- History of New England
This article presents the History of New England, the oldest clearly defined region of the United States, unique among U.S. geographic regions in that it is also a former political entity. While New England was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, English Pilgrims and especially Puritans, fleeing religious persecution in England, arrived in the 1620-1660 era. They dominated the region; their religion was later called Congregationalism. They and their descendants are called Yankees. Farming, fishing and lumbering prospered, as did seafaring and merchandizing. The region was the scene of the first Industrial Revolution in the United States, with many textile mills and machine shops operating by 1830.
New England (and Virginia) led the way to the American Revolution, The region became a stronghold of the conservative Federalist Party and opposed the War of 1812 with Great Britain. By the 1840s it was the center of the anti-slavery movement, was the leading force in American literature and higher education.
- 1 Indigenous peoples
- 2 Colonial era
- 3 1770-1900
- 4 Modern history (1900 to current)
- 5 Famous leaders
- 6 Notes
- 7 Bibliography
New England has long been inhabited by Algonquian-speaking native peoples, including the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Pequot, the Wampanoag, and many others. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans such as Giovanni da Verrazzano, Jacques Cartier and John Cabot (known as Giovanni Caboto before being based in England) charted the New England coast. They referred to the region as Norumbega, named for a fabulous native city that was supposed to exist there.
Early European settlement (1607–1620)
On 1606-04-10, King James I of England issued two charters, one each for the Virginia Companies, of London and Plymouth, respectively The purpose of both was to claim land for England and trade.
- Under the charters, the territory allocated was defined as follows:
- Virginia Company of London: All land, including islands within 100 miles (160 km) from the coast and implying a westward limit of 100 miles (160 km), between 34 Degrees (Cape Fear, North Carolina) and 41 Degrees (Long Island Sound, New York) north latitude.
- Virginia Company of Plymouth: All land, including islands within 100 miles (160 km) from the coast and implying a westward limit of 100 miles (160 km), between 38 Degrees (Chesapeake Bay, Virginia) and 45 Degrees (Border between Canada and Maine) north latitude. Its charter included land extending as far as present-day northern Maine.
These were privately funded proprietary ventures, and the purpose of each was to claim land for England, trade, and return a profit. The Virginia Company of London successfully established the Jamestown Colony in Virginia in 1607. The region was named "New England" by Captain John Smith, who explored its shores in 1614, in his account of two voyages there, published as A Description of New England.
The name "New England" was officially sanctioned on November 3, 1620, when the charter of the Virginia Company of Plymouth was replaced by a royal charter for the Plymouth Council for New England, a joint stock company established to colonize and govern the region. In December 1620, a permanent settlement known as the Plymouth Colony was established at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims, English religious separatists arriving via Holland. They arrived aboard a ship named the Mayflower and held a feast of gratitude which became part of the American tradition of Thanksgiving. Plymouth, with a small population and limited size, was absorbed by Massachusetts in 1691.,
In 1638, a "violent" earthquake was felt throughout New England, centered in the St. Lawrence Velley. This was the first recorded seismic event noted in New England.
The Puritans, a much larger group than the Pilgrims, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 with 400 settlers. They sought to reform the Church of England by creating a new, pure church in the New World. By 1640, 20,000 had arrived; many died soon after arrival, but the others found a healthy climate and an ample food supply. See Migration to New England (1620–1640)
The Puritans created a deeply religious, socially tight-knit, and politically innovative culture that still influences the modern United States. They hoped this new land would serve as a "redeemer nation". They fled England and in America attempted to create a "nation of saints" or a "City upon a Hill": an intensely religious, thoroughly righteous community designed to be an example for all of Europe. Roger Williams, who preached religious toleration, separation of Church and State, and a complete break with the Church of England, was banished and founded Rhode Island Colony, which became a haven for other refugees from the Puritan community, such as Anne Hutchinson.
Economically, Puritan New England fulfilled the expectations of its founders. Unlike the cash crop-oriented plantations of the Chesapeake region, the Puritan economy was based on the efforts of self-supporting farmsteads who traded only for goods they could not produce themselves. There was a generally higher economic standing and standard of living in New England than in the Chesapeake. Along with agriculture, fishing, and logging, New England became an important mercantile and shipbuilding center, serving as the hub for trading between the southern colonies and Europe.
