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Ch. 9: The New Leaf and the Blot on It


Popular liberty is one thing; political independence is another. The
latter cannot be securely and lastingly established until the former has
fitted the nation to use it intelligently. When the component individuals
have thrown off the bondage of superstition and of formulas, their next
step must be, as an organization, to abrogate external subordination to
others, and, like a son come of age, to begin life on a basis and with an
aim of their own.

But such movements are organic, and chronologically slow; so that we do
not comprehend them until historical perspective shows them to us in their
mass and tendency. They are thus protected against their enemies, who, if
they knew the significance of the helpless seed, would destroy it before
it could become the invincible and abounding tree. Great human revolutions
make themselves felt, at first, as a trifling and unreasonable annoyance:
a crumpling in the roseleaf bed of the orthodox and usual. They are
brushed petulantly aside and the sleeper composes himself to rest once
more. But inasmuch as there was vital truth as the predisposing cause of
the annoyance it cannot thus be disposed of; it spreads and multiplies.
Had its opponents understood its meaning, they would have humored it into
inoffensiveness; but the means they adopt to extirpate it are the sure way
to develop it. Truth can no more be smothered by intolerance, than a sown
field can be rendered unproductive by covering it with manure.

When Christ came, the common people had no recognized existence except as
a common basis on which aristocratic institutions might rest. That they
could have rights was as little conceived as that inanimate sticks and
stones could have them; to enfranchise them--to surrender to them the
reins of government--such an idea the veriest madness would have started
from. Philosophy was blind to it; religion was abhorrent to it; the common
people themselves were as far from entertaining it as cattle in the fields
are to-day. Christ's sayings--Love one another--Do as ye would be done by
--struck at the root of all arbitrary power, and furnished the clew to all
possible emancipations; but their infinite meaning has even yet been
grasped but partially. A thousand years are but as yesterday in the
counsels of the Lord. The early Christians were indeed a democracy; but
they were common people to begin with, and the law of love suggested to
them no thought of altering their condition in that respect. The only
liberty they dreamed of claiming was liberty to die for their faith; and
that was accorded to them in full measure. Indeed, an apprenticeship, the
years of which were centuries, must be served before they could be
qualified to realize even that they could become the trustees of power.

Their simple priesthood, beginning by sheltering them from physical
violence, ended by subjecting them to a yet more enslaving spiritual
tyranny. Philosophers could frame imaginative theories of human liberty;
but the people could be helped only from within themselves. Wiclif, giving
them the Bible in a living language, and intimating that force was not
necessarily right, began their education; and Luther, in his dogma of
justification by faith alone, forged a tremendous weapon in their behalf.
Beggars could have faith; princes and prelates might lack it; of what
avail was it to gain the whole world if the soul must be lost at last? The
reasonings and discussions to which his dogma gave rise called into
existence two world-covering armies to fight for and against it. Peace has
not been declared between them yet; but there has long ceased to be any
question as to who shall have the victory.

When the battle began, however, the other side had the stronger
battalions, and there would have been little chance for liberty, but for
the timely revelation of the western continent. And, inevitably, it was
the people who went, and the aristocrats who stayed behind; because the
new idea favored the former and menaced the latter. Inevitably, too, it
was the man who had the future in him that was the exile, and the man of
the past who drove him forth. And whenever we find a man of the
aristocratic order emigrating to the colonies, we find in him the same
love of liberty which animates his plebeian companion, graced by a motive
even higher, because opposed to his inherited interests and advantages.
Thus the refuge of the oppressed became by the nature of things the
citadel of the purest and soundest civilization.

Luther, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were in the line of succession one
from the other; each defined the truth more nearly than his predecessor,
but left it still in the rough. The whole truth is never revealed at one
time, but so much only as may forge a sword for the immediate combat.
Faith alone was a good blade for the first downright strokes of the
battle; predestination had a finer edge; and Edwards's dialectical
subtleties on the freedom of the will sharpen logic to so fine a point
that we begin to perceive that not logic but love is the true weapon of
the Christian: the mystery of God is not revealed in syllogisms. But each
fresh discrimination was useful in its place and time, and had to exist in
order to prepare the way for its successor. The Puritans would have been
less stubborn without their background of spiritual damnation. That awful
conscience of theirs would have faltered without its lake of fire and
brimstone to keep out of; and if it had faltered, the American nation
would have been strangled in its cradle.

America, then, having no permanent attractions as a residence for any of
the upper classes of European society, became the home of the common
people, in whom alone the doctrine of liberty could find a safe anchorage,
because in them alone did the need for it abide. The philosophy, the
religion, the tolerance, the civil forms, which are broad enough to suit
the common people, must be nearly as broad as truth itself, and therefore
as unconquerable. But the broader they appear, the more must they be
offensive to the orthodox and conventional, who by the instinct of
self-preservation will be impelled to attack them. There was never a more
obvious chain of cause and effect than that which is revealed in the
history of the United States; and having shown the conditions which led to
the planting in the wilderness of the elements which constitute our
present commonwealth, we shall now proceed to trace the manner in which
they came to be wrought into a united whole. They were as yet mainly
unconscious of one another; the opportunity for mutual knowledge had not
yet been presented, nor had the causes conducive to crystallization been
introduced. Oppression had awakened the colonists to the value of their
religious and civic principles; something more than oppression was
requisite to mold them into independent and homogeneous form. This was
afforded, during the next eighty years, by their increase in numbers,
wealth, familiarity with their country, and in the facilities for
intercommunication; and also, coincidently, by the French and Indian wars,
which apprised them of their strength, trained them in arms, created the
comradeship which arises from common dangers and aims, and developed vast
tracts of land which had otherwise been unknown. A country which has been
fought for, on whose soil blood has been shed, becomes dear to its
inhabitants; and the heroism of the Revolution gathered heart and
perseverance from the traditions and the graves of the soldiers of the
Intercolonial wars.

