Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

CHAP. friends !—we separate not from the church, but from its

corruptions ;-we go to spread the gospel in America.” 1629. There were about two hundred in this company; the maJune,

jority remained at Salem, the rest went to Charlestown. Privations and exposure brought sickness, and before the end of a year death had laid his hand on more than half their number, among whom was their pastor, Higginson. When the summons came, the dying seemed only to regret that they were not permitted to aid their brethren in founding a pure church in the wilderness.

The charter contained no provision for the rights of the people, it left them at the mercy of the corporation ; and as long as that charter remained in England, they could take no part in their own government. It was also silent on the subject of their religious freedom ; at any moment this might be interfered with by the king and his clergy. There was only one way to be freed from such undue interference. By the charter their governing council could choose the place of meeting for the transaction of business. It was a bold step; but they chose, hereafter, to meet on the soil of the colony. This transfer of the governing council and charter made its government virtually independent.

The officers were to be a governor, a deputy governor,

and eighteen assistants. These were elected before leav1630. ing England. John Winthrop was chosen governor, and

Thomas Dudley deputy governor. A fleet of seventeen ships set sail with the officers elect, and fifteen hundred emigrants ; they arrived in June and July. Their arrival was opportune, for those who had preceded them were in great distress from sickness and scarcity of food.

Settlements were now made at various places around the bay; Charlestown, Newtown, Dorchester, Watertown. A fine spring of pure water, on the peninsula called Shawmut, induced the governor and some other persons to settle there. The position was central, and it became the capital,

ENCOURAGEMENTS.

77

XI.

under the name of Boston. The change of climate and CHAP. mode of living brought disease upon great numbers; yet they looked upon their sorrows as so many trials, designed 1630. to make them appreciate still more the blessings which the future had in store for them. As they hoped, these evils gradually passed away, and prosperity smiled.

At first, the assistants could hold office for life, and in addition it was their privilege to elect the governor. The people became jealous of their liberties; the dispute was compromised by their electing their magistrates annually. They were to be chosen by the freemen of the 1631. colony, of whom no one who was not a church member could have a vote. This law was injudicious, though enacted with the best intentions. They wished a government based on purely religious principles, and they thought to secure such a government by allowing none but the religious to take part in it. Another change was made from the purely democratic form, when all the freemen met in convention and voted on the laws, to that of the republican, when the people elected deputies, who were authorized to legislate and transact the affairs of the colony.

The colonists dealt honestly with the Indians and endeavored to preserve their good will. They “were to buy their lands, and not to intrude upon, and in no respect injure them ;" they also “ hoped to send the gospel to the poor natives.” Many of the neighboring chiefs desired their friendship. One came from the distant river Connecticut ; he extolled its fertile valleys and blooming meadows; he offered them land near him, because he wished their protection against the brave and fiery Pequods. Fraternal and Christian intercourse was held from time to time with the old colony of Plymouth; as a harbinger of the future, there came from Virginia a vessel laden with com; and the Dutch, who some years before had settled at Manhattan, visited them with kindly greetings. Thus dawned a brighter day.

CHAP.

XI.

During this year more than three thousand persons

came from England, many of whom were men of influence, 1635. wealth, and education. Prominent among these was Hugh

Peters, an eloquent clergyman, and Harry Vane, a young man of much promise, the son and heir of a privy-councillor--a fact of some importance in the eyes of the people. Vane, however, was a true Republican. The people the next year unwisely elected him governor, in place of the dignified and benevolent Winthrop.

