English Revolution in the Colonies

English Revolution in the Colonies

At the beginning of the English Revolution (1642–1660), fifty thousand Englishmen inhabited some twenty colonies in the Americas. Most of the colonies were founded in the decade prior to the English Civil War with the oldest existing being the Colony of Virginia (1607). The vast majority of the adult population were first generation settlers and thousands returned to the British Isles to fight or involve themselves in the politics of the Commonwealth of England (1649–1660).

Six colonies recognized Charles II after the regicide in 1649: Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Virginia, Maryland, and Newfoundland. The Parliamentarians were busy subduing Royalists in Scotland, Ireland, the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands but on 3 October 1650, the Rump Parliament restricted trade to Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, and Virginia and assembled a fleet to take control of them. By 1652, all were brought into line by the Commonwealth.

The new government introduced mercantilism with the first of the Navigation Acts in 1651. Soon the colonies became embroiled First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654) and the Anglo-Spanish War (1654–1660). By the English Restoration, new colonies were added and the population quadrupled to over two hundred thousand due to exiles, refugees, prisoners, and the Atlantic slave trade. In all the colonies, which later became part of the United States, population growth throughout this period was vigorous, growing from a population of about 25,000 in 1640 to around 75,000 in 1660. The colonies also became more ethnically and religiously diverse. Another effect was the establishment of colonial assemblies in most of the colonies.


Bermuda and the Caribbean

Bermuda tended towards the Royalist side, but largely escaped the effects of the conflict. After the regicide, Bermuda was the first colony to recognize Charles II. Royalists ousted their governor and elected their leader John Trimingham. Some of the island's defeated Puritans joined the Eleutheran Adventurers in the Bahamas.

Barbados, the second most populous colony, experienced a division between Royalists and Parliamentarians during the civil war. The words "Roundhead" and "Cavalier" were banned to maintain peace. After the regicide, the Royalists gained control of the colonial assembly. Lord Willoughby was appointed Governor of Barbados, by Charles II in May of 1650 and he banished the Roundheads. During this time he also sent a small colonizing party to Suriname, which established Fort Willoughby (now Paramaribo) in honor of the governor. The colony, now cut off from England, relied on trading with the Dutch Republic. This became the motivation for the 1651 Navigation Act.

On October 25, 1651, a seven ship force under Commodore George Ayscue arrived off Barbados, demanding that the island submit "for the use of the Parliament of England". Willoughby's reply (tellingly addressed to "His Majesty's ship Rainbow") was unyielding, declaring that he knew "no supreme authority over Englishmen but the King". With some 400 horsemen and 6,000 militia, he was prepared to resist any attempt at coercion.

Over the next month Barbados was blockaded. Dutch ships were seized, an act which would be one of the causes of the First Anglo-Dutch War. In early December, with the Royalist cause defeated in England, Ayscue began a series of raids against fortifications on the island and was reinforced by a group of thirteen ships bound for Virginia. On December 17 a force of more than 1,000 Barbadian militia was defeated by one of Ayscue's detachments. Governor Willoughby attempted to stem the spread of Parliamentary sympathies by hanging two of the returning militia soldiers and prohibiting the reading of documents from the blockading fleet. The Royalists held out for several more weeks until one of Willoughby's own commanders, Sir Thomas Modyford the assembly speaker, declared himself for Parliament. A battle was averted by a week of rain, after which Willoughby, perhaps having seen the hopelessness of his cause, sought negotiations. He was replaced as governor but Barbados and the Royalists there were not punished.

News of Barbados' fall shocked the other Royalist colonies. Each of the other five would capitulate without resistance when Ayscue's fleet arrived to replace their governments. Following Oliver Cromwell's adventures in Ireland, and his attempt to force his protectorship on independent Scotland, Irish prisoners-of-war (POW) and ethnically-cleansed civilians, and smaller numbers of Scots POWs, were also sent to Bermuda. After the uncovering of a coup-plot by Irish and Black slaves in 1656, however, the import of further Irish slaves was banned.

