The Prelates and Massachusetts


George Bancroft, historian,
(1800-1891)

HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, BY GEORGE BANCROFT

Volume I, Chapter 17: The Prelates and Massachusetts

THE prohibition of the Book of Common Prayer at Salem produced an early harvest of implacable enemies to the colony. Resentment rankled in the minds of some, whom Endecott had perhaps too passionately punished; and Mason and Gorges persistently kept alive their vindictive complaints. A petition even reached King Charles, complaining of distraction and disorder in the plantations; but Massachusetts was ably defended by Saltonstall, Humphrey, and Cradock, its friends in England; and, in January, 1633, the committee of the privy council ordered the adventurers to continue their undertakings cheerfully, for the king did not design to impose on the people of Massachusetts the ceremonies which they had emigrated to avoid. The country, it was believed, would in time be very beneficial to England.

After the charter had been carried over to America, the progress of these earliest settlements was watched in the mother country with the most glowing interest. A letter from New England was venerated “as a sacred script or as a writing of some holy prophet, and was carried many miles, where divers came to hear it.” Voices from the churches of Massachusetts prevailed with their persecuted friends in Old England till “the departure of so many of the BEST, such numbers of faithful and free-born Englishmen and good Christians,” seemed to the serious minded” an ill-boding sign to the nation,” and began to effray the Episcopal party. In February, 1634, ships bound with passengers for New England were detained in the Thames by an order of the council.

But the change reached farther. The archbishops could complain that not only was the religious system which was forbidden by the laws of the realm established in the new colony in America, but the service established by law in England was prohibited. Proof was produced of marriages celebrated by civil magistrates, and of an established system of church discipline which was at variance with the laws of England. The superintendence of the colonies was, therefore, in April, 1634, removed from the privy council to an arbitrary special commission, of which William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, and the archbishop of York, were the chief. These, with ten of the highest officers of state, were invested with full power to make laws and orders for the government of English colonies planted in foreign parts, to appoint judges and magistrates and establish courts for civil and ecclesiastical affairs, to regulate the church, to impose penalties and imprisonment for offences in ecclesiastical matters, to remove governors and require an account of their government, to determine all appeals from the colonies, and to revoke all charters and patents which had been surreptitiously obtained, or which conceded liberties prejudicial to the royal prerogative.

Cradock, who had been governor of the corporation in England before the transfer of the charter of Massachusetts, was strictly charged to deliver it up; and he wrote to the governor and council to send it home. Upon receipt of his letter, they resolved “not to return any answer or excuse at that time.” In September, a copy of the commission to Archbishop Laud and his associates was brought to Boston; and it was at the same time rumored that the colonists were to be compelled by force to accept a new governor, the discipline of the church of England, and the laws of the commissioners. The intelligence awakened “the magistrates and deputies to discover their minds each to other, and to hasten their fortifications,” toward which, poor as was the colony, six hundred pounds were raised.

In January, 1635, all the ministers assembled at Boston; and they unanimously declared against the reception of a general governor, saying: “We ought to defend our lawful possessions, if we are able; if not, to avoid and protract.”

In the month before this declaration, it is not strange that Laud and his associates should have esteemed the inhabitants of Massachusetts to be men of refractory humors; complaints resounded of parties consenting in nothing but hostility to the church of England; of designs to shake off the royal jurisdiction. Restraints were placed upon emigration; no one above the rank of a serving man might remove to the colony without the special leave of Laud and his associates; and persons of inferior order were required to take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, of obedience to the church of England, as well as fidelity to its king.

Willingly as these acts were enforced by religious bigotry, they were promoted by another cause. A change had come over the character of the great Plymouth council for the colonization of New England, which had already made grants of all the lands from the Penobscot to Long Island. The members of the company desired as individuals to become the proprietaries of extensive territories, even at the dishonor of invalidating all their grants as a corporation. A meeting of the lords was convened in April, 1635; and the coast, from Acadia to beyond the Hudson; was divided into shares, and distributed among them by lots.

To the possession of their prizes the inflexible colony of Massachusetts formed an obstacle, which they hoped to overcome by surrendering their general patent for New England to the king. To obtain of him a confirmation of their respective grants, they set forth “that the Massachusetts patentees, having surreptitiously obtained from the crown a confirmation of their grant of the soil, had made themselves a free people, and for such hold themselves at present; framing unto themselves new conceits of religion and new forms of ecclesiastical and temporal government, punishing divers that would not approve thereof, under other pretences indeed, yet for no other cause save only to make themselves absolute masters of the country, and uncontrollable in their new laws.”

