Massachusetts: Transition from colony to state - Europe Essay Example
Massachusetts: Transition from colony to state
Prior to the settlement of Europeans and the eventual colonization of the areas various tribes of the Algonquians were the main occupants - Massachusetts: Transition from colony to state introduction.
Proper settlement in the area of Massachusetts began in earnest in the late 16th and early 17th century. This is when the first European settlers arrived on the Mayflower and most of the pilgrims came from Humber region of England and landed at the modern day Provincetown, Massachusetts. However, the first settlement was established in 1620 at Plymouth. The first task for settlers was to embark on establishing a new government that would cater for their needs. 
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The majority of the Europeans were Puritans who were escaping the persecution by King Charles 1. The first governor who died after the first year was John Carver and was succeeded by William Bradford. It was under the tenure of the new governor that the Plymouth colony started taking shape and prospered despite the many difficulties it had to go through. In a short while, by mid-eighteenth century the colony was “an overwhelmingly white English Congregationalist colony” that was distinctly divided into two worlds: in the interior there were small towns with small farms but along the Atlantic coast there existed a maritime culture that was vibrant.
The farmers that existed in the interior mainly produced food crops, not for trade or market, but for household consumption. The form of protection that existed here was communal and they were “devoted to the republican ideal of a virtuous moral Community”. The communities within the inland setups were slightly suspicious of the commercial society and the community was held in high regard as opposed to individualism. This was in direct contrast with the “Liberal ideas” that were taking ground in the sea ports where the British trading system was thriving and individual profits by the merchants was adored. The Merchants mainly brought in such products as fish, Molasses, whale oil, tea including other manufactured goods. They in turn left with mainly lumber, rum and dried fish. By 1750 the largest port in the entire Atlantic coast was Boston which was leading in various production fronts of ship building, rum distillation, refining of sugar, and increased tonnage in the sea trade.
These new developments greatly changed the culture in the seaports turning it into a more cosmopolitan culture that was characterized by refined individualistic tendencies that fostered a homogeneous society. The gap between the rich especially to be found amongst the whites and the poor amongst the slaves and the free African Americans became increasingly evident. Harvard College was founded here in 1636; Boston was also renowned for attractive buildings and other Georgian-style architectural designs.
In 1691 the royal Chamber paved way for a provincial governments of Massachusetts, under the jurisdiction of an all powerful governor, who had the authority to appoint judges, dissolve the House of Representatives including the vetoing of the bills that emanated from the legislature. Voting was via a property qualification and the religion was Congregationalism. However after 1740 the main religion faced a barrage of attack from such revivalists as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards paving way for the Great Awakening which pulled many from the Orthodox Church.
Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson was the governor after the French and Indian war that took place between 1754 and 1763, and the opposition comprised of such men like James Otis, John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The opposition had great influence over the workmen in Boston, which caused friction with the governor. During this period the British government started taxing the colonies heavily, and in 1765 the infamous Stamp Act was imposed on the colonies attracting great resistance from the Americans leading to the destruction of Hutchinson’s home.
This marked the beginning of the fires of the American Revolution in which Massachusetts played a significant role. In 1767 the Townsend Acts increased resistance continuing to stir more discontent leading to the Boston Massacre of 1770. The rebelliousness would further be aggravated by the Tea Act of 1773 that would lead to the Boston Tea party. To punish them the British colonialists further imposed in 1774 the Intolerable Acts that were enforced by British troops under General Thomas Gage. Massachusetts played a significant role when it led other colonies in forming the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia that called for among other things a united action against the colonialists. They demanded taxation with representation.
The parliament in a sign of force closed the Boston Sea Port and sent in troops who further restricted any form of meetings, building more tension: war was inevitable and it broke out in April 1775.The fighting broke out in Lexington and Concord in what came to be called the battles of Lexington and Concord, that pitied the British troops against the colonies’ militia. George Washington was the commander of the patriot force that was a combination of other colonies. After the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17th June 1775 the patriot forces showed some signs of winning. By 17th March 1776, General William Howe for the British forces evacuated Boston never to return. This was closely followed by the activities of John Adam who played a major role in persuading the Congress to issue the Declaration of Independence.
