A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 26 December, 1907, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Henry Lefavour, LL.D., in the chair.
On taking the chair, the President delivered the following address:
In opening the first session of the new year, gentlemen, I can assure you that the position to which you have called me is one the opportunities and honor of which I deeply appreciate. I am sensible of the compliment conveyed in your selection, and I know that I am sure of your co-operation in my attempt to meet the obligations of the office. The Society of which we are members, when compared with similar historical societies in this country, is a very young organization, yet we have reached the middle of our second decade. Although our membership is limited to one hundred associates, there stand on our membership roll nearly one hundred and fifty names, one-third of whom have already ended their earthly labors, thus showing that the Society in its fifteen years of activity has represented to a considerable extent the maturity of the community.
The work of the Society is shown in the seven valuable volumes already published, and these are a contribution to the history of the colony that not only justifies the hopes of the founders of the Society but will serve always to keep alive the enthusiasm of those who are to follow us.
The study of history has always interested mankind, for not only have we craved the answer to our natural curiosity but, just as in the material sciences we are enabled only by the observation of repeated phenomena to forecast the results of a new combination of forces, so, in the realm of human activity, we are dependent upon the experience of the past in forming judgments regarding the wisdom of new policies. But history, if it is to be of service, must be founded on clear observation and accurate knowledge, and here is found the field of usefulness of such a society as ours in the search for the data and the collection of the evidence that shall enable us to determine the flow of events and the causes of results.
Whatever may be the influence of Massachusetts in the present or in the future, there can be no question in our minds as to her position in the past. To every student of Massachusetts history, and more especially to every student of Massachusetts legislation, it is clear that there have been certain traditions, certain conservative influences which it is not difficult to trace back to their sources. For these influences and traditions which find expression not only in our own Commonwealth, not only in the sister colonial States, but even in the constitutions and statutes of the newest States of this nation, and which are in some measure at least the explanation of the enviable character of much of the Massachusetts legislation, have their sources back in the lives and deeds of the men of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. It was these men who, unfettered by the traditions and restrictive influences of the autocratic and monarchical governments of Europe, found the chance here to study the real problems of society, to search for the laws and rules of human justice, and to elaborate those forms of political organization which should contribute most largely to human happiness. Their results — mistaken perhaps, in part, but largely wise — have been the foundations of our public policy, and we may well propose to ourselves the worthy task of making such studies and investigations as shall enable us to appreciate more justly the characters and motives of those men, to clarify the obscurity and confusion which surround many of the controversial points, and to secure a better foundation for future historical research.
We are all proud that our ancestors were of and among these men; but it is not a selfish pride, rather, it is a filial devotion, which leads us to strive, as best we may, to make their lives more effective and to perpetuate the influences of which they were the source.
The President announced the death of Stanley Cunningham, a Resident Member, in Cohasset, on the twenty-eighth of November last, and stated that Mr. Lindsay Swift had been appointed by the Council to write the customary Memoir for the Transactions.
Mr. Henry E. Woods, the Corresponding Secretary pro tempore, reported that letters had been received from the Hon. Andrew Dickson White of Ithaca, New York, accepting Honorary Membership, and from Mr. Francis Philip Nash of Geneva, New York, accepting Corresponding Membership.
The Rev. William Wallace Fenn of Cambridge was elected a Resident Member.
Professor James K. Hosmer of Washington, who had been invited to repeat to the Society the address on John Harvard in England which he had delivered in Cambridge before the Harvard Memorial Society on 18 November, 1907, was then introduced to the members, and spoke as follows:
There is a story current at Cambridge that a husband and wife, well endowed with means, and entertaining the praiseworthy purpose of establishing a new university, once visited Cambridge, and were shown through the institution by a high officer. Having completed their tour of inspection, and standing in Memorial Hall, about to say farewell, the husband remarked in commercial phrase, and perhaps with a touch of the too common American idea that money will buy everything, “Well, Mr. Eliot, for how much could your plant here, be duplicated?” Mr. Eliot mentioned the amount at which the endowment could be estimated, and the probable value of the real estate and apparatus. “Well, husband,” said the wife, “we can do better than that, can’t we?” “Madam,” said President Eliot, with a glance at the portraits that hung along the walls, “we have one possession which money cannot buy, and which is very precious, — more than two hundred and seventy years of devotedness.”
I think that the President of the University, in touching upon this matter of the past of the institution referred to, touched upon something which, in the idea of Harvard men, is inestimably precious. In other respects the University may be surpassed. Elsewhere there may be a greater number of students, conceivably abler and more famous professors, more splendid buildings; but the fact that at Cambridge there lies around everything this solemn past, stretching through eight generations, each one of which has cherished the institution as the thing in the world best worth upholding, — here Harvard has a unique distinction which cannot be bought, and which cannot be taken away.
If this consideration is just, what shall we say about our debt of obligation, to the man who prolongs this past by fifty years, at least; who prefixes, as it were, to our temple a vestibule which is charged with the most picturesque and romantic associations? This has been done of late years by Mr. Henry FitzGilbert Waters, of the class of 1855, the revealer of John Harvard. Whereas twenty-five years ago John Harvard was almost unknown to us, Mr. Waters has effected an uncovering, to such an extent that there is scarcely another worthy of early New England concerning whose antecedents and surroundings we know so much.
The subject of my address is John Harvard in England. In the first place I wish to say something about the England into which John Harvard was born; and then, against this as a background, to outline the figure, as well as I can, — somewhat shadowy, it must be confessed, in spite of all that has been done.
At the time of the Reformation things in England proceeded somewhat conservatively. While in many ways there was a change, the authority of Rome being thrown off, together with a considerable modification of doctrine and ceremony, yet, at the same time, much was retained. There was a retention of the old hierarchy of bishops and archbishops; of much of the old form, of many of the old doctrines. There was a party in England to whom this halfway Reformation was greatly unsatisfactory. They were for going to extremes of Congregationalism and individualism; and they, as the age of Elizabeth proceeded, became known as the Separatists, Robert Browne being their leader. Nor within the Church of England itself were things harmonious. One strong party was reactionary, going back towards Rome; they cherished more and more ancient forms; they made of importance the position of the altar at the east, vestments and postures; they retained the practice of confession; in some instances they retained the old doctrine of transubstantiation. This party was found on the one hand, and on the other a party which subscribed to the stern theology of Calvin, and would hear of nothing but simplicity in the matter of the ceremonies; and these, as time went on, became known as the Puritans. The rift, at the outset narrow, widened gradually into a chasm which could be filled only with blood.
The Stuarts succeeded the Tudors; and at last, in 1625, came to the throne Charles I. He was by no means a man without ability; he had great courage and thorough sincerity; but at the same time he was narrow-minded. He felt that he reigned by divine right; that his subjects had no rights which the sovereign was bound to respect. He undertook to reduce the nation to conformity with his will. He found efficient instruments in Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford; and between 1620 and 1640 twenty thousand emigrants, Puritan middle class English, took refuge in New England.
We reach at length 1640, the date of the assembling of the Long Parliament. John Harvard had already been in his grave two years; his life had come to an end; but Puritan England had not yet come to an end; and if we may say that the fife and spirit of the founder went on in his foster sons, and if it is the case that there were Harvard men who made their mark in those years in England, we may certainly go a little further, to the end of Puritan England. The war which for so long a time had been merely of words became at length one of weapons. At first the King seemed likely to succeed; but an alliance was made between the party of Parliament, the nation in the two Houses, and the Scotch Covenanters; and the tables were presently turned. The battles of Marston Moor and Naseby occurred, and the cause of the King was at length utterly prostrate. “Gentlemen,” said old Sir Jacob Astley, a general of the King in his last defeat, sitting on a drum among his captors, “Gentlemen, you have done your work, and may now go to play, unless you fall out among yourselves.”
It was a significant remark. Straightway they fell out among themselves. The Scotch Covenanters and their English sympathizers on the one hand went in for a temporizing policy; they were willing to make an agreement with the King; but there was on the other side the party of the Independents, who would hear of no half-way measures, and were determined to push things to the radical extreme. The Independents had in Cromwell a matchless general in the field; they had in young Sir Henry Vane a matchless statesman in Parliament. The war broke out afresh, and at the end of a year England was in the hands of the Independents. And just here came a very memorable manifestation. The rank and file of the Ironsides, Cromwell’s soldiers, the Independents in arms, issued a manifesto which they called an Agreement of the People, substantially to this effect: “Henceforth there shall be no longer in England a King; henceforth there shall be in England no longer a House of Lords or a privileged class; henceforth the government of the nation shall be with the Commons, and no authority shall be superior to that of the Commons but that of the people who elect them to be their representatives; and that authority of the people shall be supreme in all respects save one, — no man shall be restricted in his liberty of conscience.” That was the programme that was laid down by the Independents, and with it the English Commonwealth began at the beginning of the year 1649. It was nothing more or less than government by and for the plain people, as distinctly outlined as if Abraham Lincoln himself had written the document.
But it was all premature. The years from 1649 to 1658 were very strenuous years, when England was, as Milton put it, “indeed a mighty and puissant nation.” But the effort was premature. It was impossible to bring about government by the people in a country that was so hampered by monarchical and feudal survivals as was England at that time. Cromwell soon grew discouraged, and planned a Protectorate, a setting up of arbitrary power, which he intended should be only temporary. Vane persisted longer, in the year 1656 making the suggestion which should be to Americans forever memorable. It was this, that the nation should select out from itself its wisest men, and that they, having assembled, should lay down certain fundamentals; not, he says, laws by which the nation shall be governed, but fundamentals by which those who make the laws shall be restrained and guided. What Vane proposed for England was a written constitution, laid down precisely on American lines.
But it was all premature. When Cromwell died things fell into chaos. In 1660 came the Restoration, and Charles II came back among the plaudits of multitudes. Failure never seemed more complete; and yet John Richard Green — a historian who believes that England to-day is substantially a democratic republic, although characterized by feudal and monarchical survivals — Green has said that the history of England from that day to this is nothing more than a coming round, slowly and tentatively but very surely, to the programme which was laid down by the rank and file of the Ironsides in the Agreement of the People at the beginning of the English Commonwealth.
So much for Puritan England. What had all this to do with New England; or what had it to do with John Harvard? It is a bit startling to make the statement that the English Commonwealth, with its mighty heroes and martyrs, and its splendid record, came out of Boston here, — that it came, in fact, from this hill, within a few rods of the place where we are assembled now; but it is said by reputable historians that John Cotton lived here on the shoulder that was then called Cotton Hill, near where Pemberton Square is at the present time; and that John Cotton was the greatest of the Nonconformist ministers, whether in England or in America; and regarded in his time as, more than any other man, the source and the spring of the Independency (we call it here Congregationalism) which did such a magnificent work. Owen, Goodwin, and Nye, the three great Independent advocates, the spiritual leaders of the Independents in England, declared that they got their ideas from Cotton’s books. Cromwell had known him, and wrote to him repeatedly, asking for advice, and signing himself “your affectionate friend.” Vane, as an impressionable young man, lived with Cotton and was trained practically in Cotton’s study. There were other leaders who went from America and who had great influence in England. Hugh Peter, the minister of Salem, went back to England and had a most picturesque and influential career. Roger Williams vibrated back and forth between the two hemispheres, almost equally effective in both in behalf of toleration and freedom. Independency was called, both by friends and enemies, “the New England Way;” and it is curious indeed that even at that early time, when the Colony was clinging most precariously to the edge of the continent, a reaction went back from it to the Old World which was productive of remarkable results.
And now as to John Harvard. What can be said about his foster sons? It was in 1636 that the General Court passed a vote to establish the College, but the College was not on its feet until 1638, when it received Harvard’s bequest. The first class graduated in 1642, and more than half of them went back to England. Some of them had illustrious careers. From other classes also many returned. Let us spend a few minutes in reviewing the career of one. George Downing was the son of John Winthrop’s sister Lucy. He graduated in the first class at the age of eighteen. He was full of brilliancy and insatiable ambition. At first as a minister he went to the West Indies, and preached there with great effect; but very soon appearing in Old England, he became a chaplain among the Ironsides. Nor did he adhere long to the clerical duty to which he was first appointed; he soon assumed the character of a soldier, and rose rapidly to the rank of Scout Master General, or chief of the intelligence department, as it would be nowadays, a place requiring the greatest alertness and vigor of mind. He so distinguished himself that he grew to be a favorite with Cromwell, who after peace came made George Downing his principal diplomatic agent. He sent him to Italy, where he was the instrument of Cromwell in his interference to prevent the massacre of those
slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
as Milton puts it, the Waldensian Protestants in their valleys of Piedmont. Later we find him in France, where, in conference with Cardinal Mazarin, the ruling spirit, he caused the English power to be respected. Thence he proceeded to The Hague, then, as now, a centre of diplomatic influence; and while there he had negotiations with Russia, with the Scandinavian countries, with Germany, with Holland itself. His work was conducted with ability; and it was through him, to a large extent, that there was such a recognition as came to prevail upon the Continent of the greatness of the power which had sprung up across the channel.
His Harvard culture had done great things for him. As an accomplished logician he could deal with intrigue and indirection. He was an expert Latinist, and Latin was the diplomatic medium of those days. The thoroughly efficient instrument of the English Commonwealth, he did man’s work in bringing about a nobler state of things in England.
Alas that there should be another side to the picture. At the Restoration George Downing went over to Charles II, and served him as resolutely and as zealously, apparently, as he had served Cromwell. With treachery which seems execrable, he was the means through whom old comrades of his were arrested and turned over to torture and execution. He enjoyed fat things at the hands of Charles II as a reward for the baseness which even in that degenerate age seemed extraordinary. If he could only have died when Cromwell died! If the wounds which Benedict Arnold received at Saratoga had been mortal, he would have been now one of the greatest figures of our Revolutionary War. And so, if George Downing had died at the close of the English Commonwealth, there would have been few names among the long list of Harvard worthies that better deserve to be honored.
So much for the England into which John Harvard was born. Now to outline the figure against this background! How distinct can we make it? We are told by wise men that heredity and environment are two factors which, working upon the personal element, are almost omnipotent in shaping the man. What can we say as to heredity in the case of John Harvard?
The river Avon is one of the most beautiful and interesting of English streams. I have a pleasant recollection of following it many scores of miles through the English Midlands. Rising not far from Naseby, flowing through Northamptonshire a thread-like rill, from there bordering Leicestershire, a silver ribbon, it reaches Warwickshire. At Stratford, with the resting-place of Shakspere near by, I had one evening the river, lighted with the hues of sunset, at my feet, a broad and brilliant scarf. Of course, the great association with Stratford is and always will be with Shakspere. Here it was that he passed his youth; here it was that he got the color and setting for As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; became acquainted with the maidenly grace which he embodied afterwards in Perdita; the awkwardness of his clowns and the clumsiness of the country justices; and from the neighboring castles of Warwick and Kenilworth he received impressions of those feudal grandeurs of which he was afterwards to make such magnificent portrayal. We shall always associate Stratford with Shakspere. But henceforth, for Harvard men, there will be a most interesting association with the family of John Harvard. Hither some twenty years ago came Mr. Waters, an antiquarian. He had satisfied himself by a course of investigation, — the record of which reads like a thrilling detective story, the culprit in the case being unfriendly Fortune, who has undertaken to steal from the world the memory of a benefactor, — he had satisfied himself by his investigation that the maiden name of John Harvard’s mother was Katherine Rogers, and that she was a daughter of Thomas and Alice Rogers of Stratford. Mr. Waters came to Stratford to see what further he could find out, putting up at the Golden Lion. Walking through the street he noticed, as visitors generally notice, a beautiful old Elizabethan house in the High Street that attracted his interest, and he asked the landlord what the story of the house was. It had no story; nobody in Stratford knew anything about it. It was simply the old house in High Street. But Mr. Waters, again in the High Street in the afternoon, when the western sun falling strongly on the front brought out its beautiful carving, saw beneath the great window the date 1596 and the initials T. R. and A. R.; and it flashed upon him as by spiritual suggestion that those were the initials of Thomas and Alice Rogers, and that he had found the home of the grandparents of John Harvard. Practised antiquarian as he was, he at once pursued the matter. He went to the birthplace of Shakspere, where the borough records were kept, and there, in an upper room, discovered the proofs that in the time of Elizabeth the house was the home of Thomas and Alice Rogers, his wife, and he made it certain that from that house Katherine Rogers went forth to be married to Robert Harvard.
