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After the discovery of the American continent the east coast of North America between 41° and 45° North Latitude was visited by J. Cabot. In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold discovered and named Cape Cod. Two years later Samuel de Champlain explored the coast and as a result of his report two companies were founded in 1606 to exploit the territory: the London Company and the Plymouth Company, so called after the shareholders residing in London and Plymouth. The region assigned to the Plymouth Company, consisting of present Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, received the name of New England from Captain John Smith.who reported about his voyages to the East Coast under the title A Description of New England, in 1616.


Arms of John Smith as on his books and maps 1616-‘24

By Simon van der Passe


The arms of John Smith were: [Vert] a chevron [Gules] between three moor’s heads [proper]. Crest: An Ostrich with his horse shoe Or. Motto: VINCERE EST VIVERE (To Conquer is to Live).

Challenged in Transylvania to a duel by three Turks, John Smith beheaded all three of them and was rewarded with this special coat of arms by Szigmond Báthory, Prince of  Transylvania (1586-1602). It was recorded at the College of Arms London by Sir William Segar Garter Principal King of Arms, 19 August 1625


Council for New England

The Council for New England, was a joint stock company organized in 1620 by a charter from the British crown with authority to colonize and govern the area known by then as New England.

The section in the petition for the charter  about the council reads:

that the territories where your petitioners make their plantation may be called, as by the prince his Highness it has been named, New England, that the bounds thereof may be settled from 40 to 45 degrees of northerly latitude and so from sea to sea through the main as the coast lies, and that your Majesty's council residing here in England for that plantation may consist of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and other their associates, to be chosen out of the noblemen and knights adventurers home about London, and others the adventurers both knights, gentlemen, and merchants in the western countries; so as the said council do not exceed the number of forty, who, as one incorporate body, may as often as need requires be assembled when and where the president or vice president, with the treasurer and secretary, or any two of them, to be assisted with five or three others of the council, shall think most convenient for that service.  [1]


Arms of Gorges


Drawing from landed gentry rather than merchants, the company was dominated by its president, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who intended to distribute the land as manors and fiefs among the council’s 40 members with the idea of establishing a monolithic, aristocratic, Anglican province. This plan was unsuccessful, however, and New England colonization was dominated by two vigorous, Nonconformist, middle-class enterprises—the Pilgrims (1620) and the Massachusetts Bay Company (1629). To untangle confused land titles under the council and to resolve conflicting lines of political authority, the Massachusetts Bay Company took possession of its charter directly from the king, thus eliminating the Council for New England as an intermediary. In the following years the Massachusetts Bay Company infringed so often on the rights of the Council and made such troubles that the Council took the decicion to resign.

In a long Declaration for Resignation of the Charter by the Council for New England; April 25, 1635, the Council wrote that:

After all these troubles and upon these considerations, it is now resolved that the patent shall be surrendered to his Majesty with reservation of all such lawful rights as any is or has been seized with either before or since the patent granted to those of the Bay of Massachusetts. [2]

At the same time a large part of New England was ceded by the Council to Captain John Mason.

On 23 July 1637 Sir Ferdinando Gorges was appointed Governor of New England by King Charles I.  [3]


An achievement for this Council is represented on the frontispiece of the report of the voyage of Captain John Smith made in 1614 and printed in 1624. [4] It is also on the eight state of the map published alongside the book of John Smith, probably drawn by Simon van der Passe, the son of a Dutch engraver.

The arms combines the royal arms with a symbol for the (Atlantic) ocean. Neptune, the Greek god of the sea, riding a sea-horse and armed with his trident serves for crest. Allegories of Religion and Justice support the arms. The motto refers to the inhabitants of te region be it the local population or the English settlers.


Achievement of New England Council, reconstruction, 20th cent.

Stained glass window in St. Helena’s church, Willoughby, UK.


Arms: Per fess, the chief quarterly: 1&4: ¼ of France and England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland. The base Argent, three barrulets wavy Azure.

Crest: Neptune with a trident riding on a Sea Horse all proper.

Supporters: Two virgins, the dexter with a book and with a dove on her shoulder; the sinister with a square.

Motto: gens incognita mihi serviet  (Unknown People Will Serve Me).


Æ See illustration from the frontispiece of the John Smith book (1624) in the head of this essay.


Dominion of New England


In the first half of the 17th century new colonies sprang up also from other countries. In 1664 the Swedish settlement on the Delaware was bought by the English and three years later Nieuw Amsterdam, the colony of the Dutch. In this way a closed joined territory came in to being on the east coast reaching from 33° to 45° Northern Latitude. Particularly after the years of the Commonwealth in England and the restoration of the Stuarts the royal authority in the colonies expanded at the cost of the relative autonomy which they had had before. Continuing this policy James II created the Dominion of New England in America which existed from 1686-’89, encompassing the English colonies in the New England region from the Delaware River in the south to Penobscot Bay in the north.


Seal of the Dominion of New England 1685 (obverse)


The obverse of the seal of the Dominion represents an audition of King James II receiving a settler and an inhabitant of New England kneeling before him. They are presenting a bill and goods of the region. In the air a hovering angel with a scroll inscribed NVNQUAM LIBERTAS GRATIOR EXTAT (It is never fairer). The legend reads: IACOBVS : II : D : G : MAG : BRIT : FRAN : ET : HIB : REX : FIDEI : DEFENSOR.


Seal of  the Dominion of New England , 1685 (reverse)


Arms: ¼: 1& 4: ¼ of France and England; 2. Scotland; 3. Ireland.

Crest: The Royal Crown of Great Britain

Order: Of the Garter.

Supporters: D.: A crowned lion guardant Or; S. A unicorn Argent, tufted, hoofed and horned Or.

Motto: DIEV • ET •  MON • DROIT. 

L.: SIGILLVM : ó : NOVÆ : ó : ANGLIÆ : ó : IN : ó : AMERICA


The dominion was ultimately a failure because the area and its people it encompassed was too large and too troublesome for a single governor to manage. Additional factors resulted in its fall, including the fact that its governor, Sir Edmund Andros, was highly unpopular, engaging in actions that offended significant segments of the New England population. After news of the Glorious Revolution in England (deposing James II) reached Boston in 1689, Puritans launched a revolt against Andros, arresting him and his officers. Leisler's Rebellion in New York City deposed the dominions lieutenant governor, Francis Nicholson. After these events, the colonies assembled into the dominion then reverted to their previous forms of governance, despite the fact that some then formally governed without a charter. New charters were eventually issued by King William III and Queen Mary II.


It would take another 85 years before a union comparable with the Dominion of New England could be created, be it not under the aegis of the British monarchy.



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© Hubert de Vries 2015-04-16



[1] A Petition for a Charter of New England by the Northern Company of Adventurers; March 3, 1619/20 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/charter_002.asp

[2] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/charter_006.asp

[3] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/charter_009.asp

[4]. Smith, Iohn: The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles:  with the names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governors from their first beginning An: 1584. to this present 1624. (&c). London, 1624. Also on his map of New England State 8.

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