Toward the close of the summer of 1629, an important measure was adopted by the Plymouth Company, which gave a mighty impulse to emigration to Massachusetts. It was the transferring of the government of the colony from the Company to the people there, and so establishing a democracy like that at Plymouth. That was done on the 29th of August. The old officers in the colony resigned, and John Winthrop, one of the many wealthy and influential heads of families who had determined to emigrate to Massachusetts in the event of such a change in its political affairs, was chosen governor. John Humphrey, brother-in-law to the Earl of Lincoln, was chosen deputy-governor, but, on the eve of embarkation, his place was filled by Thomas Dudley, a veteran soldier and then the manager of the estates of the earl. Eighteen assistants were also chosen.
Winthrop was then forty-two years of age. he was a native of Groton, Suffolk county, where he had considerable landed property. A lawyer by profession, he had moved in the higher circles of society among eminent men in church and state, by which means he became learned in statesmanship and polished in manners. Dudley had served as a soldier under Henry the Fourth of France thirty years before and "was old enough," Palfrey says, "to have lent a shrill voice to the huzzas at the defeat of the Armada." Of the assistants, Johnson, Saltonstall, Eaton, Bradstreet and Vassall were the most conspicuous. Isaac Johnson was the richest of the emigrants, and son-in-law of the Earl of Lincoln. Sir Robert Saltonstall, of Halifax, Yorkshire, was an opulent supporter of the enterprise. Theophilus Eaton was an eminent merchant of London, and a polished courtier who had been the earliest minister of Charles the First, in Denmark. Simon Bradstreet was the son of a Puritan minister in Lincolnshire and college graduate, and William Vassall was an opulent West India merchant.
Winthrop and his companions, consisting of about three hundred families, sailed from Yarmouth in the spring of 1630. The governor was in the Arabella, a ship carrying twenty-eight guns, and so named in compliment to Arabella Johnson, wife of one of the assistants. Before leaving the port, the governor, in behalf of his company, sent an address, drawn by the Rev. Mr. White, to "the rest of the brethren in and of the Church of England," saying that they esteemed it a favor to call that church their "dear mother;" that they wished her prosperity, and that they left her and their native land with "much sadness of heart and many tears." They declared that they went to establish an independent church, but not a separate one.
The Arabella arrived at Salem in June. They found there neither a church nor town. A rather stately house, in which the governor lived, and a few hovels, constituted the shelter of the settlers, among cornfields. Death had been busy, during the previous winter and spring, with the older settlers, and many of the survivors were weak and sick. Provisions were scarce. Disease attacked the new comers, and before the close of autumn, of a thousand emigrants who had arrived that year, two hundred were in their graves. The charming Arabella Johnson-the "queen of the colony"-who came from a home of luxury, died within a month after her arrival; and grief for her loss consigned her husband to the grave a few weeks after-ward.
Winthrop sought a more attractive place than Salem for the seating of his colony. Endicott's people had built some huts at Charlestown, whither some of Winthrop's people went. Others seated themselves at Dorchester, Roxbury, Watertown, and Cambridge. It was proposed to found the capital of the colony at Charlestown, and there the first court of the assistants was held late in August. But an epidemic disease, caused, it was supposed, by unwholesome water at Charlestown, induced the governor and magistrates, and others of the settlers, to remove to the peninsula of Shawmut, the site of Boston, where they found an abundance of pure spring water. There they built cottages and founded the capital of New England. The peninsula was composed of three considerable hills, and was called Tri-mountain for some time. The capital was named Boston, in commemoration of the native place of some of the emigrants from Lincolnshire. At the close of 1630, a large number of new emigrants had arrived, and the settlement on Shawmut was greatly increased. During the season, seventeen ships had brought almost fifteen hundred emigrants from England.
From the beginning the people were jealous of the power of the magistrates and ministers. They well knew the tendency toward tyranny of men exercising unrestrained control, and they thought it wise to assert popular rights-the rights of the people-at the outset. At a general court of the magistrates or assistants, in May, 1631, it was agreed that thenceforth all the officers of the government should be chosen annually by the freemen of the colony. These consisted of only men who were members in good standing of some church. This was an attempt to establish a sort of religious aristocracy for the control of the state, for, of the whole population, only one hundred and eighteen person were qualified to be freemen, according to the prescription. This intimate relation between church and state gave rise to many disorders, and it was dissolved in 1665.
