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The History of the United States from 1492 to 1910, Volume 1 by Julian Hawthorne

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the affair ended without a tragedy, which would have spoiled it. Captain
Standish, when Priscilla married, went to live in Duxbury; and a year or
two later worked off his spleen by slaying the Indian rascals who were
plotting to murder the Weston settlers at Weymouth. He and his men did not
wait for the savages to strike the first blow; they made no pretense of
exhausting all the resources of diplomacy before proceeding to
extremities. They walked up to the enemy, suddenly seized them by the
throat, and drove the knives which the Indians themselves wore through
their false hearts. There was no more trouble from Indians in that region
for a long time; and Captain Standish's feelings were greatly relieved. As
for John and Priscilla, they lived long and prospered, John attaining the
age of eighty-seven, which indicates domestic felicity. They had issue,
and their descendants live among us to this day in comfort and honor.

King James, like other spiteful and weak men, had a long memory, and amid
the many things that engaged his attention he did not forget the colonists
of Plymouth, who had exiled themselves without a charter from him. In the
same year which witnessed their disembarkation at Plymouth Rock, he
incorporated a company consisting of friends of his own, and gave them a
tract of country between the fortieth and the forty-eighth parallels of
north latitude, which of course included the Plymouth colony. In addition
to all other possible rights and privileges, it had the monopoly of the
fisheries of the coast, and it was from this that revenue was most
certainly expected, since it was proposed to lay a tax on all tonnage
engaged in it. All the new company had to do was to grant charters to all
who might apply, and reap the profits. But the scheme was fated to
miscarry, because the pretense of colonization behind it was impotent, and
the true object in view was the old one of getting everything that could
be secured out of the country, and putting nothing into it. The fisheries
monopoly was powerfully opposed in Parliament and finally defeated; small
sporadic settlements, with no sound principle or purpose within them,
appeared and disappeared along the coast from Massachusetts to the
northern borders of Maine. One grant conflicted with another, titles were
in dispute, and lawsuits were rife. The king sanctioned whatever injustice
or restriction his company proposed, but his decrees, many of them
illegal, were ineffective, and produced only confusion. Agriculture was
hardly attempted in any of the little settlements authorized by the
company, and the only trade pursued was in furs and fishes. The rights of
the Indians were wholly disregarded, and the domain of the French at the
north was infringed upon. All this while the Pilgrims continued their
industries and maintained their democracy, undisturbed by the feeble
machinations of the king; and in 1625 the death of the latter temporarily
cleared the air. Charles affixed his seal to the famous Massachusetts
Charter four years later; and though Gorges and some others continued to
harass New England for some time longer, the plan of colonizing by
fisheries was hopelessly discredited, and the development of civil and
religious liberties among the serious colonists was assured.

The experiments thus far made in dealing with the new country had had a
significant result. The Plymouth colony, going out with neither charter
nor patronage, and with the purpose not of finding gold or making
fortunes, but of establishing a home wherein to dwell in perpetuity--which
was handicapped by the abject poverty of its members, and by the
severities of a climate till then unknown--this enterprise was found to
hold the elements of success from the start, and it steadily increased in
power and influence. It suffered from time to time from the tyranny of
royal governors and the ignorance or malice of absentee statesmanship; but
nothing could extinguish or corrupt it; on the contrary, it went "slowly
broadening down, from precedent to precedent," until, when the moment of
supreme trial came to the Thirteen Colonies, the descendants of the
Pilgrims and the Puritans, and the men who had absorbed their ideas, put
New England in the van of patriotism and progress. It is a noble record,
and a pregnant example to all friends of freedom.

In suggestive contrast with this was the Jamestown enterprise. As we have
seen, this colony was saved from almost immediate extinction solely by the
genius and energy of one man, whom his fellow members had at first tried
to exclude altogether from their councils and companionship. Belonging to
a class socially higher and presumably more intelligent than the Pilgrims,
and continually furnished with supplies from the Company in England, they
were unable during twelve years to make any independent stand against
disaster. In a climate which was as salubrious as that of New England was
rigorous, and with a soil as fertile as any in the world, they dwindled
and starved, and their dearest wish was to return to England. They were
saved at last (as we shall presently see) by two things; first, by the
discovery of the value of tobacco as an export, and of its usefulness as a
currency for the internal trade of the country; and secondly, and much
more, by the Charter of 1618, which gave the people the privilege of
helping to make their own laws. That year marked the beginning of civil
liberty in America; but what it had taken the Jamestown colonists twelve
weary and disastrous years to attain, was claimed by the pious farmers of
Plymouth before ever they set foot on Forefather's Rock. Willingness to
labor, zeal for the common welfare, indifference to wealth, independence,
moral and religious integrity and fervor--these were some of the traits and
virtues whose cultivation made the Pilgrims prosperous, and the neglect or
lack of which discomfited the Virginia settlers. The latter, man for man,
were by nature as capable as the former of profiting by right conditions
and training; and as soon as they obtained them they showed favorable
results. But in the meantime the lesson was driven home that a virgin
country cannot be subdued and rendered productive by selfish and unjust
procedure: a homely and hackneyed lesson, but one which can never be too
often quoted, since each fresh generation must buy its own experience, and
it often happens that a situation essentially old assumes a novel aspect,
owing to external modifications of time and place.

The Plymouth Colony, after remaining long separate and self-supporting,
consented to a union with the larger and richer settlements of
Massachusetts. The charter secured by the latter, and the manner in which
it was administered, were alike remarkable. The granting of it was
facilitated by the threatened encroachments of other than Englishmen upon
the New England domain; it was represented to Charles that it was
necessary to be beforehand with these gentry, if they were to be
restrained. Charles was on the verge of that rupture with law and order in
his own realm which culminated in his dismissal of Parliament, and for ten
years attempting the task of governing England without it. He approved the
charter without adequately realizing the full breadth and pregnancy of its
provisions, which, in effect, secured civil and ecclesiastical
emancipation to the settlers under it. But what was quite as important was
the consideration that it went into effect at a time incomparably
favorable to its success. The Plymouth colony had proved that a godly and
self-denying community could flourish in the wilderness, in the enjoyment
of spiritual blessings unattainable at home. The power of English prelacy
did not extend beyond the borders of England: idolatrous ceremonies could
be eschewed in Massachusetts without fear of persecution. Thousands of
Puritans were prepared to give up their homes for the sake of liberty, and
only waited assurance that it could be obtained. The condition of society
and education in England was vicious and corrupt; and though it might
become brave and true men to suffer persecution in witness of their faith,
yet there was danger that their children might be induced to fall away
from the truth, after they were gone. Martyrdom was well, but it must not
be allowed to such an extreme as to extirpate the proclaimers of the
truth. Many of those who were prepared to take advantage of the charter
were of the best stock in England, men of brains and substance as well as
piety; graduates of the Universities, country gentlemen, men of the world
and of affairs. A colony made of such elements would be a new thing in the
earth; it would comprise all that was strong and wise in human society,
and would exclude every germ of weakness and frailty. The sealing of the
charter was like the touching of the electric button which, in our day,
sets in motion for the first time a vast mechanical system, or fires a
simultaneous salute of guns in a hundred cities. King Charles I., who was
to lose his anointed head on the block because he tried to crush popular
liberty in England, was the immediate human instrument of giving the
purest form of such liberty to English exiles beyond the sea.

The charter constituted an organization called the Governor and Company
of Massachusetts Bay in New England. The governor, annually elected by the
members, was assisted by a deputy and assistants, and was to call a
business meeting monthly or oftener, and in addition was to preside four
times a year at an assembly of the whole body of the freemen, to make laws
and determine appointments. Freedom of Puritan worship was assured, in
part explicitly, in part tacitly. The king had no direct relation with
their proceedings, beyond the general and vague claims of royal
prerogative; and it was an open question whether Parliament had the power
to override the authority of the patentees.

It will be seen that this charter was in no respect inharmonious with the
system of self-government which had grown up among the Plymouth colonists;
it was a more complete and definite formulation of principles which must
ever be supported by men who wish so to live as to obtain the highest
social and religious welfare. It was the stately flowering of a seed
already obscurely planted, and though it was to be now and again checked
in its development, would finally bear the fruit of the Tree of Life.



Among the characteristic figures of this age, none shows stronger
lineaments than that of John Endicott. He was, at the time of his coming
to Massachusetts, not yet forty years of age; he remained there till his
death at six-and-seventy. He was repeatedly elected governor, and died in
the governor's chair. In 1645 he was made Major-general of the Colonial
troops; nine years before he had headed a campaign against the Pequot
Indians. His character illustrated the full measure of Puritan sternness;
he was an inflexible persecutor of the Quakers, and was instrumental in
causing four of them to be executed in Boston. In his career is found no
feeble passage; he was always Endicott. He was a man grown before he
attained, under the ministrations of Samuel Skelton of Cambridge, in
England, the religious awakening which placed him in the forefront of the
Puritan dissenters of his time; and it may be surmised that the force of
nature which gave him his self-command would, otherwise directed, have
opened still wider the gates of license and recklessness which marked the
conduct of many in that period. But, having taken his course, he
disciplined himself to the strictest observances, and required them of
others. He was a man of perfect moral and physical courage, austere and
choleric; yet there was in him a certain cheerfulness and kindliness, like
sunshine touching the ruggedness of a granite bowlder. An old portrait of
him presents a full and ruddy countenance, without a beard, and with large
eyes which gaze sternly out upon the beholder. When the Massachusetts
Company was formed, it contained many men of pith and mark, such as
Saltonstall, Bellingham, Eaton, and others; but, by common consent,
Endicott was chosen as the first governor of the new realm, and he sailed
for Boston harbor in June, 1628. He took with him his wife and children,
and a small following of fit companions, and landed in September.

Many tales are told of the doings of Endicott in Massachusetts. Like
those of all strong men, his deeds were often embellished with legendary
ornaments, but the exaggerations, if such there be, are colored by a true
conception of his character. At the time of his advent, there was at
Merrymount, or Mount Walloston, now within the boundaries of Quincy, near
Boston, a colony which was a survival of the one founded by Thomas Weston,
through the agency of Thomas Morton, an English lawyer, who was more than
once brought to book for unpuritanical conduct. Here was collected, in
1628, a number of waifs and strays, and other persons, not in sympathy
with the rigorous habits of the Puritans, whose proceedings were of a more
or less licentious and unbecoming quality, calculated to disturb the order
and propriety of the realm. Endicott, on being apprised of their behavior,
went thither with some armed men, and put a summary end to the colony;
Morton was sent back to England, and the "revelries" which he had
countenanced or promoted were seen no more in Massachusetts. The era for
gayeties had not yet come in the new world. Endicott would not be
satisfied with crushing out evil; he would also nip in the bud all such
lightsome and frivolous conduct as might lead those who indulged in it to
forget the dangers and difficulties attending the planting of the reformed
faith in the wilderness.

More impressive yet is the story of how he resented the project of Laud,
Archbishop of Canterbury, and the most zealous supporter of the follies
and iniquities of King Charles, to force the ritual of the orthodox church
upon the people of Massachusetts. When Endicott received from Governor
Winthrop the letter containing this news, whose purport, it carried out,
would undo all that the Puritans had most passionately labored to
establish; for which they had given up their homes and friends, and to the
safe-guarding of which they had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and
their sacred honor:--he was deeply stirred, and resolved that a public
demonstration should be made of the irrevocable opposition of the people
to the measure. He was at that time captain of the trained band of Salem,
which was used to meet for drill in the square of the little settlement.
It had for a long time disquieted Endicott and other Puritan leaders that
the banner of England, under which, as Englishmen, they must live and
fight, should bear upon it the sign of the red cross, which was the very
emblem of the popery which their souls abhorred. It had seemed to them
almost a sin to tolerate it; and yet it was treason to take any liberties
with the national ensign. But Endicott was now in a mood to encounter any
risk; since, if Laud's will were enforced, there would be little left in
New England worth fighting for.

Accordingly, on the next training day, when the able men of Salem were
drawn up in their breastplates and headpieces, with the Red-Cross flag
floating over them, and the rest of the townspeople, with here and there
an Indian among them, looking on: Endicott, in his armor, with his sword
upon his thigh, spoke in passionate terms to the assembly of the matter
which weighed upon his heart. And then, as a symbol of the Puritan
protest, and a pledge of his vital sincerity, he took the banner in his
hand, and, drawing his sword, cut the cross out of its folds. The
unparalleled audacity and rashness of this act, which might have brought
upon New England a revocation of her charter and destruction of the
liberties which already exceeded those vouchsafed to Englishmen at home,
alarmed Winthrop, and sent a thrill throughout the colony. But the deed
was too public to be disavowed, and Endicott and they must abide the
consequences. Information of the outrage was carried to Charles; but he
was fortunately too much preoccupied at the moment with the struggle for
his crown at home to be able to take proper action upon the slight put
upon his authority in Salem. No punishment was inflicted upon the bold
soldier, who thus anticipated by nearly a century and a half the step
finally taken by the patriots of 1776.

