New England Confederation

The United Colonies of New England, commonly known as the New England Confederation, was a confederal alliance of the New England colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Saybrook (Connecticut), and New Haven formed in May 1643. Its primary purpose was to unite the Puritan colonies in support of the church, and for defense against the Native Americans and the Dutch colony of New Netherland.[4] It was the first milestone on the long road to colonial unity and was established as a direct result of a war that started between the Mohegan and Narragansett Indian tribes. Its charter provided for the return of fugitive criminals and indentured servants, and served as a forum for resolving inter-colonial disputes. In practice, none of the goals were accomplished.[5]

United Colonies of New England
1643–1686
New England in 1660
StatusDisestablished
CapitalNone, meeting place rotated between: Boston, Hartford, New Haven, Plymouth[1]
Common languagesEnglish Massachusett, Mi'kmaq
Religion
Congregationalism
GovernmentDirectorial confederation
Commissioners 
 1643 (first)
William Collier
Thomas Dudley
Edward Winslow
Theophilus Eaton
George Fenwick
Thomas Gregson
Edward Hopkins
John Winthrop[2]
 1686 (last)
John Allyn
William Bradford IV
Thomas Hinckley
Samuel Nowell
William Stoughton
John Talcott
John Walley[3]
LegislatureNone (legislative power was reserved for individual colonial assemblies)
Historical eraGreat Migration, British colonization of the Americas, American Indian Wars, Anglo-Dutch Wars
 Established
1643
 Disestablished
1686

The confederation was weakened in 1654 after Massachusetts Bay refused to join an expedition against New Netherland during the First Anglo-Dutch War, although it regained importance during King Philip's War in 1675. It was dissolved after numerous colonial charters were revoked in the early 1680s.

John Quincy Adams remarked at a meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society on the 200th anniversary of the Confederation's founding:

The New England confederacy was destined to a life of less than forty years' duration. Its history, like that of other confederacies, presents a record of incessant discord-of encroachments by the most powerful party upon the weaker members, and of disregard, by all the separate members, of the conclusions adopted by the whole body. Still the main purpose of the union was accomplished.[6]

Treaty

The full name of the 1643 treaty was "The Articles of Confederation between the Plantations under the Government of the Massachusetts, the Plantations under the Government of New Plymouth, the Plantations under the Government of Connecticut, and the Government of New Haven with the Plantations in Combination therewith". The colonies of New England were expanding and growing, and their contact was increasing with other European colonial settlements, as well as with surrounding Indian tribes. The New England colonial leaders, therefore, sought an alliance that would allow the colonies to coordinate a collective defense of New England. The New England leaders also felt that they were unique among the American colonies, and they hoped to band together to preserve their Puritan values. The treaty calls on the New England colonies to act as a nation, saying that they share a way of life and religion. This alliance was meant to be a perpetual mode of defense and communication among the colonies themselves and with any foreign entities.[7]

The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England, 1643

The treaty outlining the alliance contained the following clauses, in summary:[8]

  • The colonies should form into a league of friendship with mutual military assurance. This relationship would ensure the communal safety and welfare of the colonies and preserve their Puritan way of life.
  • The New England colonies were to maintain their current territory. Their jurisdictions would remain unfettered by the other members of the confederation, and any changes made would have to be agreed upon by the other members.
  • All members of the confederation were bound to each other if war occurred. This meant that they had to contribute to the war whatever they were capable of in terms of men and provisions. The colonies would also be obligated to provide a census of all their available men for militia. All men from 16 to 60 were to be considered eligible for service. Any gains from military conflict were to be divided in a just manner among the confederation.
  • If any member of the confederation came under attack, the other members must come to their aid without delay. This assistance would take place proportionally. Massachusetts Bay would be required to send 100 armed and supplied men, the other colonies 45 armed and supplied men or less, based on size and population. If a greater number of men or supplies is needed, then the commissioners of the Confederation would need to approve of the measure.
  • Two commissioners were to be chosen from each province to administer martial affairs. The commissioners were to meet once a year on the first Thursday in September, rotating the location among the colonies.
  • The commissioners would select a president from among themselves; he would not have any extra powers and would serve a purely administrative function.
  • Commissioners would have power to draft law and codes that would benefit the general welfare of the Confederation. These laws would be to ensure friendly relations among the provinces and security for the Confederation. There was also to be cooperation between provinces in terms of the return of fugitives and runaway servants.
  • No member colony was to undertake any act of war or conflict without the consent of the others. This would be to prevent smaller provinces from being forced to engage in a war that they did not have the resources to fight. Any offensive war would need approval of six of the eight Commissioners.
  • Four Commissioners could make administrative decisions in extenuating circumstances, but any decision would have to be within bounds of the pledged men and resources. No decision concerning bills or levies could be made with less than six commissioners present.
  • If any member province of the Confederation were to break any of the clauses, then the remaining provinces' commissioners were to meet and decide upon any further action.