The Puritans had experienced all the evils of religious intolerance, but unfortunately they had not themselves learned to be lenient. In the colony there was a young clergyman, Roger Williams, a man of ardent temperament, a clear reasoner, and very decided in his opinions. He came in conflict with the magistrates as he advanced sentiments which they deemed subversive of all authority,such as that obedience to the magistrate should not be enforced—that the oath of allegiance should not be required : he also denounced the law that compelled all persons to attend worship, as an infringement of the rights of conscience; he said the service of the church should be supported by its members, and not by a tax upon all the people. His principles were in advance of the age in which he lived : one hundred and forty years after this time they were fully carried out. He contended that the charter from the king was invalid ; the Indians were the original proprietors. The people repelled the aspersion as unjust, because they had purchased their lands from the Indians, and acknowledged their rights by making treaties with them. The contest waxed warm. Williams accepted an

invitation to Salem : the people of that place were admonOct., ished by the General Court to beware, lest they should

encourage sedition. Upon this he retired to Plymouth, there for two years he maintained his opinions unmolested. The people of the old colony had learned the lesson of toleration in their exile in Holland.

WILLIAMS A WANDERER.

79

Williams was again invited to Salem, in open defiance CHAP. of the authority of the General Court, the governing power of the colony. A committee of ministers held conferences 1635. and discussions with him, but without inducing him to retract. As the people of Salem sustained him, the Court admonished them, and pronounced the sentence of banishment against Williams. It was not the expression of opinions on the subject of conscience, or “soul-oppression, as he termed it, that alarmed the Court, but the expression of opinions which, if carried into effect, would, they affirmed, destroy all human government.

In midwinter, Williams became a wanderer for conscience' sake. He went to the sons of the forest for that protection denied him by his Christian brethren. For fourteen weeks he wandered; sometimes he received the simple hospitality of the natives ; sometimes his lodging-place was a hollow-tree. At last he was received into the cabin of Massasoit, at Mount Hope. He was the Indians' friend, and they loved him. He thought of settling at Seekonk, on Pawtucket river; that place being within the bounds of the Plymouth colony, Winslow, the governor, advised him to remove beyond their limits, lest it should create difficulty with the Bay colony. Williams received this advice in the spirit in which it was given, and removed to the country of the Narragansets. With five companions in a canoe, he went round to the west side of the arm of the bay. Landing at a beautiful spot, he found a spring of pure water. He resolved there to make a settlement. In thankfulness he called the place PROVIDENCE. Tradition 1636, at this day points out the spring near which he built his cabin. Canonicus, the chief of the Narragansets, would not sell his land, but gave him a little domain “ to enjoy forever.”

Williams here put in practice his theory of government. The land was given to him, and he distributed it to his followers. It was purely a government of the people. All

XI.

1637.

CHAP. promised to obey the voice of the majority in temporal

things : in things spiritual, to obey only God.

Discussions were still rife in Massachusetts on all subjects. The men held meetings, in which they discussed matters pertaining to their liberties ; edified each other with expositions of passages of Scripture, and criticized the weekly sermons of their ministers. As women were not allowed to speak in these meetings, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, a woman of great eloquence and talent, thought the rights of her sex were not properly respected ; she therefore held meetings for their benefit at her own house. At these meetings, theological opinions were advocated, at variance with those of the ministers and magistrates. The people became divided into two parties, and the affair soon took a political turn: on the one side were arrayed Winthrop and the older settlers, and with few exceptions, the ministers : on the other, Governor Vane and the adherents of Mrs. Hutchinson. She and her party were accustomed to speak of themselves as “ being under a covenant of grace," and of their opponents as “ being under a covenant of works." These indefinite phrases irritated her opponents exceedingly. They proclaimed her a despiser of all spiritual authority ; “like Roger Williams, or worse ;” and darkly insinuated that she was a witch. The friends of Mrs. Hutchinson spoke of appealing to the king; this was downright treason in the eyes of their opponents,—their allegiance was given to the government of the colony, not to the king. A convention of ministers was held, they investigated her doctrines, and declared them unsound and injurious. At the ensuing election, Winthrop was chosen governor; and soon after Vane left for England. Mrs. Hutchinson and her followers were admonished, but with

out effect; she, with her brother-in-law John Wheelwright, 1638. and others, were exiled from the colony. How much wiser

it would have been had the magistrates permitted her to

« PředchozíPokračovat »