ADVANCED PLACEMENT UNITED STATES HISTORY
New England


*Although England was mostly Protestant by the 1600s, there were disagreements among Protestants.  The Church of England was split between those who preferred traditional, conservative, seemingly-Catholic rituals, vestments, hierarchy, and traditions (and who believed in Free Will as part of Salvation)—known as Arminians—and those who wanted to purify the Church of such things and allow greater local control (and who also believed in Calvinist Predestination)—sometimes known as Puritans.  Among the ways they wanted to purify the church was by reducing or removing the church hierarchy of bishops and replacing them with local, or congregational, control.

*James I was known to favour the Arminians, and some Protestants who disagreed with the King came to think the Church of England could not be purified, and wanted to completely separate from it.  These Separatists angered King James I who felt that religious unity in a hierarchical church was vital to political unity—he famously said ‘No bishop, no king.’  Disgusted by a sinful society and harassed by the English government, some of these Separatists fled to the Netherlands in 1608, and by making this journey for religious purposes, came to be known as Pilgrims.

*The Pilgrims went to the Protestant and tolerant Netherlands seeking religious freedom for themselves, but were not happy there.  They had not been rich in England and they did not prosper in the Netherlands.  Furthermore, the tolerance of the Dutch meant that they saw an even more permissive and sinful society around themselves than they had in England, and they worried that their children would become culturally Dutch and religiously lax.  They wanted a separate community of their very own.

*The Pilgrims reached an agreement with the Virginia Company whereby they would settle in Virginia, and in 1620 they set out from Plymouth, England in the Mayflower along with some additional farmers, hired hands, and other emigrants to Virginia.  Along the way, their ship was blown off course and they ended up off the coast of what is now Massachusetts, where they had no legal right to settle.

*The Pilgrims created a settlement named Plymouth, but before leaving the Mayflower drew up the Mayflower Compact as a framework to govern themselves since they were outside any official boundaries and in order to lay the groundwork for a Godly society in which the majority of the colonists would create rules for everyone through discussions in town meetings.  Almost all the men aboard signed it, making it the first framework of government created in English America.

*Under their own government, the people of the Plymouth Colony elected William Bradford governor thirty times in annual elections and Plymouth remained a separate colony until it was merged with Massachusetts in 1691.

*The Pilgrims believed that the hand of God preserved them, because everything else seemed to be against them.  In their first winter, only 44 of the 102 passengers from the Mayflower survived.  However, such was their faith in their new endeavour that not a single one sailed back to England when the Mayflower returned in the Spring of 1621. 

*In that year they prospered, partly with the help of a local Indian who had earlier met John Smith and even been to England twice (and once to Spain).  Speaking fluent English, he (and other local, but unrelated, Indians) taught the Pilgrims how to grow native crops and hunt local game, and in the fall they celebrated with what is often called the First Thanksgiving, although the Pilgrims did not declare an official day of Thanksgiving until the summer of 1623.

*Over time, more Separatists as well as other English settlers came to Plymouth, but it never grew large or wealthy.  However, it did in some ways set an example for a much larger and more successful group of religious colonists, the Puritans.

*Although the Puritans in England believed that the Church of England needed to be purified, by the end of the 1620s, many believed England was too corrupt and immoral and the members of the Church of England who followed their beliefs were marginalised and often persecuted by the dominant Arminian church leaders and the government. 

*In 1629, some Puritans managed to get a Royal Charter to form the Massachusetts Bay Company.  When they departed for the New World in 1630, they took their charter with them, and used it as a form of government outside the direct control of the King.  Under its guidance, all adult male members of the Puritan church (about 40% of the population—much more than in England) could vote, although non-Puritans also had to follow its rules and pay it taxes.

*The Puritans were more prosperous and better-organised than the Pilgrims, and sailed with eleven ships, many supplies, and nearly a thousand colonists.  This was the beginning of a Great Migration of English Puritans to the New World in the 1600s.  At least 25,000 came to New England, but many more went elsewhere in the English colonies, especially to the wealthy sugar colonies of the Caribbean.

*In Massachusetts Bay, under the leadership of the wealthy lawyer John Winthrop (who was governor or deputy governor for nineteen years), the Puritans sought to create a Godly Commonwealth.  In his 1630 sermon, ‘A Model of Christian Charity,’ Winthrop said
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as his oune people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our wayes. Soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome, power, goodness and truthe, than formerly wee haue been acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when hee shall make us a prayse and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, "the Lord make it like that of New England." For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. 
*The Puritans believed they were called to create a society that would be an example to the rest of the world, that they might be the last, best hope for the pure Christian faith, and that if they failed, Christian civilisation might collapse under the weight of sin and corruption.

