The Old thirteen colonies.—Newcastle's administration.
in 1754 David Hume
, whose penetrating mind
had discovered the hollowness of the prevailing systems of thought in Europe
, yet without offering any better substitute in philosophy than a selfish ideal skepticism, or hoping for any other euthanasia to the British constitution than its absorption in monarchy, said of America
in words which he never need have erased, and in a spirit which he never disavowed, ‘The seeds of many a noble state have been sown in climates, kept desolate by the wild manners of the ancient inhabitants, and an asylum is secured in that solitary world for liberty and science.’
The thirteen American colonies, of which the union was projected, contained, at that day, about one million one hundred and sixty-five thousand white inhabitants, and two hundred and sixty thousand negroes; in all, one million four hundred and twenty-five thousand souls.
The Board of Trade1
sometimes reckoned a few thousands
more; and some, on revising their judgment, stated
the amount at less.
Of persons of European
ancestry, perhaps fifty thousand dwelt in New Hampshire
, two hundred and seven thousand in Massachusetts
, thirty-five thousand in Rhode Island
, and one hundred and thirty-three thousand in Connecticut
; in New England
, therefore, four hundred and twenty-five thousand souls.
Of the Middle Colonies
, New York may have had eighty-five thousand; New Jersey
, seventy-three thou
, with Delaware
, one hundred and
ninety-five thousand; Maryland
, one hundred and four thousand; in all, not far from four hundred and fiftyseven thousand.
For the Southern Provinces
, where the mild climate invited emigrants to the inland glades,—where the crown lands were often occupied on warrants of surveys without patents, or even without warrants,— where the people were never assembled but at musters, there was room for glaring mistakes in the enumerations.
may be assigned one hundred and sixty-eight thousand white inhabitants; to North Carolina
, scarcely less than seventy thousand; to South Carolina
, forty thousand; to Georgia
, not more than five thousand; to the whole country south of the Potomac
, two hundred and eighty-three thousand.2
The white population of any one of five, or perhaps even of six of the American
provinces, was greater singly than that of all Canada
, and the aggregate in America
exceeded that in Canada
Of persons of African
lineage the home was chiefly determined by climate.
, and Maine
may have had three thousand negroes; Rhode Island
, four thousand five hundred; Connecticut
, three thousand five hundred; all New England
, therefore, about eleven thousand.
New York alone had not far from eleven thousand;3 New Jersey
, about half that number; Pennsyl-
vania, with Delaware
, eleven thousand; Maryland
, forty-four thousand; the Central Colonies
, collectively, seventy-one thousand.
there were not less than one hundred and sixteen thousand; in North Carolina
, perhaps more than twenty thousand; in South Carolina
, full forty thousand; in Georgia
, about two thousand; so that the country south of the Potomac
, may have had one hundred and seventy-eight thousand.
Of the Southern
—the chosen asylum of misfortune–had been languishing under the guardianship of a corporation, whose benefits had not equalled the benevolence of its designs.
The council of its trustees had granted no legislative rights to those whom they assumed to protect, but, meeting at a London tavern,5
by their own power imposed taxes on its Indian trade.
Industry was disheartened by the entail of freeholds; summer, extending through months not its own, engendered pestilent vapors from the lowlands, as they were opened to the sun; American silk, it is true, was admitted into London
duty-free, but the wants of the wilderness left no leisure to feed the silkworm and reel its thread; nor had the cultivator learned to gather cotton from the down of the cotton plant; the indigent, for whom charity had proposed a refuge, murmured at an exile that had sorrows of its own; the few men of substance withdrew to Carolina
In December, 1751, the trustees unanimously desired to surrender their
charter, and, with the approbation of Murray
authority for two years emanated from the king alone.
when the first royal governor with a royal council entered upon office, a legislative assembly convened under the sanction of his commission.
The crown instituted the courts, and appointed executive officers and judges, with fixed salaries paid by England
; but the people, intrenching itself in the representative body, and imitating the precedents of older colonies, gained vigor in its infancy to restrain every form of delegated authority.
prospered and was happy.
Its fiery people, impatient of foreign restraint, easily kindling into a flame, had increased their power by every method of encroachment on the executive, and every claim to legislative self-direction; but they did not excite English jealousy by competing with English industry, or engaging largely in illicit trade; and British legislation was ever lenient to their interests.
In favor of rice, whose culture annually covered their inexhaustibly fertile swamps with its expanse of verdure, the Laws of Navigation were mitigated; the planting of indigo, which grew wild among their woodlands, was cherished, like the production of naval stores, by a bounty from the British
exchequer; and they thought it in return no hardship to receive through, England
even foreign manufactures, which, by the system of partial drawbacks, came to them burdened with a tax, yet at a less cost than to the consumer in the metropolis.
desired and had obtained the presence of troops to
intimidate the wild tribes on their frontiers and to overawe their slaves.
