New England Two Centuries Ago

[Note: This is taken from James Russell Lowell's Among My Books.]

colonial New England

The history of New England is written imperishably on the face of a continent, and in characters as beneficent as they are enduring. In the Old World national pride feeds itself with the record of battles and conquests;--battles which proved nothing and settled nothing; conquests which shifted a boundary on the map, and put one ugly head instead of another on the coin which the people paid to the tax-gatherer. But wherever the New-Englander travels among the sturdy commonwealths which have sprung from the seed of the Mayflower, churches, schools, colleges, tell him where the men of his race have been, or their influence penetrated; and an intelligent freedom is the monument of conquests whose results are not to be measured in square miles. Next to the fugitives whom Moses led out of Egypt, the little ship-load of outcasts who landed at Plymouth two centuries and a half ago are destined to influence the future of the world. The spiritual thirst of mankind has for ages been quenched at Hebrew fountains; but the embodiment in human institutions of truths uttered by the Son of man eighteen centuries ago was to be mainly the work of Puritan thought and Puritan self-devotion. Leave New England out in the cold! While you are plotting it, she sits by every fireside in the land where there is piety, culture, and free thought.

Faith in God, faith in man, faith in work,--this is the short formula in which we may sum up the teaching of the founders of New England, a creed ample enough for this life and the next. If their municipal regulations smack somewhat of Judaism, yet there can be no nobler aim or more practical wisdom than theirs; for it was to make the law of man a living counterpart of the law of God, in their highest conception of it. Were they too earnest in the strife to save their souls alive? That is still the problem which every wise and brave man is lifelong in solving. If the Devil take a less hateful shape to us than to our fathers, he is as busy with us as with them; and if we cannot find it in our hearts to break with a gentleman of so much worldly wisdom, who gives such admirable dinners, and whose manners are so perfect, so much the worse for us.

Looked at on the outside, New England history is dry and unpicturesque.  There is no rustle of silks, no waving of plumes, no clink of golden spurs. Our sympathies are not awakened by the changeful destinies, the rise and fall, of great families, whose doom was in their blood. Instead of all this, we have the homespun fates of Cephas and Prudence repeated in an infinite series of peaceable sameness, and finding space enough for record in the family Bible; we have the noise of axe and hammer and saw, an apotheosis of dogged work, where, reversing the fairy-tale, nothing is left to luck, and, if there be any poetry, it is something that cannot be helped,--the waste of the water over the dam. Extrinsically, it is prosaic and plebeian; intrinsically, it is poetic and noble; for it is, perhaps, the most perfect incarnation of an idea the world has ever seen.  That idea was not to found a democracy, nor to charter the city of New Jerusalem by an act of the General Court, as gentlemen seem to think whose notions of history and human nature rise like an exhalation from the good things at a Pilgrim Society dinner. Not in the least. They had no faith in the Divine institution of a system which gives Teague, because he can dig, as much influence as Ralph, because he can think, nor in personal at the expense of general freedom. Their view of human rights was not so limited that it could not take in human relations and duties also. They would have been likely to answer the claim, “I am as good as anybody,” by a quiet “Yes, for some things, but not for others; as good, doubtless, in your place, where all things are good.” What the early settlers of Massachusetts did intend, and what they accomplished, was the founding here of a new England, and a better one, where the political superstitions and abuses of the old should never have leave to take root. So much, we may say, they deliberately intended. No nobles, either lay or cleric, no great landed estates, and no universal ignorance as the seed-plot of vice and unreason; but an elective magistracy and clergy, land for all who would till it, and reading and writing, will ye nill ye, instead. Here at last, it would seem, simple manhood is to have a chance to play his stake against Fortune with honest dice, uncogged by those three hoary sharpers, Prerogative, Patricianism, and Priestcraft.  Whoever has looked into the pamphlets published in England during the Great Rebellion cannot but have been struck by the fact, that the principles and practice of the Puritan Colony had begun to react with considerable force on the mother country; and the policy of the retrograde party there, after the Restoration, in its dealings with New England, finds a curious parallel as to its motives (time will show whether as to its results) in the conduct of the same party towards America during the last four years.[135] This influence and this fear alike bear witness to the energy of the principles at work here.

We have said that the details of New England history were essentially dry and unpoetic. Everything is near, authentic, and petty. There is no mist of distance to soften outlines, no mirage of tradition to give characters and events an imaginative loom. So much downright work was perhaps never wrought on the earth’s surface in the same space of time as during the first forty years after the settlement. But mere work is unpicturesque, and void of sentiment. Irving instinctively divined and admirably illustrated in his “Knickerbocker” the humorous element which lies in this nearness of view, this clear, prosaic daylight of modernness, and this poverty of stage properties, which makes the actors and the deeds they were concerned in seem ludicrously small when contrasted with the semi-mythic grandeur in which we have clothed them, as we look backward from the crowned result, and fancy a cause as majestic as our conception of the effect. There was, indeed, one poetic side to the existence otherwise so narrow and practical; and to have conceived this, however partially, is the one original and American thing in Cooper. This diviner glimpse illumines the lives of our Daniel Boones, the man of civilization and old-world ideas confronted with our forest solitudes,--confronted, too, for the first time, with his real self, and so led gradually to disentangle the original substance of his manhood from the artificial results of culture. Here was our new Adam of the wilderness, forced to name anew, not the visible creation of God, but the invisible creation of man, in those forms that lie at the base of social institutions, so insensibly moulding personal character and controlling individual action.  Here is the protagonist of our New World epic, a figure as poetic as that of Achilles, as ideally representative as that of Don Quixote, as romantic in its relation to our homespun and plebeian mythus as Arthur in his to the mailed and plumed cycle of chivalry. We do not mean, of course, that Cooper’s “Leatherstocking” is all this or anything like it, but that the character typified in him is ideally and potentially all this and more.

But whatever was poetical in the lives of the early New-Englanders had something shy, if not sombre, about it. If their natures flowered, it was out of sight, like the fern. It was in the practical that they showed their true quality, as Englishmen are wont. It has been the fashion lately with a few feeble-minded persons to undervalue the New England Puritans, as if they were nothing more than gloomy and narrow-minded fanatics. But all the charges brought against these large-minded and far-seeing men are precisely those which a really able fanatic, Joseph de Maistre, lays at the door of Protestantism. Neither a knowledge of human nature nor of history justifies us in confounding, as is commonly done, the Puritans of Old and New England, or the English Puritans of the third with those of the fifth decade of the seventeenth century. Fanaticism, or, to call it by its milder name, enthusiasm, is only powerful and active so long as it is aggressive. Establish it firmly in power, and it becomes conservatism, whether it will or no. A sceptre once put in the hand, the grip is instinctive; and he who is firmly seated in authority soon learns to think security, and not progress, the highest lesson of statecraft. From the summit of power men no longer turn their eyes upward, but begin to look about them. Aspiration sees only one side of every question; possession, many. And the English Puritans, after their revolution was accomplished, stood in even a more precarious position than most successful assailants of the prerogative of whatever is to continue in being. They had carried a political end by means of a religious revival. The fulcrum on which they rested their lever to overturn the existing order of things (as history always placidly calls the particular forms of disorder for the time being) was in the soul of man. They could not renew the fiery gush of enthusiasm, when once the molten metal had begun to stiffen in the mould of policy and precedent.  The religious element of Puritanism became insensibly merged in the political; and, its one great man taken away, it died, as passions have done before, of possession. It was one thing to shout with Cromwell before the battle of Dunbar, “Now, Lord, arise, and let thine enemies be scattered!” and to snuffle, “Rise, Lord, and keep us safe in our benefices, our sequestered estates, and our five per cent!” Puritanism meant something when Captain Hodgson, riding out to battle through the morning mist, turns over the command of his troop to a lieutenant, and stays to hear the prayer of a cornet, there was “so much of God in it.” Become traditional, repeating the phrase without the spirit, reading the present backward as if it were written in Hebrew, translating Jehovah by “I was” instead of “I am,”—it was no more like its former self than the hollow drum made of Zisca’s skin was like the grim captain whose soul it had once contained.  Yet the change was inevitable, for it is not safe to confound the things of Caesar with the things of God. Some honest republicans, like Ludlow, were never able to comprehend the chilling contrast between the ideal aim and the material fulfilment, and looked askance on the strenuous reign of Oliver,--that rugged boulder of primitive manhood lying lonely there on the dead level of the century,--as if some crooked changeling had been laid in the cradle instead of that fair babe of the Commonwealth they had dreamed. Truly there is a tide in the affairs of men, but there is no gulf-stream setting forever in one direction; and those waves of enthusiasm on whose crumbling crests we sometimes see nations lifted for a gleaming moment are wont to have a gloomy trough before and behind.

But the founders of New England, though they must have sympathized vividly with the struggles and triumphs of their brethren in the mother country, were never subjected to the same trials and temptations, never hampered with the same lumber of usages and tradition. They were not driven to win power by doubtful and desperate ways, nor to maintain it by any compromises of the ends which make it worth having. From the outset they were builders, without need of first pulling down, whether to make room or to provide material. For thirty years after the colonization of the Bay, they had absolute power to mould as they would the character of their adolescent commonwealth. During this time a whole generation would have grown to manhood who knew the Old World only by report, in whose habitual thought kings, nobles, and bishops would be as far away from all present and practical concern as the figures in a fairy-tale, and all whose memories and associations, all their unconscious training by eye and ear, were New English wholly. Nor were the men whose influence was greatest in shaping the framework and the policy of the Colony, in any true sense of the word, fanatics. Enthusiasts, perhaps, they were, but with then the fermentation had never gone further than the ripeness of the vinous stage. Disappointment had never made it acetous, nor had it ever putrefied into the turbid zeal of Fifth Monarchism and sectarian whimsey. There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and saving it from all risk of crankiness, than business. And they were business men, men of facts and figures no less than of religious earnestness. The sum of two hundred thousand pounds had been invested in their undertaking,--a sum, for that time, truly enormous as the result of private combination for a doubtful experiment. That their enterprise might succeed, they must show a balance on the right side of the countinghouse ledger, as well as in their private accounts with their own souls. The liberty of praying when and how they would, must be balanced with an ability of paying when and as they ought. Nor is the resulting fact in this case at variance with the a priori theory. They succeeded in making their thought the life and soul of a body politic, still powerful, still benignly operative, after two centuries; a thing which no mere fanatic ever did or ever will accomplish. Sober, earnest, and thoughtful men, it was no Utopia, no New Atlantis, no realization of a splendid dream, which they had at heart, but the establishment of the divine principle of Authority on the common interest and the common consent; the making, by a contribution from the free-will of all, a power which should curb and guide the free-will of each for the general good.  If they were stern in their dealings with sectaries, it should be remembered that the Colony was in fact the private property of the Massachusetts Company, that unity was essential to its success, and that John of Leyden had taught them how unendurable by the nostrils of honest men is the corruption of the right of private judgment in the evil and selfish hearts of men when no thorough mental training has developed the understanding and given the judgment its needful means of comparison and correction. They knew that liberty in the hands of feeble-minded and unreasoning persons (and all the worse if they are honest) means nothing more than the supremacy of their particular form of imbecility; means nothing less, therefore, than downright chaos, a Bedlam-chaos of monomaniacs and bores. What was to be done with men and women, who bore conclusive witness to the fall of man by insisting on walking up the broad-aisle of the meeting-house in a costume which that event had put forever out of fashion! About their treatment of witches, too, there has been a great deal of ignorant babble. Puritanism had nothing whatever to do with it. They acted under a delusion, which, with an exception here and there (and those mainly medical men, like Wierus and Webster), darkened the understanding of all Christendom. Dr. Henry More was no Puritan; and his letter to Glanvil, prefixed to the third edition of the “Sadducismus Triumphatus,” was written in 1678, only fourteen years before the trials at  Salem. Bekker’s “Bezauberte Welt” was published in 1693; and in the Preface he speaks of the difficulty of overcoming “the prejudices in which not only ordinary men, but the learned also, are obstinate.” In Hathaway’s case, 1702, Chief-Justice Holt, in charging the jury, expresses no disbelief in the possibility of witchcraft, and the indictment implies its existence. Indeed, the natural reaction from the Salem mania of 1692 put an end to belief in devilish compacts and demoniac possessions sooner in New England than elsewhere. The last we hear of it there is in 1720, when Rev. Mr. Turell of Medford detected and exposed an attempted cheat by two girls. Even in 1692, it was the foolish breath of Cotton Mather and others of the clergy that blew the dying embers of this ghastly superstition into a flame; and they were actuated partly by a desire to bring about a religious revival, which might stay for a while the hastening lapse of their own authority, and still more by that credulous scepticism of feeble-minded piety which, dreads the cutting away of an orthodox tumor of misbelief, as if the life-blood of faith would follow, and would keep even a stumbling-block in the way of salvation, if only enough generations had tripped over it to make it venerable. The witches were condemned on precisely the same grounds that in our day led to the condemnation of “Essays and Reviews.”