The Massachusetts General Court and the commissioners from Saybrook Colony and New Haven Colony agreed to the treaty on May 19th, 1643. The General Court of the Plymouth Colony agreed to it on August 29.[9]

Signatories

Massachusetts Bay

  • Increase Nowell, Secretary of the General Court

Saybrook Colony

New Haven Colony

Plymouth Colony

Commissioners

Commissioners[11]
YearMeeting PlaceConnecticut RiverMassachusetts BayNew HavenPlymouth
1643BostonGeorge Fenwick, Edward HopkinsThomas Dudley, John WinthropTheophilus Eaton, Thomas Gregson, Richard MalbonWilliam Collier, Edward Winslow
1644HartfordJohn Brown, George Fenwick, Edward HopkinsSimon Bradstreet, William HathorneEdward Winslow, Theophilus EatonThomas Gregson
1645BostonJohn Brown, George Fenwick, Edward HopkinsHerbert Pelham, John WinthropTheophilus Eaton, Stephen GoodyearThomas Prence
1646New HavenJohn Brown, John Haynes,Edward HopkinsHerbert PelhemTheophilius Eaton, Stephen GoodyearJohn Endicott, Timothy Hatherit
1647BostonJohn Brown, George Fenwick, Edward Hopkins, John Mason, William Whiting†Simon BradstreetTheophilus Eaton, Stephen GoodyearWilliam Bradford, John Endicott
1648PlymouthJohn Brown, George Fenwick, Edward Hopkins, Roger LudlowSimon BradstreetJohn Astwood, Theophilus EatonWilliam Bradford, John Endicott
1649BostonJohn Brown, Edward Hopkins, Thomas WellesSimon Bradstreet, Thomas DudleyJohn Astwood, Theophilus EatonWilliam Bradford, Thomas Prence
1650HartfordJohn Brown, John Haynes, Edward HopkinsSimon Bradstreet, William HathorneTheophilus Eaton, Stephen GoodyearN/A
1651New HavenJohn Brown, Edward Hopkins, John LudlowSimon Bradstreet, William HathorneTheophilus Eaton, Stephen GoodyearTimothy Hatherly
1652PlymouthJohn Brown, John Cullick, John LudlowSimon Bradstreet, WIlliam HathorneJohn Astwood, Theophilus EatonWilliam Bradford
1653BostonJohn Brown, John Cullick, John LudlowSimon Bradstreet, William HathorneJohn Astwood, Theophilus EatonThomas Prence
1654HartfordJohn Brown, John Mason, John WebsterSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonTheophilus Eaton, Samuel Mason, Francis NewmanThomas Prence
1655New HavenJohn Brown, John Cullick, John MasonSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonTheophilus EatonJames Cudworth
1656PlymouthJohn Mason, John Talcott the elderSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonTheophilus EatonWilliam Bradford, Thomas Prence
1657BostonJohn Talcott the elderSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonTheophilus EatonJames Cudworth, Thomas Prence
1658BostonJohn Talcott the elder, Thomas Welles, John Winthrop the Younger.Simon BradstreetTheophilus Eaton, Samuel Mason, Francis NewmanJohn Endicott, Thomas Prence, Josiah Winslow
1659HartfordJohn Winthrop the YoungerSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonSamuel Mason, Francis NewmanThomas Southworth, Josiah Winslow
1660New HavenMatthew Allyn, John Winthrop the YoungerSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonSamuel Mason, Francis NewmanThomas Southworth, Josiah WInslow
1661PlymouthJohn Mason, Samuel WillisSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonN/AThomas Prence, Thomas Southworth
1662BostonJohn Talcott the younger, Samuel WillisSimon Bradstreet, Daniel DenisonN/AThomas Prence, Josiah Winslow
1663BostonJohn Talcott the younger, John Winthrop the YoungerSimon Bradstreet, Thomas DanforthN/AThomas Prence, Josiah Winslow
1664HartfordMatthew Allyn, Samuel WillisSimon Bradstreet, Thomas DanforthEdward JonesThomas Southworth, Josiah Winslow
1665No meetingNew Haven Colony absorbed into the Connecticut Colony
1666No meeting
1667HartfordEdward Leete, Samuel WillisThomas Danforth, John LeverettThomas Southworth
1668N/AEdward Leete, Samuel Willis, John Winthrop the YoungerThomas Danforth, John LeverettThomas Prence, Thomas Southworth, Josiah Winslow
1669N/AJames Richards, John Talcott the younger, John Winthrop the YoungerSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, William Hathorne, John LeverettThomas Prence, Thomas Southworth, Josiah WInslow
