Royal Interference In New England
Massachusetts and the king.—During the Cromwellian period the New England colonies had followed their own devices, but when Charles II came to the throne, they could not expect to pursue their independent course. To forestall trouble, Massachusetts hastened to acknowledge the king's authority, and none too soon, for numerous complaints had been lodged against her. The most forceful of these came from the Quakers. In 1655 Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, two Quaker missionaries, had landed in Barbados, the first of that sect to come to the colonies. The following year they went to Boston from which they were promptly expelled. Rhode Island proved hospitable. Those who had believed in Anne Hutchinson's "covenant of grace" found the Quaker idea of the "inner fight" an acceptable doctrine. From Rhode Island Quakers frequently penetrated the neighboring colonies which took violent means to expel them. The Massachusetts persecution reached its height in 1660 when three Quakers were hanged, one of them being Mary Dyer, a former friend of Anne Hutchinson. This high-handed proceeding reached the ear of the king, who was in no amiable frame of mind toward the Puritan colonists, who were believed to be sheltering two of the regicides. He accordingly ordered the Boston authorities to send Quakers to England for trial, but Massachusetts sent representatives to England, who succeeded in getting the king to grant the colony free hand in dealing with Quakers. Charles also confirmed the Massachusetts charter, but changed the basis of voting from church membership to a property qualification.
The Connecticut charter.—Connecticut fared well with Charles II. When the king's messengers visited the colony in search of the regicides, they were given assistance, while New Haven aided the fugitives in escaping. The results of this were soon apparent. In 1661 when Connecticut sent Governor John Winthrop to England to obtain a charter, he was graciously received and the following year the document was issued. It provided for a popularly elected governor, a deputy-governor, council, and assembly. The boundaries were described as "All that part of our Dominions ... bounded on the East by the Narrogancett River, commonly called Narrogancett Bay..., and on the North by the lyne of the Massachusetts Plantation, and on the South by the Sea, and ... from the said Narrogancett Bay on the East to the South Sea on the West parte, with the Islands thereunto adjoyneinge." The boundaries included a part of the territory of Rhode Island and the whole of New Haven, and entirely ignored the Dutch possessions in the Hudson Valley. New Haven protested violently, but in 1664, when the king granted the lands between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers to the Duke of York, the New Haven towns submitted to Connecticut rather than be annexed to New York.
The Rhode Island charter.—Fearful that Charles II might divide her territory among her neighbors, Rhode Island hastened to proclaim the king and petitioned that she be granted a charter. The Rhode Island representative protested against the inclusion of Narragansett Bay territory in Connecticut and the difficulty was adjusted by fixing the boundary at the Pawtucket River, which was renamed the Narragansett. The form of government was similar to that of Connecticut, but in Rhode Island religious freedom was established.
The royal commissioners.—In 1664, when the English government had determined upon the seizure of New Netherlands, commissioners were sent to America. Respecting New England, their duties were to settle boundary questions, to consider local disputes, and to see how the colonies might be made more profitable. The commissioners visited Boston in July, 1664, where they obtained troops and demanded the repeal of the law which restricted the franchise to church membership. After the conquest of New Netherlands, three of them returned to New England. They were well received in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Plymouth at this time was attempting to obtain a charter, and the commissioners suggested that the colony might have its lands confirmed without cost if it would receive a royal governor, an offer which was declined? In Boston their reception was stormy, the Massachusetts authorities denying that the commission had any right of jurisdiction. Nicolls, the fourth commissioner, soon arrived and the debates continued, but without result. The king rebuked Massachusetts for its lack of respect, but took no immediate steps to coerce the colony.
The frontier on the eve of King Philip's War.—In 1675 the Penobscot marked the most northern settlement. Along the coasts and in the lower valleys of the short New England streams settlements had been planted. Eastern Massachusetts and Plymouth contained numerous towns. In Rhode Island the island was fairly well-settled, but with the exception of Providence and Warwick, the mainland had attracted few. Other settlements were located near the mouth of the Thames, and in the valley of the Connecticut as far up as Northfield. The coast lands of western Connecticut had also been occupied. The total population of New England did not exceed fifty thousand. The lands beyond the fringe of settlement were occupied by powerful Indian tribes, which could muster about thirty-five hundred fighting men.
Causes of the war.—The encroachment of the frontiers on the Indian hunting ground was the primary cause of the war, but other events were contributory. By 1660 the fur trade had declined, fish and lumber having become the important exports. This trade brought in silver, and wampum ceased to be the medium of exchange. With the passing of furs and wampum, the Indian became less and less useful to the white man, who looked upon him with contempt. The christianizing of the Cape Cod Indians by the Reverend John Eliot and other missionaries was viewed sullenly by the Wampanoags, who saw in it an attempt to weaken their power. Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags, died in 1662, leaving two sons, called by the whites Alexander and Philip. The sudden death of Alexander gave rise to a belief among the Indians that he had been poisoned.
