367 New England


The colonists that traveled to New England were very different to the Chesapeake, and the society they established also very different. For the indigenous peoples, the shock would be every bit as severe.

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Ok, here we are at the final instalment of my quartet of episodes on the English in the Americas. And this time its New England’s turn on the catwalk, hopefully with a bit on the most glorious Canada and a bit of Dutch stuff.

I might start, if you will forgive me, with an Indigenous man called Tisquantum, often known to history I believe as Squanto. In this I confess to be following the trajectory of Charles Mann’s Book 1491, just for reference. It’s a useful place to start, because we can maybe begin with the country into which the brave and hopeful English colonists were to enter. Tisquantum belonged to the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag people on the eastern seaboard. It’s north of Martha’s Vinyard, don’t you know darling, across the bay from Cape Cod. It’s where the rising sun hits the North American continent first for a space, and so the area was also known as Dawnland, and Tisquantum’s fellows as the People of the First Light, which is a nice name to have. You might think of a suitable name for your own neighbourhood on the same grounds; North Norfolk coast dwellers might be People of the Wind Stripped Flesh, for example.

New England and the North East was well populated at this time – maybe as many as 100,000 people.[1] But the world Tisquantum was born into was politically not similar to Virginia or the lands to the north and west; there was no confederacy formed here. And in fact it is possible that early contacts with Europeans had accentuated the rivalries between indigenous peoples – rivalry to control trade with the mainly Dutch and French traders, especially metal goods, that were exchanged for furs. The Algonquian speaking peoples along the coast – Massachusetts in the North of New England, the Wampanoag and the Pequot in the south seem to have become the middlemen in trade between the Europeans and rivals such as the Narragansett and Mohegans further west. The English also had plenty of trading contact with Indigenous people – over 200 ships regularly operated in the area. So trading was quite common by 1600 and the Indigenous people had developed a strategy to deal with the relationship; they were keen to trade, but not keen to have the traders stay.

So in 1603 for example, one Martin Pring set up camp near Patuxet to harvest Sassafrast, a plant that apparently is both edible and smelly in a good way. They stayed, played guitar with the locals who played drums and flutes. But they outstayed their welcome. So the Patuxet decided they should be persuaded to leave – they surrounded the camp with 140 armed warriors, and burned the woodlands in which the sassafras lived. Pring and his fellows got the message and thought ‘hmm – should we go d’you think?’ It was the right decision, and like the Tiger who came to tea, they went. That incidentally, apropos of nothing, is my very favourite children’s book. Anyway, a certain Captain John Smith, yes that Captain John Smith, would also get the same treatment.

However, other English visitors were not so polite. Thomas Hunt for example, kidnapped 20 Indigenous people and sold them into slavery in Spain. One of them was Tisquantum. Maybe because of this kind of event, relationships could turn nasty. So, when a French ship was wrecked on the shore where lived the Nauset; most of the French were killed, and the Nauset sent the remaining 5 to tribes who had also suffered at the hands of Europeans. Tisquantum meanwhile spent time as a slave in Spain, escaped to England, and from there managed to get passage to Newfoundland. And from there, began to make his way home to Patuxet.

Meanwhile, I think we ought to have the story of the Mayflower should we not? It is high time, and to be fair is such a famous story that surely I should not cover it in detail, but no history of colonial America would be complete without a mench. The Plymouth Company was planning to establish a colony in New England, and they had form – they’d tried in 1607 at Sagadaho, but it had crashed and burned by the following year. They were approached by a group of English Calvinists, who’d emigrated to Holland, because they could not be doing with the Church of England any more, since they felt the church to be approaching papistry in its approach, even before Laud and Charles I had really got their teeth into it. It is important to note that this group were very unusual when compared to later settlers; the vast majority of colonists to New England were not separatists; yes, they weren’t happy with the way the Church of England was turning out, especially under Laud – but they hoped to reform that church from within, not to leave it. Many would come to New England still believing in that church – but establishing their own religious communities free of interference from Bishops and the church hierarchy.




Even Holland wasn’t to their liking – and Leiden is a lovely place, but they found it far too cosmopolitan, and given the extremity of their views, they found it difficult to land any other than menial jobs at the hands of their suspicious hosts. So – there was but one answer – to find pastures new and green in which to build their perfect community – their city on a hill. Let us call this group of 40 souls the pilgrims. They agreed to stump up a deal of cash to help the venture, and they were in.

