History of Colonial Massachusetts

After the War of King Philip Massachusetts was feeling the heavy losses of her sons and treasure, the English government attempted to carry out a long-cherished desire of the king to resume the control of the colony. The Privy Council sent Edward Randolph, a greedy adventurer and faithful servant of his royal master, to collect the customs at Boston, to exercise other authority as the agent of the crown, and to spy out the strength and weakness of the people. Randolph excited the cupidity, fears and jealousy of the king and his court, by exaggerating the number of the population, wealth, power and independence of the colony; and, being rejected by the authorities of Massachusetts, his wrath gave vehemence to his assertions. The governor (Leverett) was firm in his opposition to Randolph's pretensions. "The king," he said, "can in reason do no less than let us enjoy our liberties and trade, for we have made this large plantation in the wilderness at our own charge, without any contribution from the crown." Because of this spirit of independence, the people were reproached. "You are poor," said the Earl of Anglesey, "and yet proud."

They were justly "proud." They had established a free and flourishing state, and were resolved to maintain their natural and chartered rights at all hazards. When Randolph, by royal authority, declared the charter of Massachusetts to be void, and attempted to govern, the people spurned him. Then the king resolved to make the colony a "more palpable dependence," and issued a writ of quo warranto--a command for the authorities to appear before the monarch and his council and show by what warrant they held jurisdiction in Massachusetts. It was his intention to exercise the arbitrary power of his grandfather, James the First, if necessary, by taking possession of the domain without forms of law; but a pliant High Court of Chancery decided in the king's favor. Before the monarch could effect his object he died. That was early in 1685.

Charles's brother, the Duke of York, now ascended the throne as James the Second. More tyrannical than his predecessor, he declared, without the formalities of law, the charter of Massachusetts to be void, and appointed Joseph Dudley president of the country from Rhode Island to Nova Scotia. All England, misinformed by the rulers, approved the measure, and the tone of society there was one of contempt for the "plantations." Dryden, whose muse was then subservient to the crown, wrote in a dramatic prologue:

"Since faction ebbs, and rogues go out of fashion, Their penny scribes take care to inform the nation, How well men thrive in this or that plantation.

"How Pennsylvania's air agrees with Quakers, And Carolina's, with Associators; Both e'en too good for madmen and for traitors.

"Truth is, our land with saints is so run o'er, And every age produces such a store, That now there's need of two New Englands more."

Dudley was succeeded by Edmund Andros, who arrived in Boston late in 1686, bearing the commission of viceroy or governor-general of all New England. His character and purpose have already been considered on page 355. The rigid executor of his master's will, he soon made the rod of oppression keenly felt. He abridged the freedom of the press; interfered with marriage contracts, and frequently extorted money--levied "blackmail"--advanced the fees of all officers of government, and threatened to make the Church of England the established religion in all America. The people of Massachusetts resented his conduct, and, in compliance with the doctrine of Cromwell's motto, "resistance to tyrants is obedience to God," they were about to drive him out of the colony by force of arms, when the news came from England that James had been driven from the throne. That news reached Boston in April, 1689, with the welcome tidings that Protestant William and Mary were on that throne.

This intelligence, like an electric spark, kindled an insurrection which burst out spontaneously in Boston, and in a few hours the revolt became universal. Andros sent soldiers to arrest the venerable Simon Bradstreet, then ninety years of age, as the most obnoxious republican in the city. He was governor when the king struck down the liberties of Massachusetts by taking away its charter. The people immediately reinstated him. From the balcony of the State-House, the vigorous old man, with long white hair and beard flowing over his shoulders and breast, addressed the populace with eloquent words. They seized Andros and fifty of his most obnoxious associates, and cast them into prison. A Committee of Safety was appointed. An assembly of representatives were soon convened. That body, by unanimous vote, declared their ancient charter to be resumed. In May, William and Mary were proclaimed in the colony; and from their sovereigns the provisional government of Massachusetts received a letter sanctioning their late proceedings, and directing them to send Andros to England to answer the charges preferred against him.

