Massachusetts Bay / Virginia Colony Comparison Essay

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The United States of America can trace it’s roots back to the English. They were frustrated with over-population, poverty, or lack of freedom of religion. In the early 1600s, England sent groups of settlers to the “New World” to establish permanent colonies. They founded the Virginia Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although the two first colonies of America were similar, they also had very distinct differences.

Virginia was founded by merchants and adventurers looking to profit from the land. Massachusetts was founded by Puritans looking for freedom from the Church of England. These Puritans settled in the north, in New England, whereas the Virginia Company settled in the south. By the 1660s in Virginia, wealthy families owned fifty percent of the land. At the same time, Massachusetts had a distribution policy that encouraged broad property ownership. Virginia profited from their wheat and tobacco farming and used mostly slave labor. Massachusetts employed only subsistence farming and the men in the family provided most of the labor. One of the biggest differences in the two colonies was their government. In Virginia, the House of Burgess could make laws and levy taxes, though the governor or company council in England could veto any of their decisions. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the General Court gradually shifted political authority away from the governor and into the hands of the towns’ representatives.

In spite of all of these differences, in some ways, these colonies were very similar. For instance, Native Americans had a large influence on both colonies. The settlers learned farming practices from them and traded with them. The Native Americans were happy to coexist until these colonies started growing and pushing them off of the land that they had lived off of for generations. Both colonies found the same trouble with fighting the Native Americans for land and resources. Both colonies also provided an opportunity for a better life for...
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