Politics in the Colonial Southern Colonies

by Justin Beach

Life, culture and politics in the southern colonies of America was very different from life in the northern colonies from the very beginning. While the northern colonies were more involved with trade and industry, the southern colonies were almost entirely agricultural. The southern colonies were also more rooted in British and European traditions.

Religious Influence

The northern colonies were, in most cases, founded by British religious minorities such as the Puritans and Protestants. The southern colonies were predominantly Anglican. Politically this had a strong influence on the development of the South. As members of England's official religion, this tied the South much more firmly to the political traditions of England and the social and cultural traditions of Europe. This included many of the the traditions of feudalism and a class-based society.

Feudalism

The southern colonies had a smaller population than those in the north and an even smaller number of land owners. As had been the case in feudal Europe, a small group of elites, many of whom had owned land in England, actually owned the land and others lived and worked on the land. This meant that even where the colonial governments were free to make decisions independent of England, the bulk of the southern population had no political power.

Political Structure

The southern colonies were largely governed by a governor sent from England. The governor was advised by a colonial legislature that was largely composed of and dominated by the planter class. The planter class were those who owned the land. Although there was little room for anyone else in this political structure, it was the type of class system that Anglicans were used to and supported in England, with a strong central government made up of society's economic elite.

Slavery and Agriculture

In a feudalistic, aristocratic society built around agriculture, it was necessary for there to be a large underclass to work the land. In feudal Europe, this work force was comprised of the peasant class and the peasant class had little choice but to remain on the land. In the new colonies there was more mobility and greater amounts of available land. Agricultural workers could always go elsewhere in search of better fortunes. In the southern colonies, slaves and indentured servants substituted for Europe's peasant class.

About the Author

Justin Beach has been writing for more than a decade, contributing to a variety of online publications. He has a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems and additional education in business, economics, political science, media and the arts.

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