Peter Oliver.

The Puritan commonwealth. An historical review of the Puritan government in Massachusetts in its civil and ecclesiastical relations from its rise to the abrogation of the first charter. Together with some general reflections on the English colonial policy, and on the character of Puritanism online

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Online LibraryPeter OliverThe Puritan commonwealth. An historical review of the Puritan government in Massachusetts in its civil and ecclesiastical relations from its rise to the abrogation of the first charter. Together with some general reflections on the English colonial policy, and on the character of Puritanism → online text (page 1 of 43)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by

F. E. Oliver,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

Riverside, Cambridge,
Printed by H. O. Houghton i^ Co.



" The following pages have been wrought, at no
little expense of time and labor, out of the mate-
rials at the author's command. The early history
of New England, the stately commonwealth that
sprang up under the shadow of the Puritan Church,
the extraordinary virtues that were called into life
by a colonization such as the world has seldom or
never before witnessed, and the moral and political
results of a new experience in a new world and in
a superstitious age, are subjects of great interest,
and which will well repay the inquirer.

" I have entered upon this study con amore^ and
have found fresh interest at every step. The sub-
ject grew formidable, at last, from its variety; but
doubts had arisen whether the whole truth had ever
been spoken, and I determined to satisfy myself
whether they were well founded. The result is
before the reader.

" I am aware that I have entered upon a field only
partially explored. The labor was difficult, because
it was obscure ; for it has been the fashion to bury
the errors of our forefathers beneath their many vir-
tues, and to conceal the whole truth by expressing
but a part. Every writer, from the earliest times,


has (lone somctliin^ to liidc from our p:aze those
faults which Would lead us to doubt the entire vir-
tue of our ancestors ; and so great have been the
consequent mistakes, that the ridiculous proposition
has been maintained, by both judges and historians,
that the Puritans were lovers of religious freedom,
and that civil liberty was a principle first understood
upon the shores of Massachusetts Bay.

" To question such doctrines is forbidding to those
who write not so much to instruct, as to win popu-
larity ; and perhaps a certain degree of moral cour-
age is necessary, to encounter public opinion on a
point where it is especially sensitive. It would be
egotistical in me to claim more of this virtue than
belongs to persons in general ; at the same time
that I do not, in this instance, shrink from the per-
formance of a duty."

The above forms a portion of a preface but par-
tially completed, which was found among the man-
uscripts of the author. The work to which it was
designed to be an introduction, and the substance
of which is contained in the present publication,
was originally written during the leisure hours of a
commencing professional life, for the pages of a
review. But the author had determined to revise
the whole, and prepare it for the press in a separate
form, and was engaged in this undertaking when
he was interrupted by death. The fact that he was
unable to carry out his design, will explain to the
reader the controversial tone of the work, and an
occasional warmth of expression, which may be
thought better suited to the character of periodical
literature than to the more sustained dignity of his-
torical composition.


The work is divided into chapters, and several
of the chapters are subdivided into parts. Each
chapter is distinct by itself, and independent of the

The first is taken up with the history of the
charter of The Massachusetts Bay Company ; its
nature, the ends it was intended to subserve, and
its fraudulent transfer to Massachusetts.

The subject of the second chapter is " The Pu-
ritan Commonwealth ; " its construction, its failure
to accomplish the end of all government, in the
preservation of good order and the prevention of
immorality, and its aggressive spirit toward the
aboriginal tribes.

The third chapter discusses "The Puritan Church;"
its construction, its intolerance, as shown in. the per-
secution of the Familists, Quakers, and Baptists,
and its missionary claims, as compared with those
of the Church of England and the Church of

The fourth chapter is political in its character,
and shows the spirit of discontent and rebellion
that actuated the colonists from the first.

The fifth, commencing with a succinct history
of the Church down to the time of the Reforma-
tion in England, asserts the gradual degeneracy of
the Puritans, after their separation from the great
Catholic body.

The sixth, and last, contains reflections on the
English colonial policy, and on the general charac-
ter and tendencies of Puritanism.

It is believed that, in the treatment of his sub-
ject, the author has brought to light many facts
which have been hitherto passed over in silence by


the historian, and has presented others, more fami-
har to the general reader, in a way to excite new
interest and attention. At any rate, the cause of
trutli can never suffer from discussion and inquiry ;
and it is in this confidence that the editor, in exe-
cuting a trust which circumstances seemed to have
imposed upon him, submits the following pages to
the candor of an impartial and discriminating
public. F, E. o.