But Puritanism was already in the decline when such things were possible.  What had been a wondrous and intimate experience of the soul, a flash into the very crypt and basis of man’s nature from the fire of trial, had become ritual and tradition. In prosperous times the faith of one generation becomes the formality of the next. “The necessity of a reformation,” set forth by order of the Synod which met at Cambridge in 1679, though no doubt overstating the case, shows how much even at that time the ancient strictness had been loosened. The country had grown rich, its commerce was large, and wealth did its natural work in making life softer and more worldly, commerce in deprovincializing the minds of those engaged in it. But Puritanism had already done its duty. As there are certain creatures whose whole being seems occupied with an egg-laying errand they are sent upon, incarnate ovipositors, their bodies but bags to hold this precious deposit, their legs of use only to carry them where they may safeliest be rid of it, so sometimes a generation seems to have no other end than the conception and ripening of certain germs. Its blind stirrings, its apparently aimless seeking hither and thither, are but the driving of an instinct to be done with its parturient function toward these principles of future life and power. Puritanism, believing itself quick with the seed of religious liberty, laid, without knowing it, the egg of democracy. The English Puritans pulled down church and state to rebuild Zion on the ruins, and all the while it was not Zion, but America, they were building. But if their millennium went by, like the rest, and left men still human; if they, like so many saints and martyrs before them, listened in vain for the sound of that trumpet which was to summon all souls to a resurrection from the body of this death which men call life,--it is not for us, at least, to forget the heavy debt we owe them. It was the drums of Naseby and Dunbar that gathered the minute-men on Lexington Common; it was the red dint of the axe on Charles’s block that marked One in our era. The Puritans had their faults. They were narrow, ungenial; they could not understand the text, “I have piped to you and ye have not danced,” nor conceive that saving one’s soul should be the cheerfullest, and not the dreariest, of businesses. Their preachers had a way, like the painful Mr. Perkins, of pronouncing the word damn with such an emphasis as left a doleful echo in their auditors’ ears a good while after. And it was natural that men who captained or accompanied the exodus from existing forms and associations into the doubtful wilderness that led to the promised land, should find more to their purpose in the Old Testament than in the New. As respects the New England settlers, however visionary some of their religious tenets may have been, their political ideas savored of the realty, and it was no Nephelococcygia of which they drew the plan, but of a commonwealth whose foundation was to rest on solid and familiar earth. If what they did was done in a corner, the results of it were to be felt to the ends of the earth; and the figure of Winthrop should be as venerable in history as that of Romulus is barbarously grand in legend.

I am inclined to think that many of our national characteristics, which are sometimes attributed to climate and sometimes to institutions, are traceable to the influences of Puritan descent. We are apt to forget how very large a proportion of our population is descended from emigrants who came over before 1660. Those emigrants were in great part representatives of that element of English character which was most susceptible of religious impressions; in other words, the most earnest and imaginative.  Our people still differ from their English cousins (as they are fond of calling themselves when they are afraid we may do them a mischief) in a certain capacity for enthusiasm, a devotion to abstract principle, an openness to ideas, a greater aptness for intuitions than for the slow processes of the syllogism, and, as derivative from this, in minds of looser texture, a light-armed, skirmishing habit of thought, and a positive preference of the birds in the bush,--an excellent quality of character before you have your bird in the hand.

There have been two great distributing centres of the English race on this continent, Massachusetts and Virginia. Each has impressed the character of its early legislators on the swarms it has sent forth. Their ideas are in some fundamental respects the opposites of each other, and we can only account for it by an antagonism of thought beginning with the early framers of their respective institutions. New England abolished caste; in Virginia they still talk of “quality folks.” But it was in making education not only common to all, but in some sense compulsory on all, that the destiny of the free republics of America was practically settled. Every man was to be trained, not only to the use of arms, but of his wits also; and it is these which alone make the others effective weapons for the maintenance of freedom. You may disarm the hands, but not the brains, of a people, and to know what should be defended is the first condition of successful defence. Simple as it seems, it was a great discovery that the key of knowledge could turn both ways, that it could open, as well as lock, the door of power to the many. The only things a New-Englander was ever locked out of were the jails. It is quite true that our Republic is the heir of the English Commonwealth; but as we trace events backward to their causes, we shall find it true also, that what made our Revolution a foregone conclusion was that act of the General Court, passed in May, 1647, which established the system of common schools. “To the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this Court and authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their towns to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read.”

Passing through some Massachusetts village, perhaps at a distance from any house, it may be in the midst of a piece of woods where four roads meet, one may sometimes even yet see a small square one-story building, whose use would not be long doubtful. It is summer, and the flickering shadows of forest-leaves dapple the roof of the little porch, whose door stands wide, and shows, hanging on either hand, rows of straw hats and bonnets, that look as if they had done good service. As you pass the open windows, you hear whole platoons of high-pitched voices discharging words of two or three syllables with wonderful precision and unanimity. Then there is a pause, and the voice of the officer in command is heard reproving some raw recruit whose vocal musket hung fire. Then the drill of the small infantry begins anew, but pauses again because some urchin—who agrees with Voltaire that the superfluous is a very necessary thing—insists on spelling “subtraction” with an s too much.

If you had the good fortune to be born and bred in the Bay State, your mind is thronged with half-sad, half-humorous recollections. The a-b abs of little voices long since hushed in the mould, or ringing now in the pulpit, at the bar, or in the Senate-chamber, come back to the ear of memory. You remember the high stool on which culprits used to be elevated with the tall paper fool’s-cap on their heads, blushing to the ears; and you think with wonder how you have seen them since as men climbing the world’s penance-stools of ambition without a blush, and gladly giving everything for life’s caps and bells. And you have pleasanter memories of going after pond-lilies, of angling for horn-pouts,--that queer bat among the fishes,--of nutting, of walking over the creaking snow-crust in winter, when the warm breath of every household was curling up silently in the keen blue air. You wonder if life has any rewards more solid and permanent than the Spanish dollar that was hung around your neck to be restored again next day, and conclude sadly that it was but too true a prophecy and emblem of all worldly success. But your moralizing is broken short off by a rattle of feet and the pouring forth of the whole swarm,--the boys dancing and shouting,--the mere effervescence of the fixed air of youth and animal spirits uncorked,--the sedater girls in confidential twos and threes decanting secrets out of the mouth of one cape-bonnet into that of another. Times have changed since the jackets and trousers used to draw up on one side of the road, and the petticoats on the other, to salute with bow and courtesy the white neckcloth of the parson or the squire, if it chanced to pass during intermission.

Now this little building, and others like it, were an original kind of fortification invented by the founders of New England. They are the martello-towers that protect our coast. This was the great discovery of our Puritan forefathers. They were the first lawgivers who saw clearly and enforced practically the simple moral and political truth, that knowledge was not an alms to be dependent on the chance charity of private men or the precarious pittance of a trust-fund, but a sacred debt which the Commonwealth owed to every one of her children. The opening of the first grammar-school was the opening of the first trench against monopoly in church and state; the first row of trammels and pothooks which the little Shearjashubs and Elkanahs blotted and blubbered across their copy-books, was the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  The men who gave every man the chance to become a landholder, who made the transfer of land easy, and put knowledge within the reach of all, have been called narrow-minded, because they were intolerant. But intolerant of what? Of what they believed to be dangerous nonsense, which, if left free, would destroy the last hope of civil and religious freedom. They had not come here that every man might do that which seemed good in his own eyes, but in the sight of God. Toleration, moreover, is something which is won, not granted. It is the equilibrium of neutralized forces. The Puritans had no notion of tolerating mischief. They looked upon their little commonwealth as upon their own private estate and homestead, as they had a right to do, and would no more allow the Devil’s religion of unreason to be preached therein, than we should permit a prize-fight in our gardens. They were narrow; in other words they had an edge to them, as men that serve in great emergencies must; for a Gordian knot is settled sooner with a sword than a beetle.

The founders of New England are commonly represented in the after-dinner oratory of their descendants as men “before their time,” as it is called; in other words, deliberately prescient of events resulting from new relations of circumstances, or even from circumstances new in themselves, and therefore altogether alien from their own experience. Of course, such a class of men is to be reckoned among those non-existent human varieties so gravely catalogued by the ancient naturalists. If a man could shape his action with reference to what should happen a century after his death, surely it might be asked of him to call in the help of that easier foreknowledge which reaches from one day to the next,--a power of prophecy whereof we have no example. I do not object to a wholesome pride of ancestry, though a little mythical, if it be accompanied with the feeling that noblesse oblige, and do not result merely in a placid self-satisfaction with our own mediocrity, as if greatness, like righteousness, could be imputed. We can pardon it even in conquered races, like the Welsh and Irish, who make up to themselves for present degradation by imaginary empires in the past whose boundaries they can extend at will, carrying the bloodless conquests of fancy over regions laid down upon no map, and concerning which authentic history is enviously dumb. Those long beadrolls of Keltic kings cannot tyrannize over us, and we can be patient so long as our own crowns are uncracked by the shillalah sceptres of their actual representatives. In our own case, it would not be amiss, perhaps, if we took warning by the example of Teague and Taffy. At least, I think it would be wise in our orators not to put forward so prominently the claim of the Yankee to universal dominion, and his intention to enter upon it forthwith. If we do our duties as honestly and as much in the fear of God as our forefathers did, we need not trouble ourselves much about other titles to empire. The broad foreheads and long heads will win the day at last in spite of all heraldry, and it will be enough if we feel as keenly as our Puritan founders did that those organs of empire may be broadened and lengthened by culture.[136] That our self-complacency should not increase the complacency of outsiders is not to be wondered at. As we sometimes take credit to ourselves (since all commendation of our ancestry is indirect self-flattery) for what the Puritans fathers never were, so there are others who, to gratify a spite against their descendants, blame them for not having been what they could not be; namely, before their time in such matters as slavery, witchcraft, and the like. The view, whether of friend or foe, is equally unhistorical, nay, without the faintest notion of all that makes history worth having as a teacher. That our grandfathers shared in the prejudices of their day is all that makes them human to us; and that nevertheless they could act bravely and wisely on occasion makes them only the more venerable. If certain barbarisms and superstitions disappeared earlier in New England than elsewhere, not by the decision of exceptionally enlightened or humane judges, but by force of public opinion, that is the fact that is interesting and instructive for us. I never thought it an abatement of Hawthorne’s genius that he came lineally from one who sat in judgment on the witches in 1692; it was interesting rather to trace something hereditary in the sombre character of his imagination, continually vexing itself to account for the origin of evil, and baffled for want of that simple solution in a personal Devil.

