New Colonies: Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the founding and ensuing complications in the colony of Maryland
  • Describe the founding of Connecticut and Rhode Island

As you learned, the years between 1640 and 1660 were ones of chaos in England. In this period the king, Charles I, was beheaded, and England converted into a republic under the leadership of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell. No new colonies were founded during this time, though immigrants continued to move to already-established colonies.

When the son of Charles I, Charles II, was “restored” to the throne, he brought with him an interest in colonization as well as an elaborate court life and fiscal excesses. Between his succession to the throne in 1660 and his death in 1685, Charles rewarded those who had been loyal to him and to his father by bestowing upon them grants of land in the Americas. During his reign, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Carolina were founded as proprietary colonies. Most of the North American colonies, including Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were proprietary for at least part of their existence.

Proprietary colonies were not unlike the fiefdoms of the Middle Ages in that the proprietors were the ultimate sources of authority in their respective colonies, controlling all actions and institutions of government. In the early eighteenth century, Georgia, the last colony to be established, was under the control of a Board of Trustees; the trustees envisioned the colony both as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the Carolinas and a refuge for English debtors. By the early eighteenth century, many of the colonies, including those granted to the proprietors, had become Royal Colonies, under the direct control of the English Crown.

We learned about the settlement of the Virginia and Massachusetts Bay colony in a previous module, so in this section, we will work through each of the colonial foundings in roughly the order they were established, starting with Maryland.

The 13 Original COlonies

The table below from ThoughtCo. shows the year each of the colonies was founded and by whom. You can click on the colony name to learn more about the founding of each colony.[1]

Table 1. The 13 Original Colonies

Colony Name Year Founded Founded By
Virginia 1607 London Company
Massachusetts 1620 – Plymouth Colony
1630 – Massachusetts Bay Colony
New Hampshire 1623 John Mason
Maryland 1634 Lord Baltimore
Connecticut c. 1635 Thomas Hooker
Rhode Island 1636 Roger Williams
Delaware 1638 Peter Minuit and New Sweden Company
North Carolina 1653 Virginians
South Carolina 1663 Eight Nobles with a Royal Charter from Charles II
New Jersey 1664 Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret
New York 1664 Duke of York
Pennsylvania 1682 William Penn
Georgia 1732 James Edward Oglethorpe

WAtch It

This video briefly explains the settlement of the 13 original colonies. The colonies are often categorized into three sections, based on similar characteristics and generalizations made about each region: the New England Colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire), the Middle Colonies (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware), and the Southern Colonies (Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia).

You can view the transcript for “The Founding of the 13 Colonies | History” here (opens in new window).



The bay region of the Potomac River and Maryland was first encountered by Captain John Smith who sailed to the region as part of his explorations. In 1632, George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, applied to King Charles I for a royal charter to establish a new colony in the Chesapeake region of North America where he had already created a colony in Newfoundland. However, when he observed Newfoundland firsthand, he did not like the land, which was not as described to him. A devout convert to Catholicism, he wanted to establish a colony where Catholics could practice their religion freely, something not always possible in England. He wanted the colony to be created further south where the climate was kinder and the popular cash crop, tobacco, could be grown. Calvert, who died in April 1632, did not live to see his charter materialize. His eldest son and heir, Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, was granted the charter his father had long worked to gain. The new colony was called Maryland, named for Henrietta Marie, wife of Charles I. The Maryland charter was interesting in that it did not simply grant the Calverts the right to establish a colony; it granted the Calverts actual ownership of all the land of the colony, with the colonists swearing oaths to the Baron. The Baron in turn had the right to sell land to aristocrats as he saw fit, thus creating a landed aristocracy class for the colony.

Maryland became the first proprietary English colony in North America. Leonard Calvert, the younger brother of Cecilius, was appointed the governor of the new colony and set sail with three hundred colonists on two ships, the Ark and the Dove. They arrived at St. Mary’s, Maryland on March 27, 1634. The first group of colonists was composed of both Catholics, including Jesuit priests, and Protestants.

