A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Wednesday, 17 January, 1900, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President in the Chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that the following letters had been received from President Hadley and Judge Bancroft Davis: —
Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
December 22, 1899.
My dear Sir: — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 20th and take great pleasure in accepting.
Arthur T. Hadley.
John Noble, Esq.,
1621 H Street, Washington.
December 23, 1899.
Dear Sir: — I have received your letter of the 20th, informing me of my election to the position of Corresponding Member of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts.
In accepting the position to which I have been thus elected, will you kindly return my thanks for the great honor which has been done me.
J. C. Bancroft Davis.
John Noble, Esq.,
Corresponding Sec’y &c.
Mr. Worthington C. Ford communicated and read the following letters594 from Governor Shirley and William Bollan to the Lords of Trade, calling the attention of the Home government to the wide-spread disregard of the Navigation Laws, and the extent to which smuggling and illicit trade with the Dutch were carried on: —
GOVERNOR SHIRLEY TO THE LORDS OF TRADE.
Boston N England Febry 26th 1742/3
The seventh of the Quaeries lately Sent by your Lordsps, to be answered, is this vizt.
What Methods are Used in the Province under your Governmt. to prevent Illegal Trade; and are ye same Effectual?
I have Singled out this Quaere to Answer in the first place, because the illicit Trade which appears to have been Carried on in this province and some of the Neighbouring Colonys (within this last year more Especially) is such, as without the Speedy Interposition of the Parliamt. to Stop it, Must be highly destructive of the Interests of Great Britain, by lessening the Vent of her Woollen and other Manufactures, & Commodities in her own Plantations, making her cease to be a Staple of the European Commodities for Supplying them, letting Foreigners into the profits of the plantation Trade, and finally weakening the Dependance; which the British Northern Colony’s ought to have upon their Mother Country.
That the main Benefits and Advantages arising to Great Britain from her plantations, wch. I have above enumerated, and which have constantly employed the attention of the British parliamt. to Secure to her by keeping particularly the European Trade to and from her plantations to herself (as has been the Usage of other Nations with regard to their plantations,) are in very imminent Danger of being lost, to her by the Frauds and Abuses lately practis’d here in that Trade, I think will appear to your Lordships upon your perusal of the inclosed Acct. of them given by the Advocate Genl. pursuant to my Orders, and which he has Chose to Cast into the form of a Letter to your Lordships.
I am Sensible that the Advocates letter is very long, but I hope its length may be excused by your Lordships on Acct. of the Importance of it’s Subject, and the Necessity there is of laying before your Lordships a full and particular Accot. of the Mischiefs represented in it, with their Causes and proper Remedies, as they Appear to persons upon the Spot, who have had the Conduct of prosecutions for Breaches of the Acts of Trade in this & the Neighbouring Colonies for Sevl. years, and form their Judgemt. upon a long Experience of the Effect of those Acts, as they have been Construed by the provincial Courts of Law and evaded by Illicit Traders.
I shall only Add to the enclosed Letter, that Untill all Breaches of the Acts of Trade, which Extend to the Plantations, or at least those of the 15th Cha: 2d Chap. 7th are made tryable in the Courts of Vice Admiralty here, (without which it is in vain to hope that the Illicit Trade complained of can be Suppressed) it may be expected that it will be Carried on in New England, and perhaps grow, if not timely prevented, to So Strong an head as that it will be no easy Matter wholly to Subdue it.
The prosecution of the Importers of the Goods brought in the Brigantine Hannah (mentioned in the Advocates Letter) from Rotterdam into this Port for the Value of the Goods imported in her would doubtless Discourage the Illicit Traders to a very great Degree, and must deter ’em exceedingly by Showing ’em their Insecurity even after they have Safely landed their Goods; and I am of Opinion it can’t fail of having a great Tendency to break up the Trade — But as I think it more proper that the Commrs. of ye, Customs shod. be troubled with the Care of procuring this Evidence from Rotterdam for the prosecution of this Affair than your Lordships, I have directed him to recommend it to them to take that trouble upon themselves; and if your Lordships should be of Opinion that this prosecution wod. be for the Service of the Crown, your Signifying that to the Commissrs. of the Customs must Effectually procure the desired Evidence, and the Action upon the Rect. of it, shall be forthwith brought here & prosecuted to Effect.
I am, &ca
My Lords &ca
Letter from Mr. Shirley Govr. of the Massachusetts Bay to the Board Dated 26 Feby. 1742/3 being a particular answer to the 7th. of the Boards Quaeres lately Sent to him relating to the Methods Used in that Province to prevent Illegal Trade and the Effect of them.
Boston N. England Febry 26th 1742.
Mr. Shirley the Govr. & Vice Admiral of this province soon after his being made such, was pleased to Appoint me the Kings Advocate, and according to the practice here, it is the Duty of the person filling that place to prosecute all offenders against the Acts of Trade, The Discharge of which Trust has been lately attended with such Discoveries, and is at present Accompanied with So may Difficulties, that after Communicating them to his Excellency, he gave me Orders to make them particularly known to your Lordships, and indeed I conceive ’em to be of such Nature & Consequence that, had I not received his Commands to that End, I shod. have thought myself Obliged in Faithfulness to the Crown to lay them before your Lordships: after mentioning which I shall make no further Apology for giving your Lordsps this trouble; but proceed to inform you that there has lately been Carried on here a large Illicit Trade, (Distructive to the Interest of Great Britain in her Trade to her own Plantations, and Contrary to the main intent of all her Laws made to regulate that Trade) by importing into this province large Quantities of European Goods of Almost all Sorts from diverse parts of Europe, Some of which are by the Laws wholly prohibited to be imported into the Plantations, and ye rest are prohibited to be imported there, Unless brot. Directly from Great Britain: To Shew forth to your Lordships, the Rise, progress & Extent of this Pernicious practice would I fear far exceed the proper Compass of a Letter from me to your Lordships, and therefore I shall Content myself with Saying 1st. that a Considerable Number of Ships have Contrary to the 15th Chas. 2d. Chap: 7th lately come into this Country directly from Holland, laden some wholly, some in part, with Reels of Yarn or Spun Hemp, paper, Gunpowder, Iron and Goods of Various Sorts Used for Men & Womens Cloathing; 2dly. that Some Vessells have also come directly from other foreign parts of Europe with like Cargoes, 3dly. that Some of those Vessells were laden Chiefly & others in part with the Goods of the produce and Manufacture of old Spain prohibited under large penalty’es to be imported into Great Britain during the present War: 4thly. That to Carry on this Sort of Trade diverse Vessells have been fitted out here laden with provisions, and tho’ they appear wholly English in the Plantations, Yet by means of their being Commanded and Navigated by French Refugees Naturalized, or such persons as may easily pass for French Men and by the help of French papers and passes procured by French Merchts. Concerned in the matter, they have Carried the English Provisions to their open Enemies, and landed them out of those Vessells in the Ports of Spain: 5thly. That a Considerable part of the Illicit Trade from Holland is Carried on by Factors here for the Sake of their Commissions, Dutch Merchts. having the property in the Goods Imported. 6th. That one of these Illicit Traders lately departed hence for Holland proposed to one of the greatest Sellers of Broad Cloths here (and to how many others I can’t say) to Supply him with Black Cloths from thence, Saying that this Country might be better and Cheaper Supply’d with Broad Cloths of that Colour from Holland than from England; But to prevent or rather increase your Lordship’s Surprize on this Head I need only to Acquaint you that I write this Clad in a Superfine French Cloth, which I bought on purpose that I might wear about the Evidence of these Illegal Traders having Already begun to destroy the Vital parts of the British Commerce; and to Use as a Memento to Myself and the Customhouse Officers to do everything in our power towards Cutting off this Trade So very pernicious to the British Nation. 