The Middle Colonies

Americans pride themselves on their rich diversity. This diversity was evident in pre-Revolutionary America in the middle colonies of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. European ethnic groups—English, Swedes, Dutch, Germans, Scots-Irish and French—lived in closer proximity than in any location on continental Europe. The middle colonies contained Native American tribes of Algonkian and Iroquois language groups as well as a sizeable percentage of African slaves. Unlike Puritan New England, the middle colonies had an assortment of religions. The presence of Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dutch Calvinists, and Presbyterians made the dominance of any single faith next to impossible.

The middle colonies had the advantage of their central location, and served as important distribution centers in the English mercantile system. New York and Philadelphia grew quickly, and gave rise to brilliant thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin. In many ways, the middle colonies served as the crossroads of ideas during the colonial period.

In contrast to the South where the cash crop plantation system dominated, and New England where rocky soil made large-scale agriculture difficult, the middle colonies were fertile. Land was generally acquired more easily than in New England or in the plantation south.

The middle colonies represented a middle ground between their neighbors to the North and South. Elements of both New England towns and sprawling country estates could be found. Religious dissidents from all regions could settle in the relatively tolerant middle zone. Aspects of New England shipbuilding and lumbering and the large farms of the South could be found.

Source: The Middle Colonies
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