I. Massachusetts: The Revolution of 1689 and the Charter.
The Massachusetts charter of 1629 was the guiding instrument under which the early political development of the colony took place. The story of the attempts in the early years of settlement to modify the charter’s more popular and representative features has often been told. Nor has the process by which it became enveloped in a peculiar web of veneration and sanctification been neglected.1 By the 1660s, if not earlier, the charter was viewed as the foundation and safeguard not only of the civil but also of the ecclesiastical liberties of Massachusetts.2 And, despite the dangers that worldly prosperity was believed to present to godly religion, the charter was also linked to the material successes of a puritan society whose population had grown to about 20,000 in 1660 and would reach 50,000 by 1690 and in which pride was taken in the progress of commerce and agriculture. Moreover, nearly a century after these developments, the memory of the first charter was still alive. John Adams’s particular respect for the New England past may explain his assertion that the “passivity of this colony in receiving the present charter in lieu of the first, is, in the opinion of some, the deepest stain on its character. There is less to be said in excuse for it than the witchcraft, or hanging the Quakers.”3 But to find the town committee of Worcester in October 1774 still aggrieved that “the first charter given to this colony was violated and as we think wrongfully wrested from us by Great Britain” is even stronger testimony to the place held by the first charter in the revolutionary generation’s awareness of the colony’s politically usable past.4
In the seventeenth century the defence of the charter and charter rights had found its most complete political expression among the deputies to the Massachusetts General Court, spokesmen for the rural puritanism of their fellow-villagers. After the restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660 increasing pressures from Whitehall for reforms in the laws and commercial practices of the colony had created a division between traditionalist puritans, willing to take a line virtually advocating the “commonwealth” independence of Massachusetts and other groups, some moderate puritans, others anti-puritan, spokesmen for compliance or compromise, adopting a more “colonial” position.5 During the 1680s, when the governor and assistants seemed to be wavering on these matters, the defenders of the charter had voted their spokesmen into a majority on the body of assistants, thus complementing their existing hold on the lower house of the General Court.6 The threat from England had indeed intensified after 1676, as the English authorities gave more effective attention not only to the deviant commercial and political practices of the puritan colony but to the whole structure of colonial government in North America.7 The final assault on Massachusetts came in 1684. The charter of 1629 was cancelled by legal action in London. While this can be seen as one incident in the general colonial reforms of the period, the interpretation placed on it in Massachusetts was hardly likely to encompass such imperial niceties. The theme of the clerical sermons and lamentations of the period was the unhappy fate of a godly people, victims of the overthrow of their chartered sacred commonwealth. But government for a time continued under the terms of the old charter. The final election of a governor, deputy governor, assistants, and deputies to the General Court took place on 12 May 1686.
Three days later a royal commission arrived in Boston naming Joseph Dudley8 as president and William Stoughton9 as deputy president of a new, nominated council of sixteen men. The colony was to be governed under this and subsequent commissions granted to Sir Edmund Andros10 as Governor General of the Dominion of New England. Under Andros some of those who had adopted the “colonial” line in their attitude to England accepted office. They included a small number of Anglicans and a few other men ambitious for office. Many puritan moderates refused to accept office and the puritan independents maintained their previous hostility and opposition. Very important was the position of the wealthier landowners and merchants, more cosmopolitan than the majority of inhabitants, who had before stressed the necessity for good relations with England, partly from the wish to participate in the trading networks of an empire centered on London, partly from the wish to be as close as possible to the sources of power. Although initially they gave their support to the Dominion government, its history to 1689 is that of their gradual alienation, as reforms were introduced threatening their vital interests, tightening up commercial regulations, and requiring landowners to take out new patents, for example.11 With this alienation nearly complete and with the hostility of the unbending puritans intensified by these same reforms and by grievances arising from the lack of an assembly under the Dominion and from Andros’s support for the Church of England, news of the invasion of England by William of Orange and the initial stages of the glorious revolution there reached Boston in early 1689.12 On 18 April 1689 a revolt occurred in Boston; Andros and other officers of the Dominion government were thrown into prison.
A statement sent to Andros and signed by fifteen influential men on 18 April after the uprising had claimed that they were “surprized with the Peoples sudden taking of Arms; in the first Motion thereof we were wholly ignorant” but on the same day a lengthy “Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of BOSTON, and the Country Adjacent” was read to an assembled crowd. Probably written by Cotton Mather,13 it was printed a few days after.14 In it appeared an account of the vacation of the first Massachusetts charter alleging that it was with “a most injurious pretence (and scarce that) of Law, condemned before it was possible for us to appear at Westminster in the legal defence of it” and that this was done by Catholics seeking “to crush and break a Countrey so entirely and signally made up of Reformed Churches . . . with a Bigotry inspired into them by the great Scarlet Whore” Although the documents made no explicit call for the restoration of the charter, it declared the commission issued to Dudley to have been illegal and that granted to Andros to have been absolute and arbitrary. It also alleged that the management of the war with the Indians, then taking place (and which would shortly develop into a general French and Indian war) was “a branch of the Plot to bring us low.” On 20 April a “Council for the Safety of the People and the Conservation of the Peace” was constituted on which sat the 15 signatories of the letter to Andros and 22 additional members.15
On the new Council of Safety those who saw the revolution as the first step towards a return to the old charter government of the pre-Dominion period were out-numbered. Although it included such former leaders of the fight to preserve the Massachusetts charter as Thomas Danforth,16 John Smith,17 James Russell18 and John Hathorne19—the first the deputy governor and the other assistants in 1686—a majority of councillors were lukewarm or unfavourable to an immediate reversion to the old forms of government. Such merchants as Samuel Shrimpton,20 Bartholomew Gedney,21 Nathaniel Oliver,22 Andrew Belcher,23 Peter Sergeant24 were known to be committed to the English connection and their own prosperity as first object.25 They were hardly likely to seek the restoration of a charter under which they had lacked political power. Nor could other men of property and place envisage an abrupt return to charter government without any consultation with the English authorities. Even Simon Bradstreet,26 governor in 1686, and Elisha Cooke,27 an influential assistant, politically sympathetic to the charter group, knew enough of the realities of the developing imperial world not to press too hard for this.28
There is then a certain aptness in the report of the appearance of men from “out of the country” at the Council calling for the immediate restoration of charter rule, even if their visitation was possibly provoked by a few members of the council. For the section of the community that was to force the pace of events after the first days of the revolt had passed were the obscure leaders of the smaller and the rural towns of the colony. Largely isolated from an understanding of international commerce or imperial politics, their political consciousness had been formed in part by the continual refrain of the most important men in their communities—the puritan elders and clergy. The certainty that Massachusetts was a separate godly community based on the Magna Carta of an irrevocable royal charter was the burden of so many puritan sermons that it had sunk deep into the popular mind. The corollary that the growth of trade and wealth led to spiritual declension and political danger—whether from merchants within or from English tyranny without—was also widely canvassed.29
In the face of a Council of Safety that it did not control, the country group took on the nature of an opposition. The council was forced, after two days of debates, delays and reversals, to summon a convention of the towns to discuss the colony’s government (64–5), a victory for its opponents. The result of the first town convention was rejected by the leading members of the Council (71–2) and it was necessary for a second convention to meet (80 ff.) before Simon Bradstreet, and the assistants could be persuaded to relinquish the Council and take up their former offices. At this time, these men felt impelled to state that they “did not intend an assumption of charter government nor would be so understood” (83) and to pledge in their oaths of office their allegiance to England and their determination to retain their places only until they should have orders from England (82).
The attitude of the towns, by contrast, was that the old charter had never been legally revoked and was in fact still in force. During these weeks the debate on government and the charter was widespread and intense, with the participation of the Massachusetts townsmen resembling that found nearly a century later in the proceedings on the Massachusetts state constitution. Printed political broadsides30 and “papers of advice” argued opposing viewpoints, while the returns of the town meetings stated the position of individual towns. None of the printed broadsides and only one able manuscript (359) argues for the continuation of the Council of Safety. The argument was probably known to be hopeless, and the 10 May convention came out strongly for the charter. The issue which had emerged was whether the government of 1686 should simply be restored to office or whether there should be new elections to choose a fresh slate of officers, or, rather, to purge the old one of any men whose loyalty to the charter might be in doubt. The more moderate in opinion did not wish to indulge in recriminations with those who believed that some members of the 1686 government had shown an essential disloyalty in the years between 1686 and 1689, or even in 1689 when they refused to agree at once to the request of the 10 May convention. They were content to state that the magistrates and deputies had “power to judge any of their Members, whether they be fit for their Station” after the restoration of the 1686 government. The more extreme supporters of the charter wished for new elections.
