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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview > Lesson 2
Lesson 2
Vacuum Domicilium: The Social and Cultural Landscape of Seventeenth Century New England

by David Grayson Allen

FOR NEARLY ALL who came from Europe, seventeenth-century New England was at first a vacant land, one waiting to be filled with dreams, ambitions, and, above all, the traditions from the immigrants' past. While individual immigrants to seventeenth-century New England might differ on whether they anticipated or found a worldly paradise or a barren wilderness, nearly all, Puritan and non-Puritan alike, understood, either by word or deed, that "it is a Principle in Nature, That in a vacant soyle, hee that taketh possession of it, and bestoweth culture and husbandry upon it" has an inviolable right to the land. To those who held contrary views, Puritan leaders in particular were quick to offer challenges. It was our land by possession, John Winthrop argued, "which we took peaceably, built a house upon it, and so it hath continued in our peaceable possession ever since without any interruption or Claim..., which being thus taken and possessed as vacuum domicilium gives us a sufficient title against all men." New Englanders from the very beginning were resolved to transform a land void of accustomed English characteristics into settled estates.1

Initial attitudes toward New England's landscape, which shaped its pre-1630 history, showed much diversity. Few pre-Puritan explorers, however, claimed the region as a land filled with mineral wealth or ideal for staple crops, which might induce hordes of Englishmen to come to New England's shores. In comparison with other American regions, it was, in the words of an early settler, a land "little to be envied." Yet, above all, these promoters of colonization- especially John Smith, John White, and Francis Higginson-noted New England's luxuriant and diverse wilderness, which became for the Puritans a symbol not only of their isolation but also of the potential fertility of the land for English farming.

Despite the initial novelties and strangeness of the new land, the Puritans quickly transformed the "Lord's Waste." Some twenty years after the original Puritan settlement was established, Edward Johnson described the metamorphosis that had taken place:

[T]his remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody wilderness, a receptacle for Lions, Wolves, Bears, Foxes, Rockoones, Bags, Bevers, Otters, and all kind of wild creatures, a place never afforded the Natives better than the flesh of a few wild creatures and parch't Indian corn incht out with Chesnuts and bitter Acorns, now through the mercy of Christ become a second England for ferilness in so short a space that it is indeed the wonder of the world....2

The underlying presuppositions of Winthrop's view toward New World land were not strictly "Puritan" in nature but were widely shared by Tudor and Stuart Englishmen. Indeed, the right to occupation of open or waste lands by manorial lords stretched back well into England's medieval past. But it was the Puritans above all both in the years before their exodus from England and in the decades following their resettlement, who probably best articulated this attitude toward the land by employing both legal and theological arguments. Puritans justified their possession of the land on the basis of a natural right that all men "may make use of any part of the earth, which another hath not possessed before him." The "myraculouse plauge," a smallpox epidemic preceding English colonization "whereby a great parte of [New England] is left voyd without inhabitants," was an important indication of God's plan to help settle the English in the new territory. In addition Puritans recognized a civil right to the land based on its improvement through arts and trades by which men could transfer their interests to posterity. As a result, they alleged, the native Americans had no more than a "natural" right to the land and one relegated to only the territory that they had put into tillage. For Englishmen, on the other hand, the subduing and "improvement" of the countryside by its enclosure, the maintenance of cattle, the cultivation of crops, and the building of permanent residences insured their place in the land.3

These English attitudes were both benevolent and presumptuous, and were derived in part from conditions Englishmen faced in their native land. As England's population rose and as resources became more scarce throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, it seemed evident to men like Winthrop that "this lande grows wearye of her Inhabitants, so as man which is the most pretious of all Creatures, is neer more vile and base, than the earthe they treade upon, and of lesse prise among us than a horse or a sheepe." Resettlement in New England would offer such men, Winthrop thought, the chance to own perhaps many hundreds of acres at the labor and financial cost required "to recover and keepe sometimes an acre or towe of Land" in England.4

As a sign of their occupation and ownership of the new land, and as a means of making order out of the seeming chaos in the strange wilderness, the new settlers quickly took away Indian place-names and topographical features, filled with aboriginal meanings, and replaced them with names familiar to seventeenth-century Englishmen. The old Indian settlement of Agawam, for instance, was renamed Ipswich; the tract of land in Plymouth Colony known by the names of Acushena, Ponagansett, and Coaksett was rechristened Dartmouth; and Pyquaug in the Connecticut River valley was transformed into Wethersfield. At the local level, topographical features named by Indians were supplanted by new nomenclature-often after plants, animals, minerals, or other resources that described the economic value that settlers found in the land. Such features as rivers, lakes, mountains, and islands often retained their native toponomy, but only because English settlers found no inherent productive value in these resources or because they served merely as boundary points between places of English habitation. Finally, the New England settlers "called their lands after their own names," perhaps, as Psalm 49:II suggests, because "their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations."5

Attitudes toward land use and place-naming were among the early practices that quickly transformed the New England landscape into a conservative society fashioned in an English mold. The perceived and actual isolation of New England throughout much of the seventeenth century only intensified its English character. New England was an outpost in a part of the world that had only recently begun to interest the English. Many explorers, cartographers, and map-makers still regarded the region as an island located between the "river of Canada," the St. Lawrence, to the north, and the Hudson River to the west.

