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    Ch. 3: The Spirit of the Puritans

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    Chapter 4
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    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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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