After his departure there ensued a period of ten years or more, during which the pressure upon Virginia seemed rather to grow heavier than to lighten. The acts of Bacon's assembly were repealed; all the former abuses were restored; the public purse was shamelessly robbed; the suffrage was restricted; the church was restored to power. In 1677 the Dominion became the property of one Culpepper, who had the title of governor for life; and the restraints, such as they were, of its existence as a royal colony were removed. But Culpepper's course was so corrupt as to necessitate his removal, and in 1684 the king resumed his sway. James II. reached the English throne the following year, and his persecutions of his enemies in England gave good citizens to America. But the Virginians, who could be wronged and oppressed, but never crushed, protested against the arbitrary use of the king's prerogative; they were punished for their temerity, but rose more determined from the struggle. No man could be sent to Virginia who was strong enough to destroy its resolve for liberty.
And now the English Revolution was at hand; and we are to inquire what influence the new dispensation was to have on the awakening national spirit of the American colonies.
QUAKER, YANKEE, AND KING
The American principle, simple in that its perfection is human liberty, is of complex make. It is the sum of the ways in which a man may legitimately be free. But neither Pilgrims, Puritans, New Amsterdamers, Virginians, Carolinians nor Marylanders were free in all ways. Even the Providence people had their limitations. It is not meant, merely, that the old world still kept a grip on them: their several systems were intrinsically incomplete. Some of them put religious liberty in the first place; others, political; but each had its inconsistency, or its shortcoming. None had gone quite to the root of the matter. What was that root?—or, let us say, the mother lode, of which these were efferent veins?
The Pilgrims and Puritans, heretics in Episcopalian England, had escaped from their persecution, but had banished heretics in their turn. Tranquil Lord Baltimore having laid the burden of his doubts at the foot of God's vicegerent on earth, had sought no further, and was indifferent as to what other poor mortals might choose to think they thought about the unknown things. Roger Williams' charity, based on the dogma of free conscience, drew the line only at atheists. The other colonists, since their salient contention was on the lower ground of civil emancipation and self-direction, are not presently considered.
But, to the assembly of religious radicals, there enters a plain Man in Leather Breeches, and sees fetters on the limbs of all of them. "Does thee call it freedom, Friend Winthrop," says he, "to fear contact with such as believe otherwise than thee does? Can truth fear aught? And fear, is it not bondage? As for thee, George Calvert, thee has delivered up thine immortal soul into the keeping of a man no different from what thee thyself is, so to escape the anxious seat; but the dead also are free of anxiety, and thy bondage is most like unto death. Thee calls thy colony folk free, because thee lets them believe what they list; but they do but follow what their fathers taught them, who got it from theirs; which is to be in bondage to the past. And here is friend Roger, who makes private conscience free; but what is private conscience but the private reasonings whereby a man convinceth himself? and how shall he call his conviction the truth, since all truth is one, but the testimony of no man's private conscience is the same as another's? Nay, how does thee know that the atheist, whom thee excludes, is further from the truth than thee thyself is? Truly, I hear the clanking of the chains on ye all; but if ye will accept the Inner Light, then indeed shall ye know what freedom is!"
This Man in Leather Breeches, who also wears his hat in the king's presence, is otherwise known as George Fox, the Leicestershire weaver's son, the Quaker. In his youth he was much troubled in spirit concerning mankind, their nature and destiny, and the purpose of God concerning them. He wandered in lonely places, and fasted, and was afflicted; he sought help and light from all, but there was none could enlighten him. But at last light came to him, even out of the bosom of his own darkness; and he saw that human learning is but vanity, since within a man's self, will he but look for it, abides a great Inner Light, which changeth not, and is the same in all; being, indeed, the presence of the Spirit of God in His creature, a constant guide and revelation, withheld from none, uniting and equalizing all; for what, in comparison with God, are the distinctions of rank and wealth, or of learning?—Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and these things shall be added unto you. In the lowest of men, not less than in such as are called greatest, burns this lamp of Divine Truth, and it shall shine for the hind as brightly as for the prince. In its rays, the trappings of royalty are rags, jewels are dust and ashes, the lore of science, folly; the disputes of philosophers, the crackling of thorns under the pot. By the Inner Light alone can men be free and equal, true sons of God, heirs of a liberty which can never be taken away, since bars confine not the spirit, nor do tortures or death of the body afflict it. So said George Fox and his followers; and their lives bore witness to their words.
The Society of Friends took its rise not from a discovery—for Fox himself held the Demon of Socrates, and similar traditional phenomena, to be identical with the Inner Light, or voice of the Spirit—but rather in the recognition of the universality of something which had heretofore been regarded as exceptional and extraordinary. In the Seventeenth Century there was a general revolt of the oppressed against oppression, declaring itself in all phases of the outer and inner life; of these, there must needs be one interior to all the rest, and Quakerism seems to have been it. It was a revolution within revolutions; it saw in the man's own self the only tyrant who could really enslave him; and by bringing him into the direct presence of God, it showed him the way to the only real emancipation. Historically, it was the vital element in all other emancipating movements; it was their logical antecedent: the hidden spring feeding all their rivers with the water of life. It enables us to analyze them and gauge their values; it is their measure and plummet. And this, not because it is the final or the highest word justifying the ways of God to man—for it has not proved to be so: but because it indicated, once for all, in what direction the real solution of the riddle of man was to be sought: a riddle never to be fully solved, but forever approximately guessed. Quakerism has not maintained its relative position in religious thought; but it was the finest perception of its day, and in the turmoil of the time it fulfilled its purpose. Probably its best effect was the development it gave to the humbler element of society—to the yeomen and laborers; affording them the needed justification for the various demands for recognition that they were urging. Puritanism banished Quakers, and even hanged them; but the Quaker was the Puritan's spiritual father, although he knew it not. And therefore the Quaker, who was among the last to appear in America as a settler in virgin soil, had a right thereto prior to any one of the others. There must be a soul before there can be a body.
On the other hand, a soul without a body is not adapted to life in this world; and an America peopled exclusively by Quakers would have been unsatisfactory. It is a prevailing tendency of man, having hit upon a truth, to begin to theorize upon it, and, as the phrase is, run it into the ground. Quakers would not fight, would not take an oath, would not baptize, or wear mourning, or flatter the senses with pictures and statues. A Quaker would resist evil and violence only by enlightening them. He would not be taxed for measures or objects which he did not approve. He could see but one way of reforming the world, and thought that God was equally circumscribed in His methods. But though the leaven may make bread wholesome, we cannot subsist on leaven alone. The essence of Americanism may be in a Quaker, but he is far from being a complete American, and therefore he was fain to take his place only as a noble ingredient in that wonderful mixture. By degrees, the singularities which distinguished him were softened; his thee and thy yielded to the common forms of speech; his drab suit altered its cut and hue; his hat came off occasionally; his women abated the rigor of their poke bonnets; he was able to say to the enemy of his country, "Friend, thee is standing just where I am going to shoot." The disintegration of his individuality set free the good that was in him to permeate surrounding society; his fellow flowers in the garden were more beautiful and fragrant for his sake.
When persecution of Quakers was at its worst, they became almost dehumanized, attaching more value to their willingness to endure ill-usage than to the spiritual principle for avouching which they were ill-used. Many persons—such is the oddity of human nature—were drawn to the sect for love of the persecution; and gave way to extravagances such as Fox would have been the first to denounce. But when toleration began, these excesses ceased, and they bethought themselves to make a home in the wilderness of their own. There was room enough. George Fox returned from his pilgrimage to the Atlantic colonies in 1674, with good accounts of the resources of the new country; and the owner of New Jersey sold half of it to John Fenwick for a thousand pounds; and the next year the latter went there with many Friends, and picked out a pleasant spot on the east bank of the Delaware for the first settlement, to which he gave the name of Salem. It was at this juncture that William Penn became, with two others, assigns of the proprietor of the colony, and thus took the first step toward assuming full responsibility for it. He did not, however, personally visit America till seven years later.