While geographic remoteness did not attract and keep all migrating Englishmen in New England, the land offered isolation from English authorities and the unobstructed ability to reconstitute an English society that appealed to leaders and followers alike. As the century progressed, the absence of significant Indian, foreign, and intercolonial threats; the longevity of the migrating generation; the development of stable civil and religious institutions; and the homogeneity of the settlers themselves reintensified the cultural and social heritage they had brought with them and helped to produce a society strikingly similar to the one that they had left behind. With prophetic foresight, John Smith had named the unsettled region "New England" on his brief visit to the region in the mid-1610s; by midcentury it had been transformed into a new "England."6 The story of the essential continuity of English life in New England during the region's first century after colonization is reflected most significantly in the homogeneity of the settlers, the retention of local practices, the reasons for migration, and the settlement of the land- and in the remaking of the region's landscape from the English models settlers had known. Much of this narrative describes the New England that we know today as Massachusetts and Connecticut. Nearly all of the population and most of the early development was centered in these colonies (although, as some of the maps and catalogue entries make clear, Rhode Island was actively developed and parts of New Hampshire and southern Maine contained centers of trade and speculative enterprises in timber and fishing).7 Yet life in seventeenth-century New England did not remain static. As the century closed. New England was not able to escape the centralizing trends of English colonial administration, changes in its own economy, or the need to refine its earlier ways of defining the newly possessed land. To a great extent, however, these alterations only made the Englishness of this New World society even more evident.

ALTHOUGH West Country fishermen had established temporary settlements and mercantile companies had placed trading outposts in northern New England during the first three decades of the century, and although a handful of Pilgrims had settled permanently near Cape Cod in the 1620s, the peopling of New England was primarily the result of the "Great Migration" of English Puritans in the 1630s. Probably between 18,500 and 21,500 people migrated to New England from 1629 to 1643. After that time and until the end of the century- indeed, until the nineteenth century- the number of immigrants to New England was scarcely above a trickle. Whatever currents of intellectual thought or cultural style were introduced into New England from abroad during the course of the century, the basic patterns of life, society, and economy were given firm rooting by the migrating generation of the 1630's. During the course of decades following the establishment of their society in Massachusetts Bay, the Puritans spread their culture, in its many faceted forms, either by colonization of areas claimed by other patentees or by their own migration within their own territory. Using both methods, they spread out along the New Hampshire and Maine coast as far as the Penobscot, migrated into Rhode Island and Connecticut and up the Connecticut River, and spilled over into eastern Long Island and parts of Westchester County, New York. In scattered locations they also established settlements throughout New Jersey and as far south as South Carolina.8

By the standards of other contemporary English colonization attempts, the Puritan migration to New England was unusual. First of all, it included none of the aristocracy and few of the gentry. Primarily a migration of middling Englishmen, it was also a movement and settlement of families-men, women, and children- rather than a socially unstable society limited almost entirely to young men in search of a New World fortune. Many of the immigrants, often organized infomally by a local minister, came over in groups formed on the basis of kinship, neighborhood, church congregation, or parish association in England.

From what is known about the geographical origins of these groups-primarily from ship lists, wills, letters, and other documents-many of them left from specific regions or subregions in England and tended to resettle together in single New England towns shortly after arrival. Although seventeenth-century England was homogeneous in some respects, in others it was a patch-work of local differences in which widely ranging customs prevailed. Carrying with them these distinctive traditions and practices, the settlers of specific New England towns helped perpetuate particular local English differences. In Essex County, Massachusetts, for instance, the major settlers in three adjoining communties came from three distinct English regions-East Anglia, Yorkshire, and Wiltshire-Hampshire. In the Connecticut River valley and farther south and west, at another end of this cultural region, homogeneous settlement patterns were also evident. Hartford settlers came from mid-Essex, and their neighbors in Windsor were primarily from Dorset and communities near that county's borders in Somerset and Devon. On Long Island Sound, to cite two other examples, Guilford's principal inhabitants came from Kent and, to a lesser extent, from neighboring Sussex and Surrey; Milford people originated from a small area near the borders of the English counties of Hertford, Buckingham, and Bedford. This mosaic of differing regional origins was displayed in many contrasting practices-above all, in the settlers' attitudes toward the land and in agricultural pursuits.9