Of the thirteen original colonies, Maryland had one of the most progressive governments in terms of religious freedom and its treatment of Indigenous people. It guaranteed religious freedom to all Christians and treated Native people fairly, including paying for their land. In 1642, the first Africans arrived. Lord Baltimore intended Maryland to be a tobacco-growing state, so a labor force was needed, and indentured servants were the norm at that time. The Africans arrived as slaves, but the Marylanders balked at enslaving Christians; so, if Africans were willing to be baptized, they could well be set free, an outcome that would create a financial loss to their owners. Laws were eventually enacted to protect the rights of those who held people in slavery, just as there were laws to protect the rights of those who had indentured servants.

The site of St. Mary’s had been a village belonging to the Yaocomico people, one of the many Algonquian language tribes found in the Chesapeake region. Calvert purchased the village area to found his capital city and made great efforts to remain on good terms with the indigenous people who lived within the territory of the colony. Like other Algonquian speakers of the region, the Yaocomico wore deerskin robes with shells and feather decorations. They painted and tattooed themselves, perhaps in a style like that depicted in White’s portraits of the Secotan from the Outer Banks further south. The Yaocomico were good friends to the new colony. They stayed nearby as their village was transformed into an English settlement and helped the colonists adjust to the agricultural challenges of their new home. It is likely that the Yaocomico suffered the same fate as many of the Secotan of Roanoke; although they stayed near the English, they did not develop immunities to the English diseases. They vanished without further mention sometime before 1700.

Conflicts, of course, occurred; the first was with Virginia, Maryland’s neighbor to the south. The colonies share a border marked, for the most part, by the Potomac River. Virginia, a royal colony by the time of the founding of Maryland, had been interested in having the territory added to its own, or at the very least not having it given to another colony and potential competitor in the lucrative tobacco market. A Virginia planter, statesman and Puritan, William Clayborne had set up a trading post and settlement on Kent Island in 1631. The island was included in the charter granted to the Calverts for Maryland. Clayborne and Virginia protested but lost. The conflict, which sometimes included military action and fatalities, continued into the 1650s. For Virginia and Maryland, the issue was territorial and financial, and Virginia would eventually side with Maryland against Clayborne. For Clayborne, the issue was financial, religious, and personal, so he did not drop the matter willingly. During the same time period, Maryland was at war with the Susquehannock, an Iroquoian tribe who earlier had threatened the Yaocomico.

Maryland was also affected by the English Civil War. The Catholic Calverts supported King Charles I, while many Protestants in the colony and in Virginia, including Clayborne, supported Parliament. A Captain Richard Ingle joined with Clayborne, seized St. Mary’s in 1644, and began the Plundering Time, in which he rode up and down Maryland, seizing whatever he wished, terrorizing the citizens and capturing Jesuits for shipment back to England. Only the return of Governor Calvert in 1646 from his exile in Virginia ended Ingle’s reign of terror. Calvert died the next summer in 1647, passing the governorship to Thomas Greene, one of the earliest colonists and a Catholic.

Tensions were growing between the dominant, minority Catholics and the majority Protestants. In 1648, Lord Baltimore appointed William Stone as the first Protestant governor. Stone had earlier founded the city of Providence on the Severn River as a new home for Puritans leaving Virginia, which had become more firmly Anglican under Governor William Berkeley. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics led to the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 which guaranteed religious freedom to all Christians. This move was a bold one on the part of Maryland and established a very liberal religious policy that was not common in the English colonies at the time.

Maryland, therefore, became an attractive location for those Christians who sought freedom from religious persecution. This freedom was only extended to Christians; anyone who denied the divine nature of Christ could be put to death. Although the Toleration Act made Maryland an attractive haven for non-Anglican Protestants, it did nothing to assure these groups that the Catholic minority controlling the colony were fair to all parties. The impression of favoritism to Catholics continued in the minds of many Protestant Marylanders who would continue to break out in rebellion until the Calverts’ control of the colony in 1689.