But I have no desire to discuss the merits or demerits of the Puritans, having long ago learned the wisdom of saving my sympathy for more modern objects than Hecuba. My object is to direct the attention of my readers to a collection of documents where they may see those worthies as they were in their daily living and thinking. The collections of our various historical and antiquarian societies can hardly be said to be published in the strict sense of the word, and few consequently are aware how much they contain of interest for the general reader no less than the special student. The several volumes of “Winthrop Papers,” in especial, are a mine of entertainment. Here we have the Puritans painted by themselves, and, while we arrive at a truer notion of the characters of some among them, and may accordingly sacrifice to that dreadful superstition of being usefully employed which makes so many bores and bored, we can also furtively enjoy the oddities of thought and speech, the humors of the time, which our local historians are too apt to despise as inconsidered trifles. For myself I confess myself heretic to the established theory of the gravity of history, and am not displeased with an opportunity to smile behind my hand at any ludicrous interruption of that sometimes wearisome ceremonial. I am not sure that I would not sooner give up Raleigh spreading his cloak to keep the royal Dian’s feet from the mud, than that awful judgment upon the courtier whose Atlantean thighs leaked away in bran through the rent in his trunk-hose. The painful fact that Fisher had his head cut off is somewhat mitigated to me by the circumstance that the Pope should have sent him, of all things in the world, a cardinal’s hat after that incapacitation. Theology herself becomes less unamiable to me when I find the Supreme Pontiff writing to the Council of Trent that “they should begin with original sin, maintaining yet a due respect for the Emperor.” That infallibility should thus courtesy to decorum, shall make me think better of it while I live. I shall accordingly endeavor to give my readers what amusement I can, leaving it to themselves to extract solid improvement from the volumes before us, which include a part of the correspondence of three generations of Winthrops.

Let me premise that there are two men above all others for whom our respect is heightened by these letters,--the elder John Winthrop and Roger Williams. Winthrop appears throughout as a truly magnanimous and noble man in an unobtrusive way,--a kind of greatness that makes less noise in the world, but is on the whole more solidly satisfying than most others,--a man who has been dipped in the river of God (a surer baptism than Styx or dragon’s blood) till his character is of perfect proof, and who appears plainly as the very soul and life of the young Colony. Very reverend and godly he truly was, and a respect not merely ceremonious, but personal, a respect that savors of love, shows itself in the letters addressed to him. Charity and tolerance flow so naturally from the pen of Williams that it is plain they were in his heart. He does not show himself a very strong or very wise man, but a thoroughly gentle and good one. His affection for the two Winthrops is evidently of the warmest. We suspect that he lived to see that there was more reason in the drum-head religious discipline which made him, against his will, the founder of a commonwealth, than he may have thought at first. But for the fanaticism (as it is the fashion to call the sagacious straitness) of the abler men who knew how to root the English stock firmly in this new soil on either side of him, his little plantation could never have existed, and he himself would have been remembered only, if at all, as one of the jarring atoms in a chaos of otherwise-mindedness.

Two other men, Emanuel Downing and Hugh Peter, leave a positively unpleasant savor in the nostrils. Each is selfish in his own way,--Downing with the shrewdness of an attorney, Peter with that clerical unction which in a vulgar nature so easily degenerates into greasiness. Neither of them was the man for a forlorn hope, and both returned to England when the civil war opened prospect of preferment there. Both, we suspect, were inclined to value their Puritanism for its rewards in this world rather than the next. Downing’s son, Sir George, was basely prosperous, making the good cause pay him so long as it was solvent, and then selling out in season to betray his old commander, Colonel Okey, to the shambles at Charing Cross. Peter became a colonel in the Parliament’s army, and under the Protectorate one of Cromwell’s chaplains. On his trial, after the Restoration, he made a poor figure, in striking contrast to some of the brave men who suffered with him. At his execution a shocking brutality was shown. “When Mr Cook was cut down and brought to be quartered, one they called Colonel Turner calling to the Sheriff’s men to bring Mr Peters near, that he might see it; and by and by the Hangman came to him all besmeared in blood, and rubbing his bloody hands together, he tauntingly asked, Come, how do you like this, Mr.  Peters? How do you like this work?”[137] This Colonel Turner can hardly have been other than the one who four years later came to the hangman’s hands for robbery; and whose behavior, both in the dock and at the gallows, makes his trial one of the most entertaining as a display of character. Peter would seem to have been one of those men gifted with what is sometimes called eloquence; that is, the faculty of stating things powerfully from momentary feeling, and not from that conviction of the higher reason which alone can give force and permanence to words. His letters show him subject, like others of like temperament, to fits of “hypocondriacal melancholy,” and the only witness he called on his trial was to prove that he was confined to his lodgings by such an attack on the day of the king’s beheading. He seems to have been subject to this malady at convenience, as some women to hysterics. Honest John Endicott plainly had small confidence in him, and did not think him the right man to represent the Colony in England. There is a droll resolve in the Massachusetts records by which he is “desired to write to Holland for 500l. worth of peter, & 40l. worth of match.” It is with a match that we find him burning his fingers in the present correspondence.

Peter seems to have entangled himself somehow with a Mrs. Deliverance Sheffield, whether maid or widow nowhere appears, but presumably the latter. The following statement of his position is amusing enough: “I have sent Mrs D. Sh. letter, which puts mee to new troubles, for though shee takes liberty upon my Cossen Downing’s speeches, yet (Good Sir) let mee not be a foole in Israel. I had many good answers to yesterday’s worke [a Fast] and amongst the rest her letter; which (if her owne) doth argue more wisedome than I thought shee had. You have often sayd I could not leave her; what to doe is very considerable. Could I with comfort & credit desist, this seemes best: could I goe on & content myselfe, that were good.... For though I now seeme free agayne, yet the depth I know not. Had shee come over with me, I thinke I had bin quieter. This shee may know, that I have sought God earnestly, that the nexte weeke I shall bee riper:--I doubt shee gaynes most by such writings: & shee deserves most where shee is further of. If you shall amongst you advise mee to write to hir, I shall forthwith; our towne lookes upon mee contracted & so I have sayd myselfe; what wonder the charge [change?] would make, I know not.” Again: “Still pardon my offensive boldnes: I know not well whither Mrs Sh. have set mee at liberty or not: my conclusion is, that if you find I cannot make an honorable retreat, then I shall desire to advance [Greek: sun Theo]. Of you I now expect your last advise, viz: whither I must goe on or of, saluo evangelij honore: if shee bee in good earnest to leave all agitations this way, then I stand still & wayt God’s mind concerning mee.... If I had much mony I would part with it to her free, till wee heare what England doth, supposing I may bee called to some imployment that will not suit a marryed estate”: (here another mode of escape presents itself, and he goes on:) “for indeed (Sir) some must looke out & I have very strong thoughts to speake with the Duitch Governor & lay some way there for a supply &c.” At the end of the letter, an objection to the lady herself occurs to him: “Once more for Mrs Sh: I had from Mr Hibbins & others, her fellowpassengers, sad discouragements where they saw her in her trim. I would not come of with dishonor, nor come on with griefe, or ominous hesitations.” On all this shilly-shally we have a shrewd comment in a letter of Endicott: “I cannot but acquaint you with my thoughts concerning Mr Peter since hee receaued a letter from Mrs Sheffield, which was yesterday in the eveninge after the Fast, shee seeming in her letter to abate of her affeccions towards him & dislikinge to come to Salem vppon such termes as he had written. I finde now that hee begins to play her parte, & if I mistake not, you will see him as greatly in loue with her (if shee will but hold of a little) as euer shee was with him; but he conceales it what he can as yett. The begininge of the next weeke you will heare further from him.” The widow was evidently more than a match for poor Peter.

It should appear that a part of his trouble arose from his having coquetted also with a certain Mrs. Ruth, about whom he was “dealt with by Mrs Amee, Mr Phillips & 2 more of the Church, our Elder being one. When Mr Phillips with much violence & sharpnes charged mee home ... that I should hinder the mayd of a match at London, which was not so, could not thinke of any kindnes I euer did her, though shee haue had above 300li. through my fingers, so as if God uphold me not after an especiall manner, it will sinke me surely ... hee told me he would not stop my intended marriage, but assured mee it would not bee good ... all which makes mee reflect upon my rash proceedings with Mrs Sh.” Panurge’s doubts and difficulties about matrimony were not more entertainingly contradictory.  Of course, Peter ends by marrying the widow, and presently we have a comment on “her trim.” In January, 1639, he writes to Winthrop: “My wife is very thankfull for her apples, & desires much the new fashioned shooes.” Eight years later we find him writing from England, where he had been two years: “I am coming over if I must; my wife comes of necessity to New England, having run her selfe out of breath here”; and then in the postscript, “bee sure you never let my wife come away from thence without my leave, & then you love mee.” But life is never pure comedy, and the end in this case is tragical. Roger Williams, after his return from England in 1654, writes to John Winthrop, Jr.: “Your brother flourisheth in good esteeme & is eminent for maintaining the Freedome of the Conscience as to matters of Beliefe, Religion, & Worship. Your Father Peters preacheth the same Doctrine though not so zealously as some years since, yet cries out against New English Rigidities & Persecutions, their civil injuries & wrongs to himselfe, & their unchristian dealing with him in excommunicating his distracted wife. All this he tould me in his lodgings at Whitehall, those lodgings which I was tould were Canterburies [the Archbishop], but he himselfe tould me that that Library wherein we were together was Canterburies & given him by the Parliament. His wife lives from him, not wholy but much distracted. He tells me he had but 200 a yeare & he allowed her 4 score per annum of it. Surely, Sir, the most holy Lord is most wise in all the trialls he exerciseth his people with.  He tould me that his affliction from his wife stird him up to Action abroad, & when successe tempted him to Pride, the Bitternes in his bozome-comforts was a Cooler & a Bridle to him.” Truly the whirligig of time brings about strange revenges. Peter had been driven from England by the persecutions of Laud; a few years later he “stood armed on the scaffold” when that prelate was beheaded, and now we find him installed in the archiepiscopal lodgings. Dr. Palfrey, it appears to me, gives altogether too favorable an opinion both of Peter’s character and abilities. I conceive him to have been a vain and selfish man. He may have had the bravery of passionate impulse, but he wanted that steady courage of character which has such a beautiful constancy in Winthrop. He always professed a longing to come back to New England, but it was only a way he had of talking. That he never meant to come is plain from these letters. Nay, when things looked prosperous in England, he writes to the younger Winthrop: “My counsell is you should come hither with your family for certaynly you will bee capable of a comfortable living in this free Commonwealth. I doo seriously advise it.... G. Downing is worth 500l.  per annum but 4l. per diem—your brother Stephen worth 2000l. & a maior. I pray come.” But when he is snugly ensconced in Whitehall, and may be presumed to have some influence with the prevailing powers, his zeal cools. “I wish you & all friends to stay there & rather looke to the West Indyes if they remoue, for many are here to seeke when they come ouer.” To me Peter’s highest promotion seems to have been that he walked with John Milton at the Protector’s funeral. He was, I suspect, one of those men, to borrow a charitable phrase of Roger Williams, who “feared God in the main,” that is, whenever it was not personally inconvenient.  William Coddington saw him in his glory in 1651: “Soe wee toucke the tyme to goe to viset Mr Petters at his chamber. I was mery with him & called him the Arch Bp: of Canterberye, in regard to his adtendance by ministers & gentlemen, & it passed very well.” Considering certain charges brought against Peter, (though he is said, when under sentence of death, to have denied the truth of them,) Coddington’s statement that he liked to have “gentlewomen waite of him” in his lodgings has not a pleasant look. One last report of him we get (September, 1659) in a letter of John Davenport,--“that Mr Hugh Peters is distracted & under sore horrors of conscience, crying out of himselfe as damned & confessing haynous actings.”