Banished from Massachusetts for his theological heresies, Roger Williams led a group south, and founded Providence, Rhode Island in 1636. It merged with other settlements to form Rhode Island, which became a center for Baptists and Quakers.
The Dominion of New England (1686–1689)
In 1686, King James II, concerned about the increasingly independent ways of the colonies, in particular their self governing Charters, open flouting of the Navigation Acts and their increasing military power decreed the Dominion of New England, an administrative union comprising all the New England colonies. Two years later, the provinces of New York (New Amsterdam) and the New Jersey, which had been confiscated by force from the Dutch, were added. The union, imposed from the outside, and removing nearly all their popularly elected leaders, was highly unpopular among the colonists. In 1687, when the Connecticut Colony refused to follow a decision of the dominion governor Edmund Andros to turn over their charter, he sent an armed contingent to seize the colony's charter. According to popular legend, the colonists hid the charter inside the Charter Oak tree. Andros' efforts to loot the colonies, replace their leaders and to unify the colonial defenses under his control met little success and the dominion ceased after only three years. After the very popular removal of King James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1689, Andros was arrested and sent back to England by the colonists during the 1689 Boston revolt.
1689 - 1775
After the Glorious Revolution in 1689 the charters of most of the colonies were significantly modified with the appointment of Royal Governors to nearly each colony. An uneasy tension existed between the Royal Governors, their officers and the elected governing bodies in the colonies. The governors wanted essentially unlimited arbitrary powers and the different layers of locally elected officials resisted as best they could. In most cases the local town governments continued operating as self-governing bodies as they had before the Royal Governors showed up and to the extent possible ignored the Royal Governors. This tension eventually led to the American Revolution when the states formed their own governments. The colonies were not formally united again until 1776 as newly formed states, when they declared themselves independent states in a larger (but not yet federalist) union called the United States.
By 1723, Puritan cultural and religious influence had declined substantially in Boston. One of Ben Franklin's first printed works decried frivolity among Harvard students.
Focused on shipping as well as production, New England conducted a robust trade within the English domain in the mid-18th century. They exported to the Caribbean: pickled beef and pork, onions and potatoes from the Connecticut valley, codfish to feed their slaves, northern pine and oak staves from which the planters constructed containers to ship their sugar and molasses, Narragansett Pacers from Rhode Island, and "plugs" to run sugar mills.
The New England States were initially colonized by about 30,000 settlers between 1620 and 1640, a period now referred to as "The Great Migration." There was little additional immigration until the Irish influx of the 1840s and '50s in the wake of the potato famine. The almost one million inhabitants 130 years later at the time of the Revolution were nearly all descended from the original settlers, whose 3 percent annual natural growth rate caused a doubling of population every 25 years. Their beliefs and ancestry were nearly all shared and made them into what was probably the largest more-or-less homogeneous group of settlers in America. Their high birth rate continued for at least a century more, making the descendants of these New Englanders well represented in nearly all states today. In the 18th century and the early 19th century, New England was still considered to be a very distinct region of the country, as it is today. During the War of 1812, there was a limited amount of talk of secession from the Union, as New England merchants, just getting back on their feet, opposed the war with their greatest trading partner — Great Britain.
Aside from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, or "New Scotland," New England is the only North American region to inherit the name of a kingdom in the British Isles. New England has largely preserved its regional character, especially in its historic sites. Its name is a reminder of the past, as many of the original English-Americans have migrated further west.
After the American Revolutionary War, Connecticut and Massachusetts ceded tracts of land to the federal government that they had claimed in the Northwest Territory and the Western Reserve exceeding their modern day areas.
Population and economy
Benjamin Franklin in 1772, after examining the wretched hovels in Scotland surrounding the opulent mansions of the land owners, said that in New England every man is a property owner, "has a Vote in public Affairs, lives in a tidy, warm House, has plenty of good Food and Fuel, with whole clothes from Head to Foot, the Manufacture perhaps of his own family."
