Arthur A. (Arthur Amasa) Ross.

A discourse, embracing the civil and religious history of Rhode-Island; delivered April 4, A.D. 1838, at the close of the second century from the first settlement of the island online

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Online LibraryArthur A. (Arthur Amasa) RossA discourse, embracing the civil and religious history of Rhode-Island; delivered April 4, A.D. 1838, at the close of the second century from the first settlement of the island → online text (page 1 of 13)
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Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Newport, R. I.





jNo people can dwell on the pages of their own history
with more supreme satisiaction, or derive from that history
more lasting and salutary instructions, than the people of
Rhode-Island. To be ignorant of our own history, betrays
a most criminal apathy to our own intellectual happiness,
and to the high and elevated principles of the men from
whom we descended, and by whom were transmitted
and secured to us, the blessings of civil and religious

The object of the writer in the following pages, has
been to embody and present before the risen and rising
generation, some of the most imporicnt facts and incidents
of our history, during the past century. Nor could the
writer feel justified, in a discourse of this nature, without
alluding to the circumstances and events which led to tlie
settlement of this State, and especially of our own loved

The war of the Revolution, as connected with the his-
tory o{ this Island, which, for the greater part of that long
continued and sanguinary conflict, was in possession of the
enemy, constitutes unavoidably a large proportion of this
discourse. Nor can the writer persuade himself to believe
that the reminiscence of those events can be uninteresting
'O the descendants of those illustrious men, who shared


in the perils of the Revolution, and achieved the Ameri-
can Independence.

The Ecclesiastical History of Rhode-Island, rich in
interest to the Philanthropist and Christian, and furnishing
ample materials for the Historian, has been only glanced
at, the writer being conscious, in a work like this, of hi>
utter inability to do justice to that part of our history, and
has beheved that an abridged history of the Churches on
this Island, would more deeply interest the reader than
general observations, and contribute to the glory of the
riches of Divine grace. If the following pages shall in
any wise tend to promote these objects, the highest am-
bition of the Author will be accomplished.

Kewport, May I, 1838.


EZRA IV, 15,


Two centuries have now passed away, since the vene-
rable John Clarke and his little band of persecuted
brethren, entered this then inhospitable and savage des-
ert, rejoicing in it as an asylum of rest, from the relent-
less hand of religious intolerance and persecution. Here
tliey erected the temple of civil and religious freedom,
and on her sacred altar, pledged their persons, lives and
estates, to maintain unimpaired, the inalienable rights of

In consequence of the unjust and arbitrary decisions of
the General Court of Massachusetts, Mr. Clarke and
several others were appointed by their friends, to select
a spot where they might inhale the atmos[)here of free-
dom, and worship God according to the dictates of their
own conscience, unmolested. After wandering a while
in the wilderness of New Hampshire, tliev directed their


course to the south, intending to find a residence in a
more congenial climate. On their arrival at Providencej
they were very kindly received by Roger WilHams, who
had' previously been banished from the Colony of Mas-
sachusetts, for his peculiar views of civil and religious
polity ; and who among other things, (says Mr. Callen-
der,) was charged with insisting on the most unlimited
toleration or liberty of conscience.

Mr. Williams recommended to these wandering exiles,
the waters of the Narragansett Bay, as the peculiar resi-
dence of the genius of religious freedom, and advised
them to take up their abode on her shores. He also
very kindly offered his services in procuring them a set-
tlement ; and through his influence with the two great
Sachems of Narragansett, Canonicus and Myantonomo,
(whose confidence he enjoyed) a deed of Aquitneck,
(now Rhode-Island) and other Islands of the Bay, was
procL«ired in the name of Mr. Coddington and friends,
in March, 1638.

These venerable men commenced the settlement ot
tl)is Island, under the influence of sentiments the most
pure and elevated, that ever inspired the heart, or digni-
fied the character of man. They were bound together
as a community of freemen — not by chartered rights and
conventional stipulations — but by moral and religious
principle. By mutual voluntary pledges, given by a
solemn appeal to the great searcher of hearts, for their
faithful performance.