On 6th September, 102 people set sail from England aiming for the mouth of the Hudson river; 62 of the ships company were not of the pilgrims, who consequently referred to them as the Strangers. On the way they found it difficult to get on, and drew up a treaty, called the Mayflower Compact; a bit like the Magna Carta England, big claims have been made for said contract, first written constitution and all. I am not qualified to judge.

They made land fall near Cape Cod, which you might notice is some way from the Hudson River, but it was November now, not traditionally a good time to start exploring the northern wastes or plant crops unless you plan to live on shallots which I was told t plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest, that’s shallot of trouble. So they had a look around. The land was very empty they noticed, and they came across a deserted village, and discovered, wonder of wonders, stored corn, absolute manna from heaven. After a bit more exploring they decided to make do, and planted their colony at the site of another deserted village, and called it Plymouth, on 16th December 1620 and had their first huts bult by January. It’s not a great time to start building a colony, really not, just in case you are thinking of doing the same thing sometime, and they’d also contracted diseases on the good ship Mayflower. 47 of the 102 would be dead by March. Travelling to the new world was a seriously dangerous business. That first winter must have been terrifying – standing on the edge of extinction. Then one day in March some indigenous peoples arrived, and after a few days,. So did one called Tisqantum.

Tisquantum had indeed in the interval made his way to his home village Patuxet. It was a terrible journey. Rather than the vibrant, well peopled coast of his youth, he found an extended charnel house. Village after village lay empty – tumble down houses, untended fields, bleached bones and skeletons lying between houses. The entire New England coast and hinterlands had been devastated by a European disease, Hepatitis A possibly, another virgin soil epidemic. The horror must have been unimaginable. An English trader reported that the indigenous peoples

Died in heaps as they lay in their houses…

And as people fled, taking the disease no doubt with them, the dying remained,

Left for crows, kites, and vermin to prey upon.

Between 1616 and 1618, the epidemic scoured the previously prosperous land; between 75% and 90% of the population died, and the land was made empty. When Tisquantum returned to his home after all the challenges and dangers of his travels, his years of slavery and hardship, he found that the village he had dreamed about, the friends to whom he’d expected to tell his story – were all dead. Nothing of Patuxet was left. Must have been unimaginable.

Whether the Plymouth colony would have survived alone that first year must be moot. And the balance may well have lain with the indigenous peoples. Would they do what they had done before, and try to remove the unwanted guests? Instead, Tisquantum re-appeared in Plymouth, and from then on helped the English to survive, and relationships with the Wampanoag generally remained friendly; by the Autumn the colony was safe – and the colonists sat down to a hearty supper to celebrate their deliverance, and 90 of the locals appeared too. After a bit of mutual posturing, both sat down and celebrated together and thus was born Thanksgiving, and many years later was born one of the greatest artistic cinematic achievements, a film surely to be sent out to waiting aliens as evidence of the heights of which human genius is capable. I speak, as you surely know, of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

So what had happened here? On his return Tisquantum had made contact with the local peoples and the Sachem, or Chief, Massasoit. It was Massasoit and the Wampanoag that decided what their response would be. To the colonists seemed clear – they believed the Wampanoag wanted guns and metal tools, and that may be the case; or it may have been human sympathy for the struggling and dying colonists, who knows. But a more compelling possibility lies, like with the Powhatan in Virginia, with local politics. Massasoit had seen his people decimated. To the west, the traditional rivals the Narragansett had suffered less, and Massasoit needed help to keep them at bay. Plus, more subtly – the Narragansett would be reluctant to attack an English colony or its allies, while they were trading with the English elsewhere. So again, the politics of the indigenous peoples, and the search for advantage at a time of cataclysmic human tragedy with the plague, may have led to the survival of the first colony in New England. Massasoit would make a pact with the English which would last 50 years.

Like Powhatan, Massasoit cannot have been aware that thousands more English would follow, and that over time the balance of power would shift, develop – and eventually lead to conflict. And indeed Plymouth would remain a small and politically insignificant colony in what follows. And to discuss what happens I need to take you to a leaky, creaky and probably quite smelly ship, the Arbella, to a cabin where a man is writing, lantern swinging above him. Probably there are the sound of seamen outside working the vessel, it is probable the odd rude word might have been used but if so, John Winthrop, for it is he, would have come down on them like a ton of the proverbials. John was a solid, honest to goodness Calvinist of Godly persuasion, a lawyer from the land of Suffolk where the glorious stately mountains reach in places to 400 feet. He came from a wealthy family of landowners and merchants, and he had long wished to establish a new world; he’d considered Ireland but in 1629 another opportunity came along on the form of the Massachusetts Bay Company formed by a group of investors. By 1630, John and his fellow travellers had set out from the Isle of Wight for said M Bay.



