« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
wealth and territory; but it was also an object, from the first, to find a fit place for a colony of Englishmen, for the propagation of the gospel among the ignorant and debased aboriginal inhabitants. And in this benevolent plan, the members of the Episcopal Church were the principal, if not the sole, actors. Afterwards, indeed, when the first permanent settlements were made, particularly in New England, the enterprise was projected and accomplished by the puritans, dissenters from episcopacy, on account of alleged corruptions and usurpations by the hierarchy and its friends, and of the imposition of unscriptural forms and ceremonies on the members of the church.
The most serious objections of the puritans and dissenters. were to the different orders of ministers and officers in the church, with greater or less powers; to the luxury of the higher grades of the clergy; to the claims set up to impose any rites and forms they should choose to prescribe, whether required by Christ and his Apostles, or not; and to the alliance of the church with the civil power of the state.* For these objections, and their consequent refusal to comply with unscriptural forms and ceremonies, which were justly considered of merely human authority, the puritans were grievously oppressed and persecuted, fined and imprisoned; which led them to look for some foreign land, where they might live in the quiet enjoyment of their rights, as disciples of Christ, their inspired master; and where they might also find a residence for their posterity, free from ecclesiastical domination, and unchristian forms of worship. They had also a strong desire to be instrumental in diffusing a knowledge of the gospel among the unhappy pagans of America. This, in truth, was scarcely a secondary object with them; nor did they afterwards omit any efforts to accomplish this benevolent purpose.
The men, to whom reference is now made, were also distinguished for their regard to the interests of civil liberty. While struggling for their christian privileges, and examining the foundation of religious liberty, they perceived the benefits of political freedom, and soon became eminent for their zeal in its support. One, who was an apologist for high monarchical
* See note A of Appendix.
Though less tolerant than the celebrated Mr. Locke, who lived at a subsequent and more enlightened period, they possessed the strong love of religious truth which he manifested, when he said, "that he should take his religion from the Bible, let it agree with what sect it might; for it would be inquired of him at the last day, not whether he had been of the Church of England, or of Geneva, but whether he had sought and embraced the truth." This was the principle of the dissenters from the established church in England, though they would tolerate none who differed from them.
principles, acknowledged, "that the spark of civil liberty, during the reign of the Stuarts, was kept alive chiefly by those who were called puritans in the church."
So sincere and powerful was the attachment of these men to religious liberty, that they made great sacrifices of property, and endured sufferings and persecutions several years, for their conscientious non-conformity; and many of them, particularly those, who afterwards were the first settlers of Plymouth colony, leaving their native country, removed to Holland in 1607, and in several following years, residing first at Amsterdam, and afterwards at Leyden. They remained in Holland till 1620, when a portion of them embarked for America; and landing on Cape Cod in November, soon after (December 22d) made a permanent settlement at Patuxet, since called Plymouth. The greater part of the residue emigrated to Plymouth in 1624 and 1628, where, for many years, their privations and sufferings were much more severe than they endured in Holland, or when persecuted in their native land; and yet those were very great, or they would not have subjected themselves to the dangers and distress attending a settlement in the wilderness.
Another and much larger company of English puritans settled at Salem and Charlestown in 1628 and 1629; and Boston, Watertown, Dorchester, and Roxbury, in 1630. These were the first settlements made in New England, which proved to be permanent. A settlement was begun near the mouth of the river Kennebec in 1606-7, but was deserted the following spring. And small settlements were made a few years after Plymouth, at Weymouth and Braintree, which were soon abandoned.
The first settlement at Plymouth numbered one hundred and one, consisting of men, women and children; but, by their great privations and exposure, they suffered severe sickness, and nearly one half of the company died within five months after they landed. They endured similar privations and suffering, occasionally, for several years, till they were able to build comfortable houses, and to cultivate the earth with profit. The danger from the savages was long imminent; and their fears, on this account, were a constant diminution of the common enjoyments of life. They found some mitigation for these fears, however, in the friendship of a powerful Sachem, not far distant from their settlement. In 1630, when the colony of Massachusetts Bay dates its origin, as then a large company arrived and settled Charlestown, Boston, and vicinity, the inhabitants of Plymouth were estimated at three hundred. The principal men of the colony were William Bradford, Edward
Winslow, William Brewster, Miles Standish, Isaac Allerton, Thomas Prence, John Alden, Samuel Fuller, and John Howland; to which may be added, John Carver, the first governor, who died in five months after their landing; and Robert Cushman, who was a short time in the colony, in 1621, but who soon returned to England, and did not again visit America.