Thomas Rogers was a substantial burgess in the time of Elizabeth at Stratford. He was what we should call a market-man, a provision dealer, a butcher; he prospered in his private affairs and also won the esteem of his townsmen, being elected to be the bailiff or mayor. Now he built the old house in High Street, the handsomest place in town, where he lived with his wife Alice. Sons and daughters came to them in good number, and at length among the younger members of the family came a daughter, Katherine, who, at the age of twenty-one, in the year 1605, there is every reason to believe, was a beautiful and amiable girl.
Side by side with Thomas and Alice Rogers in Stratford had gone forward the life of John Shakspere and Mary Arden, his wife. John Shakspere was a man in the same calling and station. He, too, was, as we should say, a market-man. He was less successful in his private affairs than was Thomas Rogers, but he, too, had the esteem of his townsmen, for he was made alderman of the little borough of two thousand people, and finally he, in turn, attained to the position of bailiff.
There is every reason to suppose that the intimacy was great between the families of Thomas Rogers and John Shakspere. The latter too had sons and daughters in good store; the two families indeed came forward two and two. William Shakspere and Charles Rogers were contemporaries in the famous grammar school in Stratford of which the two fathers were officially trustees in their character as public magistrates, — there and also upon the village green. William Shakspere with Charles Rogers, Richard Shakspere with Richard Rogers, Edmund Shakspere with Edward Rogers, and so on. The two mothers went to the same church, and were close neighbors. The two fathers, — it can scarcely have been otherwise than that they were associates, and probably sometimes competitors, in their business; and, sitting side by side on the council bench of the little borough, they sustained together a public responsibility. There is every reason to suppose that there must have been an intimacy between the families.
Meanwhile, in London, at Southwark, a hundred miles away, — and that meant a great deal more in those days than at the present time, — was going on the life of Robert Harvard. He was a man twenty-nine years old, and a widower, and in 1605 was ready for a new marriage. It is the surmise of Mr. Henry C. Shelley, to whose very interesting book I acknowledge obligation, that it was William Shakspere who introduced Robert Harvard to Katherine Rogers; but the surmise of Mr. Waters seems to me more probable, — that Thomas Rogers, a man of rather large affairs, who would sometimes, probably, make business excursions as far as London, might have become acquainted with Robert Harvard, a man in the same calling with himself, there in Southwark, and seen in him an eligible son-in-law. At any rate, in the year 1605 Robert Harvard was married to Katherine Rogers, she being then twenty-one. The wedding procession went from the door of the house in High Street to the church of Holy Trinity, where, standing on the flag-stones which a few years later were to cover the dust of William Shakspere, Robert Harvard and Katherine Rogers were united in marriage. They set up their home in Southwark, in the shadow of St. Saviour’s Church, and very close to the Globe Theatre, in which at that time the ruling spirit was Katherine’s fellow-townsman, William Shakspere. And there, in November, 1607, John Harvard was born. Shakspere at that moment was at the zenith of his career. So much for heredity. In John Harvard’s case it seems as though we had a pretty definite story of the stock from which he came.
Record of the Marriage of Robert Harvard and Katherine Rogers in the Parish Register of Holy Trinity Stratford on Avon
Record of the Marriage of John Harvard and Anne Sadler in the Parish Register of St Michats South Malling Sussex
Engraved for the Colonial Society of Massachusetts
Now as to environment, what can be said? Who were the friends that came to the house of Robert and Katherine Harvard in the shadow of St. Saviour’s Church? It can scarcely be otherwise than that Shakspere was sometimes a visitor there. Shakspere had been a comrade of Charles, Katherine Rogers’s elder brother, and naturally, although Shakspere was twenty years older than Katherine, he would look in upon his young towns-woman there, far from home. Can we believe that Shakspere rocked John Harvard’s cradle? Very possibly. Can we believe that he held the little boy on his knee and told him stories? It is very possible that he did. Can we go further and say that John Harvard grew up to write Shakspere? I am not equal, quite, to that, though dealing with the story is a gymnastic that inclines one to bold ventures. In other ways we know narrowly about John Harvard’s environment. He must have gone to the grammar school of which his father, who became a vestryman of St. Saviour’s, was a trustee. We know the excitements which came into the life of a London boy there in the reign of James I. We know from old prints and charts of which Mr. Lane, the librarian of Harvard, has had such an interesting exhibition in Cambridge, something about the look of his surroundings. We know the sights upon which his boyish eyes fell; the narrow streets, the upper stories of the houses overhanging their lower stories, and beyond the streets the green fields; and up High Street only a few rods, the gateway of London Bridge, the heads of the malefactors, each one upon its pole, a gruesome spectacle which we are told was always present. We know quite narrowly as to the boy’s environment. When he had reached the age of eighteen a sad crisis came in the prosperous and peaceful family. The plague struck the city, and in the year 1625 Robert Harvard, two sons, and two daughters died within five weeks of each other, leaving Katherine a widow with her two sons, John and Thomas. It was only following what was then the custom of the world that Katherine Harvard within five months married again, this time a rich cooper, John Elletson; and he having died within a year, she married a third time, this time a most substantial man, Richard Yearwood, a member of Parliament during several terms, from 1620 to 1629.
We can tell why it was that John Harvard went to Cambridge, choosing that as his university. There is documentary evidence that an intimate friend of the family was Nicholas Morton, a chaplain at St. Saviour’s who had been a fellow of Emmanuel College at Cambridge; and it is only reasonable to suppose it was through his advice that Emmanuel College was selected. There he went when he was twenty years old.
And here again, at Cambridge, we need be in no doubt as to the environment of the young man. We know narrowly the curriculum of studies; we know the names and the reputations of the teachers under whom he must have sat; and we know the excitements which must have come into the life of the Cambridge students of those days. The Duke of Buckingham, the French Ambassador, and finally, even the King and Queen, were entertained at Cambridge by elaborate pageants, of which we have careful descriptions. Those John Harvard must have witnessed, and in many of them, as a member of the student body, he must have taken part. As regards the great movements of the world outside, we know exactly what was doing and what would be the things that came to his notice. Cambridge is in eastern England, in the heart of the country from which the twenty thousand emigrants were going who came over to New England. Close by was old Boston, and from there John Cotton was permeating the whole of eastern England with his influence. A great noble, whose seat was not far from Cambridge, the Earl of Lincoln, was deeply interested in the emigration, sending over two of his daughters to this country, for he was the father of the Ladies Arbella Johnson and Susan Humfrey. John Winthrop, Sir Richard Saltonstall, Thomas Dudley, and others of the New England emigration, had an important meeting at Cambridge during John Harvard’s time. His atmosphere was that of Puritanism, and he must have been affected by it.
Record of the Marriage of John Elletson and Katherine Harvard 19 January. 1625 in the Parish Register of the Saviours Southwark
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts
Record of the Marriage of Richard Yearwood Katherine Elletson in the Parish Register of All Saints Wandsworth the Surrery
We can tell, too, who John Harvard’s associates were. Jeremy Taylor was a student at Caius; Thomas Fuller, at Queens’; William Sancroft, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ralph Cudworth, author of The Intellectual System of the Universe, a marvel of erudition, even in that day of erudite men, were at Emmanuel. The most interesting contemporary, however, of John Harvard at Cambridge was undoubtedly John Milton. Can we infer that there was a contact between John Milton and John Harvard? Let us see. When John Harvard was twenty years old, Milton was nineteen. They were together there for four years, at least, perhaps for five years. Milton was a student at Christ’s College, it is true, and not of Emmanuel, but Christ’s is not far from Emmanuel, and one thinks that the Puritan reputation of Emmanuel must have attracted Milton sometimes thither. We know that there is nothing like a common friend to build up friendship. Can we make out that Milton and John Harvard had a common friend? We can do something, I think, in that direction. An interesting character in the Cambridge of those days was Thomas Hobson, a carrier, whose cart, going back and forth to London, once a week, was the only regular means of communication between the two cities. He was the postman and general messenger, and the two young men from London would inevitably do business with him. He had also another function. Sir Richard Steele, in a paper long afterwards in the Spectator, says that Hobson was the first man in England to keep a livery stable; that he kept forty horses for hire; and that he had a rule that when a customer came to hire a horse he must take the one that stood nearest the stable door, where Hobson took pains to have tethered the horse which it suited him to let out to that particular customer. Hence the phrase “Hobson’s choice,” says Dick Steele, which even to the present day, everywhere in the English-speaking world, we know as a practical synonym for inevitability.
As to the relations of the two Johns, with Hobson, they were both London boys of about the same age; their families of about equal means and station in life; and in the long vacations, if not at other times, they would be travelling back and forth. In those days the northern road was unsafe because of highwaymen, and the boys would naturally be intrusted to the sturdy guardianship of the old carrier. It is Mr. Waters’s surmise that the prevalence of the phrase in New England, “Hobson’s choice,” is due to the fact that the leaders here were largely Cambridge men, John Harvard among them. As to the fact that Milton was interested in Hobson, we have ample evidence: after his death Milton wrote two epitaphs, labored expressions of humor, but perhaps the closest approach to humor in all his writings. It seems to me entirely probable that the young men must have touched elbows in Hobson’s cart or jostled one another when experiencing Hobson’s choice at the stable door. At any rate the suggestion is thrown out for whatever it is worth.
So much for environment and heredity. Those are the two factors which, according to wise men, are almost all-powerful in shaping men. It seems as if we ought to be able to put our finger on John Harvard; and yet, in spite of all, the man eludes us.
It was the most natural thing in the world that he should come to New England. In 1637 when he came over, the emigration from England was at its height. Laud and Strafford were pushing their policy of Thorough; and so John Harvard only swam with the current.
Now as to the man himself. He never said a word or wrote a line or did a deed, except his one ever memorable deed of gift to the College, of which any of his contemporaries thought it worth while to take notice and hand down. We can get at a few things indirectly. It is good negative evidence, as Mr. Shelley brings out, that his conduct was correct, that his name was absent from the list of admonitions during the seven years at Cambridge. We can tell something about a man from the friends he chooses. The one man with whom we know John Harvard was on very friendly terms was John Sadler, who afterwards attained honorable distinction. He was a favorite of Cromwell, who offered him high judicial position, and it is said to have been from a suggestion of Sadler’s that he performed one of the creditable acts of his career. The Jews had been excluded from England since the days of Edward I, and at the suggestion of Sadler Cromwell took off the disability, enabling them to open a synagogue in London. In the year 1636 Harvard married Anne Sadler, the sister of his friend. There is a document dated 1637, showing that John Harvard parted with certain property to a ship captain named John Man, presumably passage money for himself and his wife, his library and his belongings, to America.
View of Emmanul College Cambridge
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from a plate in David Loggans Cantrabrigia Illustrata
A word ought to be said about his library. We judge a man a good deal from the books that he buys. What kind of a library was it that John Harvard gathered around him and brought to this country? You can see it at Cambridge; Mr. Lane has it on exhibition there. It was an up-to-date library for the time. Of course there was a prevalence of Calvinistic theology, but there were also represented the Catholic controversialists. In general literature we find there Bacon’s Essays, Chapman’s Homer, and one or two other books of that kind; while a refined scholarship was indicated by the fact that there were good editions of some of the best Greek and Latin classics.
I think we can say that he was a man of low vitality, both in body and mind, his vigor being sapped, probably, by the presence in his constitution of the insidious disease by which he was so early swept away. A personality refined, correct, scholarly, colorless, and yet in a wonderful way absorbing and reflecting color. A personality very vapory, but yet how marvellously prehensile! He takes hold in the strangest way of great events and of great men. It seems almost as certain as anything can be in the past that he was in contact with Shakspere and with Milton. As a young man from Cambridge, he must have heard his step-father, Richard Yearwood, talk; and what would he say, coming home from his seat in Parliament at St. Stephen’s to Southwark? He might say that he had just looked into the face of Hampden, and listened to the eloquence of Pym; that he himself, perhaps, had taken part in the debate on the Petition of Right; and how Sir John Eliot had exclaimed: “None have gone about to break Parliaments but in the end Parliaments have broken them.” It seems altogether probable that he must have come face to face with young Harry Vane, for, arriving in Boston in the same month in which Vane sailed thence for England, what more natural than that Vane should seek out the intelligent new arrival for the latest news from the great arena whither he was going back to play so conspicuous a part?
In connection with John Harvard’s proprietorship of the Queen’s Head Inn, which was the principal item of his mother’s bequest to him, and the estate out of which it is supposed that the money came, for the most part, for Harvard College, he comes, almost uncannily, into relations with Chaucer; for next door to the Queen’s Head was the Tabard Inn, which was, some three hundred years before, associated with the Canterbury Tales; and he reaches forward two hundred years to Dickens, for closely adjacent to the Queen’s Head Inn was the White Hart in which Mr. Pickwick met Sam Weller.
Will it be said that the basis of fact is really small for such a biographical superstructure as Mr. Shelley has reared, a book of three hundred pages? I find a figure to suit the case in the Elizabethan house in the High Street of Stratford. I was talking with a friend the other day who said he had paced the front of it, and it seemed to him from that rough measurement that it was not more than sixteen feet wide. The house rises until it seems to need the support to the right and left of the substantial masses of masonry that are there. And in the front each story overhangs one below, culminating in the beetling gable which fairly threatens the street: you think it needs to be buttressed. Yet, it has stood there into its fourth century; and, cherished as it will hereafter be by all Harvard men as the early home of John Harvard’s mother, it will stand for centuries more. And so the story of John Harvard, it seems to me, is authentic and likely to stand.
It seems inappropriate to speak of a worthy of the old New England time except by a scriptural parallel. Let us say, in that connection, that John Harvard was like Apollos. Apollos is no significant figure in the apostolic story, but he was associated with great men, and had to do with epoch-making events. Paul planted and Apollos watered; and what our New England Apollos watered was the perishing seed which the great Pauls of the New England Church had too feebly planted; and God gave the increase.
The two most important of these are the will of Katherine Yearwood, John Harvard’s mother, and the will of Thomas Harvard, his brother. Both of these wills were first noted by Henry F. Waters, and together establish the identity of John Harvard. In the first, his mother refers to him as “John Harvard Clarke.” The second made John Harvard and Nicholas Morton executors. It was proved in the Surrogate’s Court, and letters of administration were issued on May 5, 1637, to Nicholas Morton alone, with provision that letters should be issued to John Harvard, the other executor, when he should come to seek them. This date is just about the time when it is known that the John Harvard who founded Harvard College left England, and the fact of the absence at this time of Thomas Harvard’s brother and executor, and of his never having qualified as executor afterwards, may be regarded as proof that he had left England. Taken in connection with the statement in the mother’s will, it identifies the founder of Harvard College.
The other documents are photographs from the parish registers of Southwark, containing the marriage of Katherine Harvard and John Elletson, and of Wandsworth, containing the marriage of Richard Yearwood and Katherine Elletson, 28th of May, 1627; of the parish register of South Mailing, containing the marriage of John Harvard of “the parish of St. Olives near London” and Anne Sadler of Ringmer, April 19, 1636; and of the record of a conveyance made by John Harvard and his wife, Ann, of a messuage and three cottages to John Man, February 16, 1637. Mr. Waters discovered that this John Man was a sea-captain, and finds from his will that the four houses described were situated in Bermondsey Street. He infers that the sale may have been in consideration of a passage to America in Captain Man’s vessel. The record of Harvard’s mother’s first marriage, to Robert Harvard, we expect to have from the Stratford parish registers. One other interesting document I hope to get, of which a facsimile was made in 1887, namely, the counterpart of the lease from St. Catherine’s Hospital to “John Harvard, clerk, and Thomas Harvard, citizen of London and cloth-worker,” of certain tenements in the parish of All Hallows, Barking. These facsimiles were for sale at the time by a London bookseller, but a recent inquiry brings the reply that all copies have been sold. I hope, however, that it will be possible to obtain a copy from some source, so that the expense of rephotographing it may be avoided.