The following is the original Charter of the American
Isle of Rhodes : — '' We, whose names are underwritten,
do swear solemnly in the presence of the Great Jehovah,
to incorporate ourselves into a body politic ; and as he
-.hall help us, will submit our persons, lives and estates,
unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord
of lords, and to all those most perfect laws of his, given
113 in his most holy v.'ord of truth, to be guided and iudg-
ed thereby."

Such \vere the principles adopted, and sucii the senti-


ments set forth, as the great charter of rights, by those
who had the honor of planting the first community of
civihzed man on Rhode-Island.

The first settlement on the Island, was commenced at
its northern extremity, where a town was regularly laid
out, and at first named Pocasset ; subsequently Ports-
mouth. But so rapid was the increase of the Colony,
during the following summer, that it was deemed advisa-
ble for their mutual prosperity, to commence a settlement
on some other part of the Island.

Accordingly, the following spring, Mr. Clarke with
several others, removed to this part of the Island, and
commenced a settlement, to which they gave the name
of Newport. The Island itself, subsequently, by order
of the General Court, was called the Isle of Rhodes, or
Rhode-Island, in memory of that celebrated Isle of the
Mediterranean Sea. The first dwelling-house built in
this town, was erected by Nicholas Easton — all prior
dwellings were tents and wigwams. Both towns were
united under the same simple patriarchal form of govern-
ment, of which Mr. William Coddlngton was chosen
Magistrate, or Judge. A few months subsequently, they
chose Mr. John Coggeshall, Nicholas Easton, and Wil-
liam Brenton, his assistants. I^Ir. Coggeshall descended
from an ancient and respectable family in England. He
came to this country with Mr. Coddlngton, In 1630, and
was admitted a freeman of the town of Boston, In 163-2.
He was a member of the first Board of Selectmen of
Boston, and represented that town in General Court, in
1634-5-6, and the Spring session of 1637, but was dis-
franchised for conscience toward God, that same year. —
His dlsfi-anchisement with others, created great discon-
tent among his hiends, which led to their removal, and
finally to the settlement of this Island. 'Mr. Coggeshall
enjoyed the confidence of the Colony of Rhode-Island,
nd at the time of his death, which occurred in 1647, he
'? President of the Colony. He lies in the Coggeshall


burial place, a little south of Newport. The following
is the ioscription on his tomb-stone : —

" Here Iveth the Body of


who died the First President of the Colony, the 27th of Nov.

1647, aged about 56 years."

His descendants are still numerous on the Island, and
many of them are among our most respectable citizens.

Mr. Coddington came to this country with Governor
Hutchinson, having been appointed in 1629, by the Brit-
ish government, one of the Assistants of the Massachu-
setts Colony. He engaged in mercantile business in
Boston, and built the first brick house in that town. But
notwithstanding all the facilities he there enjoyed of pro-
moting his own temporal prosperity, yet he chose to re-
linquish all thescj for the sake of rehgious freedom. — ■■
Accordingly, in 1638, with the beloved Clarke and six-
teen others, he left the Colony of Massachusetts, and
commenced the settlement of this Island ; and was by his
companions in tribulation, unanimously elected Chief
Magistrate or Judge of the Colony ; which ofhce he held
until the Island was incorporated w^ith Providence and
Warwick. In 1651, he was appointed by the Supreme
Authority of England, Governor of the Island, pursuant
to a power reserved in the patent, by which the Island
became again separated from the Providence Plantations.

But the people, jealous of their rights and fearful that
their freedom might be endangered, dispatched Mr. Wil-
liams and Mr. Clarke to England, to get it revoked. On
receiving due notice from England, Mr. Coddington gave
up his commission and retired to private life, when the
Island again become united with the Plantations. Mr.
Coddington was again elected Governor of the Colony,
in 1674-1675, ^nd 1678, on which year he died, aged
78 years. He was a man of extensive learning, and as-
sisted in framing the body of laws, w^hich has been the
basis of our constitution and government ever since. —
Governor Coddinoion was interred in the familv burial-


place, which at his death lie gave the Society of Friends,
(in Farewell-street,) just South of the North Baptist
meeting-house. The freemen of Newport, in Town
Meeting, August 30, 1836, appointed a Committee to
repair the monument at the head of the grave of this dis-
tinguished friend and advocate of civil and religious free-

The last of the original purchasers and proprietors of
this Island, was Henry Bull, Esq. who died in 1693,
a^ed 84 years. He huilt a house at the settlement on
the North part of the Island, iu 1638, and was one of
the seven proprietors, who in 1639, commenced the set-
tlement of this town. " He held various public offices
in this Colony from its first settlement, until a few years
before his death. He was Governor of the Colony, in
1685, after which, being at a very advanced age, he re-
linquished public employment, to end his days in domes-
tic peace ; but after the revolution in England, (the Col-
ony Charter having been vacated, and Rhode-Island put
under the government of Sir Edmund Andres, who held
it until the spring of 1689,) he was induced again to come
fonvard into public life.

