Map of the Massachusetts Colony in 1775
Massachusetts, Colony OF, one of the original thirteen States of the Union; founded by English Puritans who fled from persecution (see PURITANS). Its shores were probably visited by Northmen at the beginning of the eleventh century (see NORTHMEN), and possibly Sebastian Cabot saw them (149S), and also Verrazano (1524). The shores were explored by Bartholomew Gosnold (1602), Samuel Champlain (1604), and John Smith (1614) ; but the first permanent European settlement was made on the shores of Cape Cod Bay by some English Nonconformists, who, calling themselves "Pilgrims," had fled from England to Holland, sojourned there a few years, formed a church at Leyden, and in 1620 came to America, where they might worship God with perfect freedom. Having made arrangements with the Plymouth Company for planting a settlement, and for funds with some London merchants, they went from Delftshaven to England, and sailed for America from Plymouth in the Mayflower, of 180 tons' burden, on September 17, 1620, and, after a stormy passage, arrived at Cape Cod in November. Seeking a good landing place, the company, 101 in number - men, women, and children - did not leave the vessel until December 22, when they landed on a rock on the shores of Cape Cod Bay, built some log-huts in the snow, and called the rude village New Plymouth. In the cabin of the Mayflower the men had drawn up and signed a form of government - a solemn compact-by which they were to be ruled (see PILGRIMS), and chose JOHN CARVER governor for one year. Cold, exposure, and poor food caused a sickness that swept away nearly one-half their number in four months. Carver was among the victims, and WILLIAM BRADFORD was his successor. Their spiritual leader was Elder WILLIAM BREWSTER. They made a treaty of friendship with MASSASOIT, sachem of the surrounding Indians, and it was long maintained inviolate. In petty hostilities with other chiefs, CAPTAIN MILES STANDISH, a valiant soldier, was very useful. Other Puritans joined the Pilgrims, and other settlements were soon attempted; but the little colony at New Plymouth suffered much at times until 1623, when they were blessed with a bountiful harvest. The community system of labor was abandoned, and in 1627 the colonists dissolved their partnership with the London merchants, and became sole proprietors of the soil. As the Pilgrims could not obtain a patent, they quietly lived under their own simple form of government and prospered. An English company obtained a grant of territory on Massachusetts Bay and sent over JOHN ENDICOTT, with 100 settlers, who seated themselves at Naumkeag, now Salem.
In March, 1629, King Charles I. gave a charter to a number of wealthy and influential Englishmen, confirming a former grant to others, to a domain in America, with whom they became associated, and superadded the power of government. It was similar to the Virginia charter (see VIRGINIA), and erected the patentees and their associates into a corporation by the name of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, in New England. The affairs of the company and the colony were to be managed by a governor, deputy-governor, and eighteen assistants, or magistrates, the latter to hold monthly courts. The more important laws of the colony were to be enacted by a General Court of Assembly of all the freemen and stock-holders, to be held quarterly. The rights of Englishmen were secured to the colonists, but the management of the local government was entirely in the hands of the corporation in England. No royal negative was reserved in the enactments of the company. Nothing was said about religion. The company was organized under the charter by the appointment of Matthew Cradock governor, and Timothy Goffe deputy-governor—two wealthy London merchants. The executive administration of the colony was entrusted to John Endicott, assisted by twelve councilors—seven to be named by the company, two to be selected by the old planters, and these nine to select three more. The settlement was called "London's Plantation." Every stockholder who should emigrate to America at his own cost was to receive fifty acres of land for each member of his family, and the same for each indentured servant he carried with him. The charter and the government were soon transferred from England to Massachusetts, and a large emigration ensued in 1629-30.
