The New England Confederation
New England was fast becoming a nation. Well-nigh fifty towns and villages dotted the face of the country. Nearly a million of dollars had been spent in settling and developing the new State. Enterprises of all kinds were rife. Manufactures, commerce, and the arts were rapidly introduced. William Stephens, a shipbuilder who came with Governor Winthrop to Boston, had already built and launched an American vessel of four hundred tons burden. Before 1640, two hundred and ninety-eight emigrant ships had anchored in Massachusetts Bay. Twenty-one thousand two hundted people, excaping from English intolerance of Church or State, had found home and rest between Plymouth Rock and the Connecticut valley. It is not wonderful that the colonists began to cast about them for better political organization and more ample forms of government.
Many circumstances impelled the colonies to union. First of all, there was the natural desire of men to have a regular and permanent government. England, torn and distracted with civil war, could do nothing for or against her colonies; they must take care of themselves. Here was the western frontier exposed to the hostilities of the Dutch towns on the Hudson; Connecticut alone could not defend herself. Similar trouble was apprehended from the French on the north; the English settlements on the Piscataqua were weak and defenseless. Indian tribes capable of mustering a thousand warriors were likely at any hour to fall upon remote and helpless villages; the prevalence of common interests and the necessities of common defense made a union of some sort very desirable.
In 1643, a measure of union was brought forward and adopted. By the terms of this compact, Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven were joined in a loose confederacy, called The United Colonies of New England. The chief authority was conferred upon a general assembly, or congress, composed of two representatives from each colony. Each community retained, as before, its separate local existence; and all subordinate questions of legislation were reserved to the respective colonies. Only matters of general interest--such as Indian affairs, the levying of troops, the raising of revenues, declarations of war and treaties of peace--were submitted to the assembly.
Provision was made for the admission of other colonies into the union, but none were ever admitted. The English settlement on the Piscataqua was rejected because of heterodoxy in religion. The Providence Plantations were refused for similar reasons. Should Roger Williams return to plague an assembly where an approved church-membership was the sole qualification for office? The little island of Rhode Island, with its Jewish republic, also knocked for admission; Anne Hutchinson's commonwealth was informed that Plymouth colony had rightful jurisdiction there, and that heresy was a bar to all petitions.
Until the year 1641 the people of Massachusetts had had no regular code of laws. At a meeting of the assembly in December of this year, Nathaniel Ward brought forward a written instrument which, after mature deliberation, was adopted as the consitution of the State. This fundamental statute was called the Body of Liberties, and was every afterward esteemed as the great charter of colonial freedom. It may be doubted whether any other primitive constitution, eithe ancient or modern, contains more wisdom than this early code of Massachusetts.
A further modification in the government was effected in 1644. Until this time the representatives of the people had sat and voted in the same hall with the governor and his asistant magistrates. It was now decreed that the two bodies should sit apart, each with its own officers and under its own management. By this measure the people's branch of the legislature was made independent and of equal authority with the governor's council. Thus step by step were the safeguards of liberty established and regular forms of government secured.
The people of Massachusetts were little grieved on account of the English Revolution. It was for them a vindication and a victory. The triumph of Parliament over King Charles was the triumph of Puritansim both in England and America. During the supremacy of the Long Parliament several acts were passed which put in peril the interests of Massachusetts, but by a prudent and far-sighted policy all evil results were avoided. Powerful friends, especially Sir Henry Vane, stood up in Parliament and defended the colony against the intrigues of her enemies. Soon after the abolition of monarchy of statute was made which threatened for a while the comlete subversion of the new State. Massachusetts was invited to surrender her charter, to receive a new instrument instead, and to hold courts and issue writs in the name of Parliament. The requisition was never complied with. Cromwell did not insist on the surrender; no one else had power to enforce the act; and Massachusetts retained her charter.
