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year 1602, near the confines of the counties
of York, Nottingham, and Lincoln ; who
chofe for their minifters, Richard Clifton and
John Robinfon.j*

Mr. Robinfon was born in the year 1575,
but the place of his birth is unknown. He
was probably educated in the Univerfity of
Cambridge:^ and he is faid to have been
" a man of a learned, polifhed, and modeft
fpirit ; pious and fludious of the *truth j
largely accomplifhed with gifts and qualifi
cations fuitable to be a fhepherd over this
flock of Chrift." Before his election to this
office, he had a benefice, near Yarmouth, in
Norfolk, where his friends were frequently
molefted by the bifhop's officers, and fome
were almoft ruined by profecutions in the
ecclefiaftical courts^

The reigning prince, at that time, was
James I. than whom, a more contemptibly
character never fat on the Britilh throne.
Educated in the principles of Prefbyterianifm,


* Ncal's New-England, I. 58, 60.

f Prince, I. 4, 20. Morton, 2,

Ncal's Pur. 8vo. IT. 49.





I* . ROBINSON. 153

in Scotland, he forgot them all on his ad
vancement to the throne of the three king- *
doms.* Flattered by the bifhops, he gave all
tfcclefiaftical power into their hands, and
entrufted fycophants with the management
of the State ; whilft he indolently refigned
himfelf to literary and fenfual indulgencies ;
in the former of which he was a pedant ;
in the latter an epicure. The profecution of
the Puritans was conducted with unrelenting
feverity in the former part of his reign, when
Bancroft was Archbimop of Canterbury.
Abbot who fucceeded him was favourable to

" jf^A

them ; but when Laud came into power,
they were treated with every mark of iufult
and cruelty.

Robinfon's congregation did not efcape 1
perfecution by feparating from the eftablifh-
ment and forming an independent church.
Still expofed to the penalties of the ecclefiafti-
cal law, they were extremely harafled ;
fome were thrown into prifon, fome were
confined to their own houfes ; others were

obliged to leave their farms and fufpend their
ufual occupations. Such was their diftrefs
and perplexity, that an emigration to fome


f4* Weal's N. E. I. -o.


f* ' n

154 ROBINSON. *:j

foreign country feemed the only means of
fafety. Their firft views were directed to


Holland, where the fpirit of commerce had
dictated a free toleration of religious opin
ions ; a bleffing, which neither the wifdom
of politicians, nor the charity of clergymen
had admitted into any other of the Europe
an States. But the ports of their own coun
try were fhut againft them ; they could get
a\vay only by feeking concealment and giv
ing extravagant rates for their pafiages and
fees to the mariners.*

In the autumn of 1607, a company of
thefe Diffenters, hired a (hip at Bofton in
Lincolnshire to carry them to Holland. The
Mafter promifed to be ready at a certain
tour of the day, to take them on board, with
their families and effects. They affembled
at the place ; but he difappointed them.
Afterward he came in the night ; and when
they were embarked, betrayed them into

the hands of fearchers, and other officers ;t

who, having robbed them of money, books

and other articles, and treated the women
with indecency, carried them back into the


* Hazard's Collections, I. 151.
f Prince, 23. Hutch. I. 449.



\ *

ROBINSON. 155 ff ,

town, and expofed them as a laughing fpec-
tacle to the multitude. They were arraigned
before the magiftrates, who ufed them with
civility ; but could not releafe them, without
an order of the King and Council. Till
this arrived, they fuffered a month's impriiftn-
ment ; feven were bound over to the affize,
and the others were releafed.

The next fpring (1608) they made anoth
er attempt,* and hired a Dutch veffel, then ly
ing in the harbour, to take them on board.
The place agreed on was an unfrequented
common, between Hull and Grimfby, re^|'
mote from any houfes. The women and
children with the baggage were fent down
the river in a finall bark, and the men agreed
to meet them by land ; but they came to
the place a day before the {hip arrived. The
water being rough, and the women fick, they
prevailed on the pilot of the bark to put into
a fmall creek, where they lay aground, when
the Dutchman came and took one boat
load of the men on board. Before he could
fend for the others, a company of arm
ed men appeared on horfeback ; which
fo frightened him, that he weighed anchor,