Another storm of disaster was now brooding over Massachusetts. King James (who was a Roman Catholic) had fled to the court of Louis the Fourteenth, a co-religionist and kinsman, who espoused his cause. William, as Prince of Orange, was then at the head of a coalition of several powers in a Protestant league against Louis; and soon after his accession, England became a member of that league and declared war against France. Hostilities between the two nations began the same year (1689); and the quarrel soon extended to their respective colonies in America. Here it became a strife chiefly for a monopoly of the fur-trade and the fisheries. The conflict then opened, and which continued more than seven years, is known in our history as KING WILLIAM'S WAR.

There was a powerful and controlling religious element in that contest, and in others which occurred between the French and English in America. In fact the power of France had been carried into the heart of the American continent more by the zeal and patience of religious enthusiasts, than by the ambition of monarchs, the wisdom of statesmen, or the greed of commoner.

Coeval with the rise of Protestantism in Germany, was the foundation of a society designed to counteract its influence. It was established by Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish enthusiast, and was called the Society of Fesus. It is better known in later times as the Order of Fesuits. Their organization was as perfect as any which human wisdom has yet devised for a special object. They are not a society of priests, but of Roman Catholics of every degree, bound by a solemn oath to extend the sway of the Church of Rome, and to fight Protestantism wherever it may be found. Their missionaries were soon found proselyting in every quarter of the globe. They regarded as a brother every man, without respect to skin or lineage; and the French Jesuits, who were the pioneers of French dominion in America, regarded every convert to Christianity among the Indians an enfranchised citizen of France. Whole tribes came under their spiritual sway, and many of the votaries of commerce, who followed them into the wilds of America to traffic with the Indians, made wives of the native maidens, and so established strong social ties between the French and the Indians. When, therefore, the former quarrelled with the English, they could rely upon the latter as faithful allies; and this barbarian element in the contest made border wars tenfold more distressing to the English colonists, especially to those of New England. The border settlers in New York had the powerful Iroquois Confederacy, like a strong wall, between themselves and the Indians in Canada.

The eastern Indians were easily excited into hostility by those white allies. Dover, a frontier town of New Hampshire, was the first to feel the violent hands of the mongrel foe. There three hundred Indians had been treacherously doomed to slavery years before. Revenge had slumbered; now it was awakened and was gratified. The venerable Major Waldron, then eighty years of age, and a local magistrate, had been a party to the treachery. On a warm evening in July, 1689, two squaws craved lodging at his house. They lay upon the floor, and in the night they unbarred the doors and let in several painted warriors. The aroused old man seized his sword and fought valiantly, until he was overpowered, when, with bitter taunts, they tortured him to death in his own hall. Then they laid his house in ashes, killed twenty of the garrison, and carried away nearly thirty persons and sold them as slaves to the French in Canada.

In August, a party came from Penobscot, after being purified by confession by Thury a Jesuit priest, and captured the garrison at Pemaquid, which Andros had established there. In February following, Governor Frontenac sent three hundred French and Indians from Montreal to destroy Albany. Through deep snows they made their way as far as Schenectady, a frontier town on the Mohawk, and at midnight burned the dwellings and murdered more than sixty of the inhabitants there. Seventeen of the slain were children. Early the next spring several eastern villages shared the same fate, and scores of women and children were carried away captives and suffered untold cruelties.

These atrocities--murders in cold blood--aroused all the colonies to a sense of danger, and on the suggestion of Massachusetts, a congress of delegates from several colonies met at New York on the first of May, 1690, to devise measures for the general security. Already the colony of Massachusetts had fitted out an expedition against Acadie, under Sir William Phipps, of Pemaquid, consisting of eight vessels with eight hundred men. He seized Port Royal, and obtained plunder sufficient to pay the expenses of the expedition. The town was again plundered by English privateers from the West Indies, in June; so retaliation went on. The Congress at New York resolved to invade Canada by land and sea, with an army that should march from the Hudson River by way of Lake Champlain to Montreal; and, at the same time, a strong naval armament was to ascend the St. Lawrence and attack Quebec. The army was placed under the command of a son of Governor Winthrop, of Connecticut, the cost of the expedition being borne jointly by that colony and New York; and Milborne, son-in-law of Leisler [see Chapter V of this Book], undertook to furnish the supplies. The command of the fleet, which was composed of thirty-four vessels manned by two thousand New Englanders, was given to Phipps.

