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United colonies of New England.

In May, 1643, delegates from Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth, and the General Court of Massachusetts, assembled at Boston to consider measures against the common danger from the Dutch in Manhattan and the Indians. Delegates were not invited from Rhode Island, for that colony was considered “schismatic” and an intruder. When it asked for admission, it was refused, unless it would acknowledge allegiance to Plymouth. Then it applied for a charter, and obtained it in 1644 (see Rhode Island). A confederacy was formed under the above title, and continued for more than forty years (1643-1686), while the government of England was changed three times during that period. It was a confederacy of States like our early union (articles of Confederation), and local supreme jurisdiction was jealously reserved by each colony. Thus early was the doctrine of State supremacy developed (see State sovereignty). The general affairs of the confederacy were managed by a board of commissioners consisting of two church members from each colony, who were to meet in a congress annually, or oftener if required. Their duty was to consider circumstances and recommend measures for the general good. They had no executive power, nor supreme [156] legislative power. Their propositions were referred to and finally acted upon by the several colonies, each assuming an independent sovereignty. But war was not to be declared by one colony without the consent of this congress of commissioners, to whose province Indian affairs and foreign relations were especially consigned. All war expenses were to be a common charge, and runaway servants and fugitive criminals were to be delivered up; and it was soon an established rule that judgments of courts of law and probates of wills in one colony should have full faith and credit in all others. The commissioners of Massachusetts, representing by far the most powerful colony of the league, and assuming to be a “perfect republic,” claimed precedence, which the others readily conceded. New Haven was the weakest member of the league, Plymouth next, but all were growing. Fort Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut River, was yet an independent settlement. See Saybrook, Fort.

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