*This led the Puritans to create tight-knit communities based around the family and the congregation.  Everyone, of all classes, depended on each other, and individualism was an offence against God.  This did not support ideas of equality, as everyone had his or her place, and ought to do the tasks that God had set for him or her.  In fact, anyone who did not follow Puritan standards could be ‘warned out’ or expelled from the community into the wilderness, or at least into the company of non-Puritans, of whom there were a fair number.  Rules against drunkenness, bad language, and wasting time in games or sports were strict, and church members were expected to attend church meetings almost all day on Sunday.

*Still, with 40% of the population able to vote in town meetings and colonial elections, Massachusetts Bay was more democratic than anywhere else in the known world.  Even the church was democratic in some ways, in that local congregations hired and fired and determined the salaries of their own ministers, without having to listen to a bishop or other higher authority.  There were even disputes between different leaders of this Congregationalist system, and while the laws of men were supposed to be based on the laws of God, the Puritans, at least to some extent, tried to separate political and religious leadership because they had seen how political leaders could meddle with the church back in England.

*The Puritans created one of the most literate societies on Earth at the time, too.  Because everyone was supposed to be able to read and consider the Bible on his own, literacy rates were very high.  Towns of any size were required to provide public education both to boys and girls, and in small settlements, women often ran small schools of their own—in fact, education was encouraged among women so that they could raise children to be good citizens and good Christians.  To train ministers, Harvard was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1636.

*Although their eyes were on God, the Puritans did not neglect their earthly lives, either. They followed the Protestant work ethic that remembered the advice of Saint Paul (Colossians 3:23-24):  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.  Working hard was a service to the Lord. 

*Furthermore, as Calvinists who believed in predestination rather than in free will or in salvation through Church membership, individual Puritans could never be absolutely sure that they were among the elect who were going to heaven.  On the one hand, believing that they were among the saints gave them great confidence in their beliefs, but it also gave them a gnawing sense of self-doubt, unsure of their own personal salvation.  Many felt that worldly success could be a sign of God’s favour, and so even though they did not believe that wealth or any good works could earn salvation, they hoped that by doing good and doing well they could discern some sign of their election.

*Many families were farmers, but fishing, shipbuilding, and trade were also very important.  Each family, in turn, was a little society, with the man of the household as the ruler of a little kingdom and the woman as the mother and the instructor of children in a Christian upbringing.  Furthermore, far from the malarial swamps of Virginia, these Puritans could expect to enjoy long lives, contributing to social stability.  Indeed, unlike in Virginia, where most people immigrated as individuals, most Puritans came to new England as complete families and this helped to create a more stable and cohesive society.   Indeed, unlike in Virginia, where most people immigrated as individuals, most Puritans came to new England as complete families and this helped to create a more stable and cohesive society. 

*The first major Puritan settlement outside the Boston area was founded in 1635 on the Connecticut River, and the next year, Reverend Thomas Hooker led a large band of settlers into the wild west of Connecticut to the frontier town of Hartford, where in 1639 they wrote the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in which wealthy citizens all had a voice in a democratic government (albeit one with a Puritan culture and a franchise still limited to the well-to-do).  This is sometimes considered the first written constitution in America, and it made Connecticut essentially self-governing, since it was autochthonous rather than being granted by Massachusetts, the King, or a proprietor.

*Further west, the colony of New Haven was founded on stricter Puritan lines than Massachusetts or Connecticut, both of which reluctantly tolerated some non-Puritan Protestant sects.  It was financially unsuccessful, and when the king recognised Connecticut's charter in 1662, he included the New Haven area within Connecticut's borders, which officially stretched all the way to the South Sea.

*To the north of Massachusetts, two colonies were founded primarily by fishermen:  New Hampshire under the ownership of John Mason and Maine under Sir Ferdinando Gorges.  The towns there largely governed themselves and engaged in fishing, trading, and supplying large trees to shipbuilders for use as masts. 

*New Hampshire was temporarily absorbed by Massachusetts Bay, but finally got a governor of their own, who immediately claimed land west of the Connecticut River that was also claimed by New York, leading to dispute between the two and with the local people, who eventually declared independence from both during the American Revolution and named their own state of Vermont.

*After Sir Ferdinando Gorges's death in 1647, Massachusetts Bay absorbed his former lands; to make their claim secure they officially purchased Maine from his heirs in 1677.  It would remain part of Massachusetts until 1820.

*Despite these many successes for the Puritans, they also faced many challenges from within and without.

