Слике страница

The council for the affairs of New England, (which was incorporated in 1620,) granted to certain knights and gentlemen, about Dorchester, in England, in 1628, the territory lying between the rivers Charles and Merrimac, and extending three miles south of all and any streams connected with the former, and three miles north of the latter; and west to the southern ocean. This grant was soon after confirmed by Charles I., and a patent was issued, under the broad seal of England, giving power to govern the colony to be there established. Endicot, Johnson, Saltonstal, Humfrey, Vassall, Nowell, Pynchon, and Bellingham, were among the patentees. The next year, Winthrop, Dudley, and others, at the instance of Rev. Mr. White, were associated with them. Matthew Craddock was chosen the first governor of the company, in England; but as he did not purpose to remove to New England, Winthrop was chosen to that place, before the company embarked, in 1630; and it was then also voted to transfer the powers of government to Massachusetts, where the settlement was to be made. Dudley was, at the same time, chosen deputy governor; and a board of assistants, viz. Endicot, Saltonstal, Humfrey, Johnson, Pynchon, Nowell, Coddington, Vassall, and Sharp.

By the royal charter, the patentees of Massachusetts, their associates and successors were declared a body politic: the governor, deputy governor and assistants, with the other members of the company, had power to make laws and orders for the general good, not repugnant to the laws of England, and to punish all violations of such laws. This instrument was made a sufficient warrant to the officers of the colony to execute its laws, even against the subjects of England, who might visit there for trade, or other business; to punish, pardon and govern all such, as well as those who had settled within the plantation. The laws of England were early recognised in the jurisdiction, except in so far as the condition of the colony required additions and alterations.

The first court of assistants, after the company arrived, of which the governor and deputy governor were, officially, chief members, was held at Charlestown, on the 23d of August. This court was also in session twice in September; and in October there was a general court, composed of all the freemen or members of the company within the limits of the patent, when it was agreed, that the assistants should be chosen by the whole body of freemen, and that the assistants should chose the governor and deputy governor from their number. These latter, with the board of assistants, were authorized to

make orders and laws for the government of the colony, and to appoint officers to execute them.

Soon after the arrival and settlement of the company, one hundred and eight persons expressed a desire to take the oath required of the freemen of the jurisdiction; some of whom had been in the country several years, as Maverick, Blackstone, and Conant. The next year, it was ordered that none but members of the church should be admitted to the privileges of freemen. This was justly considered a grievance by those who were not of the church. But it continued to be the law for many from the first settlement.

The power of the lay members of the church was equal to that of the pastor or teacher, except that the latter was er officio moderator of the church meetings, and the authority to administer the ordinances belonged exclusively to him. Each church was admitted to have all power necessary to be exercised for discipline and government, and for the choice and separation of the clergymen; and therefore were, at first, called independents; but afterwards, were generally denominated congregationalists.

The Indians near Boston manifested a friendly spirit towards the company, which settled there in 1630, as they had done to the people of Salem. They were, indeed, so few in that immediate vicinity, that they must have been unsuccessful in any attack on the English, unless they had received recruits from a distance. In 1632, there was an apprehension that a conspiracy was forming against them by the natives, but there was no satisfactory proof of such a design, at that period; and the Neponset chief, and other petty sachems, were then on good terms with the government. Part of Boston was purchased of Blackstone, soon after the arrival of the company in 1630, though not all, immediately. He probably bought of the Indians, as they were on friendly terms with him; and in other instances, as Salem and Charlestown, the full consent of the natives was given, for some small consideration, that the English might have possession. In no case, does it appear, that the lands were occupied by force or fraud. The natives were few, and they put a small value on the soil. It was in perfect good faith that the sales and purchases of the different tracts were made. So it was in Plymouth colony. Governor Josiah Winslow, in 1675, says in a public document, "that no lands there had been taken up, but by purchase, and consent of the natives who claimed them."

Under the direction of such able and worthy men as Winthrop, all proper regulations were early made, for maintaining

the peace of the community, and for providing the necessary means of safety and defence. They felt fully competent, by the grants of power in their charter from the king, and by virtue of their rights as Englishmen, to make laws for the support of civil authority. It will be seen, by reference to the powers given in that instrument, as before stated, that they might with propriety exercise all the authority requisite for self-government, and for the protection and welfare of the colony. That they were ready to use all the powers granted by their charter, there is abundant proof; and if they exceeded those powers, it was generally, if not in all cases, owing to their distant location from the parent country, which rendered the exercise of sovereign authority necessary; or to their jealous care to preserve their religious liberty.