7thly. That the persons concerned in this Trade are many, Some of them of the greatest Fortunes in this Country, and who have made great Gains by it, and having all felt the Sweets of it, they begin to Espouse and Justify it, Some openly some Covertly, and having perswaded themselves that their Trade ought not to be bound by the Laws of Great Britain, they labour, and not without Success to poison the Minds of all the Inhabitants of the Province, and Matters are brought to such a pass that it is Sufficient to recommend any Trade to their General Approbation and Favour that it is Unlawfull; and as Examples of this kind soon Spread their Influence on the other plantations around, tis too plain almost to need mentioning that if Care be not Soon taken to Cure this growing Mischief, the British Trade to these Plantations and their proper Dependence on their Mother Country will in a great measure ’ere long be lost: I shall now recount to your Lordships the Difficulties which attend the Suppression of this Mischief; The First and one of the Principal whereof is that the Breaches of the Statute of the 15th Cha: 2d Chap: 7th Entitled an Act for the Encouragemt. of Trade & made purposely to keep the Plantations in a firm Dependence upon England, and to render them Advantagious to it in the Vent of English Woollen and other Commodities, and which provides that all European Goods and Manufactures imported into the Plantations Shall be Shippd in England, are not Cognizable in the Court of Admiralty, and a prosecution in the Common Law Courts here will be Unavoidably attended with great delay and too many Difficulties and Discouragements to be generally overcome, for in the First place by the Course of Judicial proceedings Establish’d in this province there will be a Necessity for the prosecutor to pass thro’ various Tryals,(and frequently in distant Counties) in Courts disinclined to the prosecution, and with Scarce any hopes of Success; For in the next place the prosecutor cannot there have process to Compell an Appearance of Unwilling Witnesses, (And all Witnesses for the Crown in Cases of this Nature are generally such) and Finally a Tryall by Jury here is only trying one Illicite Trader by his Fellows, or at least his well wishers; How it happen’d that the Offences Agt this Statute which is the main Ligament whereby the Plantation Trade is fastned and Secured to Great Britain, shod not be Cognizable in the Court of Admiralty: when the Cognizance of other Acts of Trade of much less Consequence to the Nation are given to that Court from the Common Consideration of the Interest, or desire that the Juries have here to defeat all Seizures & prosecutions for the Crown, I cannot say but ye Inconveniences that at present proceed from the Court of Admiralty’s want of Jurisdiction over Offences against that Statute, are certainly very great: another Difficulty that attends the Suppressing this Illegal Trade Arises from the Nature and Situation of the Country, which abounds with Out Ports, where Vessells Employed in this Trade unlade their Cargoes into Small Vessells, wherein they afterwards Carry their prohibited Goods with Ease into some proper places of Safety; and a further Difficulty grows out of the Corruption of those who are Employed to Carry on this Trade, which is become so great that we have had some late Instances of Oaths taken at the Custom-house by Masters of Vessells in direct Contradiction to their certain knowledge of the Truth, and to this crime these Illicite Traders have lately added this Contrivance, Vizt, To Conceal or Spirit away the Seamen who might otherwise be Witnesses and by their Testimony possibly cause a Condemnation of some of the Vessells Employ’d this Way; and thus when Vast Quantities of Goods are Illegally Imported here, after they are Unladen and Secured the Master appears boldly, and is ready to Swear any thing for the Good of the Voyage, and the Sailors are dispersed and gone, and there is nothing to be found, but an Empty Vessell, Agt which no proof can be obtained — Having thus laid before your Lordships the principal Dificulty’s that attend the Carrying the Acts of Trade into Execution here it may perhaps be Expected that I shod propose some Remedies which appear to us, who are upon the Spot and there Observe the Working of these things, to be most likely to Effect the Cure of these Mischiefs; Wherefore I shall now proceed to mention ’em for the Consideration of your Lordships.
The first thing that Seems Necessary to be done and that by Parliament is to Grant to the Court of Admiralty Cognizance of all past and future Offences Agt the above mentioned Statute 15th Cha. 2d, or (which would be much better) to provide by Act of Parliamt, that all Offences whatever past and future against the Acts of Trade committed in the Plantations & the penalties and Forfeitures arising therefrom may be prosecuted for and recovered in any Court of Admiralty in the plantations; there is really a greater Want of a certain and general Jurisdiction in the Courts of Admiralty in the Plantations over Breaches of the Acts of Trade there, than at first may be immagined; For among other things the Statute made in the 7th & 8th of Wm. the 3d for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade is So Obscurely penn’d in the point of the Admiralty’s Jurisdiction that it has received different Constructions, and that Court has been frequently prohibited in this Province to take Cognizance of some of the Main Offences against that Statute, and of late I hear that like prohibitions have been granted in the province of New York, tho’ the Intent of the Parliamt that made that Statute (as I think) doubtless was to give that Admiralty Jurisdiction of all Offences against it: — The granting to the Admiralty a general Jurisdiction over all Breaches of the Laws of Trade will, without question, be of Advantage to the Crown and Kingdom & Save much Trouble to the Officers prosecuting Illicit Traders, and indeed no Reason can be assigned for giving the Admiralty Cognizance of Offences agt some of the Acts of Trade, but what holds equally good for giving the some of the Acts of trade, but what holds equally good for giving the like Jurisdiction over the rest; But let what will be done with respect to granting the Admiralty Courts in the Plantations Such general Jurisdiction, I think it is very plain that to Suffer the Offences agt. 15th Cha: 2d, to remain only punishable in the Courts of Comon Law, is to leave it in the power of Illicit Traders (notwithstanding that Statute) to Import into these plantations any European Goods directly from any foreign Countries to their great profit and with little peril — Another thing I would. propose to your Lordships as a Cure of this Mischievous Trade is, that Actions of Detenue be brought against some of the principal Offenders Importing here Goods from foreign parts, in order to recover the Goods Imported or their Value agt. the Importer of them; such actions will be warranted by the Judgment given in Westminster Hall by the Court of Kings Bench 8th: Wm. 3d. in the Case of Roberts against Wetheral as Reported by Mr. Salkeld and others; The Effect of a few such actions properly pursued and Recoveries thereupon had, will I think Unquestionably have the greatest possible Tendency to break up this Trade; for the Security of the persons concerned in it according to their Understanding of the Matter rests in this, that if they can but prevent the Officers Seizing the Goods Illegally Imported (and therein they generally meet with no great difficulty, as has been already observed) then they are according to their present Judgemts. Safe in all respects; But when Once the Importers come to find that they are Chargeable with Actions for the Goods Illegally Imported or their Value, after they have Imported them Safely and Disposed of them, I think they cannot but be deterr’d from making such Unlawful Importations; For then they will see a New Danger, great and of long Duration, such as upon the whole they will have but little (if any) hopes to Secure themselves from — The most favourable Case wherein the first Action of this kind can be commenced & prosecuted in my Opinion will be that of the Brigantine Hannah which arrived here in Decr. 1741, and came directly from Rotterdam, which place she left in Octr. preceeding laden with Hemp spun into Yarn, paper, Ozenbrigs, Gunpowder and other Goods, after her Arrival here She was Seized, but she had first unladen and Secured her Cargo, and with great Difficulty we got some of the Crew, and by their Oaths proved such Facts agt her that She was Condemned, & as We have already Secured Considerable Evidence of what Goods were Imported in her, I think nothing will be wanting to Support an Action to be brought against the Owners of her for the Goods by them Imported in her, or their Value; but the proof of the particular Goods taken in by her at Rotterdam, and if your Lordships will be pleased to give Orders for Obtaining that, I think the Crown will be greatly Served by it; In such Case it will be Necessary to have such Evidence of this point, as the Lords of the Committee of Council will finally receive and Adjudge Sufficient; For with regard to the Success of such Actions here I think there is but little Reason to expect any Recovery on a Tryal by our Juries, tho’ the proof of such Action and the Law for the Support of it, be ever So plain; But on an Appeal to his Majesty in Council, Law and Justice will without question be rightly Administred: The Condemnation of this Vessell was Owing in a great Measure to Accident; the Advocate Employed by the Claimers not knowing that upon Application to the Superior Court here he might have had a prohibition to the Court of Admiralty, Had that Method of Defence been Used the Vessell would have been certainly Acquitted in the Common Law Courts; For the only thing which Work’d her Condemnation, was our Catching some of the Crew flying, and holding them by such Compulsory process as we could not have had any where but in the Admiralty Court. — This is the only Vessell, which has been Condemned for being Employed in this Illicit Trade, And it is very remarkable that tho’ she Sold for about four hundred pounds Sterling, and So the Owners of her lost that Sum Yet they have continued that Trade ever Since to a very great Degree, tho’ somewhat more warily; and other persons have been no wise deterr’d by this Loss and the peril which the Owners were in of having their Goods taken: But on the Contrary, more Illicit Trading Ships have come in here from Holland only, this last Summer and fall than from London, So near is Great Britain to being quite Work’d out of this part of her Trade: and tho’ I have said So much to your Lordships touching this Matter Yet I cannot avoid adding that this Illicit Trade is Carried on to So great a Degree and in so many Various Shapes that I make no doubt but if proper preventive Measures be not soon taken, a great part of the Bounty Money given by Great Britain to the Importers of Naval Stores from the Plantations will in a Short time be laid out in Holland or other parts of Europe in the purchase of Goods there, to be Illegally Imported here, if that has not been already practis’d.
