Life in the New England Colonies
When New England was first colonized, the citizens lived under Biblical law. This kind of society is known as a Biblical Commonwealth. Under this structure, a man’s position in the church determined political power. However, as the years passed, the New England colonies became more liberal, and started to determine a man’s political power based on his wealth rather than position in the church. Life expectancy grew to be close to the current life expectancy in America. Education was a vital part of life in the New England colonies. This was partially due to the Puritan belief that ignorance of God’s word, the Bible, could lead to the devil tricking and taking advantage of the ignorant, so they made sure their children learned to read.
The New England colony started out as Bible Commonwealths, where Biblical law was local law, and a man standing in the church determined his political power. As Bible Commonwealths, these colonies followed Biblical law. They followed the rules in the Old Testament as their local community rules, and in standing in the church determined his political power.
You weren’t going to get very far in government or politics if you weren’t a member of the church in good standing, and if you were a church leader you had even more chance of being successful in politics over time. New England became more liberal, and politics came to be dominated by wealthy men rather than by church leaders.
Eventually, in New England people who had more money were going to have more say in government and politics than those who were big in the church, those who were church leaders. When it started out, it was because Puritans have come over and religion was very important to them and that’s what they centered their colonies around.
As time went by, they relaxed on their religious fervor some and that’s when money became to be more important. As time went by, church leaders were important in the church, but they weren’t so much important in the community as political figures. Then it was people who had money to put into the community that had more say politically.
Life expectancy in the New England colonies became roughly what it is today. At first, people died pretty quickly. They would get sick, they would starve, they didn’t have proper food or shelter. As things stabilized and towns grew, and everything became really settled, the life expectancy became roughly what it is today.
It started out to where you could expect to live maybe to 35 years old. As time goes by and everything got stabilized in the 1600s, the life expectancy was pretty much what it is today. They could expect to live to an old age as long as nothing happened accidentally. Education was valued greatly in New England.
Education was very important to them, and the fact that most people lived close to a town made it possible for more people to receive an inexpensive education or an inexpensive training. Whenever things were starting out, people maybe had a spread out far from each other. Now, people could be centered around a town, especially in New England.
In the south, people had to spread out even further to have their small farms, or if there was a large plantation, the plantation was going on land all around it, so you would have to go pretty far to find land that wasn’t owned by the plantation owner to start your own farm.
Now, in New England there wasn’t as much agriculture going on because the soil wasn’t as fertile, there were lots of rocks. It was harder to make a living with growing things, so they turned to different economic interests. They fished, they chopped furs, they built things, they learned trades and skilled laborers came into being.
People gathered around towns because the skilled laborers would work in the town and towns would be where all the goods were shipped to and shipped from. This made it possible for more people to receive an inexpensive training.
Either formal training as in going to a school or learning things, or more of a training of craft if someone wanted to learn how to be a blacksmith, or learn how to work leather, or word learn how to make clothing or shoes, they could go into a town and learn that skill.
Puritans also believed that the ignorance of God’s word could lead one to be tricked by the devil. If they didn’t know what was written in the Bible, then they could be tricked by the devil accidentally. They made sure that all of their children learned to read. This was big for the Puritans in particular.
Most people in New England, because they valued education, were going to teach their children to read. But the Puritans had a specific reason in mind, if they could read God’s Word they could better protect themselves from being tricked by the devil, so they made sure all of their children knew how to read.
When people first started coming to New England, things were rough, colonies barely survived, people died much earlier. As life settled down in the later 1600s, the church became not so much involved in politics. It came more to be a wealthier man’s game.
People with money were going to be more involved with politics, and the church leaders would just be involved in the church. Life expectancy went up to about what it is today, and education became very important especially as towns developed and built up, and people could just send their children to the towns to learn a skill or to be formally educated.
Where in the south that wasn’t quite possible because things were so spread out. In the later part of New England, everyone also -for the most part- was learning how to read and getting a good education.