The Massachusetts Bay Colony (1628–1691) was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century around the Massachusetts Bay, the northernmost of the several colonies later reorganized as the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The lands of the settlement were located in southern New England in Massachusetts, with initial settlements situated on two natural harbors and surrounding land, about 15.4 miles (24.8 km) apart—the areas around Salem and Boston.
The territory nominally administered by the colony covered much of central New England, including portions of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Territory claimed but never administered by the colonial government extended as far west as the Pacific Ocean. The earlier Dutch colony of New Netherlands disputed many of these claims, arguing that they held rights to lands beyond Rhode Island up to the western side of Cape Cod and the Plymouth Colony.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by the owners of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which included investors in the failed Dorchester Company that had established a short-lived settlement on Cape Ann in 1623. The colony began in 1628 and was the company's second attempt at colonization. It was successful, with about 20,000 people migrating to New England in the 1630s. The population was strongly Puritan, and its governance was dominated by a small group of leaders who were strongly influenced by Puritan religious leaders. Its governors were elected, and the electorate were limited to freemen who had been examined for their religious views and formally admitted to the local church. As a consequence, the colonial leadership exhibited intolerance to other religious views, including Anglican, Quaker, and Baptist theologies.
The colonists initially had good relationships with the local Indian populations, but frictions developed that ultimately led to the Pequot War (1636–38) and then to King Philip's War (1675–78), after which most of the Indians in southern New England made peace treaties with the colonists (apart from the Pequot tribe, whose survivors were largely absorbed into the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes following the Pequot War).
The colony was economically successful, engaging in trade with England and the West Indies. A shortage of hard currency in the colony prompted it to establish a mint in 1652. Political differences with England after the English Restoration led to the revocation of the colonial charter in 1684. King James II established the Dominion of New England in 1686 to bring all of the New England colonies under firmer crown control. The dominion collapsed after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 deposed James, and the colony reverted to rule under the revoked charter until 1691, when a new charter was issued for the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This province combined the Massachusetts Bay territories with those of the Plymouth Colony and proprietary holdings on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Sir William Phips arrived in 1692 bearing the charter and formally took charge of the new province. The political and economic dominance of New England by the modern state of Massachusetts was made possible in part by the early dominance in these spheres by the Massachusetts Bay colonists.
|Massachusetts Bay Colony|
|Colony of England|
A map depicting various colonial territorial claims related to Massachusetts
|Capital||Salem, Charlestown, Boston|
|•||Land grant issued and Royal charter issued||1628|
|•||Revocation of royal charter||1684|
|•||Dominion of New England established||1686|
|•||Royal charter issued for Province of Massachusetts Bay||1691|
|Today part of||United States|
Prior to the arrival of European colonists on the eastern shore of New England, the area around Massachusetts Bay was the territory of several Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Massachusetts, Nausets, and Wampanoags. The Pennacooks occupied the Merrimack River valley to the north, and the Nipmucs, Pocumtucs, and Mahicans occupied the western lands of Massachusetts, although some of those tribes were under tribute to the Mohawks, who were expanding aggressively from upstate New York. The total Indian population in 1620 has been estimated to be 7,000. This number was significantly larger as late as 1616; in later years, contemporaneous chroniclers interviewed Indians who described a major pestilence which killed as many as two-thirds of the population. The land-use patterns of the Indians included plots cleared for agricultural purposes and woodland territories for hunting game. Land divisions among the tribes were well understood.
During the early 17th century, several European explorers charted the area, including Samuel de Champlain and John Smith. Plans began in 1606 for the first permanent British settlements on the east coast of North America. On April 10, 1606, King James I of England granted a charter forming two joint-stock companies. Neither of these corporations was given a name by this charter, but the territories were named as the "first Colony" and "second Colony", over which they were respectively authorized to settle and to govern. Under this charter, the "first Colony" and the "second Colony" were to be ruled by a Council composed of 13 individuals in each colony. The charter provided for an additional council of 13 persons named "Council of Virginia" which had overarching responsibility for the combined enterprise.
The "first Colony" ranged from the 34th- to 41st-degree latitude north; the "second Colony" ranged from the 38th- to 45th-degree latitude. (Note that the "first Colony" and the "second Colony" overlapped. The 1629 charter of Charles I asserted that the second Colony ranged from 40th to 48th degrees north latitude, which reduced the overlap.) Investors from London were appointed to govern over any settlements in the "first Colony"; investors from the "Town of Plimouth in the County of Devon" were appointed to govern over any settlements in the "second Colony". The London Company proceeded to establish Jamestown. The Plymouth Company under the guidance of Sir Ferdinando Gorges covered the more northern area, including New England, and established the Sagadahoc Colony in 1607 in Maine. The experience proved exceptionally difficult for the 120 settlers, however, and the surviving colonists abandoned the colony after only one year. Gorges noted that "there was no more speech of settling plantations in those parts" for a number of years. English ships continued to come to the New England area for fishing and trade with the Indians.
In December 1620, a group of Pilgrims established Plymouth Colony just to the south of Massachusetts Bay, seeking to preserve their cultural identity and attain religious freedom. Plymouth's colonists faced great hardships and earned few profits for their investors, who sold their interests to them in 1627. Edward Winslow and William Bradford were two of the colony's leaders and were likely the authors of a work published in England in 1622 called Mourt's Relation. This book in some ways resembles a promotional tract intended to encourage further immigration. There were other short-lived colonial settlements in 1623 and 1624 at Weymouth, Massachusetts; Thomas Weston's Wessagusset Colony failed, as did an effort by Robert Gorges to establish an overarching colonial structure.