If we look over John’s shoulder, we might see that he is writing something called ‘A Modell of Christian Charity’, and he’s just written a sentence of which he might have felt slightly smug, since it would become a very famous phrase

We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us…we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world

There has been much debate about John’s motives, and those of his fellow settlers; some have argued that there were economic motives instead of religious. The debate seems to have arrived at the synthesis approach; that economic and religious motives were inseparable, and present in most in varying proportions. Many of the colonists were spinners and weavers, hit hard by the depression in trade of the 1630s that flowed from the Thirty Years war.

Now, unless you want to be here all day, I am going to have to start summarising. John and his companions would establish a town called Boston, after the Lincolnshire town from which some had come. Over the next decade, a number of other colonies would be established for varying reasons; some was due to the influx of new colonists – something like 14,000 people came from England to New England between 1629 and 1642[2]. Sometimes it had to do with religious disagreements. The Godly may have gone to escape religious persecution, although honestly that’s quite a strong way of putting what Charles and Laud were doing; it’s maybe more accurate to say that the Godly wished to establish a form of religion they thought the CofE ought to be adopting.

But whatever, they didn’t leave to establish toleration or liberty of conscience; uniformity remained the order of the day, and religious disagreements led to some key figures leaving the band to pursue a solo career, not very much like George Michael leaving Wham to be honest, but if the cap fits. So fir example the departure of John Wheelwright and Roger Williams led to the establishment of two colonies in particular, in New Hampshire and Rhode Island respectively.

These arose against the background of a religious dispute with one Anne Hutchinson, and it’s an event which really demonstrates, amongst pretty much everything else to be honest, how central religion was to these peoples’ lives. Anne Hutchinson famously attracted attention for her views on predestination, known as Antinmonianism, the idea that God had decided from the end of time who would be saved and who not; and that there was nothing anyone could do to change that, not a sausage; which rather implied that Ministers providing spiritual guidance were a bit irrelevant. The debate was fierce, and Anne had influential backers – John Cotton, and one Harry Vane Junior, who was Governor for a couple of years and who will return to England and have a part to play in the Civil Wars back home. In 1637 John Winthrop, Governor once more, convened the General court, John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson were condemned and banished. Roger Williams had been banished in 1636 because of artistic, I mean religious differences, and his solo career took him to Rhode Island – where in fact he did set up a colony which had religious toleration at its heart. This was not the normal though; when Quakers arrived after 1656 they were harshly dealt with, and 4 executed.

So, without going through all the colonies and their formation the news basically is that after the traditional rocky start, the New England colonies thrived, spread out, and population grew, despite receiving many fewer migrants than did the Caribbean or Virginia. Interesting, I hear you murmur, why would that be?  Well let me have a shot at explaining that.

You might hold in one part of your powerful mind a few of the features of emigrants to Virginia – the vast majority were poor, little to lose, arriving as indentured servants mostly male in a proportion 4 blokes to 1 woman, and usually single. OK? Well, the profile of those arriving in New England was not like that, not like that at all.

New England colonies were choosy – they might demand proof of good character; if you didn’t fit at a particular place, you’d be removed to another colony or sent home. Plus, new arrivals travelled in families, more than any other major ethnic group of North American history;[3] in some cases, ships arrived with over 90% of the people on board in family groups, and often those families knew each other back home. There were relatively few servants. This preponderance of family meant the male to female ratio was much closer – 150 males for every 100 women. People married relatively young – 23 for women, 26 for men, and all together this made for a high fertility rate. So, when the tap of emigration was turned off abruptly when the civil wars started back in England, it meant that population continued to grow from organic growth, while Virginia and the Caribbean remained dependent on a flow of immigration.

They also arrived from a largely different part of the world; this is David Hackett Fishers’ thesis, that the immigrants to New England were dominated by people from the East of England, and they brought their folkways, their habits and customs, with them; it’s worth noting that East Anglia in particular had always been in the forefront of English Protestantism, so Calvinism and puritanism were part of that. It does mean that Hackett Fisher makes the point compellingly that East Anglian culture formed a powerful underpinning of the new specifically New England culture that emerges.

