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    Ch. 8: The Stuarts and the Charter

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    Chapter 9
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    The cutting off of Charles I.'s head was a deed which few persons in
    Massachusetts would have advocated; Cromwell himself had remarked that it
    was a choice between the king's head and his own. History has upon the
    whole accepted the choice he made as salutary. Achilles, forgetting his
    heel, deemed himself invulnerable, and his conduct became in consequence
    intolerable; Charles, convinced that his anointed royalty was sacred, was
    led on to commit such fantastic tricks before high heaven as made the
    godly weep. Achilles was disillusioned by the arrow of Paris, and Charles
    by the ax of Cromwell. Death is a wholesome argument at times.

    But though a later age could recognize the high expediency of Charles's
    taking off, it was too bold and novel to meet with general approbation at
    the time, even from men who hated kingly rule. Prejudice has a longer root
    than it itself believes. And the Puritans of New England, having been
    removed from the immediate pressure of the king's eccentricities, were the
    less likely to exult over his end. Many of them were shocked at it; more
    regretted it; perhaps the majority accepted it with a sober equanimity.
    They were not bloodthirsty, but they were stern.

    Neither were they demonstrative; so that they took the Parliament and the
    Protector calmly, if cordially, and did not use the opportunity of their
    predominance to cast gibes upon their predecessor. So that, when the
    Restoration was an established fact, they had little to retract. They
    addressed Charles II. gravely, as one who by experience knew the hearts of
    exiles, and told him that, as true men, they feared God and the king. They
    entreated him to consider their sacrifices and worthy purposes, and to
    confirm them in the enjoyment of their liberties. Of the execution, and of
    the ensuing "confusions," they prudently forbore to speak. It was better
    to say nothing than either to offend their consciences, or to utter what
    Charles would dislike to hear. Their case, as they well knew, was critical
    enough at best. Every foe of New England and of liberty would not fail to
    whisper malice in the king's ear. They sent over an envoy to make the best
    terms he could, and in particular to ask for the suspension of the
    Navigation Acts. But the committee had small faith in the loyalty of the
    colony, and even believed, or professed to do so, that it might invite the
    aid of Catholic and barbarous Spain against its own blood: they judged of
    others' profligacy by their own. The king, to gain time, sent over a
    polite message, which meant nothing, or rather less; for the next news was
    that the Acts were to be enforced.

    Massachusetts thereupon proceeded to define her position. A committee
    composed of her ablest men caused a paper to be published by the general
    court affirming their right to do certain things which England, they knew,
    would be indisposed to permit. In brief, they claimed religious and civil
    independence, the latter in all but name, and left the king to be a
    figurehead without perquisites or power. They followed this intrepid
    statement by solemnly proclaiming Charles in Boston, and threw a sop to
    Cerberus in the shape of a letter couched in conciliating terms, feigning
    to believe that their attitude would win his approbation. Altogether, it
    was a thrust under the fifth rib, with a bow and a smile on the recover.
    Probably the thrust represented the will of the majority; the bow and
    smile, the prudence of the timid sort. Simon Bradstreet and John Norton
    were dispatched to London to receive the king's answer. They went in
    January of 1662, and after waiting through the spring and summer, not
    without courteous treatment, returned in the fall with Charles's reply,
    which, after confirming the charter and pardoning political infidelities
    under the Protectorate, went on to refuse all the special points which the
    colony had urged.

    Already at this stage of the contest it had become evident that the
    question was less of conforming with any particular demand or command on
    the king's part, than of admitting his right to exercise his will at all
    in the premises. If the colony conceded his sovereignty, they could not
    afterward draw the line at which its power was to cease. And yet they
    could not venture to declare absolute independence, partly because, if it
    came to a struggle in arms, they could not hope to prevail; and partly
    because absolute independence was less desired than autonomy under the
    English flag. England was as far from granting autonomy to Massachusetts
    as independence, but was willing, if possible, to constrain her by fair
    means rather than by foul. Meanwhile, the tongue of rumor fomented
    discord. It was said in the colony that England designed the establishment
    of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts; whereupon the laws against
    toleration of "heretics," which had been falling into disuse, were
    stringently revived. In London the story went that the escaped regicides
    had united the four chief colonies and were about to lead them in arms to
    revolt. Clarendon, to relieve anxiety, sent a reassuring message to
    Boston; but its good effect was spoiled by a report that commissioners
    were coming to regulate their affairs. The patent of the colony was placed
    in hiding, the trained bands were drilled, the defenses of the harbor were
    looked to, and a fast day was named with the double purpose of asking the
    favor of God, and of informing the colony as to what was in the wind.
    Assuredly there must have been stout souls in Boston in those days. A few
    thousand exiles were actually preparing to resist England!

    The warning had not been groundless. The fleet which had been fitted out
    to drive the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, from Manhattan, stopped at
    Boston on its way; and we may imagine that its entrance into the harbor on
    that July day was observed with keen interest by the great-grandfathers of
    the men of Bunker Hill. It was not exactly known what the instructions of
    the English officers required; but it was surmised that they meant
    tyranny. The commission could not have come for nothing. They had no right
    on New England soil. The fleet, for the present, proceeded on its way, and
    Massachusetts voluntarily contributed a force of two hundred men; but they
    were well aware that the trouble was only postponed; and depending on
    their charter, which contained no provision for a royal commission, they
    were determined to thwart its proceedings to the utmost of their power.
    How far that might be, they would know when the time came. Anything was
    better than surrender to the prerogative. When, in reply to Willoughby, a
    royalist declared that prerogative is as necessary as the law, Major
    William Hawthorne, who was afterward to distinguish himself against the
    Indians, answered him, "Prerogative is not above law!" It was not, indeed.