Occasionally these letters give us interesting glimpses of persons and things in England. In the letter of Williams just cited, there is a lesson for all parties raised to power by exceptional causes. “Surely, Sir, youre Father & all the people of God in England ... are now in the sadle & at the helme, so high that non datus descensus nisi cadendo:

Some cheere up their spirits with the impossibilitie of another fall or turne, so doth Major G. Harrison ... a very gallant most deserving heavenly man, but most highflowne for the Kingdom of the Saints & the 5th Monarchie now risen & their sun never to set againe &c. Others, as, to my knowledge, the Protector ... are not so full of that faith of miracles, but still imagine changes & persecutions & the very slaughter of the witnesses before that glorious morning so much desired of a worldly Kingdome, if ever such a Kingdome (as literally it is by so many expounded) be to arise in this present world & dispensation.” Poor General Harrison lived to be one of the witnesses so slaughtered. The practical good sense of Cromwell is worth noting, the English understanding struggling against Judaic trammels. Williams gives us another peep through the keyhole of the past: “It pleased the Lord to call me for some time & with some persons to practice the Hebrew, the Greeke, Latine, French & Dutch. The secretarie of the Councell (Mr Milton) for my Dutch I read him, read me many more languages. Grammar rules begin to be esteemed a Tyrannie. I taught 2 young Gentlemen, a Parliament man’s sons, as we teach our children English, by words, phrazes, & constant talke, &c.” It is plain that Milton had talked over with Williams the theory put forth in his tract on Education, and made a convert of him. We could wish that the good Baptist had gone a little more into particulars. But which of us knows among the men he meets whom time will dignify by curtailing him of the “Mr.,” and reducing him to a bare patronymic, as being a kind by himself? We have a glance or two at Oliver, who is always interesting. “The late renowned Oliver confest to me in close discourse about the Protestants aifaires &c that he yet feard great persecutions to the protestants from the Romanists before the downfall of the Papacie,” writes Williams in 1660. This “close discourse” must have been six years before, when Williams was in England. Within a year after, Oliver interfered to some purpose in behalf of the Protestants of Piedmont, and Mr. Milton wrote his famous sonnet. Of the war with Spain, Williams reports from his letters out of England in 1656:

“This diversion against the Spaniard hath turnd the face & thoughts of many English, so that the saying now is, Crowne the Protector with gould,[138] though the sullen yet cry, Crowne him with thornes.”

Again in 1654: “I know the Protector had strong thoughts of Hispaniola & Cuba. Mr Cotton’s interpreting of Euphrates to be the West Indies, the supply of gold (to take off taxes), & the provision of a warmer diverticulum & receptaculum then N. England is, will make a footing into those parts very precious, & if it shall please God to vouchsafe successe to this fleete, I looke to hear of an invitation at least to these parts for removall from his Highnes who lookes on N. E. only with an eye of pitie, as poore, cold & useless.” The mixture of Euphrates and taxes, of the transcendental and practical, prophecy taking precedence of thrift, is characteristic, and recalls Cromwell’s famous rule, of fearing God and keeping your powder dry. In one of the Protector’s speeches,[139] he insists much on his wish to retire to a private life.  There is a curious confirmation of his sincerity in a letter of William Hooke, then belonging to his household, dated the 13th of April, 1657.  The question of the kingly title was then under debate, and Hooke’s account of the matter helps to a clearer understanding of the reasons for Cromwell’s refusing the title: “The protector is urged utrinque & (I am ready to think) willing enough to betake himself to a private life, if it might be. He is a godly man, much in prayer & good discourses, delighting in good men & good ministers, self-denying & ready to promote any good work for Christ.”[140] On the 5th of February, 1654, Captain John Mason, of Pequot memory, writes “a word or twoe of newes as it comes from Mr Eaton, viz: that the Parliament sate in September last; they chose their old Speaker & Clarke. The Protectour told them they were a free Parliament, & soe left them that day. They, considering where the legislative power resided, concluded to vote it on the morrow, & to take charge of the militia. The Protectour hereing of it, sent for some numbers of horse, went to the Parliament House, nayld up the doores, sent for them to the Painted Chamber, told them they should attend the lawes established, & that he would wallow in his blood before he would part with what was conferd upon him, tendering them an oath: 140 engaged.” Now it is curious that Mr. Eaton himself, from whom Mason got his news, wrote, only two days before, an account, differing, in some particulars, and especially in tone, from Mason’s. Of the speech he says, that it “gave such satisfaction that about 200 have since ingaged to owne the present Government.” Yet Carlyle gives the same number of signers (140) as Mason, and there is a sentence in Cromwell’s speech, as reported by Carlyle, of precisely the same purport as that quoted by Mason. To me, that “wallow in my blood” has rather more of the Cromwellian ring in it, more of the quality of spontaneous speech, than the “rolled into my grave and buried with infamy” of the official reporter. John Haynes (24th July, 1653) reports “newes from England of astonishing nature,” concerning the dissolution of the Rump. We quote his story both as a contemporaneous version of the event, and as containing some particulars that explain the causes that led to it. It differs, in some respects, from Carlyle, and is hardly less vivid as a picture: “The Parliament of England & Councell of State are both dissolved, by whom & the manner this: The Lord Cromwell, Generall, went to the house & asked the Speaker & Bradshaw by what power they sate ther. They answered by the same power that he woare his sword.  Hee replied they should know they did not, & said they should sitt noe longer, demanding an account of the vast sommes of money they had received of the Commons. They said the matter was of great consequence & they would give him accompt in tenn dayes. He said, Noe, they had sate too long already (& might now take their ease,) for ther inriching themselves & impoverishing the Commons, & then seazed uppon all the Records. Immediatly Lambert, Livetenant Generall, & Hareson Maior Generall (for they two were with him), tooke the Speaker Lenthall by the hands, lift him out of the Chaire, & ledd him out of the house, & commanded the rest to depart, which fortwith was obeied, & the Generall tooke the keyes & locked the doore.” He then goes on to give the reasons assigned by different persons for the act. Some said that the General “scented their purpose” to declare themselves perpetual, and to get rid of him by ordering him to Scotland. “Others say this, that the cries of the oppressed proveiled much with him.... & hastned the declaracion of that ould principle, Salus populi suprema lex &c.” The General, in the heat of his wrath, himself snatching the keys and locking the door, has a look of being drawn from the life. Cromwell, in a letter to General Fortescue (November,1655), speaks sharply of the disorders and debauchedness, profaneness and wickedness, commonly practised amongst the army sent out to the West Indies. Major Mason gives us a specimen: “It is here reported that some of the soldiers belonging to the ffleet at Boston ffell upon the watch: after some bickering they comanded them to goe before the Governour; they retorned that they were Cromwell’s boyes.” Have we not, in these days, heard of “Sherman’s boys”?

Belonging properly to the “Winthrop Papers,” but printed in an earlier volume (Third Series, Vol. I. pp. 185-198), is a letter of John Maidstone, which contains the best summary of the Civil War that I ever read. Indeed, it gives a clearer insight into its causes, and a better view of the vicissitudes of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, than any one of the more elaborate histories. There is a singular equity and absence of party passion in it which gives us faith in the author’s judgment. He was Oliver’s Steward of the Household, and his portrait of him, as that of an eminently fair-minded man who knew him well, is of great value. Carlyle has not copied it, and, as many of my readers may never have seen it, I reproduce it here: “Before I pass further, pardon me in troubling you with the character of his person, which, by reason of my nearness to him, I had opportunity well to observe. His body was well compact and strong; his stature under six feet, (I believe about two inches;) his head so shaped as you might see it a store-house and shop both, of a vast treasury of natural parts. His temper exceeding fiery, as I have known, but the flame of it kept down for the most part or soon allayed with those moral endowments he had. He was naturally compassionate towards objects in distress, even to an effeminate measure; though God had made him a heart wherein was left little room for any fear but what was due to himself, of which there was a large proportion, yet did he exceed in tenderness toward sufferers. A larger soul, I think, hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was. I do believe, if his story were impartially transmitted, and the unprejudiced world well possessed with it, she would add him to her nine worthies and make that number a decemviri. He lived and died in comfortable communion with God, as judicious persons near him well observed. He was that Mordecai that sought the welfare of his people and spake peace to his seed. Yet were his temptations such, as it appeared frequently that he that hath grace enough for many men may have too little for himself, the treasure he had being but in an earthen vessel and that equally defiled with original sin as any other man’s nature is.” There are phrases here that may be matched with the choicest in the life of Agricola; and, indeed, the whole letter, superior to Tacitus in judicial fairness of tone, goes abreast of his best writing in condensation, nay, surpasses it in this, that, while in Tacitus the intensity is of temper, here it is the clear residuum left by the ferment and settling of thought. Just before, speaking of the dissolution of Oliver’s last Parliament, Maidstone says:

“That was the last which sat during his life, he being compelled to wrestle with the difficulties of his place so well as he could without parliamentary assistance, and in it met with so great a burthen as (I doubt not to say) it drank up his spirits, of which his natural constitution yielded a vast stock, and brought him to his grave, his interment being the seed-time of his glory and England’s calamity.” Hooke, in a letter of April 16, 1658, has a passage worth quoting: “The dissolucion of the last Parliament puts the supreme powers upon difficulties, though the trueth is the Nacion is so ill spirited that little good is to be expected from these Generall Assemblies. They [the supreme powers, to wit, Cromwell] have been much in Counsell since this disappointment, & God hath been sought by them in the effectuall sense of the need of help from heaven & of the extreme danger impendent on a miscarriage of their advises. But our expences are so vast that I know not how they can avoyde a recurrence to another Session & to make a further tryall.... The land is full of discontents, & the Cavaleerish party doth still expect a day & nourish hopes of a Revolucion. The Quakers do still proceed & are not yet come to their period. The Presbyterians do abound, I thinke, more than ever, & are very bold & confident because some of their masterpieces lye unanswered, particularly theire Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici which I have sent to Mr.  Davenporte. It hath been extant without answer these many years [only four, brother Hooke, if we may trust the title-page]. The Anabaptists abound likewise, & Mr Tombes hath pretended to have answered all the bookes extant against his opinion. I saw him presenting it to the Protectour of late. The Episcopall men ply the Common-Prayer booke with much more boldness then ever since these turnes of things, even in the open face of the City in severall places. I have spoken of it to the Protectour but as yet nothing is done in order to their being suppressed.” It should teach us to distrust the apparent size of objects, which is a mere cheat of their nearness to us, that we are so often reminded of how small account things seem to one generation for which another was ready to die. A copy of the Jus Divinum held too close to the eyes could shut out the universe with its infinite chances and changes, its splendid indifference to our ephemeral fates. Cromwell, we should gather, had found out the secret of this historical perspective, to distinguish between the blaze of a burning tar-barrel and the final conflagration of all things. He had learned tolerance by the possession of power,--a proof of his capacity for rule. In 1652 Haynes writes: “Ther was a Catechise lately in print ther, that denied the divinity of Christ, yett ther was motions in the house by some, to have it lycenced by authority. Cromwell mainly oposed, & at last it was voted to bee burnt which causes much discontent of somme.” Six years had made Cromwell wiser.