The Protector was the constant friend of the American colonies. Even Virginia, though slighting his authority, found him just, as well as severe. The people of New England were his special favorites. To them he was bound by every tie of political and religious sympathy. For more than ten years, when he might have been an oppressor, he continued the benefactor, of the English in America. During his determination the northern colonies were left in the full enjoyment of their coveted rights. In commerce, in the industry of private life, and especially in religion, the people of Massachusetts were as free as the people of England.
In the year 1652, it was decreed by the general court at Boston that the jurisdiction of the province extended as far north as thre miles above the most northerly waters of the river Merrimac. This declaration, which was in strict accordance with the charter of the colony, was made for the purpose of annexing Maine to Massachusetts. By this measure the territory of hte latter State was extended to Casco Bay. Settlements had been made on the Piscatqua as early as 1626, but had not flourished. Thirteen years later a royal charter was issued to Sir Ferdinand Gorges, a member of the Council of Plymouth, who became proprietor of the province. His cousin, Thomas Gorges, was made deputy-governor. A high-sounding constitution, beg enough for an empire, was drawn up, and the little village of Gorgeana, afterward York, became the capital of the kingdom. Meanwhile in 1630, the Plymouth Council had granted to another corporation sixteen hundted square miles of the territory around Casco Bay, and this claim had been purchased by Rigby, a republican member of Parliament. Between his deputies and those of Gorges violent disputes arose. The villages of Maine, sympathizing with neither party, and emulous of the growth and prosperity of the southern colonies, laid their grievances before the court at Boston, and the annexation of the province followed.
In July of 1656, the Quakers began to arrive at Boston. The first who came were Ann Austin and Mary Fisher. The introduction of the plague would have occasioned less alarm. The two women were caught and searched for marks of witchcraft, their trunks were broken open, their books were burned by the hangman, and they themselves thrown into prison. After several weeks' confinement they were brought forth and banished from the colony. Before the end of the year eight others had been arrested and sent back to England. The delegates of the union were immediately convened, and a rigorous law wa passed, excluding all Quakers from the country. Whipping, the loss of one year, and banishment were the penalities for the first offense; after a second conviction the other ear should be cut off; and should the criminal again return, his tongue should be fored through with a red-hot iron.
In 1657, Ann Burden, who had come from London to preach against persecution, was seized and beaten with twenty stripes. Others came, were shipped and exiled. As the law became more cruel and proscriptive, fresh victims rushed forward to brave its terrors. The assembly of the four colonies again convened, and advised the authorities of Massachusetts to pronounce the penalty of death against the fanatical disturbers of the public peace. When the resolutions embodying this advice were put before the assembly, to his everlasting honor, the younger Winthrop, delegate from Connecticut, voted No! Massachusetts accepted the views of the greater number, and the death-penalty was passed by a majority of one vote.
In September of 1659, four persons were arrested and brought to trial under this law. The prisoners were given the option of going into exile or of being hanged. Two of them (Mary Dyar and Nicholas Davis) chose banishment; but the other two (Marmaduke Stephenson and William Robinson) stood firm, denounced the wickedness of the court, and were sentenced to death. Mary Dyar, in whom the love of martyrdom had triumphed over fear, now returned, and was also condemned. On the 27th of October the three were led forth to execution. The men were hanged without mercy; and the woman, after the rope had been adjusted to her neck, was reprieved only to be banished. She was conveyed beyond the limits of the colony, but immediately returned and was executed. William Leddra was next seized, tried, and sentenced. As in the case of the others, he was offered perpetual exile instead of death. He refused, and was hanged.
Others, eager for the honor of martyrdom, came forward in crowds, and the jails were filled with voluntary prisoners. But erelong the public conscience was aroused; the law was repealed and the prison-doors were opened. The bloody reign of proscription had ended, but not until four innocent enthusiasts had given their lives for liberty of conscience.
But let a veil be drawn over this sorrowful event. The history of all times is full of scenes of violence and wrong. It could not be expected that an American colony, founded by exiles, pursued with malice and beset with dangers, should be wholly exempt from the shame of evil deeds. The Puritans established a religious rather than a civil commonwealth; whatever put the faith of the people in peril seemed to them more to be dreaded than pestilence or death. To ward off heresy, even by destroying the heretic, seemed only a natural self-defense. A nobler lesson has beenlearned in the light of better times.
