NARRAGANSETT’S PLACE IN RHODE ISLAND HISTORY.
An Extract from the Annual Address of the President of
the Rhode Island Historical Society delivered Jan.
10, 1882, before the Society, by the Hon.
Zachariah Allen, of Providence.
the Rhode Island Historical Society delivered Jan.
10, 1882, before the Society, by the Hon.
Zachariah Allen, of Providence.
WE realize how little has yet been done in analyzing and truthfully describing the early history of New England in connection with the treatment of the first settlers of the colony of Rhode Island. The histories of New England have all been written by descendants of The Puritans, who persecuted non-conformists to their peculiar ecclesiastical and civil form of colonial government. Only one side of the New England controversies has been hitherto set forth. It remains for us, as members of the Rhode Island Historical Society, to bring forward and duly explain the principles of religious and civil liberty, which were originally adopted and established by our forefathers in opposition to the barbarous and tyrannical systems of social government practiced in ancient times.
It has never been duly explained why the colony settled by the persecuted people of Massachusetts beyond the borders of their jurisdiction in Rhode Island, should have been continually subjected to hostile aggressions from the four other colonial corporations of New England; and why they combined to form the confederacy, long denoted ” The Four United Colonies of New England,”‘ with the special exclusion of the single little colony of Rhode Island as a lone star in the constellation of The five New England Colonies.
The common answer given to this question as to the cause of this hostility has been a difference of religious opinions. A more strict and careful investigation will show that the worldly interests of the directors of the Joint Stock Corporation of the Massachusetts Bay Company influenced their actions; for the founder of Rhode Island was indicted, tried, and condemned to banishment for denying the right of magistrates in the Bay Company to take the Lands of the Indians without compensating the owners.* This doctrine of Christian justice was directly subversive of the pecuniary interests of the Corporation under the royal charter, which was deemed to be a free grant of all the lands in America included within their charter bounds, for constituting the capital stock of the Company, to be divided as shares of profits. The maritime adventurers had no other capital stock than the value of the lands, and the Christian doctrine of justice to the natives, preached by Williams, would be entirely subversive of their pecuniary interests, if they were to pay for the Indian lands.
In an historical address, John Quincy Adams affirmed that this doctrine, preached by Roger Williams, was treason to the colony, and a justification for his banishment.
To sustain their right to seize The Indians, the Joint Stock Corporation of the Massachusetts Bay Company found it profitable to adopt the Jewish Scriptural laws, which enjoined the extermination of the heathen as of “the cursed race of Ham.” For denying this doctrine, as opposed to the precepts of Christian justice, peace, and good will to men, Williams was also accused of blasphemy by the ministers, who undertook the duty of Judges under the Jewish laws, to be executed by civil magistrates, and thus combined the powers of Church and State. For this improvement they assumed superior purity in religion and the descriptive title of “Puritans.”
The true character of the Puritan settlers of New England is described in the history of the United States by Mr. George Bancroft, in the following words: –
“The maritime adventurers of those early days, joining the principles of bigots with the boldness of heroes and pirates, considered the wealth of the countries they might conquer as their lawful plunder; and the inhabitants, if Christians, their subjects – if infidels, their slaves.”
*Both trade and religion had a hand in this matter. The difference in creeds tended to intensify the hostility towards the colony of Rhode Island, and was the means and the cause of being left out of the confederacy and to the mercy of the native inhabitants of the soil. – J. N. A.
In accordance with these principles, the early Puritan settlers of New England considered all non-conformists in religious and civil principles of government to be infidels, and, if Christians, their subjects – if infidels, their slaves.
Mr. Bancroft truly describes the maritime adventurers who obtained royal charters ” to sail over the seas and take possession of any lands not occupied by Christian people,” to use the words contained in the original royal charters, to be joint stock corporations, on a par with modern corporations formed for gaining profits. He says: “Experience shows that corporations, whether commercial or proprietary, are the worst sovereigns. Gain being their object, corporate ambition is deaf to mercy and insensible to shame.” They showed no mercy to the native^ of America, and no shame in robbing them of food and of their lands; as the Pilgrims did, on their first encounter with them – as described by a writer – “after their arrival, they thankfully fell on their knees, and then fell upon the aborigines.”
