This defect was understood in England, and the Company took means to remedy it. A number of desirable and blameless young women were enlisted to go out to the colony and console the bachelors there. The plan was discreetly carried out; the acquisition of the young ladies was not made too easy, so that neither was their self-respect wounded, nor were the bachelors allowed to feel that beauty and virtue in female form were commonplace commodities. The romance and difficulty of the situation were fairly well preserved. There stood the possible bride; but she was available only with her own consent and approval; and before entering the matrimonial estate, the bridegroom elect must pay all charges—so many pounds of tobacco. And how many pounds of tobacco was a good wife worth? From one point of view, more than was ever grown in Virginia; but the sentimental aspect of the transaction had to be left out of consideration, or the enterprise would have come to an untimely conclusion. From one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds of the weed was the average commercial figure; it paid expenses and gave the agents a commission; for the rest, the profit was all the colonist's. Many a happy home was founded in this way, and, so far as we know, there were no divorces and no scandals. But it must not be forgotten that, although tobacco was paid for the wife, there was still enough left to fill a quiet pipe by the conjugal fireside. They were the first Christian firesides where this soothing goddess had presided: no wonder they were peaceful!
Charles I. was a young man, with a large responsibility on his shoulders; and two leading convictions in his mind. The first was that he ought to be the absolute head of the nation; Parliament might take counsel with him, but should not control him when it came to action. The same notion had prevailed with James I., and was to be the immediate occasion of the downfall of James II.; as for Charles II., his long experience of hollow oak trees, and secret chambers in the houses of loyalists, had taught him the limitations of the kingly prerogative before he began his reign; and the severed head of his father clinched the lesson. But the Stuarts, as a family, were disinclined to believe that the way to inherit the earth was by meekness, and none of them believed it so little as the first Charles.
The second conviction he entertained was that he must have revenues, and that they should be large and promptly paid. His whole pathetic career —tragic seems too strong a word for it, though it ended in death—was a mingled story of nobility, falsehood, gallantry and treachery, conditioned by his blind pursuit of these two objects, money and power.
Upon general principles, then, it was to be expected that Charles would be the enemy of Virginian liberties. But it happened that money was his more pressing need at the time his attention first was turned on the colony; he saw that revenues were to be gained from them; he knew that the charter recently given to them had immensely increased their productiveness; and as to his prerogative, he had not as yet felt the resistance which his parliament had in store for him, and was therefore not jealous of the political privileges of a remote settlement—one, too, which seemed to be in the hands of loyal gentlemen. "Their liberties harm me not," was his thought, "and they appear to be favorable to the success of the tobacco crop; the tobacco monopoly can put money in my purse; therefore let the liberties remain. Should these planters ever presume to go too far, it will always be in my power to stop them." Thus it came about that tobacco, after procuring the Virginians loving wives, was also the means of securing the favor of their king. But they, naturally, ascribed the sunshine of his smile to some innate merit in themselves, and their gratitude made them his enthusiastic supporters as long as he lived. They mourned his death, and opened their arms to all royalist refugees from the power of Cromwell. When Cromwell sent over a man-of-war, however, they accepted the situation. Virginia had by that time grown to so considerable an importance that they could adopt a somewhat conservative attitude toward the affairs even of the mother country.
The ten years following Charles's accession were a period of peace and growth in the colony; of great increase in population and in production, and of a steady ripening of political liberties. But the conditions under which this development went on were different from those which existed in New England and in New York. The Puritans were actuated by religious ideals, the Dutch by commercial projects chiefly; but the Virginia planters were neither religious enthusiasts nor tradesmen. Their tendency was not to huddle together in towns and close communities, but to spread out over the broad and fertile miles of their new country, and live each in a little principality of his own, with his slaves and dependants around him. They modeled their lives upon those of the landed gentry in England; and when their crops were gathered, they did not go down to the wharfs and haggle over their disposal, but handed them over to agents, who took all trouble off their hands, and after deducting commissions and charges made over to them the net profits. This left the planters leisure to apply themselves to liberal pursuits; they maintained a dignified and generous hospitality, and studied the art of government. A race of gallant gentlemen grew up, well educated, and consciously superior to the rest of the population, who had very limited educational facilities, and but little of that spirit of equality and independence which characterized the northern colonies. Towns and cities came slowly; the plantation system was more natural and agreeable under the circumstances. Orthodoxy in religion was the rule; and though at first there was a tendency to eschew narrowness and bigotry, yet gradually the church became hostile to dissenters, and Puritans and Quakers were as unwelcome in Virginia as were the latter in Massachusetts, or Episcopalians anywhere in New England. All this seems incompatible with democracy; and probably it might in time have grown into a liberal monarchical system. The slaves were not regarded as having any rights, political or personal; their masters exercised over them the power of life and death, as well as all lesser powers. The bulk of the white population was not oppressed, and was able to get a living, for Virginia was "the best poor man's country in the world"; there was little or none of the discontent that embarrassed the New Amsterdam patroons; the charter gave them representation, and their manhood was not undermined. Had Virginia been an island, or otherwise isolated, and free from any external interference, we can imagine that the planters might at last have found it expedient to choose a king from among their number, who would have found a nobility and a proletariat ready made. But Virginia was not isolated. She was loyal to the Stuarts, because they did not bring to bear upon her the severities which they inflicted upon their English subjects; but when she became a royal colony, and had to put up with corrupt and despotic favorites of the monarch, who could do what they pleased, and were responsible to nobody but the monarch who had made them governor, loyalty began to cool. Moreover, men whose ability and advanced opinions made them distasteful to the English kings, fled to the colonies, and to Virginia among the rest, and sowed the seeds of revolt. Calamity makes strange bedfellows: the planters liked outside oppression as little as did the common people, and could not but make common cause with them. The distance between the two was diminished. Social equality there could hardly be; but political and theoretic equality could be acknowledged. The English monarchy made the American republic; spurred its indolence, and united its parts. Man left to himself is lax and indifferent; from first to last it is the pressure of wrong that molds him into the form of right. George I. gave the victory to the Americans in the Revolution as much as Washington did. And before George's time, the colonies had been keyed up to the struggle by years of injustice and outrage. And this injustice and outrage seemed the more intolerable because they had been preceded by a period of comparative liberality. It needs powerful pressure to transform English gentlemen with loyalist traditions, and sympathies into a democracy; but it can be done, and the English kings were the men to do it.
Until the period of unequivocal tyranny arrived, the chief shadow upon the colony was cast by its relations with the Indians. Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas, and chief over tribes whose domains extended over thousands of square miles, kept friendship with the whites till his death in 1618. His brother, Opechankano, professed to inherit the friendship along with the chieftainship; but the relations between the red men and the colonists had never been too cordial, and the latter, measuring their muskets and breastplates against the stone arrows and deerskin shirts of the savages, fell into the error of despising them. The Indians, for their part, stood in some awe of firearms, which they had never held in their own hands, and the penalty for selling which to them had been made capital years before. But they had their own methods of dealing with foes; and since neither side had ever formally come to blows, they had received no object lesson to warn them to keep hands off. Opechankano was intelligent and far-seeing; he perceived that the whites were increasing in numbers, and that if they were not checked betimes, they would finally overrun the country. But he did not see so far as his brother, who had known that the final domination of the English could not be prevented, and had therefore adopted the policy of conciliating them as the best. Opechankano, therefore, quietly planned the extermination of the settlers; the familiar terms on which the white and red men stood played into his hands. Indians were in the habit of visiting the white settlements, and mingling with the people. Orders for concerted action were secretly circulated among the savages, who were to hold themselves ready for the signal.
It might after all never have been given, but for an unlooked for incident. A noisy and troublesome Indian, who imagined that bullets could not kill him, fell into a quarrel with a settler, and slew him; and was himself shot while attempting to escape from arrest. "Sooner shall the heavens fall," devoutly exclaimed Opechankano, when informed of this mishap, "than I will break the peace of Powhatan." But the waiting tribes knew that the time had come.
On the morning of March 22, 1622, the settlers arose as usual to the labors of the day; some of them took their hoes and spades and went out into the fields; others busied themselves about their houses. Numbers of Indians were about, but this excited no remark or suspicion; they were not formidable; a dog could frighten them; a child could hold them in check. Indians strolled into the cabins, and sat at the breakfast-tables. No one gave them a second thought. No one looked over his shoulder when an Indian passed behind him.
But, miles up the country from Jamestown lived a settler who kept an Indian boy, whom he instructed, and who made himself useful about the place; and of all the Indians in Virginia that day he was the only one whose heart relented. His brother had lain with him the night before, and had given him the word: he was to kill the settler and his family the next morning. The boy seemed to assent, and the other went on his way. The boy lay till dawn, his savage mind divided between fear of the great chief and compassion for the white man who had been kind to him and taught him. In the early morning he arose and stood beside his benefactor's bed. The man slept: one blow, and he would be dead. But the boy did not strike; he wakened him and told him of the horror that was about to befall.