These, however, were few in number. Certainly, the Essex County towns of Gloucester, Beverley, Wenham, Salem Village (360), and Lynn (361) voted for new elections even before they were invited to give their opinions by the Council of Safety. But Wenham’s formal return (362) on 5 and 20 May were both for the settlement of government on those already elected in 1686, as were those of Lynn (387), Beverley (363), and Gloucester (375) to the second convention. Those in favour of outright restoration of the government of 1686 seem to have worked systematically, for the town declarations of Wenham (362), Beverley, Reading (367), Stow (365), Milton (366), Cambridge (368), and Manchester (368) were obviously influenced by a single original document of which no copy can now be found. Except for the manuscript already mentioned, there is no surviving propaganda for the retention of the Council of Safety and only Medfield (373), Haverhill (383), Dunstable (377), Wrentham (378), Hingham (379), Bradford (381), and Charlestown (390) expressed themselves for this. Sudbury (371), which directed its representative on 7 May to vote “first not to reasum the former Charter government, 2ndly that the present Counsell shall stand untill we receive orders from his Roiall Highness, the Prince of Orange . . .” is recorded (392) as having declared for reassumption “if generally agreed to” at the second town convention. Noteworthy in several of the towns’ returns was the call for the enlargement of the franchise beyond its old limits.31
The culmination of the belief in the validity of the charter and the colony’s right to virtually independent government was reached in the second convention’s resolution that any orders from England for the alteration of government should be “signified to the respective Towns of the colony that they may be consulted with in order to their approbation and Compliance” (394).
This was a far cry from the attitude of the Council of Safety and the restored governor and assistants with their protests of dependence on England. And, in the months that followed, the towns’ representatives continued to prod the executive towards a more independent and assertive position, starting with requests for the restored government actually to begin to govern, and proceeding to a call for the restitution of all the old forms and practices used under the charter (179–80). These culminated in a final resolution, on 24 January 1690, from the towns’ deputies, “That this Convention be henceforth Termed a General Court and be accounted such in all respects” (197).
The unwillingness of Governor Bradstreet and the assistants to proceed fully and quickly to forms of government existing before 1686 can be explained. Most of them genuinely felt that it was politic or proper for the approval of the English government—now under a presumably sympathetic ruler—to be sought before drastic measures were taken. In all their letters to England, the Massachusetts authorities were to ask for a return to the charter but were to admit that a final decision had to rest with the home government. The assistants also had to consider the susceptibilities of the merchant moderates who, in spite of mixed feelings about the desirability of restoring the charter, were willing to co-operate as long as lines of communication with England were maintained and the acceptance of a royal settlement of Massachusetts affairs was promised.
The moderates’ position was particularly important, because, in spite of their previous acceptance of the Dominion, they had, as we have seen, approved the Boston uprising. They now had to be prevented from lapsing into hostility to the new government. This was a necessary complement to the policy of seeking a favorable settlement from England. For if the moderates joined their voices with the surviving friends of the Dominion, condemned the results of the revolution, and denounced the restored government as spokesmen for a disloyal and disobedient faction, the possibility of English restoration of the charter would be considerably lessened. Further, the Massachusetts government needed merchant support for domestic reasons; their money was absolutely necessary in a time of war and financial crisis, their example of obedience in one of political tension.32
The progress of events reveals the unfolding of conciliation. On 25 May 1689 thirteen leading merchants, all former members of the Council of Safety, pledged their allegiance to the restored government in return for its promise of obedience to England (84). Four days later five new assistants, mainly moderates, were added to the surviving assistants of 1686 (000). In the months that followed the governor and a majority of the assistants, and the moderates, found themselves in agreement on many matters, contrary to the views of most of the towns’ representatives in the lower house. These included the assistants’ recommendation that legal bills of indictment should be issued against Andros and his fellow prisoners.33
The correspondence from Massachusetts to England also reveals the strains within the colony. Favorable accounts of the Massachusetts revolution were sent by the authorities to England and the letters of the Council of Safety and of the Convention, dated 20 May and 6 June respectively, were issued there as a pamphlet by Increase Mather.34 These two official addresses were followed by letters from Governor Bradstreet to the English government in October 1689. All of these documents stressed the hardships suffered by the colony under the Dominion and urged the restoration of the charter. Yet the most voluminous flow of letters in 1689 went to England from the supporters of the Dominion and were highly critical of the Massachusetts revolution.
The prime letter writer of this type was the prolific Edward Randolph,35 who sent thousands of words to his contacts at Whitehall, representing the revolution as the return to power of the same disloyal and refractory party that had controlled Massachusetts up to the arrival of Joseph Dudley and Andros. Randolph’s English connections were highly-placed colonial officials and his communications were carefully noted and preserved.36 Similar attacks on Massachusetts came from various merchants, or displaced officials or Anglicans, who hoped for privileges should Andros be restored or another royal governor appointed. These included John Usher,37 the Brinley family,38 Charles Lidget,39 Thomas Graves40 and Lawrence Hammond.41 In some cases, their hostility was expressed by overt acts of defiance against the revolutionary government as well as by petitions and letters to London.42 Two of them, Usher and Thomas Brinley, travelled to London, where they joined the other lobbyists.43
On 1 December 1689, there arrived in Boston the long expected royal orders from England which confirmed the authority of its officers (175 ff.).44 The first period of the revolution was over. The letters from England solved the most urgent problem of government. Yet as they contained nothing about the restoration of the charter, they must have heartened both the moderates and the Dominion groups. With their order that the Massachusetts authorities return Andros and his fellows to England for a royal enquiry, they also opened the way for the arguments of both the charter and anti-charter groups to be heard officially in London.45 The result was a great stir of activity as the contending factions collected evidence, prepared depositions, sought signatures for petitions, and generally amassed heavy documentary shots to be fired in London.
While the Massachusetts government oversaw the collection and preparation of testimony against Andros, its opponents were also busy. By the time that Andros and his companions were put on a ship for England, four separate addresses had been drawn up for them to take to London. Together with the documents that Edward Randolph had already sent, or was taking with him, they constituted a serious challenge to the whole position of the pro-charter group.
These four documents were the petitions of the Maine inhabitants, of members of the Church of England, and the Charlestown and Boston petitions. The Maine petition (405) dealt mainly with the conduct of the war with the French and Indians, a point also heavily underscored by two of the other documents, and one that will be considered later. In their allegations about the political situation in Massachusetts the other petitions reveal the variety of anti-charter opinion in the colony and allow some identification of the interests involved.
The Church of England petition (402) for example took a line directly condemnatory of the government of the colony before 1686, represented the Dominion of New England as the saviour of the oppressed church from the slavery of charter subjection and accused the restored government of reinstituting the tyranny of the congregational system. Although it spoke of the oppression of “some Thousands of your Majesties loyal Subjects” in New England, it was signed by only three of them. No doubt an attempt to raise great numbers of Anglican signers would not have been successful. The Church of England was in fact barely organised in the colony and the restriction of its subscribers to its officials, the minister and church wardens of Boston, was a politic one.
This petition also suggested that the remedy for the afflictions of Massachusetts was the establishment of a royal governor and a council appointed by the Crown, with an assembly acting in matters proper to it. So, although these critics of the Massachusetts government referred to Andros’s rule as well-established and orderly, it is obvious that they too were hesitant about its unrepresentative nature.46
The Charlestown address (400) contained no remarks on the kind of government that its subscribers wanted in New England, leaving this to the King. It condemned the seizure of Andros in the strongest terms and labelled the restored government as arbitrary and tyrannical, a reversal of the arguments used by the pro-charter writers. This was the language of the extreme opposition, represented in this case by twelve signatories. In contrast, the Boston petition (406) contained forty-five signatures and there is no doubt that it expressed the position of those moderates who while politically active had no necessary love either for the Dominion or the old charter. It is fair to suggest that the number of signatures on the three petitions was not unrelated to the proportional support in the colony for the arguments expressed in them. The Church of England group was tiny, the Dominion group—especially after Andros’s fall—had a handful of members, while the moderates numbered a larger and more important section of the political community.
