« PreviousContinue »
made publick by due serch, inquisision, and due punishment; for the churches looke narrowly to their members, and the magistrates over all, more strictly then in other places. Besides, here the people are but few in comparison of other places, which are full and populous, and lye hid, as it were, in a wood or thickett, and many horrible evills by that means are never seen nor knowne; wheras hear, they are, as it were, brought into the light, and set in the plaine feeld, or rather on a hill, made conspicuous to the veiw of all.
But to proceede; ther came a letter from the Gov[erno]r in the Bay to them here, touching matters of the fore-mentioned nature, which because it may be usefull I shall hear relate it, and the passages ther aboute.
SIR: Having an opportunitie to signifie the desires of our Generall Court in tow things of spetiall importance, I willingly take this occasion to imparte them to you, that you may imparte them to the rest of your magistrates, and also to your Elders, for counsell; and give us your advise in them. The first is concerning heinous offences in point of uncleannes; the perticuler cases, with the circomstances, and the questions ther upon, you have hear inclosed.1 The 2. thing is concerning the Islanders at Aquidnett; that seeing the cheefest of them are gone from us, in offences, either to churches, or commone welth, or both; others are dependants on them, and the best sorte are shuch as close with them in all their rejections of us. Neither is it only in a
1 The details of the distressing story leading to this inquiry will be found in Winthrop, II. *45.
* After the proceedings of the General Court in its session of March 1, 1641–42, the Records contain this entry. "A quere. The plantacon of Prouidence haueing in it many honest and peaceable people, which groane vnder the want of gouernment and the ryotts and disorders falling out therevpon, the place being reputed within the gouernment of Plymouth, least worse thinges may fall out to the further and greater trouble of the colony, or honest people there, being ouerpressed by vyolent and turbulent persons should submitt or subject the place to another gouernment, we desire that a seasonable consideračon may be had thereof, for prevention of future mischeefs, if the place be within this gouernment, as it is generally reputed." Plymouth
faction that they are devided from us, but in very deed they rend them selves from all the true churches of Christ, and, many of them, from all the powers of majestracie. We have had some experience hereof by some of their underworkers, or emissaries, who have latly come amongst us, and have made publick defiance against magistracie, ministrie, churches, and church covenants, etc. as anti-christian; secretly also sowing the seeds of Familisme, and Anabaptistrie, to the infection of some, and danger of others; so that we are not willing to joyne with them in any league or confederacie at all, but rather that you would consider and advise with us how we may avoyd them, and keep ours from being infected by them. Another thing I should mention to you, for the maintenance of the trade of beaver; if ther be not a company to order it in every jurisdition among the English, which companies should agree in generall of their way in trade, I supose that the trade will be overthrowne, and the Indeans will abuse us. For this cause we have latly put it into order amongst us, hoping of incouragmente from you (as we have had) that we may continue
Col. Rec., 11. 37. Not until 1648 was it formally decided that the settlement on Rhode Island lay within the bounds of the Plymouth patent. It will be seen that the question was raised only a few weeks before this letter came from Massachusetts Bay, the authorities of which would have no intercourse, not even by letter, with the inhabitants of Aquidnett. Winthrop, 11. *21. The visit to Boston of Francis Hutchinson, son of Mrs. Ann Hutchinson, and William Collins, her son-in-law, in June, 1641, was largely responsible for Bellingham's words. Ib. *38. The Rhode Islanders long continued a source of annoyance to their neighbors.
In 1648 the Commissioners of the United Colonies "upon the perusall of the antient Patent graunted to New Plymouth," found that Rhode Island fell within the line and bounds of that plantation, "which the honourable comittee of parlement thinke not fitt to Straighten or infringe; nor may we." This record was made upon an application of certain inhabitants of Rhode Island for the Island to be received into the Confederation. An earlier application made in 1644 had been answered by providing that if the Island "will absolutely and without reservation submitt, either the Massachusetts [or] Plymouth may receiue them." In 1648 the people were to acknowledge themselves within the Plymouth jurisdiction, and then the Commissioners would "consider and advize how youe may bee accepted vpon Just termes and with tender Respects to your Conveniencie." The condition was not acceptable to those of Rhode Island, and that Colony never came into the Confederation. Plymouth Col. Rec., 1x. 23, 110.
the same. Thus not further to trouble you, I rest, with my loving remembrance to your selfe, etc.
Your loving friend,
Boston, 28 (1.) [March], 1642.
The note inclosed follows on the other side. 2
1 In Massachusetts Bay the London Company had in 1629 reserved the fur trade to the joint stock for seven years. No details of the arrangement or the success attending it have been preserved. At the expiration of that term, in 1636, the Standing Council received authority to farm out an exclusive privilege for three years. In 1637 all trade with outside Indians was prohibited. This prohibition remained in force only two months. In June, 1641: "It is ordered, that no person within this iurisdiction shall trade in furrs or wampam with any Indians, upon penalty of forfeture of the same to the company. And this court doth appoint Leift. Willard, John Holeman, Rich'd Collecott, and so many as they shall receive into their society, of which number it shalbee lawfull for Boston to present 3 or 4, Charles Towne 2, and each other towne one, which they shall not refuse without iust cause; and this Court doth give liberty to these persons to trade with the Indians all manner of commodities, except guns, powder, shott and weapons, for which they shall give into the treasury the twentieth part of all furs by them so traded, according as they shall arise to them, and that they shall take of all the wampam from the colledge, provided it exceed not 251, and to make payment for it. And they shall have liberty to make orders for the ordering of the trade in bever, and that this Court shall support and uphold them in all their lawfull undertakings, and that they shall buy all their commodities within this iurisdiction." Mass. Col. Rec., 1. 322. This was the arrangement when Bellingham wrote.
