Life in New England
The New England colonies started out as Bible Commonwealths, where Biblical Law was local law, and a man’s standing the church determined his political power.
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So, as Bible Commonwealths, these colonies followed Biblical Law. They followed the rules in the Old Testament as their local community rules.
And a man standing in the church determined his political power. You weren’t to get very far, 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 chances 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. So, 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 had come over, and religion was very important to them, and that’s what they centered their colonies around. But, as time went by, they relaxed on their religious fervor some, and that’s when money became to be more important. And so, as time went by, church leaders were important in the church, but they weren’t so much important in the community as political figures. And so, that 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. So, at first, people died pretty quickly. They would get sick, they would starve, they didn’t have proper food or shelter, but 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, but as time went 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. So, whenever things were starting out, people maybe had to spread out far from each other. But 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 to own land all around it. So, you would have to go pretty far to find land that wasn’t owned by the plantation, or just 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 firs, they built things, they lived trades, and skilled laborers came into being. So, people gathered around towns because these skilled laborers would work in the town, and towns would be where all the goods were shipped to and shipped from. And so, this made it possible for more people to receive an inexpensive training. Either formal training as in going to a school and learning things, or more of a training of a craft. If someone wanted to learn how to be a blacksmith, or learn how to work leather, 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. So, if they didn’t know what was written in the Bible, then they could be tricked by the devil accidentally. So, they made sure that all of their children learned to read. So, this was big for the Puritans in particular, but 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.
So, when people first started coming to New England, things were rough. Colonies barely survived, people died much earlier, but as life settled down in the later 1600s, the church became not so much involved in politics. It came more to being 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. And so, in the later part of New England, everyone also, for the most part, was learning how to read, and getting a good education.