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Ch. 8: The Stuarts and the Charter


The cutting off of Charles I.'s head was a deed which few persons in
Massachusetts would have advocated; Cromwell himself had remarked that it
was a choice between the king's head and his own. History has upon the
whole accepted the choice he made as salutary. Achilles, forgetting his
heel, deemed himself invulnerable, and his conduct became in consequence
intolerable; Charles, convinced that his anointed royalty was sacred, was
led on to commit such fantastic tricks before high heaven as made the
godly weep. Achilles was disillusioned by the arrow of Paris, and Charles
by the ax of Cromwell. Death is a wholesome argument at times.

But though a later age could recognize the high expediency of Charles's
taking off, it was too bold and novel to meet with general approbation at
the time, even from men who hated kingly rule. Prejudice has a longer root
than it itself believes. And the Puritans of New England, having been
removed from the immediate pressure of the king's eccentricities, were the
less likely to exult over his end. Many of them were shocked at it; more
regretted it; perhaps the majority accepted it with a sober equanimity.
They were not bloodthirsty, but they were stern.

Neither were they demonstrative; so that they took the Parliament and the
Protector calmly, if cordially, and did not use the opportunity of their
predominance to cast gibes upon their predecessor. So that, when the
Restoration was an established fact, they had little to retract. They
addressed Charles II. gravely, as one who by experience knew the hearts of
exiles, and told him that, as true men, they feared God and the king. They
entreated him to consider their sacrifices and worthy purposes, and to
confirm them in the enjoyment of their liberties. Of the execution, and of
the ensuing "confusions," they prudently forbore to speak. It was better
to say nothing than either to offend their consciences, or to utter what
Charles would dislike to hear. Their case, as they well knew, was critical
enough at best. Every foe of New England and of liberty would not fail to
whisper malice in the king's ear. They sent over an envoy to make the best
terms he could, and in particular to ask for the suspension of the
Navigation Acts. But the committee had small faith in the loyalty of the
colony, and even believed, or professed to do so, that it might invite the
aid of Catholic and barbarous Spain against its own blood: they judged of
others' profligacy by their own. The king, to gain time, sent over a
polite message, which meant nothing, or rather less; for the next news was
that the Acts were to be enforced.

Massachusetts thereupon proceeded to define her position. A committee
composed of her ablest men caused a paper to be published by the general
court affirming their right to do certain things which England, they knew,
would be indisposed to permit. In brief, they claimed religious and civil
independence, the latter in all but name, and left the king to be a
figurehead without perquisites or power. They followed this intrepid
statement by solemnly proclaiming Charles in Boston, and threw a sop to
Cerberus in the shape of a letter couched in conciliating terms, feigning
to believe that their attitude would win his approbation. Altogether, it
was a thrust under the fifth rib, with a bow and a smile on the recover.
Probably the thrust represented the will of the majority; the bow and
smile, the prudence of the timid sort. Simon Bradstreet and John Norton
were dispatched to London to receive the king's answer. They went in
January of 1662, and after waiting through the spring and summer, not
without courteous treatment, returned in the fall with Charles's reply,
which, after confirming the charter and pardoning political infidelities
under the Protectorate, went on to refuse all the special points which the
colony had urged.

Already at this stage of the contest it had become evident that the
question was less of conforming with any particular demand or command on
the king's part, than of admitting his right to exercise his will at all
in the premises. If the colony conceded his sovereignty, they could not
afterward draw the line at which its power was to cease. And yet they
could not venture to declare absolute independence, partly because, if it
came to a struggle in arms, they could not hope to prevail; and partly
because absolute independence was less desired than autonomy under the
English flag. England was as far from granting autonomy to Massachusetts
as independence, but was willing, if possible, to constrain her by fair
means rather than by foul. Meanwhile, the tongue of rumor fomented
discord. It was said in the colony that England designed the establishment
of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts; whereupon the laws against
toleration of "heretics," which had been falling into disuse, were
stringently revived. In London the story went that the escaped regicides
had united the four chief colonies and were about to lead them in arms to
revolt. Clarendon, to relieve anxiety, sent a reassuring message to
Boston; but its good effect was spoiled by a report that commissioners
were coming to regulate their affairs. The patent of the colony was placed
in hiding, the trained bands were drilled, the defenses of the harbor were
looked to, and a fast day was named with the double purpose of asking the
favor of God, and of informing the colony as to what was in the wind.
Assuredly there must have been stout souls in Boston in those days. A few
thousand exiles were actually preparing to resist England!

The warning had not been groundless. The fleet which had been fitted out
to drive the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, from Manhattan, stopped at
Boston on its way; and we may imagine that its entrance into the harbor on
that July day was observed with keen interest by the great-grandfathers of
the men of Bunker Hill. It was not exactly known what the instructions of
the English officers required; but it was surmised that they meant
tyranny. The commission could not have come for nothing. They had no right
on New England soil. The fleet, for the present, proceeded on its way, and
Massachusetts voluntarily contributed a force of two hundred men; but they
were well aware that the trouble was only postponed; and depending on
their charter, which contained no provision for a royal commission, they
were determined to thwart its proceedings to the utmost of their power.
How far that might be, they would know when the time came. Anything was
better than surrender to the prerogative. When, in reply to Willoughby, a
royalist declared that prerogative is as necessary as the law, Major
William Hawthorne, who was afterward to distinguish himself against the
Indians, answered him, "Prerogative is not above law!" It was not, indeed.

