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The history of Chesapeake dates back to the 17th Century when British colonizers migrated to the United States. The colonizers targeted Chesapeake because they wanted to acquire the large tobacco plantations (Day 19). Colonization of Chesapeake led to the emergence of several colonies. There were four colonies in the south of Chesapeake, namely Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Other colonies that developed in Chesapeake included New England and Jamestown, among others. Colonization of Chesapeake influenced growth and development in the city. The process created avenues that influenced the social, economic, and political development of the colonies. Development activities relied on the slave trade and agriculture, which were the main activities in the area (Meyers and Melaine 106).
The huge plantations in Chesapeake created a high demand for labor. The colonizers relied on slaves from Africa and members of minority groups living in Chesapeake to satisfy the demand. The colonizers favored slaves because they were strong and easy to control. Slavery in Chesapeake resulted in the development of social and economic classes (Day 22). Studies have shown that slavery was one of the crucial activities that influenced the political, social, and geographical maturity of Chesapeake.
A number of factors influenced the social development of colonies in Chesapeake. Slavery was one of the main factors that influenced this phenomenon. Other factors that had a meaningful influence on social development in the colonies included religion and class hierarchy (Meyers and Perreault 113). The demand for labor in the plantations was very high because there was a need to increase tobacco production. Slaves worked as laborers in the plantations. The colonizers acquired them easily and at a low cost.
By the turn of the 18th Century, the population of slaves in Chesapeake was very high. The animosity between the various groups of people in Chesapeake started to develop, leading to the development of social classes (Meyers and Perreault 121). African Americans were considered low class, while the British colonizers were members of an elite class. Authorities in various colonies criminalized slavery and executed slaves who violated their white masters. These were strategies to regulate the population of African Americans. These strategies heightened the ill feelings between the two social groups (Day 27).
Religion also contributed a lot to the social development of colonies in Chesapeake. Christianity was the dominant religion in Chesapeake. Religion in Chesapeake was greatly influenced by the culture of the colonizers. One of the main things that pushed the colonizers to move to the United States was religious persecutions that were taking place in Britain (Nelson 40). The colonizers had a strong desire to introduce religion in Chesapeake. This was hard for them in the beginning because the locals showed resistance towards the British culture. However, the emergence and development of the slave trade provided the colonizers with the best opportunity to force religion on the people because the slaves were easy to control. Religion in Chesapeake grew through the family set up, where clergymen visited families to spread the gospel (Meyers and Perreault 132).
Families had the usual setting where the father assumed the role of the head and provider. Women were homemakers and helped their husbands, especially in bringing up their children. Children, especially those from poor households, worked on plantations and helped their parents whenever needed. Religion helped to bring people together. Going to church was the only activity that brought people together in Chesapeake. However, people in churches sat depending on their social status that was defined by their wealth, ancestry, degree of influence, and level of education (Day 38).
The class hierarchy had a huge impact on the social development of colonies in Chesapeake. People were classified according to their wealth, influence on others, and ancestry. Chesapeake’s population constituted numerous groups of people, such as African Americans, the whites, the British colonizers, and Indians, among others (Meyers and Perreault 140). The locals had an impressive pedigree over the colonizers because of their ancestry. However, the ability of the colonizers to control a large amount of wealth in Chesapeake placed them at the top of the social hierarchy. Their massive wealth, compared to that of the natives, allowed them to have greater influence. They owned most of the plantations and were at the core of the slave trade business. The colonizers were in control of the labor market and the economy (Nelson 46).
The colonizers belonged to one of the most desirable social classes in Chesapeake. Their social class was made up of elite individuals who included merchants, vendors, and farmers. Other people who belonged to the elite social class included clergymen, magistrates, and plantation owners. The slaves were at the bottom of the class hierarchy because they did not have any wealth, education, and influence. Most of them had gained passage to the United States in exchange for labor in the plantations owned by the colonizers (Nelson 55).
The main economic activities in the colonies were agriculture and slave trade. These activities were highly dependent on each other, as one could not develop without the other. The large plantations in Chesapeake influenced the growth and development of the slave trade due to the high demand for labor (Nelson 72). The initial attempt by the British colonizers to get the laborers from the locals was not successful because they were hard to control and had numerous demands. The few who agreed to work in the plantations were rewarded with pieces of cultivated land. Getting people from Africa to work as slaves was the only economical way the colonizers had to get more laborers. This was easy because the slaves were always looking for a way to run away from diseases and prolonged drought that was troubling them (Nelson 80).