The Toleration Act became a victim of the English republican period. The Calverts’ dream of a haven for Catholics where Protestants and Catholics could live together in peace was not shared by the Protestant supporters of the Parliament during the war. After the execution of Charles I in 1642, Oliver Cromwell, the head of the English republic, gave his loyal supporter William Clayborne control of Maryland. Clayborne was able to get the Maryland Assembly to repeal the Act. Clayborne went further and succeeded in passing a ban which made it illegal to publicly practice Catholicism in a colony founded for Catholics. Stone, who had been driven from Maryland by Cromwell’s supporters, returned with an army and fought the Battle of the Severn but was defeated and captured. One of Stone’s officers, Josiah Fendall, became the next governor of Maryland appointed by Lord Baltimore. Lord Baltimore had reached an agreement with Cromwell’s government to have his own governor once again in charge of his colony. Fendall managed to restore order and improve conditions in the colony. Still, the Protestants displayed unrest and expressed dissatisfaction with having a Catholic Lord Proprietor. Fendall and the Assembly attempted to break away from the Calverts and create a new government. The timing was not in Fendall’s favor. Cromwell died in 1658, and England reverted to a monarchy with the arrival of King Charles II, who fully supported Lord Baltimore. Baltimore appointed another of his brothers, Philip Calvert, to be the new governor temporarily, and then his son and heir, Charles Calvert, arrived to serve as governor in 1661.

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The New England Colonies

The New England colonies were founded between 1620 and 1642, when the English Civil War broke out. With the exception of Rhode Island, these colonies (Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, New Haven, and Connecticut) were Puritan, and Puritanism influenced their social morés, economics, and politics. Believing in a strict adherence to Calvinist doctrine and in the value of a society composed solely of “visible saints,” most New England colonists, with the exception of those in Rhode Island, did not welcome what they called “strangers,” nor did they practice toleration in any form. The colony of Rhode Island was different, as it was created by refugees from Massachusetts who disagreed with Puritan orthodoxy and the chokehold it had on Massachusetts society.

Because Puritans believed that anyone seeking membership in the church had to have a working knowledge of scripture, education became an important aspect of life in their colonies, as did industry, because to be idle was a sign of the devil at work. Unlike the colonies in the South, where education was the responsibility of the family, New England was seen as the province of the state. While Plymouth remained small in population, Massachusetts Bay grew throughout the seventeenth century and became large and prosperous; in 1691 Massachusetts became a royal colony, absorbing the territories of Maine and Plymouth.

Maine was mostly an outpost for fishers, though recent discoveries have revealed an early settlement in Maine at Popham. It appears that in 1607, when James I granted land for the creation of what became Jamestown, he supported the establishment of a second colony in Maine. The colonists arrived at Popham in August, 1607 and began building what they called Fort St. George. As winter approached and supplies ran low, however, half of the colonists decided to return to England. At the end of winter, the remainder headed home, as well. The settlement there had lasted for less than a year. The sparse settlements in Maine were annexed by Massachusetts between 1652 and 1656; in 1691 Plymouth and Maine were formally joined with Massachusetts by the English Privy Council.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire saw sporadic settlement during the decades of the 1630s and 1640s. Most of the area had been given to the Englishmen Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason in 1622 by the Council for New England. They divided the tract into northern and southern portions. The first permanent settlements in New Hampshire were established at Exeter and Hampton in 1638 by two diverse groups: the Reverend John Wheelwright, the brother of Anne Hutchinson and like her an exile from Boston, and a group of orthodox Puritans from another part of the Bay colony. Most of the towns of New Hampshire were created between 1623 and 1640; all were annexed by Massachusetts in 1641-1643, partly because of the death of Gorges and partly because the Civil War in England gave elevated importance to Puritans in England and the American colonies. New Hampshire remained part of Massachusetts Bay until 1677 when it became independent; in 1679 it became a royal colony.


Map of colonial Connecticut.

Figure 1. Connecticut colony.