Historians have assigned two general reasons for the migration from England-the religious and the economic-but this is too limited a view. Emigration from England was more complex and seems to have varied in its origins from locality to locality. In Yorkshire, for instance, the classic religious persecution explanation was operative: the charismatic Puritan minister, Ezekiel Rogers, of Rowley parish in the East Riding, led his parishioners and others from the surrounding countryside to America, where he established the New England Rowley on Massachusetts' North Shore. Economic reasons seemed to have been influential in parts of East Anglia, where industrial collapse in the woolen trade and rising land prices, among other reasons, acted as important catalysts for this migration. Forty miles away in Hingham, Norfolk, religious factors were present, but the sudden rise of the plague, probably of the bubonic variety, seems to have prompted villagers to leave their native town.

From what evidence now exists and has been analyzed, people who emigrated from the north and west of England tended to be younger and more established in the sense of having some social and economic importance in their local English communities, and were often from a more widely scattered and less puritanized area. By contrast, many from East Anglia, the Elizabethan and early Stuart center of Puritanism, came from the same or nearby communities. By and large, these emigrants were older and less socially and economically distinguished in their native communities. The influential factors of family, neighbors, congregation, and parish as mobilizing forces seem to have been more important here than in the north and west. New England immigrants, in sum, reflected a widely diverse English background and the cultural pluralism of their native land.

As men, women, and children arrived in the Bay from their long overseas voyages, they often settled temporarily in one of the region's large, often heterogeneous communities before moving together with friends and neighbors as a group to a newer settlement. For this purpose, Boston, Charlestown, and Salem often served as way stations. Later, Hartford, Windsor, New Haven, and Wethersfield in Connecticut filled a similar role. Some smaller towns like Dorchester and Cambridge contained several distinctive migrating groups, with one group moving out to another location as a new wave of immigrants replaced them in the community. The earliest settlers of Dorchester, for instance, came with Rev. John Maverick from either Devon, Dorset, or Somerset. About half of them moved on to Windsor, Connecticut, in 1636, which allowed another group from northwest England, headed by Rev. Richard Mather of Lancashire, to come and settle in the town. In Cambridge, at least seven waves of immigration have been noted.

The high geographical mobility of some settlers and the transient nature of some of New England's communities is evident in the early history of Watertown, Massachusetts. Of the 293 settlers entered in the town records from 1630 to 1644, 168 (or about sixty percent) left the community before 1660. One-sixth of them went to Connecticut, settling principally in Wethersfield and Stamford. Another sixth moved to communities west of Watertown, such as Dedham and Sudbury. Boston and several nearby areas received about another sixth, while an eighth of the emigrants went to places such as Woburn, Topsfield, and Reading. Another twelfth returned to England. For most, the move from Watertown to another town meant an end to migration during their lifetimes. In a few rare cases, however, it was only one of several moves before actual permanent settlement. After leaving Watertown, Robert Coe, for instance, settled briefly in Wethersfield and Stamford, Connecticut, before moving to Hempstead, then to Jamaica, Long Island.11

Once families did settle, they tended to remain in their community for several generations. Although the reasons for migration and resettlement were probably complex and as individualistic as the persons involved in such a move, one of the most important considerations for staying or leaving was the availability of land in the community, not only for the settler but also for his children and grandchildren. The Whittemores of Malden were a typical case in point. Emigrant Thomas Whittemore established himself on the north bank of the Mystic River in what was then Charlestown because land in the principal area of town settlement had already been divided up among the earliest inhabitants. For three generations the Whittemores remained on the land (which was soon incorporated as Malden) because the original grants of land given to the elder Whittemore and those accumulated by his sons and grandsons assured a reasonable living in agriculture throughout the century. Only with the fourth generation, coming to maturity at the end of the century, is there much evidence that family members might have to leave their ancestral homes for opportunities elsewhere-either on lands in newly established inland communities to the south and west, in trades in nearby towns, or to a life as a seaman in Salem, Lynn, or some other coastal community.12

This deepset rootedness and insularity that many seventeenth-century New Englanders experienced throughout much of their lives after reaching a final settlement destination was reflected in many of their common, often unconscious, activities. Younger generations, for instance, found marriage partners within their own community and only rarely in nearby communities. In addition, the degree of contact townsmen had with outsiders was limited: the geographical world and perception of spatial relationships outside of their local "mental maps" was very narrow. For instance, after moves to Charlestown and Hingham, Thomas Minor, a Somerset emigrant who arrived in Salem in 1630, permanently settled on Long Island Sound at Stonington. Except for several trips to Hartford to serve in the General Assembly and an infrequent trip to Boston, Minor spent the last thirty years of his life, which he recorded dutifully in his diary, in Stonington with only occasional visits to New London and several adjoining communities. A farmer by occupation, Minor's limited knowledge of a larger world outside the confines of his town was undoubtedly typical of most seventeenth-century New Englanders.13