Eor early taking up the Christian doctrine of justice to the natives, Roger Williams states, “My soul’s desire was to do good to them.” In denying the right of European kings to take possession of America, Williams appears to have originated the present Monroe doctrine.
After experiencing the evils of the Puritan system of combining the power of Church and State, Williams resolved to found a new colony on the basis of the entire separation of the power of ecclesiastics from the civil power. Finding it impossible to reform the Puritan colonists to practice the Christian principles of justice toward the benighted natives, he undertook to establish these principles by founding a new colony. To obtain means for paying for their lands he mortgaged his house in Salem, negotiated with his friend Massasoit, and enlisted emigrants to accompany him. The directors of The Bay Company being desirous of getting The Indian lands, and, as stated by Winthrop, learning his intentions, at once determined to frustrate his design by sending him back to England in a vessel then ready to sail; as they previously had sent back two brothers, Brown, for non-conformity with their religious and civil forms of government. Williams was indicted for ‘^ denying the authority of the magistrates,” and condemned to banishment. He fled in midwinter to the hospitable Massasoit, and commenced a settlement in the spring which he named Providence. Others followed him. In 1644 he obtained a royal charter containing the express condition of paying for the plantations to the satisfaction of the natives, and of allowing perfect freedom in all religious concernments.
These principles were subversive not only of the proposed profits of the Bay State Company, whose capital, as they construed their charter, consisted of the lands included in their boundaries, but were also subversive of the ruling power of the ministers, who really controlled The government.
To suppress and exterminate such a revolutionary colony, the surrounding colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Hartford and New Haven formed a coalition under the title of “the Four United Colonies of New England,” with special exclusion of Williams’s new colony, and prohibition of intercourse. Williams was obliged to go to England by the way of the Dutch colony in New York, to get his royal charter; and his colonists to go to the same foreign colony to obtain the necessaries of life, including arms for self-defense.
From the first settlement of Rhode Island, the other colonies manifested unrelenting hostility, and made frequent attempts to seize the Indian lands within its jurisdiction. The colony was saved only by the paramount power and protection of the home government. It appears that the lone colony sought at one time protection from the sister colonies, and prevailed on the colonial corporations of Hartford and New Haven to join with them in a letter to the Massachusetts Bay Company, asking them to conciliate the natives by kind treatment, instead of considering them ” as the cursed race of Ham, to be rooted out.” Winthrop records that an answer to this letter was refused, “because they would hold no intercourse with the Rhode Islanders.” In commenting on this conduct, Judge Savage, an eminent historian of Massachusetts, made the following remarks: ^’ This is the most exalted triumph of bigotry; for Papists, Jews, Turks and Atheists are admitted as good parties to civil contracts, but non-conforming Protestant brethren, of unimpeachable piety, are excluded for differing from us in unimportant points of doubtful disputations.”
It was this mercenary spirit of the directors of the Massachusetts Bay Company for gaining possession of the Indian lands that Mr. Bancroft referred to as causing them to be ” deaf to mercy and insensible to shame,” and to become ” the worst governors.” This grasping spirit was the cause of nearly all the difficulties and troubles which for many years distressed and nearly ruined the early settlers of Rhode Island. To justify their hostile proceedings, the adverse Puritan colonists, assuming their Jewish code to be purer than the beneficent Christian code, traduced the characters of the non-conformists as heathen; so that it becomes now necessary to vindicate the motives of our forefathers in establishing their colony on the basis of civil and religious freedom. For this reason I am induced to add a sketch of the hostile aggressions of the surrounding colonists, for the purpose of seizing the Indian lands – “gain being the object of their corporate ambition.”
