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The History of the United States from 1492 to 1910, Volume 1
The Spirit of the Puritans
by Hawthorne, Julian

Among the characteristic figures of this age, none shows stronger lineaments than that of John Endicott. He was, at the time of his coming to Massachusetts, not yet forty years of age; he remained there till his death at six-and-seventy. He was repeatedly elected governor, and died in the governor's chair. In 1645 he was made Major-general of the Colonial troops; nine years before he had headed a campaign against the Pequot Indians. His character illustrated the full measure of Puritan sternness; he was an inflexible persecutor of the Quakers, and was instrumental in causing four of them to be executed in Boston. In his career is found no feeble passage; he was always Endicott. He was a man grown before he attained, under the ministrations of Samuel Skelton of Cambridge, in England, the religious awakening which placed him in the forefront of the Puritan dissenters of his time; and it may be surmised that the force of nature which gave him his self-command would, otherwise directed, have opened still wider the gates of license and recklessness which marked the conduct of many in that period. But, having taken his course, he disciplined himself to the strictest observances, and required them of others. He was a man of perfect moral and physical courage, austere and choleric; yet there was in him a certain cheerfulness and kindliness, like sunshine touching the ruggedness of a granite bowlder. An old portrait of him presents a full and ruddy countenance, without a beard, and with large eyes which gaze sternly out upon the beholder. When the Massachusetts Company was formed, it contained many men of pith and mark, such as Saltonstall, Bellingham, Eaton, and others; but, by common consent, Endicott was chosen as the first governor of the new realm, and he sailed for Boston harbor in June, 1628. He took with him his wife and children, and a small following of fit companions, and landed in September.

Many tales are told of the doings of Endicott in Massachusetts. Like those of all strong men, his deeds were often embellished with legendary ornaments, but the exaggerations, if such there be, are colored by a true conception of his character. At the time of his advent, there was at Merrymount, or Mount Walloston, now within the boundaries of Quincy, near Boston, a colony which was a survival of the one founded by Thomas Weston, through the agency of Thomas Morton, an English lawyer, who was more than once brought to book for unpuritanical conduct. Here was collected, in 1628, a number of waifs and strays, and other persons, not in sympathy with the rigorous habits of the Puritans, whose proceedings were of a more or less licentious and unbecoming quality, calculated to disturb the order and propriety of the realm. Endicott, on being apprised of their behavior, went thither with some armed men, and put a summary end to the colony; Morton was sent back to England, and the "revelries" which he had countenanced or promoted were seen no more in Massachusetts. The era for gayeties had not yet come in the new world. Endicott would not be satisfied with crushing out evil; he would also nip in the bud all such lightsome and frivolous conduct as might lead those who indulged in it to forget the dangers and difficulties attending the planting of the reformed faith in the wilderness.

More impressive yet is the story of how he resented the project of Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the most zealous supporter of the follies and iniquities of King Charles, to force the ritual of the orthodox church upon the people of Massachusetts. When Endicott received from Governor Winthrop the letter containing this news, whose purport, it carried out, would undo all that the Puritans had most passionately labored to establish; for which they had given up their homes and friends, and to the safe-guarding of which they had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor:--he was deeply stirred, and resolved that a public demonstration should be made of the irrevocable opposition of the people to the measure. He was at that time captain of the trained band of Salem, which was used to meet for drill in the square of the little settlement. It had for a long time disquieted Endicott and other Puritan leaders that the banner of England, under which, as Englishmen, they must live and fight, should bear upon it the sign of the red cross, which was the very emblem of the popery which their souls abhorred. It had seemed to them almost a sin to tolerate it; and yet it was treason to take any liberties with the national ensign. But Endicott was now in a mood to encounter any risk; since, if Laud's will were enforced, there would be little left in New England worth fighting for.

Accordingly, on the next training day, when the able men of Salem were drawn up in their breastplates and headpieces, with the Red-Cross flag floating over them, and the rest of the townspeople, with here and there an Indian among them, looking on: Endicott, in his armor, with his sword upon his thigh, spoke in passionate terms to the assembly of the matter which weighed upon his heart. And then, as a symbol of the Puritan protest, and a pledge of his vital sincerity, he took the banner in his hand, and, drawing his sword, cut the cross out of its folds. The unparalleled audacity and rashness of this act, which might have brought upon New England a revocation of her charter and destruction of the liberties which already exceeded those vouchsafed to Englishmen at home, alarmed Winthrop, and sent a thrill throughout the colony. But the deed was too public to be disavowed, and Endicott and they must abide the consequences. Information of the outrage was carried to Charles; but he was fortunately too much preoccupied at the moment with the struggle for his crown at home to be able to take proper action upon the slight put upon his authority in Salem. No punishment was inflicted upon the bold soldier, who thus anticipated by nearly a century and a half the step finally taken by the patriots of 1776.

To return, however, to Endicott's arrival in Boston (as it was afterward named, in honor of that Lincolnshire Boston from which many of the emigrants came). There were already a few settlers there, who had come in from various motives, and one or two of whom were inclined to assert squatter sovereignty. The rights of the Indians were respected, in accordance with the injunctions of the Company; and Sagamore John, who asserted his rights as chief over the neck of land and the hilly promontory of the present city, was so courteously entreated that he permitted the erection of a house there, and the laying out of streets. While these preparations were going forward, the bulk of the first emigration, numbering two hundred persons, with servants, cattle, arms and other provisions, entered the harbor. They had had a prosperous and pious voyage, being much refreshed with religious services performed daily; and it may be recorded as perhaps a unique fact in the annals of ocean navigation that the ship captain and the sailors punctuated the setting of the morning and noon watches with the singing of psalms and with prayer. This sounds apocryphal; but it is stated in the narrative of "New England's Plantation," written and circulated by Mr. Higginson soon after their arrival; and it must be remembered that the ship carried a supply of personages of the clerical profession out of proportion to the number of the rest of the passengers. But palliate the marvel how we may, we cannot help smiling at it, and at the same time regretting that the Puritans themselves probably had no realization of the miracle which was transacting under their noses. They doubtless regarded it as a matter of course, instead of a thing to occur but once in a precession of the equinoxes.