William Bradford was Governor of the colony from the Spring of 1621, when Carver died, to 1657, (the year of his death,) except two years, when Edward Winslow was elected to that office, and one, in which Thomas Prence was called to the chair. It appears by his letters and manuscripts, that he was a man of considerable literary attainments. William Brewster, who sustained the office of elder in the church, and was the oldest of the company, had the benefit of a university education; and was some time in public life in England, during the reign of Elizabeth. Miles Standish was of a noble family, and possessed a high and indomitable spirit. Samuel Fuller was a deacon of the Plymouth church, and a physician of some eminence. He was sent for to Salem in 1629, in a season of great sickness; and to Charlestown in August 1630, to attend the sick, soon after the arrival of the large company, under Governor Winthrop. Isaac Allerton and Stephen Hopkins were men of good estates and numerous families. They, with Brewster, Bradford, Winslow, Standish and Alden, and Shirley, Andrews, Hatherly, Beauchamp, Collier and Thomas, who still remained in England, were the undertakers, and became responsible for the debts of the company. Hatherly, Thomas and Collier, afterwards came over and settled in the colony. Without the aid and accountability of Shirley and Andrews the plantation might have failed, for want of funds and credit. They also assisted in procuring a second charter in 1629, on the discovery of the selfish plans of Pierce, in whose name the first had been issued, though he was only an agent in procuring it.
In July, 1620, some merchants, and other opulent gentlemen in England, were incorporated, by the name of "The Council for the affairs of New England, or North Virginia;" and it was proposed to make a settlement within their patent, and under their protection. But that patent not being definitely settled, the Leyden company resolved to go for some place south of New England, near Hudson River. In this, however, they were deceived. The captain of the Mayflower carried them farther North, and they entered the harbor of Cape Cod. This has been considered a favorable circumstance, though deplored at the time; as the Indians were then numerous in that
part of the country; while the territory about Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay was almost depopulated by a recent mortal
Before the settlements at Salem and Boston, the people of Plymouth were constantly struggling for existence, and guarding themselves against the hostile attacks of the natives, a sufficient number of whom remained to harass and alarm them. Though Massasoit was friendly, other chiefs on Cape Cod and in Massachusetts were plotting their ruin. But by the prudence and wisdom of Bradford and Winslow, the bravery of Standish, and the religious influence of Brewster, under the protecting providence of God, they survived, they increased and prospered. Though destitute of an ordained minister for several years, their learned and pious elder faithfully performed the duties of spiritual teacher and guide.
Civil authority was also maintained with equal moderation and firmness. On their first arrival, in the harbor of Cape Cod, they formed themselves into a political body, for the maintenance of civil government; and at the same time acknowledged themselves the subjects of the crown of England. They had then no charter from King James, or the English government, to exercise civil and political authority; nor had they, as yet, any patent or grant of the territory, where they landed and proposed to remain. But they knew that their king claimed the country, in right of discovery by the subjects of England; and they had indeed his express promise that they should be unmolested in the enjoyment of their religious opinions and mode of worship. They were fully aware of the necessity of assuming and exercising political powers; and in the compact which they adopted, they declared their great object to be the advancement of the christian religion; and their uniform professions and declarations were to the same effect. This short constitution recognises the equal rights of every member of the company, and implies that the object was the equal benefit of each and all. And their first, as well as future governor, was chosen only for one year. Their language was, "that by this settlement, they hoped the honor of God, of their king and country, would be advanced, without injury to the native inhabitants; that they intended not to take ought but what the Indians were willing to dispose of; not to interfere with them except for the maintenance of peace among them, and the propagation of christianity." The first places settled, after Plymouth, were Duxbury, Marshfield, Scituate, Taunton, Barnstable, Sandwich, Eastham, Rehoboth, Bridgewater, Dartmouth and Swansey.
In the summer of 1622, a settlement was began, at a place called Wessaguscus, now Weymouth, by some English people, under the direction and support of Thomas Weston, an enterprising merchant of London. The number of persons who were of this company has been stated to be upwards of fifty; and two vessels were employed in the enterprise. They were a very different people, in their character and views, from the settlers at Plymouth; and their chief object was gain. Weston had given some aid to the Leyden company, by endeavoring to obtain a patent for them early in 1620, and by promising to furnish vessels and funds for the enterprise; but his aim was mercantile speculation and profit; and they soon found that they could not justly rely on his support.
The people of Weston's company treated the Indians with great injustice, and in their intercourse with them used much deceit and fraud. In their general conduct, as a society, they were indolent, extravagant and immoral. They called on Plymouth for protection against the natives, whom they had provoked by their oppressions and insolence; and Captain Standish was sent to their relief. He slew several of the hostile Indians, who threatened them; and the Governor of Plymouth supplied them with provisions from his scanty stores. The following year they wholly abandoned the settlement.
Another settlement was begun in Massachusetts, in 1625, under Captain Wollaston and one Morton, a lawyer of suspicious character. There were about thirty persons in this company; and they settled on and near an eminence on the South side of Boston Bay, to which they gave the name of Mount Wollaston. The site is within the town of Quincy, and on the farm of the late John Adams, some time President of the United States. Little is recorded of Wollaston; and what has been written of Morton, by his contemporaries, represents him as a man without moral virtue, and destitute alike of honorable and religious principles. There was scarcely the semblance of order and decency in the settlement. They were improvident and immoral themselves; and their intercourse with the Indians served only to corrupt these ignorant beings, or to fit them for inflicting injury on the English settlements. They remained longer than those did who were at Wessaguscus in 1622; and their irregular conduct frequently called for the interference of the people of Plymouth and of Salem; but the leaders and most of the company had dispersed before the arrival of Winthrop and others in 1630.
One Thompson, a Scotchman, who had passed a year at Piscataway River, settled on an island in Boston harbor, in