To return, however, to Endicott's arrival in Boston (as it was afterward
named, in honor of that Lincolnshire Boston from which many of the
emigrants came). There were already a few settlers there, who had come in
from various motives, and one or two of whom were inclined to assert
squatter sovereignty. The rights of the Indians were respected, in
accordance with the injunctions of the Company; and Sagamore John, who
asserted his rights as chief over the neck of land and the hilly
promontory of the present city, was so courteously entreated that he
permitted the erection of a house there, and the laying out of streets.
While these preparations were going forward, the bulk of the first
emigration, numbering two hundred persons, with servants, cattle, arms and
other provisions, entered the harbor. They had had a prosperous and pious
voyage, being much refreshed with religious services performed daily; and
it may be recorded as perhaps a unique fact in the annals of ocean
navigation that the ship captain and the sailors punctuated the setting of
the morning and noon watches with the singing of psalms and with prayer.
This sounds apocryphal; but it is stated in the narrative of "New
England's Plantation," written and circulated by Mr. Higginson soon after
their arrival; and it must be remembered that the ship carried a supply of
personages of the clerical profession out of proportion to the number of
the rest of the passengers. But palliate the marvel how we may, we cannot
help smiling at it, and at the same time regretting that the Puritans
themselves probably had no realization of the miracle which was
transacting under their noses. They doubtless regarded it as a matter of
course, instead of a thing to occur but once in a precession of the

And now, it might be supposed, began the building of the city: the
clearing of the forest, the chopping of wood, the sawing of beams, the
digging of foundations, the ringing of hammers, and the uprising on every
side of the dwellings of civilization. And certainly steps were taken to
provide the company with shelter from the present summer heats and from
the snows of winter to come; and they had brought with them artisans
skilled to do the necessary work. But though the Puritans never could be
called remiss in respect of making due provision for the necessities of
this life, yet all was done with a view to the conditions of the life to
come; and in the annals of the time we read more of the prayers and fasts,
the choosing of ministers, and the promotion and practice of godliness in
general, than we do of any temporal matters. Men there were, like
Endicott, who united the strictest religious zeal with all manner of
practical abilities; but there were many, too, who had been no more
accustomed to shift for themselves than were the gentlemen of Jamestown.
They differed from the latter, however, in an enlightened conception of
the work before them, in enthusiasm for the commonweal, and in
determination to familiarize themselves as soon as possible with the
requirements of their situation. The town did not come up in a night, like
the shanty cities of our western pioneers; nor did it contain gambling
houses and liquor saloons as its chief public buildings. These men were
building a social structure meant to last for all time, and houses in
which they hoped to pass the years of their natural lives; and they
proceeded with what we would now consider unwarrantable deliberation and
with none too much technical skill. They sought neither wealth nor the
luxuries it brings; but, rather, welcomed hardship, as apt to chasten the
spirit; and never felt themselves so thoroughly about their proper
business as when they were assembled in the foursquare little log hut
which they had consecrated as the house of God. Boston and Salem grew:
they were larger and more commodious at the end of the twelvemonth than
they had been at its beginning; but more cannot be said. Sickness,
misfortune, and scarcity handicapped the settlers; many died; the yield of
their crops was wholly inadequate to their needs; servants whose work was
indispensable could not be paid, and were set free to work for themselves,
and the outlook was in all respects gloomy. If the enterprise was to be
saved, the Lord must speedily send succor.

The Lord did not forget His people. A great relief was already preparing
for them, and the way of it was thus.--

The record of the former chartered companies had shown that conducting
the affairs of colonists on the other side of the ocean was attended with
serious difficulties on both parts. The colonists could not make their
needs known with precision enough, or in season, to have them adequately
met; and the governing company was unable to get a close knowledge of its
business, or to explain and enforce its requirements. Furthermore, there
was liable to be continual vexatious interference on the part of the king
and his officers, detrimental to the welfare of colonists and company

The men who constituted the Massachusetts Company were not concerned
respecting the pecuniary profits of the venture, inasmuch as they looked
only for the treasures which moth nor rust can corrupt; their "plantation"
was to the glory of God, not to the imbursement of man. Nor were they
anxious to impose their will upon the emigrants, or solicitous lest the
latter should act unseemly; for the men who were there were of the same
character and aim as those who were in England, and there could be no
differences between them beyond such as might legitimately arise as to the
most expedient way of reaching a given end. But the Company could easily
apprehend that the king and his ministers might meddle with their projects
and bring them to naught; and since those affairs, unlike mercantile ones,
were not of a nature to admit of compromise, they earnestly desired to
prevent this contingency.

Debating the matter among themselves, the leaders of the organization
conceived the idea of establishing the headquarters of the Company in the
midst of the emigrants in America: of becoming, in other words, emigrants
themselves, and working side by side with their brethren for the common
good. This plan offered manifest attractions; it would remove them from
unwelcome propinquity to the Court, would be of great assistance to the
work to do which the Company was formed, would give them the satisfaction
of feeling that they were giving their hands as well as their hearts to
the service of God, and, not least, would give notice to all the Puritans
in England, now a great and influential body, that America was the most
suitable ground for their earthly sojourning.

These considerations determined them; and it remained only to put the
plan into execution. Twelve men of wealth and education, eminent among
whom was John Winthrop, the future governor of the little commonwealth,
met and exchanged solemn vows that, if the transference could legally be
accomplished, they would personally voyage to New England and take up
their permanent residence there. The question was shortly after put to the
general vote, and unanimously agreed to; a commercial corporation (as
ostensibly the Company was) created itself the germ of an independent
commonwealth; and on October 20th John Winthrop was chosen governor for
the ensuing twelvemonth; money was subscribed to defray expenses; as
speedily as possible ships were chartered or purchased; the numbers of the
members of the Company were increased, and their resources augmented, by
the addition of many outside persons in harmony with the movement, and
willing to support it with their fortunes and themselves; and by the early
spring of 1630 a fleet of no less than seventeen ships, accommodating
nearly a thousand emigrants representing the very best blood and brain of
England, was ready to sail.

At the moment of departing, there was a quailing of the spirit on the
part of some of the emigrants; but Winthrop comforted them; he told them
that they must "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace"; that,
in the wilderness, they would see more of God than they could in England;
and that their plantation should be of such a quality as that the founders
of future plantations should pray that "The Lord make it likely that of
New England." These were good words. Nevertheless, there were not a few
seceders, and it was not till the year had advanced that the full number
of vessels found their way to the port of Boston. But eleven ships,
including the Arbella which bore Winthrop, sailed at once, with seven
hundred men and women, and every appliance that experience and forethought
could suggest for the convenience and furtherance of life in a new
country. Their going made a deep impression throughout England.

And well it might! For these people were not unknown and rude, like the
Plymouth Pilgrims; they were not fiercely intolerant fanatics, whose
sincerity might be respected, but whose company must be irksome to all
less extreme than themselves. They were of gentle blood and training;
persons whose acquaintance was a privilege; who added to the richness and
charm of social life. That people of this kind should remove themselves to
the wilderness meant much more, to the average mind, than that religious
outcasts like the Pilgrims should do so. For the latter, one place might
be as good as another; but that the others should give up their homes and
traditions for the hardships and isolation of such an existence seemed
incomprehensible; and when no other motive could be found than that which
they professed--"the honor of God"--grave thoughts could not but be
awakened. The sensation was somewhat the same as if, in our day, a hundred
thousand of the most favorably known and highly endowed persons in the
country were to remove to Chinese Tartary to escape from the corruption
and frivolity of business and social life, and to create an ideal
community in the desert. We could smile at such a hegira if Tom, Dick and
Harry were concerned in it; but if the men and women of light and leading
abandon us, the implied indictment is worth heeding.

The personal character and nature of Winthrop are well known, and may
serve as a type for the milder aspect of his companions. He was of a
gentle and conciliating temper, affectionate, and prizing the affection of
others. There was a certain sweetness about him, a tendency to mild
joyousness, a desire to harmonize all conflicts, a disposition to think
good, that good might come of it. He was indisposed to violence in opinion
as much as in act; he believed that love was the fulfilling of the law,
and would dissolve opposition to the law, if it were allowed time and
opportunity. His cultivated intellect recognized a certain inevitableness,
or preordained growth in mortal affairs, which made him sympathetic even
toward those who differed from him, for did they not use the best light
they had? He conformed to the English church, and yet he absented himself
from England, not being willing to condemn the orthodox ritual, yet
feeling that the Gospel in its purity could be more intimately enjoyed in
America. He was no believer in the theory of democratic equality; it
seemed to him contrary to natural order; there were degrees and gradations
in all things, men included; there were those fitted to govern, and those
fitted to serve; power should be in the hands of the few, but they should
be "the wisest of the best." He had no doubts as to the obligations of
loyalty to the King, and yet he gave up home and ease to live where the
King was a sentiment rather than a fact. But beneath all this engaging
softness there was strength in Winthrop; the fiber of him was fine, but it
was of resolute temper. Simple goodness is one of the mightiest of powers,
and he was good in all simplicity. He could help his servants in the
humblest household drudgery, and yet preserve the dignity befitting the
Governor of the people. He was not a man to be bullied or terrified, but
his wisdom and forbearance disarmed an enemy, and thus removed all need of
fighting him. He dominated those around him spontaneously and
involuntarily; they, as it were, insisted upon being led by him, and
commanded him to exact their obedience. His influence was purifying,
encouraging, uplifting, and upon the whole conservative; had he lived a
hundred years later, he would not have been found by the side of Adams,
Patrick Henry, and James Otis. Sympathy and courtesy made him seem
yielding; yet, like a tree that bends to the breeze, he still maintained
his place, and was less changeable than many whose stubbornness did not
prevent their drifting. His insight and intelligence may have enabled him
to foresee to what a goal the New England settlers were bound; but though
he would have sympathized with them, he would not have been swayed to join
them. As it was, he wrought only good to them, for they were in the
formative stage, when moderation helps instead of hindering. He mediated
between the state they were approaching, and that from which they came,
and he died before the need of alienating himself from them arrived. His
resoluteness was shown in his resistance to Anne Hutchinson and her
supporter, Sir Harry Vane, who professed the heresy that faith absolved
from obedience to the moral law; they were forced to quit the colony; and
so was Roger Williams, as lovely as and in some respects a loftier
character than Winthrop. In reviewing the career of this distinguished and
engaging man, we are surprised that he should have found it on his
conscience to leave England. Endicott was born to subdue the wilderness,
and so was many another of the Puritans; but it seems as if Winthrop might
have done and said in King Charles's palace all that he did and said in
Massachusetts, without offense. But it is probable that his moderation
appears greater in the primitive environment than it would have done in
the civilized one; and again, the impulse to restrain others from excess
may have made him incline more than he would otherwise have done toward
the other side.

But tradition has too much disposed us to think of the Puritans as of men
who had thrown aside all human tenderness and sympathy, and were sternly
and gloomily preoccupied with the darker features of religion exclusively.
Winthrop corrects this judgment; he was a Puritan, though he was sunny and
gentle; and there were many others who more or less resembled him. The
reason that the somber type is the better known is partly because of its
greater picturesqueness and singularity, and partly because the early life
of New England was on the whole militant and aggressive, and therefore
brought the rigid and positive qualities more prominently forward.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the piety of the dominating powers in
Massachusetts during the first years of the colony's existence. It was
almost a mysticism. That intimate and incommunicable experience which is
sometimes called "getting religion"--the Lord knocking at the door of the
heart and being admitted--was made the condition of admission to the
responsible offices of government. This was to make God the ruler, through
instruments chosen by Himself--theoretically a perfect arrangement, but in
practice open to the gravest perils. It not merely paved the way to
imposture, but invited it; and the most dangerous imposture is that which
imposes on the impostor himself. It created an oligarchy of the most
insidious and unassailable type: a communion of earthly "saints," who
might be, and occasionally were, satans at heart. It is essentially at
variance with democracy, which it regards as a surrender to the selfish
license of the lowest range of unregenerate human nature; and yet it is
incompatible with hereditary monarchy, because the latter is based on
uninspired or mechanical selection. The writings of Cotton Mather exhibit
the peculiarities and inconsistencies of Puritanism in the most favorable
and translucent light, for Mather was himself wedded to them, and of a
most inexhaustible fertility in their exposition.

Winthrop was responsible for the "Oath of Fidelity," which required its
taker to suffer no attempt to change or alter the government contrary to
its laws; and for the law excluding from the freedom of the body politic
all who were not members of its church communion. The people, however,
stipulated that the elections should be annual, and each town chose two
representatives to attend the court of assistants. But having thus
asserted their privileges, they forbore to interfere with the judgment of
their leaders, and maintained them in office. The possible hostility of
England, the strangeness and dangers of their surroundings in America, and
the appalling prevalence of disease and mortality among them, possibly
drove them to a more than normal fervor of piety. Since God was so
manifestly their only sword and shield, and was reputed to be so terrible
and implacable in His resentments, it behooved them to omit no means of
conciliating His favor.

