- King Henry introduction of Protestantism in England in 1509 caused a century of tensions between Catholics and Protestants.
- The Dominion of New England was an attempt by King James II to strengthen England’s hold over the colonies.
- Glorious Revolution was a response to the actions of King James II and the religious reforms especially his attempt to reinstate Catholicism
When King Henry VIII introduced Protestantism in England in 1509 tensions between Catholics and Protestants started and went on to last for a century. Fast forward to 1649 King Charles I is executed after an unpopular one-man rule resulting from his numerous instances of dissolving parliament because of their Puritan fundamentalism. Upon his execution, Oliver Cromwell takes up a ten-year rule from 1649 – 1658, during which England is declared a commonwealth and governance reforms under Cromwell establishes a theocracy with heavy penalties for disobeying moral laws including the observance of Sabbath.
In 1660, Charles II is confirmed as King by Parliament and invited to come back from exile to take up leadership. He promises to not avenge those who had committed crimes against him and his father during the Civil Wars and Cromwell’s republic. He commits to honouring all transactions of land he finds in place and religious tolerance for people of all faith. He also promises to re-commission the army in service of the crown. Parliament also passes legislation that enable the implementation of Charles II promises.
However, Charles leadership still is an overt affront to Puritanism which ultimately led to the death of his father. The period of restoration was characterized by the crown restoring not only the monarch but also aspects people socio-economic practices including gambling, observance of Christmas that was forbidden and openly maintains more than one mistress and gives them titles. He died without an heir and is succeeded by his brother James II who was known to be a Catholic.
The Dominion of New England
King Charles II had made attempts to also restore the hold of the Imperial Crown over colonies. Before his death, he had revoked charters of Massachusetts. Efforts continued by his successor King James II. King James turns his attention to Massachusetts town, a colony based on the same extreme fundamental Puritan ideals that characterized the Cromwell’s rule.
The King, therefore, establishes the Dominion of New England, an administrative union imposed upon the colonies of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. The seal of the dominion was the full title of the monarch as it appears on the Great Seal of the Realm and the motto of the Dominion was “Never does liberty appear in a more gracious form than under a pious King.”
The other intentions were proper regulation of trade, encourage religious freedoms in the colonies, reform land title practices, coordinate defence in the colonies and reduce the administration centres required to reduce the cost of managing the colonies. Joseph Dudley from Massachusetts was made the president of the Council of New England and Sir Edmund Andros was commissioned as governor. Dudley managed to convince the Lords of Trade to include Rhode Island and Connecticut into the ambit of the Dominion which was again expanded in 1886 to include New York, East and West Jersey.
Andros leadership was unpopular due to his disregard of existing leadership structures and dictatorial approaches. He banned town hall meetings as such would culminate to a resolution to protest laws and edicts of the governor, and promoted the values of the Church of England, all of which were offensive to Puritans. He further implemented the Navigation laws which meant that trade was restricted in the colonies.
He imposed taxes were seen unjust and a violation of the Magna Carta which made provisions for taxation by representatives of the people. He also mainstreamed land management according to the practices in England and whereas among the grounds for King Charles II to restore the monarchy was abolishment of feudal right to land due to the King, he introduced the land rates system were existing titles were required to be confirmed and landowners were supposed to pay tax on land on an annual basis. The landowners in Plymouth and Massachusetts who resisted the land rate system were informed that their titles were void they had to pay for re-certification by the Dominion.
Whereas King Charles, wanted to promote Anglicanism, passing the Test Act that required all military or civil servants to publicly accept the Anglican Church and its precepts. King James II dissolved the act and openly suppressed Anglicans and Puritans in England and the colonies. He openly favoured Catholics appointees as opposed to Puritans or Anglicans. He passed the Acts of Indulgence and Declaration of Indulgence that decriminalized Catholicism and further established the freedom of non confirming religions.
The Glorious Revolution and the fall of the Dominion
The Glorious Revolution was a response to the actions of King James II and the religious reforms especially his attempt to reinstate Catholicism. Puritans, therefore, planned his ousting and replacement by his daughter and son-in-law Mary and William Orange. The coup was successful and fairly bloodless hence the name ‘glorious revolution,’
The religious leaders of Massachusetts, led by Cotton and Increase Mather, were opposed to the rule of Andros and organized dissent targeted to influence the court in London. Increase Mather and other Massachusetts agents travelled to England in 1688 and were received by King James II, who promised to address the colony’s concerns.
Massachusetts petitioned the Monarchs and the Lords of Trade to dissolve the Dominion which they agreed. However, Plymouth and Massachusetts were in a legal conundrum owing to the fact that the Massachusetts charter was illegal before the Dominion was established and Plymouth had been a royal colony. Therefore, Lords of Trade resolved the issue by combing the two colonies together with the Island of Cap Code into one Massachusetts Bay Colony.