To accomplish this purpose, the early settlers of Massachusetts employed Humphrey Atherton to get the lands of the Natick Indians, under Eliot, near Boston. They subsequently employed him elsewhere, for his skill and efficiency in this business. The leading directors of the Four United Colonies – Governors Dudley Stoughton. John Winthrop, Jr., and others – formed a joint stock company, under the name of the “Atherton Company,” to share the profits of getting and selling Indian lands. To obtain a large track of Narragansett lands at Warwick, the color of a title was obtained from an Indian named Pomham. To sustain his power against his superior Narragansett Sachem, Miantonomoh, a fort was built at Warwick Neck. But this plan was thwarted by Samuel Gorton and Randall Holden, who purchased the land of the true Sachem, and made a settlement thereon. It became necessary to oust these settlers by some ostensible form of civil process. There being no valid claim against the settlers for debt, recourse was had to accusing them of blasphemy under the rigid laws which the ministers were accustomed to decide upon under the union of Puritan Church and State. In this way the members of The Bay Company used their official influence to subserve their individual profits. Atherton employed forty armed men, half of them Indians, to march through Providence, and bring the accused to Boston for trial for their lives on alleged charges of ” blasphemy in a wilderness where there were none to hear,” as noticed by Mr. Palfrey in his History of New England. They put arms into the hands of Indians to kill the Rhode Islanders, whom they besieged two days; and, as narrated, “riddled their English flag with bullets.” This flag was hoisted by Gorton to manifest his claim to the rights of a British subject. But there was allowed no security of writ of habeas corpus in Massachusetts during an hundred years, until ordered by Queen Anne, in Virginia; and the jurors were by law all members of the Puritan Church. Only about one-sixth of the people were freemen, and the common people lived in subjection to an absolute tyranny of the Directors of the Colonial Corporation and of the ministers allied with them, in a union of Church and State. Winthrop and others of some distinction would not come to live under a Board of Directors of a Joint Stock Company in New England until they were assured of being themselves governors, judges, or other rulers.
Gorton and his associates were imprisoned two years in Boston, and escaped execution for blasphemy only by two votes. Then, it is recorded, they went about the streets, and so inflamed the people by proclaiming the wrongs inflicted on them, and the seizure and sale of their cattle and furniture for expenses, that they were ordered to depart in two days under penalty of death for disobedience.
The possession of the Pequot lands in Connecticut was readily obtained by declaring war against them, and holding their lands by the right of conquest, after burning more than seven hundred men, women and children in a fort, and elsewhere killing all the men they could find, but saving the women and children to profit by the sale of them as slaves.
The possession of the Mohegan lands was obtained by inducing the Sachem, Uncas, to make aggressions on the Narragansett Sachem, Miantonomoh, by promises of aid. In the war which followed, Miantonomoh was inveigled into a conference, wherein he was captured and delivered over to the commissioners of the Four United Colonies at Hartford. After obtaining him as a captive, they could find no excuse for putting him to death; and, to avoid the responsibility, they referred his case for decision to a convention of o ministers in Boston, as the Roman governor Pilate did to The chief priests in Jerusalem. Under their Jewish code, (quoting the precedent of Agag) they speedily sentenced him to be executed.
Winthrop states, Miantonomoh was killed near Hartford by a blow on the back of his head with a hatchet.
Then the Connecticut settlers came in with their claims for rendering assistance to Uncas, and obtained payment in his lands. Trumbull stales, “Mr. Leffingwell obtained nearly the whole township of Norwich for his services.”
To punish the treachery of Uncas, the successor of Miantonomoh, Pessicus, after giving notice to the commissionaires of the Four Colonies, declared war against Uncas. For this hostility to their “friend and ally, Uncas,” Pessicus was fined 2,000 fathoms of wampum. Being unable to pay this debt, Humphrey Atherton was sent by the commissioners of The Four Colonics, with twenty armed men, to enforce the payment. As stated in Arnold’s history of Rhode Island (vol. i., p. 109), ”Atherton forced his way, pistol in hand, into The wigwam, and, seizing the Sachem by The hair, dragged him out, threatening instant death if any resistance was offered.” The debt was settled by Pessicus giving a mortgage of all his lands to the commissioners of the Four Colonies, who transferred it to the Atherton Company for 735 fathoms of wampum. In this unlawful way the Atherton Company obtained, in 1650, their iniquitous claim to the whole Narragansett country, by foreclosing the mortgage for non-payment. This Company maintained their claim with the powerful influence of the rulers of the Four United Colonies to back them against the feeble Rhode Island colony. The manifest illegality of their title prevented sales during the long struggle, until the Company took advantage of the arrival, in Boston, of some strangers – French refugees – after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Then the Atherton Company, under their new title of “Proprietors of the Narragansett Country,” inveigled forty-five families of Huguenots, ignorant alike of land titles and of the English language, into the purchase of 5,000 acres of this land in a locality in East Greenwich still known as Frenchtown. The apparent official respectability of the members of the Company appears to have disarmed the strangers of all suspicion of fraud, although the illegality of the title had been decided by Royal Commissioners in 1664. A final decision by another Royal Commissioner, Sir Edmund Andross, against the legality of the Atherton claim in 1688, ruined the colony of Huguenots in Rhode Island, and caused them to become exiles a second time. Their sufferings by the merciless wrongs and chicanery of the Puritan colonial directors equaled those inflicted by the Catholics.