The English Revolution had now run its course. Cromwell was dead. The Commonwealth tottered and fell. Charles II. was restored to the throne of his ancestors. Tidings of the Restoration reached Boston on the 27th of July, 1660. In the same vessel that bore the news came Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two of the judges who had passed sentence of death of Charles I. It was now their turn to save their lives by flight. Governor Endicott received them with courtesy; the agents from the British government came in hot pursuit with orders to arrest them. For a while the fugitives, aided by the people of Boston, baffled the officers, and then escaped to New Haven. Here for many weeks they lay on concealment; not even the Indians would accept the reward which was offered for their apprehension. At last the exiles reached the valley of the Connecticut and found refuge at the village of Hadley, where they passed the remainder of their lives.
Owing to the partiality of Cromwell, the restrictions on colonial commerce which bore so heavily on Virginia were scarecly felt by Massachusetts. On the restoration of monarchy a severer policy was at once adopted. All vessels not bearing the English flag were forbidden to enter the harbors of New England. A law of exportation was enacted by which all articles produced in the colonies and demanded in England should be shipped to England only. Such articles of American production as the English merchants did not desire might be sold in any of the ports of Europe. The law of importation was equally odious; such articles as were produced in England should not be manufactured in America, and should be bought from England only. Free trade between the colonies was forbidden; and a duty of five per cent., levied for the benefit of the English king, was put on both exports and imports. Human ingenuity could hardly have invented a set of measures better calculated to produce an American Revolution.
In 1664, war broke out between England and Holland. It became a part of the English military plans to reduce the Dutch settlements on the Hudson; and for this purpose a fleet was sent to America. But there was another purpose also. Charles II. was anxious to obtain control of the New England colonies, that he might govern them according to the principles of arbitrary power. The chief obstacle to this undertaking was the charter of Massachusetts--an instrument given under the great seal of England, and not easily revoked. To accomplish the same end by other means was now the object of the king; and with this end in view four commissioners were appointed with instructions to go to America, to sit in judgment upon all matters of complaint that might arise in New England, to settle colonial disputes, and to take such other measures as might seem most likely to establish peace and good order in the country. The royal commissioners embarked in the British fleet, and in July arrived at Boston.
They were not wanted in Boston. The people of Massachusetts knew very well that the establishment of this supreme judgeship in their midst was a flagrant violation of their chartered right of self-government. Before the commissioners landed the patent was put into the hands of a committee for safe-keeping. A decree of the general court forbade the citizens to answer any summons issued by the royal judges. A powerful letter, full of loyalty and manly protests, was sent directly to the king. the commissioners became disgusted with the treatment which they received at the hands of the refractory colony, and repaired to Maine and New Hampshire. Here they were met with some marks of favor; but their official acts were disregarded and soon forgotten. In Rhode Island the judges were received with great respect, and their decisions accepted as the decisions of the king., The towns of Connecticut were next visited; but the people were cold and indifferent, and the commissioners retired. Meanwhile, the English monarch, learning how his grand judges had been treated, sent a message of recall, and before the end of the year they gladly left the country. After a gallant fight, Massachusetts had preserved her liberties. Left in the peaceable enjoyment of her civil rights, she entered upon a new career of prosperity which, for a period of ten years, was marked with no calamity.
Massachusetts - King Philip's War
Massasoit, the old sachem of the Wampanoags, died in 1662. For forty-one uears he had faithfully kept the treaty made by himself with the first settlers at Plymouth. His elder son, Alexander, now became chief of the nation, but died within the year; and the chieftainship descended to the younger brother, Philip of Mount Hope. It was the fate of this brave and able man to lead his people in a final and hopeless struggle against the supremacy of the whites.
