Key Highlights & Facts
- Massachusetts Bay Colony was established by the second a group of Puritans leaving England in 1630 under the leadership of John Winthrop.
- The colonists settled in Boston, and the colony thrived until 1684 when their charter was revoked due to their refused to be subjected to the leadership and authority of the Crown.
- The Province of Massachusetts Bay Colony was formed in 1691 when the colony received a new charter that merges Plymouth and Maine Colony to it.
The Early Days of the Colony
The Colony was founded in 1630 by Puritans leaving England on account of lack of religious freedom and hope for establishing a community devoted to their religion. The leader of the second group of Puritans from England was John Winthrop, and the grant to establish a colony was granted to Massachusetts Bay by King Charles I.
In the age of Imperialism, Charter companies were set up by wealthy investors who came together to raise a lot of capital required to finance ventures and patiently wait for colonies to start generating profits. The Company was responsible for the economic and military risks involved in setting up colonies. The Charters awarded by the Kings, allowed charter companies to engage in war, signing treaties and set up quasi-governments in the colonies for the benefit of the Imperial Crown. Further, the principal investors/stockholders of the company did not travel to the colonies as colonialist but stayed back in England, held board meetings and passed resolutions that implicated on the management of the colonist. Therefore, most companies were managed in England. However, for the Massachusetts Bay Company, the investors co-signed an agreement called, the Cambridge Agreement (1629) with John Winthrop by which they committed to move to the New World together with the other Puritans. This is why the Massachusetts Colony was considered a self-governing colony.
In 1629, a twelve fleet lead by John Winthrop left England aboard the Mayflower; they reached Salem, moved to Charlestown but eventually settled on present-day Boston after Winthrop was invited by his friend Blackstone to settle in the area. The colony thrived and established the first known American public school called the Boston Latin School.
During the Great Puritan Migration, more people came to settle in Boston, and the environ towns of Charlestown, Saugus among others grew. The area spurned into four colonies which were Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. In 1640, the four colonies formed the New England Confederation, to help defend themselves against the Native Americans. They brought in diseases that saw the steady decline of the Native population as their colonists’ population rapidly grew.
Rebellion in the Colony
In 1639, the first post office was established, followed by a bank in 1674 and a newspaper called Publick Occurrences: Both Foreign and Domestic in 1690. The Massachusetts Government was theocratic, with no real separation between state and church. The settlement was very hostile to other religious groups especially the Quakers, some of whom escaped to the Rhode Island colony. Upon the Establishment of the English CommonWealth in 1649, the Colony also declared itself to be a commonwealth without the authority of England.
After the restoration, King Charles II made attempts to increase the control of the Crown over the colony, but the people resisted. He also calls for religious tolerance and introduction of Christmas into the colony. In 1684, their charter was revoked and the colony was converted into a royal colony, governed with an appointee of the Crown. In 1685, Sir Edmund Andros was appointed a governor of all colonies, upon their merger into the Dominion of New England by King James II.
The first order of business was to oust council advisers to the respective governors in the colonies, impose new taxes to help to raise money for the crown and disallowed public gatherings. The King was ousted during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and in the colony, royal officials were also ejected from leadership and the former Puritan leadership restored. In 1691, the Colony was given a new charter, and it was called the Province Massachusetts Bay Colony which included Plymouth and Maine. However, the Salem Trials also happened in the same year, during which women were prosecuted and executed for allegedly practising witchcraft. To date, the exact cause of the hysteria during the trials is yet to be ascertained.
The French and Indian wars in the 1700s exacerbated financial challenges faced by both England and the colonies including Massachusetts. To recover, England imposed several taxes on the colonies through a series of legislation including the Stamp Act 1765, the Townshend Act and the Declaratory Act that sparked rebellion and protests from the Province of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The colony was among the most prosperous colonies of the British Empire at the time. The colonists engaged in fishing and shipbuilding. The colony also imported agricultural products from other colonies and was notorious for smuggling to escape the duties imposed by the Navigation Acts. The colonist was also known to for the nature of rebellions and protests held against the Imperial Crown. The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a movement formed upon the passage of the Tea Act which granted exclusive rights to the East India Company for importation and sale of tea to the American colonies and put an embargo on the Massachusetts harbor.