Another important factor contributing to the lack of geographical mobility following settlement was the large size of early New England communities. The original township grant given to Dedham, for instance, stretched as far south as the Rhode Island border and encompassed the land area of almost a dozen modern Massachusetts towns. By contemporary English standards, these townships were extensive. As Nathaniel Ward remarked in a letter, "some honest men of our town [of Ipswich, Massachusetts] affirm that in their knowledge there are 68 towns in England, within as little compasse as the bounds of Ipswich; I knowe neere 40-where I dwelt." Size allowed men to move within the community as well as insuring that there was sufficient land for their sons and grandsons to work as generations matured. "A principal motive which led the [General] [C]ourt to grant...towns such vast bounds was," John Winthrop suggested, "that (when the towns should be increased by their children and servants growing up, etc.) they might have place to erect villages, where they might be planted, and so the land improved to the more common benefit."14

Partially as a consequence, fewer new communities were established as the century progressed. Nearly half of all New England towns created in the seventeenth century were established within the first two decades after the original Puritan settlement. Despite a fourfold increase in population from 1650 to 1700 the number of new townships only doubled. In addition, these large seventeenth-century townships were not spread out randomly throughout the region but were usually concentrated along coastal areas and in major river valleys, which often contained abundant sources of marsh hay for livestock and fertile soil for cultivation.15

From a comparative point of view, it should be kept in mind that conditions in seventeenth-century New England differed from both the region's later history and the contemporary circumstances in England. Eighteenth-century New Englanders established an unprecedented number of townships in new areas, particularly after 1713, when the supply of land surrounding the early towns had become exhausted and a fourth generation was forced to move on. (Alternatively, some towns were set up on the periphery of older ones if remote land was still available.) By contrast, too, there seems to have been much more geographical mobility in seventeenth-century England. England was for many of its people a society in constant motion, especially in "industrial" or clothmaking areas like East Anglia, wood-pasture farming areas, major urban centers like London, and in the Midlands, where, by 1700, families were dispossessed of their homes and villages by the enclosure movement. In comparison, however, the availability of land in seventeenth-century New England, which might have lured men beyond town bound kept families and generations intact in the same locality throughout most of the century, thus insuring a degree of traditional - even reclusive - living unknown in England at the time or in New England during the following century.16

WHAT New Englanders lacked in outward expression and understanding they seemed to make up for in an inward intensity about the spatial relationships they knew-the townscape, the wider landscape within town borders, and the development of the lands they pos- sessed. Although they left little explicit record of their sense of townscape, one curious document entitled "Essay on the Ordering of Towns," unsigned and undated but probably written in the early 1630s, embodied several important assumptions about their perception of spatial order and social structure. The document describes the ideal New World township as a series of concentric circles within a six-mile square. The meetinghouse served as "the center of the wholl Circomferance," which was surrounded by houses "orderly placed to enioye the compfortable Communion." Beyond the dwellings was a ring of common fields (later to become freeholds) that were farmed by most of the town's inhabitants. The distance from the meetinghouse to the outer edge of the fields extended no further than one and one-half miles, and the area within this parameter served as the nucleus of the town. Farther out in the fourth ring, "men of great estate" requiring "large portions" for their greater numbers of stock were allowed to have 400 acre lots, although no farmhouses were to be built at a distance greater than two miles from the center. In the fifth circle would lie common land of "Swampes and Rubbish waest grownds.. which harber wolves and.. .noyesom beasts and serpents." The final circle, located on the periphery of the six-mile square, was the wilderness, which, like the lands in the fifth circle, was owned by the town but not occupied.

Many of the features described in the essay found expression in the development of New England towns. Meetinghouses, a symbol of the inhabitants' physical closeness and community authority, continued to provide the focal point of settlement for New Englanders throughout the colonial period, and, as in the case of the Chebacco parish map in the exhibition, a place around which to organize a new community. In some towns with common-field traditions, agricultural fields, like those shown in the Rowley, Massachusetts, reconstruction (fig. 4), extended just outside the area of house lots, while wealthy inhabitants in many other communities established large-scale estates, like Winthrop's "Tenhills Farm" or Edward Rawson's 500-acre property near the township's periphery (nos. 19 and 24). Above all, the essay points out the central role of the town as an isolated, self-contained unit of civilization, no closer, presumably, than six miles from another community and surrounded by a wilderness barrier along its borders.17

Aside from these common features, however, such idealized clustered villages did not, in most instances, survive the first decade of practical experience in the colony. The first and very harsh winter of 1630-1631 helped to disperse settlers throughout the Bay, as is shown in William Wood's portrayal of eastern Massachusetts, where they established their own, often unique communities, and in Winthrop's early map of the Puritan colony (nos. 12 and 13). Although legislation were passed by the General Court to inhibit settlement outside of town centers, exceptions were soon granted and eventually the law was repealed.18 By the 1650s, when Edward Johnson wrote his descriptions of Bay Colony towns, few even approached the formality described by the essayist even though for Johnson and others it may have remained their ideal plan. By and large, early New Englanders developed their own townscapes on the basis of local topographical necessities and, more important, upon their previous English experience.