1670N/AJames Richards, John Talcott the younger, Samuel WillisSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, William Hathorne, John LeverettThomas Prence, Josiah WInslow
1671N/AJames Richards, John Talcott the younger, Samuel WillisSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, Daniel Dension, William HathorneThomas Prence, Josiah WInslow
1672PlymouthEdward Leete, James Richards, John Talcott the younger, Wait-Still WinthropSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, William Hathorne, John LeverettThomas Hinckley, Thomas Prence, Josiah WInslow
1673HartfordJohn Allyn, Edward Leete, John Talcott the youngerThomas Danforth, Daniel Denison, William Hathorne. William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah WInslow
1674N/AJohn Allynm, James Richards, John Talcott the youngerSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, Daniel Denison, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1675BostonJohn Allyn, James Richards, John Talcott the younger, John Winthrop the younger, Wait-Still WinthropSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, Daniel Denison, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1676BostonJohn Allyn, James Richards, John Talcott the younger, Wait-Still WinthropThomas Danforth, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1677N/AJohn Allyn, James Richards, John Talcott the youngerSimon Bradstreet, Thomas Danforth, Joseph Dudley, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1678HartfordJohn Allyn, Edward LeeteThomas Danforth, Joseph DudleyWilliam Bradford the younger, James Cudworth, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1679BostonJohn Allyn, James RichardsThomas Danforth, Humphrey Davy, Daniel Denison, Joseph DudleyJames Cudworth, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1680N/AJohn Allyn, James RichardsJoseph Dudley, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Josiah Winslow
1681BostonJohn Allyn, Robert TreatJoseph Dudley, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, James Cudworth, Thomas Hinckley
1682N/AJohn Allyn, Robert TreatPeter Bulkeley, Elisha Cooke, Samuel Nowell, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Daniel Smith
1683N/AJohn Allyn, John Talcott the youngerPeter Bulkeley, Elisha Cooke, Samuel Nowell, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Thomas Hinckley, Daniel Smith
1684HartfordJohn Allyn, John Talcott the youngerPeter Bulkeley, Elisha Cooke, Samuel Nowell, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, Daniel Smith, John Walley
1685N/AN/ASamuel Nowell, William StoughtonJohn Walley
1686N/AJohn Allyn, John Mason, William Pitkin, John Talcott the youngerSamuel Nowell, William StoughtonWilliam Bradford the younger, John Walley, Thomas Hinckley
1687The New England Colonies had their charters revoked. New England was then governed by the Dominion of New England, a direct rule government
1688Dominion of New England / Due to the Glorious Revolution and Boston Revolt the Dominion of New England was dissolved and colonial charters were restored
1689BostonWilliam PitkinElisha Cooke, Thomas DanforthWilliam VaughnJohn Walley, Thomas Hinckley
† Whiting was elected but died before the session could take place
*"N/A" refers to where information is not known.
*Although it was customary to have a colony send two commissioners to sessions, many colonies sent alternate or replacement Commissioners which is the reason for some entries to have multiple names.

See also

References

Sources

  • Quincy Adams, John, ed. (1843). The New England Confederacy A Discourse delivered before the Massachusetts Historical Society, at Boston, on the 29th of May 1843; In Celebration of the Second Centennial of that Event. Charles C. Little and James Brown.
  • Ward, Harry (ed.). The United Colonies of New England-1643-90. Vantage Press=1961.

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