The Foundations of American Nationality

By Evarts Boutell Greene | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
PROVINCIAL NEW ENGLAND

WITHIN the framework of the British Empire, each colony or group of colonies had its own peculiar problems, its special customs and points of view. In the provincial America of the eighteenth century, New England had a peculiarly clean-cut sectional individuality which was recognized by friends and enemies alike. Radical politicians found it convenient to use New England precedents, while royal governors complained of the spread of "Boston principles" which threatened to undermine the foundations of imperial authority.

Colonial sectionalism.

In the last decade of the seventeenth century, the settled area of New England was only a small fraction of that now occupied by this group of states. Vermont was still virgin soil, and Maine, then a part of Massachusetts, was scarcely less so; only three of its towns were thought important enough in 1694 to be listed for purposes of taxation, and these were all on the coast within thirty miles of the New Hampshire line. For practical purposes, New Hampshire meant as yet little more than its short ocean frontage and a back country hardly twenty-five miles deep. The upper Merrimac valley was still in dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire and actually occupied by neither. From the Merrimac southward and westward around the coast, the colonists were still nearly all within fifty miles of the sea, though a slender line of settlement went up the Connecticut River across Massachusetts, growing very thin at its northern end. Central Massachusetts, as well as the Berkshire country and the adjoining section

Settled area of New England about 1690.

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