Massachusetts -- War and Witchcraft
In 1689, war was declared between France and England. This conflict, known in American history as King William's War, grew out of the English Revolution of the preceding year. When James II. escaped from his kingdom, he found refuge at the court of Louis XIV. of France. The two monarchs were both Catholics, and both held the same despotic theory of government. Louis agreed to support James in his effort to recover the English throne. Parliament, meanwhile, had settled the crown on William of Orange. By these means the new sovereign was brought into conflict not only with the exiled James, but also with his confederate, the king of France. The war which thus originated in Europe soon extended to the American colonies of the two nations.
The struggle began on the northeastern frontier of New Hampshire. On the 27th of June, a party of Indians in alliance with the French made an attack on Dover. The venerable magistrate of the town, Richard Waldron, now eighty years of age, was inhumanly murdered. Twenty-three others were killed, and twenty-nine dragged off captive into the wilderness.
In August a war-party of a hundred Abenakis embarked in a fleet of canoes, floated out of the mouth of the Penobscot, and steered down the coast to Pemaquid, now Bremen. The inhabitants were taken by surprise: a company of farmers were surrounded in the harvest-field and murdered. The fort was besieged for two days and compelled to surrender. A few of the people escaped into the woods, but the greater numbered were killed or carried away captive. A month later an alliance was effected between the English and the powerful Mohawks west of the Hudson; but the Indians refused to make war upon their countrymen of Maine. The Dutch settlements of New Netherland, having now passed under the dominion of England, made common cause against the French.
In January of 1690 a regiment of French and Indians left Montreal and directed their march to the south. Crossing the Mohawk River, they arrived on the 8th of February at the village of Schenectady. Lying concealed in the forest until midnight, they stole through the unguarded gates, raised the war-whoop, and began the work of death. The town was soon in flames. Sixty people were killed and scalped; the rest, escaping half-clad into the darkness, ran sixteen miles through the snow to Albany. The settlement of Salmon Falls, on the Piscataqua, was next attacked and destroyed.
New England and New York were now thoroughly aroused. In order to provide the ways and means of war, a colonial congress was convened at New York. Here it was resolved to attempt the conquest of Canada by marching an army by way of Lake Champlain against Montreal. At the same time, Massachusetts was to co-operate with the land forces by sending a fleet by way of the St. Lawrence for the reduction of Quebec. Thirty-four vessels, carrying two thousand troops, were accordingly fitted out, and the command given to Sir William Phipps. Proceeding first against Port Royal, he compelled a surrender; the whole of Nova Scotia submitted without a struggle. If the commander had sailed at once against Quebec, that place too would have been forced to capitulate; but vexatious delays retarded the expedition. The opportunity was lost, and it only remained for Phipps to sail back to Boston. To meet the expenses of this unfortunate expedition, Massachusetts was obliged to issue bills of credit, which were made a legal tender in the payment of debt. Such was the origin of Paper Money in America.
Meanwhile, the land forces had proceeded from Albany as far as Lake Champlain. Here dissensions arose among the commanders. The quarrel became so violent that the expedition had to be abandoned, and the troops marched gloomily homeward.
Sir William Phipps had as little success in civil matters as in the command of a fleet. Shortly after his return from Quebec he was sent as ambassador to England. One object of his mission was to secure, if possible, a reissue of the old colonial charter. He was met with coldness and refusal. King William was secretly opposed to the liberal provisions of the former charter, and looked with disfavor on the project of renewing it. It is even doubtful whether Phipps himself desired the restoration of the old patent; for when he returned to Boston in the spring of 1692, he bore a new instrument from the king, and a commission as royal governor of the province. By the terms of this new constitution, Plymouth, Maine, and Nova Scotia were consolidated with Massachusetts; while New Hampshire, against the protests and petitions of her people, was forcibly separated from the mother colony.
The war still continued, but without decisive results. In 1694, the village of Oyster River, now Durham, was destroyed by a band of savages. The inhabitants, to the number of ninety-four, were either killed or carried into captivity. Two years later the English fortress at Pemaquid was a second time surrendered to the French and Indians. In the following March, the town of Haverhill, on the Merrimac, was captured under circumstances of special atrocity. Nearly forty persons were butchered in cold blood; only a few were spared for captivity. Among the latter was Mrs. Hannah Dustin. her child, only a week old, was snatched out of her arms and dashed against a tree. The heartbroken mother, with her nurse and a lad named Leonardson, from Worcester, was taken by the savages to an island in the Merrimac, a short distance above Concord. Here, while their captors, twelve in number, were asleep at night, the three prisoners arose, silently armed themselves with tomahawks, and with one deadly blow after another crushed in the temples of the sleeping savages, until 10 of them lay still in death; then, embarking in a canoe, the captives dropped down the river and reached the English settlement in safety. Mrs. Dustin carried hom with her the gun and tomahawk of the savage who had destroyed her family, and a bag contained the scalps of her neighbors.
