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318

THE OLD COLONY AND THE NATIVES.

VIII.

Aug.

18.

CHAP. wherever the envoys went, and they witnessed the ex

treme poverty and feebleness of the natives. 1621. The influence of the English over the aborigines

was rapidly extended. A sachem, who menaced their

safety, was himself compelled to sue for mercy; and Sept. nine chieftains subscribed an instrument of submission

to King James. The Bay of Massachusetts and harbor of Boston were fearlessly explored. Canonicus, the wävering sachem of the Narragansetts, whose

territory had escaped the ravages of the pestilence, had 1622. at first desired to treat of peace. A bundle of arrows,

wrapped in the skin of a rattlesnake, was now the token of his hostility. But when Bradford stuffed the skin with powder and shot, and returned it, his courage quailed, and he desired to be in amity with a race of men whose weapons of war were so terrible. The hostile expedition which caused the first Indian blood to be shed, grew out of a quarrel, in which the inhabitants of Plymouth were involved by another

colony. 1623. For who will define the limits to the graspings of

avarice? The opportunity of gain by the fur-trade had been envied the planters of New Plymouth; and Weston, who had been active among the London adventurers in establishing the Plymouth colony, now desired to engross the profits which he already deemed

secure. A patent for land near Weymouth, the first 1622 plantation in Boston harbor, was easily obtained ;

and a company of sixty men were sent over. Helpless at their arrival, they intruded themselves, for most of the summer, upon the unrequited hospitality of the people of Plymouth. In their plantation, they were soon reduced to necessity by their want of thrift; their injustice towards the Indians provoked hostility;

Mar.

was

DISSOLUTION OF THE PARTNERSHIP.

319

VIII.

and a plot was formed for the entire destruction of the CHAP. English. But the grateful Massassoit revealed the an design to his allies; and the planters at Weymouth 1623 were saved by the wisdom of the older colony and the intrepid gallantry of Standish. It was “his capital exploit.” Some of the rescued men went to Plymouth; some sailed for England. One short year saw the beginning and end of the Weymouth plantation. 66 Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public,” observes the childless Lord Bacon, with complacent self-love, 6 have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men.” Weston's company, after having boasted of their strength, as far superior to Plymouth, which was enfeebled, they said, by the presence of children and women, owed their deliverance to the colony that had many women, children, and weak ones with them.

The danger from Indian hostilities was early removed; the partnership with English merchants occasioned greater inconvenience. Robinson and the rest of his church, at Leyden, were suffering from deferred hopes, and were longing to rejoin their brethren in America. The adventurers in England refused to provide them a passage, and attempted, with but short success, to force upon the colonists a clergyman more 1624 friendly to the established church ; thus outraging at 1626 once the affections and the religious scruples of those whom they had pledged themselves to cherish. Divisions ensued ; and the partners in England, offended by opposition, and discouraged at the small returns from their investments, deserted the interests of their associates in America. A ship was even despatched to rival them in their business; goods, which were sent for their supply, were sold to them

to 126

320

PROGRESS OF THE OLD COLONY.

VIII.

CHAP. at an advance of seventy per cent. The curse of

usury, which always falls so heavily upon new settlements, did not spare them ; for, being left without help from the partners, they were obliged to borrow money at fifty per cent. and at thirty per cent. interest. At last, the emigrants themselves succeeded in purchasing the entire rights of the English adventurers; the common property was equitably divided, and agriculture established immediately and completely on the basis of private possessions. For a six years' monopoly of the trade, eight of the most enterprising men assumed all the engagements of the colony; so that the cultivators of the soil became really freeholders; neither debts nor rent day troubled them.

The colonists of Plymouth had exercised selfgovernment without the sanction of a royal patent. Yet their claim to their lands was valid, according to the principles of English law, as well as natural jus

tice. They had received a welcome from the abo1621. rigines; and the council of Plymouth, through the

mediation of Sir Ferdinand Gorges, immediately issued a patent to John Pierce for their benefit. But

the trustee, growing desirous of becoming lord pro1623. prietary, and holding them as tenants, obtained a

new charter, which would have caused much difficulty, had not his misfortunes compelled him to transfer bis rights to the company. When commerce extended to

the Kennebec, a patent for the adjacent territory was 1633. easily procured. The same year, Allerton was again

sent to London to negotiate an enlargement of both the grants; and he gained from the council of Pymouth concessions equal to all his desires. But it

1 Gorges' Description, 24. Briefe Narration, c. xxii.

PROGRESS OF THE OLD COLONY.

321

VIII.

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was ever impossible to obtain a charter from the king ; CHAP. so that, according to the principles adopted in England, the planters, with an unquestionable property in 1630. the soil, had no right to assume a separate jurisdiction. It was therefore in the virtues of the colonists themselves, that their institutions found a guaranty for stability. They never hesitated to punish small offences; it was only after some scruples, that they inflicted capital punishment. Their doubts being once removed, they exercised the same authority as the charter governments. Death was, by subsequent laws, made the penalty for several crimes ; but was never inflicted except for murder House-breaking and highway robbery were offences unknown in their courts, and too little apprehended to be made subjects of severe legislation.

The progress of population was very slow. The lands in the vicinity were not fertile ; and at the end of ten years the colony contained no more than three hundred souls. Few as were their numbers, they had struck deep root, and would have outlived every storm, even if they had been followed by no other colonies in New England. Hardly were they planted in America, when their enterprise began to take a wide range; before Massachusetts was settled, they nad acquired rights at Cape Ann, as well as an extensive domain on the Kennebec; and they were the first to possess an English settlement on the banks of the Connecticut. The excellent Robinson died at 1625.

:: Mar. Leyden, before the faction in England would permit 1. his removal to Plymouth ; his heart was in America, where his memory will never die. The remainder of his people, and with them his wife and children, emigrated, so soon as means could be provided to defray

VOL. 1.

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322

PROGRESS OF THE OLD COLONY.

VIII.

CHAP. the costs. “To enjoy religious liberty was the known

end of the first comers' great adventure into this remote wilderness ;” and they desired no increase, but from the friends of their communion. Yet their residence in Holland had made them acquainted with various forms of Christianity; a wide experience had emancipated them from bigotry; and they were never betrayed into the excesses of religious persecution, though they sometimes permitted a disproportion between punishment and crime.

The frame of civil government in the Old Colony was of the utmost simplicity. A governor was chosen by general suffrage ; whose power, always subordinate

to the general will, was, at the desire of Bradford, 1624. specially restricted by a council of five, and afterwards 1633. of seven, assistants. In the council, the governor had

but a double vote. For more than eighteen years, " the whole body of the male inhabitants” constituted the legislature; the state was governed, like our towns, as a strict democracy; and the people were

frequently convened to decide on executive not less 1639. than on judicial questions. At length, the increase of

population, and its diffusion over a wider territory, led to the introduction of the representative system, and each town sent its committee to the general court. We shall subsequently find the colony a distinct member of the earliest American Confederacy; but it is chiefly as guides and pioneers that the fathers of the Old Colony merit gratitude.

Through scenes of gloom and misery, the Pilgrims showed the way to an asylum for those who would go to the wilderness for the purity of religion or the liberty of conscience. Accustomed “in their native land to no more than a plain country life and the in

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