Though might I digress to remark that a minor consequence is that his book chapters are organised by the word ‘ways’ to tie in with his folkways theme, to the point of absurdity – gender ways, building ways, marriage ways, sex ways, naming ways – anything except alleyways essentially. Although the naming ways section is particularly good; you have a plethora of names driven by the bible – so Mary Elizabeth, Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth; with the occasional foray into absurdities, such as the son of one Samuel Pond, baptised as Mene Mene Upsharin Pond. I am a trivial person, and my favourite paragraph in this entire influential and seminal work was the example from Sussex, particularly noted for these kind of names apparently, and one young woman, baptised Fly Fornication Bull would you believe, who had a dalliance in the shop of a yeoman called Goodman Woodman. The world of history has so many pearls to cast before swine like me.

Anyway, I do not have the time to describe in detail the customs of the people of New England but let me note that their social origin was also very different to Virginia, which had a vast gap between rich plantation owners and penniless indentured servants and the enslaved. The people who came to New England were reasonably well off, three quarters paid their own passage, they were generally of the middling sort, and therefore highly literate. This was also then reflected in the central importance of Education in the colonies, and the very early establishment of the university at Harvard in 1636. It’s not that the society formed was devoid of rank; in land allocations there was allowance made for rank, the gentlemen and Gentry of England received a little more land. But comparative to England, and indeed Virginia, the social hierarchy was very flat. And returning to that discussion about greed driving colonisation, if I can recall the comment I made at the start of this series of 4, the people who came do not appear to have come to make their fortune, albeit they came for a better life and were often encouraged by bad economic times back home. Generally they didn’t aim for big estates and vast fortunes,  no one was searching for gold, there was none of Warwick’s desire to raid Spanish shipping and advance a protestant cause. People aimed for what they called a ‘competency’ – a patch of land sufficient to maintain a family and perhaps to produce a little surplus.

Despite these limited ambitions population growth inevitably led to pressure on land, with consequences for relationships with indigenous peoples; by 1650, the colonist population numbered 23,000 and 40 towns. On the face of it, the story of relationships with the indigenous peoples appears less adversarial and predatory than in Virginia, but there’s no getting round it, it is still a tough story, sometimes based on misunderstandings and different values, but sometimes on straightforward exploitation. Probably the worst example of this is the Pequot massacre.

For some time, the English colonies had formed a useful partnership with several of the tribes – particularly with the Narragansett. A useful trade triangle developed, because the Narragansett controlled the supply of wampum. Wampum were the purple and white shells of small whelks found along the Long Island sound, and when strung into beads, they were valued by the indigenous peoples for ceremonial, official, communication and ornamental purposes. They began to develop as a de facto currency. The Narragansett created the beads, and traded them to the English, in return for metal goods, cloth and so on; the English in turn used them to trade for furs with northern Indians, to use or sell on. While this continued, it gave some equality to the relationship – the English could not afford to annoy the Narragansett since they controlled this valuable resources. But times change; the heavy trading in furs and changing land use and clearing of woodlands meant that gradually the indigenous peoples had few furs to trade, and the triangle collapsed. Increasingly the only resource the Narragansett and other peoples possessed was their land.

The attitude to land ownership from the English side was based on the res nullius idea, of vacuum domilicium, as John Winthrop called it – to English eyes, the land was empty, or not used as God had intended, and so the colonists were free to take and inhabit it. Despite that, usually the colonists bought land from people like the Wampanoag and Narragansett, which sounds great in a way, but these transactions were seen very differently from both sides. For the indigenous peoples, there was no such thing as private property; maybe their view was that these transactions were about building relationships and allowing access. Of course the English view of property was much more binary. Although it will come outside the period I am covering, the peaceful relationships between English and the Wampanoag and Narragansett would come to an end. As English colonies grew they increasingly saw the position of the indigenous as subordinate, even beginning to expect them to submit to the legal jurisdictions of the colonies. But land formed the trigger – indigenous peoples were increasingly squeezed, woodland available to them for hunting was much reduced, their lifestyles had to change to the more solely sedentary, away from the seasonal movements; they were forced to rely solely on agriculture. And yet English colonists’ farms kept encroaching, pigs caused havoc on indigenous farms. In the end it would lead to war in the 1670s.

Well before that, the Pequot wars gave a dire warning of what was to come. The Pequot had been trading for some years with the English, when the settlement of the Connecticut Valley brought them into direct contact, and land ownership created tensions. Two English traders were killed by the Pequot in 1634 and 6; the Massachucetts colony demanded they be tried under English law and the Pequot refused. At issue here then, was the nature of the relationship as well as land; were the Pequot subject now to English jurisdiction? Once more there was division among the indigenous – the Pequot asked the Narragansetts for alliance against the colony, but the Narragansetts allied instead with English. After the Pequot raided an English town in 1637, Massachucetts, together with help from the Narragansett and Plymouth and Rhode Island, put together a major army, and marched on the Pequot, at their village on Mystic River.