But the war was already at an end. Early in 1697, commissioners of France and England assembled at the town of Ryswick, in Holland; and on the 10th of the following September, a treaty of peace was concluded. King William was acknowledged as the rightful sovereign of England, and the colonial boundary-lines of the two nations in America were established as before.
Massachusetts had in the meantime been visited with a worse calamity than war. The darkest page in the history of New England is that which bears the record of the Salem Witchcraft. The same town which fifty-seven years previously had cast out Roger Williams was now to become the scene of the most fatal delusion of modern times. In February of 1692, in that part of Salem afterward called Danvers, a daughter and a niece of Samuel Parris, the minister, were attacked with a nervous disorder which rendered them partially insane. Parris believed, or affected to believe, that the two girls were bewitched, and that Tituba, an Indian maidservant of the household, was the author of the affliction. He had seen her performing some of the rude ceremonies of her own religion, and this gave color to his suspicions. He tied Titube, and whipped the ignorant creature until, at his own dictation, she confessed herself a witch. Here, no doubt, the matter would have ended had not other causes existed for the continuance and spread of the miserable delusion.
But Parris had had a quarrel in his church. A part of the congregation desired that George Burroughs, a former minister, should be reinstated, to the exclusion of Parris. Burroughs still lived at Salem; and there was great animosity between the partisans of the former and the present pastor. Burroughs disbelieved in witchcraft, and openly expressed his contempt of the system. Here, then, Parris found an opportunity to turn the confessions of the foolish Indian servant against his enemies, to overwhelm his rival with the superstitions of the community.
But there others ready to aid him. First among these was the celebrated Cotton Mather, minister of Boston. He, being in high repute for wisdom, had recently preached much on the subject of witchcraft, teaching the people that witches were dangerous and ought to be put to death. He thus became the natural confederate of Parris, and the chief author of the terrible scenes that ensued. Sir William Phipps, the royal governor, who had just arrived from England, was a member of Mather's church.
By the laws of England witchcraft was punishable with death. The code of Massachusetts was the same as that of the mother-country. A special court was accordingly appointed by Governor Phipps to go to Salem and to set in judgment on the persons accused by Paarris. Stoughton, the deputy-governor, was the presiding judge; Parris himself the prosecutor, and Cotton Mather a kind of bishop to decide when the testimony was sufficient to condemn.
On the 21st of March, the horrible proceedings began. Mary Cory was arrested, not indeed for being a witch, but for denying the reality of witchcraft. When brought before the church and court, she denied all guilt, but was convicted and hurried to prison. Sarah Cloyce and Rebecca Nurse, two sisters of the most exemplary lives, were next apprehended as witched. The only witnesses against them were Tituba, her half-witted Indian husband, the the simple girl, Abigail Williams, the niece of Parris. The victims were sent to prison, protesting their innocence. Giles Cory, a patriarch of eighty years, was next seized; he also was one of those who had opposed Parris. The Indian accuser fell down before Edward Bishop, pretending to be in a fit under satanic influence; the sturdy farmer cured him instantly with a sound flogging, and said that he could restore the rest of the afflicted in the same manner. He and his wife were immediately arrested and condemned. George Burroughs, the rival of Parris, was accused and hurried to prison. And so the work went on, until seventy-five innocent people were locked up in dungeons. Not a solitary partican of Parris or Mather had been arrested.
In the hope of sving their lives, some of the terrified prisoners now began to confess themselves witches, or bewitched. It was soon found that a confession was almost certain to procure liberation. It became evident that the accused were to be put to death, not for being witches or wizards, but for denying the reality of witchcraft. The special court was already in session; convictions followed fast; the gallows stood waiting for its victims. When the noble Burroughs mounted the scaffold, he stood composedly and repeated correctly the test-prayer which it was said no wizard could utter. The people broke into sobs and moans, and would have rescued their friend from death; but the tyrant Mather dashed among them on horseback, muttering imprecations, and drove the hangman to his horrid work. Old Giles Cory, seeing that conviction was certain, refused to plead, and was pressed to death. Five women were hanged in one day. Between the 10th of June and the 22d of September, twenty victims were hurried to their doom. Fifty-five others had been tortured into the confession of abominable falsehoods. A hundred and fifty lay in prison awaiting their fate. Two hundred were accused or suspected, and ruin seemed to impend over New England. But a reaction at last set in among the people. Notwithstanding the vociferous clamor and denunciations of Mather, the witch tribunals were overthrown. The representative assembly convened early in October, and the hated court which Phipps has appointed to sit at Salem was at once dismissed. The spell was dissolved. The thralldom of the popular mind was broken. the prison doors were opened, and the victims of malice and superstitution went forth free. In the beginning of the next year a few persons charged with witchcraft were again arraigned and brought before the courts. Some were even convicted, but the conviction went for nothing; not another life was sacrificed to passion and fanaticism.