They were easy to control and cheaper to acquire. Some of the slaves acquired by the colonizers were criminals who were taken to the plantations as part of their punishment. Tobacco was the main cash crop grown in the plantations. Chesapeake was characteristically a single-crop economy, although other industries developed later, following the success of tobacco and the availability of labor. The demand for tobacco was very high, and the colonizers felt the need to make the best out of the opportunity because there were enough resources (Nelson 83).
People who had migrated to Chesapeake were entitled to small parcels of land. This arrangement helped to boost the economy of the colonies because people ventured into tobacco farming. Other people ventured into the trade of selling tobacco products, building materials, foodstuffs, and boats. People were very serious about acquiring wealth and improving their living standards. The biggest motivation for doing so was to get a better position in the class hierarchy (Meyers and Perreault, 152). Rich people bought more land and acquired slaves from merchants who had specialized in the business. Trading in Chesapeake was localized because money had been concentrated within the colonies. People were buying land and slaves from each other.
Retail traders provided tobacco farmers with a ready market. The retailers were buying tobacco for external markets. The localized economy of the colonies was developed and supported by the locals, the British colonizers, the slaves, and the immigrants who had been given land for cultivation (Nelson 99). Retail traders belonged to the British community. They were responsible for introducing global trade in Chesapeake. They were exporting tobacco and other crops such as rice to foreign markets. The economy of the Chesapeake colonies also depended on merchants who specialized in selling deerskins (Day 51). Their biggest market was in the United Kingdom, which had restricted their suppliers from venturing into other markets. These numerous activities played a crucial role in the economic development of Chesapeake colonies. People were able to empower themselves economically.
Colonization of Chesapeake also influenced the development of politics and governance systems within the colonies. The political and governance structures used were highly influenced by the British colonizers (Meyers and Perreault 159). The colonizers borrowed numerous elements from the structure applied in their home country. Governments headed by governors characterized colonial politics in Chesapeake. Governor George Yeardley formed the first government in 1619. The government, which was based in Virginia, was called the House of Burgesses. It was created by members of the British and Native American communities (Nelson 129). The political system applied in Chesapeake, its colonies, and those in the south was similar. A government constituted a governor, a council, and a house of representatives. The governor had the supreme authority over the other arms of the government (Nelson 132).
The governor had numerous responsibilities that included the administration of justice, religious guidance, heading the military, appointing senior government officials, and legislative duties. However, the governor did not have any control over financial resources, as the House of Representatives held that mandate (Nelson 160). The House of Representatives was convened through public voting, while the governor was responsible for appointing the council.
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The council constituted at least twelve individuals from the highest social class in every colony. The system of governance applied in Chesapeake was not favorable to everyone because some people were against the leadership of governors from the British community. The political system gave people the power to rebel against their government if they felt dissatisfied with something. A good example is the famous Nathaniel bacon’s rebellion of 1676 (Nelson 171). Bacon mobilized a number of Native Americans to rebel against the leadership of Governor Berkeley, who was having close relations with Indians and protecting them against attacks (Meyers and Perreault 170).
Growth and development in the colonies were highly influenced by the British colonizers. They influenced the social, economic, and political development of the colonies in Chesapeake. They introduced religion to the people and provided them with an opportunity to interact. People were classified socially according to their wealth, ancestry, and influence. The colonizers helped to boost the economy of Chesapeake through the large-scale farming of tobacco in the plantations, introduction of the slave trade, and the global trade. The colonizers influenced the development of political systems used in the colonies. They borrowed the structure of government from their mother country.
Day, Nancy. Your Travel Guide to Colonial America. New Jersey: Twenty-First Century Books, 2001. Print.
Meyers, Debra, and Melaine, Perreault. Colonial Chesapeake: New Perspectives. New York: Lexington Books, 2006. Print.
Nelson, William. The Common Law in Colonial America: The Middle Colonies and Carolinas, 1660-1730. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.