New England Colonies

The New England Colonies were the settlements established by English religious dissenters along the coast of the north-east of North America between 1620-1640 CE. The original colonies were:

  • Plymouth Colony (1620 CE)
  • New Hampshire Colony (1622 CE)
  • Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630 CE)
  • Providence Colony (1636 CE)
  • Connecticut Colony (1636 CE)
  • New Haven Colony (1638 CE)

Prior to the arrival of the English colonists, the land had been inhabited by Native Americans for over 10,000 years. The tribes still occupying the region c. 1607 CE were the Abenakis, Assonet, Chappaquiddick, Mashpee, Mi'kmaq, Mohegan, Narragansett, Nantucket, Nauset, Patuxet, Penobscot, Pequot, Pocumtuck, and Pokanoket. These tribes would reduced by disease, military action, enslavement, and deportation, or assimilation by 1680 CE, and survivors moved either onto reservations or left the region to join other tribes elsewhere after the colonial victory in King Philip's War (1675-1678 CE). The colonies then occupied the vacated Native American land and flourished.

Plymouth Colony would be absorbed by Massachusetts Bay into the larger colony of Massachusetts in 1691 CE while New Haven Colony joined Connecticut in 1664 CE. Providence Colony was officially recognized as the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1790 CE. Land grants given by the Province of New Hampshire, contested by their southern neighbor, the Province of New York, would eventually become Vermont in 1777 CE. The northern part of Massachusetts became the State of Maine in 1820 CE, establishing the region of modern-day New England as the states of:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • Vermont
  • Maine

England had first attempted colonization of the region in 1607 CE with the Popham Colony (1607-1608 CE) which failed after 14 months. The success of Plymouth Colony (1620-1691 CE) encouraged the establishment of the New Hampshire Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony while Providence Colony, Connecticut Colony, and New Haven Colony were founded by dissenters from Massachusetts Bay. All of these settlements were established by Puritans, separatists, or others seeking freedom of religion and personal liberty for themselves while, with the exception of Providence, denying the same to others. The colonies would continue this model not only in their Native American policies but through the institution of slavery, establishing a pattern of systemic racism still evident in the policies and practices of the nation they helped establish.

Native American New England

The indigenous people considered the land a gift from the Great Spirit (most often designated as Manitou) & had no concept of private ownership.

Before the arrival of European settlers, the land was inhabited by the people who had occupied it going back at least 10,000 years. The indigenous people were semi-nomadic with seasonal settlements along the coast and more permanent villages in the interior (though there were exceptions to this model). The land was considered a gift from the Great Spirit (most often designated as Manitou), and the people had no concept of private ownership of the land, although different tribes regularly used specific areas and there were wars over resources when one tribe infringed on another's established right to a region.

The natives observed a matrilineal cultural system in which the family name and tribal status was passed down through the woman's side, and women were active in the government of the tribe, as elders especially, who chose the next sachem (chief). Native Americans subsisted on agriculture, growing beans, maize, and squash (the “three sisters”), on hunting, fishing, and foraging. By the 17th century CE, a number of these tribes had formed themselves into the Wampanoag Confederacy to protect themselves and their resources from others. The sachem of the Pokanoket tribe presided over the others who each had a lesser sachem and paid tribute to the Pokanoket.

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English Colonization in North America

European colonization of the Americas began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus (l. 1451-1506 CE) in the West Indies in 1492 CE, claiming the land for Spain. Spain then expanded their claims throughout South and Central America (except for Brazil which was claimed by Portugal in 1500 CE) up through areas of lower North America. France claimed Canada and established the first settlement in what would become New England on the island of St. Croix (off the coast of Maine) in 1604 CE. Over half the settlers died the first winter, however, and the colony was abandoned. The Dutch claimed lands to the south, establishing themselves in the area of the Hudson River Valley by 1614 CE and other European nations made their own claims to other regions at this time.

England, therefore, was a latecomer to North American colonization. The first attempt, Roanoke Colony, was established in 1585 CE and had failed twice by 1590 CE. Under King James I of England (r. 1603-1625 CE), a more concentrated effort was made and two companies formed for the express purpose of colonizing North America for profit: the Virginia Company and the Plymouth Company. Virginia Company was given permission to colonize the region from just above modern-day Florida to the lower Hudson Valley while the Plymouth Company was granted the area from present-day northern Maine down to the upper Hudson Valley.

In 1607 CE, The Virginia Company established the Jamestown Colony of Virginia and the Plymouth Company founded the Popham Colony in present-day Maine. Jamestown struggled in its first years, losing up to 80% of its population, but survived and was flourishing by c. 1620 CE. The Popham Colony only lasted 14 months before it was abandoned. These two colonies were both commercial ventures launched entirely for profit, but the next expedition would have a different motivation and goal.

The Anglican Church had replaced the Catholic Church under Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE), substituting the monarch for the pope. By the time of the reign of James I, it was long established that criticism of the Church was treason against the king, and dissenters, such as the Puritans, were persecuted. The Puritans wanted to 'purify' the Church of its Catholic policies but still considered themselves members, while radical Puritans, known as separatists, advocated complete separation and the establishment of independent, congregational churches.

In 1620 CE, a group of separatists, joined by Anglicans, set out aboard the Mayflower to establish a colony where they could worship freely. Their destination was the Virginia Patent, but they were blown off course and landed off the coast of Massachusetts. Forced to establish a settlement outside a region under English law, they composed the Mayflower Compact to establish the colony's government; a document which would later influence the constitutions of other colonies as well as the United States Constitution.

Plymouth & Massachusetts Bay

The new arrivals were acquainted with the region from the writings of Captain John Smith (l. 1580-1631 CE), one of the founders of Jamestown Colony, who had mapped the area in 1614 CE and named it New England. A number of English ships had visited the region between c. 1605-1614 CE, trading with the natives and had, unwittingly, infected them with European diseases to which they had no immunity. The coastal Patuxet and Nauset tribes were most severely affected. The Mayflower passengers and crew, in fact, established their colony at the site of a former Patuxet village. Although the natives had at first welcomed the English, their trust had been betrayed when English ships began kidnapping natives to sell into slavery. By the time the Mayflower landed, the indigenous people were justifiably cautious in dealing with them.