2 Deane notes that at this point a leaf had been cut from the manuscript volume, a memorandum by Prince showing that it was missing "when the book came into my hands at first," and adds: "The folio wanting contained the questions inclosed by Governor Bellingham, with, probably, a recital of the occasion on which they arose, of which Winthrop gives a sufficiently minute account. If five or six more of the original folios following had shared the fate of the one now missing, no serious loss would have been sustained." But no better example of the manner in which questions of crime and punishment were discussed and determined in the plantations can be found, and as such it presents a curious chapter in the criminal law of Massachusetts. In 1642 no judicial decisions were available, as precedents, and it was doubtful if the crime referred to in the letter was included in the laws which the General Courts of the plantations had framed. As the Scriptures were to be the rule where the laws proved deficient, the subject was referred to the elders for their opinion.
WORTHY AND BELOVED SIR:
Your letter (with the questions inclosed) I have comunicated with our Assistants, and we have refered the answer of them to shuch Reve[ren]d Elders as are amongst us, some of whose answers thertoo we have here sent you inclosed, under their owne hands; from the rest we have not yet received any. Our farr distance hath bene the reason of this long delay, as also that they could not conferr their counsells togeather.
For our selves, (you know our breedings and abillities,) we rather desire light from your selves, and others, whom God hath better inabled, then to presume to give our judgments in cases so difficulte and of so high a nature. Yet under correction, and submission to better judgments, we propose this one thing to your prudent considerations. As it seems to us, in the case even of willfull murder, that though a man did smite or wound an other, with a full pourpose or desire to kill him, (which is murder in a high degree, before God,) yet if he did not dye, the magistrate was not to take away the others life.1 So by proportion in other grosse and foule sines, though high attempts and nere approaches to the same be made, and shuch as in the sight and account of God may be as ill as the accomplishmente of the foulest acts of that sine, yet we doute whether it may be safe for the magistrate to proceed to death; we thinke, upon the former grounds, rather he may not. As, for instance, in the case of adultrie, (if it be admitted that it is to be punished with death, which to some of us is not cleare,)2 if the body be not actually defiled, then death is not to be inflicted. So in sodomie, and beastialitie, if ther be not penetration. Yet we confess foulnes of circomstances, and frequencie in the same, doth make us remaine in the darke, and desire further light from you, or any, as God shall give.
As for the 2. thing, concerning the Ilanders? we have no conversing with them, nor desire to have, furder then necessitie or humanity may require.
And as for trade? we have as farr as we could ever therin held an orderly course, and have been sory to see the spoyle therof by others,
1 Exod: 21. 22. Deu: 19. 11. Num: 35. 16. 18.-Bradford.
and fear it will hardly be recovered.' But in these, or any other things which may concerne the commone good, we shall be willing to advise and concure with you in what we may. Thus with my love remembered to your selfe, and the rest of our worthy friends, your Assistants, I take leave, and rest,
Your loving friend,
Plim: 17.3 month [May], 1642.
1 In June, 1639, Bradford and his partners gave warning that they would not hold "the trade" after November of that year. The records of the plantation do not show that any action followed this warning, and in December, 1640, the General Court passed the following regulation:
"Whereas the trade is not now followed by any man, and there may be some smale thinges some tymes had of the Indians in the plantacons within the gouernment, and that an auncient act doth restraine all persons, without the consent of such as haue the trade, to trade or traffic with the Indians or natiues, it is thought meete by the Court, that if any inhabitants within the gouernment shall trade with the natiues in any of the plantacons within the patent, for corne, beades, veneson, or some tymes for a beaver skine, hee shall not be reputed nor taken to be a transgressor of the said
"Also, concerneing the trade, it is thought meete, that if any man be disposed to vndertake the same for some yeares, they shall bring in their names before the next Court of Assistants, that if the Gouernor do approue of them, and the condicons on which they will vndertake the same, they may be approued of, or els the Gouernor to vndertake the same, with such partners as he shall like of for the mannageing of it, in such wise for the summer season as he shall thinke best for the space of one yeare." Plymouth Col. Rec., 1. 126; 11. 4. The price at which the privilege was sold appears to have been £20, which is certainly good evidence of the extent of decay in the trade. Ib. 10. In December, 1641, the Court again offered the trade to any disposed to take it for one or more years, and added as an inducement that the adventurers "shall take their corne that makes their biskett within this collony, and that the skins had by the trade shalbe vented for the collonys use." 29. The plan thus created a monopoly, as the skins could be sold only within the colony. When it came to obtain powder and lead for the Narragansett war, this restriction was suspended, and the partners were permitted to sell their skins where they could, and to dispose of the powder and shot so obtained to towns in exchange for corn. 47. The confederation of the Colonies in 1643 necessarily altered conditions, as a monopoly of the trade by any one colony was out of the question, and open competition among them would obviously have led to jealousies and complications, and to a continuous war with the natives. The Commissioners considered the question at their meeting in September, 1644, and proposed a species of joint stock operation. Plymouth Col. Rec., IX. 22.