Accordingly, while the fleet with its commissioners was overawing the New
Netherlanders, the Puritans of Boston Bay wrote and put forth a document
which well deserves reproduction, both for the terse dignity of the style,
which often recalls the compositions of Lord Verulam, and still more for
the courageous, courteous, and yet almost aggressive logic with which the
life principles of the Massachusetts colonists are laid down. It is a
remarkable State paper, and so vividly sincere that, as one reads, one can
see the traditional Puritan standing out from the words--the steeple
crowned hat, the severe brow, the steady eyes, the pointed beard, the dark
cloak and sad-hued garments. The paper is also singular in that it
remonstrates against a principle, without waiting for the provocation of
overt deeds. This excited the astonishment of Clarendon and others in
England; but their perplexity only showed that the men they criticised saw
further and straighter than they did. It was for principles, and against
them, that the Puritans always fought, since principles are the parents of
all acts and control them. The royal commission was, potentially, the sum
of all the wrongs from which New England suffered during the next hundred
years, and though it had as yet done nothing, it implied everything.

Whose hand it was that penned the document we know not; it was probably
the expression of the combined views of such men as Mather, Norton,
Hawthorne, Endicott and Bellingham; it may have been revised by Davenport,
at that time nearly threescore and ten years of age, the type of the
Calvinist minister of the period, austere, inflexible, high-minded,
faithful. Be that as it may, it certainly voiced the feeling of the
people, as the sequel demonstrated. It is dated October the Twenty-fifth,
1664, and is addressed to the king.

"DREAD SOVEREIGN:--The first undertakers of this Plantation did obtain a
Patent, wherein is granted full and absolute power of governing all the
people of this place, by men chosen from among themselves, and according
to such laws as they should see meet to establish. A royal donation, under
the Great Seal, is the greatest security that may be had in human affairs.
Under the encouragement and security of the Royal Charter this People did,
at their own charges, transport themselves, their wives and families, over
the ocean, purchase the land of the Natives, and plant this Colony, with
great labor, hazards, cost, and difficulties; for a long time wrestling
with the wants of a Wilderness and the burdens of a new Plantation; having
now also above thirty years enjoyed the privilege of Government within
themselves, as their undoubted right in the sight of God and Man. To be
governed by rulers of our own choosing and laws of our own, is the
fundamental privilege of our Patent.

"A Commission under the Great Seal, wherein four persons (one of them our
professed Enemy) are impowered to receive and determine all complaints and
appeals according to their discretion, subjects us to the arbitrary power
of Strangers, and will end in the subversion of us all.

"If these things go on, your Subjects will either be forced to seek new
dwellings, or sink under intolerable burdens. The vigor of all new
Endeavours will be enfeebled; the King himself will be a loser of the
wonted benefit by customs, exported and imported from hence to England,
and this hopeful Plantation will in the issue be ruined.

"If the aim should be to gratify some particular Gentlemen by Livings and
Revenues here, that will also fail, for the poverty of the People. If all
the charges of the whole Government by the year were put together, and
then doubled or trebled, it would not be counted for one of these
Gentlemen a considerable Accommodation. To a coalition in this course the
People will never come; and it will be hard to find another people that
will stand under any considerable burden in this Country, seeing it is not
a country where men can subsist without hard labor and great frugality.

"God knows our greatest Ambition is to live a quiet Life, in a corner of
the World. We came not into this Wilderness to seek great things to
ourselves; and if any come after us to seek them here, they will be
disappointed. We keep ourselves within our Line; a just dependence upon,
and subjection to, your Majesty, according to our Charter, it is far from
our Hearts to disacknowledge. We would gladly do anything in our power to
purchase the continuance of your favorable Aspect. But it is a great
Unhappiness to have no testimony of our loyalty offered but this, to yield
up our Liberties, which are far dearer to us than our Lives, and which we
have willingly ventured our Lives and passed through many Deaths, to
obtain.

"It was Job's excellency, when he sat as King among his People, that he
was a Father to the Poor. A poor People, destitute of outward Favor,
Wealth, and Power, now cry unto their lord the King. May your Majesty
regard their Cause, and maintain their Right; it will stand among the
marks of lasting Honor to after Generations."

Throughout these sentences sounds the masculine earnestness of men who
see that for which they have striven valiantly and holily in danger of
being treacherously ravished from them, and who are resolute to withstand
the ravisher to the last. It is no wonder that documents of this tone and
caliber amazed and alarmed the council in London, and made them ask one
another what manner of men these might be. It would have been well for
England had they given more attentive ear to their misgivings; but their
hearts, like Pharaoh's, were hardened, and they would not let the people
go--until the time was ripe, and the people went, and carried the spoils
with them.

The secret purpose of the commission was to pave the way for the gradual
subjection of the colony, and to begin by inducing them to let the
governor become a royal nominee, and to put the militia under the king's
orders. Of the four commissioners, Nicolls remained in New York, as we
have seen; the three others landed in Boston early in 1665. Their first
order was that every male inhabitant of Boston should assemble and listen
to the reading of the message from King Charles. These three gentlemen
--Maverick, Carr and Cartwright--were courtiers and men of fashion and
blood, and were accustomed to regard the king's wish as law, no matter
what might be on the other side; but it was now just thirty years since
the Puritans left England; they had endured much during that time, and had
tasted how sweet liberty was; and half of them were young Americans, born
on the soil, who knew what kings were by report only. Young and old,
speaking through the assembly, which was in complete accord with them,
informed the commissioners that they would not comply with their demand.
What were the commissioners, that they should venture to call a public
meeting in the town of a free people? The free people went about their
affairs, and left the three gentlemen from the Court to stare in one
another's scandalized faces.

They were the more scandalized, because their reception in Connecticut
and Rhode Island had been different. But different, also, had been the
errand on which they went there. Those two colonies were the king's pets,
and were to have liberty and all else they wanted; Connecticut they had
protected from the rapacity of Lord Hamilton, and Rhode Island had never
been other than loving and loyal to the king. They had, to be sure, been
politely bowed out by little Plymouth, the yeomen Independents, who still
preferred, if his majesty pleased, to conduct their own household affairs
in their own way. But to be positively and explicitly rebuffed to their
faces, yet glowing with the sunshine of the royal favor, was a new
experience; and Cartwright, when he caught his breath, exclaimed, "He that
will not attend to the request is a traitor!"