Mr. Lane also exhibited a view of Harvard College as it appeared during the Revolutionary War, engraved by Paul Revere after a drawing by Josh. Chadwick, concerning whom Mr. Lane solicited information. Only three other original impressions of this plate are known.584 The copy exhibited was recently bought at auction in Boston and given to Harvard College by seven graduates, of whom four are members of this Society.
On behalf of Mr. Worthington C. Ford, a Corresponding Member, Mr. Henry H. Edes made the following communication:
The following letters were written by William Plumer, whose long public career requires no detailed account. They describe an outbreak in New Hampshire which was the counterpart of that of Shays in Massachusetts, and are written with the vivacity of an eye-witness and participant, and with all the freedom of a young man confident of himself. His criticisms of men and measures are of interest. That he was unjust in some of his opinions he would have confessed in after years; but he could hardly have expressed himself so forcibly if there had been no common belief prevailing at the time of the truth of the characters thus drawn. He gives definite pictures of the daily events during the uprising, and conveys much information on the leading actors. Thus the letters are good material for history. They are copied from the originals in the Library of Congress, Washington.
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusaetts from a proof of St. Memin’s plate in the possession of William James Campbell. Esquire
I TO WILLIAM COLEMAN.585
Londonderry, May 31, 1786
My dear Sir,
’T is near a year since I have had an opportunity of writing to you, and it is longer since I have received a line from your pen. Was I certain this would reach you I should write things that prudence restrains me from trusting to my present uncertain mode of conveyance.
We have both met with disappointments. At Amherst586 we expected to have compleated our tuition under Mr. Atherton.587 From thence you went to Mr. Shannon,588 at Hollis, and from thence I am told you went to Mr. Payne’s589 office at Worcester. I hope you find your account in each change.
From Amherst I returned to my parents at Epping.590 To increase my attachment to that town my father purchased me a farm value £700. I then resolved to oversee my lands and trade a little; but the scarcity of money, the trouble and scanty gains of a Country trader, still induced me to think of the study of law. In March, 1785, the town, to increase my attachment to it, elected me their representative to the General Court. This amused and pleased me a few months; but in November, with the full consent and approbation of my parents, I came to Mr. Prentice’s591 office, where I now am diligently plodding over Coke, Littleton and other sages of the Law. How vain is the attempt of even parents and friends, to oppose the voice and inclinations of Nature!
If I had continued at Mr. Atherton’s office, I should have been 18 months nearer an admission to the Bar than I now am; which to a man twenty seven years of age is a matter of some consequence. But by this delay I now am reading law with my parents’ approbation, am the owner of a small farm, have a decent house wherein to lay my head, and have formed connections with several influential men in the State which may prove useful to me in the profession. Whether these changes will eventually terminate in my favor time only can determine. The belief that they will reconciles me to my condition. From the accounts I have received your changes have been fortunate.
The aspect of public affairs in this State are gloomy. Money scarce, business dull, and our feeble government unhinged. Our Courts of Law are firm, and in these degenerate days, dare to be honest. The Inferior Court of Common Pleas have resolved that the Law authorizing justices to try actions under £10 is unconstitutional. This law was passed at the close of the last November session,592 at a time when there was scarce a quorum of the House present, and the number of Justices who were members was more than ten to one who was not in Commission. Singly and alone I entered my protest against the law, and I am glad the Court have had firmness to act their own opinion. If our elective government is long supported, it will owe its existence to the Judiciary. That is the only body of men who will have an effective check upon a numerous Assembly.
Write me when you have opportunity, and believe me to be your affectionate friend,
II TO SAMUEL PLUMER, JR.593
Londonderry, June 6th 1786
My dear brother,
To morrow morning I intend to go to Concord. My business will defray my expences, and I shall have an opportunity of visiting several of my friends from different parts of the State, with whom I shall keep the Election festival . . . .
[Concord,] June 9th.
I wish I had leisure to narrate the adventures of this and the preceeding day. Several towns have sent delegates to form a Convention, to petition the legislature to emit paper money, open the ports, prohibit the proprietors of Allen’s claim594 from holding offices, abolish the Inferior Courts, restrain lawyers, &c. A number of active young gentlemen joined them, and at the instance of some of my friends I took an active part with them. The scene was farcical, and the name of a Convention is here a term of reproach . . . .
17th. General Sullivan is elected President by a majority of 51 votes.595 John Langdon is speaker of the House. They have changed places. There is much animosity between them; Mr. Langdon appears mortified. There are 45 Representatives who were not members of the House the last year. The change is not for the better. If men are born legislators you may expect good laws; but if talents and extensive information are requisite to form the statesman, you will in vain look for them in the General Court. Our government is feeble, and some of our laws are better calculated to aid vice than to reward virtue. But we shall have no paper money this session, though much I fear the next.
Joseph Pearson Esq. is Secretary, vice Ebenezer Thompson Esq. This change is thought to be for the better! The fact is the former is but a few removes from an idiot, and the latter is a shrewd, cunning man . . . .
III TO SAMUEL PLUMER, JR.
Londonderry, July 22d, 1786.
My DEAR BROTHER,
We have no news except what relates to Conventions. Of these we have more than our share. On the 10th, 150 men met at Emery’s tavern in this town. They were from 15 towns, but were not elected by the towns. This meeting elected 67 of their own number, who met, chose a chairman, and appointed two clerks. After two days spent in debate, they resolved that they would adopt such measures as should compel the General Court to emit paper money. They appointed a committee of 18 to devise a plan and draw a petition to the legislature, and then adjourned to meet at Chester, the 20th of this month. The Convention is now in session in that town. They propose that the Gen! Court shall issue paper bills equal to the amount of the State notes, and that the holders of the notes shall receive the bills in payment for their notes. That if the holders of notes do not exchange them for bills by the 1st. of January next, the interest shall cease after that time; and if not exchanged by the 1st. of July next, all notes then outstanding shall be void, and of none effect.
The money to be a legal tender for the payment of all debts.
The bills to be redeemed by the State by taxes to be assessed on the people, payable into the treasury by seven annual equal payments.
This is the most correct account I have been able to obtain from one of the best informed of their body.
I am personally acquainted with many members of this Convention, and I assure you they are men of feeble intellect. Very few of them know what they do, or are apprehensive to what their measures tend.
I hope these visionary schemes will not end in acts of rebellion against the constituted authorities — tho’ much I fear it.
My love to the family. Adieu!
IV TO JOHN HALE.596
Epping, August 13, 1786
In Londonderry and its vicinity, there is much clamour upon the subject of the revival of Allen’s obsolete claim and the making of paper money. The Convention is again to meet the 22d at Chester. There are about 60 members. They were not elected by the towns, but by 150 men from 15 or 18 towns, who of their own motion assembled to do what seemed good unto them. The characters of this self-created Convention are not unlike King David’s pious companions — men in distress involved in debt and discontented. They have no leader; they want one who possesses David’s cunning and Joab’s valour. Talents, knowledge of history, civil government and an intimate acquaintance with the human heart, are requisite to form the statesman. No man is born a statesman. Knowledge must be acquired by patient laborious investigation. Tis preposterous to suppose that those who never opened the page of history examined a paragraph of the statute book, or read the title page of the human heart, should be able to direct the affairs of state!
In other times unnotie’d they might pass,
These times can make a statesman of an Ass!
The want of talents and information renders this Convention less dangerous to the State. An ignorant mob may however destroy a much better.government than they can establish.
The paper money of Rhode Island has already depreciated 500 pr Cent, although it is founded on real estate. It seems the zealous advocates of paper currency intend to convince an infidel age of the truth of a part, at least, of the Scriptures, by demonstrating that riches take to themselves wings and flee away; that notes, bonds and other obligations are vanity and vexation; that it is best to revise the Apostolical age, and have all things in common; that the indolent, extravagant and wicked may divide the blessings of life with the industrious, the prudent and the virtuous.
V TO JOHN HALE.
Exeter, Septr 18th 1786
My dear Sir,
The Inferior Courts in the counties of Hampshire, Worcester and Middlesex in Massachusetts have within this three weeks been prevented, by armed men, from transacting their official business. Previous to the meeting of the Court in Middlesex, the governor597 of that Commonwealth, with advice of his council, issued his orders directing a portion of the militia to assemble at Concord in the County of Middlesex to protect the county Courts and suppress the daring insurrection. But on examining the laws he had no authority, and before the militia assembled he rescinded his orders. Two hundred and fifty insurgents met and forcibly prevented the Court from proceeding to business. The governor has issued his proclamation requiring the attendance of the General Court on the 27th. I hope they will pass a law giving their governor authority to call forth their militia when necessary. A state may suffer as much from not giving power to their officers, as by the officers abusing their power.
Most of the Massachusetts insurgents are men of desperate fortunes, some of them infamous, and most of them ignorant. It is feared that those who now appear as the ringleaders are kept in countenance by others of more consequence, but by men who are bankrupts in fame and fortune, by men who are disaffected with the government because they are unable to obtain offices of honor and profit. I hope these will be discovered and suffer the vengeance of an insulted government.
A self-created Convention has twice met at Rochester in the County of Strafford in this State. Their views are similar to that of the Chester Convention, but they have more information. Jonathan Moulton, Esq. of Hampton, in this County, is their President. This man is one of our Brigadier Generals of the militia.
Apropos, of his biography. His parents were poor and lived in obscurity.598 Jonathan was bound an apprentice to a Cabinet maker. When he was about 20 years of age he purchased the residue of his time of service of his master, and opened a huckster’s shop, and by his unwearied attention in buying and selling small articles he soon became an extensive dealer in English and West India goods. The property that he obtained from a valuable ship that was wrecked on Hampton beach gave him increased credit and business. There is too much reason to believe that he aided David Folsom, one of his Clerks, in forging and passing counterfeit bills of exchange. The instances of his fraud and deceit, injustice and oppression, are numerous. He has reduced many families from affluence to beggary. For 20 years he has been a constant suitor in the Courts of law. He has often attempted to corrupt judges, bribe jurors, suborn witnesses, and seduce the Counsel employed by his opponents. I am in possession of evidence of his conveying a right of land to a judge who was to decide the title to that and all the other land he claimed in that township. The fact was discovered and the judge never decided the cause. I know an instance of his making liberal promises to an influential juryman. His influence in the Courts was extensive, and his success ruined many; but now he is unable to obtain justice. It is difficult to find a jury, but some of whom or their relations or connexions he has wronged. A few months since he lamented to me his condition. He said, “Such were the prejudices against him that he could not obtain that common justice which is administered to the most obscure man.” So true it is that the successes of the wicked accelerate their ruin.
He is the owner of immense tracts of uncultivated wilderness. He has expended much money in making settlements in new townships, and in opening and making and repairing roads. And in this point of view his labours have been useful to the Country. But many of those whom he hath settled in his townships complain of his having ruined them. Those who are most intimate with him censure and condemn him the most.
He is a man of good natural abilities; his address is pleasing and his manners easy. He has uniformly and sedulously flattered the views and follies of mankind. He does business with great despatch. He is hospitable at home and abroad, he is more, he is often generous, even to profuseness.
Notwithstanding the immense tracts of land he now owns, the money due to him and the relief he has obtained by the Tender law, yet his taxes, debts and suits threaten him with imprisonment. This has made him the advocate for paper money.
I am sorry that Capt. Horne of Dover,599 with his well disciplined troop of Horse in their uniform, escorted Moulton and several of his party to and from the Convention. I hope our militia will find better employ than paying homage to those who are sapping the foundations of our government.
The Rockingham Convention are disgusted with the Court for refusing to make paper money. It is whispered that the Convention intend to adopt coercive measures.
Thursday a bill was bro’t in to carry into effect the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain. This bill was drawn with great caution nearly in the very language of the treaty. Yet the House negatived it, 42 to 34.600 This too much resembles sporting with things sacred; it discovers a want of both honor and policy. Public faith ought to be scrupulously guarded. National honor ought to be estimated higher than national wealth. On Friday the bill was again brought forward, and passed by a bare majority.601
This bill owes its passage to the talents and eloquence of John Pickering, Esq. On the preceeding day he was absent. Mr. Pickering is a lawyer of considerable eminence. He is a man of strict integrity, unblemished honor and of great humanity. He has a retentive memory, and possesses a vast fund of humor and pleasantry. His company is much sought for, and in him the poor have a substantial friend. As a lawyer he does more business, particularly as an advocate, than any other in the State; but obtains much less money from his practice than some little contemptible pettifoggers. He has no avarice; his fault is inattention to property. With a promising family of children, he has very little property for their support. He is very moderate in his fees. Of the poor he claims nothing; of those in easy circumstances he often trusts to their generosity, and frequently suffers thereby. Although the popular prejudices are strong against the Bar, yet no man accuses, but all repose entire confidence in him. As a member of the legislature he possesses the confidence of his brethren; but by his often speaking he has very much lessened his influence in that court. But he has read more than he has digested; his mind is a vast storehouse, in which the goods are placed in a promiscuous condition. He wants clearness of perception, accuracy of distinction, decision and firmness. He is peculiarly afraid of water; he travels far to avoid a ferry. He is a very zealous and sincere professor of Christianity, and is a member of Mr. Buckminster’s602 Church at Portsmouth.
The law relative to the British treaty prohibits all further confiscation of the estates of absentees. It permits those who did not take up arms in the late war against the United States to return and live in the State. It allows those who were in arms to return and live a year without any molestation to collect their debts and settle their affairs; and that none of them shall be subject to prosecution for any thing by them done during the war. Some of the members, particularly those from Londonderry, Runnels603 and McMurphey,604 reported, “That the Act authorized the tories to return, and obliged the State to repurchase and restore to them the confiscated estates, and that a heavy tax would be assessed on all the people for that purpose.” These reports have inflamed the minds of many, and enraged the members of the Rockingham Convention. They are now collecting an armed force to compel the Court to repeal the law and emit paper currency. They contemplate a great accession of numbers from every town in the vicinity, and aid from several members of the Legislature. I am &c.
VI TO JOHN HALE.
Exeter, September 20th, 1786
My dear Sir,
At 11 oClock A.M. we received information that a body of armed men were at Kingston Plains marching under the orders of the Rockingham Convention. At three this afternoon they encamped on the plains in this town. From thence they sent the following request to the Legislature:
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of New Hampshire:
Inasmuch as we conceive the prayer of our former petition has not yet been granted, and as we are determined to do ourselves that justice which the laws of God and man dictate to us, therefore we pray your Honors to grant us the requests of our former petition and not drive us to a state of desperation.
We pray your honors to give us an immediate answer.
Joseph French, Moderator.
Richard Adams, Clerk.
Exeter Plain, Septr, 20th 1786.
The House appointed a Committee of five,605 to be joined by such as the Senate should appoint, to take the subject into consideration. The Senate, with a spirit that did them honor, unanimously non-concurred the vote. The two houses met in Convention. While they were together, the Insurgents marched into town. Joseph French was their commander. He had heretofore supported the character of an honest, inoffensive, weak, ignorant man. There were several militia officers associated and present with him, Major James Cochran, Capt. James Cochran, and Lt. Asa Robinson of Pembroke; Capt. John McKean of Londonderry, Lt. Clough606 and Ensign Thomas Cotton of Sandown. The whole number assembled were about 200 — 80 of whom had fire and side arms, and the others had clubs and staves. Some of them were on horseback, but most of them on foot. They affected military parade. They marched thro’ the town with the drum beating and their arms clubbed. They then drew up before the meeting House, where the Legislature were sitting. This mob was a collection from Londonderry, Hampstead, Hawke, Sandown, Bedford, Goffstown, Raymond, and a few other towns. They made a miserable appearance — dirty, ragged fellows — many of them were young and most of them ignorant.
While this banditti were drawn up before the house and many of them in it, President Sullivan stated to the house the reason why the Senate refused to concur with them in the choice of a Committee. After stating the impropriety and injustice of the former petition, he observed that the present application was an outrageous insult upon the Legislature, and that if the request was in itself reasonable, yet coming from a body of men in arms, they ought not now to listen to it. That a compliance with a request from an armed mob would, in his opinion, be a sacrifice of their duty. That for his own part he was determined that no consideration of personal danger should ever compel him to betray his trust.