Colonists Deface the British Flag
Late in 1634, while Dudley was governor, John Endicott, incited by Roger Williams, caused the red cross of St. George to be cut out of the military standard of England used at Salem, because he regarded it as a "relic of Anti-Christ," it having been given by the pope to a former king of England as an ensign of victory. He had so worked upon the minds of many citizens of Salem that they refused to follow the standard with the cross upon it. At about that time the British government, jealous of the independent spirit manifested in Massachusetts, watched its development with great vigilance, and the enemies of the colony pointed to this mutilation of the standard as evidence of disloyalty to the crown. It was simply loyalty to bigotry. The whole aspect of the act was theological, not political; but the royalists chose to interpret it otherwise, and it was one of the reasons for tyrannical action towards the colony when orders were issued to the authorities of Massachusetts to produce their charter before the privy council in England. At a Court of Assistants at Boston complaint was made of the mutilation of the standard, for trouble with the home government was anticipated. The ensign-bearer was summoned before the court. Afterwards the assistants met at the governor's house to advise about the defacing, and it was agreed to write to England about the matter. Endicott was, after three months' longer deliberation, called to answer for the act.
The court could not agree whether all the ensigns should be laid aside, as many would not follow them with the cross visible. The commissioners of military affairs ordered all the ensigns to be put away. Nothing more was done in the matter then. Two years later there was more trouble about the colors. Henry Vane was elected governor (1636), and fifteen ships in the harbor having arrived with passengers, the seamen commemorated his election by a volley of greet guns. But, the ensigns being " laid away," the fort in Boston could not acknowledge the compliment by displaying colors. The English sailors accused the colonists of treason, and the shipmasters requested the governor to spread the King's colors at the fort, because the question of their loyalty might be raised in England. The magistrates were all persuaded that the cross in the colors was idolatrous, and the governor dissimulated by pretending that he had no colors. The shipmasters offered to lend him theirs, and this was accepted as a compromise with the consciences of the authorities, they arguing that, as the fort was the King's, the colors might be displayed there at his peril.
At the request of the General Court, the REV. JOHN COTTON drew up the first code of laws of Massachusetts. They were taken entirely from the Old Testament. It was found that they were not adapted to a state of society so different from that of the Hebrews in the time of Moses, and Rev. Nathaniel Ward, who was familiar with the Roman as well as the Jewish laws, drew up a code which was substituted for Cotton's in 1641. Time first article of this code provided that the rights of person and property vested in the citizen should be inviolate, except by express law, or, in default of that, by the "Word of God." Governor Winthrop did not approve of Mr. Ward's adaptation of Greek and Roman laws. He thought it better that the laws should be taken from the Scriptures rather than "on the authority of the wisdom and justice of those heathen commonwealths." The "Body of Liberties " compiled by Mr. Ward was really the first constitution of Massachusetts Bay.
In 1651 Roger Williams and John Clarke were appointed agents to seek in England a confirmation of the Rhode island charter. Before their departure, Mr. Clarke, with Mr. Crandall and Obadiah Holmes, delegates from the Baptist Church in Newport, visited an aged Baptist brother in Lynn, Mass., who was too feeble to attend public worship. On a Sunday morning they ventured to give a public exhortation at the house of the brother. For this they were arrested, and carried by force in the afternoon to hear the regular Congregational preacher (Thomas Cobbett, author of " a large, nervous, and golden discourse " against the Baptists). The next day they were sent to Boston, where Clarke was sentenced to pay a fine of $100, or be whipped. One charge against him was that he neglected to take off his hat when he was forced into the Congregational meetinghouse at Lynn. In a sermon just before Clarke's trial, John Cotton declared that to deny the efficacy of infant baptism was " to overthrow all," and was " soul murder " —a capital offence. So Endicott held in passing sentence upon the prisoner. He charged Clarke with preaching to the weak and ignorant, and bade him " try and dispute with our ministers."
Clarke accepted the challenge, and sent word to the Massachusetts ministers that he would prove to them that the ordinance of baptism—that is, dipping in water —was to be administered only to those who gave evidence of repentance and faith; and that only such visible believers constituted the Church of Christ on the earth. The ministers evaded the trial. Some of Clarke's friends paid his fine, and he was released. Crandall, fined $25, was released at the same time; but Holmes, a recent convert to Anabaptism, and lately excommunicated, who was fined $150, had more of the martyr spirit. As he left the bar the pastor (John Wilson) struck him and cursed him because he said, "I bless God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus." Some friends offered to pay Holmes's fine, but he declined it, and was taken to the public whipping - post, where he was scourged with a three-corded whip, with which a stout man gave him thirty stripes most vigorously, " the man spitting on his hands three times." When led away, Holmes said to the magistrates, " You have struck me with roses," and prayed the punishment might not be laid to their charge. Two sympathizing friends came up to the bleeding victim of bigotry and intolerance, and, shaking hands with him, said, "Blessed be God." They were arrested for " contempt of authority," fined 40s. each, and imprisoned. Holmes returned to Newport, and lived to old age.