The Massachusetts assembly declined to accept the characterization. Since
the king's own patent expressly relieved them from his jurisdiction, it
was impossible that their refusal to meet three of his gentlemen-in-
waiting could rightly be construed as treason. The commissioners finally
wanted to know, yes or no, whether the colonists meant to question the
validity of the royal commission? But the assembly would not thus be
dislodged from the coign of vantage; they stuck to their patent, and
pointed out that nothing was therein said about a commission? So far as
they were concerned, the commission, as a commission, could have no
existence. They recognized nothing but three somewhat arrogant persons,
in huge wigs, long embroidered waistcoats under their velvet coats, and
plumes waving from their hats. They presented a glittering and haughty
aspect, to be sure, but they had no rights in Boston.

At length, on the twenty-third of May, matters came to a crisis. The
commissioners had given out that on that day they were going to hold a
court to try a case in which the colony was to defend an action against a
plaintiff. This, of course, would serve to indicate that the commissioners
had power--whether the assembly conceded it or not--to control the
internal economy of the settlement. Betimes in this morning, the rather
that it was a very pleasant one--the trees on the Common being dressed in
their first green leaves since last year, while a pleasant westerly breeze
sent the white clouds drifting seaward over the blue sky--a great crowd
began to make its way toward the court house, whose portals frowned upon
the narrow street, as if the stern spirit of justice that presided within
had cast a shadow beneath them. The doors were closed, and the massive
lock which secured them gleamed in the single ray of spring sunshine that
slanted along the facade of the edifice.

It was a somber looking throng, as was ever the case in Puritan Boston,
where the hats, cloaks and doublets of the people were made of dark,
coarse materials, not designed to flatter the lust of the eye. The visages
suited the garments, wearing a sedate or severe expression, whether the
cast of the features above the broad white collars were broad and ruddy,
or pale and hollow-cheeked. There was a touch of the fanatic in many of
these countenances, as of men to whom God was a living presence in all
their affairs and thoughts, who feared His displeasure more than the
king's, who believed that they were His chosen ones, and who knew that His
arm was mighty to defend. They were of kin to the men who stood so
stubbornly and smote so sore at Marston Moor and Naseby, and afterward had
not feared to drag the father of the present Charles to the block. Fiber
more unbending than theirs was never wrought into the substance of our
human nature; and oppression seemed but to harden it.

They conversed one with another in subdued tones, among which sounded
occasionally the lighter accents of women's voices; but they were not a
voluble race, and the forms of their speech still followed in great
measure the semi-scriptural idioms which had been so prevalent among
Cromwell's soldiers years before. They were undemonstrative; but this
very immobility conveyed an impression of power in reserve which was more
effective than noisy vehemence.

At length, from the extremity of the street, was heard the tramp of
horses' hoofs, and the commissioners, bravely attired, with cavalier
boots, and swords dangling at their sides, were seen riding forward,
followed by a little knot of officers. The crowd parted before them as
they came, not sullenly, perhaps, but certainly with no alacrity or
suppleness of deference. There was no love lost on either side; but
Cartwright, who wore the most arrogant front of the three, really feared
the Puritans more than either of his colleagues; and when, seven years
afterward, he was called before his majesty's council to tell what manner
of men they were, his account of them was so formidable that the council
gave up the consideration of the menacing message they had been about to
send, and instead agreed upon a letter of amnesty, as likely to succeed
better with a people of so "peevish and touchy" a humor.

The cavalcade drew up before the door, and the officials, dismounting,
ascended the steps. Finding it locked, Cartwright lifted the hilt of his
sword and dealt a blow upon the massive panel.

"Who shuts the door against his majesty's commissioners?" cried he
angrily. "Where is the rascal with the keys, I say!"

"I marvel what his majesty's commissioners should seek in the house of
Justice," said a voice in the crowd; "since it is known that, when they go
in by one door, she must needs go out by the other."

At this sally, the crowd smiled grimly, and the commissioners frowned and
bit their lips. Just then there was a movement in the throng, and a tall,
dignified man with a white beard and an aspect of grave authority was seen
pressing his way toward the court house door.

"Here is the worshipful Governor Bellingham himself," said one man to his
neighbor. "Now shall we see the upshot of this matter."

"And God save Massachusetts!" added the other, devoutly.

The chief magistrate of the colony advanced into the little open space at
the foot of the steps, and saluted the commissioners with formal courtesy.
"I am sorry ye should be disappointed, sirs," said he; "but I must tell
you that it is the decision of the worshipful council that ye do not pass
these doors, or order any business of the court, in this commonwealth.
Provision is made by our laws for the proper conduct of all matters of
justice within our borders, and it is not permitted that any stranger
should interfere therewith."

"Truly, Mr. Bellingham," said Maverick, resting one hand on his sword,
and settling his plumed hat on his wig with the other, "you take a high
tone; but the king is the king, here as in England, and we bear his
commission. Massachusetts can frame no laws to override his pleasure; and
so we mean to teach you. I call upon all persons here present, under
penalty of indictment for treason, to aid us, his majesty's commissioners,
to open this court, or to break it open." His voice rang out angrily over
the crowd, but no one stirred in answer.

"You forget yourself, sir," said the governor, composedly. "We here are
loyal to the king, and too much his friends to believe that he would wrong
himself by controverting the charter which bears the broad seal affixed by
his own royal father. Your claim doth abuse him more than our refusal. But
since you will not hear comfortable words, I must summon one who will
speak more bluntly."

He turned, and made a signal with his hand. "Let the herald stand forth,"
said he; and at the word, a broad-shouldered, deep-chested personage, with
a trumpet in one hand and a pike in the other, stepped into the circle and
stood in the military attitude of attention.

"Hast thou the proclamation there in thy doublet, Simon?" demanded his
worship.