The people were yeomen, owing the king small quitrents, which could, never be rigorously exacted; a title to portions of the royal domain was granted on easy terms; and who would disturb the adventurer that, at his own will, built his cabin and pastured his herds in savannas and forests which had never been owned in severalty?
The slave-merchant too willingly supplied laborers on credit.
Free from excessive taxation, protected by soldiers in British pay, the frugal planter enjoyed the undivided returns of his enterprise, and might double his capital in three or four years. The love for rural life prevailed universally; the thrifty mechanic exchanged his workshop, the merchant abandoned the exciting risks of the sea, to plant estates of their own.
, with nearly twice as many white inhabitants as its southern neighbor, had not one considerable village.
Its rich swamps near the sea produced rice; its alluvial lands teemed with maize; free labor, little aided by negroes, busily drew turpentine and tar from the pines of its white, sandy plains; a hardy and rapidly increasing people, masters of their own free wills, lay scattered among its fertile uplands.
There, through the boundless wilderness, hardy emigrants, careless of the strifes of Europe
, ignorant of deceit, free from tithes, answerable to no master, fearlessly occupied lands that seemed without an owner.
Their swine had the range of the forest; the open greenwood was the pasture of their untold herds; their young men, disciplined to frugality
and patient of toil, trolled along the brooks that
abounded in fish, and took their pleasant sleep under the forest-tree; or trapped the beaver; or, with gun and pouch, lay in wait for the deer, as it slaked its thirst at the running stream; or, in small parties, roved the spurs of the Alleghanies
, in quest of marketable skins.
How could royal authority force its way into such a region?
If Arthur Dobbs
, the royal governor, an author of some repute, insisted on introducing the king's prerogative, the legislature did not scruple to leave the whole expense of government unprovided for. Did he attempt to establish the Anglican Church?
The children of nature, free from bigotry and from sectarian prejudices, were ready to welcome the institution of public worship, if their own vestries might choose their ministers.
Did he seek to collect quitrents from a people who were nearly all tenants of the king?
They deferred indefinitely the adjustment of the rent-roll.
For the Carolinas and for Virginia
, as well as other royal governments, the king, under his sign manual, appointed the governor and the council; these constituted, also, a court of chancery; the provincial judges, selected by the king or the royal governor, held office at the royal pleasure;8
for the courts of vice-admiralty the Lords
of the Admiralty
named a judge, register, and marshal; the commissioners of the customs appointed the comptrollers and the collectors, of whom one was stationed at each considerable harbor; the justices and the militia officers were named by the governor in council.
freeholders elected but one branch of the legislature,
and here, as in every royal government, the council formed another.
there was less strife than elsewhere between the executive and the Assembly, partly because the king had a permanent revenue from quitrents and perpetual grants, partly because the governor resided in England
, and was careful that his deputy should not hazard his sinecure by controversy.
In consequence, the Council, by its weight of personal character, gained unusual influence.
The Church of England was supported by legislative authority, and the plebeian sects were as yet proscribed, but the great extent of the parishes prevented all unity of public worship.
, when in office, had favored the appointment of an Anglican bishop in America
; but, as his decisive opinion and the importunities of Sherlock
had not prevailed, the benefices were filled by priests ordained in England
, and for the most part of English birth, too often ill-educated and licentious men, whose crimes quickened Virginia
to assume the advowson of its churches.
The province had not one large town; the scattered mode of life made free schools not easily practicable.
Sometimes the sons of wealthy planters repaired to Europe
; here and there a man of great learning, some Scottish loyalist, some exile around whom misfortune spread a mystery, sought safety and gave instruction in Virginia
The country within tide-water was divided among planters, who, in the culture of tobacco, were favored by British legislation.
Insulated on their large estates, they were cordially hospitable.
In the quiet of their solitary life, unaided by an active press, they learned from nature what others caught from philosophy, to
reason boldly, to bound their freedom of mind only
by self-circumscribed limits.
They were philosophers after the pattern of Montaigne
, without having heard of him. The horse was their pride; the county courts their holidays; the race-course their delight.
On permitting the increase of negro slavery opinions were nearly equally divided; but England
kept slave-marts open at every court-house, as far, at least, as the Southwest Mountain
,—partly to enrich her slave-merchants, partly, by balancing the races, to weaken the power of colonial resistance.
The industry of the Virginians did not compete with that of the mother country; they had few mariners, took no part in the fisheries, and built no ships for sale.
British factors purchased their products and furnished their supplies.
Their connection with the metropolis was more intimate than with the northern colonies.
was their market and their storehouse, and was still called their ‘home.’
Yet the prerogative had little support in Virginia
Its Assembly sent, when it would, its own special agent to England
, elected the colonial treasurer, and conducted its deliberations with dignity and independence.
Among the inhabitants, the pride of individual freedom paralyzed all royal influence.
