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THE UNITED COLONIES OF NEW ENGLAND.
the articles, the several colonies entered into a bond of friendship and amity, both for offence and defence, mutual advice and succor, and for preserving and propagating the truth. and liberties of the Gospel, as they interpreted it, and for their mutual safety and welfare. The government of each colony was to remain the same as heretofore, but none of the colonies was to receive any other plantation or or colony as a confederate, nor could any two confederates be united into one jurisdiction without the consent of the other colonies forming the confederation.
Two persons, styled commissioners, were to be chosen from each colony to form a legislature, which was to manage the affairs of the united colonies. These commissioners were to meet annually in the colonies in succession, at which time they were to choose a president, and the determination of any six of these commissioners was to be binding on all.* The confederacy continued essentially the same until the New England colonies were deprived of their charters by James II.t
The articles will also be found in Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions, vol. i., pp. 77-81.
Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, vol. i., p. 3.
"These commissioners had power to hear, examine, weigh, and determine, all affairs of war or peace, leagues, aids, charges, and number of men for war, divisions of spoils, and whatsoever is gotten by conquest, receiving of more con federates for plantations into combination with any of the confederates, and all things of a like nature, which are the proper concomitants and consequences of such a confederation for amity,
In this connection, Chalmers says: "The principles upon which this famous association was formed were altogether those of independency, and it cannot be easily supported upon offence and defence, not intermeddling with the government of any of the jurisdictions, which, by the third article, is preserved entirely to themselves. The expenses of all just wars to be borne by each colony, in proportion to its number of male inhabitants, of whatever quality or condition, between the ages of sixteen and sixty. In case any colony should be suddenly invaded, on motion and request of three magistrates of such colony, the other confederates were immediately to send aid to the colony invaded, in men, Massachusetts one hundred, and the other colonies forty-five each, or for a less number, in the same proportion. The commissioners, however, were very properly directed, afterwards, to take into consideration the cause of such war or invasion, and if it should appear that the fault was in the colony invaded, such colony was not only to make satisfaction to the invaders, but to bear all the expenses of the war. The commissioners were also authorized to frame and establish agreements and orders in general cases of a civil nature, wherein all the plantations were interested, for preserving peace among themselves, and preventing, as much as may be, all occasions of war, or difference with others, as about the free and speedy passage of justice, in every jurisdiction, to all the confederates equally as to their own, receiving those that remove from one plantation to another, without due certificates. It was also very wisely provided in the articles, that runaway servants and fugitives from justice, should be returned to the colonies where they belonged, or from which they had fled. If any of the confederates should violate any of the articles, or in any way injure any one of the other colonies, such breach of agreement, or injury, was to be considered and ordered by the commissioners of the other colonies."- Pitkin, Political History, vol. i., p. 51. See also Bancroft, vol. i., pp. 289294; Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. ii., pp. 220-236; Fiske, Beginnings of New England, pp. 140-198; Bancroft, vol. i., pp. 289-296; Hurlburt, Britain and Her Colonies, pp. 12-13; Thwaites, The Colonies, pp. 154-159; Palfrey, History of New England, vol. i., pp. 259-267; Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i., p. 392 et seq.; Frothingham, Rise of the Republic, pp. 33-50; Hildreth, vol. i., p. 285 et seq.
any other. The colonies of Connecticut and New Haven had at that time enjoyed no charter, and derived their title to their soil from mere occupancy, and their powers of government from voluntary agreement. New Plymouth had acquired a right to their lands from a grant of a company in England, which conferred, however, no jurisdiction. And no other authority, with regard to the making of peace, or war, or leagues, did the charter of Massachusetts convey, than that of defending itself, by force of arms, against all invaders. But if no patent legalized the confederacy, neither was it confirmed by the approbation of the governing powers in England. Their consent was never applied for, and was never given. The various colonies, of which that celebrated league was composed, being perfectly independent of one another, and having no other connection than as subjects of the same crown, and as territories of the same state, might, with equal propriety and consistency, have entered into a similar compact with alien colonies or a foreign nation. They did make treaties with the neighboring plantations of the French and Dutch; and in this light was their conduct seen in England, and at a subsequent period did not fail to attract the attention of Charles II." *
* Chalmers, Political Annals, book i., chap. viii., p. 178. See also the same writer's Introduction to the History of the Revolt of the American Colonies, vol. i., pp. 86-87.