In 1623, the Plymouth Council for New England (successor to the Plymouth Company) established a small fishing village at Cape Ann under the supervision of the Dorchester Company, with Thomas Gardner as its overseer. This company was originally organized through the efforts of Puritan minister John White (1575–1648) of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. White has been called "the father of the Massachusetts Colony" because of his influence in establishing this settlement and despite the fact that he never emigrated. The Cape Ann settlement was not profitable, and the financial backers of the Dorchester Company terminated their support by the end of 1625. Their settlement was abandoned at present-day Gloucester, but a few settlers remained in the area, including Roger Conant, establishing a settlement a little further south, near the village of the Naumkeag tribe.
Archbishop William Laud was a favorite advisor of King Charles I and a dedicated Anglican, and he sought to suppress the religious practices of Puritans and other nonconforming beliefs in England. The persecution of many Puritans in the 1620s led them to believe that religious reform would not be possible while Charles was king, and many decided to seek a new life in the New World.
John White continued to seek funding for a colony. On 19 March 1627/8, the Council for New England issued a land grant to a new group of investors that included a few from the Dorchester Company. The land grant was for territory between the Charles River and Merrimack River that extended from "the Atlantick and westerne sea and ocean on the east parte, to the South sea on the west parte." The company to whom the grant was sold was styled "The New England Company for a Plantation in Massachusetts Bay". The company elected Matthew Cradock as its first governor and immediately began organizing provisions and recruiting settlers.
The company sent approximately 100 new settlers with provisions to join Conant in 1628, led by Governor's Assistant John Endecott, one of the grantees. The next year, Naumkeag was renamed Salem and fortified by another 300 settlers led by Rev. Francis Higginson, one of the first ministers of the settlement. The first winters were difficult, with colonists struggling against starvation and disease, resulting in numerous deaths.
The company leaders sought a Royal Charter for the colony because they were concerned about the legality of conflicting land claims given to several companies (including the New England Company) for the little-known territories of the New World, and because of the increasing number of Puritans who wanted to join them. Charles granted the new charter on 4 March 1628/9, superseding the land grant and establishing a legal basis for the new English colony at Massachusetts. It was not apparent whether Charles knew that the Company was meant to support the Puritan emigration, and he was likely left to assume that it was purely for business purposes, as was the custom. The charter omitted a significant clause: the location for the annual stockholders' meeting. Charles dissolved Parliament in 1629, whereupon the company's directors met to consider the possibility of moving the company's seat of governance to the colony. This was followed by the Cambridge Agreement later that year, in which a group of investors agreed to emigrate and work to buy out others who would not emigrate.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony became the first English chartered colony whose board of governors did not reside in England. This independence helped the settlers to maintain their Puritan religious practices without interference from the king, Archbishop Laud, or the Anglican Church. The charter remained in force for 55 years; Charles II revoked it in 1684. Parliament passed legislation collectively called the Navigation Acts which attempted to prevent the colonists from trading with any nation other than England. Colonial resistance to those acts led King Charles to revoke the Massachusetts charter and consolidate all the colonies in New England, New York, and New Jersey into the Dominion of New England.
A flotilla of ships sailed from England beginning in April 1630, sometimes known as the Winthrop Fleet. They began arriving at Salem in June and carried more than 700 colonists, Governor John Winthrop, and the colonial charter. Winthrop delivered his famous sermon "City upon a Hill" either before or during the voyage.
For the next ten years, there was a steady exodus of Puritans from England, with about 20,000 people emigrating to Massachusetts and the neighboring colonies during the Great Migration. Many ministers reacted to the repressive religious policies of England, making the trip with their congregations, among whom were John Cotton, Roger Williams, Thomas Hooker, and others. Religious divisions and the need for additional land prompted a number of new settlements that resulted in Connecticut Colony (by Hooker) and the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (by Williams and others). Minister John Wheelwright was banished in the wake of the Antinomian Controversy (like Anne Hutchinson), and he moved north to found Exeter, New Hampshire.
The advent of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in 1639 brought a halt to major migration, and a significant number of men returned to England to fight in the war. Massachusetts authorities were sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause and had generally positive relationships with the governments of the English Commonwealth and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. The colony's economy began to diversify in the 1640s, as the fur trading, lumber, and fishing industries found markets in Europe and the West Indies, and the colony's shipbuilding industry developed. The growth of a generation of people who were born in the colony and the rise of a merchant class began to slowly change the political and cultural landscape of the colony, even though its governance continued to be dominated by relatively conservative Puritans.
Colonial support for the Commonwealth created tension after the throne was restored to Charles II in 1660. Charles sought to extend royal influence over the colonies, which Massachusetts resisted along with the other colonies. For example, the Massachusetts Bay colony repeatedly refused requests by Charles and his agents to allow the Church of England to become established, and the New England colonies in general resisted the Navigation Acts, laws that restricted colonial trade to England alone.
All of the New England colonies were ravaged by King Philip's War (1675–76), when the Indians of southern New England rose up against the colonists and were decisively defeated, although at great cost in life to all concerned. The Massachusetts frontier was particularly hard hit, with several communities being abandoned in the Connecticut and Swift River valleys. By the end of the war, most of the Indian population of southern New England made peace treaties with the colonists.
Following the English Restoration in 1660, matters of colonial administration drew the king's attention. Massachusetts in particular was reluctant to agree that the king had any sort of authority to control its governance. This led to crises in the 1660s and late 1670s in which steps were first planned, and then executed in England to vacate the colonial charter. The Lords of Trade had decided for a variety of reasons to consolidate the New England colonies; they issued quo warranto writs in 1681 for the charters of several North American colonies, including Massachusetts. The Massachusetts writ was never served for technical reasons, and the charter was not formally vacated until the chancery court issued a scire facias writ formally annulling the charter on June 18, 1684. The proceedings were arranged so that the time had expired for the colonial authorities to defend the charter, before they even learned of the event.