Winthrop found anything but a land flowing with milk and honey, when he
arrived at Salem, where the ships first touched. As when, twenty years
before, Delaware came to Jamestown, the people were on the verge of
starvation, and it was necessary to send a vessel back to England for
supplies. There were acute suffering and scarcity all along the New
England coast, and though the spirit of resignation was there, it seemed
likely that there would be soon little flesh left through which to
manifest it. The physical conditions were intolerable. The hovels in which
the people were living were wretched structures of rough logs, roofed with
straw, with wooden chimneys and narrow and darksome interiors. They were
patched with bark and rags; many were glad to lodge themselves in tents
devised of fragments of drapery hung on a framework of boughs. The
settlement was in that transition state between crude wilderness and
pioneer town, when the appearance is most repulsive and disheartening.
There is no order, uniformity, or intelligent procedure. There is a clump
of trees of the primeval forest here, the stumps and litter of a half-made
clearing there, yonder a patch of soil newly and clumsily planted; wigwams
and huts alternate with one another; men are digging, hewing, running to
head back straying cattle, toiling in with fragments of game on their
shoulders; yonder a grave is being dug in the root-encumbered ground, and
hard by a knot of mourners are preparing the corpse for interment. There
is no rest or comfort anywhere for eye or heart. The only approximately
decent dwelling in Salem at this time was that of John Endicott. Higginson
was dying of a fever. Lady Arbella, who had accompanied her husband, Isaac
Johnson, had been ailing on the voyage, and lingered here but a little
while before finding a grave. In a few months two hundred persons
perished. It was no place for weaklings--or for evil-doers either; among
the earliest of the established institutions were the stocks and the
whipping-post, and they were not allowed to stand idle.

Winthrop and most of the others soon moved on down the coast toward
Boston. It had been the original intention to keep the emigrants in one
body, but that was found impracticable; they were forced to divide up into
small parties, who settled where they best could, over an area of fifty or
a hundred miles. Nantasket, Watertown, Charlestown, Saugus, Lynn, Maiden,
Roxbury, all had their handfuls of inhabitants. It was exile within exile;
for miles meant something in these times. More than a hundred of the
emigrants, cowed by the prospect, deserted the cause and returned to
England. Yet Winthrop and the other leaders did not lose heart, and their
courage and tranquillity strengthened the others. It is evidence of the
indomitable spirit of these people that one of their first acts was to
observe a day of fasting and prayer; a few days later the members of the
congregation met and chose their pastor, John Wilson, and organized the
first Church of Boston. They did not wait to build the house of God, but
met beneath the trees, or gathered round a rock which might serve the
preacher as a pulpit. There was simplicity enough to satisfy the most
conscientious. "We here enjoy God and Jesus Christ," wrote Winthrop: "I do
not repent my coming: I never had more content of mind."

After a year there were but a thousand settlers in Massachusetts. Among
them was Roger Williams, a man so pure and true as of himself to hallow
the colony; but it is illustrative of the intolerance which was from the
first inseparable from Puritanism, that he was driven away because he held
conscience to be the only infallible guide. We cannot blame the Puritans;
they had paid a high price for their faith, and they could not but guard
it jealously. Their greatest peril seemed to them to be dissension or
disagreements on points of belief; except they held together, their whole
cause was lost. Williams was no less an exile for conscience' sake than
they; but as he persisted in having a conscience strictly his own, instead
of pooling it with that of the church, they were constrained to let him
go. They did not perceive, then or afterward, that such action argued
feeble faith. They could not, after all, quite trust God to take care of
His own; they dared not believe that He could reveal Himself to others as
well as to them; they feared to admit that they could have less than the
whole truth in their keeping. So they banished, whipped, pilloried, and
finally even hanged dissenters from their dissent. We, whose religious
tolerance is perhaps as excessive as theirs was deficient, are slow to
excuse them for this; but they believed they were fighting for much more
than their lives; and as for faith in God, it is surely no worse to fall
into error regarding it than to dismiss it altogether.

In a community where the integrity of the church was the main subject of
concern, it could not be long before religious conservatism would be
reflected in the political field. Representative government was conceded
in theory; but in practice, Winthrop and others thought that it would be
better ignored; the people could not easily meet for deliberations, and
how could their affairs be in better hands than those of the saints, who
already had charge of them? But the people declined to surrender their
liberties; there should be rotation in office; voting should be by ballot
instead of show of hands. Taxation was restricted; and in 1635 there was
agitation for a written constitution; and the relative authority of the
deputies and the assistants was in debate. Our national predisposition to
"talk politics" had already been born.

Among these early inconsistencies and disagreements Roger Williams stood
out as the sole fearless and logical figure. Consistency and bravery were
far from being his only good qualities; in drawing his portrait, the
difficulty is to find shadows with which to set off the lights of his
character. The Puritans feared the world, and even their own constancy;
Williams feared nothing; but he would reverence and obey his conscience as
the voice of God in his breast, before which all other voices must be
hushed. He was not only in advance of his time: he was abreast of any
times; nothing has ever been added to or detracted from his argument. When
John Adams wrote to his son, John Quincy Adams, "Your conscience is the
Minister Plenipotentiary of God Almighty placed in your breast: see to it
that this minister never negotiates in vain," he did but attire in the
diplomatic phraseology which came naturally to him the thought which
Williams had avouched and lived more than a century before. Though
absolutely radical, Williams was never an extremist; he simply went to the
fountain-head of reason and truth, and let the living waters flow whither
they might. The toleration which he demanded he always gave; of those who
had most evilly entreated him he said, "I did ever from my soul honor and
love them, even when their judgment led them to afflict me." His long life
was one of the most unalloyed triumphs of unaided truth and charity that
our history records; and the State which he founded presented, during his
lifetime, the nearest approach to the true Utopia which has thus far been

Roger Williams was a Welshman, born in 1600, and dying, in the community
which he had created, eighty-five years later. His school was the famous
Charterhouse; his University, Cambridge; and he took orders in the Church
of England. But the protests of the Puritans came to his ears before he
was well installed; and he examined and meditated upon them with all the
quiet power of his serene and penetrating mind. It was not long before he
saw that truth lay with the dissenting party; and, like Emerson long
afterward, he at once left the communion in which he had thought to spend
his life. He came to Massachusetts in 1631, and, as we have seen, was not
long in discovering that he was more Puritan than the Puritans. When
differences arose, he departed to the Plymouth Colony, and there abode for
several useful years.

But though the men of Boston and Salem feared him, they loved him and
recognized his ability; indeed, they never could rid themselves of an
uneasy sense that in all their quarrels it was he who had the best of the
argument; they were often reduced to pleading necessity or expediency,
when he replied with plain truth. He responded to an invitation to return
to Salem, in 1633, by a willing acceptance; but no sooner had he arrived
than a discussion began which continued until he was for the second and
final time banished in 1636. The main bone of contention was the right of
the church to interfere in state matters. He opposed theocracy as
profaning the holy peace of the temple with the warring of civil parties.
The Massachusetts magistrates were all church members, which Williams
declared to be as unreasonable as to make the selection of a pilot or a
physician depend upon his proficiency in theology. He would not admit the
warrant of magistrates to compel attendance at public worship; it was a
violation of natural right, and an incitement to hypocrisy. "But the ship
must have a pilot," objected the magistrates, "And he holds her to her
course without bringing his crew to prayer in irons," was Williams's
rejoinder. "We must protect our people from corruption and punish heresy,"
said they. "Conscience in the individual can never become public property;
and you, as public trustees, can own no spiritual powers," answered he.
"May we not restrain the church from apostasy?" they asked. He replied,
"No: the common peace and liberty depend upon the removal of the yoke of

The magistrates were perplexed, and doubtful what to do. Laud in England
was menacing them with episcopacy, and they, as a preparation for
resistance, decreed that all freemen must take an oath of allegiance to
Massachusetts instead of to the King. Williams, of course, abhorred
episcopacy as much as they did; but he would not concede the right to
impose a compulsory oath. A deputation of ministers was sent to Salem to
argue with him: he responded by counseling them to admonish the
magistrates of their injustice. He was cited to appear before the state
representatives to recant; he appeared, but only to affirm that he was
ready to accept banishment or death sooner than be false to his
convictions. Sentence of banishment was thereupon passed against him, but
he was allowed till the ensuing spring to depart; meanwhile, however, the
infection of his opinions spreading in Salem, a warrant was sent to summon
him to embark for England; but he, anticipating this step, was already on
his way through the winter woods southward.

The pure wine of his doctrine was too potent for the iron-headed
Puritans. But it was their fears rather than their hearts that dismissed
him; those who best knew him praised him most unreservedly; and even
Cotton Mather admitted that he seemed "to have the root of the matter in

Williams's journey through the pathless snows and frosts of an
exceptionally severe winter is one of the picturesque and impressive
episodes of the times. During more than three months he pursued his lonely
and perilous way; hollow trees were a welcome shelter; he lacked fire,
food and guides. But he had always pleaded in behalf of the Indians; he
had on one occasion denied the validity of a royal grant unless it were
countersigned by native proprietors; and during his residence in Plymouth
he had learned the Indian language. All this now stood him in good stead.
The man who was outcast from the society of his white brethren, because
his soul was purer and stronger than theirs, was received and ministered
unto by the savages; he knew their ways, was familiar in their wigwams,
championed their rights, wrestled lovingly with their errors, mediated in
their quarrels, and was idolized by them as was no other of his race.
Pokanoket, Massasoit and Canonicus were his hosts and guardians during the
winter and spring; and in summer he descended the river in a birch-bark
canoe to the site of the present city of Providence, so named by him in
recognition of the Divine mercies; and there he pitched his tent beside
the spring, hoping to make the place "a shelter for persons distressed for

His desire was amply fulfilled. The chiefs of the Narragansetts deeded
him a large tract of land; oppressed persons locked to him for comfort and
succor, and never in vain; a republic grew up based on liberty of
conscience, and the civil rule of the majority: the first in the world.
Orthodoxy and heresy were on the same footing before him; he trusted truth
to conquer error without aid of force. Though he ultimately withdrew from
all churches, he founded the first Baptist church in the new world; he
twice visited England, and obtained a charter for his colony in 1644.
Williams from first to last sat on the Opposition Bench of life; and we
say of him that he was hardly used by those who should most have honored
him. Yet it is probable that he would have found less opportunity to do
good at either an earlier or a later time. Critics so keen and unrelenting
as he never find favor with the ruling powers; he would have been at least
as "impossible" in the Nineteenth Century as he was in the Seventeenth;
and we would have had no Rhode Island to give him. We can derive more
benefit from his arraignment of society two hundred and fifty years ago
than we should were he to call us to account to-day, because no resentment
mingles with our intellectual appreciation: our withers seem to be
unwrung. The crucifixions of a former age are always denounced by those
who, if the martyr fell into their hands, would be the first to nail him
to the cross.

But the Puritanism of Williams, and that of those who banished him, were
as two branches proceeding from a single stem; their differences, which
were the type of those that created two parties in the community, were the
inevitable result of the opposition between the practical and the
theoretic temperaments. This opposition is organic; it is irreconcilable,
but nevertheless wholesome; both sides possess versions of the same truth,
and the perfect state arises from the contribution made by both to the
common good--not from their amalgamation, or from a compromise between
them, Williams's community was successful, but it was successful, on the
lines he laid down, only during its minority; as its population increased,
civil order was assured by a tacit abatement of the right of individual
independence, and by the insensible subordination of particular to general
interests. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, which from the first
inclined to the practical view--which recognized the dangers surrounding
an organization weak in physical resources, but strong in spiritual
conviction, and which, by reason of the radical nature of those
convictions, was specially liable to interference from the settled power
of orthodoxy:--in Massachusetts there was a diplomatic tendency in the
work of building up the commonwealth. The integrity of Williams's logic
was conceded, but to follow it out to its legitimate conclusions was
deemed inconsistent with the welfare and continuance of the popular
institutions. The condemnation of dissenters from dissent sounded unjust;
but it was the alternative to the more far-reaching injustice of suffering
the structure which had been erected with such pains and sacrifice to fall
to pieces just when it was attaining form and character. The time for
universal toleration might come later, when the vigor and solidity of the
nucleus could no longer be vitiated by fanciful and transient vagaries.
The right of private judgment carried no guarantee comparable with that
which attached to the sober and tested convictions of the harmonious body
of responsible citizens.

When, therefore, the young Henry Vane, coming to Boston with the prestige
of aristocratic birth and the reputation of liberal opinions, was elected
Governor in 1635, and presently laid down the principle that "Ishmael
shall dwell in the presence of his brethren," he at once met with
opposition; and he and Anne Hutchinson, and other visionaries and
enthusiasts, were made to feel that Boston was no place for them. Yet at
the same time there was a conflict between the body of the freemen and the
magistrates as to the limits and embodiments of the governing power; the
magistrates contended that there were manifest practical advantages in
life appointments to office, and in the undisturbed domination of men of
approved good life and intellectual ability; the people replied that all
that might be true, but they would still insist upon electing and
dismissing whom they pleased. Thus was inadvertently demonstrated the
invincible security of democratic principles; the masses are always
willing to agree that the best shall rule, but insist that they, the
multitude, and not any Star Chamber, no matter how impeccable, shall
decide who the best are. Herein alone is safety. The masses, of course,
are not actuated by motives higher than those of the select few; but their
impartiality cannot but be greater, because, assuming that each voter has
in view his personal welfare, their ballots must insure the welfare of the
majority. And if the welfare of the majority be God's will, then the truth
of the old Latin maxim, Vox Populi vox Dei, is vindicated without any
recourse to mysticism. The only genuine Aristocracy, or Rule of the Best,
must in other words be the creation not of their own will and judgment,
but of those of the subjects of their administration.