It was John Adams who led the drafting of a new constitution in 1780 which was ratified by the citizenry through a direct vote, the first one of its kind. The constitution protected the rights of the existing denominations and allowed the African Americans to vote while abolishing slavery.
After the victory of the American Revolution the colonies came face to face with the economic hardships that were created by the Revolutionary war. The hardships were worse in the west of Massachusetts where farmers were in a revolt in what was to be known as the Shay’s Rebellion of 1786 that was against the weak government’s high taxation, and the demand for foreclosure. The government suppressed the rebellion. The new constitution gave the central government more powers thereby overshadowing the towns and gave the larger coastal towns more representation; the towns were not very comfortable with such a set up. This combined with the governor’s suppression of the Shay’s rebellion “reflected the steady gains of liberal ideas”. In the following year a convention in Massachusetts congregated to decide on the U.S constitution, many of the delegates especially from the interior were strongly opposed to a national government that was strong. However the seacoast ports held sway ratifying the constitution by a tiny majority.
After the ratification the federalists who were pro constitution continued to dominate the politics of Massachusetts including the control of various counties like Essex, Hampshire and Suffolk and other key and powerful dockets in the maritime and various financial outposts.
The republicans who were the main opponents had the support of the southern and western Boston counties including the religious dissenters. After 1800 some of the Federalists became increasingly frustrated with the polices that were being instituted by the Republican government leading them to start some form of sectional resistance that would see some of the Federalists in the Essex County try to form a Northern Confederacy and were agitating for a secession from the Union in 1803 and1804. They failed in their mission. During the War of 1812 the same Federalists opposed it by calling the Hartford Convention of 1814 that sought to amend the states’ rights of the constitution; here too they failed to accomplish their mission. 
During the period of 1820s the Federalists sought a merger to form a state party with the centrist Republicans. The merger was led by John Quincy Adams the son of John Adams. However Andrew Jackson led the Partisan Republicans who were reorganizing themselves. Jackson won the presidency during the 1828 elections even though Adam’s party carried the day in Massachusetts, falling again out of step in national politics.
Even though Massachusetts was out of step in the national politics, its economy remained very boisterous that was fostered by the migration of the populace from the other areas of the country to the western part of Massachusetts combined with the spread of a market economy. These changes led to a great interaction of the interior with the seacoast reducing the gap that had existed between them for a long time. Investment of capital was now readily available on the two fronts of the west and the east.
These changes were also witnessed in the infrastructural transformations where Boston was now linked with Albany and the City of New York by turnpikes and “canals were dug between the Merrimack River and Boston and between the inland town of Worcester and Narragansett Bay”. The opening of the interior played a very significant role in the rise of the cotton industry. By 1812 and in a span of less than thirty years many small scale cotton mills were dotting the landscape between Worcester and Rhode Island. However it was not until 1813 that large-scale manufacturing and processing of cotton stared taking shape in this region and the entire country as well. 
The Boston Manufacturing Company was established during this time by Francis Cabot Lowell and Patrick Tracy Jackson, who established for the first time in America, a cotton textile processing factory under one roof in Waltham near Boston. Great strides were made in the cotton industry and six companies were operating about 19 cotton mills at Lowell, making “Massachusetts the Union’s leading cotton manufacturing state”.
On the Religious front, the Congregational Church was facing an onslaught from the Methodist and Baptist churches together with the spread of Unitarianism leading to its decline. The dominance of the Congregational Church came to a close in 1833, which was brought about by the removal of an established religion through a constitution amendment after a struggle ensued with Unitarianism.
It was during the same period that Boston was under the leadership of Charles Bulfinch an architect who is credited with the building of the Massachusetts State House in 1800, “graceful street patterns.” Boston during this time experienced an unprecedented growth, from 18,000 inhabitants in 1790 to a population of 60,000 by 1830.
“In less than a century Massachusetts had made the transition from an agrarian, maritime British colony culturally divided between seacoast and interior to an American state in which all sections were becoming increasingly involved in manufacturing.”
Brown, Richard D: Massachusetts: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1978. P2-32
Massachusetts: Accessed on 2nd April 2008 from http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/Lo-Mc/Massachusetts.html
Rothenberg, Winifred Barr: From Market-Places to a Market Economy: The Transformation of Rural Massachusetts, 1750–1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. P12-67
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