To the first colonists
of the Massachusetts Bay Company , their arrival near the site
of modern Salem in 1630 marked a crucial moment in history. Puritans
who had decided to leave England before it was engulfed by civil
war, saw their purpose, in the words of Governor John Winthrop,
as the establishment of a Utopian " City upon a hill ."
Their new colony of MASSACHUSETTS was to be a beacon to
the rest of humanity, an exemplar of sober government along sound
spiritual principles. Not all those who followed, however, shared
the same motivation; the story is often told of the preacher
who told his congregation that they had come to New England to
build a new kingdom of God, only to be challenged by a vociferous
parishioner who said he had come to fish.
In their own terms, the
Puritans were not successful: as waves of immigration brought
all kinds of dissenters and free-thinkers from Europe, society
in New England inevitably became secular. However, their influence
remained. A clarity of thought and forcefulness of purpose can
be traced from the foundation of Harvard College in 1636, through
the intellectual impetus behind the Revolution and the crusade
against slavery, to the nineteenth-century achievements of writers
such as Melville, Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau.
Other traditions, too,
have helped shape the state - poor migrants from Ireland and Italy , freed and escaped slaves from
the Southern states, Portuguese seamen - even if they have not
always been welcome. The anti-immigrant "Know-Nothing"
party of the 1850s acquired considerable public support; in 1927,
the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti came up against conservative
old Massachusetts, and were framed and executed on murder charges.
As recently as the 1970s, Boston experienced racial conflicts that
matched the bitterness of those erupting throughout the nation.
This has been somewhat healed of late, as have any economic doldrums
that plagued the city for the latter half of the century, and
a new sense of confidence - so emblematic of Boston's storied
past - has taken hold.
Boston is East Coast America
at its best, and spending a few days there is strongly recommended.
It's a place that isn't content to rest on its laurels - the
history is visible, but there's a great deal of modern life and
energy besides, thanks in part to the presence of Cambridge , the home of Harvard University, just across the river. Several
further historic towns are within easy reach - Salem to the north,
Concord and Lexington just inland, and Plymouth to the south. Provincetown , a three-hour ferry ride across
the bay at the tip of Cape
Cod, is great fun
to visit, and the rest of the Cape offers historic towns, lovely
beaches - and huge crowds. Except for a handful of college towns
such as Amherst, inland Massachusetts is much quieter; its settlements
are naturally concentrated where the land is fertile, such as
along the Connecticut River valley and in the Berkshires to the
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