Pace—such was the settler's name—did not wait for confirmation of the tale; indeed, as he ran to the paddock to get his packhorse, he could see the smoke of burning cabins rising in the still air, and could hear, far off, the yells of the savages as they plied their work.
He sprang on the horse's back, with his musket across the withers, and set off at a gallop toward Jamestown. Most of the colonists lived in that neighborhood; if he could get there in time many lives might be saved. As he rode, he directed his course to the cabins, on the right hand and on the left, that lay in his way, and gave the alarm. Many of the savages, who had not yet begun their work, at once took to flight; they would not face white men when on their guard. In other places, the warning came too late. The missionary, who had devoted his life to teaching the heathen that men should love one another, was inhumanly butchered. Pace arrived in season to avert the danger from the bulk of the little population; but, of the four thousand scattered over the country-side, three hundred and forty-seven died that morning, with the circumstances of hideous atrocity which were the invariable accompaniments of Indian massacre. The colonists were appalled; and for a time it seemed as if the purpose of Opechankano would be realized. Two thousand settlers came in from the outlying districts, panic-stricken, and after living for a while crowded together in unwholesome quarters in the vicinity of Jamestown, took ship and returned to England. Hardly one in ten of the plantations was not deserted. The bolder spirits, who remained, organized a war of extermination, in which they were supported and re-enforced by the company, who sent over men and weapons as soon as the news was known in England. But the campaign resolved itself into long and harassing attacks, ambuscades and reprisals, extending over many years. There could be no pitched battles with Indians; they gave way, but only to circumvent and surprise. The whites were resolved to make no peace, and to give no quarter to man, woman or child. The formerly peaceful settlement became inured to blood and cruelty. But the red men could not be wholly driven away. Just twenty years after the first massacre the same implacable chief, now a decrepit old man, planned a second one; some hundreds were murdered; but the colonists were readier and stronger now, and they gathered themselves up at once, and inflicted a crushing vengeance. The ancient chief was finally taken, and either died of wounds received in fight, or was slain by a soldier after capture. After 1646, the borders of Virginia were safe. There is no redeeming feature in this Indian warfare, which fitfully survives, in remote parts of our country, even now. It aided, perhaps, to train the race of pioneers and frontiersmen who later became one of the most remarkable features of our early population. Contact with the savage races inoculated us, perhaps, with a touch of their stoicism and grimness. But in our conflicts with them there was nothing noble or inspiring; and there could be no object in view on either side but extermination. Our Indian fighters became as savage and merciless as the creatures they pursued. The Indian must be fought by the same tactics he adopts—cunning, stealth, surprise, and then unrelenting slaughter, with the sequel of the scalping knife. They compel us to descend to their level in war, and we have utterly failed to raise them to our own in peace. Some of them have possessed certain harshly masculine traits which we can admire; some of them have showed broad and virile intelligence, the qualities of a general, a diplomatist, or even of a statesman. There have been, and are, so-called tame Indians; but such were not worth taming. As a whole, the red tribes have resisted all attempts to lift them to the civilized level and keep them there. Roger Williams, and the "apostle," John Eliot, were their friends, and won their regard; but neither Williams' influence nor Eliot's Bible left any lasting trace upon them. The Indian is irreclaimable; disappointment is the very mildest result that awaits the effort to reclaim him. He is wild to the marrow; no bird or beast is so wild as he. He is a human embodiment of the untrodden woods, the undiscovered rivers, the austere mountains, the pathless prairies—of all those parts and aspects of nature which are never brought within the smooth sway of civilization, because, as soon as civilization appears, they are, so far as their essential quality is concerned, gone. To hear the yelp of the coyote, you must lie alone in the sage brush near the pool in the hollow of the low hills by moonlight; it will never reach your ears through the bars of the menagerie cage. To know the mountain, you must confront the avalanche and the precipice uncompanioned, and stand at last on the breathless and awful peak, which lifts itself and you into a voiceless solitude remote from man and yet no nearer to God; but if you journey with guides and jolly fellowship to some Mountain House, never so airily perched, you would as well visit a panorama. To comprehend the ocean, you must meet it in its own inviolable domain, where it tosses heavenward its careless nakedness, and laughs with death; from the deck of a steamboat you will never find it, though you sail as far as the Flying Dutchman. But the solitude which nature reveals, and which alone reveals her, does but prepare you for the inaproachableness that shines out at you from the Indian's eyes. Seas are shallow and continents but a span compared with the breadths and depths which separate him from you. The sphinx will yield her mystery, but he will not unveil his; you may touch the poles of the planet, but you can never lay your hand on him. The same God that made you, made him also in His image; but if you try to bridge the gulf between you, you will learn something of God's infinitude.
Sir George Yeardley and Sir Francis Wyatt both held the office of governor twice, and with good repute; in 1630, Sir John Harvey succeeded the former. He was the champion of monopolists; he would divide the land among a few, and keep the rest in subjection. He fought with the legislature from the first; he could not wring their rights from them, but he distressed and irritated the colony, levying arbitrary fines, and browbeating all and sundry with the brutality of an ungoverned temper. His chief patron was Lord Baltimore, a Roman Catholic, and therefore disfavored by the Protestant colony, who would not suffer him to plant in their domain. He bought a patent authorizing him to establish a colony in the northern part of Virginia, which was afterward called Maryland, being cut off from the older colony; and this diminution of their territory much displeased the Virginians. But Harvey supported him throughout; and permitted mass to be said in Virginia. He likewise prevented the settlers from carrying on the border warfare with the Indians, lest it should disturb his perquisites from the fur trade. Violent scenes took place in the hall of assembly, and hard words were given and exchanged; the planters were men of hot passions, and the conduct of the governor became intolerable to them. Matters came to a head during the last week in April of 1635. An unauthorized gathering in York complained of an unjust tax and of other malfeasances; whereupon Harvey cried mutiny, and had the leaders arrested. But the boot was on the other leg. Several members of council, with a company of musketeers at their back, came to his house; Matthews, with whom the governor had lately had a fierce quarrel, and the other planters, tramped into the broad hall of the dwelling, with swords in their hands and threatening looks, and confronted him. John Utie brought down his hand with staggering force on his shoulder, exclaiming, "I arrest you for treason!" "How, for treason?" queried the frightened governor. "You have betrayed our forts to our enemies of Maryland," replied several stern voices. Harvey glanced from one to another; in the background were the musketeers; plainly this was no time for trifling. He offered to do whatever they demanded. They required the release of prisoners, which was immediately done, and bade him prepare to answer before the assembly. They would listen to no arguments and no excuses; he was told by Matthews, with a menacing look, that the people would have none of him. "You intend no less than the subversion of Maryland," protested Harvey; but he promised to return to England, and John West, who had already acted as ad-interim governor while Harvey was on his way to Virginia, was at once elected in his place.
This incident showed of what stuff the Virginians were made. It was an early breaking-out of the American spirit, which would never brook tyranny. In offering violence to the king's governor they imperiled their own lives; but their blood was up, and they heeded no danger. When Harvey presented himself before Charles at the privy council, his majesty remarked that he must be sent back at all hazards, because the sending him to England had been an assumption on the colonists' part of regal power; and, tobacco or no tobacco, the line must be drawn there. If the charges against him were sustained, he might stay but a day; if not, his term should be extended beyond the original commission. A new commission was given him, and back he went; but this shuttlecock experience seems to have quelled his spirit, and we hear no more of quarrels with the Virginia council. Wyatt relieved him in 1639; and in 1642 came Sir William Berkeley. This man, who was born about the beginning of the century, was twice governor; his present term, lasting ten years, was followed by a nine years' interval; reappointed again in 1660, he was in power when the rebellion broke out which was led by Nathaniel Bacon. Little is known of him outside of his American record; in his first term, under Charles I., he acted simply as the creature of that monarch, and aroused no special animosities on his own account: during the reign of Cromwell, he disappeared; but when Charles II. ascended the throne, Berkeley, though then an old man, was thought to be fitted by his previous experience for the Virginia post, and was returned thither. But years seemed to have soured his disposition, and lessened his prudence, and, as we shall see, his bloodthirsty conduct after Bacon's death was the occasion of his recall in disgrace; and he died, like Andros more than half a century later, with the curse of a people on his grave.
But his first appearance was auspicious; he brought instructions designed to increase the reign of law and order in the colony, without infringing upon its existing liberties. Allegiance to God and the king were enjoined, additional courts were provided for, traffic with the Indians was regulated, annual assemblies, with a negative voice upon their acts by the governor, were commanded. The only discordant note in the instructions referred to the conditions of maritime trade, afterward known in history as the Navigation Acts. The colony desired free trade, which, as it had no manufactures, was obviously to its benefit. But it was as obviously to the interest of the king that he alone should enjoy the right of controlling all imports into the colony, and absorbing all its exports; and his rulings were framed to secure that end. But for the present the Acts were not carried into effect; and, on the other hand, the prospect was held out that there should be no taxation except what was voted by the people themselves; and their contention that they, who knew the conditions and needs of their colonial existence, were better able to regulate it than those at home, was allowed. By way of evincing their recognition of this courtesy, the assembly passed among other laws, one against toleration of any other than the episcopalian form of worship; and when Charles was beheaded, in 1649, it voted to retain Berkeley in office. But when in the next year, the fugitive son of the dead king undertook to issue a commission confirming him in his place, Parliament intervened. Virginia was brought to her bearings; and the Navigation Acts were brought up again. Cromwell, no less than Charles, appreciated the advantages of a monopoly.