The profit of getting the Indian lands induced the Governor of the Hartford Colony, John Winthrop, Jr., to strive to procure a share of it for his own colony. As appears by examining the Colonial Records of Connecticut (Appendix, page 581), Governor Winthrop proposed going to England to obtain an extension of the original charter to include Rhode Island and the New Haven colony under The Hartford grant.
Accordingly, the following instructions were officially given to him: – ” The bounds we do present to be in our patent (if it may be obtained), are, eastward to Plymouth line; northward to the limits of the Massachusetts colony; and westward to Delaware Bay, or at least to Hudson’s river.”
This proposed an attempt to include the whole of the colony of Rhode Island and of New Haven in the patent to be given to John Winthrop, Major John Mason, S. Willis, Matthew Allyn and others.
This enlargement of the Hartford charter on so munificent a scale, it appears, Winthrop proposed to obtain on pretense of renewing the old charter, with the boundary lines so altered as to scoop in New Haven and Rhode Island, with all their appurtenant Indian lands. Accordingly, Winthrop went to England, and in April, 1662, actually obtained a new charter, with the king’s signature and the broad seal, including the territory of the New Haven colony, and more than half of the territory of the Rhode Island colony, – to the surprise alike of the New Haven and Rhode Island colonists. The New Haven colonists bitterly opposed this transfer of their charter privileges during three years, until overpowered; but the Rhode Island colonists manfully and successfully resisted the aggression many years.
It appears that Winthrop found the agent of Rhode Island in England, who resisted the validity of the new Connecticut charter on the ground of fraud in obtaining it. The account of the mode which Winthrop adroitly adopted to include New Haven and the greater part of Rhode Island in his new charter in 1662, is authentically disclosed by letters recently discovered, describing the details, and first published in Arnold’s History of Rhode Island, pages 378 to 383, vol. i. The original suggestion of the fraud appears in the letter signed by the managers of the Atherton Company, and stipulating for a division of the spoil. Another letter, signed by Winthrop himself, acknowledged that he “added as an explication, after the words ‘Narragansett River,’ contained in the original charter, the words, ‘commonly called Narragansett Bay.” This interpolation changed the bounds twenty-four miles further east, so as to include all the Narragansett lands. Another letter, signed by John Scott, the agent employed in England by Winthrop, describes how he bribed “certain potent gentlemen” to have the charter passed under the king’s signature and the great seal without scrutiny.
The fraud being immediately detected by Mr. John Clarke, the Rhode Island agent in London, so strenuous an opposition was made, that Winthrop, to get clear of the opprobrium, signed an agreement with Clarke to allow the old charter bound of Rhode Island by the Pawcatuck river to remain as the true bound. This agreement was disputed by the Connecticut rulers, as being beyond the authority of Winthrop; but nevertheless, he ever afterward confirmed his agreement, though in vain.
To counteract the fraudulently reissued charter, John Clarke obtained also a later reissue of the Rhode Island charter, confirming the original bound by the present Pawcatuck river, which still constitutes the western boundary of Rhode Island.
On receiving their reissued charter, the directors of the Hartford Colonial Corporation sent soldiers and civil officers to take possession, who were resisted, ejected, and imprisoned by the vigorous Rhode Island Governor, Samuel Cranston.