The regional economy grew rapidly in the 17th century, thanks to heavy immigration, high birth rates, low death rates, and an abundance of inexpensive farmland. The population grew from 3000 in 1630 to 14,000 in 1640, 33,000 in 1660, 68,000 in 1680, and 91,000 in 1700. Between 1630 and 1643, about 20,000 Puritans arrived, settling mostly near Boston; after 1643 fewer than fifty immigrants a year arrived. The average size of a completed family 1660-1700 was 7.1 children; the birth rate was 49 babies per year per 1000 people, and the death rate was about 22 deaths per year per thousand people. About 27 percent of the population comprised men between 16 and 60 years old.
The region's economy grew steadily over the entire colonial era, despite the lack of a staple crop that could be exported. All the provinces, and many towns as well, tried to foster economic growth by subsidizing projects that improved the infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, inns and ferries. They gave bounties and subsidies or monopolies to sawmills, grist mills, iron mills pulling mills (which treated cloth), salt works and glassworks. Most important, colonial legislatures set up a legal system that was conducive to business enterprise by resolving disputes, enforcing contracts, and protecting property rights. Hard work and entrepreneurship characterized the region, as the Puritans and Yankees endorsed the "Protestant Ethic", which enjoined men to work hard as part of their divine calling.
The benefits of growth were widely distributed, with even farm laborers better off at the end of the colonial period. The growing population led to shortages of good farm land on which young families could establish themselves; one result was to delay marriage, and another was to move to new lands further west. In the towns and cities, there was strong entrepreneurship, and a steady increase in the specialization of labor. Wages for men went up steadily before 1775; new occupations were opening for women, including weaving, teaching, and tailoring. The region bordered New France, and in the numerous wars the British poured money in to purchase supplies, build roads and pay colonial soldiers. The coastal ports began to specialize in fishing, international trade and shipbuilding—and after 1780 in whaling. Combined with a growing urban markets for farm products, these factors allowed the economy to flourish despite the lack of technological innovation.
New England has always had a commanding position and the history of American education. The first American schools in the thirteen colonies opened in the 17th century. Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States. Cremin (1970) stresses that colonists tried at first to educate by the traditional English methods of family, church, community, and apprenticeship, with schools later becoming the key agent in "socialization." At first, the rudiments of literacy and arithmetic were taught inside the family, assuming the parents had those skills. Literacy rates seem to have been much higher in New England, and much lower in the South. By the mid-19th century, the role of the schools had expanded to such an extent that many of the educational tasks traditionally handled by parents became the responsibility of the schools.
All the New England colonies required towns to set up schools, and many did so. In 1642 the Massachusetts Bay Colony made "proper" education compulsory; other New England colonies followed. Similar statutes were adopted in other colonies in the 1640s and 1650s. The schools were all male, with few facilities for girls. In the 18th century, "common schools," appeared; students of all ages were under the control of one teacher in one room. Although they were publicly supplied at the local (town) level, they were not free, and instead were supported by tuition or "rate bills."
The larger towns in New England opened grammar schools, the forerunner of the modern high school. The most famous was the Boston Latin School, which is still in operation as a public high school. Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut, was another. By the 1780s, most had been replaced by private academies. By the early 19th century New England operated a network of elite private high schools, now called "prep schools," typified by Phillips Andover Academy (1778), Phillips Exeter Academy (1781), and Deerfield Academy (1797). They became coeducational in the 1970s, and remain highly prestigious in the 21st century.
Harvard College was founded by the colonial legislature in 1636, and named after an early benefactor. Most of the funding came from the colony, but the college early began to collect endowment. Harvard at first focused on training young men for the ministry, and one general support from the Puritan colonies. Yale College was founded in 1701, and in 1716 was relocated to New Haven, Connecticut. The conservative Puritan ministers of Connecticut had grown dissatisfied with the more liberal theology of Harvard, and wanted their own school to train orthodox ministers. Dartmouth College, chartered in 1769, grew out of school for Indians, and was moved to its present site in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1770. Brown University was founded by Baptists in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Tax-supported schooling for girls began as early as 1767 in New England. It was optional and some towns proved reluctant. Northampton, Massachusetts, for example, was a late adopter because it had many rich families who dominated the political and social structures and they did not want to pay taxes to aid poor families. Northampton assessed taxes on all households, rather than only on those with children, and used the funds to support a grammar school to prepare boys for college. Not until after 1800 did Northampton educate girls with public money. In contrast, the town of Sutton, Massachusetts, was diverse in terms of social leadership and religion at an early point in its history. Sutton paid for its schools by means of taxes on households with children only, thereby creating an active constituency in favor of universal education for both boys and girls.