Penn was the son of an English admiral: not the kind of timber, therefore, out of which one would have supposed a great apostle of non-resistance could be made. He was brought up to the use of ample wealth, and his training and education were aristocratic. After leaving Oxford, he made the grand tour, and came home a finished young man of the world, with the pleasures and rewards of life before him. He had good brains and solid qualities, and the old admiral had high hopes of him. No doubt he would have made a very good figure in the English world of fashion; but destiny had another career marked out for him.
The plain Man with the Leather Breeches got hold of him; and all the objurgations, threats, and even the act of disinheritance of the admiral were powerless to extricate him from that grasp. Penn had found something which seemed to him more precious than rubies, and he was quite as resolute as the old hero of the Navy. Penn could endure the beating and the being turned into the streets, but he could not stop his ears and eyes to the voice and light of God in his soul. He did not care to conquer another Jamaica, but he passionately desired to minister to the spiritual good of his fellow creatures. He was of a sociable and cheerful disposition; he could disarm his adversary in a duel; he could take charge of the family estates, and qualify himself for the law; the king was ready to smile upon him; but all worldly ambitions died away in him when he heard Thomas Lee testify of the faith that overcomes the world. Nothing less than that would satisfy Penn. In 1666, when he was two and twenty, he made acquaintance with the inside of a jail on account of his conscientious perversities; but the only effect of the experience was to make him perceive that he had thereby become "his own freeman." When he got out, his friends cut him and society made game of him; finally, he was lodged in the Tower, which, he informed Charles II., seemed to him "the worst argument in the world." They let him out in less than a year, but in less than a year more he was again arrested and put on trial. The jury, after having been starved for two days and heartily cursed by the judge, brought him in not guilty; upon which the judge, with a fine sense of humor, fined them all heavily and sent him back to prison. But this was too much for the admiral, who paid his fines and got him out; and, being then on his death-bed, surrendered at discretion, restoring to him the inheritance, and observing, not without a pensive satisfaction, that he and his friends would end by "making an end of the priests."
A six months' term in Newgate was still in store for Penn; but after that they gave up this method of reforming him. He spent the next years in exhorting Parliament and reproving princes all over Europe; and in the midst of these labors he met one of the best and most beautiful women in England; she had suitors by the score, but she loved William Penn, and they were married. She was the wife of his mind and soul as well as of his bed and board. He was now doubly fortified against the world, and doubly bound to his career of human benevolence. His studies and meditations had made him a profound philosopher and an able statesman; and in all ways he was prepared to begin the great work of his life.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, the Quakers in the new world were building up the framework of their state. They decreed to put the power in the people, and all the articles of their constitution embody the utmost degree of freedom, with constant opportunities for the electors to revise or renew their judgments. When the agent of the Duke of York levied customs on ships going to New Jersey, the act drew from the colonists a remarkable protest, which was supported by the courts. They had planted in the wilderness, they said, in order, among other things, to escape arbitrary taxation; if they could not make their own laws in a land which they had bought, not from the Duke, but from the natives, they had lost instead of gaining liberty by leaving England. Taxes levied upon planting left them nothing to call their own, and foreshadowed a despotic government in England, when the Duke should come to the throne. The future James II. gave up his claim, and in 1680 signed an indenture to that effect. Later, at the advice of Penn, they so amended their constitution as to give them power to elect their own governor. A charter was drawn up by Penn and confirmed in 1681, and he became proprietor. No man ever assumed such a trust with less of personal ambition or desire for gain than he. "You shall be governed by laws of your own making," said he; "I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person." He had already made inroads on his estate by fighting the cause of his brethren in England in the courts; but when a speculator offered him six thousand pounds down and an annual income for the monopoly of Indian trade, he declined it; the trade belonged to his people. He was ardently desirous to benefit his colony by putting in operation among them the schemes which his wisdom had evolved; but he would not override their own wishes; they should be secured even from his power to do them good; for, as liberty without obedience is confusion, so is obedience without liberty slavery. Instead therefore of imposing his designs upon them, he submitted them for their free consideration. Pennsylvania now occupied its present boundaries, with the addition of Delaware; and western New Jersey ceased to be the nominal home of the Friends in America. In 1682, Penn embarked for the Delaware. He had founded a free colony for all mankind, believing that God is in every conscience; and he was now going to witness and superintend the working of his "holy experiment."
On October 29th he was received at Newcastle by a crowd of mixed nationality, and the Duke of York's agent formally delivered up the province to him. The journey up the Delaware was continued in an open boat, and the site of Philadelphia was reached in the first week of November. There a meeting of delegates from the inhabitants was held and the rules which were to govern them were reviewed and ratified. Among these it was stipulated that every Christian sect was eligible to office, that murder only was a capital crime, that marriage was a civil contract, that convict prisons should be workhouses, that all who paid duties should be electors, and that there should be no poor rates or tithes. Then Penn proceeded to lay out the city of Philadelphia, where they "might improve an innocent course of life on a virgin Elysian shore." It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed ninety-three years afterward.
In March, before the leaves had budded on the tall trees whose colonnades were as yet the only habitation for the emigrants, the latter set to work to settle their constitution. "Amend, alter or add as you please," was the recommendation with which Penn submitted it to them—the work of his ripest wisdom and loving good-will. To the governor and council it assigned the suggestion of all laws; these suggestions were then to be submitted by the assembly to the body of the people, who thus became the direct law-makers. To Penn was given the power to negative the doings of the council, he being responsible for all legislation; but he could originate and enforce nothing. He would accept no revenues; and, indeed, except in the way of helpfulness and counsel, never in any way imposed himself upon his people. He was the proprietor; but in all practical respects, Pennsylvania was a representative democracy. That they should be free and happy was his sole desire.
In its relations with the Indians, the colony was singularly fortunate; the doctrine of non-resistance succeeded best where least might have been expected from it. All lands were purchased, conferences being held and deeds signed; and the red men were given thoroughly to understand that nothing but mutual good was intended. They took to the new idea kindly; the law of retaliation had been the principle of their lives hitherto; but if a man did good to them, and dealt honestly by them, should not they retaliate by manifesting the same integrity and good-will? At one time it was reported that a band of Indians had assembled on the border with the design of avenging some grievance with a massacre. Six unarmed Quakers started at once for the scene of trouble, and the Indians subsided. It has long been admitted that it takes two sides to make a fight; but this was an indication that it needs resistance to make a massacre. Penn, who was fond of visiting the Indians in their wigwams, and sharing their hospitality, formed an excellent opinion of them. He discoursed to them of their rights as men, and of their privileges as immortal souls; and they conceded to him his claim to peaceful possession of his province. Not less remarkable was the fate of witchcraft in Pennsylvania. The Swedes and Finns believed in witches, upon the authority of their native traditions; and a woman of their race having acted in a violent and unaccountable manner, they put her on her trial for witchcraft. Both Swedes and Quakers composed the jury; there were no hysterics; the matter was dispassionately canvassed; impressions and prejudices were not accepted as evidence; and in the end the verdict was that though she was guilty of being called a witch, a witch she nevertheless was not. The distinction was so well taken that no more witch trials or panics occurred. This was in 1684, eight years before the disasters in New England. But newspapers did not exist in those days, and public opinion was undeveloped.
The colony, receiving a world-wide advertisement by dint of the excellence of its institutions and the singularity of its principles, became a magnet to draw to itself the "good and oppressed" of all Europe. There were a good many of them; and within a couple of years from the time when Philadelphia meant blaze-marks on trees and three or four cottages, it had grown to be a real town of six hundred houses. The colony altogether mustered eight thousand people. With justifiable confidence, therefore, that all was well, and would stay so, Penn, with many loving words for his people, returned to England to continue the defense of the afflicted there. A dispute as to the right boundaries of Delaware and Maryland was also to be determined; but it proved to be a lingering negotiation, chiefly noteworthy on account of its leading to the fixing of the line by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, which afterward became the recognized boundary between the States where slaves might be owned and those where they might not. The line was surveyed, finally, in 1767.
