New Haven Colony

A map of the Connecticut, New Haven, and Saybrook colonies.
New Haven Colony
British colony
Capital New Haven
Language(s) English
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - Established 1638
 - Merged with Connecticut Colony 1665
Currency Pound sterling

The New Haven Colony was an English colonial venture in present-day Connecticut in North America from 1637 to 1662.


Quinnipiac Colony

A Puritan minister named John Davenport led his flock from exile in the Netherlands back to England and finally to America in the spring of 1637. The group arrived in Boston on the ship Hector on June 26, but decided to strike out on their own, based on their impression that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was lax in its religious observances.

That fall Theophilus Eaton led an exploration party south to the north shore of Long Island Sound in search of a suitable site. He purchased land from the Indians at the mouth of the Quinnipiac River. In the spring of 1638 the group set out, and on April 14 they arrived at their 'New Haven' on the Connecticut shore. The site seemed ideal for trade with a good port between Boston and New Amsterdam and access to the furs of the Connecticut River valley settlements of Hartford and Springfield. However, while the colony succeeded as a settlement and religious experiment, its future as a trade center was some years away.

In 1639 they adopted a set of Fundamental Articles for self-government, partly as a result of a similar action in the river towns. A governing council of seven was established, with Eaton as chief magistrate and Cunningham as pastor. The articles required that "...the word of God shall be the only rule..." and this was maintained even over English common law tradition. Since the Bible contained no reference to trial by jury, they eliminated it and the council sat in judgment. Only members of their church congregation were eligible to vote.

United Colonies of New England Confederation

The colony's success soon attracted other believers, as well as those who were not Puritans. They expanded into additional towns (then called plantations): Milford and Guilford in 1639, Stamford and Southold across Long Island Sound to the south on the North Fork of Long Island in 1640 forming the original component of the confederation which called itself "The United Colonies of New England.".[1]

Later Branford joined in 1643 and was the last the official "plantation" in the New Haven Confederation. They based their government on that of Massachusetts but maintained stricter adherence to the Puritan discipline.

New Jersey, Philadelphia and the Pacific Ocean

In 1641 the colony claimed the area that is now South Jersey and Philadelphia after buying the area south of Trenton along the Delaware River from the Lenape tribe. Among the communities that were to be founded were Cape May, New Jersey and Salem, New Jersey.[2]

The treaty which placed no westward limit on the land west of the Delaware was to be the legal basis for a Connecticut "sea to sea" claim of owning all the land on both sides of the Delaware from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This set the stage for the Pennamite-Yankee War of 150 years later.

In 1642 fifty families on a ship captained by George Lamberton settled at the mouth of Schuylkill River around to establish the trading post at what is today Philadelphia. The Dutch and Swedes who were already in the area burned their buildings. A court in New Sweden was to convict Lamberton of "trespassing, conspiring with the Indians."[3]

The New Haven Colony would not get any support from its New England patrons and Puritan Governor John Winthrop was to testify that the "Delaware Colony" "dissolved" owing to summer "sickness and mortality."[4]

The Phantom Ship

In the first years of the colony it only had ships capable of coastal travel. Trade with England was done with the Massachusetts Bay Colony as the middleman. In 1645 the Colony built an 80-ton ocean-going ship to be captained by Lamberton. The ship disappeared in 1646.

According to legend, six months later, following a June thunder shower near sunset, an apparition of the ship appeared on the horizon. Those on shore were said to have recognized their friends on deck. The ship's masts then appeared to snap, and in the pitch the passengers were thrown into the sea and the ship capsized. Town fathers were to say the event gave them closure.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "The Phantom Ship" about the event which includes the lines:[5]

A ship sailed from New Haven,
And the keen and frosty airs,
That filled her sails at parting,
Were heavy with good men's prayers.
"O Lord! if it be thy pleasure"--
Thus prayed the old divine--
"To bury our friends in the ocean,
Take them, for they are thine!"
But Master Lamberton muttered,
And under his breath said he,
"This ship is so crank and walty
I fear our grave she will be!"

The disasters in Philadelphia and sinking of its ship were to weaken the Colony's future negotiating position.

Pursuit of the regicide judges

Eaton stayed as governor until his death in 1658, when leadership of the Colony was given to Francis Newman, followed by William Leete in 1660.

In 1661, the judges who had signed the death warrant of Charles I of England in 1649 were pursued by Charles II. Two judges, Colonel Edward Whalley and Colonel William Goffe, fled to New Haven to seek refuge from the king's forces. John Davenport arranged for these "Regicides" to hide in the West Rock hills northwest of the town. A third judge, John Dixwell, joined the other regicides at a later time.

Merger with Connecticut Colony

An uneasy competition ruled their relations with the Connecticut River settlements centered on Hartford. The colony published a complete legal code in 1656, but the law remained very much church-centered. A major difference between the New Haven and Connecticut colonies was that the Connecticut permitted other churches to operate on the basis of "sober dissent" while the New Haven Colony only permitted the Puritan church to exist.

When a royal charter was issued to Connecticut in 1662, New Haven's period as a separate colony ended and its towns were merged into the government of Connecticut Colony in 1665.

Many factors were to contribute to the loss of power including the loss of its strongest governor Eaton, the economic disasters of losing its only ocean-going ship and the Philadelphia disaster. Also there was the regicide case. The New Haven Colony harbored several of the regicide judges who sentenced King Charles I to death. The New Haven Colony was absorbed by the Connecticut Colony partly as royal punishment by King Charles II for harboring the regicide judges who sentenced King Charles I. At the same time the Connecticut Colony had seen its star rise.


A group of New Haven colonists led by Robert Treat moved to establish a new community in New Jersey in 1666. Treat wanted to name the new community after Milford, Connecticut. However Abraham Pierson was to urge that the new community be named "New Ark" or "New Work" which was to evolve into the name Newark, New Jersey.[6]

See also


External links

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