Historians point out that reading and writing were different skills in the colonial era. School taught both, but in places without schools reading was mainly taught to boys and also a few privileged girls. Men handled worldly affairs and needed to read and write. Girls only needed to read (especially religious materials). This educational disparity between reading and writing explains why the colonial women often could read, but could not write and could not sign their names—they used an "X".
New England, especially Boston, was the center of revolutionary activity in the decade before 1775, with Massachusetts politicians Samuel Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock as leaders. New Englanders, like all Americans, were very proud of their political freedoms and local democracy, which they felt was increasingly threatened by the British imperial government. The main grievance was taxation, which colonists argued could only be imposed by their own legislatures, and not by the Parliament in London. Their political cry was, "No taxation without representation! On December 16, 1773, when a ship was planning to land taxed tea in Boston, local activists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, disguised themselves as Indians, raided the ship, and dumped all the tea into the harbor. This Boston Tea Party outraged British of officials, and the King and Parliament decided to punish Massachusetts.
Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts in 1774 that brought stiff punishment. It closed the port of Boston, the economic lifeblood of the Commonwealth, and ended self-government, putting the people under military rule. The patriots set up a shadow government, which the British Army attack on April 18, 1775 at Concord. On the 19th, in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where the famous "shot heard 'round the world" was fired, British troops, were forced back into the city by the local militias, under the control of the shadow government. The British army controlled only the city of Boston, and it was quickly brought under siege. The Continental Congress to control the war, sending General George Washington to take charge. he forced the British to evacuate in March 1776. After that, the main warfare moves south, but the British made repeated raids along the coast, and seized part of Rhode Island and Maine for a while. On the whole, the patriots controlled 99 percent of the New England population.
Early national period
After independence, New England ceased to be a meaningful political unit, but remained a defined historical and cultural region consisting of its now-sovereign constituent states. By 1784, all of the states in the region had introduced the gradual abolition of slavery, with Vermont and Massachusetts introducing total abolition in 1777 and 1783, respectively. During the War of 1812, there was a limited amount of talk of secession from the Union, as New England merchants, just getting back on their feet, opposed the war with their greatest trading partner—Britain. Delegates from all over New England met in Hartford in the winter of 1814-15. The gathering was called the Hartford Convention. The twenty-seven delegates met to discuss changes to the US Constitution that would protect the region from similar legislation and attempt to keep political power in the region.
In 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise, the territory of Maine, formerly a part of Massachusetts, was admitted to the Union as a state. Today, New England is always defined as coextensive with the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
For the remainder of the antebellum period, New England remained distinct. In terms of politics, it often went against the grain of the rest of the country. Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the last refuges of the Federalist Party, and, when the Second Party System began in the 1830s, New England became the strongest bastion of the new Whig Party. The Whigs were usually dominant throughout New England, except in the more Democratic Maine and New Hampshire. Leading statesmen — including Daniel Webster — hailed from the region. New England was distinct in other ways. It was, as a whole, the most urbanized part of the country (the 1860 Census showed that 32 of the 100 largest cities in the country were in New England), as well as the most educated. Notable literary and intellectual figures produced by the United States in the Antebellum period were New Englanders, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, George Bancroft, William H. Prescott, and others.
