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Massachusetts in the 17th century


King Charles II
King Charles II

From 1629 to 1660, Massachusetts Bay was virtually independent of control from England, which was caught up in a struggle between Parliament and the king that culminated in the English Revolution (1640-1660). During the 1630s, most of the Puritans who fled from religious persecution in England settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony’s elders used its large population and financial strength to influence adjacent settlements, attempting to extend control over areas claimed by the Plymouth Colony and Connecticut in the early 1640s. Massachusetts also began to claim southern New Hampshire, whose towns joined the colony after failing to establish a strong central government of their own.

In 1643 the colony joined Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth to form a military alliance called the New England Confederation, to help meet threatened attacks by Native Americans and Dutch settlers. During the 40 years of the confederation, the Massachusetts Bay Colony dominated its proceedings. In the early 1650s, Massachusetts incorrectly interpreted its charter as granting it the existing settlements in Maine, and by 1658 the entire Maine region had been annexed.

After the English monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II tried to reestablish royal control over the American colonies, especially Massachusetts Bay, which claimed it had sovereign powers and was not responsible to the king.

In 1664 and 1665 the king’s agents attempted to separate Maine and New Hampshire from Massachusetts, but within three years these regions were again dominated by the colony. For 15 years the General Court steadfastly resisted any royal attempts to subjugate the colony.

As the colonies expanded, whites came to outnumber the Native Americans and encroach further onto native lands. Cultural differences and land disputes created conflicts that resulted in King Philip’s War, an uprising led by the Wampanoag chief Philip. The son of Massasoit, who had befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Philip formed an alliance of native groups to drive out the settlers in 1675. Many settlements in central Massachusetts and the Connecticut River valley were destroyed. In retaliation for attacks by Philip’s forces, Massachusetts and its partners in the New England Confederation also declared war on the neutral Narragansett people, killing hundreds of Narragansett in an attack on their main village in Rhode Island. The Narragansett then joined Philip, but the Native Americans were defeated in 1676. Philip was killed, many of his followers were executed or sold into slavery, and their lands were taken over by the colonies. The defeat ended the resistance of southern New England native peoples to white settlement there.

Revocation of Charter


After 1674 England began new attempts to subdue the rebellious Massachusetts Bay Colony. The principal charges leveled against the colony were continuing violations of the trade restrictions of the Navigation Acts; severe religious intolerance, specifically against Anglicans, which led to English citizens being persecuted and even killed; and the colony’s assumption of virtual independence. In 1677 the Puritan leaders sent agents to England to answer these charges, but they did little to satisfy the royal government, and added to past offenses by purchasing the grant governing Maine from the heirs of the original owner, Ferdinando Gorges. In the face of this defiance England separated New Hampshire from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677, and in 1684 England revoked the latter’s charter. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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