From 1686, the colony's territory was administratively unified by James II of England with the other New England colonies in the Dominion of New England. The dominion was governed by Sir Edmund Andros without any local representation beyond hand-picked councillors, and was extremely unpopular in New England. Massachusetts authorities conspired to have Andros arrested in April 1689 after the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England, and they reestablished government under the forms of the vacated charter. However, dissenters from the Puritan rule argued that the government lacked a proper constitutional foundation, and some of its actions were resisted on that basis. The years from 1689 to 1692 were also difficult ones, since the colony was at the forefront of King William's War, and its frontier communities were ravaged by attacks organized in New France and conducted by French and Indian raiding parties.
King William III issued a charter in 1691, despite efforts by Massachusetts agents to revive the old colonial charter. It was chiefly negotiated by Increase Mather in his role as the colony's ambassador-extraordinary, unifying Massachusetts Bay with Plymouth Colony, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and territories that roughly encompass present-day Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to form the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This new charter additionally extended voting rights to non-Puritans, an outcome that Mather had tried to avoid.
Life could be quite difficult in the early years of the colony. Many colonists lived in fairly crude structures, including dugouts, wigwams, and dirt-floor huts made using wattle and daub construction. Construction improved in later years, and houses began to be sheathed in clapboard, with thatch or plank roofs and wooden chimneys. Wealthier individuals would extend their house by adding a leanto on the back, which allowed a larger kitchen (possibly with a brick or stone chimney including an oven), additional rooms, and a sleeping loft. These houses were the precursors to what is now called the saltbox style of architecture. Interiors became more elaborate in later years, with plaster walls, wainscoting, and potentially expensive turned woodwork in the most expensive homes.
Colonists arriving after the first wave found that the early towns did not have room for them. Seeking land of their own, groups of families would petition the government for land on which to establish a new town; the government would typically allow the group's leaders to select the land. These grants were typically about 40 square miles (10,000 ha), and were located sufficiently near other towns to facilitate defense and social support. The group leaders would also be responsible for acquiring native title to the lands that they selected. By this means, the colony expanded into the interior, spawning settlements in adjacent territories as well.
The land within a town would be divided by communal agreement, usually allocating by methods that originated in England. Outside a town center, land would be allocated for farming, some of which might be held communally. Farmers with large plots of land might build a house near their properties on the outskirts of the town. A town center that was well laid out would be fairly compact, with a tavern, school, possibly some small shops, and a meeting house that was used for civic and religious functions. The meeting house would be the center of the town's political and religious life. Church services might be held for several hours on Wednesday and all day Sunday. Puritans did not observe annual holidays, especially Christmas, which they said had pagan roots. Annual town meetings would be held at the meeting house, generally in May, to elect the town's representatives to the general court and to transact other community business. Towns often had a village green, used for outdoor celebrations and activities such as military exercises of the town's trainband or militia.
Many of the early colonists who migrated from England came with some or all of their family. It was expected that individuals would marry fairly young and begin producing offspring. Infant mortality rates were comparatively low, as were instances of childhood death. Men who lost their wives often remarried fairly quickly, especially if they had children needing care. Older widows would also sometimes marry for financial security. It was also normal for older widowed parents to live with one of their children. Due to the Puritan perception of marriage as a civil union, divorce did sometimes occur and could be pursued by both genders.
Sexual activity was expected to be confined to marriage. Sex outside of marriage was considered fornication if neither partner was married, and adultery if one or both were married to someone else. Fornication was generally punished by fines and pressure to marry; a woman who gave birth to an illegitimate child could also be fined. Adultery and rape were more serious crimes, and both were punishable by death. Rape, however, required more than one witness, and was therefore rarely prosecuted. Sexual activity between men was called sodomy, and was also punishable by death.
Within the marriage, the husband was typically responsible for supplying the family's financial needs, although it was not uncommon for women to work in the fields and to perform some sort of home labor (for example, spinning thread or weaving cloth) to supplement the family income. Women were almost exclusively responsible for seeing to the welfare of the children.
Children were baptized at the local meeting house within a week of being born. The mother was usually not present because she was still recovering from the birth, and the child's name was usually chosen by the father. Names were propagated within the family, and names would be reused when infants died. If an adult died without issue, his (or her) name could be carried on when the siblings of the deceased named children in his memory.
Most children received some form of schooling, something which the colony's founders believed to be important for forming a proper relationship with God. Towns were obligated to provide education for their children, which was usually satisfied by hiring a teacher of some sort. The quality of these instructors varied, from minimally educated local people to Harvard-educated ministers.
The structure of the colonial government changed over the lifetime of the charter. The Puritans established a theocratic government with the franchise limited to church members. Winthrop, Dudley, the Rev. John Cotton, and other leaders zealously sought to prevent any independence of religious views, and many with differing religious beliefs—including Roger Williams of Salem and Anne Hutchinson of Boston, as well as unrepentant Quakers and Anabaptists—were banished. By the mid-1640s Massachusetts Bay Colony had grown to more than 20,000 inhabitants.
The charter granted the general court the authority to elect officers and to make laws for the colony. Its first meeting in America was held in October 1630, but it was attended by only eight freemen. They formed the first council of assistants, and voted (contrary to the terms of the charter) that the governor and deputy should be elected by them, from their number. This was modified in the next session of the general court, in which the governor and deputy were to be elected by the general court.
An additional 116 settlers were admitted to the general court as freemen in 1631, but most of the governing power, as well as the judicial power, remained with the council of assistants. They also enacted a law specifying that only those men who "are members of some of the churches" in the colony were eligible to become freemen and gain the vote. This restriction on the franchise was not liberalized until after the English Restoration. The process by which individuals became members of one of the colony's churches involved a detailed questioning by the church elders of their beliefs and religious experiences; as a result, only individuals whose religious views accorded with those of the church leadership were likely to become members and gain the ability to vote in the colony. After a protest over the imposition of taxes by a meeting of the council of assistants, the general court ordered each town to send two representatives, known as deputies, to meet with the court to discuss matters of taxation.
