HOW THE MEN OF MASSACHUSETTS HELPED.
Change does not always bring satisfaction. It did not to
the Bay colony, which had become a royal province.
After Sir Edmund Andros had been sent to the
right-about, and King James had made way for King William the men of
Massachusetts naturally expected that things would go according to their
wishes. But things continued to go wrong. Popular government gave place to
provincial government; the king was more directly connected with the
ruling of the province than King William seemed to
be more "kindly affectioned" to the Puritan commonwealth than
King James had been; but he really was not. The appointment of the
Maine boy who became a successful treasure-hunter — Sir William Phips—as
governor of the province was made by William, presumably as a concession
to the desires of Massachusetts; but Sir William was King William’s man,
and his appointment was followed by that of other
royal governors, who were all of them king’s men and spent the most of
their time in quarrels with the freemen of the province.
They were, indeed, in continual hot water with the Great and General
Court. Their salaries were always a
bone of contention. The council, intended
as an aid to the governor, was usually at sword’s point with him; and
what with witches, pirates, Frenchmen, and Indians, the bewigged and
ruffled gentleman sent over to rule the province of Massachusetts Bay
found his lot anything but a happy one. As for the people themselves,
they felt that perhaps, like the frogs in the fable, they had only
exchanged King Log for King Stork, and that unless they kept up that
"eternal vigilance" which is the "price of liberty"
they would be altogether eaten up, as the frogs were.
But the people of Massachusetts Bay were not of the
sort that will submit to being eaten. Yet life was tame enough in those
small and solemn villages, and one accustomed to these busy days
wonders, sometimes, what they could find to do besides just work.
When you come to the story of the Salem witchcraft in
your histories you must not at once conclude that the people of
Massachusetts alone were to blame, and call them hard names for their
cruelty and foolishness.
Witchcraft was an old, old story in the world even
when it broke out so terribly at Salem. The seventeenth century was
really only half civilized, and people even in the most enlightened part
of the world were superstitious and believed all sorts of nonsensical
things, —luck and signs and omens. Some of us have not got over with
them even to-day.
When people discuss and dream over things they begin
to believe in them; and when in
somber little Salem, where there were very few of what we should call
sensible good times going on, the girls fell to telling
ghost stories and talking over
witchcraft and the "evil eye,"—just as now they talk over
hypnotism and mesmerism and other uncanny things,—they became so
wrought up and excited that finally Lizzie Parrish, the minister’s
daughter, actually thought that Tituba, the little negro servant girl at
her home, had bewitched her. Probably Tituba had cut up some pranks that
were rather grewsome, for she was half Indian as well as half negro, and
came from far-off Barbados, where the natives were full of superstition.
At any rate, Mr. Parrish, the minister, believed his nine-year-old
daughter, because he did believe in witchcraft, you see. So when some of
the other Salem girls declared that they were bewitched too, the
minister preached about it, and the sleepy little town had something to
talk about, and gossiped until most of the people believed it, and at
once began to wonder who was bewitching them, and accusing those they
did not like.
The thing grew into a craze. Sober judges and
solemn ministers actually believed in it, and proceeded to try for
witchcraft all who were accused. The lies and and charges of
mischievous, envious, or overwrought children developed into a
superstitious delusion that became an epidemic and affected all classes
and conditions of people. Accusations touched every rank, from the
little negro slave girl to the wife of the royal governor. "Ye
shall not suffer a witch to live," was the old Bible text that
became the colony’s edict; and, acting tinder the law of old England,
the witch hunters of New England sent innocent
people to ignominious death. Twenty persons, in all, were put to death;
hundreds were thrown
into jail. The witchcraft craze,
beginning with a circle of silly girls in Salem, outgrew the limits of
that village and extended to Boston and other towns. And then, suddenly,
sensible people awoke to their foolishness and panic, and the whole
temporary persecution ended almost as speedily as it began. Salem does
not like to think of 1692; and yet, that famous Massachusetts seaport is
better known throughout the land because of its witchcraft craze than as
the home of Hawthorne or the center of foreign commerce. The world has
remembered the smallest matter, not confined to Salem alone, and
forgotten the real glories of the pushing seaport, whose sails at one
time whitened every ocean and honored the name of the American sailor.