The English Revolution benefited the colonies, though to a less extent
than might have been expected. William of Orange was the logical
consequence, by reaction, of James II. The latter had so corrupted and
confused the kingdom, that William, whose connection with England arose
from his marriage with Mary, James's daughter, was invited to usurp the
throne by Tories, Whigs and Presbyterians--each party from a motive of its
own. The people were not appealed to, but they acquiesced. The Roman
Catholics were discriminated against, and the nonconformists were not
requited for their services; but out of many minor injustices and wrongs,
a condition better than anything which had preceded it was soon
discernible. The principle was established that royal power was not
absolute, nor self-continuing; it could be created only by the
representatives of the people, who could take it away again if its trustee
were guilty of breach of contract. The dynastic theory was disallowed;
kings were to come by election, not succession. The nobility were
recognized as the medium between the king and the people, but not before
they had conceded to the commons the right to elect a king for life; and
presently there came into existence a new power--that of the commercial
classes, the moneyed interest, which, in return for loans to government,
received political consideration. Ownership of land ceased to be the sole
condition on which a candidate could appeal to the electors; and merchants
were raised to a position where they could control national policies.
Merchants might not be wiser or less selfish than the aristocracy; but at
all events they were of the people, and the more widely power is diffused,
the less likely is any class to be oppressed. It was no longer possible
for freemen to be ruled otherwise than by governments of their own making,
and subject to their approval. Freedom of the press, which means liberty
to criticise all state and social procedure, was established, and public
opinion, instead of being crushed, was consulted. The aristocracy could
retain its ascendency only by permitting more weight to the middle class,
whose influence was therefore bound gradually to increase. Popular
legislatures were the final arbiters; and the advantages which the English
had obtained would naturally be imparted to the colonies, which, in
addition, were unhampered by the relics of decaying systems which still
impeded the old country.

William cared little for England, nor were the English in love with him;
but he was the most far-seeing statesman of his day, and his effect was
liberalizing and beneficial. He kept Louis XIV. from working the mischief
that he desired, and prevented the disturbance of political equilibrium
which was threatened by the proposed successor to the extinct Hapsburg
dynasty on the Spanish throne. William was outwardly cold and dry, but
there was fire within him, if you would apply friction enough. He was
under no illusions; he perfectly understood why he was wanted in England;
and for his part, he accepted the throne in order to be able to check
Louis in his designs upon the liberties of Holland. In defending his
countrymen he defended all others in Europe, whose freedom was endangered.

But if William's designs were large, they were also, and partly for that
reason, unjust in particulars. He was at war with France; France held
possessions in America; and it was necessary to carry on war against her
there as well as in Europe. The colonists, then, should be made to assist
in the operations; they must furnish men, forts, and, to some extent at
least, supplies. It was easy to reach this determination, but difficult to
enforce it under the circumstances. The various colonies lacked the
homogeneity which was desirable to secure co-operative action from them;
some of them were royal provinces, some proprietary, some were in an
anomalous state, or practically without any recognizable form of
government whatever. Each had its separate interests to regard, and could
not be brought to perceive that what was the concern of one must in the
end be the concern of all. But the greatest difficulty was to secure
obedience of orders after they had been promulgated; the colonial
legislatures pleaded all manner of rights and privileges, under Magna
Charta and other charters; they claimed the privileges of Englishmen, and
they stood upon their "natural" rights as discoverers and inhabitants of a
new country. They were spread over a vast extent of territory, so that in
many cases a journey of weeks would be required, through pathless forests,
across unbridged rivers, over difficult mountains, by swamps and morasses
--in order to carry information of the commands of the government to no
more than a score or a hundred of persons. And then these persons would
look around at the miles of unconquerable nature stretching out on every
side; and they would reflect upon the thousands of leagues of salt water
that parted them from the king who was the source of these unwelcome
orders; and, finally, they would glance at the travel-stained and weary
envoy with a pitying smile, and offer him food and drink and a bed--but
not obedience. The colonists had imagination, when they cared to exercise
it; but not imagination of the kind to bring vividly home to them the
waving of a royal scepter across the broad Atlantic.

Another cause of embarrassment to the king was the reluctance of
Parliament to pass laws inhibiting the reasonable liberties of the
colonies. The influence of the Lords somewhat preponderated, because they
controlled many of the elections to the Commons; but neither branch was
disposed to increase the power of the king, and they were, besides, split
by internal factions. It was not until the mercantile interest got into
the saddle that Parliament saw the expediency of restricting the
productive and commercial freedom of the colonies, and the necessity, in
order to secure these ends, of diminishing their legislative license.
Meanwhile, William tried more than one device of his own. First, by dint
of the prerogative, he ordered that each colony north of Carolina should
appoint a fixed quota of men and money for the defense of New York against
the common enemy; this order it was found impossible to carry out. Next,
he caused a board of trade to be appointed in 1696 to inquire into the
condition of the colonies, and as to what should be done about them; and
after a year, this board reported that in their opinion what was wanted
was a captain-general to exercise a sort of military dictatorship over all
the North American provinces. But the ministry held this plan to be
imprudent, and it fell through. At the same time, William Penn worked out
a scheme truly statesmanlike, proposing an annual congress of two
delegates from each province to devise ways and means, which they could
more intelligently do than could any council or board in England. The plan
was advocated by Charles Davenant, a writer on political economy, who
observed that the stronger the colonies became, the more profitable to
England would they be; only despotism could drive them to rebellion; and
innovations in their charters would be prejudicial to the king's power.
But this also was rejected; and finally the conduct of necessary measures
was given to "royal instructions," that is, to the king; but to the king
subject to the usual parliamentary restraint. And none of the better class
of Englishmen wished to tyrannize over their fellow Englishmen across the
sea.