They were the more independent, because they were the oldest colony, the most numerous, the most opulent, and, in territory, by far the most extensive.
The property of the crown in its unascertained domain was admitted, yet the mind easily made theories that invested the ownership rightfully in the colony itself.
Its people spread more and more widely over the mild, productive, and enchanting territory They ascended rivers to the uplands, and
gathered in numbers in the valleys of its lovely
mountain ranges, where the productive red soil bore wheat luxuriantly, and gave to fruits the most delicate flavor.
In the pleasant region of Orange County
, among its half-opened forests, in a home of plenty,9
there sported already on the lawn the child, Madison
, round whose gentle nature clustered the hopes of American union.
Deeper in the wilderness, on the Highlands of Albemarle
, Thomas Jefferson
, son of a surveyor, of whose ancestral descent memory preserved but one generation, dwelt on the skirt of forest life, and from boyhood gazed on the loveliest of scenes, with no intercepting ridge between his dwelling-place and the far distant ocean; a diligent student of the languages of Greece
, and of France
, treading the mountain-side with elastic step in pursuit of game.
Beyond the Blue Ridge
men came southward from the glades of Pennsylvania
; of most various nations, Irish
, Scottish, and German
; ever in strife with the royal officers; occupying lands without allotment, or on mere warrants of survey, without patents or payment of quitrents; baffling to the last the settled policy of England
Everywhere in Virginia
the sentiment of individuality was the parent of its republicanism.
Its dauntless mind, not dissenting from established forms, was impatient of restraint, and submitted only to self-direction.
North of the Potomac
, at the centre of America
were the proprietary governments of Maryland
and of Pennsylvania
, with Delaware
There the king had no officers but in the customs and the admiralty courts; his name was hardly known in the acts of government, and could not set bounds to popular influence.
During the last war, Maryland
enjoyed unbroken quiet, furnishing no levies of men for the army, and very small contributions of money.
Its legislature hardly looked beyond its own internal affairs; and its rapid increase in numbers proved its prosperity.
The youthful Frederic
, Lord Baltimore, sixth of that title, dissolute and riotous, fond of wine to madness, and of women to folly, as a prince zealous for prerogative, though negligent of business, was the sole landlord of the province.
To him seemed to belong the right of initiating all laws, though the popular branch of the legislature had assumed that power, leaving only to the proprietary a triple veto, by his council, by his deputy, and by himself.
He established courts and appointed all their officers; punished convicted offenders, or pardoned them; appointed at pleasure councillors, all officers of the colony, and all the considerable county officers; and possessed exclusively the unappropriated domain.
Reserving choice lands for his own manors, he had the whole people for his tenants on quitrents, which, in 1754, exceeded twenty-five thousand dollars a year, and were rapidly increasing.
On every new grant from the wild domain he received caution money; his were all escheats, wardships, and fruits of the feudal tenures.
Fines of alienation, though abolished in England
, were paid for his benefit on every transfer,
and fines upon devises were still exacted.
enjoyed a perpetual port duty of fourteen pence a ton, on vessels not owned in the province, yielding not far from five thousand dollars a year; and he also exacted a tribute for licenses to hawkers and pedlers, and to ordinaries.
These were the private income of Lord Baltimore.
For the public service he needed no annual grants.
By an act of 1704,10
which was held to be permanent, an export tax of a shilling on every hogshead of tobacco gave an annually increasing income of already not much less than seven thousand dollars, more than enough for the salary of his lieutenantgovernor; while other officers were paid by fees and perquisites.
Thus the Assembly scarcely had occasion to impose taxes, except for the wages of its own members.
Beside the power of appointing colonial officers, independent of the people, Lord Baltimore, as prince palatine, could raise his liegemen to defend his province.
His was also the power to pass ordinances for the preservation of order; to erect towns and cities; to grant titles of honor; and his the advowson of every benefice.11
The colonial act of 1702 had divided Maryland
into parishes, and established the Anglican Church by an annual tax of forty pounds of tobacco on every poll.
The parishes were about forty in number, increasing in value, some of them promising soon to yield a thousand pounds sterling a year.
Thus the lewd Lord Baltimore had more church patronage than any landholder in England
; and, as there was no bishop in America
fugitives from justice, men stained by intemperance
(I write with caution, the distinct allegations being before me,) nestled themselves, through his corrupt and easy nature, in the parishes of Maryland
The king had reserved no right of revising the laws of Maryland
, nor could he invalidate them, except as they should be found repugnant to those of England
Though the Acts of Trade were in force, the royal power was specially restrained ‘from imposing or causing to be imposed any customs or other taxations, quotas, or contributions whatsoever, within the province, or upon any merchandise, whilst being laden or unladen in its ports.’13
The people, of whom about one-twelfth were Roman Catholics,14
shared power through the Assembly; and as their soil had never been ravaged, their wealth never exhausted by taxation, the scattered planters enjoyed, in their delightful climate, as undisturbed and as happy a life as was compatible with the prevalence of negro slavery and the limitations on popular power.
with the counties on Delaware
, the people, whose numbers appeared to double in sixteen years,15
were already the masters, and to dispute their authority was but to introduce an apparent anarchy.