Restrictions on commerce, first imposed by Spain, were first resisted by the Dutch, with the result of rendering them the leading maritime power. Cromwell wished to appropriate or share this advantage; but instead of adopting the means employed for that purpose by the Dutch, he decreed that none but English ships should trade with the English colonies, and that foreign ships should bring to England only the products of their own countries. The restriction did little harm to Virginia, so long as England was able to take all her products, and to supply all her needs; but it brought on war with Holland, in which both the moral and the naval advantage was on the side of the Dutch. But England acquired a foothold in the West Indies, and her policy was maintained. Virginia asked that she should have representatives to act for her in England, and when a body of commissioners was appointed to examine colonial questions, among them were Richard Bennett and William Clairborne, both of them colonists, and men of force and ability. In the sequel, the liberties of the colony were enlarged, and Bennett was made governor by vote of the assembly itself, which continued to elect governors during the ascendency of Parliament in England. When Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded the great Protector, resigned his office, the Virginia burgesses chose Sir William Berkeley to rule over them, and he acknowledged their authority. Meanwhile the Navigation Acts were so little enforced that smuggling was hardly illegal; and, in 1658, the colonists actually invited foreign nations to deal with them. This was the period of Virginia's greatest freedom before the Revolution. The suffrage was in the hands of all taxpayers; in religious matters, all restrictions except those against the Quakers were removed; loyalists and roundheads mingled amicably in planting and legislation, and the differences which had arrayed them against one another in England were forgotten. The population increased to thirty thousand, and the inhabitants developed among themselves an ardent patriotism. It is not surprising. Their country was one of the richest and loveliest in the world; everything which impairs the enjoyment of life was eliminated or minimized; hucksters, pettifoggers and bigots were scarce as June snowflakes; indentured servants, on their emancipation, were speedily given the suffrage; it might almost be said that a man might do whatever he pleased, within the limits of criminal law. Assuredly, personal liberty was far greater at this epoch, in Virginia, than it is today in New York City or Chicago. The instinct of the Virginians, in matters of governing, was so far as possible to let themselves alone; the planters, in the seclusion of their estates, were practically subject to no law but their own pleasure. There was probably no place in the civilized world where so much intelligent happiness was to be had as in Virginia during the years immediately preceding the Restoration.
What would have been the political result had the absence of all artificial pressure indefinitely continued? Two tendencies were observable, working, apparently, in opposite directions. On one side were the planters, many of them aristocratic by origin as well as by circumstance; who lived in affluence, were friendly to the established church, enjoyed a liberal education, and naturally assumed the reins of power. The law which gave fifty acres of land to the settler who imported an emigrant, while it made for the enlargement of estates, created also a large number of tenants and dependants, who would be likely to support their patrons and proprietors, who exercised so much control over their welfare. These dependants found the conditions of existence comfortable, and even after they had become their own masters, they would be likely to consult the wishes of the men who had been the occasion of their good fortune. Neither education nor religious instruction were so readily obtainable as to threaten to render such a class discontented with their condition by opening to them hitherto unknown gates of advantage; and the suffrage, when by ownership of private property they had qualified themselves to exercise it, would at once appease their independent instincts, and at the same time make them willing, in using it, to follow the lead or suggestion of men so superior to them in intelligence and in political sagacity. From this standpoint, then, it seemed probable that a self-governing community of the special kind existing in Virginia would drift toward an aristocratic form of rule.
But the matter could be regarded in another way. Free suffrage is a power having a principle of life within itself; it creates in the mind that which did not before exist, and educates its possessor first by prompting him to ask himself of what improvement his condition is susceptible, and then by forcing him to review his desire by the light of its realization —by practical experience of its effects, in other words: a method whose teachings are more thorough and convincing than any school or college is able to supply. The use of the ballot, in short, as a means of instruction in the problems of government, takes the place of anything else; it will of itself build up a people both capable of conducting their own affairs, and resolved to do so. The plebeians of Virginia, therefore, who began by being poor and ignorant emigrants, or indentured servants, to whom the planters accorded such privileges because it had never occurred to them that a plebeian can ever become anything else—these men, unconsciously to themselves, perhaps, were on the road which leads to democracy. The time would come when they would cease to follow the lead of the planters; when their interests and the planters' would clash. In that collision, their numbers would give them the victory. With a similar community planted in the old world, such might not be the issue; the strong influence of tradition would combat it, and the surrounding pressure of settled countries, which offered no escape or asylum for the man of radical ideas. But the boundaries of Virginia were the untrammeled wilderness; any man who could not have his will in the colony had this limitless expanse at his disposal; there could be no finality for him in the decrees of assemblies, if he possessed the courage of his convictions in sufficient measure to make him match himself against the red man, and be independent not only of any special form of society, but of society itself. The consciousness of this would hearten him to entertain free thoughts, and to strive for their embodiment. It was partly this, no doubt, which, in the Seventeenth Century, drove hundreds of Ishmaels into the interior, where they became the Daniel Boones and the Davy Crocketts of legend and romance. So, although Virginia was as little likely as any of the colonies to breed a democracy, yet even there it was a more than possible outcome of the situation, even with no outside stimulus. But the old world, because it desired the oppression of America, was to become the immediate agent of its emancipation.
There was rejoicing in Virginia when Charles II. acceded to power; on the part of the planters, because they saw opportunity for political distinction; on the part of the plebeians, as the expression of a loyalty to kingship which centuries had made instinctive in them. Berkeley, putting himself in line with the predominant feeling, summoned the assembly in the name of the king, thus announcing without rebuke the termination of the era of self-government. The members who were elected were mostly royalists. They met in 1661. It was found that the Navigation Acts, which had been a dead letter ever since their passage, were to be revived in full force; and the increase of the colony in the meanwhile made them more than ever unwelcome. The exports were much larger than before, and unless the colony could have a free market for them the profits must be materially lessened. And again, since England was the only country from which the Virginian could purchase supplies, her merchants could charge him what they pleased. This was galling alike to royalists and roundheads in Virginia, and quickly healed the breach, such as it was, between the parties. Charles's true policy would have been to widen the gulf between them; instead of that, he forced them into each other's arms. It was determined to send Berkeley to England to ask relief; he accepted the commission, but his sympathies were not with the colonists, and he obtained nothing. Evidently, there could be no relief but in independence, and it was still a hundred years too early for that. The exasperation which this state of things produced in the great landowners did more for the cause of democracy than could decades of peaceful evolution. But the colonists could no longer have things their own way. Liberal laws were repealed, and intolerance and oppression took their place. Heretics were persecuted; the power of the church in civil affairs was increased; and fines and taxes on the industry of the colony were wanton and excessive. The king of England directly ruled Virginia. The people were forced to pay Berkeley a thousand pounds sterling as his salary, and he declared he ought to get three times as much even as that. His true character was beginning to appear. The judges were appointed by the king, and the license thus given them resulted in a petty despotism; when an official wanted money, he caused a tax to be levied for the amount. Appeals were vain, and ere long were prohibited. The assembly, partisans of the king, declared themselves permanent, so that all chance for the people to be better represented was gone, and as the members fixed their own pay, and fixed it at a preposterous figure, the colony began to groan in earnest. But worse was to come. The suffrage was restricted to freeholders and householders, and at a stroke, all but a fraction of the colonists were deprived of any voice in their own government. The spread of education, never adequate, was stopped altogether. "I thank God there are no free schools nor printing," Sir William Berkeley was able to say, "and I hope we shall not have, these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!" This was a succinct and full formulation of the spirit which has ever tended to make the earth a hell for its inhabitants. "The ministers," added the governor, "should pray oftener, and preach less." But he spake in all solemnity; there was not the ghost of a sense of humor in his whole insufferable carcass.
The downward course was not to stop here. Charles, with the freehandedness of a highwayman, presented two of his favorites, in 1673, for a term of one and thirty years, with the entire colony! This act stirred even the soddenness of the legislature. At the time of their election, a dozen years before, they had been royalists indeed, but men of honor, intending the good of the colony; and had tried, as we saw, to stop the enforcement of the Navigation Acts. But when they discovered that they could continue themselves in office indefinitely, with such salary as they chose to demand, they soon became indifferent about the Navigation Acts, or anything else which respected the welfare and happiness of their fellows. Let the common folk do the work, and the better sort enjoy the proceeds: that was the true and only respectable arrangement. We may say that it sounds like a return to the dark ages; but perhaps if we enter into our closets and question ourselves closely, we shall find that precisely the same principles for which Berkeley and his assembly stood in 1673, are both avowed and carried into effect in this same country, in the very year of grace which is now passing over us. A nation, even in America, takes a great deal of teaching.