Under this arrangement, the appointment of judges was taken from the
people; Habeas Corpus was refused, or permitted as a favor; censorship of
the press was revived; license to preach except as granted by a bishop was
denied; charters were withheld from dissenters; slavery was encouraged;
and the colonies not as yet under royal control were told that the common
weal demanded that they should be placed in the same condition of
dependency as those who were. But William died in 1702, before this
arrangement could be carried out. Queen Anne, however, listened to
alarmist reports of the unruly and disaffected condition of the colonies,
and allowed a bill for their "better regulation" to be introduced. It was
now that the mercantile interest began to show its power.

The old argument, that every nation may claim the services of its own
subjects, wherever they are, was revived; and that England ought to be the
sole buyer and seller of American trade. All the oppressive and irritating
commercial regulations were put in force, and all colonial laws opposing
them were abrogated. Complaints under these regulations were taken out of
the hands of colonial judges and juries, on the plea that they were often
the offenders. Woolen manufactures, as interfering with English industry,
were so rigorously forbidden, that a sailor in an American port could not
buy himself a flannel shirt, and the Virginians were put to it to clothe
themselves at all. Naturally, the people resisted so far as they could,
and that was not a little; England could not spare a sufficient force to
insure obedience to laws of such a kind. "We have a right to the same
liberties as Englishmen," was the burden of all remonstrances, and it was
supported by councilors on the bench and ministers in the pulpit. The
revenues were so small as hardly to repay the cost of management. It is
hard to coerce a nation and get a profit over expenses; and the colonies
were a nation--they numbered nearly three hundred thousand in Anne's reign
--without the advantage of being coherent; they were a baker's dozen of
disputatious and recalcitrant incoherencies. The only arbitrary measure of
taxation that was amiably accepted was the post-office tax, which was seen
to be productive of a useful service at a reasonable cost; and an act to
secure suitable trees for masts for the navy was tolerated because there
were so many trees. The coinage system was no system at all, and led to
much confusion and loss; and the severe laws against piracy, which had
grown to be common, and in the profits of which persons high in the
community were often suspected and sometimes proved to have been
participants, were less effective than they certainly ought to have been;
but they, and the bloody and desperate objects of them, added a
picturesque page to the annals of the time.

Concerning the condition of the several colonies during the years
following the Revolution of 1688, it may be said, in general, that it was
much better in fact than it was in theory. There were narrow and unjust
and short-sighted laws and regulations, and there were men of a
corresponding stamp to execute them; but the success such persons met with
was sporadic, uncertain, and partial. The people were grown too big, and
too well aware of their bigness, to be ground down and kept in subjection,
even had the will so to afflict them been steady and virulent--which it
cannot be said to have been. The people knew that, be the law what it
might, it could, on the whole, be evaded or disregarded, unless or until
the mother country undertook to enforce it by landing an army and
regularly making war; and England had too many troubles of her own, and
also contained too many liberal-minded men, to attempt such a thing for
the present. The proof that the colonies were not seriously or
consistently oppressed is evident from the fact that they all increased
rapidly in population and wealth, notwithstanding their "troubles"; and it
was not until England had settled down under her Georges, and that
Providence had inspired the third of that name with the pig-headedness
that cost his adopted subjects so dear, that the Revolution became a
possibility. Yet even now there was no lack of talk of such an
eventuality; the remark was common that in process of time the colonies
would declare their independence. But perhaps it was made rather with
intent to spur England to adopt preventative measures in season, than from
a real conviction that the event would actually take place.

New York, at the time of William's accession, had been under the control
of Andros, who at that epoch commanded a domain two or three times as
large as Britain. Nicholson was his lieutenant; and on the news of the
Revolution Jacob Leisler, a German, who had come over in 1660 as a soldier
of the Dutch West India Company, and had made a fortune, unseated
Nicholson and proclaimed William and Mary. Supported by the mass of the
Dutch inhabitants, but without other warrant, he assumed the functions of
royal lieutenant-governor, pending the arrival of the new king's
appointee. In the interests of order, it was the best thing to do. But he
made active enemies among the other elements of the cosmopolitan
population of New York, and they awaited an opportunity to be avenged on
him. This came with the arrival of Henry Sloughter in 1691, with the
king's commission. Sloughter can only be described as a drunken
profligate. At the earliest moment, Leisler sent to know his commands, and
offered to surrender the fort. Sloughter answered by arresting him and
Milborne, his son-in-law, on the charge of high treason--an absurdity; but
they were arraigned before a partisan court and condemned to be hanged
--they refusing to plead and appealing to the king. It is said that
Sloughter did not intend to carry the sentence into effect; but the local
enemies of Leisler made the governor drunk that night, and secured his
signature to the decree. This was on May 14, 1691; on the 15th, the house
disapproved the sentence, but on the 16th it was carried out, the victims
meeting their fate with dignity and courage. In 1695, the attainder was
reversed by act of parliament; but it remains the most disgraceful episode
of William's government of the colonies.