The political experiments and vicissitudes of these early times are of
vastly greater historical importance than are such external episodes, as,
for example, the Pequot war in 1637. A whole tribe was exterminated, and
thereby, and still more by the heroic action of Williams in preventing, by
his personal intercession, an alliance between the Pequots and the
Narragansetts, the white colonies were preserved. But beyond this, the
affair has no bearing upon the development of the American idea. During
these first decades, the most profound questions of national statesmanship
were discussed in the assemblies of the Massachusetts Puritans, with an
acumen and wisdom which have never been surpassed. The equity and solidity
of most of their conclusions are extraordinary; the intellectual ability
of the councilors being purged and exalted by their ardent religious
faith. The "Body of Liberties," written out in 1641 by Nathaniel Ward,
handles the entire subject of popular government in a masterly manner. It
was a Counsel of Perfection molded, by understanding of the prevailing
conditions, into practical form. The basis of its provisions was the
primitive one which is traced back to the time when the Anglo-Saxon tribes
met to choose their chiefs or to decide on war or other matters of general
concern. It was the basis suggested by nature; for, as the chief historian
of these times has remarked, freedom is spontaneous, but the artificial
distinctions of rank are the growth of centuries. Lands, according to this
instrument, were free and alienable; the freemen of a corporation held
them, but claimed no right of distribution. There should be no monopolies:
no wife-beating: no slavery "Except voluntary": ministers as well as
magistrates should be chosen by popular vote. Authority was given to
approved customs; the various towns or settlements constituting the
commonwealth were each a living political organism. No combination of
churches should control any one church:--such were some of the provisions.
The colonies were availing themselves of the unique opportunity afforded
by their emancipation, in the wilderness, from the tyranny and obstruction
of old-world traditions and licensed abuses.

By the increasing body of their brethren in England, meanwhile, New
England was looked upon as a sort of New Jerusalem, and letters from the
leaders were passed from hand to hand like messages from saints. Up to the
time when Charles and Laud were checked by Parliament, the tide of
emigration set so strongly toward the American shores that measures were
taken by the King to arrest it; by 1638, there were in New England more
than twenty-one thousand colonists. The rise of the power of Parliament
stopped the influx; but the succeeding twenty years of peace gave the
much-needed chance for quiet and well-considered growth and development.
The singular prudence and foresight of Winthrop and others in authority,
during this interregnum, was showed by their declining to accept certain
apparent advantages proffered them in love and good faith by their English
friends. A new patent was offered them in place of their royal charter;
but the colonists perceived that the reign of Parliament was destined to
be temporary, and wisely refused. Other suggestions, likely to lead to
future entanglements, were rejected; among them, a proposition from
Cromwell that they should all come over and occupy Ireland. This is as
curious as that other alleged incident of Cromwell and Hampden having been
stopped by Laud when they had embarked for New England, and being forced
to remain in the country which soon after owed to them its freedom from
kingly and episcopal tyranny.

Material prosperity began to show itself in the new country, now that the
first metaphysical problems were in the way of settlement. In Salem they
were building ships, cotton was manufactured in Boston; the export trade
in furs and other commodities was brisk and profitable. The English
Parliament passed a law exempting them from taxes. After so much
adversity, fortune was sending them a gleam of sunshine, and they were
making their hay. But something of the arrogance of prosperity must also
be accredited to them; the Puritans were never more bigoted and intolerant
than now. The persecution of the Quakers is a blot on their fame, only
surpassed by the witchcraft cruelties of the concluding years of the
century. Mary Dyar, and the men Robinson, Stephenson and Leddra were
executed for no greater crime than obtruding their unwelcome opinions, and
outraging the propriety of the community. The fate of Christison hung for
a while in the balance; he was not less guilty than the others, and he
defied his judges; he told them that where they murdered one, ten others
would arise in his place; the same words that had been heard many a time
in England, when the Puritans themselves were on their trial. Nevertheless
the judges passed the sentence of death; but the people were disturbed by
such bloody proceedings, and Christison was finally set free. It must not
be forgotten that the Quakers of this period were very different from
those who afterward populated the City of Brotherly Love under Penn. They
were fanatics of the most extravagant and incorrigible sort; loud-mouthed,
frantic and disorderly; and instead of observing modesty in their garb,
their women not seldom ran naked through the streets of horrified Boston,
in broad daylight. They thirsted for persecution as ordinary persons do
for wealth or fame, and would not be satisfied till they had provoked
punishment. The granite wall of Puritanism seemed to exist especially for
them to dash themselves against it. Such persons can hardly be deemed
sane; and it is of not the slightest importance what particular creed they
profess. They are opposed to authority and order because they are
authority and order; in our day, we group such folk under the name,
Anarchists; but, instead of hanging them as the Puritans did, we let them
froth and threaten, according to the policy of Roger Williams, until the
lack of echoes leads them to hold their peace.

Although slavery, or perpetual servitude, was forbidden by the statute,
there were many slaves in New England, Indians and whites as well as
negroes. The first importation of the latter was in 1619, by the Dutch, it
is said. No slave could be kept in bondage more than ten years; it was
stipulated that they were to be brought from Africa, or elsewhere, only
with their own consent; and when, in 1638, it appeared that a cargo of
them had been forcibly introduced, they were sent back to Africa.
Prisoners of war were condemned to servitude; and, altogether, the feeling
on the subject of human bondage appears to have been both less and more
fastidious than it afterward became. There was no such indifference as was
shown in the Southern slave trade two centuries later, nor was there any
of the humanitarian fanaticism exhibited by the extreme Abolitionists of
the years before the Civil War. It may turn out that the attitude of the
Puritans had more common-sense in it than had either of the others.

The great event of 1643 was the natural outcome of the growth and
expansion of the previous time. It was the federation of the four colonies
of Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut. Connecticut had
been settled in 1680, but it was not till six years afterward that a party
headed by the renowned Thomas Hooker, the "Son of Thunder," and one of the
most judicious men of that age, journeyed from Boston with the deliberate
purpose of creating another commonwealth in the desert. Connecticut did
not offer assurances of a peaceful settlement; the Indians were numerous
there, and not well-disposed; and in the south, the Dutch of New Amsterdam
were complaining of an infringement of boundaries. These ominous
conditions came to a head in the Pequot war; after which peace reigned for
many years. A constitution of the most liberal kind was created by the
settlers, some of the articles of which led to a correspondence between
Hooker and Winthrop as to the comparative merits of magisterial and
popular governments. Unlearned men, however religious, if elected to
office, must needs call in the assistance of the learned ministers, who,
thus burdened with matters not rightly within their function, might err in
counseling thereon. Of the people, the best part was always the least, and
of that best, the wiser is the lesser.--This was Winthrop's position.
Hooker replied that to allow discretion to the judge was the way to
tyranny. Seek the law at its mouth; it is free from passion, and should
rule the rulers themselves; let the judge do according to the sentence of
the law. In high matters, business should be done by a general council,
chosen by all, as was the practice of the Jewish and other well-ordered
states.--This is an example of the political discussions of that day in
New England; both parties to it concerned solely to come at the truth, and
free from any selfish aim or pride. The soundness of Hooker's view may be
deduced from the fact that the constitution of Connecticut (which differed
in no essential respect from those of the other colonies) has survived
almost unchanged to the present day. Statesmanship, during two and a half
centuries, has multiplied details and improved the nicety of adjustments;
but it has not discerned any principles which had not been seen with
perfect distinctness by the clear and venerable eyes of the Puritan

Eaton, another man of similar caliber, was the leading spirit in the New
Haven settlement, assisted by the Reverend Mr. Davenport; many of the
colonists were Second-Adventists, and they called the Bible their
Statute-Book. The date of their establishment was 1638. The incoherent
population of Rhode Island caused it to be excluded from the federation;
but Williams, journeying to London, obtained a patent from the exiled but
now powerful Vane, and took as the motto of his government, "Amor Vincet
Omnia." New Hampshire, which had been united to Massachusetts in 1641,
could have no separate part in the new arrangement; and Maine, an
indeterminate region, sparsely inhabited by people who had come to seek
not God, but fish in the western world, was not considered. The articles
of federation of the four Calvinist colonies aimed to provide mutual
protection against the Indians, against possible encroachment from
England, against Dutch and French colonists: they declared a league not
only for defense and offense, but for the promotion of spiritual truth and
liberty. Nothing was altered in the constitutions of any of the
contracting parties; and an equitable system of apportioning expenses was
devised. Each partner sent two delegates to the common council; all
affairs proper to the federation were determined by a three-fourths vote;
a law for the delivery of fugitive slaves was agreed to; and the
commissioners of the other jurisdictions were empowered to coerce any
member of the federation which should break this contract. The title of
The United Colonies of New England was bestowed upon the alliance. The
articles were the work of a committee of the leading men in the country,
such as Winthrop, Winslow, Haynes and Eaton; and the confederacy lasted
forty years, being dissolved in 1684.

It was a great result from an experiment begun only about a dozen years
before. It was greater even, than its outward seeming, for it contained
within itself the forces which should control the future. This country is
made up of many elements, and has been molded to no small extent by
circumstances hardly to be foreseen; but it seems incontestable that it
would never have endured, and continued to be the goal of all pilgrims who
wish to escape from a restricted to a freer life, had not its corner-stone
been laid, and its outline fixed, by these first colonists of New England.
It has been calculated that in two hundred years the physical increase of
each Puritan family was one thousand persons, dispersed over the territory
of the United States; and the moral influence which this posterity exerted
on the various communities in which they fixed their abode is beyond
computation. But had the Puritan fathers been as ordinary men: had they
come hither for ends of gain and aggrandizement: had they not been united
by the most inviolable ties that can bind men--community in religious
faith, brotherhood in persecution for conscience' sake, and an intense,
inflexible enthusiasm for liberty--their descendants would have had no
spiritual inheritance to disseminate. Many superficial changes have come
upon our society; there is an absence of a fixed national type; there are
many thousands of illiterate persons among us, and of those who are still
ignorant of the true nature of democratic institutions; all the tongues of
Europe and of other parts of the world may be heard within our boundaries;
there are great bodies of our citizens who selfishly pursue ends of
private enrichment and power, indifferent to the patent fact that
multitudes of their fellows are thereby obstructed in the effort to earn a
livelihood in this most productive country in the world; there are many
who have prostituted the name of statesmanship to the gratification of
petty and transient ambitions: and many more who, relieved by the thrift
of their ancestors from the necessity to win their bread, have renounced
all concern in the welfare of the state, and live trivial and empty lives:
all this, and more, may be conceded. But such evil humors, be it repeated,
are superficial, attesting the vigor, rather than the decay, of the
central vitality. America still stands for an idea; there is in it an
immortal soul. It was by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay that this soul
was implanted; to inspire it was their work. They experienced the
realities, they touched the core of things, us few men have ever done; for
they were born in an age when the world was awakening from the spiritual
slumber of more than fifteen hundred years, and upon its bewildered eyes
was breaking the splendor of a great new light. The Puritans were the
immediate heirs of the Reformation (so called; it might more truly have
been named the New Incarnation, since the outward modifications of visible
form were but the symptoms of a freshly-communicated informing
intelligence). It transfigured them; from men sunk in the gross and
sensual thoughts and aims of an irreligious and priest-ridden age--an age
which ate and drank and slept and fought, and kissed the feet of popes,
and maundered of the divine right of kings--from this sluggish degradation
it roused and transfigured the Englishmen who came to be known as
Puritans. It was a transfiguration, though its subjects were the uncouth,
almost grotesque figures which chronicle and tradition have made familiar
to us. For a people who were what the Puritans were before Puritanism,
cannot be changed by the Holy Ghost into angels of light; their stubborn
carnality will not evaporate like a mist; it clings to them, and being now
so discordant with the impulse within, an awkwardness and uncouthness
result, which suggest some strange hybrid: to the eye and ear, they are
unlovelier and harsher than they were before their illumination; but
Providence regards not looks; it knew what it was about when it chose
these men of bone and sinew to carry out its purposes. Once enlisted, they
never could be quelled, or seduced, or deceived, or wearied; they were in
fatal earnest, and faithful unto death, for they believed that God was
their Captain. They had got a soul; they put it into their work, and it is
in that work even to this day.