Questions of governance and representation arose again in 1634, when several deputies demanded to see the charter, which the assistants had kept hidden from public view. The deputies learned of the provisions that the general court should make all laws, and that all freemen should be members of the general court. They then demanded that the charter be enforced to the letter, which Governor Winthrop pointed out was impractical given the growing number of freemen. The parties reached a compromise, and agreed that the general court would be made up of two deputies elected by each town. The 1634 election resulted in the election of Dudley as governor, and the general court proceeded to reserve for itself a large number of powers, including those of taxation, distribution of land, and the admission of freemen.
The transformation was complete: a trading company had become a (somewhat) representative democracy. A legal case in 1642 brought about the separation of the council of assistants into an upper house of the general court. The case involved a widow's lost pig and had been overturned by the general court; but the assistants had sat in judicial decision on the case and voted as a body to veto the general court's act. The consequence of the ensuing debate was that the general court voted in 1644 that the council of assistants would sit and deliberate separately from the general court (they had sat together until then), the concurrence of both bodies being required for the passage of legislation. Judicial appeals were to be decided by a joint session, since otherwise the assistants would be in the position to veto attempts to overturn their own decisions. A group of emigrants had bought all the Massachusetts Bay Company's stock and brought the Charter to America in 1630; neither the English king nor Parliament nor an English company exerted any influence in Massachusetts Bay Colony. So it was in effect a self-ruling republic for some decades, also practicing separation of powers.
In 1641, the colony formally adopted the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, written or compiled as its first code of laws by Nathaniel Ward. This document consisted of 100 civil and criminal laws based upon the social sanctions recorded in the Bible. These laws formed the nucleus of colonial legislation until independence, and contained some provisions that were later incorporated into the United States Constitution, such as the ideas of equal protection and double jeopardy.
On the other hand, Massachusetts Bay was the first colony to legalize slavery with provision 91 of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, which developed protections for people who were unable to perform public service. Another law was developed to protect married women, children, and people with mental disabilities from making financial decisions. Colonial law differentiated among types of mental disabilities, classifying them as "distracted persons," "idiots," and "lunaticks". In 1693, "poor laws" enabled communities to use the estates of people with disabilities to defer the cost of community support of those individuals. Many of these laws remained until the American Revolution.
Many behaviors were frowned upon culturally which modern sensibilities might consider relatively trivial actions, and some led to criminal prosecution. These included sleeping during church services, playing cards, and engaging in any number of activities on the Sabbath. Conversely, there were laws which reflected attitudes that are still endorsed by popular sensibilities in 21st century America, against things such as smoking tobacco, abusing one's mother-in-law, profane dancing, and pulling hair. Children, newcomers, and people with disabilities were exempt from punishment for such infractions.
The colony's council of assistants sat as the final court of appeal and as the principal court for criminal issues of "life, limb, or banishment" and civil issues where the damages exceeded £100. Lesser offenses were heard in county courts or by commissioners appointed for hearing minor disputes. The lower courts were also responsible for issuing licenses and for matters such as probate. Juries were authorized to decide questions of both fact and law, although the court was able to decide in the event that a jury failed to reach a decision. Sentences for offenses included fines and corporal punishments such as whipping and sitting in the stocks, with the punishments of banishment from the colony and death by hanging being reserved for the most serious offenses. Evidence was sometimes based on hearsay and superstition. For example, the "ordeal of touch" was used in 1646, in which someone accused of murder is forced to touch the dead body; if blood appears, the accused is deemed guilty. This was used to convict and execute a woman accused of murdering her newborn child. Bodies of individuals hanged for piracy were sometimes gibbeted (publicly displayed) on harbor islands visible to seagoing vessels.
One of the first people to be executed in the colony was Dorothy Talbye, who was apparently delusional. She was hanged in 1638 for murdering her daughter, as the common law of Massachusetts made no distinction at the time between insanity (or mental illness) and criminal behavior. Midwife Margaret Jones was convicted of being a witch and hanged in 1648 after the condition of patients allegedly worsened in her care.
The colonial leadership was the most active in New England in the persecution of Quakers. In 1660, one of the most notable instances was English Quaker Mary Dyer who was hanged in Boston for repeatedly defying a law banning Quakers from the colony. Dyer was one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs. Executions ceased in 1661 when King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism.
In 1643, Massachusetts Bay joined Plymouth Colony, Connecticut Colony, and New Haven Colony in the New England Confederation, a loose coalition organized primarily to coordinate military and administrative matters among the Puritan colonies. It was most active in the 1670s during King Philip's War. (New Hampshire had not yet been organized as a separate province, and both it and Rhode Island were excluded because they were not Puritan.)
In the early years, the colony was highly dependent on the import of staples from England and was supported by the investments of a number of wealthy immigrants. Certain businesses were quick to thrive, notably shipbuilding, fisheries, and the fur and lumber trades. As early as 1632, ships built in the colony began trading with other colonies, England, and foreign ports in Europe. By 1660, the colony's merchant fleet was estimated at 200 ships and, by the end of the century, its shipyards were estimated to turn out several hundred ships annually. In the early years, the fleet principally carried fish to destinations from the West Indies to Europe. It was common for a merchant to ship dried fish to Portugal or Spain, pick up wine and oil for transport to England, and then carry finished goods from England or elsewhere back to the colony. This and other patterns of trade became illegal following the introduction of the Navigation Acts in 1651, turning colonial merchants who continued these trading patterns into de facto smugglers. Many colonial authorities were merchants or were politically dependent on them, and they opposed being required by the crown to collect duties imposed by those acts.
The fur trade only played a modest role in the colony's economy because its rivers did not connect its centers well with the Indians who engaged in fur trapping. Timber began to take on an increasingly important role in the economy, especially for naval purposes, after conflicts between England and the Dutch depleted England's supplies of ship masts.