Not long afterwards Sir Richard Saltonstall, one of the founders of the Massachusetts colony, wrote from England to Cotton and Wilson, ministers in Boston, saying: " It doth not a little grieve my spirit to hear what sad things are reported daily of your tyranny and persecution in New England, as that you fine, whip, and imprison men for their consciences. First you compel such to come into your assemblies as you know will not join you in your worship, and when they show their dislike thereof, or witness against it, then you stir up your magistrates to punish them for such as you conceive their public offences. Truly, friends, this your practice of compelling any, in matters of worship, to do that whereof they are not fully persuaded is to make them sin, for so the apostle (Rom. xiv., 23) tells us; and many are made hypocrites thereby, conforming in their outward man for fear of punishment. . . . These rigid ways have laid you very low in the hearts of the saints."
King Charles I. now began to interfere with the political independence of the colony. He demanded the surrender of the charter to the crown; the order was evaded, and, by erecting fortifications and drilling troops, the colonists prepared to resist it. During the civil war the colony was quiet, but on the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 (see CHARLES II.) the government of England claimed supreme jurisdiction in Massachusetts. A commissioner was sent to England in 1662, and obtained a confirmation of the charter and a conditional promise of amnesty for offenders during the late troubles between royalty and the people. Charles II. demanded the repeal of all laws contrary to his authority, the taking of an oath of allegiance, the administration of justice in the King's name, the complete toleration of the Church of England in Massachusetts, and a concession of the elective franchise to every man having a competent estate.
There was a diversity of sentiment in the colony respecting these demands, some acquiescing, some opposing; and in 1664 commissioners arrived in Boston to investigate the affairs of the colony. The colonial authorities published an order prohibiting any complaints to be made to the commissioners, and addressed a remonstrance to the King. The commissioners, unable to do anything, finally withdrew. The King reproved Massachusetts, and ordered the governor and others to appear before him. They refused to go, and much trouble was expected. A more serious trouble awaited them. The colony was severely scourged by KING PHILIP'S WAR in 1675-76. The Indians destroyed a dozen towns, 6,000 houses, and 600 of the inhabitants, in their homes or in the little army. Of the men, one in twenty had fallen, and of the families, one in twenty was homeless : and the cost of the war was over $500,000 - enormous at that time.
The royal pretensions to rule the colony were renewed after the war, though England had not furnished a man or a farthing to carry it on, but these were spurned. In 1680 a committee of the privy council, at the suit of the heirs of Gorges, denied the right of Massachusetts to New Hampshire and Maine. Massachusetts purchased the title to the latter (see MAINE), and the former became an independent province (see NEW HAMPSHIRE). In 1684 the high court of chancery in England gave judgment in favor of the crown against the Governor and Company of Massachusetts, and the charter was declared forfeited. Joseph Dudley was appointed royal governor, the General Assembly, or Court, was dissolved, and a new commission superseded the charter government. Edmund Andros succeeded Dudley, Dec. 20, 1686, when that tyrannical ruler and his pliant council proceeded to make laws amid levy taxes without the consent of the people. The people submitted with impatience. They were relieved by the expulsion (1688) of the last Stuart king from the throne of England (see JAMES II.) , and early in 1689 the men of Boston imprisoned Andros, reinstated the old government, and sent the ex-royal governor to England (see ANDROS, SIR EDMUND). In the intercolonial war between France and England in 1690 Massachusetts participated, and to pay the expenses the colony first issued paper money.