Most of those who had participated in the terrible deeds of the preceding summer confessed the great wrong which they had done; but confessions could not restore the dead. The bigoted Mather, in a vain attempt to justify himself before the world, wrote a treatise in which he expressed his great thankfulness that so many witches had met their just doom. Far nobler was the confession of Judge Sewall for the part he had taken in condemning the innocent. Publicly he confessed that he had been in the wrong and he begged the people to pray "that God might not visit his sin upon him, his family, or upon the land."
The peace which followed the treaty of Ryswick was of short duration. Within less than four years France and England were again involved in a conflict which, beginning in Europe, soon extended to the American colonies. In the year 1700, Charles II., king of Spain, died, having named as his successor Philip of anjou, a grandson of Louis XIV. This measure pointed clarly to a union of the crowns of France and Spain. The jealousy of all Europe was aroused; a league was formed between England, Holland, and Austria; the archduke Charles of the latter country was put forward by the allied powers as a candidate for the Spanish throne; and war was declared against Louis XIV. for supporting the claims of Philip.
England had against France another cause of offense. In September of 1701, James II., the exiled king of Great Britain, died at the court of Louis, who now, in violation of the treaty of Ryswick, recognized the son of James as the rightful sovereign of England. This action was regarded as an open insult to English nationality. King William led his armies to the field not less to thwart the ambition of France than to save his own crown and kingdom. But the English monarch did not live to carry out his plans. While yet the war was hardly begun, the king fell from his horse, was attacked with fever, and died in May of 1702. Parliament had already settled the crown on Anne, the sister-in-law of William and daughter of James II. The new sovereign adopted the policy of her predecessor. The war that followed lasted for nearly thirteen years. It was known in America as Queen Anne's War; in England it was called the War of the Spanish Succession.
In America the field of operations was limited to New England and South Carolina. the central colonies were scarcely aware that war existed. The military operations of both parties were conducted in a feeble and desultory manner. The more influential Indian tribes held aloof from the struggle. In August, 1701, the powerful Five Nations, whose dominions south of Lake Ontario and the River St. Lawrence formed a barrier between Canada and New York, made a treaty of neutrality with both the French and the English. The Abenakis of Maine did the same; but the French prevailed with the latter to break their compact. The first notice of treachery which the English had, was a fearful massacre. In one day the whole country between the town of Wells and the Bay of Casco was given up to burning and butchery.
In midwinter of 1703-4 the town of Deerfield was destroyed. A war-party of three hundred French and Indians, setting out from Canada, marched on the snow-crust into the Connecticut valley. On the last night of February, the savages lay in the pine forest that surrounded the ill-fated village. Just before daybreak they rushed from their covert and fired the houses. Forty-seven of the inhabitants wer tomahawked. A hundred and twelve were dragged into captivity. The prisoners, many of them women and children, were obliged to march to Canada. The snow lay four feet deep. The poor wretches, haggard with fear and starvation, sank down and died. Eunice Williams, the minister's wife, fainted by the wayside; in the presence of her husband and five captive children, her brains were dashed out with a tomahawk. Those who survived to the end of the journey were afterward ransomed and permitted to return to their desolated homes. A daughter of Mr. Williams remained with the savages, grew up among the Mohawks, married a chieftain, and in after years returned in Indian garb to Deerfield. No entreaties could induce her to remain with her friends. The solitude of the woods and the society of her tawny husband had prevailed over the charms of civilization.
In Maine and New Hampshire the war was marked with similar barbarities. Farms were devastated; towns were burned; the inhabitants were murdered or carried to Canada. Prowling bands of savages, led on by French officers, penetrated at times into the heart of Massachusetts.
