The United Colonies of New England, 1643-90

By Harry M. Ward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Genesis of Union

The Union of 1643 was a number of years in the making. Along the winding perimeter of choppy coasts and inward valley plains, English settlements sprang up almost overnight. The lure of the cod, beaver, and fertile lands proved irresistible to distressed Puritans in England, and for those already in New England there was plenty of room for expansion. On the north, the fingers of settlement reached beyond the Piscataqua, and, southward, English eyes turned to Long Island Sound and on hopes of cutting into the Dutch fur trade. The opening of the Connecticut Valley, with its rich lands and strategic position for the Indian trade, allured settlers from the older colonies. Harkening to the call of the horn of plenty, God's chosen people sought to possess all of New Canaan. But a wilderness could not be won in a day--there must be hardship, dedication, and on occasion, joint effort.

The people of New England were a homogeneous lot. Alike not only in language, national stock, customs, and institutions, they also possessed sensitively a common religious mission. Through banding together they might consolidate the position they had already hewn for their faith and better spread the Gospel. As the colonists came face to face with the emboldened red man and began knocking on the doors of the outlying Dutch and French settlements, they learned that their purposes could best be served through united action. The need for union was also felt through the want of a permanent board to arbitrate intercolonial disputes, to regulate trade, and in the case of war to determine and guide intercolonial participation. In these days before the formulating of English colonial policy, the colonists became increasingly aware of the need for some form of union in order to survive in the wilderness and to facilitate cooperation among themselves. The road to a confederation of the four Puritan colonies--Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven--began soon after the founding of the Bay

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