The New England Confederation

The New England Confederation

The New England Confederation, officially known as the United Colonies of New England, was an alliance between the Puritan English colonies of North America. It was formed in order to provide defense against the indigenous peoples and other colonial powers, such as the French; Dutch; and Spanish, as well as settle disputes between member colonies. The Rhode Island colony was deliberately left out of this union as it was believed, by most of the member colonies, to contain too many immoral persons and questionable values. Despite this exclusion, the confederation demonstrated that the English colonies of North America could work in cooperation with one another and provided the basis for what would become the United States of America.

As a result of the English Civil War the colonies could only rely on themselves. A continued problem for administrators of justice in the colonies was that fugitives of the law could flee from one colony to the next without fear of apprehension. Also, each colony faced problems with obtaining funds for the general running of government. Then, above all, there were the problems of defense against foreign and ingenious powers.

Thus, in 1643 representatives of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven met to form a union of colonies. The representatives drafted The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England. In the articles they established a common treasury and common militia. Also, an eight man commission, consisting of two commissioners from each of the four colonies, with a president, was also established for the administration of confederation business.

The agreement remedied several of the problems the colonies faced. It was stated in the agreement that should a fugitive flee from one member colony to another, the fugitive would be apprehended and returned to the colony from which they fled in order to face trial and any possible penalties. Each colony agreed to provide men and money in proportion to its population to the common militia and treasury. It would take a majority vote of six of the eight commissioners in order to declare war or raise levies.

Overall, the confederation was a success in that it demonstrated that cooperation could be established and achieved between the English colonies of North America that had been established one at a time and functioned almost as separate countries. However, the confederation was damaged when Massachusetts refused to enter the war against the Dutch in 1654. Though, the confederation would again gain strength and importance when the colonies waged King Phillip’s War from 1675-1676 it would ultimately collapse with the revocation of Massachusetts’ colonial charter in 1684 and a new union, the Dominion of New England, being imposed on the colonies in 1686.