As it happens, most of the Pequot warriors were away – only 500 women, children and older men remained. None the less, the English surrounded the village, fired it – and proceeded to slaughter every Pequot who tried to escape. The Narragansetts protested furiously, horrified by this new type of warfare – but to no avail. There’s more to add to the horror; when an even larger group of Pequot were tracked down the puritans killed their fighting men, rounded up the rest – and sold them into slavery in the Caribbean.

The Narragansett leader Miantonomo appealed to his fellow peoples in 1643 to form alliance with Moquakes and Mohauks to drive out the English

…you know our fathers had plenty of deer and skins, our plains were full of deer, as also our woods and of turkies, and our coves full of fish and fowl. But these English having got our land they with scythes cut down the grass, and with axes fell the trees; their cows and horses eat the grass, and the hogs spoil our clam banks and we shall all be starved[4]

The attempt failed; the English captured Miantonomo, tried him and had him executed by one of his rivals, the Mohegan leader Uncas. The relationship between English and Indian was now effectively one not of equals, but rulers and subjects.

I suppose there are a couple of other things I must mention, time allowing. One is just to emphasise again the importance of religion in governing all aspects of daily life; there I have said it, but you knew it already. Just as English protestants did not feel themselves cut off from Europe but part of a European wide communion of Protestant churches, so the New England puritans still felt part of a community of their English fellows, and communicated with them regularly; John Cotton for example, a leading minister in New England, regularly corresponded with Oliver Cromwell. The strength of religious feeling led to some interesting consequences. People would sit through lengthy, 2 hour sermons every week – it’s been estimated 7,000 sermons on average in a lifetime. And yet church membership fell which seems counter intuitive. Because the good people took evidence that thy were saved very seriously, and they were required to demonstrate they had been called before gaining full church membership. The strength of religion have led some to describe the society as theocratic but most reject this; ministers were not necessarily qualified as civil magistrates. But religion was not a separate thing in peoples’ lives, it governed attitudes to everything.

It also led to a very strong civic society; each town had an assembly and regular meetings; the Governor was elected by male suffrage – but church membership was required to have the vote. In Massachusetts, the colony charter effectively became the constitution, with a General Court with legislative powers. As other colonies were established, they often created their own codes such as the Fundamental Orders established by Connecticut in 1639. Many of the principles of all English colonies therefore held true; to survive, the American colonies needed local autonomy, and such they had and held.

Finally, there’s something of the economic situation we might mention. The land in New England was very varied, and there was no quick win with an enormously valuable cash crop like Tobacco in Virginia, or sugar in the Caribbean. Farms and landholdings tended to be relatively small, and as we’ve heard most colonists aimed at little more than subsistence anyway. All of this probably also helped create this very strong successful civil society in New England which while wildly religious in character feels much more functional and successful than the Caribbean or Virginian colonies. But in pure economic terms, New England was not rich; it had little to sell that the home country wanted. But it had a diversified economy, much better insulated against the winds of market changes – such as the plummeting price for Tobacco in the 1680s for example.

But little by little, New England began to find an external market for its output, and the change is crucially important to the Atlantic economy generally and to the continuation of enslavement in the Caribbean. As early as 1645, New England dominated the North Atlantic Cod fishery, and had a healthy ship building capability. From mid century, it also found a market for its food output in the Caribbean. On the slave islands, all production was given to sugar and tobacco – and so it fell to New England to feed the enslaved. The Atlantic economy, therefore relied on European like Spanish and Dutch carriers bringing the enslaved from Africa, and increasingly by the English too from the 1660s; food stuffs coming from New England, and Tobacco and Sugar to England. By 1676, English merchants complained that New England had supplanted the mother country as the ‘great mart and staple’ of the Atlantic world.

So there we go, that’s New England in EMBARRASSINGLY miniscule brief for you, with yet again grovelling apologies for the multiple omissions. I have just a few minutes to give a very broad overview of what else was happening in terms of European colonisation; let’s go north to south. The situation in what would become Canada was dominated by the politics of the indigenous nations. The Montagnais and Huron faced a lot of pressure from the Iroquois people – you might remember we talked about the Iroquois Five nations and how that brought peace within the five nations – and the opposite to those outside the league. The Hurons therefore welcomed alliances with French traders led by Samuel Champlain; they expected both trade and military help from them – which Champlain duly delivered by working in an assault with the Hurons against the Mohawks in 1609. As New France was extended along the St Lawrence they made more effort than most to covert indigenous people to Christianity, and the Jesuits had a lot of success from the late 1640s, though it seems to be the suggestion that partly the response was driven by increasing disease and military pressure from the Iroquois.