It does not manifestly appear to our contemporary vision; it is
overloaded with the rubbish of things, as a Greek statue is covered with
the careless debris of ages; but, as the art of the sculptor is vindicated
when the debris has been removed, so will the fair proportions of the
State conceived by the Puritans, and nourished and defended by their sons,
declare themselves when in the maturity of our growth we have assimilated
what is good in our accretions, and disencumbered ourselves of what is
vain. It is the American principle, and it will not down; it is a solvent
of all foreign substances; in its own way and time it dissipates all
things that are not harmonious with itself. No lesser or feebler principle
would have survived the tests to which this has been subjected; but this
is indestructible; even we could not destroy it if we would, for it is no
inalienable possession of our own, but a gift from on High to the whole of
mankind. But let us piously and proudly remember that it was through the
Puritans that the gift was made. Other nations than the English have
contributed to our substance and prosperity, and have yielded their best
blood to flow in our veins. They are dear to us as ourselves, as how
should they not be, since what, other than ourselves, are they? None the
less is it true that what was worthiest and most unselfish in the impulse
that drove them hither was a reflection of the same impulse that actuated
the Puritans when America was not the most powerful of republics, but a
wilderness. None of us all can escape from their greatness--from the debt
we owe them: not because they were Englishmen, not because they made New
England; but because they were men, inspired of God to make the earth free
that was in bondage.



There are two scenes in the career of Henry Hudson which can never be
forgotten by Americans. One is in the first week in September, 1609. A
little vessel, of eighty tons, is lying on the smooth waters of a large
harbor. She has the mounded stern and bluff bows of the ships of that day;
one of her masts has evidently been lately stepped; the North American
pine of which it is made shows the marks of the ship-carpenter's ax, and
the whiteness of the fresh wood. The square sails have been rent, and
mended with seams and patches; the sides and bulwarks of the vessel have
been buffeted by heavy seas off the Newfoundland coast; the paint and
varnish which shone on them as she dropped down the reaches of the Zuyder
Zee from Amsterdam, five months ago, have become whitened with salt and
dulled by fog and sun and driving spray. Across her stern, above the
rudder of massive oaken plank clamped with iron, is painted the name "HALF
MOON," in straggling letters. On her poop stands Henry Hudson, leaning
against the tiller; beside him is a young man, his son; along the bulwark
lounge the crew, half Englishmen, half Dutch; broad-beamed, salted tars,
with pigtails and rugged visages, who are at home in Arctic fields and in
Equatorial suns, and who now stare out toward the low shores to the north
and west, and converse among themselves in the nameless jargon--the rude
compromise between guttural Dutch, and husky English--which has served
them as a medium of communication during the long voyage. It is a good
harbor, they think, and a likely country. They are impatient for the
skipper to let them go ashore, and find out what grows in the woods.

Meanwhile the great navigator, supporting himself, with folded arms,
against the creaking tiller, absorbs the scene through his deep-set eyes
in silence. Many a haven had he visited in his time; he had been within
ten degrees of the North Pole; he had seen the cliffs of Spitzbergen loom
through the fog, and had heard the sound of Greenland glaciers breaking
into vast icebergs where they overhung the sea; he had lain in the
thronged ports of the Netherlands, where the masts cluster like naked
forests, and the commerce of the world seethes and murmurs continually; he
had dropped anchor in quiet English harbors, under cool gray skies, with
undulating English hills in the distance, and prosperous wharfs and busy
streets in front. He had sweltered, no doubt, beneath the heights of
Hong-Kong, amid a city of swarming junks; and further south had smelled
the breeze that blows through the straits of the Spice Islands. He knew
the surface of the earth, as a farmer knows his farm; but never, he
thought, had he beheld a softer and more inviting prospect than this which
spread before him now, mellowed by the haze of the mild September morning.

On all sides the shores were wooded to the water's edge: a giant forest,
unbroken, dense and tall, flourishing from its own immemorial decay,
matted with wild grape vine, choked with brush, wild as when the Creator
made it; untouched, since then. It was as remote--as lost to mankind--as
it was beautiful. The hum and turmoil of the civilized world was like the
memory of a dream in this tranquil region, where untrammeled nature had
worked her teeming will for centuries upon silent centuries. Here were
such peace and stillness that the cry of the blue jay seemed audacious;
the dive of a gull into the smooth water was a startling event. To the
imaginative mind of Hudson this spot seemed to have been set apart by
Providence, hidden away behind the sandy reaches of the outer coast, so
that irreverent man, who turns all things to gain, might never discover
and profane its august solitudes. Here the search for wealth was never to
penetrate; the only gold was in the tender sunshine, and in the foliage of
here and there a giant tree, which the distant approach of winter was
lulling into golden slumber. But then, with a sigh, he reflected that all
the earth was man's, and the fullness thereof; and that here too, perhaps,
would one day appear clearings in the primeval forest, and other vessels
would ride at anchor, and huts would peep out from beneath the
overshadowing foliage on the shores. But it was hard to conjure up such a
picture; it was difficult to imagine so untamed a wilderness subdued, in
ever so small a degree, by the hand of industry and commerce.

Northwestward, across the green miles of whispering leaves, the land
appeared to rise in long, level bluffs, still thronged with serried trees;
a great arm of the sea, a mile or two in breadth, extended east of north,
and thither, the mariner dreamed, might lie the long-sought pathway to the
Indies. A tongue of land, broadening as it receded, and swelling in low
undulations, divided this wide strait from a narrower one more to the
east. All was forest; and eastward still was more forest, stretching
seaward. Southward, the land was low--almost as low and flat as the
Netherlands themselves; an unexplored immensity, whose fertile soil had
for countless ages been hidden from the sun by the impervious shelter of
interlacing boughs. No--never had Hudson seen a land of such enduring
charm and measureless promise as this: and here, in this citadel of
loneliness, which no white man's foot had ever trod, which, till then,
only the eyes of the corsair Verrazano had seen, near a century before
--here was to arise, like Aladdin's Palace, the metropolis of the western
world; enormous, roaring, hurrying, trafficking, grasping, swarming with
its millions upon millions of striving, sleepless, dauntless, exulting,
despairing, aspiring human souls; the home of unbridled luxury, of abysmal
poverty, of gigantic industries, of insolent idleness, of genius, of
learning, of happiness and of misery; of far-reaching enterprise, of
political glory and shame, of science and art; here human life was to
reach its intensest, most breathless, relentless and insatiable
expression; here was to stand a city whose arms should reach westward over
a continent, and eastward round the world; here were to thunder the
streets and tower the buildings and reek the chimneys and arch the bridges
and rumble the railways and throb the electric wires of American New York,
the supreme product of Nineteenth Century civilization, radiant with the
virtues and grimy with the failings that mankind has up to this time

On the 23d of June, two years later, Henry Hudson was the central figure
in another scene. He sat in a small, open boat, hoary with frozen spray;
he was muffled in the shaggy hide of a white bear, roughly fashioned into
a coat; a sailor's oilskin hat was drawn down over his brow, and beneath
its rim his eyes gazed sternly out over a wide turbulence of gray waters,
tossing with masses of broken ice. His dark beard was grizzled with frost;
his cheeks were gaunt with the privations of a long, arctic winter spent
amid endless snows, in darkness unrelieved, smitten by storms, struggling
with savage beasts and harried by more inhuman men. He sat with his hand
at the helm; against his other shoulder leaned his son, his inseparable
companion, now sinking into unconsciousness; the six rowers--the stanch
comrades who, with him, had been thrust forth to perish by the mutineers
--plied their work heavily and hopelessly; their rigid jaws were set; no
words nor complaints broke from them, though was slowly settling round
their valiant hearts. Overhead brooded a somber vault of clouds; the
circle of the horizon, which seemed to creep in upon them, was one
unbroken sweep of icy dreariness, save where, to the southeast, the dark
hull of the "Discovery," and her pallid sails, rocked and leaned across
the sullen heave of the waters. She was bound for Europe; but whither is
Hudson bound?

His end befitted his life; he vanished into the unknown, as he had come
from it. There is no record of the time or place of his birth, or of his
early career, nor can any tell where lie his bones; we only know that his
limbs were made in England, and that the great inland sea, called after
him, ebbs and flows above his grave. He first comes into the ken of
history, sailing on the seas, resolute to discover virgin straits and
shores; and when we see him last, he is still toiling onward over the
waves, peering into the great mystery. Possibly, as has been suggested, he
may have been the descendant of the Hudson who was one of the founders of
the Muscovy Company, in whose service the famous navigator afterward
voyaged on various errands. It matters not; he lived, and did his work,
and is no more; his strong heart burned within him; he saw what none had
seen; he triumphed, and he was overcome. But the doubt that shrouds his
end has given him to legend, and the thunder that rolls brokenly among the
dark crags and ravines of the Catskills brings his name to the hearer's

The Dutch had had many opportunities offered to them to discover New
York, before they accepted the services of Henry Hudson, who was willing
to go out of his own country to find backers, so only that he might be
afloat. Almost every year, from 1581 onward, the mariners of the
Netherlands strove, by east and by west, to pass the barrier that America
interposed between them and the Eastern trade they coveted. The Dutch East
India Company was the first trading corporation of Europe; and after the
war with Spain, during the twelve years' truce, the little country was
overflowing with men eager to undertake any enterprise, and with money to
fit them out. The Netherlands suddenly bloomed out the most prosperous
country in the world.

They would not be hurried; they took their time to think it over, as
Dutchmen will; but at length they conceived an immense project for
acquiring all the trade, or the best part of it, of both the West and the
East. They studied the subject with the patient particularity of their
race; they outclassed Spain on the seas, and they believed they could
starve out her commerce. Some there were, however, who feared that in
finding new countries they would lose their own; Europe was again in a
turmoil, and they were again fighting Spain before New Amsterdam was
founded. But meanwhile, in 1609, quite inadvertently, Henry Hudson
discovered it for them at a moment when they supposed him to be battling
with freezing billows somewhere north of Siberia. When he was stopped by
Nova Zembla ice, he put about and crossed the Atlantic to Nova Scotia, and
so down the coast, as we have seen, to the Chesapeake, the Delaware, and
finally the Hudson. He told his tale in glowing words when he got back;
but the Dutch merchants perhaps fancied he was spinning sailors' yarns,
and heeded not his report till long after.

Hudson, after passing the Narrows, anchored near the Jersey shore, and
received a visit from some Indians with native commodities to exchange for
knives and beads. They presented the usual Indian aspect as regarded dress
and arms; but they wore ornaments of red copper under their feather
mantles, and carried pipes of copper and clay. They were affable, but
untrustworthy, stealing what they could lay their hands on, and a few days
later shooting arrows at a boatload of seamen from the ship, and killing
one John Colman. Hudson went ashore, and was honored with dances and
chants; upon the whole, the impression mutually created seems to have been
favorable. An abundance of beans and oysters was supplied to the crew; and
no doubt trade was carried on to the latter's advantage; we know that
years afterward the whole of Manhattan Island was purchased of its owners
for four-and-twenty dollars. The present inhabitants of New York City
could not be so easily overreached.

Hudson now began the first trip ever made by white men up the great
river. How many millions have made it since! But he, at this gentlest time
of year, won with the magic not only of what he saw, but of the unknown
that lay before him--what must have been his sensations! As reach after
reach of the incomparable panorama spread itself out quietly before him,
with its beauty of color, its majesty of form, its broad gleam of placid
current, the sheer lift of its brown cliffs, its mighty headlands setting
their titanic shoulders across his path, its toppling pinnacles assuming
the likeness of giant visages, its swampy meadows and inlets, lovely with
flowers and waving with rushes, its royal eagles stemming the pure air
aloft, its fish leaping in the ripples--and then, as he sailed on, mute
with enchantment, the blue magnificence of the mountains soaring
heavenward and melting into the clouds that hung about their summits--as
all this multifarious beauty unfolded itself, Hudson may well have thought
that the lost Eden of the earth was found at last. And ere long, he
dreamed, the vast walls through which the river moved would diverge and
cease, like another Pillars of Hercules, and his ship would emerge into
another ocean. It was verily a voyage to be remembered; and perhaps it
returned in a vision to his dimming eyes, that day he steered his open
boat through the arctic surges of Hudson's Bay.

For ten days or more he pressed onward before a southerly breeze, until,
in the neighborhood of what now is Albany, it became evident that the
Pacific was not to be found in northern New York. He turned, therefore,
and drifted slowly downward with the steady current, while the matchless
lines of the American autumn glowed every day more sumptuously from the
far-billowing woods. What sunrises and what sunsets dyed the waters with
liquid splendor: what moons, let us hope, turned the glories of day into
the spiritual mysteries of fairyland! Hudson was not born for repose; his
fate was to sail unrestingly till he died; but as he passed down through
this serene carnival of opulent nature, he may well have wished that here,
after all voyages were done, his lot might finally be cast; he may well
have wondered whether any race would be born so great and noble as to
merit the gift of such a river and such a land.