For many years a border contest was kept up on this debatable Narragansett land. It was not until 1728 that the final decision of the claim was made by the king in council, in favor of Rhode Island, after a prolonged struggle to maintain a fraud by corporation directors, who were “insensible to shame.”
In describing these aggressions, Arnold observes: “The attempts of the Atherton Company and others to accomplish their fraudulent purposes, manifest a baseness that cannot easily be surpassed.”
It is to be remembered that this conduct of the directors of the Four Colonial Corporations does not implicate the character of the common people living under their government, any more than the knavery of modern political leaders involves The character of the subordinate people; for the private individuals of New England have ever continued to manifest extraordinary intelligence, toiling industry, and private virtues, which have made ” the wilderness to blossom as the rose,” and elevated the human race.
Against these repeated wrongs and aggressions, Williams expostulated with the leaders in the following appeal: –
“In the sight of God you will find this depraved appetite for obtaining land to be among the great vanities and shadowy dreams of a fleeting life in this wilderness; as if men were here in want and necessity for land, like hungry and thirsty seamen on a starving voyage. Land is one of the gods of New England, for which the Most High will punish transgressors.”
“Your intrusion upon us, as being weaker, is un-neighborly and unchristian, as well as contrary to all English laws.”
To sustain their independence and rights, the lone colony continued to struggle manfully against the hostile aggressions of their rapacious neighbors. Relying on the justice of their cause, and on the paramount power of The British government to enforce their chartered rights, and to protect their individual rights as British subjects under the national constitution, rather than on their own feeble power, the colonists continued to remonstrate against the lawless acts from which they suffered. To investigate the Connecticut and Atherton claims, soon after Winthrop obtained his interpolated charter. Sir Robert Carr and other Royal Commissioners were sent out in 1663, after the new charter was received by The Rhode Island colony. They reaffirmed the original charter bound of the Pawcatuck river, instead of The Narragansett Bay shore, and also declared the Atherton claim illegal on account of having been obtained by threats under duress. They confirmed the rights of citizenship to the Narraofansett tribe, and their allegiance, with all due forms and ceremonies, and received their country as the King’s Province. They then transferred the jurisdiction to the colony of Rhode Island.
In 1676, a tribe of Wampanoag Indians on the border of Plymouth, driven to desperation by wrongs, commenced resistance under the lead of Metacomet, better known as King Philip, who averred he desired not to live when he had no longer a country. While the Narragansets were remaining peaceable fellow-subjects with the Rhode Island settlers, the Massachusetts Indians commenced ravaging the country and killing the people in the year 1676. It has been estimated that this reaction against the injustice of the Puritans caused the loss of more than 1400 lives of the settlers, and an incalculable loss of property, directly and indirectly, by wasting the interior of the country and retarding the prosperity of New England. Until this reaction occurred, the Rhode Island settlers had lived with their families among the Narragansets in friendly relationship. Suddenly, without giving notice to the Rhode Island people, the Four United Colonies sent an army into the colony, and commenced killing the Narragansets, their fellow-subjects, in direct violation of the royal charter, and of their rights of protection guaranteed to them. As said by Arnold, in his history of Rhode Island, “- this was an unscrupulous disregard of the rights and welfare of a sister colony, which was inexcusable, for a notice was an easy act of friendly courtesy.” He adds: – “But friendly feelings were strangers to the confederated Puritans, by whom heretics and heathen were classed together as beneath the range of Christian fellowship.”
The sudden desertion of Rhode Island after the onslaught was the manifestation of a similar spirit, by leaving the colonists without protection, a prey to the fury of the exasperated Indians, and Providence to be burned by them. A previous prohibition of the sale of arms to the Rhode Island colonists indicated an intention to leave them defenseless, to be destroyed.