Immediately after this the Insurgents beat to arms, and surrounded the Meeting House in which the Legislature were sitting, and placed centinels at the doors and windows, with bayonets fixed to their muskets, and forbid any person going in or coming out. They uttered severe threats against the Court if they did not immediately grant their request, many of them declaring they would never consent to release the Court from their confinement untill after their petition should be granted. But the Court proceeded to business without regarding their menaces.
I went up to the mob. Some were clamouring against the Court for passing a law authorizing the return of the Refugees, declaring that those who voted for it ought to be punished with death. Some demanded paper money; others, an equal distribution of property. Some the annihilation of debts, freedom from taxes, the abolition of lawyers, the destruction of the Inferior Courts, the reduction of salaries, and all of them exclaimed against law and government. I reasoned with several of them upon the unreasonableness of their demands and the impropriety of their conduct; but the answer I received was the bayonet pointed to my breast.
At sunset the President and Senate made an attempt to leave the House, but the mob forcibly prevented them. He then assured them that the State would support their own government, and reasoned with them upon the fatal and dangerous tendency of their conduct. They insulted the President, the senate, house and spectators with the most insulting language, by threats and by presenting their arms to them.
The Inhabitants of the town were much alarmed at the idea of an armed mob traversing their streets in the night. Application was made to the President to permit the spectators to disarm the mob; but he prudently refused. Twenty men, of whom I was one, agreed to raise a party, walk up immediately to the mob, and without weapons disarm them. We formed in the street below, buzzard for government three times, ordered the drum to beat, and marched towards the mob with haste. The spectators separated from the mob, repeated the huzzahs and resorted to us. The mob were greatly frightened, and in their confusion some ran, and others leaped into the graveyard. At this instant the President assured the Insurgents that if they would suffer him to pass he would prevent the effusion of blood. They consented, and he went into his lodgings and sent two of his aids to inform them that they must disperse for the Court would not do any business for the night. Their commander, after a moment’s consultation, ordered them to retire to the plains, and assemble again at nine oClock to-morrow morning. They dispersed accordingly.
The Legislature unanimously authorized and directed the President to call out the militia to suppress this daring insurrection. He immediately issued his orders to the officers of the militia to repair to this town tomorrow morning with their arms. I am &c.
Epping, Septr 21st, 1786
My dear Sir,
I have just retired here for the purpose of rest, for Exeter is thronged with company. After giving you a sketch of the proceedings of the day, I will surrender myself a prisoner to Morpheus.
At 4 oClock in the morning I was under arms. At six oClock a party of six, of whom I was one, was detached in quest of Capt. John McKeen. I arrested him and he was put under guard. The Insurgents very soon sent a party of six to demand his liberty. They were arrested and committed to the custody of the guards.
The Insurgents embodied and marched within a mile of the town. By 8 oClock a body of cavalry and light infantry arrived, accompanied by many gentlemen of the first rank and education, who appeared as volunteers. Major Gen [Joseph] Cilley was the commanding officer. I joined with the company of volunteers commanded by Nicholas Gilman, Esq.607 We marched to meet the mob, but they having received information of our movement, the unarmed part of them retired to the Great Hill. Those of them who were armed kept their ground till the Horse appeared in view, when they fled in great precipitation and disorder, several of whom were taken and secured. At the bridge at King’s falls they rallied, armed and unarmed, and exhibited the appearance of an intention to dispute the troops. But a few of our officers, and gentlemen of the horse, arrested their principal officers and most active men; the remainder fled in every direction for their respective homes. Major Cochran and Mr. Morse, of Londonderry, urged their men to discharge their arms at our troops, but they refused.
We returned to town in great order and regularity, without the loss of blood on either side. President Sullivan has acquired credit by his prudence, caution and firmness. There were about 2000 men under arms, and a number nearly equal unarmed, all of whom appeared anxious to give their aid to support the government.
The troops were drawn up on each side of the road; the President, accompanied by the general and field officers, rode through and bowed to them. The thirty nine prisoners we had taken, with their heads uncovered and their hats under their arms, marched twice through the columns, that in that humiliating condition they might behold a few of the many who were ready to defend the government. This was a mortifying situation to Cochran, McKeen and others. They were then remanded to prison, and the gaol is now guarded by a band of soldiers.
Thus happily has the most dangerous mob we have ever had been suppressed, and that without any untoward accident. I think the government will gain strength by this event. Its warmest friends are animated by seeing the promptness with which all orders and classes of men came forward in its support. The timid are encouraged and supported; and the vile race of time-servers no longer hesitate — they speak loud in support of law and order. If our rulers have wisdom and prudence to improve the present moment, this disturbance will terminate to our advantage. The militia may be arranged, officered and disciplined. And if the legislature will maintain their dignity within their own walls, they will receive ample support and revenue from without. The complaints against Courts and against taxes will cease, when men are persuaded that the government is permanent. The Legislature ought to give, and not receive, the tone to the people. The few, and not the many, are wise, and ought to bear rule.
I am glad that the mob thus early disclosed their views. Had the same spirit of jealousy, distrust and uneasiness increased for two years to come as it has done for eight months past, their numbers would have rendered them formidable. I think it is a favorable circumstance that they attacked the Legislature, the fountain head of law and order, and not the Inferior Courts, as did the insurgents of Massachusetts. Theirs struck at the streams, but ours aimed a bold stroke at the fountain head. This has brought the contest to a single point — whether we would yield up our government and all our dearest rights to an ignorant lawless band of unprincipled ruffians! I am &c.
VIII TO JOHN HALE.
Exeter, Septr 26:h 1786.
My dear Sir,
On the 22d the two houses met in Convention, and the prisoners were brought before them. The principals were examined separately and alone, but the rest of them were brought in together, questioned, admonished and remanded to prison.
Capt. French discovered great contrition. He gave satisfactory evidence that he was an honest man, but had been deceived and seduced by designing men. He frankly confessed that he had forfeited his life, and implored their mercy. He produced a letter signed by Jonathan Moulten, Esq. president of the Strafford Convention, directed to him as president of the Rockingham Convention. In this letter Genl. Moulten requested that the Rockingham Convention would pursue the measures they had began; that they should resolutely demand paper money; that should their first request be denied, that committees from the two Conventions should be appointed to meet with committees from the other counties to deliberate on and determine what means should be pursued for the redress of public grievances. The letter was dated, I think, the 10th instant and was written in an artful manner. It did not advise to violent measures. Genl. Moulten was present, and blushed whilst it was read. French stated to the Court that last Monday Col. Benjamin Stone came to him and declared that Nathaniel Peabody Esq.608 informed him that the Legislature had passed a law authorizing the tories to return to the State; that their farms were to be re-purchased and restored to them, and that a heavy tax would be levied on the people for that purpose. That Stone advised him (French) to go immediately to Londonderry and see what could be done, and that in consequence of this he went there and collected men and marched to this town in arms.
Major Cochran said but little, but was much affected. He acknowledged he had forfeited his life and fortune to the State. He said that in the revolutionary war he had at the hazard of his life, cheerfully served his country; that since then he had been appointed a major in the militia; that he had been deceived by false representations; that he had taken a false and hasty step, but as it was his first offence, he now humbly entreated that Court whom he had so daringly insulted a few hours since, to save him from ruin.
French, Cochran, and ten others were released and pardoned, and the residue remained in gaol. They were reprimanded with merited severity. Cochran was informed that a Court martial would be called, and they would brake him.
The next day the Legislature appointed a committee of militia officers to re-examine several of the prisoners, and upon their report released and pardoned all of them except five. Many of those wretches are but mere machines operated on by others. I have been as anxious and as busy to have them discharged as I was on Wednesday to capture them. Those who were most forward in taking were most desirous of having the bulk of them released. But those who in the hour of danger were in the back ground were now the most vehement against the deluded prisoners.
Captains McKean and Cochran, Lt. David Batchelder, Ensign Cotton609 and John Gregg were detained. Some of the members of the Court were in favor of releasing them all; and it was with difficulty a majority was found to deliver over these five to the Superior Court to be indicted and tried for a riot, and a riot only. The fears of some were alarmed least they should be indicted for high treason, convicted and executed.
Last evening Major Cass610 with seven brave men took a warrant from a Justice of the Peace, rode to Sandown and Londonderry, and took Eaton and Morse611 from their beds, and bro’t them to this town, where they were examined and committed to prison.
Yesterday the Attorney General612 filed an Information against the five prisoners in the Superior Court. They plead not guilty. They were ordered to recognize with sureties in the sum of £100 each for their appearance &c at the next term. No testimony appearing to criminate Cotton, except his coming into town with the mob, he was discharged on finding sureties for his good behavior in the sum of £50.
Information was also filed against Morse and Eaton. When the Clerk read it and enquired of them whether they were guilty or not guilty? Morse immediately fell on his knees, and answered, “Guilty, very guilty.” Eaton fainted and fell, and it was some time before he was able to answer guilty. They all obtained sureties, and of course are discharged from prison.
I confess, I am surprised and disappointed in the Superior Court’s ordering these high handed offenders released from prison, on recognizing in such small sums. They could have found sureties for much larger sums. It has the appearance of estimating rebellion only as a petty offence. Too much lenity is as fatal to government as too much severity. I am &c.
IX TO JOHN HALE.
Londonderry, Octr 6th 1786
My dear Sir,
Peace and quietness prevail here. The insurgents who threatened me at Exeter are now humble and fawning as spaniels. James McMurphey is deranged. He goes armed, and several others dare not sleep in their houses, for fear they should be removed as Eaton and Morse were. John Gregg and his associates now boldly declare that they should never have carried their opposition to government so far had not the Representatives from this town given them encouragement. Col. Runnels and Archibald McMurphey Esq. are the representatives from this place. The Colonel’s friends and companions were at Exeter in arms against the government His apprentice and journeyman were of the number and his own son Daniel actually joined them, and marched part of the way to Exeter, and then left the mob for fear he should kill his father in the contest. The colonel is a man of little property, is intemperate, illiterate, and fond of low grovelling company.
A. McMurphey Esq. was not so much connected with the mob. He is an arbitrary, conceited man. He has read a few volumes of history, and can repeat the title pages of some others. Of this information he is very profuse in his speeches in Court. He will sacrifice every sentiment of honor and honesty to the applause of the rabble. His head is better than his heart. He has, however, more of cunning than wisdom. He is becoming intemperate in the use of inebriating liquors.
I have no doubt of General Peabody’s613 being the friend of the mob. His pecuniary circumstances led him to wish for paper money.
Moses Dow Esq. is a brigadier general, a lawyer, a member of the House of Representatives and a Councillor. He is a man of moderate abilities, more specious than solid; he scims the surface. As a lawyer he is not respected. Avarice is his God, and popularity the idol he worships. I heard him say that he “wished success to the mob, and that they were pursuing out of doors what he had ineffectually sought for in the House.” He is civil in his carnage, and always appears to have an entire command of his passions. I never saw him discover any passion. At the Barr, and in debate in the Legislature, he never discovers any animation, but his hearers are doomed to hear the same dull, monotonous sound. He has several times been elected as a Delegate to Congress, but never took his seat there.
Peter Green Esq. of Concord has been suspected of favoring the views of the mob and of giving them countenance; but I know of no evidence to support these suspicions. This man is a lawyer, the pupil of our present Chief Justice Livermore;614 but he is destitute of both his talents and information. He has drawn many writs and done much of what is called default business; but he is not a good or a safe councillor. He never attempts to act as an advocate. I never knew him to argue a single cause; and although often a member of the General Court, he spoke none in debate. He is one of the proprietors of the Allen claim, and is devoted to the interest of General Peabody. These two circumstances has injured his popularity. His thirst for office is great; to attain it he would sacrifice his interest and the little reputation he has acquired. He is now Lt. Col. of the Cavalry and justice of the peace. His attachment to the British interest in the time of the revolutionary war, brought him to Exeter prison, where he was some short time confined by order of the Committee of Safety. He has not the reputation of an honest man, and I am confident he is now contracting habits of intemperance, which will prove his ruin.
Runnels, Dow and Green are the intimate friends and companions of Gen! Peabody. I am &c.
X TO JOHN HALE.
Londonderry, Octr 14th 1786
My dear Sir,
In my last I gave you a brief sketch of the character of some of the most intimate friends of Genl Peabody. This man has been more than once a member of Congress from this State. He has several years been a representative from Atkinson in our state legislature, a senator, and two years a Councillor. In March, 1785, he was voted for as president of the State, an office he is very ambitious of obtaining. In June of that year he was elected member of Congress, and in the autumn session he was again re-elected. But at last June the General Court passed a resolve to recal him and directed him not to proceed to Congress.615 He was appointed General of the Cavalry and a Justice of the Peace throughout the State. At this session a resolve passed the House of Representatives to remove him from said offices, but the Senate did not concur therein. He is not only an infidel, but is according to our statute laws a Blasphemer. He does not hesitate in public mixed companies to call Jesus Christ Mary’s bastard, the Trinity, simple old women, and talks of committing fornication with thunder and lightning. His conversation is disgusting on this subject to all prudent, and much more so to all religious, men. If a man does not believe in the religion of his country he ought not to ridicule or scoff at it. No gentleman of good breeding will ever wittingly ridicule a religion to a people who sincerely believe and profess it. It is cruel unnecessarily to wound the feelings of others. His irreligion and prophanity have contributed to his present unpopularity.
He possesses an uncommon share of vanity. At a time when he was member of Congress, he was appointed one of the Committee who were to consult Genl. Washington upon some arrangements relative to prosecuting the war. On this occasion he hinted in very plain language to that great General of our armies, that had he been Commander he should have managed to more advantage.
With all his vanity he possesses, on some subjects, much caution and cunning. And in his view the end always justifies the means. His moral sense never restrains his actions, but his pride sometimes checks him. John T. Gilman, Esq, the present Treasurer, when at Philadelphia found that the better people held Peabody in contempt, and reproached the State for appointing such a man to that high office. On Mr. Gilman’s return to the State, he stated the fact to the Committee of Safety, and requested them to use their influence to procure Peabody’s recall from Congress. When Peabody heard of this application, he said, “When I return to New Hampshire, I will do for that young lad.” On his return, he found that Mr. Gilman and his friends and connections, were influential, and instead of opposing he flattered him in the most abject manner.
He is very attentive to his dress and equipage. He has a Clerk, whose time is principally employed in copying his letters. He boasts of unmeasured tracts of land, but has not a single deed recorded. He has notes and bonds to the amount of more than thirty thousand dollars, which his clerk has carefully numbered and recorded, but which I am confident were fabricated by himself. ’Tis now two years since he has not dared on account of debts to appear at Haverhill, which is not more than five miles from his house. A reward of ten guineas has been publickly offered to any person who would carry him there. Within this two years he has kept close within his own house. I have no doubt of his utter inability to pay his debts. His house has at all times been the resort for the vilest of men. There you might find Thaddeus Butler, Capt. Joseph Kelly, Dr. Silas Hedges, Dr. Moody Morse, William Duty, James Saunders, and their infamous associates. Men noted for perjury, forgery, counterfeiting the current coin, horse stealing, breaking gaols, and such high handed offences. When he was at the height of his power and popularity his house was then, as now, always open to those miscreants, and himself always attentive to their requests. He considered these men as firmly devoted to his interest, and more to be depended on than the populace. If this man is to be judged by his companions, he must be condemned.
He is as destitute of honor as of honesty. His promises are regarded only where his immediate interest requires it. He has often traduced, slandered and vilified men of much fairer characters than his own. When a member of the Legislature his object generally was to enquire what was popular, not what was just and right. He was always mysterious in debate and conversation. I never knew him explicit. He had no talents for business, was unable to originate and support a measure; but no man I ever saw was better qualified to perplex and embarrass. It was his forte.
As his popularity depended on the lowest classes of the people, he pursued measures to please them. His measures were calculated more to introduce anarchy than to support government. Sound policy, great and honorable views formed no part of his system. The man who was regardless of his own solemn engagements, was equally as much opposed to the support of public faith and honor. A bad citizen will be a bad ruler.
He has always advocated measures that had a tendency to relieve debtors from their engagements, and to perplex and embarrass creditors. He was zealous in support of the law making every kind of property so far a tender for the payment of debts, as to exempt the body of the debtor from imprisonment. This law has aided fraudulent debtors.
