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Colonial New England Timeline

How It All Went Down

Oct 1, 1651

First Navigation Acts

The English Parliament passes the first of the Navigation Acts, requiring that colonial exports to England be carried on English ships or ships built in English colonies, that certain "enumerated articles" be sold exclusively to England (these include sugar, indigo, tobacco, cotton, etc.), and that all European goods bound for the colonies must first pass through England.


Second and Third Navigation Acts

In 1660 and again in 1663, England passes the second and third of the Navigation Acts that regulate colonial trade. It is becoming increasingly evident to England that the colonies represent a lucrative source of wealth and trade. The Navigation Acts seeks to enforce England's place as the first stopping point for all colonial goods, so that it can collect duties before colonial produce is reshipped throughout the world.


Plantation Duty Act

England passes the next of the Navigation Acts that regulate colonial trade. Known as the Plantation Duty Act, it requires every captain loading enumerated articles to land them in England or pay a duty on the spot if they are to be delivered to another colony. By 1678, customs collectors are in every colony.


Lords of Trade

Charles II, like his father before him, designates certain privy councilors (members of the body that advises the King, sort of like his "cabinet,") to serve as the Lords of Trade, who are to enforce the new mercantile system and maximize potential profits for the mother country.

Jun 8, 1675 - Dec 8, 1676

King Philips War Begins

Wampanoag chief Metacom (also known as King Philip) plans a series of attacks on colonial settlements. Some of his tribesmen kill John Sassamon, a translator who has revealed Metacom's plans to Massachusetts Bay Colony officials. The Plymouth Colony seeks retribution for Sassamon's murder by trying three Wampanoags and hanging them. The Indians believe that their comrades have been framed and their sovereignty insulted; mounting recriminations lead to over a year of warfareacross New England in which almost one out of every twenty people in the region—whites and Indians alike—is killed.


First Map of New England Printed

John Foster makes a map of New England, the first to be printed in North America, as a geographical guide to William Hubbard's history of King Philip's War.

Oct 1, 1677

Edict of Fontainebleau

Louis XIV, the French "Sun King," revokes his grandfather Henry IV's Edict of Nantes (1598). Protestantism is once again declared illegal in France through the Edict of Fontainebleau. Huguenot (French Protestant) churches are destroyed. Because of this official policy of persecution, 200,000-500,000 Protestants flee France, seeking asylum across the world, including in North America.

Oct 1, 1678

Lords of Trade Sue Massachusetts

The Lords of Trade begin legal proceedings against the Massachusetts Bay Company, which has been charged with allowing violations of the Navigation Acts and usurping the proprietary rights (that is, trying to muscle in on the territories of) Maine and New Hampshire.


New Hampshire Chartered

New Hampshire is inaugurated as a royal colony.


Massachusetts Charter Annuled

The Lords of Trade win a court decision that annuls the charter of Massachusetts. The colony is placed under a royal commission.


Formation of New England

King James II moves to reduce colonial autonomy and his own dependence on Parliament by combining the colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, East Jersey and West Jersey into a single colony: The Dominion of New England.

Apr 7, 1688

Sir Edmund Andros in New England

King James II appoints Sir Edmund Andros to serve as "Captain Generall and Governor in Chief in and over all that part of our territory and dominion of New England in America known by the names of our Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, our Colony of New Plymouth, our Provinces of New Hampshire and Main and the Narraganset Country or King's Province." Andros does not have to answer to any elected assembly, and proves a thoroughly alienating figure to almost everyone.


King William’s War Begins

'S_WAR Europe's War of the Grand Alliance, fought between the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties, spills over into North America, as Indian allies of the French attack English frontier settlements. The war, the first of several pitting English colonists against the French and their Native American allies, is called King William's War because it begins after English King William III joins the League of Augsburg against France.

Feb 13, 1689

The Glorious Revolution

William III and Mary II officially replace James II as monarchs of England after James—Mary's father—flees to France. William and Mary's so-called "Glorious Revolution" is successful. The English Bill of Rights (Parliament controls taxation and all Englishmen enjoy certain "undoubted" rights, such as trial by jury), the Toleration Act (only Anglicans can hold office; Protestant dissenters, but not Catholics, can now worship freely), and the Mutiny Act (Parliament, not the military, regulates mutinies) will follow. English Parliament achieves a supremacy in British government that has lasted to this day.