In 1707, the reduction of Port Royal was undertaken by Massachusetts. A fleet, bearing a thousand soldiers, was equipped and sent against the town. But Baron Castin, who commanded the French garrison, conducted the defense with so much skill that the English were obliged to abandon the undertaking. From this costly and disastrous expedition Massachusetts gained nothing but discouragement and debt. Nevertheless, after two years of preparation, the enterprise was renewed; and in 1710 an English and American fleet of thirty-six vessels, having on board four regiments of troops, anchored before Port Royal. The garrison was weak, and after a feeble defense of eleven days, the place surrendered at discretion. By this conquest all of Nova Scotia passed under the dominion of the English. The flag of Great Britain wa hoisted over the conquered fortress, and the name of Port Royal gave place to Annapolis, in honor of Queen Anne.
Vast preparations were now made for the invasion of Canada. A land force under the command of General Nicholson was to march against Montreal, while Quebec, the key to the French dominions in America, was to be reduced by an English fleet. For this purpose fifteen mem-of-war and forty transports were placed under command of Sir Hovenden Walker. Seven regiments of veterans, selected from the armies of Europe, were added to the colonial forces and sent with the expedition. But for the utter incompetency of the admiral, success would have been assured.
For six weeks in midsummer the great fleet lay idly in Boston Harbor. Sir Hovenden was getting ready to sail. The Abenaki indians carried the news leisurely to Quebec; and every day added to the strength of the ramparts. At last, on the 30th of July, when no further excuse could be invented, the ships set sail for the St. Lawrence. Proceeding slowly up the St. Lawrence, the fleet, on the 22d of August, was enveloped in a thick fog. The wind blew hard from the east. The commander was cautioned to remain on deck, but went quietly to bed. A messenger aroused him just in time to see eight of his best vessels dashed to pieces on the rocks. Eight hundred and eighty-four men went down in the foaming whirlpools. A council of war was held, and all voted that it was impossible to proceed. In a letter to the Engllish government, Walker expressed great gratitude that by the loss of a thousand men the rest had been saved from freezing to death at Quebec. The fleet sailed back to England, and the colonial troops were disbanded at Boston.
Meanwhile, the army of General Nicholson had marched against Montreal. But when news arrived of the failure of the fleet, the land expedition was also abandoned. The dallying cowardice of Walker had brought the campaign of 1711 to a shameful end. France had already mde overtures for peace. Negotiations were formally begun in the early part of 1712; and on the 11th of April in the following year a treaty was concluded at Utrecht, a town of Holland. By the terms of the settlement, England obtained control of the fisheries of Newfoundland. Labrador, the Bay of Hudson, and the whole of Acadia, or Nova Scotia, were ceded to Great Britain.
For thirty-one years after the close of Queen Anne's war, Massachusetts was free from hostile invasion. This was not, however, a period of public tranquillity. The people were dissatisfied with the royal government which King William had established, and were at constant variance with their governors. The opposition to the royal officers took the form of a controversy about their salaires. The general assembly insisted that the governor and his councilors should be paid in proportion to the importance of their several offices, and for actual service only. But the royal commissions gave to each officer a fixed salary, which was frequently out of all proportion to the services rendered. After many years of antagonism, the dificulty was finally adjusted with a compromise in which the advantage was wholly on the side of the people. It was agreed that the salaries of the governor and his assistants should be annually allowed, and the amount fixed by vote of the assembly. The representatives of popular liberty had once more triumphed over the principles of arbitrary rule.
On the death of Charles VI. of Austria, in 1740, there were two principal claimants to the crown of the empire--Maria Theresa, daughter of the late emperor, and Charles Albert of Bavaria. Each claimant had his party and his army; war followed; and nearly all the nations of Europe were swept into the conflict. As usually happened in such struggles, England and France were arrayed against each other. The contest that ensued is generally known as the War of the Austrian Succession, but in American history is called King George's War; for George II. was now king of England.
In America the only important event of the war was the capture of Louisberg, on Cape Breton Island. This place had been fortified at vast expense by the French. Standing at the principal entrance to the gulf and river of St. Lawrence, the fortress was regarded as a key to the Canadian provinces. New England was quick to note that both Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were threatened so long as the French flag floated over Louisburg. Governor Shirley brought the matter before the legislature of Massachusetts, and it was resolved to attempt the capture of the enemy's stronghold.
The other colonies were invited to aid the enterprise. Connecticut responded by sending more than five hundred troops; New Hampshire and Rhode Island each furnished three hundred; a park of artillery was sent from New York; and Pennsylvania contributed a supply of provisions. The forces of Massachusetts alone numbered more than three thousand. Everything devolved on the army and navy of New England, but there was no quailing under the responsibility. William Popperell, of Maine, was appointed commander-in-chief; and on the 4th of April, 1745, the fleet sailed for Cape Breton.