Of the noble territory the joint proprietors were Thomas
and Richard Penn
; the former holding three quarters of the whole.
Inheritance might subdivide
The political power that had
been bequeathed to them brought little personal dignity or benefit.
The wilderness domain was theirs; though Connecticut
, which claimed to extend to the Pacific
, was already appropriating to itself a part of their territory, and, like the Penns, sought to confirm its claim by deeds from the Six Nations.16
had a negative on legislation, but he himself depended on the Assembly for his annual support, and had often to choose between compliance and poverty.
To the Council, whom the proprietaries appointed, and to the proprietaries themselves, the right to revise legislative acts was denied, and long usage confirmed the denial.17
In the land of the Penns, the legislature had but one branch, and of that branch Benjamin Franklin
was the soul.
It had an existence of its own; could meet on its own adjournments, and no power could prorogue or dissolve it; but a swift responsibility brought its members annually before their constituents.
The Assembly would not allow the proprietaries in England
to name judges; they were to be named by the lieutenant-governor
on the spot, and like him depended on the Assembly for the profit of their posts.
All sheriffs and coroners were chosen by the people.
Moneys were raised by an excise, and were kept and were disbursed by provincial commissioners.
The land-office was under proprietary control, and, to balance its political influence, the Assembly passionately insisted on continuing
under their own supervision the loan-office of paper
The laws established for Pennsylvania
complete enfranchisement in the domain of thought.
Its able press developed the principles of civil rights; its principal city cherished science; and, by private munificence, a ship, at the instance of Franklin
, had attempted to discover the Northwestern
A library, too, was endowed, and an academy chartered, giving the promise of intellectual activity and independence.
No oaths or tests barred the avenue to public posts.
The Church of England, unaided by law, competed with all forms of dissent.
The Presbyterians, who were willing to fight for their liberties, began to balance the enthusiasts, who were ready to suffer for them.
Yet the Quakers, humblest amongst plebeian sects, and boldest of them all,—disjoined from the Middle Age
without even a shred or a mark of its bonds,—abolishing not the aristocracy of the sword only, but all war,—not prelacy and priestcraft only, but outward symbols and ordinances, external sacraments and forms,—pure spiritualists, and apostles of the power and the freedom of mind,—still swayed legislation and public opinion.
Ever restless of authority, they were jealous of the new generation of proprietaries who had fallen off from their society, regulated the government with a view to their own personal profit, shunned taxation of their colonial estates, and would not answer as equals to the plain, untitled names, which alone the usages of the Society of Friends allowed.19
, now a royal government, enjoyed,
with the aged Belcher
, comparative tranquillity.
The generality of the people he found to be ‘very rustical,’ and deficient in ‘learning.’20
To the Calvinist governor the Quakers of this province seemed to want ‘orthodoxy in the principles of religion;’ but he parried for them the oppressive disposition of the Board of Trade, and the rapacity of the great claimants of lands, who held seats in the Council.
‘I have to steer,’ he would say, ‘between Scylla
; to please the king's ministers at home, and a touchy people here; to luff for one, and bear away for another.’21
Sheltered by its position, New Jersey
refused to share the expense of Indian alliances, often left its own annual expenses unprovided for, and, instead of showing zeal in assuming the burdens of war, its gentle and most obstinate enthusiasts trusted in the extension of the peaceable kingdom ‘from sea to sea,’ and the completion of the prophecies, that ‘nation shall not lift up the sword against nation, nor learn war any more.’
There, too, on the banks of the Delaware
, men that labored for inward stillness, and to live in the spirit of truth, learned to love God in all his manifestations in the visible world; and they testified against cruelty towards the least creature in whom his breath had kindled the flame of life.
Conscious of an enlargement of gospel love, John Woolman
, a tailor by trade, content in the happiness of humility, ‘stood up like a trumpet, through which the Lord
speaks to his people,’22
to make the negro masters sensible of the
evil of holding the people of Africa
by his testimony at the meetings of Friends, recommended that oppressed part of the creation to the notice of each individual and of the society.
Having discerned by a bright and radiant light the certain evidence of divine truth, and not fearing to offend man by its simplicity, he travelled much on the continent of America
, and would say to thoughtful men, that ‘a people used to labor moderately for their living, training up their children in frugality and business, have a happier life than those who live on the labor of slaves; that freemen find satisfaction in improving and providing for their families; but negroes, laboring to support others who claim them as their property, and expecting nothing but slavery during life, have not the like inducement to be industrious.’
