Massachusetts Bay Colony

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Map of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Massachusetts Bay Colony , the historic forerunner of today's US state of Massachusetts , was an English colony in New England . It was founded in 1629 by a charter of the English king and subsequently settled and led mainly by English Puritans who had fled persecution in the mother country. The charter was revoked in 1684 and the colony was renamed Massachusetts Bay Province ; but it was able to maintain extensive autonomy until it was merged with the Plymouth Colony and some other territories and converted into a crown colony (1691).

Founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company

The colony was established by the Massachusetts Bay Company , originally called the New England Company . A royal charter was issued to her by King Charles I in 1629 .

As early as 1623, at the endeavors of the Puritan John White , the Dorchester Company founded a fishing colony on Cape Ann near the present-day city of Gloucester , but this was unsuccessful. Most of the colonists returned to England , but some of them moved inland under the leadership of Roger Conant and founded the Salem settlement in 1626 . They were followed by John Endicott with a group of Puritan settlers; he was elected governor after their arrival on September 6, 1628.

The Dorchester Company was followed by the New England Company , which in 1628 received a patent from the Plymouth Council for New England that stretched from the Merrimack River to the Charles River and a three-mile strip on the banks of both rivers. By converting this land patent into the royal charter of March 4, 1629, which guaranteed extensive autonomy and self-government without, however, specifying a specific location as the main office, the New England Company was renamed the Massachusetts Bay Company . It wasn't until 1684 that the charter was revoked that the Massachusetts Bay Company lost its importance.

A puritan colony

The first 400 settlers started as early as April 1629. Most of the Company's members were Congregationalists and the events of the spring and summer of 1629 had convinced them that they could only put their constitutional vision into practice outside of England . Charles I had dissolved Parliament and William Laud , Archbishop of Canterbury , renewed the pressure on the Puritans to submit to the Anglican Church . This should become the main cause for the larger wave of emigration in the next few years.

The Massachusetts Bay Company shareholders who wanted to emigrate reached an agreement with those members who wanted to stay in England and bought their shares. When John Winthrop set out for New England on seven ships with the next 700 settlers in March 1630, he took the charter with him. After reaching Salem , he replaced Endicott as governor.

The neighboring Boston became the headquarters of the Massachusetts Bay Company and at the same time the governor's seat of the Massachusetts Bay Colony , whereby the political and economic leadership of the colony were united in this settlement.

In the sermon A City on the Hill , Winthrop expressed his vision that the new colony should become a community with a special relationship to God. The awareness that their community was a sacred one should rule the lives of the colonists. This makes it necessary to legally prescribe morality, marriage, church attendance and the doctrine of the Word of God as well as to ruthlessly persecute and punish sins and sinners.

The colony celebrated its first Thanksgiving Day on July 8, 1630.

Massachusetts Bay Colony continued to grow, even with difficulty. In the first winter (1630–1631) over 200 people died. When the next ships arrived, many decided to return to England. However, this was the only tragic winter the young colony had to endure. While the severity of the Anglican Archbishop Laud against the Puritans in England continued, the rate of immigration also increased. At the end of 1631 the colony already had over 2000 inhabitants. English priests who had fallen out of favor also set off with their followers. For example, John Cotton , Roger Williams , Thomas Hooker , Richard Mather, and others became ministers of Puritan churches in Massachusetts.

The seeds of democracy

The colony's royal charter guaranteed the Massachusetts General Assembly the right to elect officials and make laws. The first meeting was held in October 1630, but consisted of only eight freemen. They voted to hand over all legislative, executive and judicial rights to a “council of the governor” made up of the same eight men. This council set city limits, levied taxes, and appointed officials. In order to prevent unrest because of the limited participation in power, a further 118 settlers were appointed as free members of the general assembly, but power remained with the council. The first grumbling about the system began when a tax was levied on the entire colony in 1632, although Winthrop managed to allay fears.

