Chapter 4: civil History.
The projectors of the New Town had hitherto suffered two grievous disappointments: the officers of the government had not generally become inhabitants, according to the original agreement; and so great was the disparity in commercial advantages, that it early became manifest that the New Town could not successfully compete with Boston as the great mart of trade. No reasonable hope, therefore, could be entertained that this should become the principal city of the colony. In other respects, the enterprise appears to have been eminently successful. The hope expressed by Dudley, that men of ability might be attracted hither by the advantages offered, had been gratified; for so early as 1633, Wood wrote concerning them: “the inhabitants, most of them, are very rich and well stored with cattle of all sorts.” A reasonable proportion of the rulers resided here. Dudley remained Deputy Governor until May, 1634, when he became Governor, and the next year was an Assistant. Bradstreet was constantly an Assistant; and Haynes, at the first election after his arrival, was elected as an Assistant, and the next year, 1635, Governor. Moreover, the New Town had become the seat of government; and, for aught which appears to the contrary, it might have retained that distinction, if the principal inhabitants had not removed.1  All these advantages, however, were not satisfactory. The disappointment and uneasiness found vent in words. One memorable example is preserved: “At the court of assistants,” says Winthrop, Nov. 3, 1635, “John Pratt of Newtown was questioned about the letter he wrote into England, wherein he affirmed divers things, which were untrue and of ill repute, for the state of the country, as that here was nothing but rocks, and sands, and salt marshes, etc. He desired respite for his answer to the next morning; then he gave it in writing, in which, by making his own interpretation of some passages and acknowledging his error in others, he gave satisfaction.” 2 This letter, probably written in the previous year, is not known to exist; but the “answer,” which sufficiently indicates its nature, is on record:—
This Mr. Pratt was a physician in the New Town, or Cambridge, for several years. He and his wife were drowned near the coast of Spain in December, 1646, as related by Winthrop.4 He was not the only dissatisfied person, though less cautious than others in expressing his feelings. As early as May, 1634, this spirit of dissatisfaction became so general among the inhabitants of the New Town, that they proposed to abandon their comparatively pleasant homes, and to commence anew in the wilderness. The ostensible reason for removal was the lack of sufficient land. The town was indeed narrow, but its length was indefinite. The limit of eight miles northwesterly from the meeting-house was not fixed until March, 1636; and it does not appear how far the land was previously occupied in that direction. But the westerly line of Charlestown was established, March 6, 1632-3; and it seems to have been understood that the whole territory between that line and the easterly bounds of Watertown was reserved for the use of New Town, however far those lines might extend into the country. But the people appeared impatient of such narrow limits. At the General Court, May 14, 1634, “Those of New Town complained of straitness for want of land, especially meadow, and desired leave of the Court to look out either for enlargement or removal, which was granted; whereupon they sent men to see Agawam and Merrimack, and gave out that they would remove, etc.” 5 Early in July, 1634, “Six of New Town went in the Blessing (being bound to the Dutch plantation,) to discover Connecticut River, intending to remove their town thither.” 6 In the following September, the same subject was again brought before the General Court. The record is very brief; but the particulars related by Winthrop are of so much interest that they may well be quoted in full:—
This “enlargement,” however, was not permanently satisfactory. The inhabitants of New Town again manifested “the strong bent of their spirits to remove.” It does not appear when they received permission of the General Court. Perhaps the liberty granted in general terms, May 14, 1634, was held to be sufficient. It seems certain that a considerable number of them went to Connecticut before Sept. 3, 1635; for on that day William Westwood, a New Town man, was “sworn Constable of the plantations at Connecticut till some other be chosen.” 