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HISTORY 1578–1690] 665
elected the officers, chief among whom were a treasurer or governor, and a council or board of assistants. These, aswell as the subordinate officers, held for annual terms only. Four times a year, at the law terms, the general courts met for the transaction of business, elections being held at the spring meeting. Membership in such companies might be indefinitely increased through the issue and sale of shares. They were, in other words, open companies, whereas the New England Council was a closed body, its membership being limited to forty. The Massachusetts Company was an open corporation of the type just described.
9. In 1629 the prospects of Protestantism at large, and of Puritanism in England, were so dark that the founders of Massachusetts Company; Removal of Charter to Massachusettsthe Massachusetts Company, who were decidedly Puritan in spirit and inclined to nonconformity in practice, resolved to remove with their charter and the governing body of their company into New England. Preparatory to this, John Winthrop was elected governor and a settlement was made of their business relations in England. After the removal had been made, the assistants and general court met in New England and business was carried on there exclusively by planters. An order was soon passed that none should vote or hold office who were not members of some one of the churches within the colony. As all these churches were Independent or Congregationalist in form and doctrine, this order gave a wholly new definition to the term “freemen.” It made of this colony something approximating to a biblical commonwealth, and subordinated trade, land-holding and settlement to the interests of the Puritan faith. The board of assistants now assumed political and judicial functions. As local settlements about Massachusetts Bay were founded, the general court, which before had been a primary assembly simply the freemen of the company-came to consist partly of representatives elected by the freemen of the towns. In this way a second chamber-that of the deputies-was added to the assistants to form the general court of the colony. Taxes were levied by this body, and laws and orders proceeded from it which related to all functions of government. It elected or appointed the governor and other chief officials, and determined the times of its own meeting. The governor had no veto and the general court was the controlling organ in the system. ro. Of primary importance in the affairs of the colony was everything which concerned religious belief and church government. The churches and their relation to the civil power presented the great questions upon which hinged its policy. This was true not only in its internal affairs, but in its relations with other colonies and with the mother country. An ecclesiastical system was developed in which Independent and Presbyterian elements were combined. By a rigid system of tests this was upheld against Antinomians, Baptists, Quakers and dissenters of all sorts. The securing of revenue from land and trade was considered subordinate to the maintenance of the purity of the faith. It was this which gave a point and vigour to the spirit of self-government in the New England colonies which is not perceptible elsewhere.
As a consequence of the Puritan migration from England and of the expulsion of dissenters from Massachusetts, Plymouth,Connecticut; New Haven Colony; Rhode Island. Connecticut (q.v.), the New Haven Colony, and the towns about Narragansett Bay which became the colony of Rhode Island (q.v.), were settled. These all were corporate colonies, organized upon fundamentally the same plan as Massachusetts but differing from it in minor particulars. Their settlers at the outset had no charters, but by means of plantation or town covenants assumed powers of government, which ultimately were vested in general courts similar to that of Massachusetts. Rhode Island was formed by a union of towns, but elsewhere the colony was coeval with or antedated the town. Connecticut and Rhode Island, the former in 1662 and the latter in 1663, secured royal charters by which they were incorporated within New England itself and the governments which they had established there were legalized. New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut in 1664 under the charter of 1662 (see Connecticut, and Plymouth remained without a charter from the king until, toward the close of the 17th century, it became a part of the enlarged province of Massachusetts.
11. The most prominent feature of the New England land system was the “town grant,” which in every case became' the territorial basis of a group settlement. Throughout New England, and in the outlying districts which were colonized by New Englanders, settlement was effected by groups. The process began in Plymouth and was extended through the entire section. The Puritan migration from Europe was of the same general character. Groups of people, animated by a common religious or political ideal, broke away from their original or temporary abiding-places and pushed farther into the wilderness, where tracts of land were granted to them by the general court. The corporate colonies did not seek profit from their land, but granted it freely to actual settlers, and in such amounts as suited their needs. No distinct land office was established by any New England colony. Land was not sold by the colony; nor, as a general rule, was it leased or granted to individuals. Rent formed no appreciable part of the colony revenue.
12. Over the founding of towns the general courts, as a rule, exercised a watchful supervision. Not only did the courts fix and maintain their bounds, but they issued regulations for the granting of lands, for common fields, fences, herds, the punishment of trespass, the admission of inhabitants and freeholders, the requirement that records of land titles should be kept, and the like. But subject to these general regulations, the allotment and management of its land was left to each town. The colonies had no land system apart from the town. It was partly in order to manage their lands that the towns were made centres of local government and town meetings or boards of town proprietors were established. By means-of town action, taken in town meetings and by local officials, the land of each settlement was laid off as house lots, common and common fields, meadow and pasture. Detailed regulations were made for the management of common fields and for their ultimate division and allotment among their proprietors. The same was true of fences and herds. The result was an organization similar to the English manor, but with the lord of the manor left out; for in the case of the New England town administrative authority resided in the body of the freeholders. To this peculiarity in the form of New England settlement is due the prominence of the town, as compared with the county, in its system of local government. The town was the unit for purposes of taxation and militia service as well as of elections. It was also an important ecclesiastical centre, the parish usually corresponding with it in extent.
13. As a result of the process thus sketched, southern New England was settled by a population of English origin, with similar instincts and a form of political organization which was common to them all, Gorges, meantime, had secured (1639) a royal charter for his province of Maine, but Mason had died before he obtained such a guaranty for his settlements on the Piscataqua river. The small communities along that entire coast remained weak and divided. In 1635 the New England Council surrendered its charter. The helplessness of the Gorges family was insured by its adherence to the royalist cause in the English Civil War. Massachusetts availed itself of a forced interpretation of the language of its charter respecting its northern boundary to extend its control over all the settlements as far north-east as the Kennebec river. This was accomplished soon after 1650, and for the time Anglican and royalist interests throughout New England seemed hopelessly wrecked. New England had thus developed into a clearly defined section under Puritan domination. This fact was also clearly indicated by the organization, in 1643, of the New England Confederacy, or the United Colonies of New England (see New England), which comprised the orthodox Puritan colonies, whose leading magistrates, as annually elected commissioners, for twenty years exercised an advisory control over New England.