The unwary natives of New England had sold their lands. The English were the purchasers; the chiefs had signed the deeds; the price had been fairly paid. Year by year the territory of the tribes had narrowed; the old men died, but the deeds remained and the lands could not be recovered. The young warriors sighed for the freedom of their fathers' hunting-grounds. They looked with every-increasing jealousy on the growth of English villages and the spread of English farms. The ring of the foreigner's ax had scared the game out of the forest, and the foreigners' net had scooped he fishes from the Red man's river. Of all their ancient domain, the Wampanoags had nothing left but the two narrow penisulas of Bristol and Tiverton, on the eastern coast of Narragansett Bay.
Perhaps King Philip, if left to himself, would have still sought peace. He was not a rash man, and clearly foresaw the inevitable issue of the struggle. But the young men of the tribe could no longer be restrained. The women and children were hesitly sent across the bay and put under the protection of Canonchet, king of the Narragansetts. On the 24th of June, 1675, the village of Swansea was attacked; eight Englishmen were killed; and the alarm of war sounded through the colonies.
Within a week the militia of Plymouth, joined by volunteer companies from Boston, entered the enemy's country. A few Indians were overtaken and killed. The troops marched into the peninsula of Bristol, reached Mount Hope, and compelled Philip to fly for his life. With a band of fugitives numbering five or six hundred, he excaped to Tiverton, on the eastern side of the bay. The place was then surrounded and besieged for two weeks; but Philip and his men managed to escape in the night, crossed the bay, and fled to the country of the Nipmucks, in Central Massachusetts. Here the king and his warriors became the heralds of a general war. The slumbering hatred of the savages was easily kindled into open hostility. For a whole year the scattered settlements of the frontier were a scene of burning massacre, and desolation.
The war was now transferred to the Connecticut valley. It had been hoped that the Nipmucks would remain loyal to the English; but the influence of the exiled chieftain prevailed with them to take up arms. As usual with savages, treachery was added to hostility. Captains Wheeler and Hutchinson, with a company of twenty men, were sent to Brookfield to hold a conference with ambassadors from the Nipmuck nation. Instead of preparing for the council, the Indians laid an ambush near the village, and when the English were well surrounded, fired upon them, killing nearly the whole company. A few survivors, escaping to the settlement, gave the alarm, and the people fled to their block-house just in time to save their lives.
For two days the place was assailed with every missile that savage ingenuity could invent. Finally, the house was fired with burning arrows, and the destruction of all seemed certain; but just as the roof began to blaze, the friendly clouds poured down a shower of rain, and the flames were extenguished. Then came re-enforcements from Springfield and the Indians fled. The people of Brookfield now abandoned their homes and sought refuge in the towns along the river. On the 26th of August, a battle was fought in the outskirts of Deerfield. The whites were successful; but a few days afterward the savages succeeded in firing the village, and the greater part of it was burned to the ground. A storehouse containing the recently gathered harvests was saved, and Captain Lathrop, with a company of eighty picked men, undertook the dangerous task of removing the stores to Hadley. A train of wgons, loaded with wheat and corn and guarded by the soldiers, left Deerfield on the 18th of September, and had proceeded five miles, when they were suddenly surrounded by eight hundred Indians, who lay in ambush at the ford of a small creek. The whites fought desperately, and were killed almost to a man. Meanwhile, Captain Mosely, at the head of seventy militia, arrived, and the battle continued, the Engllish retreating until they were re-enforced by a band of a hundred and sixty English and Mohegans. The savages were then beaten back with heavy losses. the little stream where this ftal engagement occurred, was henceforth called Bloody Brook.
On the same day of the burning of Deerfield, Hadley was attacked while the people were at church. Everything was in confusion, and the barbarians had already begun their work of butchery, when the gray-haired General Goffe, who was concealed in the village, rushed forth from his covert, and by rallying and directing the flying people saved them from destruction. After the Indians had been driven into the woods, the aged veteran went back to his hiding-place, and was seen no more. Late in the autumn, a battle was fought at Springfield; the town was assaulted and most of the dwellings burned. Another attack was made on Hadley, and a large part of the village was left in ashes. Hatfield was the next object of savage vengeance; but here the English were found prepared, and the Indians were repulsed with heavy losses. The farms and the weaker settlements were now abandoned, and the people sought shelter in the stronger towns near the river.