I cannot conclude without observing to your Lordships that Unless effectual Measures are Speedily taken, to Stop this growing Evil; the Illicit Traders will by their Numbers, Wealth and Wiles have got such power in these parts that Laws and Orders may come too late from Great Britain to have their proper Effect against it.
Your Lordships Commands to me (If you have any, touching these Matters) Signifyed to his Excellency the Governour or in whatever manner you please Shall be Obey’d with the Utmost Care and Dispatch that can be given them by
My Lords &ca.
Copy of a Letter from Mr. Bolum, the Advocate Genl. in N. England, to the Board Dated the 26th of Febry 1742/3, relating to a large Illicit Trade lately Carry’d on in that province destructive of the Interest of Great Britain in her Trade to her own plantations, and contrary to the main Interest of all her Laws made to regulate that Trade, by Importing into that province large Quantity’s of European Goods of almost all Sorts; from diverse parts of Europe.
Mr. Arthur T. Lyman drew comparisons between the oppressive acts of the British Government prior to the American Revolution and some of the burdens which the trade and commerce of this country bear to-day. He also referred to an article by Professor Ashley in a recent number of the Quarterly Journal of Economics dealing with the English Navigation Laws and their effect on New England commerce.
Mr. Robert N. Toppan remarked that Professor Ashley had not taken sufficiently into account the utter disregard of the Navigation Laws by the merchants of New England during the Provincial period.
Mr. Andrew McFarland Davis then said: —
The suggestion made by Mr. Toppan as to the extent of the efforts made by Randolph to enforce the Navigation Laws, and his allusion to the manner in which these efforts were completely frustrated and rendered of no effect, can be easily verified by an examination of the Randolph Papers recently printed by the Prince Society under the editorial supervision of Mr. Toppan himself. With the aid of this valuable publication we can trace the zealous efforts of Randolph to secure the enforcement of the law and we can see, if we examine the results of the various libels upon vessels which he brought, how completely he was justified in his reiterated statements that he was being thwarted in his attempts to carry out his orders. It must be added, however, in justification of Professor Ashley’s argument, in the paper alluded to by Mr. Lyman, that the Professor is discussing the period included between the years 1700 and 1760. It seems to me, however, that what took place in the days of the Colony has some bearing upon the subject and that the real facts of the case are, that the system of openly setting the Parliamentary Act aside in judicial proceedings, nominally taken in order to carry it out, which prevailed in the days of the Colony, gave place under the Province to an equally open avoidance of the restrictions imposed by the Act, through illicit trade and barefaced smuggling. The method of frustrating the law was changed because, under the new Charter, the old way was no longer practicable.
Mr. Ashley argues, if I remember aright, that the Navigation Act, which was originally directed against the Dutch, was exclusively intended for the protection of British commerce, and that in this protection the Colonies participated. The establishment of the principle of British shipments in British bottoms, he says, had the effect of stimulating ship-building in New England. I should be inclined to think that this must be so, and to that extent I should admit that the Navigation Act may have benefited the Colonies. It may be that the beneficial influence of the Navigation Act was sufficiently great to have operated in this way even if the restrictive portions of the Act had been enforced against Colonial commerce, but inasmuch as these never were enforced, we are not called upon to estimate the offset of their deleterious influence and must therefore, as I have said, admit the justice of the claim made by Professor Ashley, — that ship-building must have been stimulated by the Navigation Act.
When we come to examine the arguments covering the effects of the restrictive legislation of a later period, it seems to me that Professor Ashley overlooks the fact that practically the same condition of things prevailed in the days of the Province as that which is so visibly set forth by Randolph in his remonstrances, protests, and petitions in the days of the Colony. We have abundant testimony bearing upon this point. In a paper submitted to the consideration of the Society last year,596 in which I discussed the relation of the currency to the politics of the Province, I undertook to show that the people of the Province were apathetic with regard to this restrictive legislation simply because it was not enforced, and that when they realized that a new policy was being inaugurated, the fundamental idea of which was the passage of legislation which was to be put in practical operation, they then rose in opposition. My purpose in that paper was simply to show the part taken by the currency discussion in educating the people of the distant towns in the politics of the Province, but it involved an examination of this very question, and the opinion that I then expressed has a direct bearing on the question which has been raised here to-day in the discussion following the interesting paper which we have just heard read by Mr. Ford.
The enforcement of the Molasses Act would have ruined the commerce of New England. Its evasion was so notorious that Professor Ashley excepts it from his discussion. Evasion of Parliamentary laws was not, however, limited to the Molasses Act. It comprehended all legislation of a similar character, and we have but to turn to contemporary English authorities to learn that the English were fully cognizant of this fact. A pamphlet597 was published in 1765, which was attributed to George Grenville, in which it was stated that the average collections of revenue from all the Colonies during thirty years had not amounted annually to £1900, while vessels engaged in commerce between ports in the Baltic and the German Ocean imported illegally into the Colonies each year goods far exceeding in value those which passed thither through Great Britain. This pamphlet is well worthy of consideration. It is a dispassionate discussion of the subject and must have carried conviction to the minds of those who sympathized with the view of the writer that the prime function of the Colony was to benefit the Mother Country. The author states that the revenue laws, so far as the Colonies were concerned, were political regulations, the purpose of which was to lead up to the enforcement of the Navigation Act. It was because the colonists appreciated this that they broke into open resistance.
Mr. Albert Matthews read the following paper on —
In the southwestern part of Colorado is the Rio de las Animas, or Rio de las Animas Perdidas, commonly called the Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan. Its waters find their way through the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. Though the region watered by the Animas was unsettled and but little known until about thirty years ago, yet the river was visited by the Spanish as early as 1776, and in that year Father Escalante alluded to it as the Rio de las Animas.598 In the southeastern part of the same State is the Rio de las Animas, or Purgatory River, a tributary of the Arkansas, the latter river flowing into the Mississippi. How did this river, apparently alone of all the rivers of North America, excluding New England,599 come to be called Purgatory River? Before attempting to answer this question, let us see what has been the history of the exploration of that stream. Though it was known to the Spanish and to the French, the first person to leave an account of it was the indomitable Pike, who, under the dates of 15 and 16 November, 1806, thus wrote: —
“Before evening we discovered a fork on the south side bearing S. 25° W. and as the Spanish troops, appeared to have borne up it, we encamped on its banks, about one mile from its confluence [with the Arkansas River], that we might make further discoveries on the morrow . . . . After ascertaining600 that the Spanish troops had ascended the right branch or main river [i.e. the Arkansas]; we marched at two o’clock P.M.”601
On his map, Pike charted the stream as the “1st. Fork,” but knew it by no specific name. The next party to explore it was that commanded by Long, and, under the dates of 22 and 27 July 1820, we find Dr. Edwin James writing as follows: —
“This encampment was about eighteen miles above the confluence of that tributary of the Arkansa, called in Pike’s maps ‘The First fork,’ and, by our computation, near one hundred miles from the base of the mountain . . . . After we had dined, we retraced our two last courses, and succeeded in ascending the cliff, at the place which one of the hunters had pointed out, taking, without the least regret, our final leave of the ‘Valley of the souls in Purgatory.’ This tributary of the Arkansa, designated on the old maps as the First Fork, as we learned from Bijeau, is called, among the Spaniards of New Mexico, ‘The river of the souls in Purgatory.’ We emerged from the gloomy solitude of its valley, with a feeling somewhat akin to that which attends the escape from a place of punishment.”602
The river is indexed as “Purgatory creek,” — this being the earliest appearance of the name in a book.603 The third person to mention the river was one Jacob Fowler, a trader, who under the dates of 13 November, 1821, and 6 June, 1822, said: —
“. . . on looking forward We Seen a Branch Puting in from the South Side Which We Sopose to be Pikes first forke and make for it . . . . We Crosed this plind [plain] and down the mountain to a branch of the White Bair Crick.”604
The name given to the river by Fowler was due to the fact that on his outward trip one of his men had been killed by a grizzly bear. None of the names now applied to the river were known to Fowler. The subsequent exploration of the stream, and the various changes which its name has undergone, are sufficiently illustrated by the extracts which follow.
