Summary of the Dominion of New England
In 1686, King James II of England, the Privy Council, and the Lords of Trade decided to merge the colonies in New England together under a single government. Under the new arrangement, the colonies were known as the “Dominion of New England.” The purpose of the Dominion was to streamline English oversight of the colonies and give England more control over trade, land titles, and coordination of colonial defenses. The first territories that were part of the Dominion were Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Province of New Hampshire, and part of Rhode Island. The Dominion was placed under the control of the Council of New England. The first President — or Governor — was Joseph Dudley, a native of Massachusetts. In June 1686, Dudley was replaced with Sir Edmund Andros, and on September 9, 1686, the Board of Trade added the rest of Rhode Island and Connecticut to the Dominion. Andros proved to be unpopular, especially with the Puritans in Massachusetts. He arrived in Boston on December 20, 1687, and from then on he created controversy over local government, taxes, land titles, and religion. He had been ordered by the King to force the Puritans to allow the Church of England to operate freely, which he did. New York and New Jersey were added to the Dominion in 1688. A year later, the Glorious Revolution took place in England. King James II was forced to flee England, he was replaced on the throne by King William III and Queen Mary II, and the English Bill of Rights and the Act of Toleration were passed. When the news reached Boston, the people arrested Andros and threw him in prison, effectively ending the Dominion of New England. Although the Dominion ended, religious freedom followers of the Church of England remained in New England. In 1691, a new charter was issued for Massachusetts, which transformed it into a Royal Colony. Afterward, the colonies returned to their individual charters and governments, and turmoil in Europe forced England to focus its attention there.
Sir Edmund Andros was the controversial Governor of the Dominion of New England. Image Source: Wikipedia.
5 Things to Know about the Dominion of New England
- The establishment of the Dominion of New England ended the New England Confederation. The Confederation was an agreement between Plymouth Colony, Connecticut, New Haven Colony, and Massachusetts. The purpose of the Confederation was to organize colonial defenses against threats from the French, Dutch, and Native American Indian tribes. The Confederation was created after the Pequot War and went into effect on May 19, 1643, when the Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England were signed.
- The Dominion was created to force the colonies to comply with English law. During the reign of King Charles II — who was Catholic — English colonists in America violated English law in various ways. For example, they refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King, they did not provide religious tolerance for the Church of England, and they did not follow the Navigation Acts. The King tried to force Massachusetts to comply, but the colony refused, so he revoked the colony’s charter in 1684. After King Charles II died, King James II ascended the throne in 1685 and continued to work to try to force colonists in New England to follow English law.
- The Dominion enabled enforcement of the Navigation Acts, which allowed England to control trade throughout its growing empire. The entire system was based on the concept of Mercantilism, which included the idea that the colonies only existed for the benefit of the Mother Country. The Navigation Acts were intended to force colonists to sell natural resources and commodities to English merchants. The merchants would then manufacture finished products and sell them to the colonists. However, the colonists had created trade relationships with merchants from other nations, including France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Enforcement of the Navigation Acts hurt colonial trade with those nations.
- Andros offended the Puritans in Boston by holding services Christmas services for the Church of England soon after he arrived, and then Ash Wednesday services. He also upset non-Puritans by abolishing local legislatures, levying taxes, and enforcing the Navigation Acts.
- Connecticut hid its charter — the actual document — in a tree to keep it safe. The people of Connecticut refused to comply with many of the laws Edmund Andros implemented. He responded by going there, along with armed guards, to seize the charter and take possession of it himself. Legend has it that the people of Connecticut hid the charter in an oak tree, so Andros could not find it. That oak tree was known as the “Charter Oak.” It stood until 1856 when a windstorm blew it down.
Significance of the Dominion of New England
The Dominion of New England is important to United States history because it started a period of more direct control over the colonies by England. It also created religious freedom for Anglicans — followers of the Church of England — and others who were not Puritans, in New England. The new freedom of thought helped bring an end to the Salem Witch Trials, which started in 1692 and gave rise to the ideology of the American Revolution.