After surviving the first winter of 1620-1621 CE, during which half of them died, the settlers of Plymouth Colony flourished only through the assistance of the sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy Massasoit (l. c. 1581-1661 CE). Massasoit at first wanted nothing to do with the immigrants but eventually relented and sent Squanto (l. 1585-1622 CE) to help them. Squanto had been kidnapped by an English captain in 1614 CE, learned English, and had only recently returned. He instructed the colonists on how to survive and served as their interpreter.

Massasoit signed a treaty with the English promising mutual assistance and protection. Massasoit had lost many members of his confederacy to disease (which cost him his status with other tribes) and was at this time paying tribute to the Narragansetts. The alliance with the colonists, who needed his help to simply survive, proved beneficial to both parties. The colony was thriving by 1622 CE, and this encouraged others to make the transatlantic journey.

In 1630 CE, 700 Puritan colonists arrived under the leadership of John Winthrop (l. 1588-1649 CE) to settle Massachusetts Bay Colony through a charter granted by the Massachusetts Bay Company, which had replaced the Virginia Company. Winthrop believed his colony was ordained by God to be a 'city upon a hill', a shining beacon of the model Christian community, and so insisted on complete conformity to the Puritan interpretation of Christianity and resultant laws.

Providence, New Hampshire, & Connecticut

The Puritan separatist theologian Roger Williams (l. 1603-1683 CE) arrived in 1631 CE and quickly came into conflict with Winthrop and the other magistrates over religious differences. He left for Plymouth Colony, thinking he would fit in better with fellow separatists, but found the colonists there too legalistic. He also objected to both Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay on the grounds that neither had paid the Native Americans for the land they had settled. Williams, who became fluent in the Native American language of Algonquian, was eventually banished from Massachusetts Bay and lived with Massasoit at his village of Sowams (modern-day Warren, Rhode Island) in 1636 CE. He negotiated with Massasoit and the sachems of the Narragansett tribe, Canonicus (l. 1565-1647 CE) and Miantonomoh (l. 1600-1643 CE) for the land on which he established the Providence Colony, paying them their asking price.

Williams' banishment was followed by others. In 1638 CE, the religious dissident Anne Hutchinson (l. 1591-1643 CE) was expelled from the Bay Colony, and Williams invited her and her followers to join his. She instead founded the colony of Portsmouth with her brother-in-law, the Puritan minister John Wheelwright (l. 1592-1679 CE). Wheelwright left shortly afterwards to establish the colony of Exeter in New Hampshire in 1638 CE while other Hutchinson followers such as William Coddington (l. 1601-1678 CE) founded Newport, Rhode Island.

New Hampshire was first established as a commercial venture in 1622 CE under a patent issued to two merchants, Captain John Mason (l. 1586-1635 CE) and Sir Ferdinando Gorges (l. 1565-1647 CE) neither of whom ever set foot on the land. Wheelwright tried to buy some land for his settlement from their representatives but could find none and so negotiated a sale with the natives of the region. Wheelwright's colony attracted other dissenters from Massachusetts Bay who settled the nearby areas. Lacking a legal charter, Wheelwright could not form a colonial government and so negotiated an agreement with Massachusetts Bay under which the Bay Colony would govern New Hampshire but the New Hampshire Colony was free to live and worship as they wished.

Connecticut was settled at about the same time and, again, by religious dissidents from Massachusetts Bay Colony. Connecticut Colony was founded in 1636 CE by John Haynes (l. 1594-1653 CE) and Thomas Hooker (l. 1586-1647 CE) who were among Anne Hutchinson's supporters. Haynes and Hooker contributed to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, considered by many scholars as the first written constitution. Other colonies, later absorbed into Connecticut, were also established both before and after the Pequot War.

Pequot War & Further Settlement

The Massachusetts Bay Colony justified the Pequot War (1636-1638 CE) by claiming that the Pequots had murdered a merchant from their settlement. The Pequots defended themselves, noting that the man in question was a notorious troublemaker who had kidnapped some of their people. The head of the Salem militia, John Endicott (l. 1600-1665 CE), destroyed Pequot villages and killed some of the natives, and the Pequots struck back. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay then joined militias to mount a full-scale attack on the Pequot fortification at present-day Mystic, Connecticut in May of 1637 CE.

The Mystic Massacre resulted in the deaths of over 700 Pequot, mostly women & children, & the war ended with a colonial victory.

Roger Williams kept Providence Colony out of the conflict but encouraged the Narragansett to side with the colonists against the Pequot and also provided the militia with the plan of attack. The Mystic Massacre resulted in the deaths of over 700 Pequot, mostly women and children, and the war ended with a colonial victory. The surviving Pequot were sold into slavery either on local plantations or in the West Indies. Their land was now open for colonization, and the areas which were not then claimed by the Narragansett were settled by the English.

New Haven Colony was established in 1638 CE by English intellectuals, theologians, and merchants who had no charter, no experience in agriculture, and no support from other colonies in trying to fend off Dutch merchants who were encroaching on the areas they hoped to exploit for profit and Native Americans who objected to their land theft. They appealed to Massachusetts Bay and were accepted into the New England Confederation in 1643 CE along with Connecticut and Plymouth.

Providence Colony was excluded from the Confederation as it was considered a haven for reprobates and troublemakers (just as the earlier Merrymount Colony had been) who refused to conform to the vision of the majority. Providence, which thus far had operated without a charter, secured one in 1644 CE and incorporated the colonies of Newport, Portsmouth, and Warwick as a single colony under the leadership of Roger Williams. New Haven Colony, which continually failed in almost every business venture and never secured a charter, finally joined with the larger Connecticut Colony in 1664 CE. New Hampshire was able to break away from Massachusetts Bay in 1679 CE when they received a charter from King Charles II of England (r. 1649-1651 CE) and were legally allowed to elect their own colonial president and form a government.