Boston, July 23, 1856.


— o©^—


The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company and King
Charles the First.

Grant of James I. to the Colonial Companies of London and

Plymouth • 7

The Northern Company but partially successful 8

Obtains a fresh Grant 9

But again fails 10

Formation of a new Company, which likewise fails 10

Rise of a Missionary Spirit 11

Which leads to a new Organization 12

Eji^ecQtt appointed Superintendent 12

|The Company obtains a Royal CEarfef-— 13

TCrpdods-first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company 13

Effdecott becomes a Brownist 16"

Persecutes the Brownes 17

Transfer of the Charter proposed 20

Decided upon 21

Objects of this Measure 22

True Character and Object of the Charter 23

The Puritan State charged with Disloyalty, and with violating the

Rights of the King's Subjects 34

Sir Christopher Gardiner 35

Thomas Morton 37

Philip Ratclinr 39

The Council orders an Investigation 40

Further Complaints against the Puritan State 41

Cradock ordered to exhibit the Charter 41

Appointment of a Royal Commission 44

Which directs its Attention to the Transfer of the Charter 45

Orders the Transmission of the Charter to England 48

The Order not complied with 48

Vindication of Charles I. 49


The Puritan Commonwealth.

Part I.

Nature of the Corporation Government 52-

The Magistrates assume to be an Oligarchy 53


The Freemen claim to be a privileged Body 56

Struggle between the Aristocratic and Liberal Parties 57

'Ihe CJeneral Court becomes a Legislature 60

The \Ligistrates call the Klders to their Support 61

The Klders establish a Council for Lite 63

They erect the Magistrates into a Senate 66

The Judicial Authority conferred by the Charter 76

The Puritan State claims the Common Law 78

The Assistants claim to be Judges 80

The Freemen demand a Body of Laws * -it

The Criminal Code of the Puritan State 83

The Moral Influence of the Puritan State 90

^ Part H.

Moral Character of the Government of the Puritan State 99

As illustrated by its Treatment of the Aborigines 100

The Pequods. • • • • 106

The Murder of John Oldham 108

Leads to an Invasion of the Pequod Territory no

The Pequods seek Alliance with the Narragansetts 112

Who enter into a Treaty with Massachusetts 113

Total Destruction of the Pequods 114

Fate of the Leaders of this Expedition, an Instance of Divine Retri-
bution 116

The Narragansetts 118

Intrigue of the Mohegans 120

Defeat and Capture of Miantonimo 122

H is Fate 124

The Narragansetts seek the Aid of Massachusetts, to avenge his Death- 126

But without Success 127

The Treatment of their Deputation 129

Desperate Condition of this Tribe 130

-A new Treaty extorted from them 131

Their Lukewarmncss in its Observance, a Cause of Alarm 132

Preparations for War - 132

Destruction of the Narragansetts 133

Heroism of Canonchet 133

The Wampanoags 1 35

Treachery and Death of Sausamon 139

Which leads to War 140

Fall of Philip 144

War with the Tarranteens •_• 146

The Puritans seek the Alliance of the Mohawks 148

Defeat of the Allies 149

Terrible Effects of the Puritan Wars 150


The Puritan Church.

Part L

The Fundamental Principle of Independency 155


The Puritans avow the Doctrines of Independency, but are false to

its Principles 156

Peculiar Position of the Elders • 157

Practical Inconveniences of the Contract System 159

To remedy which, the Covenant is devised 162

Want of Unity and Vitality in the Church = 165

The Antinomian Heresies 169

Condemned by a Synod 17S

Banishment of the Antinomian Leaders 180

Subsequent Condition of the Puritan Church 182

Divisions on the Subject of Baptism 1 84

Part II.

Intolerant Spirit of the Puritan Church ' 191

Rise of the Familists 1 94

Persecution of Gorton 195

The Quakers 205

The Anabaptists 219

Persecutions in Massachusetts, Violations of the Charter and of the

Laws of England • 227

Inconsistent with the avowed Claims of Puritanism 22S

Part III.

Mode of Conducting the Puritan Missions 234

Thomas May hew 235

John Eliot 237

Results of these Missions 242

Causes of their Failure 244

The Puritan Church not entitled to the Credit of their Establishment -249
The Missions in New England contrasted with those of Virginia- • • •251
With the Jesuit Missions in New France 253


The Elders Conspire against the Crown.

Part I.

