The Economy and Society of the Puritans | U.S. History Review
The Puritans settled on land that was rocky and bare, so it took tremendous labor to subsist off of its products. Non-Puritan immigrants usually moved South, where the soil was better and the population was more tolerant. Puritans engaged in fishing and trapping, and there were a number of craftsmen in each town. There were slaves in New England, but they were more commonly used as household servants than for hard labor. There was more chance for social mobility in Massachusetts than in any other colony in America, primarily due to its diverse economy. The Puritan Church was known as the Congregational Church; this started as an exclusive group, but it gradually became easier to become a member.
Massachusetts had an extremely homogeneous population, which meant that the population was pretty much the same. All the members in the population had a lot of things in common with each other. This is mainly because there was little reason to stay there other than to be among people of the same faith.
Because this area was rocky and bare, and you really had to work hard to live there, the only people that really stuck around where the people who were Puritans and wanted to keep that same faith and only be with others of that same faith. The Puritans were very intolerant of other religions. Non-Puritan immigrants usually moved south. They moved away.
They didn’t want to be in a colony where they weren’t wanted, so they moved south where the soil was better and the population was more tolerant. They moved south. They were able to live among people who were more tolerant of what their beliefs were. They lived in an area where the soil was better, so they weren’t having to work as hard.
Really, the only people who were going to stay in the Massachusetts region and further up north in New England are going to be people who were Puritans and wanted to be with people of that same faith and not mingle with the people of other faiths. Now, because agriculture was so tricky, a more diverse economy developed in New England than existed in the south.
In the south, they primarily had an agriculture economy. You would have large plantations or small family farms. Agriculture was the primary economic product. Now, up north in New England you had more trouble growing things. The people turned to other areas. They did grow some things, but it was really hard to get stuff to grow there.
Puritans engaged in fishing. They did have a lot of water they could fish from. Trapping- they would trap animals for their fur. There were a number of craftsmen in each town. You had people who would fish and trap, and then they would have fish and furs to sell or trade. Then you had craftsmen, who would learn a trade and they would set up in a town and work there.
You may have people who are really good at working furs to get them in top shape to be able to sell. You may have people who are good blacksmiths, people who are good tailors, or cobblers. You had different jobs that there could be in town that would make things out of goods and not just grow things.
There were slaves in New England, but there were not nearly as many in New England as there were in the south. Slaves in New England were more commonly used as household servants than for hard labor. While people in New England did owned slaves, they didn’t know nearly as many as the south and their slaves were more commonly used to work in the house or to serve food than they were to be used for hard labor.
This is because in the south they had those large plantations and farms and agriculture was the primary economic market, so they needed more people for hard labor in the fields. Up north, with these diverse economies, the slaves weren’t going to be working as hard because they were going to be helping with other economic markets.
There was more chance for social mobility in Massachusetts than in any other colony in America, primarily due to the diverse economy. As you moved further up from the south into New England, the further north you went, the less agriculture you were going to have and the more diverse the economy was going to be. Up in Massachusetts, there was going to be the most diverse economy.
That led to there being more chance for social mobility. If you could learn a trade, then you could start working in a town as a craftsman. Then, maybe from there learn a new trade and move up and you could keep moving up the social ladder that way, where in the south you were either going to have a small farm and it was going to be hard to be able to make enough to make your farm bigger or you own a big plantation and you maintain the plantation.
It was unlikely that you were going to be able to move up or down the social ladder. At first, religion dominated every aspect of an individual’s life in New England, in Massachusetts. That’s because it was settled by the Puritans. The Puritan church was known as the Congregational church. While it started out as an exclusive group, it gradually became easier to become a member.
Indeed, by the mid-1600s, religious fervor seemed to be waning in Massachusetts. People first came there as Puritans. They wanted to practice their religion. Religion was very important to them. There were actually Bible Commonwealths instead of towns where- well, it was basically a town, but it was called the Bible Commonwealth, because the people there followed Old Testament law versus coming up with a traditional kind of government.
Eventually, the Puritan church became more lax in who it allowed to become members. More people could become a member. It wasn’t quite as exclusive of a thing and it faded in how important it was to people to be so diligent in their religion. By the mid-1600s, the religious fervor that had started out there was waning in Massachusetts, which led to more religious tolerance.
The economy was very diverse in New England, because they couldn’t grow as many things. Agriculture couldn’t be as dominant a market there, so they had to come up with other things. They fished, they chopped fur, and then they had craftsmen who would practice different trades within towns.
The society was more mobile there because of the diverse economy. You could move up the social ladder. There was room to do that, where in the south that wasn’t as easy. While religion started out being very important and very exclusive, it slowly opened up to new members and became slightly less important and more tolerant of people outside of the Puritan faith.