" After Sir Edmund Andros was imprisoned in Boston ,
the freemen of Rhode-Island met in Newport on the 1st
of May, 1689, and determined to resume their former
Charter and government, and proceeded to choose their
officers accordingly ; but of the persons appointed, many
refused to accept, and among the number, the Governor
elect, in consequence of the boldness and responsibility
of the measure, the dangerous and unsettled state of the
times, the uncertainty what reception their proceedings
might meet in England, and what personal consequences
might fall upon those most forward in the undertaking.

" The government was not fully organized until the Feb-
ruary following, all which time, none of the principal in-
habitants could be found of sufficient nerve, to accept the
gubernatorial chair, but this man, then at a very advan-
ced ?ige. He was then appointed by the Assembly, ac-


cepted the office, and served until the next annual elec -
lion, when he was again elected, but positively refused
to serve any longer, as the danger which had deterred
otliers, no longer existed, at least to the same extent."

The house erected by Governor Bull, in Newport, is
af stone, and still standing on the East side of Spring-
street, near Broad-street. Governor Bull lies buried in
the Coddington burial place, where a plain and unosten-
tatious slab points the passing stranger to the spot, where
^ieep the mouldering ashes of this bold and fearless pa-

Heni-y Bull, Esq. of Newport, is his lineal descendant,
ixnd now in possession of the patrimonial estate of his an-

In 1643, Mr. Williams, as the agent of the Colonies
of Narragansett Bay, obtained a Charter of incorporation
from the British Crown, granting them permission to make
laws for themselves, so far as the nature and constitution
of the place would admit, subject to the laws of England.

In 1663, Mr. Clarke, who for several years had betn
JD England, as agent of the Colonies, procured a Char-
ter, by which the province was mcorporated a body pol-
itic, by the name of the Governor and Company of the
Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, in New-Eng-
land, in America.

This act of incorporation, securing as it does to all, the
inalienable rights of man, the free and unrestricted exer-
cise of his own judgment and conscience, on all questions
v.f religion, the freemen of Rhode-Island have guarded
with a kind of patriotic enthusiasm, which has rebuked
with severity, the hand put forth to mar the form of this
Magna Charta of civil and religious freedom.

Mr. Williams is justly and deservedly venerated by
the people of Rhode-Island, as the bold and uncompro-
mising advocate of religious toleration ; and wrestled hard
for liberty of conscience for himself and his fellow men.
But the name of Mr. Clarke, first mentioned in the
Charter of Rhode-Island, should be cherished in the


same grateful remembrance, by every friend of civil and
religious freedom. He was the companion of Mr. Wil-
liams in iribulalion for conscience sake, and although bis
feet were not made fast in the stocks, yet he suffered im-
})risonment and bonds, and was sentenced to receive forty
stripes save ten, by the religious conscience-keepers of
Massachusetts. To both, under God, the people of
Rhode-Island are greatly indebted, for the blessings they
now enjoy.

No legislative jurisdiction in Rhode-Island, has ever
been exercised or assumed over the creeds or consciences
of men; but the most free and unlimited exercise of the
mind on all questions of religion and conscience, has at
dl times been enjoyed. Rhode-Island has demonstrated
to the world, that the Church needs not the arm of civil
power to direct her councils or control her interests ; that
Jesus Christ is king in his own kingdom ; that she needs
no other protection or support, than that of Jesus Christ;
the civil power leaving each and every one to act accord-
ing to the dictates of their own conscience, and depriving
none of the rights of freemen, for believing this, or disbe-
lieving that. So far from legislative interference and re-
straint, the very first act of legislation decreed that every
person who submits peaceably to civil government, in
this Colony, shall worship God according to the dictates
of his own conscience, unmolested.

