Early Massachusetts Charter

A Brief History

"Prior to the year 1607, a period of one hundred and fifteen years from the discovery of San Salvador by Columbus, several attempts were made to effect settlements in various parts of North America; hut none had proved successful. In the Month of May of this year, a colony from England, consisting of one hundred and five persons, arrived in Virginia; and on a beautiful peninsula in James River, began a settlement, which they called Jamestown. This was the first permanent settlement effected by Europeans in the United States.

The name Massachusetts is supposed to have been derived from a tribe of Indians in the neighborhood of Boston; and the tribe itself, according to Roger Williams, was so called from the "Blue Hills of Milton."

The territory now so denominated was originally a part of North Virginia, which had been conveyed, by charter of James 1, in 1606, to the Plymouth Company, as South Virginia had been to the London Company.

Soon after the above grant, the Plymouth Company dispatched a vessel to explore the country, and, not long after, sent a colony of one hundred planters, under George Popham and Raleigh Gilbert, to form a settlement. These landed, August 21st, at the mouth of the Sagadahoc River, since called the Kennebec [Maine]. The two ships returned to England in December, leaving forty-five of the colonists in the plantation, which received the name of Fort St. George. But the hardships of the colony, during the following winter, were so severe, that in the spring the settlement was abandoned, and the survivors returned to England.

In 1614, Captain John Smith, distinguished in the early history of Virginia, sailed, with two ships, for North Virginia, for the purposes of trade and discovery. During the voyage, he explored the coast from Penobscot to Cape Cod, giving names to several important points of land, which, for the first time, were now discovered. On his return, he presented a map of the country, which he had projected, to Prince Charles, afterwards Charles I, and to which the latter, "in the warmth of his admiration," gave the name of "New England."

The flattering representations of Captain Smith regarding the country revived the slumbering interests of the Plymouth Company, and induced them to form new plans for its settlement. Smith himself was appointed admiral of the country, for life; and after some years a new charter was obtained from the king; the old Plymouth Company being dissolved, and a new company formed, by the title of the Council of Plymouth, to which was granted, in absolute right, all the territory between the fortieth and the forty-eighth degrees of north latitude, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and comprising more than a million of square miles, with all the privileges and authority originally granted to the Plymouth Company.

This charter bore the date of November 13th, 1620, and was the basis of the several grants subsequently made of the New England territory. Yet the settlement of that territory was destined to be commenced, in the first instance, without any patent from the Council of Plymouth, or from the king, and, indeed, without their knowledge or concurrence.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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