And now, it might be supposed, began the building of the city: the clearing of the forest, the chopping of wood, the sawing of beams, the digging of foundations, the ringing of hammers, and the uprising on every side of the dwellings of civilization. And certainly steps were taken to provide the company with shelter from the present summer heats and from the snows of winter to come; and they had brought with them artisans skilled to do the necessary work. But though the Puritans never could be called remiss in respect of making due provision for the necessities of this life, yet all was done with a view to the conditions of the life to come; and in the annals of the time we read more of the prayers and fasts, the choosing of ministers, and the promotion and practice of godliness in general, than we do of any temporal matters. Men there were, like Endicott, who united the strictest religious zeal with all manner of practical abilities; but there were many, too, who had been no more accustomed to shift for themselves than were the gentlemen of Jamestown. They differed from the latter, however, in an enlightened conception of the work before them, in enthusiasm for the commonweal, and in determination to familiarize themselves as soon as possible with the requirements of their situation. The town did not come up in a night, like the shanty cities of our western pioneers; nor did it contain gambling houses and liquor saloons as its chief public buildings. These men were building a social structure meant to last for all time, and houses in which they hoped to pass the years of their natural lives; and they proceeded with what we would now consider unwarrantable deliberation and with none too much technical skill. They sought neither wealth nor the luxuries it brings; but, rather, welcomed hardship, as apt to chasten the spirit; and never felt themselves so thoroughly about their proper business as when they were assembled in the foursquare little log hut which they had consecrated as the house of God. Boston and Salem grew: they were larger and more commodious at the end of the twelvemonth than they had been at its beginning; but more cannot be said. Sickness, misfortune, and scarcity handicapped the settlers; many died; the yield of their crops was wholly inadequate to their needs; servants whose work was indispensable could not be paid, and were set free to work for themselves, and the outlook was in all respects gloomy. If the enterprise was to be saved, the Lord must speedily send succor.

The Lord did not forget His people. A great relief was already preparing for them, and the way of it was thus.--

The record of the former chartered companies had shown that conducting the affairs of colonists on the other side of the ocean was attended with serious difficulties on both parts. The colonists could not make their needs known with precision enough, or in season, to have them adequately met; and the governing company was unable to get a close knowledge of its business, or to explain and enforce its requirements. Furthermore, there was liable to be continual vexatious interference on the part of the king and his officers, detrimental to the welfare of colonists and company alike.

The men who constituted the Massachusetts Company were not concerned respecting the pecuniary profits of the venture, inasmuch as they looked only for the treasures which moth nor rust can corrupt; their "plantation" was to the glory of God, not to the imbursement of man. Nor were they anxious to impose their will upon the emigrants, or solicitous lest the latter should act unseemly; for the men who were there were of the same character and aim as those who were in England, and there could be no differences between them beyond such as might legitimately arise as to the most expedient way of reaching a given end. But the Company could easily apprehend that the king and his ministers might meddle with their projects and bring them to naught; and since those affairs, unlike mercantile ones, were not of a nature to admit of compromise, they earnestly desired to prevent this contingency.

Debating the matter among themselves, the leaders of the organization conceived the idea of establishing the headquarters of the Company in the midst of the emigrants in America: of becoming, in other words, emigrants themselves, and working side by side with their brethren for the common good. This plan offered manifest attractions; it would remove them from unwelcome propinquity to the Court, would be of great assistance to the work to do which the Company was formed, would give them the satisfaction of feeling that they were giving their hands as well as their hearts to the service of God, and, not least, would give notice to all the Puritans in England, now a great and influential body, that America was the most suitable ground for their earthly sojourning.

These considerations determined them; and it remained only to put the plan into execution. Twelve men of wealth and education, eminent among whom was John Winthrop, the future governor of the little commonwealth, met and exchanged solemn vows that, if the transference could legally be accomplished, they would personally voyage to New England and take up their permanent residence there. The question was shortly after put to the general vote, and unanimously agreed to; a commercial corporation (as ostensibly the Company was) created itself the germ of an independent commonwealth; and on October 20th John Winthrop was chosen governor for the ensuing twelvemonth; money was subscribed to defray expenses; as speedily as possible ships were chartered or purchased; the numbers of the members of the Company were increased, and their resources augmented, by the addition of many outside persons in harmony with the movement, and willing to support it with their fortunes and themselves; and by the early spring of 1630 a fleet of no less than seventeen ships, accommodating nearly a thousand emigrants representing the very best blood and brain of England, was ready to sail.

At the moment of departing, there was a quailing of the spirit on the part of some of the emigrants; but Winthrop comforted them; he told them that they must "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace"; that, in the wilderness, they would see more of God than they could in England; and that their plantation should be of such a quality as that the founders of future plantations should pray that "The Lord make it likely that of New England." These were good words. Nevertheless, there were not a few seceders, and it was not till the year had advanced that the full number of vessels found their way to the port of Boston. But eleven ships, including the Arbella which bore Winthrop, sailed at once, with seven hundred men and women, and every appliance that experience and forethought could suggest for the convenience and furtherance of life in a new country. Their going made a deep impression throughout England.

