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THE UNITED COLONIES OF NEW ENGLAND.
CHAP. form of the first confederated government in America.
It was a directory, apparently without any check. 1643. There was no president, except as a moderator of its
meetings; and the larger state, Massachusetts, superior to all the rest in territory, wealth, and population, had no greater number of votes than New Haven. But the commissioners were, in reality, little more than a deliberative body: they possessed no executive power, and, while they could decree a war and a levy of troops, it remained for the states to carry their votes into effect.
Provision was made for the reception of new members into the league ; but the provision was wholly without results. The people beyond the Piscataqua were not admitted, because “ they ran a different course" from the Puritans, « both in their ministry and in their civil administration.” The plantations of Providence also desired in vain to participate in the benefits of the union;2 and the request of the island of Rhode Island was equally rejected, because it would not consent to form a part of the jurisdiction of Plymouth. Yet this early confederacy survived the jealousies of the Long Parliament, met with favor from the protector, and remained safe from censure on the restoration of the Stuarts.
Its chief office was the security of the settlements against the natives, whose power was growing more formidable in proportion as they became acquainted with the arts of civilized life. But they were, at the same time, weakened by dissensions among themselves. Now that the Pequod nation was extinct, the more
1 On the Confederacy—the Rec- 2 Mass. MS. State Papers, Case ords, in Hazard, v. ii. Winthrop, i. File i. No. 17. ii. 101–106. Morton, 229. Hub- 3 Hazard, ii. 99, 100. bard, c. lii.
quiet Narragansetts could hardly remain at peace with CHAP the less numerous Mohegans. Anger and revenge brooded in the mind of Miantonomoh. He hated the 1643 Mohegans, for they were the allies of the English, by whom he had been arraigned as a criminal. He had suffered indignities at Boston, alike wounding to his pride as a chieftain and his honor as a man. His savage wrath was kindled against Uncas, his accuser, whom he detested as doubly his enemy,—once as the sachem of a hostile tribe, and again as a traitor to the whole Indian race, the cringing sycophant of the white men. Gathering his men suddenly together, in defiance of a treaty to which the English were parties,' Miantonomoh, accompanied by a thousand warriors, fell upon the Mohegans. But his movements were as rash as his spirit was impetuous : he was defeated and taken prisoner by those whom he had doomed as a certain prey to his vengeance. By the laws of Indian warfare the fate of the captive was death. Yet Gorton and his friends, who held their lands by a grant from Miantonomoh, interceded for their benefactor. The unhappy chief was conducted to Hartford ; and the wavering Uncas, who had the strongest claims to the gratitude and protection of the English, asked the advice of the commissioners of the United Colonies. Murder had ever been severely punished by the Puritans : they had, at Plymouth, with the advice of Massachusetts, executed three of their own men for taking the life of one Indian : and the elders, to whom the case of Miantonomoh was referred, finding that he had, deliberately and in time of quiet, murdered a servant in the service of the Mohegan chief; that he had fomented
i Hubbard's Indian Wars, 42.
2 ü. Mass. H. C. viii. 137. 141.
CHAP. discontents against the English; and that, in contempt
of a league, he had plunged into a useless and bloody 1643. war,—could not perceive in his career any claims to
mercy. He seemed to merit death ; yet not at the hands of the settlers. Uncas received his captive, and, conveying the helpless victim beyond the limits of the jurisdiction of Connecticut, put him to death. So perished Miantonomoh, the friend of the exiles from Massachusetts, the faithful benefactor of the fathers of Rhode Island
The tribe of Miantonomoh burned to avenge the execution of their chief; but they feared a conflict with the English, whose alliance they vainly solicited, and who persevered in protecting the Mohegans. The Narragansetts were at last compelled to submit in sullenness to a peace, of which the terms were alike hateful to their independence, their prosperity, and their love of revenge.