Taking advantage of the desolation they had caused, the directors of the United Colonies resumed attempts to take possession of the vacated lands in the Narragansett country. To annul the decision of the Royal Commissioners against the claim of the Atherton Company and Connecticut in 1664, a petition for a new hearing was presented to the Royal Council in 1683, and granted. The selection was made mostly from members of the Atherton Company and friends, including the ever-active Joseph Dudley, William Stoughton, and John Winthrop, Junr. Edward Randolph was appointed Secretary, being qualified by experience as a Royal Commissioner sent over in J 676 to enquire into the state of the colonies. They speedily reversed the award made by the previous Royal Commissioners in 1664, and confirmed the validity of the Atherton and Connecticut claim for the Narragansett lands.
The next step necessary for the claimants was to obtain the executive and judicial powers to enforce this decree. It appears that Randolph, from previous investigations, had reported on the lawlessness of the colonists, on their mutual jealousies and hostility to the Rhode Island settlers, and also to the Indians taken under the royal protection. He strongly favored the consolidation of the colonies under one president or viceroy appointed by the king, corresponding with the Dominion of Canada and the East Indies. He referred in one of his letters to the pliancy and ready subservience of Joseph Dudley to make his way in the world, and procured his appointment as President of the New England Colonies in 1685. Two years later the appointment of Judge of King’s Province was obtained from James II. by Dudley. Clothed with this executive and judicial power, Joseph Dudley had now gained nearly absolute control over the Rhode Island colony, and its dismemberment seemed to be certain. But such gross injustice stimulated the colonists to greater resistance than ever before, and such refusals to submit to the royal authority, that Randolph reported to the Royal Council that nothing short of a revocation of the charters of the colonial corporations would reduce them to obedience. Investigations were instituted, and writs of quo warranto were issued from the Court of King’s Bench in London, and Sir Edmund Andros was appointed, in June, 1686, to be President of the New England Colonies. His long experience as agent of the Duke of York, in his colony taken from the Dutch, had inspired confidence in his ability and fidelity. He came out with the writs of quo warranto, to take away the charters of all the New England Colonies for the abuse and disregard of their charter rights and lawlessness, and to enforce the observance of English laws. His advent was hailed with great satisfaction by the Rhode Island colonists, for he came with power to interpose the shield of the English laws to protect British subjects from the lawless aggressions of the surrounding colonists. His official conduct toward the Rhode Island colonists was courteous and kind. He did his duty in asking for the charter, without persistently requiring the delivery of it. He immediately directed his secretary, Randolph, to forbid the taxation of the people of New England for the support of the established Puritan church, declaring that the Puritans had no more right to tax Episcopalians than the Episcopalians had to tax the Puritans for the support of their ministers. This decree was so perfectly in accordance with the fundamental principle of religious liberty which was the glory of the Rhode Island charter, that it gave assurance to the colonists, as did also the decree of James II., establishing religious freedom in 1688. This decree was a death-blow to New England Puritanism, from which it never fully recovered. For his stand in favor of religious freedom. Governor Andros was denounced by the Puritan ministers with bitter invectives, and denoted a destroyer of religion and monster of tyranny.
He investigated anew the claims of the Atherton and of the Connecticut claims to the Indian lands, and declared them both unlawful, – thus reversing Governor Dudley’s decision, and confirming the charter bounds and rights of the Rhode Island colony. His timely arrival and support of the charter rights and individual rights of the colonists under the Magna Charta as the palladium of the liberty of Englishmen, established the civil and religious freedom of Rhode Island, then a lone colony amid hostile surrounding colonies.
Governor Andros went to Hartford with a troop of horsemen to take away their fraudulently obtained charter, which was saved by hiding it in the hollow of a decaying oak tree, thereafter rendered famous as “the charter oak.”
Governor Andros also attempted to reduce to systematic order the loose and irregular proceedings of the New England Probate Courts, and the records of marriages and births, which were kept on the fly leaf of family bibles; but the fees charged by clerks rendered this attempted improvement unpopular. He displayed energetic zeal by personal exposure to a winter campaign against the Indians in Maine, who had attacked the border settlers, and were supplied with arms by Boston traders, as historically stated.