8 But the general exodus was several months later. Under date of May 31, 1636, Winthrop says: “Mr. Hooker, pastor of the church of New Town, and the most of his congregation, went to Connecticut. His wife was carried in a horse-litter; and they drove one hundred and sixty cattle, and fed of their milk by the way.” 9 Their possessions in New Town were purchased by Mr. Shepard  and his friends, who opportunely arrived in the autumn of 1635 and the following spring and summer. The reasons assigned for this removal seem insufficient to justify it; or, at the least, insufficient to require it. As to their inability to maintain their ministers, it should be observed that at the same session when this reason was alleged, New Town was rated as high as any other town in the colony.10 The real want of accommodation for cattle and for an additional population may be estimated from the facts that, at this time there were probably less than one hundred families here, containing from five hundred to six hundred persons; and, supposing them to have sold one half of their cattle to their successors, their herd may have consisted of about three hundred. Including the land then offered by others and accepted by them, their territory embraced Cambridge, Arlington, Brookline, Brighton, and Newton. After making all needful allowance for improvements in agriculture, one might suppose here was sufficient room for somewhat more than a hundred families, with their flocks and herds. Another reason is mentioned by Winthrop, namely, “the strong bent of their spirits to remove.” The particular pressure which occasioned this “strong bent” he does not describe. But Hubbard, writing before 1682, when many were living who heard the discussion, intimates what that pressure was: “The impulsive cause, as wise men deemed and themselves did not altogether conceal, was the strong bent of their spirits to remove out of the place where they were. Two such eminent stars, such as were Mr. Cotton and Mr. Hooker, both of the first magnitude, though of different influence, could not well continue in one and the same orb.” 11 Again he says: “A great number of the planters of the old towns, viz., Dorchester, Roxbury, Watertown, and Cambridge, were easily induced to attempt a removal of themselves and families upon the first opportunity offered; which was not a little advanced by the fame and interest of Mr. Hooker, whose worth and abilities had no small influence upon the people of the towns forementioned.” 12 The opinion thus expressed by Hubbard, was adopted by Hutchinson, nearly a hundred years later: “Mr. Hooker and Mr. Cotton were deservedly in high esteem; some of the principal persons were strongly attached to the one of them, and some to the other. The great influence which Mr. Cotton had in the colony inclined Mr. Hooker and his  friends to remove to some place more remote from Boston than New Town. Besides, they alleged, as a reason for their removal, that they were straitened for room, and thereupon viewed divers places on the sea-coast, but were not satisfied with them.” 13 Trumbull suggests that political rivalry was mingled with clerical jealousy. Of John Haynes he says: “In 1635 he was chosen Governor of Massachusetts. He was not considered in any respect inferior to Governor Winthrop. His growing popularity, and the fame of Mr. Hooker, who, as to strength of genius and his lively and powerful manner of preaching, rivalled Mr. Cotton, were supposed to have had no small influence upon the General Court in their granting liberty to Mr. Hooker and his company to remove to Connecticut. There it was judged they would not so much eclipse the fame, nor stand in the way of the promotion and honor of themselves or their friends.” 14 Very probably such jealousies and rivalries had some influence upon the removal of Mr. Hooker and his friends. It is known that Winthrop and Haynes differed in judgment upon public policy, the former advocating a mild administration of justice, and the latter insisting on “more strictness in civil government and military discipline,” as Winthrop relates at large, i. 177-179. The Antinomian controversy, which did not indeed culminate until a year or two later, had commenced as early as 1635; in which Hooker and Cotton espoused opposite sides, and were among the most prominent clerical antagonists. Up to the period of the removal, it seemed doubtful which party would prevail. Both parties were zealous; both lauded their own clergymen, and spoke harshly of their opponents. It is not surprising, therefore, that Cotton and Hooker should feel that their close proximity was irritating rather than refreshing. On the whole, I think, “the strong bent of their spirits to remove” was not altogether caused by lack of sufficient land or by straitness of accommodations. However doubtful the cause, the fact is certain, that the greater part of the First Church and Congregation removed from New Town; more than fifty families went to Hartford, and others elsewhere. Of the families residing here before January, 1635, not more than eleven are known to have remained. The following list of inhabitants is compiled from the Records of the Town, under the dates when they first appear. It should be observed, however, that perhaps many of them were here earlier than the  dates would indicate. For example, Dudley and Bradstreet, and probably others, under date of 1632, were here in 1631; many of those who are entered under date of 1633 were certainly here in 1632; and some of those whose names first appear in 1634 had perhaps been residents one or two years previously. It may also be observed, that of those who removed, many did not permanently remain in the town first selected, but subsequently went elsewhere; yet it does not properly fall within my province to trace their various emigrations.