Religion was implicated in the creation of several other colonies as well, including the New England colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The settlements that would eventually comprise Connecticut grew out of settlements in Saybrook and New Haven. Thomas Hooker and his congregation left Massachusetts for Connecticut because the area around Boston was becoming increasingly crowded. The Connecticut River Valley was large enough for more cattle and agriculture. In June 1636, Hooker led one hundred people and a variety of livestock in settling an area they called Newtown (later Hartford).

New Haven Colony had a more directly religious origin. The founders attempted a new experiment in Puritanism. In 1638, John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton, and other supporters of the Puritan faith settled in the Quinnipiac (New Haven) area of the Connecticut River Valley. In 1643, New Haven Colony was officially organized, with Eaton named governor. In the early 1660s, three men who had signed the death warrant for Charles I were concealed in New Haven. This did not win the colony any favors, and it became increasingly poorer and weaker. In 1665, New Haven was absorbed into Connecticut, but its singular religious tradition endured with the creation of Yale College.

Rhode Island

Religious rogues similarly founded Rhode Island. After his exile from Massachusetts, a result of his multiple challenges to the authority of the Puritan establishment there, Roger Williams created a settlement called Providence in 1636. He negotiated for the land with the local Narragansett sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi. Williams and his fellow settlers agreed on an egalitarian constitution and established religious and political freedom in the colony. The following year, another Massachusetts castoff, the religious dissenter Anne Hutchinson, and her followers settled near Providence. Soon, others followed, and were granted a charter by the Long Parliament in 1644. Persistently independent, the settlers refused a governor and instead elected a president and council. These separate plantations passed laws abolishing witchcraft trials, imprisonment for debt and, in 1652, chattel slavery. Because of the colony’s policy of toleration, it became a haven for Quakers, Jews, and other persecuted religious groups. In 1663, Charles II granted the colony a royal charter establishing the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Until the middle of the seventeenth century, the English neglected the settlement of the area between Virginia and New England despite obvious environmental advantages. The climate was healthier than the Chesapeake and more temperate than New England. The mid-Atlantic had three highly navigable rivers: the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Hudson. Because the English failed to colonize the area, the Swedes and Dutch established their own colonies: New Sweden in the Delaware Valley and New Netherland in the Hudson Valley.

Change in New England Governance

Charles II died in 1685. Before his death, he had begun to curtail the activities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This was in light of the fact that in the 1660s and 1670s, the colony refused to obey the Navigation Acts, would not allow appeals from the courts in the Bay Colony to England, and purchased Maine from the Gorges proprietors without permission. To make matters worse, in 1678 the General Court of Massachusetts announced to Parliament that “The laws of England are grounded within the four seas, and do…not reach America.”

Thus, in 1684, the Crown revoked the Charter of Massachusetts Bay and combined all of the New England colonies, in addition to New York and East and West Jersey, into the Dominion of New England. Local assemblies, including the revered New England town meetings, were abolished, and the Dominion was placed under the direct control of a governor-general appointed by the Crown, a lieutenant governor, and an appointed council. Male suffrage was expanded, taxes were raised, and no longer did one have to belong to the Congregational (Puritan) church to be able to vote.

Sir Edmund Andros was appointed the first royal governor of the Dominion. A further slap in the faces of the Puritan leaders came when an Anglican Church (Church of England) was established in Boston, bringing the Puritan monopoly to an end. When Charles’s brother, James II, came to the throne in 1685, he immediately alarmed English Protestants. His open support of English Catholics and Catholicism in general led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the succession of his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. In the colonies, a series of uprisings broke out that threw royal governors out of office and replaced them with colonial leaders.

In Massachusetts, a rebellion led to the overthrow of Andros and the dissolution of the Dominion of New England. William and Mary, however, refused the request of Massachusetts for a new charter; instead, Massachusetts Bay was combined with Plymouth and became a royal colony. Though the General Court was re-established, a person no longer had to be a church member to be elected to the Court; it appeared that the holy experiment had come to an end.

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  1. Kelly, Martin. "Chart of the 13 Original Colonies." ThoughtCo, accessed March 3, 2021,