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Middle Colonies


MIDDLE COLONIES, composed of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey, were a mix of both northern and southern features, creating a unique environment of early settlement by non-English Europeans, mostly Dutch and German, where Englishmen and women composed the smallest minority. A combination of both urban and rural lifestyles made it more cosmopolitan, religiously pluralistic, and socially tolerant with in a commercial atmosphere. They were all at one time proprietary colonies. After 1664, Anglos began to rush into East Jersey, and English Quakers settled Pennsylvania and West Jersey. Philadelphia, the second largest English city by the time of the American Revolution, was the Ellis Island of colonial America, and many indentured servants made their homes in the Middle Colonies. Established commercial networks from Ulster in Northern Ireland brought the Scotch-Irish Pres by terians to Philadelphia and New Castle and Wilmington, Delaware. These immigrants came mostly in family units that preserved a balanced sex ratio. During the eighteenth century the Middle Colonies' population grew at a higher rate than New England or the southern colonies.

The English established the township, an area twenty-five to thirty miles square, as the basic settlement type. Various rural neighborhoods along creeks and watercourses developed into townships that were spatially dispersed, like the southern colonies, but that pulled together merchandising and distribution recourses for both commercial and staple crops, like the New England colonies. Fords and crossroads connected the hinterland with Philadelphia and New York. The grain trade to Europe fed Philadelphia commerce.

The Middle Colonies had the highest ratio of churches to population of the three sections of colonial America. Settlement from the European states disrupted by the Protestant Reformation transplanted Dutch Mennonites, Dutch Calvinists, French Huguenots, German Baptists, and Portuguese Jews who joined larger established congregations of Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Quakers, and Anglicans. Education in the Middle Colonies was mostly sectarian, as local churches sponsored schools. Pennsylvania's toleration allowed Anglicans, Moravians, and Quakers to open schools.


Balmer, Randall H. A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Kavenagh, W. Keith, ed. Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History. New York: Chelsea House, 1973.

Neuenschwander, John A. The Middle Colonies and the Coming of the American Revolution. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1973.

Newcomb, Benjamin H. Political Partisanship in the American Middle Colonies, 1700–1776. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Michelle M.Mormul

See alsoDelaware ; New Jersey ; New York Colony ; Pennsylvania ; Philadelphia ; Proprietary Colonies .

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