New Haven Colony

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NEW HAVEN COLONY. Between 1638 and 1662, the New Haven Colony was an independent entity, separate and legally apart from the Connecticut Colony. Following a common pattern, New Haven was simply taken from the Quinnipiac Indians for token value by John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton and their followers. "New Haven" was botha name connoting an Englishport and, more importantly, a literal signifier of what the Puritan

founders hoped the American port colony would be: a purer Bible commonwealth than even the Massachusetts Bay Colony, from which the New Haven settlers had migrated.

In its one generation of independent existence, the colony at first lived up to its commitment to religious zealotry. The Puritans adopted a "plantation covenant" so pure that it bound every inhabitant to governance by literal Mosaic law. Reality intruded in short order, of course, and within a few years a civil government was reluctantly established, subject still to church dictates. Both the strength of the colony and its significance resides in the fact of its immaculate religious commitment, perhaps the most extreme of all the independent Puritan entities in the seventeenth-century New World colonies.

Its 1639 constitution mentions neither the king nor English acommon law; it forbade, for example, trial by jury. "Seven pillars" of religious strength(men) were elected to head both the church and the state in the colony. The term "theocracy" probably applied nowhere more aptly in the New World than in New Haven. Only church members could vote, and the community remained true to the vision of the Reverend John Davenport, its primary founder. (Old Testament blue laws in New Haven remain justly famous, with most on local books until well into the twentieth century.) Outsiders were turned away at the colony's borders, Quakers violently. These borders originally included what is now the city of New Haven and its hinterland, the towns of North Haven, Wallingford, and Hamden; over time the colony added the towns of Guilford, Milford, and even briefly Southold, Long Island. With hostile Dutch nearby in New Amsterdam, and assorted Baptists and omnipresent Quakers seeking entry, the colony was always a tense place, driven by its sense of religious mission to both hold its ground and expand where possible.

When the monarchy was restored in England in 1660, the influential John Winthrop left Connecticut for London to secure a charter. He did that in 1662, bringing home a charter that included title to New Haven. Sporadic rebellion ensued for a year or so, but with so many enemies waiting nearby (labeled "royalists, Romans, and Stuarts" by the locals), enemies even more odious than the backsliding Connecticut Congregationalists, the New Haven Colony submitted to the inevitable. On 13 December 1664 the colony reluctantly merged its fate with (by comparison) the more liberal and less theological Connecticut Colony. John Davenport, as zealous as ever, announced that the New Haven Colony had been "miserably lost." Even though independent no more, New Haven remained an obstreperous orphan within the larger Connecticut for at least a generation.

Its heritage is largely as a symbol of the heights of devotion to which these most committed of Puritans could aspire. New Haven in its brief existence was a living, breathing Bible commonwealth that endured for a single glorious generation.


Calder, Isabel. The New Haven Colony. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1934. Reprint, Hamden, Conn.: Archon, 1970.

Taylor, Robert J. Colonial Connecticut. Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1979.

Works Progress Administration. Connecticut: Guide to Its Roads, Lore, and People. Boston: 1938.

Carl E.Prince

See alsoColonial Settlements ; Puritans and Puritanism .

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New Haven Colony

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New Haven Colony