A wise Providence, looking out for men and nations,
rarely permits either states or people to stagnate. So the quiet,
orderly, God-fearing men and women of that day of small things, who were
driven into a witchcraft craze because of the utter lack of mental
growth that comes to a bigoted, pleasure-lacking village in the dismal
winter, were kept awake and stirred to effort and a real progress by
their peppery French rivals who lived along the St. Lawrence, across the
Then it came to pass that the, men of Massachusetts
played their part also in the broader history of the world. The despotic
Stuart king, driven from his English throne, found shelter and succor in
France. And France was England’s relentless and hereditary foe.
From this came war, which, like the unskillful
doctors of that illiterate day, bled all Europe for the fever of power.
King William’s War and Queen Anne’s War
sent their quarrels across the sea, and for half a
century France and England struggled for possession in America as they
strove for power in Europe.
It ended in the English mastery of North America (1763).
There could be no other logical outcome. The English had come to America
to stay; and, making good their holding by might as well as by right, by
strength of will and force of arms, they staid!
In all of this the men of Massachusetts helped. They
felt that they were doing God’s work, as indeed they were; for it was
His wise design that on the shores of the North Atlantic should be
planted, established, and developed a mighty English-speaking nation.
But the ways of Heaven are often dark and intricate. As that hymn of
Cowper’s, sung by so many, many Massachusetts boys and girls, begins:
"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;"
so what to us, looking backward, seems plain and
necessary and logical, did, no doubt, to our perplexed and harassed
forefathers of the Massachusetts Bay seem cruel and unintelligible. But
no nation in all this world has ever prospered or grown into worth or
greatness by peaceful ways alone.
It was during the struggle with France that the
American sailor and soldier—especially the Massachusetts sailor and
soldier—were laying the foundation of that record of excellence on sea
and land that stretches from Phips to Farragut and Dewey and Sampson,
from Louisburg to Santiago.
The struggle began in cruel guise. France, desirous
of conquest, raised up the Indian foemen of the colonies, and, again and
again, led them across the border to surprise and sack and ravage the
peaceful settlements of the Bay colony and its outlying posts, carrying
off captives and leaving the dead in farmyard or on hearthstone. The
villages in the Maine and New Hampshire countries were laid waste with
fire and tomahawk. Haverhill was twice attacked, in 1697
and 1708; Deerfield
was sacked in 1704, and only
the intrepid and determined resistance of the Massachusetts farmers and
fishermen saved the colony from total destruction.
Retaliation became invasion. Led on by Colonel
Benjamin Church, a veteran of King Philip’s war, over six hundred
Massachusetts men marched into Maine in 1690, and
fought a border fight with indifferent success; while Sir
William Phips, the governor of the
Massachusetts Bay colony, commanded the naval expedition which in the
same year sailed out from Boston to the invasion of Canada and the
capture of Port Royal and Quebec.
It was New England’s first sea venture. Port Royal
fell in surrender to the Massachusetts men, but the land force raised
for the invasion of Canada failed to unite, and Phips, striving to
capture Quebec unaided, was defeated.
Again Church harried the Indians in
Maine and New Hampshire, and again the Massachusetts men sailed to the
conquest of Canada. Neither venture succeeded as the invaders hoped; the
Indians were scattered, but not destroyed, and the fortresses of Canada
held out against attack. But at last, under the direction of Shirley,
the royal governor of Massachusetts, and led on by Pepperell, a
Massachusetts colonel, the finishing stroke was given when, in 1745, the
strong fortress of Louisburg in Cape Breton was captured and the seamen
and soldiers of New England showed that their years of struggle were
making of them all reliable fighting men. For out of these fifty years
of border war, from 1690 to 1 745, the men of
Massachusetts were being trained to service and schooled by fighting,
and Church and Phips and Pepperell laid the firm foundations from which
came the successes in the final struggle with France and the greater
struggle for independence.
So you see how everything worked to one common end.
For, by their determined fight for their charter with the King of
England; by their perpetual quarrels with the royal governors as to
payment of salaries and
the rights of the people; by the steady
growth of thought which led them through religious intolerance,
witchcraft, and bigotry into the broader light of that liberty which is
charity; by their woes and worries under Indian forays and French
invasions; by their courage and patriotism, which sent into Canada,
under the banner of their king, during that half century of French and
Indian wars fully thirty thousand men for service against the foe at a
cost of hundreds of thousands of hard-earned dollars, the men of
Massachusetts were becoming experienced soldiers, watchful patriots,
public-spirited citizens, broader thinkers, and thus preparing to take
the lead in that great army of freemen which was shortly to arouse,
astonish, and enfranchise the world.