"Aye, verily, that have I," answered Simon, in a voice like a fog horn,
"and in my head and my heart, too!"

"Send it forth, then, and God's blessing go with it!" rejoined the chief
magistrate, forcibly, but with something like a smile stirring under his
beard.

Upon this Simon the herald filled his vast lungs with a mighty volume of
New England air, set the long brazen trumpet to his lips, and blew such a
blast that the led horses of the commissioners started and threw up their
heads, and the windows of the court house shook with the strident
vibration. Then, taking the paper on which the proclamation was written,
and holding it up before him, he proceeded to bellow forth its contents in
such stentorian wise that the commissioners might have heard it, had they
been on Boston wharf preparing to embark for England, instead of being
within three or four paces. That proclamation, indeed, was heard over the
length and breadth of New England, and even across the Atlantic in the
gilded chamber of the king of Britain. "These fellows," muttered his
majesty, with a vexed air, "have the hardihood to affirm that we have no
jurisdiction over them. What shall be done. Clarendon?" "I have ever
thought well of them," the chancellor said, rubbing his brow; "they are a
sturdy race, and it were not well to wantonly provoke them; yet it is
amazing that they should show themselves so forward, without so much as
charging the commissioners with the least matter of crimes or
exorbitances." Clarendon, indeed, was too lenient to suit the royal party,
and this was one of the causes leading up to his impeachment a year or two
later.

But the herald was not troubled, nor was his voice subdued, by thoughts
of either royalty or royal commissioners; though, as a matter of form, he
began with "In the name of King Charles," he coupled with it "by authority
of the Charter"; and went on to declare that the general court of
Massachusetts, in observance of their duty to God, to the king, and to
their constituents, could not suffer any one to abet his majesty's
honorable commissioners in their designs. There was no mistaking the
defiance, and neither the people nor the commissioners affected to do so.
The latter petulantly declared that "since you will misconceive our
endeavors, we shall not lose more of our labors upon you"; and they
departed to Maine, where they met with a less mortifying reception. The
people were much pleased, and made sport of the king's gentlemen, and at
their public meetings they were addressed in the same "seditious" vein by
magistrates and ministers. "The commission is but a trial of our courage:
the Lord will be with His people while they are with Him," said old Mr.
Davenport. Endicott, on the edge of the grave, was stanch as ever for the
popular liberties. Besides, "There hath been one revolution against the
king in England," it was remarked; "perchance there will be another ere
long; and this new war with the Netherlands may bring more changes than
some think for." On the other hand, resistance was stimulated by tales of
what the gold-laced freebooters of the court would do, if they were let
loose upon New England. Diplomacy, however, was combined with the bolder
counsels; there was hope in delays, and correspondence was carried on with
England to that end. Charles's expressed displeasure with their conduct
was met with such replies as "A just dependence upon and allegiance unto
your majesty, according to the charter, we have, and do profess and
practice, and have by our oaths of allegiance to your majesty confirmed;
but to be placed upon the sandy foundations of a blind obedience unto that
arbitrary, absolute, and unlimited power which these gentlemen would
impose upon us--who in their actings have carried it not as indifferent
persons toward us--this, as it is contrary to your majesty's gracious
expressions and the liberties of Englishmen, so we can see no reason to
submit thereto."

The commissioners were recalled; but Charles commanded Bellingham,
Hawthorne, and a few others to appear before him in London and answer for
the conduct of the colony. The general court met for prayer and debate;
Bradstreet thought they ought to comply; but Willoughby and others said,
No. A decision was finally handed down declining to obey the king's
mandate.

"We have already furnished our views in writing," the court held, "so
that the ablest persons among us could not declare our case more fully."

Under other circumstances this fresh defiance might have borne prompt and
serious consequences; but Louis XIV. conveniently selected the moment to
declare war on England; and Boston commended herself to the home
government by arming privateers to prey upon the Canadian commerce, and by
a timely gift of a cargo of masts for the English navy. Charles became so
much interested in the ladies of his court that he had less leisure for
the affairs of empire. Yet he still kept New England in mind; he believed
Massachusetts to be rich and powerful, and from time to time revolved
schemes for her reduction; and finally, when the colonists were exhausted
by the Indian war, the privy council came to the conclusion that, if they
were not to lose their hold upon the colony altogether, "this was the
conjuncture to do something effectual for the better regulation of that
government." They selected, as their agent, the best hated man who ever
set foot on Massachusetts soil--Edward Randolph. His mission was to
prepare the way for the revocation of its charter, and to undo all the
works of liberty and happiness which the labor and heroism of near fifty
years had achieved. He was also intrusted by Robert Mason with the
management of his New Hampshire claims. The second round in the battle
between king and people had begun.

Randolph was a remorseless, subtle, superserviceable villain, who lied to
the king, and robbed the colonists, and was active and indefatigable in
every form of rascality. During nine years he went to and fro between
London and Massachusetts, weaving a web of mischief that grew constantly
stronger and more restrictive, until at length the iniquitous object was
achieved. His first visit to Boston was in 1676; he stayed but a few
weeks, and accomplished nothing, but his stories about the wealth and
population of the colonies stimulated the greed of his employers. Envoys
were ordered to come to London, and this time they were sent, but with
powers so limited as to prevent any further result than the cession of the
jurisdiction of Massachusetts over Maine and New Hampshire--which, as we
have seen, was bought back the next year. The enforcement of the
Navigation Acts was for the moment postponed. The colonists would pay
duties to the king within the plantation if he would let them import
directly from the other countries of Europe. But Charles wished to
strengthen his grasp of colonial power, although, if possible, with the
assembly's consent. In 1678, the crown lawyers gave an opinion that the
colony's disregard of the Navigation Acts invalidated their charter.
Randolph was appointed customs collector in New England, and it was
determined to replace the laws of Massachusetts by such as were not
"repugnant to the laws of England." And the view was expressed that the
settlement should be made a royal colony. Manifestly, the precious
liberties of the Puritans were in deadly peril.