He landed at various places on the way, and was always civilly and
hospitably welcomed by the red men, who brought him their wild abundance,
and took in return what he chose to give. The marvelous richness of the
vegetation, and the vegetable decay of ages, had rendered the margins of
the stream as deadly as they were lovely; fever lurked in every glade and
bower, and serpents whose bite was death basked in the sun or crept among
the rocks. All was as it had always been; the red men, living in the midst
of nature, were a part of nature themselves; nothing was changed by their
presence; they altered not the flutter of a leaf or the posture of a
stone, but stole in and out noiseless and lithe, and left behind them no
trace of their passage. It is not so with the white man: before him,
nature flies and perishes; he clothes the earth in the thoughts of his own
mind, cast in forms of matter, and contemplates them with pride; but when
he dies, another comes, and refashions the materials to suit himself. So
one follows another, and nothing endures that man has made; for this is
his destiny. And at length, when the last man has dressed out his dolls
and built his little edifice of stones and sticks, and is gone: nature,
who was not dead, but sleeping, awakes, and resumes her ancient throne,
and her eternal works declare themselves once more; and she dissolves the
bones in the grave, and the grave itself vanishes, with its record of what
man had been. What says our poet?--

"How am I theirs,
When they hold not me,
But I hold them?"

In 1613, or thereabout, Christianson and Block visited the harbor and got
furs, and also a couple of Indian boys to show the burghers of Amsterdam,
since they could not fetch the great river to Holland. In 1614 they went
again with five ships--the "Fortune of Amsterdam," the "Fortune of Hoorn,"
and the "Tiger of Amsterdam" (which was burned), and two others. Block
built himself a boat of sixteen tons, and explored the Sound, and the New
England coast as far as Massachusetts Bay; touched at the island known by
his name, and forgathered with the Indian tribes all along his route. The
explorers were granted a charter in the same year, giving them a three
years' monopoly of the trade, and in this charter the title New Netherland
is bestowed upon the region. The Dutch were at last bestirring themselves.
Two years after, Schouten of Hoorn saw the southernmost point of Tierra
del Fuego, and gave it the name of his home port as he swept by; and three
other Netherlanders penetrated to the wilds of Philadelphia that was to
be. A fortified trading post was built at Albany, where now legislation
instead of peltries is the subject of barter. At this juncture internal
quarrels in the Dutch government led to tragic events, which stimulated
plans of western colonization, and the desire to start a commonwealth on
Hudson River to forestall the English--for the latter as well as the Dutch
and Spanish claimed everything in sight. The Dutch East India Company
began business in 1621 with a twenty-four year charter, renewable. It was
given power to create an independent nation; the world was invited to buy
its stock, and the States-General invested a million guilders in it. Its
field was the entire west coast of Africa, and the east coast of North and
South America. Such schemes are of planetary magnificence; but of all this
realm, the Dutch now hold the little garden patch of Dutch Guiana only,
and the pleasant records of their sojourn on Manhattan Island between the
years 1623 and 1664.

Indeed, the Dutch episode in our history is in all respects refreshing
and agreeable; the burghers set us an example of thrift and steadiness too
good for us to follow it; and they deeded to us some of our best citizens,
and most engaging architectural traditions. But it is not after all for
these and other material benefits that we are indebted to them; we thank
them still more for being what they were (and could not help being): for
their character, their temperament, their costume, their habits, their
breadth of beam, their length of pipes, the deliberation of their
courtships, the hardness of their bargains, the portentousness of their
tea-parties, the industrious decorum of their women, the dignity of their
patroons, the strictness of their social conduct, the soundness of their
education, the stoutness of their independence, the excellence of their
good sense, the simplicity of their prudence, and above all, for the
wooden leg of Peter Stuyvesant. In a word, the humorous perception of the
American people has made a pet of the Dutch tradition in New York and
Pennsylvania; as, likewise, of the childlike comicalities of the
plantation negro; the arch waggishness of the Irish emigrants, and the
cherubic shrewdness of the newly-acquired German. The Dutch gained much,
on the sentimental score, by transplantation; their old-world flavor and
rich coloring are admirably relieved against the background of unbaked
wilderness. We could not like them so much or laugh at them at all, did we
not so thoroughly respect them; the men of New Amsterdam were worthy of
their national history, which recounts as stirring a struggle as was ever
made by the love of liberty against the foul lust of oppression. The Dutch
are not funny anywhere but in Seventeenth Century Manhattan; nor can this
singularity be explained by saying that Washington Irving made them so. It
inheres in the situation; and the delightful chronicles of Diedrich
Knickerbocker owe half their enduring fascination to their sterling
veracity--the veracity which is faithful to the spirit and gambols only
with the letter. The humor of that work lies in its sympathetic and
creative insight quite as much as in the broad good-humor and imaginative
whimsicality with which the author handles his theme. The caricature of a
true artist gives a better likeness than any photograph.

The first ship containing families of colonists went out early in 1623,
under the command of Cornelis May; he broke ground on Manhattan, while
Joris built Fort Orange at Albany, and a little group of settlers squatted
round it. May acted as director for the first year or two; the trade in
furs was prosecuted, and the first Dutch-American baby was born at Fort

Fortune was kind. King Charles, instead of discussing prior rights,
offered an alliance; at home, the bickerings of sects were healed. Peter
Minuit came out as director-general and paid his twenty-four dollars for
the Island--a little less than a thousand acres for a dollar. At all
events, the Indians seemed satisfied from Albany to the Narrows. The
Battery was designed, and there was quite a cluster of houses on the
clearing back of it. An atmosphere of Dutch homeliness began to temper the
thin American air. The honest citizens were pious, and had texts read to
them on Sundays; but they did not torture their consciences with spiritual
self-questionings like the English Puritans, nor dream of disciplining or
banishing any of their number for the better heavenly security of the
rest. The souls of these Netherlander fitted their bodies far better than
was the case with the colonists of Boston and Salem. Instead of starving
and rending them, their religion made them happy and comfortable. Instead
of settling the ultimate principles of theology and government, they
enjoyed the consciousness of mutual good-will, and took things as they
came. The new world needed men of both kinds. It must, however, be
admitted that the people of New Amsterdam were not wholly harmonious with
those of Plymouth. Minuit and Bradford had some correspondence, in which,
while professions of mutual esteem and love were exchanged, uneasy things
were let fall about clear titles and prior rights. Minuit was resolute for
his side, and the attitude of Bradford prompted him to send for a company
of soldiers from home. But there was probably no serious anticipation of
coming to blows on either part. There was space enough in the continent
for the two hundred and seventy inhabitants of New Amsterdam and for the
Pilgrim Fathers, for the present.

Spain was an unwilling contributor to the prosperity of the Dutch
colonists, by the large profits which the latter gained from the capture
of Spanish galleons; but in 1629 the charter creating the order of
Patroons laid the foundation for abuses and discontent which afflicted the
settlers for full thirty years. Upon the face of it, the charter was
liberal, and promised good results; but it made the mistake of not
securing popular liberties. The Netherlands were no doubt a free country,
as freedom was at that day understood in Europe; but this freedom did not
involve independence for the individual. The only recognized individuality
was that of the municipalities, the rulers of which were not chosen by
popular franchise. This system answered well enough in the old home, but
proved unsuited to the conditions of settlers in the wilderness. The
American spirit seemed to lurk like some subtle contagion in the remotest
recesses of the forest, and those who went to live there became affected
with it. It was longer in successfully vindicating itself than in New
England, because it was not stimulated on the banks of the Hudson by the
New England religious fervor; it was supported on grounds of practical
expediency merely. Men could not prosper unless they received the rewards
of industry, and were permitted to order their private affairs in a manner
to make their labor pay. They were not content to have the Patroon devour
their profits, leaving them enough only for a bare subsistence. The Dutch
families scattered throughout the domain could not get ahead, while yet
they could not help feeling that the bounty of nature ought to benefit
those whose toil made it available, at least as much as it did those who
toiled not, but simply owned the land in virtue of some documentary
transaction with the powers above, and therefore claimed ownership also
over the poor emigrant who settled on it--having nowhere else to go. The
emigrants were probably helped to comprehend and formulate their own
misfortunes by communications with stragglers from New England, who
regaled them with tales of such liberties as they had never before
imagined. But the seed thus sown by the Englishmen fell on fruitful soil,
and the crop was reaped in due season.

The charter intended, primarily, the encouragement of emigration, and did
not realize that it needed very little encouragement. The advantages
offered were more alluring than they need have been. Any person who,
within four years, could establish a colony of fifty persons, was given
privileges only comparable to those of independent princes. They were
allowed to take up tracts of land many square miles in area, to govern
them absolutely (according to the laws of the realm), to found and
administer cities, and in a word to drink from Baucis's pitcher to their
hearts' content. In return, the home administration expected the benefit
of their trade. Two stipulations only restrained them: they were to buy
titles to their land from the Indians, and they were to permit, on penalty
of removal, no cotton or woolen manufactures in the country. That was a
monopoly which was reserved to the weavers in the old country.

This was excellent for such as could afford to become patroons; but what
about the others? The charter provided that any emigrant who could pay for
his exportation might take up what land he required for his needs, and
cultivate it independently. Other emigrants, unable to pay their fare out,
might have it paid for them, but in that case, of course, incurred a
mortgage to their benefactors. In effect, they could not own the product
of the work of their hands, until it had paid their sponsors for their
outlay, together with such additions in the way of interest on capital as
might seem to the sponsors equitable.

The Company further undertook to supply slaves to the colony, should they
prove to be a paying investment; and it was chiefly because the climate of
New York was less favorable to the Guinea Coast negro than was that
further south, that African slavery did not take early and firm root in
the former region. Philosophers have long recognized the influence of
degrees of latitude upon human morality. The patroon planters could
dispense with black slaves, since they had white men enough who cost them
no more than their keep, and would, presumably, not involve the expense of
overseers. Everything, therefore, seemed harmonious and sunshiny, and the
Company congratulated itself.

But the patroons, through their agents, began buying up all the land that
was worth having, and found it easy to evade the stipulation restricting
them to sixteen miles apiece. One of them had an estate running
twenty-four miles on either bank of the Hudson, below Albany (or Fort
Orange as it was then), and forty-eight miles inland. It was superb; but
it was as far as possible from being democracy; and the portly Van
Rensselaer of Rennselaerwyck would have shuddered to his marrow, could he
have cast a prophetic eye into the Nineteenth Century.

The Company at home presently discovered that its incautious liberality
had injured its own interests, as well as those of poor settlers; for the
estates of the patroons covered the trading posts where the Indians came
to traffic, and all the profits from the latter swelled the pockets of the
patroons. But the charter could not be withdrawn; the directors must be
content with whatever sympathetic benefits might be conferred by the
increasing wealth of the colony. The patroons were becoming more powerful
than their creators, and took things more and more into their own lordly
hands. Neither patroons nor Company concerned themselves about the people.
The charter had, indeed, mentioned the subjects of schools and religious
instructors for the emigrants, but had made no provision for the
maintenance of such; and the patroons conceived that such luxuries were
deserving of but the slightest encouragement. The more a poor man knows,
the less contented is he. Such was the argument then, and it is
occasionally heard to-day, when our trusts and corporations are annoyed by
the complaints and disaffections of their only half ignorant employés.

Governor Minuit was not held to be the best man in the world for his
position, and he was recalled in 1632, and Wouter Van Twiller, who
possessed all of his predecessor's faults and none of his virtues, took
his place. A governor with the American idea in him would have saved
Manhattan a great deal of trouble, and perhaps have enabled the Dutch to
keep their hold upon it; but no such governor was available, and worse
than Van Twiller was yet to come. A colony had already been planted in
Delaware, but unjust dealings with the Indians led to a massacre which
left nothing of the Cape Henlopen settlement but bones and charred
timbers. The English to the south were led to renew the assertion of their
never-abandoned claim to the region; there were encroachments by the
English settlers on the Connecticut boundary, and the Dutch, deprived by
the wars in Europe of the support of their countrymen at home, were too
feeble to do more than protest. But protests from those unable to enforce
them have never been listened to with favor--not even by the English.
Besides, the Dutch, though amenable to religious observances, were far
from making them the soul and end of all thought and action; and this lack
of aggressive religious fiber put them at a decided political disadvantage
with their rivals. Man for man, they were the equals of the English, or of
any other people; as they magnificently demonstrated, forty years
afterward, by defeating allied and evil-minded Europe in its attempt to
expunge them as a nation. But the indomitable spirit of Van Tromp and De
Ruyter was never awakened in the New Netherlands; commercial
considerations were paramount; and though the Dutch settlers remained, and
were always welcome, the colony finally passed from the jurisdiction of
their own government, with their own expressed consent.

Van Twiller vanished after eight years' mismanagement, and the sanguinary
Kieft took the reins. But before his incumbency, Sweden, at the instance
of Gustavus Adolphus, and by the agency of his chancellor Oxenstiern, both
men of the first class, lodged a colony on Delaware Bay, which subsisted
for seventeen years, and was absorbed, at last, without one stain upon its
fair record. Minuit, being out of a job, offered his experienced services
in bringing the emigrating Swedes and Finns to their new abode, and they
began their sojourn in 1638. They were industrious, peaceable, religious
and moral, and they declared against any form of slavery. They threw out a
branch toward Philadelphia. But Gustavus Adolphus had died at Luetzen
before the Swedes came over, and Queen Christina had not the ability to
carry out his ideas, even had she possessed the power. The Dutch began to
dispute the rights of the Scandinavians; Rysingh took their fort Casimir
in 1654, and Peter Stuyvesant with six hundred men received their
submission in the same year. But this success was of no benefit to the
Dutch; the tyrannous monopolies which the Company tried to establish in
Delaware, instead of creating revenues, caused the country to be deserted
by the settlers, who betook themselves to the less oppressive English
administrations to the southward; and it was not until the English took
possession of both Delaware and the rest of the New Netherlands that it
began to yield a fair return on the investment.