“We were now crossing the dividing line between the waters of the Timpas and those of the Purgatory, or Los Animos, of the Spaniards . . . . To-day we descended eleven and a half miles, and reached the valley of the Purgatory, called, by the mountain men, Picatoire, a corruption of Purgatoire, a swift-running stream, a few yards in width, but no grass of any amount at the crossing.”605
“On the right, rose the cloud-capped summits of the Spanish Peaks; in front, the gates of the Raton pass, from which issued the much wished for ‘Rio Purgatorio.’ . . . Spent the day on the banks of the Purgatory; not inappropriately named, as one plunges into a perfect Erebus, amongst the rugged rocks of the Raton.”606
“We started about noon, proceeding the first day about ten miles, and camped at sundown opposite to the mouth of the Purgatoire — the Pickatwaire of the mountaineers, and ‘Las Animas’ of the New Mexicans — an affluent of the Arkansa, rising in the mountains in the vicinity of the Spanish Peaks.”607
“The Kiowas . . . are divided into several sub-tribes, under the control of independent chiefs, and portions of them, even during the winter months, occupy the valley of the upper Arkansas, and of its tributary, the Purgatory river. The ‘Big Timbers’ of the Arkansas, and the bushy shores of the Purgatory, afford them fuel and shelter from the storms.”608
“The Purgatoire (first changed into Purgatory, and then corrupted into Pickel-Wire) rises in the northern angle which the Raton Mountains make with the main chain.”609
“LAS ANIMAS COUNTY Lies along the southern boundary of Colorado, and takes its name from the principal stream running through it — the Las Animas, or Purgatoire (sometimes vulgarized into ‘Picket-wire’). The Las Animas (‘The Spirits’) valley forms one of the most magnificent tracts of farming land in Colorado.”610
“Quelques mots ont été complétement défigurés. En effet, qui pourrait deviner que . . . ‘Picketwire River,’ dans le Nouveau-Mexique [est dérivé] de ‘Rivière du Purgatoire?’”611
“The tributaries of the Arkansas, which take their rise in the mountains, cut splendid cañons for their passage. Of these the finest is that of the ‘Purgatory,’ which for more than fifty miles is almost shut out from the light of day by beetling cliffs of red sandstone, 800 to 1,000 feet high, and in many places within a very few hundred feet of each other.”612
“There is also a ‘purgatory’ in the Rocky Mountains, this name being given to a gorge, defile, or cañon, traversed by one of the branches of the Arkansas (Purgatory River). This ‘purgatory’ is on a grand scale, it being more than fifty miles long, and its walls from eight hundred to a thousand feet high.”613
“The first farm in the fertile and now valuable valley of the Rio de las Animas was opened by the Bents.”614
It thus appears that among the names given to this stream are Purgatory, Purgatorio, Purgatoire, Picatoire, Pickatwaire, Picket-wire, and Rio de las Animas615. As M. Barringer remarks, the connection between Purgatory and Picketwire is not obvious at a glance; but the above extracts show the successive changes by which the corruption has been brought about. It is clear, also, that the genesis of Purgatory River is from the Spanish Rio Purgatorio. As to the origin of this name, several explanations have been advanced. An English traveller, Mr. W. A. Bell, remarked as follows: —
“We had come to the entrance of the Red Rock Cañon; and never have I seen anything to equal the wonderful effect of this mass of colour. There cannot be a doubt that, coming unexpectedly upon this marvellous spectacle, Purgatory was the instant and unvarying idea impressed upon the imaginations of the French explorers from Louisiana who first visited this spot; for it seemed only just out of some mighty furnace, and looked as if, a little farther on, within the narrow jaws through which the boiling waters came seething down, the whole chasm was even then red-hot, and ready to engulf those whom Holy Church had doomed to destruction.”616
This notion is based on a complete misconception of the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. That doctrine is that Purgatory is a place where the souls of those who have died in grace undergo a process of cleansing from sin preparatory to being admitted into Paradise. Hence “the enemies of Holy Church” are precisely the ones whose souls under no circumstances can enter Purgatory; and it follows that Mr. Bell has confounded Purgatory with Hell, — a mistake common with Protestants, and one which is found in several of the extracts cited above. But though the precise idea suggested by Mr. Bell could never have occurred to the Spanish or French traders who first explored the region of the Purgatory River, yet if we substitute the correct conception of Purgatory for Mr. Bell’s misconception, we have an explanation of the origin of the name which may possibly be the true one.
A few years ago Colonel Richard I. Dodge advanced another explanation, as follows: —
“A curious and interesting story was told me by an old Mexican, apropos to the name of what is known on our map as the ‘Purgatory River.’ When Spain owned all Mexico and Florida, the Commanding Officer at Santa Fé received an order to open communication with Florida. An Infantry Regiment was selected for this duty. It started rather late in the season, and wintered at a place which has been a town ever since, and is now known as Trinidad. In the spring, the colonel, leaving behind all camp followers — both men and women — marched down the stream which flows for many miles through a magnificent cañon. Not one of the regiment returned or was ever heard of after, their fate being shrouded in mystery. When all hope had departed from the wives, children and friends, left behind in Trinidad, information was sent to Santa Fé, and a wail went up through the land. The priests and people called this stream, ‘El rio de las animas perdidas,’ ‘The River of lost Souls.’ Years after, when the Spanish power was weakened and Canadian French trappers permeated the country, they adopted a more concise name. The place of lost souls being purgatory, they called the river ‘Le Purgatoire.’ Then came the ‘Great American Bull-whacker,’ he whose persistent efforts opened and maintained the enormous trade between Santa Fé and St. Louis. Utterly unable to twist his tongue into any such Frenchified expression, he called the river the ‘Picketwire,’ and by this name it is known to all frontiersmen and to the settlers on its banks.”617
No such expedition as that referred to is known to historians; the sudden rise of Trinidad would, even in our go-ahead West, be an impossibility; as a matter of fact, Trinidad came into existence between 1860 and 1870;618 the name Rio de las Animas Perdidas is wrongly applied to the Purgatory, through confusion with the Animas River, the tributary of the San Juan; and, finally, Purgatory is not “the place of lost souls.” Colonel Dodge’s suggestion is a peculiarly unhappy one.
Less absurd than the explanation which has just been considered, is one put forward by James F. Meline.
