After a sufficient pause for deliberation and conference concerning the forms of organization of the new society, the subject of an ecclesiastical settlement was the first matter to receive attention.
Continuing The Great Puritan Migration to New England,
our selection from History of New England by John G. Palfrey published in 1890. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Great Puritan Migration to New England.
It is desirable to understand how this population, destined to be the germ of a state, was constituted. Of members of the Massachusetts Company, it cannot be ascertained that so many as twenty had come over. That company, as has been explained, was one formed mainly for the furtherance, not of any private interests, but of a great public object. As a corporation, it had obtained the ownership of a large American territory, on which it designed to place a colony which should be a refuge for civil and religious freedom. By combined counsels, it had arranged the method of ordering a settlement, and the liberality of its members had provided the means of transporting those who should compose it. This done, the greater portion were content to remain and await the course of events at home, while a few of their number embarked to attend to the providing of the asylum which very soon might be needed by them all.
It may be safely concluded that most of the persons who accompanied the emigrant members of the company to New England sympathized with them in their object. It may be inferred from the common expenditures which were soon incurred, that considerable sums of money were brought over. And almost all the settlers may be presumed to have belonged to one or another of the four following classes: (1) Those who paid for their passage and who were accordingly entitled on their arrival to a grant of as much land as if they had subscribed fifty pounds to the “common stock” of the company; (2) those who, for their exercise of some profession, art, or trade, were to receive specified remuneration from the company in money or land; (3) those who paid a portion of their expenses, and after making up the rest by labor at the rate of three shillings a day, were to receive fifty acres of land; (4) indented servants, for whose conveyance their masters were to be remunerated at the rate of fifty acres of land for each. All Englishmen were eligible to the franchise of the Massachusetts Company; but until elected by a vote of the existing freemen no one had any share in the government of the plantation or in the selection of its governors.
The reception of the new-comers was discouraging. More than a quarter part of their predecessors at Salem had died during the previous winter, and many of the survivors were ill or feeble. The faithful Higginson was wasting with a hectic fever, which soon proved fatal. There was a scarcity of all sorts of provisions, and not corn enough for a fortnight’s supply after the arrival of the fleet. “The remainder of a hundred eighty servants,” who, in the two preceding years, had been conveyed over at heavy cost, were discharged from their indentures, to escape the expense of their maintenance. Sickness soon began to spread, and before the close of autumn had proved fatal to two hundred of this year’s emigration. Death aimed at the “shining mark” he is said to love. Lady Arbella Johnson, coming “from a paradise of plenty and pleasure, which she enjoyed in the family of a noble earldom, into a wilderness of wants,” survived her arrival only a month; and her husband, singularly esteemed and beloved by the colonists, died of grief a few weeks after. He was a holy man and wise and died in sweet peace.
Giving less than a week to repose and investigations at Salem, Winthrop proceeded with a party in quest of some more attractive place of settlement. He traced the Mystic River a few miles up from its mouth, and, after a three days’ exploration, returned to Salem to keep the Sabbath. When ten or eleven vessels had arrived, a day of public thanksgiving was observed in acknowledgment of the divine goodness which had so far prospered the enterprise.
After a sufficient pause for deliberation and conference concerning the forms of organization of the new society, the subject of an ecclesiastical settlement was the first matter to receive attention. On a day solemnized with prayer and fasting, the Reverend Mr. Wilson, after the manner of proceeding in the year before at Salem, entered into a church covenant with Winthrop, Dudley, and Johnson. Two days after, on Sunday, they associated with them three of the assistants, Mr. Nowell, Mr. Sharpe, and Mr. Bradstreet, and two other persons, Mr. Gager and Mr. Colburn. Others were presently added; and the church, so constituted, elected Mr. Wilson to be its teacher, and ordained him to that charge at Mishawum. At the same time Mr. Nowell was chosen to be ruling elder, and Mr. Gager and Mr. Aspinwall to be deacons. From the promptness of these measures, it is natural to infer that they had been the subject of consideration and concert before the landing. But there was some lingering scruple respecting the innovation on accustomed forms; and either for the general satisfaction or to appease some doubters, “the imposition of hands” was accompanied with “this protestation by all, that it was only as a sign of election and confirmation.”
In the choice of a capital town, attention was turned to Mishawum, now Charlestown. Here, ten weeks after the landing, the first court of assistants on this side of the water was convened. The assistants present were Saltonstall, Ludlow, Rossiter, Nowell, Sharpe, Pynchon, and Bradstreet. Three others were in the country: Johnson, Endicott, and Coddington. The question first considered was that of provision for the ministers. It was “ordered that houses be built for them with convenient speed at the public charge. Sir Richard Saltonstall undertook to see it done at his plantation (Watertown) for Mr. Phillips, and the Governor at the other plantation for Mr. Wilson.” Allowances of thirty pounds a year to each of these gentlemen were to be made at the common charge of the settlements, “those of Mattapan and Salem exempted,” as being already provided with a ministry. Provision was also made for Mr. Gager as engineer, and Mr. Penn as beadle. It was ordained “that carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, sawers, and thatchers should not take above two shillings a day, nor any man should give more, under pain of ten shillings to taker and giver”; and “sawers” were restricted as to the price they might take for boards. The use or removal of boats or canoes, without the owner’s leave, was prohibited, under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Saltonstall, Johnson, Endicott, and Ludlow were appointed to be justices of the peace, besides the Governor and deputy-governor, who were always to have that trust by virtue of their higher office. And “it was ordered that Morton, of Mount Woolison, should presently be sent for by process.” Morton had lately been brought back to Plymouth by Allerton — who incurred much censure on that account — and, repairing to Mount Wollaston, had resumed his old courses.
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