One more extract from a letter of Hooke’s (30th March, 1659) is worth giving. After speaking of Oliver’s death, he goes on to say: “Many prayers were put up solemnly for his life, & some, of great & good note, were too confident that he would not die.... I suppose himselfe had thoughts that he should have outlived this sickness till near his dissolution, perhaps a day or two before; which I collect partly by some words which he was said to speak ... & partly from his delaying, almost to the last, to nominate his successor, to the wonderment of many who began sooner to despair of his life.... His eldest son succeedeth him, being chosen by the Council, the day following his father’s death, whereof he had no expectation. I have heard him say he had thought to have lived as a country gentleman, & that his father had not employed him in such a way as to prepare him for such employment; which, he thought, he did designedly. I suppose his meaning was lest it should have been apprehended ha had prepared & appointed him for such a place, the burthen whereof I have several times heard him complaining under since his coming to the Government, the weighty occasions whereof with continuall oppressing cares had drunk up his father’s spirits, in whose body very little blood was found when he was opened: the greatest defect visible was in his heart, which was flaccid & shrunk together. Yet he was one that could bear much without complaining, as one of a strong constitution of brain (as appeared when he was dissected) & likewise of body. His son seemeth to be of another frame, soft & tender, & penetrable with easier cares by much, yet he is of a sweete countenance, vivacious & candid, as is the whole frame of his spirit, only naturally inclined to choler. His reception of multitudes of addresses from towns, cities, & counties doth declare, among several other indiciums, more of ability in him than could, ordinarily, have been expected from him. He spake also with general acceptation & applause when he made his speech before the Parliament, even far beyond the Lord Fynes....[141]  If this Assembly miss it, we are like to be in an ill condition. The old ways & customs of England, as to worshipe, are in the hearts of the most, who long to see the days again which once they saw.... The hearts of very many are for the house of the Stewarts, & there is a speech as if they would attempt to call the late King’s judges into question.... The city, I hear is full of Cavaliers.” Poor Richard appears to have inherited little of his father but the inclination to choler. That he could speak far beyond the Lord Fynes seems to have been not much to the purpose. Rhetoric was not precisely the medicine for such a case as he had to deal with. Such were the glimpses which the New England had of the Old. Ishmael must ere-long learn to shift for himself.

The temperance question agitated the fathers very much as it still does the children. We have never seen the anti-prohibition argument stated more cogently than in a letter of Thomas Shepard, minister of Cambridge, to Winthrop, in 1639: “This also I doe humbly intreat, that there may be no sin made of drinking in any case one to another, for I am confident he that stands here will fall & be beat from his grounds by his own arguments; as also that the consequences will be very sad, and the thing provoking to God & man to make more sins than (as yet is seene) God himself hath made.” A principle as wise now as it was then. Our ancestors were also harassed as much as we by the difficulties of domestic service.  In a country where land might be had for the asking, it was not easy to keep hold of servants brought over from England. Emanuel Downing, always the hard, practical man, would find a remedy in negro slavery. “A warr with the Narraganset,” he writes to Winthrop in 1645, “is verie considerable to this plantation, ffor I doubt whither it be not synne in us, having power in our hands, to suffer them to maynteyne the worship of the devill which their pawwawes often doe; 2lie, If upon a just warre the Lord should deliver them into our hands, wee might easily have men, woemen, & children enough to exchange for Moores, which wilbe more gaynefull pilladge for us than wee conceive, for I doe not see how wee can thrive untill wee gett into a stock of slaves sufficient to doe all our buisenes, for our childrens children will hardly see this great Continent filled with people, soe that our servants will still desire freedome to plant for them selves, & not stay but for verie great wages.  And I suppose you know verie well how wee shall maynteyne 20 Moores cheaper than one Englishe servant.” The doubt whether it be not sin in us longer to tolerate their devil-worship, considering how much need we have of them as merchandise, is delicious. The way in which Hugh Peter grades the sharp descent from the apostolic to the practical with an et cetera, in the following extract, has the same charm: “Sir, Mr Endecot & myself salute you in the Lord Jesus &c. Wee have heard of a dividence of women & children in the bay & would bee glad of a share viz: a young woman or girle & a boy if you thinke good.” Peter seems to have got what he asked for, and to have been worse off than before; for we find him writing two years later: “My wife desires my daughter to send to Hanna that was her mayd, now at Charltowne, to know if shee would dwell with us, for truly wee are so destitute (having now but an Indian) that wee know not what to doe.” Let any housewife of our day, who does not find the Keltic element in domestic life so refreshing as to Mr. Arnold in literature, imagine a household with one wild Pequot woman, communicated with by signs, for its maid of all work, and take courage. Those were serious times indeed, when your cook might give warning by taking your scalp, or chignon, as the case might be, and making off with it into the woods. The fewness and dearness of servants made it necessary to call in temporary assistance for extraordinary occasions, and hence arose the common use of the word help. As the great majority kept no servants at all, and yet were liable to need them for work to which the family did not suffice, as, for instance, in harvest, the use of the word was naturally extended to all kinds of service. That it did not have its origin in any false shame at the condition itself, induced by democratic habits, is plain from the fact that it came into use while the word servant had a much wider application than now, and certainly implied no social stigma. Downing and Hooke, each at different times, one of them so late as 1667, wished to place a son as “servant” with one of the Winthrops. Roger Williams writes of his daughter, that “she desires to spend some time in service & liked much Mrs Brenton, who wanted.” This was, no doubt, in order to be well drilled in housekeeping, an example which might be followed still to advantage. John Tinker, himself the “servant” or steward of the second Winthrop, makes use of help in both the senses we have mentioned, and shows the transition of the word from its restricted to its more general application. “We have fallen a pretty deal of timber & drawn some by Goodman Rogers’s team, but unless your worship have a good team of your own & a man to go with them, I shall be much distracted for help ... & when our business is most in haste we shall be most to seek.” Again, writing at harvest, as appears both by the date and by an elaborate pun,--“I received the sithes you sent but in that there came not also yourself, it maketh me to sigth,”—he says:

“Help is scarce and hard to get, difficult to please, uncertain, &c.
Means runneth out & wages on & I cannot make choice of my help.”

It may be some consolation to know that the complaint of a decline in the quality of servants is no modern thing. Shakespeare makes Orlando say to Adam:

“O, good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not of the fashion of these times,
When none will sweat but for promotion.”

When the faithful old servant is brought upon the stage, we may be sure he was getting rare. A century later, we have explicit testimony that things were as bad in this respect as they are now. Don Manuel Gonzales, who travelled in England in 1730, says of London servants: “As to common menial servants, they have great wages, are well kept and cloathed, but are notwithstanding the plague of almost every house in town. They form themselves into societies or rather confederacies, contributing to the maintenance of each other when out of place, and if any of them cannot manage the family where they are entertained, as they please, immediately they give notice they will be gone. There is no speaking to them, they are above correction, and if a master should attempt it, he may expect to be handsomely drubbed by the creature he feeds and harbors, or perhaps an action brought against him for it. It is become a common saying, If my servant ben’t a thief, if he be but honest, I can bear with other things. And indeed it is very rare in London to meet with an honest servant.”[142] Southey writes to his daughter Edith, in 1824, “All the maids eloped because I had turned a man out of the kitchen at eleven o’clock on the preceding night.” Nay, Hugh Rhodes, in his Boke of Nurture(1577), speaks of servants “ofte fleeting,” i.e. leaving one master for another.

One of the most curious things revealed to us in these volumes is the fact that John Winthrop, Jr., was seeking the philosopher’s stone, that universal elixir which could transmute all things to its own substance.  This is plain from the correspondence of Edward Howes. Howes goes to a certain doctor, professedly to consult him about the method of making a cement for earthen vessels, no doubt crucibles. His account of him is amusing, and reminds one of Ben Jonson’s Subtle. This was one of the many quacks who gulled men during that twilight through which alchemy was passing into chemistry. “This Dr, for a Dr he is, brags that if he have but the hint or notice of any useful thing not yet invented, he will undertake to find it out, except some few which he hath vowed not to meddle with as vitrum maliabile, perpet. motus, via proxima ad Indos & lapis philosi: all, or anything else he will undertake, but for his private gain, to make a monopoly thereof & to sell the use or knowledge thereof at too high rates.” This breed of pedlers in science is not yet extinct. The exceptions made by the Doctor show a becoming modesty.  Again: “I have been 2 or 3 times with the Dr & can get but small satisfaction about your queries.... Yet I must confess he seemed very free to me, only in the main he was mystical. This he said, that when the will of God is you shall know what you desire, it will come with such a light that it will make a harmony among all your authors, causing them sweetly to agree, & put you forever out of doubt & question.” In another letter: “I cannot discover into terram incognitam, but I have had a ken of it showed unto me. The way to it is, for the most part, horrible & fearful, the dangers none worse, to them that are destinati filii: sometimes I am travelling that way.... I think I have spoken with some that have been there.”

Howes writes very cautiously: “Dear friend, I desire with all my heart that I might write plainer to you, but in discovering the mystery, I may diminish its majesty & give occasion to the profane to abuse it, if it should fall into unworthy hands.” By and by he begins to think his first doctor a humbug, but he finds a better. Howes was evidently a man of imaginative temper, fit to be captivated by the alchemistic theory of the unity of composition in nature, which was so attractive to Goethe.  Perhaps the great poet was himself led to it by his Rosicrucian studies when writing the first part of Faust. Howes tells his friend that “there is all good to be found in unity, & all evil in duality & multiplicity.  Phoenix illa admiranda sola semper existit, therefore while a man & she is two, he shall never see her,”—a truth of very wide application, and too often lost sight of or never seen at all. “The Arabian Philos. I writ to you of, he was styled among us Dr Lyon, the best of all the Rosicrucians[143] that ever I met withal, far beyond Dr Ewer: they that are of his strain are knowing men; they pretend [i.e. claim] to live in free light, they honor God & do good to the people among whom they live, & I conceive you are in the right that they had their learning from Arabia.”