The early New Englanders' strong sense of their former English landscape was occasionally evidenced in recorded disputes. John Pratt of Newtown (later called Cambridge) managed to get himself called before the Bay Colony's Court of Assistants for his critical descriptions of the New England countryside in letters to friends in England. As Edward Johnson described the incident over a decade later, Pratt complained that the plowable plains were too dry and sandy, while the rocky places, although more fruitful, required too much labor. For Pratt, who came from an area of arable land in eastern Cambridgeshire, where common-field farming was practiced along with sheep-raising, the landscape of Newtown was unacceptable. While the "barreness of the sandy grounds, etc." might be improved if "manured and husbanded," Pratt thought he "could not subsist myselfe, nor the plantacion, nor posteritie" upon such unpromising land. Others from different agricultural traditions found the land more to their liking, but for Pratt such unfavorable conditions led to his emigration to the Connecticut River valley.19

Pratt's discontent points up one of the important factors of moving to New England in the seventeenth century, namely, the strong impact that the English landscape, and all of its interrelated features like agriculture and local government, had on settlers' minds. To the pre-industrial mentality, the landscape was often an unconscious factor, but for men with wider experience the impact of the local environment on people's lives was recognized at the time. One such person was John Aubrey, author of the famous Brief Lives and an important seventeenth-century English antiquarian. Aubrey, who came from north Wiltshire, a county in south central England, remarked in one of his writings on the contrasts in the character of his neighbors, especially the differences between those living in the sheep and corn or "chalk" region, and those of the woodland-pasture areas of his county. According to Aubrey, soil type in England and throughout the world made "the indigenae respectively witty or dull, good or bad." In the "dirty clayey country" of the northwest Wiltshire woodland region the inhabitants were "phlegmatique, skins pale and livid, slow and dull, heavy of spirit." This region produced grain, but butter and cheese production were the most important activities, and in Aubrey's estimation little hard labor was required to perform these tasks: "They only milk cows and make cheese: they feed chiefly on milk meats, which cool their brains too much and hurts their inventions." Such conditions led to further complications according to Aubrey: "These circumstances make them melancholy, contemplative and malicious, by consequence thereof come more lawsuits out of North Wilts, at least double the number to the Southern parts. And by the same reason they are generally more apt to be fanatiques:.. .In Malmesbury Hundred etc (the wet clayey parts) there have even been reputed witches." On the other hand, in the chalky sheep and corn country to the south and east, all activity was based on the cultivation of common fields and sheep-raising. "Being weary after hard labour," Aubrey suggested, "they have no leisure to read or contemplate religion, but goe to bed to their rest, to rise betimes the next morning to their labour."20

Aubrey's characterizations had, of course, a firm basis in regional and subregional differences of environment. Climate and geography determined two broadly defined areas of agriculture in England: the pastoral highland zone, principally in the north and west in which the climate was drier and colder, and the more arable lowland zone in the south and east, which was warmer and wetter, and where the types of land were more varied. This pattern of regional differences was compounded by man-made landscape changes occur- ring during the century before the "Great Migration." The twofold increase of English population between 1540 and 1620, the rise of large-scale commercial agriculture, and the growing importance of market towns throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century all helped to accentuate many subregional agricultural differences within the two broadly defined zones. Of course, there were some countervailing tendencies, such as the growth of trade between parts of the country. But with more than 700 urban communities, 9,000 rural parishes, the "remarkable expansion of market towns between 1570 and 1640," and the rise of county capitals, England remained, during the decades before the English Civil War, a nation of regions and subregions with accompanying differences in landscape, farming practices, and social structure. These contrasting presuppositions about community life, agriculture, and other traditions were carried to New England with the "Great Migration" of Puritans in the 1630s.21

Maps in this catalogue include examples of contrasting English field systems that show some of the essential differences in the seventeenth-century English landscape. These differences, in turn, had an impact on later developments in New England. The colorful survey of Laxton manor in the eastern Midlands (no. 5) was typical of the nucleated (though non-geometric) settlement and common-field landscape set in an undulating terrain - a sight familiar to many early New Englanders. Like the ideal Puritan townscape, the village was clustered with planting fields surrounding the settled area; areas of waste land, meadow, and pasture land were scattered throughout. Men possessed individual, noncontiguous strips of land regulated by the "common consent" of villagers in one of the two principal manor courts, the court baron.