    Accordingly, while the fleet with its commissioners was overawing the New
    Netherlanders, the Puritans of Boston Bay wrote and put forth a document
    which well deserves reproduction, both for the terse dignity of the style,
    which often recalls the compositions of Lord Verulam, and still more for
    the courageous, courteous, and yet almost aggressive logic with which the
    life principles of the Massachusetts colonists are laid down. It is a
    remarkable State paper, and so vividly sincere that, as one reads, one can
    see the traditional Puritan standing out from the words--the steeple
    crowned hat, the severe brow, the steady eyes, the pointed beard, the dark
    cloak and sad-hued garments. The paper is also singular in that it
    remonstrates against a principle, without waiting for the provocation of
    overt deeds. This excited the astonishment of Clarendon and others in
    England; but their perplexity only showed that the men they criticised saw
    further and straighter than they did. It was for principles, and against
    them, that the Puritans always fought, since principles are the parents of
    all acts and control them. The royal commission was, potentially, the sum
    of all the wrongs from which New England suffered during the next hundred
    years, and though it had as yet done nothing, it implied everything.

    Whose hand it was that penned the document we know not; it was probably
    the expression of the combined views of such men as Mather, Norton,
    Hawthorne, Endicott and Bellingham; it may have been revised by Davenport,
    at that time nearly threescore and ten years of age, the type of the
    Calvinist minister of the period, austere, inflexible, high-minded,
    faithful. Be that as it may, it certainly voiced the feeling of the
    people, as the sequel demonstrated. It is dated October the Twenty-fifth,
    1664, and is addressed to the king.

    "DREAD SOVEREIGN:--The first undertakers of this Plantation did obtain a
    Patent, wherein is granted full and absolute power of governing all the
    people of this place, by men chosen from among themselves, and according
    to such laws as they should see meet to establish. A royal donation, under
    the Great Seal, is the greatest security that may be had in human affairs.
    Under the encouragement and security of the Royal Charter this People did,
    at their own charges, transport themselves, their wives and families, over
    the ocean, purchase the land of the Natives, and plant this Colony, with
    great labor, hazards, cost, and difficulties; for a long time wrestling
    with the wants of a Wilderness and the burdens of a new Plantation; having
    now also above thirty years enjoyed the privilege of Government within
    themselves, as their undoubted right in the sight of God and Man. To be
    governed by rulers of our own choosing and laws of our own, is the
    fundamental privilege of our Patent.

    "A Commission under the Great Seal, wherein four persons (one of them our
    professed Enemy) are impowered to receive and determine all complaints and
    appeals according to their discretion, subjects us to the arbitrary power
    of Strangers, and will end in the subversion of us all.

    "If these things go on, your Subjects will either be forced to seek new
    dwellings, or sink under intolerable burdens. The vigor of all new
    Endeavours will be enfeebled; the King himself will be a loser of the
    wonted benefit by customs, exported and imported from hence to England,
    and this hopeful Plantation will in the issue be ruined.

    "If the aim should be to gratify some particular Gentlemen by Livings and
    Revenues here, that will also fail, for the poverty of the People. If all
    the charges of the whole Government by the year were put together, and
    then doubled or trebled, it would not be counted for one of these
    Gentlemen a considerable Accommodation. To a coalition in this course the
    People will never come; and it will be hard to find another people that
    will stand under any considerable burden in this Country, seeing it is not
    a country where men can subsist without hard labor and great frugality.

    "God knows our greatest Ambition is to live a quiet Life, in a corner of
    the World. We came not into this Wilderness to seek great things to
    ourselves; and if any come after us to seek them here, they will be
    disappointed. We keep ourselves within our Line; a just dependence upon,
    and subjection to, your Majesty, according to our Charter, it is far from
    our Hearts to disacknowledge. We would gladly do anything in our power to
    purchase the continuance of your favorable Aspect. But it is a great
    Unhappiness to have no testimony of our loyalty offered but this, to yield
    up our Liberties, which are far dearer to us than our Lives, and which we
    have willingly ventured our Lives and passed through many Deaths, to
    obtain.

    "It was Job's excellency, when he sat as King among his People, that he
    was a Father to the Poor. A poor People, destitute of outward Favor,
    Wealth, and Power, now cry unto their lord the King. May your Majesty
    regard their Cause, and maintain their Right; it will stand among the
    marks of lasting Honor to after Generations."

    Throughout these sentences sounds the masculine earnestness of men who
    see that for which they have striven valiantly and holily in danger of
    being treacherously ravished from them, and who are resolute to withstand
    the ravisher to the last. It is no wonder that documents of this tone and
    caliber amazed and alarmed the council in London, and made them ask one
    another what manner of men these might be. It would have been well for
    England had they given more attentive ear to their misgivings; but their
    hearts, like Pharaoh's, were hardened, and they would not let the people
    go--until the time was ripe, and the people went, and carried the spoils
    with them.

    The secret purpose of the commission was to pave the way for the gradual
    subjection of the colony, and to begin by inducing them to let the
    governor become a royal nominee, and to put the militia under the king's
    orders. Of the four commissioners, Nicolls remained in New York, as we
    have seen; the three others landed in Boston early in 1665. Their first
    order was that every male inhabitant of Boston should assemble and listen
    to the reading of the message from King Charles. These three gentlemen
    --Maverick, Carr and Cartwright--were courtiers and men of fashion and
    blood, and were accustomed to regard the king's wish as law, no matter
    what might be on the other side; but it was now just thirty years since
    the Puritans left England; they had endured much during that time, and had
    tasted how sweet liberty was; and half of them were young Americans, born
    on the soil, who knew what kings were by report only. Young and old,
    speaking through the assembly, which was in complete accord with them,
    informed the commissioners that they would not comply with their demand.
    What were the commissioners, that they should venture to call a public
    meeting in the town of a free people? The free people went about their
    affairs, and left the three gentlemen from the Court to stare in one
    another's scandalized faces.

    They were the more scandalized, because their reception in Connecticut
    and Rhode Island had been different. But different, also, had been the
    errand on which they went there. Those two colonies were the king's pets,
    and were to have liberty and all else they wanted; Connecticut they had
    protected from the rapacity of Lord Hamilton, and Rhode Island had never
    been other than loving and loyal to the king. They had, to be sure, been
    politely bowed out by little Plymouth, the yeomen Independents, who still
    preferred, if his majesty pleased, to conduct their own household affairs
    in their own way. But to be positively and explicitly rebuffed to their
    faces, yet glowing with the sunshine of the royal favor, was a new
    experience; and Cartwright, when he caught his breath, exclaimed, "He that
    will not attend to the request is a traitor!"

