The Founding of New England/Preface
The following account of the founding of New England is intended to serve as an introduction to the later history of that section, and to the study of its relations with other portions of the Empire and with the mother-country, as well as of the section’s influence upon the nation formed from such of the colonies as subsequently revolted. The book thus necessarily deals mainly with origins, discussing the discovery and first settlement of the region; the genesis of the religious and political ideas which there took root and flourished; the geographic and other factors which shaped its economic development; the beginnings of that English overseas empire, of which it formed a part; and the early formulation of thought-on both sides of the Atlantic-regarding imperial problems.
There is no lack of detailed narratives, both of the entire period covered by the present volume and, on an even larger scale, of certain of its more important or dramatic episodes. New material brought to light within the past decade or two, however, has necessitated a revaluation of many former judgments, as well as changes in selection and emphasis. Moreover, our general accounts do not, for the most part, adequately treat of those economic and imperial relations which are of fundamental importance; for the one outstanding fact concerning any American colony in the colonial period is that it was a dependency, and formed merely a part of a larger and more comprehensive imperial and economic organization.
Consequently, the evolution of such a colony can be viewed correctly only when it is seen against the background of the economic and imperial conditions and theories of the time.
While the author, accordingly, has endeavored to place the local story in its proper imperial setting, he has endeavored also to distinguish between its various elements, and to display the conflicting forces at work in the colonies themselves. The old conception of New England history, according to which that section was considered to have been settled by persecuted religious refugees, devoted to liberty of conscience, who, in the disputes with the mother-country, formed a united mass of liberty-loving patriots unanimously opposed to an unmitigated tyranny, has, happily, for many years, been passing. In his own narrative of the facts, based upon a fresh study of the sources, the author has tried to indicate that economic as well as religious factors played a very considerable part in the great migration during the early settlement period, in the course of which over sixty-five thousand Englishmen left their homes for various parts of the New World, of which number approximately only four thousand were to join the New England churches. He has also endeavored to exhibit the workings of the theocracy, and to show how, in the period treated, the domestic struggle against the tyranny exercised by the more bigoted members of the theocratic party was of greater importance in the history of liberty than the more dramatic contest with the mother-country.
While the local narrative is based wholly upon original records, much use has been made also of the rapidly increasing number of scholarly monographs upon particular topics, the indebtedness to which will be found more particularly set forth in the footnotes. It is true that many points—such as land-tenure, in spite of all that has been written upon it—yet remain to be cleared up before we can be quite sure that we understand a number of matters connected with colonial institutions. Nevertheless, so much work of this character has already been done, which has only in part found its way into popular accounts, that it seems as if the time had come for a serious attempt to recast the story of early New England, and to combine these results of recent research with the more modern spirit, in a new presentation of the period.
To those who first encouraged him to undertake the work,—interrupted by the war,—and who, in one way and another, have assisted him in his enterprise, the author takes this opportunity to offer his most sincere and grateful thanks.
Bridgehampton, New York,
November 9, 1920.