New France continued to emphasise trade, but settlements along the St Lawrence also grew. One approach to encouraging settlement was for the French to allocate large parcels of land perpendicular to the St Lawrence. The approach meant that New France developed a sizeable nobility, since these large landowners then took on permanent tenants to work the land. Migration was never large though; by 1666 there were just over 3,000 European settlers in New France. Of English presence there was little, though attempts had been tried in Newfoundland – but as you will remember, the Treaty of Susa with France had required England hand back her possessions. England and Canada will have their time.

Just south of New England we have New Netherlands from about 1613, and the Dutch West India company.  It seems that initially the Dutch took a conscious decision to focus on trading not settlement, focussing on the fur trade, particularly Beaver furs.  For the Mohawk people, the Dutch offered a great opportunity – for at their backs were the Hurons, who held the trading relationship with the French. The Mohawk took action to make sure they owned the Dutch trading relationship – driving the rival Mahican people from the area to achieve it. Disease and competition led to increasing violence between the Mohawk and their Iroquois allies, and the Huron people; by 1648 and 9, the largely ritualised warfare had become constant and much more vicious, in a series of conflicts called the Beaver Wars.

By the late 1630s, though, settlement along the lower Hudson valley and Manhattan was increasing, and creating the same kind of tensions as in English colonies elsewhere. Consequently in 1643, the Dutch carried out an atrocity very similar to the fate visited on the Pequots; the village of Pavonia was surrounded and 130 indigenous people killed.

By this time and with the arrival of the Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1646 – a man who I believe, if I remember rightly, has a cigarette named after him; there can be no greater fame, surely, than to have a ciggie in your name – by that time, New Amsterdam had become a multicultural settlement of some variety – Germans from Westphalia, French Huguenots, English Puritans, Belgians and Scandies in addition to the Dutch. The growing success of the colony was driven partially by its religious toleration, but also at this time by growing Dutch dominance in the slave trade from Africa; around 10% of the people coming to the colony at the time were enslaved, although about 1/5th of Black Africans in the colony were free. By 1655, Stuyvesant had dealt with a nascent colony on the Delaware valley called New Sweden – dealt with it by telling them collectively to sling their hook. Which they either did, or swore loyalty to the Dutch. But the same approach would clearly not work with New England there were too many of them; so in 1650 Stuyvesant met with representatives of a New England confederacy; and they agreed a border dividing Long Island between them. By 1660, the Dutch colony numbered about 7,000 souls in all.

Almost there everyone; I should mention finally finally Lord Baltimore and Maryland. I would like to formally apologise to Andy on Facebook who tells me this is the apex of English history, and to which I can devote but, say 3 minutes, which doesn’t seem enough for an apex. This is the problem with a callow Englishman doing some history on north America. I knew there’d be trouble. Also, I hope I have got the pronunciation for Maryland correct – Luke told me to make sure I pronounced every syllabus clearly in order to win friends and influence people. So just to be contrary I’m going to mangle it on purpose and call it Murylun.

Anyway, George Calvert, Baron Baltimore had been keen to establish a Catholic colony. He tried also in Newfoundland but crashed and froze. As he tried to get a charter further south, The Virginians, being good protestants were not so keen and tried hard to stop the lad; but soon after his death, in 1632, land in the upper Chesapeake was granted by Charter from Charles I.  This was an interesting document – a sort of feudal grant of land from Charles which gave Baltimore full and absolute powers in the territory, to create his own little feudal nobility with associated servants;

‘First Lord Proprietary, Earl Palatine of the Provinces of Maryland and Avalon in America’.

Accordingly, the immigration model would follow Virginia not New England, the male to female ratio for example would become 6:1, even more extreme than Virginia; and the economy was built around tobacco and the labour of the enslaved to boot, though the number of enslaved by 1660 was only 100, and their status at this stage would have been quite fluid. Despite later attempts to attract servants, life remained tough for them and it meant that 40% of servants did not survive their indentures. Pretty quicky however, the gobby colonists insisted on a colonial assembly with the right to legislate, to which Baltimore son of Baltimore was wise enough to agree.