*One influential early minister in Massachusetts Bay was Roger Williams, who had been an Anglican, and then a Puritan, and then a Separatist, and eventually even a Baptist.  Although a very devout man himself, he came to feel that the Puritan leadership was corrupt.  He blamed much of this on the intrusion of politics into the life of the Church.  He believed that this perverted the Church's spiritual mission by making it a vehicle for political advancement and that this endangered the true religious experience of Church members.  He also felt that the Puritan leadership treated American Indians unfairly. 

*Because he feared that the intermingling of political and religious authority was corrupting the Church, he began to call for complete separation of Church and State.  He believed that Church membership should not be a requirement for voting, that taxes should not support any particular church, and that all religions should be tolerated.

*All this was very threatening to the political and religious leaders of Massachusetts Bay, and in October 1635, the General Court tried Williams and ordered him banished from the colony.  However, because he was sick, he was allowed to postpone his exile.  To avoid being shipped back to England, he sneaked out of the colony in the dead of winter, and in January, 1636, fled to the wilderness.  He purchased land from local Indians and founded a settlement he called Providence, which eventually became the capital of the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, which Massachusetts Bay claimed, but which the English government allowed to remain separate and finally named a Royal colony in 1663, although it was allowed to continue electing its own governor and legislature. 

*Rhode Island had no state-supported Church and allowed complete toleration of all religions, and many Quakers and Jews found refuge there.  This was partly why King Charles II granted them a royal charter, in order to spite Puritan Massachusetts and to be another possible haven for the Catholics he sympathised with who still faced persecution.

*Another threat to the leaders of Massachusetts Bay came from an unlikely source, Anne Hutchinson.  She seemed the perfect Puritan woman:  she had fifteen children, served as a midwife in Boston, was widely respected, deeply religious, and even held Bible studies for women at her house.

*Hutchinson's Bible studies were so popular that men began to attend too, yet she continued to lead the studies, creating the unnatural situation of a woman having dominion over men, potentially threatening social stability. 

*Worse, in her growing role as a religious leader, in 1636 Anne Hutchinson began to say that Massachusetts Bay had moved away from belief in Calvinist predestination and salvation by grace, and was too focused on worldly success as a sign of election, which she condemned as a 'covenant of works.'  In fact, since there was no way to know who was saved, and humanity had no choice in the matter, worrying about the laws of God (and perhaps even the laws of Man) was pointless, a belief known as Antinomianism that was also being spread by some ministers.  Only a personal, spiritual, mystical relationship with God could have any meaning in a 'covenant of grace.'  Hutchinson claimed to have had personal revelations of this directly from God.

*This challenge to traditional Puritan beliefs of religious authority, political authority, and gender roles was too much, and Anne Hutchinson was put on trial in both civil court in 1637, which ordered her exiled from the colony, and church court in 1638, which expelled her from the Puritan Church.  She fled to Rhode Island with her family, and later moved to New Netherland, where she and six of her children were killed by Indians in what the minister of Concord, Massachusetts called 'the just vengeance of God.'  One of her descendents, Thomas Hutchinson, would later be Royal governor of Massachusetts.

*Besides internal dissent, New Englanders faced Indian warfare.  Although at some points the people of New England worked well with the Indians (and made efforts, sometimes successful, to convert them to Christianity), they also fought with them over land and resources.

*The first large-scale conflict between colonists and Indians in New England was the Pequot War.  The Pequot were already fighting with other Indian tribes to expand their territory in the Connecticut River Valley.  After some English traders were killed in 1636 and the Pequots were blamed, Massachusettsmen burnt down a Pequot village.  The Pequot besieged Fort Saybrook in Connecticut over the course of the winter, killing anyone who ventured outside. 

*In 1637, more New England settlements were attacked and about 30 colonists killed.  More New England forces were gathered and, along with allied Indians, they surrounded and burnt down the Pequot walled village of Mystic, trapping its people--many of them women and children--inside and shooting any that tried to escape.  Afterwards, most surviving Pequots fled the Connecticut River Valley, and their leader was eventually killed by Mohawk Indians who sent his scalp to New England as a token of friendship.

*Many people, even then, criticised the Mystic Massacre for its wanton destruction of women and children, but it did bring an uneasy peace to New England for four decades.

*In 1643, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven formed the New England Confederation so these Puritan colonies could work together against future threats from Indians, the Dutch, and the French, and help each other enforce laws against criminals who fled across colonial lines.  The confederation lasted until 1654, but never amounted to much, and finally collapsed when Massachusetts refused to attack the Dutch when they went to war with England in 1652-1654. However, it was an attempt, however weak and brief, at inter-colonial unity.