    The Massachusetts assembly declined to accept the characterization. Since
    the king's own patent expressly relieved them from his jurisdiction, it
    was impossible that their refusal to meet three of his gentlemen-in-
    waiting could rightly be construed as treason. The commissioners finally
    wanted to know, yes or no, whether the colonists meant to question the
    validity of the royal commission? But the assembly would not thus be
    dislodged from the coign of vantage; they stuck to their patent, and
    pointed out that nothing was therein said about a commission? So far as
    they were concerned, the commission, as a commission, could have no
    existence. They recognized nothing but three somewhat arrogant persons,
    in huge wigs, long embroidered waistcoats under their velvet coats, and
    plumes waving from their hats. They presented a glittering and haughty
    aspect, to be sure, but they had no rights in Boston.

    At length, on the twenty-third of May, matters came to a crisis. The
    commissioners had given out that on that day they were going to hold a
    court to try a case in which the colony was to defend an action against a
    plaintiff. This, of course, would serve to indicate that the commissioners
    had power--whether the assembly conceded it or not--to control the
    internal economy of the settlement. Betimes in this morning, the rather
    that it was a very pleasant one--the trees on the Common being dressed in
    their first green leaves since last year, while a pleasant westerly breeze
    sent the white clouds drifting seaward over the blue sky--a great crowd
    began to make its way toward the court house, whose portals frowned upon
    the narrow street, as if the stern spirit of justice that presided within
    had cast a shadow beneath them. The doors were closed, and the massive
    lock which secured them gleamed in the single ray of spring sunshine that
    slanted along the facade of the edifice.

    It was a somber looking throng, as was ever the case in Puritan Boston,
    where the hats, cloaks and doublets of the people were made of dark,
    coarse materials, not designed to flatter the lust of the eye. The visages
    suited the garments, wearing a sedate or severe expression, whether the
    cast of the features above the broad white collars were broad and ruddy,
    or pale and hollow-cheeked. There was a touch of the fanatic in many of
    these countenances, as of men to whom God was a living presence in all
    their affairs and thoughts, who feared His displeasure more than the
    king's, who believed that they were His chosen ones, and who knew that His
    arm was mighty to defend. They were of kin to the men who stood so
    stubbornly and smote so sore at Marston Moor and Naseby, and afterward had
    not feared to drag the father of the present Charles to the block. Fiber
    more unbending than theirs was never wrought into the substance of our
    human nature; and oppression seemed but to harden it.

    They conversed one with another in subdued tones, among which sounded
    occasionally the lighter accents of women's voices; but they were not a
    voluble race, and the forms of their speech still followed in great
    measure the semi-scriptural idioms which had been so prevalent among
    Cromwell's soldiers years before. They were undemonstrative; but this
    very immobility conveyed an impression of power in reserve which was more
    effective than noisy vehemence.

    At length, from the extremity of the street, was heard the tramp of
    horses' hoofs, and the commissioners, bravely attired, with cavalier
    boots, and swords dangling at their sides, were seen riding forward,
    followed by a little knot of officers. The crowd parted before them as
    they came, not sullenly, perhaps, but certainly with no alacrity or
    suppleness of deference. There was no love lost on either side; but
    Cartwright, who wore the most arrogant front of the three, really feared
    the Puritans more than either of his colleagues; and when, seven years
    afterward, he was called before his majesty's council to tell what manner
    of men they were, his account of them was so formidable that the council
    gave up the consideration of the menacing message they had been about to
    send, and instead agreed upon a letter of amnesty, as likely to succeed
    better with a people of so "peevish and touchy" a humor.

    The cavalcade drew up before the door, and the officials, dismounting,
    ascended the steps. Finding it locked, Cartwright lifted the hilt of his
    sword and dealt a blow upon the massive panel.

    "Who shuts the door against his majesty's commissioners?" cried he
    angrily. "Where is the rascal with the keys, I say!"

    "I marvel what his majesty's commissioners should seek in the house of
    Justice," said a voice in the crowd; "since it is known that, when they go
    in by one door, she must needs go out by the other."

    At this sally, the crowd smiled grimly, and the commissioners frowned and
    bit their lips. Just then there was a movement in the throng, and a tall,
    dignified man with a white beard and an aspect of grave authority was seen
    pressing his way toward the court house door.

    "Here is the worshipful Governor Bellingham himself," said one man to his
    neighbor. "Now shall we see the upshot of this matter."

    "And God save Massachusetts!" added the other, devoutly.

    The chief magistrate of the colony advanced into the little open space at
    the foot of the steps, and saluted the commissioners with formal courtesy.
    "I am sorry ye should be disappointed, sirs," said he; "but I must tell
    you that it is the decision of the worshipful council that ye do not pass
    these doors, or order any business of the court, in this commonwealth.
    Provision is made by our laws for the proper conduct of all matters of
    justice within our borders, and it is not permitted that any stranger
    should interfere therewith."

    "Truly, Mr. Bellingham," said Maverick, resting one hand on his sword,
    and settling his plumed hat on his wig with the other, "you take a high
    tone; but the king is the king, here as in England, and we bear his
    commission. Massachusetts can frame no laws to override his pleasure; and
    so we mean to teach you. I call upon all persons here present, under
    penalty of indictment for treason, to aid us, his majesty's commissioners,
    to open this court, or to break it open." His voice rang out angrily over
    the crowd, but no one stirred in answer.

    "You forget yourself, sir," said the governor, composedly. "We here are
    loyal to the king, and too much his friends to believe that he would wrong
    himself by controverting the charter which bears the broad seal affixed by
    his own royal father. Your claim doth abuse him more than our refusal. But
    since you will not hear comfortable words, I must summon one who will
    speak more bluntly."

    He turned, and made a signal with his hand. "Let the herald stand forth,"
    said he; and at the word, a broad-shouldered, deep-chested personage, with
    a trumpet in one hand and a pike in the other, stepped into the circle and
    stood in the military attitude of attention.

