Thirteen English colonies

The New England Colonies

In the North, English Puritans established several settlements. These people came to America to escape persecution in England. These first colonies in the North were called and even now the territory is referred to as New England. In the years 1620 - 1640, some 30,000 Puritans settled there. A group of Puritans called the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in the ship Mayflower and settled at Plymouth (named after a port in Britain), Massachusetts in 1620. They escaped Britain because of catholic persecution of the Stuarts. Originally, their desired destination was Virginia, however, thanks to poor navigation abilities and unknown sea currents they landed at what is know the coastline of Boston. With the help of local natives, the colonists soon got the hang of farming, fishing and hunting, and Massachusetts prospered. The Puritans were orthodox Protestants and even now the term puritan denotes a man of extreme moral and religious principals, especially in sexual matters. No wonder the famous witch trials took place in colonial Massachusetts in the town of Salem, where a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft were held in 1692 and 1693. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging.

As the Massachusetts settlements expanded, they generated new colonies in New England. To the north of the Massachusetts Bay colony, the colony of New Hampshire was founded in 1629. Since the land in Massachusetts was very rocky and also some of its Puritan settlers were not satisfied with the acting of their leaders, a handful of adventurous men led by John Mason went to find more fertile farming land and they settled in Portsmouth and founded the New Hampshire Colony. Firstly, the colony (or province, as colonies are also refered to) consisted for many years of a small number of communities along the seacoast and the Piscataqua River. The province's economy was dominated by timber and fishing and the New Hampshire population was more religiously diverse.

Puritans who thought that Massachusetts was not pious enough formed the colony of Connecticut. The colony, originally known as the River colony, was founded in 1636 by Thomas Hooker, who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony with 35 families. Later, two other English colonies merged into the Colony of Connecticut: Saybrook Colony and New Haven Colony. The economy began with subsistence farming and developed with greater diversity and an increased focus on production for distant markets, especially the British colonies in the Caribbean. The colony was also the scene of a bloody and raging war between the English and the Pequot tribe of Native Americans, known as the Pequot War. The Pequots lost the war and about 700 Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity.

Another man who decided to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony and begin a colony of his own was Roger Williams. He was a Puritan minister who disagreed with the decisions of the community and he protested that the state should not interfere with religion. He claimed that the colony leaders should not be the church leaders and he also believed the Indians should be paid for the land they were taking. Puritan leaders wanted to punish him, but he escaped. In 1636 he bought the land from Indians and established the Rhode Island Colony. The land was first home to the Narragansett Indians, who had extensive trade relations across the region, which evoked the idea of the town of Narragansett (today´s recreation town of some 16 thousand population) to show respect to the Indians. In the colony, everybody including Jews was allowed to practice their own religion and enjoy complete “liberty in religious concernments”. The separation of church and state was thus guaranteed.