Howes is a very interesting person, a mystic of the purest kind, and that while learning to be an attorney with Emanuel Downing. How little that perfunctory person dreamed of what was going on under his nose,--as little as of the spiritual wonders that lay beyond the tip of it! Howes was a Swedenborgian before Swedenborg. Take this, for example: “But to our sympathetical business whereby we may communicate our minds one to another though the diameter of the earth interpose. Diana non est centrum omnium. I would have you so good a geometrician as to know your own centre. Did you ever yet measure your everlasting self, the length of your life, the breadth of your love, the depth of your wisdom & the height of your light? Let Truth be your centre, & you may do it, otherways not. I could wish you would now begin to leave off being altogether an outward man; this is but casa Regentis; the Ruler can draw you straight lines from your centre to the confines of an infinite circumference, by which you may pass from any part of the circumference to another without obstacle of earth or secation of lines, if you observe & keep but one & the true & only centre, to pass by it, from it, & to it.  Methinks I now see you intus et extra & talk to you, but you mind me not because you are from home, you are not within, you look as if you were careless of yourself; your hand & your voice differ; ‘tis my friend’s hand, I know it well; but the voice is your enemy’s. O, my friend, if you love me, get you home, get you in! You have a friend as well as an enemy. Know them by their voices. The one is still driving or enticing you out; the other would have you stay within. Be within and keep within, & all that are within & keep within shall you see know & communicate with to the full, & shall not need to strain your outward senses to see & hear that which is like themselves uncertain & too-too often false, but, abiding forever within, in the centre of Truth, from thence you may behold & understand the innumerable divers emanations within the circumference, & still within; for without are falsities, lies, untruths, dogs &c.” Howes was tolerant also, not from want of faith, but from depth of it. “The relation of your fight with the Indians I have read in print, but of the fight among yourselves, bellum linguarum the strife of tongues, I have heard much, but little to the purpose. I wonder your people, that pretend to know so much, doe not know that love is the fulfilling of the law, & that against love there is no law.” Howes forgot that what might cause only a ripple in London might overwhelm the tiny Colony in Boston. Two years later, he writes more philosophically, and perhaps with a gentle irony, concerning “two monstrous births & a general earthquake.” He hints that the people of the Bay might perhaps as well take these signs to themselves as lay them at the door of Mrs. Hutchinson and what not. “Where is there such another people then [as] in New England, that labors might & main to have Christ formed in them, yet would give or appoint him his shape & clothe him too?  It cannot be denied that we have conceived many monstrous imaginations of Christ Jesus: the one imagination says, Lo, here he is; the other says, Lo, there he is; multiplicity of conceptions, but is there any one true shape of Him? And if one of many produce a shape, it is not the shape of the Son of God, but an ugly horrid metamorphosis. Neither is it a living shape, but a dead one, yet a crow thinks her own bird the fairest, & most prefer their own wisdom before God’s, Antichrist before Christ.” Howes had certainly arrived at that “centre” of which he speaks and was before his time, as a man of speculation, never a man of action, may sometimes be. He was fitter for Plotinus’s colony than Winthrop’s. He never came to New England, yet there was always a leaven of his style of thinkers here.

Howes was the true adept, seeking what spiritual ore there might be among the dross of the hermetic philosophy. What he says sincerely and inwardly was the cant of those outward professors of the doctrine who were content to dwell in the material part of it forever. In Jonathan Brewster, we have a specimen of these Wagners. Is it not curious, that there should have been a balneum Mariae at New London two hundred years ago? that la recherche de l’Absolu should have been going on there in a log-hut, under constant fear that the Indians would put out, not merely the flame of one little life, but, far worse, the fire of our furnace, and so rob the world of this divine secret, just on the point of revealing itself?  Alas! poor Brewster’s secret was one that many have striven after before and since, who did not call themselves alchemists,--the secret of getting gold without earning it,--a chase that brings some men to a four-in-hand on Shoddy Avenue, and some to the penitentiary, in both cases advertising its utter vanity. Brewster is a capital specimen of his class, who are better than the average, because they do mix a little imagination with their sordidness, and who have also their representatives among us, in those who expect the Jennings and other ideal estates in England. If Hawthorne had but known of him! And yet how perfectly did his genius divine that ideal element in our early New England life, conceiving what must have been without asking proof of what actually was!

An extract or two will sufficiently exhibit Brewster in his lunes.  Sending back some alchemistic book to Winthrop, he tells him that if his name be kept secret, “I will write as clear a light, as far as I dare to, in finding the first ingredience.... The first figure in Flamonell doth plainly resemble the first ingredience, what it is, & from whence it comes, & how gotten, as there you may plainly see set forth by 2 resemblances held in a man’s hand; for the confections there named is a delusion, for they are but the operations of the work after some time set, as the scum of the Red Sea, which is the Virgin’s Milk upon the top of the vessel, white. Red Sea is the sun & moon calcinated & brought & reduced into water mineral which in some time, & most of the whole time, is red. 2ndly, the fat of mercurial wind, that is the fat or quintessence of sun & moon, earth & water, drawn out from them both, & flies aloft & bore up by the operation of our mercury, that is our fire which is our air or wind.” This is as satisfactory as Lepidus’s account of the generation of the crocodile: “Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile.” After describing the three kinds of fire, that of the lamp, that of ashes, and that against nature, which last “is the fire of fire, that is the secret fire drawn up, being the quintessence of the sun & moon, with the other mercurial water joined with & together, which is fire elemental,” he tells us that “these fires are & doth contain the whole mystery of the work.” The reader, perhaps, thinks that he has nothing to do but forthwith to turn all the lead he can lay his hands on into gold. But no:

“If you had the first ingredience & the proportion of each, yet all were nothing if you had not the certain times & seasons of the planets & signs, when to give more or less of this fire, namely a hot & dry, a cold & moist fire which you must use in the mercurial water before it comes to black & after into white & then red, which is only done by these fires, which when you practise you will easily see & perceive, that you shall stand amazed, & admire at the great & admirable wisdom of God, that can produce such a wonderful, efficacious, powerful thing as this is to convert all metallic bodies to its own nature, which may be well called a first essence. I say by such weak simple means of so little value & so little & easy labor & skill, that I may say with Artephus, 200 page, it is of a worke so easy & short, fitter for women & young children than sage & grave men.... I thank the Lord, I understand the matter perfectly in the said book, yet I could desire to have it again 12 months hence, for about that time I shall have occasion to peruse, whenas I come to the second working which is most difficult, which will be some three or [4] months before the perfect white, & afterwards, as Artephus saith, I may burn my books, for he saith it is one regiment as well for the red as for the white. The Lord in mercy give me life to see the end of it!”—an exclamation I more than once made in the course of some of Brewster’s periods.

Again, under pledge of profound secrecy, he sends Winthrop a manuscript, which he may communicate to the owner of the volume formerly lent, because “it gave me such light in the second work as I should not readily have found out by study, also & especially how to work the elixir fit for medicine & healing all maladies which is clean another way of working than we held formerly. Also a light given how to dissolve any hard substance into the elixir, which is also another work. And many other things which in Ribley [Ripley?] I could not find out. More works of the same I would gladly see ... for, Sir, so it is that any book of this subject, I can understand it, though never so darkly written, having both knowledge & experience of the world,[144] that now easily I may understand their envious carriages to hide it.... You may marvel why I should give any light to others in this thing before I have perfected my own. This know, that my work being true thus far by all their writings, it cannot fail ... for if &c &c you cannot miss if you would, except you break your glass.” He confesses he is mistaken as to the time required, which he now, as well as I can make out, reckons at about ten years. “I fear I shall not live to see it finished, in regard partly of the Indians, who, I fear, will raise wars, as also I have a conceit that God sees me not worthy of such a blessing, by reason of my manifold miscarriages.” Therefore he “will shortly write all the whole work in few words plainly which may be done in 20 lines from the first to the last & seal it up in a little box & subscribe it to yourself ... & will so write it that neither wife nor children shall know thereof.” If Winthrop should succeed in bringing the work to perfection, Brewster begs him to remember his wife and children. “I mean if this my work should miscarry by wars of the Indians, for I may not remove it till it be perfected, otherwise I should so unsettle the body by removing sun & moon out of their settled places, that there would then be no other afterworking.” Once more he inculcates secrecy, and for a most comical reason: “For it is such a secret as is not fit for every one either for secrecy or for parts to use it, as God’s secret for his glory, to do good there with, or else they may do a great deal of hurt, spending & employing it to satisfy sinful lusts. Therefore, I intreat you, sir, spare to use my name, & let my letters I send either be safely kept or burned that I write about it, for indeed, sir, I am more than before sensible of the evil effects that will arise by the publishing of it. I should never be at quiet, neither at home nor abroad, for one or other that would be enquiring & seeking after knowledge thereof, that I should be tired out & forced to leave the place: nay, it would be blazed abroad into Europe.” How much more comic is nature than any comedy! Mutato nomine de te. Take heart, ambitious youth, the sun and moon will be no more disconcerted by any effort of yours than by the pots and pans of Jonathan Brewster. It is a curious proof of the duality so common (yet so often overlooked) in human character, that Brewster was all this while manager of the Plymouth trading-post, near what is now New London. The only professors of the transmutation of metals who still impose on mankind are to be found in what is styled the critical department of literature. Their materia prima, or universal solvent, serves equally for the lead of Tupper or the brass of Swinburne.

In a letter of Sir Kenelm Digby to J. Winthrop, Jr., we find some odd prescriptions. “For all sorts of agues, I have of late tried the following magnetical experiment with infallible success. Pare the patient’s nails when the fit is coming on, & put the parings into a little bag of fine linen or sarsenet, & tie that about a live eel’s neck in a tub of water. The eel will die & the patient will recover. And if a dog or hog eat that eel, they will also die.”

“The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died!”

“I have known one that cured all deliriums & frenzies whatsoever, & at once taking, with an elixir made of dew, nothing but dew purified & nipped up in a glass & digested 15 months till all of it was become a gray powder, not one drop of humidity remaining. This I know to be true, & that first it was as black as ink, then green then gray, & at 22 months’ end it was as white & lustrous as any oriental pearl. But it cured manias at 15 months’ end.” Poor Brewster would have been the better for a dose of it, as well as some in our day, who expect to cure men of being men by act of Congress. In the same letter Digby boasts of having made known the properties of quinquina, and also of the sympathetic powder, with which latter he wrought a “famous cure” of pleasant James Howell, author of the “Letters.” I do not recollect that Howell anywhere alludes to it. In the same letter, Digby speaks of the books he had sent to Harvard College, and promises to send more. In all Paris he cannot find a copy of Blaise Viginere Des Chiffres. “I had it in my library in England, but at the plundering of my house I lost it with many other good books. I have laid out in all places for it.” The words we have underscored would be called a Yankeeism now. The house was Gatehurst, a fine Elizabethan dwelling, still, or lately, standing. Digby made his peace with Cromwell, and professes his readiness to spend his blood for him. He kept well with both sides, and we are not surprised to find Hooke saying that he hears no good of him from any.

