NEW ENGLAND, a general name for the north-east section of the United States of America, embracing the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It has an area of 66,424 sq. m. (4448 sq. m. being water) ; and in 1910 its population was 6,552,681, more than onehalf of which was in Massachusetts, although that state contains less than one-eighth of the total area. The region is traversed by the broken mountain ranges which form the N.E. continuation of the Appalachian system; the soil is rather sterile, except in the river valleys; and the climate of the long winters is often severe. But the picturesque scenery and delightful summer climate have made New England a favourite resort. When the commerce of New England was interrupted as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars, the abundance of water power afforded by the rivers encouraged manufacturing, and the region rapidly acquired prominence in this industry, especially in the manufacture of textiles, of boots and shoes, and of paper and wood pulp; in 1905 the value of the textile products of New England (excluding flax, hemp and jute) alone was $522,821,440 (more than 45% of that of the entire country), the value of boots and shoes was $181,023,946 (more than 55% of the total for the entire country) , the value of paper and wood pulp was $49,813,133 (more than one-quarter of that of the entire country), and the value of all factory products amounted to $2,025,998,437 (nearly one-seventh of the total for the entire country).
Northmen very probably visited this region at the beginning of the 11th century. (See VINLAND). To Europeans who visited it in the 16th century it was included in " Norumbega," and some of the early explorers searched here for the mythical city of that name. Title to the territory was claimed by the English on the basis of its alleged exploration by the Cabots in 1498, and by the French on the basis of its exploration by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524. It was made favourably known to the English by the explorations of Bartholomew Gosnold in 1602, of Martin Pring in 1603 and of George Weymouth in 1605, and was at this time called North Virginia. In 1606 King James I. granted it to the Plymouth Company with a view to encouraging settlement, and in the next year a colony was planted at the mouth of the Sagadahoc (now Kennebec) river, but this was abandoned in 1608; the efforts of the French to establish settlements along the Maine coast were likewise unsuccessful. In 1614-1616 Captain John Smith traversed the coast as far east as the mouth of the Penobscot river and as far south as Cape Cod, gathered much information from the Indians, wrote an attractive descrip- tion of the country, prepared a map of it, suggested its present name, New England, and made another unsuccessful attempt to found a settlement. A new charter of 1620 conveyed to the New England Council, the successor of the Plymouth Company, all the territory in North America between latitudes 40 and 48 N. under the name of New England, and in the same year a permanent settlement was established at Plymouth by a band of Separatists, who, although they had expected to settle in Virginia, were prevailed upon by the captain of their vessel to land in New England. During its existence of fifteen years the New England Council made numerous grants of territory, and from three of these grew three of the present states : Massachusetts, from a grant to the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628; Maine, from the grant to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason (the two most influential members of the council) in 1622; and New Hampshire, from the grant to John Mason in 1629. The Council attempted to establish a general government over its entire domain, but the scheme of some of its members for supporting such a government with contributions from each member in return for an allotment of land was a failure, and although Robert Gorges, the second son of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, was sent over as governor-general in 1623, he accomplished nothing and returned in the next year in disgust. In 1635, when the Dutch were hemming in its domain on the west and the French on the north, the Council made a final allotment of its remaining territory among its members and surrendered its charter. Connecticut was founded in the same year by emigrants from Massachusetts without any other authority than that given by the mother colony. A separate colony was founded at New Haven in 1638 by emigrants from England who had stayed for a time in Boston and other Massachusetts towns, but this was annexed to Connecticut in 1664 under the Connecticut charter of 1662. Rhode Island was founded in 1636 by exiles from Massachusetts who had no authority whatever from a superior government. Plymouth was a separate colony until its union with Massachusetts under the charter of 1691. New Hampshire was a part of Massachusetts from 1641-1643 to 1679. Maine, having passed under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts in 1652, did not regain its independence until 1820. Vermont was settled largely by emigrants from New Hampshire, but New York claimed the territory and the dispute was not settled until the new state was erected in 1791.
Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven constituted in their early years a group of neighbouring colonies, substantially independent of the mother country, and possessing a unity of purpose and similar institutions but in need of mutual protection from the Indians, the Dutch and the French, and also needing an arbiter to whom they might refer their own disputes, especially those relating to boundaries and trade. To meet these needs they organized, under Articles of Confederation signed in 1643, the first form of colonial union in America; they called it The United Colonies of New England, but it is more commonly known as the New England Confederacy. The confederate authority was vested in a board of eight commissioners, two from each colony chosen annually by its General Court.
