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Connecticut in the 17th century


James II
James II

Until 1662 the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven were not recognized in England as legally established colonies. A deed, known as the Warwick Patent, had been given to the founders of Saybrook by the earl of Warwick in 1632, and it was presumably transferred to Connecticut when that colony purchased Saybrook. However, the legality of the grant was questionable. John Winthrop the younger, who had been elected governor of the Connecticut colony in 1657, sailed to England in 1661, and the following year he secured a royal charter from King Charles II. As set forth in the charter, the boundaries of the Connecticut colony extended from Massachusetts south to Long Island Sound and from Narragansett Bay west to the Pacific Ocean. The charter thus ignored the separate existence of New Haven. The New Haven colonists protested their incorporation into Connecticut.

However, they agreed to the merger in 1664 in response to the possibility that New Haven, a Puritan colony, might be included in the area granted to the Duke of York; the Church of England was the official religion in that area. Early in 1665 the two Puritan colonies of New Haven and Connecticut were formally merged.

Under the royal charter of 1662, Connecticut retained much of its previous autonomy. The charter incorporated the essential features of the Fundamental Orders, and local government was conducted as before with little interference from the English crown or from Parliament. However, after Charles II died, his successor, James II, attempted to consolidate New England under the administration of Sir Edmund Andros. When Andros arrived in Hartford in 1687 to demand the surrender of Connecticut’s charter, the document mysteriously disappeared.

According to tradition it was hidden by the colonists in the hollow of a large oak tree that came to be known as the Charter Oak. Although Andros failed to secure the charter, he ruled Connecticut as a part of New England until 1688, when James II was overthrown. In 1689 Andros was arrested, and colonial self-government was reinstated.

As in the rest of New England, religious matters played a major role in the Puritan society of colonial Connecticut. Although membership in the Congregational Church was not a requirement to vote, all residents were taxed to support the church. By the end of the 17th century, religious disputes among Puritans over church government and congregational autonomy threatened the unity of the colony. To settle the dispute, the legislature summoned delegates to a religious convention at Saybrook in 1708. A compromise solution known as the Saybrook Platform was adopted. It established a single confession of faith, or set of beliefs, as the official religion of the colony, but gave individual congregations substantial autonomy in other matters.

Connecticut suffered little damage in King Philip’s War (1675-1676), the last major resistance by Native Americans to white settlement of southern New England.

Most of Connecticut’s tribes remained neutral or aided the colonists when the Wampanoag chief Philip led an alliance of native peoples against the Massachusetts colonies in retaliation for encroachments on native lands. Connecticut troops joined in attacks on the Narragansett in neighboring Rhode Island, killing hundreds when the neutral Narragansett refused to give up Wampanoag refugees. From the late 1680s until 1763, as Great Britain and France fought for control of North America, Connecticut supplied troops and money but faced little direct threat from the French and their Native American allies. "Connecticut" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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