Historical Documents

of the United States of America

The New England Confederation

Enacted 19 May 1643


An initial attempt at cooperation between two or more of the New England colonies and/or settlements was made in the year 1637. Officials representing the civil government and the church from Connecticut met with their counterparts from Boston, in the Massachusetts-Bay Colony. A request for representatives from the Plymouth Colony was received too late for any persons from that colony to participate. The effort apparently came to nothing, because during the following year, 1638, the Massachusetts-Bay Colony requested Connecticut's participation in a similar confederation. This time around, the officials from Connecticut would not agree to a confederation in which a majority of commissioners in a dispute would have a final say in any matter. In 1639, with the safety and well-being of the Connecticut Colony threatened by its neighbor, the colony of New Netherland, an attempt was made to establish a confederation, but nothing came of this attempt. In the year 1640 Indian hostilities along the frontier motivated the colonies of Connecticut, New Haven and Rhode Island to seek assistance from the Massachusetts-Bay Colony. Her representatives, though, refused to participate in any alliance that involved Rhode Island. In 1642, due to renewed Indian hostilities, officials from Massachusetts-Bay once again made contact with officials from the surrounding colonies and settlements, and on 19 May 1643 (OS) / 29 May 1643 (NS) the New England Confederation was agreed to. The representatives from Plymouth Colony did not have the authority to conclude negoatiations, so it was not until 04 / 14 September 1643 that Plymouth ratified the agreement. Also, because the Massachusetts-Bay Colony continued to refuse to recognize the validity of the Rhode-Island Colony, she was excluded from the pact.
     This document is included here because it represented a first attempt to unite the English colonies.