A New Charter
In 1692 a new charter was given to Massachusetts, by which New Plymouth was united with it. By its terms the colony of Plymouth, the provinces of Maine and Nova Scotia, as far north as the St. Lawrence River, and all the country between them, were added to the old province of Massachusetts; also the Elizabeth Islands and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The governor, lieutenant-governor, and colonial secretary were appointed by the crown. The charter gave the governor the power to convene and dissolve the General Court, and a veto of all its acts. The councillors first appointed by the crown were afterwards to be annually elected by the House of Representatives and the existing council; but of the twenty-eight thus chosen the governor might reject thirteen. The advice and consent of the council were necessary to all appointments and official acts. Under this charter the theocracy Which had ruled Massachusetts With rigor lost nearly all its power. Toleration was expressly secured to all religious sects, excepting the Roman Catholic. The right of suffrage, limited by the old government to church members and a few persons admitted as freemen on a minister's certificate, was now bestowed on all inhabitants possessing a freehold of the annual value of $6.66, or personal property to the amount of $133.33.
In 1692, after the receipt of the new charter, the General Court passed an act which was a declaration of the rights of the colony. Among the general privileges which it asserted, it declared that "No aid, tax, tollage, assessment, custom, loan, benevolence, or imposition whatsoever, shall be laid, assessed, imposed, or levied on any of their Majesties' subjects, or their estates, on any pretence whatsoever, but by the act and consent of the governor council, and representatives of the people assembled in General Court." About this time the Salem witchcraft delusion fearfully disturbed the colony for six months. The province was smitten by French and Indian invaders in 1703-4, and war was waged with the Indians in 1722 and 1725.
Suppression of the Free Press
The controversies carried on through pamphlets in discussions of the subjects of paper money, the small-pox, and the quarrels between the governor (Shute) and the representatives, had exhibited so much freedom that James Franklin was encouraged to set up a newspaper at Boston, called the New England Courant. The first number was dated Aug. 6, 1721. It was designed as a medium of public discussion, to take the place of pamphlets, and was the first newspaper in America that aspired to this eminence. Its freedom of speech made the authorities uneasy; and one of its articles, in relation to the fitting-out of a vessel to cruise against pirates, was construed as contempt of the General Court, for which Franklin was imprisoned. His brother Benjamin Franklin, then a youth of sixteen, published in it some mild essays on religious hypocrisy, which gave greater offence. It was charged that the paper had a "tendency to mock religion"; that it profanely abused the Holy Scriptures; injuriously reflected upon the ministers of the Gospel and "on his Majesty's government," and disturbed the peace and good order of the province. James Franklin was forbidden to publish a newspaper, pamphlet, or anything else unless it should be approved and licensed by the colonial secretary. This order was evaded by the Courant being published in the name of his brother Benjamin, but the caution necessary to be used made contributors shy. They gradually ceased to write, and the paper, losing interest, finally perished for lack of support. Such was the fate of the first nominally free press in America.
War With France
The colony was involved in war with its French neighbors in 1744, in consequence of a war between France and England. In that war Massachusetts contributed largely in men and means to the capture of Louisburg (1745), and in attempts to conquer Canada. She also bore her part in the French and Indian War; and in the opposition to the Stamp Act and other schemes of the British Parliament for taxing the English-American colonists, Massachusetts took a leading part.
Taxation Without Representation
Recent acts of Parliament for taxing the Americans caused the Massachusetts Assembly, in January, 1768, to send to the King a petition which combined, temperately, the spirit of liberty and of loyalty. In it was set forth a brief history of the colony of Massachusetts; the franchise guaranteed by their charter; expressed the happiness of the colonists while in the enjoyment of these chartered privileges; spoke of the obedience to acts of Parliament not inconsistent with these chartered rights, and said: " It is with the deepest concern that your humble suppliants would represent to your Majesty that your Parliament, the rectitude of whose intentions is never to be questioned, has thought proper to pass divers acts imposing taxes on your subjects in America, with the sole and express purpose of raising a revenue." " If your Majesty's subjects here shall be deprived of the honor and privilege of voluntarily contributing their aid to your Majesty," they continued, " in supporting your government and authority in the province, and defending and securing your rights and territories in America, which they have always hitherto done with the greatest cheerfulness, their liberties would be in danger." They declared that if Parliament intended to lay taxes upon them without their consent, the people "must regret their unhappy fate in having only the name left of free subjects." " With all humility," they continued, " we conceive that a representation of this province in Parliament, considering these local circumstances, is utterly impracticable. Your Majesty has heretofore been graciously pleased to order your requisitions to be laid before the representatives of the people in the General Assembly, who never failed to afford the necessary aid to the extent of their ability, and sometimes beyond it; and it would be ever grievous to your Majesty's faithful subjects to be called upon in a way that should appear to them to imply a distrust of their most ready and willing compliance." They closed by humbly asking the King to consider their situation and to afford them relief from the oppression of the Parliament. With this petition went to England letters of leading statesmen, urging the rights of the province.