Philip, finding that he could do no further harm on the northern frontier, gathered his warriors together and repaired to the Narragansetts. by receiving them, Canonchet openly violated his treaty with the English, but to refuse them was contrary to the savage virtues of his race. To share the dubious fate of Philip was preferred to the longer continuance of a hateful alliance with foreigners. The authorities of Massachusetts immediately declared war against the Narragansett nation, and Rhode Island was invaded by a thousand men under command of Colonel Josiah Winslow. It was the determination to crush the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts at one blow; the manner of defense adopted by the savages favored such an undertaking. On an elevation in the middle of an immense cedar swamp, a short distance southwest of Kingston, the Indians collected to the number of three thousand. A fort was built on the island, and fortified with a palisade and a breastwork of felled timber. Here the savages believed themselves secure from assault. The English regiment arrived at the swamp at daybreak on the 19th of December, and struggling through the bogs, reached the fort at noon-day. The attack was made immediately. The work of death and estruction began in earnest. the wigwams were set on fire, and the kindling flames swept around the village. The yells of the combatants mingled with the roar of the conflagration. But the superior discipline and valor of the whites soon decided the battle. The Indians, attempting to escape from the burning fort, ran everywhere upon the loaded muskets of the English. A thousand warriors were killed and hundred more were captured. Nearly all the wounded perished in the flames. There, too, the old men, the women, and babes of the nation met the horrors of death by fire. The pride of the Narragansetts had perished in a day. But the victory was dearly purchased; eighty English soldiers, including six captains of the regiment, were killed, and a hundred and fifty others were wounded.
A few of the savages, breaking through the English lines, escaped. Led by Philip, they again repaired to the Nipmucks, and with the opening of spring the war was renewed with more violence than ever. As their fortunes declined the Indians grew desperate; they had nothing more to lose. Around three hundred miles of frontier, extending from Maine to the mouth of the Connecticut, were massacre and devastation. Lancaster, Medfield, Groton, and Marlborough were laid in ashes.
But the end was near at hand. The resources of the savages were exhausted, and their numbers grew daily less. In April, Canonchet was overtaken and captured on the banks of the Blackstone. He was offered his life if he would procure a treaty of peace; but the haughty chieftain rejected the proposal with disdain, and was put to death. Philip was still at large, but his company had dwindled to a handful. In the early summer, his wife and son were made prisoners; the latter was sold as a slave, and ended his life under the lash of a taskmaster in the Bermudas. The savage monarch was heartbroken now, and cared no longer for his life. Repairing secretly to his old home at Mount Hope, his place of concealment was revealed to the whites. A company of soldiers was sent to surround him. A treacherous Indian guided the party to the spot, and then himself, stealing nearer, took a deadly aim at the breast of his chieftain. The report of a musket rang through the forest, and the painted king of the Wampanoags sprang forward and fell dead.
New England suffered terribly in this war. The expenses and losses of the war amounted to fully five hundred thousand dollars. Thirteen towns and six hundred dwellings lay smoldering in ashes. Almost every family had heard the war-whoop of the savages. Six hundred men, the flower and pride of the country, had fallen in the field. Hundreds of families had been butchered in cold blood. Gray-haired sire, mother, and babe had sunk together under the vengeful blow of the Red man's gory tomahawk. Now there was peace again. The Indian race was swept out of New England. The tribes beyond the Connecticut came humbly submissive, and pleaded for their lives. The colonists returned to their desolated farms and villages to build new homes in the ashes of the old ruins.
The echo of King Philip's war had hardly died away before the country was involved in troubles of a different sort.
