The United colonies of New England.
The English government was not indifferent to the
progress of the colonies of New England
The fate of the first emigrants had been watched by all parties with benevolent curiosity; nor was there any inducement to oppress the few sufferers, whom the hardships of their condition were so fast wasting away.
The adventurers were encouraged by a proclamation,1
which, with a view to their safety, prohibited the sale of fire-arms to the savages.
The stern discipline exercised by the government at Salem
, produced an early harvest of enemies: resentment long rankled in the minds of some, whom Endicott
had perhaps too passionately punished; and when they returned to England
, the rivals of the Massachusetts
company, willingly echoed their vindictive complaints.
A petition even reached King Charles, complaining of distraction and disorder in the plantations; but the issue was unexpected.
was ably defended by Saltonstall
, and Cradock
, its friends in England
; and the committee of the privy council reported in favor of the adventurers, who were ordered to continue
their undertakings cheerfully, for the king did not
design to impose on the people of Massachusetts
ceremonies which they had emigrated to avoid.
The country, it was believed, would in time be very beneficial to England
Revenge did not slumber,3
because it had been once
defeated; and the triumphant success of the Puritans in America
disposed the leaders of the high-church party to listen to the clamors of the malignant.
Proof was produced of marriages celebrated by civil magistrates, and of the system of colonial church discipline—proceedings which were wholly at variance with the laws of England
‘The departure of so many of the best,’ such ‘numbers of faithful and free-born Englishmen and good Christians,’—a more ill-boding sign to the nation than the portentous blaze of comets and the impressions in the air, at which astrologers are dismayed,4
—began to be regarded by the archbishops
as an affair of state; and ships bound with passengers for New England
were detained in the Thames
by an order of the council.
also in 1637 wrote from New England
, that ‘the colonists aimed not at new discipline, but at sovereignty; that it was accounted treason in their general court to speak of appeals to the king;’5
and the greatest apprehensions were raised by a requisition which commanded the letters patent of the company to be produced in England
To this requisition the emigrants returned no reply.
Still more menacing was the appointment of an
arbitrary special commission for the colonies.
archbishop of Canterbury
and those who were associated with him, received full power over the American
plantations, to establish the government and dictate the laws; to regulate the church; to inflict even the heaviest punishments; and to revoke any charter which had been surreptitiously obtained, or which conceded liberties prejudicial to the royal prerogative7
The news of this commission soon reached Boston
and it was at the same time rumored that a general governor was on his way. The intelligence awakened the most lively interest in the whole colony, and led to the boldest measures.
Poor as the new settlements were, six hundred pounds were raised towards fortifications; ‘the assistants and the deputies discovered their minds to one another,’ and the fortifications were hastened.
All the ministers assembled at Boston
marks the age, that their opinions were consulted; it marks the age still more, that they unanimously declared against the reception of a general governor.
‘We ought,’ said the fathers in Israel
, ‘to defend our lawful possessions, if we are able; if not, to avoid and protract.’8
It is not strange that Laud
and his associates should have esteemed the inhabitants of Massachusetts
to be men of refractory humors; complaints resounded of sects and schisms; of parties consenting in nothing but hostility to the church of England; of designs to shake off the royal jurisdiction.9
Restraints were, therefore, placed upon emigration; no one above the
rank of a serving man, might remove to the colony
without the special leave of the commissioners; and
persons of inferior order were required to take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance.10
Willingly as these acts were performed by religious bigotry, they were prompted by another cause.
The members of the Grand Council of Plymouth
, long re-
duced to a state of inactivity, prevented by the spirit of the English
merchants from oppressing the people, and having already made grants of all the lands from the Penobscot
to Long Island
, determined to resign their charter, which was no longer possessed of any value.
Several of the company desired as individuals to become the proprietaries of extensive territories.
even at the dishonor of invalidating all their grants as a corporation.
The hope of acquiring principalities subverted the sense of justice.
A meeting of the lords was duly convened, and the whole coast, from Acadia
to beyond the Hudson
, being divided into shares, was distributed, in part at least, by lots.
Whole provinces gained an owner by the drawing of a lottery.11
Thus far all went smoothly; it was a more difficult matter to gain possession of the prizes; the independ ent and inflexible colony of Massachusetts
formed too serious an obstacle.
The grant for Massachusetts
, it was argued, was surreptitiously obtained; the lands belonged to Robert Gorges
by a prior deed; the intruders had ‘made themselves a free people.’
The general patent for New England
was surrendered to
the king: to obtain of him a confirmation of their respective grants, and to invoke the whole force of English power against the charter of Massachusetts
were, at the same time, the objects of the members of
the Plymouth company, distinctly avowed in their public acts.12
Now was the season of greatest peril to the rising liberties of New England
The king and council already feared the consequences that might come from till unbridled spirits of the Americans
; his dislike was notorious;13
and at the Trinity
term in the Court of King's Bench
, a quo warranto
was brought against the company of the Massachusetts Bay.
At the ensuing Michaelmas
, several of its members, who resided in England
, made their appearance, and judgment was pronounced against them individually; the rest of the patentees stood outlawed, but no judgment was entered up against them.14
The unexpected death of Mason
who, as the proprietary of New Hampshire
, had been the chief mover of all the aggressions on the rights of the adjoining colony, suspended the hostile movements,15
had too much honesty and too little intrigue to renew.16
The severe censures in the Star Chamber
, the great-
ness of the fines which avarice rivaled bigotry in imposing, the rigorous proceedings with regard to ceremonies, the suspending and silencing of multitudes of ministers, still continued; and men were ‘enforced by heaps to desert their native country.
Nothing but the wide ocean, and the savage deserts of America
, could hide and shelter them from the fury of the bishops.’17
The pillory had become the bloody scene of human
agony and mutilation, as an ordinary punishment; and
the friends of Laud
jested on the sufferings which were to cure the obduracy of fanatics.
‘The very genius of that nation of people,’ said Wentworth
, ‘leads them always to oppose, both civilly and ecclesiastically, all that ever authority ordains for them.’
They were provoked to the indiscretion of a complaint, and then involved in a persecution.
They were imprisoned and scourged; their noses were slit, their ears were cut off; their cheeks were marked with a red-hot brand.
But the lash, and the shears, and the glowing iron, could not destroy principles which were rooted in the soul, and which danger made it glorious to profess.
The injured party even learned to despise the mercy of their oppressors.
Four years after Prynne
had been punished for a publication, he was a second time arraigned for a like offence.
‘I thought,’ said Lord Finch, ‘that Prynne
had lost his ears already; but,’ added he, looking at the prisoner, ‘there is something left yet;’ and an officer of the court, removing the hair, displayed the mutilated organs.
‘I pray to God,’ replied Prynne
, ‘you may have ears to hear me.’
A crowd gathered round the scaffold,
where he, and Bastwick, and Burton
, were to suffer mutilation.
‘Christians,’ said Prynne
, as he presented the stumps of his ears to be grubbed out by the hangman's knife, ‘stand fast; be faithful to God and your country; or you bring on yourselves and your children perpetual slavery.’
The dungeon, the pillory.
and the scaffold, were but stages in the progress of civil liberty towards its triumph.
Yet there was a period when the ministry of Charles hoped for success.
No considerable resistance was threatened within the limits of England
; and not even
America could long be safe against the designs of des-
A proclamation was issued to prevent the emigration of Puritans;18
the king refused his dissenting subjects the security of the wilderness.
It was probably a foreboding of these dangers, which induced the legislation of