“When the thing is explained,” he said, “you are ready to believe anything in distorted orthography — except, perhaps, Picket Wire . . . . Why Picket Wire? Never was any wire in the country. And then it’s English, while every mountain and stream in this whole region has a French, Indian, or Spanish name . . . . At last a native was caught, who, on being asked the name of the stream, gave it instantly its beautiful Spanish appellation, ‘Rio de las Animas.’ Ah! here was a light. ‘The River of Souls.’ . . . I gave you my theory of the origin of the word Platte. I think I can perceive that of the Rio de las Animas. In his diary of November 15, 1806, Pike speaks of encamping on a fork of the Arkansas, on the south side, bearing south 25° west, and he says, ‘As the Spanish troops appeared to have borne up it, we encamped,’ etc. South 25° west is precisely the course of the Picket Wire, and applies to no other stream that Pike could then have reached. The troops in question were probably en route to Mexico. It is evident from what Pike says that some days had elapsed since they passed. They in all probability reached it on the 2d of November, All Souls’ Day, and according to their custom — instance Florida, Corpus Christi, etc. — named it ‘Las Animas,’ in commemoration of the day.”619
An examination of Pike’s statements, already given, shows that the Spanish troops did not ascend the Purgatory; and though they may have encamped at its mouth on the second of November, 1806, there is no proof that they did so. Moreover, Malgares, the commander of the Spanish troops, “was raiding as a bravo to anticipate Pike in seducing Indians, and was naming nothing.”620 Finally, the name Rio de las Animas, as has been observed, occurs in a Spanish work as early as 1776.621 It is true that this name was applied not to the Purgatory River but to the Animas River,622 the tributary of the San Juan; yet the words of Father Escalante show the existence of the name long before the time of Malgares.
The period of the first use of Purgatorio, and the circumstances of its imposition, are as yet to be discovered; and until evidence bearing on these points is adduced, it will be well to refrain from theorizing. It may be pointed out, however, that in Catholic countries Purgatorio is by no means unknown as applied to topographical features. Thus there are in Venezuela both a mountain range and a river named Purgatorio;623 there is on the northwest coast of Cuba a Punta del Purgatorio;624 there is, in the interior of the same island, a place called Loma del Purgatorio;625 and no less than three communes in Italy have each a “frazione” designated Purgatorio.626
That the question with which this paper began must be left without an adequate answer, is cause for regret; but perhaps the history of the Purgatory River of Colorado is not without interest as a study in nomenclature.
Mr. John Noble reminded the Society that its meeting was being held on the anniversary of the birth of Franklin and remarked upon the great value to mankind of his discoveries and inventions, and upon his public services, calling attention to the remarkable variety and extent of the fields of his interests.
Mr. Henry H. Edes exhibited a letter of Edmund Quincy and said: —
The original letter which is now before the Society was written 18 June, 1773, by Edmund Quincy (H. C. 1722) to his daughter Dorothy,627 afterward the wife of Governor John Hancock. She was then in Shirley, Massachusetts, on a visit to the Reverend Phinehas Whitney (H. C. 1759) and his second wife, Lydia Bowes, daughter of the Reverend Nicholas Bowes (H. C. 1725) of Bedford, Massachusetts, and cousin-german to John Hancock. Madam Lydia Hancock628 was also there, on a visit to her niece and namesake. If tradition be true, she had set her heart upon having Miss Quincy for a niece and as her own successor as mistress of the Hancock mansion on Beacon Hill, where, before hostilities began, the young lady was often a welcome guest. Madam Hancock lost no opportunity to bring Miss Quincy and her favorite nephew together at Boston, at Lexington, at Burlington, at Shirley, at Fairfield, Connecticut, and elsewhere, and she finally had the satisfaction of witnessing their nuptials, on the twenty-eighth of August, 1775, at Fairfield, where the Rev. Andrew Eliot (H. C. 1762), son of Dr. Andrew Eliot (H. C. 1737) of Boston, was the settled minister. It is said that during Miss Quincy’s visit at Fairfield, where she and Madam Hancock were the guests of Thaddeus Burr and his wife, in the summer of 1775, she met Aaron Burr, a kinsman of her host, and was much charmed by his fascinating manners; but her watchful chaperon took care that her own matrimonial plans for her young charge were not interfered with. In view of what has been said, there is no cause for surprise in the fact that the first child born to Governor Hancock and his young wife was named Lydia Henchman Hancock.
The grace with which Mrs. Hancock presided over the Governor’s household and received his distinguished guests has been often described. Here is one description: —
Madam Hancock gratified the ambition of her husband, in presiding with so much graceful ease at his hospitable board and in the social circle, that her presence ever infused an enlivening charm. So famed was Hancock for hospitality, that his mansion was often thronged with visitors; and frequently did Madam Hancock send her maids to milk their cows on Boston Common, early in the morning, to replenish the exhausted supply of the previous evening. On July 28, 1796,629 widow Dorothy Hancock was married, by Peter Thacher, D.D., to James Scott, the master of a London packet, formerly in the employ of the governor. She outlived Capt. Scott many years,630 and retained her mental faculties until near the close of life. She was a lady of superior education, and delightful powers of conversation.
Her last days were retired and secluded, in the dwelling No. 4 Federal-street, next the corner of Milton-place, in Boston; and those were most honored who received an invitation to her little suppertable. She spoke of other days with cheerfulness, and seldom sighed that they had gone. Her memory was tenacious of past times; and there were but few officers of the British army quartered in Boston whose personal appearance, habits, and manners, she could not describe with accuracy. Her favorite was Earl Percy, whose forces encamped on Boston Common during the winter of 1774–5; and this nobleman, accustomed to all the luxuries of Old England, slept among his companions in arms in a tent on the Common, exposed to the severity of the weather as much as were they. The traces of those tents have been visible, to a very recent period, on the Common, when the grass was freshly springing from the earth, and the circles around the tents were very distinct. At the dawn of day, Madam Scott related that Earl Percy’s voice was heard drilling the regulars near the old mansion.
Madam Hancock had an opportunity, after the capture of Burgoyne, of extending her courtesies to the ladies of his army, while at Cambridge, under the treaty with Gates. They were gratefully received by the fair Britons, and ever remembered. When Lafayette was in Boston, during his last visit, in August, 1824, he made an early call on Madam Scott. Those who witnessed this hearty interview speak of it with admiration. The once youthful chevalier and the unrivalled belle met as if only a summer had passed since they had enjoyed social interviews in the perils of the Revolution. While they both were contemplating the changes effected by long time, they smiled in each other’s faces, but no allusion was made to such an ungallant subject; yet she was not always so silent on this point. One of her young friends complimented her on her good looks. She laughingly replied, “What you have said is more than half a hundred years old. My ears remember it; but what were dimples once are wrinkles now.” To the last day of life, she was as attentive to her dress as when first in the circles of fashion . . . . Madam Scott died in Boston, Feb. 3, 1830, aged 83 years631.
Altho I’m not to be favored with one Letter or line, I sit down to write you a second, to congratulate you upon the favorable account of your health, which I have, with great satisfaction receiv’d, thrô, Colo Handcocks goodness, in communicating what Mr Whitney informs him on that head, & also upon the agreableness of Madm. Handcock’s & your present tour into the Country, (especially at Lancaster), where Nature smiles thrô the most extended circle of observation; where the beauties of the Animal & Vegitable world, as well as those of the Ceelestial Regions, illude ye Search of the most phylosophical eye. Let us take the hint, (indeed very obvious) & be thence taught to contemplate, admire & adore the inexhaustable Source, from whence is derived every blessing both of the upper and nether Springs; the latter indeed soon, very soon, may be dried up: but this affords us a singular reason for our making sure of a portion in the Former, which is never failing . . . . .632 The inconstancy of humane things, which we are very apt to regret, is very wisely designed to correspond with every affair relative to the humane System; in the honest Examination, & right understanding whereof, as far as our respective capacities reach, is said to consist that wisdom, recommended to us as the principal thing; and as our creator has been pleased to furnish us with the divine talent of reason & reflection, we are infinitely obliged to improve the same to the highest degree of our intellectual capacity; indeed the longest span of life will prove too short to render praise to the author of our Being, adequate to the blessings with wch. he vouchsafes to crown us here; and hence a cogent argument to evince ye revealed doctrine of a Resurrection & a future life, in the Full expectation whereof, we are by Divine permission, to be ever gratefully rejoycing, in what ever state an all wise providence may see fit to place us, in this life, and the more innocently & inoffensively we live in it, the higher will be the enjoyment of every favor we may receive, thô by a different System of action we are in danger of annihilating the same: but I may not proceed, tho. on a most agreable subject of contemplation, my time being Short & interruptions frequent.