A synod of the churches and a meeting of the general court were held to
devise defense. To obviate a repeal of their laws, these were in a measure
remodeled so as to bring them nearer to what it was supposed the king
would require. Almost anything would be preferable to giving up the right
to legislate for themselves. It was first affirmed that English laws did
not operate in America, and that the Navigation Acts were despotic because
there was no colonial representation in the English parliament. And then,
to prove once more how far above all else they prized principle, they
passed a Navigation Act of their own, which met all the king's
stipulations. They would submit to the drain on their resources and the
hampering of their enterprise, but only if they themselves might inflict
them. Meanwhile, they cultivated to the utmost the policy of delay.
Randolph, came over with his patent as collector in 1679, but though the
patent was acknowledged, he was able to make no arrangements for
conducting the business. Orders were sent for the dispatch of agents to
London with unlimited powers; but Massachusetts would not do it.
Parliament would not abet the king in his despotic plans beyond a certain
point; but he was at length able to dissolve it, and follow what counsels
he pleased. His first act was to renew the demand for plenipotentiary
envoys, or else he would immediately take steps legally to evict and avoid
their charter.

Two agents, Dudley and Richards, were finally appointed to go to the king
and make the best terms possible. If he were willing to compound on a
pecuniary basis, which should spare the charter, let it be done, provided
the colony had the means for it; but, whatever happened, the charter
privileges of the commonwealth were not to be surrendered. The agents had
not, therefore, unlimited powers; and when Charles discovered this, he
directed them to obtain such powers, or a judicial process would be
adopted. This alternative was presented to Massachusetts in the winter of
1682, and the question whether or not to yield was made the subject of
general prayer, as well as of discussion. There seemed no possible hope in
resistance. Might it not then be wiser to yield? They might thus secure
more lenient treatment. If they held out to the bitter end, the penalty
would surely be heavier. The question ultimately came up before the
general court for decision.

It is probable that no other representative body in the world would have
adopted the course taken by that of Massachusetts. Certainly since old
Roman times, we might seek in vain for a verdict which so disregarded
expediency--everything in the shape of what would now be termed "practical
politics"--and based itself firmly and unequivocally on the sternest
grounds of conscience and right. It was passed after thorough debate, and
with clear prevision of what the result must be; but the magistrates had
determined that to suffer murder was better than to commit suicide; and
this is the manner in which they set forth their belief.

"Ought the government of Massachusetts to submit to the pleasure of the
court as to alteration of their charter? Submission would be an offense
against the majesty of heaven; the religion of the people of New England
and the court's pleasure cannot consist together. By submission
Massachusetts will gain nothing. The court design an essential alteration,
destructive to the vitals of the charter. The corporations in England that
have made an entire resignation have no advantage over those that have
stood a suit in law; but, if we maintain a suit, though we should be
condemned, we may bring the matter to chancery or to parliament, and in
time recover all again. We ought not to act contrary to that way in which
God hath owned our worthy predecessors, who in 1638, when there was a quo
warranto against the charter, durst not submit. In 1664, they did not
submit to the commissioners. We, their successors, should walk in their
steps, and so trust in the God of our fathers that we shall see His
salvation. Submission would gratify our adversaries and grieve our
friends. Our enemies know it will sound ill in the world for them to take
away the liberties of a poor people of God in the wilderness. A
resignation will bring slavery upon us sooner than otherwise it would be;
and it will grieve our friends in other colonies, whose eyes are now upon
New England, expecting that the people there will not, through fear, give
a pernicious example unto others.

"Blind obedience to the pleasure of the court cannot be without great
sin, and incurring the high displeasure of the King of kings. Submission
would be contrary unto that which hath been the unanimous advice of the
ministers, given after a solemn day of prayer. The ministers of God in New
England have more of the spirit of John the Baptist in them, than now,
when a storm hath overtaken them, to be reeds shaken with the wind. The
priests were to be the first that set their foot in the waters, and there
to stand till all danger be past. Of all men, they should be an example to
the Lord's people of faith, courage, and constancy. Unquestionably, if the
blessed Cotton, Hooker, Davenport, Mather, Shepherd, Mitchell, were now
living, they would, as is evident from their printed books, say, Do not
sin in giving away the inheritance of your fathers.

"Nor ought we to submit without the consent of the body of the people.
But the freemen and church members throughout New England will never
consent hereunto. Therefore, the government may not do it.

"The civil liberties of New England are part of the inheritance of their
fathers; and shall we give that inheritance away? Is it objected that we
shall be exposed to great sufferings? Better suffer than sin. It is better
to trust the God of our fathers than to put confidence in princes. If we
suffer because we dare not comply with the wills of men against the will
of God, we suffer in a good cause, and shall be accounted martyrs in the
next generation, and at the Great Day."

The promulgation of this paper was the prelude to much calamity in New
England for many years; but how well it has justified itself! Such words
are a living power, surviving the lapse of many generations, and flaming
up fresh and vigorous above the decay of centuries. The patriotism which
they express is of more avail than the victories of armies and of navies,
for these may be won in an ill cause; but the dauntless utterances of men
who would rather perish than fail to keep faith with God and with their
forefathers is a victory for mankind, and is everlasting. How poor and
vain in comparison with this stern and sincere eloquence seem the supple
time-service and euphemism of vulgar politicians of whose cunning and
fruitless spiderwebs the latter years have been so prolific. It is worth
while to do right from high motives, and to care for no gain that is not
gained worthily. The men of Massachusetts who lived a hundred years before
Jefferson were Americans of a type as lofty as any that have lived since;
the work that was given them to do was so done that time can take away
nothing from it, nor add anything. The soul of liberty is in it. It is
easy to "believe in" our country now, when it extends from ocean to ocean,
and is the home of seventy-five million human beings who lead the world in
intelligence, wealth, and the sources of power. But our country two
hundred years ago was a strip of sea-coast with Indians on one side and
tyrants on the other, inhabited by a handful of exiles, who owned little
but their faith in God and their love for the freedom of man. No lesser
men than they could have believed in their country then; and they
vindicated their belief by resisting to the last the mighty and despotic
power of England.