Apr 1689

Glorious Revolution Sparks Revolt

News of the Glorious Revolution in England sparks revolts in the colonies. Boston militiamen seize Governor-in-Chief Andros and put him in jail. The New England colonies begin to reestablish governments as they existed prior to the acts of James II.

May 1689

Leisler’s Rebellion

Captain Jacob Leisler, a German immigrant, heads a rebel militia that takes hold of New York and establishes a Committee of Safety. This rebellion inadvertently divides New York along economic and ethnic lines, as the Dutch majority attempt to reclaim power from the English who have ruled for twenty years while Leisler's rebels attack the homes of the wealthy. William II refuses to recognize Leisler's authority and sends a new governor.

Jul 1689

Maryland’s Protestant Rebellion

The Protestant Association overthrows Lord Baltimore's Catholic government of Maryland. King William III concurs that Baltimore has mismanaged the colony and revokes his charter, although he allows Baltimore to retain his land. A new and overwhelmingly Protestant government is established; Catholics can practice in the colony but are barred from holding office. The colony ends its history of religious toleration.


Massachusetts Charter Granted

The crown grants the Massachusetts Charter. Plymouth Colony is absorbed into Massachusetts, creating the largest colony in New England under royal rule. Property ownership, rather than church membership, is now the prerequisite to vote in elections for the General Court. Town government remains; the governor is no longer elected but rather appointed in London. The colony must also abide by the English Toleration Act of 1689.


Salem Witch Trials

Hysteria over witchcraft accusations consumes Salem Village, Massachusetts (modern-day Danvers, seven miles from the prosperous seaport town of the same name).

May 16, 1691

Leisler Executed

Jacob Leisler, leader of a failed rebellion in New York, is convicted of treason by the new colonial government and sentenced to be hanged, cut down before he dies, his bowels burned in front of his eyes, then to be decapitated and his body quartered. The new Governor reportedly commutes the last parts of the sentence—all but the hanging. Leisler's son-in-law is also hanged. The lingering Leisler / anti-Leisler divide consumes New York politics for generations.


New Hampshire Returns to Crown

Royal government is re-established in New Hampshire.


Leisler Exonerated

Four years after their executions, Parliament retroactively exonerates Captain Jacob Leisler and his son-in-law of all charges for their rebellion against the royally appointed governor of New York.


Salutary Neglect

The British government establishes the Board of Trade to oversee colonial policies, particularly the Navigation Acts. Yet England spends the next 70 years or so practicing a policy of "Salutary Neglect," in which it gives the colonies considerable freedom in economic matters.

Sep 20, 1697

King William’s War Ends

RANGEEND_KING_WILLIAM'S_WAR The Treaty of Ryswick ends King William's War, but the result is indecisive and the peace does not hold for long (hence the succession of conflicts known as the French and Native American Wars). The French, Dutch, English, and Spanish sign the treaty (King Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire signs later). In retrospect, King William's War can be seen as the beginning of a Second Hundred Years' War between Britain and France, which will not be resolved until Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815.


Queen Anne Crowned

Queen Anne ascends to the throne.


Queen Anne’s War

'S_WAR Europe's War of the Spanish Succession spills over into North America as the second of the French and Indian Wars, known as Queen Anne's War. The English capture and burn St. Augustine, Florida. Though the city remains under Spanish possession for another century, the mission system in Florida is destroyed.


New Jersey Returns to Crown

New Jersey becomes a royal province.


Deerfield Massachusetts Destroyed

Deerfield, Massachusetts, is destroyed by French forces and their Native American allies during Queen Anne's War.


Apalachee Massacre

The Apalachee massacre occurs in western Florida. James Moore, the ex-governor of South Carolina, leads 50 Englishmen and 1,000 Creek Indian allies against the Spanish and their Apalachee Native American allies during Queen Anne's War. Moore and his forces destroy all but one of the fourteen Spanish missions that had been founded in the region. Some 1,400 Apalachees who had converted to Catholicism under Spanish tutelage are taken captive and then sold into slavery.