The colony's economy depended on the success of its trade, in part because its land was not as suitable for agriculture as that of other colonies such as Virginia, where large plantations could be established. The fishery was important enough that those involved in it were exempted from taxation and military service. Larger communities supported craftsmen skilled in providing many of the necessities of 17th century life. Some income-producing activities took place in the home, such as carding, spinning, and weaving of wool and other fibers.
Goods were transported to local markets over roads that were sometimes little more than widened Indian trails. Towns were required to maintain their roads, on penalty of fines, and the colony required special town commissions to lay out roads in a more sensible manner in 1639. Bridges were fairly uncommon, since they were expensive to maintain, and fines were imposed on their owners for the loss of life or goods if they failed. Consequently, most river crossings were made by ferry. Notable exceptions were a bridge across the Mystic River constructed in 1638, and another over the Saugus River, whose upkeep costs were subsidized by the colony.
The colonial government attempted to regulate the economy in a number of ways. On several occasions, it passed laws regulating wages and prices of economically important goods and services, but most of these initiatives did not last very long. The trades of shoe-making and coopering (barrel-making) were authorized to form guilds, making it possible to set price, quality, and expertise levels for their work. The colony set standards governing the use of weights and measures. For example, mill operators were required to weigh grain before and after milling, to ensure that the customer received back what he delivered (minus the miller's percentage).
The Puritan dislike of ostentation led the colony to also regulate expenditures on what it perceived as luxury items. Items of personal adornment were frowned upon, such as lace and costly silk outerwear in particular. Attempts to ban these items failed, and the colony resorted to laws restricting their display to those who could demonstrate £200 in assets.
Most of the people who arrived during the first 12 years emigrated from two regions of England. Many of the colonists came from the county of Lincolnshire and East Anglia, northeast of London, and a large group also came from Devon, Somerset, and Dorset in the southwest of England. These areas provided the bulk of the migration, although colonists also came from other regions of England. The pattern of migration often centered around specific Nonconformist clergy who sought to leave England under threat from Archbishop Laud, who encouraged their flock to accompany them. One characteristic unique to the New England colonies (as distinguished from some of the other English colonies) was that most of the immigrants were emigrating for religious and political reasons, rather than economic ones.
The preponderance of the immigrants were well-to-do gentry and skilled craftsmen. They brought with them apprentices and servants, the latter of whom were sometimes in indentured servitude. Few titled nobility emigrated, even though some supported the emigration politically and financially and also acquired land holdings in Massachusetts and other colonies. Merchants also represented a significant proportion of the migrants, often the children of the gentry, and they played an important role in establishing the economy of the colony.
With the start of the English Civil War in 1642, emigration came to a comparative standstill, and some colonists even returned to England to fight for the Parliamentary cause. In the following years, most of the immigrants came for economic reasons; they were merchants, seamen, and skilled craftsmen. Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the colony also saw in an influx of French Protestant Huguenots. During the period of the charter colony, small numbers of Scots immigrated, but these were assimilated into the colony. The population of Massachusetts remained largely English in character until the 1840s.
Slavery existed but was not widespread within the colony. Some Indians captured in the Pequot War were enslaved, with those posing the greatest threat being transported to the West Indies and exchanged for goods and slaves. Governor John Winthrop owned a few Indian slaves, and Governor Simon Bradstreet owned two black slaves. The Body of Liberties enacted in 1641 included rules governing the treatment and handling of slaves. Bradstreet reported in 1680 that the colony had 100 to 120 slaves, but historian Hugh Thomas documents evidence suggesting that there may have been a somewhat larger number.
The Massachusetts colony was dominated by its rivers and coastline. Major rivers included the Charles and Merrimack, as well as a portion of the Connecticut River, which has been used to transport furs and timbers to Long Island Sound. Cape Ann juts into the Gulf of Maine, providing harbors for fishermen plying the fishing banks to the east, and Boston's harbor provided secure anchorage for seagoing commercial vessels. Development in Maine was restricted to coastal areas, and large inland areas remained under native control until after King Philip's War, particularly the uplands in what is now Worcester County.
The colonial charter specified that the boundaries were to be from three miles (4.8 km) north of the Merrimack River to three miles south of the southernmost point of the Charles River and thence westward to the "South Sea" (i.e., the Pacific Ocean). At the time, the course of neither of the rivers was known for any significant length, which eventually led to boundary disputes with the colony's neighbors. The colony's claims were large, but the practicalities of the time meant that they never actually controlled any land further west than the Connecticut River valley. The colony also claimed additional lands by conquest and purchase, further extending the territory that it administered.
The southeastern boundary with the Plymouth Colony was first surveyed in 1639 and accepted by both colonies in 1640. It is known in Massachusetts as the "Old Colony Line", and is still visible as the boundary between Norfolk County to the north and Bristol and Plymouth Counties to the south.
The northern boundary was originally thought to be roughly parallel to the latitude of the mouth of the Merrimack River, since the river was assumed to flow primarily west. This was found not to be the case and, in 1652, Governor Endicott sent a survey party to locate the northernmost point on the Merrimack. At the point where the Pemigewasset River, the Merrimack's principal tributary, meets the Winnipesaukee River local Indians guided the party to the outlet of Lake Winnipesaukee, incorrectly claiming that as the Merrimack's source. The survey party carved lettering into a rock there (now called Endicott Rock), and its latitude was taken to be the colony's northern boundary. When extended eastward, this line was found to meet the Atlantic near Casco Bay in present-day Maine.
Following this discovery, the colonial magistrates began proceedings to bring existing settlements under their authority in southern New Hampshire and Maine. This extension of the colonial claim conflicted with several proprietary grants owned by the heirs of John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The Mason heirs pursued their claims in England, and the result was the formation of the Province of New Hampshire in 1679. The current boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was not fixed until 1741. In 1678, the colony purchased the claims of the Gorges heirs, gaining control over the territory between the Piscataqua and Kennebec Rivers. The colony and later the province and state retained control of Maine until it was granted statehood in 1820.
