The immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony were carefully selected. Not only in a religious sense, but also in a practical one, did they constitute an “elect.” Each settler was under obligation to support his family and to contribute to those in need because of adversity. Almost to a man, these New England immigrants were “English” (as distinguished from merely “British”), and they were Puritans.
Private initiative and capital have always been involved in British colonies, and the colonists were expected to provide for their own defense. Massachusetts Bay Colony was no exception. Not only the Natives, but also the French, were potential threats to Puritan civilization. By 1636, ten “Train Bands” (volunteer military companies) had been formed in Boston and nearby towns. In 1637 the “Military Company of the Massachusetts” was organized to provide training for the officers of those forces. The following year, 1638, a charter of incorporation was issued under the authority of Governor John Winthrop, Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley and the Council, and was confirmed by the General Court. Many of the original members of the Company had been members in England of the Honorable Artillery Company of London (chartered by King Henry VIII in 1537 as the “Fraternity of St. George”). Around the time of the American Revolution, the “Military Company of the Massachusetts” had a change of name to the “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.” It is the oldest military organization on the American continent.
Its British predecessor, since its founding, has had an Annual Feast, and, at least from the time of Oliver Cromwell, has had an Annual Sermon preached on the occasion. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, still an active military unit, follows that example.
New England Hereditary Societies