In 1655, Cromwell sealed an alliance with the French against the Spanish. He sent a fleet to the West Indies under Admiral William Penn, with some 3,000 marines under the command of General Robert Venables, further reinforced in Barbados, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis. Penn and Venables decided to lay siege on Santo Domingo but failed because the Spanish had improved their defences in the face of Dutch attacks earlier in the century.

Weakened by fever, the English force then sailed west for Jamaica, the only place where the Spanish did not have new defensive works. They invaded in May 1655 at a place called Santiago de la Vega, now Spanish Town. They came, and they stayed, in the face of prolonged local resistance, reinforced by troops sent from New Spain in the Battle of Ocho Rios (1657) and the Battle of Rio Nuevo (1658). For England Jamaica was to be the 'dagger pointed at the heart of the Spanish Empire' as it became the base for buccaneers. Cromwell, despite all difficulties, was determined that the presence should remain, sending reinforcements and supplies. Jamaica remained an English colony despite the exiled king's promise to return it after the Restoration.

The Chesapeake Colonies

The colonies of Virginia and Maryland had strong Royalist sympathies owing to their origins and demographics. Virginia, the oldest and third most populous colony, was turned into a crown colony in 1624 and was mostly High Church Anglican. The much smaller Maryland was a proprietary colony founded by Catholic gentry but supported by a Protestant underclass.

In April 1643, aware of the problems besetting the home-country, Governor Leonard Calvert departed Maryland to consult with his brother, Proprietor Cecilius Calvert the Lord Baltimore. During this time, St. Mary's City was visited by Captain Richard Ingle, a Roundhead, who led a rebellion upon Leonard Calvert's return. In September 1644, Ingle captured St. Mary's City, and William Claiborne captured Kent Island, forcing Calvert to seek refuge in Virginia.[1] What followed became known as the Plundering Time, a nearly two-year period when Ingle and his companions roamed the colony, robbing at will and taking Jesuits back to England as prisoners.[2]

Meanwhile, Virginia was battling for its survival in a war against the Powhatans (1644–1646) which saw a tenth of the colonial population killed in the initial massacre. Royalist propaganda accused the Roundheads of stirring up the natives and Governor William Berkeley expelled all the Puritans from the colony in 1647. After Virginian victory, Calvert returned to Maryland in 1646 and recaptured St. Mary's City.[1]

Following the death of Leonard Calvert in 1647, Cecilius Calvert named William Stone, a Protestant, as governor in 1649.[3] By choosing Stone, Calvert could avoid criticism of Maryland as a seat of Popery, where Protestants were allegedly oppressed. Stone and his council, however, were required to agree not to interfere with freedom of worship.[1] In 1649, the colonial assembly passed the Maryland Toleration Act, ensuring freedom of religion within Maryland.[4]

After the regicide, Virginia remained faithful to the House of Stuart, though Parliament had decreed that support for Charles II was treason.[5] Berkeley also invited the king to Virginia. The issue of which side Maryland stood was finally settled, at least in appearance, when Thomas Greene, deputy to Stone and a Roman Catholic, declared on November 15, 1649 that Charles II was the "undoubted rightfull heire to all his father's dominions". All acts taken by the Maryland Assembly would further require an oath of fidelity to Baltimore as "Lord Proprietor".[5]

In March 1652 the Rump Parliament removed Stone and Berkeley as governors of Maryland and Virginia, Richard Bennett replaced Berkeley but Stone was reinstated in June.[6] On March 2, 1654, Stone decreed that although he was faithful to the Commonwealth, all writs should "run in the Proprietary's name as heretofore".[5] On January 3, 1654, the exiled Virginian Puritans who had settled at Stone's invitation in Providence objected to the oath as Baltimore was a Catholic. On July 20, 1654, Stone resigned as governor under duress and fled to Virginia.[5] Parliamentary commissioners became de facto governors of the colony, and the first general assembly under their authority was held on October 20, 1654. Roman Catholics and any other individuals who had borne arms against the Parliament could not be members (effectively limiting the membership to Puritans), and among the 44 Acts passed by this group was a repeal of the Toleration Act, and another that forbade Roman Catholics from practicing their faith.[1]