Penn being gone, the people applied themselves to experimenting with their constitution. A constitution which is devised to secure liberty to the subject, including liberty to modify or change it, is as nearly unchangeable as any mortal structure can be. The inhabitants of Pennsylvania had never known before what it was to be free, and they naturally wished to test the new gift or quality in every way open to them. Not having the trained brain and unselfish wisdom that belonged to Penn, of which the constitution was the offspring, they thought that they could improve its provisions. But the more earnestly they labored to this end, the more surely were they brought to the confession that he had known how to make them free better than they themselves did. When they resolved against taxes, they found themselves without revenue; when they refused to discipline a debtor, they found that credit was no longer to be had. They fussed and fretted to their hearts' content, and no great harm came of it, because the constitution was always awaiting them with forgiveness when they had tired themselves with abusing it. The only important matter that came to judgment was the slavery question; Penn himself had slaves, though he came to doubt the righteousness of the practice, and liberated them in his will—or would have done so, had the injunction been carried out by his heirs. Slaves in Pennsylvania were to serve as such for fourteen years, and then become adscripts of the soil—that is to say, they were permitted to become the same thing under another name. Penn ultimately conceived the ambition to vindicate the presence of the Inner Light in the negroes' souls; but he met with small success—even less than with the Indians. The problem of the negro was not to be solved in that way, or at that time. No doubt, if a negro slave could be made to feel that the mere circumstance of external bondage was nothing, so long as his inner man was untrammeled, it would add greatly to the convenience both of himself and his master. But the theory did not seem to carry weight so long as the practice accompanied it; and the world, even of Pennsylvania, was not quite ready to abolish negro slavery in 1687.
Of the thirteen colonies, twelve had now had their beginning, and Georgia, the home of poor debtors, shed little or no fresh light upon the formation of the American principle. The Revolution of 1688, which put William of Orange on the English throne, was now at hand; but before examining its effect upon the American settlements we must cast a glance at the transactions of the previous dozen years in the New England division.
The theory of the English government regarding the American colonies had always been, that they were her property. The people who emigrated had been English subjects, and—to adapt the Latin proverb—Coelum, non Regem, mutant, qui trans mare currunt. Moreover, the English, as was the custom of the age, asserted jurisdiction over all land first seen and claimed by mariners flying their flag; and though Spain and France might claim America with quite as much right as England, yet the latter would not acknowledge their pretensions. A country, then, occupied by English subjects, and owned by England, could not reasonably assert its private independence.
Such was England's position, from which she never fully receded until compelled to do so by force of arms. But the colonists looked at the matter from a different point of view. They held the right of ownership by discovery to be unsubstantial; it was a mere sentiment—a matter of national pride and prestige—not to be valued when it came in conflict with the natural right conveyed by actual emigration and settlement. The man who transferred himself, with his family and property, to a virgin country. Intending to make his permanent home there, should not be subject to arbitrary interference from any one; his vital interests and welfare were involved; he should be ruled by authority appointed by himself; should pay only such taxes as he himself levied for the expenses of his establishment; and should enjoy the profits of whatever products he raised and whatever commerce he carried on. He had withdrawn himself from participation in the advantages of home civilization, and had voluntarily faced a life of struggle and peril in the wilderness, precisely because he had counted these things as nothing in comparison with the gain of controlling his own affairs; but if, nevertheless, the mother country insisted on managing them, or in any way controlling him, then all enterprise became vain, all his sacrifices had been fruitless, and he was in all ways worse off than before he took steps to better himself. An Englishman living in England might rightly be taxed for the protection to life and property and the enjoyment of privileges which she afforded him, and which he, through a representative parliament, created; but England gave no protection to her colonies, and the colonists were not represented in her parliament; neither had the English government been put to any expense or trouble in bringing those colonies into existence; to tax them, therefore, was an act of despotism; it deprived them of the right which all Englishmen possessed to the fruits of their own labor; it robbed them of values for which no equivalent had been yielded; and thus, from freemen, made them slaves. Not less unjustifiable, for the same reasons, was interference with colonial governments, and with religious liberties of all kinds.
England could not categorically refute these arguments; but she could reply that her granting of a charter to the colonies had implied some hold upon them, including a first lien upon commercial products; while so far as governmental jurisdiction was concerned, it might be considered an open question whether the colonies were capable of adequately governing themselves, and she was therefore warranted, in the interests of order, in exercising that function herself. But the reply was a weak one; and when the colonists rejoined that the charter, if it had any practical significance at all, merely gave expression to a friendly interest in the adventure, as a parent might give a son a letter hoping that he would do well; and that the question of government was not an open one, inasmuch as the orderliness and efficiency of their institutions were visible and undeniable:—it was left to England only to say that, once an English subject, always an English subject, and that when she commanded the colonies must comply.
As a matter of fact, she avoided as much as possible putting this ultimatum in precise words; and the colonies were at least as reluctant to oppose a definite defiance. Diplomacy labors long before acknowledging a finality. There was on both sides a deeply-rooted determination to prevail; but an open rupture was shunned. Furthermore, a strong sentiment of loyalty existed in the colonies, which sentimentally and sometimes practically injured the logic of their attitude. They acknowledged the English king to be theirs; they addressed him in deferential and submissive terms; they wished, in some sense, to keep hold of their mother's hand, and yet they protested against the maternal prerogative. Their status was anomalous; and it is easy to say that they should have declared their purpose, from the first, to be an independent nation in the full sense of the world. But the logical and the natural are often at variance. Liberty is not necessarily attainable only through political independence. The colonists, if they wished to be another England in miniature, had not contemplated becoming a people foreign to England, in the sense that France or Spain was. They loved the English flag, in spite of the cross which Endicott disowned; they were proud of the English history which was also theirs. Why should they sever themselves from these? It was not until English injustice and selfishness, long endured, became at last unendurable, that the resolve to live truly independent, or to die, fired the muskets of Lexington and Concord.
The most galling of the measures which weighed upon New England was that called the Navigation Acts. These were passed in the interests of the English trading class, and by their influence. In their original form, in 1661, they had involved no serious injury to the colonies, and had, moreover, been so slackly enforced that they were almost a dead letter. But after Charles II. came to the throne, they assumed a more virulent aspect. They forbade the importation into the colonies of any merchandise, except in English bottoms, captained by Englishmen, thus excluding from American ports every cargo not owned by British merchants. On the other hand, they decreed that no American produce should find its way into other than English hands, except such things as the English did not want, or could buy to better advantage elsewhere; and even these could be disposed of at no ports nearer England than the Mediterranean. Next, by an extension of the Acts, the inhabitants of one colony were forbidden to deal with those of another except on payment of duties intended to be prohibitory. And finally, the colonists were enjoined not to manufacture even for their private consumption, much less for export, any goods which English manufacturers produced. They could do nothing but grow crops, and the only reason that anything whatever was permitted to go from the colonies to foreign ports, was in order that the former might thus get money with which to pay for the forced importations from England. The result of such a policy was, of course, that money was put into the pockets of English shopkeepers, but all other Englishmen gained nothing, and the colonists lost the amount of the shopkeepers' profit, as well as the incidental and incalculable advantages of free enterprise.
These laws pressed most severely on Massachusetts, because her shipping exceeded that of all the other colonies, and the smuggling which their geographical peculiarities made easy to them was impossible for her. Besides, manufacturing was never followed by the southern colonies, and their chief products, tobacco and cotton, not being grown elsewhere, could be sold at almost as good a profit in England as anywhere else.
But if Massachusetts was the chief object of these oppressive measures, she was also more inflexible than the other colonies in insisting upon her rights. The motto of the Rattlesnake flag carried at the beginning of the Revolution—"Don't tread on Me"—expressed the temper of her people from an early period in her history. We shall shortly see how resolutely and courageously she fought her battle against hopeless odds. Meanwhile, we may inquire how and why the other colonies of the New England confederation fared better at the hands of the mother country.