New England was an early center of the industrial revolution. In Beverly, Massachusetts the first cotton mill in America was founded in 1787, the Beverly Cotton Manufactory. The Manufactory was also considered the largest cotton mill of its time. Technological developments and achievements from the Manufactory led to the development of other, more advanced cotton mills later, including Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Several textile mills were already underway during the time. Towns like Lawrence, Massachusetts, Lowell, Massachusetts, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Lewiston, Maine became famed as centers of the textile industry following models from Slater Mill and the Beverly Cotton Manufactory. The textile manufacturing in New England was growing rapidly, which caused a shortage of workers. Recruiters were hired by mill agents to bring young women and children from the countryside to work in the factories. Between 1830 and 1860, thousands of farm girls came from their rural homes in New England to work in the mills. Farmers’ daughters left their homes to aid their families financially, save for marriage, and widen their horizons. They also left their homes due to population pressures to look for opportunities in expanding New England cities. Stagecoach and railroad services made it easier for the rapid flow of workers to travel from the country to the city. The majority of female workers came from rural farming towns in northern New England. As the textile industry grew, immigration grew as well. As the number of Irish workers in the mills increased, the number of young women working in the mills decreased. At first the mills employed young Yankee farm women; they then used Irish and French immigrants.
New England and areas settled from New England, like Upstate New York, Ohio's Western Reserve and the upper midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin, proved to be the center of the strongest abolitionist sentiment in the country. Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips were New Englanders, and the region was home to anti-slavery politicians like John Quincy Adams, Charles Sumner, and John P. Hale. When the anti-slavery Republican Party was formed in the 1850s, all of New England, including areas that had previously been strongholds for both the Whig and the Democratic Parties, became strongly Republican, as it would remain until the early 20th century, when immigration turned the formerly solidly Republican states of Lower New England towards the Democrats.
There have been waves of immigration from Ireland, Quebec, Italy, Portugal, Asia, Latin America, Africa, other parts of the United States, and elsewhere.
New England and political thought
During the colonial period and the early years of the American republic, New England leaders like James Otis, John Adams, and Samuel Adams joined Patriots in Philadelphia and Virginia to define Republicanism, and lead the colonies to a war for independence against Great Britain. New England was a Federalist stronghold, and strongly opposed the War of 1812. After 1830 it became a Whig party, stronghold as exemplified by Daniel Webster in the Second Party System. At the time of the American Civil War, New England, the mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest, which had long since abolished slavery, united against the Confederate States of America, ending the practice in the United States. Henry David Thoreau, iconic New England writer and philosopher, made the case for civil disobedience and individualism.
Modern history (1900 to current)
In the 1930s and 1940s there were winter "outing clubs" in a number of areas in New England which held dog sled races, ski jumping, and cross country competitions; sulky races on cleared streets, and dances.
The 1938 New England hurricane blew down 15,000,000 acres (61,000 km2) of trees, one-third of the total forest at the time in New England. 3 billion board feet were salvaged. Many of the older trees in the region are about 75 years old, dating from after this storm.
Eight presidents of the United States have been born in New England, however only five are usually affiliated with the area. They are, in chronological order: John Adams (Massachusetts), John Quincy Adams (Massachusetts), Franklin Pierce (New Hampshire), Chester A. Arthur (born in Vermont, affiliated with New York), Calvin Coolidge (born in Vermont, affiliated with Massachusetts), John F. Kennedy (Massachusetts), George H. W. Bush (born in Massachusetts, affiliated with Texas) and George W. Bush (born in Connecticut, affiliated with Texas).
Nine vice presidents of the United States have been born in New England, however, again only five are usually affiliated with the area. They are, in chronological order: John Adams, Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts), Hannibal Hamlin (Maine), Henry Wilson (born in New Hampshire, affiliated with Massachusetts), Chester A. Arthur, Levi P. Morton (born in Vermont, affiliated with New York), Calvin Coolidge, Nelson Rockefeller (born in Maine, affiliated with New York), George H.W. Bush.
Eleven of the Speakers of the United States House of Representatives have been elected from New England. They are, in chronological order: Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (2nd Speaker, Connecticut), Theodore Sedgwick (5th Speaker, Massachusetts), Joseph Bradley Varnum (7th Speaker, Massachusetts), Robert Charles Winthrop (22nd Speaker, Massachusetts), Nathaniel Prentice Banks (25th Speaker, Massachusetts), James G. Blaine (31st Speaker, Maine), Thomas Brackett Reed (36th and 38th, Maine), Frederick Gillett (42nd, Massachusetts), Joseph William Martin, Jr. (49th and 51st, Massachusetts), John William McCormack (53rd, Massachusetts) and Tip O'Neill (55th, Massachusetts).
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