For some years the English king had looked with jealous eye on the growing importance of Massachusetts. There were various causes for this: In 1661, the General Court had issued a Declaration of Rights which displeased the arbitrary king; the colony did not strictly observe the Navigation laws; it refused to surrender Whalley and Goffe, the regicides; it had shown its independence in the purchase of Maine of the heirs of Gorges. All these things were distasteful to Charles II., and would have borne their evil fruit earlier but for the war between England and Holland. this war being over, Charles determined, not only to punish Massachusetts, but also to revoke the charters of all the New England colonies and to place them, with New York and New Jersey, under a single royal government.
To this end the King sent Edward Randolph in 1676 to look after the royal interests, to build up a more liberal party with Tory leanings, and to report the general condition to his royal master. Randolph succeeded in some degree in building up a moderate party in Massachusetts; but his report on his return to London of the prevalent spirit of liberty in the colony only spurred King Charles to more vigorous action. Charles accordingly directed his judges to make an inquiry as to whether Massachusetts had not forfeited her charter. The proceedings were protracted until the summer of 1684, when the royal court gave a decision in accordance with the monarch's wishes. The patent was forfeited, said the judges; and the English crown might justly assume entire control of the colony. The plan of the king was thus on the point of realization, but the shadow of death was already at his door. On the 6th of February, 1685, his evil reign of twenty-five years ended with his life.
The new sovereign, James II., immediately adopted his brother's colonial policy. In the next year after his accession, the scheme so long entertained was successfully carried out. The charter of Massachusetts was formally revoked; all the colonies between Nova Scotia and Narragansett Bay were consolidated, and Joseph Dudley appointed president. New England was not prepared for open resistance; the colonial assembly was dissolved by its own act, and the members returned sullenly to their homes. In the winter following, Dudley was superseded by Sir Edmund Andros, who had been appointed royal governor of all New England. His commission ought to have been entitled An Article for the Destruction of Colonial Liberty. If James II. had searche his kingdom, he could hardly have found a tool better fitted to do his will. The scarlet-coated despot landed at Boston on the 20th of December, and at once began the work of demolishing the cherished institutions of the people. Popular representation was abolished. Voting by ballot was prohibited. Town meetings were forbidden. The Church of England was openly encouraged. The public schools were allowed to go to ruin. Men were arrested without warrant of law; and when as prisoners they arose in court to plead the privileges of the great English charter, which had stood unquestioned for four hundred and fifty years, they were told that the Great Charter was not made for the perverse people of America. Dudley, who had been continued in office as chief-justice, was in the habit of saying to his packed juries, at the close of each trial: "Now, worthy gentlemen, we expect a goof verdict from you today"; and the verdicts were rendered accordingly.
Thus did Massachusetts lose her liberty; and Plymouth fared no better. If the stronger colony fell prostrate, what could the weaker do? The despotism of Andros was quickly extended from Cape Cod Bay to the Piscataqua. New Hampshire was next invaded and her civil rights completely overthrown. Rhode Island suffered the same calamity. In May 1686 her charter was taken away with a writ, and her constitutional rights subverted. Attended by an armed guard, Andros proceeded to Connecticut. Arriving at Hartford in October of 1687, he found the assembly of the province in session, and demanded the surrender of the colonial charter. The instrument was brought in and laid upon the table, tradition informs us. A spirited debate ensued, and continued until evening. When it was about to be decided that the charter should be given up, the lamps were suddenly dashed out. Other lights were brought in; but the charter had disappeared. Joseph Wadsworth, snatching up the precious parchment, bore it off through the darkness and concealed it in a hollow tree, ever afterward remembered with affection as The Charter Oak. But the assembly was overawed and the free government of Connecticut subverted. Thus was the authority of Andros established throughout the country. The people gave vent to their feelings by calling him The Tyrant of New England.
But his dominion ended suddenly. The English Revolution of 1688 was at hand. James II. was driven from his throne and kingdom. The entire system of arbitrary rule which that monarch had established fell with a crash, and Andros with the rest. The news of the revolution reached Boston on the 4th of April, 1689. On the 18th of the month, the citizens of Charlestown and Boston rose in open rebellion. Andros and his minions, attempting to escape, were seized and marched to prison. The insurrection spread through the country; and before the 10th of May every colony in New England had restored its former liberties.
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