‘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
, specially restricted by a council of five, and afterwards
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 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 inocent ’