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Chapter 9:

The extended colonization of New England

The council of Plymouth for New England, having
Chap IX.} 1620.
obtained of King James the boundless territory and the immense monopoly which they had desired, had no further obstacles to encounter but the laws of nature and the remonstrances of parliament. No tributaries tenanted their countless millions of uncul tivated acres; and exactions upon the vessels of English fishermen were the only means of acquiring an immediate revenue from America. But the spirit of the commons indignantly opposed the extravagant pretensions of the favored company, and demanded for every subject of the English king the free liberty of engaging in a pursuit which was the chief source of wealth to the merchants of the west. ‘Shall the
1621. April 25.
English,’ said Sir Edwin Sandys, the statesman so well entitled to the enduring gratitude of Virginia, ‘be debarred from the freedom of the fisheries, a privilege which the French and Dutch enjoy? It costs the kingdom nothing but labor; employs shipping; and furnishes the means of a lucrative commerce with Spain.’—‘The fishermen hinder the plantations,’ replied Calvert; ‘they choke the harbors with their ballast, and waste the forests by improvident use. America is not annexed to the realm, nor within the jurisdiction of parliament; you have therefore no right [325] to interfere.’—‘We may make laws for Virginia,’
Chap IX.}
rejoined another member, intent on opposing the flagrant benevolence of the king, and wholly unconscious of asserting, in the earliest debate on American affairs, the claim of parliament to that absolute sovereignty which the colonies never acknowledged, and which led to the war of the revolution; ‘a bill passed by the commons and the lords, if it receive the king's assent, will control the patent.’ The charter, argued Sir Edward Coke, with ample reference to early statutes, was granted without regard to previously-existing rights, and is therefore void by the established laws of England. So the friends of the liberty of fishing triumphed over the advocates of the royal prerogative, though the parliament was dissolved before a bill could be carried through all the forms of legislation.

Yet enough had been done to infuse vigor into mercantile enterprise; in the second year after the

settlement of Plymouth, five-and-thirty sail of vessels went to fish on the coasts of New England, and made good voyages. The monopolists appealed to King James; and the monarch, preferring to assert his own extended prerogative, rather than to regard the spirit of the house of commons, issued a proclamation,
which forbade any to approach the northern coast of America, except with the special leave of the company of Plymouth, or of the privy council. It was monstrous thus to attempt to seal up a large portion of an immense continent; it was impossible to carry the ordinance into effect; and here, as so often, despotism caused its own fall. By desiring strictly to enforce its will, it provoked a conflict in which it was sure of being defeated. [326]

But the monopolists endeavored to establish their

Chap. IX.} 1623. June.
claims. One Francis West was despatched with a commission as admiral of New England, for the purpose of excluding from the American seas such fishermen as came without a license. But his feeble authority was derided; the ocean was a wide place over which to keep sentry. The mariners refused to pay the tax which he imposed; and his ineffectual authority was soon resigned. In England, the at tempt occasioned the severest remonstrances, which did not fail to make an impression on the ensuing

The patentees, alike prodigal of charters and tenacious of their monopoly, having given to Robert

1622 Dec. 13.
Gorges, the son of Sir Ferdinand, a patent for a tract extending ten miles on Massachusetts Bay, and thirty miles into the interior, now appointed him lieutenant-
general of New England, with power ‘to restrain interlopers,’ not less than to regulate the affairs of the corporation. His patent was never permanently used; though the colony at Weymouth was renewed, to meet once more with ill fortune. He was attended by Morrell, an Episcopal clergyman, who was provided with a commission for the superintendence of ecclesiastical affairs. Instead of establishing a hierarchy, Morrell, remaining in New England about a year, wrote a description of the country in verse; while the civil dignity of Robert Gorges ended in a short-lived dispute with Weston. They came to plant a hierarchy and a general government, and they produced only a fruitless quarrel and a dull poem.

But when parliament was again convened, the con-

troversy against the charter was once more renewed, and the rights of liberty found an inflexible champion [327] in the aged Sir Edward Coke, who now expiated the
Chap IX.} 1624
sins of his early ambition by devotion to the interests of the people. It was in vain that the patentees relinquished a part of their pretensions; the commons
Mar. 17.
resolved that English fishermen shall have fishing pith al. its incidents. ‘Your patents’—thus Gorges was addressed by Coke from the speaker's chair— ‘contains many particulars contrary to the laws and privileges of the subject; it is a monopoly, and the ends of private gain are concealed under color of planting a colony.’ ‘Shall none,’ observed the veteran lawyer in debate, ‘shall none visit the seacoast for fishing? This is to make a monopoly upon the seas, which wont to be free. If you alone are to pack and dry fish, you attempt a monopoly of the wind and the sun.’ It was in vain for Sir George Calvert to resist. The bill passed without amendment, though it never received the royal assent.1

The determined opposition of the house, though it could not move the king to overthrow the corporation, paralyzed its enterprise; many of the patentees abandoned their interest; so that the Plymouth company now did little except issue grants of domains; and the cottages, which, within a few years, were sprinkled along the coast from Cape Cod to the Bay of Fundy, were the consequence of private adventure.

The territory between the River of Salem and the Kennebec became, in a great measure, the property of two enterprising individuals. We have seen that Martin Pring was the discoverer of New Hampshire,

[328] and that John Smith of Virginia had examined and
Chap. IX.} 1614. 1620.
extolled the deep waters of the Piscataqud. Sir Ferdinand Gorges, the most energetic member of the council of Plymouth, always ready to encounter risks in the cause of colonizing America, had not allowed repeated ill success to chill his confidence and decision; and now he found in John Mason, ‘who had been governor of a plantation in Newfoundland, a man of action,’ like himself. It was not difficult for Mason,
1621. Mar. 9.
who had been elected an associate and secretary of the council, to obtain a grant of the lands between Salem River and the farthest head of the Merrimac; but he did no more with his vast estate than give it a name. The passion for land increased; and Gorges
1622. Aug. 10.
and Mason next took a patent for Laconia, the whole country between the sea, the St. Lawrence, the Merrimac, and the Kennebec; a company of English merchants was formed; and under its auspices permanent plantations were established on the banks of
the Piscataqua.2 Portsmouth and Dover are among the oldest towns in New England. Splendid as were the anticipations of the proprietaries, and lavish as was their enthusiasm in liberal expenditures, the immediate progress of the plantations was inconsiderable, and, even as fishing stations, they do not seem to have prospered.

When the country on Massachusetts Bay was

granted to a company, of which the zeal and success were soon to overshadow all the efforts of proprietaries merchants, it became expedient for Mason to
1629 Nov. 7.
procure a new patent; and he now received a fresh [329] <*>3to the territory between the Merrimac and
Chap IX.}
Piscataqua, in terms which, in some degree, interfered with the pretensions of his neighbors on the south. This was the patent for New Hampshire, and was pregnant with nothing so signally as suits at law. The country had been devastated by the mutual wars of the tribes, and the same wasting pestilence which left New Plymouth a desert; no notice seems to have been taken of the rights of the natives; nor did they now issue any deed of their lands;4 but the soil in the
immediate vicinity of Dover, and afterwards of Portsmouth, was conveyed to the planters themselves, or to
those at whose expense the settlement had been made.5 A favorable impulse was thus given to the little colonies; and houses now began to be built on the Strawberry Bank of the Piscataqua. But the progress of the town was slow; Josselyn6 described the whole coast as a mere wilderness, with here and there a few huts scattered by the sea-side; and

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