Treaty of Utrecht

RANGEEND_QUEEN_ANNE'S_WAR The Treaty of Utrecht ends Queen Anne's War. Under the treaty, Britain gains Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay region of Canada, as well as the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Peace prevails until the onset of King George's War (another of the French and Indian Wars) in 1744.


George I Crowned

George I ascends to the British throne.


Baltimore Converts to Protestantism

The Baltimore family converts from Catholicism to Anglicanism and reestablishes control over the Maryland colony.


Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth

John Wentworth is appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Hampshire.


George II Crowned

George II ascends to the British throne.

Oct 29, 1727

New England Earthquake

An earthquake in New England prompts religious excitement.


Throat Epidemic

The great epidemic of "throat distemper" falls upon New England, killing 5,000 of its 200,000 inhabitants in the next five years. The distemper is probably a rash of diphtheria cases, which may be exacerbated by eighteenth-century doctors' inability to distinguish between diphtheria and scarlet fever. Most of the casualties are children. Interestingly, the religious revival known as the Great Awakening begins almost simultaneously with this medical disaster.


The Great Awakening

Congregationalist minister Jonathan Edwards presides over a remarkable religious awakening in his Northampton, Massachusetts congregation. He helps to spearhead a revivalist movement that comes to be known as the Great Awakening, in which religion is once again popularized and made into a more direct and emotional experience for parishioners by charismatic ministers like Edwards.


Walking Purchase

Pennsylvania's colonial officials complete the "Walking Purchase" with the Lenni Lanape tribe. The tribe agrees to cede to the colonists a land area equal to the distance that a man can walk in thirty-six hours. Unexpectedly for the Lenni Lanape, Pennsylvania Governor James Logan hires several runners to mark out an area far larger than what is thought possible under the terms of the arrangement. This is a classic example of the notorious tricks that whites continually visit upon tribes, especially in the treaty-making process, throughout the colonial period and for generations to come. While proprietor William Penn previously maintained fairly peaceful Indian-white relations, things are never the same again in Pennsylvania.

1735 - 1740

Whitefield Arrives

English minister George Whitefield, a 27-year-old with a reputation for extremely effective evangelical skills, arrives in Philadelphia, providing a major impetus for the Great Awakening that has already begun in New England and the Middle Atlantic regions. By the end of the year, Whitefield's audiences will mushroom to 6,000 people and more. He goes on to spread his message in Georgia and then New England, sermonizing for a return of passion and fervor to religion.


Massachusetts-New Hampshire Border

The Massachusetts-New Hampshire boundary dispute is finally settled by English authorities, as New Hampshire returns to its status as a royal province and Benning Wentworth is appointed its governor.

Jun 15, 1745

Battle of Louisbourg

New Englanders win the only important victory in King George's War (the American chapter of the War of the Austrian Succession) when they capture Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island (on the east side of modern-day Nova Scotia). Three years later, the peace treaty that ends the war restores Louisbourg to France and leaves many issues between the two imperial powers unresolved.

1735 - 1750

King George’s War Ends

RANGEEND_KING_GEORGE'S_WAR The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle is signed, restoring conquered territory to both parties. It is an inconclusive end to the third French and Indian War.


Paper Money Outlawed in New England

Parliament outlaws legal-tender paper money in New England, which has been in demand by colonial farmers and other debtors.


French and Indian War Begins

Known as the Seven Years' War in Europe, the fourth and final conflict of its kind pits the English against the French and their Indian allies.

1696 - 1760

George III Crowned

George III ascends to the throne.


Ben Franklin Publishes

Benjamin Franklin publishes his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, in which his two principal observations are that abundant, inexpensive land and high demand for labor are the central distinguishing factors of life in North America.


French and Indian War Ends

RANGEEND_FRENCH_AND_INDIAN_WAR The Peace of Paris ends the French and Indian War and Britain establishes the extremely controversial Proclamation Line along the Appalachian Mountains, designed to halt westward expansion by colonists.


Paper Money Outlawed in Colonies

Parliament outlaws legal-tender paper money in all colonies. (It has already been forbidden in New England thirteen years earlier).

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