One of the most agreeable figures in our colonial history is the son of that John Winthrop who brought the first colonists to Massachusetts Bay, on June 22, 1630. He had been born at Groton, in England, in 1606, and was therefore fifty-six years old when he returned to that country as agent for Connecticut, and obtained its charter from Charles. He had been educated at Dublin, and before emigrating to the colonies had been a soldier in the French wars, and had traveled, on the Continent. After landing at Boston, he had helped his father in his duties, and had then founded the town of Ipswich in Massachusetts. None was more ardent than he in the work of preparing a home for the exiles in the wilderness; he added his own fortune to that of his father, and thought no effort too great. In him the elements were so kindly mixed that his heart was as warm and his mind as liberal as his energy was tireless; it was as if a Roger Williams had been mingled with an elder Winthrop; enthusiasm and charity were tempered with judgment and discretion. The love of creating means of happiness for others was his ruling motive, and he was gifted with the ability to carry it out; he felt that New England was his true home, because there he had fullest opportunity for his self-appointed work. It is almost an effort for men of this age to conceive of a nature so pure as this, and a character so blameless; we search the records for some weakness or deformity. But all witnesses testify of him with one voice; and it may be borne in mind that the spirit of Puritanism at that epoch was mighty in the individual as in the community, purging the soul of many self-indulgent vices which the laxity and skepticism of our time encourage; and when, in addition, there is a nation to be made on principles so lofty as those which Puritanism contemplated, one can imagine that there would be little space for the development of the lower instincts, or the unworthier ambitions. When all is said, however, Winthrop the Younger still remains a surprising and rare type; and it is an added pleasure to know that in all that he undertook he was successful (he never undertook anything for himself), and that he was most happy in a loving wife and in his children. It was a rounded life, such as a romancer hardly dares to draw; yet there may be many not less lovely, only less conspicuously placed.
When there was need for a man to go to England and plead before the king for Connecticut—of which, for fourteen consecutive years thereafter, he was annually elected governor—who but Winthrop could be selected? He went with all the prayers of the colony for his good fortune; and it was of good omen that he met there, in the council for the colonies appointed by the king, Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon and Lord Chancellor, then in the prime of his career, and two years younger than Winthrop; and William Fiennes, Viscount Saye and Sele, who was in the eightieth and final year of his useful and honorable career, and who, in 1632, had obtained a patent for land on the Connecticut river. Through his influence the interest of the Lord Chamberlain was secured, and Clarendon himself was cordial for the charter. With such support, the way was easy, and the document was executed in April of 1662. It gave the colonists all the powers of an independent government. There was no reservation whatever; their acts were not subject even to royal inspection. Nevertheless, Charles, by effecting the amalgamation of New Haven with Hartford, not altogether with the consent of the former, arbitrarily set aside the provision of the federation compact which forbade union between any of its members except with the consent of all; and thereby he asserted his jurisdiction (if he chose to exercise it) over all the colonies. He could give gracious gifts, but on the understanding that they were of grace, not obligation. In the oppression of Massachusetts, this served as an unfortunate precedent.
Nor must it be forgotten that the happiness of Connecticut was in part due to the fact that, as a matter of high policy, it was desired to conciliate her at Massachusetts's expense. Massachusetts was much the strongest of the colonies; her tendency to disaffection was known in England; and it seemed expedient to place her in a position isolated from her sisters. Were all of them equally wronged, their union against the oppressor was inevitable. Connecticut and Rhode Island could be of small present value to England from the commercial standpoint, and their heartfelt loyalty seemed cheaply purchased by suffering that value to accumulate. Charles could be lavish and reckless, and he was constitutionally "good-humored"—that is, he liked to have things go smoothly, and if anybody suffered, wished the fact to be kept out of his sight. But he was incapable of generosity, in the sense of voluntarily sacrificing any selfish interest for a noble end; and if he patted Connecticut on the back, it was only in order that she might view with toleration his highway robbery of her sister.
All this, however, need not dash our satisfaction at the advantages which Connecticut enjoyed, and the good they did her. The climate and physical nature of the country required an active and wholesome life in the inhabitants, while yet the conditions were not so severe as to discourage them. They were of a rustic, hardy, industrious temper, of virtuous and godly life, and animated by the consciousness of being well treated. They lived and labored on their farms, and there were not so many of them that the farms crowded upon one another, though the population increased rapidly. Each of them delighted in the cultivation of his private "conscience"; and, in the absence of wars and oppressions, they argued one with another on points of theology, fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute. They were far from indifferent to learning, but they liked nothing quite so well as manhood and integrity. The Connecticut Yankee impressed his character on American history, and wherever in our country there has been evidence of pluck, enterprise and native intelligence, it has generally been found that a son of Connecticut was not far off. They were not averse from journeying over the earth, and many of them had the pioneer spirit, and left their place of birth to establish a miniature Connecticut elsewhere; their descendants will be found as far west as Oregon, and their whalers knew the paths of the Pacific as well as they did the channels of Long Island Sound. Tolerant, sturdy, pious, shrewd, prudent and brave, they formed the best known type of the characteristic New Englander, as represented by the national figure of Uncle Sam. They were sociable and inquisitive, yet they knew how to keep their own counsel; and the latch-string hung out all over the colony, in testimony at once of their honesty and their hospitality. Few things came to them from the outer world, and few went out from them; they were industrially as well as politically independent. They were economical in both their private and their public habits; no money was to be made in politics, partly because every one was from his youth up trained in political procedure; every town was a republic in little. The town meeting was open to all citizens, and each could have his say in it, and many an acute suggestion and shrewd criticism came from humble lips. It is in such town meetings that the legislators were trained who then, and ever since, have become leading figures in the statesmanship of the country. In England, a hereditary aristocracy were educated to govern the nation; in the colonies, a nation was educated to govern itself. Our system was the sounder and the safer of the two. But the professional politician was then unthought of; he came as the result of several conditions incident to our national development; he has perhaps already touched his apogee, and is beginning to disappear. The nation has awakened to a realization that its interests are not safe in his hands.
Calvinism prevailed in the colony, as in Massachusetts; but there were many of the colonists who did not attend at the meeting-house on the Sabbath, not because they were irreligious or vicious, but either because they lived far from the rendezvous, or because they did not find it a matter of private conscience with them to sit in a pew and listen to a sermon. Moreover, it was the rule among Calvinists that no one could join in the Communion service who had not "experienced religion"; and many excellent persons might entertain conscientious doubts whether this mysterious subjective phenomenon had taken place in them. Pending enlightenment on that point, they would naturally prefer not to sit beside their more favored brethren during the long period of prayer and discourse, only to be obliged to walk out when the vital stage of the proceedings was reached. But it was also the law that only children of communicants should receive baptism; and since not to be baptized was in the religious opinion of the day to court eternal destruction, it will easily be understood that non-communicating parents were rendered very uneasy. What could they do? One cannot get religion by an act of will; but not to get it was to imperil not only their own spiritual welfare, but that of their innocent offspring as well; they were damned to all posterity. The matter came up before the general court of Connecticut, and in 1657 a synod composed of ministers of that colony and of Massachusetts —New Haven and Plymouth declining to participate—sat upon the question, and softened the hard fate of the petitioners so far as to permit the baptism of the children of unbaptized persons who engaged to rear them in the fear of the Lord. This "half-way covenant," as it came to be termed, did not suit the scruples of Calvinists of the stricter sort; but it gave comfort to a great many deserving folk, and probably did harm to no human soul, here or hereafter.
Short are the annals of a happy people; until the Revolutionary days began, there is little to tell of Connecticut. The collegiate school which half a generation later grew into the college taking its name from its chief benefactor, Elihu Yale, had its early days in the village at the mouth of the Connecticut river, named, after Lord Saye and Sele, Saybrook. The institution of learning called after the pious and erudite son of the English butcher of Southwark, founded on the banks of the river Charles near Boston, had come into existence more than sixty years before; but Yale followed less than forty years after the granting of the Connecticut charter. New England people never lost any time about securing the means of education.