    "Hast thou the proclamation there in thy doublet, Simon?" demanded his
    worship.

    "Aye, verily, that have I," answered Simon, in a voice like a fog horn,
    "and in my head and my heart, too!"

    "Send it forth, then, and God's blessing go with it!" rejoined the chief
    magistrate, forcibly, but with something like a smile stirring under his
    beard.

    Upon this Simon the herald filled his vast lungs with a mighty volume of
    New England air, set the long brazen trumpet to his lips, and blew such a
    blast that the led horses of the commissioners started and threw up their
    heads, and the windows of the court house shook with the strident
    vibration. Then, taking the paper on which the proclamation was written,
    and holding it up before him, he proceeded to bellow forth its contents in
    such stentorian wise that the commissioners might have heard it, had they
    been on Boston wharf preparing to embark for England, instead of being
    within three or four paces. That proclamation, indeed, was heard over the
    length and breadth of New England, and even across the Atlantic in the
    gilded chamber of the king of Britain. "These fellows," muttered his
    majesty, with a vexed air, "have the hardihood to affirm that we have no
    jurisdiction over them. What shall be done. Clarendon?" "I have ever
    thought well of them," the chancellor said, rubbing his brow; "they are a
    sturdy race, and it were not well to wantonly provoke them; yet it is
    amazing that they should show themselves so forward, without so much as
    charging the commissioners with the least matter of crimes or
    exorbitances." Clarendon, indeed, was too lenient to suit the royal party,
    and this was one of the causes leading up to his impeachment a year or two
    later.

    But the herald was not troubled, nor was his voice subdued, by thoughts
    of either royalty or royal commissioners; though, as a matter of form, he
    began with "In the name of King Charles," he coupled with it "by authority
    of the Charter"; and went on to declare that the general court of
    Massachusetts, in observance of their duty to God, to the king, and to
    their constituents, could not suffer any one to abet his majesty's
    honorable commissioners in their designs. There was no mistaking the
    defiance, and neither the people nor the commissioners affected to do so.
    The latter petulantly declared that "since you will misconceive our
    endeavors, we shall not lose more of our labors upon you"; and they
    departed to Maine, where they met with a less mortifying reception. The
    people were much pleased, and made sport of the king's gentlemen, and at
    their public meetings they were addressed in the same "seditious" vein by
    magistrates and ministers. "The commission is but a trial of our courage:
    the Lord will be with His people while they are with Him," said old Mr.
    Davenport. Endicott, on the edge of the grave, was stanch as ever for the
    popular liberties. Besides, "There hath been one revolution against the
    king in England," it was remarked; "perchance there will be another ere
    long; and this new war with the Netherlands may bring more changes than
    some think for." On the other hand, resistance was stimulated by tales of
    what the gold-laced freebooters of the court would do, if they were let
    loose upon New England. Diplomacy, however, was combined with the bolder
    counsels; there was hope in delays, and correspondence was carried on with
    England to that end. Charles's expressed displeasure with their conduct
    was met with such replies as "A just dependence upon and allegiance unto
    your majesty, according to the charter, we have, and do profess and
    practice, and have by our oaths of allegiance to your majesty confirmed;
    but to be placed upon the sandy foundations of a blind obedience unto that
    arbitrary, absolute, and unlimited power which these gentlemen would
    impose upon us--who in their actings have carried it not as indifferent
    persons toward us--this, as it is contrary to your majesty's gracious
    expressions and the liberties of Englishmen, so we can see no reason to
    submit thereto."

    The commissioners were recalled; but Charles commanded Bellingham,
    Hawthorne, and a few others to appear before him in London and answer for
    the conduct of the colony. The general court met for prayer and debate;
    Bradstreet thought they ought to comply; but Willoughby and others said,
    No. A decision was finally handed down declining to obey the king's
    mandate.

    "We have already furnished our views in writing," the court held, "so
    that the ablest persons among us could not declare our case more fully."

    Under other circumstances this fresh defiance might have borne prompt and
    serious consequences; but Louis XIV. conveniently selected the moment to
    declare war on England; and Boston commended herself to the home
    government by arming privateers to prey upon the Canadian commerce, and by
    a timely gift of a cargo of masts for the English navy. Charles became so
    much interested in the ladies of his court that he had less leisure for
    the affairs of empire. Yet he still kept New England in mind; he believed
    Massachusetts to be rich and powerful, and from time to time revolved
    schemes for her reduction; and finally, when the colonists were exhausted
    by the Indian war, the privy council came to the conclusion that, if they
    were not to lose their hold upon the colony altogether, "this was the
    conjuncture to do something effectual for the better regulation of that
    government." They selected, as their agent, the best hated man who ever
    set foot on Massachusetts soil--Edward Randolph. His mission was to
    prepare the way for the revocation of its charter, and to undo all the
    works of liberty and happiness which the labor and heroism of near fifty
    years had achieved. He was also intrusted by Robert Mason with the
    management of his New Hampshire claims. The second round in the battle
    between king and people had begun.

    Randolph was a remorseless, subtle, superserviceable villain, who lied to
    the king, and robbed the colonists, and was active and indefatigable in
    every form of rascality. During nine years he went to and fro between
    London and Massachusetts, weaving a web of mischief that grew constantly
    stronger and more restrictive, until at length the iniquitous object was
    achieved. His first visit to Boston was in 1676; he stayed but a few
    weeks, and accomplished nothing, but his stories about the wealth and
    population of the colonies stimulated the greed of his employers. Envoys
    were ordered to come to London, and this time they were sent, but with
    powers so limited as to prevent any further result than the cession of the
    jurisdiction of Massachusetts over Maine and New Hampshire--which, as we
    have seen, was bought back the next year. The enforcement of the
    Navigation Acts was for the moment postponed. The colonists would pay
    duties to the king within the plantation if he would let them import
    directly from the other countries of Europe. But Charles wished to
    strengthen his grasp of colonial power, although, if possible, with the
    assembly's consent. In 1678, the crown lawyers gave an opinion that the
    colony's disregard of the Navigation Acts invalidated their charter.
    Randolph was appointed customs collector in New England, and it was
    determined to replace the laws of Massachusetts by such as were not
    "repugnant to the laws of England." And the view was expressed that the
    settlement should be made a royal colony. Manifestly, the precious
    liberties of the Puritans were in deadly peril.

