Friday, April 17, 2015

1641 - The Massachusetts "Body of Liberties"

January 12, 1641 – The House of Burgesses of Virginia passes a law on inland waterways. Each county now has the responsibility to provide and maintain bridges and ferries. It also enacts another law stating that in case of crime committed by an Indian, the sentence will be imposed on the first who will be arrested, including the death penalty if necessary.

March 2, 1641 – Governor of Plymouth William Bradford yields to the freemen of the colony the rights he had received from the Council of New England.

 March 6, 1641 - The 80 free-men of the General Court of Rhode Island (Providence Plantation) declare that their colony is a democracy and adopt a new constitution.

Mathias De Sousa
March, 1641 - Mathias De Sousa, a former African indentured servant who had arrived from England with Lord Baltimore is elected as a representative at the General Maryland Assembly.

De Sousa was in all probability treated well compared with most African migrants. He had worked during four years for the Jesuits and had been freed in 1638 at the end of his contract. He continued to serve the priests who taught him to sail and made of him the captain of their small boat. When he was elected, De Sousa was considered to be a citizen.

1641 - Virginia, Francis Wyatt, Governor : the lands situated by the York River are open to colonization. The colonists are authorized to settle down on lands from the mouth of the Piankatank up to its spring since they group together in communities of at least 100 people. This politcy of territorial extension is made possible following the decrease of the Indian populations of the coastal plain whereas those of the settlers never stop increasing. 
- Captain Henry Fleet is ordered by The Great Assembly of Virginia to give each year to Powhatan leader Opechancanough 50 tons of corn payable by those who will settle on these new lands.
- A new decree fines the supporters of the pope 1000 pounds of tobacco if they try to celebrate Mass.
- The colony has about 7500 inhabitants of European origin whose ¾ arrived as indentured servants or apprentices. There are also 250 inhabitants of African origin arrived for the greater part as indentured workers rather than slaves. The owners and the merchant class control the government.

Henry Fleet (?-?) this English adventurer from a wealthy family had arrived in Virginia in 1621. He initially traded with the Patawomeke (Potomac) before being taken prisoner in 1623 by the Nacotchtank, their traditional enemies. These had held him prisoner for 5 years until Virginia pays a ransom for his release. He returned some time to England as an agent of several London merchants but the fact he had time to learn the language and customs of the Indians was helpful for him when he was accredited in 1634 to serve as guide to Leonard Calvert, the governor of the new province of Maryland. He was the interpreter of the Piscataways and the Yacomiacos, a role that proved decisive during discussions on the acquisition of new lands. In reward, Calvert gave Fleet the right to trade beaver pelts in Maryland with the Indians.

Richard Bellingham
June, 1641 - Richard Bellingham is elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony after Thomas Dudley. He defeats John Winthrop whom some feared he would hold this position for life. 

Richard Bellingham (1592 – December 7, 1672) 
Magistrate and lawyer from Boston, Lincolnshire; he practiced in his home town as a clerk before becoming Member of Parliament in 1628. A devout  Puritan, he was among the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Company with a 50-£ stake. He left only in 1634 to settle in New England with his family but became shortly after his arrival a deputy for the Boston area. With a whimsical and impetuous character, he faced therefore regularly John Winthrop, blaming his paternalism. After the death of his first wife, Bellingham remarried in 1641 by organizing himself the wedding ceremony. He was accused for that reason and because the banns had not been properly published for violating the law. But he refused to leave his desk and presided as such in his own trial.

June 14, 1641 - the  Massachusetts Bay Colony takes over Dover and Portsmouth areas (formerly Strawberry Banke), New Hampshire, then Hampton and Exeter. The owners keep however their rights.

This colony founded by John Mason a decade earlier, had known only a very limited development. There were about 170 people scattered along the Pisactaqua, living on hunting, fishing, few crops and logging. When the Lygonia Company went bankrupt in 1638, the colony was without lawful authority and the people of Strawberry Banke concluded a mutual pact of government and swore allegiance to the King and English law. However, they quickly realized that their pact was inappropriate to resolve local disputes and that they were unable to enforce laws. They came to terms with the booming  jurisdiction of Massachusetts which assured them for a time some legal stability. This union with Massachusetts that was to last until 1679, would see the arrival of Puritans hardened to business, endowed with a strong market experience and capital providers. They would transform the village of Portsmouth into an important commercial port.

The controversy starts again between minister of Hampton Stephen Bachiler and the government of Massachusetts when it assigns to him Timothy Dalton as assistant. He is first excommunicated but then restored to office after his speech to John Winthrop.

June, 1641 - William Bradford is elected a governor of the Plymouth colony. It is the 15th time since 1621 that he helds this position

August, 1641 - a young Wappinger warrior kills Claes Switts a Dutch wheelwright living in one of the many isolated farms on Turtle Bay, north of New Amsterdam. 

This murder was supposed to avenge that of a Wappinger committed by a colonist in 1626 but it also reflected the more and more growing strains between the settlers and the Indians, the latter not standing anymore to see their territories snaffled while being increasingly taxed by Willem Kieft.