The boundaries of Rhode Island were the occasion of some trouble; though one might have supposed that since the area which they inclosed was so small, no one would have been at the pains to dispute them. But in the end, Roger Williams obtained the little he had asked for in this regard, while as to liberties, his charter made his community at least as well off as was Connecticut. Their aspiration to be allowed to prove that the best civil results may be coincident with complete religious freedom, was realized. Charles gave them everything; liberty for a people who thought more of God than of their breakfasts, and whose habitation was too small for its representation on the map to be seen without a magnifying glass, could not be a dangerous gift. The charter was delivered in 1663 to John Clarke, agent in England for the colony, and was taken to Rhode Island by the admirable Baxter in November of that year. All the two thousand or more inhabitants of the colony met together to receive the precious gift; Baxter, placed on high, read it out to them with his best voice and delivery, and then held it up so that all might behold the handsomely engrossed parchment, and the sacred seal of his dread majesty King Charles. What a picture of democratic and childlike simplicity! With how devout and earnest an exultation did the people murmur their thanks and applause! The crowd in their conical hats and dark cloaks, the chill November sky, the gray ripples of Narragansett Bay, the background of forest trees, of which only the oaks and walnuts still retained the red and yellow remnants of their autumn splendor; the quaint little ship at anchor, with its bearded crew agape along the rail; and Baxter the center of all eyes, holding up the charter with a sort of holy enthusiasm! Such a scene could be but once; and time has brought about his revenges. With what demeanor would the throng at the fashionable watering place greet a messenger from the English sovereign to-day! John Clarke, the Bedfordshire doctor, to whose fidelity and persistent care the colony owed much, fully participated in the contagion of goodness which marked the New England emigrants of the period. He served his fellow colonists all his life, and at his death left them all he had; and it seems strange that he should have been one of the founders of aristocratic Newport, and its earliest pastor. But it is not the only instance of the unexpected use to which we sometimes put the bequests of our ancestors.
The early vicissitudes of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are hardly of importance enough to warrant a detailed examination. Vermont was not settled till well into the Eighteenth Century. Maine had been fingered by the French, and used as a base of operations by fishermen, long before its connection with Massachusetts; the persistency of Gorges complicated its position for more than forty years. After his death, and in the irresponsiveness of his heirs, the few inhabitants of the region were constrained to shift for themselves; in 1652 the jurisdiction was found to extend three miles north of the source of the Merrimack, and Massachusetts offering its protection in enabling a government to be formed, and acting upon the priority of its grant, annexed the whole specified region. But more than twenty years afterward, in 1677, the English committee of the privy council examined the charter, and found that Massachusetts had no jurisdiction over Maine and New Hampshire (the separate existence of which last had scarcely been defined). The direct object of this decision of the committee was to provide the bastard son of Charles, Monmouth, with a kingdom of his own; no one knew anything about the resources or possibilities of the domain, and, omne ignotum pro magnifico, it was surmised that it would yield abundant revenues. But Massachusetts did not want the Duke for a neighbor; and while Charles was considering terms of purchase, she bought up the Gorges claim for some twelve hundred pounds. The Maine of that epoch was not, of course, the same as that of to-day; the French claimed down to the Kennebec, and the Duke of York, not content with New York, asserted his ownership from the Kennebec to the Penobscot; so that for Massachusetts was left only what intervened between the Kennebec and the Piscataqua. Being proprietor of this, she made it a province with a governor and council whom she appointed, and a legislature derived from the people; the province not relishing its subordination, but being forced to submit. Two years later, in 1679, New Hampshire was cut off from Massachusetts and made the first royal province of New England. The people of the province were ill-disposed to surrender any of the liberties which they saw their neighbors in the enjoyment of; and disregarding the feelings of the king's appointee, its representatives declared that only laws made by the assembly and approved by the people should be valid. Robert Mason, who had a patent to part of the region, finding himself opposed by the colonists, got permission from England to appoint an adventurer, Edward Cranfield, governor; Cranfield went forth with hopes of much plunder; but they would not admit his legitimacy, and he took the unprecedented step of dissolving the assembly; the farmers revolted, and their ringleader, Gove, was condemned for treason, and spent four years in the Tower of London. It was another attempt to convince the spirit of liberty by "the worst argument in the world"; but it was ridiculous as well as bad in Gove's case; he was but a hard-fisted uneducated countryman, whose belief that the patch of land he had cleared and planted among the New England mountains was his, and not another's, was not to be dissipated by dungeons. The disputed land-titles got into the law courts, where judges and juries were fixed; but no matter which way the decisions went, the people kept their own. Cranfield sent an alarmist report of affairs to London, declaring that "factions" would bring about a separation of the colony unless a frigate were sent to Boston to enforce loyalty. Nothing was done. Cranfield tried to raise money through the assembly by a tale about an invasion, which existed nowhere save in his own imagination; the assembly refused to be stampeded. The clergy were against him, and he attempted to overcome them by restrictive orders; but they defied him; he imprisoned one of them, Moody; and succeeded in disturbing church service; but the people would rather not go to meeting than obey Cranfield. His last effort was to try to levy taxes under pretense of an Indian war; but the people thwacked the tax collectors with staves, and the women threatened them with hot water. A call for troops to quell the disturbances was utterly disregarded. How was a governor to govern people who refused to be governed?
Cranfield gave it up. He had been struggling three years, and had accomplished nothing. He wrote home that he "should esteem it the greatest happiness to be allowed to remove from these unreasonable people"; and this happiness was accorded to him; it was the only happiness which his appointment had afforded. New Hampshire was in bad odor with the English government; but the farmers could endure that with equanimity. They had demonstrated that the granite of their mountains had somehow got into their own composition; and they were let alone for the present, the rather since Massachusetts was enough to occupy the king's council at that time.
The fight between Massachusetts and Charles began with the latter's accession in 1660, and continued till his death, when it was continued by James II. The charter of the colony was adjudged to be forfeited in 1684, twenty-four years after the struggle opened. While it was at its height, the Indian war broke out to which the name of the Pokanoket chief, King Philip, has been attached. Thus both the diplomacy and the arms of the colony were tested to the utmost, at one and the same time; the American soldiers were victorious, though at a serious cost of life and treasure; the diplomatists were defeated; but Massachusetts had learned her strength in both directions, and suffered less, in the end, by her defeat than by her victory. The issue between England and her colony had become clearly defined; the people learned by practice what they already knew in theory —the hatefulness of despotism; and their resolve to throw it off when the opportunity should arrive was not discouraged, but confirmed. From the Indian war they gained less than a wise peace would have given them, and they lost women and children as well as men. Such conflicts, once begun, must be pushed to the extremity; but it cannot but be wished that the people of Massachusetts might have found a means of living with the red men, as their brethren in Pennsylvania did, in peace and amity. The conduct of Indians in war can never be approved by the white race, but, on the other hand, the provocations which set them on the warpath always can be traced to some act of injustice, real or fancied, wanton or accidental, on our part. King Philip was fighting for precisely the same object that was actuating the colonists in their battle with King Charles. Doubtless the rights of a few thousand savages are insignificant compared with the higher principles of human liberty for which we contended; but Philip could not be expected to acknowledge this, and we should extend to him precisely the same sympathy that we feel for ourselves.
A great deal of pains had been taken to convert and civilize these New England tribes. John Eliot translated the Bible for them; and it was he who made the first attempt to determine the grammar of their speech. But though many Indians professed the Christian faith, and some evinced a certain aptitude in letters, no new life was awakened in any of them, and no permanent good results were attained. Meanwhile, the Pokanokets, with Philip at their head, refused to accept the white man's God, or his learning; and they watched with anxiety his growing numbers and power. They had sold mile after mile of land to the English, not realizing that the aggregate of these transactions was literally taking the ground from under their feet; but the purchasers had the future as well as the present in view, and contrived so to distribute their holdings as gradually to push the Indians into the necks of land whence the only outlet was the sea. It was the old story of encroachment, with always a deed to justify it, signed with the mark of the savage, good in law, but to his mind a device to ensnare him to his hurt. In 1674, Philip was compelled to appear before a court and be examined, whereat his indignation was aroused, and, either with or without his privity, the informer who had procured his arrest was murdered. The murderers were apprehended and sentenced to be hanged by a jury, half white and half Indian. The tribe retaliated and war was begun.