But we must return to the ill-omened Kieft. It was upon the Indian
question that he made shipwreck, not only incurring their deadly enmity,
but alienating from himself the sympathies and support of his own
countrymen. The Algonquin tribe, which inhabited the surrounding country,
had been constantly overreached in their trade with the Dutchmen; the
principle upon which barter was carried on with the untutored savage
being, "I'll take the turkey, and you keep the buzzard: or you take the
buzzard, and I'll keep the turkey." This sounded fair; but when the Indian
came to examine his assets, it always appeared that a buzzard was all he
could make of it. Partly, perhaps, by way of softening the asperities of
such a discovery, the Dutch merchant had been wont to furnish his victim
with brandy (not eleemosynary, of course); but the results were
disastrous. The Indians, transported by the alcohol beyond the
anything-but-restricted bounds which nature had imposed upon them, felt
the insult of the buzzard more keenly than ever, and signified their
resentment in ways consistent with their instincts and traditions. In 1640
an army of them fell upon the colony in Staten Island, and slaughtered
them, man, woman and child, with the familiar Indian accessories of
tomahawk, scalping-knife and torch. The Staten Islanders, it should be
stated, had done nothing to merit this treatment; but Indian logic
interprets the legal maxim "Qui facit per alium, facit per se," as meaning
that if one white man cheats him, he can get his satisfaction out of the
next one who happens in sight. Staten Island was a definite and convenient
area, and when its population had been exterminated, the Indians could
feel relieved from their obligation. Not long afterward an incident such
as romancers love to feign actually took place; an Indian brave who, as a
child years before, had seen his uncle robbed and slain, and had vowed
revenge, now having become of age, or otherwise qualified himself for the
enterprise, went upon the warpath, and returned with the long-coveted
scalp at his girdle. Evidently the time had come for Governor Kieft to
assert himself.

It was of small avail to invade the wilds of New Jersey, or to offer
rewards for Raritans, dead or alive. The sachems were willing to express
their regret, but they would not surrender the culprits, and declared that
the Dutchmen's own brandy was the really guilty party. Kieft would not
concede the point, and the situation was strained. At this juncture, the
unexpected happened. The Mohawks, a kingly tribe of red men, who claimed
all Northeast America from the St. Lawrence to the Delaware, and who had
already driven the Algonquins before them like chaff, sent down a war
party from northern New York, and demanded tribute from them. There were
more Algonquins than there were Mohawks; but one eagle counts for more
than many kites. The kites came fluttering to Fort Orange for protection:
not so much that they feared death or torture, but they were overawed by
the spirit of the Mohawk, and could not endure to face him. Kieft fancied
that he saw his opportunity. He would teach the red scoundrels a lesson
they would remember. There was a company of soldiers in the Fort, and in
the river were moored some vessels with crews of Dutch privateers on
board. Kieft made up his party, and when night had fallen he sent them on
their bloody errand, guided by one who knew all the camps and
hiding-places of the doomed tribe. It was a revolting episode; a hundred
Indians were unresistingly murdered. They would have made a stronger
defense had they not been under the impression that it was the Mohawks who
were upon them; and to be killed by a Mohawk was no more than an Algonquin
should expect. But when it transpired that the Dutch were the
perpetrators, the whole nation gave way to a double exasperation: first,
that their friends had been killed, and secondly that they had suffered
under a misapprehension. The settlers, in disregard of advice, were living
in scattered situations over a large territory, and they were all in
danger, and defenseless, even if New Amsterdam itself could escape. Kieft
was heartily cursed by all impartially; he was compelled to make overtures
for peace, and a pow-wow was held in Rockaway woods, in the spring of
1643. Terms were agreed upon, and, according to Indian usage, gifts were
exchanged. But those of the chiefs so far exceeded in value the offerings
of Kieft that these were regarded as a fresh insult; war was declared,
and dragged along for two years more. It was not until 1645 that the
grand meeting of the settlers and the Five Nations took place at Fort
Amsterdam, and the treaty of lasting peace was ratified. Kieft sailed from
New Amsterdam with the consciousness of having injured his countrymen more
than had any enemy; but he was drowned off the Welsh coast, without having
brought forth fruits meet for repentance.

Peter Stuyvesant is a favorite character in our history because he was a
manly and straightforward man, faithful to his employers, fearless in
doing and saying what he thought was right, and endowed with a full share
of obstinate, homely, kindly human nature. He was not in advance of his
age, or superior to his training; he was the plain product of both, but
free from selfishness, malice, and unworthy ambitions. He was born in
1602, and came to America a warrior from honorable wars, seamed and
knotty, with a famous wooden leg which all New Yorkers, at any rate love
to hear stumping down the corridors of time. His administration, the last
of the Dutch regime, wiped out the stains inflicted by his predecessors,
and resisted with equal energy encroachments from abroad and innovations
at home. He was a true Dutchman, with most of the limitations and all the
virtues of his race; fond of peace and of dwelling in his own "Bowery,"
yet not afraid to fight when he deemed that his duty. His tenure of office
lasted from 1647 till 1664, a period of seventeen active years; after the
English took possession of the town and called it New York, Peter went
back to Holland, unwilling to live in the presence of new things; but he
found that, at the age of sixty-three, he could not be happy away from the
home that he had made for himself in the new world; so he returned to
Manhattan Island, and completed the tale of his eighty years on the farm
which is now the most populous and democratic of New York's thoroughfares.
There he smoked his long-stemmed pipe and drank his schnapps, and thought
over old times, and criticised the new. After two and a half centuries,
the memory of him is undimmed; and it is to be wished that some fitting
memorial of him may be erected in the city which his presence honored.

The very next year after his arrival, free trade was established in New
Amsterdam. There had been a strict monopoly till then; but in one way or
another it was continually evaded, and the New Amsterdam merchants found
themselves so much handicapped by the restrictions, that their inability
reacted upon the managers at home. There were not at that time any infant
industries in need of protection, and the colony was large and capacious
enough to take what the mother country sent it, and more also. But in
order to prevent loss, an export duty was enforced, which pressed lightly
on those who paid it, and comforted those to whom it was paid. Commerce
was greatly stimulated, and the merchants of old Amsterdam sent
compliments and prophesies of future greatness to their brethren across
the sea. Every new-hatched settlement that springs up on the borders of
the wilderness is liable to be "hailed" by its promoters as destined to
become the Queen City of its region; the wish fathers the word, and the
word is an advertisement. But the merchant princes of Amsterdam spoke by
the card; they perceived the almost unique advantages of geographical
position and local facilities of their American namesake; with such a bay
and water front, with such a river, with such a soil and such openings for
trade, what might it not become! Yes: but--"Sic vos noa vobis
aedificatis!" The English reaped what the Dutch had sown, and New York
inherits the glory and power predicted for New Amsterdam.

The soil of Manhattan Island being comparatively poor, the place was
destined to be used as a residence merely, and the houses of prosperous
traders and burghers began to assemble and bear likeness to a town. The
primeval forest still clothed the upper part of the island; but the
visible presence of a municipality in the southern extremity prompted the
inhabitants to suggest a remodeling of the government somewhat after the
New England pattern, where patroons were unknown and impossible. It is not
surprising that suggestions to this effect from the humbler members of the
community were not cordially embraced by either the patroons or their
creators at home; in fact, it was still-born. That the people should rule
themselves was as good as to say that the horse should loll in the
carriage while his master toiled between the shafts. The thing was
impossible, and should be unmentionable. The people, however, continued to
mention it, and even to neglect paying the taxes which had been imposed
with no regard to their reasonable welfare. A deputation went to Holland
to tell the directors that they could neither farm nor trade with profit
unless the burdens were lightened; the directors thought otherwise, and
the consequence was that devices were practiced to lighten them illicitly.
This added to the interest of life, but subverted the welfare of the
state. Where political rights are not secured to all men by constitutional
right, those who are unable to get them by privilege, intrigue to steal
what such rights would guarantee. At this rate, there would presently be a
Council of Ten and an Inquisition in New Amsterdam. In 1653, the Governor
was constrained to admit the deputies from the various settlements to an
interview, in which they said their say, and he his. "We have come here at
our own expense," they observed, "from various countries of Europe,
expecting to be given protection while earning our living; we have turned
your wilderness into a fruitful garden for you, and you, in return, impose
on us laws which disable us from profiting by our labor. We ask you to
repeal these laws, allow us to make laws to meet our needs, and appoint
none to office who has not our approbation." Thus, in substance, spoke the
people; and we, at the end of the Nineteenth Century, may think they were
uttering the veriest axioms of political common sense. What sturdy Peter
Stuyvesant thought is perfectly expressed in what he replied.

"The old laws will stand. Directors and council only shall be law-makers:
never will they make themselves responsible to the people. As to officers
of government, were their election left to the rabble, we should have
thieves on horseback and honest men on foot." And with that, we may
imagine, the Governor stamped his wooden toe.

The people shrugged their shoulders. "We aim but at the general good,"
said they. "All men have a natural right to constitute society, and to
assemble to protect their liberties and property."

"I declare this assembly dissolved," Peter retorted. "Assemble again at
your peril! The authority which rules you is derived not from the whim of
a few ignorant malcontents." Alas! the seed of the American Idea had
never germinated in Peter's soldierly bosom; and when the West India
Company learned of the dialogue, they spluttered with indignation. "The
people be d----d." was the sense of their message. "Let them no longer
delude themselves with the fantasy that taxes require their assent." With
that, they dismissed the matter from their minds. Yet even then, the
Writing was on the wall. The flouted people were ripe to welcome England;
and England, in the shape of Charles II., who had come at last to his own,
meditated wiping the Dutch off the Atlantic seaboard. It availed not to
plead rights: Lord Baltimore snapped his fingers. Lieutenant-governor
Beekman, indeed, delayed the appropriation of Delaware; but Long Island
was being swallowed up, and nobody except the government cared. The people
may be incompetent to frame laws: but what if they decline to fight for
you when called upon? If they cannot make taxes to please themselves, at
all events they will not make war to please anybody else. If they are poor
and ignorant, that is not their fault. The English fleet was impending;
what was to be done? Could Stuyvesant but have multiplied himself into a
thousand Stuyvesants, he knew what he would do; but he was impotent. In
August, 1664, here was the fleet actually anchored in Gravesend Bay, with
Nicolls in command. "What did they want?" the Governor inquired.
"Immediate recognition of English sovereignty," replied Nicolls curtly;
and the gentler voice of Winthrop of Boston was heard, advising surrender.
"Surrender would be reproved at home," said poor Stuyvesant, refusing to
know when he was beaten. He was doing his best to defeat the army and navy
of England single-handed. But the burgomasters went behind him, and
capitulated, and--Peter to the contrary for four days more notwithstanding
--New Amsterdam became New York.

The English courted favor by liberal treatment of their new dependants on
the western shore of the Hudson; whatever the Dutch had refused to do,
they did. The Governor and Council were to be balanced by the people's
representatives; no more arbitrary taxation; citizens might think and pray
as best pleased them; land tenure was made easy, and seventy-five acres
was the bounty for each emigrant imported, negroes included. By such
inducements the wilderness of New Jersey, assigned to Berkeley and
Carteret, was peopled by Scots, New Englanders and Quakers. Settlement
proceeded rapidly, and in 1668 a colonial legislature met in the town
named after Elizabeth Carteret. There were so many Puritans in the
assembly, and their arguments were so convincing, that New Jersey law bore
a strong family resemblance to that of New England. This had its effect,
when, in 1670, the rent question came up for settlement. The Puritans
contended that the Indians held from Noah, and as they were lawful heirs
of the Indians, they declined to pay rents to the English proprietors.
There was no means of compelling them to do so, and they had their way.
The Yankees were already going ahead.

Manhattan did not get treated quite so well. The Governor had everything
his own way, the council being his creatures, and the justices his
appointees. The people were permitted no voice in affairs, and might as
well have had Stuyvesant back again. After Nicolls had strutted his term,
Lord Lovelace came, and outdid him. His idea of how to govern was
formulated in his instructions to an agent: "Lay such taxes," said he, "as
may give them liberty for no thought but how to discharge them." Lord
Lovelace was an epigrammatist; but in the end he had to pay for his wit.
He attempted to levy a tax for defense, and was met with refusal; the
towns of Long Island had not one cent either for tribute or defense; his
lordship swore at them heartily, but they heeded him not; and he found
himself in the shoes of the ousted Dutch Governor in an another sense than
he desired. And then was poetical justice made complete; for who should
appear before the helpless forts but Evertsen with a Dutch fleet! New
York, New Jersey and Delaware surrendered to him almost with enthusiasm,
and the work of England seemed to be all undone.