The Elders and Magistrates feel the Insecurity of Puritanism in Mas-

— ^achusetts, in Consequence of its Illegality 261

Freeman's Oath 262

The Cross of St. George removed from the English Flag 264

The Civil Wars 267

The Long Parliament encourages the Trade of Massachusetts, and

enlists the Puritan State in its Cause 269

lassachusetts openly renounces her Allegiance to King Charles 270

Acknowledges that she is represented in Parliament by the Knights

and Burgesses of the Manor of East Greenwich 270

Makes it a capital Offence to side with Charles, and sends Soldiers

to join the English Rebels 272

Confederates with the other New England Colonies 273


Olijccis sought by this Union 277

I" rust rat I'll by Parlianicnt 279

Parliament asserts Authority over the Colcjuics, by attacking their

'Iraiie. ..•••.••• 280

Massachusetts ordered to surrender her Charter 280

JVtitions Parliament and Cromwell 280

Considers herself an Ally of Cromwell only 283

Kllect of Cromwell's Death 283

Massachusetts refuses to acknowledge Charles II. 285

Reaction in the Colony 286

The Elders and Magistrates dissatisfied with the Answer of the King- 288

Part II.

Declaration f)f Rights 289

Charles 1 1, proclaimed 291

Special Mission to P^ngland 292

Agreeable Disappointment of the Agents 293

Ingratitude of IVlassachusetts towards the Agents 295

The two Parties of Prerogative and Freedom 296

King's Letter disregarded 296

The General Court secretes the Charter 298

The Royal Commissioners 299

—The General Court again refuses to accede to the Royal Demands- - • -301

Again addresses the King 302

Superstitious Fears of the Colonists 303

The Confederacy broken up by the Commissioners 304

III Success of the Commission 305

Objections to the Legality of the Commission answered 314

Third Royal Letter to Massachusetts 315

The General Court again disobeys the King 316

The Policy of Massachusetts during the Wars with France and Hol-
land 317

Rapid Advance of Massachusetts in Wealth and Population 318

Fourth Royal Letter to the Colony 319

Conflicting Emotions of the Folders 327

Judgment against the Charter 330

Death of the King 332

Effect of the Judgment against the Charter 333

Part III.

Fears concerning a Royal Governor 334

Colonel Kirk 334

Dudley's Commission 337

Its Reception by the General Court 338

Intrigues against the Commission 339

The mild Nature of the Commission and its Government 339

Colonial System of James II. 341

Its Merits examined 342

The Arbitrariness of James compared with the Tyranny under the

Charter. 24.3

—Arrival of Sir Edmund Andros 346

'"Character of his Adininistration 347

—Restraint upon Marriages 347


Fees for Quitrents to Crown Lands 348

Levying of Taxes 350

Other arbitrary Acts of Andros 35 i

Causes of his Unpopularity 352

The Colonists petition the King 354

Jlenewed War with the Eastern Indians 356

The humane Policy of Andros, frustrated by the Outrages of the

Charter Government 357

Andros, kind as a General 358

The Elders excite Rebellion against him 359

Political Struggles between the Liberty and Prerogative Parties 361

Andros acquitted by King William 362

Conclusion. 363


Progress of the Elders from Schism to Sectarianism.
• Part L

itical Religionism 365

The New England Puritans, Politico-Religionists 367

■ The Charter, not Puritan in its Character 368

Antiquity of the Church of England 370

The Saxon Church 371

Its Relation to the See of Rome 372

Its happy Influence 373

Effect of the Danish Invasions 375

Fall of the Scaldic Mythology 376

Condition of the English Church at the Time of the Norman Con-
quest. 377

Rise of the Papal Supremacy 378

The Papal Dominion, a System of Spiritual Feuds 380

Introduced into England 380

True Claims of the English Church 382

Iniquitous Character of English Dissent 383

Absence of any reasonable Ground for Complaint 384

Dissent, private Reasoning, in Opposition to Authority 385

Penal Laws, levelled at Railing, not at Honest Difference of Opinion. .386

The Conference at Hampton Court 389

\ Frustrates the Designs of the Puritans 392

\ Absurdity of Puritan Arguments 392

I Ecclesiastical Policy of James 1 393

/Causes of the Increase of Puritanism 395

It begins to embarrass the Government 396

Causes the arbitrary Acts of Charles 1 397

Develops rapidly under Abbot's Protection, during the King's Con-
tests with Parliament 398

Growth of Republicanism 399

Policy of the Royal Government 399

Part II.

