New England, Mid-Atlantic & Chesapeake Colonies: a Socio-Economic Comparison

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European immigrants set out to British North America for either one or both of two very different reasons, the escape of religious persecution or the pursuit of improved economic opportunity. The impetus for each settler’s journey had a unique effect on the development of the new colonies socially, economically and politically. Ultimately, these combined factors determined the church state paradigm established in each of the colonies. The colonial history behind the long debated issue of separation of church and state provides a foundation for better understanding American politics today. The religious persecution settlers experienced in their homelands and, for some, again upon arrival in British North America, served to shape the cultural landscape. For some religious refugees, improved economic opportunity played a secondary role in their decision to emigrate. For other colonists, economic opportunity was the sole motivation for setting sail to the New World. The societal values developed by settlers who worshipped the pursuit of the almighty coin would contrast drastically with those in pursuit of freedom to worship the Almighty. A comparative overview of the religious and socio-economic histories of the Chesapeake, New England and Mid-Atlantic colonies shows the evolved societies contrasted culturally as a direct result of diverse local economies and divergent religious influences manifested in the establishment of unique church state paradigms. The human need for freedom of religion arrived on the Atlantic seaboard by the boatload. As dominant religions were challenged “back home” the persecuted dissident group fled to the “Promised Land” in the New World. This recurring Exodus theme was the proclaimed impetus behind many colonial start-ups in British North America. These new communities flourished or failed based as much on the socio-economic viability of

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