August 3 1641- the Dutch West India Company acquires a portion of land between Hudson and Harlem Rivers. Eager to support the foundation of new settlements, the New Netherlands decide to welcome all the new colonists.

John Winthrop, Jr.
August 3, 1641 - John Winthrop, Jr. the son of the Massachusetts Bay colony governor leaves Boston for England in order to find a financing to produce iron in New England.

A renowned physician and scientist, he carried with him a project which already dated back to the early colonization but had never proceeded to the extent that supplies coming from England were quite sufficient. But immigration being slowed, trade had suffered a sudden stop and the prices went even more upside that civil war had just broken out between King Charles 1 and Parliamentarians. For the Massachusetts government, it became urgent to extract metal from New England mining and to set up its own ironworks.

August 29, 1641 - In New Amsterdam, a Council of Twelve is appointed by the people of the city to advise the Director General Willem Kieft on the action to be taken against the Indians further to the murder of Claes Swits.

Three questions were aked:
1 - Is it unfair to punish the barbaric murder of Claes Swits committed by an Indian and not justified to destroy their village if  the Indians would refuse to deliver the murderer?
2 - How the penalty should be enforced and how quickly?
3 - Who would be responsible of it?

They did not recommend war but proposed to send a request to the Indians demanding that they deliver the murderer.

September1,  1641 - The Raritan Indians avenge the affront suffered a year earlier during the Pig War by destroying the De Vries plantation on Staten Island.

They killed four field hands and set fire to the farm. Governor Kieft then ordered their extermination and promised a reward of ten fathoms of wampum for each Raritan head brought in New Amsterdam. Most tribes refused to take part and only a few Metoac warriors of Long Island agreed to "take their hatchet" for the Dutch. The testimonies reveal that Kieft was only given a single head.

September 1641 - the repeated attacks of the Indians along the Hackensack and on Staten Island force the Dutch to abandon the place.

October 1641 - the first cattle market in the colony of New Netherlands is held at Manhattan.
It will now take place every year on October 15, for livestock and November 1, for hogs.

October 31,1641 - the assembly of New Haven approves the creation of the Delaware Bay Company. The merchants of the colony wish in this way to develop a triangular trade.

Their boats would go to Virginia deliver their farm products in exchange for which they would load tobacco to New Amsterdam. The Delaware Bay would provide on the other hand   beaver pelts in great quantity that would be carried to Boston for paying supplies from England. This organization worked rather well for a while but the dynamism of Boston was soon to push the port of New Haven into the background.

November 7, 1641 - Following the resquest sent upon his arrival by governor Peter Ridder, the Kalmar Nyckel and the Charitas arrive in New Sweden with on board new Finnish settlers.

December 1, 1641 - the Massachusetts Bay colony adopts its first code of laws called the Body of Liberties, written by Narthaniel Ward.

It  was partly inspired by John Cotton's work "Abstract of the Laws of New-England, As They Are Now Established", which described what to do and penalties by referring to sanctions recommended in the Bible. It is worth to note that rulers saw at the time no incompatibility between the kind of theocracy they defended and the democracy that took form. For example, all judges should be chosen (Deut.1 13,17,15), first by free men, second by the others. "
This first code of laws began by giving the General Court the exclusive right to legislate and to impose its authority. Among the freedoms included the ban on conscriptions except for homeland defense, the ban on monopolies and estate taxes;  all the owners had the right to fish and hunt on public lands. This, however, legalized slavery " There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity amongst us unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israel concerning such persons cloth morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be judged thereto by authority.” (section 91)

The first person to have been sentenced to death in the colony was  Margaret Jones, a female doctor accused of being a "witch". A disturbed woman named Dorothy Talbye was also hanged in 1638 for murdering her sister because at the time, the Massachusetts custom made no distinction between insanity and criminal offending.

Nathaniel Ward (1578- October 1652), member of the Puritan church and pamphleteer, he wrote the first constitution of North America. The son of John Ward, a Puritan minister of Suffolk, England he studied law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1603. He first practiced as a lawyer and traveled throughout continental Europe where he met in Heidelberg David Pareus, a Protestant reformer who persuaded him to become a pastor. He was for a while chaplain with a Company of English merchants in Elbing, Prussia before going back to England where he was appointed in 1628 rector of the parish of Stondon Massey, Essex. Ward was quickly known as a Puritan leader what was worth to him being disowned by William Laud, the Bishop of London. He managed to escape excommunication in 1633 but was however dismissed because of his Puritan convictions. He moved shortly after to Massachusetts and served for two years as a minister in Ipswich (then called Agawam). There he wrote the Body of Liberties which was adopted in December 1641 by the General Court of Massachusetts. It was based on fundamental principles from the English Custom, the Magna Carta and the Old Testament. He believed more in theocracy that democracy but nevertheless considered that justice and the law were essential to the freedom of the individual.

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