Sadly the colony, only 500 strong by 1640, was plagued by infighting – since the majority of colonists were protestant as opposed t the Catholic intention. However Baltimore son of Baltimore would be Governor of the colony for over 40 years from its first settlement in 1634, and he was reasonable enough to realise that the colony was not going to fly unless there was religious toleration. Therefore, with Angels and Archangels, Maryland has the honour of being the first place in the colonies to have a Catholic mass; I assume the wording is careful enough to exclude Jesuit missionaries in what becomes Canada, but let me not get arsey. But it also has the honour of being the first colony to pass an act of Toleration in 1649, allowing the pursuit of any trinitarian religion – though also extending death to atheists. Baltimore played the game cleverly during the civil wars trying to walk the line – professing loyalty to the republic although personally a royalist, and managed to keep his position as Governor.

None the less, a Calvinist revolt took place in 1655, won a bust up at the Battle of the Severn and seized control, banning both Anglican and Catholic practice. Interestingly, it seems to be Cromwell in 1657 who contributed to the establishment of peace. I realise this will be upsetting to those many of you who don’t wish to hear anything positive of Old Noll, so let me quote Richard Middleton and Anne Lombard to you, and you can follow up the reference in the website post page, because I didn’t have time to dig into it – tempus, as ever, fugit.

Oliver Cromwell now ruled England as Lord Protector and he had little sympathy for the demands of the Maryland Puritans. In consequence the two parties were forced to compromise. [5]

There we go, I commend it unto you. In time, by 1660 the manorial model of large landowners and tenants Baltimore had aimed for faded away; servants almost invariably bought land after the end of their indentures, and the 1650s were something of a boom time; by 1660 there was just one manor left.

Well good golly miss molly, flying coverage or what. Sorry again and all. Is there a summary I wonder? Well, if there is I suppose I’d repeat again my astonishment of just how different the colonies were from each other – within the English, and even more so when including the Dutch and French. There are similarities across the English – including the policy that emerged of separation from indigenous peoples with the exception of very early days, and the praying towns established in 1644 in New England, there was little attempt at conversion or integration. But also there was similarity in Governance; none of these colonies were actively sponsored, financed, and consequently governed by the crown. Even where the crown took things over as in Virginia, the relationship was very arms length. So the principle of local autonomy, local law making and governance was established from the start, with high levels of local engagement.  But certainly the idea we introduced at the start – that there was to be a single model, based on Roman precedence and Irish plantation experience had turned out to be very wide of the mark.

Now that’s it then for the moment. Do take care to go to the website to see maps; my geography of North America is very much better now that it had been at the start, when I thought Virginia was just above New Orleans and absolutely no idea where the Chesapeake might be. One final time, I apologise for the multiple errors, rotten pronunciations and omissions. As a general, rather useless comment, I just hope I have done some justice to all. Colonisation can be an intensely binary topic for obvious reasons, but it is incredibly complex and the motivations similarly so. None of those taking part of it had any real clear idea where it would lead and the price to be paid. On one hand it’s impossible to tell the story without feeling the horrendous price to be paid by the indigenous people or the enslaved; or on the other hand to ignore the hopes, fears, optimism and just blind courage to those who took such an enormous risk and leap of faith to travel across the Atlantic to a strange land and start a new life. I guess the historian A E Smith captures some of it when he wrote that the colonial world was

A haven for the Godly, a refuge for the oppressed, a challenge to the adventurous and the last resort of the scoundrel

[1] Mann, C; 1491, p42

[2] Middleton, R and Lombard , A: ‘Colonial America’ p90

[3] Hackett Fisher, D; ‘Albion’s Seed’, p 25

[4] Middleton, R and Lombard , A: ‘Colonial America’ p99

[5] Middleton, R and Lombard , A: ‘Colonial America’ p128

7 thoughts on “367 New England

  1. Here we are! This was the colonization episode I was waiting for.

    When I started my family tree research, I was really surprised to discover my paternal grandmother’s side was firmly rooted in colonial America, specifically New England and New Netherland/York. Over 85% of her tree’s branches were in those two areas before 1700! I haven’t yet linked to the Mayflower, but I do have a 12th great grandmother who was on one of the first two ships to arrive in Manhattan in early 1624, and many others arrived in the 1630s and 1640s.

    A few lost family members or died themselves in conflicts with local tribes—an 11th great grandfather was killed in a raid on New Amsterdam in 1655, and 9th great grandfather Charles Frost lost his mother and sister in Maine at about the same time. He later went on to prominence in King Philip’s War in the 1670s, when he and another 10th great grandfather Richard Waldron captured a group of tribesmen through trickery, and they were targeted for retaliation—Waldron died in a raid on Dover, NH, and Frost was killed twenty years after the war in 1697.