In another area of England, East Anglia, from which a sizable number of New England settlers originated, a different type of landscape was evident in the seventeenth century. A typical pattern of landholdings in this region is shown in the copyhold maps of Rivers Hall manor in Boxted, Essex (see no. 6), which were made by an important local surveyor, John Walker. Walker's maps show an entirely different pattern of settlement and land use. The practice here was to bring together many small parcels of land and to create consolidated farmsteads. Away from a life in a nucleated village center and in a region where the regulatory eye of a strong manor was not as evident, the East Anglian farmer could control the use of his land as economic conditions warranted, converting his small closes of land from pastureland to arable-or back again-as the market for various agricultural products changed.

These contrasting land systems in Laxton and Rivers Hall had important socioeconomic implications for the local societies they shaped, both in England and later in New England after inhabitants from those regions emigrated. In open-field country, the manor predominated in the regulation of agricultural production. This regulation required the help of many people to carry on the tiresome but necessary tasks of sustaining the open-field community. The livelihood of each participant was dependent on the active assistance of all who served in offices of fence viewer, fence mender, pinder, overseer, and countless other voluntary jobs. In England and later in New England, men from this tradition established a more democratic local government in which most people served. On the other hand. East Anglians, who were in the orbit of the London food market, were primarily concerned with specialized, individual production of agricultural goods on their own farms, which they controlled themselves. There was no need for strong manorial government; in fact, manors were very small and weak in this region of England. Yet the area was attractive to itinerant workers in both agriculture and the woolen industry, and the issues of vagrancy and poverty served to bolster in this part of England another institution, the parish vestry, which controlled poor law regulations, outlawed settlement of vagrants on land in the parish, and raised large sums of money in the parish for "worthy" impoverished residents of the towns in East Anglia during periodic economic depressions. As such, people from this part of England carried with them to New England a different view of local government, one of fewer local offices and one controlled by the few and wealthy of the town, as it was in East Anglia.

The transfer of concepts of landscape from old to New England can be seen in two examples of adjoining towns on Massachusetts' North Shore. Rowley's population was essentially derived from various localities in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where the common-field system predominated. Ipswich, on the other hand, received most of its population from East Anglia, where consolidated farms and an aggressive attitude toward individual land consolidation prevailed. The reconstructed view of Rowley (see fig. 4) shows many features evident in Laxton's landscape. The town was nucleated and many of its fields were placed just outside of the seeded portion. As in the English Midlands, the size of the house lot determined the amount of land one held in each of the fields. As the map indicates, very little land was divided during most of the seventeenth century in Rowley; in fact, the average landholding per inhabitant before 1670, for instance, was about twenty acres or one-tenth of the amount owned by an inhabitant of Ipswich at the same time. The town meeting regulated the use of the fields and appointed countless officers to superintend the multifaceted aspects of common-field agriculture.

By contrast, with its East Anglian settlers Ipswich quickly developed a fast-paced (at least by contemporary standards) commercial economy, marketing their large surplus of corn and cattle to parts of New England and the Caribbean. As John Winthrop noted at the time, inhabitants had "many hundred quarters to spare yearly, and feed, at the latter end of Summer, the Town of Boston with good Beefe." Although the early inhabitants created a town center, land hunger and land exchanges quickly drew men away to the periphery. Samuel Maverick noted in 1660 that Ipswich "hath many Inhabitants, and there farmes lye farr abroad, some of them severall miles from the Towne." Even by 1645 the system for assessing town rates took into account the distances inhabitants might be living and working from the town center. Two years earlier, only a decade after settlement, the town granted an inhabitant ten acres of land on the Rowley town line, and several months later it gave another resident a 200 acre farm on the opposite town boundary. Settlement had reached the two ends of the community before the end of 1643.

New Englanders' inward, even backward-looking perceptions of their landscape perhaps obscured other, more dynamic developments that transformed the region's countryside in the latter decades of the century. Throughout the course of the 1600s there was a steady, predictable, and almost dramatic growth in population that was well in excess of European standards of the time and even of New England in the following century. From the best estimates. New England's population rose from about 27,000 in 1650 to approximately 100,000 by 1700. This phenomenal growth rate was due to at least two factors: the lower age of marriage for women and the relatively low rate of infant, child, and adult mortality (although the relative importance of each has not been fully or convincingly determined). During the seventeenth century, the average size of the completed New England family was seven to eight children, attributable in part to the fact that New England women during most of the period tended to marry at a younger age than their European counterparts, thus ensuring a higher birth rate. In addition, infant and child mortality in New England was lower than in Europe, and the average age at death for males and females reaching 21 was about 70 and 62, respectively. The dangers attendant to childbirth still proved to be a formidable obstacle to women's longevity. Yet it was not unusual for New Englanders to survive into their 80s. Environment was undoubtedly an important factor: the recurrent catastrophes such as epidemics or plagues, harvest failures and famines, which were com- mon in England and continental Europe, were infrequent in seventeenth-century New England.23