‘Men having power,’ he continued, ‘too often misapply it; though we make slaves of the negroes, and the Turks make slaves of the Christians, liberty is the natural right of all men equally.’24
‘The slaves,’ said he, ‘look to me like a burdensome stone to such who burden themselves with them.
The burden will grow heavier and heavier, till times change in a way disagreeable to us.’
‘It may be just,’ answered one of his hearers, ‘for the Almighty so to order it.’
And while he had fresh and heavenly openings in respect to the care and providence of the Almighty over man, as the most noble amongst his creatures which are visible, and was fully persuaded, that as the life of Christ
comes to reign in the earth, all abuse and unnecessary oppression will draw
towards an end, yet, under the sense of the overflow-
ing stream of unrighteousness, his life was often a life of mourning; and it was a matter fixed in his mind, that this trade of importing slaves, and way of life in keeping them, were dark gloominess hanging over the land.
‘Though many willingly ran into it, yet the consequences would be grievous to posterity.’
Therefore he went about, environed with heavenly light and consolation, persuading men that ‘the practice of continuing slavery was not right;’ and in calmest and most guarded words he endeavored, through the press,25
‘to raise an idea of a general brotherhood, and a disposition easy to be touched with a feeling of each other's afflictions.’
The men whom he addressed on both banks of the Delaware
were not agreed, in all the branches of the question, on the propriety of keeping negroes; yet generally the spirit of emancipation was prevailing, and their masters began the work of setting them free, ‘because they had no contract for their labor, and liberty was their right.’
was at this time the central point of political interest.
Its position invited it to foster American union.
Having the most convenient harbor on the Atlantic
, with bays expanding on either hand, and a navigable river penetrating the interior, it held the keys of Canada
and the Lakes
. Crown Point
, monuments of French ambition, were encroachments upon its limits.
Its unsurveyed inland frontier, sweeping round on the north, disputed with New Hampshire
the land between Lake Champlain
and the Connecticut
, and extended into unmea-
sured distances in the west.
Within its bosom, at Onondaga
, burned the council-fire of the Six Nations, whose irregular bands had seated themselves near Montreal
, on the northern shore of Ontario
, and on the Ohio
; whose hunters roamed over the Northwest
and the West
; whose war-parties had for ages strolled to Carolina
Here were concentrated by far the most important Indian relations, round which the great idea of a general union
was shaping itself into a reality.
It was to still the hereditary warfare of the Six Nations with the Southern Indians
, that South Carolina
first met at Albany
; it was to confirm friendship with them and their allies, that New England
, and all the Central States
but New Jersey
, had assembled in congress.
But a higher principle was needed to blend the several colonies under one sovereignty; that principle also existed on the banks of the Hudson
, and the statesmen of New York clung perseveringly and without wavering to faith in a united American empire.
never possessed the affection of the country which it had acquired by conquest.
British officials sent home complaints of ‘the Dutch
republicans’ as disloyal.
The descendants of the Huguenot refugees were taunted with their origin, and invited to accept English liberties gratefully as a boon.
Nowhere was the collision between the royal governor and the colonial Assembly so violent or so inveterate.
Nowhere had the legislature, by its method of granting money, so nearly exhausted and appropriated to itself all executive authority.
Nowhere had the relations of the province to Great Britain
The Board of Trade esteemed
the provincial legislature to be subordinate, resting for its existence on acts of the royal prerogative, the king's commissions and the king's instructions, and possessed of none of the attributes of sovereignty; while the people looked upon their representatives as a body participant in sovereignty, existing by an inherent right, and co-ordinate with the British
House of Commons.
Affairs of religion also involved political strife.
In a province chiefly of Calvinists, the English Church was favored, though not established by law; but an act of the prerogative, which limited the selection of the president of the provincial college to those in communion with the Church of England, agitated the public mind, and united the Presbyterians in distrust of the royal authority.
The Laws of Trade excited still more resistance.
Why should a people, of whom one half were of foreign ancestry, be cut off from all the world but England
Why must the children of Holland
be debarred from the ports of the Netherlands?
Why must their ships seek the produce of Europe
, and, by a later law, the produce of Asia
, in English harbors alone?
Why were negro slaves the only considerable object of foreign commerce which England
did not compel to be first landed on its shores?
The British restrictive system was never acknowledged by New York as valid, and was transgressed by all America
, but most of all by this province, to an extent that could not easily be imagined.
Especially the British
ministry had been invited, in 1752, to observe, that, while the consumption of tea was annually increasing in America
, the export from England
For the next twenty years, England
sought for a remedy; and, meantime, the little island of St. Eustatia, a heap of rocks, but two leagues in length by one in breadth, without a rivulet or a spring, gathered in its storehouses the products of Holland
, of the Orient, of the world; and its harbor was more and more filled with fleets of colonial trading-vessels, which, if need were, completed their cargoes by entering the French
islands with Dutch
The British statutes, which made the commercial relations of America
not a union, but a bondage, did but disguise the foreign trade which they affected to prevent.
