William Babcock Weeden.

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needed to lift commercial and material Newport out of
pioneer life, and into communion with an older civiliza-
tion and a more refined culture.

Berkeley, on his way to found a college at Bermuda,
landed at Newport, January 23, 1729, by accident or
design, as is disputed, and remained there about three
years. Rev. James Honyman was preaching in Trinity
church, founded at the beginning of the century, when

2 Rhode Island Historical Magazine, Vol. VI., p. 216.
s Life and Letters of Berkeley, p. 41.

268 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

the letter from Dean Berkeley, proposing to land, was
received. He read it to the congregation, dismissing them
with a blessing. The pastor and flock repaired to the
wharf in time for the landfall. In this dramatic man-
ner, the ideas of the old world were received into the new.

The philosopher confirms all our reports of the beauty
and extraordinary, progressive character of the place,
with its 6000 inhabitants. " The most thriving, flourish-
ing place in all America for its bigness." 4 We shall note
the sectaries, who " agreed in a rage for finery, the men
in flaming scarlet coats and waistcoats, laced and fringed
with brightest glaring yellow. The sly Quakers, not
venturing on these charming coats and waistcoats, yet
loving finery, figured away with plate on their side-
boards." 5

Graduates from Harvard College were frequent, with
an occasional native who had been educated at an English
university. The girls were often sent to Boston for their

Dissenters naturally attracted the notice of this good-
humored ecclesiast. " The inhabitants are of a mixed
kind, consisting of many sorts and subdivisions of sects.
Here are four sorts of Anabaptists, besides Presbyterians,
Quakers, Independents, and many of no profession at all.
Notwithstanding so many differences, here are fewer quar-
rels about religion than elsewhere, the people living peace-
ably with their neighbours of whatever profession. They
all agree in one point, that the Church of England is
second best." 6

This accommodating spirit noted by the Dean was

enforced in most piquant manner by Captain William

4 Life and Letters of Berkeley, p. 160.
Glbid., p. 157.
*Ibid., p. 160.



g c

J l-H

E c

1729] Wanton's Religious Compromise 269

Wanton, a Quaker and a son of a preacher. He courted
Ruth Bryant, the beautiful daughter of a Presbyterian
deacon in Scituate, Mass., who would not hear of such
laxity in marriage, but the ardent groom solved the diffi-
culty. " Ruth, I am sure we were made for each other ;
let us break away from this unreasonable bondage. I
will give up my religion and thou shalt give up thine and
we will go to the Church of England and the devil to-
gether." 7

Lodowick Updike gives his boyish impression of the
liberal Dean in Trinity pulpit. " All sects rushed to hear
him; even the Quakers, with their broad-brimmed hats,
came and stood in the aisles. 8 In one of his sermons he
very emphatically said, ' give the devil his due, John Cal-
vin was a great man.' " 9

Rev. James MacSparran, settled at St. Paul's Church in
Narragansett in 1721, was not as tolerant toward the
" pestilent heresy " of the Quakers. He stated that there
was no established religion, " but the Quakers are, for the
most part, the people in power." 10 George Fox came in
1672, on his powerful mission. William Penn said of him
that he was " civil beyond all forms of breeding." His
influence, working on the radical settlers of- the Island
and their descendants, must have had gracious effect.
Historians and critics rooted in the established order of
the sixteenth and following centuries, when judging dis-
sent, can only see jangling differences ; for they are blindly

7 Annals of Trinity Church, p. 52n.

8 " In 1700, one-half the inhabitants were Quakers." Annals Trin-
ity Church, p. 10. Roger Williams affected the Island settlement
indirectly. He differed in doctrine from the Friends; while on the
other hand, the system of laws established by Coddington and Clarke
was adopted by the whole colony and enabled Providence to main-
tain a cohesive government.

9 Updike, Narragansett Church, p. 120.
io Ibid., p. 510.

270 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

unconscious of the indestructible elements of beauty, grow-
ing out of freedom from arbitrary control in religious and
social matters. Good Dean Berkeley cited four varieties
of Anabaptists among his new friends and neighbors.
Anabaptism simply meant the worst form of anarchy to
an ordinary Catholic or Calvinist of the differing centuries.
Yet the conservative Erasmus could term them " a people
against whom there is very little to be said." In some
cases, goaded by severe laws, they were wild and fanatical,
but were in general mystically sincere and pious. They
were not necessarily historical Baptists, though the rite
of baptism usually distinguished them.