Philip, or Metaconet the son of Massasoit, may at this time have been about forty years old; he had been "King" for twelve years. The portraits of him show a face and head that one can hardly accept as veracious; an enormous forehead impending over a small face, with an almost delicate mouth. But he was obviously a man of ability, and his courage was hardened by desperation. His aim was to unite all the tribes in an effort to exterminate the entire English population, though this has been estimated to number in New England, at that time, more than fifty thousand persons. The odds were all upon the colonists' side; but they had not yet learned the Indian method of warfare, and the woods, hills and swamps, and the unprotected state of many of the settlements, gave the Indians opportunities to prolong the struggle which they amply improved. Had they been united, and adequately armed, the issue might have been different.
Captain Benjamin Church, a hardy pioneer of six and thirty, who had watched the ways of the Indians, and learned their strategy, soon became prominent in the war, and ended as its most conspicuous and triumphant figure. At first the colonists were successful, and Philip was driven off; but this did but enable him to spread the outbreak among other tribes. From July of 1675 till August of the next year, the life of no one on the borders was safe. The settlers went to the meeting-house armed, and turned out at the first alarm. They were killed at their plowing; they were ambuscaded and cut off, tortured, slain, and their dissevered bodies hung upon the trees. At the brook thereafter called Bloody Run, near Deerfield, over seventy young men were surprised and killed. Women and children were not spared; it was hardly sparing them to carry them into captivity, as was often done. The villages which were attacked were set on fire after the tomahawking and scalping were done. Horrible struggles would take place in the confined rooms of the little cabins; blood and mangled corpses desecrated the familiar hearths, and throughout sounded the wild yell of the savages, and the flames crackled and licked through the crevices of the logs.
In December, Church commanded, or accompanied, the little army which plowed through night and snow to attack the palisaded fort and village, strongly situated on an island of high ground in the midst of a swamp, in the township of New Kingston. The Narragansetts were surprised; the soldiers burst their way through the palisades, and the red and the white men met hand to hand in a desperate conflict. Then the tomahawk measured itself against the sword, and before it faltered more than two hundred of the New Englanders had been killed or wounded, and the village was on fire. The pools of blood which the frost had congealed, bubbled in the heat of the flames. None could escape; infants, old women, all must die. It was as ghastly a fight as was ever fought. The victors remained in the charred shambles till evening, resting and caring for their wounded; and then, as the snow began to fall, went back to Wickford, carrying the wounded with them. It is said that a thousand Indian warriors fell on that day.
At Hadfield had occurred the striking episode of the congregation, surprised at their little church, and about to be overcome, being rescued by a mysterious gray champion, who appeared none knew whence, rallied them, and led them to victory. It was believed to be Goffe, one of the men who sentenced Charles I. to be beheaded, who had escaped to New England at the time of the Restoration, and had dwelt in retirement there till the peril of his fellow exiles called him forth. The war was full of harrowing scenes and strange deliverances. Annie Brackett, a prisoner in an Indian party, crossed Casco Bay in a birch-bark canoe with her husband and infant and was rescued by a vessel which happened to enter the harbor at the critical moment.
Church hunted the Indians with more than their own cunning and persistency; and at last it was he who led the party which effected Philip's death. The royal Indian was hemmed in in a swamp and finally killed by a traitor from his own side. The savages could fight no more; they had caused the death of six hundred men, had burned a dozen towns, and compelled the expenditure of half a million dollars. Scattered alarms and tragedies still occurred in the East, and along the borders; but the war was over. In 1678 peace was signed. And then Massachusetts turned once more to her deadlier enemy, King Charles.
THE STUARTS AND THE CHARTER
The cutting off of Charles I.'s head was a deed which few persons in Massachusetts would have advocated; Cromwell himself had remarked that it was a choice between the king's head and his own. History has upon the whole accepted the choice he made as salutary. Achilles, forgetting his heel, deemed himself invulnerable, and his conduct became in consequence intolerable; Charles, convinced that his anointed royalty was sacred, was led on to commit such fantastic tricks before high heaven as made the godly weep. Achilles was disillusioned by the arrow of Paris, and Charles by the ax of Cromwell. Death is a wholesome argument at times.
But though a later age could recognize the high expediency of Charles's taking off, it was too bold and novel to meet with general approbation at the time, even from men who hated kingly rule. Prejudice has a longer root than it itself believes. And the Puritans of New England, having been removed from the immediate pressure of the king's eccentricities, were the less likely to exult over his end. Many of them were shocked at it; more regretted it; perhaps the majority accepted it with a sober equanimity. They were not bloodthirsty, but they were stern.
Neither were they demonstrative; so that they took the Parliament and the Protector calmly, if cordially, and did not use the opportunity of their predominance to cast gibes upon their predecessor. So that, when the Restoration was an established fact, they had little to retract. They addressed Charles II. gravely, as one who by experience knew the hearts of exiles, and told him that, as true men, they feared God and the king. They entreated him to consider their sacrifices and worthy purposes, and to confirm them in the enjoyment of their liberties. Of the execution, and of the ensuing "confusions," they prudently forbore to speak. It was better to say nothing than either to offend their consciences, or to utter what Charles would dislike to hear. Their case, as they well knew, was critical enough at best. Every foe of New England and of liberty would not fail to whisper malice in the king's ear. They sent over an envoy to make the best terms he could, and in particular to ask for the suspension of the Navigation Acts. But the committee had small faith in the loyalty of the colony, and even believed, or professed to do so, that it might invite the aid of Catholic and barbarous Spain against its own blood: they judged of others' profligacy by their own. The king, to gain time, sent over a polite message, which meant nothing, or rather less; for the next news was that the Acts were to be enforced.
Massachusetts thereupon proceeded to define her position. A committee composed of her ablest men caused a paper to be published by the general court affirming their right to do certain things which England, they knew, would be indisposed to permit. In brief, they claimed religious and civil independence, the latter in all but name, and left the king to be a figurehead without perquisites or power. They followed this intrepid statement by solemnly proclaiming Charles in Boston, and threw a sop to Cerberus in the shape of a letter couched in conciliating terms, feigning to believe that their attitude would win his approbation. Altogether, it was a thrust under the fifth rib, with a bow and a smile on the recover. Probably the thrust represented the will of the majority; the bow and smile, the prudence of the timid sort. Simon Bradstreet and John Norton were dispatched to London to receive the king's answer. They went in January of 1662, and after waiting through the spring and summer, not without courteous treatment, returned in the fall with Charles's reply, which, after confirming the charter and pardoning political infidelities under the Protectorate, went on to refuse all the special points which the colony had urged.
Already at this stage of the contest it had become evident that the question was less of conforming with any particular demand or command on the king's part, than of admitting his right to exercise his will at all in the premises. If the colony conceded his sovereignty, they could not afterward draw the line at which its power was to cease. And yet they could not venture to declare absolute independence, partly because, if it came to a struggle in arms, they could not hope to prevail; and partly because absolute independence was less desired than autonomy under the English flag. England was as far from granting autonomy to Massachusetts as independence, but was willing, if possible, to constrain her by fair means rather than by foul. Meanwhile, the tongue of rumor fomented discord. It was said in the colony that England designed the establishment of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts; whereupon the laws against toleration of "heretics," which had been falling into disuse, were stringently revived. In London the story went that the escaped regicides had united the four chief colonies and were about to lead them in arms to revolt. Clarendon, to relieve anxiety, sent a reassuring message to Boston; but its good effect was spoiled by a report that commissioners were coming to regulate their affairs. The patent of the colony was placed in hiding, the trained bands were drilled, the defenses of the harbor were looked to, and a fast day was named with the double purpose of asking the favor of God, and of informing the colony as to what was in the wind. Assuredly there must have been stout souls in Boston in those days. A few thousand exiles were actually preparing to resist England!
