New England, Dominion of

Comprising all the English colonies of North America from north and east of the Delaware River, the Dominion of New England was created by James II in 1685. It was part of a larger plan developed in the late seventeenth century to re-establish royal control in England and the emerging British Empire, especially the American colonies.

The resolution to combine New England into a single province created a centralized political power and placed it in the hands of one royal governor and council appointed by the king. Local assemblies within the individual colonies ceased to exist, with control over the colony diverted to the governor and council. This centralized government held complete executive and legislative authority over the people who lived within its jurisdiction, a vast region stretching from New Hampshire to New Jersey.

On taking office, the new government caused turmoil among the local inhabitants by providing freedom of worship to everyone, restricting the number of traditional town meetings to once a year, actively enforcing the Navigation Acts, and issuing land grants only in the king’s name. After James II’s removal and William and Mary’s ascendance to the throne in 1688, the duration of the Dominion effectively ended.

Although the life span of the Dominion was short, it spawned sporadic but decisive reactions in the American colonies. In New York and Massachusetts, local leaders staged revolts partly to protest the expansion of royal authority in the new governor and partly in support of the largely peaceful Glorious Revolution of 1689, which brought William of Orange to the throne.

In Boston, after they received news of the accession, it took nearly three weeks for local elites to raise a popular revolt on April 18, 1689. Boston’s revolt, justified by a number of reasons, essentially destroyed the entire Dominion of New England. Regardless of the motivation behind the revolt, the result was that Sir Edmund Andros, the royal governor of the Dominion, was officially deposed and the old charter of Massachusetts restored.

By the end of 1689, every colonial assembly in New England had been reinstated. Expediency, unfair preferential treatment, the ascension of William and Mary, and imitation of Massachusetts all led to the revival of the old charters in every colony of New England except New York. Being a proprietary colony of James II, New York had no charter to restore. Here, a popularly supported revolt under the direction of local leaders like Jacob Leisler raised the militia and forced Francis Nicholson, the lieutenant governor in charge of New York, out of the region.

Unfortunately, subsequent events led to the execution of Leisler, the limitation of the new Massachusetts charter, and the exoneration of both Andros and Nicholson. Despite efforts to restore the past, the economic and political autonomy of the early days of the Northern colonies did not return. Solomon K. Smith See also: Andros, Sir Edmund; Glorious Revolution; Leisler, Jacob; Document: Commission of Sir Edmund Andros for the Dominion of New England (1688). Bibliography Barnes, Viola F. The Dominion of New England: A Study in British Colonial Policy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1923. Johnson, Richard R. Adjustment to Empire: The New England Colonies, 1675 1715. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1981. Lovejoy, D. S. The Glorious Revolution in America. New York: Harper and Row, 1972

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New England, Dominion of


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