This board was to meet annually in September, two years of every five at Boston, one year of every five at Hartford, one at New Haven, and one at Plymouth ; special meetings also might be called by three magistrates of any of the four colonies. The commissioners chose their president at each meeting, but this officer had only the powers of a moderator. An agreement of six commissioners was necessary to pass any measure, but if there was an agreement of less than six the measure might be referred to the General Courts and become a law of the Confederacy if all of those courts approved. The most important powers of the Confederacy were those relating to defence, and in case of an invasion its entire force, consisting of 100 men from Massachusetts and 45 men from each of the other colonies (or some other proportion which the commissioners might name), was to march out if so requested by three magistrates of any of the contracting colonies. The expenses of every defensive war which the commissioners declared to be just were to be defrayed by the several colonies in proportion to their number of men and boys between the ages of sixteen and sixty. Other matters within the jurisdiction of the commissioners were such as related to disputes between two or more colonies and the return of escaped servants, prisoners and fugitives from justice. As the commissioners had no means of enforcing their orders, their function was chiefly advisory, but it was nevertheless of considerable importance on several occasions. Although the number of commissioners from each of the colonies was the same, those from Massachusetts exerted the dominant influence.
The commissioners met regularly until 1684 annually until New Haven submitted to Connecticut in 1664, and triennially from 1664 to 1684, when Massachusetts lost its first charter. Upon the downfall of the Puritan Commonwealth in the mother country (1660) numerous grievances were presented to King Charles II. against the Puritan governments of New England, among them Massachusetts' extension of its jurisdiction over the towns of Maine and New Hampshire, the persecution of the Quakers, and the denial of the right of appeal to the crown, and in 1664 a royal commission, consisting of Richard Nicolls, Samuel Maverick, Robert Carr and George Cartwright, was sent over to settle disputes and secure some measure of imperial control, but Massachusetts, the chief offender, successfully baffled all attempts at interference, and the mission was almost a complete failure. The grievances of English merchants arising from the violation of the navigation laws by the colonies continued, however, to receive the attention of the home government.
In 1676 the Lords of Trade and Plantations sent over Edward Randolph to investigate and gather information which would show the justice and expediency of imposing imperial control, and two years later Randolph was appointed Collector and Surveyor of Customs in New England. Randolph sent back many charges, especially against Massachusetts, with the effect that, in 1684, the charter of that colony was annulled by a decree in Chancery on a writ of quo ivarranto. This done, the home government set to work to organize the royal domain which should be known as New England, or the Dominion of New England, and its plan for this provided for the annulment of the charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut, and the inclusion in the Dominion of these colonies, and New Hampshire, Maine, New York and the Jerseys, thereby restoring to New England all the territory, with the exception of Pennsylvania, that was included in the grant to the New England Council in 1620. A temporary government was established at Boston in May 1686, with Joseph Dudley as president, and in December of the same year Edmund Andros arrived with a commission and instructions which were a copy of those to the governor of New York and made him governor of all New England except Rhode Island and Connecticut. Rhode Island offered no resistance to the writ against its charter and Andros extended his authority over it immediately after his arrival. Connecticut successfully baffled the royal servants for a time, but when threatened with a division of its territory agreed not to resist the royal purpose, and on the last day of October 1687 it passed under the general government of New England. Finally, a new commission to Andros, issued in April 1688, extended his jurisdiction over New York and the Jerseys, and the whole region over which he was made governor by this instrument was named " Our Territory and Dominion of New England in America." But the English Revolution of 1688 inspired a revolt in New England by which Andros was deposed in April 1689. Under William and Mary no attempt was made to preserve the Dominion of New England, but Rhode Island and Connecticut were permitted to resume government under their old charters, Massachusetts received a new one, and New Hampshire again became a separate royal province.
New England is prominent in American colonial history as the " Land of the Puritans " and the home of the corporate colony. The chief motive of its founders in coming to the New World was the establishment of a new Christian commonwealth, but subordinate to this there was from the first an economic motive. So long as the religious motive remained dominant, " blue laws " were a prominent feature of the administration, but by a slow transition the economic motive became the dominant one, and, as a consequence of this transition and of the corporate form of government, European institutions were transformed into American institutions and new political ideas were generated more rapidly in New England than in either the Middle or the Southern colonies. Owing to its geographical position, nearer to Canada than any other group of colonies, New England had to stand the brunt of the fighting during the wars between the English and the French (aided by their Indian allies) in America, terminating with the conquest of Canada by the English in 1750-1760, and a sense of common danger helped to create a certain solidarity, which made easier the union of the colonies for common action against the mother country at the time of the War of American Independence. After that war, New England was long the most essentially commercial and industrial group of states, and was a stronghold of Federalism; and in the period immediately before and during the War of 1812, when its commercial interests suffered terribly, first from the restrictive measures of the general government and then from warfare, New England was a centre of that opposition to the policy of the National Administration (then Democratic), which culminated in the famous Hartford Convention of 1814-1815 (see HARTFORD).
See the articles on the separate New England states and the authorities there given ; among good general works are J. G. Palfrey, History of New England (5 vols., Boston, 1858-1800); J. A. Doyle, The Puritan Colonies (2 vols., New York, 1889); B. B. James, The Colonization of New England (Philadelphia, 1904) ; H. L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century (3 vols., New York, 1904-1907); John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England, or the Puritan Theocracy in its Relation to Civil and Religious Liberty (Boston, 1896); S. A. Drake, The Making of New England (New York, 1896); W. B. Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England (2 vols., Boston, 1890) ; and Edward Channing, History of the United States, vols. i. and ii. (New York, 1905, 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)