food for individual families. New England trade flourished instead with fishing, shipbuilding, lumbering, and fur trading along with trading highly sought after goods from Europe. Much of America’s early wealth was developed here. This is also where the now infamous Triangle Trade occurred where slaves were sold in the West Indies for molasses. The molasses was sent to New England to make rum which was then sent to Africa to trade for slaves. In these colonies small towns were the centers of local government. In 1643, settlers banned together in Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven to form the New England Confederation to provide defense against Indians, Dutch, and the French. This was the first attempt to form any working union between the colonies. It was in this group that perhaps the famous and well known settlements occurred. Much of Massachusetts was settled by pilgrims wishing to flee persecution and find religious freedom when they traveled to America and formed the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Before landing, they took the unique step of forming their own government, the basis of which was the Mayflower Compact. In 1628, Puritans formed the Massachusetts Bay Company, and many Puritans continued to settle in the area around Boston. It was actually a break off from this settlement that led to the forming of the colony of Connecticut.
These colonies were: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This area was known to be excellent for farming and included many natural harbors. Farmers grew extensive amounts of grain and raised livestock. The Middle Colonies also practiced trade like New England, but typically they wanted to trade raw materials for manufactured items. There was a significant event that occurred in the middle colonies that would set a precedent for further work toward freedom. In 1735, John Peter Zenger was arrested for writing against the royal governor of New York. Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton and found not guilty which helped to establish the idea of freedom of the press.
The Southern Colonies included: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The major strength of the Southern colonies was that they grew their own food along with growing three major cash crops: tobacco, rice, and indigo. These were mainly grown on plantations typically worked by slaves and indentured servants. The main commerce of the South was conducted directly with England. Plantations kept people widely separated which prevented the growth of many towns. It was in this group of colonies that the birthplace for the thirteen colonies began. The first English settlement in America was Jamestown in 1607. Life in Jamestown was very difficult at first and didn’t ease until the colonists received their own land and the tobacco industry began flourishing, then the settlement took root. People continued to arrive, and new settlements arose and grew from Jamestown. Virginia was made a royal colony in 1624.