Meanwhile, Sloughter was recalled, and Fletcher sent out. He was not a
sodden imbecile, but he was ill-chosen for his office. He described the
New Yorkers of that day as "divided, contentious and impoverished" and
immediately began a conflict with them. His attitude may be judged from a
passage in his remarks to the assembly soon afterward: "There never was an
amendment desired by the council board but what was rejected. It is a sign
of a stubborn ill-temper.... While I stay in this government I will take
care that neither heresy, schism, nor rebellion be preached among you, nor
vice and profanity be encouraged. You seem to take the power into your own
hands and set up for everything." This last observation was probably not
devoid of truth; nor was a subsequent one, "There are none of you but what
are big with the privileges of Englishmen and Magna Charta." That well
describes the colonist of the period, whether in New York or elsewhere. It
had been said of New Yorkers, however, that they were a conquered people,
who had no rights that a king was bound to respect; and the grain of truth
in the saying may have made the New Yorkers more than commonly anxious to
keep out the small end of the wedge. Bellomont's incumbency was mild, and
chiefly memorable by reason of his having commissioned a certain William
Kidd to suppress piracy; but Kidd--if tradition is to be believed:
--certainly his most unfair and prejudiced trial in London afforded no
evidence of it--found more pleasure in the observance than in the breach,
and became the most famous pirate of them all. There is gold enough of his
getting buried along the coasts to buy a modern ironclad fleet, according
to the belief of the credulous. A little later, Steed Bonnet, Richard
Worley, and Edward Teach, nicknamed Blackbeard, had similar fame and fate.
Their business, like others of great profit, incurred great risks.

Of Lord Cornbury, the next governor, Bancroft remarks, with unwonted
energy, that "He joined the worst form of arrogance to intellectual
imbecility," and that "happily for New York, he had every vice of
character necessary to discipline a colony into self-reliance and
resistance." He began by stealing $1,500 appropriated to fortify the
Narrows; it was the last money he got from the various assemblies that he
called and dissolved, and the assemblies became steadily more independent
and embarrassing. In 1707, the Quaker speaker read out in meeting a paper
accusing him of bribe taking. Cornbury disappears from American history
the next year; and completed his career, in England, as the third Earl of
Clarendon.

Under Lovelace, the assembly refused supplies and assumed executive
powers; when Hunter came, he found a fertile and wealthy country, but
nothing in it for him: "Sancho Panza was but a type of me." He was a man
of humor and sagacity, and perceived that "the colonists are infants at
their mother's breasts, but will wean themselves when they come of age."
Before he got through with the New Yorkers, he had reason to suspect that
the weaning time had all but arrived.

New Jersey passed through many trivial vicissitudes, changes of
ownership, vexed land-titles, and royal encroachments. For several years
the people had no visible government at all. They did not hold themselves
so well in hand as did New York, and were less audacious and aggressive in
resistance; but in one way or another, they fairly held their own,
prospered and multiplied. Pennsylvania enjoyed from the first more
undisturbed independence and self-direction than the others; at one time
it seemed to be their ambition to discover something which Penn would not
grant them, and then to ask for it. But the great Quaker was equal to the
occasion; no selfishness, crankiness, or whimsicality on their part could
wear out his patience and benevolence. In the intervals of his
imprisonments in England he labored for their welfare. The queen
contemplated making Pennsylvania a royal province, but Penn, though poor,
would not let it go except on condition it might retain its democratic
liberties. The people, in short, kept everything in their own hands, and
their difficulties arose chiefly from their disputes as to what to do with
so much freedom. It was a colony where everybody was equal, without an
established church, where any one was welcome to enter and dwell, which
was destitute of arms or defense or even police, which yet grew in all
good things more rapidly than any of its sister colonies. The people waxed
fat and kicked, but they did no evil in the sight of the Lord, whatever
England may have thought of them; and after the contentious little
appendage of Delaware had finally been cut off from its big foster sister
(though they shared the same governors until the Revolution) there is
little more to be said of either of them.

The Roman Catholic owners of Maryland fared ill after William came into
power; he made the colony a royal province in 1691, and for thirty years
or more there were no more Baltimores in the government. Under Copley, the
first royal governor, the Church of England was declared to be
established; but dissenters were afterward protected; only the Catholics
were treated with intolerance in the garden themselves had made. The
people soon settled down and became contented, and slowly their numbers
augmented. But the Baltimores were persistent, and the fourth lord, in
1715, took advantage of his infancy to compass a blameless reconciliation
with the Church of England, thereby securing his installation in the
proprietary rights of his forefathers, from which the family was not
evicted until the Revolution of the colonies in 1775 opened a new chapter
in the history of the world.

Virginia recovered rapidly from Berkeley, and suffered little from
Andros, who was governor in 1692, but with his fangs drawn, and an
experience to remember. The people still eschewed towns, and lived each
family in its own solitude, hospitable to all, but content with their own
company. The love of independence grew alike in the descendants of the
cavaliers and in the common people, and the wide application of the
suffrage equalized power, and even enabled the lower sort to keep the
gentry, when the fancy took them, out of the places of authority and
trust. Democracy was in the woods and streams and the blue sky, and all
breathed it in and absorbed it into their blood and bone. They early
petitioned William for home rule in all its purity; he permitted land
grants to be confirmed, but would not let their assembly supplant the
English parliament as a governing power. He sought, unsuccessfully, to
increase the authority of the church; for though the bishop might license
and the governor recommend, the parish would not present. It was a
leisurely, good-natured, careless, but spirited people, indifferent to
commerce, content to harvest their fields and rule their slaves, and let
the world go by. A more enviable existence than theirs it would be hard to
imagine. All their financial transactions were done in tobacco, even to
the clergyman's stipend and the judge's fee. No enemy menaced them;
politics were rather an amusement than a serious duty; yet in these
fertile regions were made the brains and characters which afterward, for
so many years, ruled the councils of the United States, or led her armies
in war. They lay fallow for seventy-five years, and then gave the best of
accounts of themselves. England did not quite know what to make of the
Virginians; to judge by the reports of the governors, they were changeable
as a pretty woman. But they were simply capricious humorists, full of life
and intelligence, who did what they pleased and did not take themselves
too seriously. They indulged themselves with the novel toy, the
post-office; and founded William and Mary College in 1693. This venerable
institution passed its second centennial with one hundred and sixty
students on its roll; but, soon after, it "ceased upon the midnight,
without pain." Anybody may have a college in these days.