The relative abundance of land, the unimportance of capital, and the phenomenal growth in the labor force quickly led to economic expansion in seventeenth-century New England, especially in agriculture, which was comparable to modern times. Despite climatic conditions that changed the timing of the growing season somewhat, settlers lived in an environment similar to old England. As Winthrop himself commented soon after his arrival in New England, "for the country itself, I can discern little difference between it and our own." Within a decade after settlement, this society of diverse and distinctive communities was producing a signifitant exportable agricultural surplus, contributing to the growth of New England shipping. Indeed, contemporaries Edward Johnson and Samuel Maverick often commented upon the relative position of the towns they described in terms of the marketability of agricultural produce grown in them. Most of the grain, cattle, and other products were funneled through Boston, coming there by cart, on horseback, or on foot from the hinterland of the "New England metropolis," or else by water from the Connecticut River valley.

Although New Englanders continued to express their understanding of the land locally rather than broadly throughout most of the seventeenth century, their growing, evolving society eventually led to changes in the land and to the neccessity of defining it more pre- cisely. The town plan of Chelmsford, Massachusetts (no. 20), drawn between 1653 and 1656, illustrates some of these early attitudes toward the land: imprecise boundaries are almost randomly drawn in and a few houses are indiscriminately added to indicate the settled portion of the township. Winthrop's "Tenhills Farm" (no. 19) repeats several of these early mapmaking conceptualizations with some differences: natural boundaries (in both cases water) are included and other boundaries are more clearly indicated, though their precise locations are not identified. We know more about the boundaries, however, than about the property, which is still, for the most part, unexploited and undifferentiated. In the imagery conveyed in most early seventeenth-century New England maps, like that of Winthrop's farm, the overwhelming sense of the wilderness, indicated by the often expressive and profuse use of trees or by no detail at all is one of the most powerful impressions. To the early mapmakers, the wilderness and other physical barriers, as well as an undefined sense of space, were central figures in their work. Property lines were drawn in, but men were not yet possessors of their lands; they still remained a part of the wilderness. Unoccupied space is expressed in other early town plans, such as that of Marlborough (no. 22), where the boundaries seem well defined, but except for the small village nucleus, and details along the route of the perambulation, the map lacks topographical features.25

New Englanders' casual attitudes about the precision of their boundaries and character of their lands reflected perhaps a natural first reaction to their new landscape. They were still used to English practice, which relied upon the occasional perambulation of the land and even more on the collective memory of borders and ownership privileges. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that so few early town maps were made. Even though the Mas- sachusetts General Court passed a land recording act in 1634, it made only modest demands on the towns and placed no requirement on them for an accurate mathematical survey. "All grants [were] to be recorded... (fairely written in words att lenght, & not in ffigures,) with the seuall bounds & quantities, in the nearest estimacon,..."

Such careless recording of grants, however, soon led to a multitude of problems, especially for second- and third-generation New Englanders who came to depend upon landholdings that their fathers and grandfathers never had the time or labor to develop. By the 1670s boundary disputes between neighbors, townsmen, and even adjoining townships became commonplace in the county courts, and deserving litigants were sometimes forced, as was true in the "Kites Tayle" land controversy (see no. 28), to rely upon custom and good sense over the ambiguous or incorrect wording in early land records made by lot layers who "were (although playne herted honest men) yet of litle art and skill in mathematical Grammatical or Geometrical Rules and expressions."26

In the latter decades of the century, the law came to recognize the problems that such inexactitude had created. In Massachusetts, for instance, grants had to be laid out by someone whom the General Court recognized as a surveyor of lands, and each map bore the surveyor's oath and signature of its authenticity. Increasingly, maps were made only by certain individuals- Joshua Fisher, Jonathan Danforth, and David Fiske, to mention a few. These men were often prominent in and knowledgeable about their communities and the adjoining countryside, and were skilled "artists" who laid out the plots "by protractor scale and cumpass, according to art."27