The colony performed a survey in 1642 to determine its southern boundary west to the Connecticut River. This line, south of the present boundary, was protested by Connecticut, but stood until the 1690s, when Connecticut performed its own survey. Most of today's Massachusetts boundaries with its neighbors were fixed in the 18th century. The most significant exception was the eastern boundary with Rhode Island, which required extensive litigation, including Supreme Court rulings, before it was finally resolved in 1862.
Lands which had previously belonged to the Pequots to the southwest were divided after the Pequot War in present-day Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. Claims were disputed in this area for many years, particularly between Connecticut and Rhode Island. Massachusetts administered Block Island and the area around present-day Stonington, Connecticut as part of these spoils of war, and was one of several claimants to land in what was known as Narragansett Country (roughly Washington County, Rhode Island). Massachusetts lost all of these territories in the 1660s, when Connecticut and Rhode Island received their royal charters.
The Boston martyrs is the name given in Quaker tradition to the three English members of the Society of Friends, Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson and Mary Dyer, and to the Friend William Leddra of Barbados, who were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659, 1660 and 1661. Several other Friends lay under sentence of death at Boston in the same period, but had their punishments commuted to that of being whipped out of the colony from town to town.
"The hanging of Mary Dyer on the Boston gallows in 1660 marked the beginning of the end of the Puritan theocracy and New England independence from English rule. In 1661 King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism. In 1684 England revoked the Massachusetts charter, sent over a royal governor to enforce English laws in 1686, and in 1689 passed a broad Toleration act."Charminster
Charminster is a village and civil parish in west Dorset, England, situated on the River Cerne and A352 road 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the county town Dorchester. In the 2011 census the parish had a population of 2,940.The village name derives from the River Cerne and the small 'minster' church of St Mary, resulting in "Cerneminster" (recorded in 1223), which eventually evolved into Charminster. The village, which includes Wolfeton House, was the place of origin of Richard Norman and family, one of the Planters of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in America, who arrived there in ca. 1626. Scientist Margaret Bastock died in the village in 1982, aged 62.
Charminster is in the Charminster and Cerne Valley electoral ward, which stretches from the northern outskirts of Dorchester through Cerne Abbas to Minterne Magna. The total population of this ward at the 2011 census was 4,768.Devonshire County, District of Maine, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Devonshire County, Massachusetts was a short-lived county formed in 1674 during colonial territorial disputes between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Province of New York. The county existed from 1674 to 1675, and encompassed land claimed by Massachusetts between the Kennebec River and Penobscot Bay in what is now Maine. This overlapped the New York claim, which extended from the Kennebec to the Saint Croix River (Maine's present easternmost boundary). Settlements in the territory were attacked during King Philip's War (1675-1676) and the area was abandoned until the 18th century. It was incorporated into the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1692, which initially governed it as part of York County. The area is now divided into a number of Maine counties.Elizabeth Booth
Elizabeth Booth (born 1674) was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, who became one of the accusers during the Salem Witch Trials.Elizabeth Fones
Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett (21 January 1610 – c. 1673) was an early settler in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where her father-in-law (and uncle) John Winthrop served as Governor. Her subsequent behaviour would scandalize the Puritan colony.In 1640 Elizabeth, with her then husband Robert Feake, were founders of Greenwich CT. A fascinating historical novel of her life, The Winthrop Woman, was written by Anya Seton. The house that Elizabeth and her husband Robert built in Greenwich in 1645, the Feake - Ferris house, c1645-1689, still stands and is the Oldest House in Greenwich. The house was restored in 2018 by the Greenwich Point Conservancy.
A 2012 biography of Fones, by Missy Wolfe, is Insubordinate Spirit: A True Story of Life and Loss in Earliest America, 1610-1665.Governor of Massachusetts
The Governor of Massachusetts is the head of the executive branch of the Government of Massachusetts and serves as commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth's military forces. The current governor is Charlie Baker.John Haynes (governor)
John Haynes (May 1, 1594 – c. January 9, 1653/4), also sometimes spelled Haines, was a colonial magistrate and one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony. He served one term as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was the first governor of Connecticut, ultimately serving eight separate terms.
Haynes was influential in the drafting of laws and legal frameworks in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. He was on the committee that drafted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which has been called one of the first written constitutions. He also invested most of his fortune in Connecticut, "to the ruine of his famylye in Englande".List of colonial governors of Massachusetts
The territory of the modern Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the United States of America, was settled in the 17th century by several different English colonies. The territories claimed or administered by these colonies encompassed a much larger area than that of the present commonwealth, and at times included portions of central and southern New England outside the bounds of the modern state, as well as present-day Maine and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Some colonial land claims extended all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The first permanent settlement was the Plymouth Colony (1620), and the second major settlement was the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Salem in 1629. Settlements that either failed or were merged into other colonies included the failed Popham Colony (1607), on the coast of present-day Maine, and the Wessagusset Colony (1622–23), in present-day Weymouth, Massachusetts, whose remnants were folded into the Plymouth Colony. The Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies coexisted until 1686, each electing governors in annual elections. Governance of both colonies was dominated by a relatively small group of magistrates, some of whom governed for many years. When the Dominion of New England was established in 1686, it covered the territories of those colonies, as well as those of New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In 1688, it was further extended to include New York, and East and West Jersey. The Dominion was unpopular in the colonies, and was effectively disbanded when its royally appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros, was arrested in the wake of the 1688 Glorious Revolution and sent back to England.