The Carolinas, no longer pestered by Grand Models, became another rustic
paradise. Their suns were warm, their forests vast, their people
delighting in a sort of wild civilization. When James II. went down, the
Carolinians needed no care-taker, and declined to avail themselves of the
martial law suggested by the anxious proprietors. But in 1690 they allowed
Seth Sothel to occupy the gubernatorial seat, and sent up a legislature.
The southern section was subjected to some superficial annoyance by the
proprietors, who wished to make an income from the country, but were
unwilling to put their hands in their pockets in the first place; they
insisted upon their authority, and the colonists did not say them nay, but
maintained freedom of action in all their concerns nevertheless. A series
of proprietary governors were sent out to them--Ludwell first, then Smith;
both failed, and retired. Then came Archdale, the Quaker, who struck a
popular note in his remark that dissenters could cut wood and hoe crops as
well as the highest churchmen; his policy was to concede, to conciliate
and to harmonize, and he was welcome and useful. The Indians, and even the
Spaniards, were brought into friendly relations. Liberty of conscience was
accorded to all but "papists," who were certainly hardly used in these
times. An attempt to base political power on possession of land was
defeated in 1702. The Church of England was accepted in 1704, and though
dissenters were tolerated, it remained the official dispenser of religion
until the Revolution. All these things were on the surface; the colony,
inside, was free, happy and prosperous; it had adopted rice culture, with
a great supply of negro slaves, and it brought furs from far in the
interior. The Huguenots had been enfranchised as soon as it was known that
England had turned her back on Catholicism and James. None of the colonies
had before them a future more peaceful and profitable than South Carolina.
The slaves were her only burden; but at that period they seemed not a
burden, but the assurance of her prosperity.

North Carolina was as happy and as peaceful as her southern sister, but
the conditions of life there were different. The proprietors attempted to
control the people, but were worsted in almost every encounter. Laws were
passed only to be disregarded. Here, as elsewhere, the Quakers became
conspicuous in inculcating liberal notions, and were paid the compliment
of being hated and feared by the emissaries of England. What was to be
done with a population made up of fugitives of all kinds, not from Europe
only, but from the other colonies, who held all creeds, or none at all;
who lived by hunting and tree-cutting; who were as averse from towns as
Virginia, and many of whom could not be said to have any fixed abode at
all? If restraints were proposed, they ignored them; if they were pressed,
they resisted them, sometimes boisterously, but never with bloodshed.
Robert Daniel, deputy governor in 1704, tried to establish the Church of
England; a building was erected, but in all the province there was but one
clergyman, with an absentee congregation scattered over hundreds of miles
of mountain and forest. In the following year there were two governors
elected by opposite factions, each with his own legislature; and in 1711
Edward Hyde, going out to restore order, confounded the confusion. He
called in Spotswood from Virginia to help him; but there were too many
Quakers; and the old soldier, after landing a party of marines to indicate
his disapproval of anarchy, retired. Meantime, fresh emigrants kept
arriving, including many Palatinates from Germany. It was not a profitable
country to its reputed owners, who, in 1714, received a hundred dollars
apiece from it. But it supported its inhabitants all the better; and it
was eight years more before they supplied themselves with a court house,
and forty, before they felt the need of a printing press.

In New England, Connecticut and Rhode Island, which had suffered
comparatively little from the despotism of James, readily recovered such
minor rights as they had been deprived of. There was a dispute between
Fitz-John Winthrop and Fletcher as to the command of the local militia,
the former, with his fellow colonists, demanding that the control be kept
by the colony; Winthrop went to England and got confirmation of his plea;
and from the people, on his return, the governorship. There were a score
and a half of flourishing towns in Connecticut, each with its meeting
house and school. Little Rhode Island recovered its charter, whether the
original or a duplicate. An act was pending in England to abrogate all
colonial charters, and was backed by the strong mercantile influence; but
the French war caused it to go over. Lord Cornbury, and Joseph Dudley, the
Massachusetts-born traitor, did their best to get a royal governor for
these colonies, but they failed; though Dudley, at the instance of Cotton
Mather, was afterward made governor of Massachusetts.

But no son of Massachusetts has so well deserved the condemnation of
history as Cotton Mather himself. Such political sins as his advocacy of
Dudley, and his opposition to the revival of the old charter, are
trifling; they might have been the result of ordinary blindness or
selfishness merely; but his part in the witchcraft delusion cannot be so
accounted for. In his persecution of the accused persons he was actuated
by a spirit of inflamed vanity and malignity truly diabolic; and if there
can be a crime which Heaven cannot forgive, assuredly Cotton Mather
steeped himself in it. He was a singular being; yet he represented the
evil tendencies of Puritanism; they drained into him, so to say, until he
became their sensible incarnation. In his person, at last, the Puritans of
Massachusetts beheld united every devilish trait to which the tenets of
their belief could incline them; and the hideousness of the spectacle so
impressed them that, from that time forward, any further Cotton Mathers
became impossible. There is no feature in Mather's case that can be held
to palliate his conduct. He had the best education of the time, coming, as
he did, from a line of scholars, and out-Heroding them in the variety and
curiousness of his accomplishments, and in the number of his published
"works"--three hundred and eighty-three. Nothing that he produced has any
original value; but his erudition was enormous. Of "Magnalia," his chief
and representative work, it has been said that "it is a heterogeneous and
polyglot compilation of information useful and useless, of unbridled
pedantry, of religious adjuration, biographical anecdotes, political
maxims, and theories of education.... Indeed, it contains everything
except order, accuracy, sobriety, proportion, development, and upshot."
This man, born in 1663, was not yet thirty years of age when his campaign
against the witches began; indeed, he had given a hint of his direction
some years earlier. In his multifarious reading he had become acquainted
with all existing traditions and speculations concerning witchcraft, and
his profession as minister in the Calvinist communion predisposed him to
investigate all accessible details concerning the devil. He was
passionately hungry for notoriety and conspicuousness: Tydides melior
patre was the ambition he proposed to himself.