Colonies Begin to Organize a Governing Assembly
The General Court which met Dec. 30, 1767, having appointed a large committee to consider the state of the province, adopted (February 11, 1768) a circular letter, which was addressed to the speakers of the various colonial assemblies, inviting cooperation and mutual consultation concerning the defense of colonial rights. This letter embodied the sentiments of the petition to the King above mentioned. It gave great offence to the ministry. When it reached them, Lord Hillsborough, secretary of the state for the colonies, sent instructions to the governor (Bernard) to call upon the Assembly to rescind the letter, and, in the event of noncompliance, to dissolve that body. It was then the most numerous legislature in America, consisting of 109 members. Instead of complying with the governor's demand, they made the instructions of Hillsborough a fresh cause of complaint against the ministry. " When Lord Hillsborough knows," said Otis in the Assembly, " that we will not rescind our acts, he should apply to Parliament to rescind theirs. Let Britons rescind these measures, or they are lost forever." The House re-fused to rescind by a vote of 92 to 17. In a letter to the governor notifying him of their noncompliance, the Assembly said, " If the votes of this House are to be controlled by the directions of a minister, we have left us but a vain semblance of liberty." The governor proceeded to dissolve the Assembly; but before that was accomplished they had prepared a series of accusations against him and a petition to the King to remove him. The answers to the circular letter from other assemblies glowed with sympathy and assurances of cooperation. When it was known that British troops had been ordered to Boston, a townmeeting was held and a request sent to Governor Bernard to convene the Provincial Assembly. He refused, and a convention of delegates from all the towns in the province was provided for. Delegates from more than 100 towns met, Sept. 22, at Boston, ostensibly "in consequence of prevailing apprehensions of a war with France." This was a mere pretext. They ordered all persons not already in possession of firearms to procure them at once; and they appointed a day of fasting and prayer to be observed by all Congregational societies. The convention petitioned the governor to summon a general court. He refused to receive the petition, and denounced the convention as treasonable. They proceeded cautiously. All pretensions to political authority were expressly disclaimed. They prepared and adopted a petition to the King, and a letter to De Berdt, agent for the provinces in England, charging him to defend the colony against accusations of sedition or a rebellious spirit. Such was the beginning of the system of conventions which, in a few years, assumed the whole political authority of the colonies. The convention adjourned after a four days' session, and the day after the adjournment troops from Halifax arrived.
On March 5, 1774, John Hancock and Samuel Adams spoke to a great meeting of citizens in Faneuil Hall. The former said: " Permit me to suggest a general congress of deputies from the several Houses of Assembly on the continent as the most effectual method of establishing a union for the security of our rights and liberties." Samuel Adams said: It will be in vain for any to expect that the people of this country Will now be contented with a partial and temporary relief, or that they will be amused by Court promises while they see not the least relaxation of grievances. By means of a brisk correspondence among the several towns in this province they have wonderfully animated and enlightened each other. They are united in sentiments, and their opposition to unconstitutional measures of government is become systematical. Colony begins to communicate freely with colony. There is a common affection among them; and shortly the whole continent will be as united in sentiment and in their measures of opposition to tyranny as the inhabitants of this province. Their old goodwill and affection for the parent country are not totally lost; if she returns to her former moderation and good-humor, their affection will revive. They wish for nothing more than a permanent union with her upon the condition of equal liberty. This is all they have been contending for; and nothing short of this will, or ought to, satisfy them." This was the ultimatum of Massachusetts.