    A synod of the churches and a meeting of the general court were held to
    devise defense. To obviate a repeal of their laws, these were in a measure
    remodeled so as to bring them nearer to what it was supposed the king
    would require. Almost anything would be preferable to giving up the right
    to legislate for themselves. It was first affirmed that English laws did
    not operate in America, and that the Navigation Acts were despotic because
    there was no colonial representation in the English parliament. And then,
    to prove once more how far above all else they prized principle, they
    passed a Navigation Act of their own, which met all the king's
    stipulations. They would submit to the drain on their resources and the
    hampering of their enterprise, but only if they themselves might inflict
    them. Meanwhile, they cultivated to the utmost the policy of delay.
    Randolph, came over with his patent as collector in 1679, but though the
    patent was acknowledged, he was able to make no arrangements for
    conducting the business. Orders were sent for the dispatch of agents to
    London with unlimited powers; but Massachusetts would not do it.
    Parliament would not abet the king in his despotic plans beyond a certain
    point; but he was at length able to dissolve it, and follow what counsels
    he pleased. His first act was to renew the demand for plenipotentiary
    envoys, or else he would immediately take steps legally to evict and avoid
    their charter.

    Two agents, Dudley and Richards, were finally appointed to go to the king
    and make the best terms possible. If he were willing to compound on a
    pecuniary basis, which should spare the charter, let it be done, provided
    the colony had the means for it; but, whatever happened, the charter
    privileges of the commonwealth were not to be surrendered. The agents had
    not, therefore, unlimited powers; and when Charles discovered this, he
    directed them to obtain such powers, or a judicial process would be
    adopted. This alternative was presented to Massachusetts in the winter of
    1682, and the question whether or not to yield was made the subject of
    general prayer, as well as of discussion. There seemed no possible hope in
    resistance. Might it not then be wiser to yield? They might thus secure
    more lenient treatment. If they held out to the bitter end, the penalty
    would surely be heavier. The question ultimately came up before the
    general court for decision.

    It is probable that no other representative body in the world would have
    adopted the course taken by that of Massachusetts. Certainly since old
    Roman times, we might seek in vain for a verdict which so disregarded
    expediency--everything in the shape of what would now be termed "practical
    politics"--and based itself firmly and unequivocally on the sternest
    grounds of conscience and right. It was passed after thorough debate, and
    with clear prevision of what the result must be; but the magistrates had
    determined that to suffer murder was better than to commit suicide; and
    this is the manner in which they set forth their belief.

    "Ought the government of Massachusetts to submit to the pleasure of the
    court as to alteration of their charter? Submission would be an offense
    against the majesty of heaven; the religion of the people of New England
    and the court's pleasure cannot consist together. By submission
    Massachusetts will gain nothing. The court design an essential alteration,
    destructive to the vitals of the charter. The corporations in England that
    have made an entire resignation have no advantage over those that have
    stood a suit in law; but, if we maintain a suit, though we should be
    condemned, we may bring the matter to chancery or to parliament, and in
    time recover all again. We ought not to act contrary to that way in which
    God hath owned our worthy predecessors, who in 1638, when there was a quo
    warranto against the charter, durst not submit. In 1664, they did not
    submit to the commissioners. We, their successors, should walk in their
    steps, and so trust in the God of our fathers that we shall see His
    salvation. Submission would gratify our adversaries and grieve our
    friends. Our enemies know it will sound ill in the world for them to take
    away the liberties of a poor people of God in the wilderness. A
    resignation will bring slavery upon us sooner than otherwise it would be;
    and it will grieve our friends in other colonies, whose eyes are now upon
    New England, expecting that the people there will not, through fear, give
    a pernicious example unto others.

    "Blind obedience to the pleasure of the court cannot be without great
    sin, and incurring the high displeasure of the King of kings. Submission
    would be contrary unto that which hath been the unanimous advice of the
    ministers, given after a solemn day of prayer. The ministers of God in New
    England have more of the spirit of John the Baptist in them, than now,
    when a storm hath overtaken them, to be reeds shaken with the wind. The
    priests were to be the first that set their foot in the waters, and there
    to stand till all danger be past. Of all men, they should be an example to
    the Lord's people of faith, courage, and constancy. Unquestionably, if the
    blessed Cotton, Hooker, Davenport, Mather, Shepherd, Mitchell, were now
    living, they would, as is evident from their printed books, say, Do not
    sin in giving away the inheritance of your fathers.

    "Nor ought we to submit without the consent of the body of the people.
    But the freemen and church members throughout New England will never
    consent hereunto. Therefore, the government may not do it.

    "The civil liberties of New England are part of the inheritance of their
    fathers; and shall we give that inheritance away? Is it objected that we
    shall be exposed to great sufferings? Better suffer than sin. It is better
    to trust the God of our fathers than to put confidence in princes. If we
    suffer because we dare not comply with the wills of men against the will
    of God, we suffer in a good cause, and shall be accounted martyrs in the
    next generation, and at the Great Day."

    The promulgation of this paper was the prelude to much calamity in New
    England for many years; but how well it has justified itself! Such words
    are a living power, surviving the lapse of many generations, and flaming
    up fresh and vigorous above the decay of centuries. The patriotism which
    they express is of more avail than the victories of armies and of navies,
    for these may be won in an ill cause; but the dauntless utterances of men
    who would rather perish than fail to keep faith with God and with their
    forefathers is a victory for mankind, and is everlasting. How poor and
    vain in comparison with this stern and sincere eloquence seem the supple
    time-service and euphemism of vulgar politicians of whose cunning and
    fruitless spiderwebs the latter years have been so prolific. It is worth
    while to do right from high motives, and to care for no gain that is not
    gained worthily. The men of Massachusetts who lived a hundred years before
    Jefferson were Americans of a type as lofty as any that have lived since;
    the work that was given them to do was so done that time can take away
    nothing from it, nor add anything. The soul of liberty is in it. It is
    easy to "believe in" our country now, when it extends from ocean to ocean,
    and is the home of seventy-five million human beings who lead the world in
    intelligence, wealth, and the sources of power. But our country two
    hundred years ago was a strip of sea-coast with Indians on one side and
    tyrants on the other, inhabited by a handful of exiles, who owned little
    but their faith in God and their love for the freedom of man. No lesser
    men than they could have believed in their country then; and they
    vindicated their belief by resisting to the last the mighty and despotic
    power of England.