You have the honor of Colo. Haudcock’s being the bearer, I wish him a pleasant Journey, & a happy meeting with his valuable aunt633 & you, & that you with them may have a safe & comfortable Journey home: You’l make mine & your Sistr. Katy’s634 compliments acceptable to Madm. Handcock635, Mr Whitney & Lady, to which I need not add that I remain
Your most affectionte. Father and Friend,
Boston June 18th. 1773
To Miss. Dolly Quincy
P. S. Your Sister Katy intended an answer to your Short Lr. — but this day has not been able. Colo. Handcock637 & associates have had a hard task, respecting ye G’s,638 Lt G’s639 & other Letters640 of wch. you’l see Copies — but I think notwithstanding, He appears to rise the higher the greater ye burthens. Mrs Boyle641 here, remembers her love to you, & wants to see you.
Miss, Dolly Quincy
at the Revd. Mr Whitneys
By Favor of Colo. Handcock
Lydia Henchman, daughter of Daniel and Eliza (Gerrish) Henchman, was born 4 October, 1714 (Boston Record Commissioners’ Reports, xxiv. 98). She married Thomas Hancock, who served his apprenticeship with her father, a prominent and successful bookseller, 5 November, 1730 (Ibid, xxviii. 154). Thomas Hancock’s death was thus announced: —
Wednesday last about Noon, the Honorable THOMAS HANCOCK, Esq; one of His Majesty’s Council for this Province, was seized with an Apoplexy, just as he was entering the Council Chamber, and expired about Three o’clock P. M. at his Saet, to which he was carried soon after he was taken with the Fit. — He died in the 62d Year of his Age; and was one of the most noted Merchants in New-England. His Remains are to be interr’d this Afternoon, at Half past 4 o’Clock (Boston Gazette of Monday, 6 August, 1764, No. 488, p. 3/2).
For Thomas Hancock’s will, see Suffolk Probate Files, No. 13,484.
Madam Hancock fled from Boston during the siege and took refuge at Fairfield, Connecticut, where, in the old burial-ground, may be read the following inscription, which is here copied from Abram English Brown’s John Hancock His Book (1898), p. 240, note: —
this stone erected
BY THADDEUS BURR AND EUNICE BURR
to the memory of their dear friend
MRS. LYDIA HANCOCK,
Relict of the Honble Thos. Hancock, Esqr.
whose Remains lie here interred, having retired to this town from
the calamities of war, during the Blockade of her native
city in 1775. Just on her return to the reenjoyment of an ample fortune.
On April 15th a. d. 1776
She was seized with apoplexy and closed a life of
unaffected piety, universal benevolence
and extensive charity.
Madam Hancock’s death was announced in the Boston Gazette of Monday, 6 May, 1776, No. 1094, p. 2/2: —
Lately died at Fairfield, Lady Lydia Hancock, Widow of the late Hon. Thomas Hancock, Esq; and Aunt to the Hon. John Hancock, Esq; President of the Continental Congress.
The issue of Monday, 20 May, No. 1096, p. 1/1, contains a long notice, filling nearly a column, from which the following extract is taken: —
FAIRFIELD, April 26.
YESTERDAY died here, after a short illness, Mrs. Lydia Hancock, relict of the late Hon. Thomas Hancock, Esq; of Boston.
A few days before the memorable 19th of April, she retired from her pleasant seat in that town, and not long after came to the house of Thaddeus Burr, Esq; of this place, a family with which she had long been peculiarly intimate, and amidst whose tenderest offices of friendship she expired . . . .
The quick approach of death would not allow her to be attended in her last moments by her Nephew, the Hon. John Hancock, Esq; President of the American Congress, who was happy in being educated by her, from his early childhood, and the object of her fondest affection on this side heaven.
In her last illness, before she was thought dangerous, she suddenly grew nsensible and spoke but little; this is the less to be regretted, since her life spoke so much.
Lydia Hancock’s will, dated 30 October, 1765, contains many bequests, among them legacies to the daughters of the Reverend Nicholas Bowes. Owing, doubtless, to the absence in Philadelphia of her nephew, executor and principal heir, who did not resign the Presidency of Congress till the autumn of 1777, the will was not probated till 21 November, 1777, on his return to Boston (Suffolk Probate Files, No. 16,409).
Mr. Noble spoke at length of the famous case of Maria, the negress convicted of arson in 1681, and of some other instances of persons sentenced to death by burning, and communicated several original papers in the case of Maria recently found in the Suffolk Court Files. These papers include the original Indictment, Maria’s Confession, and two Depositions.
Several communications appeared in The Nation642 not long ago touching the execution of the negro woman, Maria, in Boston in 1681. This case was among those mentioned in a former communication to this Society on the Trial and Punishment of Crimes in the Court of Assistants, etc.,643 and is also referred to and discussed in a paper read before the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1883, by our associate Mr. Goodell, — The Trial and Execution for Petit Treason of Mark and Phillis, Slaves of Captain John Codman.644 As a number of original documents and papers connected with the case of Maria, not known or accessible at the latter date, have since come to light in the Suffolk Court Files, it seems worth while to give them here, with a few further notes on a case which has some interest in connection with Massachusetts history.
The record in the case of Maria, and that in the case of the negro Jack, executed at the same time, are already in print,645 but as they seem necessary to a clear presentation of the case, they are repeated here. That of Maria is as follows: —
Att A Court of Assistants held at Boston 6th September 1681
Marja Negro servant to Joshua Lambe of Roxbury in the County of Suffolke in New England being presented by the Grand Jury was Indicted by the name of marja Negro for not hauing the feare of God before hir eyes & being Instigated by the divil at or vpon the eleventh day of July last in the night did wittingly willingly & felloniously set on fier the dwelling house of Thomas swann of sd Roxbury by taking a Coale from vnder a still & carrjed it into another Roome and lajd it on floore neere the doore & presently went & crept into a hole at a back doore of thy master Lambs house & set it on fier also taking a liue Coale betweene two chips & Carried it into the chamber by which also it was Consumed as by yor Confession will appeare contrary to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the king his Croune & dignity the lawes of this Jurisdiction in that Case made & prouided title firing of houses = The prisoner at the barr pleaded & acknowledged hirselfe to be Guilty of ye fact. And accordingly the next day being Again brought to the Barr had sentenc of death pronnouct ag̃t hir by the Honnõble Goũnor. yt she should Goe from the barr to the prison whenc she Came & thence to the place of Execution & there be burnt.=
Marja negroes Indictment & Sentence
ye lord be mercifull to thy soule sd ye Goũ.646.
The record in the case of Jack647 runs thus: —
Cheffallja || Jack || negro servant to mr Samuel woolcot of weathersfeild thow art Indicted by the name of Jack negro for not hauing the feare of God before thy eyes being Instigated by the divill did at or vpon the fowerteenth day of July last 1681 wittingly & feloniously sett on fier Leifteñnt wm Clarks house in north Hampton by taking a brand of fier from the hearth and swinging it vp & doune for to find victualls as by his Confession may Appeare Contrary to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the King his Croune & dignity the lawes of God & of this Jurisdiction in that Case made & prouided title firing of houses page (52) to wch Indictment at the barr he pleaded not Guilty & Affirmd he would be trjed by God & the Country and after his Confessions &c were read to him & his owning thereof were Comitted to the Jury who brought him in Guilty and the next day had his sentence pronounct ag̃t him by the Gouernor that he should goe from the barr to the place whence he Came & there be hangd by the neck till he be dead & then taken downe & burnt to Ashes in the fier wth Maria negro = The Lord be mercifull to thy soule sajd the Gouernor =
Jack negroes Indictmt & sentenc
Among the papers in the Suffolk Court Files are the original indictment of Maria, a memorandum of her confession, implicating two other negroes, the findings of the Grand Jury of “no bills” against these, and some depositions.