America bought of England
hardly more than she would have done on the system of freedom; and this small advantage was dearly purchased by the ever-increasing cost of cruisers, custom-house officers, and vice-admiralty courts; so that Great Britain
, after deducting its expenses, received, it was said, less benefit from the trade of New York than the Hanse Towns
; while the oppressive character of the metropolitan legislature made the merchants principal supporters of what royalists called ‘faction.’
The large landholders—whose grants, originally prodigal, irregular, and ill-defined, promised opulence for generations—were equally jealous of British authority, which threatened to bound their pretensions, or question their titles, or, through parliament, to impose a land-tax.
The lawyers of the colony, chiefly Presbyterians, and educated in Connecticut
, joined heartily with the merchants and the great
proprietors to resist every encroachment from Eng-
land; meeting the political theories of colonial subordination at the threshold; teaching the method of increasing colonial power by the system of annual grants; demanding permanent commissions for their judicial officers; opposing the extension of the admiralty jurisdiction; and vehemently resisting the admission of bishops, as involving ecclesiastical courts and new prerogatives.
In no province was the near approach of independence discerned so clearly, or so openly predicted.
New York had been settled under large patents of lands to individuals; New England
under grants to towns; and the institution of towns was its glory and its strength.
The inhabited part of Massachusetts
was recognised as divided into little territories, each of which, for its internal purposes, constituted a separate integral government, free from supervision, having power to choose annually its own officers; to hold meetings of all freemen at its own pleasure; to discuss in those meetings any subject of public interest; to see that every able-bodied man within its precincts was duly enrolled in the militia and always provided with arms, ready for immediate use; to elect and to instruct its representatives; to raise and appropriate money for the support of the ministry, of schools, of highways, of the poor, and for defraying other necessary expenses within the town.
It was incessantly deplored by royalists of later days, that the law which confirmed these liberties had received the unconscious sanction of William the Third, and the most extensive interpretation in practice.
, even, on more than one occasion, ventured in town meeting to appoint
its own agent to present a remonstrance to the
Board of Trade.27 New Hampshire
, Rhode Island
, and Maine
, which was a part of Massachusetts
, had similar regulations; so that all New England
was an aggregate of organized democracies.
But the complete development of the institution was to be found in Connecticut
and the Massachusetts Bay
There each township was also substantially a territorial parish; the town was the religious congregation; the independent church was established by law, the minister was elected by the people, who annually made grants for his support.
There, too, the system of free schools was carried to great perfection; so that there could not be found a person born in New England
unable to write and read.
He that will understand the political character of New England
in the eighteenth century, must study the constitution of its towns, its congregations, its schools, and its militia.28
Yet in these democracies the hope of independence, as a near event, had not dawned.
Driven from England
by the persecution of the government, its inhabitants still clung with confidence and persevering affection to the land of their ancestry, the people of their kindred, and the nationality of their language.
They were of homogeneous origin, nearly all tracing their descent to English emigrants of the reigns of Charles the First and Charles the Second.
They were a frugal and industrious race.
Along the seaside, wherever there was a good harbor, fishermen, familiar with the ocean, gathered in hamlets; and each returning season saw them with an ever increasing number of mariners and vessels, taking the cod
and mackerel, and sometimes pursuing the whale into
the icy labyrinths of the Northern
seas; yet loving home, and dearly attached to their modest freeholds.
a society was formed for promoting domestic manufactures: on one of its anniversaries, three hundred young women appeared on the common, clad in homespun, seated in a triple row, each with a spinning-wheel, and each busily transferring the flax from the distaff to the spool.
The town built ‘a manufacturing house,’ and there were bounties to encourage the workers in linen.
How the Board of Trade were alarmed at the news!
How they censured Shirley
for not having frowned on the business!
How committees of the House of Commons examined witnesses, and made proposals for prohibitory laws, till at last the Boston
manufacturing house, designed to foster home industry, fell into decay, a commentary on the provident care of England
for her colonies!
Of slavery there was not enough to affect the character of the people, except in the southeast of Rhode Island
, where Newport
was conspicuous for engaging in the slave-trade, and where, in two or three towns, negroes composed even a third of the inhabitants.
In the settlements which grew up in the interior, on the margin of the greenwood, the plain meetinghouse of the congregation for public worship was every where the central point; near it stood the public school, by the side of the very broad road, over which wheels enough did not pass to do more than mark the path by ribbons in the sward.
The snug farm-houses, owned as freeholds, without quitrents, were dotted along the way; and the village pastor among his people, enjoying the calm raptures of devotion,
‘appeared like such a little white flower as we
see in the spring of the year, low and humble on the ground, standing peacefully and lovingly in the midst of the flowers round about; all, in like manner, opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.’29
In every hand was the Bible
; every home was a house of prayer; in every village all had been taught, many had comprehended, a methodical theory of the divine purpose in creation, and of the destiny of man.