The moderate Boston signers’ position was succinctly expressed. Their petition made no personal attack on Andros and no allegations against the Dominion government of tyranny or arbitrary proceedings. Nor was there any direct criticism of the revolution of 1689 and of the charter group. Its gist lay in the statement that the Dominion had lacked an assembly and was therefore a different kind of government from that found in England and most of the other plantations but that the revolution had created fresh distress rather than a solution to the Colony’s ills. The King should provide for a governor and council, and an assembly elected by the freeholders.
It is noticeable that several of the signatories of the Church of England and Charlestown petitions also signed the Boston paper, something of an anomaly given the differing sentiments found in each of them. But many individuals could agree on the need for a royal government of the sort requested, whatever their sentiments about the Dominion of New England and the Revolution. The noncommittal tone taken by the Boston petition about the Dominion and the reasonableness of its remarks about the problems facing the revolutionary government were obviously designed to attract wide support.
The departure of Andros and the other prisoners to England threatened to reinforce the personal representation of the Dominion group in the mother country. To counterbalance this and to provide the colony’s friends in England, in the forthcoming enquiry against Andros, with support from a colonist who had been intimately involved in events in New England, Elisha Cooke was appointed as an emissary to London. At this stage the evidence does not show where Cooke’s sympathies lay.47 But fifteen days after he was chosen by the governor and assistants, the representatives put forward the name of a second agent to accompany Cooke to London.
Thomas Oakes48 was speaker of the lower house and the facts of his appointment suggest that he was a leading spokesman for the country faction. Although the representatives advanced his name on 21 December it was not at first approved by the assistants, bringing another demand from the lower house on 15 January 1690. Finally, and it would appear unwillingly, the governor and assistants acceded to the representatives’ requests.
It is noticeable that in all the petitions and documents sent to England at the beginning of 1690, the only position not fully articulated was that of the extreme supporters of the charter. Obviously it would have been impolitic for them to send a manifesto to the English government expressing their deepest convictions about the necessity of virtual independence from English control. A letter does exist, from the General Court to the Queen, couched in language very unlike the business-like pleas of the governor and council for English favor (201). Its fulsome comparisons of Mary with Isabella and Elizabeth as nursing mothers to the churches and its review of Massachusetts history in terms of its religious distinctiveness may be taken as the rhetoric of the traditional charter men. But it is uncertain if it was ever sent.49 Presumably the task of Oakes, perhaps of Cooke, was to present the charter group’s points of view and this made written statements unnecessary.
After the dispatch of the agents and of Andros to England, the great contest for the future of the colony’s government was to be fought outside its boundaries. Yet there is evidence of further political tensions with Massachusetts. The charter group, for example, prevented John Nelson,50 a merchant moderate who had pledged his loyalty to the restored government in 1689 and had signed the Boston petition, from commanding the expedition against Port Royal. In the same year an attack was made on the legitimacy of the annual elections in the absence of a settled government. This was beaten down with the publication of a wholesale printed assault rehearsing the arguments for the legitimacy of the revolution and the government.51 In the election of assistants John Pynchon,52 who had signed the Boston petition, and Samuel Shrimpton, the merchant moderate, were defeated, while Thomas Oakes, the strong supporter of the charter, was elected to the upper house. The other new assistant was Sir William Phips,53 the hero of the Port Royal expedition, whose martial prominence and wealth, rather than his political affiliation, were no doubt responsible for his success (410).
It is hardly possible to sustain a detailed account of the political history of the colony after this time and before the arrival of Phips from England with the new charter in 1692. The evidence is fragmentary and suggests that the strain of the war and the continuing but frustrated expectations of the settlement of Massachusetts’ affairs from England contributed to create a state of political inaction. If the election of 1690 gave the country charter group the opportunity to make its strength felt in the colony, the failure of the Quebec expedition was a similar stimulus to renewed activity on the part of its opponents. This took the form of a second Boston petition to England, preceded by an introductory letter (415). The main emphasis was on the ineffectiveness of the revolutionary government’s conduct of the war against the French and Indians, a matter likely to attract a soldier King’s attention. New England was represented as near to total ruin, comparisons were implied with New York, where the revolutionary leader, Jacob Leisler,54 had opposed royal officials, and William was once more asked to take the colony under his control. The impression given was of governmental incapacity and military chaos.
Indeed the military issue had already played a part in the internal politics and in the debate on the restoration of the charter. For several months after April 1689 the Massachusetts government had written little of military affairs to England, its first letters of May and June dealing solely with the nature of revolution and the restoration of the charter. But by October the progress of the war occupied a considerable part of its correspondence to England, underlining the colony’s responsible co-operation with neighboring governments and interest in colonial defence. This point of view was consistently challenged by the enemies to the restoration of the charter. They argued that the ending of the Dominion had weakened military capacity and substituted an ineffective set of bickering colonial governments for the efficient and united Dominion. The Boston authorities had soon begun to suggest the contrary—that the war would be more quickly won if the colony were granted its old rights and privileges under its first charter. The irony of these arguments was that neither the Massachusetts government’s assurances of future military success should the charter be restored, nor its opponents’ calls for a general governor and a united New England to bring about the same results, had much real influence on the English negotiations that decided the colony’s fate. Despite the presence on the throne of one of the most militarily and strategically minded Kings of England, such considerations played a very small part in the settlement.
The Boston petition had sixty-one signatures, a large number of which had also appeared on the Boston petition of early 1690. There
of the charter. Thirty-two of the men who signed had not before put their names to such documents. Nor were these men alone in their concern for the state of New England. A Salem petition to the governor and council, whose most important subscriber, Bartholomew Gedney, was a moderate and former member of the Council of Safety, expressed apprehensions about the conduct of the war55. Although Gedney and his co-signers were careful to indicate their support of the government, their loyalty was obviously strained.
Yet despite these strains, it is evident that the moderates never entered into outright opposition to the revolutionary government. A majority of them signed none of the petitions calling for the dispatch of a royal governor.56 And those who did sign meant not to create internal difficulties for the Massachusetts authorities but to influence the English government in its future policy. Since Increase Mather was to exclude the most vociferous supporters of the old charter, members of Bradstreet’s government, from his list of nominees for Phips’s council, and to replace them with a number of leading moderates, it could be said that the moderates finally got their reward for good behaviour. Mather had been away from Massachusetts for almost four years when he made these appointments and must have received their names from his friends in the colony. But, as we shall see, he was also probably forced to throw in his lot with the moderates. His acceptance of a second charter was to isolate him from the country faction but to promise him fresh influence in a rearranged political world.
The new charter was to push the country group even more firmly into opposition. They might hope to control the lower house but they could never again dominate the council. But this was a situation that began with the revolution of 1689 and was not a fresh development at the coming of a royal governor. It is significant that in our period the last echo of the country voice was heard when forces they could resist but not control had already succeeded. In October 1691 the General Court addressed William and Mary with another recital of the wilderness difficulties of the first settlers, of their expenses in taming a new land, and of their wishes for religious freedom and their old charter rights (327). It was too late. By this time, three thousand miles away in London, the new Massachusetts charter had passed the Great Seal.
