Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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NEW ENGLAND UNION (IN U. S. HISTORY) In 1643 the section now known as New England consisted of the following colonies: Connecticut and New Haven (now included under Connecticut); Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth (now included under Massachusetts); New Hampshire (claimed under Massachusetts and by Mason); and Maine (claimed by Massachusetts and the Gorges family). The church connection between the first four colonies was intimate, and at one of the annual synods held at Boston in 1637, a civil alliance was proposed. Connecticut at first refused her consent, unless a veto power should be reserved to each colony; but an increasing pressure from the Dutch forced her to withdraw her opposition, and in 1643 the union was perfected, under the name of "The United Colonies of New England".


—The union was confined to the first four colonies named above. Rhode Island applied for membership in 1648, but was refused, on the ground that her territory was properly a part of the patent of the Plymouth colony. The affairs of the union were administered by two commissioners from each colony, the votes of six of the eight commissioners being necessary for valid action. Its action was to be confined to such matters as were "proper concomitants or consequents of a confederation", such as peace, war, and Indian affairs; the control of local affairs was reserved to each colony; and expenses were to be assessed according to population. The commissioners, all of whom were to be church members, were to hold sessions annually at Boston, Hartford, New Haven and Plymouth, Boston being given a double share of sessions. Provision was made for the extradition of criminals and runaway servants. (See FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW, I.)


—The union endured nominally for half a century, but its period of real life was about twenty years. At first its authority, or rather its advisory power, was actively exercised: it undertook the formation of a system of internal improvements, by laying out roads; exercised the treaty power with its Dutch and French neighbors; declared and waged a war against the Indians; and decided territorial disputes between the colonies. But the union had not been in existence ten years before signs of disintegration appeared, arising mainly from the unwillingness of the strongest colony. Massachusetts, to submit to the general authority. In 1650, the union having upheld the right of Connecticut, under an ancient grant, to levy tolls on commerce at the mouth of the Connecticut river for the support of a fort there, Massachusetts retaliated by levying tolls on Boston commerce belonging to other colonies, nominally for the support of the forts at Boston; and this proceeding almost broke up the union. In 1653 the union determined to declare war against the Dutch in New Netherland; but Massachusetts denied the right of the union to declare "offensive war" without unanimous consent. The general court, therefore, refused to levy its quota of men, and the war fell through. At the restoration of the Stuarts no formal condemnation of the union was made, but its functions were practically resumed by the crown. After 1663 the meetings of its commissioners became triennial, and soon ceased altogether. (See FLAG.)


—See 1 Bancroft's United States, 420, and authorities there cited; 1 Hildreth'sUnited States, 285, 326, 386. 463; 1 Spencer'sUnited States, 94; 1 Pitkin'sUnited States, 51; Chalmers'Political Annals,178, 1 Chalmers' Revolt of the American Colonies, 86; 9 Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 3d ser., (J. Q. Adams' article on the confederacy of 1643).


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