Slavery & Expulsion of Native Americans

All of the colonies benefited from the institution of chattel slavery, beginning with Massachusetts Bay which enslaved the Pequots after the war. In 1641 CE, Massachusetts Bay passed its law known as the Body of Liberties, which included the provision that no human being would be enslaved except for those legally taken captive in war or those already enslaved by others and sold to citizens of the colony. Slavery was understood as approved of by God according to the Bible, which sanctions it in both the Old and New Testaments, and this accorded with Massachusetts Bay's vision.

Roger Williams was an abolitionist who outlawed slavery in Providence Colony but never enforced the law. The Rhode Island colonies, along with Massachusetts Bay, would become New England's centers for the Triangular Slave Trade between North America, Europe, and West Africa. Connecticut also enslaved Pequots and other natives, as well as importing African slaves, until 1774 CE. New Hampshire participated the least in the slave trade and slave ownership, but the upper class kept slaves until, like the others, the mid-18th and 19th centuries CE.

As the colonies became more affluent, they attracted still others from England and elsewhere, and more land was taken, usually without any payment, from the Native Americans. The Native American culture differed considerably from the English in that women were considered equal, land could not be owned, and agreements were considered binding. The English treated their women as non-citizens (they could not vote or own land), fenced in their land, and honored agreements only as long as they were of benefit. Cultural misunderstandings, including those concerning religion, inevitably led to a series of conflicts. After a string of broken treaties and near-constant abuse by the colonists, Massasoit's son, Metacom (known to the English as King Philip, l. 1638-1676 CE), united the region's tribes under the Wampanoag Confederacy and launched King Philip's War. Metacom was killed in 1676 CE, and the colonists were victorious. Afterwards, the Native Americans were moved onto reservations or left the area, and the colonies took over their lands.


The colonies were absorbed into a single group under the Dominion of New England in 1686 CE under James II of England (r. 1633-1688 CE) who was concerned with their growing independence and economic power. The Dominion ended with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 CE when James II was deposed, and the colonies were then allowed the right to self-government while still subject to the English monarchy. While they continued to cooperate with each other in financial matters, there were disputes over land rights and religious views. The divisions among the Puritan colonies, including the general disdain for Providence and its policy of religious tolerance, eventually caused citizens to lose their allegiance to the Puritan vision and adopt a less rigid interpretation of the Bible and the Christian path, but each still retained the belief in the value of freedom which had brought the first settlers from England.

Each of the New England Colonies contributed to the earliest efforts to win independence from Great Britain while ignoring their own policies and practices which deprived Native Americans of their land, destroyed their culture, and enslaved both those who had initially helped them survive in the New World and others kidnapped from Africa, who were neither captives taken in war nor legally purchased to be sold to them. This us-and-them mentality, which set different standards and laws for white Europeans and non-whites, would inform the policies of the new nation of the United States after the Revolutionary War and continues to in the modern era.

New England Colonies

The New England Colonies of British America included Connecticut Colony, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, and the Province of New Hampshire, as well as a few smaller short-lived colonies. The New England colonies were part of the Thirteen Colonies and eventually became five of the six states in New England, with Plymouth Colony absorbed into Massachusetts and Maine separating from it. [1] Captain John Smith's 1616 work A Description of New England first applied the term "New England" [2] to the coastal lands from Long Island Sound to Newfoundland. [3]

Colonial New England: An Old Order, New Awakening

WHEN JONATHAN EDWARDS REACHED MANHOOD in the 1720&rsquos, New England had been settled by Englishmen for a hundred years. The area was conscious of its historical roots, and Cotton Mather, the famous Puritan preacher, had produced a monumental history of New England, Magnalia Christi Americana (1702). Mather&rsquos work was intended as a religious history of the colonies, but it reports on every aspect of early New England. For the early New Englanders, religious and social history were inseparable. It was assumed since the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 that the settlers were (or should be) Christians, and that God would bless the building up of a godly commonwealth in the new land.

Needless to say, the churches of New England were no longer persecuted sects: they had become established churches. The religious groups that settled New England left the old country because of persecution, or because they saw the Church of England as a poor model of biblical faith. They carved out a place for themselves in the New World, with much hardship and discipline. In time the New Englanders realized that they were no longer the righteous remnant running from an apostate English church establishment. They were now an establishment.

The settlers had begun with the idea that the visible church should be identical with the invisible&mdashthat is, the gathered congregations should be bodies of true believers. Nominal Christianity is indeed unthinkable among persecuted sects. If one suffers for one&rsquos beliefs, one will either believe strongly or forsake the beliefs. But in the New World, away from persecution and adjusted to life in new territory, nominal Christianity became a reality. Mingled with devout believers were church members who merely paid lip service to Christian belief. The vision of New England as a righteous city set on a hill never died completely, but realistic observers were painfully aware that many church members gave little attention to building up the kingdom in America. They were far more interested in prospering materially in the vast land with its seemingly infinite possibilities.

This drift from spiritual to material interests is not difficult to understand. New England was basically peaceful and comfortable. Most New Englanders were farmers and made an adequate living. Industries&mdash lumbering, fishing, shipbuilding, and others&mdashdid well, and artisans earned a good living. The disciplined work habits of the first settlers were passed down to succeeding generations, who, like their forefathers, did not depend on slavery or indentured servants. They worked hard and created an essentially middleclass society with almost no poverty. The level of education was also relatively high.

Such a society was a far cry from the mother country, where poverty, alcoholism, sexual immorality and other social ills prevailed. Yet the Puritan clergy knew that the people of New England were losing their original spiritual drive. (For more information about the Puritan vision of a Christian America, see the article by Harry Stout, &ldquoThe Puritans and Edwards.")

