5 de abril de 2009



The Commonwealth in England went to pieces at the death of Oliver Cromwell, its founder. The Stuart dynasty came back, but, alas! unimproved. Charles II. was a much meaner man than his father, and James II. was more detestable still. The rule of such kings was destined to work sad changes in the hitherto free condition of Massachusetts. This colony had sympathized with the Commonwealth more heartily than any of the others. Hither had fled for refuge Goffe and Whalley, two of the accomplices in the death of Charles I. Congregational church polity was here established by law, to the exclusion of all others, even of episcopacy, for whose sake Charles was harrying poor Covenanters to death on every hillside in Scotland. Nor would his lawyers let the King forget Charles I.'s attack on the Massachusetts charter, begun so early as 1635, or the grounds therefor, such as the unwarranted transfer of it to Boston, or the likelihood that but for the outbreak of the Civil War it would have been annulled by the Long Parliament itself. Obviously Massachusetts could not hope to be let alone by the home government which had just come in.

At first the king, graciously responding to the colony's humble petition, confirmed the charter granted by his father; but no sooner had he done so than the hot royalists about him began plotting to overthrow the same, and their purpose never slumbered till it was accomplished. Massachusetts was too prosperous and too visibly destined for great power in America to be suffered longer to go its independent way as hitherto.


The province--as yet, of course, excluding Plymouth with its twelve towns and five thousand inhabitants--contained at this time, 1660, about twenty-five thousand souls, living in fifty-two towns. These were nearly all on the coast; Dedham, Concord, Brookfield, Lancaster, Marlborough, and the Connecticut Valley hamlets of Springfield, Hadley, and Northampton being the most noteworthy exceptions. Though agriculture was the principal business, fishing was a staple industry, its product going to France, Spain, and the Straits. Pipe-staves, fir-boards, much material for ships, as masts, pitch and tar, also pork and beef, horses and corn, were shipped from this colony to Virginia, in return for tobacco and sugar either for home consumption or for export to England.
Some iron was manufactured. The province enjoyed great prosperity. Boston stood forth as a lively and growing centre, and an English traveller about this time declared some of its merchants to be "damnable rich."

As their most precious possession the colonists prized their liberties, which they claimed in virtue of their original patent. In a paper which it put forth on June 10, 1661, the General Court asserted for the colony the right to elect and empower its own officers, both high and low, to make its laws, to execute the same without appeal so long as they were not repugnant to those of England, and to defend itself by force and arms when necessary, against every infringement of its rights, even from acts of Parliament or of the king, if prejudicial to the country or contrary to just colonial legislation. In a word Massachusetts, even so early, regarded itself to all intents and purposes an independent State, and would have proclaimed accordingly had it felt sufficiently strong.

See also:1645-1660



The colony was in extremity. New Haven refused to aid, because, as a member of the New England confederacy, it could not act alone, and because it was not satisfied that the Dutch war was just. An appeal was made by Kieft's eight advisers to both the States-General and the West India Company in Holland. The sad condition of the colonists was fully set forth, and the responsibility directly ascribed to the mismanagement of Kieft. At the same time, undismayed by the gloomy outlook, the courage of the sturdy Dutchmen rose with the emergency. Small parties were sent out against the Connecticut savages in the vicinity of Stamford. Indian villages on Long Island were surprised and the natives put to the sword. In two instances at least the victors disgraced humanity by torturing the captured.
In these engagements Underhill was conspicuous and most energetic.
Having made himself familiar with the position of the Indians near Stamford, he sailed from Manhattan with one hundred and fifty men, landed at Greenwich, and, marching all day, at midnight drew near the enemy. His approach was not wholly unannounced, for the moon was full.
The fight was desperate and bloody. The tragedy that had made memorable the banks of the Mystic in the destruction of the Pequot fort was now almost equalled. After the example of his old comrade Mason, Underhill fired the village. By flame, shot, or sword more than five hundred human beings perished.
While New Netherland was awaiting some message of cheer from Holland, a company of Dutch soldiers came from Curacoa, but they did little to follow up the successes already gained. Again the Eight sent a memorial to the company, boldly condemning the conduct of the director and demanding his recall. Their remonstrances were at last heeded, and the removal of the unpopular governor resolved upon. In 1647 Kieft set sail for Holland, but the ship was wrecked, and he with nearly all on board was drowned.
It was high time for a change. In the two years, 1643-45, while sixteen hundred Indians had been slain, Manhattan had become nearly depopulated.
In 1645 peace was concluded, not only with the smaller tribes in the vicinity, but also with the powerful Mohawks about Fort Orange, and finally with all the Indians belonging to the Five Nations or acknowledging their authority. A pleasing incident of this treaty was the promise of the Indians to restore the eight-year-old granddaughter of Mrs. Hutchinson, a promise which they faithfully performed in 1646.
The great compact was made under the shadow of the Fort Amsterdam walls, and the universal joy was expressed by a day of thanksgiving.


An interval of peace for ten years was now enjoyed, when the killing of a squaw for stealing some peaches led to an attack by several hundred of the infuriated savages upon New Amsterdam. They were repulsed here, but crossing to the shore of New Jersey they laid waste the settlements there. Staten Island, too, was swept with fire and sword. One hundred people were slain, 150 more taken captive, 300 made homeless. Peace was again effected and maintained for three years, when fresh quarrels began. It was not until 1660 that a more general and lasting treaty was brought about, on which occasion a Mohawk and a Minqua chief gave pledges in behalf of the Indians, and acted as mediators between the contending parties.

See also: 1640-1643