And well it might! For these people were not unknown and rude, like the Plymouth Pilgrims; they were not fiercely intolerant fanatics, whose sincerity might be respected, but whose company must be irksome to all less extreme than themselves. They were of gentle blood and training; persons whose acquaintance was a privilege; who added to the richness and charm of social life. That people of this kind should remove themselves to the wilderness meant much more, to the average mind, than that religious outcasts like the Pilgrims should do so. For the latter, one place might be as good as another; but that the others should give up their homes and traditions for the hardships and isolation of such an existence seemed incomprehensible; and when no other motive could be found than that which they professed--"the honor of God"--grave thoughts could not but be awakened. The sensation was somewhat the same as if, in our day, a hundred thousand of the most favorably known and highly endowed persons in the country were to remove to Chinese Tartary to escape from the corruption and frivolity of business and social life, and to create an ideal community in the desert. We could smile at such a hegira if Tom, Dick and Harry were concerned in it; but if the men and women of light and leading abandon us, the implied indictment is worth heeding.

The personal character and nature of Winthrop are well known, and may serve as a type for the milder aspect of his companions. He was of a gentle and conciliating temper, affectionate, and prizing the affection of others. There was a certain sweetness about him, a tendency to mild joyousness, a desire to harmonize all conflicts, a disposition to think good, that good might come of it. He was indisposed to violence in opinion as much as in act; he believed that love was the fulfilling of the law, and would dissolve opposition to the law, if it were allowed time and opportunity. His cultivated intellect recognized a certain inevitableness, or preordained growth in mortal affairs, which made him sympathetic even toward those who differed from him, for did they not use the best light they had? He conformed to the English church, and yet he absented himself from England, not being willing to condemn the orthodox ritual, yet feeling that the Gospel in its purity could be more intimately enjoyed in America. He was no believer in the theory of democratic equality; it seemed to him contrary to natural order; there were degrees and gradations in all things, men included; there were those fitted to govern, and those fitted to serve; power should be in the hands of the few, but they should be "the wisest of the best." He had no doubts as to the obligations of loyalty to the King, and yet he gave up home and ease to live where the King was a sentiment rather than a fact. But beneath all this engaging softness there was strength in Winthrop; the fiber of him was fine, but it was of resolute temper. Simple goodness is one of the mightiest of powers, and he was good in all simplicity. He could help his servants in the humblest household drudgery, and yet preserve the dignity befitting the Governor of the people. He was not a man to be bullied or terrified, but his wisdom and forbearance disarmed an enemy, and thus removed all need of fighting him. He dominated those around him spontaneously and involuntarily; they, as it were, insisted upon being led by him, and commanded him to exact their obedience. His influence was purifying, encouraging, uplifting, and upon the whole conservative; had he lived a hundred years later, he would not have been found by the side of Adams, Patrick Henry, and James Otis. Sympathy and courtesy made him seem yielding; yet, like a tree that bends to the breeze, he still maintained his place, and was less changeable than many whose stubbornness did not prevent their drifting. His insight and intelligence may have enabled him to foresee to what a goal the New England settlers were bound; but though he would have sympathized with them, he would not have been swayed to join them. As it was, he wrought only good to them, for they were in the formative stage, when moderation helps instead of hindering. He mediated between the state they were approaching, and that from which they came, and he died before the need of alienating himself from them arrived. His resoluteness was shown in his resistance to Anne Hutchinson and her supporter, Sir Harry Vane, who professed the heresy that faith absolved from obedience to the moral law; they were forced to quit the colony; and so was Roger Williams, as lovely as and in some respects a loftier character than Winthrop. In reviewing the career of this distinguished and engaging man, we are surprised that he should have found it on his conscience to leave England. Endicott was born to subdue the wilderness, and so was many another of the Puritans; but it seems as if Winthrop might have done and said in King Charles's palace all that he did and said in Massachusetts, without offense. But it is probable that his moderation appears greater in the primitive environment than it would have done in the civilized one; and again, the impulse to restrain others from excess may have made him incline more than he would otherwise have done toward the other side.

But tradition has too much disposed us to think of the Puritans as of men who had thrown aside all human tenderness and sympathy, and were sternly and gloomily preoccupied with the darker features of religion exclusively. Winthrop corrects this judgment; he was a Puritan, though he was sunny and gentle; and there were many others who more or less resembled him. The reason that the somber type is the better known is partly because of its greater picturesqueness and singularity, and partly because the early life of New England was on the whole militant and aggressive, and therefore brought the rigid and positive qualities more prominently forward.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the piety of the dominating powers in Massachusetts during the first years of the colony's existence. It was almost a mysticism. That intimate and incommunicable experience which is sometimes called "getting religion"--the Lord knocking at the door of the heart and being admitted--was made the condition of admission to the responsible offices of government. This was to make God the ruler, through instruments chosen by Himself--theoretically a perfect arrangement, but in practice open to the gravest perils. It not merely paved the way to imposture, but invited it; and the most dangerous imposture is that which imposes on the impostor himself. It created an oligarchy of the most insidious and unassailable type: a communion of earthly "saints," who might be, and occasionally were, satans at heart. It is essentially at variance with democracy, which it regards as a surrender to the selfish license of the lowest range of unregenerate human nature; and yet it is incompatible with hereditary monarchy, because the latter is based on uninspired or mechanical selection. The writings of Cotton Mather exhibit the peculiarities and inconsistencies of Puritanism in the most favorable and translucent light, for Mather was himself wedded to them, and of a most inexhaustible fertility in their exposition.