On November 30, 1683, the decision was made known: "The deputies consent
not, but adhere to their former bills." A year afterward the English
court, obstinate in the face of all remonstrances, adjudged the royal
charter of Massachusetts to be forfeited. It had been in existence all but
half a century. It was no more; but it had done its work. It had made
Massachusetts. The people were there--the men, the women and the children
--who would hand on the tradition of faith and honor through the hundred
years of darkness and tribulation till the evil spell was broken by the
guns of Bunker Hill. Royal governors might come and go; but the people
were growing day by day, and though governors and governments are things
of an hour, the people are immortal, and the time of their emancipation
will come. By means of the charter, the seed of liberty was sown in
favorable soil; it must lie hid awhile; but it would gather in obscurity
and seeming death the elements of new and more ample life, and the genius
of endless expansion, Great men and nations come to their strength through
great trials, so that they may remember, and not lightly surrender what
was so hardly won.

The king's privy council, now that Massachusetts lay naked and helpless
before them, debated whether she should be ruled by English laws, or
whether the king should appoint governors and councils over her, who
should have license to work their wills upon her irresponsibly, except in
so far as the king's private instructions might direct them. A minority,
represented by Lord Halifax, who carried a wise head on young shoulders,
advised the former plan; but the majority preferred to flatter Charles's
manifest predilection, and said--not to seem embarrassingly explicit--that
in their opinion the best way to govern a colony on the other side of an
ocean three thousand miles broad, was to govern it--as the king thought
best!

So now, after so prolonged and annoying a delay, the royal libertine had
his Puritan victim gagged and bound, and could proceed to enjoy her at his
leisure. But it so fell out that the judgment against the charter was
received in Boston on the second of July, 1685, whereas Charles II. died
in London on February 6th of the same year; so that he did not get his
reward after all: not, at least, the kind of reward he was looking for.
But, so far as Massachusetts was concerned, it made little difference;
since James II. was as much the foe of liberty as was his predecessor, and
had none of his animal amiability. The last act of the Massachusetts
assembly under the old order was the appointing of a day of fasting and
prayer, to beseech the Lord to have mercy upon his people.

The reign of James II. was a black season for the northern American
colonies; we can say no better of it than that it did not equal the bloody
horrors which were perpetrated in Scotland between 1680 and 1687.
Massacres did not take place in Massachusetts; but otherwise, tyranny did
its perfect work. The most conspicuous and infamous figures of the time
are Sir Edmund Andros and Edward Randolph.

Andros, born in 1637, was thirty-seven years of age when he came to the
colonies as governor of New York on behalf of the Duke of York. He was a
lawyer, and a man of energy and ability; and his career was on the whole
successful, from the point of view of his employers and himself; his
tenure of office in New York was eight years; he was governor of New
England from 1686 to 1689, when he was seized and thrown in jail by the
people, on the outbreak of the Revolution in England; and he afterward
governed Virginia for seven years (1692-1698), which finished his colonial
career. But from 1704 to 1706 the island of Jersey, in the English
Channel, was intrusted to his rule; and he died in London, where he was
born, in 1714, being then seventy-seven years old, not one day of which
long life, so far as records inform us, was marked by any act or thought
on his part which was reconcilable with generosity, humanity or honor. He
was a tyrant and the instrument of tyranny, hating human freedom for its
own sake, greedy to handle unrighteous spoils, mocking the sufferings he
wrought, triumphing in the injustice he perpetrated; foul in his private
life as he was wicked in his public career. A far more intelligent man
than Berkeley, of Virginia, he can, therefore, plead less excuse than he
for the evil and misery of which he was the immediate cause. But no
earthly punishment overtook him; for kings find such men useful, and God
gives power to kings in this world, that mankind may learn the evil which
is in itself, and gain courage and nobility at last to cast it out, and
trample it under foot.

James II. was that most dangerous kind of despot--a stupid, cold man;
even his libertinism, as it was without shame, so was it without passion.
In his public acts he plodded sluggishly from detail to detail, with eyes
turned downward, never comprehending the larger scope and relations of
things. He was incapable of perceiving the vileness, cruelty, or folly of
what he did; the almost incredible murders in Scotland never for a moment
disturbed his clammy self-complacency. Perhaps no baser or more squalid
soul ever wore a crown; yet no doubt ever crept into his mind that he was
God's chosen and anointed. His pale eyes, staring dully from his pale
face, saw in the royal prerogative the only visible witness of God's will
in the domain of England; the atmosphere of him was corruption and death.
But from 1685 to 1688 this man was absolute master of England and her
colonies; and the disease which he bred in English vitals was hardly cured
even by the sharp medicine of the Boyne.

By the time Andros came to New England, he had learned his business. The
year after his appointment to New York, he attempted to assert his
sovereignty up to the Connecticut River; but he was opposed by deputy
governor Leet, a chip of the old roundhead block, who disowned the patent
of Andros and practically kicked him out of the colony. Connecticut paid
for her temerity when the owner of Andros became king. In the meanwhile he
returned to New York, where he was not wanted, but was tolerated; the
settlers there were a comfortable people, and prosperous in the homely and
simple style natural to them: they demanded civil rights in good, clear
terms, and cannot be said to have been unduly oppressed at this time. New
York for awhile included the Delaware settlements, and Andros claimed both
east and west Jersey. The claim was contested by Carteret and by the
Quakers. When the Jersey commerce began to be valuable, Andros demanded
tribute from the ships, and shook the Duke's patent in the people's faces.
They replied, rather feebly, with talk of Magna Charta. In 1682, the
western part came by purchase into Quaker ownership, and, three years
afterward, the eastern part followed by patent from the Duke. To trace the
vicissitudes of this region to their end, it was surrendered to England in
1702, and united to New York; and in 1788, in compliance with the desire
of the inhabitants, it became its own master. The settlers were of
composite stock: Quakers, Puritans, and others; and at the time of the
Scotch persecutions, large numbers of fugitive Covenanters established
themselves on the eastern slopes. The principle on which land was
distributed, in comparatively small parcels, made the Jerseys a favorite
colony for honest and industrious persons of small means; and, upon the
whole, life went well and pleasantly with them.