In the great social influences forming the Newport of
mid-eighteenth century, the Literary and Philosophical
Society with the Redwood Library were powerful fac-
tors. The first institution was formed in 1730 ; some
claiming that it was originated by Berkeley. Mr. Mason,
a competent and sympathetic authority, says it " owed
something of its influence to him we may readily admit ;
but when he came to Newport, intellectually, he found it
no barren wilderness." 1X The people were chosen and
elect, whether we consider Coddington, John Clarke and
the disciples of Anne Hutchinson, or the friends of Roger
Williams, or the converts of George Fox, or the enter-
prising spirits gathered into " the most thriving place in
all America." The Quaker Wanton and the high Puri-
tan Ruth Bryant molded into genial Episcopalians were
fair examples of this annealing culture.

They had books already, as will be shown later, and
representatives of all the sects, Jacob the Quaker scien-
tist ; Collins and Ward, Seventh Day Sabbatarians ; Cal-
lender, a Baptist ; Learning, a Congregationalist ; the
Episcopal Honyman and others banded together. There

11 Annals Redwood Library, p. 2.

1730] Philosophical Society 271

was an elaborate set of rules, with forfeits and fines for
all sorts of neglect and misfeasance, as was common then;
some showing the earnest spirit of life prevailing. _ _

The Society was to consider " some useful question in
Divinity, Morality, Philosophy, History, etc.," but "noth-
ing shall ever be proposed or debated which is a distin-
guishing religious tenet of any one member. . . .
Whoever shall make it an excuse to avoid giving his
opinion, that he has not thought of the question, or has
forgot what the question is, shall forfeit one shilling.
Whoever is unprovided of a proper question, on his turn
to propound one, shall forfeit one shilling." 12

The first " authentic paper " is dated 1735, though
there must have been earlier examples. The Society was
conducted vigorously and continued until about 1747 and
had some occasional members, among whom was Stephen
Hopkins, of Providence. Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson, an-
other participant, lived at Stratford, Conn. He was an
ardent disciple of Berkeley, visiting him soon after his
arrival As he was invited to the rectorate of Trinity m
1750, it shows the permanence of Berkeley's influence in
the colony. Afterwards he was president of King s Col-
lege, New York. .

Newport was a favorite destination for Scotch immi-
grants, and accordingly their influence was strong m the
community. We get an inkling of the relative importance
of the port from this statement of Dr. Waterhouse: Be-
tween the years 1746 and 1750 there came over from
Great Britain to the English colonies a number of Scotch
o-entlemen. Some settled in Philadelphia, some m New
York, but the greater part sat down in that pleasant and
healthy spot, Rhode Island." 3
12 Annals Redwood Library, p. 14.
is Ibid., p. 28.

272 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

Edward Scott, 14 the grand-uncle of Sir Walter, was for
more than twenty years master of the grammar and classi-
cal school. He was an active member of the Philosoph-
ical Society and librarian of the Redwood.

There had been collections of books all through the
century. Regulations of the Library of Trinity Church
were recorded in 1709. Some of those volumes exist in
fair preservation, stamped in gold letters " Belonging to
y e Library in Rhode Island." 15 Bequests down to 1733
show small collections of good books. John Clarke in
1676 left a Concordance and Lexicon written by himself,
also a Hebrew Bible. Benedict Arnold in 1733 left, be-
sides Quaker books, Milton, Quarles, Fuller and Plutarch.
In 1747, the Redwood Library was engrafted on the stock
of the Philosophical Society. Abraham Redwood, a
wealthy merchant and liberal Friend, gave £500. Henry
Collins, a Seventh Day Baptist, furnished the land on
which the Library stands. Born in 1699, he was a prod-
uct and a maker of the culture we are studying. Doctor
Benjamin Waterhouse, a close friend of Gilbert Stuart, —
himself a graduate of the University of Leyden, finally
professor of Medicine in Harvard College — called Collins
the Lorenzo de Medici of Rhode Island. Hon. William
Hunter said of him, " He loved literature and the fine arts ;
had the sense of the beautiful in nature conjoined with the
impulse to see it imitated and surpassed by art ; he was a
merchant, enterprising, opulent and liberal. Smibert was
the father of true painting in this country.
Collins was fortunate enough to engage his earliest labors

. . his own portrait, Clap, Callender, above all Ber-
keley himself. " 16

i* Annals Trinity Church, p. 55.
is Ibid., p. 19.
is Ibid., p. 27.