The warning had not been groundless. The fleet which had been fitted out to drive the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, from Manhattan, stopped at Boston on its way; and we may imagine that its entrance into the harbor on that July day was observed with keen interest by the great-grandfathers of the men of Bunker Hill. It was not exactly known what the instructions of the English officers required; but it was surmised that they meant tyranny. The commission could not have come for nothing. They had no right on New England soil. The fleet, for the present, proceeded on its way, and Massachusetts voluntarily contributed a force of two hundred men; but they were well aware that the trouble was only postponed; and depending on their charter, which contained no provision for a royal commission, they were determined to thwart its proceedings to the utmost of their power. How far that might be, they would know when the time came. Anything was better than surrender to the prerogative. When, in reply to Willoughby, a royalist declared that prerogative is as necessary as the law, Major William Hawthorne, who was afterward to distinguish himself against the Indians, answered him, "Prerogative is not above law!" It was not, indeed.
Accordingly, while the fleet with its commissioners was overawing the New Netherlanders, the Puritans of Boston Bay wrote and put forth a document which well deserves reproduction, both for the terse dignity of the style, which often recalls the compositions of Lord Verulam, and still more for the courageous, courteous, and yet almost aggressive logic with which the life principles of the Massachusetts colonists are laid down. It is a remarkable State paper, and so vividly sincere that, as one reads, one can see the traditional Puritan standing out from the words—the steeple crowned hat, the severe brow, the steady eyes, the pointed beard, the dark cloak and sad-hued garments. The paper is also singular in that it remonstrates against a principle, without waiting for the provocation of overt deeds. This excited the astonishment of Clarendon and others in England; but their perplexity only showed that the men they criticised saw further and straighter than they did. It was for principles, and against them, that the Puritans always fought, since principles are the parents of all acts and control them. The royal commission was, potentially, the sum of all the wrongs from which New England suffered during the next hundred years, and though it had as yet done nothing, it implied everything.
Whose hand it was that penned the document we know not; it was probably the expression of the combined views of such men as Mather, Norton, Hawthorne, Endicott and Bellingham; it may have been revised by Davenport, at that time nearly threescore and ten years of age, the type of the Calvinist minister of the period, austere, inflexible, high-minded, faithful. Be that as it may, it certainly voiced the feeling of the people, as the sequel demonstrated. It is dated October the Twenty-fifth, 1664, and is addressed to the king.
"DREAD SOVEREIGN:—The first undertakers of this Plantation did obtain a Patent, wherein is granted full and absolute power of governing all the people of this place, by men chosen from among themselves, and according to such laws as they should see meet to establish. A royal donation, under the Great Seal, is the greatest security that may be had in human affairs. Under the encouragement and security of the Royal Charter this People did, at their own charges, transport themselves, their wives and families, over the ocean, purchase the land of the Natives, and plant this Colony, with great labor, hazards, cost, and difficulties; for a long time wrestling with the wants of a Wilderness and the burdens of a new Plantation; having now also above thirty years enjoyed the privilege of Government within themselves, as their undoubted right in the sight of God and Man. To be governed by rulers of our own choosing and laws of our own, is the fundamental privilege of our Patent.
"A Commission under the Great Seal, wherein four persons (one of them our professed Enemy) are impowered to receive and determine all complaints and appeals according to their discretion, subjects us to the arbitrary power of Strangers, and will end in the subversion of us all.
"If these things go on, your Subjects will either be forced to seek new dwellings, or sink under intolerable burdens. The vigor of all new Endeavours will be enfeebled; the King himself will be a loser of the wonted benefit by customs, exported and imported from hence to England, and this hopeful Plantation will in the issue be ruined.
"If the aim should be to gratify some particular Gentlemen by Livings and Revenues here, that will also fail, for the poverty of the People. If all the charges of the whole Government by the year were put together, and then doubled or trebled, it would not be counted for one of these Gentlemen a considerable Accommodation. To a coalition in this course the People will never come; and it will be hard to find another people that will stand under any considerable burden in this Country, seeing it is not a country where men can subsist without hard labor and great frugality.
"God knows our greatest Ambition is to live a quiet Life, in a corner of the World. We came not into this Wilderness to seek great things to ourselves; and if any come after us to seek them here, they will be disappointed. We keep ourselves within our Line; a just dependence upon, and subjection to, your Majesty, according to our Charter, it is far from our Hearts to disacknowledge. We would gladly do anything in our power to purchase the continuance of your favorable Aspect. But it is a great Unhappiness to have no testimony of our loyalty offered but this, to yield up our Liberties, which are far dearer to us than our Lives, and which we have willingly ventured our Lives and passed through many Deaths, to obtain.
"It was Job's excellency, when he sat as King among his People, that he was a Father to the Poor. A poor People, destitute of outward Favor, Wealth, and Power, now cry unto their lord the King. May your Majesty regard their Cause, and maintain their Right; it will stand among the marks of lasting Honor to after Generations."
Throughout these sentences sounds the masculine earnestness of men who see that for which they have striven valiantly and holily in danger of being treacherously ravished from them, and who are resolute to withstand the ravisher to the last. It is no wonder that documents of this tone and caliber amazed and alarmed the council in London, and made them ask one another what manner of men these might be. It would have been well for England had they given more attentive ear to their misgivings; but their hearts, like Pharaoh's, were hardened, and they would not let the people go—until the time was ripe, and the people went, and carried the spoils with them.
The secret purpose of the commission was to pave the way for the gradual subjection of the colony, and to begin by inducing them to let the governor become a royal nominee, and to put the militia under the king's orders. Of the four commissioners, Nicolls remained in New York, as we have seen; the three others landed in Boston early in 1665. Their first order was that every male inhabitant of Boston should assemble and listen to the reading of the message from King Charles. These three gentlemen —Maverick, Carr and Cartwright—were courtiers and men of fashion and blood, and were accustomed to regard the king's wish as law, no matter what might be on the other side; but it was now just thirty years since the Puritans left England; they had endured much during that time, and had tasted how sweet liberty was; and half of them were young Americans, born on the soil, who knew what kings were by report only. Young and old, speaking through the assembly, which was in complete accord with them, informed the commissioners that they would not comply with their demand. What were the commissioners, that they should venture to call a public meeting in the town of a free people? The free people went about their affairs, and left the three gentlemen from the Court to stare in one another's scandalized faces.
They were the more scandalized, because their reception in Connecticut and Rhode Island had been different. But different, also, had been the errand on which they went there. Those two colonies were the king's pets, and were to have liberty and all else they wanted; Connecticut they had protected from the rapacity of Lord Hamilton, and Rhode Island had never been other than loving and loyal to the king. They had, to be sure, been politely bowed out by little Plymouth, the yeomen Independents, who still preferred, if his majesty pleased, to conduct their own household affairs in their own way. But to be positively and explicitly rebuffed to their faces, yet glowing with the sunshine of the royal favor, was a new experience; and Cartwright, when he caught his breath, exclaimed, "He that will not attend to the request is a traitor!"
The Massachusetts assembly declined to accept the characterization. Since the king's own patent expressly relieved them from his jurisdiction, it was impossible that their refusal to meet three of his gentlemen-in- waiting could rightly be construed as treason. The commissioners finally wanted to know, yes or no, whether the colonists meant to question the validity of the royal commission? But the assembly would not thus be dislodged from the coign of vantage; they stuck to their patent, and pointed out that nothing was therein said about a commission? So far as they were concerned, the commission, as a commission, could have no existence. They recognized nothing but three somewhat arrogant persons, in huge wigs, long embroidered waistcoats under their velvet coats, and plumes waving from their hats. They presented a glittering and haughty aspect, to be sure, but they had no rights in Boston.