For two years this man was of the Council and the most influential at that board. The first year, 1784, Meshech Weare was then President, and he was quite superannuated. John McClary, Joseph Badger, Francis Blood and Moses Chase, Esq. were the other councillors. Peabody did everything in his power to attach them to him. He nominated them to office, and they were appointed. McClary was old, he was content with being Justice of the Peace throughout the State;616 but his son617 was made Colonel of a regiment and justice of the peace, and his son-in-law Captain of a company. Badger, though old, was made Judge of Probate and justice throughout the State. His eldest son618 was made colonel of a regiment and justice of the Peace. And his son in law, Thomas Cogswell, though he had lived but a short time in the State was appointed a Judge of the Inferior Court. Blood was also appointed a judge of the Inferior Court and a colonel of a regiment. Chase was unambitious, a justice’s commission satisfied him. Peabody might have been a judge, but as this would have excluded him from the legislature, and lessened his chance for the presidency, he refused it. He was only appointed General of the Cavalry and justice throughout the State. With such a president and council it is easy to see the course such a man would pursue. He had no children, his influence was in favor of his dependant tools, and such men as would be useful to him. By his means the infamous Moody Morse was made a justice of the peace. Benjamin Stone, a worthless wretch, was appointed Justice of the peace, special judge of the Inferior Court and colonel of a regiment. Jeremiah Gilman, a dishonest, vicious man, and a common blasphemer, was made a justice and special judge of the Superior Court. I could enumerate others equally as unworthy whom he raised to office, some of whom has since turned against him.
He possesses considerable wit and pleasantry, and can make himself agreeable to his company; and he certainly is very hospitable at his house.
The President has ordered Col. Stone and eight other militia officers to be arrested, and has ordered a court martial, of whom Genl Cilley is president, to meet the 22d of next month for their trial. I am &c.
XI TO JOHN HALE.
Londonderry, Octr 22, 1786
In my last I ought to have added to the offices given to Councillor Badger and his family the following in addition to what I then stated, viz. to himself that of Brigadier General in the militia, and to Abiel Foster, Esq. another of his sons-in-law, judge of the Inferior Court in the County of Rockingham. The Constitution619 says “Government was not instituted for the private interest or emoluments of any one man, family or class of men,” but the Council thought otherwise.
In the commencement of the revolution your friend, Woodbury Langdon, Esq. was a tory. He was one of the five who signed the protest against the war. In 1775 he embarked for England, and was often closetted by the British Minister. On his return to New York he was well accommodated in a British frigate. At New York the British imprisoned him; but it is now understood that it was done to produce an opinion here that he was friendly to our revolution. His principles are formed by his interest, and his conduct has changed with the times. He has been both Whig and tory. When he became a Whig, he inveighed with bitterness against the tories. He is certainly a man of strong mental powers, of a clear discriminating mind. Is naturally arbitrary, and has strong prejudices. His sense of what is right and his pride form a greater security for his good behavior than his love of virtue.
John Sullivan, Esqr now President of the State is
Of praise a mere glutton, he swallow’d what came,
And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame.
I never knew mortal so greedy of flattery; he swallows the grossest. Like his brother, James, of Boston, he wants what really renders man estimable, integrity. From my acquaintance with him I am confident his knowledge as a lawyer, and his talents as a man, are rated too high. His bold, unqualified declarations often supplies the want of knowledge.
The Superior Court have not yet tried the five Insurgents as rioters; they will probably fine them forty shillings each, and costs about as much more. This really will be trifling. It would better become the dignity of the Government to pardon them than to exact a paltry fine of men who had forfeited their lives by their traitorous offences. This is mere conjecture; but is occasioned by a late conversation with the Chief Justice. I am &c.
XII TO JOHN SULLIVAN.
Epping, March 14, 1787.
My dear Sir,
In a late tour through a very considerable number of towns on Connecticut river, I was pleased to find, notwithstanding the many little and infamous tricks practised by the agents and tools of certain characters, that very many of the people, and many of the most respectable, were zealous advocates for your re-election. Aaron Hutchinson, Esqr. was indefatigable in your interest. He assured me that the votes from the river towns would be numerous, and most of them for you. Capt. Cherry620 was my companion, and at all places and in all companies the name and interest of Sullivan engrossed his attention. I sincerely recommend him to your notice.
The towns of Epping and Londonderry having both of them taxed me in the capitation tax, I thought myself justified in voting, and publicly and privately using my influence in both towns in the choice of State officers. At Londonderry the votes were, for you, 70, Judge Livermore, 69, Mr. Langdon, 27. The Insurgents gave Livermore their votes. At Epping you had 105, and there were only 8 scattering votes. I presume your re-election is certain.
Your friends Prentice621 and Pinkerton622 are the representatives from Londonderry. Capt. John McKeen, one of the Insurgent chiefs, was set up against Mr. Prentice, and obtained 110 votes. Unable to elect a Representative, the insurgents exerted themselves to choose McKean one of the selectmen. They polled for it four times, and though respectable men were set up against him, he had nearly an equal number of votes with any one of them. To the honor of the town the friends of order and good government prevailed in every instance. Previous to the meeting the Insurgents were unwearied in their applications to the people. ’T is a misfortune that the disaffected usually take more pains to destroy a government, than its friends do to support it.
From an inviolable attachment to the government and prosperity of the State, I am, your Excellency’s most obedient, humble servant,
Mr. William Endicott communicated the following paper, written by Mr. Alfred B. Page:
The prevailing idea, in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, of the ominous significance of the phenomenon of comets is set forth in verse in a poem “Written by J. W. in New-England,” dated March 6, 1680–81, and printed at London by J. Darby in 1683, making a pamphlet of sixteen pages — the title on the recto of the first leaf and the text filling pp. 3–15.
The title reads as follows:623
Appeared on November 18. 1680, and continued until the 10th of February following.
Wherein is shewed the manifold Judgments that are like to attend upon most parts of the World.
Written by J. W. in New-England.
Nunquam futilibus excanduit ignibus Æther.
Heavens face such Comets ne’re did stain,
But mortal Men felt grievous pain.
Heavens face with Flames were never fill’d,
But sorrows great Mens hearts soon thrill’d.
Such Comets when Heav’ns face they cover,
Bespeak aloud that Changes hover.
LONDON, Printed by J. Darby, Anno 1683.
But it is as a hitherto unnoticed early American poem rather than as a theological prophecy that the production has value and interest now. Being a London publication of an American poem, the pamphlet is of quite as much interest as if it had been issued from the local press; and the circumstance perhaps gives an added distinction to the little book.
The following extracts show the style and tenor of the verses and the poetical fancy and practised hand of the author:
Silence all Flesh, your selves prepare
To read those Lines which written are
In Heavens large folio, with the hand
Of him that doth all things command.
My Genius moves me to declare,
And to relate what Changes are,
Routing themselves upon the seat
Of Vesta now, whereon we dwell,
And must go hence to Heaven or Hell.
I’le not besmear my Paper with
Volatile Megrim-Fancies, sith
The Eccho of approaching trouble
Upon us now doth daily double.
My Muse grows solid, and retires
From those chill-painted Fancy-Fires
Wherewith sometimes she lov’d to toy,
And therefore crys, Pardon à moy.624
You nimble Lads, who Neptune ride,
And dreadless through fierce Ocean slide,
Reef it awhile: All hands aloft!
Mind well your Helm; for you’l have oft
Salt breeming Waves, which will not burn,
Yet must become your dismal Urn.
Your Carcasses when you are dead
Will try the Depth, like Sounding-Lead;
Your briny Coats, and swollen Bulks,
Must roul on Shores like Shipwrack’d Hulks.625
A Central Line of darksome Shade
This sweeping Tail to our view made:
Which signifies the House of Mors
To those who still without remorse
Are glewed unto fond Tradition,
And to the Truth will not them fashion.626
The conclusion of the poem is as follows:
Must Heathen Nations still combine
To ruine what is prov’d divine?
Shall infidels boldly presume
God’s holy People to consume?
Shall Hereticks be bold to vent
Such Fallacies as Churches rent?
Shall Truth be trodden to the Ground
By Policy of Hell profound?
By trampling down the Common-weal?
Shall Kings and Princes now fall down
Themselves and theirs to th’ Triple Crown;
Basely prostrate, and willingly
Adore him who in ’s Villany
Doth cheat the World fallaciously,
Imposing on them cuningly?
Shall they their Swords and Spears cast down
At’s Feet, and swear to guard his Crown,
Who is their Vassal, and no Prince,
As will appear when he goes hence?
Shall th’ Golden Cup of Mountebanks
Cheat all Men, yea, Men of all ranks?
Shall no Man see and shun the Cheat?
Sure when ’tis thus, God’s Wrath is great.
If any ask how this can be?
Let him anatomize these three:
I mean the Pope, the Turk, the Devil,
Grand Architects of all that’s evil.
My Heart is cold, my Quill grows dry,
And must awhile in silence lie.
Sic Cecinit. J. W.
March 6. 1680/1.
As to the authorship of the poem and the identity of “J. W.,” it is striking that so many names with these initial letters can be easily picked out among the scholars and poets of New England at that time as the possible author. There was the famous minister and publicist, John Wise, of Ipswich, the Rev. John Woodbridge, the father (of Andover), or the son (of Wethersfield, Connecticut), any one of whom might have written the poem; then of the Winthrop family, a name which naturally suggests itself, there was [Fitz-]John, and strangely enough there is among the Winthrop family papers a carelessly made manuscript copy which plainly shows, after a careful comparison, evidence of having been taken from the printed poem.
Of the Rev. Ichabod Wiswall, of Duxbury, it has been stated by excellent authority, Alden Bradford, that “he wrote a poem which was occasioned by the appearance of a comet, and which was published in London.”627 Samuel Deane, in his History of Scituate, and Justin Winsor, in the History of Duxbury, also refer to the existence of such a poem by Wiswall. These several references to the poem and its author seem to leave no doubt as to its identity with the one under consideration; but this is the first time that the identification has been noted and established in print.
So far as is known this poem constitutes Mr. Wiswall’s only literary production, and it is worthy of notice and of reproduction on account of its excellence as verse and of its rarity.
The result of this investigation as to the authorship of this unrecognized American poem is confirmed by an entry in the Rev. Thomas Prince’s Manuscript Catalogue, which I have since seen, where the authorship is also attributed to Ichabod Wiswall. There is not now, however, a copy of the work in the Prince Collection at the Boston Public Library, although in the general collection of the library is the copy sold at the Aspinwall-Barlow sale a few years ago. In the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society is another copy which has been there many years.
It is not the purpose of this paper to furnish a biography of Mr. Wiswall, however deserving he may be of a place of rank among the early scholars of New England, but the following brief sketch may serve as an outline of his life.
Ichabod Wiswall was born in Dorchester in 1637, and was admitted to Harvard College, although he did not graduate, as will be seen further on. In 1655 he was teacher of the Dorchester school, and for many years in his later life was the noted teacher of Duxbury. The period of Mr. Wiswall’s life spent in the settlements on the Kennebec River was described in 1896 by the Rev. Henry O. Thayer.628 In Duxbury Mr. Wiswall was ordained as the minister of the church in 1676, and here for a quarter of a century he was the faithful minister and helpful citizen until his death in the year 1700. In 1689–1690 he was the chosen Agent of the Plymouth Colony, as Increase Mather was of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, at the English Court, which missioh kept him there many months. The expressions in his letter to Governor Thomas Hinckley at this time629 also show his interest in astronomy and his familiarity with that science.
The following account of the earliest “rebellion” among the students of Harvard College, about the year 1655, was written by the Rev. Thomas Prince in 1757, with reference to the Rev. Samuel Torrey, of Weymouth, Massachusetts; but it is equally applicable to the Rev. Ichabod Wiswall. The account appears in the Preface to Mr. William Torrey’s A Brief Discourse concerning Futurities , and is as follows:
I suppose he was admitted into Harvard-College, about 1650 [1651 in the case of Wiswall], and should, according to the preceeding Custom, have taken his first Degree in three Years. But the Corporation making a Law that the Scholars should study at College four Years before they commenced Batchelors in Arts; several Scholars tho’ they were accounted as good as any before them, and I suppose of different Classes, went off, and never took any Degree at all. There were at least Five of them, who after made a very shining Figure in New-England: viz. Gov. Josiah Winslow; this Rev. Mr. Samuel Torrey; the Rev. Mr. Ichabod Wiswall of Duxbury, Agent for Plymouth-Colony at the Court of England upon the Revolution; the Rev. Mr. Samuel Wakeman of Fairfield; and the Rev. Mr. Brinsmead of Marlborough: who would all have been a great Honour to our Harvard-Catalogue: and 1 could wish their Names might be yet inserted, as educated there and qualified for their First Degree, tho’ diverted from it (pp. i, ii).630
It is well to credit Mr. Wiswall at this day with the estimate of his contemporaries, that he was “nearly a faultless man” and was highly regarded for his “talents, piety, and incorruptible integrity;” and it is a pleasure to recall to mind this distinguished man and his forgotten contribution to early American poetry.
On behalf of Mr. Albert Matthews, Mr. Endicott communicated the paper which follows.631
At three different times the famous snake devices, which presumably originally owed their existence to the Suggestion of Franklin,632 became prominent in the history of the American colonies, — first shortly before the meeting of the Albany Congress in 1754, again about when the Stamp Act went into force in 1765, and finally for a year or so before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. While the influence they exerted may not have been great, yet it was appreciable, and their popularity seems to warrant a somewhat detailed account of their history. Not that historians have neglected them — on the contrary, a good deal has been said about them. But unfortunately what has been said has been mainly inaccurate,633 and when writers have attempted to reproduce the original snake device they have, almost without exception, reproduced something else.634 Such being the case, there appears to be ample excuse for facsimile reproductions of some of the various devices and for a correct statement as to their history.
In his American Revolution, published in 1891, Fiske wrote:
In 1754, the prospect of immediate war with the French led several of the royal governors to call for a congress of all the colonies, to be held at Albany. . . . New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland — only seven of the thirteen colonies — sent commissioners to this congress. The people showed little interest in the movement. It does not appear that any public meetings were held in favour of it. Among the newspapers, the only one which warmly approved of it seems to have been the “Pennsylvania Gazette,” edited by Benjamin Franklin, which appeared with a union device and the motto “Unite or Die!” (i. 7).
This passage is so misleading, even when not actually inaccurate, as to require comment. First, the call for the Albany Congress was issued December 24, 1753, by the Governor of New York on the recommendation of the Lords of Trade dated September 18, 1753.635 Secondly, the absence of public meetings in favor of a union is noteworthy only in case public meetings were commonly held at that time. I apprehend that they were not. Thirdly, even admitting that “warm approval” is not too strong language to apply to a single appeal for union made nearly six weeks before the meeting of the Albany Congress, yet the Pennsylvania Gazette was not the only paper to make such an appeal. Fourthly, the statement that the Pennsylvania Gazette appeared “with a union device” gives the impression that such a device was adopted as the heading of the paper. Such was not the case. Fifthly, the motto used in Franklin’s device was not “Unite or Die!” but “JOIN, or DIE.”
The Albany Congress was called for June 14, but, owing to the failure of the Indians to arrive promptly,636 did not meet until June 19, and ended July 11. It should not be forgotten that at the time the important thing was the treaty with the Indians, a plan of union being looked upon as secondary. After a treaty had been concluded with the Indians and the red men had departed,’ then a plan of union was taken up in earnest.637 A careful examination of such newspapers638 as I can find published during the months of May, June, July, and August, 1754, yields the following result. In the Pennsylvania Gazette of May 9 was printed the article presently to be quoted.639 In the same paper of Thursday, June 6, appeared the following:
The Commissioners appointed by his Honour the Governor in behalf of this Province, for the ensuing Treaty at Albany, set out for that Place on Monday last, accompanied by sundry Gentlemen of this City: And the Commissioners from Maryland left Town the next Day for the same Place (p. 2/2).640
With the above exception, every item about the Albany Congress which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette was copied directly from a New York paper; and while there are in the Pennsylvania Gazette various items about the Albany Congress, they all relate to the treaty with the Indians or to the commissioners, and there is not a single allusion to the plan of union.641 On the other hand, other newspapers contained interesting items, some of which were not copied into the Pennsylvania Gazette, about the Albany Congress and the plan of union. The following remarks were made by Governor Shirley of Massachusetts on April 2, as reported in the Boston Evening-Post of April 29:
Such an Union of Councils, besides the happy Effect it will probably have upon the Indians of the Six Nations, may lay a Foundation for a general One among all His Majesty’s Colonies, for the mutual Support and Defence against the present dangerous Enterprizes of the French on every Side of them (p. 1/2).