Motives of the Puritan Emigration 402

■ Grief manifested at leaving England 404

The " Humble Request" from Yarmouth 405


Ainhieuity (>( the larcwcll 408

Assertion by the- Puritans of a Catholic Ministry 409

Their rapid Assiniihition w ith the Independents 410

Renounce Catholic Orders as sinful 412

Growing Knniitv to the Knglish Church, aided by Superstition 413

Promoted bv Legislation 415

Influence ot Harvard College 416

Samuel Maverick 41 S

Robert Child 420

CJross Tyranny of the Magistrates. . . . , 421

Child and Maverick, with others, petition 422

Trial of the Petitioners, for Sedition 428

The Petitioners denounced by tlie Elders for appealing • . .429

Church I'eeling in Massachusetts at the Restoration 431

Alarm of the Klders at the Restoration of the Church 432

They assert the Divine Right of Puritanism 433

Refuse to allow the Use of the Common Prayer 434

Again refuse to allow Churchmen Liberty of Conscience 435

Randolph opens the Way for the Church 438

Presses for able and sober Ministers « 440

Obstacles in the Way . .440

Arbitrary Proposals of Randolph 442

Arrival of Robert Ratcliffe 443

Formation of the Parish of King's Chapel 444

Opposition of the Elders 444

Dirticulties of Randolph 445

Andros entreats the Elders in Behalf of the Church 446

Arbitrary Act of Andros 447

Loyalty of the Church Party 449


Some General Reflections on the English Colonial Policy,
AND ON the Character of Puritanism.

Erroneous Spirit of popular Historians 453

Rise of the English Colonies 454

Classes of Colonies 455

Conflict of Interests between the Crown and Charter Colonies 456

Commercial Policy of Charles I. 458

The Ordinance of 165 1 459

Cromwell's Policy 464

The Navigation I-aws of Charles H. 465

Their Fourfold Object 468

How received by the Colonies 468

Character of the restrictive System 470

Contrast between Virginia and Massachusetts 477

How accounted for 47 8

"Character of Puritanism 484

Protestantism, the Triumph of Reason over Faith 485

-Puritanism, the Protestantism of England 486

Eminently superstitious 486

Unfriendly to Literature 488

Hostile to Civil and Religious Liberty 489

Advocates the indiscriminate Use of the Bible 490

Which causes its Decline 492



Grant of James I. to the Colonial Companies of London and Plymouth —
Northern Company unsuccessful — Obtains a fresh Grant — Formation
of a new Company, which likewise fails — Rise of a Missionary
Spirit — Which leads to a new Organization — Endecott appointed
Superintendent — The Company obtains a Royal Charter — Cradock,
the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company — Endecott
becomes a Brownist — Persecutes the Brownes — Transfer of the Char-
ter proposed — Decided upon — Objects of this Measure — True Char-
acter and Object of the Charter — The Puritan State charged with
Disloyalty, and of violating the Rights of the King's Subjects — Sir
Christopher Gardiner — Thomas Morton — Philip Ratcliff — The
Council orders an Investigation — Further Complaints against the Puri-
tan State — Cradock ordered to exhibit the Charter — Appointment of
a Royal Commission — Which directs Its attention to the transfer of
the Charter — Orders the transmission of the Charter to England —
The Order not complied with — Vindication of Charles I.

When King Charles, the Martyr, bestowed a franchise chai'
upon a company, mercantile in character but missionary ^^-.-^
in design, he little thought that he was planting the germ
of Republicanism in the New World. Beholding, with
the favor of a truly Catholic mind, the project that was
then forming in the English Church to extend Her bor-
ders over his dominions in the West, he willingly added
the weight of his prerogative to an enterprise which, it
seemed, must draw down a benediction from Heaven.
Had he foreseen that his gift would be perverted to a
disloyal purpose, that in a few years the parchment whicli


cilAl'. (•(iMtaiiu'd iiuTclv aii act of incDijjoratioii would he sold
^-^-^-^ into the hands (d* liis cnciuii's, and, Ixinic (iver the
orcaii into the \\ ildciiicss, he srt iij) as the constitution
of an independent state, he would liave hesitated ere he
allowed the <ireat seal of England to stani]) it into life.
But could he have looked further into futurity, and heheld
the risinfj- England of the New World perpetuating the
glories of the mother country, protected hy the laws of
the Saxons, the Danes, and tlie Normans, and enlight-
ened hy the religion which St. Augustine professed,
doubtless the pious monarch would have furthered the
schemes of the uneasy Puritans, and rendered their secret
intrigues unnecessary.

