New Haven History





WHEN peace and security were established in the Connecticut region after the destruction of the Pequods in the summer of 1637, a desire for emigrating thither was revived. At about that time several gentlemen destined to occupy conspicuous places in history as founders of a state arrived at Boston. These were Rev. John Davenport, a popular Puritan preacher of London, who had been persecuted by Archbishop Laud and taken refuge in Rotterdam. Another was Theophilus Eaton, an opulent London merchant and member of Mr. Davenport's congregation; and a third was Edward Hopkins, another rich London merchant and member of the same society. They were much attached to Mr. Davenport, and gladly came to share his voluntary exile from his native land.

At the time of the arrival of these gentlemen, society in Massachusetts was violently agitated by bitter theological discussions, which will be noticed hereafter. Mr. Davenport and his friends belonged to a school who sought to carry out in practice the idea of finding in the Scriptures a special rule for everything in church and state. For the purpose of trying an experiment in government on the basis of that idea, they desired an unoccupied field. From some of those who pursued the fugitive Pequods along the country bordering on Long Island Sound, they heard of the beauty and fertility of that region, and early in the autumn Mr. Eaton and a small party visited the country. He was charmed with a harbor on the north side of the Sound; and on the banks of a stream, which the Indians called Quinnipiack, he erected a hut, where some of the party passed the winter to try the climate. That was on the site of New Haven, Connecticut. The place had been called by the Dutch navigator, Block, who had anchored in the harbor, "Roodenberg" or Red Hills, in allusion to the red cliffs a little inland.

In the spring of 1638, Mr. Davenport and his friends sailed for Quinnipiack, where they arrived at the middle of April. They were accompanied by a number of followers, mostly persons from London who had been engaged in trade; and in proportion to their number, they formed the richest colony in America. They spent their first Sabbath there-a warm April day-mostly under the shadow of a great oak, where Mr. Davenport preached a sermon on the subject of Jesus being led into the wilderness. They purchased the land of the Indians and proceeded to plant the seeds of a new state by framing articles of association, which they called a "Plantation Covenant," according to their peculiar ideas. In it they resolved "that, as in matters that concern the gathering and ordering of a church, so likewise in all public offices which concern civil order, as choice of magistrates and officers, making and repealing of laws, dividing allotments of inheritance, and all things of like nature," they would "be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth." So they began their settlement without any reference to any government or community on the face of the earth. The place where the first hut was built was on the present corner of Church and George Streets, New Haven, and the spot whereon stood the oak tree-their first temple for worship-was at the intersection of George and College Streets.

For about a year this little community endeavored to learn by experience, from reflection, and light from Heaven through the medium of prayer, what would be the best kind of social and political organization for the government of the colony. They talked together much, and early in the summer of 1639 they were nearly or quite all of one mind. Then they assembled in a barn-all the "free planters"-to compare views and settle upon a plan of civil government according to the word of God. Mr. Davenport prayed earnestly, and preached from the text: "Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars." In his discourse, he showed the fitness of choosing seven competent men to construct the government; and he then proposed for their adoption four fundamental articles: (1) That the Scriptures contain a perfect rule for the government of men in the family, in the church, and in the commonwealth; (2) That they would be ordered by the rules which the Scriptures held forth; (3) That their purpose was to be admitted into church-fellowship, according to Christ, as soon as God should fit them thereunto; and (4) That they held themselves bound to establish such civil order, according to God, as would be likely to secure the greatest good to themselves and their posterity.

These articles were unanimously adopted, when Mr. Davenport presented two other articles designed to put into practical operation the theories of the other four. These were (1) That church membership only should be free-burgesses or freemen endowed with political franchises, and that they only should choose magistrates, and transact civil public business of every kind; (2) That twelve or more men should be chosen from the company and tried for their fitness, and these twelve should choose seven of their number as the seven pillars of the church. These articles were subscribed by sixty-three persons present, and soon afterward by fifty others.

The twelve men were chosen, and after due deliberation they selected the "seven pillars." After another pause, these "pillars" proceeded to organize a church. Their assistants, nine in number, were regarded as freemen or "free burgesses," and the sixteen elected Theophilus Eaton as magistrate for one year. Four other persons were chosen to be deputies, and these constituted the executive and legislative departments of the new-born state of Quinnipiack. To these Mr. Davenport gave a "charge," grounded upon Deuteronomy i. 16, 17. A secretary and sheriff were appointed. The "Freeman's Charge," which was a substitute for an oath, gave no pledge of allegiance to king or Parliament, nor any other authority on the face of the earth, excepting that of the civil government here established. "It was a state independent of all others. It was resolved that there should be an annual General Court or meeting of the whole body, in the month of October, and that "the word of God [the Bible] should be the only rule to be attended unto in ordering the affairs of government." Then orders were issues for building a meeting-house; for the distribution of house-lots and pasturage; for regulating the prices of labor and commodities, and for taking measures to resist the attacks of Indians. They resolved, also, to choose their own company, and it was ordained that "none should come to dwell as planters without their consent and allowance, whether they came in by purchase or otherwise." In 1640 they named the settlement New Haven.





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