For forming this general Union, Gentlemen, there is no Time to be lost (p. 2/1).
His Majesty hath given the strongest Proof of His paternal Care of his Colonies, and constant Attention to their Safety, in directing his Governors to promote this Union within their respective Governments (p. 2/1).
On April 25 Governor Belcher of New Jersey — the only Northern colony which sent no commissioners to Albany — said, as reported in the Boston Gazette of July 16:
Yet, if, upon the Whole, there becomes a strict Union among all his Majesty’s Colonies, we may reasonably hope (with the help of God) the Designs of the French will soon be rendered vain and abortive (p. 1/1).
In the Boston Evening-Post of June 3 appeared the following:
Annapolis, in Maryland, May 16. Yesterday a Vote passed the lower House of Assembly, for granting 3000 l. towards the present Expedition; and 500 l. for a Present to be made the Indians, at the Treaty to be held at Albany next month (p. 4/1).
In the Boston Evening-Post of May 20 was printed “The Message of both Houses [of the Massachusetts Legislature] to his Excellency, in Answer to his two Speeches, of the 28th of March, and the 2d of April last,” from which the following is extracted:
Your Excellency must be sensible that an Union of the several Governments for their mutual Defence, and for the Annoyance of the Enemy, has long been desired by this Province, and Proposals made for this Purpose; we are still in the same Sentiments, and shall use our Endeavours to effect it (p. 1/2).
In the Boston Evening-Post of August 12 was printed the following:
Charlestown, South-Carolina, June 20. As the Motions of the French on the Ohio River, and the Measures they are pursuing there, threaten to disturb the Tranquility of the British Provinces; it is greatly to be wish’d that the British Provinces would unite in some System or Scheme for the publick Peace and Safety. Such an Union would render us respected by the French, for they are no Strangers to our Power, tho’ they may perhaps suspect our Prudence; let us give them this Proof of our Wisdom, and they will hardly make any Experiment of our Strength
In the Boston Post-Boy of Monday, July 22, appeared the following:
On Tuesday Evening came to Town, the Hon. Thomas Hutchinson, Esq; Judge of Probate for this County, and one of the Commissioners at the late Convention in Albany.— We are informed, That the Indians had all left that City in a good Temper; but that a much smaller Number attended the Interview, than heretofore has been usual. — That the Commissioners from the several Governments were unanimously of Opinion, That an Union of the Colonies was absolutely necessary in order to defeat the Schemes of the French. — That a Representation of the State of the British Interest on this Continent, as it stands related to the French and Indians, has been drawn up and approved of: And that a Plan of Union has likewise been projected, and will, by the said Commissioners, be laid before their respective Constituents. — All the Commissioners left Albany the 12th Instant (p. 2/2).
This paragraph was also printed in the Boston Evening-Post of July 22 (p. 4/1), in the Boston Gazette of July 23 (p. 3/2), and in the New-York Mercury of July 29 (p. 2/3), but it was apparently not reprinted in the Pennsylvania Gazette. More than half of the Boston Gazette of October 1 is taken up with a reprint from the New-York Weekly Gazette of September 23 of “A Summary View of the present State of this Continent in general and of the Province of New-York in particular, with regard to our neighbouring Enemies the French,” which ends as follows:
To obtain this happy Establishment, without which I fear it never will be obtained, May the God of Heaven grant Success to the Plan of Union of the British Colonies on the Continent of America.Amen and Amen (p. 3/1).
Having thus shown that “warm approval” of a plan of union642 was by no means confined to the Pennsylvania Gazette, let us return to the article which appeared in that paper on May 9. It occupied the larger part of the first column of the second page of that issue, and is as follows:
PHILADELPHIA, May 9.
Friday last an Express arrived here from Major Washington, with Advice, that Mr. Ward,643 Ensign of Capt. Trent’s644 Company, was compelled to surrender his small Fort in the Forks of Monongahela to the French, on the 17th past; who fell down from Venango with a Fleet of 360 Battoes and Conoes, upwards of 1000 men, and 18 Pieces of Artillery, which they planted against the Fort; and Mr. Ward having but 44 Men, and no Cannon to make a proper Defence, was obliged to surrender on Summons, capitulating to march out with their Arms, &c. and they had accordingly joined Major Washington, who was advanced with three Companies of the Virginia Forces, as far as the New Store near the Allegheny Mountains, where the Men were employed in clearing a Road for the Cannon, which were every Day expected with Col. Frye,645 and the Remainder of the Regiment. — We hear farther, that some few of the English Traders on the Ohio escaped, but ’tis supposed the greatest Part are taken, with all their Goods, and Skins, to the Amount of near 20,000 £. The Indian Chiefs, however, have dispatch’d Messages to Pennsylvania, and Virginia, desiring that the English would not be discouraged, but send out their Warriors to join them, and drive the French out of the Country before they fortify; otherwise the Trade will be lost, and, to their great Grief, an eternal Separation made between the Indians and their Brethren the English. ’Tis farther said, that besides the French that came down from Venango, another Body of near 400, is coming up the Ohio; and that 600 French Indians, of the Chippaways and Ottaways, are coming down Siota River, from the Lake, to join them; and many more French are expected from Canada; the Design being to establish themselves, settle their Indians, and build Forts just on the Back of our Settlements in all our Colonies; from which Forts, as they did from Crown-Point, they may send out their Parties to kill and scalp the Inhabitants, and ruin the Frontier Counties. Accordingly we hear, that the Back Settlers in Virginia, are so terrify’d by the Murdering and Scalping of the Family last Winter,646 and the Taking of this Fort, that they begin already to abandon their Plantations, and remove to Places of more Safety. — The Confidence of the French in this Undertaking seems well grounded on the present disunited State of the British Colonies, and the extreme difficulty of bringing so many different Governments and Assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual Measures for our common Defence and Security; while our Enemies have the very great Advantage of being under one Direction, with one Council, and one Purse. Hence, and from the great Distance of Britain, they presume that they may with Impunity violate the most solemn Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns, kill, seize and imprison our Traders, and confiscate their Effects at Pleasure (as they have done for several Years past) murder and scalp our Farmers, with their Wives and Children, and take an easy Possession of such Parts of the British Territory as they find most convenient for them; which if they are permitted to do, must end in the Destruction of the British Interest, Trade and Plantations in America.
Pennsylvania Gazette 9 May 1754 from the original in the Possesion of the America Antiquarian Society
Boston News-Letter 23 May 1754 from the original in the Possesion of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Boston News-Letter 21 May 1754 from the original in the Possesion of the Massachusetts Historical Society
Boston Evening Post 7 October 1765 from the original in the Possesion of the Boston Athenaeum
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts
This appeal for concerted action on, the part of the colonies was enforced by a pictorial design of which a facsimile reproduction is given facing page 416. It was a snake cut into eight parts, the head representing New England, and each of the other seven parts representing respectively New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — each part being indicated by its appropriate initial letter or letters. It will be observed that Georgia is omitted. Underneath the snake is the motto “JOIN, or DIE.” The above paragraph was reprinted, in part or in whole, in most of the newspapers then published in the American colonies.647 The snake device appeared in the following papers:
- Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754, p. 2/1.
- New-York Gazette, May 13, p. 2/2.
- New-York Mercury, May 13, p. 2/3.
- Boston Gazette, May 21, p. 3/1.
- Boston News-Letter, May 23, p. 1/1.
As is to be expected, the devices varied somewhat. Those in the New-York Gazette and in the New-York Mercury differed only in trifling particulars from the original, chiefly in having the initial letters differently placed. The device in the Boston News-Letter is very like the original, except that the legend “Unite & Conquer” is coming from the mouth of the snake. In the device found in the Boston Gazette, the snake is differently designed, and from its mouth, which is open in a very fierce way, comes the legend “Unite and Conquer.” In all devices the motto of the original is given beneath the snake, but with an occasional variation in the use of punctuation points. The Boston Evening-Post of May 20 reprinted the article, but did not reproduce the device. There is no known copy of the Boston Post-Boy of May 20. The Pennsylvania Journal of May 9 printed an article similar to the above but much shorter (filling seventeen lines, instead of forty-eight lines in the Pennsylvania Gazette), omitting the appeal for union and without a device. The device was apparently not reproduced in the Maryland Gazette.648 Not having seen the Virginia Gazette, I am unable to speak of it with certainty. But the following passage, taken from the Boston Gazette of August 13, was presumably copied from the Virginia Gazette of July 19:
Williamsburg, (in Virginia,) July 19.
On Wednesday last arrived in Town Colonel Washington, and Capt. Maccay,649 who gave the following Account to his Honour the Governor,650 of the late Action between them and the French, at the Great Meadows in the Western Parts of this Dominion (p. 2/2).651
Col. Washington and Capt. Maccay, left Captain Clarke652 at Winchester, on the 11th last, and his Men were not then arrived there. Thus have a few brave Men been exposed, to be butchered, by the Negligence of those, who in Obedience to their Sovereign’s Command, ought to have been with them many Months before; and it is evidently certain, that had the Companies from New York been as expeditious as Capt. Maccay’s from South-Carolina, our Camp would have been secure from the Insults of the French, and our brave Men still alive to serve their King and Country.653 Surely this will remove the Infatuation that seems to have prevailed too much among our Neighbours, and inforce a late ingenious Emblem worthy of their Attention & Consideration (p. 3/1).
That “a late ingenious Emblem” was the snake device is sufficiently obvious, but is capable of proof. I have been unable to find a copy of the South Carolina Gazette of the right date, but in the issue of that paper dated August 22 the above passage was printed, followed by this remark:
[The Emblem here mentioned, was a Figure of a Snake, (exhibited in the Pennsylvania Gazette and other Northern News Papers) divided into 8 Pieces, as represented by the Lines underneath,
With these Words under the Pieces, “Join or Die.”]654
From this it may be inferred that the device itself had not been reproduced in the South Carolina Gazette. But be that as it may, certainly the fame of the snake device had been spread throughout the colonies. It lay dormant, however, for over eleven years, when it suddenly renewed its life. Before taking up this second manifestation, let us, in proof of a statement made at the beginning of the present paper, consider some of the descriptions of the original device. I have met with none between 1754 and 1810, in which year Isaiah Thomas described — and correctly described — “the device of a snake, divided into parts, with the motto — ‘Join or die,’ . . . The snake was divided into eight parts, to represent, first, Newengland; second, Newyork; third, Newjersey; fourth, Pennsylvania; fifth, Maryland; sixth, Virginia; seventh, Northcarolina; and, eighth, Southcarolina.”655 In 1836 Jared Sparks wrote:
The Pennsylvania Gazette for May 9th, 1754, contains an account of the capture by the French of Captain Trent’s party, who were erecting a fort (afterwards Fort Duquesne) at the Fork of the Ohio. . . . At the end of the article is a wood-cut,656 in which is the figure of a snake, separated into parts, to each of which is affixed the initial of one of the colonies, and at the bottom in large capitals the motto, Join or Die.657
In 1864 James Parton remarked:
We must unite, or be overcome, said Franklin. In May, 1754, just before leaving home to attend the Congress at Albany, he published an article to this effect in the Gazette, and appended to it one of those allegorical wood-cuts of which he was so fond. It was the picture of a snake cut into as many pieces as there were colonies, each piece having upon it the first letter of the name of a colony, and under the whole, in capital letters, appeared the words Join or Die.
Referring to the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1754, William E. Foster declared in 1884:
It was in this paper that he had published only a month earlier, (May 9, 1754), the article in which he introduced the woodcut “Join or die,” (the figure of a snake, cut into thirteen pieces), which became a very effective device, ten years later.658
Alluding to the Albany Congress of 1754, Colonel Higginson asserted in 1886 that —
It was in this convention that Franklin began a course of national influence which was long continued, and brought forward his famous representation of the snake dismembered, with the motto “Unite or Die.”659
Writing of the Constitutional Courant of September 21, 1765 — a document presently to be discussed — John Austin Stevens in 1892, ingeniously fell into a double error in stating that —
It bore as a head-piece the device of a snake cut into parts to represent the colonies, with the motto “Unite or die,” the familiar symbol used by Dr. Franklin in his “Pennsylvania Gazette,” in 1754, to arouse the colonies to the danger of the French invasion.660
Neither Franklin’s device of 1754 nor the device of 1765 bore that motto. In 1900 Mr. Paul E. More declared that —
Franklin had already published in his “Gazette” an article on the subject [of union], to which he had added a wood-cut showing a snake cut in thirteen pieces with the device Join or Die.661
If these verbal descriptions of Franklin’s device are surprising, still more remarkable are some of the alleged reproductions of the device itself. In his Many-sided Franklin, published in 1899, Paul Leicester Ford reproduced — and, as one would naturally expect, correctly reproduced — the device on page 418 of his book. The device is also correctly reproduced in “Pennsylvania: Colonial and Federal,” edited by Howard M. Jenkins in 1903; but the description underneath the cut is hardly correct: “Franklin’s device and motto published in the Pennsylvania Gazette at the time of the Albany Congress, 1754” (I. 353). As we have already seen, the device appeared nearly six weeks before the Albany Congress met.
That Benson J. Lossing had never seen Franklin’s device of 1754 is evident from his statement, made in 1881, that “this snake device first appeared when the Stamp Act was at its height.”662 Lossing then proceeds to give a cut of what presumably he considered the original device, but what was really the device employed by William and Thomas Bradford in the heading of their Pennsylvania Journal from July 27, 1774, to October 18, 1775. The cut used by Lossing in 1881 had previously been used in 1851 in his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (I. 508), and was again used in 1902 in Harper’s Encyclopædia of United States History (IX. 154).
In 1892 John Austin Stevens reproduced in the Memorial History of the City of New-York (II. 353) what purports to be “Franklin’s ‘Unite or Die,’” but what in reality is the Bradford device in the Pennsylvania Journal of 1774–1775.
In the illustrated edition of his American Revolution, published in 1896, Fiske reproduced (I. 6) what purports to be “Unite or Die. From the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1754,” but what is once more the Bradford device in the Pennsylvania Journal of 1774–1775.
In J. W. Garner and H. C. Lodge’s History of the United States, published in 1906, there is given (I. 381) a cut which appears without any explanation either in text or note. Hence it is impossible to say what the authors considered it to be. It is the Bradford device in the Pennsylvania Journal of 1774–1775.663
The Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, 1765. On September 21 of that year there appeared what has sometimes been called a newspaper, but what was really a political skit, and is now a bibliographical curiosity, — the Constitutional Courant. A reprint of this follows:
JOIN or DIE,
Saturday, September 21, 1765.
The Constitutional COURANT:
Containing Matters interesting to Liberty, and no wise repugnant to Loyalty.
To the PUBLIC.
WHEN a new public664 Paper makes its appearance, the reader will naturally be curious to know from whence it came, the publisher, and the design of it. To gratify that curiosity, know reader, that the publisher having formerly acquired a competent knowledge of the Printing-business, for his amusement furnished himself with a set of proper materials;— And the authors of the following pieces having acquainted him that they applied to the printers in York, who refused to publish them in their news-papers — not because they disapproved them, or were apprehensive of danger, but purely because several of their friends had been anxious on their account, and particularly desired them to be careful not to publish any thing that might give the enemies of liberty an advantage, which they would be glad to take, over them; and as these pieces are thought to be wrote with greater freedom than any thing that has yet appeared in the public prints, they thought proper to shew so much complaisance to the advice of their friends, as to desire to be excused, and to return the copies: But I, who am under no fear of disobliging either friends or enemies, was pleased with the opportunity of turning my private amusements to the public good; I not only undertook to publish them, but now inform my countrymen, that I shall occasionally publish any thing else that falls in my way, which appears to me to be calculated to promote the cause of liberty, of virtue, of religion and my country, of love and reverence to its laws and constitution, and unshaken loyalty to the King.— And so I bid you heartily farewell.
