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GEO (Theme)
KC‑2.1.II.C (KC)
Unit 2: Learning Objective C

Video transcript

over the course of the 1600s the English continued to settle along the eastern seaboard of North America now we've already talked about the settlements at Virginia and those of Massachusetts and a little bit about the settlement of New York which was first founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam in 1624 in this video I want to talk a little bit more about the middle colonies these colonies that were here kind of on the centre of the eastern seaboard south of Massachusetts and north of the southern colonies of Virginia particularly Pennsylvania New York New Jersey and this little tiny purple colony right here Delaware now what's unique about the middle colonies compared to the northern or southern colonies is not just that they were kind of in this central location but also that they were proprietary colonies which means that they were the property of individual owners so unlike Jamestown for example which was founded by a company the Virginia Company the colony of Pennsylvania was founded by one man William Penn who was granted his land by the king of England in exchange for a debt that the king had owed his father so in the early years of these proprietary colonies they were kind of the playgrounds of the people who owned them they could set their own rules for the most part and that freedom resulted in colonies that were more ethnically diverse and more religiously tolerant than their neighbors to the north or south so let's look at the colony of Pennsylvania as an example so Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn and Penn was a English aristocrat from a very good family who'd converted to the Quaker religion although the real name for Quakers was the religious Society of Friends they got the nickname Quaker because they seemed to quake when they were in religious ecstasy like the Puritans Quakers faced religious persecution in England because they did not follow the Church of England which was a form of rebellion against the king who was the head of the Church of England but in addition to the Quakers strange ideas about religion they also had some strange ideas for the time period about social status Quakers believed that all people had the light of God in them and therefore were more or less equal in stature so for example women could preach in church as you see in this image right here so when william penn converted to the Quaker faith Penn had a really rough time of it so he came upon an idea that perhaps he could make a haven for Quakers and for religious dissenters more broadly in the new world so he negotiated with the king who owed his father a debt and in exchange for this debt the King granted Penn land in North America which was named Pennsylvania Sylvania being Latin for forests so kind of Penn's forest pens woods and pen decided to extend his religious tolerance not just to Quakers but really to all people all Protestants no matter what their particular sect could have citizenship run for office vote and Catholics and even Jews were welcome in Pennsylvania although they did not have the right to vote or hold office this was incredibly radical for the time period when it was common for nations to have a state religion and to persecute those who didn't follow that religion Penn advertised for his new colony and particularly hoped that industrious people people with skills like carpentry blacksmithing would come to Pennsylvania and make it a prosperous colony and they did the ease of getting citizenship the religious tolerance and the plentiful and cheap land of Pennsylvania drew many settlers to the colonies such that its principal city Philadelphia was the largest city in North America before the Revolution with about 40,000 inhabitants because Quakers were pacifists that is they did not believe in violence or war they even lived peacefully with Native Americans in the early years of Pennsylvania settlement but as more immigrants of different faiths came to Pennsylvania and began pushing West that short era of peaceful cohabitation ended likewise because Quakers believed in the innate Equality of all human beings they were not fond of slavery the environment in the middle colonies was not so cold as it was in the north not so hot as it was in the south it was kind of middling and so it was a very good place for farming particularly cereal crops like wheat you can see this print here shows wheat growing in this field and just as the name suggests Pennsylvania had a lot of wood so it was also a good place for timber and the excellent ports at Philadelphia and New York City made it an excellent place for trade because it was such a good place to grow food the middle colonies got the nickname the breadbasket colonies and the patterns of land ownership reflect this since the soil was good your average farmer owns more land than New England farmer but not as much as a Virginia farmer who would have had many acres to grow tobacco so much like the environment the farms in the middle colonies were middling in size in fact if I had to put the middle colonies on a spectrum in many places I'd put them right in the middle when it came to economy that was more agrarian the middle colonies had a little bit of both unlike the Chesapeake and southern economies which were strongly agrarian and unlike the New England colonies who began manufacturing quite early likewise when it comes to the distribution of wealth in the middle colonies once again I'd put the middle colonies right here in the center there were plenty of middling farmers many indentured servants and a handful of people who became quite wealthy unlike the Chesapeake where there were a handful of extremely wealthy landowners while most people lived at the bottom of the social scale and unlike New England where small farming led to a fairly even middle-class so the middle colonies had a mixed economy of Industry and farming and a fairly balanced class structure with people at many different levels putting them smack dab in the middle but for all the ways that the middle colonies were middle either were also a few ways that they were quite extraordinary we've already mentioned that the middle colonies had a level of religious freedom that was virtually unmatched anywhere else in the world for example Pennsylvania extended citizenship to all Protestants and tolerated Catholics and Jews in comparison the Chesapeake and southern colonies required citizens to belong to the Anglican faith the Church of England and religious tolerance board the Catholic Church in Maryland and New Englanders were extremely strict for example in Massachusetts Bay anyone who was not Puritan was expelled or executed although there is of course the exception of Rhode Island where religious dissenters could find safe haven the other extraordinary aspect of these middle colonies was just the sheer amount of ethnic diversity there was by the time of the American Revolution less than half way about 49 percent of inhabitants were from England or had an English background the rest were German French Dutch Scotch Irish and just a few Africans as there was a relatively little slavery in comparison New England was perhaps the least diverse of the colonies most people were English with a handful of remaining Native Americans and Africans and the Chesapeake and southern colonies were largely African and English with again just a few Native Americans the people of the middle colonies spoke many languages practiced many faiths and had a strong possibility of upward mobility economically since farms and businesses prospered and the middle colonies grew rapidly in population
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