Several courts of assistants were holden, within a few months after their landing at Charlestown. The first was in August, two were in September, two in October, and others in November and December. After forming anew into churches, at Charlestown, Watertown and Dorchester, and ordering a support for the Clergymen, particularly of the two former, and providing houses for the approaching winter, they consulted for preparing a fortified town, in a central and proper place, for protection against the natives, of whose disposition towards them they could not be fully informed in a few months. The places mentioned for this purpose, were Boston, Roxbury, Watertown and Cambridge, then called the New Town. The general opinion was in favor of the latter, for the chief town, where the principal characters were to live; and Winthrop, Dudley, and others accordingly prepared to build in that place. But in the spring of 1631, it was concluded, that Boston should be the capital of the colony, and there Winthrop and some other public men fixed their residence. This caused a temporary coldness between Winthrop and Dudley, who sustained some pecuniary losses by the change; but a cordial reconciliation soon took place between them. As at Plymouth, soon after the arrival of the pilgrims, there was much sickness. among the people who came to Massachusetts in 1630. About two hundred of the company died, within the first year. Whether this is to be attributed to change of climate, or poor provisions, or unusual exposure to the cold, it is difficult to decide. Their privations and sufferings were very great; and their condition was far different from that in which most of them had before lived. On finding that their stock of provisions was fast spending, they despatched a ship, early in the autumn, for Ireland; which returned in February following, and gave great relief to the plantation.

The magistrates were consulted, by the government of Plymouth, in October, as to the execution of a man, for murder, committed within that jurisdiction; and they advised that he should be put to death, "that the land might be purged of blood." It was a plain case of felonious homicide. But it was a question, with some in Plymouth, whether the colonial government had authority to inflict capital punishment; or whether the case should not be referred to the judicial tribunals in England. The charter for Massachusetts was explicit on this point. During the first year, one hundred and eight persons were admitted freemen; the most of whom came over with the governor and his company in June, 1630; but some were admitted who were in the country before their arrival. The original patentees, their heirs and assigns, were considered members of the company, and freemen of the jurisdiction; but, in 1631, it was ordered, that none should be of the General Court, and be allowed to vote for the election of governor and assistants, except they were also members of one of the churches. The General Court was composed of the whole body of freemen at first, by whom the Governor and assistants were elected, who had all judicial and legislative power in their hands; the people had then no further power or care in the government.

In the large company which arrived in Massachusetts, in 1630, there were many gentlemen of family, property and education. Winthrop, Dudley, Saltonstal, Nowell, Ludlow, Bellingham, Bradstreet, Pynchon, Coddington and others, were men of good information and more than ordinary learning; and those of the clerical profession among them were also well educated characters.

The clergy, from the first settlement, and for a long period after, had great influence, not only in the church, but in the civil government. This influence arose from their learning and piety; the sacred office alone gave them little power. The spirit of equality which prevailed among the puritans, in many respects placed the clergy and the laity on a level. But the clergy of that period were not mere theologians; they had been led to inquire into the nature of civil government. The state of England had forced the subject on their attention. Hence their competency to judge in political and social, as well as ecclesiastical affairs. They were therefore often consulted on the concerns of civil government; as to the separate powers of legislators and judges, of the peculiar authority of the board of assistants and of the assembly of deputies, and of the propriety of making war and peace. And, if the clergy were sometimes permitted and invited to give advice, touching political matters,

the civil magistrates claimed authority to direct or to advise in ecclesiastical affairs. Such power was often exercised by them, not merely as individual members of a church, but when acting as a body and in the capacity of magistrates. They aimed not at a real alliance of the church and state; but they contended, that religious teachers and institutions were necessary to the good order of society; and they considered it their duty to regulate the churches and to keep them pure.

Many individuals of the company, who formed the first settlement, were intelligent and judicious, as well as pious characters. Winthrop, especially, was well qualified for the leader and governor of this infant colony, by his literary attainments, his legal and political knowledge, and by his prudence and discretion as well as by his strict probity.* A close, if not a severe discipline was necessary for some in the plantation, who were not of the church, but who had come over as servants, or as mere adventurers for gain. Six persons were sent to England with Captain Pierce in the spring of 1631, as they were thought to be dangerous to the order of the colony and the morals of the people. Some of the leading men of the company returned to England in 1630, and early in 1631; as Sir R. Saltonstal, Messrs. Coddington, Revel, Vassall, and Sharp. But additions were made to the colony, by emigrations in 1631; and a number of neat cattle were also imported.

At a meeting, in May 1631, of the freemen, and the governor, deputy governor, and assistants of the preceding year, which was called "the General Court," it was agreed, that there should be such a meeting or court, annually, and the freemen propose such for assistants as they chose. Winthrop and Dudley were then chosen to be governor and deputy governor. It was soon after agreed that the assistants should be chosen by the whole body of freemen; and the governor and deputy governor be selected out of that body. The emigrations were greater in 1632 than in 1631; and the settlements in the jurisdiction were extended. Governor Winthrop had a farm at Medford or Mistic; where he built a small vessel called "The Blessing of the Bay."

On the levy of the first tax, the people of Watertown objected to pay it, alleging that it was without just authority,

* Gov. Bradford says, in a letter, "the Governor of Massachusetts is that worthy and pious gentleman, John Winthrop, under whose able, prudent and godly government, the plantation and churches there have much increased, to the great joy of our hearts and of all good men." Fuller, a physician and deacon of the church at Plymouth, says, "Gov. Winthrop is a godly, wise and discreet gentleman, humble withal, and of a fine and good temper."

« ПретходнаНастави »