But the generosity of Charles startled the assembly out of their porcine indifference, for it threatened to bring to bear upon them the same practices by which they had destroyed the happiness of the colony. If the king had given over to these two men all sovereignty in Virginia, what was to prevent these gentlemen from dissolving the assembly, who had become, as it were, incorporate with their seats, and had hoped to die in them— and ruling the country and them without any legislative medium whatever? Accordingly, with gruntings of dismay, they chose three agents to sail forthwith to England, and expostulate with the merry monarch. The expostulation was couched in the most servile terms, as of men who love to be kicked, but hope to live, if only to be kicked again. Might the colony, they concluded, be permitted to buy itself out of the hands of its new owners, at their own price? And might the people of Virginia be free from any tax not approved by their assembly? That was the sum of their petition.
The king let his lawyers talk over the matter, and, when they reported favorably, good-naturedly said, "So let it be, then!" and permitted a charter to be drawn up. But before the broad seal could be affixed to it he altered his mind, for causes satisfactory to him, and the envoys were sent home, poorer than they came. But before relating what awaited them there, we must advert briefly to the doings of George Calvert, Lord Baltimore in the Irish peerage, in his new country of Maryland.
CATHOLIC, PHILOSOPHER, AND REBEL
The first Lord Baltimore, whose family name was Calvert, was a Yorkshireman, born at the town of Kipling in 1580. He entered Parliament in his thirtieth year, and was James's Secretary of State ten years later. He was a man of large, tranquil nature, philosophic, charitable, loving peace; but these qualities were fused by a concrete tendency of thought, which made him a man of action, and determined that action in the direction of practical schemes of benevolence. The contemporary interest in America as a possible arena of enterprise and Mecca of religious and political dissenters, attracted his sympathetic attention; and when, in 1625, being then five-and-forty years of age, he found in the Roman Catholic communion a refuge from the clamor of warring sects, and as an immediate consequence tendered his resignation as secretary to the head of the Church of England, he found himself with leisure to put his designs in execution. He had, upon his conversion, been raised to the rank of Baron Baltimore in the peerage of Ireland; and his change of faith in no degree forfeited him the favor of the king. When therefore he asked for a charter to found a colony in Avalon, in Newfoundland, it was at once granted, and the colony was sent out; but his visits to it in 1627 and 1629 convinced him that the climate was too inclement for his purposes, and he requested that it might be transferred to the northern parts of Virginia, which he had visited on his way to England. This too was permitted; but before the new charter had been sealed Lord Baltimore died. The patent thereupon passed to his son Cecil, who was also a Catholic. He devoted his life to carrying out his father's designs. The characters of the two men were, in their larger elements, not dissimilar; and the sequel showed that colonial enterprise could be better achieved by one man of kindly and liberal disposition, and persistent resolve, than by a corporation, some of whose members were sure to thwart the wishes of others. Conditions of wider scope than the settlement of Maryland obstructed and delayed its proprietor's plans; conflicts and changes of government in England, and jealousy and violence on the part of Virginia, had their influence; but this quiet, benign, resolute young man (who was but seven-and-twenty when the grant made him sovereign of a kingdom) never lost his temper or swerved from his aim: overcame, apparently without an effort, the disabilities which might have been expected to hamper the professor of a faith as little consonant with the creed of the two Charleses as of Cromwell; was as well regarded, politically, by cavaliers as by roundheads; and finally established his ownership and control of his heritage, and, after a beneficent rule of over forty years, died in peace and honor with his people and the world. The story of colonial Maryland has a flavor of its own, and throws still further light on the subject of popular self-government—the source and solution of American history.
The idea of the Baltimores, as outlined in their charter, and followed in their practice, was to try the experiment of a democratic monarchy. They would found a state the people of which should enjoy all the freedom of action and thought that sane and well-disposed persons can desire, within the boundaries of their personal concerns; they should not be meddled with; each man's home should be his castle; they should say what taxes should be collected, and what civil officers should attend to their collective affairs. They should be like passengers on a ship, free to sleep or wake, sit or walk, speak or be mute, eat or fast, as they pleased: do anything in fact except scuttle the ship or cut the rigging —or ordain to what port she should steer, or what course the helmsman should lay. Matters of high policy, in other words, should be the care of the proprietor; everything less than that, broadly speaking, should be left to the colonists themselves. The proprietor could not get as close to their personal needs as they could: and they, preoccupied with private interests, could not see so far and wide as he could. If then it were arranged that they should be afforded every facility and encouragement to make their wants known: and if it were guaranteed that he would adopt every means that experience, wisdom and good-will suggested to gratify those wants: what more could mortal man ask? There was nothing abnormal in the idea. The principle is the same as that on which the Creator has placed man in nature: man is perfectly at liberty to do as he pleases; only, he must adapt himself to the law of gravitation, to the resistance of matter, to hot and cold, wet and dry, and to the other impersonal necessities by which the material universe is conditioned. The control of these natural laws, as they are called, could not advantageously be given in charge to man; even had he the brains to manage them, he could not spare the time from his immediate concerns. He is well content, accordingly, to leave them to the Power that put him where he is; and he does not feel his independence infringed upon in so doing. When his little business goes wrong, however, he can petition his Creator to help him out: or, what amounts to the same thing, he can find out in what respect he has failed to conform to the laws of nature, and, by returning into harmony with them, insure himself success. What the Creator was to mankind at large, Lord Baltimore proposed to be to his colony; and, following this supreme example, and binding himself to place the welfare of his people before all other considerations, how could he make a mistake?
In arguments about the best ways of managing nations or communities, it has been generally conceded that this scheme of an executive head on one side, and a people freely communicating their wants to him on the other, is sound, provided, first, that he is as solicitous about their welfare as they themselves are; and secondly, that means exist for continuous and unchecked intercommunication between them and him:—it being premised, of course, that the ability of the head is commensurate with his willingness. And leaving basic principles for the moment aside, it is notorious that one-man power is far prompter, weightier, and cleaner-cut than the confused and incomplete compromises of a body of representatives are apt to be.
All this may be conceded. And yet experience shows that the one-man system, even when the man is a Lord Baltimore, is unsatisfactory. Lord Baltimore, indeed, finally achieved a technical success; his people loved and honored him, his wishes were measurably realized, and, so far as he was concerned, Maryland was the victim of fewer mistakes than were the other colonies. But the fact that Lord Baltimore's career closed in peace and credit was due less to what he did and desired, than to the necessity his career was under of sooner or later coming to a close. Had he possessed a hundred times the ability and benevolence that were his, and had been immortal into the bargain, the people would have cast him out; they were willing to tolerate him for a few years, more or less, but as a fixture—No! "Tolerate" is too harsh a word; but another might be too weak. The truth is, men do not care half so much what they get, as how they get it. The wolf in Aesop's fable keenly wanted a share of the bones which made his friend the mastiff so sleek; but the hint that the bones and the collar went together drove him hungry but free back to his desert. It is of no avail to give a man all he asks for; he resents having to ask you for it, and wants to know by what right you have it to give. A man can be grateful for friendship, for a sympathetic look, for a brave word spoken in his behalf against odds—he can be your debtor for such things, and keep his manhood uncompromised. But if you give him food, and ease, or preferment, and condescension therewith, look for no thanks from him; esteem yourself fortunate if he do not hold you his enemy. The gifts of the soul are free; but material benefits are captivity. So the Maryland colonists, recognizing that their proprietor meant well, forgave him his generosity, and his activities in their behalf—but only because they knew that his day would presently be past. Man is infinite as well as finite: infinite in his claims, finite in his power of giving. And for Baltimore to presume to give the people all they claimed, was as much as to say that his fullness could equal their want, or that his rights and capacities were more than theirs. He gave them all that a democracy can possess —except the one thing that constitutes democracy; that is, absolute self-direction. It may well be that their little ship of state, steered by themselves, would have encountered many mishaps from which his sagacious guidance preserved it. But rather rocks with their pilotage than port with his: and beyond forgiving him their magnanimity could not go.
There is little more than this to be derived from study of the Maryland experiment. Let a man manage himself, in big as well as in little things, and he will be happy on raw clams and plain water, with a snow-drift for a pillow—as we saw him happy in Plymouth Bay: but give him roast ortolans and silken raiment, and manage him never so little, and you cannot relieve his discontent. And is it not well that it should be so? Verily it is—if America be not a dream, and immortality a delusion.