At the Trinity term of the court of king’s bench, a quo warranto was brought against the company of the Massachusetts bay. At the ensuing Michaelmas, several of its members who resided in England made their appearance, and judgment was pronounced against them individually; the rest of the patentees stood outlawed, but no judgment was entered against them. The unexpected death of Mason, the proprietary of New Hampshire, in December, 1635, removed the chief instigator of these aggressions.

In July, 1637, the king, professing “to redress the mischiefs that had arisen out of the many different humours,” took the government of New England into his own hands, and appointed over it Sir Ferdinando Gorges as governor-general, upon whose “gravity, moderation, and experience,” some hope of introducing a new system was reposed. But the measure was feeble and ineffectual. While Gorges in England sided with the adversaries of Massachusetts, he avoided all direct collision with its people, pretending by his letters and speeches to seek their welfare; he never left England, and was hardly heard of except by petitions to its government. Attempting great matters and incurring large expenses, he lost all. The royal grant of extended territory in Maine was never of any avail to him.

Persecution in England gave strength to the Puritan colony. The severe censures in the star-chamber, the greatness of the fines which avarice rivalled bigotry in imposing, the rigorous proceedings with regard to ceremonies, the suspending and silencing of multitudes of ministers, continued; and men were “enforced by heaps to desert their native country. Nothing but the wide ocean and the savage deserts of America could hide and shelter them from the fury of the bishops.” The pillory had become the scene of human agony and mutilation, as an ordinary punishment; and the friends of Laud jested on the sufferings which were to cure the obduracy of fanatics. “The very genius of that nation of people,” said Wentworth, “leads them always to oppose, both civilly and ecclesiastically, all that ever authority ordains for them.” They were provoked to the indiscretion of a complaint, and then involved in a persecution. They were imprisoned and scourged; their noses were slit; their ears were cut off; their cheeks were marked with a red-hot brand. But the lash and the shears and the glowing iron could not destroy principles which were rooted in the soul, and which danger made it glorious to profess. The injured party even learned to despise the mercy of their oppressors. Four years after Prynne had been punished for a publication, he was a second time arraigned for a like offence. “I thought,” said Lord Finch, “that Prynne had lost his ears already; but,” added he, looking at the prisoner, “there is something left yet;” and an officer of the court, removing the hair, displayed the mutilated organs. A crowd gathered round the scaffold where Prynne and Bastwick and Burton were to suffer maim. “Christians” said Prynne, “stand fast; be faithful to God and your country; or you bring on yourselves and your children perpetual slavery.” The dungeon, the pillory, and the scaffold were stages in the progress of civil liberty toward its triumph.

There was a period when the ministry of Charles feared no dangerous resistance in England; and the attempts to override the rights of parliament by monarchical power were accompanied by analogous movements against New England, of whose colonists a correspondent of Laud reported, “that they aimed not at new discipline, but at sovereignty; that it was accounted treason in their general court to speak of appeals to the king.”

The Puritans, hemmed in by dangers on every side, and having no immediate prospect of success at home, desired at any rate to escape from their native country. “To restrain the transportation to the colonies of subjects whose principal end was to live as much as they could without the reach of authority,” one proclamation succeeded another. On the first day of May, 1635, the privy council interfered to stay a squadron of eight ships, which were in the Thames, preparing to embark for New England. It has been said that Hampden and Cromwell were on board this fleet. The English ministry of that day might willingly have exiled Hampden, who was at that very time engaged in resisting the levy of ship-money; no original authors, except royalists writing on hearsay, allude to the design imputed to him; in America there exists no evidence of his expected arrival; the remark of the historian Hutchinson refers to the well-known schemes of Lord Say and Seal and Lord Brooke. There came over, during this summer, twenty ships, and at least three thousand persons; and, had Hampden designed to emigrate, he possessed energy enough to have accomplished his purpose. He undoubtedly had watched with deep interest the progress of Massachusetts; The “Conclusions” had early attracted his attention; and, in 1631, he had taken part in a purchase of territory on the Narragansett; but the greatest patriot statesmen of his times, the man whom Charles I would gladly have seen drawn and quartered, whom Clarendon paints as possessing beyond all his contemporaries “a head to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute,” and whom Baxter revered as able, by his presence and conversation, to give a new charm to the rest of the saints in Heaven, never embarked for America. The fleet in which he is said to have taken his passage was delayed but a few days; on petition of the owners and passengers, King Charles removed the restraint; the ships proceeded on their voyage; and the company arrived in the bay of Massachusetts. Had Hampden and Cromwell been of the party, they would have reached New England.