On January 31, 1655, The Golden Lion, a merchant ship commanded by Captain Roger Heamans, arrived in Maryland, and Stone reported to the Captain that he was no longer Governor of Maryland. At about that time, another ship, The Golden Fortune arrived in the colony with a letter from Oliver Cromwell, by this time Lord Protector, addressed to Captain Stone, Governor of Maryland.[5]

Using this as a form of recognition, Stone challenged the authority of the commissioners, seized back the records of the colony, and mustered his troops to deal with the Puritan settlers allied with them.[5] Recruiting from St. Mary's County, Stone recaptured the Assembly records located on the Patuxent River, and sailed with a small fleet up the Chesapeake Bay north towards Providence.[7]

Heamans was informed of a plot to kill the inhabitants of Providence, as well as to burn his ship and kill his crew and officers. Following the removal of the women and children of Providence to The Golden Lion, a war council was convened, and appointed William Fuller of the Puritan settlers of Providence as its leader. On March 23, 1655, the council issued a warrant to Heamans to serve as a counselor, with Heamans relating to Stone that he was bound to do so, ignoring his contrary orders.[5] Virginia's Richard Bennett also lent support to the Puritans.

On March 24, 1655, Heamans fired on sloops and boats heading toward his ship, forcing their retreat. Heamans then ordered an armed sloop to bar their escape by blocking Spa Creek,[1] the inlet of the Severn to which Stone's forces had retreated. On March 25, after Fuller retrieved the only Commonwealth flag in the colony for use as his colors in battle, the forces met on Horn Point, with Fuller's forces driving Stone's small force to the end of the peninsula. In less than one half hour, the battle was over, with 17 of Stone's forces being killed and 32 wounded, including Stone. Only two of Fuller's force were killed.[5] This event was marked as the Battle of the Severn.

Stone surrendered after he was promised mercy.[1] Following hostilities, however, the war council issued death sentences for Stone and nine others.[5][8][9] Four of the prisoners were executed,[7] but the remainder were saved when the women of Providence begged that their lives be spared.[2]

The primarily Puritan assembly retained powers until April 27, 1658, when proprietorship was restored to Lord Baltimore, religious freedom was ensured, and an agreement of general amnesty was entered into.[7] Thus, in the end, Lord Baltimore not only retained his lands and powers, but was able to avoid the grisly fate of many of his contemporaries in England during this time.[5] The proprietor appointed Josias Fendall to succeed Stone as governor for his loyalty during the battle.

Governor Fendall soon had a falling out with Lord Baltimore and led a bloodless revolution in 1659 known as Fendall's Rebellion whereby he and Fuller reorganized Maryland's government to resemble the Commonwealth's. The proprietorship and the assembly's upper house was abolished. However, the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 forced Fendall into exile and restored the proprietorship.

After the death of Governor Samuel Matthews, Virginia's House of Burgesses reelected the royalist William Berkeley in 1659. Thus, in the view of historian Robert Beverley, Jr. writing in 1705, Virginia colony "was the last of all the King's Dominions that submitted to the Usurpation, and afterwards the first that cast it off."[10] Many of the First Families of Virginia trace their founding to this time period and not the actual first days of the colony. As a reward for its loyalty, Charles II gave Virginia the epithet "Old Dominion". He awarded a group of his faithful supporters the rights to found a new colony just south of Virginia, to be called Carolina after his father (its capital would be called Charleston).

Northern Colonies

From 1630 through 1640 approximately 20,000 Puritans emigrated to New England in a Great Migration.[11] In 1642, after the English Civil War began, a sixth of the male colonists returned to England to fight for Parliament, and many stayed, since Oliver Cromwell was himself a Puritan.[12] In 1643, most of the colonies formed the New England Confederation, a defensive alliance. In the early years of the Commonwealth, there was a pamphlet war on whether England should model itself after its Puritan colonies. The non-Puritan factions successfully convinced Cromwell to go for religious toleration lest there be mutiny in the New Model Army.