Winthrop was responsible for the "Oath of Fidelity," which required its taker to suffer no attempt to change or alter the government contrary to its laws; and for the law excluding from the freedom of the body politic all who were not members of its church communion. The people, however, stipulated that the elections should be annual, and each town chose two representatives to attend the court of assistants. But having thus asserted their privileges, they forbore to interfere with the judgment of their leaders, and maintained them in office. The possible hostility of England, the strangeness and dangers of their surroundings in America, and the appalling prevalence of disease and mortality among them, possibly drove them to a more than normal fervor of piety. Since God was so manifestly their only sword and shield, and was reputed to be so terrible and implacable in His resentments, it behooved them to omit no means of conciliating His favor.

Winthrop found anything but a land flowing with milk and honey, when he arrived at Salem, where the ships first touched. As when, twenty years before, Delaware came to Jamestown, the people were on the verge of starvation, and it was necessary to send a vessel back to England for supplies. There were acute suffering and scarcity all along the New England coast, and though the spirit of resignation was there, it seemed likely that there would be soon little flesh left through which to manifest it. The physical conditions were intolerable. The hovels in which the people were living were wretched structures of rough logs, roofed with straw, with wooden chimneys and narrow and darksome interiors. They were patched with bark and rags; many were glad to lodge themselves in tents devised of fragments of drapery hung on a framework of boughs. The settlement was in that transition state between crude wilderness and pioneer town, when the appearance is most repulsive and disheartening. There is no order, uniformity, or intelligent procedure. There is a clump of trees of the primeval forest here, the stumps and litter of a half-made clearing there, yonder a patch of soil newly and clumsily planted; wigwams and huts alternate with one another; men are digging, hewing, running to head back straying cattle, toiling in with fragments of game on their shoulders; yonder a grave is being dug in the root-encumbered ground, and hard by a knot of mourners are preparing the corpse for interment. There is no rest or comfort anywhere for eye or heart. The only approximately decent dwelling in Salem at this time was that of John Endicott. Higginson was dying of a fever. Lady Arbella, who had accompanied her husband, Isaac Johnson, had been ailing on the voyage, and lingered here but a little while before finding a grave. In a few months two hundred persons perished. It was no place for weaklings--or for evil-doers either; among the earliest of the established institutions were the stocks and the whipping-post, and they were not allowed to stand idle.

Winthrop and most of the others soon moved on down the coast toward Boston. It had been the original intention to keep the emigrants in one body, but that was found impracticable; they were forced to divide up into small parties, who settled where they best could, over an area of fifty or a hundred miles. Nantasket, Watertown, Charlestown, Saugus, Lynn, Maiden, Roxbury, all had their handfuls of inhabitants. It was exile within exile; for miles meant something in these times. More than a hundred of the emigrants, cowed by the prospect, deserted the cause and returned to England. Yet Winthrop and the other leaders did not lose heart, and their courage and tranquillity strengthened the others. It is evidence of the indomitable spirit of these people that one of their first acts was to observe a day of fasting and prayer; a few days later the members of the congregation met and chose their pastor, John Wilson, and organized the first Church of Boston. They did not wait to build the house of God, but met beneath the trees, or gathered round a rock which might serve the preacher as a pulpit. There was simplicity enough to satisfy the most conscientious. "We here enjoy God and Jesus Christ," wrote Winthrop: "I do not repent my coming: I never had more content of mind."

After a year there were but a thousand settlers in Massachusetts. Among them was Roger Williams, a man so pure and true as of himself to hallow the colony; but it is illustrative of the intolerance which was from the first inseparable from Puritanism, that he was driven away because he held conscience to be the only infallible guide. We cannot blame the Puritans; they had paid a high price for their faith, and they could not but guard it jealously. Their greatest peril seemed to them to be dissension or disagreements on points of belief; except they held together, their whole cause was lost. Williams was no less an exile for conscience' sake than they; but as he persisted in having a conscience strictly his own, instead of pooling it with that of the church, they were constrained to let him go. They did not perceive, then or afterward, that such action argued feeble faith. They could not, after all, quite trust God to take care of His own; they dared not believe that He could reveal Himself to others as well as to them; they feared to admit that they could have less than the whole truth in their keeping. So they banished, whipped, pilloried, and finally even hanged dissenters from their dissent. We, whose religious tolerance is perhaps as excessive as theirs was deficient, are slow to excuse them for this; but they believed they were fighting for much more than their lives; and as for faith in God, it is surely no worse to fall into error regarding it than to dismiss it altogether.

In a community where the integrity of the church was the main subject of concern, it could not be long before religious conservatism would be reflected in the political field. Representative government was conceded in theory; but in practice, Winthrop and others thought that it would be better ignored; the people could not easily meet for deliberations, and how could their affairs be in better hands than those of the saints, who already had charge of them? But the people declined to surrender their liberties; there should be rotation in office; voting should be by ballot instead of show of hands. Taxation was restricted; and in 1635 there was agitation for a written constitution; and the relative authority of the deputies and the assistants was in debate. Our national predisposition to "talk politics" had already been born.