Lord Baltimore would perhaps have liked to see all his colonists Catholics; but his experience of religious intolerance had not inflamed him against other creeds than his own, as would have been the case with a Spaniard; it seemed to awaken a desire to set tolerance an example. Any one might join his community except felons and atheists; and as a matter of fact, his assortment of colonists soon became as motley as that of Williams in Providence. The landing of the first expedition on an island in the Potomac was attended by the making and erecting by the Jesuit priests of a rude cross, and the celebration of mass; but there were even then more Protestants than Catholics in the party; and though the leadership was Catholic for many years, it was not on account of the numerical majority of persons of that faith. Episcopalians ejected from New England, Puritans fleeing from the old country, Quakers and Anabaptists who were unwelcome everywhere else, met with hospitality in Maryland. Let them but believe in Jesus Christ, and all else was forgiven them. Nevertheless, Catholicism was the religion of the country. Its inhabitants might be likened to promiscuous guests at an inn whose landlord made no criticisms on their beliefs, further than to inscribe the Papal insignia on the signboard over his door. Thus liberty was discriminated from license, and in the midst of tolerance there was order.
The first settlement was made on a small creek entering the north side of the Potomac. Here an Indian village already existed; but its occupants were on the point of deserting it, and were glad to accept payment from the colonists for the site which they had no further use for. On the other hand, the colonists could avail themselves of the wigwams just as they stood, and had their maize fields ready cleared. Baltimore, meanwhile, through his agent (and brother) Leonard Calvert, furnished them with all the equipment they needed; and so well was the way smoothed before them, that the colony made progress ten times as rapidly as Virginia had done. They called their new home St. Mary's; and the date of its occupation was 1634. Their first popular assembly met for legislation in the second month of the ensuing year. In that and subsequent meetings they asserted their right of jurisdiction, their right to enact laws, the freedom of "holy church": his lordship gently giving them their head. In 1642, perhaps to disburden themselves of some of their obligation to him, they voted him a subsidy. Almost the only definite privilege which he seems to have retained was that of pre-emption of lands. At this period (1643) all England was by the ears, and Baltimore's hold upon his colony was relaxed. In Virginia and the other colonies, which had governors of their own, the neglect of the mother country gave them opportunity for progress; but the people of Maryland, no longer feeling the sway of their non-resident proprietor, and having no one else to look after them, became disorderly; which would not have happened, had they been empowered to elect a ruler from among themselves. Baltimore's enemies took advantage of these disturbances to petition for his removal from the proprietorship; but he was equal to the occasion; and by confirming his colonists in all just liberties, with freedom of conscience in the foreground, he composed their dissensions, and took away his enemies' ground of complaint. In 1649, the legislature sat for the first time in two branches, so that one might be a check upon the other. Upon this principle all American legislatures are still formed.
But the reign of Cromwell in England gave occasion for sophistries in Maryland. All other Englishmen, in the colonies or at home, were members of a commonwealth; but Baltimore still claimed the Marylanders' allegiance. On what grounds?—for since the king from whom he derived his power was done away with, so must be the derivative power. Baltimore stood between them and republicanism. To give edge to the predicament, the colony was menaced by covetous Virginia on one hand, and by fugitive Charles II., with a governor of his own manufacture, on the other. Calamity seemed at hand.
In 1650, the year after Charles I.'s execution, the Parliament appointed commissioners to bring royalist colonies into line; Maryland was to be reannexed to Virginia; Bennett, then governor of Virginia, and Clairborne, unseated Stone, Baltimore's lieutenant, appointed an executive council, and ordered that burgesses were to be elected by supporters of Cromwell only. The question of reannexation was referred to Parliament. Baltimore protested that Maryland had been less royalist than Virginia; and before the Parliament could decide what to do, it was dissolved, carrying with it the authority of Bennett and Clairborne. Stone now reappeared defiant; but the Virginians attacked him, and he surrendered on compulsion. The Virginian government decreed that no Roman Catholics could hereafter vote or be elected.
Baltimore, taking his stand on his charter, declared these doings mutinous; and Cromwell supported him. Stone once more asserted himself; but in the skirmish with the Virginians that followed, he was defeated, yielded (he seems to have had no granite in his composition), and, with his supporters, was ordered to be shot. His life was spared, however; but Cromwell, again appealed to, refused to act. The ownership of Maryland was therefore still undetermined. It was not until 1667 that Baltimore and Bennett agreed to compromise their dispute. The boundary between the two domains was maintained, but settlers from Virginia were not to be disturbed in their holdings. The second year after Cromwell's death, the representatives of Maryland met and voted themselves an independent assembly, making Fendall, Baltimore's appointee, subject to their will. Finally, being weary of turmoil, they made it felony to alter what they had done. The colony was then abreast of Virginia in political privileges, and had a population of about ten thousand, in spite of its vicissitudes.
But the quiet, invincible Lord Baltimore was still to be reckoned with. At the Restoration, he sent his deputy to the colony, which submitted to his authority, and Fendall was convicted of treason for having allowed the assembly to overrule him. A general amnesty was proclaimed, however, and the kindliness of the government during the remainder of the proprietor's undisputed sway attracted thousands of settlers from all the nations of Europe. Between Baltimore and the people, a give-and-take policy was established, one privilege being set against another, so that their liberties were maintained, and his rights recognized. Though he stood in his own person for all that was opposed to democracy, he presided over a community which was essentially democratic; and he had the breadth of mind to acknowledge that because he owned allegiance to kings and popes, was no reason why others should do so. Suum cuique. Could he but have gone a step further, and denied himself the gratification of retaining his hard-earned proprietorship, he would have been one of the really great men of history.
The ripple of events which we have recorded may seem too insignificant; of still less import is the story of the efforts of Clairborne, from 1634: to 1647, to gain, or retain possession of Kent Island, in the Chesapeake, on which he had "squatted" before Baltimore got his charter. Yet, from another point of view, even slight matters may weigh when they are related to the stirring of the elements which are to crystallize into a nation. Maryland, like a bird half tamed, was ready to fly away when the cage door was left open, and yet was not averse to its easy confinement when the door was shut again. But, unlike the bird, time made it fonder of liberty, instead of leading it to forget it; and when the cage fell apart, it was at home in the free air.
The settlement of the Carolinas, during the twenty years or so from 1660 to 1680, presented features of singular grotesqueness. There was, on one side, a vast wilderness covering the region now occupied by North and South Carolina, and westward to the Pacific. It had been nibbled at, for a hundred years, by Spaniards, French and English, but no permanent hold had been got upon it. Here were thousands upon thousands of square miles in which nature rioted unrestrained, with semi-tropic fervor; the topography of which was unknown, and whose character in any respect was a matter of pure conjecture. This wilderness was on one side; on the other were a worthless king, a handful of courtiers, and a couple of highly gifted doctrinaires, Lord Shaftesbury and John Locke, the philosopher. We can picture Charles II. lolling in his chair, with a map of the Americas spread out on his knees, while the other gentlemen in big wigs and silk attire, and long rapiers dangling at their sides, are grouped about him. "I'll give you all south of Virginia," says he, indicating the territory with a sweep of his long fingers. "Ashley, you and your friend Locke can draw up a constitution, and stuff it full of your fine ideas; they sound well: we'll see how they work. You shall be kings every man of you; and may you like it no worse than I do! You'll have no France or Holland to thwart you—only bogs and briers and a few naked blacks. Your charter shall pass the seals to-morrow: and much good may it do you!"
So the theorists and the courtiers set out to subdue the untutored savageness of nature with a paper preamble and diagrams and rules and inhibitions, and orders of nobility and a college of heralds, and institutions of slavery and serfdom, and definitions of freeholders and landgraves, caciques and palatines; and specifications of fifths for proprietors, fifths for the nobility, and the rest for the common herd, who were never to be permitted to be anything but the common herd, with no suffrage, no privileges, and no souls. All contingencies were provided against, except the one contingency, not wholly unimportant, that none of the proposals of the Model Constitution could be carried into effect. Strange, that Ashley Cooper—as Lord Shaftesbury was then—one of the most brilliant men in Europe, and John Locke, should get together and draw squares over a sheet of paper, each representing four hundred and eighty thousand acres, with a cacique and landgraves and their appurtenances in each—and that they should fail to perceive that corresponding areas would never be marked out in the pathless forests, and that noblemen could not be found nor created to take up their stand, like chessmen, each in his lonely and inaccessible morass or mountain or thicket, and exercise the prerogatives of the paper preamble over trees and panthers and birds of the air! How could men of such radiant intelligence as Locke and Shaftesbury unquestionably were, show themselves so radically ignorant of the nature of their fellowmen, and of the elementary principles of colonization? The whole thing reads, to-day, like some stupendous jest; yet it was planned in grave earnest, and persons were found to go across the Atlantic and try to make it work.
Lord Shaftesbury was one of the Hampshire Coopers, and the first earl. He was a sort of English Voltaire: small and thin, nervous and fractious, with a great cold brain, no affections and no illusions; he had faith in organizations, but none in man; was destitute of compunctions, careless of conventions and appearances, cynical, penetrating, and frivolous. He was a skeptic in religion, but a devotee of astrology; easily worried in safety, but cool and audacious in danger. He despised if he did not hate the people, and regarded kings as an unavoidable nuisance; the state, he thought, was the aristocracy, whose business it was to keep the people down and hold the king in check. His career—now supporting the royalists, now the roundheads, now neither—seems incoherent and unprincipled; but in truth he was one of the least variable men of his time; he held to his course, and king and parliament did the tacking. He was an incorruptible judge, though he took bribes; and an unerring one, though he disregarded forms of law. He was tried for treason, and acquitted; joined the Monmouth conspiracy, and escaped to Holland, where he died at the age of sixty-two. What he lacked was human sympathies, which are the beginning of wisdom; and this deficiency it was, no doubt, that led him into the otherwise incomprehensible folly of the Carolina scheme.