In 1644, it w^as decreed by the General Court, that
none be accounted a delinquent for doctrine, provided it
be not repugnant to the government, or the laws estab-

In 1647, it was furtlier ordered and decreed by the
same body, '• That all men may walk as their own con-
sciences persuade them, every one in the name of his
God. And let the sheep and lambs of the Most High
walk together in this Colony, without molestation, in the
name of Jehovah their God, forever and ever." And to
the honor of Rhode-Island and the glory of the Chris-
tian name, let it be told to our children from generation


to generation, that when in 1656, the Colonies of Ply-
mouth, Massachusetts, Hartford, and New-Haven, at-
tempted to urge their sanguinary edicts against the Qua-
kers on the Colony of Rhode-Island, calling on the leg-
islature for an act of proscription, and enforcing that call
by threatening to cut off all commercial intercourse with
them, in case they refuse to comply, they nobly and
promptly answer — '^ We shall strictly adhere to the foun-
dation principles on which this Colony was first settled,
to wit : that every man who submits peaceably to civil
government in this Colony, shall worship God according
to the dictates of his own conscience, without molesta-

Doctor McSparran, a missionaiy of the Church of
England, who visited this country about the year 1720,
and who labored for several years on the Narragansett
side of the Bay, in a book of his, published in 1752, has
recorded some important facts in the history of Rhode-
Island, whether from love or ill will, I leave the reader
to judge.

" The first settlers of Rhode-Island," says the Dr.
'' peregrinated through the wilderness and fell in with
Rhode-Island, and removed their families and effects to

" These Rhode-Island refugees resolved themselves by
their own, instead of better authority, into a body politic,
with liberty of conscience allowed to people of all persua-
sions. In Connecticut, independency is the religion of
the State. But in Rhode-Island, no religion at all is es-
tablished. Here, a man may with impunity, be of any
persuasion, or of none at all. But the Quakers for the
most part, are the people in power.

" As Quakerism first broke out in England, in 1651, so
in 1654, emissaries of that enthusiasm were dispatched to
the West Indies. And no sooner did their preachers ap-
pear in Rhode-Island, than they found many too well pre-
pared to receive this pestilent heresy. The twenty-ibur
years that had passed away since their removal from


England, and the seventeen since their settlement in
Rhode-Island, had carried oft' the stage most of those
who had received the first rudiments of religion in their
mother country. And as Quakerism prevailed, learning
was decried, and ignorance and heresy so increased, that
neither Epephanus' nor Sir Richard Blackmore's Cata-
logu?, contains more heterodox and conflicting opinions
in religion, than are to be found in this little corner.

" The magistrates of Massachusetts hanged four of these
quake-speakers ; this, together with other severities exer-
cised on their proselytes in that province, contributed to
send shoals of these sectaries to Rhode-Island. In 1700,
(says the Dr.) after Quakerism and other heresies had in
their turn, ruled over and tinged all the inhabitants for
forty-six years, the Church of England, which had been
lost here, by the neglect of the Crown, entered as it were
unobserved and unseen, and yet not without some suc-

" In 1702, a little Church was formed in Newport, the
metropolis of the Colony, and that in which I labor in
Narragansett. There have been two incumbents before
me, neither of w^iich had resolution enough to grapple
with the difficulties of the mission, more than a year a

'' I entered this field in 1721, and found the people
not a iasula rasa, or clean sheet of paper, on which I
might make any impression I pleased ; but a field full of
briers and thorns and noxious weeds, that were all to be
eradicated, before I could implant within them the sim-
plicity of truth. But, by the blessing of God, I have
brought over some hundreds to the Church. And among
the hundreds I have baptized, there are at least one hun-
dred and fifty who receive the sacrament from my hands,
from 20 years old and upward to 70 or 80,

'' Besides the members of our Church, (continues the

Dr.) who 1 may boast are the best of the people — being

converts not from convenience and civil encouragement,

but from conscience and conviction — there are Quakers,



and Anabaptists of four sorts ; Independents, and a still
greater number devoid of all religion, and attend no kind
of worship. In all the other Colonies the law obliges
men to attend religious worship on the Sabbath, some-
where. But in Rhode-Island, liberty of conscience is
carried to an irreligious extreme."*

It is not my intention, however, to dwell on the histo-
ry of the State, nor even of this Island, beyond the Hm-
its of the past century. The beloved Calender, whose
name is associated with the history of this Church, in
his celebrated discourse delivered in this place one hun-
dred years ago, has given us a brief, but faithful history
of the events which led to the settlement of this Island,
and its subsequent history for one hundred years.