* Mather's Mag. II. 3,






and, the wind being fair, put to fea. Some
of the men who were left behind, made their
cfcape ; others, who went to the affiilance

of the women, were with them apprehended
Mi ^^

and carried from one Juftice of the Peace to

another ; but the Juflices, not knowing what
to do with fo many helplefs and diftrefle
perfons, difmiffed them. Having fold their
houfes, cattle and furniture, they had no
homes to which they could retire, and werfe
therefore caft on the charity of their friends.
Thofe who were hurried to fea without their
families, and deftitute even of a change of
clothes, endured a terrible ftorm, in which
neither fun, moon nor ftars appeared for fev-
en days. This ftorm drove them far to the
northward, and they very narrowly efcaped
foundering. After fourteen days they arrir
ved at Amfterdam, where the people were
furprized at their deliverance ; the tempeft
having been very fevere, and much damage
having been fuftained, both at fea, and in the

harbours of the continent,

This forlorn company of emigrants were

foon after joined by their wives and families.
The remainder of the church went over, in
the following fummer ;* Mr. Robinfon, with
* a few

* Prince, 24.



' *




A few others, remained to help the weakeft,
till they were all embarked.*

At Amfterdam, they found a congrega
tion of their countrymen, who had the fame
religious views, and had emigrated before
them.f Their minifter was John Smith,
a man of good abilities, and a popular preach
er ; but unfteady in his opinions. J Thefe
people fell into controverfy, and were foon
fcattered. Fearing that the infection might

fpread, Robinfon propofed to his church a

*** > **t
further removal ; to which, though much to

their difadvantage, in a temporal view, they
confented ; and after one year fpent at Am
fterdam, they removed to Leyden, where
they continued eleven years. During this
time, their number fo increafed, by frequent


* As nothing more is faid of " the aged Mr. Clifton," it
is probable that he died, before this embarkation*,
f Prince, 19, 24,26.

$ Mr. Neal fays, that he refined on the principles of the
Brownifts, and at laft declared for the Baptifts ; that he
left Amfterdam, and fettled with a party at Ley ; where,
being at a lofs for a proper adminiftrator of baptifm, he
firft plunged himfelf, and then performed the ceremony on *

others ; which gained him the name of a Se-baptift. Af
ter this he embraced the principles of Arminius, and pub-
lifhcd a book, which Robinfon anfwered in 1 6 1 1 ; but
Smith foon after died, and his congregation was di/Folved. ^^

Neal's Puritans, 8vo. II. 49.




emigrations from England, that they had in
the church three hundred communicants.*
At Ley den they enjoyed much harmony
among themfelves,*)" and a friendly inter-
courfe with the Dutch ; who, obferving their
diligence and fidelity in their bufinefs, enter
tained fo great a refpec~t for them, that the
magiftrates of the city, (1619) in the feat of
juftice, having occafion to cenfure fome of
the French Proteftants, who had a church
there, made this public declaration. " Thefe
4 ^Englifh have lived among us ten years, and
yet we never had any fuit or accufation
againft any of them ; but your quarrels are


* Cotton's preface to Robbins's ordination fermon.

f Governor HUTCHINSON (I prefume through inatten
tion) has mifreprefented this matter, (Vol. II. 451) by
faying, " that in the twelve years of their refidence, in Hol
land, they had contention among themfelves, divided, and
became two churches." The tivo churches of Smith and
Robinfon fubfifted diftinclly and unconnecledly before they
quitted England. It was to avoid contention that the lat
ter removed from Amfterdam, where the former fell to
pieces. Not the leaft evidence of contention, in the church
of Leyden, appears in any of our firft hiftorians ; but
there is the fulleft teftimony of the contrary in all of them.
No divijion took place, till the emigration of part of them
to America, when the utmoft harmony and love were

manifefted on the occafion.

Morton, 5.





The year (1609) in which Mr. Robinfon
went to Leyden, was remarkable for the death
of Jacobus Arminius, one of the Divinity
Profeflbrs in the Univerfity of that city. Be
tween his fuccefibr, Epifcopius, and the other
theological Profeflbr, Polyander, there was
much oppofition ;* the former teaching the
doctrine of Arminius, and the other that of
Calvin. The controverfy was fo bitter, that
the difciples of the one would fcarcely hear
the Lectures of the other. Robinfon, though
he preached conftantly three times in the
week, and was much engaged in writing, at
tended the difcourfes of each ; and became
mailer of the arguments on both fides of the
controverted queftions. Being fully per-
fuaded of the truth of the Calvinian fyftem,
and openly preaching it, his zeal and abilities
rendered him formidable to the Arminians ;
which induced Epifcopius (1613) to publifh
feveral thefes, and engage to defend them
againft all oppofers.

