Слике страница
PDF
ePub

opinions obviously tend to undermine the fundamental principles of a community, and lead to misrule and disorder, it would be folly to tolerate them. In much later and more enlightened times, it has been considered necessary to punish the blasphemer, and the active malignant infidel.

Gorton went to England and complained of Massachusetts for severe treatment, and the government there listened so far to his statement as to give directions, that he should be allowed to pass through their jurisdiction; but the assistants were divided in opinion, as to such indulgence to him, and the deputies were wholly opposed to it. He was not content with merely passing through the colony, but delayed his departure, in order to spread his obnoxious tenets, or to provoke the resentment of the government. The deputies and assistants joined in a remonstrance to the government of England against the order in favor of Gorton; and in their protest, while they recognised their dependence on the parent state, they contended for power, by their charter, to punish or banish all who were disturbers of the peace of the colony, and to make laws for the support of government, as they had established it.

There

Other troubles, growing out of religious opinions and forms, shortly after arose with the friends of episcopacy. were a few attached to the liturgy and other forms of the English established church, from the early settlement of the colony. But they were not allowed publicly to observe those forms of worship. They were considered by the puritans, as unscriptural and merely of human authority; and therefore, in their opinion, not to be tolerated in the colony. When charged by these few adherents of the episcopal church, with intolerant, arbitrary conduct, they referred to their charter, and insisted that they had a right to forbid the forms of worship inconsistent with the ecclesiastical system which was approved by the company in Massachusetts, and for the support of which they had suffered so much in settling the country. The wisdom of this policy may be justly doubted, since. particular forms and rites of religion are not essential to its spirit and tenor; but the right in a legal view perhaps will not be denied; and the toleration pleaded for would have been fatal to the design which they had in view. The error of the puritans consisted in assuming, that they had at last discovered the true meaning of revelation, in all things, and that it was their duty to allow no deviations from it. Governor Winslow, who was then in England, was employed by Massachusetts to defend the measures, of which both the fanatical Gorton, and the advocates of episcopacy complained. He prevented the evil which threatened the

51

colony, by his zeal and fidelity; but the indignation of the ministry was visited on him personally. On this occasion, as well as others, a protest was made against sustaining appeals to the parent government, by individuals, from the decisions given in the colony against them.

The general court of Massachusetts showed their abhorrence of the slave-trade in 1645, by ordering a Captain Smith to send back, at his own charge, some negroes, which he had brought to Piscataqua that year. It was proved that they had been taken by force or fraud on the coast of Guinea: and man-stealidg was made a capital crime by a law passed in 1649. There were some instances of negro slavery, however, in the colony, at an early period, and even to the time of the revolution; but they were few, and public sentiment appears to have been The slave-trade was never perunfavorable to the practice.

mitted by the government of Massachusetts.

About this period, an unpleasant dispute with the French, at Penobscot and St. Johns, which had given alarm and trouble for some time, was amicably terminated. Endicot was then governor (1644); and the commissioners of the united colonies at their meeting, in 1645, confirmed the treaty. The difficulty began when Winthrop was governor, in 1643; and he was censured, at first, for favoring the claims of La Tour, a Frenchman, in that quarter, against his rival, Monsieur D'Aulney. But Governor Winthrop was afterwards justified for the course he had pursued. The people of Plymouth, and Massachusetts, and the French at the eastward of Kennebec, depredated on each other, at that period; and the termination of the contest was highly beneficial. The seizures and the losses were not very great, but were severely felt, when the colony was feeble, and its navigation and trade just beginning to expand. England was then so much engaged in its internal affairs, that the colony adjusted the dispute with the French settlements, of its own authority and choice, though it had the sanction of the commissioners of the then New England colonies. D'Aulney was then in possession of Penobscot, and claimed as far as Penaquid, a few leagues east of Kennebec.

The advancing prosperity of the colony, and the enterprising spirit of the people, were witnessed, as by many other improvements, particularly by the introduction of iron works, which were established at Lynn and Braintree; and by ship-building, A ship of four hundred tons was which had much increased. built in Boston, in 1645. There were, at this time, twenty-six military companies, making three large regiments.

A period of tranquillity for several years, as to foreign nations

1

and Indian tribes, now succeeded. Meanwhile difficulties arose within the colony, which required the exercise of wisdom and prudence in the rulers. Some new laws were enacted, which the situation of the colony was believed to demand; ecclesiastical affairs received the attention of the civil authority, as well as of the clergy; the government of the church was regulated; the magistrates claimed the right to be consulted in the settlement of ministers, and in cases of controversies in churches, and in some cases to decide as to the correctness of theological opinions; supposed heresy was condemned; and the Baptists anduakers were mulct by heavy fines, and banished from the jurisdiction. It appears that great stress was laid on what was unimportant, both as to religious tenets and forms; but the manners of the people were generally sober and correct. And while much concern was manifested about speculative sentiments, and the external forms of religion, which, in the opinion of enlightened men, are of little moment, a wise care was also displayed, by providing for the education of children of all classes in the colony. Intemperance was punished, and all excess and extravagance were discountenanced. Those in power were religious characters, and generally were examples to the common people, by their virtuous and sober conduct. Efforts were also made, at this period, to instruct the Indians in the knowledge of the gospel, at Newton, Stoughton, and afterwards, at Natick, by Mr. Elliot, of Roxbury; while Mayhew was already laboring at the Vineyard, in the same benevolent work.

