Chronicles of America 

The Success of Connecticut

The policy thus adopted toward Massachusetts became even more conciliatory when applied to the other colonies. It is not improbable that the King's advisers saw in the strengthening of Connecticut and Rhode Island an opportunity to check the power of Massachusetts and to reduce her importance in New England. However that may be, they lent themselves to the efforts that Winthrop and Clarke were making to obtain charters for their respective colonies. These agents were able, discreet, and broadminded men. Clarke, a resident in England for a number of years, had acquired no little personal influence; and Winthrop, as an old-time friend of the English lords and gentlemen whose governor he had been at Saybrook, could count on the help of the one surviving member of that group, Lord Saye and Sele, who was a privy councilor, a member of the House of Lords and of the plantations council, and, as we are told, Lord Privy Seal, a position that would be of direct service in expediting the issue of a charter. Winthrop had personal qualities, also, that made for success. He was a university man, had made the grand tour of the Continent, and was familiar with official traditions and the ways of the court. Soon after his arrival in England, he became a member of the Royal Society and served on several of its committees, and thus had an opportunity of making friends and of showing his interest in other things than theology. If Cotton Mather was rightly informed, Winthrop was accorded a personal interview with Charles II and presented the King with a ring which Charles I, as Prince of Wales, had given his grandfather, Adam Winthrop.

Winthrop made good use of a good cause. Connecticut had behaved herself well and had incurred no wrath. She had had no dealings with the Cromwellian Government, had dutifully proclaimed the King, had been discreet in her attitude toward Whalley and Goffe, the regicides who had fled to New England, and had aroused no resentment against herself among her neighbors. With proceedings once begun, the securing of the charter went rapidly forward. Winthrop at first petitioned for a confirmation of the old Warwick patent, which had been purchased of the English lords and gentlemen in 1644, but later, encouraged it may be by friends in England, he asked for a charter. The request was granted.' The document gave to Connecticut the same boundaries as those of the old patent, and conferred powers of government identical with those of the Fundamental Orders of 1639. That the main features of the charter were drawn up in the colony before Winthrop sailed is probable, though it is not impossible that they were drafted in London by Winthrop himself. All that the English officials did was to give the text its proper legal form.

After the receipt of the charter and its proclamation in the colony and after a slight readjustment of the government to meet the few changes required, the general court of Connecticut proceeded to enforce the full territorial rights of the colony. The men of Connecticut had made up their minds, now that the charter had come, to execute its terms to the uttermost and to extend the authority of the colony to the farthest bounds, The King's warrant was issued on February 28, the writ of Privy Seal on April 23, and the great seal was affixed on May 10, 1662, so that, next to the government of the Bay, Connecticut might be the greatest in New England. The court took under its protection the towns of Stamford and Greenwich, and on the ground that the whole territory westward was within its jurisdiction warned the Dutch governor not to meddle. It accepted the petition of Southold on Long Island and of certain residents of Guilford, both of the New Haven federation, for annexation, and, sending a force to Long Island to demand the surrender of the western towns there, it seized Captain John Scott, who was planning to establish a separate government over them, and brought him to Hartford for trial. It informed the towns of Mystic and Pawcatuck, lying in the disputed land between Connecticut and Rhode Island, that they were in the Connecticut colony and must henceforth conduct their affairs according to its laws. The relations with Rhode Island were to be a matter of later adjustment, and no immediate trouble followed; but Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor, protested angrily against Connecticut's claim to Dutch territory and brought the matter to the attention of the commissioners of the United Colonies. On one pretext or another, the latter delayed action; and the matter was not settled until England's seizure of New Amsterdam in 1664 brought the Dutch rule to an end and made operative the royal grant of the territory to the Duke of York, thus stopping Connecticut in her somewhat headlong career westward and taking from her the whole of Long Island and all the land west of the Connecticut River. If maintained, this grant would have reduced the colony by half and would have materially retarded its progress; but Connecticut eventually saved the western portion of her territory as far as the line of 1650. However, her people could do no more crowding on into the region beyond, for the province of New York now lay directly across the path of her westward expansion.

But with New Haven her success was complete. That unfortunate colony, which had made an effort to obtain a patent in 1645, when the "great ship," bearing the agent Gregson, had foundered with all on board, had no friends at court, and had been too poor after 1660 to join the other colonies in sending an agent to London. Consequently its right to exist as an independent government was not considered in the negotiations which Winthrop had carried on. Serious complaints had been raised against it; its rigorous theocratic policy had created divisions among its own people, many of whom had begun to protest; it had been friendly with the Cromwellian régime and had proclaimed Charles II unwillingly and after long delay; it had protected the regicides until the messengers sent out for their capture could report the colony as "obstinate and pertinacious in contempt of His Majestie." Governor Leete, of the younger generation, was not in sympathy with Davenport's persistent refusal of all overtures from Hartford, and would probably have favored union under the charter of 1662 if Connecticut had been less aggressive in her attitude. As it was, the controversy became pungent and was prolonged for more than two years, though the outcome was never uncertain. The New Haven colony was poor, unprotected, and divided against itself. Its population was decreasing; Indian massacres threatened its frontiers; the malcontents of Guilford, led by Bray Rossiter, were demanding immediate and unconditional surrender to Connecticut; and finally in 1664 the successful capture of New Netherland and the grant to the Duke of York threatened the colony with annexation from that quarter. Rather than be joined to New York, New Haven surrendered.

One by one the towns broke away until in December of that year only Branford, Guilford, and New Haven remained. On December 13, 1664, the freemen of these towns, with a few others, voted to submit, "as from a necessity . . . but with a salvo jure of our former right & claime, as a people who have not yet been heard in point of plea."

The New Haven federation was dissolved; Davenport withdrew to Boston, where he became a participant in the religious life of that colony; and the strict Puritans of Branford, Guilford, and Milford, led by Abraham Pierson, went to New Jersey and founded Newark. The towns, left loose and at large, joined Connecticut voluntarily and separately, and the New Haven colony ceased to exist. But the dual capital of Connecticut and the alternate meetings of its legislature in Hartford and New Haven, marked for more than two hundred years the two-fold origin of the colony and the state.

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