1750] Book of the Time 273

The list of books 17 ordered from London is interesting,
and we may glance at a name here and there, for we have
the spirit of the time in black letter. There were 114
titles in folio. Barclay and Penn, Barrow, Burnet's Ref-
ormation, a general dictionary of ten vols., Grotius,
Wood's Laws of England, Sir William Temple. In quarto
73 titles, include dictionaries, Cudworth, Eusebius,
Fluxions, Boyle, Bacon, and Rowe on Wheel Carriages.
The octaA'os cover 95 standard classics, with an occasional
Erasmus, Puffendorf or Johnson. History took 73 titles,
Divinity and Morality 48, which varied from Sherlock,
Butler, Warbuton to Mrs. Rowe's " Friendship in
Death " or " Young Gentleman and Lady Instructed."
Forty titles were in Physick, 24 in Law, 54 in Natural
History, Mathematics, etc., 55 in Arts, Liberal and Me-
chanical, "37 in Miscellanies, Politics, etc. In duodecimo,
there were 135 examples of very good general reading, as
we should phrase it.

These names embody the books they desired ; perhaps
we should scan more closely those given by several gentle-
men ; for the volumes are such as they had. In folio 28
titles show Baxter, Beaumont, Fletcher, Chaucer, Herod-
otus, Homer, Justin Martyr, the Rambler, Spenser. In
22 quarto, 54 octavo were Descartes, Middleton, Addison,
Bolingbroke, Calvin's Institute in Latin, Douglass' Sum-
mary from the author, Gentleman's Magazine for two
years, twelve magazines from Philadelphia, Grey, Young's
Night Thoughts, Roderick Random, Pope, Erasmus.

In a thriving and progressive community, accidents as
well as incident, contribute to the vital increase. As the
Scotch " Forty-five " sent out emigrating rebels to give
needed strength to the new world, so the earthquake at
Lisbon in 1755 sent more than sixty families of accom-

" Annals Redwood Library, p. 494.

274 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

plished Jews 18 who were generally wealthy merchants,
attracted by liberal government and commercial oppor-
tunity, to our little isle by the sea.

The Jew first embodied and represented in an individual
the creative power of industry, flippantly characterized
as the " Almighty Dollar." It is a fructifying idol, not
almighty indeed, but powerful to enlist man with man,
and to hold him subjected — not to a greater and sovereign
man — but to citizen and people embodied in the State.
Feudalism had been tested and found wanting, as it has
been recently outgrown in Japan. Greater than the uni-
versal imperial power of Egypt and Assyria, greater even
than Rome, was the economic force of industry ; pledged
to the State as a whole, but returning to each man in his
own pocket, a universal tribute of mankind to man — the
dollar. The philosophy of the eighteenth century, bap-
tized in the blood and sacrifice of French feudal privilege,
was necessary to garner in and bestow on each peasant or
householder, this new tax, toll, impost and assessment of
society, payable to its least and lowest member.

Meanwhile, England was so far ahead of its compeers
in modern development that it had cut off the head of a
king in the seventeenth century, by way of showing privi-
lege and blind despotism, what was meant by the awaken-
ing of the human mind. All this is frequently treated as
being absolutely involved in constitutional government,
expanding suffrage and parliamentary representation.
Truly, it is a part of these great categories of human
progress, but it is even more part and portion of the
larger social movement ; by which not only is government
parceled out by King, Kaiser arid cabinet, by parliament,
democratic party or aristocracy to render political rights
fairly ; but also by which the economic dollar flowing out

is Newport Historical Magazine, Vol. IV. p. 162.

1750] Rise of the Dollar 275

of capitalist's coffer or laborer's pocket can renovate and
fructify the whole movement.

By this extraordinary exercise of social force in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the face of the world
was rapidly changed, Napoleons being elevated, or in turn
crushed, by the way. The greatest exponent, the largest
interpreter of this universal social force, working through
particular individuals, was the historic Jew. He was lit-
tle comprehended then, he is not wholly understood to-
day. Anyone can see that the new economic dispensation
did not endow the feudal descendants of fabled Roland or
historic Richard with new privilege; nor did it relegate
to the robber dynasties of Napoleonic marshals the admin-
istration of the new powers of society. It went to the
Ghetto for new administrators, in the persons of shivering
Shylocks and abject Isaacs of York. The scions and
representatives of these new social financial administra-
tors came out on the enlarged Rialto, the modern

I hinted in the beginning, rather than affirmed, that
Newport was a wayside product of the whole social eight-
eenth century. The Jew, with his enlarged intelligence
and creative skill, went into an appreciative and responsive

