When John Winthrop came to the Land of the Bays, he brought a charter of liberties, signed by the king, which gave to the Puritans of Massachusetts the right to choose their own governor, and make their own laws.
Then Roger Williams, of Providence, went to England to secure a charter for his colony of Providence.
And when he returned with the precious document, he was met at Seaconk by the exulting people of Providence, and escorted across the river in a triumphal march of fourteen canoes. The air was rent by the shouts of his welcome; for now the people, of the future state of Rhode Island, were permitted to govern themselves.
Then the many little towns of Connecticut sent delegates to Hartford, to write out a charter for themselves.
And as they wanted to be sure that this charter might always be their own, they sent John Winthrop, Jr., to England, to secure approval from the king. He bore a petition from the magistrates, pleading the rights of the people of Connecticut to the land they had bought from the Indians, or won with their blood in the wars with the Pequods.
Winthrop first went to the homes of many nobles, where he was soon a welcome guest. None could depict the beauties of the new world better than this son of old John Winthrop of Boston, and none could win such sympathy for the settlers, who had toiled and struggled for the rude homes in the wilderness.
He soon gained the support of the most powerful men in England for his charter, and then went to Charles II with his petition.
When he showed a ring, which had been given to his grandfather by Charles I, Winthrop so moved the young king, that he granted him all he wished.
The colonies of Connecticut were united in one colony, with a vast tract of land, extending straight from Narragansett Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
The king gave the province, as he would have given a jewel, to one who had pleased him with some idle tale.
Young Winthrop bore the precious charter to Hartford, where it was stowed away in a box made for the purpose.
Now, Winthrop's talk reminded the king that England claimed the country west of the Connecticut, because of the discovery of the Cabots. He gave it to his brother, the Duke of York.
The young prince hastened to take possession of his rich province, and sent a fleet to New Amsterdam.
The Dutch settlers were under the oppressive laws of the West India Company, and had long looked, with wistful eyes, at the freedom of the English in Connecticut. So when the English ships moored off the Battery, and demanded the surrender of the town, they would not resist.
Although their governor, Peter Stuyvesant, said he would die rather than surrender, and tore the letter of terms into pieces, he was compelled by the burghers to put the letter together again and capitulate. So the English took possession of the town of New Amsterdam. They called it New York, and sailed up the Hudson, and changed the name of Fort Orange to Albany. Then the Beet sailed up the Delaware, and took possession of the country along its shores. So the country to the west of New England became English.
But it proved to be a sad day for the liberties of the colonies, when the royal family became interested in real estate in America. Sir Edward Andros was made governor of New York, and, one hot day in July, crossed over Long Island Sound, with the flag of England waving from the mast, to read his commission as governor of Connecticut. As lie stood on the steps of the Town Hall of Saybrook, the captain of the fort told him to stop reading the hateful document. Andros insisted that his authority extended to the Connecticut.
"Connecticut has her own charter, signed by King Charles," said the captain, "and, in the name of the king, leave off reading, or take the consequences." And, pale with rage, the would be governor was conducted to his ship by the Saybrook militia.
Then, while New England was trying to build up new homes from the ashes of King Philip's war, King Charles began to wonder much over these colonies, who had fought their own battles with the Indians, and had even become so bold as to coin their own money. Besides, the Board of Trade complained that ships from France and Spain brought wares into the harbors of New England without paying duty in any English port, so Charles sent over Edward Randolph, to inquire into colonial affairs.
Now, Randolph bore the seal of the king, and assumed the most lordly airs as he went from port to port. Governor Leverett, of Massachusetts, received him coldly, kept his peaked hat on in his presence, and told him, that, since the colonies had carried on the wars with the Indians without help from England, they should be allowed to enjoy the lands which had cost so much sorrow and toil.
Randolph returned to England with a long story of the insolence of the colonies, and so prejudiced the king, that he ordered Parliament to revoke the charter of Massachusetts. So the king claimed the country, just as he would a castle in England. All titles to houses and lands were swept away. If the king wished, he might turn the people out of their homes into the streets.
Charles died soon after this, and his son, James II, also claimed New England, and sent Sir Edward Andros to be governor-in-chief of all the Land of the Bays.
Glittering in scarlet and lace, the new governor sailed into Massachusetts Bay, with companies of British soldiers to aid him.
He chose Boston as his headquarters, turned officers out, and put in those of his own choosing. He put a tax on imported goods, made the law, that none could be legally married except by a clergyman of the Church of England, and took the old South Meeting House for services of that church.
He told the people their land belonged to the king, and they must pay rent for it, and when they showed him the deeds which the Indians had given, he said they were not worth the scratch of a bear's claw.
When Andros thought he had Massachusetts well under control, he proceeded, at the head of a body of troops, to demand the charter of Connecticut.
All day, Governor Treat pleaded with him to leave them the charter until they might have a hearing in England. But Andros remembered how he had been sent off by the Connecticut militia a few years before. He was haughty, and would listen to nothing.
Night came on. Candles were lighted. A large crowd gathered about the building, and as many pressed into the room as could get a standing place. Some painted Indians stood among the throng, and gazed with awe at the gold-bedecked messenger from the great king.
The charter lay with its box on the table.
Andros, at length, in an angry voice, demanded that the charter be returned to its box and delivered to him.
Suddenly the lights went out. There was confusion and delay, much scraping of tinder; many oh's! and ah's! some laughs, and some oaths, and when, at last, light was made, there was no charter in sight. Guards were set about the door, a search was made, but no charter could be found.
It rested securely in the hollow of an old oak-tree, and there it long remained. But Andros cared nothing about the charter anyway.
He adjourned the court with his soldiers, and thus became governor of all the royal province of New England, with his capital at Boston.
Voting by the ballot was forbidden, town meetings were dispersed. The public schools were not supported, and the people began to say that there was nothing left to disgrace them further, except to sell them as slaves.
Meantime, the Indian converts, who still lingered on the outskirts of Boston, were much perplexed at this state of affairs. They came to Rev. Eliot, now very old and feeble, to talk over the situation. "No red men have ever obeyed a coward," they said. "Your sachem is a coward and yet you obey him. Is this because you are a Christian?" And the dear old man bowed his head, but gave no answer.