A huge memory, stored with the promiscuous rubbish of libraries, and with
facts which were transformed into rubbish by his treatment of them, was
combined in him with a diseased imagination, and a personal vanity almost
surpassing belief. His mental shallowness and consequent restlessness
rendered anything like original thought impossible to him; and the faculty
of intellectual digestion was not less beyond him. It is probable that
curiosity was the motive which originally drew him to the study of
witchcraft; a vague credence of such things was common at the time; and in
France and England many executions for the supposed crime had taken place.
Mather had no convictions on the subject; he was incapable of convictions
of any kind; and the revelation of his private diary shows that at the
very time he was wallowing in murders, and shrieking out for ever more
victims, he was in secret doubting the truth of all religion, and
coquetting with atheism. But men of no religious faith are prone to
superstitions; the man who denies God is the first to seek for guidance
from the stars. Suppose there should be a devil?--was Mather's thought. It
is not to be wondered at that such a man should be fascinated by the
notion; and we may perhaps concede to Mather that, if at any time in his
career he approached belief in anything, the devil was the subject of his
belief. Had his character been genuine and vigorous, such a belief would
have led him to plunge into witchcraft, not as a persecutor, but as a
performer; he would have aimed to be chief at the witches' Sabbath, and to
have rioted in the terrible powers with which Satan's children were
credited. But he was far from owning this bold and trenchant fiber: though
he could not believe in God, he dared not defy Him; and still he could not
refrain from dabbling in the forbidden mysteries. Moreover, there was an
obscure and questionable faculty inherent in certain persons,
unaccountable on any recognized natural grounds, which gave support to the
witchcraft theory. We call this faculty hypnotism now; and physiology
seeks to connect it with the nervous affections of hysteria and epilepsy.
At all times, and in all quarters of the earth, manifestations of it have
not been wanting; and in Africa it has for centuries existed as a
so-called religious cult, to which in this country the name of Hoodooism
or Voodooism has been applied. It is a savage form of devil worship,
including snake-charming, and the lore of fetiches and charms; and its
professors are able to produce abnormal effects, within certain limits,
upon the nerves and imaginations of their clients or victims. Among the
negro slaves in Massachusetts in 1692, and the negro-Indian mongrels,
there were persons able to exercise this power. They attracted the
attention of Cotton Mather.

Gradually, we may suppose, the idea took form in his mind that if he
could not be a witch himself, he might gain the notoriety he craved by
becoming the denouncer of witchcraft in others. Ministers in that day
still had great influence in New England, and had grasped at temporal as
well as spiritual sway, maintaining that the former should rightly involve
the latter. What a minister said, had weight; what so well-known a
minister as Cotton Mather said, would carry conviction to many. If Mather
could procure the execution of a witch or two, it could not fail to add
greatly to his spiritual glory and ascendency. It is, of course, not to be
imagined that he had any conception, beforehand, of the extent to which
the agitation he was about to begin would be carried. But when evil is
once let loose, it multiplies itself and gains impetus, and rages like a
fire. The only thing for Mather to do was to keep abreast of the mischief
which he had created. If he faltered or relented, he would be himself
destroyed. He was whirled along with the foul storm by a mingling of
terror, malice, vanity, triumph and fascination: as repulsive and
dastardly a figure as has ever stained the records of our country. He was
ready to sacrifice the population of Massachusetts rather than confess
that the deeds for which he was responsible were based on what, in his
secret soul, he unquestionably felt was a delusion. For though he may have
half-believed in witchcraft while it presented itself to him as a theory,
yet as soon as he had reached the stage of actual examinations and court
testimony, he could not fail to perceive that the theory was utterly
devoid of reasonable foundation; that convictions could not be had except
by aid of open perjury, suppression and intimidation. Yet Cotton Mather
scrupled not to put in operation these and other devices; to hound on the
magistrates, to browbeat and sophisticate the juries, and to scream
threats, warnings and self-glorifications from the pulpit. Needs must,
when the devil drives. Had he paused, had he even held his peace, that
noose, slimy with the death-sweat of a score of innocent victims, would
have settled greedily round his own guilty neck, and strangled his life.
But Cotton Mather was too nimble, too voluble, too false and too cowardly
for the gallows; he lived to a good age, and died in the odor of sanctity.

Immediately after the news of William's accession was known in New
England, Mather opposed the restoration of the ancient charter, because it
would have interfered with the plans of his personal political ambition.
He caused the presentation of an address to the king, purporting to
represent the desire of the majority of reputable citizens of Boston,
placing themselves at the royal disposal, without suggesting that the
charter rights be revived. Cotton Mather's father, Increase, was the
actual agent to England; but it was the views of Cotton Mather rather than
his own that he submitted to his majesty. The blatant hypocrite had
dominated his father. The king gave Massachusetts a new charter which was
entirely satisfactory to the petitioners, for it took away the right of
the people to elect their own officers and manage their own affairs, and
made the king the fountain of power and honor. It was identical with all
charters of royal colonies, except that the council was elected jointly by
the people and by its own members. Sir William Phips, at Increase Mather's
suggestion, was made governor, and William Stoughton lieutenant-governor.
The members of the council were "every man of them a friend to the
interests of the churches," and of Cotton Mather. He did not conceal his
delight. "The time for favor is come, yea, the set time is come! Instead
of my being made a sacrifice to wicked rulers, my father-in-law, with
several related to me, and several brethren of my own church, are among
the council. The governor is not my enemy, but one whom I baptized, and
one of my own flock, and one of my dearest friends.--I obtained of the
Lord that He would use me to be a herald of His kingdom now approaching."
Such was the attitude of Cotton Mather regarding the political outlook.
Obviously the field was prepared for him to achieve his crowning
distinction as champion of God against the devil in Massachusetts. In
February of the next year he found his first opportunity.