II. England: The Negotiations for the Massachusetts Charter 1689–1692.
Efforts to persuade the English government of the need for a fresh settlement of the affairs of Massachusetts preceded the advent of William and Mary to the English throne. Since May 1688, Increase Mather had been established in London. He was accompanied by his fifteen-year-old son, Samuel. Mather had already been able to get James II’s promises for reform in the government of New England. But he had not dared or had not thought it useful or politic to ask the Stuart King for the restoration of the Massachusetts charter.57 With the flight of James and the success of William of Orange, Mather immediately turned his endeavours to this point, made more confident by William’s own promises for the restoration of English charters.58
Throughout his English visit Mather benefited from his nonconformist connections. Much of James’s condescension to Mather arose from the King’s desire to gratify English dissenters and preserve their support for his religious policy.59 When nonconformist sympathy swung away from James to the aid of William, the dissenters expected a suitable reward for their transferred support—a favourable religious settlement. During the first part of 1689, with the ear of the new King and with reasonable representation in Parliament, they were active and optimistic, and Mather shared these feelings.60 His fortunes, those of Massachusetts, and those of the English nonconformists and Scottish presbyterians seemed to be blossoming in the sunshine of William’s often-advertised Calvinism. Among those Scots whom Mather found sympathetic to New England were William Carstares,61 Lord “Melvin,”62 Lord Strathnaver and his mother, the Countess of Sutherland.63
Mather’s cultivation of the prominent dissenters of the day was careful and persistent. The English nonconformist clergy were relatively highly organised and closely connected. Through such men as the Reverends Richard Baxter,64 William Bates65 and Matthew Mead,66 Mather was introduced to leading lay dissenters and their allies—peers, men used to serving in the Commons, others influential in the City of London.67 An early call was made on Philip, Lord Wharton,68 the elder statesman of English dissent, who conducted the New Englander to an audience with the Prince of Orange.69 Mather also enjoyed the support and hospitality of Major Robert Thompson, prominent nonconformist London merchant, whose family had many colonial connections.70 Another meeting was with Sir Henry Ashurst,71 son of an influential presbyterian, son-in-law of the presbyterian Lord Paget72 and with connexions to such dissenting politicians as Philip and Paul Foley73 and John and Richard Hampden.74 Ashurst accompanied Mather to his first meeting with the Committee of Trade and Plantations. He was eventually to be joined with Mather as an official agent of Massachusetts to the English government.75
Mather’s meeting with the Prince of Orange (432) marked his first dealing with the new government. Whether William knew or cared anything of Massachusetts is doubtful indeed, although in the 1670s the Prince had spoken, during unsuccessful periods in the war with France, of carrying on the struggle against Louis XIV from the other side of the Atlantic.76 It was now enough for him that Mather had the goodwill of Wharton and of such close royal companions as William Carstares, the Prince’s Scottish chaplain and former agent.77 It was easy for William to promise an investigation of Mather’s claims for the restoration of Massachusett’s ancient privileges. More immediately useful, through his nonconformist contacts, Mather was also able to prevent the dispatch to New England of a letter then being sent to all colonial governors to order them to continue in office after the change of rulers in England (428).
This action was a great fillip to Mather’s morale as well as an incident of some weight. The reception of this letter in Massachusetts, whether it had arrived before or after the Boston uprising of 18 April, would have reinforced Andros’s position and dismayed his opponents. Mather could now continue to press for the full restoration of the Massachusetts charter. This he did with the submission, by him and Sir William Phips, of a claim that the charter had been illegally revoked in 1684 (426). The same argument was also found in a printed pamphlet, possibly inspired by Mather, and signed by a mysterious Dutch agent, Abraham Kick, which circulated at this or some later time.78 When Mather and Phips were examined in person before the Committee of Trade, they narrowed down their arguments about the illegality of the charter’s revocation, to the claim that this lay in a flaw in the scire facias by which it had been finally condemned. Faced with a concrete point of law, the Committee was quick to call for those lawyers involved in the actual proceedings to attend with copies of the writ (429). Sir Robert Sawyer,79 Charles II’s and James II’s Attorney-General, responsible for the prosecution of the Massachusetts Charter in 1684, therefore was summoned.
On 22 February, Sawyer, Phips and Mather were examined by the committee. The outcome was unsatisfactory for Mather. The official account shows that he failed to demonstrate that the writ was illegal or imperfect (429), while a note on this meeting, by a nonconformist sympathetic to Massachusetts, reveals that Sawyer was instrumental in convincing the Committee of his view of the soundness of the scire facias (430).80 The Committee’s conclusion (430) that a new governor should be sent to the colony with a provisional commission, until a new charter could be prepared, seemed to preclude all hope of the restoration of the old charter and government. And although the Committee specified that the new charter should “preserve the rights and privileges of the people of New England,” it was not slow to add that it ought also to “reserve such a Dependance on the Crown of England as shall be thought requisite.” The only relief these decisions brought to Mather was the confirmation of the removal of Andros and the implication that there would be no revival of the Dominion of New England.
An order-in-council endorsed the call of the Committee for the preparation of a new charter, but, whether at Mather’s intercession or for some other unknown reason, two commissioners rather than a temporary governor were ordered to take over the colony’s administration (431). Yet no action was ever taken on this command. No further mention of Massachusetts was made by the English government until April. Then the Secretary of State, the Earl of Shrewsbury81 was asked to submit the names of governors for New York, for the Jerseys and for New England (432). This provoked a protest from unidentified parties who cited both the previous freedom of New England to choose its own governors and the parliamentary condemnation of the illegal revocation of charters including those of the colonies (433). It also appears that there was a clash about this time at the Committee of Trade between those who favored the continuation of Andros and others who accepted the arguments for his removal. The Earl of Nottingham,82 a moderate Anglican, unsympathetic to the political claims of dissenters, is alleged to have led the defence of Andros, while the Duke of Bolton,83 the eccentric whig politician, whose views often clashed with those of Nottingham, spoke against him (435). Presumably the hostility of anglican tories and whig dissenters underlay the dispute, the former’s support having been rallied to Andros as a loyal servant of the Crown and a member of the Church of England forced to preside over an unruly and seditious mob of colonial dissenters. But the whole discussion of the governorship and the new charter lacked urgency. The English government took no further action on either matter until February 1690 and no substantial measures to prepare a new charter until 1691.
Inactivity towards New England was, of course, a reflection of the relative unimportance of the region among the English colonies. Great care and attention was given by the Committee of Trade in these same months to the West Indian sugar islands. Nor did the growing pressure of the war with France on the defective machinery of the English government leave much room for official consideration of New England.84 Although William and his advisers were later to become concerned about French military strength in North America, little was made of it at this time. Yet, as important, after his rebuff in February, Mather refrained from making further requests to the Committee about Massachusetts. Without this stimulus, it was happy to let the colony’s affairs slide from view. In fact, during the rest of 1689 and for much of 1690, Mather dealt with the Committee only when forced to by some direct challenge to the interests of Massachusetts. He did see the King on 14 March 1689, obtaining a further promise for the removal of Andros (432). Mather himself was informed of the Massachusetts revolution on 29 June.85 He therefore saw William again in July and August, when Portland86 and Sydney87 were also present. He spoke about the Boston uprising and characterised the revolt as an act of protestant loyalty to England’s new rulers (442). In its turn, the Committee of Trade gave Bradstreet’s government temporary recognition and ordered it to return Andros to England. In 1690 Mather did not see the King at all and he attended the Committee only to represent the colony against ex-Governor Andros and to defend its government against hostile criticisms.
This silence was part of an intentional strategy. Mather was continually busy elsewhere in almost daily meetings and lobbyings aimed at the restoration of the charter. His initial lack of success with the Committee in February 1689 pushed Mather towards the full development of a possibility that had been emerging since the beginning of the Convention Parliament. The idea of a Parliamentary rather than a Crown remedy for the ills of Massachusetts directly contravened the usual view that the colonies were particularly the affair of the King. Any consideration by Parliament of their constitutional or political as opposed to their commercial relationship with England was highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented since the Restoration.88 Yet as early as 2 February 1689, only twelve days after the opening of the Convention, a Commons committee reported that action was necessary to secure “Cities, Universities, and Towns Corporate, and Boroughs and Plantations” against “Quo Warrantos and Surrenders and Mandates” and to restore them to their “Ancient Rights.” On the same day this recommendation was accepted by the House.89
Whether Mather or one of his whig or dissenter friends first suggested the addition of the colonial charters to those of the English corporations is not known, although the connection could not have been a difficult one to make. But Mather had met with several members of the committee responsible for the 2 February resolution before that date; on 1 February he had seen Hugh Boscawen90 a leading whig on the committee, and it is likely that this interview was responsible for the inclusion of the colonies in the report. It was of the greatest importance that many members of the same committee were whigs or dissenters or otherwise sympathetic.91 Among these, and already contacted by Mather, were not only Boscawen but William Jephson,92 the King’s secretary, whom Mather had met through Lord Wharton, John Wildman,93 the famous former leveller and political agitator, and one of the Hampdens, John or Richard.94
In the days and weeks that followed Mather continued and enlarged these parliamentary contacts, dining with Boscawen and the Hampdens, meeting with such London nonconformist notables as William Love,95 and discussing Massachusetts and New England with the Harleys,96 the Foleys and other House of Commons men.97 Samuel Sewall,98 who had arrived from Boston in early 1689, assisted Mather, writing, for example, to Thomas Papillon,99 a merchant and M.P. in April 1689 (434). In fact Mather’s fortunes were now linked to those of the dissenters and the whigs in their endeavour to return the English corporation to their old forms prior to Charles II’s and James II’s regulation of them in the Crown’s search for electoral control. With the steady progress in the House of preliminaries for a bill to restore corporations, the hopes of Mather for the Massachusetts charter and of the English dissenters for their legal readmission to the Parliamentary and civic life of the English cities and boroughs seemed assured.100 But when, on 11 March, a Commons committee came to make a final report on the bill, the reference to the plantations charter was missing. It seems unlikely that any deliberate meaning can be attached to this, although there was agitation at the time and later about including the colonies in the bill (000). But, given the composition of the committee, the omission was probably the result of the slip of a clerk’s pen. An amendment was immediately proposed and carried, without comment, and the words “New England and the Plantations” were included in the proposed bill.101 Mather’s contacts in the House were obviously well primed in his interests, evidence of his successful lobbyings.