Men of equal abilities and learning, but
of different fentiments, are not eafily induced
to fubmiflion ; efpecially in a country where
opinion is not fettered and reftrained by the
ruling power. Polyander, aided by the min-


* Prince, 29, 36.


ifters of the city, requefted Robinfon to accept
the challenge. Though his vanity was flat
tered by the requeft, yet, being a ftranger, he
modeftly declined the combat. But their
preffing importunity prevailed over his re
luctance ; and, judging it to be his duty, he,
on a fet day, held a public difputation with
the Arminian ProfelTor, in prefence of a very
numerous aflembly.

It is ufual, on fuch occafions, for the par->
tizans on both fides to claim the victory for
their refpective champions. Whether it were
fo, at this time, cannot be determined, as we
have no account of the contf overfy from the
Arminian party. Governor Bradford, who
was a member of Robinfon's church, and
probably prefent at the difputation, gives this
account of it.* " He fo defended the truth,
and foiled the oppofer, as to put him to an
apparent nonplus in this great and public
audience. The fame he did a fecond and a
third time, upon the like occafions ; which,
as it caufed many to give praife to God, that
the truth had fo famous a victory, fo it pro
cured for Mr. Robinfon much refpect and
honour from thefe learned men and others,"


* rrlucc, 38.

- _

* , *


When Robinfon firft went to Holland,
ne was one of the moft rigid feparatifts from
the Ghureh of England. He had written in
defence of the feparation, in anfwer to Dn
William Ames* whofe name, in the petu
lance of his wit, he had changed to Amifs^
After his removal to Holland, he met with
Dr. Ames and Mr. Robert Parker, an emi
nent Divine of Wiltfhire, w ho had been obli
ged to fly thither from the terrors of the High
Commiffion Court, under the direction of


* Dr. Ames was educated at Cambridge, under the fa
mous Perkins, and became Fellow of Chrift's College. In
1609 h gave offence to the Gentlemen of the Univerfity*
by preaching againft cards and dice ; and to avoid profe-
cution for non-conformity, fled to Holland. He firft fet
tled at the Hague, whence he was invited by the States of
Friefland to the chair of Theological Profeflbr at Frane-
ker, which he filled with reputation, for twelve years. He
was an able controverfial writer ; his ftyle was concife,
and his arguments acute. He wrote feveral treatifes
ngainft the Arminians, befides his famous Medulla Theo
logies. He afterward remoted to Rotterdam ; but the
air of Holland not agreeing with his ccnftitutiort, he de
termined to come to New-England. This was prevented
by his death, in 1633. His widow and family afterward
came over, arid hi? pofterity have been refpeclable ever
fmce His valuable library became the property of Har
vard College, where it was confumed by fire, in 1 764.

Prince, 29, Neai's Pur. II. 47, 265, &c,
f Hubbard's MS. Hift. p. 36.


z 62 R O B I N S O N.

Arehbifhop Bancroft. In a free converfa-
tion with thefe gentlemen,. Robinfon was
convinced of his miftake, fubrnitted to the
reproof of Dr. Ames, and became, ever af
ter, more moderate in- his fentiments refpeft-
ing feparation. In a book which he pub-
limed, (1610) he allowed and defended the
lawfulnefs of communicating with the
Church of England, " in the word and pray
er," that is, in the extempore prayer, before
the fermon, though not in the ufe of the
Liturgy, nor in the indifcriminate admiffion
to the facraments. Yet he would allow the
pious members of the Church of England,
and of all the reformed churches, to commu
nicate with his church ; declaring that he
feparated from no church j but from the
corruptions of all churches. This book
gained him the title of a Semi-feparatift, and
was fo ofFenfive to the rigid Brownifts of
Amfterdam, that they would fcarcely hold
communion with the Church of Leyden.
Thefe were called Robinfonians and Inde
pendents ; but the name by which they dif-
tinguifhed themlelves, was, a Congregation
al Church.

Their grand principle was the fame which
was afterward held and defended by Chilling-


worth and Hoadley, that the Scriptures, giv
en by infpiration, contain the true religion ;
that every man has a right to judge for him-
felf of their meaning ; to try all doctrines
by them, and to worfhip God according to
the dictates of his own enlightened con-
fcience.* They admitted, for truth, the doc
trinal articles of the Church of England, as
well as of the reformed churches in France,
Geneva, Switzerland, and the United Prov
inces ;f allowing all their members free com
munion, and differing from them only in
matters of an ecclefiaftical nature. Refpect-
ing thefe, they held, (i.J That no church


* Prince, 91 93. Cotton's Preface.

f The words of Robinfon in his Apology, g.s cited by
Neal, are as follow. Neal's Pur. Svo. II. 49.

