Intermission, 1684–1691: Seven Years’ Distraction

King Charles II
It was the Farmers’ bad luck that the General Court was unable to settle the issue in 1684, because the Massachusetts Bay colony’s long struggle to keep its original charter—and the autonomy that (to the colony’s own way of thinking) that charter gave it—was coming to an unhappy end. On May 17, the same day that the General Court appointed the survey committee to fix a boundary between Cambridge and the Farms, the Court dispatched one of its typical addresses to the king, striking a woeful and abject note and begging his royal clemency, while failing to budge an inch in complying with any of the royal commands. The address was sent not directly to His Majesty, but to the colony’s lawyer in London, with a covering note instructing him to deliver the address to King Charles only if he thought it would help their case.

A month later, the Chancery Court had handed down the writ of scire facias that sank the Massachusetts Bay colony's charter for good and all. When the news got to Boston in September, everyone knew that the game was over. On October 23, 1684, just a week before the Magistrates’ second response (for that year) to the Farmer's petition, the charter awarded in 1629 by King Charles I was finally “Vacated, Cancelled, and annihilated” by the authority of his son. That date, October 23, was the deadline for appearing before the Chancery Court to contest the writ—a deadline that the government knew the colony couldn’t meet.
King James II
King Charles II, as everyone seems to have known, was planning to unite all the English colonies in New England into a single “dominion” under a royal governor. The king’s unexpected death in February of 1685 delayed this project for a while, but the General Court knew that its days in power were numbered. By May, 1686, King James II, who succeeded his brother, had replaced both Court and governor—first by a temporary council under a president pro tem, then by a permanent council under the royal governor of the Dominion, Sir Edmund Andros. Both councils were appointed, not elected; it was an article of faith with the Stuart kings that popular representation was an unnecessary obstacle to the proper functioning of a monarchy.

A couple of years passed as James got himself into continually deeper trouble with his subjects, until England’s Glorious Revolution, late in 1688, put an end to his reign. It took some time for the news to reach Boston, but Andros was overthrown the following spring.
King William III
England’s new ruler was William of Orange, James’s Protestant son-in-law. William III, to give him his proper number, took a thoroughly royal approach to the subject of colonial government, but first he had to consolidate his position in England and win a war in Ireland, where James was trying in vain to begin the reconquest of the kingdom. A replacement for the original charter wasn’t fully worked out and put in place until 1692. For more than seven years, the colony had none.

During the interim between Andros’ downfall in 1689 and the arrival of the new charter in 1692, the General Court was brought back to life, and in December of 1691 it dealt once again, for the first time in seven years, with the issue of a meetinghouse for the Farms.