Worldliness and religious apathy were not the only problems affecting the religious life of New England. Historians often call the seventeenth century the Age of Reason. This is more a description of the philosophical climate of Europe than of America, but the colonies were affected by the intellectual life of Europe.

The Age of Reason was characterized by belief in man&rsquos capacities for good, especially when man acted under the guidance of reason. Many European thinkers rejected the idea of a sinful mankind living under the judgment of a wrathful God. Clergymen were affected by the new thought. Strict Calvinism gave way in many churches to religion that emphasized man&rsquos capabilities. Of course, Puritanism still dominated New England in the 1700&rsquos. Calvinism was the ruling ideology, but was losing ground. When Jonathan Edwards attended Yale (1716ñ20), he came into contact with the new skepticism there. Harvard likewise entertained new ideas, so it was inevitable that the two colleges would produce some clergymen who (unlike Edwards) rejected or at least greatly modified the Calvinist theology of their forbears.

The old order was changing. Pastors and people prayed for a revival of spiritual energy. Revival came in the form of a Great Awakening, the first event in North American history to stir people of several colonies with a common religious concern.

In Jonathan Edwards&rsquo parish at Northampton, Massachusetts, awakening began in 1734. Earlier sparks of revival had appeared in New Jersey, where Theodorus Frelinghuysen and William and Gilbert Tennent were attempting to arouse people out of spiritual lethargy. And they were succeeding. Revival gathered momentum in Massachusetts and Connecticut fueled in large part by the first evangelistic tour (1740) in New England by the English preacher, George Whitefield. Throughout the colonies Whitefield brought crowds to a religious fever pitch. No speaker ever drew bigger crowds in colonial America. He made some enemies among liberal clergy, but the people loved him, and many American pastors considered him a great blessing on the colonies. Edwards along with many others stirred their own congregations to spiritual renewal and experienced revivals in the churches they visited.

The Awakening, which had receded from public prominence by 1750, has been likened in some particulars to a Second Reformation. Religion had become formal, head-centered&mdashand dull. The outward forms of faith were there, but the reality was hollow. Many hungered for a religion with heart and soul. The preachers of the Awakening did not abandon the typical Puritan emphasis on doctrine, but they appealed more to the emotions. This was a welcomed emphasis, as it encouraged the individual&rsquos response to a loving God. Edwards never abandoned his love of logic and reason. But he watched the Awakening carefully and concluded that true religion does indeed consist primarily of (to use his own term) affections.

Because of this emphasis on the individual&rsquos heartfelt response to God&mdashan interest that Puritanism had always had, but which had diminished with time&mdashconversion became important. The idea was not new in Christianity, but here it received a dramatic new emphasis. The preachers of the Awakening wanted people to know that outward morality was not enough for salvation. An inward change was necessary. An individual needed to feel deeply sin and unworthiness before a righteous God.

Because of the preaching of the Awakening, the sense of religious self intensified. The principle of individual choice became forever ingrained in American Protestantism and is still evident today among evangelicals and many others.

Not everyone was pleased with these developments. Some preachers overemphasized the physical manifestations associated with religious feelings. Persons stirred by a sermon might faint, scream, writhe, sing, or otherwise respond physically. Edwards and his colleagues taught that these symptoms might indicate a genuine conviction of sin&mdashor, might be only an emotional response to a manipulative preacher. Edwards claimed that the physical manifestations which were not produced by the working of God did not discredit those that were, in fact, produced by the Spirit.

But many rationalist clergymen&mdashCharles Chauncy of Boston was the most famous&mdashresented the enthusiasm of the Awakening. They saw it as a threat to established church authority. They felt that religious subjectivism appealed to man&rsquos lower instincts, since rational man would not need to have his beliefs substantiated by a warm heart, not to mention fainting spells, groaning, or leaping for joy. The anti-revivalist clergy&mdashcalled the Old Lights&mdashfeared a breakdown of religious order and authority. The New Light clergy&mdashthose who supported the Awakening&mdashwere as aware as their opponents that something alarming was occurring&mdashthe Awakening was dividing churches. Many congregations split, and where many small towns had only one church, they now had two. Those who thought their pastor too dry or formal might, under the influence of revivalism, form a new church&mdashand many did. The Awakening presented a choice between religious styles, church affiliations, and pastors. Religious diversity became a reality in New England, and America has continued to live&mdashnot always comfortably, but necessarily&mdashwith such diversity.

A movement of such importance needs someone to explain it and interpret it, both for his own times and for later generations. The great interpreter of the Awakening was Jonathan Edwards. Born to a devout Congregational minister in 1703 (the same year as John Wesley), Edwards produced one of the most thorough bodies of theological writing in the history of America. Precocious and pious even as a youth, Edwards took his bachelor&rsquos degree at Yale in 1720. He studied further at Yale, served as a tutor there, and briefly served as minister at a Presbyterian church in New York. In 1726 he became assistant to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, the famous pastor of the church at Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards married the devout and charming Sarah Pierrepont in 1727. While at Northampton&mdashhe became senior pastor at Northampton in 1729 after Stoddard&rsquos death&mdashEdwards participated in the spiritual revival and bent his mind toward interpreting it as well.

Edwards&rsquo examination of religious psychology arose directly out of his experiences in the Northampton revivals and, later, in the Great Awakening as a whole. A letter to Boston&rsquos Benjamin Colman in 1736 (later published as a Narrative of Suprising Conversions) was the first in a series of works examining the nature of awakened religious experience. This letter analyzed events occurring during the local revival in Northampton (1734 - 35), but soon Edwards published Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742) to take account of the wider movement. (This work is based partly on the experiences of his devoted wife, who herself had passed through a religious crisis.) Edwards responded to charges by anti-revivalists that the revival was all emotion, froth, and disorder. He conceded that the emotionalism of the Awakening could undercut authentic Christianity, but he also defended the revival by pointing to the more intense worship and to the permanently changed lives it left in its wake.