From an Original in the possession of the Lenox Library
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts
AT a time when our dearest privileges are torn from us, and the foundation of all our liberty subverted, every one who has the least spark of love to his country, must feel the deepest anxiety about our approaching fate. The hearts of all who have a just value for freedom, must burn within them, when they see the chains of abject slavery just ready to be riveted about our necks. It has been undeniably demonstrated, by the various authors who have dared to assert the cause of these injured colonies, that no Englishman can be taxed, agreeable to the known principles of our constitution, but by his own consent, given either by himself or his representatives, — that these colonies are not in any sense at all represented in the British parliament, — that the first adventurers into these uncultivated desarts, were, in every colony, either by royal charters,666 or royal concessions, in the most express terms possible, assured, that all their rights and privileges667 as British subjects, should be preserved to them unimpaired, — that these original concessions have been repeatedly allowed by the crown, and have never been controverted till this memorable period. The arguments by which these points have been established beyond all dispute, I need not repeat; their evidence is such as must flash conviction into the minds of all but the vile minions of tyranny and arbitrary power. The tremendous conclusion, therefore, forces itself upon us, that the public faith of the nation, in which, till now, we thought we might securely confide, is violated, and we robbed of our dearest rights by the late law erecting a stamp-office among us.
What then is to be done? Shall we sit down quietly, while the yoke of slavery is wreathing about our necks?. He that is stupid enough to plead for this, deserves to be a slave. Shall we not hope still that some resource is left us in the royal care and benevolence? We have the happiness to be governed by one of the best of kings,668 who is our common father,669 and must be supposed to be under no temptations to sacrifice the rights of one part of his subjects to the caprice of another.
The power of executing the laws is, by the constitution, vested in the crown. We never can suppose that our sovereign, when our state is properly represented to him, will employ that power to execute a law so evidently iniquitous and unreasonable, [A 1/2]670 especially when a method of answering the same ends, (as far as they ought to be answered) perfectly agreeable to the con[- B 1/2] stitution, so readily offers itself. — Let us then besiege the throne with petitions and humble remonstrances, and not doubt of a favorable issue in the result.
It must certainly give the most sensible pleasure to every American that loves this his native country, to find a proposal set on foot for all the colonies to lay before his majesty a united representation of their grievances, and pray a redress. Such a representation as this, in the name of so large and respectable a body of his subjects, must have great weight and influence in the royal councils. That so excellent a scheme is likely to be so generally complied with, raises our hopes, and demonstrates that the sons of America are not afraid nor ashamed [C 1/2] to be her advocates against tyranny and oppression, tho’ obtruding themselves under the sanction of a law. But what are we to think of a set of mushroom patriots, who have refused to concur in so noble an attempt? In what light can we view this conduct? Shall they who by office and profession engage to assert the cause of public671 liberty, own themselves such dastards as to be afraid to speak, when their country is injured in her most sacred rights, yea, inslaved, lest they provoke her oppressors? ‘Tell it not in Gath!’ — Liberty and property are necessarily connected together: He that deprives of the latter without our consent, deprives of the former. What is a slave, but one who depends upon the will of another for the enjoyment of his life and property? This surely is a very precarious tenure. He that assumes to himself a right to deprive me of any part of my estate (however small that part may be) on certain occasions, of which he is to be the sole judge, may with equal reason deprive me of the whole, when he thinks proper: And he that thinks he has a right to strip me of all my property, when he sees fit, may with equal justice deprive me of my life, when he thinks his own interest requires it. If a king, tho’ invested with lawful authority, adopts these principles, none will hesitate to pronounce him a tyrant. But where is the difference between a prince who treats his subjects in this manner, and a number of fellow-subjects who usurp such a power over others? All that I can see, is, that in the former case we should groan under the oppression of one man; but in the latter, under that of a great body of men, which will generally be by far the most intolerable, as it is much better to have only one tyrant than several hundreds.
This, my countrymen, is our unhappy lot: The same principles on which the vile minions of tyranny vindicate the present tax, will vindicate the most oppressive laws conceivable. They need only boldly assert, that we are virtually represented in the British parliament, that they are the properest judges of the sums necessary to be raised, and of our ability to pay them, therefore such a tax is equitable, be it what it will, tho’ it reduces nine-tenths of us to instant beggary. If we throw in petitions against them, they need only say, ’tis against the known rules of this house to admit petitions against money bills, and so forever deny us the liberty of being heard. Was there ever a wider door opened for the entrance of arbitrary power, with all its horrors? Can the annals of Turkey produce its parallel? Even there, where tyranny has long established her gloomy throne, the subject is frequently indulged the liberty of complaining under grievances, and often uses that liberty with success. Poor America! the bootless privilege of complaining, always allowed the vilest criminals on the rack, is denied thee!
Let none censure these free thoughts as treasonable: I know they will be called so by those who would gladly transform these flourishing colonies into the howling seats of thraldom and wretchedness; but the sentiments of such miscreants are little to be regarded. We cherish the most unfeigned loyalty to our rightful sovereign; we have a high veneration for the British parliament; we consider them as the most august assembly on earth; but the wisest of kings [A 1/3] may be misled; some persons they must trust for the information they receive; those persons are generally such,672 whose interest it is to represent all things to them in false lights; so that it is rather to [B 1/3] be admired that they are not oftener misled than they are. Parliaments also are liable to mistakes, yea, sometimes fall into capital errors, and frame laws the most oppressive to the subject, yea, sometimes take such steps, which, if persisted in, would soon unhinge the whole constitution. Our histories bear innumerable attestations to the truth of this. It cannot be treason to point out such mistakes and the consequences of them, yea to set them in the most glaring light, to alarm the subject. By acting on this principle, our ancestors have transmitted to us our privileges inviolated; let us therefore prosecute the same glorious plan. Let the British parliament be treated with all possible respect, while they treat us as fellow-subjects: but if they transgress the bounds prescribed them by the constitution, if they usurp a jurisdiction, to which they have no right; if they infringe our liberties, and pursue such measures as will infallibly end in a Turkish despotism; if they violate public faith, and destroy confidence in the royal promises, let us boldly deny all such usurped jurisdiction; we owe them no more subjection, in this respect, than the Divan of Constantinople; to seem to acknowledge such a claim, would be to court our chains. Be assured, my countrymen, whatever spirit we manifest on this juncture, it cannot be offensive to our sovereign: He [C 1/3] glories in being King of freemen, and not of slaves. To shew that we are freemen, and resolve to continue so, cannot displease, but must endear us to him. It must endear us also to all the true sons of liberty in Great-Britain, to see that we have carried over the Atlantic the genuine spirit of our ancestors. We can offend none but a set of the blackest villains, and these we must always offend, unless we will tamely suffer them to tread down our rights at pleasure. With them, liberty is always treason, and an advocate for the people’s rights, a sower of sedition. Let it be our honor, let it be our boast, to be odious to these foes to human kind; let us shew them that we consider them only as beasts of prey, formed to devour; that tho’ full of loyalty to the best of kings, and ready to spill the last drop of our blood in his service, yet we dare bid defiance to all who are betraying the sovereign, and sacrificing his people.
While too many to the Westward are thinking of nothing but tamely yielding their necks to the yoke, it revives the courage of all who wish well to their country, to see such a noble spirit prevailing in the eastern colonies. There the gentlemen appointed to serve as tools to enslave their countrymen, have some of them gloriously disdained the dirty employment; they have scorned to raise their own fortunes by such detestable means; they have shewn that they esteem the public good, infinitely above all private emolument; in [B 2/1] short, they have proved themselves true lovers of their COUNTRY. Let their names be enrolled in the annals of fame; let them be embalmed to all posterity, and serve as examples to fire the breasts of patriots yet unborn. Others, we find, have been intimidated into a resignation, by those hardy sons of liberty, and have the mortification to see all their vile schemes of enriching themselves out of the plunder of their fellow-subjects, blasted in an instant. But what name shall we give those miscreants who still resolve to keep the detested office? How hard that heart must be, which is insensible of the dearest and tenderest of all obligations? which feels no sympathy for a native country, oppressed and ruined? but can please itself with the hellish prospect of increasing private wealth by her spoils? Ye blots and stains of America! Ye vipers of human kind! Your names shall be blasted with infamy, the public673 execration shall pursue you while living, and your memories shall rot, when death has disabled you from propagating vassalage and misery any further: Your crimes shall haunt you like spectres, and take vengeance for the crimes of distressed innocence.
[A 2/1] We cannot be enslaved without you reach out a helping hand: If you emulate the noble example of some of your fellow-officers, whose disinterestedness will endear them to generations yet unborn, the chains of thraldom cannot be put about our necks, at least the duration of our freedom will be prolonged. Dare you then bear a part in hastening its final extinction? Can you expect to escape the unseen hand of resentment, awakened by injuries like these? Assure yourselves the spirit of Brutus and Cassius is yet alive; there are who dare strike a blow to avenge their insulted country. Know ye vile miscreants, we love liberty, and we fear not to shew it. We abhor slavery, and detest the remotest aiders and abettors of our bondage: but native Americans, who are diabolical enough to help forward our ruin, we execrate as the worst of parricides. Parricides! ’tis too soft a term: Murder your fathers, rip up the bowels of your mothers, dash the infants you have begotten against the stones, and be blameless; — but enslave your country! entail vassalage, that worst of all human miseries, that sum of all wretchedness, on millions! This, this is guilt, this calls for heaven’s fiercest vengeance. But rouse, rouse my countrymen, let the villain that is hardy enough to persist, do it at his peril. Shew them we have resentment no less keen than our Eastern brethren; will you tamely suffer the execution of a law that reduces you to the vile condition of slaves, and is abhorred by all the genuine sons of liberty? Let the wretch that sleeps now, be branded as an enemy to his country.
THE675 late violences committed in the Eastern colonies, in resentment and opposition to the Stamp Act, and all its contrivers and abettors;676 whether they proceeded from the misguided zeal of those who had a strong sensibility of the injury done their country by that act, or from the villainous cunning of those who took the opportunity of the public discontent, to promote and increase the tumult, in order to perpetrate the most atrocious crimes; in either case, the true lovers of liberty and their country, who detest and abhor the Stamp Act from principle, and a certain knowledge of their rights, violated by that act, are far from countenancing, or being pleased with these violences; on the contrary, they hear of them with concern and sorrow, not only as they must necessarily involve many innocent persons in distress, who had no share in the guilt that excited the public677 resentment; but also as they injure a good cause, and check the spirit of opposition to an act illegally obtruded upon us, to deprive us of our most sacred rights, and change our freedom to slavery, by a legislature who have no lawful authority over us. The terrible effects of those popular tumults, are likely to startle men who have been accustomed to venerate and obey lawful authority, and who delight in peace and order; and to make them doubt the justice of the cause attended with such direful consequences. But the guilt of all these violences is most justly chargeable upon the authors and abettors678 of the Stamp Act. They who endeavour to destroy the foundations of the English constitution, and break thro’ the fence of the laws, in order to let in a torrent of tyranny and oppression upon their fellow-subjects, ought not to be surprized if they are overwhelmed in it themselves. If they whom the people have invested with power, to be employed for the public good, pervert it to quite contrary purposes, to oppress and insult those by whom they are supported; is it not ridiculous for them to expect security from those laws which they themselves break thro’ to injure their country? If they become arbitrary, and use their power against the people who give it; can they suppose that the people, in their turn, will not exert their inherent power against their oppressors, and be as arbitrary as they? When such a power is raised, as it is not under the restraint of any regular government or direction, terrible effects may generally be expected from it. But those are answerable for them, who raised the tempest. — Let no man then suffer his rights to be torn from him, for fear of the consequences of defending them, — however dreadful they may be, the guilt of them does not lie at [B 2/2] his door. However, I would wish my countrymen to avoid such violent proceedings, if possible; but at the same time to oppose the execution of the Stamp Act, with a steady and perpetual exertion of their whole power, — and by all means, to endeavour, jointly and severally, to throw all possible obstructions in the way of its taking effect, and to treat with the utmost ignominy and detestation, all those enemies and betrayers of their country’s most sacred rights, who officiously endeavour to inforce it: I would [A 2/2] wish them never to pay one farthing of this tax, but leave the infamous officers, if they will have it, to take it by force, by way of robbery and plunder. — For the moment we submit to pay this tax, as to lawful authority, that moment we commence as errant slaves as any in Turkey, the fence of our liberty and property is broken down, and the foundation of the English constitution,679 with respect to us, is utterly destroyed. Let us not flatter ourselves, that we shall be happier, or treated with more lenity than our fellow slaves in Turkey: human nature is the same every where, and unlimited power is as much to be dreaded among us, as it is in the most barbarous nations upon earth: It is slavery that hath made them barbarous, and the same cause will have the same effect upon us. The inhabitants of Greece, Rome, and Constantinople, were once free and happy, and the liberal arts and sciences flourished among them; but slavery has spread ignorance, barbarism and misery over those once delightful regions, where the people are sunk into a stupid insensibility of their condition, and the spirit of liberty, after being depressed above a thousand years, seems now to be lost irrecoverably. It is better to die in defence of our rights, than to leave such a state as this to the generations that succeed us.
It cannot be possible that our sovereign, or any of our English fellow-subjects, who understand and value their own rights, can be displeased with us for asserting ours. Do we claim any but what are as clear as the noon day? Have we not by nature a right to liberty and property; as Englishmen, by laws and charters, in terms as plain as words can express? Is it not a fundamental principle of the English constitution, that no man shall be bound but by laws of his own making, nor taxed but by his own consent, given by representatives of his own choosing? And have we not a right to have all our causes tried by our peers, that is680 by juries, men of our own rank,681 indifferently chosen, and to whom we have no reasonable objection; — and does not the Stamp Act, in the most flagrant manner, violate all these rights, our liberty, our property, and682 trials by juries? Our liberty, in being subjected to laws that we had no share in making; our property, in being taxed without our own consent, in a parliament where we never had either the choice of a person to represent us, nor any that were qualified for the office, or interested in our welfare; and in our trials by juries, because an informer or prosecutor has it in his choice, whether to try the matter in a court of common law, or a court of admiralty: — and as these courts are immediately under the influence of the crown, and the act allows no appeal from them, except to a court of vice-admiralty, which is of the same kind, we have reason to think these courts will be as arbitrary and as oppressive as ever the high commission and star chamber courts were: And as this act gives them jurisdiction over matters that have no relation to navigation or sea affairs, they may, with equal propriety, have jurisdiction in cases of life and death. This is a real representation of the slavish state we are reduced to by the Stamp Act, if we ever suffer it to take place among us. It is easy to see that the ministry design to alter and overturn the English constitution, and have invented a number of expedients to break thro’ the restraints that the laws lay upon arbitrary dispositions, and are labouring to become despotic and uncontroulable.
If683 the English parliament can lay these burdens upon us, they can also, if they please, take our whole property from us, and order us to be sold for slaves, or put to death. But how came the.English parliament by such a right over us? They are chosen by the people of Great-Britain to represent them. They have no power but what is delegated to them by their constituents; and those constituents have no power over our liberty or property. Their power (over these things at least) is purely local, and confined to the places they are chosen to represent; and it is plain they cannot represent the people of America, for that would deprive them of their most valuable rights as Englishmen, and be a contradiction to common sense.
It684 is a rule that no man in England shall be capable of serving as a representative in parliament, without having a considerable property in England; the reason of this rule is plain; because he will be affected in his own fortune, by the laws he is concerned in making for the public, the good of which he will consult for his own sake: — But consider this rule with respect to America: Have all the Members of parliament property there? Will they each feel part of the burdens they lay upon us? — No. But their own burdens will be lightened by laying them upon our shoulders, and all they take from us will [A 2/3] be gains to themselves: Heaven defend us from such representatives!