Twenty-six days before this attempt to stay emigration, the lords of the council had written to Winthrop, recalling to mind the former proceedings by a quo warranto, and demanding the return of the patent. In case of refusal, it was added, the king would assume into his own hands the entire management of the plantation.

But “David in exile could more safely expostulate with Saul for the vast space between them.” The colonists, on the sixth of September, without desponding, demanded a trial before condemnation. They urged that the recall of the patent would be a manifest breach of faith, pregnant with evils to themselves and their neighbors; that it would strengthen the plantations of the French and the Dutch; that it would discourage all future attempts at colonial enterprise; and, finally, “if the patent be taken from us,” such was their remonstrance, “the common people will conceive that his majesty has cast them off, and that hereby they are freed from their allegiance and subjection, and therefore will be ready to confederate themselves under a new government for their necessary safety and subsistence, which will be of dangerous example unto other plantations, and perilous to ourselves of incurring his majesty’s displeasure.”

What liberal English statesmen thought of the people of Massachusetts we know from D’Ewes, who wrote: “All men whom malice blindeth not, nor impiety transverseth, may see that the very finger of God hath hitherto gone with them and guided them.” On the other hand, the government of Charles were of the opinion that “all corporations, as is found by experience in the corporation of New England, are refractory to monarchical government and endeavor to poison a plantation with factious spirits.”

Before the supplication of the colony was made, the monarch was himself involved in disasters. Anticipating success in his tyranny in England, with headlong indiscretion, he insisted on introducing a liturgy into Scotland, and compelling the uncompromising disciples of Knox to listen to prayers translated from the Roman missal. In July, 1637, the first attempt at reading the new service in the cathedral of Edinburgh was the signal for that series of events which promised to restore liberty to England and give peace to the colonies. The movement began, as great revolutions almost always do, from the ranks of the people. The nobles of Scotland take advantage of the anger of the people to promote their ambition. In the next year the national covenant is published, and is signed by the Scottish nation, almost without distinction of rank or sex; the defences of despotism are broken down; the flood washes away every vestige of Anglican ecclesiastical oppression. Scotland rises in arms for a holy war, and enlists religious enthusiasm under its banner in its contest against a despot, who has neither a regular treasury, nor an army, nor the confidence of his people. The wisest of his subjects esteem the insurgents as their friends and allies. There is now no time to oppress New England; the throne itself totters: there is no need to forbid emigration; fiery spirits, who had fled for a refuge to the colonies, rush back to share in the open struggle of England for liberty. In the following years the reformation of church and state, the attainder of Strafford, the impeachment of Laud, caused all men to stay at home in expectation of a new world.

Yet a nation was already planted in New England; a commonwealth was ripened; the contests in which the unfortunate Charles became engaged, and the republican revolution that followed, left the colonists, for twenty years, nearly unmolested in the enjoyment of virtual independence. The change which their industry had wrought in the wilderness was the admiration of their times. The wigwams and hovels in which the English had at first found shelter were replaced by well-built houses. The number of emigrants who had arrived in New England before the assembling of the Long Parliament is esteemed to have been twenty-one thousand two hundred. Two hundred and ninety-eight ships had borne them across the Atlantic; and the cost of the plantations had been almost a million of dollars—a great expenditure and a great emigration for that age. In a little more than ten years, fifty towns and villages had been planted; between thirty and forty churches built; and strangers, as they gazed, could not but acknowledge God’s blessing on the endeavors of the planters. A public school, for which, on the eighth of September, 1636, the general court made provision, was, in the next year, established at Cambridge; and when, in 1638, John Harvard, a church member of Charlestown, where he was “sometimes minister of God’s word,” dying in the second year of his residence, bequeathed to it his library and half his fortune, it was named HARVARD COLLEGE. “To complete the colony in church and commonwealth work,” Jose Glover, a worthy minister, “able in estate,” and of a liberal spirit, in that same year embarked for Boston with fonts of letters for printing, and a printer. He died on the passage; but, in 1639, Stephen Daye, the printer, printed the Freeman’s Oath, and an almanac calculated for New England; and, in 1640, “for the edification and comfort of the saints,” the Psalms, faithfully but rudely translated in metre from the Hebrew by Thomas Welde and John Eliot, ministers of Roxbury, assisted by Richard Mather, minister of Dorchester, were published in a volume of three hundred octavo pages. This was the first book printed in America north of the city of Mexico.