In 1746 Edwards published his most mature examination of this subject, theTreatise on Religious Affections.It argues that true religion resides in the heart, the seat of affections, emotions, and inclinations. The book also details with painstaking scrutiny the kinds of religious emotions which are largely irrelevant to true spirituality. Edwards&rsquo careful analysis of genuine faith emphasizes that it is not the quantity of emotion which indicated the presence of true spirituality, but the origin of such emotions with God.

Edwards, shrewdly observing the revivals that were going on around him, became a religious psychologist of the first order. He is also known to posterity as a notorious preacher&mdashnot because he was a great orator, but because of a famous sermon &ldquoSinners in the Hands of an Angry God&rdquo preached in 1741 to a responsive congregation at Enfield, Connecticut. Edwards&rsquo vivid depiction of the agonies of those who do not plead for God&rsquos forgiveness is often given as an example of the Puritan conception of an angry, wrathful God and a vile, despicable humanity. In truth, the sermon is hardly typical of Edwards&rsquo preaching, and the parallel sermons in this issue (See &ldquoFrom the Archives") show that Edwards spoke as often of love as of wrath.

Edwards was indeed a Calvinist who emphasized the sovereignty of God and the inability of man to save himself. But Edwards&rsquo theology is not summarized in the Enfield sermon. Indeed, Edwards the theologian was capable of profound theological reflection. He is regarded by historians as probably the most important American theologian. (Richard Lovelace&rsquos article on Edwards&rsquo theology shows Edwards&rsquo importance to the world of theology.) Like Edwards&rsquo works on religious experience, his theological works were rooted in the events of his lifetime. He respected the theology of John Calvin and other Reformed leaders, but he did not rely slavishly on their theology. He tried to state the case for God&rsquos sovereignty in a new age.

Edwards spent several hours each day poring over the Scriptures, theological works, and works of secular philosophers. Though diligent in his pastoral duties, he found the time for intense theological reflection. His reflection eventually led to parish troubles, which ironically resulted in his having the leisure to write his greatest theological treatise. Edwards, after much thought, decided to revoke a privilege instituted by his grandfather&mdash the privilege of all persons who were not openly immoral to participate in the Lord&rsquos supper. Edwards decided that only converted persons should participate in the sacrament. He wrote a book Qualifications for Communion ( 1749) stating his case. His Northampton flock ousted him in 1750. Thereupon he became minister and missionary to Indians at Stockbridge. Massachusetts. Here on the New England frontier he produced his monumental Freedom of the Will (1754). In this treatise Edwards painstakingly shows that man is indeed free (a notion gaining ground as the Age of Reason progressed) but that God is still sovereign and still solely responsible for man&rsquos salvation. Edwards tries to show that a sinner&mdashand humans, in the Calvinist tradition, come into the world under the curse of Adam&mdashwould never by himself choose to glorify God unless God himself changed that person&rsquos character. Regeneration, God&rsquos act, is the basis for repentance and conversion, the human actions.

It was obvious to Edwards that the Puritan tradition of spirituality might die unless ministers were willing to come to grips with the changing world. Edwards saw the changing philosophical climate of Europe and America, and he knew that religious thinkers had to respond to the new assumptions about human freedom and the power of reason.

He proved himself capable of dealing with the modern world, not only theoretically, but practically. He proved himself to be in many ways forward thinking. In a day when psalm-singing was almost the only music to be heard in congregational churches, Edwards encouraged the singing of new Christian hymns, notably those of Isaac Watts. (Edwards also owned a copy of the Wesleys&rsquo hymns). He advocated harmony or unison singing instead of the (now unthinkable) practice of each person singing whatever note he wished. Edwards was also innovative in Christian education, encouraging the use of different levels of instruction for different age groups. He used catechetical questioning with children, but did so in a casual, conversational style so as not to intimidate the young or to force them into the habit of giving stock answers to questions they often did not even understand. He advocated the use of storytelling as an educational tool, especially among children and youth.

Edwards&rsquo excellence as an educator and his reputation as a theologian and philosopher led to his appointment as president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1757. Shortly after he was inaugurated as president in 1758, he was inoculated for smallpox and died a few weeks afterward. In a relatively short life he produced some of the greatest theological and philosophical writings in America&rsquos history advanced and explained the Great Awakening, and left evidence that traditional orthodox Christianity remains relevant to any age when there are creative and devout thinkers who are aware of the world around them.

Later generations have not always been kind to the memory of Jonathan Edwards. They have often depicted him as an inhuman monster, the stereotyped hell-fire preacher notable for his fanaticism and his contempt for a detestable humanity. They have portrayed him as the essence of Puritanism at its worst&mdashcold, inhuman, completely otherworldly, devoid of any relevance for real people in the real world. In truth, this &ldquomonster&rdquo was a devoted husband, the proud father of eleven children, and a tireless letterwriter whose favorite words seem to have been love and sweetness. He enjoyed long walks in the Massachusetts woodlands and saw all nature as an evidence of a beautiful loving creator God. He was a diligent pastor and, on occasion, an evangelist who always tempered fiery images with soothing words of the love of God for repentant sinners. He was, to all who knew him a brilliant scholar whose gifts of head combined comfortably with immense gifts of heart. Edwards was no monster and if later American religion has ever suffered from a division of heart and head, it is no fault of Edwards.

By J. Stephen Lang and Mark A. Noll J.

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #8 in 1985]

Stephen Lang is editor of this issue of Christian History and a book editor at Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois. Mark A. Noll is professor of history at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. He is an editor of Eerdman&rsquos Handbook of Christianity in America, and the author of Christians and the American Revolution.