" Profitemur coram Deo et hominibus, adeo nobis con-
venire cum Ecclefus reformatis, Belgkis, in re religionis,
ut omnibus et fingulis earundem Eccleiiarum fidei articu-
lis, prout habentur in harmonia confeflionum fidei, parati
fum'us fubfcribere. Ecclefias reformatas pro veris et ge-
nuinis, habemus,.cum iifdcm in facris Dei communionem
profitemur, et quantum in nobis eft, colimus. Conciones^
Publicas ab illarum Paftcribus habitas, ex noftris qui no-
runt lu.guam Belgicam frequentant. Sacram coenam
carum membris, fi qua forte noftris coctibus interfint nobis
cognita, participamus."


ought to confifl of more members than can
conveniently meet together for worftiip and
difcipline. (2.) That every church of Chrift
is to confift only of fuch as appear to believe
in and obey him. (3.) That any competent
number of fuch have a right, when con-
Science obliges them, to form themfelves into
a diftinft church. (4.) That this incorpora
tion is, by fome contract or covenant, expreff-
ed or implied. (5.) That, being thus incor
porated, they have a right to chpofe their-
own officers, (6.) That thefe officers are
Paftors or teaching Elders, Ruling Elders
and Deacons. (7.) That elders being cho-
fen and ordained have no power to rule the
church but by confent of the brethren.
(8.) That all elders and all churches are
equal in refpect of powers and privileges.
(9.) With refpect to ordinances, they held,
that baptifm is to be adminiftered to vifible be
lievers and their infant children ; but they ad
mitted only the children of communicants to
baptifm. That the Lord's Supper is to be re
ceived fitting at the table ; whilft they were
in Holland, they received it every Lord's
Day. That ecclefiaftical cenfures were
wholly fpiritual, and not to be accompanied



with temporal penalties. (10.) They ad
mitted no holy days but the Chriftian Sab
bath, though they had occafionally days of
fading and thankfgiving. And, finally, they
renounced all right of human invention or
impofition in religious matters.

Having enjoyed their liberty in Holland
eight or nine years, in which time they had
become acquainted with the country and the
manners of its inhabitants, they began to
think of another removal (1617.) The rea ~
fons of which, were thefe.* (i.) IVlpft of
them had been bred to the bufmeis of huf-
bandry in England ; but, in Holland, they
were obliged to learn mechanical trades, and
ufe various methods for their fubfiftence,
which were not fo agreeable to them as cul
tivation. (2.) The language, manners and
habits of the Dutch were not rendered pleaf-
ing by familiarity; and, in particular, the
loofe and carelefs manner in which the Sab
bath was regarded in Holland, gave them
great offence. (3.) The climate was un
favourable to their health ; many of them
were in the decline of life ; their children,
opprefled with labour and difeafe, became in
* Morton, 3 6. Math. Mag. II. 2.


firm, and the vigour of nature feemed to
abate at an early age. (4.) The licentiouf-
nefs in which youth was indulged, was a per
nicious example to their children ; fome of
whom became failors, others foldiers, and
many were diflblute in their morals ; nor
could their parents reftrain them, without
giving offence, and incurring reproach.
Thefe considerations afforded them the mel
ancholy profpecT:, that their pofterity would,
in time, become fo mixed with the Dutch,
as to lofe their intereft in the Englifh nation,
to which they had a natural and ftrong at
tachment. (5.) They obferved, alfo, that
many other Englifh people, who had gone to
Holland, fuffered in their health and fub-
fiance j and either returned home to bear the
Inconveniences from which they had fled,
or were reduced to poverty abroad. For
thefe reafons they concluded that Holland
was not a country in which they could hope
for a permanent and agreeable refidence.

The queftion then was, to what part of
the world mould they remove, where they
might expect freedom from the burdens un
der which they had formerly groaned, and
the bleflmgs of civil and religious lioerty,
which they had lately enjoyed.



The Dutch merchants, being apprized of
their difcontent, made them large offers, if
they would go to fome of their foreign plan
tations ; but their attachment to the Englifh
nation and government was invincible.* Sir
Wafter Raleigh had, about this time, raifed
the fame of Guiana, a rich and fertile coun
try of America, between the tropics, blefled
with a perpetual fpring, and productive of
every thing which could fatisfy the wants of
man, with little labour. To this country the'
views of fome of the moft fanguine were di
rected ; but confidering that, in fuch warm
climates, difeaies were generated, which often
proved fatal to European conftitutions, and
that their neareft neighbours would be the
Spaniards, who, though they had not actually
occupied the country, yet claimed it as their
own, and might eafily difpoflefs them, as they
had the French of Florida ; the major part
difapproved of this propofal.