After Andros' arrest, each of the colonies temporarily reverted to previous governance until King William III reorganized the territory of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies into the Province of Massachusetts Bay and appointed Sir William Phips as its royal governor in 1692. The Province of Massachusetts Bay was governed by appointed civilian governors until 1774, when Thomas Hutchinson was replaced by Lieutenant General Thomas Gage amid rising tensions between the Thirteen Colonies and the British Parliament. Gage, the province's last royal governor, was effectively powerless beyond Boston, and was recalled after the June 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. By then the province was already being run de facto by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress; following the adoption of a state constitution in 1779, the newly formed Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected John Hancock as its first governor.List of counties in Massachusetts
This is a list of the 14 counties in Massachusetts. Massachusetts abolished eight of its fourteen county governments between 1997 and 2000, but the counties in the southeastern portion of the state retain county-level local government (Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Norfolk, Plymouth) or, in one case, (Nantucket County) combined county/town government. Vestigial judicial and law enforcement districts still follow county boundaries even in the counties whose county-level government has been disestablished, and the counties are still generally recognized as geographic entities if not political ones, along with continuing to provide geographical demarcation for National Weather Service weather warnings. Three counties (Hampshire, Barnstable, and Franklin) have formed new county regional compacts to serve as a form of regional governance.
Mismanagement of Middlesex County's public hospital in the mid-1990s left that county on the brink of insolvency, and in 1997 the Massachusetts legislature stepped in by assuming all assets and obligations of the county. The government of Middlesex County was officially abolished on July 11, 1997. Later that year, the Franklin County Commission voted itself out of existence. The law abolishing Middlesex County also provided for the elimination of Hampden County and Worcester County on July 1, 1998. This law was later amended to abolish Hampshire County on January 1, 1999; Essex County and Suffolk County on July 1 of that same year; and Berkshire County on July 1, 2000. Chapter 34B of the Massachusetts General Laws allows other counties either to abolish themselves, or to reorganize as a "regional council of governments", as Hampshire and Franklin Counties have done. The governments of Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk Counties remain substantially unchanged. Barnstable and Dukes Counties have adopted modern county charters, enabling them to act as efficient regional governments. Dukes County in particular has a strong regional planning agency known as the Martha's Vineyard Commission.Jurisdictional areas for District Attorneys are created by state law and while some follow traditional county boundaries, names and geographic areas covered are often different.
Criminal matters in Essex County are handled by the District Attorney for the Eastern District; in Middlesex County by the District Attorney for the Northern District; in Worcester County by the District Attorney for the Middle District; in Dukes, Barnstable and Nantucket counties by the District Attorney for the Cape and Islands District and in Franklin and Hampshire counties by the District Attorney for the Northwestern District. The districts for the counties of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk are the same in geography and nomenclature as the respective counties, and the District Attorneys for the Eastern, Middle, and Northern Districts are commonly known as the Essex County, Worcester County, and Middlesex County District Attorneys, respectively.
Eleven other historical counties have existed in Massachusetts, most becoming defunct when their lands were absorbed into the colony of New Hampshire or the state of Maine, both of which were created out of territory originally claimed by Massachusetts colonists. The oldest counties still in Massachusetts are Essex County, Middlesex County, and Suffolk County, created in 1643 with the original Norfolk County which was absorbed by New Hampshire and bears no relation to the modern Norfolk County. When these counties were created, they were a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which would remain separate from the Plymouth Colony and that colony's counties until 1691. Hampden County, created in 1812, is the most recently created county still in Massachusetts, although Penobscot County, Maine bore that distinction until Maine broke off from Massachusetts in 1820. The majority of Massachusetts counties are named in honor of English place names, reflecting Massachusetts' colonial heritage.The term shire town is the statutory term for the Massachusetts town having a county court and administration offices; a county can have multiple shire towns. County seat is the standard term used in general communications by the Massachusetts government.Nathaniel Ely
Nathaniel Ely (also Nathaniel Eli) (1605 – December 25, 1675) was a founding settler of Hartford and Norwalk, Connecticut. He served as a deputy of the General Court of the Connecticut Colony from Norwalk in the October 1656 session.
He was born in 1605 in Tenterden, Kent, England. He was the son of the Reverend Nathaniel Ely and Susuan Dowle.
He came to America, sailing from Ipswich aboard the Elizabeth, in 1634. He originally settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony.New England Colonies
The New England Colonies of British America included Connecticut Colony, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the Province of New Hampshire, as well as a few smaller short-lived colonies. The New England colonies were part of the Thirteen Colonies and eventually became five of the six states in New England. Captain John Smith's 1616 work A Description of New England first applied the term "New England" to the coastal lands from Long Island Sound to Newfoundland.Nicholas Noyes
Rev. Nicholas Noyes II (December 22, 1647 at Newbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony – December 13, 1717 at Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony) was a colonial minister during the time of the Salem witch trials. He was the second minister, called the "Teacher", to Rev. John Higginson. During the Salem witch trials, Rev. Noyes served as the official minister of the trials.Old Connecticut Path
The Old Connecticut Path was the Native American trail that led westward from the area of Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut River Valley, the very first of the North American trails that led west from the settlements close to the Atlantic seacoast, towards the interior. The earliest colonists of Massachusetts Bay Colony used it, and rendered it wider by driving cattle along it. The old route is still followed, for part of its length, by Massachusetts Route 9 and Massachusetts Route 126.
In lean years of the early 1630s, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony ran short of grain, Nipmuck farmers in the valley of the Connecticut River loaded some of their abundant surplus maize into birch-bark backpacks and trod a familiar route to the settlements at the mouth of the Charles River, where they traded food for European goods made of copper and iron and woollen cloth. Fur traders and the exploratory party of John Oldham (1633) penetrated this first of the trails west into the continent's interior. In 1635, some settlers from Watertown took this route when they removed to Wethersfield, Connecticut.
In 1636, the outcast Thomas Hooker and a hundred of his congregation, with 160 cattle, whose milk they drank en route, followed the Old Connecticut Path in a two-weeks' journey to the Connecticut River. There they settled in a place the native Lenape people called Suckiaug, because of the blackness of its earth. They founded the English settlement of Hartford. By 1643, documents in the village of Sudbury called this trail the "Old Connecticut Path." In 1672, with the establishment of a postal system, it became the first colonial post road.