But his services in New England were brought to a sudden close on the abdication of James II. He was recalled, and a mob in Boston caused his temporary imprisonment. Quite as sudden a downfall befell the hitherto successful Joseph Dudley, who had been chiefly instrumental in wronging and troubling the Rhode Island colonists. While he was in the King’s Province, actively engaged in the disposal of the Indian lands, of which he for a short time had obtained possession, it is narrated, a party from Providence went out and seized him and carried him to Roxbury in Massachusetts. There he was for a time imprisoned, on charges of misconduct.
After inveigling the colony of forty-five families to settle on the Indian lands in Rhode Island, he succeeded in similarly inveigling another colony of thirty families of Huguenots to purchase of him a tract of Indian lands in Oxford, Mass., taken from the Nipniuck tribe without compensation. By this fraudulent management in withholding the acknowledgment and delivery of the deed of The land for twenty seven years, as appears by the Suffolk records in Boston, this Huguenot colony was also necessitated to disperse, like the Huguenot colony in Rhode Island.
The preceding outlines of Rhode Island’s early history are now sketched, as previously stated, for the special purpose of inducing members of the Historical Society to further investigate the wrongs and sufferings of our ancestors in their long continued struggles for establishing the principles of civil and religious freedom which they originated. The time has arrived when the other side of the question of their characteristic principles of religious liberty should be vindicated from the calumnies that have been continually heaped upon them as heretics, – as impressively affirmed by an historian of the United States, Mr. Bancroft: ” Had the magnitude of the Rhode Island territory corresponded with The importance of the principles it maintained, the world would have been filled with wonder at the phenomena of its early history.”
Note.- The characters of the three principal Puritan governors, who were copartners in the Atherton Company, .and who were the most active leaders in seizing and selling the Indian lands, and wronging the Rhode Island colonists and the Huguenot colonists, are truthfully portrayed by Mr. Palfrey, in his History of New England, (vol. iii., ch. 9). He describes William Stoughton as “the shadow and echo of Joseph Dudley, – the chief tools of the barbarous and infamous administrators of the laws.”‘ The royal agent, Randolph, affirmed: – “Dudley will cringe and stoop to anything to make his fortune in the world. He may be gained, if his Majesty will promote him. Appreciating this usefulness, I take all occasion for hinting his merits.” This was done so successfully by Randolph, that Dudley and his compeer, Stoughton, obtained the appointments of President and Vice President of the New England Colonial Council, under Sir Edmund Andros, after the revocation of the charters, from IGSO to 1C89. Palfrey states:-” William Stoughton was a rich atrabilious bachelor, not unconscientious after his own dreary way, and one of those men to whom it seems natural to favor oppressions and insolent pretentions, and to oppose every movement for freedom and humanity’ as an impertinent affront. His power was |not in a superior intelligence, but in a dogged will.”‘ “To gain royal favor, he took the lead in urging submission by the people, and in judicially enforcing the very principles of royal taxation without representation, which afterwards caused the revolt of the colonies. In the case of the refusal of a committee of the town of Ipswich to pay a tax imposed by the royal governor, because it was not legally assessed by an Assembly appointed by the freemen, it is recorded that an application for a writ of habeas corpus, under the Magna Carta rights of Englishmen, was denied by Judge Dudley.”’ who said, in open court, “You must not think your rights as Englishmen follow you to the ends of the earth. You have here only the privilege not to be sold as slaves/’ He reigned despotically in New England.
Governor Dudley, Stoughton, and Winthrop of Connecticut, at one time reduced the colony of Rhode Island to such a state of subjection to the Atherton and Connecticut claims to the Narragansett country, that the arrival of Andros to supersede them at a critical moment, saved the colony from dismemberment. The fate of the colony was held in a balance against the claim of the Huguenot colony under Dudley’s sale, and was decided by Andros against the Huguenots. The latter were ruined, and the former was thus saved.
With such men for rulers as were these Puritan leaders, “actuated by corporate ambition, and desire of gain, deaf to mercy and insensible to shame.” it is not surprising that a distinguished son of Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorne, should have expressed his feelings in the following impressive words: – ” While thanking God for having given us such ancestors, each successive generation may thank Him not less fervently for being removed one step further from them in the march of ages.”
SOURCE: Page(s): 12-27; The Narragansett, Volume 1. July, 1882 Number 1