In temporal affairs, affluence came in the train of industry. The natural exports of the country were furs and lumber; grain was carried to the West Indies; fish was a staple. The art of ship-building was introduced with the first emigrants to Salem; but “Winthrop had with him William Stephens, a shipwright, who had been preparing to go for Spain, and who would have been as a precious jewel to any state that obtained him.” He had built in England many ships of great burden, one even of six hundred tons, and he was “so able a man that there was hardly such another to be found in the kingdom.” In New England he lived with great content, where, from the time of his arrival, ship-building was carried on with surpassing skill, so that vessels were soon constructed of four hundred tons. So long as the ports were thronged with new-comers, the older settlers found full employment in supplying their wants. But now “men began to look about them, and fell to a manufacture of cotton, whereof they had store from Barbadoes.” In view of the exigency, “the general court made order for the manufacture of woollen and linen cloth.”

“Upon the great liberty which the king had left the parliament in England” that first met in 1641, “some of our friends there,” says Winthrop, “wrote to us advice to solicit for us in the parliament, giving us hope that we might obtain much. But, consulting about it, we declined the motion for this consideration, that, if we should put ourselves under the protection of the parliament, we must then be subject to all such laws as they should make, or, at least, such as they might impose upon us. It might prove very prejudicial to us.” When the letters arrived, inviting the colonial churches to send their deputies to the Westminster assembly of divines, the same sagacity led them to neglect the summons. Especially Hooker, of Hartford, “liked not the business,” and deemed it his duty rather to stay in quiet and obscurity with his people in Connecticut than to go three thousand miles to plead for independency with Presbyterians in England. Yet such commercial advantages were desired as might be obtained without a surrender of chartered rights. In 1641, the general court “sent three chosen men into England to congratulate the happy success there, and to be ready to make use of any opportunity God should offer for the good of the country here, as also to give any advice, as it should be required, for the settling of the right form of church discipline there.” Of these agents, Hugh Peter was one.

The security enjoyed by New England presented the long desired opportunity of establishing a “body of liberties” as a written constitution of government. In the absence of a code of laws, the people had for several years continued to be uneasy at the extent of power that rested in the discretion of the magistrates. On the other hand, most of the magistrates and some of the elders, thinking that the fittest laws would arise upon occasions, and gain validity as customs, and, moreover, fearing that their usages, if established as regular statutes, might be censured by their enemies as repugnant to the laws of England, “had not been very forward in this matter.” Now that some of the causes of apprehension existed no longer, the great work of constitutional legislation was resumed; and, in December, 1641, a session of three weeks was employed in considering a system which had been prepared chiefly by Nathaniel Ward, of Ipswich. He had been formerly a student and practiser in the courts of common law in England, but became a non-conforming minister; so that he was competent to combine the humane principles of the common law with those of natural right and equality, as deduced from the Bible. After mature deliberation, his “model,” which for liberality and comprehensiveness may vie with any similar record from the days of Magna Charta, was adopted as “the body of liberties” of the Massachusetts colony.

All the general officers of the jurisdiction, including governor, deputy governor, treasurer, assistants, military commander, and admiral, if there should be a naval force, were to be chosen annually by the freemen of the plantation, and paid from the common treasury. The freemen in the several towns were to choose deputies from among themselves; or, “to the end the ablest gifted men might be made use of in so weighty a work,” they might select them elsewhere as they judged fittest; the deputies were to be paid from the treasury of their respective towns, and to serve “at the most but one year; that the country may have an annual liberty to do in that case what is most behooveful for the best welfare thereof.” No general assembly could be dissolved or adjourned without the consent of the major part thereof. The freemen of every town had power to make such by-laws and constitutions as might concern the welfare of the town, provided they be not of a criminal nature, nor repugnant to the public laws of the country; and that their penalties exceed not twenty shillings for one offence. They had power to choose yearly selectmen “to order the prudential occasions of the town according to instructions to be given them in writing.”