Child of the Reformation, closely connected with the past centuries and with the greatest intellectual struggles of mankind, New England
had been planted by enthusiasts who feared no sovereign but God.
In the universal degeneracy and ruin of the Roman
world, when freedom, laws, imperial rule, municipal authority, social institutions, were swept away,— when not a province, nor city, nor village, nor family was safe, Augustin
, the African bishop, with a burning heart, confident that, though Rome
tottered, the hope of man would endure, rescued from the wreck of the old world the truths that would renew humanity, and sheltered them in the cloister, among successive generations of men, who were insulated by their vows from decaying society, bound to the state neither by ambition, nor by allegiance, nor by the sweet attractions of wife and child.
After the sighs and sorrows of centuries, in the dawn of serener days, an Augustine monk, having also a heart of flame, seized on the same great ideas, and he and his followers, with wives and children,
restored them to the world.
At his bidding, truth
leaped over the cloister walls, and challenged every man to make her his guest; aroused every intelligence to acts of private judgment; changed a dependent, recipient people into a reflecting, inquiring people; lifted each human being out of the castes of the Middle Age
, to endow him with individuality, and summoned man to stand forth as man. The world heaved with the fervent conflict of opinion.
The people and their guides recognised the dignity of labor; the oppressed peasantry took up arms for liberty; men reverenced and exercised the freedom of the soul.
The breath of the new spirit moved over the earth; it revived Poland
, animated Germany
, swayed the North
; and the inquisition of Spain
could not silence its whispers among the mountains of the Peninsula
It invaded France
; and though bonfires, by way of warning, were made of heretics at the gates of Paris
, it infused itself into the French
mind, and led to unwonted free discussions.
Exile could not quench it. On the banks of the Lake of Geneva
, Calvin stood forth the boldest reformer of his day; not personally engaging in political intrigues, yet, by promulgating great ideas, forming the seedplot of revolution; bowing only to the Invisible; acknowledging no sacrament of ordination but the choice of the laity, no patent of nobility but that of the elect of God, with its seals of eternity.
Luther's was still a Catholic religion; it sought to instruct all, to confirm all, to sanctify all; and so, under the shelter of principalities, it gave established forms to Protestant Germany
, and Sweden
, and Denmark
, and England
But Calvin taught an exclusive doctrine, which, though it addressed itself to all,
rested only on the chosen.
Lutheranism was, there-
fore, not a political party; it included prince, and noble, and peasant.
Calvinism was revolutionary; wherever it came, it created division; its symbol, as set upon the ‘Institutes’ of its teacher, was a flaming sword.
By the side of the eternal mountains, and the perennial snows, and the arrowy rivers of Switzerland
, it established a religion without a prelate, a government without a king.
Fortified by its faith in fixed decrees, it kept possession of its homes among the Alps
It grew powerful in France
, and invigorated, between the feudal nobility and the crown, the long contest, which did not end, till the subjection of the nobility, through the central despotism, prepared the ruin of that despotism, by promoting the equality of the commons.
It entered Holland
, inspiring an industrious nation with heroic enthusiasm; enfranchising and uniting provinces; and making burghers, and weavers, and artisans, victors over the highest orders of Spanish chivalry, over the power of the inquisition, and the pretended majesty of kings.
It penetrated Scotland
: and while its whirlwind bore along persuasion among glens and mountains, it shrunk from no danger, and hesitated at no ambition; it nerved its rugged but hearty envoy to resist the flatteries of the beautiful Queen Mary; it assumed the education of her only son; it divided the nobility; it penetrated the masses, overturned the ancient ecclesiastical establishment, planted the free parochial school, and gave a living energy to the principle of liberty in a people.
It infused itself into England
, and placed its plebeian sympathies in daring resistance to the courtly hierarchy: dissenting from dissent; longing to introduce the reign of righteousness,
it invited every man to read the
Bible, and made itself dear to the common mind, by teaching, as a divine revelation, the unity of the race and the natural equality of man; it claimed for itself freedom of utterance, and through the pulpit, in eloquence imbued with the authoritative words of prophets and apostles, spoke to the whole congregation; it sought new truth, denying the sanctity of the continuity of tradition; it stood up against the Middle Age
and its forms in church and state, hating them with a fierce and unquenchable hatred.
Imprisoned, maimed, oppressed at home, its independent converts in Great Britain
looked beyond the Atlantic
for a better world.
Their energetic passion was nurtured by trust in the divine protection, their power of will was safely intrenched in their own vigorous creed; and under the banner of the gospel, with the fervid and enduring love of the myriads who in Europe
adopted the stern simplicity of the discipline of Calvin, they sailed for the wilderness, far away from ‘popery and prelacy,’ from the traditions of the church, from hereditary power, from the sovereignty of an earthly king,—from all dominion but the Bible
, and ‘what arose from natural reason and the principles of equity.’
