E/MS Unit II

Lesson C: A Young Colony Faces Challenges

Key Questions

  1. How did the New England colonies meet the need for workers?
  2. What English beliefs persisted among colonists?
  3. What happened to the colony's first newspaper?

Primary Sources

Document E/MS II-8: Finding Cheap Labor: Excerpt from a Letter Written in 1645

Document E/MS II-8: Finding Cheap Labor: Excerpt from a Letter Written in 1645

Emanuel Downing, a London lawyer and the brother-in-law of Massachusetts Bay Colony’s governor, John Winthrop, came to visit the colony. In a 1645 letter to Winthrop, he explained his view of the slave situation in Massachusetts.

If upon a just war the Lord should deliver [the Pequots] into our hands, we might easily have men, women and children enough to exchange for Moores [black Africans], which will be more gainful pillage for us than we conceive, for I do not see how we can thrive until we get into a stock of slaves sufficient to do all our business, for our children’s children will hardly see this great Continent filled with people, so that our servants will still desire freedom to plant for themselves and not to stay but for very great wages. And I suppose you know very well how we shall maintain 20 Moores cheaper than one English servant. The ships that shall bring Moores may come home laden with salt which may bear most of the charge, if not all of it….

Quoted in Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, by George H. Moore (D. Appleton & Co., 1866).


  1. How does this letter confirm what you have learned from other sources?
  2. What new information does it provide?
  3. What is the letter writer’s attitude toward black slaves?
Document E/MS II-9: Punishable by Death: Capital Laws in Effect in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

Document E/MS II-9: Punishable by Death: Capital Laws in Effect in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

Content coming soon.

Document E/MS II-10: Guilty of Witchcraft: Excerpt from John Winthrop’s Journal, May 1648

Document E/MS II-10: Guilty of Witchcraft: Excerpt from John Winthrop’s Journal, May 1648

John Winthrop was the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. He kept a journal from 1630 until he died in 1649. It is among the best written records we have of the early years of the colony.

At this Court one Margaret Jones of Charlestown was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft and hanged for it. The evidence against her was 1. that she was found to have such a malignant touch as many persons (men, women, and children) whom she stroked or touched with any affection of displeasure or, etc., were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains, or sickness; 2. she practicing physic, and her medicines being such things as (by her own confession) were harmless, as aniseed, licorice, etc., yet had extraordinary violent effects; 3. she would use to tell such as would not make use of her physic that they would never be healed, and accordingly their diseases and hurts continued… 4. some things which she fortold came to pass accordingly; other things she could tell of (as secret speeches, etc.) which she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of; 5. she had (upon search) an apparent teat in her secret parts as fresh as if it had been newly sucked… upon a second search [it was found] that [it] was withered, and another began on the opposite side; 6. in prison in the clear daylight there was seen in her arms…a little child which ran from her into another room, and the officer following it, it was vanished; the like child was seen in 2 other places… Her behavior at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she died. The same day and hour she was executed there was a very great tempest in Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc…

Margaret Jones was hanged June 14, 1648, in Boston. She was one of four women executed for witchcraft in New England between 1647–1648.

Quoted in The Journal of John Winthrop 1630–1649 (abridged), ed. by Richard S. Dunn and Laetitia Yeandle (The Belknap Press, 1996).

Document E/MS II-11: New England News! Excerpts from Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, Boston, Thursday Sept. 25, 1690

Document E/MS II-11: New England News! Excerpts from Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, Boston, Thursday Sept. 25, 1690

Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick was the first paper published in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Note: Spelling has been modernized, but the capitalization and use of italics is as in the original.

  1. Editorial introduction
    It is designed, that the Country shall be furnished once a month (or if any glut of Occurrences happen oftener), with an Account of such considerable things as have arrived unto our Notice.

    In order hereunto, the Publisher will take what pains he can to obtain a faithful relation of all such things; and will particularly make himself beholden to such Persons in Boston whom he knows to have been for their own use the diligent Observers of such matters….
  2. News item
    The Christianized Indians in some parts of Plimouth, have newly appointed a day of Thanksgiving to God for his Mercy in supplying their extream and pinching Necessities under their late want of Corn & for His giving them now a prospect of a very Comfortable Harvest. Their Example may be worth Mentioning.
  3. News item
    While the barbarous Indians were lurking about Chelmsford, there were missing about the beginning of this month a couple of Children belonging to a man of that Town, one of them aged about eleven, the other aged about nine years, both of them supposed to be fallen into the hands of the Indians.
  4. News item
    Epidemical fevers and Agues grow very common in some parts of the Country, whereof, tho many die not, yet they are sorely unfitted for their employments; but in some parts a more malignant Fever seems to prevail in such fort that it usually goes through a Family where it comes, and proves Mortal unto many.

    The Small-pox which has been raging in Boston, after a manner very Extraordinary is now much abated. It is thought that far more have been sick of it than were visited with it when it raged so much twelve years ago, nevertheless it has not been so mortal. The number of them that have died in Boston by this last visitation is about three hundred and twenty, which is not perhaps half so many as fell by the former. The time of its being most General was in the Months June, July, and August, then ‘twas that sometimes in some one Congregation on a Lord’s day there would be Bills desiring prayers for above a hundred Sick. It seized upon all sorts of people that came in the way of it, it infected even Children in the bellies of Mothers that had themselves undergone the Disease many years ago; for some such were now born full of the distemper. ‘Tis not easy to relate the Trouble and Sorrow that poor Boston has felt by this Epidemical Contagion….
  5. News item
    Although Boston did a few weeks ago, meet with a Disaster by Fire, which consumed about twenty Houses near the Mill-Creek, yet about midnight, between the sixteenth and seventeenth of this instant, another Fire broke forth near the South-Meeting-House, which consumed about five or six houses and had almost carried the Meeting-house it self, one of the fairest edifices in the Country, if God had not remarkably assisted the endeavours of the People to put out the Fire. There were two more considerable Circumstances in the calamities of this Fire, one was that a young man belonging to the house where the Fire began, unhappily perished in the Flames; it seems that tho’ he might sooner awake than some others who did escape, yet he some way lost those Wits that should have taught him to help himself. Another was that the best furnished PRINTING-PRESS, of those few that we know of in America was lost, a loss not presently to be repaired….

    The paper goes on to give extensive reports on the French and Indian War.
  6. News item
    Another late matter of discourse has been an unaccountable destruction befalling a body of Indians, that were our Enemies. This body of French Indians had a Fort somewhere far up the River, and a party of Maqua’s returning from the East Country, where they have at a great rate pursued and terrified those Indians which have been invading of our North East Plantations, and Killed their General Hope Hood among the rest; resolved to visit this Fort; but they found the effort ruined, the Canoes cut to pieces, and the people all either Butchered or Captive…
  7. News item
    Two English Captives escaped from the hands of the Indians and French at Piscadamoquady, came into Portsmouth on the sixteenth instant and say, That when Capt. Mason was at Port Real, he cut the faces, and ripped the bellies of two Indians, and threw a third Over board in the fight of the French, who informing the other Indians of it, they have in revenge barbarously Butchered forty Captives of ours that were in their hands….


  1. What is the subject of the news item you read?
  2. What information is given about the subject?
  3. Is the writing impartial and unbiased? If not, underline words that suggest a bias.
  4. Which words in the articles are in italics? Why might this be so?

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