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Settled by a group of Puritans in 1630, Boston became the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632. By the early eighteenth century, it had become the largest and most important town in British North America. It was the one of the earliest and chief centers of opposition to British economic regulations enacted after the French and Indian War, and the first skirmishes of the American Revolution were fought in its vicinity. The British evacuated Boston in March 1776, allowing the town and the surrounding areas to enjoy peace during the ensuing five years of conflict. When Massachusetts ratified the U.S. Constitution on February 6, 1788, Boston became the capital of the new state.
In 1822, Boston received a town charter. During the antebellum period, it became the cultural center of the nation. It became a hub of higher education, science, literature, art, and music. Boston's intellectual atmosphere made it a hotbed of reform and a center of the anti-slavery and abolitionist movements. It was also the nation's leading commercial port until supplanted by New York City because of its lack of water access to the west. Despite losing its supremacy over commerce and trade, Boston continued to be a vibrant commercial port, and its environs were in the vanguard of the Industrial Revolution.
Alvin F. Harlow, "Boston," Dictionary of American History rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 1:343-44; "Boston," Webster's New Geographical Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1988), 164; Thomas H. Johnson, Oxford Companion to American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 206.