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Sir Edmund Andros (1637–1714) served as governor of New England after being appointed by King James II. When he took up his post in 1686, Andros sought to reduce colonial autonomy by combining the colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, East Jersey, and West Jersey into a single Dominion of New England. His overbearing methods led colonists to despise him deeply.
Andros' governance was certainly an imposition on the autonomy colonists once enjoyed. The governor tried to force Episcopalian worship on the Old South Meetinghouse in Boston, thus infuriating prominent Puritan ministers like Increase Mather and his son, Cotton Mather. Andros also vigorously enforced the Navigation Acts, creating many enemies in port towns like Boston.
He further exacerbated his reputation by suppressing charters, town meetings, and colonial assemblies. When the colonies got word of the 1688 Glorious Revolution that unseated James II in England, they too rebelled. In Boston, they seized Andros and other officials, sending them to England as prisoners in 1689. Andros was quickly released, however, and went on to become colonial governor of Virginia, then Maryland, then finally the Island of Guernsey off the coast of France.
Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) is considered the first significant female author in the American colonies and one of the first poets to write English verse in North America. She composed a collection of religious poems entitled "Contemplations," which was written for her family and not published until the mid-19th century. Not until the 20th century did Anne and her work begin to receive serious scholarly consideration and acclaim.
Born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England, she married Simon Bradstreet at 16 and two years later, traveled to Massachusetts Bay with her husband and parents. Although Anne was a dedicated wife and the mother of eight children, she somehow found time and energy to compose her poetry.
Unbeknownst to Anne, her brother-in-law took her poems to England, where they were published in 1650 as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. The first American edition followed in 1678, and was a revised and expanded edition entitled Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning. Her work was initially somewhat formulaic, but there were striking examples in which Anne delved into her own emotions. She later contemplated childbirth and the death of a grandchild in her verse.
Jacob Leisler (1640–1691) was a German immigrant who led an insurrection against local colonial officials from 1689 to 1691 in colonial New York. A penniless soldier, he shared in the widespread colonial resentment of colonial officials, particularly those appointed by Stuart King James II and thus suspected of being Roman Catholics.
Upon receiving word of the Glorious Revolution in England, many colonists rebelled against the deposed king's colonial officials. Leisler and his militia managed to gain control of southern New York, proclaiming William and Mary as the new sovereigns, and appointing Leisler commander in chief. Though the wealthy viewed his rise as populism run amok, small farmers and city workers actively supported his rule by military force.
When King William sent troops under Major Richard Ingolesby in 1691, Leisler refused to recognize Ingoldesby's authority, and fighting soon broke out. New governor Henry Sloughter arrived thereafter, and Leisler surrendered. He and his son-in-law were tried, convicted of treason and hanged in May 1691. The lingering Leisler/anti-Leisler divide consumed New York politics for generations. Four years after their executions, Parliament retroactively exonerated Leisler and his son-in-law of all charges.
Charles II (1630–1685) was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1660 to 1685.
At 16, he was forced to flee to France during the English Civil War. He stayed with his mother and was tutored by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose political philosophy embraced the absolute power of kings. In 1649, Charles tried to save the life of his father, King Charles I, by giving Parliament his signature on a blank sheet of paper, implicitly giving them the ability to name their terms. His father was executed nonetheless that same year.
Charles was then proclaimed king in Scotland, where he relocated and pledged to enforce Presbyterianism in England. In 1660, Gen. George Monck arranged for Charles' Restoration to the English throne. He favored religious toleration, in no small part because he tended toward Roman Catholicism. His relations with Parliament deteriorated until he dissolved the legislative body in 1681 and proceeded to rule as an absolute monarch.
Charles died a Roman Catholic and was succeeded by his brother James, as Charles had several children with a string of mistresses, but produced no legitimate heirs to the throne.
James II (1633–1701) was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1685 to 1688. Significantly, James converted to Roman Catholicism around 1668. He consented to the marriage of his daughter Mary (later Mary II) to the Protestant prince of Orange (later William III) in 1677.
After ascending to the throne, James adopted many autocratic methods and often interfered with the courts and local government. He appointed Roman Catholics to powerful positions and became ever more unpopular. In 1686, he moved 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.
Then he appointed Sir Edmund Andros as the governor of New England. Andros quickly became despised by the colonists for his overbearing methods. The prominent Puritan ministers, father and son Increase and Cotton Mather, resisted Andros' rule as well as James' call for a declaration of absolute loyalty from the colonists. James was forced to flee the throne when his daughter and son-in-law took power during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. Mary and her husband allowed James to seek refuge in France.
King William III (1650–1702), also called William of Orange or William Henry, Prince of Orange, reigned as king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1689 to 1702, ruling jointly with his wife Queen Mary II until her death in 1694. His reign was a turning point in the constitutional history of Britain.
At 22, William became stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands and admiral for life. Five years later, in 1677, he married the English Princess Mary, Protestant daughter of the Roman Catholic James, Duke of York. English subjects began urging William to seize the English throne the late 1680s, as his father-in-law (now King James II) increasingly antagonized them with his autocratic policies.
In 1688, when James' wife gave birth to a son and heir to the throne (creating a Roman Catholic succession), it was the final straw. William sailed against England, landing in Devon before marching on London with a force of 15,000 men. King James II abdicated and fled for his life. William allowed James to escape to France and summoned a Convention Parliament, which offered him the crown jointly with his wife. This bloodless "Glorious Revolution" permanently shifted the English balance of power from the monarchy to Parliament.
