Massachusetts Bay Colony – Moving to the Americas

Between 1627 and 1628, the Council for New England issued a land grant for the territory between the Charles and Merrimack Rivers in America. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded as a result of this charter, by the relatively newly formed Massachusetts Bay Company. This was their second attempt at creating a new community in America, and their first successful one. During the 1630s in excess of 20000 people migrated to the colony, and it became the first English chartered colony which did not have its governors residing in the motherland.

shutterstock_252135499The population was mainly Puritan and they elected a small group to govern them, from those that had passed a rigorous examination process. These tests followed strict Puritan beliefs, meaning that there was no tolerance of other religious groups within the community. They persecuted Quakers extensively, resulting in the hanging of four people of them in 1660. Not agreeing with these outlandish Puritan actions, in 1661, King Charles II banned the killing of anybody because they were Quaker.

In 1641 the colony had formally adopted its first Code of Laws, the Massachusetts Body of Liberty, which was based on extreme biblical teachings. Punishments were issued for pulling hair, falling asleep in church, profane dancing, smoking tobacco and other criminal activities. They included fines and public whippings for minor offences, extending to banishment from the community and death by hanging for the more serious. In addition, those hanged for piracy had their bodies displayed near the harbour, as a warning to others at sea who might be tempted.

Originally supported by wealthy investors, the colony was quick to thrive and many people made their living from shipbuilding, in fisheries and lumber. These industries complimented each other, and the economy was boosted when Massachusetts Bay Colony began to build and run vessels which were responsible for transporting fish from the Caribbean to Europe.

shutterstock_445110493Small businesses were also supported and the aim was for people to be as self-sufficient as possible. In 1645, the General Court ordered farmers to begin producing more sheep. This became the main supply of both meat and wool in the colony. Trade had become so successful that there developed a shortage of currency to pay for goods. In 1652, a mint was established in the area to facilitate an increase in trade. It began producing the Massachusetts pound, a form of paper currency, immediately.  

As the population became richer and more trade goods introduced, the community members wanted to display their increasing wealth. Finery was disapproved of in Puritan society, and the government attempted to ban certain items. It was met with fierce opposition and settled with forbidding the wearing of silk and lace; unless the wearer could prove that they had at least £200 in assets. Wealthy merchants, and their families, continued to adorn themselves after this.

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