The early colonists found it needful to bring over a few trained soldiers, both as drillmasters and engineers. Underhill, Patrick, and Gardner had served in the Low Countries, probably also Mason. As Paris has been said to be not precisely the place for a deacon, so the camp of the Prince of Orange could hardly have been the best training-school for Puritans in practice, however it may have been for masters of casuistic theology. The position of these rough warriors among a people like those of the first emigration must have been a droll one. That of Captain Underhill certainly was. In all our early history, there is no figure so comic. Full of the pedantry of his profession and fond of noble phrases, he is a kind of cross between Dugald Dalgetty and Ancient Pistol, with a slight relish of the miles gloriosus. Underhill had taken side with Mr.  Wheelwright in his heretical opinions, and there is every reason why he should have maintained, with all the ardor of personal interest, the efficiency of a covenant of grace without reference to the works of the subject of it. Coming back from a visit to England in 1638, he “was questioned for some speeches uttered by him in the ship, viz: that they at Boston were zealous as the scribes and pharisees were and as Paul was before his conversion, which he denying, they were proved to his face by a sober woman whom he had seduced in the ship and drawn to his opinion; but she was afterwards better informed in the truth. Among other passages, he told her how he came by his assurance, saying that, having long lain under a spirit of bondage, and continued in a legal way near five years, he could get no assurance, till at length, as he was taking a pipe of the good creature tobacco, the spirit fell home upon his heart, an absolute promise of free grace, with such assurance and joy, as he never doubted since of his good estate, neither should he, whatsoever sin he should fall into,--a good preparative for such motions as he familiarly used to make to some of that sex.... The next day he was called again and banished. The Lord’s day after, he made a speech in the assembly, showing that as the Lord was pleased to convert Paul as he was persecuting &c, so he might manifest himself to him as he was making moderate use of the good creature called tobacco.” A week later “he was privately dealt with upon suspicion of incontinency ... but his excuse was that the woman was in great trouble of mind, and some temptations, and that he resorted to her to comfort her.” He went to the Eastward, and, having run himself out there, thought it best to come back to Boston and reinstate himself by eating his leek. “He came in his worst clothes (being accustomed to take great pride in his bravery and neatness) without a band, in a foul linen cap pulled close to his eyes, and, standing upon a form, he did, with many deep sighs and abundance of tears, lay open his wicked course, his adultery, his hypocrisy &c. He spake well, save that his blubbering &c. interrupted him.” We hope he was a sincere penitent, but men of his complexion are apt to be pleased with such a tragi-comedy of self-abasement, if only they can be chief actors and conspicuous enough therein. In the correspondence before us Underhill appears in full turkey-cock proportions. Not having been advanced according to his own opinion of his merits, he writes to Governor Winthrop, with an oblique threat that must have amused him somewhat: “I profess, sir, till I know the cause, I shall not be satisfied, but I hope God will subdue me to his will; yet this I say that such handling of officers in foreign parts hath so far subverted some of them as to cause them turn public rebels against their state & kingdom, which God forbid should ever be found once so much as to appear in my breast.” Why, then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open! Next we hear him on a point of military discipline at Salem. “It is this: how they have of their own appointment made them a captain, lieutenant & ensign, & after such a manner as was never heard of in any school of war, nor in no kingdom under heaven.... For my part, if there should not be a reformation in this disordered practise, I would not acknowledge such officers. If officers should be of no better esteem than for constables to place them, & martial discipline to proceed disorderly, I would rather lay down my command than to shame so noble a prince from whom we came.” Again: “Whereas it is somewhat questionable whether the three months I was absent, as well in the service of the country as of other particular persons, my request therefore is that this honored Court would be pleased to decide this controversy, myself alleging it to be the custom of Nations that, if a Commander be lent to another State, by that State to whom he is a servant, both his place & means is not detained from him, so long as he doth not refuse the call of his own State to which he is a servant, in case they shall call him home.” Then bringing up again his “ancient suit” for a grant of land, he throws in a neat touch of piety:

“& if the honored Court shall vouchsafe to make some addition, that which hath not been deserved, by the same power of God, may be in due season.” In a postscript, he gives a fine philosophical reason for this desired addition which will go to the hearts of many in these days of high prices and wasteful taxation. “The time was when a little went far; then much was not known nor desired; the reason of the difference lieth only in the error of judgment, for nature requires no more to uphold it now than when it was satisfied with less.” The valiant Captain interprets the law of nations, as sovereign powers are wont to do, to suit his advantage in the special case. We find a parallel case in a letter of Bryan Rosseter to John Winthrop, Jr., pleading for a remission of taxes. “The lawes of nations exempt allowed phisitians from personall services, & their estates from rates & assessments.” In the Declaration of the town of Southampton on Long Island (1673), the dignity of constable is valued at a juster rate than Underhill was inclined to put upon it. The Dutch, it seems, demanded of them “to deliver up to them the badge of Civil & Military power; namely, the Constable’s staffe & the Colonel’s.” Mayor Munroe of New Orleans did not more effectually magnify his office when he surrendered the city to General Butler.

Underhill’s style is always of the finest. His spelling was under the purest covenant of grace. I must give a single specimen of it from a letter whose high moral tone is all the more diverting that it was written while he was under excommunication for the sin which he afterwards confessed. It is addressed to Winthrop and Dudley. “Honnored in the Lord. Youer silenc one more admirse me. I youse chrischan playnnes. I know you love it. Silenc can not reduce the hart of youer love’g brother: I would the rightchous would smite me, espeschali youer slfe & the honnored Depoti to whom I also dereckt this letter together with youer honnored slfe. Jesos Christ did wayt; & God his Father did dig and telfe bout the barren figtre before he would cast it of: I would to God you would tender my soule so as to youse playnnes with me.” (As if anything could be plainer than excommunication and banishment!) “I wrot to you both, but now [no] answer; & here I am dayli abused by malischous tongse: John Baker I here hath rot to the honnored depoti how as I was dronck & like to be cild, & both falc, upon okachon I delt with Wanuerton for intrushon, & findding them resolutli bent to rout out all gud a mong us & advanc there superstischous waye, & by boystrous words indeferd to fritten men to acomplish his end, & he abusing me to my face, dru upon him with intent to corb his insolent and dasterdli sperrite, but now [no] danger of my life, although it might hafe bin just with God to hafe giffen me in the hanse of youer enemise & mine, for they hat the wayse of the Lord & them that profes them, & therfore layes trapes to cachte the pore into there deboyst corses, as ister daye on Pickeren their Chorch Warden caim up to us with intent to mak some of ourse dronc, as is sospeckted, but the Lord soferd him so to misdemen himslfe as he is likli to li by the hielse this too month.... My hombel request is that you will be charitabel of me.... Let justies and merci be goyned.... You may plese to soggest youer will to this barrer, you will find him tracktabel.” The concluding phrase seems admirably chosen, when we consider the means of making people “tractable” which the magistrates of the Bay had in their hands, and were not slow to exercise, as Underhill himself had experienced.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of giving one more specimen of the Captain’s “grand-delinquent” style, as I once heard such fine writing called by a person who little dreamed what a hit he had made. So far as I have observed, our public defaulters, and others who have nothing to say for themselves, always rise in style as they sink in self-respect. He is speaking of one Scott, who had laid claim to certain lands, and had been called on to show his title. “If he break the comand of the Asembli & bring not in the counterfit portreture of the King imprest in yello waxe, anext to his false perpetuiti of 20 mile square, where by he did chet the Town of Brouckhaven, he is to induer the sentance of the Court of Asisies.” Pistol would have been charmed with that splendid amplification of the Great Seal. We have seen nothing like it in our day, except in a speech made to Mr. George Peabody at Danvers, if I recollect, while that gentleman was so elaborately concealing from his left hand what his right had been doing. As examples of Captain Underhill’s adroitness in phonetic spelling, I offer fafarabel and poseschonse, and  reluctantly leave him.

Another very entertaining fellow for those who are willing to work through a pretty thick husk of tiresomeness for a genuine kernel of humor underneath is Coddington. The elder Winthrop endured many trials, but I doubt if any were sharper than those which his son had to undergo in the correspondence of this excellently tiresome man. Tantae molis Romanam condere gentem! The dulness of Coddington, always that of no ordinary man, became irritable and aggressive after being stung by the gadfly of Quakerism. Running counter to its proper nature, it made him morbidly uneasy. Already an Anabaptist, his brain does not seem to have been large enough to lodge two maggots at once with any comfort to himself. Fancy John Winthrop, Jr., with all the affairs of the Connecticut Colony on his back, expected to prescribe alike for the spiritual and bodily ailments of all the hypochondriacs in his government, and with Philip’s war impending,--fancy him exposed also to perpetual trials like this: “G.F.  [George Fox] hath sent thee a book of his by Jere: Bull, & two more now which thou mayest communicate to thy Council & officers. Also I remember before thy last being in England, I sent thee a book written by Francis Howgall against persecution, by Joseph Nicallson which book thou lovingly accepted and communicated to the Commissioners of the United Colonies (as I desired) also J.N. thou entertained with a loving respect which encouraged me” (fatal hospitality!)--“As a token of that ancient love that for this 42 years I have had for thee, I have sent thee three Manuscripts, one of 5 queries, other is of 15, about the love of Jesus &c. The 3d is why we cannot come to the worship which was not set up by Christ Jesus, which I desire thee to communicate to the priests to answer in thy jurisdiction, the Massachusetts, New Plymouth, or elsewhere, & send their answer in writing to me. Also two printed papers to set up in thy house. It’s reported in Barbadoes that thy brother Sammuell shall be sent Governour to Antego.” What a mere dust of sugar in the last sentence for such a portentous pill! In his next letter he has other writings of G. F., “not yet copied, which if thou desireth, when I hear from thee, I may convey them unto thee. Also sence G. Ffox departure William Edmondson is arrived at this Island, who having given out a paper to all in authority, which, my wife having copied, I have here inclosed presented thee therewith.” Books and manuscripts were not all. Coddington was also glad to bestow on Winthrop any wandering tediousness in the flesh that came to hand. “I now understand of John Stubbs freedom to visit thee (with the said Jo: B.) he is a larned man, as witness the battle door[145] on 35 languages,”—a terrible man this, capable of inflicting himself on three dozen different kindreds of men. It will be observed that Coddington, with his “thou desireths,” is not quite so well up in the grammar of his thee-and-thouing as my Lord Coke. Indeed, it is rather pleasant to see that in his alarm about “the enemy,” in 1673, he backslides into the second person plural. If Winthrop ever looked over his father’s correspondence, he would have read in a letter of Henry Jacie the following dreadful example of retribution: “The last news we heard was that the Bores in Bavaria slew about 300 of the Swedish forces & took about 200 prisoners, of which they put out the eyes of some & cut out the tonges of others & so sent them to the King of Sweden, which caused him to lament bytterly for an hour. Then he sent an army & destroyed those Bores, about 200 or 300 of their towns. Thus we hear.” Think of that, Master Coddington! Could the sinful heart of man always suppress the wish that a Gustavus might arise to do judgment on the Bores of Rhode Island? The unkindest part of it was that, on Coddington’s own statement, Winthrop had never persecuted the Quakers, and had even endeavored to save Robinson and Stevenson in 1659.

Speaking of the execution of these two martyrs to the bee in their bonnets, John Davenport gives us a capital example of the way in which Divine “judgments” may be made to work both ways at the pleasure of the interpreter. As the crowd was going home from the hanging, a drawbridge gave way, and some lives were lost. The Quakers, of course, made the most of this lesson to the pontifices in the bearing power of timber, claiming it as a proof of God’s wrath against the persecutors. This was rather hard, since none of the magistrates perished, and the popular feeling was strongly in favor of the victims of their severity. But Davenport gallantly captures these Quaker guns, and turns them against the enemy himself. “Sir, the hurt that befell so many, by their own rashness, at the Draw Bridge in Boston, being on the day that the Quakers were executed, was not without God’s special providence in judgment & wrath, I fear, against the Quakers & their abettors, who will be much hardened thereby.” This is admirable, especially as his parenthesis about “their own rashness” assumes that the whole thing was owing to natural causes. The pity for the Quakers, too, implied in the “I fear,” is a nice touch. It is always noticeable how much more liberal those who deal in God’s command without his power are of his wrath than of his mercy. But we should never understand the Puritans if we did not bear in mind that they were still prisoners in that religion of Fear which casts out Love.  The nearness of God was oftener a terror than a comfort to them. Yet perhaps in them was the last apparition of Faith as a wonder-worker in human affairs. Take away from them what you will, you cannot deny them that, and its constant presence made them great in a way and measure of which this generation, it is to be feared, can have but a very inadequate conception. If men now-a-days find their tone antipathetic, it would be modest at least to consider whether the fault be wholly theirs,--whether it was they who lacked, or we who have lost. Whether they were right or wrong in their dealing with the Quakers is not a question to be decided glibly after two centuries’ struggle toward a conception of toleration very imperfect even yet, perhaps impossible to human nature. If they did not choose what seems to us the wisest way of keeping the Devil out of their household, they certainly had a very honest will to keep him out, which we might emulate with advantage. However it be in other cases, historic toleration must include intolerance among things to be tolerated.