Among these early inconsistencies and disagreements Roger Williams stood out as the sole fearless and logical figure. Consistency and bravery were far from being his only good qualities; in drawing his portrait, the difficulty is to find shadows with which to set off the lights of his character. The Puritans feared the world, and even their own constancy; Williams feared nothing; but he would reverence and obey his conscience as the voice of God in his breast, before which all other voices must be hushed. He was not only in advance of his time: he was abreast of any times; nothing has ever been added to or detracted from his argument. When John Adams wrote to his son, John Quincy Adams, "Your conscience is the Minister Plenipotentiary of God Almighty placed in your breast: see to it that this minister never negotiates in vain," he did but attire in the diplomatic phraseology which came naturally to him the thought which Williams had avouched and lived more than a century before. Though absolutely radical, Williams was never an extremist; he simply went to the fountain-head of reason and truth, and let the living waters flow whither they might. The toleration which he demanded he always gave; of those who had most evilly entreated him he said, "I did ever from my soul honor and love them, even when their judgment led them to afflict me." His long life was one of the most unalloyed triumphs of unaided truth and charity that our history records; and the State which he founded presented, during his lifetime, the nearest approach to the true Utopia which has thus far been produced.

Roger Williams was a Welshman, born in 1600, and dying, in the community which he had created, eighty-five years later. His school was the famous Charterhouse; his University, Cambridge; and he took orders in the Church of England. But the protests of the Puritans came to his ears before he was well installed; and he examined and meditated upon them with all the quiet power of his serene and penetrating mind. It was not long before he saw that truth lay with the dissenting party; and, like Emerson long afterward, he at once left the communion in which he had thought to spend his life. He came to Massachusetts in 1631, and, as we have seen, was not long in discovering that he was more Puritan than the Puritans. When differences arose, he departed to the Plymouth Colony, and there abode for several useful years.

But though the men of Boston and Salem feared him, they loved him and recognized his ability; indeed, they never could rid themselves of an uneasy sense that in all their quarrels it was he who had the best of the argument; they were often reduced to pleading necessity or expediency, when he replied with plain truth. He responded to an invitation to return to Salem, in 1633, by a willing acceptance; but no sooner had he arrived than a discussion began which continued until he was for the second and final time banished in 1636. The main bone of contention was the right of the church to interfere in state matters. He opposed theocracy as profaning the holy peace of the temple with the warring of civil parties. The Massachusetts magistrates were all church members, which Williams declared to be as unreasonable as to make the selection of a pilot or a physician depend upon his proficiency in theology. He would not admit the warrant of magistrates to compel attendance at public worship; it was a violation of natural right, and an incitement to hypocrisy. "But the ship must have a pilot," objected the magistrates, "And he holds her to her course without bringing his crew to prayer in irons," was Williams's rejoinder. "We must protect our people from corruption and punish heresy," said they. "Conscience in the individual can never become public property; and you, as public trustees, can own no spiritual powers," answered he. "May we not restrain the church from apostasy?" they asked. He replied, "No: the common peace and liberty depend upon the removal of the yoke of soul-oppression."

The magistrates were perplexed, and doubtful what to do. Laud in England was menacing them with episcopacy, and they, as a preparation for resistance, decreed that all freemen must take an oath of allegiance to Massachusetts instead of to the King. Williams, of course, abhorred episcopacy as much as they did; but he would not concede the right to impose a compulsory oath. A deputation of ministers was sent to Salem to argue with him: he responded by counseling them to admonish the magistrates of their injustice. He was cited to appear before the state representatives to recant; he appeared, but only to affirm that he was ready to accept banishment or death sooner than be false to his convictions. Sentence of banishment was thereupon passed against him, but he was allowed till the ensuing spring to depart; meanwhile, however, the infection of his opinions spreading in Salem, a warrant was sent to summon him to embark for England; but he, anticipating this step, was already on his way through the winter woods southward.

The pure wine of his doctrine was too potent for the iron-headed Puritans. But it was their fears rather than their hearts that dismissed him; those who best knew him praised him most unreservedly; and even Cotton Mather admitted that he seemed "to have the root of the matter in him."

Williams's journey through the pathless snows and frosts of an exceptionally severe winter is one of the picturesque and impressive episodes of the times. During more than three months he pursued his lonely and perilous way; hollow trees were a welcome shelter; he lacked fire, food and guides. But he had always pleaded in behalf of the Indians; he had on one occasion denied the validity of a royal grant unless it were countersigned by native proprietors; and during his residence in Plymouth he had learned the Indian language. All this now stood him in good stead. The man who was outcast from the society of his white brethren, because his soul was purer and stronger than theirs, was received and ministered unto by the savages; he knew their ways, was familiar in their wigwams, championed their rights, wrestled lovingly with their errors, mediated in their quarrels, and was idolized by them as was no other of his race. Pokanoket, Massasoit and Canonicus were his hosts and guardians during the winter and spring; and in summer he descended the river in a birch-bark canoe to the site of the present city of Providence, so named by him in recognition of the Divine mercies; and there he pitched his tent beside the spring, hoping to make the place "a shelter for persons distressed for conscience."

His desire was amply fulfilled. The chiefs of the Narragansetts deeded him a large tract of land; oppressed persons locked to him for comfort and succor, and never in vain; a republic grew up based on liberty of conscience, and the civil rule of the majority: the first in the world. Orthodoxy and heresy were on the same footing before him; he trusted truth to conquer error without aid of force. Though he ultimately withdrew from all churches, he founded the first Baptist church in the new world; he twice visited England, and obtained a charter for his colony in 1644. Williams from first to last sat on the Opposition Bench of life; and we say of him that he was hardly used by those who should most have honored him. Yet it is probable that he would have found less opportunity to do good at either an earlier or a later time. Critics so keen and unrelenting as he never find favor with the ruling powers; he would have been at least as "impossible" in the Nineteenth Century as he was in the Seventeenth; and we would have had no Rhode Island to give him. We can derive more benefit from his arraignment of society two hundred and fifty years ago than we should were he to call us to account to-day, because no resentment mingles with our intellectual appreciation: our withers seem to be unwrung. The crucifixions of a former age are always denounced by those who, if the martyr fell into their hands, would be the first to nail him to the cross.