The " metropolitan " community, as it called itself in
1712, had come to be an important mart. Dr. MacSpar-
ran and Douglass substantially agreed in reporting the
commerce of 1750 to 1760. Butter and cheese, grain, fat
cattle, fine horses, pipe staves and lumber were among the
exports, largely to the West Indies. The Narragansett
pacers were famous, pacing " a mile in little more than
two minutes, a good deal less than three," 19 according to
the worthy parson. There were above 300 vessels of
19 Updike, Narragansett Church, p. 514,

276 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

sixty tons and more, including coasters, in the export
trade. In 1749, there were 160 clearances for foreign
voyages. 20 In 1770, there were at least 200 vessels in
foreign and 400 in the coasting trade, 21 the population
having grown to 12,000. After 1707, trade in sugar,
rum, and negroes grew rapidly. Sugar and molasses
were distilled at Boston and more at Newport. The
slaves were generally carried to the West Indies, some-
times to Newport or Boston. Much capital from Boston
assisted in the business at Newport. 22 Privateering in
the French and Spanish wars was a stimulating element
in commerce. Wantons, Ellerys, Malbones, indeed almost
all the names are represented in this warring commerce.

Rev. James Honyman, 23 Scotchman and rector of
Trinity from 1704 until 1750, was conciliatory in his min-
istry, drawing hearers from all the surrounding country.
Dr. MacSparran, Irishman of Narragansett, learned,
acute, disputatious, was a keen sectarian, believing in
anybody's establishment, if he could not have his own. He
found in 1721 " a field full of briars and thorns." . . .
" Here liberty of conscience is carried to an irreligious
extreme." 24

We get a wider outlook and more judicial report from
Arthur Brown, son of a rector of Trinit} 7 . He lived in
Newport until seventeen years old, then entered Trinity
College, Dublin, becoming Senior Proctor and Professor
of Greek. He wrote :

" The innocence of the people made them capable of
liberty. Murder and robbery were unknown. During

20 Rhode Island Historical Magazine, Vol. VI., p. 310.
2i Ibid., V. 7, p. 47.

22 Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, Vol.
II, pp. 455-469.

23 Annals Trinity Church, p. 94.
2i Updike, pp. 511, 514.

1762] True Liberty at Newport 277

nine years at Newport from 1762 to 1771 25 (I speak of
my own knowledge) only one person was executed, a
notorious thief and house-breaker, one Sherman. . . .
The multiplicity of secretaries (sic) and strange wildness
of opinions, was disgusting to a reasonable mind, and
produced as great a variety, though with no such perni-
cious effect, as in the reign of Charles the First; upon the
whole, however, there was more genuine religion, morality
and piety diffused than in any country I have ever seen.
. . . The state of literature in America was by no
means contemptible." 26

The refined culture of such a people must find expres-
sion in art, though the century was not fruitful in the
plastic arts. John Smibert, another Scotchman, is con-
sidered to have been the first artist of note in America.
He came to Newport with Dean Berkeley and painted
many portraits there. Robert Feke, little known, but one
of the best colonial artists, practiced there in the mid-
century. Gilbert Stuart, the marvelous delineator of
Washington, born in Narragansett, educated in Newport,
was formed at the beginning by these collections of pic-
tures. Cosmo Alexander, an artist of repute, spent two
years in America, mostly on the island ; he taught Stuart
and first took him to England. Washington Allston was
fitted for college in Newport. Edward G. Malbone, born
at Newport in the revolutionary time, was self-taught, and
the atmosphere of the island-paradise lighted up his
palette. Benjamin West said of his " Hours " that " no
man in England could excel it." There is in the delicate
lines of this bit of ivory a " dignity, character and expres-
sion " 2T inspired by the whole ideal life I have attempted

25 It will be remembered the population was 12,000. And we
should compare the legal and criminal experience of England at
the same period.

26 Rhode Island Historical Magazine, Vol. VI., pp. 161, 168-171.

27 Arnold. Art and Artists in Rhode Island, p. 9.

278 Newport in the Eighteenth Century

to set forth. We have in these words, the criticism of a
sympathetic artist. I would note also a certain grace
which is the refining excellence of beauty.