There was in Salem a certain Reverend Samuel Parris who had a daughter, a
niece, and a negro-Indian servant called Tituba. The children were about
twelve years of age, and much in Tituba's society. Parris was an
Englishman born, and was at this time forty-one years old; he had left
Harvard College without a degree, had been in trade in Boston, and had
entered the ministry and obtained the pastorship of the Congregational
church at Danvers, then a part of Salem, three or four years before. He
had not lived at peace with his people; he had quarreled bitterly with
some of them, and the scandal had been noised abroad. He was a man of
brutal temper, and without moral integrity. These were the dramatis
personae employed by Cotton Mather in the first scene of his hideous farce.

The children, at the critical age between childhood and puberty, were in
a condition to be readily worked upon; it is the age when the nervous
system is disorganized, the moral sense unformed, and the imagination
ignorant and unbridled. Many children are liars and deceivers, and
self-deceivers, then, who afterward develop into sanity and goodness. But
these unhappy little creatures were under the fascination of the
illiterate and abnormal mongrel, and she secretly ravished and fascinated
them with her inexplicable powers and obscure devices. Their antics
aroused suspicions in the coarse and perhaps superstitious mind of Parris;
he catechised them; the woman's husband told what he knew; and Parris beat
her till she consented to say she was a witch. Such phenomena could only
be due to witchcraft. The cunning and seeming malignity of the children
would tax belief, were it not so familiar a fact in children; and notable
also was their histrionic ability. They were excited by the sensation they
aroused, and vain of it; they were willing to do what they could to
prolong it. But they hardly needed to invent anything; more than was
necessary was suggested to them by questions and comments. They were quick
to take hints, and improve upon them. Sarah Good, Martha Cory, Rebecca
Nourse, and all the rest, must be their victims; but God will forgive the
children, for they know not what they do. Presently, the contagion spread;
though, upon strict examination of the evidence, not nearly so far as was
supposed. Hundreds were bewildered and terrified, as well they might be;
the magistrates--Stoughton, Sewall, John Hathorne, poor Octogenarian
Bradstreet, Sir William Phips--these and others to whom it fell to
investigate and pronounce sentence--let us hope that some, if not all of
them, truly believed that their sentences were just. "God will give you
blood to drink!" was what Sarah Good said to Noyes, as she stood on the
scaffold. But why may they not have believed they were in the right? There
was Cotton Mather, the holy man, the champion against the Evil One, the
saint who walked with God, and daily lifted up his voice in prayer and
defiance and thanksgiving--he was ever at hand, to cross-question, to
insinuate, to surmise, to bluster, to interpret, to terrify, to perplex,
to vociferate: surely, this paragon of learning and virtue must know more
about the devil than any mere layman could pretend to know; and they must
accept his assurance and guidance. "I stake my reputation," he shouted,
"upon the truth of these accusations." And he pointedly prayed that the
trial might "have a good issue." When Deliverance Hobbs was under
examination, she did but cast a glance toward the meeting house, "and,"
cries the Reverend gentleman, in an ecstasy of indignation, "immediately a
demon, invisibly entering the house, tore down a part of it!" No wonder a
man so gifted as he, was conscious of a certain gratification amid all the
horrors of the diabolic visitation, for how could he regard it otherwise
than as--in his own words--"a particular defiance unto myself!" Such was
the pose which he adopted before his countrymen: that of a semi-divine, or
quite Divine man, standing between his fellow creatures and the assaults
of hell. And then Cotton Mather would go home to his secret chamber, and
write in his diary that God and religion were perhaps, after all, but an
old wives' tale.

Parris, as soon as he comprehended Mather's drift, ably seconded him. He
had his own grudges against his neighbors to work off, and nothing could
be easier. All that was needed was for one of the children, or any one
else, to affirm that they were afflicted, and perhaps to foam at the
mouth, or be contorted as in a fit, and to accuse whatever person they
chose as being the cause of their trouble. Accusation was equivalent to
condemnation; for to deny it, was to be subjected to torture until
confession was extorted; if the accused did not confess, he or she was,
according to Cotton Mather, supported by the evil one, and being a witch,
must die. If they did confess, they were spared or executed according to
circumstances. If any one expressed any doubt as to the justice of the
sentence, or as to the existence of witchcraft, it was proof that that
person was a witch. The only security was to join the ranks of the
afflicted. In the course of a few months a reign of terror was
established, and hundreds of people, some of them citizens of distinction,
were in jail or under suspicion. Twenty were hanged on Witches' Hill, west
of the town of Salem, while Cotton Mather sate comfortably by on his
horse, and assured the people that all was well, and that the devil could
sometimes assume the appearance of an angel of light--as, indeed, he might
have good cause to believe. But the mass of the people were averse from
bloodshed, and none too sure that these executions were other than
murders; and when the wife of Governor Phips was accused, the frenzy had
passed its height. It was perceived that the community, or a part of it,
had been stampeded by a panic or infatuation. They had done and
countenanced things which now seemed impossible even to themselves. How
could they have condemned the Reverend George Burroughs on the ground that
he had exhibited remarkable physical strength, and that the witnesses
against him had pretended dumbness? "Why is the devil so loth to have
testimony borne against you?" Judge Stoughton had asked; and Cotton Mather
had said "Enough!" But was it enough, indeed? If a witness simply by
holding his peace can hang a minister of blameless life, who may escape
hanging by a witness who will talk? It was remembered that Parris had been
Burroughs's rival, and instrumental in his conviction; and now that the
frenzy was past it was easy to point out the relation between the two
facts. There, too, was the venerable Giles Cory, who had been pressed to
death, not for pleading guilty, nor yet for pleading not guilty, but for
declining to plead at all. There, once more, was John Willard, to whom the
duty of arresting accused witches had been assigned; he, as a person of
common sense and honesty, had intimated his disbelief in the reality of
witchcraft by refusing to arrest; and for this, and no other crime, had he
been hanged. Had it really come to this, then--that one must die for
having it inferred, from some act of his, that he held an opinion on the
subject of witchcraft different from that announced by Mather and the
magistrates?--It had come to precisely that, in a community who were
exiles in order to secure liberty to have what opinions they liked. Then,
it was time that the witchcraft persecutions came to an end; and they did,
as abruptly as they had begun. Mather, indeed, and a few more, frightened
lest the people, in their recovered sanity, should turn upon them for an
accounting, strove their best to keep up the horror; but it was not to be.
No more convictions could be obtained. In February of 1693, Parris was
banished from Salem; others, except Stoughton, who remained obdurate, made
public confession of error. But Cotton Mather, the soul of the whole
iniquity, shrouded himself in a cuttle-fish cloud of turgid rhetoric, and
escaped scot-free. So great was the power of theological prestige in New
England two hundred years ago.