But the Puritanism of Williams, and that of those who banished him, were as two branches proceeding from a single stem; their differences, which were the type of those that created two parties in the community, were the inevitable result of the opposition between the practical and the theoretic temperaments. This opposition is organic; it is irreconcilable, but nevertheless wholesome; both sides possess versions of the same truth, and the perfect state arises from the contribution made by both to the common good--not from their amalgamation, or from a compromise between them, Williams's community was successful, but it was successful, on the lines he laid down, only during its minority; as its population increased, civil order was assured by a tacit abatement of the right of individual independence, and by the insensible subordination of particular to general interests. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, which from the first inclined to the practical view--which recognized the dangers surrounding an organization weak in physical resources, but strong in spiritual conviction, and which, by reason of the radical nature of those convictions, was specially liable to interference from the settled power of orthodoxy:--in Massachusetts there was a diplomatic tendency in the work of building up the commonwealth. The integrity of Williams's logic was conceded, but to follow it out to its legitimate conclusions was deemed inconsistent with the welfare and continuance of the popular institutions. The condemnation of dissenters from dissent sounded unjust; but it was the alternative to the more far-reaching injustice of suffering the structure which had been erected with such pains and sacrifice to fall to pieces just when it was attaining form and character. The time for universal toleration might come later, when the vigor and solidity of the nucleus could no longer be vitiated by fanciful and transient vagaries. The right of private judgment carried no guarantee comparable with that which attached to the sober and tested convictions of the harmonious body of responsible citizens.

When, therefore, the young Henry Vane, coming to Boston with the prestige of aristocratic birth and the reputation of liberal opinions, was elected Governor in 1635, and presently laid down the principle that "Ishmael shall dwell in the presence of his brethren," he at once met with opposition; and he and Anne Hutchinson, and other visionaries and enthusiasts, were made to feel that Boston was no place for them. Yet at the same time there was a conflict between the body of the freemen and the magistrates as to the limits and embodiments of the governing power; the magistrates contended that there were manifest practical advantages in life appointments to office, and in the undisturbed domination of men of approved good life and intellectual ability; the people replied that all that might be true, but they would still insist upon electing and dismissing whom they pleased. Thus was inadvertently demonstrated the invincible security of democratic principles; the masses are always willing to agree that the best shall rule, but insist that they, the multitude, and not any Star Chamber, no matter how impeccable, shall decide who the best are. Herein alone is safety. The masses, of course, are not actuated by motives higher than those of the select few; but their impartiality cannot but be greater, because, assuming that each voter has in view his personal welfare, their ballots must insure the welfare of the majority. And if the welfare of the majority be God's will, then the truth of the old Latin maxim, Vox Populi vox Dei, is vindicated without any recourse to mysticism. The only genuine Aristocracy, or Rule of the Best, must in other words be the creation not of their own will and judgment, but of those of the subjects of their administration.

The political experiments and vicissitudes of these early times are of vastly greater historical importance than are such external episodes, as, for example, the Pequot war in 1637. A whole tribe was exterminated, and thereby, and still more by the heroic action of Williams in preventing, by his personal intercession, an alliance between the Pequots and the Narragansetts, the white colonies were preserved. But beyond this, the affair has no bearing upon the development of the American idea. During these first decades, the most profound questions of national statesmanship were discussed in the assemblies of the Massachusetts Puritans, with an acumen and wisdom which have never been surpassed. The equity and solidity of most of their conclusions are extraordinary; the intellectual ability of the councilors being purged and exalted by their ardent religious faith. The "Body of Liberties," written out in 1641 by Nathaniel Ward, handles the entire subject of popular government in a masterly manner. It was a Counsel of Perfection molded, by understanding of the prevailing conditions, into practical form. The basis of its provisions was the primitive one which is traced back to the time when the Anglo-Saxon tribes met to choose their chiefs or to decide on war or other matters of general concern. It was the basis suggested by nature; for, as the chief historian of these times has remarked, freedom is spontaneous, but the artificial distinctions of rank are the growth of centuries. Lands, according to this instrument, were free and alienable; the freemen of a corporation held them, but claimed no right of distribution. There should be no monopolies: no wife-beating: no slavery "Except voluntary": ministers as well as magistrates should be chosen by popular vote. Authority was given to approved customs; the various towns or settlements constituting the commonwealth were each a living political organism. No combination of churches should control any one church:--such were some of the provisions. The colonies were availing themselves of the unique opportunity afforded by their emancipation, in the wilderness, from the tyranny and obstruction of old-world traditions and licensed abuses.