    On November 30, 1683, the decision was made known: "The deputies consent
    not, but adhere to their former bills." A year afterward the English
    court, obstinate in the face of all remonstrances, adjudged the royal
    charter of Massachusetts to be forfeited. It had been in existence all but
    half a century. It was no more; but it had done its work. It had made
    Massachusetts. The people were there--the men, the women and the children
    --who would hand on the tradition of faith and honor through the hundred
    years of darkness and tribulation till the evil spell was broken by the
    guns of Bunker Hill. Royal governors might come and go; but the people
    were growing day by day, and though governors and governments are things
    of an hour, the people are immortal, and the time of their emancipation
    will come. By means of the charter, the seed of liberty was sown in
    favorable soil; it must lie hid awhile; but it would gather in obscurity
    and seeming death the elements of new and more ample life, and the genius
    of endless expansion, Great men and nations come to their strength through
    great trials, so that they may remember, and not lightly surrender what
    was so hardly won.

    The king's privy council, now that Massachusetts lay naked and helpless
    before them, debated whether she should be ruled by English laws, or
    whether the king should appoint governors and councils over her, who
    should have license to work their wills upon her irresponsibly, except in
    so far as the king's private instructions might direct them. A minority,
    represented by Lord Halifax, who carried a wise head on young shoulders,
    advised the former plan; but the majority preferred to flatter Charles's
    manifest predilection, and said--not to seem embarrassingly explicit--that
    in their opinion the best way to govern a colony on the other side of an
    ocean three thousand miles broad, was to govern it--as the king thought
    best!

    So now, after so prolonged and annoying a delay, the royal libertine had
    his Puritan victim gagged and bound, and could proceed to enjoy her at his
    leisure. But it so fell out that the judgment against the charter was
    received in Boston on the second of July, 1685, whereas Charles II. died
    in London on February 6th of the same year; so that he did not get his
    reward after all: not, at least, the kind of reward he was looking for.
    But, so far as Massachusetts was concerned, it made little difference;
    since James II. was as much the foe of liberty as was his predecessor, and
    had none of his animal amiability. The last act of the Massachusetts
    assembly under the old order was the appointing of a day of fasting and
    prayer, to beseech the Lord to have mercy upon his people.

    The reign of James II. was a black season for the northern American
    colonies; we can say no better of it than that it did not equal the bloody
    horrors which were perpetrated in Scotland between 1680 and 1687.
    Massacres did not take place in Massachusetts; but otherwise, tyranny did
    its perfect work. The most conspicuous and infamous figures of the time
    are Sir Edmund Andros and Edward Randolph.

    Andros, born in 1637, was thirty-seven years of age when he came to the
    colonies as governor of New York on behalf of the Duke of York. He was a
    lawyer, and a man of energy and ability; and his career was on the whole
    successful, from the point of view of his employers and himself; his
    tenure of office in New York was eight years; he was governor of New
    England from 1686 to 1689, when he was seized and thrown in jail by the
    people, on the outbreak of the Revolution in England; and he afterward
    governed Virginia for seven years (1692-1698), which finished his colonial
    career. But from 1704 to 1706 the island of Jersey, in the English
    Channel, was intrusted to his rule; and he died in London, where he was
    born, in 1714, being then seventy-seven years old, not one day of which
    long life, so far as records inform us, was marked by any act or thought
    on his part which was reconcilable with generosity, humanity or honor. He
    was a tyrant and the instrument of tyranny, hating human freedom for its
    own sake, greedy to handle unrighteous spoils, mocking the sufferings he
    wrought, triumphing in the injustice he perpetrated; foul in his private
    life as he was wicked in his public career. A far more intelligent man
    than Berkeley, of Virginia, he can, therefore, plead less excuse than he
    for the evil and misery of which he was the immediate cause. But no
    earthly punishment overtook him; for kings find such men useful, and God
    gives power to kings in this world, that mankind may learn the evil which
    is in itself, and gain courage and nobility at last to cast it out, and
    trample it under foot.

    James II. was that most dangerous kind of despot--a stupid, cold man;
    even his libertinism, as it was without shame, so was it without passion.
    In his public acts he plodded sluggishly from detail to detail, with eyes
    turned downward, never comprehending the larger scope and relations of
    things. He was incapable of perceiving the vileness, cruelty, or folly of
    what he did; the almost incredible murders in Scotland never for a moment
    disturbed his clammy self-complacency. Perhaps no baser or more squalid
    soul ever wore a crown; yet no doubt ever crept into his mind that he was
    God's chosen and anointed. His pale eyes, staring dully from his pale
    face, saw in the royal prerogative the only visible witness of God's will
    in the domain of England; the atmosphere of him was corruption and death.
    But from 1685 to 1688 this man was absolute master of England and her
    colonies; and the disease which he bred in English vitals was hardly cured
    even by the sharp medicine of the Boyne.

