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The other New England colonies were founded and built up by the same class of people that had settled Massachusetts, and they were actuated by much the same motives and ambitions. The history of the one as given is therefore in substance the history of the others. A brief notice, however, of the interior settlements is here in place.

The people of Massachusetts were not long in casting their eyes westward from their own barren coast to the fertile valley of the Connecticut River, which Adrian Block, the Dutchman, had discovered some years before; and the result was that a new colony was soon flourishing on its banks. The father of Connecticut was Thomas Hooker, who had been driven from his native land by the persecuting Laud. He had arrived at Boston, in 1632, in the same ship which bore the other noted divine, Joseph Cotton. Cotton became the Puritan pastor at Boston, and Hooker at the adjoining village of Newtown, now Cambridge. Hooker was not only a preacher of great power; he possessed the elements of statemanship of the most modern type. Governor Winthrop, with all his admirable qualities, was an aristocrat to the core. He believed in the government of the many by the few, and it was he that influenced the Bay colony to create freemen out of the citizens but slowly, and to limit the suffrage to members of the Church. To this Hooker could not agree. A sharp controversy ensured between him and the governor of Massachusetts. To Winthrop he wrote that, "In matters which concern the common good, a general council chosen by all, to transact business which concern all, I conceive most suitable to rule and most safe for relief of the whole."

This was modern democracy at its best, nor was the sentiment ever surpassed by the writer of the Declaration of Independence. It was this disagreement with the powers of Massachusetts that led Hooker to dreams of pressing farther into the wilderness and founding another colony. Another cause for this desire, as some think, was that he was disturbed by the fact that his rival, John Cotton, had surpassed him in winning public attention. Cotton, the pastor at Boston, was the leading clergyman, the religious oracle of the colony; while Hooker, conscious of equal power and eloquence, believed that the insignificance of the town in which he was loacted, away from the harbor, in the midst of an unfertile region, had much to do with curbing his influence. But Hooker was a man of spotless character, and his ambition to extend his influence was an ambition to do good.

In the balmy days of June, 1636, the famous year of the founding of Providence and of Harvard College, Hooker and his entire congregation migrated on foot to the Connecticut Valley, driving their cattle before them. Here they found a post of Plymouth men and Dutch traders from the Hudson striving for thematery; but Hooker ignored both, began the town of Hartford, and thus laid the foundations of a new commonwealth. Other congregations, from Dorchester and Watertown, soon followed and found the towns of Windosr and Wethersfield. Within a year eight hundred people had found their way into the valley.

The government was a provisional one under a commission from Massachusetts, for a year, when the three towns, with the scattered settlers around, banded together and formed a little independent republic; and here, in a rude legislative hall, with no flare of trumpets, occurred one of the great events of early American annals -- the production of the first written constitution in history that really created a government.1 This constitution, known as the Fundamental Orders, brought forth little that was new; it modeled a government after that of Massachuetts, the chief departures being that a governor could not serve two successive terms and especially that no religious test be required for citizenship. it created a General Court with legislative, judicial, and administrative powers, while local town government had already been transplanted from the mother colony. It provided for a representative government; but sixy years passed before Connecticut had a bicameral legislature. No mention whatever was made by the Fundamental Orders of the British government or any allegiance to the king. Here on the banks of the Connecticut was one of the birthplaces of modern democracy, with the needful elements of a nationality; here was a federal government, a prototype in miniature of the present government of the United States, which is to-day, as Mr. Fiske says, "in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies."

This constitution, with some alterations, was in force for one hundred and eighty years. John Haynes became the first governor of Connecticut. Springfield, founded about the same time, remained a part of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile John Winthrop, son of the Massachusetts governor, built a fort at themouthof the Connecticut River, which was named Saybrook, after Lord Say and Lord Brook, under who authority he acted. Of more importance was the founding of the New Haven colony in 1638. Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, a wealthy merchant from London, led a company of emigrants, mostly from Massachusetts, and pitched their tents on the northern shore of Long Island Sound. Here under a great oak Davenport expounded the Scriptures, saying that the people, like the Son of Man, were led forth into the wilderness to be tempted; and here they set up their governement with the Mosaic law as their code adapted to the conditions, and with the closest union of Church and State. Eaton was made governor and was reelected annually for many years. Other towns, Milford, Guilford, and Stamford, soon came into existence, and these united with New Haven, all taking the name of the New Haven Colony. Thus the river valley and the northern shore of the sound gradually became people with Puritan settlers. These two newborn colonies came near being strangled in their infancy. Their dangers were twofold -- from the Dutch and from the Indians. The Dutch of New Amersterdam claimed the Connecticut Valley, and for many years there was desultory strife between them and the English settlers, when at length the latter succeeded in driving out the former.

But the greatest menace came from the Indians, and scarcely had these infant settlements been made when the people had to pass through an Indian war, the first in New England's history, and known as the Pequot War. The Pequot Indians had murdered a Virginia trader on the Connecticut River, and John Edicott marched against them withh a body of soldiers. The Indians refused to give up the guilty ones, and Endicott burned tow of their towns and destroyed their crops. The next spring the storm broke forth in earnest. The Pequots, who had been murdering settlers during the winter, made every effort to enlist the powerful Narragansetts; but the aliance was prevented by Roger Williams. A company of about eighty white men, accompanied by about three hundred Indian allies of the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes, surprised the enemy in their fort at daybreak one morning inMay, and slew more than six hundred, but seven making their escape. A few months later another battle was fought, and the Pequot power was utterly broke. The chief, Sassacus, escaped to New York with a few followers, and was afterward murdered by one of his own subjects. Thus the whole tribe was practically exterminated, and for forty years afterward New England was free from Indian wars.

The people of Connecticut occupied their land for many years without any title to it except what they had from the Indians. But in 1662 the younger Winthrop secured a royal charter for Connecticut from Charles II, the most liberal that had yet been givern. The only retriction was that thelaws should not conflict with the laws of England. This charter, creating a corporation on the place, was similar to that of Massachusetts, to which the king objected. One object in granting it, as in the case of Rhose Island, was to encourage rivalries to Massachusetts. The charter included the New Haven Colony; but that colonysternly resisted, and at length consented to become a part of Connecticut only when there was danger of its being absorbed by Ne York. But many of the New Haven people emigrated to northern New Jersey rather than come under the rule of Connecticut. John Winthrop now became the leading man in the colony, as his father had been in Massachusetts, and he held the office of governor for many years. After the serious trouble with King James II and with Andros, Connecticut, still retaining its liberal charter, was free from royal interference, and for a long period this "Land of Steady Habits" was the most peaceful and happy of all the English colonies in America.


Footnotes

1Neither the Mayflower compact, nor the agreements of the Narragansett communities had created a form of government. Osgood, in Political Science Quarterly, XIV, p. 261. [return]

Source: "History of the United States of America," by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Chapter IV, pp. 111-115. Transcribed by Kathy Leigh.




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