Long native usage had emphasized the easiest route, skirting the water meadows of the river bottoms and crossing streams at the most dependable fords. The Path led west along the north bank of the Charles River from New Town (Cambridge) to newly settled Watertown and passed through what are now Waltham and Weston, curving southward where it entered the southeasterly section of the new town of Sudbury, now set apart as Wayland, where a section of the route still bears the name "Old Connecticut Path". At Wayland, the Bay Path, later the Boston Post Road, diverged from the Connecticut Path, headed west through Marlborough, Worcester and Brookfield straight toward the Connecticut River. In Sudbury the Connecticut Path was known as "the road from Watertown to the Dunster Farm", for after passing along the north side of Cochituate Pond, it crossed the tract beyond that was granted to Henry Dunster, president of Harvard College, and the lands of Edmund Rice and Philemon Whale. The trail crossed the Sudbury River at "Danforth's Farm", since 1700 incorporated as Framingham, where another section (Route 126) retains the name "Old Connecticut Path", threading past the northern shore of Lake Cochituate. The Connecticut Path headed west, threading between the Charles and Sudbury rivers on its way to the Connecticut River. "From Framingham the Old Connecticut Path runs southward through South Framingham, Ashland (Megunko), Hopkinton (Quansigamog), then through Westborough and over Fay Mountain, to the praying town of Grafton (Hassanamesit/Hassanamisco), through Sutton and then beyond to Woodstock, Conn.", and west to the bank of the Connecticut River opposite Hartford. During the trip to Connecticut the Path crosses the Blackstone River, that crossing was known as the North Bridge and the Quinebaug River crossing was known as the South Bridge, both Northbridge and Southbridge were named after those well-known landmark locations.Providence Plantations
Providence Plantation was the first permanent European American settlement in Rhode Island. It was established by a group of colonists led by Roger Williams who left Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to establish a colony with greater religious freedom. Providence Plantation became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations after the American Revolution.Province of Maine
The Province of Maine refers to any of several English colonies. They were not officially called "Province of Maine." They were small short-lived operations in the 17th century along the northeast coast of North America, at times encompassing portions of the present-day states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick. The province existed through a series of land patents in several incarnations, including one known as New Somersetshire. The final incarnation of the Province of Maine, encompassing the western portions of present-day Maine, was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1650s.Richard Bellingham
Richard Bellingham (c. 1592 – 7 December 1672) was a colonial magistrate, lawyer, and several-time governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the last surviving signatory of the colonial charter at his death. A wealthy lawyer in Lincolnshire prior to his departure for the New World in 1634, he was a liberal political opponent of the moderate John Winthrop, arguing for expansive views on suffrage and lawmaking, but also religiously somewhat conservative, opposing (at times quite harshly) the efforts of Quakers and Baptists to settle in the colony. He was one of the architects of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, a document embodying many sentiments also found in the United States Bill of Rights.
Although he was generally in the minority during his early years in the colony, he served ten years as colonial governor, most of them during the delicate years of the English Restoration, when King Charles II scrutinized the behavior of the colonial governments. Bellingham notably refused a direct order from the king to appear in England, an action that may have contributed to the eventual revocation of the colonial charter in 1684.
He was twice married, survived by his second wife and his only son Samuel. He died in 1672, leaving an estate in present-day Chelsea, Massachusetts and a large house in Boston. The estate became embroiled in legal action lasting more than 100 years after his will was challenged by his son and eventually set aside. Bellingham is immortalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The New England Tragedies, both of which fictionalize events from colonial days.Samuel Lincoln
Samuel Lincoln (died May 26, 1690) was an Englishman and progenitor of many notable United States political figures, including his 4th great-grandson, President Abraham Lincoln, Maine governor Enoch Lincoln, and Levi Lincoln Sr. and Levi Lincoln Jr., both of whom served as Massachusetts Representatives, Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Because of Samuel Lincoln's descendants, his fortuitous arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the fact that his ancestry is known for several generations, he is considered the father of the most prominent branch of Lincolns in the United States.Simon Bradstreet
Simon Bradstreet (baptized March 18, 1603/4 – March 27, 1697) was a colonial magistrate, businessman, diplomat, and the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Arriving in Massachusetts on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, Bradstreet was almost constantly involved in the politics of the colony but became its governor only in 1679. He served on diplomatic missions and as agent to the crown in London, and also served as a commissioner to the New England Confederation. He was politically comparatively moderate, arguing minority positions in favor of freedom of speech and for accommodation of the demands of King Charles II following his restoration to the throne.
Bradstreet was married to Anne, the daughter of Massachusetts co-founder Thomas Dudley and New England's first published poet. He was a businessman, investing in land and shipping interests. Due to his advanced age (he died at 93) Cotton Mather referred to him as the "Nestor of New England". His descendants include the famous jurists Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and David Souter.Thomas Dudley
Thomas Dudley (12 October 1576 – 31 July 1653) was a colonial magistrate who served several terms as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Dudley was the chief founder of Newtowne, later Cambridge, Massachusetts, and built the town's first home. He provided land and funds to establish the Roxbury Latin School, and signed Harvard College's new charter during his 1650 term as governor. Dudley was a devout Puritan who was opposed to religious views not conforming with his. In this he was more rigid than other early Massachusetts leaders like John Winthrop, but less confrontational than John Endecott.
The son of a military man who died when he was young, Dudley saw military service himself during the French Wars of Religion, and then acquired some legal training before entering the service of his likely kinsman the Earl of Lincoln. Along with other Puritans in Lincoln's circle, Dudley helped organize the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, sailing with Winthrop in 1630. Although he served only four one-year terms as governor of the colony, he was regularly in other positions of authority.
Dudley's daughter Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) was a prominent early American poet. One of the gates of Harvard Yard, which existed from 1915 to 1947, was named in his honor, and Harvard's Dudley House is named for the family, as is the town of Dudley, Massachusetts.