This episode was even advantageous to Mather’s cause. To the anonymous “plantations” of the first proposals was now added the specific reference to New England. The text of the resulting bill is unfortunately lost. But there is no reason to think that in its passage through the Commons—the first reading was on 30 April, the second on 2 May and it was reported from Committee on 23 July—there was any modification to the mention of New England.102 By August, Mather felt confident enough to think that he might “soon return home with Joy and good Tidings in my mouth.”103
In the event Mather remained in England, prevented from sailing by the illness of his son, Samuel. By the time he could have set forth again, circumstances were less bright. Progress on the Corporations bill was delayed by the Commons’ preoccupation with attacks on the ministry and the delaying of important fiscal legislation. The consequence was the prorogation of Parliament by William on 20 August.
Yet Mather, perhaps not with complete candor, wrote to Boston on 3 September that “what concerns New England [in the bill] passed without any great opposition. The Bill has been in part read the third time and the Charters of N.Eng. then also passed without objections. Only some Additional Clauses respecting Corporations here, caused Debates: so that the Bill is not yet Enacted.”104 This obscured the significance of the prorogation, which meant that the Bill would have to be reintroduced in the next session of Parliament.
When Parliament assembled again, it was in fact decided to reintroduce some uncompleted bills from the previous session. The Corporations bill was accordingly given new first and second readings. It was reported from the committee on 2 January 1690. The committee included such dissenters as Paul Foley, Hugh Boscawen and John Birch.105 But the moderate and Anglican element on it was strong and, when the bill emerged, it contained clauses unacceptable to the whig nonconformists.106 They responded with their own amendments, including the famous Sacheverell clause,107 causing bitter debates and their subsequent defeat. But New England was not excluded and final triumph for Mather seemed near when the bill reached the Lords for its first reading, on 11 January 1690.108
Contemporary evidence indicates that the inclusion of the colonies in the first and second Corporation bills caused more controversy than Mather ever admitted. During the first session William Blathwayt,109 the energetic and influential Secretary of the Committee of Trade, hostile to Mather’s cause, wrote to Sir Robert Southwell110 to create ministerial concern over the clauses referring to the colonies and several tracts that could have been printed to influence the contents of either the first or second bills argued directly about the inclusion of Massachusetts,111 as did Thomas Cullen’s112 letter to Charles Montagu (439).113
The colonial clauses in the second bill definitely provoked debate. The Earl of Halifax114 even took the trouble to explain to William the reference to New England which, he wrote, the King “did not before fully apprehend.”115 As we have seen, the bill reported in the first session of Parliament had contained the words “New England and the Plantations”, a very broad category that would have meant the restoration of all the colonial charters vacated or surrendered in the reigns of Charles and James. The texts of the revived bill of the second session, prior to its engrossment for transmission to the Lords, are not extant. But the engrossed bill shows that by this time due notice was taken of potential dangers to the government of the colonies that it represented. The enacting clauses provided for the restoration of the charters of the “several plantations and Colonies in New England and other parts beyond the seas belonging to the Crown of England,” but in the body of the bill several paragraphs specifically excluded the West Indian islands, “the Bermudas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Carolina, New York or Long Island” from its effects.116 These clauses must have resulted from the intervention of colonial officials who would also have sought to have New England removed from the bill. The failure to exclude New England from either the first and second bills in the House of Commons can be attributed in part at least to Mather’s powers of persuasion over influential members of Parliament.
Mather’s own reaction to the progress of the bill in the Lords shows that he was still not without fears for its possible fate. He recorded with great jubilation his thankfulness that at its consideration by a committee of the whole house on 18 January,
The Lord did appear: for New England was not (as some would have it) cast out of the Bill, but that Bill for restoring charters was referred to a committee on Wednesday next, and the chairman a friend. Blessed be God, and blessed be Jesus Christ the son of God. Let him who knows what I have committed to him please yet further to appear for his name sake.117
In fact, on 23 January, although in his diary and his other writings justifying his agency Mather nowhere mentions this, the Committee “After debate, Agreed, that the charters of the Plantations shall be considered distinctly.”118 This was a serious set back to Mather’s plans to link Massachusetts to the general restoration of the charters and it is almost certain that, had the bill proceeded further, all his work of the last year might have been destroyed. Thomas Brinley, admittedly hostile to Mather, asserted that he was “well informed” by a “Person of Quality that sits in the house of Peers that if the Corporation act had passed, New England had been left out as being in the Forreigne Plantations and so belonging Immediately to the King. . .” (451). But since William, a few days later, prorogued and then dissolved Parliament, the bill never was again discussed. Mather could excuse his Parliamentary failure on the grounds of the dissolution, the subsequent elections which were unfavorable to the whigs, and the domination of the next Parliament by the tories.119
Mather was to make one further attempt at a Parliamentary restoration of the charter, in May, 1690, when there was a chance that a new bill to restore corporations would be introduced. This led him “to apply myself to five or six members of the House, to pray them to take effectual care the Bill might be so worded as to comprehend our N.E. charters; which they promised me they would do.”120 But the adjournment of Parliament in the same month and his accurate assumption that it would not be recalled until the winter finally turned Mather away from the House of Commons. He also failed in a plan to bring before the courts his and the revolutionary government’s frequently asserted view that the instrument by which the charter had been vacated was flawed in law.121
These failures would eventually bring back Mather to the Crown and the Committee of Trade, as the only hope for the settlement of Massachusetts. The Committee itself was the recipient of numerous letters and reports from the colony, both for and against the revolutionary government and the restoration of the charter (446). In February 1690, after considering the military situation there, it was forced to represent the dangerous condition of the Massachusetts government to the King (446). But neither William, nor his ministers, took any action and, either with more urgent business, or considering that its proper role was to act on instructions from above, the Committee made no further soundings, taking no action on the central question of the permanent government and charter of the colony.
These were points on which Mather and his fellow agents were also silent for the greater part of 1690, perhaps wisely waiting for the storm to lessen. Mather was sure that the King was sympathetic to New England and that it was impolitic to act while he was away from England, which was the case during much of the year. There were also differences among the agents themselves. Mather was as convinced as Cooke and Oakes of the desirability of restoring the old charter and, as we have seen, had worked with great energy towards this. But with all the possibilities of Parliamentary or judicial restoration seemingly played out by 1690, Mather was eventually to conclude that the best hope for the colony lay in a new charter, but one that should incorporate the most desirable provisions of the first charter and improve on its weaknesses. Oakes, and possibly Cooke, were unconvinced by this argument and wished to continue to press for the restoration of the old charter.
Accordingly in November 1690, Oakes’s name was probably missing from the document that began the process by which a new charter was granted to the colony.122 This was a petition to the King (468), presented by the Earl of Monmouth, the whig friend of Wildman and of John Locke and one of the first English peers to suggest William’s intervention in English affairs. Since it was referred by the King, not to the Committee of Trade, but to the chief law officers, Sir George Treby,123 the Attorney-General and Sir John Somers,124 the Solicitor-General, and to the two Lord Chief Justices, Sir John Holt125 and Sir Henry Pollexfen,126 it seems that William sought first to settle constitutional and legal questions before allowing a consideration of general colonial administrative problems. Mather related that this was done “through the Intercession of a Great and Worthy Personage” and was able to join with these men, apparently at their every discussion of the colony’s affairs, and to supplement the agents’ original petition with additional documents (471). The small committee then reported back to the King and he sent on their findings to the Committee of Trade (472).127
The agents’ proposals, as opening claims in what would probably be a prolonged negotiation, had been high. They sought everything that had been granted to the Massachusetts Bay Company in its first charter, together with changes and additions giving validity to practices or ambitions that had developed in Massachusetts since its foundation. Two such were the incorporation of Maine into Massachusetts and the subjection of New Hampshire to the Bay colony’s government. A third, looking back to Andros’s attack on property rights, asked for the confirmation of all land grants, a fourth for generous fishing rights.