     Articles of Confederation between the Plantations vnder the gouernment of the Massachusetts the Plantacons vnder the Gouernment of New-Plymouth the Plantacons vnder the Gouernment of Connectacutt and the Gouernment of New-Haven with the Plantacons in Combinacon therewith.
     Whereas wee all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and ayme namely to advaunce the Kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospell in puritie with peace And whereas in our settleinge (by a wise Providence of God) we are further dispersed vpon the Sea Coasts and Riuers then was at first intended, so that we cannot according to our desire with convenience communicate in one Gouernment and Jurisdiccon : And whereas we live encompassed with people of seueral Nations and strang languages which hereafter may proue injurious to vs, or our posteritie. And forasmuch as the Natiues have formerly committed sondry insolences and outrages vpon seueral Plantacons of the English and have of late combined themselues against vs And seing by reason of those sad Distraccons in England which they have heard of, and by which they know we are hindred from that humble way of seekinge advise, or reapeing those comfortable fruits of protection which at other tymes we might well expecte Wee therefore doe conceiue it our bounden Dutye without delay to enter into a present Consotiation amongst our selues for mutuall help and strength in all our future concernements : That as in Nation and Religion so in other Respects we bee and continue one according to the tenor and true meaneing of the ensuing Articles : Wherefore it is fully agreed and concluded by and betweene the parties or Jurisdiccons aboue named and they joyntly and seuerally doe by these presents agree and conclude That they all bee and henceforth bee called by the Name of The United Colonies of New-England.
     II. The said United Colonies for themselues and their posterities do joyntly and seuerally hereby enter into a firme and perpetuall league of Frendship and amytie for offence and defence mutuall advise and succour vpon all just occations both for preserueing and propagateing the truth and liberties of the Gospell and for their owne mutuall safety and wellfare.
     III. It is further agreed That the Plantacons which at present are or hereafter shalbe settled within the limmetts of the Massachusetts shalbe forever vnder the Massachusetts and shall have peculiar Jurisdiccon among themselues in all cases as an entire Body and that Plymouth Connecktacutt and New Haven shall eich of them haue like peculier Jurisdiccon and Gouernment within their limmetts and in reference to the Plantacons which already are setled or shall hereafter be erected or shall settle within their limmetts respectiuely Prouided that no other Jurisdiccon shall hereafter be taken in as a distinct head or member of this Confederacon nor shall any other Plantacon or Jurisdiccon in present being and not already in Combynacon or vnder the Jurisdiccon of any of these Confederats be received by any of them nor shall any two of the Confederates joyne in one Jurisdiccon without consent of the rest which consent to be interpreted as is expressed in the sixt Article ensuinge.
     IV. It is by these Confederats agreed that the charge of all just warrs whether offensiue or defensiue upon what part or member of this Confederacon soeuer they fall, shall both in men and provisions and all other Disbursements be borne by all the parts of this Confederacon in different proporcons according to their different abillitie in manner following, namely that the Commissioners for eich Jurisdiccon from tyme to tyme as there shalbe occation bring a true account and number of all the males in euery Plantacon or any way belonging to or under their seueral Jurisdiccons of what quallyly or condicon soeuer they bee from sixteene yeeres old to threescore being Inhabitants there And that according to the different numbers which from tyme to tyme shalbe found in eich Jurisdiccon upon a true and just account, the service of men and all charges of the warr be borne by the Poll : eich Jurisdiccon or Plantacon being left to their owne just course and custome of rating themselues and people according to their different estates with due respects to their quallites and exemptions among themselues though the Confederacon take no notice of any such priviledg : and that according to their differrent charge of eich Jurisdiccon and plantacon, the whole advantage of the warr (if it please God to bless their Endeavours) whether it be in lands goods or persons shall be proportionably deuided among the said Confederals.
     V. It is further agreed That if any of these Jurisdiccons or any plantacon vnder or in combynacon with them be envaded by any enemie whomsoeuer vpon notice and request of any three majestrats of that Jurisdiccon so invaded the rest of the Confederates without any further meeting or expostulacon shall forthwith send ayde to the Confederate in danger but in different proporcons ; namely the Massachusetts an hundred men sufficiently armed and provided for such a service and jorney, and eich of the rest fourty fiue so armed and provided, or any lesse number, if lesse be required, according to this proporcon. But if such Confederate in danger may be supplyed by their next Confederate, not exceeding the number hereby agreed, they may craue help there, and seeke no further for the present : the charge to be borne as in this Article is exprest : And at the returne to be victualled and supplyed with poder and shott for their journey (if there bee neede) by that Jurisdiccon which employed or sent for them : But none of the Jurisdiccons to exceed these numbers till by a meeting of the Commissioners for this Confederacon a greater ayd appeare necessary. And this proporcon to continue till upon knowledge of greater numbers in eich Jurisdiccon which shalbe brought to the next meeting some other proporcon be ordered. But in any such case of sending men for present ayd whether before or after such order or alteracon, it is agreed that at the meeting of the Commissioners for this Confederacon, the cause of such warr or invasion be duly considered : And if it appeare that the fault lay in the parties so invaded that then that Jurisdiccon or plantacon make just Satisfaccon, both to the Invaders whom they have injured, and beare all the charges of the warr themselves without requireing any allowance from the rest of the Confederals towards the same And further that if any Jurisdiccon see any danger of any Invasion approaching, and there be lyme for a meeting that in such case three majestrats of that Jurisdiccon may summon a meeting at such convenyent place as themselues shall think meete, to consider and provide against the threatned danger Provided when they are met they may remoue to what place they please Onely whilst any of these foure Confederats have but three Majestrats in their Jurisdiccon, their request or summons from any two of them shalbe accounted of equall force with the three menconed in both the clauses of this Article, till there be an encrease of Majestrats there.