They then turned their thoughts toward
that part of America, comprehended under
the general name of Virginia, f There, if
they mould join the Colony already eftab-
iiflied, they muft fubmit to the government


* Hubbard's MS. Hiftory, 37.
f Prince, 50. Hazard, I. 359.

165 R "6 6 I N S O fri.

of the Church of England. If they fhould
attempt a new plantation, the horrors of i
wildernefs, and the cruelties of its favage in
habitants were prefented to their view. It was
anfwered, that the Dutch had begun to plant
within thefe limits, and were unmolefted ;
that all great undertakings were attended with
difficulties ; but that the prpfpect of danger
did not render the enterprize defperate ; that,
fhould they remain in Holland, they were
tiot free from danger, as a truce between the
United Provinces and Spain, which had fub-
fifteu twelve years* was nearly expired, and
preparations were making to renew the war ;
that the Spaniards, if fuccefsful^ might prove
as cruel as the favages j and that liberty,
both civil and religious, was altogether pre
carious in Europe* Thefe confiderations de
termined their views toward the uninhabited
part of North-America, claimed by their na
tive prince, as part of his dominions ; and
their hope was, that by emigrating hither,
they might make way for the propagation of
the Chriftian religion in a heathen land,
though (to ufe a phrafe of their own) " they
Ihould be but as ftepping-ftones to others,'*

who might come after them.



Thefe things were firft debated in private,
and afterward propoietl to the whole Congre
gation, who, after mature deliberation, and a
devout addrefs to Heaven, determined to
make application to the Virginia Company in
London, and to inquire whether King James
would grant them liberty of confcience in
his American dominions. John Carver and
Robert Culhman were appointed their agents
on this occafion, and letters were written by
Mr. Robinfon and Mr. Brewfter, their ruling
elder, in the name of the Congregation, to
Sir Edwin Sandys and Sir John Worften-
holme, two principal members of the Vir
ginia Company.

In thofe letters they recommended them-
felves as proper perfons for emigration,* be-
caufe they were " weaned from the delicate
milk of their own country, and fo inured to
the difficulties. of a ftrange land, that no finall
things would difcourage them, or make them
wifh to return home ; that they had acquired
habits of frugality, induftry, and felf-denial ;
and were United in a folemn covenant, by
which they were bound to feek the welfare
of the whole Company, and of every nidi-

X viduai

* Hazard, 52.


vidual perfon." They alfo gave a fuccinb
and candid account of their religious princi
ples and practices, for the information of the
King and his Council.

The anfwer which they received was as
favourable as they could expedh The Vir
ginia Company promifed them as ample priv
ileges as were in their power to grant.* It
was thought prudent not to deliver their let
ter to the King and Council ; but application
was made to Sir Robert Norton, Secretary of
State, who employed his interefl with Areh-
bifhop Abbot ; and by means of his media
tion, the King promifed to connive at their
religious practices ; but he denied them tol
eration under the great fcal. With this an
fwer, and fome private encouragement, the
agents returned to Holland.

It was impoffible for them to transport
thcrnfelves to America, without affiflancc
from the merchant adventurers in England.
Further agency and agreements were necef-
fary. The diflenfions in the Virginia Com
pany were tedious and violent ; and it was
not till after two whole years, that all the
rfeceflary provifions and arrangements could

be made for their voyage.


* Hubbard, 38.

R' O B I N S O N. 171

In the beginning of 1620, they kept a fol-
cmn day of prayer,* when Mr. Robinfon
delivered a difcourfe from I Samuel, xxiii,
3, 4 ; in which he endeavoured to remove
their doubts, and coniirm their refolutions.
It had been previoufly determined, that a part
of them fhould go to America, and prepare
the way for the others ; and that if a major
part fhould content to go, the Paftor fhould
go with them ; otherwife, he fhould remain
in Holland, It was found, on examination,
that though a major part was willing to go,
yet they could not all get ready in feafon ;
therefore, the greater number being obliged
to ftay, they required Mr. Robinfon to ftay
with them. Mr. Brewfter, the ruling elder,
was appointed to go with the minority, who
were " to be an abfolute Church of them-
felves, as well as thofe that fhould ftay ; with
this provifo, that, as any mould go over or

Online LibraryUnknownAmerican biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 24)