Other changes were sought in the political establishment. The charter of 1629 had provided for a General Court, or Assembly, of all the freemen of the corporation, an unworkable arrangement when the number of freemen grew into the hundreds. The agents called for the freemen’s rights to elect representatives to this Assembly, a practice that had existed in Massachusetts since 1634. Other requests, also recognising an existing state of affairs, were for proxy voting by the freemen, for the establishment of law courts, for the right to control a militia and to levy taxes on the population at large. The agents’ citation, as a precedent, of sections of the charter granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, for the government of Maine—one of the most generous royal charters ever engrossed—reveals the large powers that were hoped for.128 Moreover, no mention was made of the appointment of a governor and council by the Crown; indeed the proposed re-establishment of the old corporation of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay obviously encompassed the freemen’s former right of electing the governor and council.
From the surviving evidence, it seems that Mather was able to convince Sir John Somers and his companions of the reasonableness of all these requests. Although the King’s advisers submitted a page of proposals to “make New England more dependant on the Crown” (470), this contained only such relatively mild recommendations as a royal veto on colonial laws and rights of appeal from the colony’s courts to the Crown in civil cases involving large sums of money. It was the Committee of Trade that showed more vigor, perhaps influenced by an influx of additional complaints against the colony in early 1691. The Committee suggested negotiations with the agents on the basis of a charter giving only “as large privileges as any that are enjoyed by any corporation within his Majesties dominions”, and a royal governor. It also quickly requested the King’s own order for a charter of this kind (486) and, on 30 April, the Privy Council declared that Massachusetts should have a “Governor of his [the King’s] own nomination and appointment for the administration of the Government of the Massachusetts Colony, as in Barbadoes and other Plantations. . . .” This order said nothing of the former rights and privileges of Massachusetts and Mather claimed that it misrepresented the King’s wishes, protesting to ministers and sending written arguments to William himself. But as all Mather’s later efforts to obtain the King’s revocation of the order were fruitless, it appears either that William had not understood what he had promised or that Mather had mistaken the King’s position or that he embroidered his account of the episode to put himself in a favorable light. Mather claimed that the Attorney-General, to whom the task of drafting the new charter was referred by the Committee (523), took no notice of the Privy Council order but only of William’s alleged promises and it is true that his draft charter, apart from providing for a royal governor, was more generous than that of other colonial charters.129
Treby was at work on the draft during May and it is clear that he consulted closely and sympathetically with Mather. In the end, he produced a charter that virtually reincorporated the old Massachusetts Bay Company (524). Only by the provision of a royal governor and a limited royal veto on colonial laws were the Company’s powers made narrower than those it had possessed under the old charter. Moreover, in his acceptance of other amendments, the Attorney-General recognised the procedures and institutions that had developed in Massachusetts and had been approved by its governments without the authority of the old charter, an outcome sought by Mather.
The revival of the political privileges enjoyed by the Massachusetts Bay Company was the fundamental basis of the Attorney-General’s charter. The freemen of the old corporation were automatically to become freemen under the new charter, while new freemen were to be admitted under regulations made by the governor and general court. The freemen would elect the deputy governor, the council, and the deputies—the word “representative” nowhere occurred in this draft—to the General Assembly. The General Court itself was to consist of governor, council, and deputies, without any distinction in their respective legislative powers or any separation of the upper and lower houses. Since this separation of houses had become an accepted part of the colony’s government long before 1686, it is of some interest as to why this was not recognised, as similar extra-charter constitutional developments were, in this draft. It seems likely that Mather considered that the continuation of “a great and general Assembly” would allow the colony’s government to continue to act according to precedent rather than under the constraint of a written definition of the powers of upper and lower house—on which there was still controversy before 1686. He might well have shrunk from the thankless task of providing a written analysis of this vexed political question. Equally, it also seems clear that Mather realised that the introduction of a royal governor could best be counterbalanced by making him one member of a large unicameral general court of governor, assistants, and deputies. The most noteworthy feature of the Attorney-General’s draft is that the governor is hardly anywhere given a power that he can exercise alone. The whole general court was to appoint the colony’s major non-elective officials and the members of the judiciary, to create courts of law including probate and admiralty courts, to commission military officers and to control the militia, to remove members of the council in case of “misdemeanors or defects”—a very generous power—to legislate ceremonies of government, and to pass laws for the furtherance of civil and religious life. And although mechanisms were specified for ensuring that the general court should meet annually, nothing was included about corresponding powers of prorogation or dissolution for the governor. With such grants of patronage and such possibilities for checking the executive, the position of the general court was paramount.
In short, the Attorney General’s draft did include the mild provisions that he and his colleagues had submitted earlier for increasing the colony’s dependence on the Crown. But apart from these and the position of the royal governor, it was a revised version of the old charter, amended to allow practices not legally provided for by that instrument but nevertheless carried on in Massachusetts. The new royal governor was to be neatly checked—or rather outweighed—by the numerous restrictions on his power. Well-suiting the proclivities for self-government free from English control and for a powerful representative assembly, so strong in Massachusetts, the charter could also have won admiration for its limitations on executive power from an English radical whig or commonwealthman.130
It is doubtful that the Committee of Trade ever carefully read this charter. On the day it was received, the Committee referred it directly to its secretary, William Blathwayt (524). Blathwayt showed his accustomed efficiency by bringing together an extensive and important series of documents on the history of Massachusetts and its relations with England131. He also demonstrated in his minute and devastating comments on the Attorney-General’s draft that he had abandoned few of his beliefs in the necessity of firm English control of its colonies. Under thirty-seven different headings, he disposed of the most cherished hopes of the agents. Each time the draft made some extravagant or over-ambitious claim for the colony or granted some liberal power to the general court, Blathwayt deflated it. By the time he had reached his final page, the Attorney-General’s clauses had been raked with cogent and well-directed fire. The inevitable conclusion that the colony should have no more and no less privileges than any other English possession arose plainly and convincingly from his comments. And from two other documents penned by him, there can be no doubt that Blathwayt would have liked Massachusetts to have been placed in the most severe and stringent dependence on the English Crown (545).
His general arguments about colonial government and colonial relations with England could have been applied to any charter. Yet there is no doubt that Blathwayt, a bureaucrat thwarted for years by prevarications and delays emanating from Massachusetts, had a particular anger against the colony. For example, the part of the Attorney General’s charter that retold the story of the foundation and early history of Massachusetts as it might have been recounted by an enthusiastic Puritan, was severely criticized by him. He also suggested that the transfer of land from the original twenty-six grantees to the Massachusetts Bay Company might have been illegal and held the claim that England had gained economically by the growth of the colony to be the opposite of the truth, as numerous breaches of the Acts of Trade attested. His caustic observations took in many other points including the exclusivity of the Massachusetts corporation, which had always favored church members, the colony’s disdain for the writs of English courts, and its long history of hostility to England.
Blathwayt’s criticisms were received by the Committe of Trade on 25 June. In July, it began a detailed consideration of the charter. By the 17 July there was a general agreement that the deputy governor as well as the governor should be a Crown appointment, and that the Crown through its governor should appoint sheriffs, justices, and judges. Similarly, control of probate would be vested in the governor and council. It was also decided that the governor should have a veto over the acts of the general assembly and that he should be given several other powers previously awarded by the Attorney-General to that body. All these were victories for Blathwayt. So was the important order that “freeholders” rather than “freemen” should have the right to vote, a crucial point in the demolition of the colony’s corporate privileges under the old charter.
The agent’s response to these assaults was prompt. An undated petition (542), presented between 25 June and 17 July, pleaded against these alterations in the Attorney-General’s draft. Some of the concessions it gained (561) were of real importance, especially the fixing of a date for the meeting of the assembly, irrespective of the will of the governor. The granting of proxy voting, on the grounds that “if all the freeholders should leave their Habitations to Attend at the General Election the Remote Towns will be Exposed to the Incursions of the Indians. . . , ” reveals English willingness to accept that frontier conditions might modify traditional political practices. But the Committee resolutely refused to allow the general assembly to appoint important officials or the assistants to elect the deputy governor or the freeholders to elect the assistants, suggestions by which Mather had sought to reduce royal and executive powers to a level below that desired by Blathwayt. Yet the mere fact that there was to be an elected council was an important departure from the practice in most of the American colonies. The curious provision, never again to be mentioned, that the agents might name not more than one hundred freemen, who, although not freeholders, might vote in the elections to the assembly was presumably meant as a sop to Mather. It could have had no practical consequences for Massachusetts politics.