Together with the Whigs, William went on to pass the Toleration Act (1689), which dictated that only Anglicans could hold office and that Protestant dissenters, but not Catholics, could now worship freely. The crown forced the colonies to obey the Toleration Act, so colonial Puritans had to allow other Protestants in their midst to worship freely.
This changing climate produced a considerable amount of tension in New England, particularly among the Puritan clergy, who felt that their influence was slipping and that they were being forced to allow "Devil worship" to occur in their midst. William and Mary also passed the English Bill of Rights, which gave Parliament control over taxation and guaranteed all Englishmen certain "undoubted" rights, such as trial by jury.
Queen Mary II (1662–1694) was queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1689 until her death in 1694. She ruled jointly with her husband, William III. They were both Protestant, and overthrew her father, Roman Catholic James II, in the bloodless Glorious Revolution of 1688.
In actuality, Mary only ruled during her husband's absences. She was a fairly popular monarch in the Netherlands and England, but was troubled by the intense political disputes between her and her father and her sister Anne. She kept her primary allegiance to her husband. She believed that this was her religious duty. Although her father and mother both converted to Roman Catholicism, Mary was raised Protestant.
Queen Anne (1665–1714) was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1702 until the Act of Union in 1707, when she became monarch of Great Britain and Ireland, a position she would hold until her death in 1714.
Raised a Protestant, Anne had a distant relationship with her Catholic father, James II, and she acquiesced in the Glorious Revolution that brought her sister and brother-in-law—William and Mary, who ruled from 1688 to 1702—to power. She was the last Stuart ruler and presided over a period of transition to parliamentary government. She was also the last English monarch to exercise the royal veto.
Anne's reign was consumed by the War of the Spanish Succession, a European conflict that spread across the Atlantic and was known in America as Queen Anne's War. It lasted from 1702 to 1713 and involved a series of violent clashes, including the destruction of Deerfield, Massachusetts by French forces and their Indian allies in 1704. During the war, the British failed to conquer French Quebec, but did capture Port Royal and Acadia—present-day Nova Scotia as well as parts of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and coastal areas of eastern Maine—in 1710.
The Peace of Utrecht that ended the war gave the British control over Newfoundland and the fur-trading posts around Hudson Bay, but these territorial gains in Canada hardly or conclusively resolved the imperial battle for control over North America. The French and British would continue to fight over North American imperial interests throughout the 18th century.
King George I (1660–1727) was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1714 to 1727. As the first British sovereign from the house of Hanover, George was personally unpopular in England due to his German background and culture, as well as his inability to speak English. The Whig party came to power in Parliament simultaneously with his succession.
In 1720, George was implicated in the financial collapse of the South Sea Company, an escapade that came to be known as the "South Sea Bubble." Holders of government bonds were allowed to exchange them for stock (with 6% interest) in the new company, which was given a monopoly of British trade with the islands of the South Seas and South America. The monopoly was established in anticipation of trading concessions from Spain in the Peace of Utrecht. But the concessions never materialized. Banks couldn't collect loans on inflated stock prices for the company. Prices of stock fell, and thousands were ruined. In the ensuing scandal, it became apparent that George and his mistresses had taken part in South Sea Company transactions that may have been illegal.
But his talented minister Robert Walpole defused the potential scandal in the House of Commons and saved him from disgrace. Subsequently, George was forced to give Walpole and his colleague Charles Townshend a free hand in the ministry. With the ascendance of Walpole came a policy of "wise and salutary neglect" toward the colonies. Instead of subjecting the colonies to firm royal control, the Board of Trade became a vessel for political patronage. The colonies became accustomed to running their own affairs and ignoring the Navigation Acts.
King George II (1683–1760) was king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 to 1760. During his reign British forces waged a third and inconclusive battle with the French for domination of the North American continent. It was the American phase of the War of the Austrian Succession, known as King George's War in America.
The war, which lasted from 1744 to 1748, began over boundary disputes between the French and English concerning Acadia—present-day Nova Scotia—and northern New England. Significantly, King George's War was also fought to determine which power would hold control over the Ohio Valley. Throughout, both sides employed Indian allies to raid each other's border towns.
New Englanders scored the only important victory in the conflict when they captured Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island in 1745. But both Britain and France were consumed with the European theater and committed resources to the North American conflict. Finally the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed in 1748, restoring conquered territory to both parties, including Louisburg to France, but failing to resolve lingering resentments or colonial questions.
King George III (1738–1820), or George William Frederick, was king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 to 1820. He ascended to the throne just as the French and Indian War was coming to a close, a fateful moment for world history. The Peace of Paris that followed in 1763 led to a number of changes in English policy, which sparked multiple conflicts with the American colonists and contributed to an increasingly hostile dynamic. This dynamic would eventually spark the American Revolution 12 years later.
A flawed ruler himself, George appointed a series of rather incompetent men to serve as his ministers. The result was inconsistency in governmental policy: under George Grenville (1763–1765), the wildly unpopular Stamp Act was imposed on the colonies. It was repealed under the Marquess of Rockingham (1765–1766), only to have new duties levied with the Townshend Acts of Lord Chatham (1766–1768).
Meanwhile, George gave in to the reality of patronage politics and lavishly doled out favors in return for a coterie of "king's friends" in Parliament. This later became fodder for American charges of corruption, foppery, and irresponsible degradation in the English government. In response to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, George famously told Lord North that "The colonists must either submit or triumph," and so they did.