There is little doubt that the sincere believers in the witchcraft
delusion were very scanty. The vast majority of the people were simply
victims of moral and physical cowardice. They feared to exchange views
with one another frankly, lest their interlocutor turn out an informer.
They repeated, parrot-like, the conventional utterances--the shibboleths
--of the hour, and thus hid from one another the real thoughts which would
have scotched the mania at the outset. Once plant mutual suspicion and
dread among a people, and, for a time, you may drive them whither you
will. It was by that means that the Council of Ten ruled in Venice, the
Inquisition in Spain, and the Vehmgericht in Germany; and it was by that
means that Cotton Mather enslaved Salem. The episode is a stain on the
fair page of our history; but Cotton Mather was the origin and agent of
it; Parris may have voluntarily assisted him, and some or all of the
magistrates and others concerned may have been his dupes; but beyond this
handful, the support was never more than perfunctory. The instant the
weight of dread was lightened everybody discovered that everybody else had
believed all along that the whole thing was either a delusion or a fraud.
Until then, they had none of them had the courage to say so--that was all.
And let us not be scornful: the kind of courage that _would_ say so
is the very rarest and highest courage in the world.

But though Cotton Mather is almost or entirely chargeable with the guilt
of the twenty murders on Witches' Hill, not to mention the incalculable
agony of soul and domestic misery incidentally occasioned, yet it must not
be forgotten that he was of Puritan stock and training, and that false and
detestable though his individual nature doubtless was, his crimes, but for
Puritanism, could not have taken the form they did. Puritanism was prone
to brood over predestination, over the flames of hell, and him who kept
them burning; it was severe in repressing natural expressions of gayety;
it was intolerant of unlicensed opinions, and it crushed spontaneity and
innocent frivolity. It aimed, in a word, to deform human nature, and make
of it somewhat rigid and artificial. These were some of the faults of
Puritanism, and it was these which made possible such a monstrosity as
Cotton Mather. He was, in a measure, a creature of his time and place, and
in this degree we must consider Puritanism as amenable, with him, at the
bar of history. It is for this reason solely that the witchcraft episode
assumes historical importance, instead of being a side-scene of ghastly
picturesqueness. For the Puritans took it to heart; they never forgot it;
it modified their character, and gave a favorable turn to their future.
Gradually the evil of their system was purged out of it, while the good
remained; they became less harsh, but not less strong; they were
high-minded, still, but they abjured narrowness. They would not go so far
as to deny that the devil might afflict mankind, but they declared
themselves unqualified to prove it. There began in them, in short, the
dawn of human sympathies, and the growth of spiritual humility. Cotton
Mather, with all that he represented, sinks into the mire; but the true
Puritan arises, and goes forward with lightened heart to the mighty
destiny that awaits him.

As for bluff Sir William Phips, he is better remembered for his youthful
exploits of hoisting treasure from the fifty-year-old wreck of a Spanish
galleon, in the reign of King James, and of building with some of the
proceeds his "fair brick house, in the Green Lane of Boston," than for his
administration of government during his term of office. He was an
uneducated, rough-handed, rough-natured man, a ship-carpenter by trade,
and a mariner of experience; statesmanship and diplomacy were not his
proper business. A wise head as well as a strong hand was needed at the
helm of Massachusetts just at that juncture. But he did not prevent the
legislature from passing some good laws, and from renewing the life of New
England towns, which had been suppressed by Andros. The new charter had
greatly enlarged the Massachusetts domain, which now extended over the
northern and eastern regions that included Maine; but, as we shall
presently see, the obligation to defend this territory against the French
and Indians cost the colony much more than could be recompensed by any
benefit they got from it. Phips captured Port Royal, but failed to take
Quebec. The legislature, advised by the public-spirited Elisha Cooke, kept
the royal officials in hand by refusing to vote them permanent salaries or
regular revenues. Bellomont succeeded Phips, and Dudley, in 1702, followed
Bellomont, upon the solicitation of Cotton Mather; who long ere this, in
his "Book of Memorable Providences," had shifted all blame for the late
tragic occurrences from his own shoulders to those of the Almighty. Dudley
retained the governorship till 1715. The weight of what authority he had
was on the side of restricting charter privileges; but he could produce no
measurable effect in retarding the mighty growth of liberty. We shall not
meet him again.

New Hampshire fully maintained her reputation for intractability; and the
general drift of colonial affairs toward freedom was so marked as to
become a common subject of remark in Europe. Some of the best heads there
began to suggest that such a consummation might not be inexpedient. But
before England and her Colonies were to try their strength against one
another, there were to occur the four colonial wars, by which the
colonists were unwittingly trained to meet their most formidable and their
final adversary.

Julian Hawthorne