Witnesses to the New Light
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During the decades of Puritan settlement and growth in New England, English colonists had found their ways to other sites along the Atlantic coast. In the region surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, settlers supported a culture founded not around religious idealism or even family safety, but upon the possibilities of windfall profits. Established in 1607, Virginia’s first two rocky decades were characterized by starvation, disease, and disorder. The English further added to their instability and mortality by provoking violent confrontations with the native residents upon whom, incidentally, the English were completely dependent for food. However, in the 1610s, John Rolfe had begun experimenting with tobacco seeds, and within ten years Virginia had settled down to growing tobacco on a grand scale and enjoying an enormous economic boom. Maryland, founded in the 1630s, immediately followed suit, and while the exorbitant profits had already proved ephemeral, tobacco remained a strong enterprise.