Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE FOUNDING OF MASSACHUSETTS
 FOR ten years after the coming of the Pilgrim Fathers charters were
constantly granted to "adventurers" of one kind or another for the
founding of colonies in New England. And, driven by the tyranny of
King James and of his son Charles I, small companies of Puritans
began to follow the example of the Pilgrim Fathers and go out to
New England, there to seek freedom to worship God. For King James,
although brought up as a Presbyterian himself, was bitter against
the Puritans. "I shall make them conform themselves," he had said,
"or I will harry them out of the land."
And as he could not make them conform he "harried" them so that
many were glad to leave the land to escape tyranny. King James has
been called the British Solomon, but he did some amazingly foolish
things. This narrow-minded persecution of the Puritans was one.
Yet by it he helped to form a great nation. So perhaps he was not
so foolish after all.
As has been said many companies were formed, many land charters
granted for Northern Virginia, or New England, as it was now called.
At length a company of Puritans under the name of the Massachusetts
Bay Company got a charter from Charles I, granting them a large
tract of land from three miles south of the Charles River to three
miles north of the Merrimac , and as far west as the Pacific. Of
course no one in those days realised what a huge tract that would
be. For no man yet guessed how great a
con-  tinent America was,
or by what thousands of miles the Pacific was separated from the
Atlantic. This charter was not unlike that given to Virginia. But
there was one important difference. Nowhere in the charter did it
say that the seat of government must be in England.
So when Charles dismissed his Parliament, vowing that if the members
would not do as he wished he would rule without them, a great many
Puritans decided to leave the country. They decided also to take
their charter with them and remove the Company of Massachusetts
Bay, bag and baggage, to New England.
Charles did nothing to stop them. Perhaps at the time he was pleased
to see so many powerful Puritans leave the country, for without
them he was all the freer to go his own way. So in the spring of
1630 more than a thousand set sail, taking with them their cattle
and household goods.
Many of these were cultured gentlemen who were thus giving up money,
ease and position in order to gain freedom of religion. They were
not poor labourers or artisans, not even for the most part traders
and merchants. They chose as Governor for the first year a Suffolk
gentleman named John Winthrop. A new Governor was chosen every year,
but John Winthrop held the post many times, twice being elected
three years in succession. Although we may think that he was narrow
in some things, he was a man of calm judgment and even temper, and
was in many ways a good Governor. From the day he set forth from
England to the end of his life he kept a diary, and it is from
this diary that we learn nearly all we know of the early days of
It was in June of 1630 that Winthrop and his company landed at
Salem, and although there were already little settlements at Salem
and elsewhere this may be taken as the real founding of Massachusetts.
Almost at once Winthrop decided that Salem would not be a good
 the colony, and he moved southward to the Charles River,
where he finally settled on a little hilly peninsula. There a
township was founded and given the name of Boston, after the town
of Boston in Lincolnshire, from which many of the settlers had
Although these settlers had more money and more knowledge of
trading, the colony did not altogether escape the miseries which
every other colony had so far suffered. And, less stout-hearted
than the founders of Plymouth, some fled back again to England.
But they were only a few, and for the most part the new settlers
remained and prospered.
These newcomers were not Separatists like the Pilgrim Fathers but
Puritans. When they left England they had no intention of separating
themselves from the Church of England. They had only desired a
simpler service. But when they landed in America they did in fact
separate from the Church of England. England was so far away; the
great ocean was between them and all the laws of Church and King.
It seemed easy to cast them off, and they did.
So bishops were done away with, great parts of the Common Prayer
Book were rejected, and the service as a whole made much more
simple. And as they wished to keep their colony free of people who
did not think as they did the founders of Massachusetts made a law
that only Church members might have a vote.
With the Plymouth Pilgrims, however, Separatists though they were,
these Puritans were on friendly terms. The Governors of the two
colonies visited each other to discuss matters of religion and
trade, and each treated the other with great respect and ceremony.
We read how when Governor Winthrop went to visit Governor Bradford
the chief people of Plymouth came forth to meet him without the town,
and led him to the Governor's house. There he and his companions
en-  tertained in goodly fashion, feasting every day and holding
pious disputations. Then when he departed again, the Governor of
Plymouth with the pastor and elders accompanied him half a mile
out of the town in the dark.
But although the Puritans of Massachusetts were friendly enough
with dissenters beyond their borders they soon showed that within
their borders there was to be no other Church than that which they
had set up.
Two brothers for instance who wanted to have the Prayer Book used
in full were calmly told that New England was no place for them,
and they were shipped home again. Later a minister named Roger
Williams was banished from Massachusetts, for he preached that
there ought to be no connection between Church and State; that a
man was responsible to God alone for his opinions; and that no man
had a right to take from or give to another a vote because of the
Church to which he belonged.
It seemed to him a deadly sin to have had anything whatever to do
with the Church of England, a sin for which every one ought to do
public penance. He also said that the land of America belonged to
the natives, and not to the King of England. Therefore the King of
England could not possibly give it to the settlers, and they ought
to bargain for it with the natives. Otherwise they could have no
right to it.
This idea seemed perfectly preposterous to those old settlers, for,
said they, "he chargeth King James to have told a solemn, public
lie, because in his patent he blessed God that he was the first
Christian prince that had discovered this land." They might think
little enough of their King in their hearts, but it was not for a
mere nobody to start such a ridiculous theory as this.
We, looking back, can see that Williams was a good and pious man,
a man before his time, right in many of his ideas, though not very
wise perhaps in his way of pressing them
 upon others who did not understand them. But to his fellow colonists
he seemed nothing but a firebrand and a dangerous heretic. So they
bade him be gone out of their borders. He went southward to what
is now Rhode Island, made friends with the Indians there, bought
from them some land, and founded the town of Providence.