The duty assigned me on the present occasion, is a
continuation of the history of Rhode-Island, commencing
with the close of the first Century. Nor can it be sup-
posed, that this can be comprised in a discourse of ordi-
nary length, nor even of twice the length of Mr. Calen-

And here it is but an act of justice for me to acknow-
ledge, that for the materials of this discourse, I am chiefly
indebted to Henry Bull, Esq. of this town, whose efforts
to collect and preserve the history of Rhode-Island, pos-
terity alone can fully appreciate, and which entitles him
to a name among the benefactors of the human race. —
To Benjamin B. Rowland, Esq. and other gentlemen of
Newport, I am indebted for many facts and incidents

■^ it is to be lamented that groat and good men, when speaking or
writing of those who differ from them only in matters of conscience,
should not more implicitly regard the Apostle's injunction, ** speak
evil of no man ;" cultivate that charity which is averse to give of-
fence, and seek to maintain an amicable intercourse with all man-
kind. Could the Dr. have lived at a more fortunate age of the
world, when the great principles of religious toleration and liberty
of conscience were more perfectly understood, it is believed he must
have been convinced, that iiis charges against the Quakers, were
liiimorited and severe


connected with the history of this Island, during the past

From March, 1738, at which time Mr. Calender de-
Hvered his sermon, to 1744, but httle is found in the
history of Rhode-Island to interest the reader, save the
local affairs of the Colony. In 1742, the boundary line
between the Colony of Massachusetts and Rhode-Island,
was settled at Providence, by commissioners appointed
by the King, before whom the parties were heard by

Rhode-Island had previously contended with her liti-
gious neighbors, only for the gore of land which now con-
stitutes the town of Cumberland. But at this time, she
pressed her claim for three miles east of Narragansett
Bay, as expressed in her Charter from his Majesty King
Charles II. The Commissioners decided that Rhode-
Island was not only entitled to the gore, but also to the
three miles Eastward of the Bay, which now comprises
the towns of Liitle-Compton, Tiverton, Bristol, Warren,
and Barrington.

From this decision, the Colony of Massachusetts ap-
pealed to the King in Council — which appeal was heard
and tried in England, and the decision of the Commis-
sioners confirmed and established by the decree of his
Majesty, on the 28th of May, 1746.

On the 4th of March, 1744, the government of France
which had been secretly aiding the enemies of Great
Britain, with which she was at war, assumed a belligerent
attitude, and proclaimed war with that government ;
which was responded to by the British Parliament the
same month, in a declaration of war with France.

Previous to the declaration of war, the Colonies had
been ap{)rized of the approaching storm, and were aroused
to a sense of the threatening dangers with which they
were surrounded. The French privateers which hovered
round the coast of New-England, greatly embarrassed her
commerce, and almost entirely destroyed her valuable


The Legislature of Massachusetts decided, after much
discussion, to invite the other Colonies to unite with them
in an expedition against Louisburgh, the Gibraltar of the
French American Provinces. Into the spirt of this en-
terprise, the legislature of Rhode-Island entered with pa-
triotic ardor, and at the May session of that body, passed
a resolution to raise a regiment of one hundred and fifty
men, exclusive of officers ; and that the Colony sloop
Tartar, be fitted out with a complement of 90 men, ex-
clusive of officers.

The expedition was crowned with success, and after a
siege of forty-nine days, the city of Louisburgh and the
Island of Cape Breton, were surrendered by the French
to his Britannic Majesty, June 17th, 1745.

The capture of Louisburgh by the Colonies, stung the
Court of France with mortification and revenge, and they
resolved to chastise them for their insolence. According-
ly, an expedition was fitted out for this purpose, " con-

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Online LibraryArthur A. (Arthur Amasa) RossA discourse, embracing the civil and religious history of Rhode-Island; delivered April 4, A.D. 1838, at the close of the second century from the first settlement of the island → online text (page 1 of 13)