Locke could plead the excuse of being totally unfamiliar with practical life; he was a philosopher of abstractions, who made an ideal world to fit his theories about it. He could write an essay on the Understanding, but was unversed in Common-sense. His nature was more calm and normal than Shaftesbury's, but in their intellectual conclusions they were not dissimilar. The views about the common people which Sir William Berkeley expressed with stupid brutality, they stated with punctual elegance. They were well mated for the purpose in hand, and they performed it with due deliberation and sobriety. It was not until five years after the grant was made that the constitution was written and sealed. It achieved an instantaneous success in England, much as a brilliant novel might, in our time; and the authors were enthusiastically belauded. The proprietors —Albemarle, Craven, Clarendon, Berkeley, Sir William Berkeley, Sir John Colleton and Sir George Carteret, and Shaftesbury himself—began to look about for their serfs and caciques, and to think of their revenues. Meanwhile the primeval forest across three thousand miles of ocean laughed with its innumerable leaves, and waved its boughs in the breath of the spirit of liberty. The laws of the study went forth to battle with the laws of nature.
Ignorant of these courtly and scholarly proceedings, a small knot of bonafide settlers had built their huts on Albemarle Sound, and had for some years been living there in the homeliest and most uneducated peace and simplicity. Some had come from Virginia, some from New England, and others from the island of Bermuda. They had their little assembly and their governor Stevens, their humble plantations, their modest trade, their beloved solitudes, and the plainest and least obtrusive laws imaginable. They paddled up and down their placid bayous and rivers in birch-bark canoes; they shot deer and 'possums for food and panthers for safety, they loved their wives and begat their children, they wore shirts and leggins of deerskin like the Indians, and they breathed the pure wholesomeness of the warm southern air. When to these backwoods innocents was borne from afar the marvelous rumors of the silk-stockinged and lace-ruffled glories, originated during an idle morning in the king's dressing-room, which were to transfigure their forest into trim gardens and smug plantations, surrounding royal palaces and sumptuous hunting pavilions, perambulated by uniformed officials, cultivated by meek armies of serfs, looking up from their labors only to doff their caps to lordly palatines and lily-fingered ladies with high heels and low corsages: when they tried to picture to themselves their solemn glades and shadow-haunted streams and inviolate hills, their eyries of eagles and lairs of stag and puma, the savage beauty of their perilous swamps, all the wild magnificence of this pure home of theirs—metamorphosed by royal edict into a magnified Versailles, in which lutes and mandolins should take the place of the wolf's howl and the panther's scream, the keen scent of the pine balsam be replaced by the reek of musk and patchouli, the honest sanctity of their couches of fern give way to the embroidered corruption of a fine lady's bedchamber, the simple vigor of their pioneer parliament bewitch itself into a glittering senate chamber, where languid chancellors fingered their golden chains and exchanged witty epigrams with big-wigged, snuff-taking cavaliers:—when they attempted to house these strange ideas in their unsophisticated brains, they must have stared at one another with a naive perplexity which slowly broadened their tanned and bearded visages into contagious grins. They looked at their hearty, clear-eyed wives, and watched the gambols of their sturdy children, and shook their heads, and turned to their work once more.
The first movements of the new dispensation took the form of trying to draw the colonists together into towns, of reviving the Navigation Acts, of levying taxes on their infant commerce, and in general of tying fetters of official red tape on the brawny limbs of a primitive and natural civilization. The colony was accused of being the refuge of outlaws and traitors, rogues and heretics; and Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, one of the proprietors under the Model Constitution, was deputed to make as much mischief in the virgin settlement as he could.
The colonists numbered about four thousand, spread over a large territory; they did not want to desert their palmetto thatched cabins and strenuously-cleared acres; they disliked crowding into towns; they saw no justice in paying to intangible and alien proprietors a penny tax on their tobacco exports to New England—though they paid it nevertheless. They particularly objected to the interference of Governor Berkeley, for they knew him well. And when the free election of their assembly was attacked, they sent emissaries to England to remonstrate, and meanwhile, John Culpepper leading, and without waiting for the return of their emissaries, they arose and wiped out the things and persons that were objectionable, and then returned serenely to their business. They did not fly into a passion, and froth at the mouth, and massacre and torture; but quietly and inflexibly, with hardly a keener flash from their fearless eyes, they put things to rights, and thought no more about it.
Such treasonable proceedings, however, fluttered the council chambers in London sorely, and stout John Culpepper, who believed in popular liberty and was not afraid to say so, went to England to justify what had been done. He was arrested and put on trial, though he demanded to be tried, if at all, in the place where the offense was committed. The intent of his adversaries was not to give him justice, but simply to hang him; and why go to the trouble and expense of carrying him to Carolina to do that? He went near to becoming a martyr, did stout John; but, unexpectedly, Shaftesbury, who might believe in despotism, but who fretted to behold injustice, undertook his defense and brought him out clear. The rest of the "rebels" were amnestied the following year, 1681. But one Seth Sothel, who had bought out Lord Clarendon's proprietary rights, was sent out as governor; and after escaping from the Algerine pirates, who captured and kept him for a couple of years, he arrived at Albemarle, commissioned, as Bancroft admirably puts it, to "Transform a log cabin into a baronial castle, a negro slave into a herd of leet-men." Sothel was not long in perceiving that this was beyond his powers, but he could steal: and so he did for a few years, when the colonists, thinking he had enough, unseated him, tried him, and sentenced him to a year's exile and to nevermore be officer of theirs.
These planters of North Carolina were good Americans from the beginning, endowed with a courage and love of liberty which foretold the spirit of Washington's army,—and a religious tolerance which did not prevent them from listening with sympathy and approval to the spiritual harangues of Fox, the Quaker, who sojourned among them with gratifying results. Their prejudice against towns continued, and one must walk far to visit them, with only marks on the forest trees to guide. They were inveterately contented, and having emancipated themselves from the blight of the Model Constitution, rapidly became prosperous. The only effect of Messrs. Locke and Shaftesbury's scheme of an aristocratic Utopia was to make the settlers conscious of their strength and devoted to their freedom. Indeed, the North Carolinians were in great part men who had not only fled from the oppressions of England, but had found even the mild restraints of the other colonies irksome.
The fate of the Model in South Carolina was similar, though the preliminary experiences were different. When Joseph West, agent for the proprietors, and William Sayle, experienced in colonizing, took three shiploads of emigrants to the junction of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, about twenty miles south of latitude 33 , they had a copy of the Model with them. But the first thing they did after getting ashore was to vote that its provisions were impracticable, and to revise it to such a degree that, when it was sent over to England for approval, its authors did not recognize their work, and disowned it. But the settlers constituted their assembly on the general lines which might now be called American, and put up their huts, in 1672, on the ground where now stands Charleston. The climate was too hot for white labor, and the timely arrival of negro slaves was welcome; in a few years they doubled the number of the whites. The staple crops of the southern plantations needed much more work than those of New England and the north, and this, as well as the preference of the negroes themselves for the warmer climates, determined the distribution of black slavery on the Atlantic coast.
Dutch settlers presently joined the English; a Scotch-Irish colony at Port Royal was set upon by the Spaniards, who, in accordance with the characteristic Spanish policy, massacred the inhabitants and burned the houses. But later the revocation by Louis XIV. of the amnesty to Huguenots caused the latter to fly their country and disperse themselves over Europe and America; no higher or finer class of men and women ever joined the ranks of exile, and they were everywhere welcomed. Colonies of them settled all along the Atlantic seaboard; and around Charleston many from Languedoc found a congenial home, and became a valuable and distinguished part of the population. America could not have been complete without the leaven of the heroic French Protestants.
Meanwhile the proprietors were gradually submitting, with no good grace, however, to the inevitable. Their Model remained a model—something never to be put to practical use. On paper was it born, and on paper should it remain forever. The proprietors were kings, by grace of Charles II., but they had neither army nor navy, and their subjects declined to be serfs. They declined into the status of land speculators; the governors whom they sent out did nothing but fill their pockets and let the people have the rest. At last, it was enough for the proprietors to suggest anything for the people to negative it, whether it were good or bad. They not only avowed their natural right to do as they pleased, but deemed it due to their self-respect not to do what was pleasing to their tinsel sovereigns in London. And finally, when Colleton, one of the sovereigns in question, tried to declare martial law in the colony, on the plea of danger from Indians or Spanish, the indomitable freemen treated him as their brethren at Albemarle had treated Sothel. The next year saw William and Mary on the English throne; Shaftesbury had died seven years before; and the Great Model subsided without a bubble into the vacuum of historical absurdities.