The Carolinas and Georgia

The English crown had issued grants to the Carolina territory as early as 1629, but it was not until 1663 that a group of eight proprietors—most of them men of extraordinary wealth and power even by English standards—actually began colonizing the area. The proprietors hoped to grow silk in the warm climate of the Carolinas, but all efforts to produce that valuable commodity failed. Moreover, it proved difficult to attract settlers to the Carolinas it was not until 1718, after a series of violent Indian wars had subsided, that the population began to increase substantially. The pattern of settlement, once begun, followed two paths. North Carolina, which was largely cut off from the European and Caribbean trade by its unpromising coastline, developed into a colony of small to medium farms. South Carolina, with close ties to both the Caribbean and Europe, produced rice and, after 1742, indigo for a world market. The early settlers in both areas came primarily from the West Indian colonies. This pattern of migration was not, however, as distinctive in North Carolina, where many of the residents were part of the spillover from the natural expansion of Virginians southward.

The original framework of government for the Carolinas, the Fundamental Constitutions, drafted in 1669 by Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury) with the help of the philosopher John Locke, was largely ineffective because of its restrictive and feudal nature. The Fundamental Constitutions was abandoned in 1693 and replaced by a frame of government diminishing the powers of the proprietors and increasing the prerogatives of the provincial assembly. In 1729, primarily because of the proprietors’ inability to meet the pressing problems of defense, the Carolinas were converted into the two separate royal colonies of North and South Carolina.

The proprietors of Georgia, led by James Oglethorpe, were wealthy philanthropic English gentlemen. It was Oglethorpe’s plan to transport imprisoned debtors to Georgia, where they could rehabilitate themselves by profitable labour and make money for the proprietors in the process. Those who actually settled in Georgia—and by no means all of them were impoverished debtors—encountered a highly restrictive economic and social system. Oglethorpe and his partners limited the size of individual landholdings to 500 acres (about 200 hectares), prohibited slavery, forbade the drinking of rum, and instituted a system of inheritance that further restricted the accumulation of large estates. The regulations, though noble in intention, created considerable tension between some of the more enterprising settlers and the proprietors. Moreover, the economy did not live up to the expectations of the colony’s promoters. The silk industry in Georgia, like that in the Carolinas, failed to produce even one profitable crop.

The settlers were also dissatisfied with the political structure of the colony the proprietors, concerned primarily with keeping close control over their utopian experiment, failed to provide for local institutions of self-government. As protests against the proprietors’ policies mounted, the crown in 1752 assumed control over the colony subsequently, many of the restrictions that the settlers had complained about, notably those discouraging the institution of slavery, were lifted.

Rhode Island

Newport region:

Touro Synagogue – Newport: Touro Synagogue, founded in 1763 in Newport, is the first synagogue in America, with the second-oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. The Georgian-influenced building is situated on an angle within the property allowing worshippers standing in prayer before the Holy Ark to face east toward Jerusalem. The synagogue chamber contains 12 Ionic columns representing the tribes of ancient Israel and each made from a single tree. Five massive brass candelabra hang from the ceiling. Tours are offered call ahead for information.

Museum of Newport History – Newport: Newport is dense with artifacts of the Colonial period, and much of it is out in plain sight today, in the narrow streets, clapboard houses, and historic churches and wharves. At the Museum of Newport History, visitors can see James Franklin’s printing press, the figurehead from the yacht Aloha, Colonial silver, objects of daily life and more. The town’s history, beginning in the 1600s, runs the gamut from slavers, shipping magnates, and pirates to yachtsmen and Gilded Age plutocrats. The museum's operator, the Newport Historical Society, also offers lots of interesting walking tours of the town, year-round. Museum open year-round call ahead for hours.

Trinity Church – Newport: The beautiful and historic Trinity Church, located in Queen Anne Square, is the oldest Episcopal parish in Rhode Island. The building was completed in 1726, its design based on London churches design by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century. George Washington worshiped there, and the organ was tested by George Frederick Handel before being sent from England. The church contains Tiffany stained-glass windows and the only three-tiered, wine glass pulpit in America. The building was enlarged in 1764, but otherwise retains its original character with box pews.

Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House – Newport: Built in 1697 and now the oldest house in Newport, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was owned by a succession of community leaders, including Martin Howard Jr., a prominent Loyalist during the American Revolution, who was hanged in effigy on in 1765 for his Tory sentiments. The house expanded over generations from its original single room on each side of a central chimney and garret on top. The house reflected the tastes and aspirations of a thriving seaport town. Each change to the building is based upon the tastes of the owner and his family, Quaker themes, and the architectural influences of a commercial and cosmopolitan center.

God's Little Acre: America’s Colonial African Cemetery – Newport: The African slave trade and Newport share common origins. Newport, one of the most prosperous of Colonial American ports, saw unprecedented growth throughout the 18th century from the export and trade of rum, spermaceti candles, and slaves. By the beginning of the American Revolution, Newport had a large Free African community. Today, Newport is home to a historically significant burial ground that the African American community commonly called God's Little Acre. This burial area on Farewell Street has some of the oldest markers of free Africans and slaves dating back to the late 1600s.

Great Friends Meeting House – Newport: The Great Friends Meeting House, built in 1699, was where Quakers from throughout New England gathered to pray and discuss the issues of the day, including war, slavery, and women's rights. This is the oldest surviving house of worship in Newport. Quakers dominated the political, social, and economic life of the town into the 18th century, and their plain style of living was reflected in Newport's architecture, decorative arts and early landscape.

The Colony House – Newport: The Newport Colony House, dating from 1739, was a government meeting place and the site of celebrations, the Stamp Act riot, reading of the Declaration of Independence, and more. Many important events associated with the shaping of the United States occurred at the Colony House. In 1761, the death of George II and the ascension of George III were announced from the balcony. In 1766, citizens of Newport celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act in the Colony House. On July 20, 1776, Major John Handy read the Declaration of Independence from the front steps. During the British occupation of Newport from 1776 to 1779, the Colony House was used as a barracks.

Providence region:

Benefit Street – Providence: Here is a walking tour that is beneficial to both the mind and the senses. A walk along Benefit Street, carved high into a ridge along Providence's East Side overlooking downtown, is a memorable stroll among immaculately preserved Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian-style houses. The Providence Preservation Society distributes maps with self-guided walking tours and the Rhode Island Historical Society conducts walks in the summer.