The ideas which had borne the New England
emigrants to this transatlantic world were polemic and republican in their origin and their tendency.
And how had the centuries matured the contest for mankind!
Against the authority of the church of the Middle Ages Calvin
arrayed the authority of the Bible
; the time was come to connect religion and
philosophy, and show the harmony between faith and
Against the feudal aristocracy the plebeian, reformer summoned the spotless nobility of the elect, foreordained from the beginning of the world; but New England
, which had no hereditary caste to beat down, ceased to make predestination its ruling idea, and, maturing a character of its own,
Saw love attractive every system bind.
The transition had taken place from the haughtiness of its self-assertion against the pride of feudalism, to the adoption of Love as the benign spirit which was to animate its new teachings in politics and religion.
From God were derived its theories of ontology, of ethics, of science, of happiness, of human perfectibility, and of human liberty.
God himself is ‘in effect universal Being.’
Nature in its amplitude is but ‘an emanation of his own infinite fulness;’ a flowing forth and expression of himself in objects of his benevolence.
In every thing there is a calm, sweet cast of divine glory.
He comprehends ‘all entity and all excellence in his own essence.’
Creation proceeded from a disposition in the fulness of Divinity to flow out and diffuse its existence.
The infinite Being is Being in general.
His existence being infinite, comprehends universal existence.
There are and there can be no beings distinct and independent.
God is ‘All and alone.’30
The glory of God is the ultimate end of moral goodness, which in the creature is love to the Creator.
Virtue consists in public affection or general benevolence.
But as to the New England
mind God included
universal being, to love God seemed to in-
clude love to all that exists; and was, therefore, in opposition to selfishness, the sum of all morality, the universal benevolence comprehending all righteousness.31
God is the fountain of light and knowledge, so that truth in man is but a conformity to God; knowledge in man, but ‘the image of God's own knowledge of himself.’
Nor is there a motive to repress speculative inquiry.
‘There is no need,’ said Edwards
, ‘that the strict philosophic truth should be at all concealed from men.’
‘The more clearly and fully the true system of the universe is known the better.’
Nor can any outward authority rule the mind; the revelations of God, being emanations from the infinite fountain of knowledge, have a certainty and reality; they accord with reason and common sense; and give direct, intuitive, and all-conquering evidence of their divinity.32
God is the source of happiness.
His angels minister to his servants; the vast multitudes of his enemies are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind.
Against his enemies the bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at their heart, and strains the bow.33
God includes all being and all holiness.
Enmity with him is enmity with all true life and power; an infinite evil, fraught with infinite and endless woe. To exist in union with him is the highest well-being, that shall increase in glory and joy throughout eternity.
God is his own chief end in creation.
But as he
includes all being, his glory includes the glory and the perfecting of the universe.
The whole human race, throughout its entire career of existence, hath oneness and identity, and ‘constitutes one complex person,’ ‘one moral whole.’34
The glory of God includes the redemption and glory of humanity.
From the moment of creation to the final judgment, it is all one work.
Every event which has swayed ‘the state of the world of mankind,’ ‘all its revolutions,’ proceed as it was determined, towards ‘the glorious time that shall be in the latter days,’ when the new shall be more excellent than the old.
God is the absolute sovereign, doing according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants on earth.
Scorning the thought of free agency as breaking the universe of action into countless fragments, the greatest number in New England
held that every volition, even of the humblest of the people, is obedient to the fixed decrees of Providence
, and participates in eternity.
Yet while the common mind of New England
was inspired by the great thought of the sole sovereignty of God, it did not lose personality and human freedom in pantheistic fatalism.
, who made war both on Manicheans and Pelagians,—like the Stoics, whose morals it most nearly adopted, it asserted by just dialectics, or, as some would say, by a sublime inconsistency, the power of the individual will.
In every action it beheld the union of the motive and volition.
The action, it saw, was according to the strongest motive, and it knew that what proves
the strongest motive depends on the character
of the will.
Hence, the education of that faculty was, of all concerns, the most momentous.
of New England
, who longed to be ‘morally good and excellent,’ had no other object of moral effort than to make ‘the will truly lovely and right.’
Action, therefore, as flowing from an energetic, right, and lovely will, was the ideal of New England
It rejected the asceticism of entire spiritualists, and fostered the whole man, seeking to perfect his intelligence and improve his outward condition.
It saw in every one the divine and the human nature.
It did not extirpate, but only subjected the inferior principles.35
It placed no merit in vows of poverty or celibacy, and spurned the thought of non-resistance.
In a good cause its people were ready to take up arms and fight, cheered by the conviction that God was working in them both to will and to do.