Chronicles of America 

The End of Colonial Isolations

The future of the New England colonies was to be decided in England and not in America. If the orthodox leaders in the colony thought that the new King had levelling sympathies or would thrust aside the policy already adopted by the English authorities for the defense of the colonies and the maintenance of the acts of trade, they greatly misjudged the situation. King William, though a Protestant, was no lover of revolution, and, though he had himself engaged in one, he could assert the dignity of the prerogative with as much vigor as any Stuart. He was not a politician, but a soldier, and he was quite as likely to see the necessity of organizing New England for defense against the enemy as he was to listen favorably to appeals from Massachusetts for a restoration of her charter.

Increase Mather had gone to England in 1688 to petition James II for relief from the burdens of the Andros rule. His impressive personality, his power as a ready and forcible speaker, his resourcefulness and energy, and his acquaintance with influential men in England, both Anglicans and Dissenters, made him the most effective agent who had ever gone to England in the interest of the colony. He was able to bring the grievances of Massachusetts to the personal attention of James II; and he had received hope of a confirmation of land titles and permission to call a general assembly, when the flight of the King brought his efforts to naught. He then turned to the new Parliament, hoping to save the colony by means of a rider to the bill for restoring corporations to their ancient rights and privileges; but the dissolution of this body ended hopeful efforts in that direction also. A year's "Sisyphean labor" came to nothing. No remedy remained except an appeal to the new King, and during 1690 and 1691, the reconstruction of Massachusetts became one of the most important questions brought before the Lords of Trade. William III and his advisers were agreed on one point: that Massachusetts should never again be independent as she formerly had been, but should be brought within the immediate control of the Crown, through a governor of the King's appointment. They took the ground that, with a French war already begun, it was no time to discuss colonial rights and privileges, for the demands of the empire took precedence over all questions of a merely local character in America.

Andros was now recalled and instructions were sent to Massachusetts to release all her prisoners. With their arrival in England in February, 1690, the debate before the committee went on in a new and livelier fashion. Randolph renewed his complaints in every form known to his inventive mind; Andros presented his defense and was relieved of all charges of mal-administration; Mather and others contested every move of their opponents and sought to obtain as favorable terms as possible for Massachusetts; while Oakes and Cooke, sent over by the colony as its official agents and representing the uncompromising Puritan wing, hindered rather than helped the cause by insisting that no concessions should be made and that Massachusetts should receive a confirmation of all her former privileges. Mather's success was noteworthy. He could not prevent the appointment of a royal governor or the separation of succeeding century to a struggle for control that deeply affected the course of the colony's later history.


Painting by Job Vanderspruyt, 1688. In the collection of the

Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.


In all the New England colonies, the fall of Andros and the close of the century marked the end of an era in which the dominant impulse was the religious purpose that actuated the original colonists in coming to America. The desire for a political isolation that would preserve the established religious system intact was exceedingly strong in the seventeenth century, but it ceased to be as strong in the century that followed. The fathers gave way to the children; the settlements grew rapidly in size, increased their output of staple products beyond what they needed for themselves, and became vastly interested in trade and commerce with all parts of the Atlantic world. Towns grew into larger towns and cities; and Portsmouth, Newbury, Salem, Marblehead, Boston, Newport, New London, Hartford, Wethersfield, Middletown, New Haven, Fairfield, and Stamford became, in varying degrees, centers of an increasing population and of new business interests that brought New England into closer contact with the other colonies, with the West Indies, and with the Old World. England became involved in the long struggle with France and not only called on the colonies to aid her in military campaigns against the French in America, but endeavored to bring them within the scope of her colonial empire. All these influences tended to expand the life of New England and to force its people more and more out of their isolation. Yet, despite this fact, the Puritan colonies — Connecticut and Rhode Island especially — continued to lie in large part outside the pale of British control and example, and their inhabitants continued to accept religion and the Puritan standards of morals as the guide of their daily lives.

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