The reception of this particular petition illustrates the consideration which the agents received from the Committee and from the English authorities. From the beginning of the negotiations, Mather and his colleagues had been able to present their own proposals, to protest against the Committee’s decisions and to lodge objections and appeals. On 17 July, with all but the territorial aspects of the charter decided, the Committee ordered the Attorney-General to amend his own draft according to its new decisions, to satisfy the agents as to the reasonableness of these decisions, and to report any objections that they might have (563).
The agent’s response to this invitation is revealed in the later report of the Attorney-General (564). By this time the agents—or at least Mather and Ashurst—were willing to accept many of the items that before had been in dispute. But they still fought to preserve four privileges. The one was control of the judiciary by the general assembly; the second was for a specified rather than an unlimited period for the royal disallowance of colonial laws after their reception in England; the third that the election of assistants should be by the freeholders rather than by the general court; the last that the governor should have no right of veto in these elections.
The first real decision about the new charter had been taken at the end of April, when the King ordered that the appointment of the governor should rest with the Crown. William also took a last substantial decision at the beginning of August, when he refused to countenance further objections from the agents and ordered that the final form of the charter should be decided by the Committee (570). In 1691 Mather had been a persistent suitor to both the King and the Queen and to various courtiers, pleading on many occasions for Massachusetts. No doubt some of the consideration with which the agents were treated by the Committee, and some of the real privileges that the colony did gain in the new charter, sprang from his tireless activity. Yet it is also clear that on points that he regarded as vital, he was defeated. On balance, he claimed to be satisfied with the concessions he did win and no unbiased student can deny that these were real ones.
Mather’s own defensiveness about his part in the negotiations proceeded primarily from a division within the ranks of the agents themselves. While Mather and Ashurst accepted the necessity for a new charter and co-operated with the English government, first Oakes and then Cooke refused to do so, eventually more or less withdrawing from the proceedings. As we have seen, their attitudes had been formed during the period of the Boston revolution and reflected widespread colonial sentiment. It was also likely that both men, arriving from Boston to find Mather ensconced in London as the great Massachusetts panjandrum with Ashurst as his influential and biddable companion, felt some misgivings about their own role. The dismissal of the charges against Andros must have either created or widened the gap, whether or not Oakes had refused to sign the request for a new charter. Mather could therefore see that on his return to the colony he ran the risk—unless he brought back a highly favorable charter—of being branded as a too supple plant, a betrayer of the ancient religious and political privileges of the colony. His elaborate and frequent justifications of his role were a first line of defense for the coming political battle at home.132
The exact history of the division between the agents cannot be discovered. Oakes seems to have dropped out of the picture entirely after the beginning of 1691, although it is certain that he was still in England. Cooke took no part in the discussions of the political clauses in the new charter, but he occasionally appeared, even as late as August and early September 1691, to argue for the territorial claims of the colony. A significant moment may have come during or after the drafting of the Attorney-General’s charter. If Cooke refused to accept the provision for a royal governor included in this, in spite of all its other concessions, the break was complete at that time. And Cooke could certainly not have approved Mather’s acceptance of Blathwayt’s amendments or Ashurst’s and Mather’s relinquishment of their opposition to the remaining contested clauses in August (571). Certainly, from August on, Mather, Ashurst, and, now again arrived in England, Sir William Phips acted as the only emissaries for Massachusetts. Yet the records suggest that Cooke, and especially Oakes, had been overshadowed by Mather and his friends from the beginning. Neither had tried (nor had they the connections to do so) to play the equal role to which their commissions and instructions officially entitled them.
The agents’ reported acquiescence (571) in the politico-constitutional terms of the charter seemed finally to clear the way for the resolution of the territorial problems, something hardly discussed before August. Even so, Mather did not hesitate to use the ensuing proceedings over the colony’s boundaries to seek further political concessions. Mainly, he still sought to limit the governor’s powers in relation to his council and to the general assembly (573). This rather impudent gesture did achieve results, for the Committee, on 2 September, agreed in substance to several of his proposed amendments (575). Mather’s final shots in the struggle to adapt the provisions of the charter to his interpretation of the colony’s best interests were to come on 15 September (595), when the final wording of the charter had already been prepared. Again, some of his points were accepted, although the one which interested him most, because of its importance for Harvard College, was not; no mention was made in the final charter of the general court’s positive right to incorporate schools of learning.
On the territorial question, Mather and the agents had mixed success. The first reference to the colony’s ambition to absorb Maine and govern New Hampshire had been made at the beginning of the negotiations and it is likely that Cooke and Oakes were told to include these requests, since the revolutionary government in the colony had reasserted Massachusetts control over Maine very soon after the Boston uprising and over New Hampshire early in 1690.133 As we have seen, the Attorney-General’s draft endorsed the colony’s claim to Maine. On New Hampshire, it was more cautious, merely stating that the land “lying between and next adjoyning to the said Merrimack river and the said province of Maine and also the South part of the Isle of Shoales was and for many years continued under the Government and Regulation of the said Governor and Company and the same is not settled under any other Government by Letters Patents under the Great Seal of England.” This caution could have been due to the sudden intervention of Samuel Allen with his claim, purchased from the Mason family, to the proprietorship of New Hampshire134 at the end of March 1691 (474). The draft charter also regranted all the land within the colony in the same form as that of 1629, repeating the original provision that its farthest boundary lay “to the South Sea on the Weste parte.”
Blathwayt had seized on the territorial as he had on the constitutional and political implications of the draft charter. His first criticisms were of the provisions for Maine. Not only were certain islands, now included in Maine, part of Lord Stirling’s135 grant and so had reverted to the Crown, but the claim of Massachusetts to any part of the province was suspect. Whatever rights the former governor and company had to its soil, they had none to its government. Moreover, the dissolution of the Massachusetts Bay Company had meant that all of its territorial rights had returned to the Crown. The future of Maine should be regulated to bring direct benefits to the King. He was similarly insistent on the integrity of New Hampshire which, he stated, had always been a distinct territory, in spite of illegal intrusions by Massachusetts.
Blathwayt had even criticised the Attorney-General’s delineation of Massachusetts’ own boundaries. It was ridiculous to give the colony a western limit on the Pacific coast, since this would include the “several Provinces of New York, Pensylvania, Maryland and Virginia [and a] great part of the Spanish Indies.” (556). Blathwayt also repeated his argument about the nature of the original grant, which he claimed was made to the twenty-six individuals named in the first charter, and not to the Governor and Company. This meant that these grants had passed to the patentees’ heirs, none of whom had claimed their lands for so many years that these could justly be considered to have reverted to the Crown. In consequence, the King could claim quit rents from their present occupiers.
Blathwayt’s criticism of the claims of Massachusetts to New Hampshire and Maine were strengthened by the renewed appeals of Samuel Allen in July 1691 (561) and the appearance of both Ferdinando Gorges, the grandson and namesake of the original grantee of Maine, and his relative, Richard, Lord Gorges, with claims to New England lands (562), contradicting those of Massachusetts.136 Although a hearing was appointed on 13 July and other evidence shows that it took place (561), no record of it now exists. But no firm action was taken on any territorial matter until 20 August, when the western boundary of Massachusetts was decided (572) to lie at New York, a culmination of Blathwayt’s criticism of the old charter. The western boundaries were finally defined without much more care in the new charter as “toward the South sea or Westward as far as Our Collonys of Rhode Island Connecticut and the Narragansett Countrey.” Not until 31 August was Richard Gorges heard by the Committee when the agents also attended. The Committee’s dismissal of his plea probably also persuaded Ferdinando Gorges to withdraw his claims. Samuel Allen, however, was more persistent, objecting that the Massachusetts agents had failed to attend meetings of the Committee appointed to hear his case. This was probably true, since Mather was out of London during most of August. However, Mather, Ashurst, and William Paterson,137 the prominent London financier, petitioned the Committee on 27 August (574). Their request dealt with none of the issues raised by Allen or the Gorges family, merely stating the Massachusetts claim to Maine and New Hampshire and, a new development, to Nova Scotia. Paterson’s involvement was presumbably related to Nova Scotia, which he seems to have been interested in as a promoter of Scottish colonisation. The actual claim to this territory was presumably inspired by Phips, anxious since his victory at Port-Royal to keep Nova Scotia as a stepping stone to Canada and as a field of exploitation for his merchant friends.
