Randolph Commission

views updated


RANDOLPH COMMISSION. In 1676, Edward Randolph was commissioned as the special agent of the king to carry to Massachusetts Bay Colony the king's orders that agents be sent to England authorized to act for the colony concerning the boundary disputes with heirs of John Mason and of Ferdinando Gorges. As with the royal commission of 1664, he was also commanded to investigate conditions there, by which it was apparent that the real matter at issue was the king's decision to face the problem of the uncertainty and confusion about the relationship between Massachusetts and England. During Randolph's month in New England he was to make a complete investigation concerning the governments of the colonies; their methods of defense, finance, religion, and trade; the character of their laws; and their attitude in general toward each other and toward England.

Needless to say, Randolph did not meet with a cordial reception. The government of Massachusetts personally affronted Randolph and ignored the king's demands, although agents were reluctantly dispatched a few months after Randolph's departure. Many people had complained to him of religious and political discriminations, and neighboring colonies resented the arrogant attitude of Massachusetts toward them. Most serious of all was that Randolph confirmed the flagrant breaches of the Navigation Acts and the denial of parliamentary legislative authority over the colony. On his return to England he made a comprehensive report, adverse as far as Massachusetts was concerned, recommending repealing its charter and making it into a royal province. In particular, the attitude that laws made in England did not apply in Massachusetts because it was not represented in Parliament caused grave concern at court and was chiefly responsible for the reopening of the fifty-year-old question as to the legal position of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which ended in the annulment of the charter in 1684.


Hall, Michael G. Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676–1703. Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1960.

Randolph, Edward. Edward Randolph; Including His Letters and Official Papers from the New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies in America, with Other Documents Relating Chiefly to the Vacating of the Royal Charter of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1676–1703. With historical illustrations and a memoir by Robert Noxon Toppan. New York: B. Franklin, 1967.

Viola F.Barnes


See alsoMassachusetts .

About this article

Randolph Commission

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article