There was another change in 1634, when a representative government was established, the second in America. There were now eight distinct settlements in Massachusetts, and the growth of the colony was more rapid and sturdy than that of Plymouth. Winthrop, whom the people re-elected, ruled wisely. Like Bradford, he courted the friendship of the surrounding Indians, and chiefs and sachems dined at his table. There might have been seen a sagamore from the Mohegans on the distant Hudson River to tell him of the beautiful Connecticut Valley, and invite him to send settlers there. There, also, might have been seen the son of the aged Canonicus: his nephew Miantonomoh, the brilliant young chief of the Narragansets, and the representatives of the Nipmucs and Wampanoags with Massasoit, the good chief of the latter nation. Winthrop also cultivated friendly relations with the neighboring settlements and distant colonies. He journeyed on foot from Shawmut to Plymouth, to exchange courtesies with Governor Bradford; and he sent messengers to New Netherland to have a friendly talk there with the authorities about the occupation of a part of the Connecticut Valley. His policy was peace and good-fellowship. A ship, trafficking with corn, that came from Virginia, met a friendly greeting when she sailed into Boston harbor.
For awhile after the arrival of Winthrop and his company, the flow of emigration to Massachusetts almost ceased. Men wished to see the experiment there fully tried before venturing. The intolerance of the authorities in church and state, in Massachusetts, was another cause for hesitation. The narrow views of civil and religious freedom entertained by those authorities and practically enforced, did not suit the more liberal-minded of the English Non-conformists, who were disposed to emigrate. There were too many shades of opinion among them to expect harmony before such an inexorable censor as they would meet in the half-ecclesiastical or church government of Massachusetts. But political and religious events in England soon gave an amazing impetus to emigration to America. Laud, the primate or head of the church, in England, who hated Puritans intensely, was then carrying forward persecution with a high hand. He was an implacable inquisitor, and sent men to prison without mercy, because they did not conform to his requirements in their method of worshipping Almighty God. At the same time there was a violent struggle for power between the monarch and the people. The king had, in effect, abolished the Parliament, and was ruling England at the bidding of his uncontrolled will. Civil war was evidently brewing in the hearts and minds of the people, and those who loved quiet and foresaw the coming storm fled to America to avoid its consequences. During the year 1635, full three thousand new settlers went to Massachusetts, among whom were men of wealth, influence, and distinction. Among these were the fiery Hugh Peters, an eloquent Puritan preacher, and Henry Vane, and enthusiastic young man twenty-five years of age, who took a conspicuous part in the affairs of the colony. Meanwhile the harsh proceedings of Endicott and others toward those who did not conform to their rigid discipline, and the intemperate zeal which characterized the authorities in Massachusetts, in their opposition to the church and crown, aroused the jealousy and resentment of both. These feelings were intensified by the intimations of the enemies of the colonists, that they "aimed not at new discipline, but sovereignty," and action was taken to bring them into subjection. Much had been made of the fact that Endicott had caused a part of the red-cross of St. George to be cut out of the English flag at Salem, and that many of the citizens refused to follow it before it was so mutilated. These things were cited as evidence of disloyalty to the crown. On the contrary, it was loyalty to bigotry. Endicott regarded the cross in the flag as a "relic of Anti-Christ," because the Pope had given it to the King of England as an ensign of victory. The whole aspect of the act was theological, not political ; but the royalists chose to interpret it otherwise, and it was one of the reasons for tyrannical action toward the colony, when orders were issued to the authorities of Massachusetts to produce their charter before the Privy Council in England. This was followed, in the spring of 1634, by the appointment of an arbitrary special commission for the colonies, with laud, the primate, at their head. He and his associates received full power over the American colonies to organize new governments and dictate laws; to regulate public worship, and to inflict punishments and revoke charters.
When the news of these proceedings reached New England, with a rumor that a governor-general or viceroy was on his way, the authorities of Massachusetts took the boldest measures. Fortifications were ordered, and three thousand dollars-then a large sum for the poor colonists-were raised to pay for them; and it was resolved not to receive a governor appointed by the crown. They determined to resist as long as possible. It was at that juncture that the great emigration just spoken of took place.
Return to Our Country, Vol. I