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Massachusetts Bay Company

Massachusetts Bay Company, English chartered company that established the Massachusetts Bay colony in New England. Organized (1628) as the New England Company, it took over the Dorchester Company, which had established a short-lived fishing colony on Cape Ann in 1623. The group obtained (1628) from the Council for New England a grant of land between the Charles and Merrimack rivers, extending westward to "the South Sea." One of the men who negotiated for this patent, John Endecott, became leader of the colony at Naumkeag (later Salem), founded (1626) by Roger Conant and others from the Cape Ann settlement. In 1629 the New England Company obtained a royal charter as the "Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." Almost immediately the emphasis changed from trade to religion, as the Puritan stockholders conceived of the colony as a religious and political refuge for their sect. A group led by John Winthrop (1588–1649) signed the so-called Cambridge Agreement (1629), by which they engaged to emigrate to New England provided that they could buy out the stock of the company and thus gain complete control of the company's government and charter. Since the royal charter did not specify where the stockholders should meet, this arrangement was made, and the Massachusetts Bay Company became the only one of the English chartered colonization companies not subject to the control of a board of governors in England. The colonists sailed for New England in 1630. They reached Salem, soon moved to Charlestown, but decided to make their chief settlement at the mouth of the Charles River, a commanding position on Massachusetts Bay. There Boston was established. Attempts were made by the Council for New England, under the leadership of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, to annul the colony's land claims, but the efforts were unsuccessful. The company and the colony were synonymous until 1684, when the charter was withdrawn, and the company ceased to exist. In 1691 a new charter made Massachusetts a royal colony and extended its jurisdiction over Plymouth and Maine.

See N. B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (5 vol., 1853–54, repr. 1968), G. L. Beer, The Origins of the British Colonial System, 1578–1660 (1908, repr. 1959); J. T. Adams, The Founding of New England (1921, repr. 1963), C. M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, Vol. I (1934, repr. 1964); T. Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay (ed. by L. S. Mayo, 3 vol., 1936, repr. 1970); T. J. Wertenbaker, The Puritan Oligarchy (1947, repr. 1970); R. E. Wall, Massachusetts Bay: The Crucial Decade, 1640–1650 (1972).

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Massachusetts Bay Company

Massachusetts Bay Company. The company received a crown charter in 1629 for the settlement of a New England territorial grant. Its leading members were puritan gentry, divines, and merchants, who agreed that the charter should be transferred from London to Massachusetts. After extra-legal alterations, including restricting voting rights and office-holding to church members and the creation of law courts, the charter became the Massachusetts frame of government, until its vacation in 1684 and the imposition of a second charter (1691). Criticized for creating a semi-independent godly commonwealth by its enemies, it was cherished for this reason by the colony's political and religious leadership.

Richard C. Simmons

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Massachusetts Bay Company

Massachusetts Bay Company English company chartered in 1629. Its purpose was trade and colonization of the land between the Charles and Merrimack rivers in North America. A group of Puritans, led by John Winthrop, gained control of the company and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. They took the company's charter with them to Massachussetts and thus enjoyed considerable autonomy. Within a decade, c.20,000 people, mainly English Puritans, had settled in the colony.

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