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The Massachusetts Charter of 1691 was a document that formally established the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Issued by the government of William III and Mary II, the corulers of the Kingdom of England, the charter defined the government of the colony, whose lands were drawn from those previously belonging to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, and portions of the Province of New York. The territorial claims embodied in the charter also encompassed all of present-day Maine (some of which had been claimed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

The charter was approved by William and Mary on October 7, 1691 and established English rule of the colony, by appointing a governor, deputy governor and secretary, to be elected by members of the council.[1] It took away many of its rights of self-government that had previously been enjoyed by Massachusetts and Plymouth authorities, transitioning the power in Boston from elected to royally appointed governors.[2] William and Mary appointed Sir William Phips as the new governor.[3] The charter established freedom of worship and removed religious restrictions on voting, although Roman Catholics were still frowned on.[3][4] Economically the charter benefited the British by reserving the right of free fishery to British interests only.[5]

Towns across the colony grew in status as a result of the charter.[6]


  1. ^ Schutz, John A. (5 June 1997). Legislators of the Massachusetts General Court, 1691-1780: A Biographical Dictionary. UPNE. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-55553-304-5. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Massachusetts Government Act". Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b Ayers, Edward L.; Gould, Lewis L.; Oshinsky, David M. (1 January 2011). American Passages. Cengage Learning. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-495-90921-7. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  4. ^ Finney, Jerald (30 August 2008). God Betrayed. Xulon Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-60647-541-6. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  5. ^ United States Congress (1913). Congressional Edition. U.S. G.P.O. p. 2405. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  6. ^ Wakelyn, Jon L. (2006). America's Founding Charters: Primary Documents of Colonial and Revolutionary Era Governance. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-313-33155-8. Retrieved 20 July 2012.

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