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The Middle Colonies

The Middle Colonies were in the mid-region of America. Henry Hudson first explored this area. He was an explorer on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. He sailed up the river Hudson to present-day Albany, New York. He also explored the area along the Delaware Bay. He carried out his expedition in 1609. 

The Middle Colonies were known for diversity. There was a mix of many kinds of people living together. Native American tribes like the Iroquois and Algonquian language groups settled there. More groups like Italians, French, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Germans, and others were also settled in the Middle Colonies. These Colonies also had African slaves in the early years. 

In comparison to the other Colonies, the Middle Colonies were more tolerant and diverse. All ethnic and religious backgrounds were accepted and welcomed. Religious groups included Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dutch Calvinists, and Presbyterians. There was no domination by any one group. 

There were four main parts of the Middle Colonies: 

  1. Province of Pennsylvania
  2. Province of New York
  3. Province of New Jersey
  4. Delaware Colony
  1. Province of Pennsylvania
    William Penn established this colony in 1681. He received a royal charter from Charles II. Penn brought the Quakers from England, the Netherlands, Wales, and France with him. Yet, the state of Pennsylvania was still subjected to English laws. He established the Frame of Government and negotiated fair deals with the Natives. He planned and developed the city of Philadelphia.  
  1. Province of New York

New York was the result of the exploration by Henry Hudson in 1609. The land was occupied by the Dutch till the 1660s and called the New Netherlands. An English fleet sailed into their harbor and by 1669, the English claimed the lands. It was renamed New York, after the Duke of York, James II. 

  1. Province of New Jersey

The land was a part of the Province of New York, situated between the Hudson River and the Delaware River. It was given by James II to his loyal friends, George Carteret and Lord Berkley in 1664. Disputes led to the division of the land into East Jersey and West Jersey. It was in 1702 when Queen Anne united the lands into a royal colony- the Province of New Jersey.

  1. Delaware colony

This was the first European settlement that the Dutch founded in 1631. In 1664, the English seized control over it and handed the land to Penn. He wanted to use the land to gain access to the ocean for his new colony. The union was disliked by both sides, so Delaware was allowed to become a separate colony in 1701.

Middle Colonies Geography and Climate

The middle colonies had very rich,  fertile soil compared to the other regions. It was adequate for farming. It produced enough crops for consumption and for export, as well. The colonies had a pleasant climate with warm summers and clement winters. More sun and rain made the growing season longer than in England. The middle ground and the two rivers ( Hudson River and Delaware River) made shipping goods easier. The economy flourished due to the abundant landscape.

Map of the Middle Colonies

Middle Colonies Economy

How did the Middle Colonies make money?

The Middle Colonies were a mix of the New England and the Southern Colonies. Their fertile lands let agriculture and farming prosper. They also practiced trading, shipbuilding, and textile production. 

The land in the middle colonies was better for farming than the land in other regions. They were the leading food producers, with Pennysylvania in the lead. The rich, less rocky soil allowed for more production of wheat, corn, and rye. This gained it the name ‘Breadbasket Colonies’. They traded their produce in the cities of Philadelphia and New York.

The natural resources were plenty in the middle colonies. Iron ore, timber, fur, coal, and good farmlands were the strengths of the region. They were also able to export the manufactured materials from iron ore such as plows, tools, nails, etc. 

The farmers also raised livestock, along with farming, such as pigs and cows. Other occupations included artisans such as blacksmiths, coopers, and cobblers. Many industries like papermaking, printing, publishing, etc came up. Pennsylvania saw the rise of sawmills and gristmills, making the textile industry prominent.

Middle Colonies Government

The government in the middle colonies was democratic and elected their own legislatures. The governments were Proprietary, meaning they governed land granted by the King. New York and New Jersey were Royal Colonies. Royal Colonies were directly under the rule of the English Monarch. They had their own governor, governor’s court, and a court system. Penn made it such that the citizens had the opportunity to elect the ones who made the laws. 

Middle Colonies Culture and Society

The Middle Colonies accepted people with different cultures and religions. Society was very tolerant and more varied compared to England. An ethnically diverse community,  settlers also included the indentured servants. 

The colony became a safe haven for the Quakers, German Lutherans, German Reformed, Scotch Irish Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and Angelics. They were among the many religious groups found in the middle colonies. Non-British groups such as Dutch Calvinists, Swedish Lutherans, and the Amish also settled down here. The Colony also saw a Jewish community settle in New York and Pennsylvania.

The Middle Colonies were of British origin so English came up to be spoken throughout the colonies. But the settlers included people who came from various other regions. Dutch, French, Swedish were spoken the most. The Middle Colonies consisted of Native American tribes who belonged to the Algonkian and Iroquois language groups

The people made their living by farming and raising livestock. The ones who did not farm or fish made their living by finding work through skills or labor. Social life revolved around the country and trade. 

Famous men from the colonies

The Middle Colonies saw the rise of many great men. William Penn, Founder of the State of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin for the American Revolutionary War, etc. Other great men who were applauded for their noteworthy achievements were John Witherspoon, William Floyd. Caesar Rodney, General Horatio Gates, etc also made their mark on American history.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why were the Middle Colonies the best?

The Middle Colonies flourished greatly due to the fertile lands and abundant resources, making it an economical place to live in. The place was also very tolerant of all religions so settlers felt safe when they came here to live

  • How did the Middle Colonies impact America?

The Middle Colonies had segmented the Europeans and their native ideas. The diverse ethnic and religious lines brought contrast to the old ideas and people.