By the end of the century New Englanders came increasingly to adopt surveying techniques developed in England a century earlier, though for different reasons. For the English the measured land survey had become a necessity by the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century because of the uncertainties created by changes in their landscape. The redistribution of church lands after the dissolution of the monasteries, the rise of the new gentry and the improvements they made on their estates, the consolidation and enclosure of fields and field strips, and the increasing profitability of agriculture and the concomitant rise in land values all gave boundaries added significance and required more exact measurement of lands than was afforded by traditional written surveys. These social and economic changes on the landscape were accompanied by a breakthrough in mathematical application to survey problems and to innovation in surveying instrumentation. Within a generation, this geometrical revolution had been passed on to others (and later to New Englanders) through the publication of surveyor's guides or handbooks, such as Ralph Agas's A Preparative to Platting of Lands (1596), John Norden's The Surveyors Dialogue (1607), and Aaron Rathborne's The Surveyor (1616).28

As the century progressed, visual portrayals of the New England landscape not only became more accurate but also showed, in detailed representation, a wilderness receding in the face of social and economic expansion and development. Robert Clement's maps of Sylvanus Davis's properties in Falmouth (now Portland) Maine (no. 35), for instance, show sawmills, bridges, dams, roads, ferry routes, and other features of a society now firmly taking hold of the land on which it lived. John Brigham's 1707 map of Sudbury, Massachusetts (no. 27), portrays the gradual dispersion of three generations of townsmen to the outlying "squadrons" of town land, originally granted to inhabitants in the 1650s. Other maps detail further shifts in perceptions of the land and reflect changing economic realities. Late century maps of plots tend to show the major agricultural features of the property-meadow, pasture, and arable; some maps like Edward Rawson's 500-acre farm (no. 24) even distinguished between "good" and "bad" or "poor" land as it was surveyed. The land was, at last, being judged by its qualities, and not just as an amorphous mass; New Englanders were differentiating settled areas from the wilderness.

Like the English surveyors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. New England mapmakers continued to portray relief in the land by creating a "bird's eye" view of the landscape with conventional symbols to represent landscape features. Until modern techniques were developed, this compromise between accuracy and imagination was the only way to fit the three- dimensional land on two-dimensional paper. The Waters-Winthrop map of the early Bay Colony (no. 13) and the Hubbard-Foster map of New England (no. 14), among others, portray many of these cartographic conceptions of hills, towns, ships in water, Indian villages, woods, and other imagery. Other maps like William Godsoe's plot of Humphrey Chadburn's farm (no. 36) and the depiction of the pathway controversy in Ipswich (no. 37) show the degree of decorative, architectural, social, and economic detail that local surveyors could include in their representations by the end of the period.

Mapmaking came to serve other needs and purposes as well, such as delineating controversies between towns, documenting the need for reconstituting older political divisions in the landscape, and determining past and present white-Indian territorial relationships. As the century closed, maps like those of William Hack (no. 15) and Cotton Mather (no. 16) also helped define the cultural unity of New England in a changing outside world eager to know more about the region and its geography.

New England's commercial success, its growing inability to resolve some of its own intercolonial boundary claims, and England's rising imperial interest in the region during the final decades of the century all began to lead these colonies into another direction and another world than that with which most seventeenth- century New Englanders had become familiar. Internally, too, change was taking place or was about to. Agricultural export was slackening, non-agricultural by-employment was rising, distinctions between the customs of towns were declining, economic growth was stagnating, and population pressures were beginning to push men onto new land, often less productive than the original grants. Slowly even settlement patterns and land granting practices were beginning to change.29

The juxtaposition of the old and new worlds was clearly evident in two maps produced only a decade apart. While the Hubbard-Foster portrayal of New England as late as 1677 (no. 14) looked distinctively inward and medieval, suggestive of primitive European woodcuts of 150 years earlier, the map of Boston Harbor made by Phillip Wells, the surveyor of the English royal governor Edmund Andros (no. 25), was forward- looking, utilitarian, and detailed for international commerce. Another map, produced several years later by the English captain Thomas Pound (no. 33), combined a prospect of the coastal communities, to aid navigators on their passage through the Bay, with a harbor chart. These two maps by outsiders with their attention to exactness and detail described a place very different from the one pictured by Hubbard and Foster; here was symbolized a rising commercial-and, more ominously, imperial-spirit taking hold in New England. As colonial administration over the region tightened, as New England commerce spread throughout the British Empire, and as British fortifications began to dot the coast in preparation for what was to become more than a half century of imperial warfare against the French, a very different kind of New England was emerging.

For the most part, however, this was New England's story during the eighteenth, not the seventeenth, century. During most of the first century, New England was a different kind of place. New Englanders persisted in retaining many of their former English ideas of landscape and a rich mosaic of other land-related traditions in a society that remained relatively constant and consistent. Concurrently, the rising population with immobile towns intensified the development of the land and transformed "an howling wilderness a few years [into] a pleasant land, accommodated with the necessaries- yea, and the conveniences of human life."30 As cartographic materials in the catalogue suggest, there was at once both a "newness" and an "Englishness" of life in seventeenth-century New England.

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