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New Hampshire in the 17th and 18th century


New Hampshire
New Hampshire

After Mason’s death, the four New Hampshire towns faced a period of political uncertainty. Massachusetts began to claim southern New Hampshire in about 1638. The English Revolution (1640-1660), which overthrew the monarchy and created years of turmoil in England, left the colony without a definite central authority. From the early 1640s until 1679, the New Hampshire towns placed themselves under the protection of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During this time few new settlements were created, and only one important exploration was undertaken, which led to the discovery of the White Mountains.

After the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Robert T. Mason sought the return of the lands he had inherited from his grandfather, John. As a result, New Hampshire was detached from Massachusetts and was made a royal province. The new charter, effective on January 1, 1680, provided for a president and a council, selected by the king, and for an assembly chosen by voters of the province. But political instability continued in the province, and New Hampshire was again under Massachusetts protection from 1689 to 1692. At that time it once again became separate, but the two colonies shared the same royal governor until 1741.

During this period there was bitter rivalry between the two colonies over jurisdiction in disputed lands.

Massachusetts continued to make grants of lands in parts of what was later judged to be New Hampshire, and these grants often conflicted with those made by New Hampshire. New Hampshire petitioned the king for a final settlement of its boundaries to the east and south with Massachusetts. In 1741 New Hampshire won a favorable decision, gaining more territory and its own royal governor, independent of Massachusetts.

Colonial Economy


Agriculture became the mainstay of colonial New Hampshire in the 18th century, but fur trading and fishing were profitable enterprises for the early settlers, with most of the catch being exported. Local crafts soon developed; Portsmouth had skilled cabinetmakers, and other towns specialized in making iron products, bricks, clocks, or pewter ware.

Lumbering and shipbuilding soon became important operations in 17th century New Hampshire. Boards, staves, and masts were shipped to England. Shipbuilding and the mast trade centered in Portsmouth, which developed into an important commercial town of colonial America. New Hampshire white pine, particularly suitable for ships’ masts, became especially important to the English navy.

In winter a representative of the king marked trees destined to be made into masts; the trees were cut, hauled over the snow to the river, and floated to the sea. The term “mast road” is still used in New Hampshire for the part of several modern thoroughfares that were once trails along which the masts were dragged. New Hampshire’s economy expanded in the early 18th century by the introduction of potato cultivation and linen-making by the Scots-Irish. These settlers were descendants of Scottish people who emigrated to northern Ireland, then came to the colony to escape poverty and religious persecution in the British Isles. "New Hampshire" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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