    By the time Andros came to New England, he had learned his business. The
    year after his appointment to New York, he attempted to assert his
    sovereignty up to the Connecticut River; but he was opposed by deputy
    governor Leet, a chip of the old roundhead block, who disowned the patent
    of Andros and practically kicked him out of the colony. Connecticut paid
    for her temerity when the owner of Andros became king. In the meanwhile he
    returned to New York, where he was not wanted, but was tolerated; the
    settlers there were a comfortable people, and prosperous in the homely and
    simple style natural to them: they demanded civil rights in good, clear
    terms, and cannot be said to have been unduly oppressed at this time. New
    York for awhile included the Delaware settlements, and Andros claimed both
    east and west Jersey. The claim was contested by Carteret and by the
    Quakers. When the Jersey commerce began to be valuable, Andros demanded
    tribute from the ships, and shook the Duke's patent in the people's faces.
    They replied, rather feebly, with talk of Magna Charta. In 1682, the
    western part came by purchase into Quaker ownership, and, three years
    afterward, the eastern part followed by patent from the Duke. To trace the
    vicissitudes of this region to their end, it was surrendered to England in
    1702, and united to New York; and in 1788, in compliance with the desire
    of the inhabitants, it became its own master. The settlers were of
    composite stock: Quakers, Puritans, and others; and at the time of the
    Scotch persecutions, large numbers of fugitive Covenanters established
    themselves on the eastern slopes. The principle on which land was
    distributed, in comparatively small parcels, made the Jerseys a favorite
    colony for honest and industrious persons of small means; and, upon the
    whole, life went well and pleasantly with them.

    At the time of the return of Andros to England, in 1682, the assembly
    decreed free trade, and Dongan, the new Roman Catholic governor, permitted
    them to enact a liberal charter. In the midst of the happiness consequent
    upon this, the Duke became king and lost no time in breaking every
    contract that he had, in his unanointed state, entered into. Taxes
    arbitrarily levied, titles vacated in order to obtain renewal fees, and
    all the familiar machinery of official robbery were put in operation. But
    Dongan, a kindly Kildare Irishman--he was afterward Earl of Limerick
    --would not make oppression bitter; and the New Yorkers were not so
    punctilious about abstract principles as were the New England men.
    Favorable treaties were made with the Indians; and the despot's heel was
    not shod with iron, nor was it stamped down too hard. The Dongan charter,
    as it was called, remained in the colony's possession for over forty
    years. The rule of Dongan himself continued till 1688.

    Andros, after an absence from the colonies of five years, during which
    time a native but unworthy New Englander, Joseph Dudley, had acted as
    president, came back to his prey with freshened appetite in 1686. He was
    royal governor of all New England. Randolph, an active subordinate under
    Dudley, had already destroyed the freedom of the press. Andros's power was
    practically absolute; he was to sustain his authority by force, elect his
    own creatures to office, make such laws as pleased him, and introduce
    episcopacy. He forbade any one to leave the colony without leave from
    himself; he seized a meeting house and made it into an Episcopal church,
    in spite of the protests of the Puritans, and the bell was rung for
    high-church service in spite of the recalcitrant Needham. Duties were
    increased; a tax of a penny in the pound and a poll tax of twenty pence
    were levied; and those who refused payment were told that they had no
    privilege, except "not to be sold as slaves." Magna Charta was no
    protection against the abolition of the right of Habeas Corpus: "Do not
    think the laws of England follow you to the ends of the earth!" Juries
    were packed, and Dudley, to avoid all mistakes, told them what verdicts to
    render. Randolph issued new grants for properties, and extorted grievous
    fees, declaring all deeds under the charter void, and those from Indians,
    or "from Adam," worthless. West, the secretary, increased probate duties
    twenty-fold. When Danforth complained that the condition of the colonists
    was little short of slavery, and Increase Mather added that no man could
    call anything his own, they got for answer that "it is not for his
    majesty's interest that you should thrive." In the history of
    Massachusetts, there is no darker day than this.

    The great New England romancer, writing of this period a hundred and
    seventy years later, draws a vivid and memorable picture of the people and
    their oppressors. "The roll of the drum," he says, "had been approaching
    through Cornhill, louder and deeper, till with reverberations from house
    to house, and the regular tramp of martial footsteps, it burst into the
    street. A double rank of soldiers made their appearance, occupying the
    whole breadth of the passage, with shouldered matchlocks, and matches
    burning, so as to present a row of fires in the dusk. Their steady march
    was like the progress of a machine, that would roll irresistibly over
    everything in its way. Next, moving slowly, with a confused clatter of
    hoofs on the pavement, rode a party of mounted gentlemen, the central
    figure being Sir Edmund Andros, elderly, but erect and soldier-like. Those
    around him were his favorite councilors, and the bitterest foes of New
    England. At his right rode Edward Randolph, our arch-enemy, that 'blasted
    wretch,' as Mather calls him, who achieved the downfall of our ancient
    government, and was followed with a sensible curse, through life and to
    his grave. On the other side was Bullivant, scattering jests and mockery
    as he rode along. Dudley came behind, with a downcast look, dreading, as
    well he might, to meet the indignant gaze of the people, who beheld him,
    their only countryman by birth, among the oppressors of his native land.
    The captain of a frigate in the harbor, and two or three civil officers
    under the Crown, were also there. But the figure that most attracted the
    public eye, and stirred up the deepest feeling, was the Episcopal
    clergyman of King's Chapel, riding haughtily among the magistrates in his
    priestly vestments, the fitting representative of prelacy and persecution,
    the union of church and state, and all those abominations which had driven
    the Puritans to the wilderness. Another guard of soldiers, in double rank,
    brought up the rear. The whole scene was a picture of the condition of New
    England, and its moral, the deformity of any government that does not grow
    out of the nature of things and the character of the people. On one side
    the religious multitude, with their sad visages and dark attire, and, on
    the other, the group of despotic rulers, with the high churchman in the
    midst, and here and there a crucifix at their bosoms, all magnificently
    clad, flushed with wine, proud of unjust authority, and scoffing at the
    universal groan. And the mercenary soldiers, waiting but the word to
    deluge the street with blood, showed the only means by which obedience
    could be secured."

    Education was temporarily paralyzed, and the right of franchise was
    rendered nugatory by the order that oaths must be taken with the hand on
    the Bible--a "popish" ceremony which the Puritans would not undergo. The
    town meetings, which were the essence of New Englandism, were forbidden
    except for the election of local officers, and ballot voting was stopped:
    "There is no such thing as a town in the whole country," Andros declared.
    Verily, it was "a time when New England groaned under the actual pressure
    of heavier wrongs than those threatened ones which brought on the
    Revolution." Yet the spirit of the people was not crushed; their leaders
    did not desert them; in private meetings they kept their faith and hope
    alive; the ministers told them that "God would yet be exalted among the
    heathen"; and one at least among them, Willard, significantly bade them
    take note that they "had not yet resisted unto blood, warring against sin!"