Life, honor, and personal liberty and estate were placed under the perpetual protection of law. To every person, whether inhabitant or foreigner, was promised equal justice without partiality or delay. Every man, whether inhabitant or foreigner, free or not free—that is, whether admitted as a member of the general court of the freemen under the charter or not—had the liberty to come to any court, council, or town-meeting, and there to move any question or present any petition, either by speech or writing. Every officer exercising judicial authority was annually elected; the assistants by the freemen of the whole plantation; the associates to assist the assistants in any inferior court, by the towns belonging to that court; and all jurors, by the freemen of the town where they dwelt. Judicial proceedings were simplified; by mutual consent of plaintiff and defendant, actions might be tried, at their option, by the bench or by a jury; and in criminal trials the like choice was granted to the accused.

Every incident of feudal tenure that would have been a restraint on the possession and transmission of real estate was utterly forbidden; and all lands and heritages were declared free and alienable; so that the land of a child under age, or an idiot, might, with the consent of a general court, be conveyed away. The charter had indeed reserved to the king, by way of rent, one fifth of the gold and silver that might be mined; but this was a mere theoretical feud, resolving itself into fealty alone. In Massachusetts, all the land was allodial. All persons of the age of twenty-one years, even the excommunicate or condemned, had full power to alienate their lands and estates, and to make their wills and testaments. Children inherited equally as co-partners the property of intestate parents, whether real or personal, except that to the first-born son, where there was a son, a double portion was assigned, unless the general court should judge otherwise. No man could be compelled to go out of the limits of the plantation upon any offensive war. To every man within the jurisdiction, free liberty was assured to remove himself and his family at their pleasure. The grant of monopolies was prohibited, except of new inventions profitable to the country, and that for a short time. Every married woman was protected against bodily correction or stripes by her husband, and had redress if at his death he should not leave her a competent portion of his estate. As to foreign nations professing the true Christian religion, all fugitives from the tyranny or oppression of their persecutors, or from famine or wars, were ordered to be entertained according to that power and prudence that God should give; so that the welcome of the commonwealth was as wide as sorrow. On slavery this was the rule: “There shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage, or captivitie amongst us, unles it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israel concerning such persons doeth morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be judged thereto by authoritie.” “If any man stealeth a man or mankinde, he shall surely be put to death.”

The severity of the Levitical law against witchcraft, blasphemy, and sins against nature, was retained; otherwise, death was the punishment only for murder, adultery, man-stealing, and false witness wittingly to take away any man’s life. In the following year, rape was made a capital crime.

With regard to the concerns of religion, all the people of God who were orthodox in judgment and not scandalous in life had full liberty to gather themselves into a church estate; to exercise all the ordinances of God; and from time to time to elect and ordain all their officers, provided they be able, pious, and orthodox. For the preventing and removing of error, ministers and elders of near adjoining churches might hold public Christian conference, provided that nothing be imposed by way of authority by one or more churches upon another, but only by way of brotherly consultations.

Such were the most important of the liberties and laws: established at the end of 1641, for the government of Massachusetts. Embracing the freedom of the commonwealth, of municipalities, of persons, and of churches according to the principles of Congregationalism, “the body of liberties” exhibits the truest picture of the principles, character, and intentions of the people of Massachusetts, and the best evidence of its vigor and self-dependence.

In its main features it only gave authority to the customs of the colony. The public teaching of all children, the trainbands and the training-field, the town-meeting and the meeting of all the inhabitants for public worship—these essential elements of early New England public life grew out of the character and condition of the people, and, as it were, created the laws for their perpetuation.

Do we seek to trace the New England town to its origin? The vital principle of Teutonic liberty lies in the immemorial usage of the meeting of all the people with the equal right of each qualified inhabitant to give counsel and to vote on public affairs. The usage still exists, nearly in its pristine purity, in some of the cantons of Switzerland; it has left in the Teutonic race a profound sense of the need of local self-government; in England it is the formative idea of its parliament and of its hundred, and in some narrow measure still survives in the parish. It was saved in many English towns by special agreement with their rulers, though these agreements were warred upon and essentially changed by later and more arbitrary kings. This seminal principle of English liberty took root wherever Englishmen trod the soil of America. The first ordinance for the constitution of Virginia enumerated the divisions of towns, hundreds, and plantations; but there the system was imperfectly developed from the scattered mode of life of the planters and the introduction of the English system of parishes. In New England the precious seed fell on the best ground for its quickening. Each company of settlers as it arrived, or as it divided from earlier companies, formed a town, which at once began as by right with taking care of its own concerns. All the electors met annually, and more often if required. They might at any time be called together to treat of any subject that was of interest to them, even if it were but to express an opinion. When business became too complicated to be executed in the public assembly, the annual meeting voted what should be done in the year, and selected men to carry out their votes. When the annual gathering of all the freemen of the corporation gave way to the representative system, each town that had as many as ten freemen might send at least one deputy to what was still called the general court. Thus in Massachusetts, and it was substantially so in all the New England states, the commonwealth was made up of living, integral organizations, in which the people, from the beginning, brought themselves up to be members of the state, and to take their share in public life.