The First Baptist Church in America - Providence: The First Baptist Church in America was founded in 1638 in Providence by William Vincent Carpenter and Roger Williams, who had established Rhode Island's first permanent settlement at Providence in 1636. The present church building, also called the Meeting House, was built in 1774-1775. The architecture is a blend of English Georgian and the traditional New England meetinghouse. The Georgian aspects include the exterior portico and steeple, the Palladian window behind the pulpit, the fluted Tuscan columns, the groined arches in the balcony, and the split pediments over the doors. Guided tours are available Memorial Day through Labor Day, weekdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. self-guided tours may be done all year. There is also a guided tour each Sunday after the worship service. Tour booklets are available in several languages. There is a small gift shop with postcards, note cards, and books. Call 401-454-3418.

Brown University – Providence: Spread across many acres of property on College Hill, part of the East Side overlooking downtown Providence, Brown University is a pleasure to visit. Travelers enjoy strolling the streets and gazing at the elegant Colonial, Federalist, and Victorian buildings of the neighborhood. The epicenter of the university is College Green, but its buildings then spread out through a neighborhood of elegant mansions. The neighborhood has lots of green spaces to sit and enjoy the passing academic world. The restaurants and shops of Thayer Street, which passes through the campus, offer lots of variety in ethnic foods, casual foods, and youthful shopping. The neighbor has an old-time, arty movie theater with a small foyer and a single screen. The university publishes a helpful map and guide for a tour of the campus.

Summary: Thirteen Colonies

The 13 colonies were the group of colonies that rebelled against Great Britain, fought in the Revolutionary War, and founded the United States of America. Here's the 13 colonies list:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts Bay
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

First Inhabitants of Massachusetts:

The first known inhabitants of Massachusetts were Paleoindians who entered the region around 12,000 years ago, after the glaciers began to melt and retreat, to hunt the ice age animals that lived there. They were nomadic people who set up small camps as they followed the herds of migrating animals.

The Paleoindians continued to move around the region and soon the number of their settlements began to increase. Eventually the population became widespread across much of the continent. These indigenous people began to form tribes that we now recognize as Native American tribes.

When traders and early explorers first began to visit North America, they made contact with these Native Americans and began to learn more about the continent from them.

New England Colonies - History

Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, via The History Project (UC Davis).

The English colonies in New England established from 1620 onward were founded with loftier goals than those in Virginia. Although migrants to New England expected economic profit, religious motives directed the rhetoric and much of the reality of these colonies. Not every English person who moved to New England during the seventeenth century was a Puritan, but Puritans dominated the politics, religion, and culture of New England. Even after 1700, the region’s Puritan inheritance shaped many aspects of its history.

The term Puritan began as an insult, and its recipients usually referred to each other as “the godly” if they used a specific term at all. Puritans believed that the Church of England did not distance itself far enough from Catholicism after Henry VIII broke with Rome in the 1530s. They largely agreed with European Calvinists—followers of theologian Jean Calvin—on matters of religious doctrine. Calvinists (and Puritans) believed that mankind was redeemed by God’s Grace alone, and that the fate of an individual’s immortal soul was predestined. The happy minority God had already chosen to save were known among English Puritans as the Elect. Calvinists also argued that the decoration or churches, reliance on ornate ceremony, and (they argued) corrupt priesthood obscured God’s message. They believed that reading the Bible promised the best way to understand God.

Puritans were stereotyped by their enemies as dour killjoys, and the exaggeration has endured. It is certainly true that the Puritans’ disdain for excess and opposition to many holidays popular in Europe (including Christmas, which, as Puritans never tired of reminding everyone, the Bible never told anyone to celebrate) lent themselves to caricature. But Puritans understood themselves as advocating a reasonable middle path in a corrupt world. It would never occur to a Puritan, for example, to abstain from alcohol or sex.

During the first century after the English Reformation (c.1530-1630) Puritans sought to “purify” the Church of England of all practices that smacked of Catholicism, advocating a simpler worship service, the abolition of ornate churches, and other reforms. They had some success in pushing the Church of England in a more Calvinist direction, but with the coronation of King Charles I (r. 1625-1649), the Puritans gained an implacable foe that cast English Puritans as excessive and dangerous. Facing growing persecution, the Puritans began the Great Migration, during which about 20,000 people traveled to New England between 1630 and 1640. The Puritans (unlike the small band of separatist “Pilgrims” who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620) remained committed to reforming the Church of England, but temporarily decamped to North America to accomplish this task. Leaders like John Winthrop insisted they were not separating from, or abandoning, England, but were rather forming a godly community in America, that would be a “Shining City on a Hill” and an example for reformers back home. The Puritans did not seek to create a haven of religious toleration, a notion that they—along with nearly all European Christians—regarded as ridiculous at best, and dangerous at worst.

While the Puritans did not succeed in building a godly utopia in New England, a combination of Puritan traits with several external factors created colonies wildly different from any other region settled by English people. Unlike those heading to Virginia, colonists in New England (Plymouth [1620], Massachusetts Bay [1630], Connecticut [1636], and Rhode Island [1636]) generally arrived in family groups. The majority of New England immigrants were small landholders in England, a class contemporary English called the “middling sort.” When they arrived in New England they tended to replicate their home environments, founding towns comprised of independent landholders. The New England climate and soil made large-scale plantation agriculture impractical, so the system of large landholders using masses of slaves or indentured servants to grow labor-intensive crops never took hold.

There is no evidence that the New England Puritans would have opposed such a system were it possible other Puritans made their fortunes on the Caribbean sugar islands, and New England merchants profited as suppliers of provisions and slaves to those colonies. By accident of geography as much as by design, then, New England society was much less stratified than any of Britain’s other seventeenth-century colonies.