During the political disputes in England at this period, which so much excited the feelings of the people in that country, the colony of Massachusetts carefully avoided all interference; and, with great prudence, warned the inhabitants from engaging either against the king or the parliament. No doubt they really wished success to the cause of liberty, but they did not feel obliged publicly to declare themselves against either party.

In 1646, a synod was held at Cambridge, by recommendation of the civil authority. This was the second in the colony; the first was in 1637, and was called to consider the alarming prevalence of antinomianism and fanaticism. The synod in 1646, was for the purpose of settling some form of church government and discipline, and to prepare a confession of faith for all the churches in the country. There were various supposed heresies then beginning to prevail, which it was thought should be suppressed; and some attempts were made to have a presbyterian form of church government. The result, as to church government, was favorable to the

congregational form, as already maintained in Massachusetts and Plymouth; and the doctrines professed were such as the puritans had then long received. Objections were made to the manner of calling the synod, which was by order of the General Court. The court explained, "that they meant only to recommend or advise;" and this explanation was satisfactory to those who were jealous of the interference of the civil power in ecclesiastical affairs. The synod did not finish its labors, and report, till 1648.

The laws enacted, and in force in the colony, after having been carefully collated, and revised by committees of the General Court and several clergymen, were this year printed at Cambridge, for circulation among the people. An abstract of the fundamental laws of Massachusetts, prepared or collected by Rev. Mr. Cotton, and Governor Vane, in 1636, was published in England in 1641; but it does not appear that they were printed by order of the colonial government.*

The first instance of pretended witchcraft in the colony, which arrested the notice of the civil authority, was in 1648; when a Mrs. Jones was condemned and executed on a charge of that diabolical act. It is, truly, a subject of astonishment, that the belief of the black art should have prevailed with the learned men of that time; and that such frivolous stories and circumstances should have been received as evidence.

By the death of Governor Winthrop, in 1649, Massachusetts sustained a severe loss. He had been the principal character in the colony, from its first settlement in 1630. Alike firm and mild in his disposition, he was qualified to govern with decision and clemency. His was the popularity, which arises from the approbation of the intelligent and virtuous in the community; but he never sought for popular applause by flattering a party, or forbearing to do what the public good required. Dudley succeeded him; and he had the public confidence for his integrity and disinterestedness; but he was less tolerant than Winthrop, and wanted somewhat of the prudence and discretion of that truly eminent man; and Endicot, Bellingham, and Bradstreet, still remained to assist in directing the public affairs of the colony.

The colony of Plymouth, during several years, had slowly

* There is some difficulty in deciding when the laws of Massachusetts were first printed, as the early writers give different dates on the subject. It appears, that there were several orders for collecting them for publication; but that they were not printed till 1648, according to Johnson and HutchinHubbard says in 1654; and Minot, in 1658. Perhaps there were separate editions at these periods. Johnson gives the reason, "that they might be seen by all men."

son.

advanced in population and wealth. They built some vessels in this time, and had trading houses on the Kennebec and on Connecticut. For many years, both the executive and legislative authority were in the hands of the governor and assistants. But now (1646,) a house of representatives was added to the legislative body, consisting of two from each town. This continued till the usurpation of Andros, in 1686. They were almost invariably on terms of amity and friendship with Massachusetts, of which they became a part in 1692. They were always ready to afford aid to each other; and friendly intercourse was dictated alike, by public interest, and sympathy in religious views.

In the time of the commonwealth of England, Massachusetts had little concern, as to complaints for its exercise of political power to any extent; and the maintenance of order and peace in the colony made it necessary for them to assume all the authority of a sovereign state. They had always made war and peace with the Indian tribes, without asking the sanction of England; they had denied the right of appeal to that government, and had enacted laws, which, if not directly repugnant to those of the parent state, were of a very different character, and were obnoxious to those in power in the kingdom. They now coined money, for circulation, which had been considered an exclusive prerogative of sovereignty; and which indicated no other authority over that of Massachusetts. The coin was issued for several years, but all bore the date of 1652. But after the restoration of Charles II. this measure was enumerated in the catalogue of complaints against the colony.

A misunderstanding arose between Massachusetts and Connecticut, a few years after the confederation, in which the conduct of the former was generally censured. Connecticut had required a small duty or custom on goods carried out of the river, for the support of the fort at its mouth. Massachusetts complained of this, particularly as it was a tax on their trade from Springfield. In revenge for this measure, Massachusetts demanded a duty of the vessels belonging to all the colonies trading with Boston. Plymouth and New Haven complained of this act, as oppressive and unjust; and in 1650, the order of Massachusetts was rescinded. At this period, Massachusetts was far the most able colony; more powerful than all the others united. And in all associations of men, the strongest has dictated, more or less, to the weaker. The proportions of the sum of £1043, levied on the four colonies, for the benefit of all, were as follows, viz: Massachusetts, £670; Plymouth, £128; Connecticut, £140; and New Haven, Ci04.

« ПретходнаНастави »