We left Virginia awaiting the return of the envoys who had gone to ask Charles for justice and protection against the tyranny of Berkeley. Charles, as we know, first promised the reforms, and then broke his promise, as all Stuarts must. But before the envoys could return with their heavy news, there had been stirring things done and suffered in Virginia.
The character of Berkeley is as detestable as any known in the annals of the American colonies. Many of his acts, and all the closing scenes of his career, seem hardly compatible with moral sanity; in our day, when science is so prone to find the explanation of crime in insanity, he would undoubtedly have been adjudged to the nearest asylum. In his early years, he had been stupid and illiberal, but nothing worse; in his old age, he seemed to seek out opportunities of wickedness and outrage, and at last he gave way to transports which could only be likened to those of a fiend from the Pit, permitted for a season to afflict the earth. He was as base as he was wicked; a thief, and perjured, as well as an insatiable murderer. The only trait that seems to ally him with manhood is itself animal and repulsive. He had wholly abandoned any pretense of self-control; and in some of the outbursts of his frenzy he seems to have become insensible even to the suggestions of physical fear. But this can hardly be accorded the name of courage; rather is it to be attributed to the suffusion of blood to the brain which drives the Malay to run amuck.
Virginia had been nurtured in liberty, and was ill prepared for despotism. On the contrary, she was almost ready to doubt the wisdom or convenience of any government whatever, except such as was spontaneously furnished by the generous and magnanimous instincts of her people. There were no towns, and none of the vice and selfishness which crowded populations engender. Roads, bridges, public works of any sort were unknown; the population seldom met except at races or to witness court proceedings. The great planters lived in comparative comfort, but they were as much in love with freedom as were the common people. This state of things was the outcome of the growth of fifty years; and most of the eight thousand inhabitants of the colony were born on the soil, and loved it as the only home they knew.
The chief injury they had suffered was from the depredations of the Indians, who, on their side, could plead that they had received less than justice at the colonists' hands. Border raids and killings became more and more frequent and alarming; the savages had learned the use of muskets, and were good marksmen. They built a fort on the Maryland border, and for a time resisted siege operations; and when at length some of the chiefs came out to parley, they were seized and shot. The rest of the Indian garrison escaped by night, and slaughtered promiscuously all whom they could surprise along the countryside. A force was raised to check them, and avenge the murders; but before it could come in contact with them, Berkeley sent out a peremptory summons that they should return.
What was the explanation of this extraordinary step? Simply that the Governor had the monopoly of the Indian trade, which was very valuable, and would not permit the Indians who traded with him to be driven away. In order to supply his already overloaded pockets with money, he was willing to see the red men murder with impunity, and with the brutalities of torture and outrage, the men, women and children of his own race. But the Indians themselves seem admirable in contrast with the inhumanity of this gray-haired, wine-bloated, sordid cavalier of seventy.
The troops on which the safety of the colonists depended reluctantly retired. Immediately the savages renewed their attacks; three hundred settlers were killed. Still Berkeley refused to permit anything to be done; forts might be erected on the borders, but these, besides being of great expense to the people, were wholly useless for their defense, inasmuch as the savages could without difficulty slip by them under cover of the forest. The raids continued, and the plantations were abandoned, till not one in seven remained. The inhabitants were terror-stricken; no man's life was safe. At last permission was asked that the people might raise and equip a force at their own expense, in the exercise of the universal right of self-protection; but even this was violently forbidden by the Governor, who threatened punishment on any who should presume to take arms against them. All traffic with them had also been interdicted; but it was known that Berkeley himself continued his trading with those whose hands were red with the blood of the wives, fathers and children of Virginia.
Finally, in 1676, the report came that an army of Indians were approaching Jamestown. Unless resistance were at once made, there seemed nothing to prevent the extinction of the colony. Berkeley, apparently for no better reason than that he would not recede from a position once taken, adhered to his order that nothing should be done.
There was at that time in Virginia a young Englishman of about thirty, named Nathaniel Bacon. He was descended from good ancestors, and had received a thorough education, including terms in the Inns of Court. He was intellectual, thoughtful, and self-contained, with a clear mind, a generous nature, and the power of winning and controlling men. He had arrived in the colony a little more than a year before, and had been chosen to the council; he was wealthy and aristocratic, yet a known friend of the people. Born in 1642, he was familiar with revolutions, and had formed his own opinions as to the rights of man. He had a plantation on the site of the present city of Richmond; and during the late Indian troubles, had lost his overseer. Coming down on his affairs to Jamestown, he fell into talk with some friends, who suggested crossing the river to see some of the volunteers who had come together for defense. These men were in a mood of excited exasperation at the sinister conduct of the governor, and ready to follow extreme counsels had they had a leader with the boldness and ability to put himself at their head.
The tall, slender figure and grave features of Bacon were well-known. As he advanced toward the troop of stalwart young fellows, who were sullenly discussing the situation, he was recognized; and something seems to have suggested to them that he was come with a purpose. Conclusions are sudden at such times, and impulses contagious as fire. He was the leader whom they sought. "A Bacon—a Bacon!" shouted some one; and instantly the cry was taken up. They thronged around him, welcoming him, cheering him, exclaiming that they would follow him, that with them at his back he should save the country in spite of the governor! They were fiery and emotional, after the manner of the sons of the Old Dominion, and the wrongs of many kinds which had long been rankling in their hearts now demanded to be requited by some action—no matter how daring. Virginians never shrank from danger.
Bacon had been wholly unprepared for this outburst; but he had a strong, calm soul, a ready brain, and the blood of youth. He knew what the colony had endured, and that it had nothing to hope from the present government. He had come to America after making the European tour, intending only a visit; but he had grown attached to Virginia, and now that chance had put this opportunity to help her, he resolved to accept it. He would throw in his lot with these spirited and fearless young patriots—the first men in America who had the right to call the country their own. Standing before them, with his head bared, and in a voice that all could hear, he solemnly pledged himself to lead them against the Indians, and then aid them to recover the liberties which had been wrested from them. "And do you," he added, "pledge yourselves to me!" His words were heard with tumultuous enthusiasm, and a round-robin was signed, binding all to stick to their captain and to one another. That is a document which history would fain have preserved.
With an army of three hundred Virginians, Bacon set forward against the Indians. Meanwhile Berkeley, enraged at this slight on his authority, called some troops together and despatched them to bring back "the rebels." Thus was seen the singular spectacle of a government force marching to apprehend men who were risking their lives freely to repel a danger imminent and common to all.
But Berkeley was going too far. Bacon's act had the sympathy of all except such as were as corrupt as the governor, and the men of the lower counties revolted, and demanded that the long scandal of the continuous assembly should cease forthwith. Berkeley was intimidated; he had not believed that any spirit was left in the colony; he recalled his men, and consented to the assembly's dissolution. By the time Bacon and his three hundred got back from their successful campaign, the writs for a new election were out; and he was unanimously chosen burgess from Henrico. The assembly of which he thus became a member was for the most part in sympathy with him; and though, for the benefit of the record, censure was passed upon the irregularity of his campaign, and he was required to apologize for fighting without a commission, yet he was at the same time caressed and praised on all sides, returned to the council, and dubbed the darling of Virginia's hopes. The assembly then proceeded to undo all the evil and clean out all the rottenness that had disgraced the conduct of their predecessors. Taxes, church tyranny, restriction of the franchise, illegal assessments, fees, and liquor-dealing were done away with; two magistrates were proved thieves and disfranchised, and trade with Indians was for the present stopped. Bacon received a commission; but Berkeley refused to sign it; and when Bacon appealed to the country, and returned with five hundred men to demand his rights, the governor was beside himself with fury.
Private letters and other documents, made public only long after this date, are the authority for what occurred; but though certain facts are given, explanations are seldom available. Berkeley appears to have been holding court when Bacon and his followers appeared; it is said that he ran out and confronted them, tore his shirt open and declared that sooner should they shoot him than he would sign the commission of that rebel; and the next moment, changing his tactics, he offered to settle the issue between Bacon and himself by a duel. All this does not sound like the acts of a man in his sober senses. It seems probable either that the old reprobate was intoxicated, or that his mind was disordered by passion. Bacon, of course, declined to match his youthful vigor against his decrepit enemy, as the latter must have known he would: and told him temperately that the commission he demanded was to enable him to repel the savages who were murdering their fellow colonists unchecked. The governor, after some further parley, again altered his behavior, and now overpowered Bacon with maudlin professions of esteem for his patriotic energy; signed his commission, and sent dispatches to England warmly commending him. A formal amnesty, obliterating all past acts of the popular champion and his supporters which could be construed as irregular, was drawn up and ratified by the governor; and the clouds which so long had lowered over Virginia seemed to have been at last in the deep bosom of the ocean buried. To those whom coincidences interest it will be significant that this victory for the people was won on the 4th of July, 1676.