    Boston was Andros's headquarters, and in 1688 was made the capital of the
    whole region along the coast from the French possessions in the north to
    Maryland in the south. But Andros had not yet received the submission of
    Rhode Island and Connecticut. Walter Clarke was the governor of the former
    colony in 1687, when, in the dead of winter, Andros appeared there and
    ordered the charter to be given up. Roger Williams had died three years
    before. Clarke tried to temporize, and asked that the surrender be
    postponed till a fitter season. But Andros dissolved the government
    summarily, and broke its seal; and it is not on record that the Rhode
    Islanders offered any visible resistance to the outrage. From Rhode Island
    Andros, with his retinue and soldiers, proceeded to Hartford, which had
    lost its Winthrop longer ago than the former its Williams. Governor Dongan
    of New York had warned Connecticut of what was to come, and had counseled
    them to submit. Three writs of quo warranto were issued, one upon another,
    and the colony finally petitioned the king to be permitted to retain its
    liberties; but in any case to be merged rather in Massachusetts than in
    New York. It was on the last day of October, 1687; Andros entered the
    assembly hall, where the assembly was then in session, with Governor Treat
    presiding. The scene which followed has entered into the domain of legend;
    but there is nothing miraculous in it; a deed which depended for its
    success upon the secrecy with which it was accomplished would naturally be
    lacking in documentary confirmation. Upon Andros's entrance, hungry for
    the charter, Treat opposed him, and entered upon a defense of the right of
    the colony to retain the ancient and honorable document, hallowed as it
    was by associations which endeared it to its possessors, aside from its
    political value. Andros, of course, would not yield; the only thing that
    such men ever yield to is superior force; but force being on his side, he
    entertained no thought of departing from his purpose. The dispute was
    maintained until so late in the afternoon that candles must be lighted;
    some were fixed in sconces round the walls, and there were others on the
    table, where also lay the charter, with its engrossed text, and its broad
    seal. The assemblymen, as the debate seemed to approach its climax, left
    their seats and crowded round the table, where stood on one side the royal
    governor, in his scarlet coat laced with gold, his heavy but
    sharp-featured countenance flushed with irritation, one hand on the hilt
    of his sword, the other stretched out toward the coveted document:--on the
    other, the governor chosen by the people, in plain black, with a plain
    white collar turned down over his doublet, his eyes dark with emotion, his
    voice vibrating hoarsely as he pleaded with the licensed highwayman of
    England. Around, is the ring of strong visages, rustic but brainy,
    frowning, agitated, eager, angry; and the flame of the candles flickering
    in their heavily-drawn breath.

    Suddenly and simultaneously, by a preconcerted signal, the lights are
    out, and the black darkness has swallowed up the scene. In the momentary
    silence of astonishment, Andros feels himself violently shoved aside; the
    hand with which he would draw his sword is in an iron grasp, as heavy as
    that which he has laid upon colonial freedom. There is a surging of unseen
    men about him, the shuffling of feet, vague outcries: he knows not what is
    to come: death, perhaps. Is Sir Edmund afraid? We have no information as
    to the physical courage of the man, further than that in 1675 he had been
    frightened into submission by the farmers and fishermen at Fort Saybrook.
    But he need not have been a coward to feel the blood rush to his heart
    during those few blind moments. Men of such lives as his are always ready
    to suspect assassination.

    But assassination is not an American method of righting wrong. Anon the
    steel had struck the flint, and the spark had caught the tinder, and one
    after another the candles were alight once more. All stared at one
    another: what had happened? Andros, his face mottled with pallor, was
    pulling himself together, and striving to resume the arrogant insolence of
    his customary bearing. He opens his mouth to speak, but only a husky
    murmur replaces the harsh stridency of his usual utterance. "What devilish
    foolery is this--" But ere he can get further, some bucolic statesman
    brings his massive palm down on the table with a bang that makes the oaken
    plank crack, and thunders out--"The charter! Where's our charter?"

    Where, indeed? That is one of those historic secrets which will probably
    never be decided one way or the other. "There is no contemporary record of
    this event." No: but, somehow or other, one hears of Yankee Captain Joe
    Wadsworth, with the imaginative audacity and promptness of resource of his
    race, snatching the parchment from the table in the midst of the groping
    panic, and slipping out through the crowd: he has passed the door and is
    inhaling with grateful lungs the fresh coolness of the cloudy October
    night. Has any one seen him go? Did any one know what he did?--None who
    will reveal it. He is astride his mare, and they are off toward the old
    farm, where his boyhood was spent, and where stands the great hollow oak
    which, thirty years ago, Captain Joe used to canvass for woodpeckers'
    nests and squirrel hordes. He had thought, in those boyish days, what a
    good hiding-place the old tree would make; and the thought had flashed
    back into his mind while he listened to that fight for the charter to-day.
    It did not take him long to lay his plot, and to agree with his few
    fellow-conspirators. Sir Edmund can snatch the government, and scrawl
    Finis at the foot of the Connecticut records; but that charter he shall
    never have, nor shall any man again behold it, until years have passed
    away, and Andros has vanished forever from New England.

    Meanwhile, he returned to Boston, there, for a season, to make "the
    wicked walk on every side, and the vilest to be exalted." Then came that
    famous April day of 1689; and, following, event after event, one storming
    upon another's heels, as the people rose from their long bondage, and
    hurled their oppressors down. The bearer of the news that William of
    Orange had landed in England, was imprisoned, but it was too late. Andros
    ordered his soldiers under arms; but the commander of the frigate had been
    taken prisoner by the Boston ship-carpenters; the sheriff was arrested;
    hundreds of determined men surrounded the regimental headquarters; the
    major resisted in vain; the colors and drums were theirs; a vast throng at
    the town house greeted the venerable Bradstreet; the insurrection was
    proclaimed, and Andros and his wretched followers, flying to the frigate,
    were seized and cast into prison. "Down with Andros and Randolph!" was the
    cry; and "The old charter once more!" It was a hundred years to a day
    before that shot fired at Concord and heard round the world.
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