At length, on the twenty-third of May, matters came to a crisis. The commissioners had given out that on that day they were going to hold a court to try a case in which the colony was to defend an action against a plaintiff. This, of course, would serve to indicate that the commissioners had power—whether the assembly conceded it or not—to control the internal economy of the settlement. Betimes in this morning, the rather that it was a very pleasant one—the trees on the Common being dressed in their first green leaves since last year, while a pleasant westerly breeze sent the white clouds drifting seaward over the blue sky—a great crowd began to make its way toward the court house, whose portals frowned upon the narrow street, as if the stern spirit of justice that presided within had cast a shadow beneath them. The doors were closed, and the massive lock which secured them gleamed in the single ray of spring sunshine that slanted along the facade of the edifice.
It was a somber looking throng, as was ever the case in Puritan Boston, where the hats, cloaks and doublets of the people were made of dark, coarse materials, not designed to flatter the lust of the eye. The visages suited the garments, wearing a sedate or severe expression, whether the cast of the features above the broad white collars were broad and ruddy, or pale and hollow-cheeked. There was a touch of the fanatic in many of these countenances, as of men to whom God was a living presence in all their affairs and thoughts, who feared His displeasure more than the king's, who believed that they were His chosen ones, and who knew that His arm was mighty to defend. They were of kin to the men who stood so stubbornly and smote so sore at Marston Moor and Naseby, and afterward had not feared to drag the father of the present Charles to the block. Fiber more unbending than theirs was never wrought into the substance of our human nature; and oppression seemed but to harden it.
They conversed one with another in subdued tones, among which sounded occasionally the lighter accents of women's voices; but they were not a voluble race, and the forms of their speech still followed in great measure the semi-scriptural idioms which had been so prevalent among Cromwell's soldiers years before. They were undemonstrative; but this very immobility conveyed an impression of power in reserve which was more effective than noisy vehemence.
At length, from the extremity of the street, was heard the tramp of horses' hoofs, and the commissioners, bravely attired, with cavalier boots, and swords dangling at their sides, were seen riding forward, followed by a little knot of officers. The crowd parted before them as they came, not sullenly, perhaps, but certainly with no alacrity or suppleness of deference. There was no love lost on either side; but Cartwright, who wore the most arrogant front of the three, really feared the Puritans more than either of his colleagues; and when, seven years afterward, he was called before his majesty's council to tell what manner of men they were, his account of them was so formidable that the council gave up the consideration of the menacing message they had been about to send, and instead agreed upon a letter of amnesty, as likely to succeed better with a people of so "peevish and touchy" a humor.
The cavalcade drew up before the door, and the officials, dismounting, ascended the steps. Finding it locked, Cartwright lifted the hilt of his sword and dealt a blow upon the massive panel.
"Who shuts the door against his majesty's commissioners?" cried he angrily. "Where is the rascal with the keys, I say!"
"I marvel what his majesty's commissioners should seek in the house of Justice," said a voice in the crowd; "since it is known that, when they go in by one door, she must needs go out by the other."
At this sally, the crowd smiled grimly, and the commissioners frowned and bit their lips. Just then there was a movement in the throng, and a tall, dignified man with a white beard and an aspect of grave authority was seen pressing his way toward the court house door.
"Here is the worshipful Governor Bellingham himself," said one man to his neighbor. "Now shall we see the upshot of this matter."
"And God save Massachusetts!" added the other, devoutly.
The chief magistrate of the colony advanced into the little open space at the foot of the steps, and saluted the commissioners with formal courtesy. "I am sorry ye should be disappointed, sirs," said he; "but I must tell you that it is the decision of the worshipful council that ye do not pass these doors, or order any business of the court, in this commonwealth. Provision is made by our laws for the proper conduct of all matters of justice within our borders, and it is not permitted that any stranger should interfere therewith."
"Truly, Mr. Bellingham," said Maverick, resting one hand on his sword, and settling his plumed hat on his wig with the other, "you take a high tone; but the king is the king, here as in England, and we bear his commission. Massachusetts can frame no laws to override his pleasure; and so we mean to teach you. I call upon all persons here present, under penalty of indictment for treason, to aid us, his majesty's commissioners, to open this court, or to break it open." His voice rang out angrily over the crowd, but no one stirred in answer.
"You forget yourself, sir," said the governor, composedly. "We here are loyal to the king, and too much his friends to believe that he would wrong himself by controverting the charter which bears the broad seal affixed by his own royal father. Your claim doth abuse him more than our refusal. But since you will not hear comfortable words, I must summon one who will speak more bluntly."
He turned, and made a signal with his hand. "Let the herald stand forth," said he; and at the word, a broad-shouldered, deep-chested personage, with a trumpet in one hand and a pike in the other, stepped into the circle and stood in the military attitude of attention.
"Hast thou the proclamation there in thy doublet, Simon?" demanded his worship.
"Aye, verily, that have I," answered Simon, in a voice like a fog horn, "and in my head and my heart, too!"
"Send it forth, then, and God's blessing go with it!" rejoined the chief magistrate, forcibly, but with something like a smile stirring under his beard.
Upon this Simon the herald filled his vast lungs with a mighty volume of New England air, set the long brazen trumpet to his lips, and blew such a blast that the led horses of the commissioners started and threw up their heads, and the windows of the court house shook with the strident vibration. Then, taking the paper on which the proclamation was written, and holding it up before him, he proceeded to bellow forth its contents in such stentorian wise that the commissioners might have heard it, had they been on Boston wharf preparing to embark for England, instead of being within three or four paces. That proclamation, indeed, was heard over the length and breadth of New England, and even across the Atlantic in the gilded chamber of the king of Britain. "These fellows," muttered his majesty, with a vexed air, "have the hardihood to affirm that we have no jurisdiction over them. What shall be done. Clarendon?" "I have ever thought well of them," the chancellor said, rubbing his brow; "they are a sturdy race, and it were not well to wantonly provoke them; yet it is amazing that they should show themselves so forward, without so much as charging the commissioners with the least matter of crimes or exorbitances." Clarendon, indeed, was too lenient to suit the royal party, and this was one of the causes leading up to his impeachment a year or two later.
But the herald was not troubled, nor was his voice subdued, by thoughts of either royalty or royal commissioners; though, as a matter of form, he began with "In the name of King Charles," he coupled with it "by authority of the Charter"; and went on to declare that the general court of Massachusetts, in observance of their duty to God, to the king, and to their constituents, could not suffer any one to abet his majesty's honorable commissioners in their designs. There was no mistaking the defiance, and neither the people nor the commissioners affected to do so. The latter petulantly declared that "since you will misconceive our endeavors, we shall not lose more of our labors upon you"; and they departed to Maine, where they met with a less mortifying reception. The people were much pleased, and made sport of the king's gentlemen, and at their public meetings they were addressed in the same "seditious" vein by magistrates and ministers. "The commission is but a trial of our courage: the Lord will be with His people while they are with Him," said old Mr. Davenport. Endicott, on the edge of the grave, was stanch as ever for the popular liberties. Besides, "There hath been one revolution against the king in England," it was remarked; "perchance there will be another ere long; and this new war with the Netherlands may bring more changes than some think for." On the other hand, resistance was stimulated by tales of what the gold-laced freebooters of the court would do, if they were let loose upon New England. Diplomacy, however, was combined with the bolder counsels; there was hope in delays, and correspondence was carried on with England to that end. Charles's expressed displeasure with their conduct was met with such replies as "A just dependence upon and allegiance unto your majesty, according to the charter, we have, and do profess and practice, and have by our oaths of allegiance to your majesty confirmed; but to be placed upon the sandy foundations of a blind obedience unto that arbitrary, absolute, and unlimited power which these gentlemen would impose upon us—who in their actings have carried it not as indifferent persons toward us—this, as it is contrary to your majesty's gracious expressions and the liberties of Englishmen, so we can see no reason to submit thereto."