Essex Men Who Built the United States: Part Three - Connecticut Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Essex Men Who Built the United States: Part Three - Connecticut

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Essex Men Who Built the United States
Introduction | Virginia | Massachusetts | Connecticut
Rhode Island | Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey
Georgia | The United States

Although the Council for New England granted land at the mouth of the Connecticut River to Puritan adventurers in 1632, the Dutch were the first people to attempt to settle there. In 1633, a party trekked along Long Island Sound from Nieuw Amsterdam - later New York - and established a trading post at Fort New Hope where Hartford is today. A few months later, the Massachusetts colonists set up Wethersfield and Windsor. The influence of Essex is apparent in many of the town names of Connecticut: early settlements included Essex and Colchester, and one of the main rivers was named after The Thames.

John Haynes (1594 - 1654)

John Haynes, son of John Haynes, was born in Birch, just south of Colchester. Little of his early life is recorded, but he was extremely wealthy, and before reaching the age of 30 he had already purchased the manor of Copford and Copford Hall.

As 'a gentleman of great estate', he was invited by John Winthrop senior to sail to New England. Sailing on board the Griffen, he arrived on 4 September, 1633 and settled in New Town. In May 1634 he became a freeman of the colony and was immediately made an assistant of the General Court. Within a year he was made governor of Massachusetts: during his time in office, he accused John Winthrop of being too lenient in his sentencing of Roger Williams.

Haynes only lasted a year as governor before being replaced by Henry Vane. In May 1637, Haynes took his family to Hartford. He spoke out against the killing of Pequot women and children during the Pequot Indian War and was one of the signatories of a treaty between the people of Connecticut and the Mohican and Narragansett tribes.

The 'Fundamental Orders' of Connecticut were adopted in 1639, and Haynes became the first elected governor of Connecticut. Under the colony's rules, he was not allowed to serve consecutive terms as governor: nevertheless, he was elected every alternate year until his death, usually serving as deputy-governor in the intervening years. A highly-regarded man, he died at Hartford in January 1646.

Thomas Hooker (1586 - 1647)

The early history of New England and the story of Thomas Hooker are very closely linked. He was probably the most prominent of the Essex non-conformists. He was born in Leicestershire and graduated from Cambridge. In 1620, Hooker became the rector of Esher and became well-known to Sir Francis Drake. A year later he married Susanna Garbrand, Mrs Drake's lady-in-waiting.

Hooker's ideas became more non-conformist after his making the acquaintance of John Rogers, the lecturer of Dedham, south of Saffron Walden. In 1626, Hooker was made lecturer of St Mary's Church - now the cathedral - in Chelmsford. His sermons attracted a great audience, made up not only of people from the town, but of impressionable and enthusiastic young clergymen. Consequently, it wasn't long before he showed up on William Laud's radar and he was threatened with arraignment in May 1629. After Samuel Collins, the vicar of Braintree, had spoken out on his behalf, Hooker was given another chance. However, John Browning, the rector of Rawreth, a village between Wickford and Rayleigh, complained to Laud about Hooker in November. A week later, 49 Essex ministers signed a petition in support of Hooker: one week after that, 41 signed a petition against him.

Having split the Essex clergy, Hooker then resigned his post and opened a school in nearby Little Baddow with John Eliot. Ministers continued to come to him for advice and guidance. This caused the Archdeaconry Court to bind him for £50 to appear before the High Commission. A tenant of Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick, Mr Nash of Great Waltham - a village north of Chelmsford - stumped up the cash. Some of the residents of Chelmsford paid back Nash when Hooker fled for Amsterdam in April 1631. Hooker's wife and family were given accommodation by Warwick.

After some time in the Netherlands as assistant to William Ames, Hooker returned to England to wrap up his affairs and boarded the Griffin with a group of his Essex followers. He reached Boston on 4 September, 1633 and settled in New Town (renamed Cambridge in 1636). He became the town's pastor with his friend Samuel Stone as the teacher. Many of the residents of New Town were not happy, wanting more land and more political and religious freedom. They relocated to Connecticut in 1636, naming their town Hartford after Stone's birthplace of Hertford.

On 31 May, 1638, Hooker preached a sermon to the people of Hartford in which he stated that political power should rest on the consent of the governed. This directly opposed John Winthrop's point of view. In January 1639, the freemen of Hartford and the neighbouring settlements of Wethersfield and Windsor enacted the 'Fundamental Orders' which were based on Hooker's democratic ideals. These remained in force into the 19th Century and are widely regarded as the forerunner of the US Constitution. Because of this document, Connecticut is known as the Constitution State.

Hooker believed that all the colonies should be united in a confederation. His vision came true when the New England Confederation was formed in 1643 to combat Dutch colonisation and to deal with the military shortcomings of the colonies. Even though he believed that power needed to be in the hands of an elected official, with the power of his words alone, Hooker was probably the most powerful man in Connecticut. He died on 7 July, 1647 and his loss was greatly felt in the new colonies.

John Winthrop Junior (1606 - 1676)

John Winthrop was the eldest son of John Winthrop. He was educated at Bury St Edmunds and Trinity College, Dublin. After leaving without a degree, he decided to study law and was admitted to the Inner Temple at the age of 19. He changed his mind again and left to join the Duke of Buckingham's disastrous 1627 expedition to aid the Huguenots (French protestants) at La Rochelle. He then went on a 15-month tour of Europe.

After his father left for America, John was charged with sorting out the family affairs and selling off the estate. In February 1631 he married Martha Fones, his cousin, and seven months later he left for America with his stepmother, most of his siblings and his new wife on the Lyon. They arrived in Boston on 4 November and in the spring of the following year he was elected onto the General Court. In 1633, he founded Ipswich. However, after the death of his wife and his daughter in 1634, he sailed for England again.

It was in England that he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Edmund Read of Wickford and step-daughter of Hugh Peters of Laindon. He was also appointed governor of the new colony of Connecticut. Together with his new wife, he set sail on the Abigail in the summer of 1635 and arrived in Boston in October. Winthrop visited Connecticut in March 1636 and then returned to live in Massachusetts after his daughter was born. He became a lieutenant-colonel of the Essex militia.

In the 1640s Winthrop started various businesses. He tried salt-mining but then concentrated on iron-working. Winthrop brought in workers from England and set up ironworks in Braintree and Saugus in Massachusetts in 1643. A year later he set up ironworks and a settlement in Pequot, Connecticut (the settlement was renamed New London 14 years later). Four years later, he was made a magistrate of Pequot. John Winthrop senior died in 1649 and his son chose to remain exclusively in Connecticut, declining re-election to the Massachusetts General Court.

He was elected governor of Connecticut in 1657, but, under the colony's laws at the time, was not allowed to serve for consecutive terms. In 1658 he was elected as deputy-governor before the law was altered and he was then elected governor from 1659 until his death. Winthrop returned to England in 1662 to collect a new charter for the colony. Under this new charter, Connecticut now included the colonies of Guildford, Milford, New Haven and Stamford. While in England he was elected to the Royal Society.

Winthrop's last years were troubled by the failures of his business activities. The manufacturing side had not done well, and wars with the Dutch had put paid to many of his trading ventures. John Winthrop had five daughters and two sons. Fitz-John Winthrop became governor of Connecticut and Waitstill Winthrop became chief justice of Massachusetts. Winthrop's legacy was a powerful family: by way of his descendant George W Bush, it was one which was still in power 400 years after his birth.

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