The indictment is as follows: —
Wee the Grand Jury for or Soueraigned Lord ye king
Doe present Mariah Negro Seruant to Joshua Lamb of Roxbury in ye County of Suffolk: in New Engld for not haueing ye fear of God before her Eyes, & being instigated by ye deuill at or upon ye Eleuenth of July last in ye Night, did Wittingly willingly & felloniously Set on fire ye dwelling howse of Thomas Swann of said Roxbury by takeing a Coall from under a still & carried it into another room and laid it on ye floare near ye dore, & presently went & crept into a hole at a back doare of her Master Lambs howse & set it on fire also takeing a liue coall between two chipps & carried it into ye Chambr. by which also it was fired and consumed, as by her confession will appear contrary to ye peace of our Soueraign Lord ye king his crown, & Dignity, ye Lawes of God & this Jurisdiction in ye case made & prouided title fireing howses page 52
We of the Grand Jury doe find this Bill and doe put her upon furder triall Jonas Clarke In the name of the rest
13 Sept: 1681.
The prisoner at the Barr on hearing of the Indictment Read to hir pleaded to it & Acknowledged hirself to be Guilty of ye fa[ct]
E R S
Marja Negro Indictmt &c.648
Then comes her confession: —
Maria Joshua Lambes Negar Maide upon Confesion accused mr Walkers Negro Man Chefelia by Name and mr pemertons Negro Man Cofee were att Roxbury ye last Night about 10 aclocke thay came there together and mr Wakers Negar sett Dockter swans house afire and mr Pemertons Negar staide under ye fence while ye other sett the house afire. Confessed before mee Anthony Stoddard Com̄iss649
The action of the Grand Jury thereon is as follows: —
Wee the Grand Jury for our Soueraigne the King doe present & Indict chefelier a negroman servant to Thomas Walker of Boston in the County of Suffolk in New England brickmaker for not hauing the feare of God before his eyes on the 11th of July last in the night was present wth Marja Negro servant to Joshua Lambe of Roxbury was privye to and Active in the firing of sajd Lambs & Swans dwelling houses Contrary to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the King his Croune & dignity the lawes of God & the laws of this Jurisdic̃on title firing houses:
we of the Grand Jury can not find this Bill
Jonas Clark In the name of the rest
abt Walker & Pembertons negroe650
Wee the Grand Jury for our Soueraigne Lord the King doe present and Indict Coffee a negro man servant to James Pemberton of Boston in the County of Suffolk in New England for not hauing the feare of God before his eyes and being Instigated by the diuill on the eleventh of July last in the night wth Maryah Negro servant to Joshua Lambe was present wth hir privie & Active in the Firing of the dwelling houses of sajd Joshua Lambe and Thomas Swans of sajd Roxbury Contrary to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the King his Croune and dignity the lawes of God & the lawes of this Jurisdiction, title firing houses —
we the Grand Jury can not find this Bill
Jonas Clarke In the name of the rest
Cheffallia Negro Indicmt651
The two negroes escaped the hazards of a trial and the possible sufferings consequent thereon, but they encountered the dangers attendant upon even a “vehement suspicion” of an offence or a crime, and furnish another illustration of the readiness of our forefathers to see that their idea of justice did not suffer though legal conviction, under the strict requirements which they insisted upon, might be impossible.
Cheffaleer negro servant to Tho Walker brick maker now in Goale on suspition of Joying Wth marja negro in Burning of Dr Swans’ & 652 Lambus houses in Roxbury in July last The Court on Consideration of the Case Judged it meet to order that he be kept in prison till his master send him out of the Country & then dischardg ye charges of Imprisonment wch if he refuse to doe aboue one moneth the Country Tresurer is to see it donn & when ye chardges be defrajd to returne the ouerplus to ye sd walker.
Cheffaleer negros sentence.=
The like Judgment & sentenc was declard against James pembertons negro in all respects as ag̃t cheffaleer negro &c653
James Pembertons negro sentenc
Two depositions in the Case remain: —
Hannah Foster aged about 29 yeares testifieth & saith, that that very night the fire was at Roxbury, I lay at Mr. Walkers house in a chamber & about Eleven or twelve aclock in night, I heard, as I supose a negro Grumble to himself, which lay Just over my head, And I testifie I did not sleep at all betwixt that time & the raine wch I supose was between two & three aclock in wch time I heard him with his feet on the floor, and the reason I could not sleep was bec[ause] was something afraid of him, not being used to such, and farther saith not
Taken upon Oath the 16th of 5th mo = [ ] before mee
Anthony Stoddard Com̄[iss]654
Susannah Walker adged 36 yeares Testifieth yt last munday night wch ye fire broke out at Roxbury, little before night I went over to our neighbour Benits, and while I was there one of my children came to me and told me yt our negro was come home and yt he had been a drinking and she did not care to stay at home & desired me to goe home accordingly I did in a little time after & when I came home she told me he was gon up to bed, then I seeing a Cumbustion or quarrilling wth the Indians before our doore I went out, then I saw the Negro looke out at the garrett window and call out & ask what the matter was wth the Indians, then I went In and I hard him come doune, nor saw him come downe no more that night, and it was about eleven or twelve a clock when we went to bed and farther sayth not.655
This is the whole of the tragic story of Maria, so far as the Court Records are concerned. A question of some interest which has been raised is, Was she burned alive, — was the punishment of burning alive at the stake inflicted on a negro woman in Massachusetts in 1681?
The communications referred to all assume that such was the fact, but the evidence on which their authors rely, — a reference to the matter by Increase Mather, and another by Cotton Mather — seems wholly inconclusive, and the inference drawn therefrom is by no means justified. Contemporary information is meagre, if, in fact, it is not wholly wanting. The Court Record upon the precise point is silent; but it shows the issuing of the order for execution on the fourteenth of September, 1681: —
The Court ordered that the Secretary656 Issue out his warrants to the marshall Gennerall657 for the three Condemned prisoners execution on the next lecture day presently after the lecture according to their Sentencs658
(14 Sept 81)
There is no return, as is frequently found, of the carrying out of the sentence and the precise mode of execution.
Three offenders, as appears by the record, — the two negroes Maria and Jack, for their respective felonies, and a third, a white man, for another crime — were tried at the same sitting of the Court of last resort, and were executed on the same day, shortly after the trials. The sentence pronounced against the last was to “be hanged by the necke till you be dead”; and that against the two negroes as appears above in the Records.
What is there to give rise to any question, or to lead to the opinion that the woman was actually burned alive?
A passage in the Diary of Increase Mather has been cited to support that opinion; and, apparently, it is the only contemporaneous reference to the case. The passage is as follows: —
[1681. September] 22. There were 3 persons executed in Boston An Englishman for a Rape. A negro man for burning a house at Northampton & a negro woman who burnt 2 houses at Roxbury July 12 — in one of wch a child was burnt to death. The negro woman was burned to death — the 1st yt has suffered such a death in N. E.
It occurs among the extracts from Mather’s Diary made by Dr. Belknap a century ago, and now in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and is here copied verbatim from his manuscript. The extracts were printed in the Report of Mr. Charles Deane on the Belknap Donation.659 The original Diary is not now to be found. In those portions of the Diary, so called, now in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society, the only entry for that particular date is a memorandum of what Mather had been reading that day. The 1681 entries are the only ones covered by the interleaved almanacs, and Dr. Belknap would seem to have copied from some more elaborate record, selecting perhaps such items here and there as interested him.
Cotton Mather’s Diary in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, contains no entries between the nineteenth of September and the first of October of that year; and no other diaries have been found containing any allusion to the matter.