The false notion which the first settlers had of the savages by whom the continent was beflead rather than inhabited, arose in part from what they had heard of Mexico and Peru, in part from the splendid exaggerations of the early travellers, who could give their readers an El Dorado at the cheap cost of a good lie. Hence the kings, dukes, and earls who were so plenty among the red men. Pride of descent takes many odd shapes, none odder than when it hugs itself in an ancestry of filthy barbarians, who daubed themselves for ornament with a mixture of bear’s-grease and soot, or colored clay, and were called emperors by Captain John Smith and his compeers. The droll contrast between this imaginary royalty and the squalid reality is nowhere exposed with more ludicrous unconsciousness than in the following passage of a letter from Fitz-John Winthrop to his father, November, 1674: “The bearer hereof, Mr. Danyell, one of the Royal Indian blood ... does desire me to give an account to yourself of the late unhappy accident which has happened to him. A little time since, a careless girl playing with fire at the door, it immediately took hold of the mats, & in an instant consumed it to ashes, with all the common as well as his lady’s chamber furniture, & his own wardrobe & armory, Indian plate, & money to the value (as is credibly reported in his estimation) of more than an hundred pounds Indian.... The Indians have handsomely already built him a good house & brought him in several necessaries for his present supply, but that which takes deepest melancholy impression upon him is the loss of an excellent Masathuset cloth cloak & hat, which was only seen upon holy days & their general sessions. His journey at this time is only to intreat your favor & the gentlemen there for a kind relief in his necessity, having no kind of garment but a short jerkin which was charitably given him by one of his Common-Councilmen. He principally aims at a cloak & hat.”

“King Stephen was a worthy peer,
His breeches cost him but a crown.”

But it will be observed that there is no allusion to any such article of dress in the costume of this prince of Pequot. Some light is perhaps thrown on this deficiency by a line or two in one of Williams’s letters, where he says: “I have long had scruples of selling the Natives ought but what may tend or bring to civilizing: I therefore neither brought nor shall sell them loose coats nor breeches.” Precisely the opposite course was deemed effectual with the Highland Scotch, between whom and our Indians there was a very close analogy. They were compelled by law to adopt the usages of Gallia Braccata, and sansculottism made a penal offence. What impediment to civilization Williams had discovered in the offending garment it is hard to say. It is a question for Herr Teufelsdröck. Royalty, at any rate, in our day, is dependent for much of its success on the tailor. Williams’s opportunities of studying the Indian character were perhaps greater than those of any other man of his time. He was always an advocate for justice toward them. But he seems to have had no better opinion of them than Mr. Parkman,[146] calling them shortly and sharply, “wolves endowed with men’s brains.” The same change of feeling has followed the same causes in their case as in that of the Highlanders,--they have become romantic in proportion as they ceased to be dangerous.

As exhibitions of the writer’s character, no letters in the collection have interested us more than those of John Tinker, who for many years was a kind of steward for John Winthrop and his son. They show him to have been a thoroughly faithful, grateful, and unselfish servant. He does not seem to have prospered except in winning respect, for when he died his funeral charges were paid by the public. We learn from one of his letters that John Winthrop, Jr., had a negro (presumably a slave) at Paquanet, for he says that a mad cow there “had almost spoiled the neger & made him ferfull to tend the rest of the cattell.” That such slaves must have been rare, however, is plain from his constant complaints about the difficulty of procuring “help,” some of which we have already quoted. His spelling of the word “ferfull” shows that the New England pronunciation of that word had been brought from the old country. He also uses the word “creatures” for kine, and the like, precisely as our farmers do now.  There is one very comical passage in a letter of the 2nd of August, 1660, where he says: “There hath been a motion by some, the chief of the town, (New London) for my keeping an ordinary, or rather under the notion of a tavern which, though it suits not with my genius, yet am almost persuaded to accept for some good grounds.” Tinker’s modesty is most creditable to him, and we wish it were more common now. No people on the face of the earth suffer so much as we from impostors who keep inconveniences, “under the notion of a tavern,” without any call of natural genius thereto; none endure with such unexemplary patience the superb indifference of inn-keepers, and the condescending inattention of their gentlemanly deputies. We are the thralls of our railroads and hotels, and we deserve it.

Richard Saltonstall writes to John Winthrop, Jr., in 1636: “The best thing that I have to beg your thoughts for at this present is a motto or two that Mr. Prynne hath writ upon his chamber walls in the Tower.” We copy a few phrases, chiefly for the contrast they make with Lovelace’s famous verses to Althea. Nothing could mark more sharply the different habits of mind in Puritan and Cavalier. Lovelace is very charming, but he sings

“The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of his King,”

to wit, Charles I. To him “stone walls do not a prison make,” so long as he has “freedom in his love, and in his soul is free.” Prynne’s King was of another and higher kind: “Carcer excludit mundum, includit Deum. Deus est turris etiam in turre: turris libertatis in turre angustiae: Turris quietis in turre molestice.... Arctari non potest qui in ipsa Dei infinitate incarceratus spatiatur.... Nil crus sentit in nervo si animus sit in coelo: nil corpus patitur in ergastulo, si anima sit in Christo.” If Lovelace has the advantage in fancy, Prynne has it as clearly in depth of sentiment. There could be little doubt which of the parties represented by these men would have the better if it came to a death-grapple.

There is curiously little sentiment in these volumes. Most of the letters, except where some point of doctrine is concerned, are those of shrewd, practical men, busy about the affairs of this world, and earnest to build their New Jerusalem on something more solid than cloud. The truth is, that men anxious about their souls have not been by any means the least skilful in providing for the wants of the body. It was far less the enthusiasm than the common sense of the Puritans which made them what they were in politics and religion. That a great change should be wrought in the settlers by the circumstances of their position was inevitable; that this change should have had some disillusion in it, that it should have weaned them from the ideal and wonted them to the actual, was equally so. In 1664, not much more than a generation after the settlement, Williams prophesies: “When we that have been the eldest are rotting (to-morrow or next day) a generation will act, I fear, far unlike the first Winthrops and their models of love. I fear that the common trinity of the world (profit, preferment, pleasure) will here be the tria omnia as in all the world beside, that Prelacy and Papacy too will in this wilderness predominate, that god Land will be (as now it is) as great a god with us English as god Gold was with the Spaniards. While we are here, noble sir, let us viriliter hoc agere, rem agere humanam, divinam, Christianam, which, I believe, is all of a most public genius,” or, as we should now say, true patriotism. If Williams means no play on the word humanam and divinam, the order of precedence in which he marshals them is noticeable. A generation later, what Williams had predicted was in a great measure verified. But what made New England Puritanism narrow was what made Scotch Cameronianism narrow,--its being secluded from the great movement of the nation. Till 1660 the colony was ruled and mostly inhabited by Englishmen closely connected with the party dominant in the mother country, and with their minds broadened by having to deal with questions of state and European policy. After that time they sank rapidly into provincials, narrow in thought, in culture, in creed.  Such a pedantic portent as Cotton Mather would have been impossible in the first generation; he was the natural growth of the third,--the manifest judgment of God on a generation who thought Words a saving substitute for Things. Perhaps some injustice has been done to men like the second Governor Dudley, and it should be counted to them rather as a merit than a fault, that they wished to bring New England back within reach of the invigorating influence of national sympathies, and to rescue it from a tradition which had become empty formalism. Puritanism was dead, and its profession had become a wearisome cant before the Revolution of 1688 gave it that vital force in politics which it had lost in religion.

I have gleaned all I could of what is morally picturesque or characteristic from these volumes, but New England history has rather a gregarious than a personal interest. Here, by inherent necessity rather than design, was made the first experiment in practical democracy, and accordingly hence began that reaction of the New World upon the Old whose result can hardly yet be estimated. There is here no temptation to make a hero, who shall sum up in his own individuality and carry forward by his own will that purpose of which we seem to catch such bewitching glances in history, which reveals itself more clearly and constantly, perhaps, in the annals of New England than elsewhere, and which yet, at best, is but tentative, doubtful of itself, turned this way and that by chance, made up of instinct, and modified by circumstance quite as much as it is directed by deliberate forethought. Such a purpose, or natural craving, or result of temporary influences, may be misguided by a powerful character to his own ends, or, if he be strongly in sympathy with it, may be hastened toward its own fulfilment; but there is no such heroic element in our drama, and what is remarkable is, that, under whatever government, democracy grew with the growth of the New England Colonies, and was at last potent enough to wrench them, and the better part of the continent with them, from the mother country. It is true that Jefferson embodied in the Declaration of Independence the speculative theories he had learned in France, but the impulse to separation came from New England; and those theories had been long since embodied there in the practice of the people, if they had never been formulated in distinct propositions.

I have little sympathy with declaimers about the Pilgrim Fathers, who look upon them all as men of grand conceptions and superhuman foresight.  An entire ship’s company of Columbuses is what the world never saw. It is not wise to form any theory and fit our facts to it, as a man in a hurry is apt to cram his travelling-bag, with a total disregard of shape or texture. But perhaps it may be found that the facts will only fit comfortably together on a single plan, namely, that the fathers did have a conception (which those will call grand who regard simplicity as a necessary element of grandeur) of founding here a commonwealth on those two eternal bases of Faith and Work; that they had, indeed, no revolutionary ideas of universal liberty, but yet, what answered the purpose quite as well, an abiding faith in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God; and that they did not so much propose to make all things new, as to develop the latent possibilities of English law and English character, by clearing away the fences by which the abuse of the one was gradually discommoning the other from the broad fields of natural right. They were not in advance of their age, as it is called, for no one who is so can ever work profitably in it; but they were alive to the highest and most earnest thinking of their time.



[135] Written in December, 1864. 

[136] It is curious, that, when Cromwell proposed to transfer a colony from New England to Ireland, one of the conditions insisted on in Massachusetts was that a college should be established.

[137] State Trials, II. 409. One would not reckon too closely with a man on trial for his life, but there is something pitiful in Peter’s representing himself as coming back to England “out of the West Indias,” in order to evade any complicity with suspected New England.

[138] Waller put this into verse:--

“Let the rich ore forthwith be melted down
And the state fixed by making him a crown.”

[139] The third in Carlyle, 1654.

[140] Collections, Third Series, Vol I. p. 183.

[141] This speech may be found in the Annual Register of 1762.

[142] Collection of Voyages, &c., from the Library of the Earl of Oxford, Vol. I. p. 151.

[143] Howes writes the word symbolically.

[144] “World” here should clearly be “work.”

[145] The title-page of which our learned Marsh has cited for the etymology of the word.

[146] In his Jesuits in North America.




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