While the commissioners, thus unreservedly and without appeal, controlled the relation of the native tribes, the spirit of independence was still further displayed by a direct negotiation and a solemn treaty of peace with the governor of Acadia.3
Content with the security which the confederacy afforded, the people of Connecticut desired no guaran
ty for their independence from the government of 1644. England; taking care only, by a regular purchase, to 1646. obtain a title to the soil from the assigns of the earl
i Records, in Hazard, ii. 7-13. 154 and ff. See the opinions and I. Mather's Ind. Troubles, 56, 57. arguments of Hopkins, and Savage, Morton, 234. Winthrop, ii. 130. 134. and Staples, of Davis and Holmes. Hubbard's Indian Wars, 42—45. 2 Hazard, ii. 40–50. Winthrop, Johnson, b. ii. c. xxiii. Trumbull, ii. 198. 246. 380. i. 129–135. Drake, b. ii. 67. Re- 3 Winthrop, ii. 197. Hazard, i. lation in iii. Mass. Hist. Coll. iii. 161 536 and 537, and ii. 50. 54. and ff. Gorton, in Staples's edition,
RHODE ISLAND SOLICITS AND OBTAINS A CHARTER.
of Warwick. The people of Rhode Island, excluded CHAP. from the colonial union, would never have maintained their existence as a separate state, had they not sought the interference and protection of the mother country; and the founder of the colony was chosen to conduct 1643 the important mission.
Embarking at Manhattan, he arrived in England not long after the death of Hampden. The parliament had placed the affairs of the American colonies under the control of Warwick, as governor-in-chief, assisted by a council of five peers and twelve commoners. Among these commoners was Henry Vane, a man who was ever as true in his affections as in his principles, and who now welcomed the American envoy as an ancient friend. The favor of parliament was won by the incomparable 5 printed Indian labors of Roger Williams, the like whereof was not extant from any part of America ;” and his merits as a missionary induced 6 both houses of parliament to grant unto him, and friends with him, a free and absolute charter4 of civil government for those parts of his abode.” 5 Thus 1644.
Mar. were the places of refuge for “ soul-liberty,” on the 14. Narragansett Bay, incorporated with full power and authority to rule themselves.” To the Long Parliament, and especially to Sir Henry Vane, Rhode Island owes its existence as a political state.
A double triumph awaited Williams on his return to New England. He arrived at Boston, and letters from the parliament insured him a safe reception from those who had decreed his banishment. But what honors
i Trumbull, i. App. v. and vi.
VOL. I. 54
200. See also Callender and Backus,—both very good authorities, because both followed original documents.
CHAP. prepared for the happy negotiator, on his return to
the province which he had founded! As he reached Seekonk, he found the water covered with a fleet of canoes ; all Providence had come forth to welcome the return of its benefactor. Receiving their successful ambassador, the group of boats started for the opposite shore; and, as they paddled across the stream, Roger Williams, placed in the centre of his grateful fellow-citizens, and glowing with the purest joy, “ was elevated and transported out of himself.”
And now came the experiment of the efficacy of popular sovereignty. The value of a moral principle may be tried on a small community as well as a large one ; the experiment on magnetism, made with a child's toy, gives as sure a result as when the agency of that subtle power is watched in its influence on the globe. There were already several towns in the new state, filled with the strangest and most incongruous elements,—Anabaptists and Antinomians, fanatics (as its enemies asserted) and infidels; so that, if a man had lost his religious opinions, he might have been sure to find them again in some village of Rhode Island. All men were equal ; all might meet and debate in the public assemblies; all might aspire to office; the people, for a season, constituted itself its own tribune, and every public law required confirmation in the primary assemblies. And so it came to pass, that the little “democracie,” which, at the beat of the drum or the voice of the herald, used to assemble beneath an oak or by the open sea-side, was famous for its "headiness and tumults,” its stormy town-meetings, and the angry feuds of its herdsmen
1 Knowles, 202. The work of Knowles is of high value.