Setting aside any legal interpretation of the sentence pronounced against Maria, to be considered hereafter, is there, upon its face, anything to indicate, necessarily or naturally, a direction that she was to be burned at the stake while alive? The sentence is to “be burnt,” not to “be burnt to death,” — to be taken “to to the place of execution & there be burnt.” Is it a forced interpretation, that the burning was to come after the execution, and is not this construction strengthened by the clause in Jack’s sentence, “burnt to ashes in the fier wth Maria negro”? Is a new and barbarous sentence to be inferred when another meaning is possible, and when there is nothing explicit in the terms to the contrary?
The passage from Mather’s Diary, as quoted, seems on its face explicit, and as such to be depended on, but there is at least one statement in it equally important and definite which, in point of fact, is unquestionably erroneous: —
“in one of wch [houses] a child was burnt to death.”
So far as found, there is nowhere else any mention or suggestion of such an occurrence. Nothing appears in the Court Records or in the papers in the Court Files; there is not even a suspicion or a rumor mentioned, or a scrap of positive evidence direct or indirect. On the other hand, the negative evidence seems conclusive. The indictment of Maria was not for murder, but under the law against “firing of houses.” So were the indictments framed against the two negroes accused by her as accomplices. But, taking Mather’s language as it stands, it does not necessarily follow that the woman was burned alive. The expression “burnt to death” is common in sentences in England and in references to them, when, unquestionably, the burning was after execution; and Mather, knowing this, as of course he did, may have meant no more. Then, too, the words “the 1st yt has suffered such a death in N. E.” are not inconsistent with the mere noting of the first instance of the adoption of a practice or procedure borrowed from the mother country; otherwise, the brevity of the statement and the absence of any comment or reflection is somewhat striking.
During the Colonial period there appear on the Court Records now extant — those from 1643 to 1673 being missing — only two other instances of death sentence in the case of women, one in 1638 for “the vnnaturall & vntimely death of her daughter, . . . to bee hanged;”660 and one in March, 1643–44, “condemned to death” for adultery.661 In 1691, sentence was ordered for infanticide,662 but was not pronounced till 1693,663 — in the days of the Province. In New England the execution of a capital sentence, whether in case of man or woman, seems to have been by hanging.
In England, in the earliest times, for arson “the punishment was death by burning, and we are able to vouch a case664 from King John’s day in which the punishment was inflicted, but the fully developed common law substituted the gallows for the stake.”665 The English law, in certain cases, made a distinction between the punishments of male and female offenders, and in the sentences pronounced against them. A distinction also held as to claiming benefit of clergy.666 The distinction in the mode of punishment came out sharply in the case of high treason.667 So also in petit treason.668 The existence of this distinction in the administration of the laws in England, the reasons assigned for it, and the usual mitigation of the apparent barbarity of the sentence in the case of women by the practical method of its execution, are clear.
Maria was not executed for petit treason or for murder, but for a crime punishable under the Colonial laws with death.669 May it not well be that the Court, for reasons good and sufficient in their judgment, saw fit, however observant usually of custom and precedent, to deviate in the case of the two negroes from old procedure, and adopt English forms in the sentence and the mode of its execution? The crime seems to have been on the increase, as Mather notes in his Diary, in July: —
“Several houses in Boston and Roxbury set on fire at different times by negroes,”
and some penalty in terrorem may have been judged expedient or necessary. There would seem to have been no reason for dealing more severely with Maria than with Jack. Jack’s offence, as set forth in the Record, would seem to have been criminal carelessness rather than premeditated crime, but local tradition and history go to show circumstances of peculiar atrocity and premeditated murder though frustrated in the event.
The legality of the sentence has been questioned, by a most eminent authority,670 but an argument in favor of its validity seems certainly maintainable.
If the woman was actually burned alive, — an event startling and unprecedented in New England history, — it seems strange and well nigh inconceivable that Increase Mather indulged in only that brief mention in his Diary, and did not improve the occasion by at least a sermon, as he did in the case of Faevor and Driver in 1674, and later of Morgan in March, 1685–86, and on another occasion in 1698; and that Cotton Mather, who almost never failed to chronicle, or at least to note, any startling occurrence or “Remarkable Providence,” is wholly silent at the time. Furthermore, John Dunton, in a letter from Boston, 25 March, 1686, gives a very elaborate account of the execution of Morgan, a few days before, which he sends as “a Piece of News, for there has not (it seems) been seen an Execution here this seven years. So that some have come fifty miles to see it;”671 and a rather full report of the “three Excellent Sermons . . . . preached before him [Morgan] before his Execution,”672 by the two Mathers and Joshua Moody. From this it would seem that the execution of 1681 had not made any deep, or at least abiding, impression on the community, or left any sharp traces in its local memory, or had in itself any peculiarly remarkable features.
There is a passage in Cotton Mather’s Pillars of Salt673 which refers to the executions of 1681: —
ON Sept. 22. 1681. One W. C. was Executed at Boston for a Rape committed by him, on a Girl that liv’d with him; though he had then a Wife with Child by him, of a Nineteenth or Twentieth Child.674
When he came to the Gallows, and saw Death (and a Picture of Hell too in a Negro then burnt to Death at the Stake, for burning her Master’s, House, with some that were in it,) before his Face, never was a Cry for Time! Time! A World for a little Time! The Inexpressible worth of Time! utter’d with a more unutterable Anguish.
This appears to be his first mention of the executions, and that eighteen years after the event. As evidence, its weight is somewhat affected by the interval of time, and by at least one error in its statements. The lurid picture seems hardly to have required a living victim for its completeness.675
There was the case of Phillis, in 1755, before referred to, and some cases of burning in Virginia, South Carolina, and New York are cited by Fiske676; but with these we are not concerned.
The material here presented seems to be all that is now attainable relating to the case of Maria, — at least, it is all that has been found. Each reader will draw his own inferences from it, and these inferences, very likely, may differ; but it is submitted that the conclusion reached in this paper is not without support both in evidence and in reasoning.
Mr. Albert Matthews said: —
Mr. President, — The point raised by Mr. Noble is an interesting one. The subject of the burning alive of negroes is curious, and one in regard to which it is not easy to obtain evidence. Several years ago I became interested in the matter and took rather extensive notes. My recollection is that, in addition to this case of Maria in 1681, there was also another case in Massachusetts in 1755; that there were cases in New York in 1708, 1712, 1741, 1775; in New Jersey in 1730, 1739, 1741, 1750, 1752; in Virginia in 1746; and in South Carolina in 1769. There is one marked distinction between these instances of burning alive during the Colonial period and the burnings and lynchings which, unfortunately, have been so common during the past half century or so. I apprehend that these last have been merely the lawless acts of mobs. In the Colonial period, on the contrary, in every instance, the negro was burned after due trial and in accordance with judicial decision. In the account of the South Carolina case, in 1769, which I ran across in a Boston newspaper, it was declared that a negro man and a negro woman “were burnt alive, on Work-House Green [Charleston], having been tried some short time before, agreeable to the Negro-Act, and convicted of administering poison.”677 My curiosity being aroused, I searched the laws of South Carolina, but was unable to find any which specified that this particular punishment should be inflicted. There was, however, an act passed in 1751 declaring that all negroes administering poison, procuring poison, or privy “to the administering of any poison,” were felons and should “suffer death, in such manner as the persons appointed and empowered by the Act for the better ordering and governing negroes and other slaves in this Province, for the trial of slaves, shall adjudge and determine.”678 Thus the mode of punishment was left to the discretion of two justices of the peace and three freeholders. But were these Colonial cases genuine instances of burning alive? I think the almost universal opinion is that they were; and herein lies the importance of Mr. Noble’s suggestion. Mr. Noble seems to have shown that there is doubt in the case of Maria, and that perhaps she was first strangled and then burned. If this point is well taken, and if the same reasoning applies in the other instances, we shall perhaps be able to relieve our ancestors of the stigma of having imposed the sentence of burning alive as a judicial punishment.
The Rev. Edward Henry Hall of Brookline and Mr. John Gorham Palfrey of Belmont were elected Resident Members.