We, who are in a transition state, can see how good
is finally to come out of evil. The Church is grasping
in her embrace the great empire of the West, and her
garments are unstained by the blood of the aborigines,
while her reputation is untainted with the guilt of disloy-
alty. Puritanism has been working for her advantage.
Fraud, violence, and cunning ; enterprise, daring, and
self-sacrifice ; the vices and virtues of the Puritan pil-
grims, have prepared the way for the nobler, the only
true Christianity. From the bigotry of a few have
arisen the blessings of the many. The guiding wisdom
of Omnipotence is now discernible beneath the shallow
surface of human fanaticism. Regeneration, the voice
that waked the pagan slumbers of the Old World, was
to be the genius of a new creation here. The painted
savage was no longer to tread his forests in the simple
majesty of his nature and strength. His shrill war-
whoop was to be echoed back by the thunder of cannon,
and his native cunning was to become powerless before
the art of civilization. His woods were to be prostrated,
liis game annihilated, and his \vigwam deserted; and he


himself was to be driven before a power he understood chap.
not, further and further towards the setting sun, until -^ — < —
the waves of the Pacific received the last remnants of
his race, and his existence had become but a name. A
new day was to da^vii upon the West, a day carrying
with it all the blessings of Christianity. There was to
be there a new heaven and a new earth, and the cross
of a true faith was to be erected upon every spire, and
reflected back to the sky by every lake and stream.

Such is the philosophy taught by the true understand-
ing of the past. We search in vain for a reason for the
bloody traces of civilization, unless it can be found here.
The greatest achievement of art is but a poor equivalent
for the happiness of a single family of savages, if it
reaches no further than the external and material world.
A civilization, crimson with blood and reeking with
fraud, would be but little worth, if it comprehended
nothing beyond the creations of steam and the magic of
the telegraph.

We propose to make some inquiry into the origin of
the most energetic colonization the world ever beheld,
that of Massachusetts Bay. That this subject has been
curiously distorted alike by doctors of law and history,
the sequel will show ; and we think that our examination
of the original authorities will prove that we are indebted
for the groundwork of this fair New England picture,
not to the magnanimity of Puritanism, but to the zeal of
the English Church. Of the historians who have dealt
with this subject, Grahame and Bancroft occupy the most
false and partisan attitudes. Grahame, educated in the
narrow school of the Scottish Kirk, possessed a mind so
warped by prejudice and so infected with bigotry, that
his prolix history is false alike in fact and principle. He
beheld the world through a Calvinistic mist. The most


<"HAi'. (Icnravcd cxliiMtioiis of Protestantism had attractions for
1. '

— < — him, and, witli incrcchhlc assurance, he can assert that
those fanatics, the Brownists, were the most loyal of the
Enfrlish people, as well as the most pious, virtuous, and
courageous.^ He magnifies the virtues of the liardy pil-
grim, and distorts, with equal complacencVr the faults of
the government towards which the pilgrim displjiyed not
disloyalty merely, but rancor and malice. He sneers, in
execrable taste, at James I., for assuming the style of
" sacred majesty ; " forgetting the anointed character of
the princes who then sat uj)on the throne of England ;
and, also, that not a successor of John Knox " beats the
drum ecclesiastic " in his beloved kirk, who does not
appropriate to himself with scrupulous care the title of
" reverend." He carps at such " heathenish customs "
as the drinking of healths, but passes over the atrocious
crimes of Puritanism with gentle rebukes. He sees
nothing excellent but in some form of dissent. He
belongs to that class of Protestant writers who consider
worldly prosperity as a sign of heavenly benediction.
He fully believed in Cromwell's maxim, that the Lord's
people are to be the head and not the tail, and that any
means are justifiable to obtain this headship. A malig-
nant hater of the Stuarts, a bigoted enemy of the church,
a zealous apologist for the crimes of Puritanism, and,
with all this, neither an impartial, nor thorough, nor truth-
ful relator of facts, he was totally unfit for the high office
he assumed, of teaching the world by examples. He
wrote not for the world, but for New England ; not for
the New England of the present, but for that which has
long since passed away. And he had the bitter mortifi-
cation of living to see the America he so much wor-

1 Vol. i. p. 1 80, 2d edition.

Online LibraryPeter OliverThe Puritan commonwealth. An historical review of the Puritan government in Massachusetts in its civil and ecclesiastical relations from its rise to the abrogation of the first charter. Together with some general reflections on the English colonial policy, and on the character of Puritanism → online text (page 1 of 43)