A “Small Vessel of Brisk Bostoneers”: The Life and Times of the Massachusetts Province Sloop Mary, c. 1688-1693


  • Benjamin Schaffer




Anglo-American provincial naval forces, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Dominion of New England, British Empire, Glorious Revolution


In the late seventeenth century, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s government built its own provincial navy of several vessels to secure its coastline from French, Indigenous, and piratical threats. While the creation of provincial navies would become a regular hallmark of English colonization throughout the Atlantic world, this fleet’s flagship – the sloop Mary – and its crew would become major players in various transatlantic dramas ranging from the Glorious Revolution to the Golden Age of Piracy to the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Overall, Mary’s short service history not only gives us a novel maritime lens through which we can examine traditionally-well studied events in early American history, but also highlights the long-ignored role of Anglo-American provincial naval forces in shaping the first British Empire.

À la fin du dix-septième siècle, le gouvernement de la colonie de la baie du Massachusetts a construit sa propre marine provinciale de plusieurs navires pour protéger ses côtes contre les menaces posées par les Français, les Autochtones et les pirates. Alors que la création de marines provinciales allait devenir une caractéristique de la colonisation anglaise dans le monde de l’Atlantique, le navire amiral de cette flotte – le sloop Mary – et son équipage allaient devenir des acteurs importants dans divers drames transatlantiques, y compris la Glorieuse Révolution, l’Âge d’or de la piraterie et les procès des sorcières de Salem. Dans l’ensemble, la courte histoire de service maritime du Mary nous offre non seulement une nouvelle optique maritime à travers laquelle il est possible de considérer les événements traditionnellement bien étudiés des débuts de l’histoire américaine, mais elle souligne également le rôle longtemps ignoré des forces navales provinciales anglo-américaines dans la formation du premier Empire britannique.

Author Biography

Benjamin Schaffer

Benjamin Schaffer holds a history Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. His research focuses on the intersections between maritime conflict and society in the British Atlantic world, c. 1600-1783. His book manuscript, from which this article is based, Self Defense and Sea Power: The Provincial Navies of the British Atlantic World, c. 1630-1776, is currently in review at the University of Alabama Press. He currently teaches as an adjunct history instructor at the College of Charleston. (Contact: schafferbc@cofc.edu)


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A period piece shows how Mary’s crew may have been dressed.




How to Cite

Schaffer, B. (2023). A “Small Vessel of Brisk Bostoneers”: The Life and Times of the Massachusetts Province Sloop Mary, c. 1688-1693 . The Northern Mariner Le Marin Du Nord, 33(1), 1–26. https://doi.org/10.25071/2561-5467.1080