The grace of culture may be rendered in a picture ; its
strength and force must be represented by a man or men.
Ezra Stiles, though not the outgrowth, was a collateral
product of our island. Coincident with the Jewish immi-
gration, he became minister of the Second Congregational
Church in 1756, at twenty-nine years of age, influenced
" partly by an agreeable town and the Redwood Library."
He was Librarian during most of his twenty years' so-
journ. Corresponding with European authors, he solic-
ited books for the Redwood. His folio Homer is pre-
served, fully annotated by him in the original Greek. He
became President of Yale College, the natural precinct of
Jonathan Edwards, 28 who had told the previous gener-
ation that the " existence of all exterior things is ideal."

Stiles formed Chancellor Kent, and Channing, inherit-
ing his Newport teachings, said, " In my earliest years, I
regarded no human being with equal reverence." If he
had done no more than to affect seriously these two men,
America would owe him a great debt.

This happy community was fatally damaged by the
Revolution, when its commerce fled to the safer port of
Providence. Many of its citizens were loyalists, and the
armies of both contestants trampled over the city. The
society created by its peculiar culture was scattered, and
the true " Paradise of New England " ceased to be.

28 We should note the sympathy, correlative though not derived,
between Edwards and Berkeley. " The soul in a sense, has its seat
in the brain; so in a sense, the visible world is existent out of the
mind; for it certainly in the proper sense, exists out of the
brain. . . . Space is a necessary being, if it may be called a
being; and yet we have also shown, that all existence is mental, that
the existence of all exterior things is ideal." Cited from Edwards
by Sereno E. Dwight. Life and Letters of Berkeley, p. 182.




HE name of King's County was changed to Wash-
ington during the Revolution, but it has generally
been known by the familiar term we have given it. The
characteristics of the region changed as slavery went out.
As the estates lessened, the patrician owners were suc-
ceeded by farmers employing fewer laborers, and their
habits were more in accord with other parts of the colony
and state. We must take up and describe Rowland Rob-
inson, 1 for the story of his daughter, the " Unfortunate
Hannah." He was a type of the old landholders, " con-
stitutionally irritable, rash and unyielding " by one ac-
count. In Mr. Isaac P. Hazard's 2 rose-colored glass, he
was " a noble, generous-spirited man by nature, passion-
ate, but not vindictive." All agree that the daughter was
" the most perfect model of beauty." She was known in
Philadelphia and throughout the colonies. One of her
suitors, Dr. William Bowen, was most enthusiastic in his
description. " Her figure was graceful and dignified, her
complexion fair and beautiful and her manner urbane
and captivating; that she rode with ease and elegance."
Doctor Bowen proffered Ins affection, but the beauty
was already engaged. The refusal came with « such
suavity and tenderness, united with personal respect," that
the disappointed suitor was consoled.

The favored swain was Peter Simons, of Newport, who

lUpdike, Goodwin, Vol. I, pp. 230-234.
2 Ibid., p. 546.


280 The South County

was a music-master at the dancing school, where they met.
Notwithstanding the most violent opposition from Mr.
Robinson, they eloped and were married about 1760 in
Providence, where they settled, living in very poor cir-
cumstances. The neglect and dissipation of the husband,
and possibly the uneasy conscience of the bride, made
her ill. She was assisted by her mother, who finally per-
suaded the passionate, but affectionate, father to have
her conveyed in a litter to his home in Narragansett. It
was too late, and she died on the night of her arrival.

This was purely an old-fashioned romance, with all the
elements needed by Miss Porter for a ravishing tale. A
century ago, sympathy was altogether with the " Unfor-
tunate Hannah." As the shadows lengthen, the high
lights are not so strong on the figures of the lovers, and
bring the father into more favorable perspective. The
outcome of the worthless character of Simons proved that
the sensible father was correct in estimating the youth.
Doubtless, Robinson's conduct was passionate and unrea-
soning ; that was the way of the time. He was putting
forth all his powers to save his daughter from a fate
which was literally " unfortunate."

The excellent care of the Hazard family has preserved
the account books of College Tom, kept in 1750 to 1790,
with their invaluable records of Narragansett life in the
middle of the century. He was son 3 of the large land-
holder, Robert Hazard, graduating at Yale College, and
lived the life of a planter, gradually merging into that
of a farmer. He charged farm produce to his debtors

3 " He married Elizabeth, daughter of Governor Robinson, was
comely in person, large in stature six feet, and of great physical
strength; a forcible speaker, he was deservedly popular in his
denomination, and was the first in his denomination that advocated
the abolition of negro slavery." — Updike, Goodwin, Vol. II., p. 65.

1758] College Tom's Management 281

Online LibraryWilliam Babcock WeedenEarly Rhode Island; → online text (page 21 of 29)