But larger events were to control the lesser. France and England combined
in an iniquitous conspiracy to destroy the Dutch Republic, and swooped
down upon the coast with two hundred thousand men. The story has often
been told how the Dutch, tenfold outnumbered, desperately and gloriously
defended themselves. They finally swept the English from the seas, and
patroled the Channel with a broom at the masthead. By the terms of the
treaty of peace which Charles was obliged by his own parliament to make,
all conquests were mutually restored, and New York consequently reverted
to England. West Jersey was bought by the Quakers; the eastern half of the
province was restored to the rule of Carteret. The Atlantic coast, from
Canada down to Florida, continuously, was English ground, and so remained
until, a century later, the transplanted spirit of liberty, born in
England, threw down the gauntlet to the spirit of English tyranny, and
won independence for the United States.

When we remember that the Dutch maintained their government in the new
world for little more than fifty years, it is surprising how deep a mark
they made there. It is partly because their story lends itself to
picturesque and graphic treatment; it is so rich in character and color,
and telling in incident. Then, too, it has a beginning, middle and end,
which is what historians as well as romancers love. But most of all,
perhaps, their brief chronicles as a distinct political phenomenon
illustrate the profound problem of self-government in mankind. The
Netherlander had proved, before any of them came hither, with what
inflexible courage they could resent foreign tyranny; and the
municipalities, as well as the nation, had grasped the principles of
independence. But it was not until they erected their little commonwealth
amid the forests of the Hudson that they awakened to the conception that
every man should bear his part in the government of all. To attain this,
it was necessary to break through a crust of conservatism almost as
stubborn as that of Spain. The authority of their upper classes had never
been questioned; the idea had never been entertained that a citizen in
humble life could claim any right to influence the conditions under which
his life should be carried on. That innate and inalienable right of the
individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which Jefferson
asserted, and which has become an axiom to every American school-boy, does
not appear, upon investigation, to be either inalienable or innate. The
history of mankind shows that it has been constantly alienated from them;
and if we pass in review the population of the world, from the oldest to
contemporary times, and from savages tribes to the most highly civilized
nations, we find the plebeian bowing before the patrician, the poor man
serving the wealthy. The conception of human equality before the law is
not a congenital endowment, but an accomplishment, arduously acquired and
easily forfeited. The first impulse of weakness in the presence of
strength is to bow down before it; it is the impulse of the animal, and of
the unspiritual, the unregenerate nature in man. The ability to recognize
the solidarity of man, and therefore the equality of spiritual manhood,
involves an uplifting of the mind, an illumination of the soul, which can
be regarded as the result of nothing less than a revelation. It is not
developed from below--it is received from above; it is a divine whisper in
the ear of fallen man, transfiguring him, and opening before him the way
of life. It postulates no loss of humility; it does not disturb the truth
that some must serve and some must direct; that some shall have charge
over many things, and some over but few. It does not supersede the outward
order of society. But it affirms that to no man or body of men, no matter
how highly endowed by nature or circumstance with intellect, position or
riches, shall be accorded the right to dispose arbitrarily of the lives
and welfare of the masses. Not elsewhere than in the hands of the entire
community shall be lodged the reins of government. The administration
shall be with the chosen ones whose training and qualifications fit them
for that function; but the principles on which their administration is
conducted shall be determined by the will and vote of all.

This is not lightly to be believed or understood; Peter Stuyvesant voiced
the unenlightened thought when he said that, should the rabble rule, order
and honesty must be overthrown. This is the inevitable conclusion of
materialistic logic. Like produces like; evil, evil; ignorance, ignorance.
Only by inspired faith will the experiment be tried of trusting the
Creator to manifest His purposes, not by the conscious wisdom of any man
or men, but through the unconscious, organic tendency, mental and moral,
of universal man. We may call it "the tendency, not ourselves, which makes
for righteousness"; or we may analyze it into the resultant of innumerable
forces, taking a direction independent of them all; or we may say simply
that it is the Divine method of leading us upward; it is all one.
Universal suffrage is an act of faith; and, faithfully carried out, it
brings political and religious emancipation to the people. How far it has
been carried out in this country is a question we shall have to answer
hereafter; we may say here that our forefathers realized its value, and
gave to us in our Constitution the mechanism whereby to practice it. To it
they added the memory of their courage and their sacrifices in its behalf;
and more than this was not theirs to give.

The English Puritans received their revelation in one way; the Dutch
traders and farmers in another; but it was the same revelation. To neither
could it be imparted in Europe, but only in the virgin solitudes of an
untrodden continent. There man, already civilized, was enabled to perceive
the inefficiency and distortion of his civilization, and to grasp the
cure. Hudson, an Englishman, but at the moment in Dutch service, opened
the gates to the Netherlanders, and thus enabled their emigrants to
perfect the work of emancipation which had been brought to the highest
stage it could reach at home. They were opposed by the directors in
Amsterdam, by their own governors and patroons, and by the errors which
immemorial usage had ingrained in them as individuals. They overcame these
forces, not by their own strength, nor by any violent act of revolution,
but by the slow, irresistible energy of natural law, with which, as with a
gravitative force, they had placed themselves in harmony. Thus they
exemplified one of the several ways in which freedom comes to man, and
took their place as a component element in the limitless cosmopolitanism
of our population.

Their subsequent history shows that nothing truly valuable is lost in
democracy. The high behavior and dignified manners which belonged to their
patroons may be observed among their descendants in contemporary New York;
the men whose ancestors controlled a thousand tenants have not lost the
powers of handling large matters in a large spirit; but they exercise it
now for worthier ends than of old. Similarly, the Dutch stolidity which
amuses us in the chronicles, reappears to-day in the form of steadiness
and judgment; the obstinacy of headstrong Peter, as self-confidence and
perseverance; the physical grossness of the old burghers, as
constitutional vigor. Many of their customs too have come down to us;
their heavy afternoon teas are recalled in our informal receptions; their
New Year's Day sociability in our calls, their Christmas celebrations in
our festival of Santa Claus. Much of our domestic architecture reflects
their influence: the gabled fronts, the tiled fireplaces, the high
"stoops," and the custom of sitting on them in summer evenings. In general
it is seen that the effect of democratic institutions is to save the grain
and reject the chaff, because criticism becomes more close and punctual,
abuses and license are not chartered, and the individual is bereft of
artificial supports and disguises, and must appear more nearly as God made

[Illustration: Trepanning Men to be Sent to the Colonies]



We left the colony at Jamestown emerging from thick darkness and much
tribulation toward the light. Some distance was still to be traversed
before full light and easement were attained; but fortune, upon the whole,
was kinder to Virginia than to most of the other settlements; and though
clouds gathered darkly now and then, and storms threatened, and here and
there a bolt fell, yet deliverance came beyond expectation. Something
Virginia suffered from Royal governors, something from the Indians,
something too from the imprudence and wrong-headedness of her own people.
But her story is full of stirring and instructive passages. It tells how a
community chiefly of aristocratic constitution and sympathies, whose
loyalty to the English throne was deep and ardent, and whose type of life
was patrician, nevertheless were won insensibly and inevitably to espouse
the principles of democracy. It shows how, with honest men, a king may be
loved, and the system which he stands for reverenced and defended, while
yet the lovers and apologists choose and maintain a wholly different
system for themselves. The House of Stuart had none but friends in
Virginia; when the son of Charles the First was a fugitive, Virginia
offered him a home; and the follies and frailties of his father, and the
grotesque chicaneries of his grandfather, could not alienate the
colonists' affection. Yet, from the moment their Great Charter was given
them, they never ceased to defend the liberties which it bestowed against
every kingly effort to curtail or destroy them; and on at least one
occasion they fairly usurped the royal prerogative. They presented, in
short, the striking anomaly of a people acknowledging a monarch and at the
same time claiming the fullest measure of political liberty till then
enjoyed by any community in modern history. They themselves perceived no
inconsistency in their attitude; but to us it is patent, and its meaning
is that the sentiment of a tradition may be cherished and survive long
after intelligence and experience have caused the thing itself to be
consigned to the rubbish-heap of the past.

So long as Sir Thomas Smythe occupied the president's chair of the London
Company, there could be no hope of substantial prosperity for the
Jamestown emigrants. He was a selfish and conceited satrap, incapable of
enlightened thought or beneficent action, who knew no other way to magnify
his own importance than by suffocating the rights and insulting the
self-respect of others. He had a protégé in Argall, a disorderly ruffian
who was made deputy-governor of the colony in 1617. His administration
was that of a freebooter; but the feeble and dwindling colony had neither
power nor spirit to do more than send a complaint to London. Lord Delaware
had in the meantime sailed for Virginia, but died on the trip; Argall was,
however, dismissed, and Sir George Yeardley substituted for him--a man of
gracious manners and generous nature, but somewhat lacking in the force
and firmness that should build up a state. He had behind him the best men
in the company if not in all England: Sir Edward Sandys, the Earl of
Southampton, and Nicolas Ferrar. Smythe had had resignation forced upon
him, and with him the evil influences in the management retired to the
background. Sandys was triumphantly elected governor and treasurer, with
Ferrar as corporation counsel; Southampton was a powerful supporter. They
were all young men, all royalists, and all unselfishly devoted to the
cause of human liberty and welfare. Virginia never had better or more
urgent friends.

Yeardley, on his arrival, found distress and discouragement, and hardly
one man remaining in the place of twenty. The colonists had been robbed
both by process of law and without; they had been killed and had died of
disease; they had deserted and been deported; they had been denied lands
of their own, or the benefit of their own labor; and they had been
permitted no part in the management of their own affairs. The rumor of
these injuries and disabilities had got abroad, and no recruits for the
colony had been obtainable; the Indians were ill-disposed, and the houses
poor and few. Women too were lamentably scanty, and the people had no root
in the country, and no thought but to leave it. Like the emigrants to the
Klondike gold-fields in our own day, they had designed only to better
their fortunes and then depart. The former hope was gone; the latter was
all that was left.

Yeardley's business, in the premises, was agreeable and congenial; he had
a letter from the company providing for the abatement of past evils and
abuses, and the establishment of justice, security and happiness. He sent
messengers far and wide, summoning a general meeting to hear his news and
confer together for the common weal.

Hardly venturing to believe that any good thing could be in store for
them, the burgesses and others assembled, and crowded into the place of
meeting. Twenty-two delegates from the eleven plantations were there, clad
in their dingy and dilapidated raiment, and wide-brimmed hats; most of
them with swords at their sides, and some with rusty muskets in their
hands. Their cheeks were lank and their faces sunburned; their bearing was
listless, yet marked with some touch of curiosity and expectation. There
were among them some well-filled brows and strong features, announcing men
of ability and thoughtfulness, though they had lacked the opportunity and
the cue for action. Their long days on the plantations, and their uneasy
nights in the summer heats, had given them abundant leisure to think over
their grievances and misfortunes, and to dream of possible reforms and
innovations. But of what profit was it? Their governors had no thought but
to fill their own pockets, the council was powerless or treacherous, and
everything was slipping away.

It was in the depths of summer--the 30th of July, 1619. More than a year
was yet to pass before the "Mayflower" would enter the wintry shelter of
Plymouth harbor. In the latitude of Jamestown the temperature was almost
tropical at this season, and exhausting to body and spirit. The room in
which they met, in the governor's house in Jamestown, was hardly spacious
enough for their accommodation: four unadorned walls, with a ceiling that
could be touched by an upraised hand. It had none of the aspect of a hall
of legislature, much less of one in which was to take place an event so
large and memorable as the birth of liberty in a new world. But the
delegates thronged in, and were greeted at their entrance by Yeardley, who
stood at a table near the upper end of the room, with a secretary beside
him and a clergyman of the Church of England on his other hand. The
colonists looked at his urbane and conciliating countenance, and glanced
at the document he held in his hand, and wondered what would be the issue.
Nothing of moment, doubtless; still, they could scarcely be much worse off
than they were; and the new governor certainly had the air of having
something important to communicate. They took their places, leaning
against the walls, or standing with their hands clasped over the muzzles
of their muskets, or supporting one foot upon a bench; and the gaze of all
was concentrated on the governor. As he opened the paper, a silence fell
upon the assembly.

Such, we may imagine, were the surroundings and circumstances of this
famous gathering, the transactions of which fill so bright a page in the
annals of the early colonies. The governor asked the clergyman for a
blessing, and when the prayer was done suggested the choosing of a
chairman, or speaker. The choice fell upon John Pory, a member of the
former council. Then the governor read his letter from the company in

The letter, in few words, opened the door to every reform which could
make the colony free, prosperous and happy, and declared all past wrongs
at an end. It merely outlined the scope of the improvements, leaving it to
the colonists themselves to fill in the details. "Those cruel laws were
abrogated, and they were to be governed by those free laws under which his
majesty's subjects in England lived." An annual grand assembly, consisting
of the governor and council and two burgesses from each plantation, chosen
by the people, was to be held; and at these assemblies they were to frame
whatever laws they deemed proper for their welfare. These concessions were
of the more value and effect, because they were advocated in England by

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