The war.—In the summer of 1675, outbreaks occurred in Rhode Island, and a settler was killed. An expedition was immediately sent against the Wampanoags, but Philip succeeded in escaping with his followers. The Nipmucks attacked Deerfield, Northfield. Springfield, and Hatfield, spreading terror in the Connecticut Valley. Believing that the Narragansetts were about to enter the war, Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut joined forces, and in December attacked their stronghold. After a bloody battle they captured it and dispersed the tribe. The survivors joined the other hostiles and harried the frontiers as far north as the Maine settlements. In April, 1676, Chief Canonchet, of the Narragansetts, was captured and shot, and the following month the Indians were decisively defeated near the falls of the Connecticut. After that the Indian confederation broke up and effective resistance came to an end in August with the death of Philip. The power of the tribes was broken and the way cleared for the advancement of the frontier.
Complaints against Massachusetts.—The independent course which Massachusetts had followed in her dealings with the home government had irritated Charles and the privy council, but the fall of Clarendon and the Dutch war of 1673 had kept the king from taking action against the headstrong colony. Complaints continued to be made. The heirs of Mason and Gorges claimed that Massachusetts had usurped their rights; London merchants complained that the colony was evading the navigation acts by carrying tobacco and sugar directly to Europe from other colonies; lack of respect for the king's authority, the exercising of powers not warranted by her charter, and numerous other complaints were lodged against her.
Edward Randolph.—In 1676 the king sent Edward Randolph to Massachusetts with an order that the colony send agents to England within six months to answer the Mason and Gorges claims an order which was tardily fulfilled. He was also empowered to collect information which might be useful to the Lords of Trade. Randolph was not well received, being looked upon as an agent of the Mason and Gorges heirs. When he complained to Governor Leverett of the violation of the navigation laws, the governor boldly asserted that parliament had no power to legislate for Massachusetts, and denied that appeals might be made to the king. Randolph returned to England convinced that a change of government was necessary.
In 1678 Randolph was appointed collector of the customs, but he did not arrive in Boston until the following year. In the meantime the Massachusetts title to New Hampshire had been examined. Randolph bore a letter from the king which commanded the colony to give up its jurisdiction over both New Hampshire and Maine. The former command Massachusetts immediately obeyed, but the latter was ignored as the agents of Massachusetts had recently purchased the Gorges title.
Annulment of the charter.—As collector of the customs Randolph's course was beset with difficulties, and his reports were filled with complaints of frequent violations of the navigation acts. In 1681 he returned to England and advised that the charter of Massachusetts be abrogated and that all the New England colonies be united under one administrative head. Randolph soon returned to the colony, but the friction continued and his complaints became more and more violent. The king and the Lords of Trade finally wearied of the strong-willed colony, legal action was taken, and in 1684 the charter was annulled.
Temporary government.—The annulment of the charter did not bring about an insurrection in Massachusetts, for the colonial leaders realized that the protection of the mother country was necessary to preserve them from being conquered by the French. While the Lords of Trade were considering a form of government, a temporary plan was put in operation. Joseph Dudley was made president, Randolph secretary, and a council was appointed, but no provision was made for a legislative assembly. To enforce the laws of trade, in 1686 an admiralty court was established.
Affairs in New Hampshire.—Since New Hampshire was separated from Massachusetts, affairs in the northern colony had been going badly. A president and council had been established, but when Randolph attempted to enforce the trade laws, he had met with difficulties. The colonists also objected to paying quit-rents to the Mason heirs. In 1682 Edward Cranfield was appointed governor and was soon at loggerheads with the people over the Mason right, and in 1685 he left the colony in disgust.
Dominion of New England.—The Lords of Trade for some time had been considering the advisability of consolidating the New England colonies in order to cut down expense, to make the enforcement of the navigation acts more effective, and to bring the colonies into a closer dependence on the crown. When James became king, the plan was put into operation. In the new form of government the central figure was a governor-general who was to be assisted by a council, but no provision was made for a popular assembly.
Edmund Andros.—Andros, the former governor of New York, was appointed governor-general and arrived at Boston in December. 1686. In a businesslike manner he organized his government. Boston was made the seat of power. Andros acted as commander of the army and Vice-admiral, and exercised the pardoning power. With the advice and consent of the council he made laws, levied taxes, and administered justice. He also made land grants and collected quit-rents. He demanded that Plymouth, Rhode Island, and Connecticut surrender their charters. Plymouth and Rhode Island complied and their representatives were admitted to the council, but Connecticut temporized. Finally Andros visited the obdurate colony, dissolved the government, and admitted representatives to his council. The charter, however, according to Connecticut tradition, was hidden in an oak tree and never left the colony. In 1688 the Lords of Trade determined to bring all the territory from the St. Croix and the St. Lawrence to the Delaware under the supervision of Andros.
Overthrow of Andros.—The system aroused the anger of the colonists, who looked upon the governor-general as a tyrant. Mutterings of discontent grew louder and louder, and when news reached Massachusetts that James II had fled from England, the people of Boston rose in revolt, seized the fortifications and royal frigate, and imprisoned Andros and Randolph. A council was established, a convention was summoned, and the old charter government was reëstablished. Connecticut and Rhode Island also restored the charter governments.
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