Politics Administration And Expansion
Attitude of the colonies during the Puritan Revolution.—The personal rule of Charles I came to an end in 1641 and for eight years England was convulsed with civil war. During the struggle both Royalists and Parliamentarians claimed jurisdiction over the colonies, but neither was able to exert authority, and each colony followed its own course. The New England settlements were largely Puritan and naturally sided with parliament. In Maryland two factions formed, one Protestant, the other in favor of the Catholic proprietor. Virginia and the West Indies were almost entirely on the king's side. Incapable of rendering assistance, they attempted to maintain neutrality until the contest in England was decided.
The Bermudas and expansion in the West Indies.—In the Bermudas the colonists were divided, but the company leaders were Puritans. In 1643 the Independents seceded from the established Church, and two years later parliament granted freedom of worship in the islands. Religious feeling in the Bermudas led to a migration to a new asylum. In 1646 Captain William Sayle, who had been governor, led a colony to Segatoo, one of the Bahamas, which he now called Eleutheria, in allusion to the aim of the project. Later on Bermudans conducted extensive salt works in the Turks Islands in spite of frequent attacks by the Spaniards.
The Commonwealth, 1649-1653.—The military party, dominated by Cromwell, drove from parliament all those who hesitated to execute the king, the remnant being known as the Rump Parliament. It named a Council of State which was to carry on the executive work. The Commonwealth proceeded at once to overthrow its enemies outside of England. Rebellions in Ireland and Scotland were ruthlessly put down; the navy was greatly strengthened, and Admiral Sir George Ayscue was sent to the West Indies and Virginia to overthrow the Royalists. Friction with the Dutch had been growing for some time, due mainly to rivalry for the commerce of the East and West Indies and the growing trade of the Dutch along the Atlantic seaboard. Navigation laws were passed in 1650 and 1651 which were intended to deprive the Dutch of the trade of England and her possessions. War followed in 1652 and lasted for two years with varying success.
Colonial administration during the Commonwealth.—Colonial administration was carried on by various committees of parliament or of the Council of State. On March 2, 1650, the Council of State ordered that the entire council or any five of the members, should be a Committee for Trade and Plantations. In 1652 the Council of State appointed a standing committee of Trade, Plantations, and Foreign Affairs of which Cromwell and Vane were members. Special committees were also appointed from time to time to handle special colonial business or committees already in existence discussed matters referred to them.
Acquisition of Jamaica.—In December, 1653, Cromwell was made Lord Protector for life and in 1654 the war with the Dutch was brought to a close. To divert attention from home affairs Cromwell desired a foreign war. West Indian expansion had brought England into close contact with Spain. The aggressive acts of the latter against the Providence Island Company and the intercepting of English ships, gave a ready excuse for reprisals. Admiral Penn sailed from England on Christmas Day, 1654, in command of a large fleet to attack the Spanish. An attempt to gain a footing in Española was a complete failure, but Jamaica proved to be an easy prize and became a permanent English possession.
Colonial administration during the Protectorate.—The Council of State lost most of its powers and became simply the advisory council of Cromwell. The committee system of the council was continued. In 1655 a special committee for Jamaica was appointed, and about the same time a Committee for Foreign Plantations. The Protector also obtained the assistance of a body of officers and merchants to advise regarding colonial affairs.
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