An act for remodelling the government of Massachusetts was put in force on Aug. 1, 1774, and under it Governor Gage appointed a council by writ of mandamus. Most of those appointed accepted the office and were sworn in. They became at once objects of bitter public odium. The new government was denounced vehemently, and in some parts of the province with violence. The "mandamus councilors " were treated as enemies of their country by the patriots. In Boston, juries refused to serve, lest by consenting to act they should recognize the authority of the new government. It was not long before most of the "mandamus councilors " were compelled to take shelter under a resignation to escape popular resentment.
At the close of 1774, political power in Massachusetts was widely distributed, so that it was felt in every nerve of the body politic. There was a Provincial Congress having the general and supreme direction of public affairs. The efforts of this body were zealously seconded in every town by a committee of safety, vested with general executive powers, a committee of correspondence, and a committee of inspection. The duty of the latter was to look after and enforce the observance of the requirements of the AMERICAN ASSOCIATION.
Colonies to Hold Elections
The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts wrote to the Continental Congress, May 16, 1775, setting forth the difficulties they experienced for the want of a regular government, since the act of Parliament that was intended to subvert their charter, and asking for explicit advice in the matter. The Congress resolved (June 9) that no obedience was due from the inhabitants of Massachusetts to the obnoxious act of Parliament, nor to any of the crown officers acting under it; that, as there was no council, and as Governor Gage was actually carrying on war against the people, they recommended an election of representatives to an assembly that should appoint councillors, and that this body or the councillors should exercise the powers of government until a governor should be appointed who would consent to govern the colony according to the charter. This was done. James Warren, president of the Provincial Congress, was authorized to issue writs for an election. The summons was readily obeyed. A full house convened on July 20, and Warren was chosen speaker. A council was elected, and the two branches proceeded to legislation, under the charter.
On May 1, 1776, the General Court of Massachusetts passed " an act for establishing the Stile of Commissions which shall hereafter be Issued and for Altering the Stile of writs, Processes, and all Law proceedings within this colony, and for directing pene Recognizances to the Use of this Government shall for the future be taken and prosecuted." The act went on to say that, " Whereas, the Petitions of the United Colonies to the King had been rejected and treated With scorn and contempt, and the evident design of the government was to reduce the colonies to a state of servile subjection," it was therefore decreed that, "on and after the first day of June next ensuing, all Civil Commissions, Writs, and Precepts for convening the General Court or Assembly " should thereafter be made out " in the name and Stile of the Government and People of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." Also, all the officers of the colony, civil and military, should receive their authority from the same source. This placed the supreme authority of Massachusetts, de facto and de jure, in the chosen representatives of the people. It was an absolute declaration of independence.
War of 1812
The doctrine of State supremacy had a strong hold upon the political opinions of New England, and particularly of Massachusetts, and it was restless under the assumption of supreme power by the national government in the War of 1812-15. In his message to the legislature, May 20, 1813, Governor Strong defended the right of free discussion of the great question of the day-peace or war with Great Britain. The peace party powerfully influenced public opinion in Massachusetts, and, following the message of the governor, the legislature agreed to a remonstrance, in which they denounced the perseverance in war, and declared that, for aught that appeared, the questions at issue might be adjusted by peaceful negotiations.
The politicians of the State were chiefly instrumental in getting up the HARTFORD CONVENTION, and George Cabot, of Massachusetts, was its president. In 1820 the District of Maine was separated from Massachusetts, and admitted into the Union as a State. During the Civil War Massachusetts furnished to the National army and navy 159,165 men, and the losses were 3,749 killed in battle, 9,086 who died from wounds or disease, 15,645 discharged for disability contracted in the service, and 5,866 not accounted for. The State expended on account of the war $30,162,200. In 1890 the population was 2,238,943; in 1900, 2,805,346. See ADAMS, SAMUEL (Protest against Taxation)
GOVERNORS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS COLONIES.
PLYMOUTH COLONY, ELECTED.
Site Copyright 2003-2014 Son of the South. For Questions or comments about this collection,
Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.