At the time of the return of Andros to England, in 1682, the assembly
decreed free trade, and Dongan, the new Roman Catholic governor, permitted
them to enact a liberal charter. In the midst of the happiness consequent
upon this, the Duke became king and lost no time in breaking every
contract that he had, in his unanointed state, entered into. Taxes
arbitrarily levied, titles vacated in order to obtain renewal fees, and
all the familiar machinery of official robbery were put in operation. But
Dongan, a kindly Kildare Irishman--he was afterward Earl of Limerick
--would not make oppression bitter; and the New Yorkers were not so
punctilious about abstract principles as were the New England men.
Favorable treaties were made with the Indians; and the despot's heel was
not shod with iron, nor was it stamped down too hard. The Dongan charter,
as it was called, remained in the colony's possession for over forty
years. The rule of Dongan himself continued till 1688.

Andros, after an absence from the colonies of five years, during which
time a native but unworthy New Englander, Joseph Dudley, had acted as
president, came back to his prey with freshened appetite in 1686. He was
royal governor of all New England. Randolph, an active subordinate under
Dudley, had already destroyed the freedom of the press. Andros's power was
practically absolute; he was to sustain his authority by force, elect his
own creatures to office, make such laws as pleased him, and introduce
episcopacy. He forbade any one to leave the colony without leave from
himself; he seized a meeting house and made it into an Episcopal church,
in spite of the protests of the Puritans, and the bell was rung for
high-church service in spite of the recalcitrant Needham. Duties were
increased; a tax of a penny in the pound and a poll tax of twenty pence
were levied; and those who refused payment were told that they had no
privilege, except "not to be sold as slaves." Magna Charta was no
protection against the abolition of the right of Habeas Corpus: "Do not
think the laws of England follow you to the ends of the earth!" Juries
were packed, and Dudley, to avoid all mistakes, told them what verdicts to
render. Randolph issued new grants for properties, and extorted grievous
fees, declaring all deeds under the charter void, and those from Indians,
or "from Adam," worthless. West, the secretary, increased probate duties
twenty-fold. When Danforth complained that the condition of the colonists
was little short of slavery, and Increase Mather added that no man could
call anything his own, they got for answer that "it is not for his
majesty's interest that you should thrive." In the history of
Massachusetts, there is no darker day than this.

The great New England romancer, writing of this period a hundred and
seventy years later, draws a vivid and memorable picture of the people and
their oppressors. "The roll of the drum," he says, "had been approaching
through Cornhill, louder and deeper, till with reverberations from house
to house, and the regular tramp of martial footsteps, it burst into the
street. A double rank of soldiers made their appearance, occupying the
whole breadth of the passage, with shouldered matchlocks, and matches
burning, so as to present a row of fires in the dusk. Their steady march
was like the progress of a machine, that would roll irresistibly over
everything in its way. Next, moving slowly, with a confused clatter of
hoofs on the pavement, rode a party of mounted gentlemen, the central
figure being Sir Edmund Andros, elderly, but erect and soldier-like. Those
around him were his favorite councilors, and the bitterest foes of New
England. At his right rode Edward Randolph, our arch-enemy, that 'blasted
wretch,' as Mather calls him, who achieved the downfall of our ancient
government, and was followed with a sensible curse, through life and to
his grave. On the other side was Bullivant, scattering jests and mockery
as he rode along. Dudley came behind, with a downcast look, dreading, as
well he might, to meet the indignant gaze of the people, who beheld him,
their only countryman by birth, among the oppressors of his native land.
The captain of a frigate in the harbor, and two or three civil officers
under the Crown, were also there. But the figure that most attracted the
public eye, and stirred up the deepest feeling, was the Episcopal
clergyman of King's Chapel, riding haughtily among the magistrates in his
priestly vestments, the fitting representative of prelacy and persecution,
the union of church and state, and all those abominations which had driven
the Puritans to the wilderness. Another guard of soldiers, in double rank,
brought up the rear. The whole scene was a picture of the condition of New
England, and its moral, the deformity of any government that does not grow
out of the nature of things and the character of the people. On one side
the religious multitude, with their sad visages and dark attire, and, on
the other, the group of despotic rulers, with the high churchman in the
midst, and here and there a crucifix at their bosoms, all magnificently
clad, flushed with wine, proud of unjust authority, and scoffing at the
universal groan. And the mercenary soldiers, waiting but the word to
deluge the street with blood, showed the only means by which obedience
could be secured."

Education was temporarily paralyzed, and the right of franchise was
rendered nugatory by the order that oaths must be taken with the hand on
the Bible--a "popish" ceremony which the Puritans would not undergo. The
town meetings, which were the essence of New Englandism, were forbidden
except for the election of local officers, and ballot voting was stopped:
"There is no such thing as a town in the whole country," Andros declared.
Verily, it was "a time when New England groaned under the actual pressure
of heavier wrongs than those threatened ones which brought on the
Revolution." Yet the spirit of the people was not crushed; their leaders
did not desert them; in private meetings they kept their faith and hope
alive; the ministers told them that "God would yet be exalted among the
heathen"; and one at least among them, Willard, significantly bade them
take note that they "had not yet resisted unto blood, warring against sin!"

