Chronicles of America 

New Haven

The circumstances attending the settlement of New Haven were wholly unlike those of New Hampshire. John Davenport, a London clergyman of an extreme Puritan type, Theophilus Eaton, a London merchant in the Baltic trade and a member of the Eastland Company, Samuel Eaton and John Lathrop, two non-conforming ministers, were the leaders of the movement. Lathrop never went to New Haven, and Samuel Eaton early returned to England. The leaders and many of their followers were men of considerable property for that day, and their interest in trade gave to the colony a marked commercial character. The company was composed of men and women from London and its vicinity, and of others who joined them from Kent, Hereford, and Yorkshire. As both Davenport and Theophilus Eaton were members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, they were familiar with its work; and on coming to America in June, 1637, they stopped at Boston and remained there during the winter. Pressure was brought upon them to make Massachusetts their home, but without success, for though Davenport had much in common with the Massachusetts people, he was not content to remain where he would be merely one among many. Desiring a free place for worship and trade, he sent Eaton voyaging to find one; and the latter, who had heard of Quinnipiac on the Connecticut shore, viewed this spot and reported favorably. In March, 1638, the company set sail from Boston and laid the foundations of the town of New Haven.

This company had neither charter nor land grant, and, as far as we know, it had made no attempt to obtain either. "The first planters," says Kingsley, "recognized in their acts no human authority foreign to themselves." Unlike the Pilgrims in their Mayflower compact, they made no reference in their plantation covenant to the dread sovereign, King James, and in none of their acts and statements did they express a longing for their native country or regard for its authority. Their settlement bears some resemblance to that of the Rhode Island towns, but it was better organized and more orderly from the beginning. The settlers may have drawn up their covenant before leaving Boston and may have reached Quinnipiac as a community already united in a common civil and religious bond. Their lands, which they purchased from the Indians, they laid out in their own way. The next year on June 4, 1639, they held a meeting in Robert Newman's barn and there, declaring that the Word of God should be their guide in families and commonwealth and that only church members should be sharers in government, they chose twelve men as the foundations of their church state. Two months later these twelve selected "seven pillars" who proceeded to organize a church by associating others with themselves. Under the leadership of the seven the government continued until October, when they resigned and a gathering of the church members elected Theophilus Eaton as their magistrate and four others to act as assistants, with a secretary and a treasurer. Thus was begun a form of government which when perfected was very similar to that of the other New England colonies.

While New Haven as a town-colony was taking on form, other plantations were arising near by. Milford was settled partly from New Haven and partly from Wethersfield, where an overplus of clergy was leading to disputes and many withdrawals to other parts. Guilford was settled directly from England. Southold on Long Island was settled also from England, by way of New Haven. Stamford had its origin in a Wethersfield quarrel, when the Reverend Richard Denton, "blind of one eye but not the least among the seers of Israel," departed with his flock. Branford also was born of a Wethersfield controversy and later received accessions from Long Island. In 1643, Milford, Guilford, and Stamford combined under the common jurisdiction of New Haven, to which Southold and Branford acceded later with a form of government copied after that of Massachusetts, though the colony was distinctly federal in character, consisting of "the government of New Haven with the plantations in combination therewith." Though there was no special reservation of town rights in the fundamental articles which defined the government, yet the towns, five in number, considered themselves free to withdraw at any time if they so desired.

We have thus reviewed the conditions under which some forty towns, grouped under five jurisdictions, were founded in New England. They were destined to treble their number in the next generation and to suffer such regrouping as to reduce the jurisdictions to four before the end of the century — New Hampshire separating from Massachusetts, New Haven being absorbed by Connecticut, and Plymouth submitting to the authority of Massachusetts under the charter of 1691. In this readjustment we have the origin of four of the six New England States of the present day.

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