Operations against the Indians were now vigorously resumed; but Berkeley had not yet completed the catalogue of his iniquities. Bacon's back was scarcely turned, before he violated the amnesty which he had just ratified, and tried to rouse public sentiment against the liberator. In this, however, he signally failed, as also in his attempt to raise a levy to arrest him; and frightened at the revelation of his weakness, he fled in a panic to Accomack, a peninsula on the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay. Word of his proceedings had in the meantime been conveyed to Bacon by Drummond, former governor of North Carolina, and Lawrence. "Shall he who commissioned us to protect the country from the heathen, betray our lives?" said Bacon. "I appeal to the king and parliament!" He established himself in Williamsburg; at Drummond's suggestion Berkeley's flight was taken to mean his withdrawal from the governorship—which, at any rate, had now passed its appointed limit—and a summons was sent out to the gentlemen of Virginia to meet for consultation as to the future conduct of the colony. It was at this juncture that the envoys returned from England, with the dark news that Charles had refused all relief.
At the conference, after full discussion, it was voted that the colony take the law into their own hands, and maintain themselves not only against the Indians and Berkeley, but if need were against England herself. "I fear England no more than a broken straw," said Sarah Drummond, snapping a stick in her hands as she spoke: the women of Virginia were as resolved as the men. Pending these contingencies, Bacon with his little army again set out in pursuit of the Indians; hearing which, Berkeley, with a train of mercenaries which he had contrived to collect, crossed from Accomack and landed at Jamestown, where he repeated his refrain of "rebels!" He promised freedom to whatever slaves of the colony would enlist on his side, and fortified the little town. The crews of some English ships in the harbor assisted him; and in the sequel these tars were the only ones of his rabble that stayed by him. The neighborhood was alarmed, fearing any kind of enormity, and messengers rode through the woods post haste, and swam the rivers, in the sultry September weather, to find and recall their defenders, and summon them to resist a worse foe than the red man. Before they could reach the young leader, the Indians had been routed, the army disbanded, and Bacon, with a handful of followers, was on his way to his plantation. They were weary with the fatigues of the campaign, but on learning that the prime source of the troubles was intrenched in Jamestown, and that "man, woman and child" were in peril of slavery, they turned their horses' heads southeastward, and galloped to the rescue. They gathered recruits on their way—no one could resist the eloquence of Bacon—and halting at such of the plantations as were owned by royalist sympathizers, they compelled their wives to mount and accompany them as hostages. This indicates to what extremes the violence of Berkeley was expected to go. It was evening when they came in sight of the enemy. But the moon was already aloft, and as the western light faded, her mellow radiance flooded the scene, giving it the semblance of peace. But the impatient Virginians wished to attack at once; and a lesser man than Bacon might have yielded to their urging. Knowing, however, that the country was with him, and feeling that the enemy must sooner or later succumb, he would not win by a dashing, bloody exploit what time was sure to give him. He ordered an intrenchment to be dug, and prepared for a siege. But there was no lust for battle in the disorderly and incoherent force which the frantic appeals and reckless promises of the governor had assembled; they were beaten already, and could not be induced to make a sortie. Desertions began, and all the objurgations, supplications and melodramatic extravaganzas of Berkeley were impotent to stop them; the more shrilly he shrieked, the faster did his sorry aggregation melt away. When it became evident that there would soon be none left save himself and the sailors, he ceased his blustering, and scuttled off toward Gloucester and the Rappahannock.
Bacon, Drummond, Lawrence and their men occupied the abandoned town, in which some of them owned houses, and burned it to the ground. The act was deliberate; the town records were first removed; and the men who had most to lose by the conflagration were the first to set the torch.
Jamestown at that time contained hardly twenty buildings all told; but it was the first settlement of the Dominion, and sentiment would fain have preserved it. A mossy ruin, draped in vines, is all that remains of it now. The ascertainable causes of its destruction seem inadequate; yet the circumstances show that it could not have been done in mere wantonness. Civilized warfare permits the destruction of the enemy's property; but the enemy had retreated, and the expectation was that he would never return. That Bacon had reasons, his previous record justifies us in believing; but what they were is matter of conjecture. As it is, the burning of Jamestown is the only passage in his brief and gallant career which can be construed as a blemish upon it. Unfortunately, it was, also, all but the final one.
He pursued Berkeley, and the army of the latter, instead of fighting, marched over to him with a unanimity which left the governor almost without a companion in his chagrin. The whole of Virginia was now in Bacon's hand; he had no foes; he was called Deliverer; he had never met reverse; he was a man of intellect, judgment and honor, and he was in the prime of his youth; in such a country, beloved, and supported by such a people, what might he not have hoped to achieve? Men like him are rare; in a country just emerging into political consciousness, he was doubly precious. There was no one to take his place; the return of Berkeley meant all that was imaginable of evil; and yet Bacon was to die, and Berkeley was to return.
In the trenches before Jamestown, Bacon had contracted the seeds of a fever which now, in the hour of his triumph, overcame him. After a short struggle he succumbed; and his men, fearing, apparently, that the ghoulish revenge of the old governor might subject his remains to insult, sunk his body in the river; and none know where lie the bones of the first American patriot who died in arms against oppression. His worth is proved by the confusion and disorganization which ensued upon his death. Cheeseman, Hansford, Wilford and Drummond could not make head against disaster. On the governor's side, Robert Beverly developed the qualities of a leader, and a series of small engagements left the patriots at his mercy. Berkeley was re-established in his place; and then began the season of his revenge.
His victims were the gentlemen of Virginia; the flower of the province. He had no mercy; his sole thought was to add insult to the bitterness of death. He would not spare their lives; he would not shoot them; they must perish on the gallows, not as soldiers, but as rebels. When a young wife pleaded for her gallant husband, declaring that it was she who persuaded him to join the patriotic movement, Berkeley denied her prayer with coarse brutality. When Drummond was brought before him, he assured him of his pleasure in their meeting: "You shall be hanged in half an hour." One can see that mean, flushed countenance, ravaged by time and intemperance, with bloodshot eyes, gloating over the despair of his foes, and searching for means to torture their minds while destroying their bodies. Trial by jury was not quick or sure enough for Berkeley; he condemned them by court-martial and the noose was round their necks at once. Their families were stripped of their property and sent adrift to subsist on charity. In his bloodthirstiness, he never forgot his pecuniary advantage, and his thievish fingers grasped all the valuables that his murderous instincts brought within his power. But the spectacle is too revolting for contemplation.
"He would have hanged half the country if we had let him alone," was the remark of a member of the assembly. It was voted that the execution should cease; more than two-score men had already been strangled for defending their homes and resisting oppression. Even Charles in London was annoyed when he heard of the wasteful malignity of "the old fool," and sent word of his disapproval and displeasure. A successor was sent over to supersede him; but he at first refused to go at the king's command, though he had ever used the king's name as the warrant for his crimes. He had sold powder and shot to the Indians to kill his own people with; he had appropriated the substance of widows and orphans whom he had made such; he had punished by public whipping all who were reported to have spoken against him; he forbade the printing-press; but all had been done "for the King". And now he resisted the authority of the king himself. But Charles, for once, was determined, and Berkeley, under the disgrace of severe reprimand, was forced to go. The joy bells clashed out the people's delight as the ship which carried him dropped down the harbor, and the firing of guns was like an anticipation of our celebration of Independence Day. He stood on the poop, in the beauty of the morning, shaking out curses from his trembling hands, in helpless hatred of the fair land and gallant people that he had done his utmost to make miserable. In England, the king would have none of him, and he met with nothing but rebuffs and condemnation on all sides. The power which he had misused was forever gone; he was old, and shattered in constitution; he was disgraced, flouted, friendless and alone. He died soon after his arrival, of mortification; he had lived only to do evil, and to withhold him from it was to take his life away.
It is not the function of the historian to condemn. Berkeley was by birth and training an aristocrat and a cavalier, and he was a creature of his age and station. He had been taught to believe that the patrician is of another flesh and blood than the plebeian; that authority can be enforced only by tyranny; that the only right is that of birth, and of the strongest. He was early placed in a position where every personal indulgence was made easy to him, where there was none to call in question his authority, and where there was temptation to assert authority by oppression, and by arrogating absolute license to act as the whim prompted, and to lay hands on whatever he coveted. Add to these conditions a nature congenitally without generous instincts, a narrow brain, and a sensual temperament, and we have gone far to account for the phenomenon which Berkeley finally, in his approaching senility, presented. He was the type of the worst traits that caused England ultimately to forfeit America; the concentration of whatever is opposite to popular liberties. His deeds must be execrated; but we cannot put him beyond the pale of human nature, or deny that under different circumstances he would have been a better man. We may admit, too, that, in the wisdom of Providence, he was placed where, by doing so much mischief, he was involuntarily the cause of more good than he could ever willingly have accomplished. He taught the people how to hate despotism, and how to struggle against it. He wrought a mutual understanding and sympathy between the upper and lower orders; he led them to define to their own minds what things are indispensable to the existence of true democracy. These are some of the uses which he, and such as he, in their own despite subserved. He and the young Bacon were mortal foes; but he, by opposing Bacon, and murdering his friends, aided the cause for which they laid down their lives.