    I had a bit of geographical smugness, thinking I wouldn’t have to worry about any slavery links in those areas of the country, but, boy, was I wrong. There are several slaveholders in both Maine and New York on the tree, as well as the nasty discovery that one 8th great grandfather, a sea captain, had helmed a slave ship at least once in his career (and more than likely many more times than that)—I found out about him when I read that his ship was boarded by pirates who took from his cargo “40 hogsheads of rum, several barrels of sugar, and a Negro man,” to quote from his report.

    There were lots of interesting people on the tree, some with wonderful names! Several Mehitabels, as well as a Deliverance, a Freelove, and sisters named Zerviah and Zarababbel. In the New Amsterdam branches, I have lots of French Huguenots, a Spanish Protestant, and the first Italian immigrant on Manhattan (Pietro Cesare Alberti—can’t get more Italian than that!), as well as the first Muslim colonist in North America.

    Oh, and there is a 1st cousin, 10 times removed, who was a religious dissenter in Connecticut. He was the sole survivor of a teenaged neighbor who killed his mother and older siblings with an ax (the 10-month old boy was found crying next to his mother’s body). He grew up to be a Seventh-Day Baptist who was fined multiple times and whipped at least once for his adherence to his faith.

    1. Hi Kathryn, and thank you! Such a fascinating history you have unearthed. I have only gone about 3 generations back with my lot; and they seem to have stayed form;yin Bedales and Lancashire and resolutely refused to do anything interesting! I’ll have to go firther back!

  2. If you can access local newspapers where your family lived, check them out! You never know what you’ll find, even about “uninteresting” people. I discovered that a 3rd great grandfather, who had emigrated from Ireland after the famine hit, had settled near where I grew up southwest of Chicago—ordinary, right? Turns out his farmland had two Indian Mounds on them, burial sites. Instead of doing what just about every other white settler did and dig into them out of curiosity or seeking treasure, he deliberately built his farmhouse right next to them to protect them. To this day, they are the highest Mounds left in northern Illinois. No one in my family knew that until I found it in the local paper.

    And then there is my 2nd great grandmother Carrie. After finding out about her in the newspapers, I am determined to write a book about her! She started out her newsworthy phase by divorcing her first husband and fighting for custody, only to lose in court and try to run to Canada with her kids. When caught before the train got anywhere near the border, she returned only to spend the next 18 months bribing her ex to get the kids, which worked. After the children moved out on their own and her second marriage fell apart, she moved from Chicago to Montana to become a homesteader at age 50, marry her 15-years-younger farmhand, then moved again to Oklahoma where the two of them became full-time Spiritualists. He was a “divine healer,” and she was both a trance medium and pastor of a home-based Spiritualist church. She was arrested for illegal fortune telling and her unsuccessful appeal was written up in newspapers around the country since she claimed first amendment protection due to infringement of her religion. Again, nobody in our family had any knowledge of any of this—her youngest son, my great grandfather, never spoke about her other than to mention that she had been a barber in Chicago, and he followed her into that profession. That was the one of the least remarkable things about her life after she left her first husband. I can’t even tell how much about her life in Montana or Oklahoma he even knew or if he was just embarrassed about her and kept her rather scandalous life a secret from his children.

    So, you just never know what you’ll discover!

  3. Hi David!
    Dropping by to let you know you did well on the pronunciation front (near as I can tell, I am admittedly from the midwestern US not the east coast so there are some pronunciation differences!). It had never occurred to me how difficult Maryland was to pronounce until you mentioned it, and I admit I blinked a few times when you pronounced the y as an -ee- sound (like in Mary) as opposed to a short i sound (like in it). Personally, I absolutely blend -land into something closer to -lnd so perhaps I’ve been pronouncing it wrong! As a massive language nerd I am now deeply intrigued. I love differences between the various dialects of English.

    Also, absolutely fascinating to hear the story of North American colonization from an English perspective! As an American, a lot of the stuff we learn in grade school is clearly completely unknown in the UK, which makes perfect sense but I abruptly feel like I’m now on the other side from when I was listening to the 1066 episodes, a period of English History about which I know next to nothing and got the distinct impression my ignorance would get me laughed at by English schoolchildren.

  4. When suggestively chatted up by Mr Woodman, Miss Bull could arch her eyebrow and truthfully say, ‘Fornication is my middle name.’


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