By the increasing body of their brethren in England, meanwhile, New England was looked upon as a sort of New Jerusalem, and letters from the leaders were passed from hand to hand like messages from saints. Up to the time when Charles and Laud were checked by Parliament, the tide of emigration set so strongly toward the American shores that measures were taken by the King to arrest it; by 1638, there were in New England more than twenty-one thousand colonists. The rise of the power of Parliament stopped the influx; but the succeeding twenty years of peace gave the much-needed chance for quiet and well-considered growth and development. The singular prudence and foresight of Winthrop and others in authority, during this interregnum, was showed by their declining to accept certain apparent advantages proffered them in love and good faith by their English friends. A new patent was offered them in place of their royal charter; but the colonists perceived that the reign of Parliament was destined to be temporary, and wisely refused. Other suggestions, likely to lead to future entanglements, were rejected; among them, a proposition from Cromwell that they should all come over and occupy Ireland. This is as curious as that other alleged incident of Cromwell and Hampden having been stopped by Laud when they had embarked for New England, and being forced to remain in the country which soon after owed to them its freedom from kingly and episcopal tyranny.

Material prosperity began to show itself in the new country, now that the first metaphysical problems were in the way of settlement. In Salem they were building ships, cotton was manufactured in Boston; the export trade in furs and other commodities was brisk and profitable. The English Parliament passed a law exempting them from taxes. After so much adversity, fortune was sending them a gleam of sunshine, and they were making their hay. But something of the arrogance of prosperity must also be accredited to them; the Puritans were never more bigoted and intolerant than now. The persecution of the Quakers is a blot on their fame, only surpassed by the witchcraft cruelties of the concluding years of the century. Mary Dyar, and the men Robinson, Stephenson and Leddra were executed for no greater crime than obtruding their unwelcome opinions, and outraging the propriety of the community. The fate of Christison hung for a while in the balance; he was not less guilty than the others, and he defied his judges; he told them that where they murdered one, ten others would arise in his place; the same words that had been heard many a time in England, when the Puritans themselves were on their trial. Nevertheless the judges passed the sentence of death; but the people were disturbed by such bloody proceedings, and Christison was finally set free. It must not be forgotten that the Quakers of this period were very different from those who afterward populated the City of Brotherly Love under Penn. They were fanatics of the most extravagant and incorrigible sort; loud-mouthed, frantic and disorderly; and instead of observing modesty in their garb, their women not seldom ran naked through the streets of horrified Boston, in broad daylight. They thirsted for persecution as ordinary persons do for wealth or fame, and would not be satisfied till they had provoked punishment. The granite wall of Puritanism seemed to exist especially for them to dash themselves against it. Such persons can hardly be deemed sane; and it is of not the slightest importance what particular creed they profess. They are opposed to authority and order because they are authority and order; in our day, we group such folk under the name, Anarchists; but, instead of hanging them as the Puritans did, we let them froth and threaten, according to the policy of Roger Williams, until the lack of echoes leads them to hold their peace.

Although slavery, or perpetual servitude, was forbidden by the statute, there were many slaves in New England, Indians and whites as well as negroes. The first importation of the latter was in 1619, by the Dutch, it is said. No slave could be kept in bondage more than ten years; it was stipulated that they were to be brought from Africa, or elsewhere, only with their own consent; and when, in 1638, it appeared that a cargo of them had been forcibly introduced, they were sent back to Africa. Prisoners of war were condemned to servitude; and, altogether, the feeling on the subject of human bondage appears to have been both less and more fastidious than it afterward became. There was no such indifference as was shown in the Southern slave trade two centuries later, nor was there any of the humanitarian fanaticism exhibited by the extreme Abolitionists of the years before the Civil War. It may turn out that the attitude of the Puritans had more common-sense in it than had either of the others.

The great event of 1643 was the natural outcome of the growth and expansion of the previous time. It was the federation of the four colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut. Connecticut had been settled in 1680, but it was not till six years afterward that a party headed by the renowned Thomas Hooker, the "Son of Thunder," and one of the most judicious men of that age, journeyed from Boston with the deliberate purpose of creating another commonwealth in the desert. Connecticut did not offer assurances of a peaceful settlement; the Indians were numerous there, and not well-disposed; and in the south, the Dutch of New Amsterdam were complaining of an infringement of boundaries. These ominous conditions came to a head in the Pequot war; after which peace reigned for many years. A constitution of the most liberal kind was created by the settlers, some of the articles of which led to a correspondence between Hooker and Winthrop as to the comparative merits of magisterial and popular governments. Unlearned men, however religious, if elected to office, must needs call in the assistance of the learned ministers, who, thus burdened with matters not rightly within their function, might err in counseling thereon. Of the people, the best part was always the least, and of that best, the wiser is the lesser.--This was Winthrop's position. Hooker replied that to allow discretion to the judge was the way to tyranny. Seek the law at its mouth; it is free from passion, and should rule the rulers themselves; let the judge do according to the sentence of the law. In high matters, business should be done by a general council, chosen by all, as was the practice of the Jewish and other well-ordered states.--This is an example of the political discussions of that day in New England; both parties to it concerned solely to come at the truth, and free from any selfish aim or pride. The soundness of Hooker's view may be deduced from the fact that the constitution of Connecticut (which differed in no essential respect from those of the other colonies) has survived almost unchanged to the present day. Statesmanship, during two and a half centuries, has multiplied details and improved the nicety of adjustments; but it has not discerned any principles which had not been seen with perfect distinctness by the clear and venerable eyes of the Puritan fathers.