In these early days, there fell under the control of the several towns two subjects, which are now removed from them. The minister, without whom the existence of a town could not be conceived of, was chosen in open town-meeting, and received his support according to the contract that might be made between him and the people. This regulation continued in usage in some of the interior precincts for nearly two centuries.

By the charter, all the land of the commonwealth was granted to the freemen of the corporation; but they never claimed a right to distribute it among themselves, nor was a permanent community of property in it ever attempted or designed. As the rule, the land within the limits of a town was granted by the commonwealth to the individuals who were to plant the town, not in perpetuity, nor in equal parts, but to be distributed among the inhabitants according to their previous agreements, or to their wants and just expectations as judged of by the towns themselves. Each town made its own rules for the division of them. It was usual to reserve a large part of the town’s domain for such persons as from time to time were yet to be received as inhabitants; and, in the mean while, rights to wood, timber, and herbage, in the undivided lands, attached to all householders.

Soon after the promulgation of its “liberties,” the territory of Massachusetts was extended to the Piscataqua, for which the strict interpretation of its charter offered an excuse. The people of New Hampshire had long been harassed by vexatious proprietary claims; dreading the perils of anarchy, they provided a remedy for the evils of a disputed jurisdiction by the immediate exercise of their natural rights; and, on the fourteenth of April, 1642, by their own voluntary act, they were annexed to their powerful neighbor, not as a province, but on equal terms, as an integral portion of the state. The change was effected with great deliberation. The banks of the Piscataqua had not been peopled by Puritans; and the system of Massachusetts could not properly be applied to the new acquisitions. In September, the general court adopted the measure which justice recommended; neither the freemen nor the deputies of New Hampshire were required to be church members. Thus political harmony was maintained, though the settlements long retained marks of the difference of their origin.

The attempt to acquire the land on Narragansett bay was less deserving of success. Samuel Gorton, a benevolent enthusiast, who used to say heaven was not a place, there was no heaven but in the hearts of good men, no hell but in the mind, had created disturbances in the district of Warwick. In 1641, a minority of the inhabitants, wearied with harassing disputes, requested the interference of the magistrates of Massachusetts; and two sachems near Providence surrendered the soil to the jurisdiction of that state. Gorton and his partisans did not disguise their scorn for the colonial clergy; they were advocates for liberty of conscience, and at the same time, having no hope of protection except from England, they were, by their position, enemies to colonial independence; they denied the authority of the magistrates of Massachusetts, not only on the soil of Warwick, but everywhere, inasmuch as it was tainted by a want of true allegiance. Such opinions, if carried into effect, would have subverted the liberties of Massachusetts, as well as its ecclesiastical system, and were therefore by a few thought worthy of death; but a small majority of the deputies, in 1643, was more merciful, and Gorton and his associates were imprisoned. The people murmured even at this less degree of severity, and the imprisoned men were soon set at liberty; but the claim to the territory was not immediately abandoned.

In May, 1643, the general court of Massachusetts received an official copy of the order of the house of commons of the tenth of March of that year, in which it was acknowledged that “the plantations in New England had, by the blessing of the Almighty, had good and prosperous success, without any public charge to the parent state;” and their imports and exports were freed from all taxation “until the house of commons should take order to the contrary.” The ordinance was thankfully acknowledged, and “entered among their public records to remain there to posterity.” At the same time the governor was directed in his oath of office to omit to swear allegiance to King Charles, “seeing that he had violated the privileges of parliament and had made war upon them.”

Return to HIstory of the United States Table of Contents


Bancroft, George. History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent. 6 vols. New York: Harper & Bros, 1882. Formatted for the Internet by Steve Farrell and Self-Educated American in 2022. The copyright of the original text of George Bancroft’s History of the United States is held in the Public Domain.