In 1634 the government controversy reappeared and a group led by Thomas Dudley requested to see the charter . They saw from the regulations that the General Assembly should make all laws and consist of all free men. They asked for the charter to be implemented in full and eventually reached a compromise with Winthrop. They agreed that the General Court should consist of two delegates from each city, the Governor's Council and the Governor himself. The decisions of this meeting should be generally binding. What Winthrop did not expect was that this would also apply to the election of the governor and that Dudley would be elected on that. The first revolution was complete and a trading company had become a representative democracy . In 1641, the first law was passed, the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, which specified behavior and punishments.

When the charter was revoked in 1684 , the Massachusetts Bay Company lost its importance. After a brief transition period as Massachusetts Bay Province , Massachusetts Bay Colony became part of the British Crown Colonies in 1691.


One of the first people to be executed in the colony was Dorothy Talbye, who was hanged for the murder of her daughter despite being clearly insane. At that time, no distinction was made between criminal behavior and acts committed because of mental illness.

In the course of the witch hunt in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the midwife Margaret Jones was hanged as a witch in 1648 . She was charged with the deterioration of the condition of some of her patients during her care.

The leadership of the colony persecuted the Quakers . In 1660, the English Quaker Mary Dyer was hanged in Boston for disobeying the law that banned Quakers from the colony. In addition to her, three other Quakers were hanged in the colony. They became known as the Martyrs of Boston . However, King Charles II of England specifically forbade Massachusetts further executions of Quakers in 1661.

Massachusetts Bay Colony governors

The list of governors of Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1629 to 1686:

governor from to
John Endicott JohnEndecottPortrait.jpg 1629 1630
John Winthrop JohnWinthropColorPortrait.jpg 1630 1633
Thomas Dudley 1634 1634
John Haynes 1635 1635
Henry Vane the Younger Henry Vane the Younger by Sir Peter Lely.jpg 1636 1636
John Winthrop JohnWinthropColorPortrait.jpg 1637 1639
Thomas Dudley 1640 1640
Richard Bellingham 1641 1641
John Winthrop JohnWinthropColorPortrait.jpg 1642 1643
John Endicott JohnEndecottPortrait.jpg 1644 1644
Thomas Dudley 1645 1645
John Winthrop JohnWinthropColorPortrait.jpg 1646 1648
John Endicott JohnEndecottPortrait.jpg 1649 1649
Thomas Dudley 1650 1650
John Endicott JohnEndecottPortrait.jpg 1651 1653
Richard Bellingham 1654 1654
John Endicott JohnEndecottPortrait.jpg 1655 1664
Richard Bellingham 1665 1672
John Leverett JohnLeverettInMilitaryUniform.jpg 1673 1678
Simon Bradstreet Sbradstreet.jpg 1679 1686

See also


  • Stephen Foster, The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570-1700 . University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London 1992.
  • Dominik Nagl: No Part of the Mother Country, but Distinct Dominions Legal Transfer, State Building and Governance in England, Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1630–1769. LIT, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-643-11817-2 . on-line
  • Perry Miller : Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, 1630-1650: A Genetic Study . Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1933.
  • Perry Miller: The New England Mind: From Colony to Province . Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1939.
  • Edmund S. Morgan: Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea. The New York University Press, 1963.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Clifton E. Olmstead: History of Religion in the United States . Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1960, pp. 69 ff
  2. For the text of the charter see:
  3. For the origin of the Massachusetts Bay Company see:
  4. For the Cambridge Agreement see:
  5. Compare also: The 'Pilgrim Fathers' and the settlement of New England in: Der Ausgriff nach dem Westen, export of sectarians and early colonization at:
  6. For the original English text see:
  7. ^ The Romantic Story of the Puritan Fathers: And Their Founding of New Boston , Albert Christopher Addison, 1912, LC Page & Co, p. 131
  8. ^ The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca, Rosemary Guiley, 2008, New York, ISBN 978-1-4381-2684-5 , p. 186
  9. Rogers, Horatio (2009). Mary Dyer of Rhode Island: The Quaker Martyr That Was Hanged on Boston. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1-103-80124-4 , pp. 1f
  10. Bremer, Francis; Webster, Tom (2006). Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-678-1 , p. 1: xli