Boston was Andros's headquarters, and in 1688 was made the capital of the
whole region along the coast from the French possessions in the north to
Maryland in the south. But Andros had not yet received the submission of
Rhode Island and Connecticut. Walter Clarke was the governor of the former
colony in 1687, when, in the dead of winter, Andros appeared there and
ordered the charter to be given up. Roger Williams had died three years
before. Clarke tried to temporize, and asked that the surrender be
postponed till a fitter season. But Andros dissolved the government
summarily, and broke its seal; and it is not on record that the Rhode
Islanders offered any visible resistance to the outrage. From Rhode Island
Andros, with his retinue and soldiers, proceeded to Hartford, which had
lost its Winthrop longer ago than the former its Williams. Governor Dongan
of New York had warned Connecticut of what was to come, and had counseled
them to submit. Three writs of quo warranto were issued, one upon another,
and the colony finally petitioned the king to be permitted to retain its
liberties; but in any case to be merged rather in Massachusetts than in
New York. It was on the last day of October, 1687; Andros entered the
assembly hall, where the assembly was then in session, with Governor Treat
presiding. The scene which followed has entered into the domain of legend;
but there is nothing miraculous in it; a deed which depended for its
success upon the secrecy with which it was accomplished would naturally be
lacking in documentary confirmation. Upon Andros's entrance, hungry for
the charter, Treat opposed him, and entered upon a defense of the right of
the colony to retain the ancient and honorable document, hallowed as it
was by associations which endeared it to its possessors, aside from its
political value. Andros, of course, would not yield; the only thing that
such men ever yield to is superior force; but force being on his side, he
entertained no thought of departing from his purpose. The dispute was
maintained until so late in the afternoon that candles must be lighted;
some were fixed in sconces round the walls, and there were others on the
table, where also lay the charter, with its engrossed text, and its broad
seal. The assemblymen, as the debate seemed to approach its climax, left
their seats and crowded round the table, where stood on one side the royal
governor, in his scarlet coat laced with gold, his heavy but
sharp-featured countenance flushed with irritation, one hand on the hilt
of his sword, the other stretched out toward the coveted document:--on the
other, the governor chosen by the people, in plain black, with a plain
white collar turned down over his doublet, his eyes dark with emotion, his
voice vibrating hoarsely as he pleaded with the licensed highwayman of
England. Around, is the ring of strong visages, rustic but brainy,
frowning, agitated, eager, angry; and the flame of the candles flickering
in their heavily-drawn breath.

Suddenly and simultaneously, by a preconcerted signal, the lights are
out, and the black darkness has swallowed up the scene. In the momentary
silence of astonishment, Andros feels himself violently shoved aside; the
hand with which he would draw his sword is in an iron grasp, as heavy as
that which he has laid upon colonial freedom. There is a surging of unseen
men about him, the shuffling of feet, vague outcries: he knows not what is
to come: death, perhaps. Is Sir Edmund afraid? We have no information as
to the physical courage of the man, further than that in 1675 he had been
frightened into submission by the farmers and fishermen at Fort Saybrook.
But he need not have been a coward to feel the blood rush to his heart
during those few blind moments. Men of such lives as his are always ready
to suspect assassination.

But assassination is not an American method of righting wrong. Anon the
steel had struck the flint, and the spark had caught the tinder, and one
after another the candles were alight once more. All stared at one
another: what had happened? Andros, his face mottled with pallor, was
pulling himself together, and striving to resume the arrogant insolence of
his customary bearing. He opens his mouth to speak, but only a husky
murmur replaces the harsh stridency of his usual utterance. "What devilish
foolery is this--" But ere he can get further, some bucolic statesman
brings his massive palm down on the table with a bang that makes the oaken
plank crack, and thunders out--"The charter! Where's our charter?"

Where, indeed? That is one of those historic secrets which will probably
never be decided one way or the other. "There is no contemporary record of
this event." No: but, somehow or other, one hears of Yankee Captain Joe
Wadsworth, with the imaginative audacity and promptness of resource of his
race, snatching the parchment from the table in the midst of the groping
panic, and slipping out through the crowd: he has passed the door and is
inhaling with grateful lungs the fresh coolness of the cloudy October
night. Has any one seen him go? Did any one know what he did?--None who
will reveal it. He is astride his mare, and they are off toward the old
farm, where his boyhood was spent, and where stands the great hollow oak
which, thirty years ago, Captain Joe used to canvass for woodpeckers'
nests and squirrel hordes. He had thought, in those boyish days, what a
good hiding-place the old tree would make; and the thought had flashed
back into his mind while he listened to that fight for the charter to-day.
It did not take him long to lay his plot, and to agree with his few
fellow-conspirators. Sir Edmund can snatch the government, and scrawl
Finis at the foot of the Connecticut records; but that charter he shall
never have, nor shall any man again behold it, until years have passed
away, and Andros has vanished forever from New England.

Meanwhile, he returned to Boston, there, for a season, to make "the
wicked walk on every side, and the vilest to be exalted." Then came that
famous April day of 1689; and, following, event after event, one storming
upon another's heels, as the people rose from their long bondage, and
hurled their oppressors down. The bearer of the news that William of
Orange had landed in England, was imprisoned, but it was too late. Andros
ordered his soldiers under arms; but the commander of the frigate had been
taken prisoner by the Boston ship-carpenters; the sheriff was arrested;
hundreds of determined men surrounded the regimental headquarters; the
major resisted in vain; the colors and drums were theirs; a vast throng at
the town house greeted the venerable Bradstreet; the insurrection was
proclaimed, and Andros and his wretched followers, flying to the frigate,
were seized and cast into prison. "Down with Andros and Randolph!" was the
cry; and "The old charter once more!" It was a hundred years to a day
before that shot fired at Concord and heard round the world.

Julian Hawthorne