Eaton, another man of similar caliber, was the leading spirit in the New Haven settlement, assisted by the Reverend Mr. Davenport; many of the colonists were Second-Adventists, and they called the Bible their Statute-Book. The date of their establishment was 1638. The incoherent population of Rhode Island caused it to be excluded from the federation; but Williams, journeying to London, obtained a patent from the exiled but now powerful Vane, and took as the motto of his government, "Amor Vincet Omnia." New Hampshire, which had been united to Massachusetts in 1641, could have no separate part in the new arrangement; and Maine, an indeterminate region, sparsely inhabited by people who had come to seek not God, but fish in the western world, was not considered. The articles of federation of the four Calvinist colonies aimed to provide mutual protection against the Indians, against possible encroachment from England, against Dutch and French colonists: they declared a league not only for defense and offense, but for the promotion of spiritual truth and liberty. Nothing was altered in the constitutions of any of the contracting parties; and an equitable system of apportioning expenses was devised. Each partner sent two delegates to the common council; all affairs proper to the federation were determined by a three-fourths vote; a law for the delivery of fugitive slaves was agreed to; and the commissioners of the other jurisdictions were empowered to coerce any member of the federation which should break this contract. The title of The United Colonies of New England was bestowed upon the alliance. The articles were the work of a committee of the leading men in the country, such as Winthrop, Winslow, Haynes and Eaton; and the confederacy lasted forty years, being dissolved in 1684.

It was a great result from an experiment begun only about a dozen years before. It was greater even, than its outward seeming, for it contained within itself the forces which should control the future. This country is made up of many elements, and has been molded to no small extent by circumstances hardly to be foreseen; but it seems incontestable that it would never have endured, and continued to be the goal of all pilgrims who wish to escape from a restricted to a freer life, had not its corner-stone been laid, and its outline fixed, by these first colonists of New England. It has been calculated that in two hundred years the physical increase of each Puritan family was one thousand persons, dispersed over the territory of the United States; and the moral influence which this posterity exerted on the various communities in which they fixed their abode is beyond computation. But had the Puritan fathers been as ordinary men: had they come hither for ends of gain and aggrandizement: had they not been united by the most inviolable ties that can bind men--community in religious faith, brotherhood in persecution for conscience' sake, and an intense, inflexible enthusiasm for liberty--their descendants would have had no spiritual inheritance to disseminate. Many superficial changes have come upon our society; there is an absence of a fixed national type; there are many thousands of illiterate persons among us, and of those who are still ignorant of the true nature of democratic institutions; all the tongues of Europe and of other parts of the world may be heard within our boundaries; there are great bodies of our citizens who selfishly pursue ends of private enrichment and power, indifferent to the patent fact that multitudes of their fellows are thereby obstructed in the effort to earn a livelihood in this most productive country in the world; there are many who have prostituted the name of statesmanship to the gratification of petty and transient ambitions: and many more who, relieved by the thrift of their ancestors from the necessity to win their bread, have renounced all concern in the welfare of the state, and live trivial and empty lives: all this, and more, may be conceded. But such evil humors, be it repeated, are superficial, attesting the vigor, rather than the decay, of the central vitality. America still stands for an idea; there is in it an immortal soul. It was by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay that this soul was implanted; to inspire it was their work. They experienced the realities, they touched the core of things, us few men have ever done; for they were born in an age when the world was awakening from the spiritual slumber of more than fifteen hundred years, and upon its bewildered eyes was breaking the splendor of a great new light. The Puritans were the immediate heirs of the Reformation (so called; it might more truly have been named the New Incarnation, since the outward modifications of visible form were but the symptoms of a freshly-communicated informing intelligence). It transfigured them; from men sunk in the gross and sensual thoughts and aims of an irreligious and priest-ridden age--an age which ate and drank and slept and fought, and kissed the feet of popes, and maundered of the divine right of kings--from this sluggish degradation it roused and transfigured the Englishmen who came to be known as Puritans. It was a transfiguration, though its subjects were the uncouth, almost grotesque figures which chronicle and tradition have made familiar to us. For a people who were what the Puritans were before Puritanism, cannot be changed by the Holy Ghost into angels of light; their stubborn carnality will not evaporate like a mist; it clings to them, and being now so discordant with the impulse within, an awkwardness and uncouthness result, which suggest some strange hybrid: to the eye and ear, they are unlovelier and harsher than they were before their illumination; but Providence regards not looks; it knew what it was about when it chose these men of bone and sinew to carry out its purposes. Once enlisted, they never could be quelled, or seduced, or deceived, or wearied; they were in fatal earnest, and faithful unto death, for they believed that God was their Captain. They had got a soul; they put it into their work, and it is in that work even to this day.

It does not manifestly appear to our contemporary vision; it is overloaded with the rubbish of things, as a Greek statue is covered with the careless debris of ages; but, as the art of the sculptor is vindicated when the debris has been removed, so will the fair proportions of the State conceived by the Puritans, and nourished and defended by their sons, declare themselves when in the maturity of our growth we have assimilated what is good in our accretions, and disencumbered ourselves of what is vain. It is the American principle, and it will not down; it is a solvent of all foreign substances; in its own way and time it dissipates all things that are not harmonious with itself. No lesser or feebler principle would have survived the tests to which this has been subjected; but this is indestructible; even we could not destroy it if we would, for it is no inalienable possession of our own, but a gift from on High to the whole of mankind. But let us piously and proudly remember that it was through the Puritans that the gift was made. Other nations than the English have contributed to our substance and prosperity, and have yielded their best blood to flow in our veins. They are dear to us as ourselves, as how should they not be, since what, other than ourselves, are they? None the less is it true that what was worthiest and most unselfish in the impulse that drove them hither was a reflection of the same impulse that actuated the Puritans when America was not the most powerful of republics, but a wilderness. None of us all can escape from their greatness--from the debt we owe them: not because they were Englishmen, not because they made New England; but because they were men, inspired of God to make the earth free that was in bondage.


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