It was not long before religious dissensions arose in the colonies. There were two leaders of the Anabaptist sect who were very active in propagating their favorite tenets. These were John Clark and Obadiah Holmes. On one occasion, Clark, during a religious service, put on his hat to insult the minister as well as the people, and was subjected to a severe flagellation.* A number of his followers were also expelled from the colony. Another of the same type as Clark and Holmes, Samuel Gorton, caused the authorities no little trouble. He entertained certain mystical views of the doctrines of Scripture peculiar to himself; to him there was there was "no heaven but in the heart of a good man, no hell but in the conscience of the wicked;" he claimed that the doctrinal formulas and church ordinances of the orthodox Puritans were human inventions, and as such were both unauthorized and mischievous. He also regarded the assumed authority of the New England theocrats as an intolerable yoke of bondage, which he was daring enough to defy and ridicule. In 1638 he was therefore expelled from Plymouth and went to Providence, where
* Isaac Backus, History of New England with Particular Reference to the Denomination Called Baptists, vol. i., p. 237; Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. ii., pp. 311-313; Palfrey, History of New England, vol. i., p. 382 et seq.; Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i., pp. 264-269. On the treatment of the Anabaptists in general, see Brooks Adams, The Emancipation of Massachusetts, chap. iv.
he also became involved in a dispute. Some of the inhabitants invited the interference of Massachusetts, and the magistrates of Boston ordered him to appear before them, but he fled beyond their reach, and having purchased some land in Shawomet, from Miantonimoh (the Narrangansett chief, an ally of the colonists in the Pequot war), he established an independent settlement. The transfer was made to him by the Indians in January, 1643.*
Two of the inferior chiefs of the Narragansetts denied the rightfulness of this grant to Gorton, and upon appeal to the Boston magistrates, the grant was declared void and the disputed territory made over to the Massachusetts colony. Gorton was summoned to appear before the court at Boston, but denied that the men of Massachusetts possessed the right of jurisdiction over him, yet offered to submit his case to the arbitration of any other colonists who might be selected. The magistrates, therefore, sent a body of soldiers to seize him and his adherents; † and after he had been taken to Boston, he was brought before the court on a charge of being a blasphemous subverter of "true religion and civil
For the deed of sale, dated January 12, 16423, see the Rhode Island Records, vol. i., p. 130; Winthrop, vol. ii., p. 144; Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, vol. ii., p. 254.
For the details of this affair see Winthrop, History of New England, vol. ii., pp. 137-140; Gorton, Simplicities Defence against Seven-Headed Polity, pp. 57–60.
government." He was unable to explain away the obnoxious imputations, and together with many of his followers, he was convicted and sentenced to death.* In 1644, however, the sentence was commuted and Gorton and his followers, after being imprisoned at hard labor during the winter and deprived of their cattle. and stores, were released and expelled.† Gorton then went to Aquedneck, R. I., where he was received with hospitality. After several unsuccessful attempts to regain Shawomet, Gorton went to England, where he presented his case to the Earl of Warwick, who was then governor-inchief and lord high admiral of the colonies and the head of the Plantations Committee of Parliament. Warwick not only gave him patents to Shawomet, but on his return to Boston in 1646, gave him a letter demanding that the Massachusetts people should not molest him in any way. Gorton, therefore, renamed his restored plantation Warwick.||
Gorton, pp. 62-67; Winthrop, pp. 142-143; Massachusetts Colonial Records, vol. ii., p. 52. † Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, vol. ii., p. 255; Hazard, Stute Papers, vol. ii., p.
Winthrop, History of New England, vol. ii., p. 282; Rhode Island Colonial Records, vol. i., p. 367; Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, vol. iv., p. 195.
For a review of the entire controversy see Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. ii., pp. 236-246; Winslow's answer to Gorton entitled Hypocracie Unmasked (London, 1646); Mackie's Life of Samuel Gorton (Boston, 1845); Brayton's Defence of Samuel Gorton, in Rider's Tracts, no. xvii.; Fiske, Beginnings of New England, pp. 162-174; Palfrey, History of New England, vol. i.,
The fate of Miantonimoh, the Narragansett chief, was sad. He had incurred the enmity of Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, and having fallen into the hands of the latter, he was barbarously put to death by the advice of the Colonial Commissioners at Boston.*
While the Massachusetts colonists fully sympathized with the "Godly Parliament," they were careful not to commit themselves too far in any measures which they might subse quently be compelled to withdraw. The Board of Control appointed by Parliament, although it possessed extensive powers, made no attempt for a short time to interfere with Massachusetts or her privileges, and her exports and imports were exempted from taxation. Two years later, when Parliament endeavored to assert its jurisdiction over the colonies, Massachusetts made a spirited protest, and as she was supported by Sir Henry Vane and others, the matter did not proceed much farther.
