Dominion of New England

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DOMINION OF NEW ENGLAND. After Charles II (1660–1685) was restored to the English throne in 1660, the Crown took steps to limit the independence of localities within England and the American colonies. Various measures were taken to ensure that the colonies remained loyal and subordinate to Britain. The Navigation Acts restricted colonial trade in favor of English commercial interests, and in 1675 colonial policy was placed under the Lords of Trade and Plantations, a subcommittee of the king's own Privy Council. Bitter land disputes, restrictions placed on Church of England members by the Puritan government, conflict with the Indians (particularly King Philip's War), and especially mass evasion of the Navigation Acts drew the Crown's attention toward Massachusetts and New England.

Until its charter was revoked in 1684 the fiercely independent Massachusetts colony had never had a royal governor. In May 1686, however, King James II (1685–1688) carried forward plans initiated under Charles II to place the New England colonies directly under Crown control. James named Edmund Andros, a soldier and former New York governor, "Captain General and Governor in Chief of Our Territory and Dominion of New England" on 3 June 1686. Andros had jurisdiction over Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, the disputed Narragansett territory, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. New York and New Jersey were added in 1688.

The Dominion government, headquartered in Boston, was modeled on the Spanish viceroyalty system, in which the Spanish crown ruled directly through appointed officials and councils. Governor Andros arrived in December 1686 with a force of sixty English soldiers and quickly moved to establish a vice regal government, consisting of the appointed governor and council but no representative assembly. The governor's appointees replaced local elected officials. Rights to jury trial and bail were restricted, the press was censored, and freedom to leave the Dominion was limited. Church of England members were favored for appointments, as Andros actively promoted the Church and dislodged Massachusetts Puritans from their formerly exclusive hold on government power. Andros even forced Puritan congregations to allow Church of England services in their meeting-houses. Though not all were sorry to see Puritan power broken, colonists united in opposition to Andros's tax and land policies. In March 1687 Andros imposed new direct and indirect taxes without any legislative consent. He infuriated colonists with his land distribution policies, especially when the Dominion government claimed title to all undistributed land that had formerly been held in common by individual towns.

By the summer of 1688 the Dominion government had completely alienated Puritan and non-Puritan colonists alike. Then in early 1689 reports arrived that William of Orange had, by invitation of parliamentary leaders, invaded England with his Dutch army and ousted James II from power. Spurred on by the still unofficial news, an uprising began in Boston on 18 April 1689. Andros was arrested after a brief siege and the colonies' former governments restored. Though Massachusetts absorbed Plymouth Colony and was placed under a royal governor in 1691, the new king, William III (1669–1702), made no renewed attempt to impose direct royal power upon the colonies.


Johnson, Richard R. Adjustment to Empire: The New England Colonies, 1675–1715. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1981.

Lovejoy, David S. The Glorious Revolution in America. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

McFarlane, Anthony. The British in the Americas: 1480–1815. New York: Longman, 1994.

Sosin, J. M. English America and the Revolution of 1688: Royal Administration and the Structure of Provincial Government. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Speck, W. A. Reluctant Revolutionaries: Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Aaron J.Palmer

See alsoLords of Trade and Plantation ; Navigation Acts ; New England Colonies .

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Dominion of New England

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