Page images




years. Rhode Island was not permitted to join it because CHAP she would not acknowledge the jurisdiction of Plymouth. The two settlements on Narraganset bay now determined 1043 to apply for an independent charter. When, for this purpose, Roger Williams arrived in England, he found the country engaged in civil war; the Puritans and Parliament on the one side and Charles I. on the other. Williams applied to his friend Harry Vane, and through his influence obtained from the Parliament a charter, under the title of “The Providence Plantations." Roger Williams afterwards became a Baptist, and founded the first 1644. church of that denomination in the United States.

A very great number of men of education, ministers and laymen, emigrated to New England. There were of ministers alone more than eighty, some of whom were equal to any of their profession in their native land. There was an unusual amount of general intelligence among all classes of the community. The Bible to them was as familiar as household words. In truth, it was the intelligent alone who could appreciate the blessings for which they exiled themselves. They wished to secure for their children the benefits of education; and as soon as possible an effort was made to found a high school and ultimately a college. Funds, with some books, were obtained. The place selected was Newtown, but as many of the men had been educated at Cambridge University, England, the name was changed to Cambridge. The Reverend John Harvard left the infant institution half his fortune and his library. Gratitude has embalmed his memory in its name.

1638 The next year a printing-press, the gift of some friends 1639, . in Holland, was established. Its first work was to print a metrical version of the Psalms, which continued for a long time to be used in the worship of the churches in New England. The following preamble explains the next law on the subject of education :-"It being a chief project of that old deluder Sathan to keep men from the knowledge of the


CHAP. Scriptures," it was determined that every child, rich und

poor alike, should have the privilege of learning to read 1647. its own language. It was enacted that every town or

district having fifty householders should have a common school ; and that every town or district, having one hundred families, should have a grammar-school, taught by teachers competent to prepare youth for the college. All the New England colonies, with the exception of Rhode Island, adopted the system of common schools.

This event deserves more than a mere record. It was the first instance in CHRISTENDOM, in which a civil government took measures to confer upon its youth the blessings of education. There had been, indeed, parish schools connected with individual churches, and foundations for universities, but never before was embodied in practice a principle so comprehensive in its nature and so fruitful in good results, as that of training a nation of intelligent people by educating all its youth.

There had arisen among the Puritans in England a new sect, called in derision Quakers. An unfavorable report of their doctrines and doings had reached Massachusetts ; they were represented as denouncing all forms

of worship and denying all civil authority. At length two 1656. women of the dreaded sect appeared ; they were arrested

and detained until their books could be examined, and the question was raised whether they themselves were not. witches. Their books were burnt by the hangman, and they sent back to England. Barbarous laws were made to deter Quakers from coming to the colony; but they came, and were inhumanly treated and sent back. Then a law was passed that if a Quaker, after being banished, returned, he should be put to death. This the magistrates fondly hoped would be effectual. We may judge their surprise when some of those who had been banished returned. They came to call the magistrates to repentance for their persecuting spirit. What was to be done?




Must the law be enforced or repealed ? It had been passed CHAP. by only one majority. The vote was taken again ; one majority decided that the law must be obeyed. Four of the Quakers suffered the penalty of death. Severity did not accomplish the end in view; their brethren flocked to Massachusetts as if courting the honor of martyrdom. From the first the people had been opposed to the cruel law, and at their instance it was repealed. There was little apology for these harsh proceedings; the magistrates could only say they acted in self-defence, in excluding those who taught doctrines that would interfere with the affairs of the colony. As soon as persecution ceased, the 1656. Quakers became quiet citizens; many of them devoted themselves to teaching the Indians under the direction of the missionary Eliot.

The Puritans had long desired to carry the gospel to 1645. the Indians. John Eliot, the devout and benevolent pastor of the church in Roxbury, in addition to his pastoral labors, gave them regular instruction in Christianity. He learned their language that he might preach to them; he translated the Bible, and taught them to read in their own tongue its precious truths. This translation, which cost him years of labor, is now valued only as a literary curiosity; it is a sealed book, no living man can read it. The language has passed away with the people who spoke it.

Their kind instructor induced them to cease from roving, and to settle in villages ; he taught the men to cultivate the soil, and the women to spin and weave cloth, to supply their wants. He mingled with them as a brother; and though he met with much opposition from their priests and chiefs, he led many of them in the right path. His disciples loved him ; his gentleness and goodness won their hearts.

As he lived so he died, laboring for the good of others. In his last days, when borne down by years and infirmi


CHAP. ties, he said, “My memory, my utterance fails me, but I

thank God my charity holds out still.” Even up to the day of his death, which took place when he was eightysix years of age, he continued to teach some poor negroes and a little blind boy. To Minister Walton, who came to see him, he said, “Brother, you are welcome, but retire to your study, and pray that I may be gone.” Soon after, without a fear or a pang, the spirit of this good “ Apostle' passed away ; his last words were “ Welcome joy!”

Eliot was not alone in his labors. The young, the

winning, the pious Mayhew, an accomplished scholar, 1045. thought it a privilege to toil for the souls of the poor In

dians who lived upon the islands in and around Massachusetts bay. He took passage for England to excite there an interest in his mission. He was never heard of more; the ship in which he sailed went down in unknown waters. His father, although at this time seventy years of age, was moved to take his place as a teacher of the Indians. There, for twenty-two years, he labored with the happiest results, till death withdrew him from the work.

Within thirty years great changes had taken place in the colony. The people were prosperous : industry and self-denial had wrought wonders.

Says an enthusiastic chronicler of the times : 1 “The Lord hath been pleased to turn all the wigwams, huts, and hovels the English dwelt in at their first coming, into orderly, fair, and well-built houses, well furnished, many of them, with orchards filled with goodly fruit-trees and garden flowers.” The people had numerous cattle and herds of sheep and swine, and plenty of poultry ; their fields produced an abundance of wheat, rye, oats, barley, and Indian corn ; and they could furnish fish, lumber, and

i Johnson's “Wonder-working Providence of Zion's Saviour in Nex England,"—as quoted by Hildreth.




many cominodities for export. “This poor wilderness hath CHAP. equalized England in food, and goes beyond it for the plenty of wine, and apples, pears, quince-tarts, instead of their former pumpkin pies.” “Good white and wheaten bread is no dainty; the poorest person in the country hath a house and land of his own, and bread of his own growing-if not some cattle.”

These good things were not obtained without labor. Of the thirty-two trades carried on, the most successful were those of coopers, tanners, shoemakers, and shipbuilders. “Many fair ships and lesser vessels, barques, and ketches were built." Thus the chronicler anticipates 1655. the growth of Boston, which,“ of a poor country village, is become like unto a small city; its buildings beautiful and large-some fairly set out with brick, tile, stone, and slate, orderly placed, with comely streets, whose continual enlargements presageth some sumptuous city.” They had their soldiers, too, and a “very gallant horse-troop,” each one of which had by him “powder, bullets, and match.” Their enemies were graciously warned that these soldiers “ were all experienced in the deliverances of the Lord from the mouth of the lion and the paw of the bear."

« PreviousContinue »