Meanwhile, Roger Williams had become alarmed at the evident purpose of Massachusetts to interfere with his rights, and in March, 1643, he went to England to solicit a charter
pp. 302-314, 339-343; Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i., pp. 345-352; Hildreth, vol. i., p. 289 et seq.; Richman, Rhode Island, pp. 16-27; Bates, Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union, pp. 21-22.
* Winthrop, History of New England, vol. ii., pp. 131-132; DeForest, History of the Indians of Connecticut; Palfrey, History of New England, vol. i., p. 306 et seq.; Johnston, Connecticut, pp.
from the King. Being forbidden to visit Boston, he went to Manhattan and proceeded to his destination by way of Holland. While in England, he published his Key to the Language of America. He also attacked the principle of religious despotism obtaining in Massachusetts, in his Bloody Tenet of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience, to which Cotton replied in a tract entitled Bloody Tenet Washed and made white in the Blood of the Lamb. Williams succeeded in obtaining the charter, which was granted him March 14, 1644, and in the autumn of that year he returned to America with the instrument. The territory granted inIcluded the shores and islands of Narragansett Bay, west of Plymouth and south of Massachusetts, as far as the Pequot River,† the name of Providence Plantation being given to it, and the right to govern themselves as they might choose being secured to the inhabitants. Before Williams
*The charter will be found in Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions, vol. vi., pp. 3209–3211; Bartlett, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, vol. i., pp. 143-146.
Richman, Rhode Island, pp. 33-35; Bancroft, vol. i., p. 296; Fiske, Beginning of New England, pp. 156-157.
“The first legislator who fully recognized the rights of conscience was Roger Williams, a name less illustrious than it deserves to be; for, although his eccentricities of conduct and opinion may sometimes provoke a smile, he was a man of genius and of virtue, of admirable firmness, courage, and disinterestedness, and of unbounded benevolence. After some wanderings, he pitched his tent at a place, to which he gave the name of Providence, and there became the founder and legislator of the colony of Rhode Island. There
PROVISIONS OF THE CHARTER.
was able formally to establish his new colony, however, he was forced to settle several difficulties arising out of claims on the part of Massachusetts and Plymouth to tracts of land lying within the limits of his territory. But he successfully overcame these difficulties, and in May, 1647, inaugurated a government."
he continued to rule, sometimes as the governor, and always as the guide and father of the settlement, for forty-eight years, employing himself in acts of kindness to his former enemies, affording relief to the distressed, and offering an asylum to the persecuted. The government of his colony was formed on his favorite principle, that in matters of faith and worship, every citizen should walk according to the light of his own conscience, without restraint or interference from the civil magistrate. During a visit which Williams made to England, in 1643, for the purpose of procuring a colonial charter, he published a formal and labored vindication of this doctrine, under the title, The Bloody Tenet, or a Dialogue between Truth and Peace. In this work, which was writ ten with his usual boldness and decision, he anticipated most of the arguments, which, fifty years after, attracted so much attention when they were brought forward by Locke. His own conduct in power was in perfect accordance with his speculative opinions; and when, in his old age, the order of his little community was disturbed by an irruption of Quaker preachers, he combated them only in pamphlets and public disputations, and contented himself with overwhelming their doctrines with a torrent of learning, invective, syllogisms and puns. It should also be remembered, to the honor of Roger Williams, that no one of the early colonists, without excepting William Penn himself, equalled him in justice and benevolence towards the Indians."-G. C. Verplanck, Anniversary Discourse before the New York Historical Society, 1818, p. 23.
* Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. ii., pp. 267-273; Palfrey, History of New England, vol. i., p. 343 et seq.; Staples, Annals of Providence; Arnold, History of Rhode Island, vol. i., p. 118 et seq.; Osgood, American Colonies, vol. i., pp. 352-362.
By the charter, Providence, Portsmouth and Newport were united, the inhabitants being allowed to rule themselves "" "by such form of civil government as by the voluntary consent of all or the greatest part of them shall be found most serviceable
to their estate and condition." Probably no patent in the English colonial history placed so few restrictions upon the grantees as this. Full governmental powers were granted, the only restrictions being that "the laws, constitutions and punishments conform to the laws of England." The assembly then proceeded to institute a representative government. The general officers, a president, four assistants, a general recorder, and a treasurer, were to be elected annually, the body of freemen constituting the electors. The popular initiative and referendum were introduced in the method prescribed for enacting the laws. Any town in town meeting might propose a law which was to be sent to the other towns for consideration. A "General Court" of six members from each town next considered it and, if a majority concurred, it was then to be confirmed by the next "General Assembly of all the people." Judicial powers were vested in a "General Court of Trials," to be held twice annually by the president and assistants. Town affairs were to be administered by a town council of six members.*
* Bates, Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union, pp. 16–17.