Although New England colonies could boast wealthy landholding elites, the disparity of wealth in the region remained narrow compared to the Chesapeake, Carolina, or the Caribbean. Instead, seventeenth-century New England was characterized by a broadly-shared modest prosperity based on a mixed economy dependent on small farms, shops, fishing, lumber, shipbuilding, and trade with the Atlantic World.

A combination of environmental factors and the Puritan social ethos produced a region of remarkable health and stability during the seventeenth century. New England immigrants avoided most of the deadly outbreaks of tropical disease that turned Chesapeake colonies into graveyards. Disease, in fact, only aided English settlement and relations to Native Americans. In contrast to other English colonists who had to contend with powerful Native American neighbors, the Puritans confronted the stunned survivors of a biological catastrophe. A lethal pandemic of smallpox during the 1610s swept away as much as 90 percent of the region’s Native American population. Many survivors welcomed the English as potential allies against rival tribes who had escaped the catastrophe. The relatively healthy environment coupled with political stability and the predominance of family groups among early immigrants allowed the New England population to grow to 91,000 people by 1700 from only 21,000 immigrants. In contrast, 120,000 English went to the Chesapeake, and only 85,000 white colonists remained in 1700.

The New England Puritans set out to build their utopia by creating communities of the godly. Groups of men, often from the same region of England, applied to the colony’s General Court for land grants, which averaged 36 square miles. They generally divided part of the land for immediate use while keeping much of the rest as “commons” or undivided land for future generations. The town’s inhabitants collectively decided the size of each settler’s home lot based on their current wealth and status. Besides oversight of property, the town restricted membership, and new arrivals needed to apply for admission. Those who gained admittance could participate in town governments that, while not democratic by modern standards, nevertheless had broad popular involvement. All male property holders could vote in town meetings and choose the selectmen, assessors, constables, and other officials from among themselves to conduct the daily affairs of government. Upon their founding, towns wrote covenants, reflecting the Puritan belief in God’s covenant with His people. Towns sought to arbitrate disputes and contain strife, as did the church. Wayward or divergent individuals were persuaded and corrected before coercion.

Popular conceptions of Puritans as hardened authoritarians are exaggerated, but if persuasion and arbitration failed, people who did not conform to community norms were punished or removed. Massachusetts banished Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and other religious dissenters like the Quakers.

Although by many measures colonization in New England succeeded, its Puritan leaders failed in their own mission to create a utopian community that would inspire their fellows back in England. They tended to focus their disappointment on the younger generation. “But alas!” Increase Mather lamented, “That so many of the younger Generation have so early corrupted their [the founders’] doings!” The Jeremiad, a sermon lamenting the fallen state of New England due to its straying from its early virtuous path, became a staple of late seventeenth-century Puritan literature.

Yet the Jeremiads could not stop the effects of the prosperity that the early Puritans achieved. The population spread and grew more diverse as New England prospered. Many, if not most, New Englanders retained strong ties to their Calvinist roots into the eighteenth century, but the Puritans (who became Congregationalists) struggled against a rising tide of religious pluralism. On December 25, 1727, Judge Samuel Sewell noted in his diary that a new Anglican minister “keeps the day in his new Church at Braintrey: people flock thither.” Previously forbidden holidays like Christmas were celebrated only in Church. Puritan divine Cotton Mather discovered on the Christmas of 1711, “a number of young people of both sexes, belonging, many of them, to my flock, had…a Frolick, a reveling Feast, and a Ball, which discovers their Corruption.”

Despite the lamentations of the Mathers and other Puritan leaders of their failure, they left an enduring mark on New England culture and society that endured long after the region’s residents ceased to be called “Puritan.”

New England Colonies

The New England colonies were composed of the colonies of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

In the New England colonies, land was given to a colony by the crown (the king or queen of England.) In these early days of settlement, a colony was not a state. A colony was a business. Each colony was in the business of sending riches back to England in exchange for money, tools, and supplies they needed in their colony. Each colony had a central government. The central government of each New England colony divided their own colony into pieces called towns.

Towns varied greatly in size. But the average town was about 100 square miles (10 miles long and 10 miles wide). Towns were populated by assignment at first - the central government of the colony not only assigned a site for the town, they also assigned a group of people to that town. This initial group was made up of about 30 or 40 households, or about 150-200 people. Most of the people in a group knew each other, and had a common lifestyle back in England or in another settlement. This was done to keep arguments at a minimum. It was also done to keep control. People in a town had the freedom to govern themselves as long as they understood that the colony was in charge of all the towns, and the king of England was in charge of all the colonies this was understood.

The core of the "town" was the village. There was one street that ran down the middle of the village, with houses on either side. There was a "green", a central park, in approximately the middle. The green held the meeting house, which was also the church in most towns. The militia (the men of the village) gathered to practice on the green. People gathered on the green to chat. Each villager owned the plot of land that held their house. They also owned a plot of land, or several plots scattered about, in the land that surrounded the village. They could sell the land or all their "holdings" (which included their house in the village), as long as the villagers found the new owner acceptable.

The poor were assigned the worse farm plots and lived at the edge of the village. The rich were assigned the best plots and lived near the meeting house. But for the most part, people in a town shared good and bad fortune. They worshiped together. They governed together. They tried to regulate everything, from what a craftsman could charge to the amount of the fine for using bad language. They did not appreciate interference from other towns. A town was a unit. Each town had its own character.

The "town" approach did continue into the early 18th century, but it never got much beyond the New England colonies. The New York colony had town meetings, but it was voluntary. In the New England colonies, town meetings were required forms of government.

The tight hold the New World towns initially held on the early settlers through the establishment of colonial central government approved "towns" soon disappeared. Three things made a huge difference - an abundance of wood, countless fresh-water streams, and seemingly endless land. Slowly, people started to expand beyond the towns. If they didn't like the way they were treated, they could leave, as their courage and other town boundaries allowed.

Watch the video: Making the 13 Colonies: The New England Colonies (January 2022).