Royalist Newfoundland fishermen, with the support of Prince Rupert, fought sea skirmishes with New Englanders until Governor David Kirke was arrested by his replacement John Treworgie in 1651. The sparsley populated High church Anglican Province of Maine was annexed by the most populous Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652 as the County of Yorkshire.

In 1654, the New England Confederation voted to invade New Netherland to support the Commonwealth during the First Anglo-Dutch War. Massachusetts refused to join which severely undermined the Confederation. Cromwell sent naval reinforcements but the war ended while they were organizing their forces. This expedition was retooled to target Nova Scotia, the former Scottish colony that was ceded to French Acadia years earlier by Charles I. Cromwell claimed the Treaty of Suza and Treaty of Saint-Germain were invalid and that the French did not pay the purchase money. Nova Scotia was taken without significant resistance by Robert Sedgwick. This became an international incident since England and France were at peace but the French were busy fighting the Spanish and ceded the territory to England to secure the Commonwealth as an ally. England returned it to France in 1670 as according to the 1667 Treaty of Breda.

After the Restoration, there was a Fifth Monarchist uprising in London led by New Englander Thomas Venner. This was used in Royalist propaganda to unfairly blame all the upheaval of the last two decades on New England. It was not helped by the fact that the New Haven Colony shelted several regicides. New Haven was merged with the Connecticut Colony as punishment. New England as a whole remained the hotbed of Puritanism where sentiments for the 'Good Old Cause' against the 'Norman yoke' simmered until the Glorious Revolution.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gambrill, J. Montgomery (1904). Leading Events of Maryland History. Ginn & Company. pp. 44. http://books.google.com/books?id=SPMXAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Pestana, Carla Gardina (2004). The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640–1661. Harvard University Press. pp. 36. ISBN 0674015029. http://books.google.com/books?id=0d2gYaaCGcQC&printsec=frontcover#PPA153,M1. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Maryland Historical Chronology". Maryland State Archives. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/chron/html/chron16.html. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  4. ^ "An Act Concerning Religion". Maryland State Archives. April 21, 1649. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/speccol/sc2200/sc2221/000025/html/appendix.html. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j May, Radmila (1999). "The Battle of Great Severn". Contemporary Review Company Ltd.. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2242/is_1598_274/ai_54405265. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  6. ^ Fiske, John (1900). Old Virginia and Her Neighbours. Houghton, Mifflin and company. pp. 294. http://books.google.com/books?id=ydEBAAAAMAAJ&pg=PR22&dq=maryland,+battle+of+the+severn,+william+stone&lr=#PPA296,M1. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c Glenn, Thomas Allen (1900). Some Colonial Mansions and Those who Lived in Them. H. T. Coates & company. pp. 360. http://books.google.com/books?id=rmZWAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA359&dq=maryland,+battle+of+the+severn,+william+stone&lr=#PPA360,M1. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  8. ^ Gambrill (1904) gives the total number of death sentences as 10, but May (1999) states that there were 12.
  9. ^ Carr, Lois Green; Philip D. Morgan, Jean Burrell Russo (1991). Colonial Chesapeake Society. UNC Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0807843431. http://books.google.com/books?id=PXfeV0D3gVUC&pg=PA63&lpg=PA63&dq=kent+island,+william+claiborne&source=web&ots=16-_RFm7-C&sig=Ppen9nWsPBTUrVg4hMq8lrnNXZM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result#PPA65,M1. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  10. ^ Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia
  11. ^ Ashley, Roscoe (1908). American History. New York: Macmillan. p. 52. http://books.google.com/books?id=W2kAAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  12. ^ Hopley, Claire. "The Puritan Migration: Albion’s Seed Sets Sail". http://www.historynet.com/exploration/great_migrations/3035471.html?page=2&c=y. Retrieved 5 December 2008. 

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