*In 1675, the Indian chief Metacom, known to the English as King Philip, formed an alliance of many New England Indian tribes with the goal of driving the colonists out of New England before they became even more numerous and turned even more woodland into farms and pastures.  This alliance went to war when the Plymouth Colony hanged three Indians of Metacom's Wampanoag tribe after they killed a Christian Indian in 1675.

*In King Philip's War, which lasted until 1676, Indians killed colonists, praying Indians, and even livestock.  Settlements across the frontier were ravaged--52 were attacked including twelve that were completely destroyed--and one tenth of fighting-age New England men were killed, and many colonists fled to Boston to avoid death, mutilation, and enslavement by the Indians. 

*The most famous captive taken during the war was Mary Rowlandson, whose book The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson became the most famous captivity narrative of the 17th Century.  She was captured in Lancaster, Massachusetts on 10 February, 1676 along with her three children, and forced to march through the New England winter, moving often to avoid discovery.  Her six-year-old daughter, who was wounded in the attack, died a week into their ordeal.  Mary and her other children were sold to other Indians, but eventually ransomed and re-united with her husband after the war.  During her eleven-month captivity, she learnt to gather food and make clothes, but regarded the wilderness with fear and the Indians as savages, although she did concede that their own women had, in some ways, more freedom than Englishwomen, and that (despite what she had feared) she was never raped.  Her book was a best-seller, and perpetuated Puritans' sense of mission to overcome the wilderness with their civilisation.

*With superior technology and the assistance of some Indians who had not joined Metacom, Metacom was eventually defeated.  Many of his followers were sold into slavery in the Caribbean and some leaders, including himself, were hanged--he was also drawn, quartered, and beheaded and his head displayed on a pike in Plymouth for many years.

*New England took years to recover, but it did recover and even begin to expand its frontier again, although it would also face more Indian warfare in the 1700s.

*New England was also affected by politics in Old England.  The royal family still distrusted the Puritans of New England (especially Massachusetts) who had sympathised with the Roundheads in the English Civil War.  After the death of Charles II, his openly Catholic brother, King James II, united all of New England, New York, and New Jersey as the Dominion of New England in 1686 under a single royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros.  This would simplify leadership and unite the region in the face of potential threats from Indians or foreigners.

*Governor Andros was not popular in New England.  Having a tradition of self-government, they resented having a governor imposed on them, especially one who was not a Puritan, but a member of the traditional Church of England.  He brought soldiers with him who got drunk, started fights, and used bad language, even on Sundays. 

*Perhaps worst of all, Andros attempted to enforce the Navigation Acts, which strictly limited any trade by English colonies in the name of mercantilism--the idea that a country's colonies should only trade with each other and their mother country in order to deprive other countries of any wealth that might come from that trade.  However, the English colonists engaged in trade with anyone they could, including the Dutch and even the French and Spanish.  This had quietly let the colonies prosper, but deprived the English crown of some tax revenue and undermined its authority.

*Besides enforcing the Navigation Acts, Andros limited the power of local courts, tried to control local schools, interfered with local church authority, and revoked land titles held by anyone who displeased him.

*Back in England, James II also offended Parliament with his religious beliefs and his attempt to strengthen the Monarchy at the expense of Parliament.

*Fortunately, James's daughter Mary was married to her cousin William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Netherlands, both of whom were Protestant.

*On 30 June 1688, seven Protestant nobles invited William to invade England.  When it became clear he would do so, and finally did, blown in by a Protestant Wind, more and more English leaders took his side.  As this was a largely bloodless event, it came to be known as the Glorious Revolution.

*It also came at a price for William.  He and Mary were required to rule as co-rulers.  Furthermore, William and Mary had to agree to the Bill of Rights in 1689.  It said that the monarch could not suspend or execute laws without Parliament's permission, or raise taxes without parliament's permission, or keep a standing army without parliament's permission.  Subjects could petition the king and seek redress of grievances.  MPs were to be freely elected and could freely speak and debate and would have to be called on a regular basis.  Excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment were outlawed as was the loss of property or liberty without trial.  This codified many traditional rights of Englishmen, and in the 1700s, many British colonists in America would feel that those English rights were not being respected by the British.

*When news of the Glorious Revolution reached America, the people of Boston rioted, captured Sir Edmund Andros as he tried to flee the colony disguised in women's clothing (but still wearing his own manly boots), and shipped him back to England.

*The Dominion of New England was divided back into its old colonies, but in 1691 the formerly self-governing Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were united as the royal colony of Massachusetts, and while the Puritan church remained the official, state-supported church, its leaders would no longer dominate politics or society as they once had.


This page last updated 10 August, 2021.
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