In the summer of 1628, the Plymouth Company sent John Endicott, one of their number (including his wife and children), with emigrants, to settle on the domain. Endicott was commissioned governor or general manager of the colony; and then he began his long and eventful career in New England. He was then forty years of age; possessed of an imperious and unyielding will; was a most rigid Puritan in thought and manner; benevolent though austere, and was intolerant of all dissenting opinions.
Endicott conducted the little colony to Naumkeag, where some of White's men from Cape Ann were seated. After settling some disputes about the right of occupation and control, he named the place Salem, the Hebrew word for "peaceful." There he soon displayed his stern opposition to all "vain amusements," by causing a May-pole to be cut down, which the Dorchester people had set up. He lectured them on the folly of amusements, and warned them to "look there should be better walking."
Several persons of wealth and influence in Boston, Lincolnshire, and elsewhere, joined the company early in 1629, and in March a royal charter was granted creating them a corporation under the name of "The Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England." The administration of public affairs was entrusted to a governor, deputy, and eighteen assistants or magistrates, who were to be elected annually by the stockholders of the Company. A general assembly of the freemen of the colony was to be held at least four times a year to legislate for the colony. The king claimed no jurisdiction, for he regarded the whole affair as a trading operation, and not as the founding of an empire. He could not comprehend the moral and religious movements going on around him, and was lavish of privileges which he could not easily recall. The charter conferred upon the colonists of Massachusetts Bay all the rights of English subjects without exacting many corresponding duties; and it was afterward used as a text for many powerful discourses against the usurpations of royalty.
The Company were careful to make "plentiful provision of godly ministers" for the colony, and in the summer after Endicott's departure, three of these--Skelton, Higginson and Bright--were sent to Salem, with about two hundred additional settlers. Soon after their arrival a church was organized by the choice of Samuel Skelton as pastor, and Francis Higginson as teacher or assistant. They were ordained by a simple ceremonial. Mr. Higginson and three or four of the gravest men laid their hands on Mr. Skelton's head, while he knelt, and then prayed. Mr. Higginson was consecrated by Mr. Skelton in the same way. Mr. Higginson then drew up a confession of faith and plan of church government, and an invitation was sent to the Plymouth people to be present at a formal organization of the society. On a warm day, the 6th of August, the people were gathered in the shade of great elms at Salem, when the two ministers preached, and thirty persons signed the covenant and associated themselves as a church. Governor Bradford and others, who came from Plymouth by sea, did not reach Salem until the ceremony was ended, when they "came into the assembly and gave them the right hand of fellowship." So was founded the first church in New England. They claimed that they were not Separatists-that is, separated from the Church of England-but a better part of it, discarding its corruptions and trying to reform it. Yet in all outward things they were Separatists. Endicott and his friends punished two brothers named Browne for worshipping in accordance with the prescriptions and rituals of the Book of Common Prayer, the governor declaring the liturgy and ceremonials to be "sinful corruptions of the worship of God." The offenders persisted and Endicott sent them back over the ocean, telling them that New England was no place for such as they. The Company did not disclaim the act, but simply asked Endicott to be discreet, for fear of offending the home government.
This high-handed act unreproved, established the fact that the authorities of Massachusetts might, at their discretion, exclude all persons from the colony who did not conform to the pattern of morals and religion prescribed by the governor and ministers. This was the beginning of that blind intolerance of the Puritans of Massachusetts, which appears as a dark stain upon the annals of New England. We must judge those early settlers leniently by the standard of ethics which prevailed in civilized society at that time.
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