Meanwhile Commodore Warren, with an English fleet in the West Indies, was instructed to join Pepperell and aid in the capture of Louisburg. He did so on April 23 in Nova Scotia waters, and on the last day of the month the armament, now numbering a hundred vessels, entered the Bay of Gabarus in sight of Louisburg. A landing was effected four miles below the city. On the next day a company of four hundred volunteers marched across the peninsula and attacked a French battery which had been planted on the shore two miles beyond the town. The French, struck with terror at the impetuosity of the unexpected charge, spiked their guns and fled. Before morning the cannon were redrilled and turned upon the fortress. An attack in the rear of the fort seemed impossible on account of a large swamp which lay in that direction; but the resolute soldiers of New England lashed their heavy guns upon sledges, and dragged them through the marsh to a tract of solid ground within two hundred yards of the enemy's bastions. Notwithstanding the advantage of this position, the walls of the fort stood firm, and the siege progressed slowly.
On the 18th of May a French ship of sixty-four guns, laden with stores, was captured by Warren's fleet, right in view of the hungry garrison. The French were greatly discouraged by this event, and the defense grew feeble. The English were correspondingly elated with the prospect of success. On the 26th of the month an effort was made to capture the French battery in the harbor. A company of daring volunteers undertook the hazardous enterprise by night. Embarking in boats, they drew near the island where the battery was planted, but were discovered and repulsed with the loss of a hundred and seventy-six men. It was now determined to carry the town by storm. The assault was set for the 18th of June; but on the day previous the desponding garrison sent out a flag of truce; terms of capitulation were proposed and accepted, and the English flag rose above the conquered fortress.
By the terms of this surrender not only Louisburg, but the whole of Cape Breton, was given up to England. The rejoicing at Boston and throughout the colonies was only equaled by the indignation and alarm of the French government. Louisburg must be retaken at all hazards, said the ministers of France. For this purpose a powerful fleet, under command of Duke d'Anville, was sent out in the following year. Before reaching America the duke died of a pestilence. His successor went made and killed himself. Storms and shipwrecks and disasters drove the ill-fated expedition to utter ruin. The renewal of the enterprise, in 1747, was attended with like misfortune. Commodores Warren and Anson overtook the French squardron and compelled a humiliating surrender.
In 1748, a treaty of peace was concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle, a town of Western Germany. After eight years of devastating warfare, nothing was gained but a mutual restoration of conquests. By the terms of settlement, Cape Breton was surrendered to France. With grief and shame the fishermen and farmers of New England saw the island which had been subdued by their valor restored to their enemies. Of all the disputed boundary-lines between the French and English colonies in America, not a single one was settled by this treaty. The real war between France and England for colonial supremacy in the West was yet to be fought. Within six years after the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the two great powers were involved in the final and decisive conflict.
The history of Massachusetts has now been traced through a period of a hundred and thirty years. A few words on the Character of the Puritans may be appropriately added. They were in the beginning a vigorous and hardy people, firm-set in the pirnciples of honesty and the practices of virtue. They were sober, industrious, frugal; resolute, zealous, and steadfast. They esteemed honor above preferment, and truth more than riches. Loving home and native land, they left both for the sake of freedom; and finding freedom, they cherished it with the zeal and devotion of martyrs. Without influence, they became influential; without encouragement, great. Despised and mocked and hated, they rose above their revilers. In the school of evil fortune they gained the discipline of patience. Suffering without cause brought resignation without despair. Themselves the victims of persecution, they became the founders of a colony--a commonwealth--a nation. They were the children of adversity and the fathers of renown.
The gaze of the Puritan was turned ever to posterity. He believed in the future. His affections and hopes were with the coming ages. For his children he toiled and sacrificed; for them the energies of his life were cheerfully exhausted. The system of free schools is the enduring monument of his love and devotion. The printing-press is his memorial. Almshouses and asylums are the tokens of his care for the unfortunate. With him the outcast found sympathy, and the wanderer a home. He was the earliest champion of civil rights, and the builder of the Union.
The fathers of New England have been accused of bigotry. The charge is true: it is the background of the picture. In matters of religion they were intolerant and superstitious. Theie religious faith was gloomy and foreboding. Human life was deemed a sad and miserable journey. To be mistaken was to sin. To fail in trifling ceremonies was reckoned a grievous crime. In the shadow of such belief the people became austere and melancholy. Escaping from the splendid formality of the Episcopal Church, they set up a colder and severer form of worship; and the form was made like iron. Dissenters themselves, they could not tolerate the dissent of others. To restrain and punish error seemed right and necessary. Williams and Hutchinson were banished; the Quakers were persecuted and the witches hanged. But Puritanism contained within itself the power to correct its own abuses. The evils of the system may well be forgoteen in the glory of its achievements.
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