The army moved from Albany early in July, at a snail's pace. At the beginning of September the bulk of them had only reached the head of Lake Champlain, where they remained, while some troops, and Indians of the Five Nations, under Colonel Peter Schuyler, pushed on toward the St. Lawrence. Old Frontenac was in Montreal when an Indian runner told him of the approach of the invaders. He called out his Indian allies. Taking a tomahawk in his hand, he danced the war-dance and chanted the war-song, in their presence, and then led them against the foe. Schuyler was repulsed, and the whole army returned to Albany. Leisler charged Winthrop with treachery, and Winthrop, in turn, charged the failure of the expedition to the inefficiency of Milborne in furnishing supplies.

Meanwhile Phipps, without charts or pilots, had crawled cautiously around Acadie and up the St. Lawrence for nine weeks, giving a swift Indian runner an opportunity to go from Pemaquid to Canada with the news of Phipps' departure, in time to allow Frontenac to reach Quebec before the arrival of the hostile fleet. The fortifications of the ancient town were strengthened; and when Phipps arrived before it, and sent a summons for its surrender, his message was treated with derision. It was then the middle of October. Hearing of the failure of the land expedition, Phipps weighed anchor and crawled cautiously back to New England before the winter storms set in. The French and Indians in Canada and Acadie were greatly elated, and the repulse was considered so important by Louis that he ordered a commemorative medal to be struck, with the legend: FRANCE VICTORIOUS IN THE NEW WORLD. These military operations exhausted the treasury of Massachusetts, and the government emitted bills of credit to the amount of about one hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars. This was the first paper-money ever issued on the American continent.

Soon after his return from the St. Lawrence, Sir William Phipps went to England to solicit aid for the colonies in their further warfare with the French and Indians, and to assist in efforts there to procure a restoration of the charter of Massachusetts which King James had annulled. Aid was refused; and instead of restoring the old charter, William gave a new one, by which Massachusetts, Plymouth, Maine and Nova Scotia were united under the name of "Massachusetts Bay Colony," and was made a royal province, with Phipps as governor. The baronet was a man of dull intellect, rudely educated, utterly lacking in qualities of statesmanship, headstrong, egotistical, superstitious, patriotic, and every way unfitted as a leader in civil and military affairs. He had gained distinction in his native colony only by his wealth and title, both of which were acquired by his successful raising of treasure from a Spanish ship with a diving-bell. He returned to Massachusetts in 1692, bringing the new charter with him.

The people of Massachusetts were not only dissatisfied with the new charter, but offended by it, for it greatly abridged their liberties. Wise and enlightened statesmen and churchmen in England advised William and his Parliament not to make the liberties of the colonists less. Tillotson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, charged the king "not to take away from the people of New England any of the privileges which Charles the First had granted them." Others did likewise; but the government refused to listen to wise advice. The king reserved the right, in the new charter, to appoint the governor, his deputy and the secretary of the colony, and of repealing all the laws within three years after their passage. This robbery of their liberties alienated the affections of the people from the mother country. It was one of the series of blunders made by the crown and ministers which fostered discontent in the colonies and tended to the final dismemberment of the empire in 1776.

Yet in some respects the new charter was an improvement upon the old. While the rights of citizens were abridged in some things, they were enlarged in others. Toleration was granted to every form of the Christian religion excepting, unfortunately, the Roman Catholic; and the right of suffrage--to vote--was no longer restricted to members of Congregational churches, but was made almost universal. Bigotry and intolerance were, so far, disarmed; and they never afterward held controlling sway in the policy of the State.

Here let us pause a moment in our narrative of political transactions and of the horrid war then raging, to consider a strange social feature in the history of Massachusetts, known as SALEM WITCH CRAFT.

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