     VI. It is also agreed that for the mannaging and concluding of all affaires proper and concerneing the whole Confederacon two Commissioners shalbe chosen by and out of eich of these foure Jurisdiccons namely two for the Mattachusetts, two for Plymouth, two for Connectacutt and two for New Haven being all in Church fellowship with us which shall bring full power from their seueral generall Courts respectively to heare examine weigh and determine all affaires of our warr or peace leagues ayds charges and numbers of men for warr division of spoyles and whatsoever is gotten by conquest receiueing of more Confederats for Plantacons into combinacon with any of the Confederates and all thinges of like nature which are the proper concomitants or consequents of such a confederacon for amytie offence and defence not intermeddleing with the gouernment of any of the Jurisdiccons which by the third Article is preserued entirely to themselues. But if these eight Commissioners when they meete shall not all agree yet it is concluded that any six of the eight agreeing shall have power to settle and determine the business in question : But if six do not agree that then such proposicons with their reasons so farr as they have beene debated be sent and referred to the foure generall Courts vizt. the Mattachusetts Plymouth Conectacutt and New Haven : And if at all the said Generall Courts the businesse so referred be concluded then to bee prosecuted by the Confederates and all their members It is further agreed that these eight Commissioners shall meete once every yeare besides extraordinary meetings (according to the fift Article) to consider treate and conclude of all affaires belonging to this Confederacon which meeting shall euer be the first Thursday in September. And that the next meeting after the date of these presents which shalbe accounted the second meeting shalbe at Bostone in the Massachusetts the third at Hartford the fourth at New Haven the fift at Plymouth the sixt and seaventh at Boston And then Hartford New Haven and Plymouth and so in course successiuely, if in the meane tyme some middle place be not found out and agreed on which may be commodious for all the Jurisdiccons.
     VII. It is further agreed that at eich meeting of these eight Commissioners whether ordinary or extraordinary they or six of them agreeing as before may chose their President out of themselues whose office and worke shalbe to take care and direct for order and a comely carrying on of all proceedings in the present meeting : but he shalbe invested with no such power or respect, as by which he shall hinder the propounding or progresse of any businesse or any way cast the Scales otherwise then in the precedent article is agreed.
     VIII. It is also agreed that the Commissioners for this Confederacon hereafter at their meetings whether ordinary or extraordinary as they may have Comission or opertunitie do endeavoure to frame and establish agreements and orders in generall cases of a civill nature wherein all the Plantacons are interessed for preserving peace among themselues and preventing as much as may bee all occations of warr or differences with others, as about the free and speedy passage of Justice in every Jurisdiccon, to all the Confederats equally as to their owne, receiveing those that remoue from one plantacon to another without due certefycats ; how all the Jurisdiccons may carry it towards the Indians, that they neither grow insolent nor be injured without due satisfaccion, lest warr break in vpon the Confederates through such miscarryage. It is also agreed that if any servant runn away from his master into any other of these confederated Jurisdiccons That in such Case vpon the Certyficate of one Majestrate in the Jurisdiccon out of which the said servant fled or vpon other due proofe, the said servant shalbe deliuered either to his Master or any other that pursues and brings such Certificate or proofe. And that vpon the escape of any prisoner whatsoever or fugitiue for any criminall cause, whether breakeing prison or getting from the officer or otherwise escapeing vpon the certificate of two Magistrats of the Jurisdiccon out of which the escape is made, that he was a prisoner or such an offender at the tyme of the escape. The Majestrates or some of them of that Jurisdiccon where for the present the said prisoner or fugitive abideth shall forthwith graunt such a warrant as the case will beare for the apprehending of any such person, and the delivery of him into the hands of the officer or other person who pursues him. And if there be help required for the safe returneing of any such offendor, then it shalbe graunted to him that craves the same he paying the charges thereof.
     IX. And for that the justest warrs may be of dangerous consequence espetially to the smaler plantacons in these vnited Colonies It is agreed that neither the Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connectacutt nor New-Haven, nor any of the members of any of them shall at any tyme hereafter begin undertake or engage themselues or this Confederacon or any part thereof in any warr whatsoever (sudden exegents with the necessary consequents thereof excepted) which are also to be moderated as much as the case will permit) without the consent and agreement of the forenamed eight Comissioners or at least six of them, as in the sixt Article is provided : And that no charge be required of any of the Confederats in case of a defensiue warr till the said Comissioners haue mett and approued the justice of the warr ; and have agreed vpon the sum of money to be levyed which sum is then to be payd by the severall Confederates in proporcon according to the fourth Article.
     X. That in extraordinary occations when meetings are summoned by three Majestrats of any Jurisdiccon, or two as in the fift Article If any of the Comissioners come not due warneing being given or sent It is agreed that foure of the Comissioners shall have power to direct a warr which cannot be delayed and to send for due proporcons of men out of eich Jurisdiccon, as well as six might doe if all mett ; but not less then six shall determine the justice of the warr or allow the demaunde or bills of charges or cause any levies to be made for the same.
     XI. It is further agreed that if any of the Confederates shall hereafter break any of these present Articles, or be any other wayes injurious to any one of thother Jurisdiccons, such breach of Agreement, or injurie shalbe duly considered and ordered by the Comissioners for thother jurisdiccons, that both peace and this present Confederacon may be entirely preserued without violacon.
     XII. Lastly this perpetuall Confederacon and the several Articles and Agreements thereof being read and seriously considered both by the Generall Court for the Massachusetts, and by the Comissioners for Plymouth Conectacutt and New-Haven were fully allowed and confirmed by three of the forenamed Confederates namely the Massachusetts Conectacutt and New-Haven Onely the Comissioners for Plymouth haveing no Comission to conclude, desired respite till they might advise with their Generall Court, wherevpon it was agreed and concluded by the said Court of the Massachusetts and the Comissioners for the other two Confederates That if Plymouth Consent, then the whole treaty as it stands in these present articles is and shall continue firnie and stable without alteracon : But if Plymouth come not in, yet the other three Confederates doe by these presents confirme the whole Confederacon and all the Articles thereof : onely n September next when the second meeting of the Comissioners is to be at Bostone, new consideracon may be taken of the sixt Article which concernes number of Comissioners for meeting and concluding the affaires of this Confederacon to the satisfaccon of the Court of the Massachusetts, and the Comissioners for thother two Confederates but the rest to stand vnquestioned. In testymony whereof the Generall Court of the Massachusetts by their Secretary and the Comissioners for Conectacutt and New-Haven haue subscribed these presente articles this xixth of the third month commonly called May Anno Domini 1643.
     At a Meeting of the Comissioners for the Confederacon held at Boston the seaventh of September. It appeareing that the Generall Court of New Plymouth and the several Towneships thereof have read considered and approoued these articles of Confederacon, as appeareth by Comission from their Generall Court beareing Date the xxixth of August 1643 to Mr. Edward Winslowe and Mr. Will. Collyer to ratifye and confirme the same on their behalf wee therefore the Comissioners for the Mattachusetts Conecktacutt and New Haven doe also for our seueral Gouernments subscribe vnto them.
      JOHN WINTHROP Governor Massachusetts
From The Compact With The Charter And Laws Of The Colony Of New Plymouth, Under the supervision of William Brigham, 1836, page 308.