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THE confederation of the four Colonies makes an epoch in the history of New England. When that league was formed, twenty-three years had passed since the plantation at Plymouth was begun, and thirteen years since a royal charter, transferred to the soil of Massachusetts, had there become the basis of a government. The institutions and the social condition of the Colonies had taken a definite shape. It will be instructive here to pause, and observe what the founders had done towards realizing the purposes of their emigration, and what was that primitive system of society which was to influence the character and fortunes of the later generations of the people.
The men who established the charter government in Massachusetts entertained the hope of building up a free community of Englishmen, numerous and strong enough for the maintenance of those rights, the denial of which had driven them from their homes. It was material to their object, not only to invite numbers of sympathizing associates, but also to make their power effective by political consolidation. The first years had brought some disappointments in this respect. Connecticut and New Haven attracted from Massachusetts some of her most honored men. To the new-comers who presently proceeded to establish the youngest Colony, Massachusetts stood in no relations which authorized her to do more than endeavor to prevail upon them to cast their lot with her." With the emigrants to Connecticut River — associates whom it was grievous to her to lose — she felt justified in being more importunate. In having assumed her citizenship they seemed even to have conferred on her an indefeasible title to their allegiance. In the state of mind which the circumstances of the time had brought about, she was inclined to maintain that a virtual engagement had been entered into by her freemen to stand together for the common cause, so that none of them could, at pleasure, by withdrawing himself, withdraw a portion of the power which was the safeguard of all. Her churches also sought to be cheered and guided by that mutual illumination which would be dimmed by distance ; and “the removal of a candlestick” was regarded as “a great judgment.””
But the desire for another residence was too earnest to be overcome, and Connecticut and New Haven took their independent positions. Upon her precursors at Plymouth, Massachusetts had no claim for a political union; and the cordial good understanding which, from the first, existed between the two oldest Colonies, was found to yield all, or most, of the benefits which would have resulted from an arrangement of that nature. The isolation of the settlements at Providence and on Rhode Island was not without its advantages to the other Colonies. In the road to Narragansett Bay a permanent safety-valve was opened for the escape of uneasy spirits, whose presence would have troubled their order and thwarted their aims.
* See Vol. I. 529. * Ibid., 447.
For a time, in the new flush of freedom, there appeared a growing propensity to scatter the strength which needed concentration in order to its greatest ef. fectiveness. Not only were separate settlements formed to the north and east of Massachusetts by persons not in sympathy with the sentiments of her people, but independent communities of Puritans were founded in the neighborhood of New Haven and of the associated towns on the Connecticut." The latter part, however, of the period which has been surveyed, had witnessed a reversal of this tendency. The young communities were becoming consolidated. What there was of New Hampshire was merged in Massachusetts.” Though the little settlements further east — chiefly of West-of-England fishermen — were mostly inclined at the same time to a wild state of society and to the cause of Church and King, one of them had yielded itself to the government of the leading Puritan colony, and others had solicited her patronage.” And the “Jurisdiction” of New Haven had been formed by a junction of distinct plantations, which, through a sufficient experiment of isolation, had become satisfied that the objects of all — essentially the same, as they were — could be best attained by joint counsels and united strength.* Finally, the four principal Colonies, each previously compacted in its own way, had combined together, for mutual protection, in a league which, in important respects, constituted them a single body politic.
The Confederacy entered upon its career with favorable prospects. It embraced a population which had probably grown to about twenty-four thousand ro, souls;” of which number fifteen thousand may and probe assigned to Massachusetts, three thousand perity.
* Ibid., 534, 604. * Ibid., 602. * Ibid., 593. * That is, the 21,200 reckoned by * Ibid., 593, 595. Johnson as the total immigration (see