Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
So he with difficulty and labor hard
Mov'd on, with difficulty and labor he.
John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667; 1674 Book II, line 1,021)
The Dominion of New England in America (or Dominion of New England for short) is the administrative union of English colonies in the New England region of North America. Its political structure represented a more centralized control by the Commonwealth, a major departure from the previous autonomy enjoyed by the colonies.
The dominion was initially unacceptable to most colonists, because they deeply resented being stripped of their traditional rights. Governor-general Charles Fleetwood made important legal and structural changes. One notable change was the introduction of the Church of England into Massachusetts, whose Puritan leaders had previously refused to allow it any sort of foothold.
On his arrival, in june 1676, Fleetwood was accompanied by two battalions of the British Army. His commission as Major-general gave him full military command of all actions against the indians in King Philip's War. The Governor and General Court of Massachusetts took a full month to recognize and meet with Fleetwood. This clear show of contempt did not fall good with Fleetwood who for another month had to wrestle with the Governor and General Court the recognition and legality of his Commission and orders from the Protector, State Council and Parliament. A misstep that would have immediate costs. Being an old Ironside and Cromwellian Fleetwood decide to directly address the persistent obstruction. So he called for a joint meeting of the Governor and General Court in 13 August. The most virulent opposition members had been kept under arrest the night before. Accompanied by his personal guard in the assembly room and the Army guarding the building and vetting the entrance, he proceed to dismiss the governor and all other authorities. The General Court then proceed to named Fleetwood Governor with Simon Bradstreet as Deputy Governor and new members to the Council. The rest of the colonies had already recognized Fleetwood's Commission.
Having secured his political authority in New England he proceed along his staff to revise the colonial militias, reaffirming Fleetwood's and his staff's poor opinion on their recruitment, training and equipment. So a reshuffle of commanders, discharges and retraining was carried out. After several campaigns and failures from the colonial militia a new Dominion Militia was instituted as an auxiliary force. The British Army also took control of the custom houses and new clerks and inspectors were named to staff them, helped by the British Navy that patrolled the coast of New England.
In New England, the Congregational Churches are the center of the towns' political and religious life. The Cambridge Platform (1648) is the doctrinal statement for the Puritan Congregational churches in New England. The declaration endorsed the Westminster Confession of the Church of England—except with regard to ecclesiastical organization, instead upholding the existing local Congregational form of church governance followed by the pilgrims and Puritans.
After decades of ignoring pleas to allow the Church of England to be established, an agreement was reached under Fleetwood were it allowed it to be established at least in the major cities in separe premises from the ones used by the Puritans. Equal status is given to both the Church of England and Congregational churches. New England's religious local legislation established a system which required every man, woman and child to belong to a church, and permits each church to tax its members. A system of Triers and Ejectors was established.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England continued its work with the Indians of New England[.
The following colonies are members of the Dominion:
- Connecticut (capital Hartford)
- Massachusetts Bay (Boston)
- Plymouth (Plymouth)
- Rhode Island (Providence)
- Maine (Portland, later moved to Bangor) Established in 1678.
- New Hampshire (Concord) Established in 1678.
Each colonies has a legislature, a Council and a Governor (or President).
Fleetwood's Commission empowered him to implement the provisions of the Charter of the Dominion. So he named the Council of New England with two members (later one of the two to be elected by the legislatures) from each colony. Established a separarte Justice Court of the Dominion, and ordered the colonies to create independent courts that in most cases meant that the legislatures loss their judicial powers. The administration of the colonies was kept, however the Governor-general's agents supervised defense and tax collection.
- Charles Fleetwood, also Major-general of the forces (June 1675-...). Was also Governor of Massachusetts (August 1675- May 1678).
The New England town is the basic unit of local government and local division of state authority. Annual town meetings held at the meeting house, generally in May, elect the town's representatives to the general court and to transact other community business. Towns often had a village green, used for outdoor celebrations and activities such as military exercises of the town's trainband or militia. However, after Fleetwood's military reforms recruitment, training and equipment was more centralized and towns were joined in Sectional Militias.