The Dominion of New England was an administrative union imposed on England’s North American colonies, by King James II. It lasted from 1686-1689. Chief among the reasons for the Dominion’s creation was to enforce the Navigation Acts and to coordinate the common defense of the colonies from attacks by hostile foreign powers and dangerous indigenous peoples. However, the Dominion’s ultimate goal was to impose the central authority of the English Crown over the colonies in North America. The Dominion was abolished in 1689, as a result of James II’s overthrow by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution.
The governor of the Dominion of New England during its years of existence had his capital in Boston. Initially, when the Dominion was formed, in 1686, it encompassed the colonies Massachusetts; Plymouth; Connecticut; Rhode Island; and the provinces of New Hampshire and Maine. In 1688 the provinces of New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey were added to the Dominion. After this addition, New York and the Jerseys were governed from New York City by the Dominion’s lieutenant governor.
Although the colonies had formally existed as part of the New England Confederation, they found the Dominion intolerable. The New England Confederation was a voluntary loosely run association that the colonists had created. The Dominion was a tightly managed organization to which they had no choice in belonging, imposed on them from England, the mother country.
Though the English government was successful in coordinating the common defense, most of the goals of the Dominion were not successful. Enforcement of the Navigation Acts, which were designed to restrict use of foreign shipping to English vessels, was difficult to enforce because loopholes in the laws and smuggling increased immensely. The colonists also found the governor of the Dominion of New England, Sir Edmund Andros, too autocratic. He banned town meetings, challenged property ownership, imposed the Church of England on the colonists, and even quartered large numbers of English soldiers among the colonists.
The Dominion came to an end when word that King James II had been overthrown reached Boston, in May 1689. Governor Andros attempted to flee disguised as a women but was betrayed by his boots. He was then placed under arrest and shipped to England for trial. One month later, in New York, Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson was deposed.