Phips continued to press the Committee with memoranda about the great value of northern New England and Nova Scotia as sources of naval stores, particularly timber (575). This was accepted in the decision of 3 September (576), which restricted tree felling in New England and Nova Scotia, a prelude to the formal incorporation into Massachusetts of the latter territory four days later (589). At that time the eastern boundary of Massachusetts with New Hampshire was also settled at the Merrimac river. This decision was more advantageous to Samuel Allen than his own suggestion (590), received on the same day, that the boundary should be fixed three miles north of the Merrimac. Allen also presented a lengthy draft for a clause that he wished to have included in the charter to protect his claims to New Hampshire (590). In the end, a recognition of his claim was inserted in the charter and his suggested boundary line to the north of the river was accepted.
The most unexpected territorial decision made by the Committee occurred on 3 September, when Plymouth was annexed to Massachusetts. Although the possibility that Plymouth might be incorporated with New York or with Massachusetts had been suggested as early as October 1690 (465), no previous notice of its affairs seems to have come before the Committee. Mather was a correspondent of Thomas Hinckley,138 governor of Plymouth, and Plymouth’s own agent, Ichabod Wiswall139 had arrived in England in April 1690. Mather knew that Plymouth wished to remain independent: he was also informed that should the worst happen, inclusion within Massachusetts rather than New York was preferred. He seems to have urged this latter course on the English government, and his critics, with what fairness it is hard to say, claimed that he worked less for Plymouth’s independence than for Massachusetts’ gain.140 In consequence of this incorporation of the Committee also adjusted the provisions for membership of the Massachusetts council to allow for the representation of Plymouth and Nova Scotia (589).
These events proceeded swiftly in September. The agents’ final submission on the substance of the charter was dated 15 September (595) and was considered on the following day (597). Two objections relating to territorial matters were accepted by the Committee. First, tree felling was permitted on occupied lands; second, the northern boundary of the territory within which Massachusetts had the right to grant land in northern New England without Crown permission was set at the Kennebec river rather than at Piscataqua harbour.
Only one vital matter now remained. On 18 September 1691 Mather and Ashurst put their signatures to a single sheet of paper containing twenty-nine names, those of the future Governor and Council of the new and enlarged Province of Massachusetts. Phips as governor and William Stoughton as deputy-governor headed the list. The names of Elisha Cooke and Thomas Oakes were absent from it, nor had they any hand in its preparation. Omitted also were five other members of the existing government, elected assistants by the freemen in the spring of 1691. Thomas Danforth, deputy-governor of the colony in 1686 and for several years before, had taken up his place again in 1689; he was a stalwart defender of the old orthodoxy. So was William Johnson,141 first elected an Assistant in 1684 as an opponent of the charter’s surrender. John Smith and Peter Tilton142 were probably also strict charter men. Isaac Addington’s143 exclusion probably had no political overtones since he was appointed the Province’s Secretary, although he was later to oppose Phips and royal government. The new men brought in by Mather included John Foster,144 Bartholomew Gedney, Adam Winthrop,145 and Peter Sergeant, known moderates, and John Richards,146 Mather’s political and personal friend, rejected by the electorate in 1690 and 1691. He also included Stephen Mason,147 a London merchant, who had helped the agents with loans, but who was never to go to New England. It is not clear when Mather had been first told that he might name the new government. But his choices were carefully considered. The Council members selected included a fair share of the colony’s old leaders, but these were men likely to accede in the result of Mather’s English negotiations; the support of the named political moderates was certain. As far as this was possible, Mather had secured his own power base for his homecoming. Phips, the governor, was in many ways a protegé of the Mathers, as well as a military man satisfactory to the Crown.
Phips’s military background recalls the debate in Massachusetts on the form of government best suited to the effective conduct of the war and the defence of New England against the French and Indians. Yet his appointment does not seem to have been discussed in connection with the need for an experienced commander in the colony. But it could hardly have been divorced from this consideration, which was implicit in many appointments to colonial governorships in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It seems unlikely that the Committee of Trade gave much direct attention to other military questions during the months when the charter was under active consideration. Indeed the very fact that the abolition of the Dominion of New England was accepted and that Massachusetts was reconstituted as a separate government is evidence of this. Possibly the inclusion of Maine and Plymouth within its limits was in part motivated by concern for creating a larger and therefore stronger province, but even this is doubtful.
The main proceedings on the charter indicate the limited nature of the Committee’s interest in colonial defence. This was primarily addressed to questions of political control of the militia and similar aspects of military government. In the Attorney-General’s charter, control of military affairs—the appointment of commanders and militia officers, the declaration of war, the assembling of armies, and the erection of fortifications—was granted not to the governor alone but to the “Governor . . . and any Six or more of the Assistants for the time being in any General Court and Assembly.” The implications of this clause were ambiguous. Was the consent of the general court necessary to the governor’s and assistants’ decisions? If not why provide for these to be made in the General Court?
Blathwayt certainly believed that in these, as in so many other matters, control of affairs had passed to the general assembly and that the governor’s prerogatives, as the King’s representative, were overturned.
Military powers reserved to the Crown in England and most other colonies were here given to the court. He also suggested, quite seriously, that the grant of these particular powers to the colony’s representatives was doubly dangerous in the case of Massachusetts, where royal power was felt to be “rather an Imposition and prejudice than a duty” and where the militia might be used to resist rather than to support royal authority!
The final draft of the charter accepted these objections and gave to the governor alone the military powers listed by the Attorney-General. Yet it also contained two other provisions, not explicitly stated in the Attorney-General’s charter nor mentioned by Blathwayt, one of which, at least, detracted from the governor’s authority in waging war. This was the clause that gave the general assembly the final right to decide whether the colony’s militia could be used outside of the boundaries of Massachusetts. A second clause restricted his imposition of martial law by making this dependent on the consent of the council. Both were probably suggested by Mather: they were accepted by the Committee on 9 July (561).
The charter’s establishment of Massachusetts as a separate colony and several of its individual clauses referring to military matters contributed nothing to the resolution of colonial military difficulties. These resulted mainly from political barriers to common action. At their simplest, these could mean that one colony might legitimately refuse financial or human aid for the defense of another at moments of pressing enemy activity. At their most complex, they restricted cooperation in large-scale campaigns for which co-ordination under a supra-colonial military overlord was necessary. There is no evidence that such problems received any prolonged attention from the Committee of Trade; the first indication of an awareness of them came only after the appointment of Sir William Phips as governor.
This is suggested by the proceedings on his Instructions and Commission, first mentioned on 28 September 1691 (599). By this time Phips had resubmitted his plans for a new invasion of Canada (000), first broached by him on 30 June (000); also on 1 October the agents petitioned for arms to refortify Pemaquid (000). Other requests were subsequently made for arms, ammunition and naval support (000). Phips’ Commission as “Captain-General and Governor in Chief” (a standard form of wording found in earlier and other contemporary governors’ commissions including those of Barbados, the Dominion of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania) “of our Province of the Massachusetts Bay” was approved by the Attorney-General on 25 November. It seems likely therefore that as part of his general military objectives it was Phips himself who suggested that he should also have control of the militia of the other New England colonies, a clause that was added to the first draft of his Commission and approved separately by the Attorney-General on 27th November. The territories included were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, the Narragansett Country and New Hampshire. Further evidence of Phips’ success in enlarging his own military powers, while attempting to provide for the general defence of New England is found in the instructions given to him for the fortification of Pemaquid. The decisions about the militia were later to cause controversy but they were about the only attempt made in England at this time to provide for inter-colonial co-operation in defence against the consequences of the dissolution of the Dominion of New England. Phips’ commission was sealed on 21 December 1691; his final instructions were approved on 31 December.
The last official acts connected with the English proceedings on the charter and new government of the colony were Mather’s. They were fitting enough. On 2 February he signed a receipt for the colony’s great seal and for the warrant authorising its use (603). As much as any one man, he was responsible for the contents of the second charter. Alone he had determined the choice of the province’s first governor and council. Whether he could continue to wield such influence would be his great preoccupation on his return to Massachusetts. On 29 March 1692 he, Phips, the charter, and the seal, left from Plymouth on the voyage to Boston.