Free and Proper Elections

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  • Arbie says:

    Without the documents, answering your request really is not possible; however — Any answer would have to focus on the principle differences between the two areas, especially religious differences. New England was settled by Calvinist dissenters, who had a fundamentally different view of the proper relationship a man should have with God and therefore a fundamentally different view of the proper relationship men should have with each other. One of your documents should be the Mayflower Compact. Read it carefully. You should recognize how the early settlers in New England sought to build a “bottom up” society organized around the ideal of town-hall democracy. The Chesapeake is just the opposite. Virginia is the most English of all the colonies. And, it is heavily Anglican. Just as the Calvinists were persecuted and fled to New England in the early Seventeenth Century, so the Anglicans were persecuted during the Protectorate and fled to where Anglicanism was established (Virginia). Because Anglicanism in this time still was very similar to Catholicism, it was still a “top down” religion, with the King in the place of the Pope at the top. Virginia in this time reflects that organizational form. Also, the Chesapeake is a far more rural society dedicated primarily to growth and marketing of tobacco. The settlements are more spread out and therefore more easily organized along naturally feudal lines. In the Chesapeake, the principal political unit is the county, not the town. In this time, slavery is universal (even in the north), but farms in the north were on rocky soils and tended to be small. Slavery in the north is not the big business it was in the Chesapeake, and a lot of northern slaves were domestics and included indentured whites, not just blacks. These smaller farms in the north also tend to accentuate the importance of the town (and political history in Connecticut REALLY accentuates the town). Remember: Connecticut is actually a fusion of towns, occasioned when New Haven is forced to join politically with Hartford and Wethersfield. This early state is a union of towns in the same sense that the U.S. is a union of states, and not surprisingly, the compromise which makes the Constitution possible is called the Connecticut Compromise, proposed by Roger Sherman of New Haven. The town, not the state, is what’s really important to the yankees. Under these conditions, the north begins to develop a strong urban middle class, and there is less of a spread of wealth in New England than there is in Virginia. Thus, in New England, there really is no equivalent to the Virginia cavalier, and the closest thing to him would be an urban shipper like John Hancock. These differences create an association of strange bedfellows when we get to the Revolution. The descendants of the Calvinists in the North resent Parliament’s efforts to meddle in local affairs, and they adopt a kind of general “states’ rights” position. They are able to ally with the Virginians because the leaders in Virginia are wealthy planters who fear that a Parliament unchecked by the Virginians’ representatives simply will shift all taxes to the colony and take the cavaliers’ money away. There is strong support for the King in the still Anglican South, but during the Eighteenth Century, the land “islands” of Anglican dominance become surrounded by a virtual sea of other “bad subjects” like the Scots-Irish and Georgia Crackers. This leads essentially to a full-blown civil war in the South — there were 105 battles in South Carolina alone during which not a single drop of British blood was lost; all the fighting was done by colonials. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons the Great Awakening is so important. While the Awakening is remembered for the fiery sermons of Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts, it is more important historically because of the work of Whitefield in the South, who is NOT a Methodist and in fact works to spread Calvinist preachings to back-country peoples. As mentioned, such people were not good subjects of the King when they were in Scotland. Once they relocated to America and heard the likes of Whitefield, they became incorrigible. But, to get back squarely on what you asked, I would emphasize the religious and geographical differences in the two regions, and how that influenced the creation of the political society.

    March 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

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