Let none falsely insinuate, that this spirit of opposition to the Stamp Act, which prevails throughout the British dominions in America, has in it the least tincture of rebellion against lawful authority, or disloyalty to our king. Whoever brings such charges against us, is a slanderer and a villain. We have the highest degree of veneration for the laws and constitution of [B 2/3]685 England; they are our birth right686 and inheritance, and we would defend them with our lives. We have the most affectionate loyalty to our rightful sovereign George the third, and his royal house, and we are ready to risk our lives and fortunes in his and their defence. We have the highest respect and reverence for the British parliament, which we believe to be the most august and respectable body of men upon earth, and we desire that all their rights, privileges and honors may forever be preserved to them, and to every rank and order of men in the kingdom of Great-Britain, whose welfare, prosperity, and honor we sincerely wish, and should rejoice in. We consider ourselves as one people with them, and glory in the relation between us; and we desire our connection may forever continue, as it is our best security against foreign invaders, and as we may reciprocally promote the welfare and strength of each other. Such are our sentiments and affections towards our mother country. But, at the same time, we cannot yield up to her, or to any power on earth, our inherent and most valuable rights and privileges. If she would strip us of all the advantages derived to us from the English constitution, why should we desire to continue our connection? We might as well belong to France, or any other power; none could offer a greater injury to our rights and liberties than is offered by the Stamp Act.687 If we have delivered our sentiments of the parliament with greater freedom than they are usually mentioned with, let it be considered that it is only when they have taken upon them to deprive us of our rights, which are not under their jurisdiction: If any then take offence at the freedom with which they are treated, let them blush at the occasion given for it. Such an alarming attempt upon British liberty was never made before, nor I hope ever will again. — We have been told from England, that the Stamp Act passed without so much debate or consideration, as sometimes arose upon the most trifling bills that are brought before the house! If it had been well debated and considered, surely it never could have passed; it must astonish all concern’d in it, when they come to consider it, that ever it did pass at all, and it will doubtless be repealed as soon as ever the nature of it is fully understood. — Mean while let us never, for one moment, acknowledge that it is binding upon us, nor pay one farthing in obedience to it, for it was made by a power, that, by the fundamental laws that both they and we acknowledge, hath no jurisdiction over us.
As the ministry under whose influence this act was made, are, we have reason to hope, by this time discarded and out of place, no other I suppose will ever be found that will approve it: and it may be worth the serious consideration of those who would officiously endeavour to enslave their countrymen to enforce it, whether they will not be more likely to receive the frowns than the smiles of their superiors, for their activity in so odious an office. For if this act takes place and is established, it may be depended upon, that liberty in Great Britain will not long survive its extinction in America.
[Since the foregoing pieces came to the Printer’s hands, certain intelligence has been received from, England of an universal change in the Ministry,689 whereby all those great officers who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the people, by their impolitic and arbitrary proceedings, are excluded from any share in the administration; and their places filled up by some of the most distinguished patriots in the nation, who it is hoped and believed will give a happy proof to his Majesty’s subjects, in Europe and America, of their sincere love of liberty, for which they have been long contending with it’s enemies, by adhering to such measures, and such only, as are consistent with the principles of the constitution. His grace the duke of Grafton, is appointed secretary of state for the Northern department, and the Rt. Hon. Henry Seymour Conway, a great friend to America, and a strong opposer of the Stamp Act, secretary for the southern. The Public690 is referr’d for further particulars, to the weekly papers.]
Printed by ANDREW MARVEL, at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Hill, North-America.
- (1) Heading at the top of the first page, with its snake device.
- (2) Andrew Marvel’s address “To the Public.”
- (3) Article of Philoleutherus.
- (4) Article of Philopatriæ.
- (5) An item about changes in the Ministry in England.
- (6) Imprint.
The skit became very popular, and copies in at least three different forms exist, as follows:
(A) A sheet printed on both sides, three columns to a page, the columns of equal width. At the top of the first page is the title with the device of a snake cut into eight parts, very similar in design to the Franklin device of 1754, the chief difference being that in 1765 the words “JOIN or DIE” are placed above the snake, while in 1754 the motto was below the snake. In the 1765 design each initial letter is followed by a period. This form has all of the six features specified above. The imprint occurs at the bottom of the third column on the second page, separated from the text above by a broken rule across the column, and lined thus:
Printed by ANDREW MARVEL, at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Hill, North-America.
Copies are owned as follows: Historical Society of Pennsylvania,691 Library Company of Philadelphia (Ridgway Branch),692 Lenox Library, Public Record Office693 (London). The skit as here reprinted is from a photograph of form A in the Lenox Library.
(B) A sheet printed on both sides, three columns to a page, the first and second columns of each page of equal width, the third column narrower than the other two. At the top of the first page is the title with the device of a snake divided into eight parts. The design of the snake in B differs slightly from that in A. In A, the tail of the snake turns to the left; in B, it turns to the right. Another difference between A and B is that in B the initial letters are not followed by periods. There is also a difference between A and B in the placing of the initial letters. Form B has all of the six features specified above. The imprint is a single line printed across the bottom of the second page, separated from the text by sixteen horizontal braces, thus:
Printed by ANDREW MARVEL at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Bill, North America.
(C) A broadside, printed in three columns of equal width. At the top of the page is the title, but there is no snake or other device. In this form the skit is incomplete, as, of the six features specified above, it has only those numbered (2), (3), and (6). The imprint, separated from the word “Philoleutherus” by a line of thirteen crowns of three different designs, occurs nearly at the bottom of the third column, and is lined as follows:
Printed by ANDREW MARVEL, at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Hill, North-America.
Below the imprint is an ornamental cut, like a coat of arms, and below that are three ornamental cuts. Copies are owned as follows: Harvard College Library, Library Company of Philadelphia697 (Ridgway Branch).
It is not a little singular that, with a single exception, there is apparently not the slightest allusion to the skit in contemporary newspapers. In the Boston Evening-Post of October 7, 1765, was printed the following (p. 3/1):
A new political Paper has lately appeared under the Title of “The Constitutional COURANT, [Numb. I.] Containing Matters interesting to Liberty and no wise repugnant to Loyalty.”
A Device in the Front like the following.
JOIN or DIE.
At the Bottom.
“Printed by ANDREW MARVEL at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Hill, North-America.
The above-mentioned paper is introduced with the following Address to the PUBLIC.
[Here follows the Address.]
There is such a Demand for the above-mentioned Paper in these parts, that, we hear, it will soon be re-published.
The snake device as given in the above paper is apparently identical with the snake device in form B of the Constitutional Courant. Possibly this indicates that form B of the Constitutional Courant was printed by Thomas and John Fleet, the publishers of the Boston Evening-Post.698
My regard to you makes me give you the trouble of the inclosed Printed Paper, one or more bundles of which I am well informed were delivered to the Post Rider at Woodbridge by James Parker were distributed by the Post Riders in several parts of this Colony & I believe likewise in the neighbouring Colonies: the doing of which was kept secret from the Post Master in this Place. It is believed that this Paper was Printed by Parker after the Printers in this Place had refused to do it, perhaps you may be able to judge from the Types.
As he is Secretary to the General Post office in America, I am under a necessity of takeing notice of it to the Secretary of State by the return of the Packet which is daily expected, & I am unwilling to do this without giving you previous notice by a Merchant Ship which Sails Tomorrow.699
In a letter to Henry Seymour Conway dated October 12, 1765, Colden wrote:
Since the last which I had the honour to write to you of the 23d of September, this Town has remained quiet tho’ inflamatory Papers continue to be publish’d, exciting the People to oppose the Execution of the Act of Parliament for laying a stamp Duty in the Colonies. The most remarkable of these Papers is inclosed. This was distributed along the Post Roads by the Post Riders. I examined the Post Master in this Place to know how this came to be done. He assured me that it was without his knowledge, That he had examined the Post Riders & found that one or more Bundles of them were deliver’d at Woodbridge in New Jersey to the Post Rider by James Parker Secretary to the General Post office in America. Parker was formerly a Printer in this Place, & has now a Printing Press & continues to print occasionally. It is believed that this Paper was Printed by him. The Gentlemen of the Council think it prudent at this time to delay the makeing more particular Enquiry least it should be the occasion of raising the Mob, which it is thought proper by all means to avoid.700
The account of the Constitutional Courant given by Isaiah Thomas in 1810 is as follows:
After the American stamp act was passed by the British parliament, and near the time it was to be put in operation, a political paper was privately printed at Burlington, which attracted much notice. It was entitled “The Constitutional Gazette, containing Matters interesting to Liberty — but no wise repugnant to Loyalty.” Imprint — “Printed by Andrew Marvel, at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution-Hill, North-America.” In the centre of the title was a device of a snake, cut into parts, to represent the colonies. Motto — “Join or Die.” After the title followed an address to the public from the fictitious printer and publisher Andrew Marvel. This paper was without date, but was printed in September, 1765. It contained several well written and spirited essays against the obnoxious stamp act, which were so highly colored, that the editors of newspapers in Newyork, even Holt, declined to publish them.
A large edition was printed, secretly forwarded to Newyork, and there sold by hawkers selected for the purpose. It had a rapid sale, and was, I believe, reprinted there, and at Boston. It excited some commotion in Newyork, and was taken notice of by government. A council was called, and holden at the fort in that city, but as no discovery was made of the author or printer, nothing was done. One of the council demanded of a hawker named Samuel Sweeney, “where that incendiary  paper was printed?” Sweeney, as he had been instructed, answered, “At Peter Hassenclever’s iron-works, please your honor.” Peter Hassenclever was a wealthy German, well known as the owner of extensive iron works in Newjersey. Afterward, other publications of a like kind frequently appeared with an imprint — “Printed at Peter Hassenclever’s iron-works.”701
Only one number of the Constitutional Gazette was published; a continuance of it was never intended. It was printed by William Goddard, at Parker’s printing house at Burlington — Goddard having previously obtained Parker’s permission occasionally to use his press.
This political paper was handsomely commended in some of the periodical works published in England, after the repeal of the stamp act.702
It is well known that Thomas began the preparation of a second edition of his work, which was published by the American Antiquarian Society in 1874. In the 1874 edition, the passage just quoted reads precisely as above, with the following exceptions: the word “Gazette” is thrice changed to “Courant;” the name of “Samuel Sweeney” is changed to “Lawrence Sweeney;” the words “at Burlington” are changed to “in Woodbridge.”703 It is to be regretted that Thomas did not give his reason for changing his opinion as to the place of publication.
In 1850 Buckingham wrote:
The snake, divided, with the motto, was first published in an anonymous paper, called the Constitutional Courant, said to have been printed at Burlington, New-Jersey, in 1768.. . .The Constitutional Courant is a half sheet of medium size. . . . A large number of copies of this paper were secretly transmitted to New-York, and there sold by hawkers and pedlers, employed for the purpose. Mr. Thomas says it was printed at Burlington, and the copy now before me, which belongs to the library of Harvard College, has “Burlington, N. J.” written under the words “Constitution Hill.” The same copy has, under the name “Andrew Marvel,” in the same hand, the words “pseudonyme Wm. Goddard.” This copy was presented to the College by the heirs of the late Rev. James Freeman, D.D.; but these explanations are not in his handwriting.704
In 1877 Mrs. Martha J. Lamb remarked:
The press of New York continued to deny the right of Parliament to tax the colonies, and a new paper, called “The Constitutional Courant,” with the device of a snake, cut into parts (to represent the colonies), with “Join or Die” as a motto, actually appeared. . . . This paper was privately printed at Woodbridge, New Jersey, and was reprinted both in New York and Boston.705
Boston, our present point of view, kept up the spirit of liberty, but avoided acts of violence. A newspaper appeared under the significant title of “The Constitutional Courant, . . . ” Its head-piece was a snake cut into eight pieces (see page 508), the head part having N. E., the initials of New England, inscribed upon it, and the other pieces the initials of the other colonies. Accompanying the device was the motto, Join or die.706
This description is sufficiently accurate, but elsewhere in the same work Lossing said that —
Some of the newspapers placed at their head the significant device used during the Stamp Act excitement, a serpent cut in ten pieces, with the inscription “Join or die!” or “Unite or die!”707
In 1881 Lossing again wrote:
When the quarrel between the British Parliament and the English-American colonies became warm, the patriotic newspapers in America, as well as handbills, bore devices emblematic of union. One was especially a favorite — namely, a snake, disjointed, each separate part representing one of the thirteen English-American colonies, with the words “Unite or die.” This snake device first appeared when the Stamp Act excitement was at its height.708
In 1884 Lossing once more wrote:
Already the idea of union had been suggested by a newspaper called the Constitutional Courant, bearing the device of a snake divided into several parts, each with the initial of a colony, and bearing the injunction, Join or Die! Only one issue of the Courant was made, but its suggestion was potent. The idea of the device was like an electric spark that kindled a flame which was never quenched.709
In 1892 John A. Stevens wrote:
In September the idea of union took definite shape. A broadside entitled the “Constitutional Courant,” secretly printed in New Jersey, was widely circulated in New-York, and later reprinted here and in Boston. It bore as a head-piece the device of a snake cut in parts to represent the colonies, with the motto “Unite or die,” the familiar symbol used by Dr. Franklin in his “Pennsylvania Gazette,” in 1754, to arouse the colonies to the danger of the French invasion. Copies of the “Courant” were handed about the streets of New-York by Lawrence Sweeney, an eccentric character, better known by his sobriquet of “Bloody News,” from his familiar cry announcing the army news during the sanguinary French war. When asked by Colden where he obtained the paper, he humorously answered, “From Peter Hasenkliver’s ironworks, please Your Honor.” The next day the “Courant” took up the joke, and gravely announced that it was there printed.710
The snake device of the Constitutional Courant has been reproduced several times, but each time incorrectly. In 1850 Buckingham, carefully specifying that “the copy before me . . . belongs to the library of Harvard College,” says that “in the centre of the title is the annexed device.”711 One would naturally suppose that “the annexed device” was that of the Harvard College Library copy of the Constitutional Courant.712 Now what Buckingham reproduced is not the design of the Harvard College Library copy of the Constitutional Courant, but is apparently a poorly executed copy of the device found in the Boston Gazette of May 21, 1754.713 In 1851 Lossing reproduced714 the Bradford device in the Pennsylvania Journal of 1774–1775, the implication being that it was the same as the device employed in the Constitutional Courant. This was not the case. Elsewhere what is apparently intended to be the device in the Constitutional Courant is reproduced, but what in reality is the Bradford device in the Pennsylvania Journal of 1774–1775.715
An attempt to ascertain by whom the Constitutional Courant was printed, and where it was printed, has not resulted in a satisfactory conclusion. Let us first consider by whom it was printed. In his address “To the Public,” Andrew Marvel states that “the authors of the following pieces having acquainted him that they had applied to the printers in York, who refused to publish them in their news-papers,” he “for his amusement furnished himself with a set of proper materials,” and that he will “occasionally publish any thing else that falls in” his way that seems suitable. Who was “Andrew Marvel”? There are. several reasons for thinking that it was William Goddard, one of the most noted American printers of the eighteenth century. First, there is Thomas’s assertion to that effect; and, while Thomas was often inaccurate, he had an unrivalled knowledge of the printers and printing of his time, and his statements about publishers and printers must always be received with respect and rejected with caution.716 Secondly, the Library Company of Philadelphia (Ridgway Branch) owns two documents, printed in 1773, signed “Andrew Marvell,” both of which are in the catalogue of that library attributed to Goddard.717 In 1765 he was the publisher of the Providence Gazette. According to Thomas this paper —
was discontinued from May 11, to August 24, 1765. On that day a paper was published, headed “Vox Populi, Vox Dei. A Providence Gazette Extraordinary. Printed by S. and W. Goddard.” After this, it was till January, 1767, “Printed by Sarah Goddard and Co.” It then appeared with this imprint — “Printed (in the Absence of William Goddard) by Sarah Goddard and Co.”718
Thomas also says that Goddard, “on leaving Providence, . . . was for a short time concerned with Holt, in Newyork, in publishing Parker’s Gazette and Post-Boy.”719 On December 1, 1766, Goddard entered into partnership in Philadelphia with Joseph Galloway and Thomas Wharton, and on January 26, 1767, began the publication of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.720 A bitter quarrel ensued, and in 1770 Goddard published a long pamphlet entitled “The Partnership: or the History of the Rise and Progress of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, &c.” After a brief introduction, Goddard begins the pamphlet as follows:
In June 1766, I came, a perfect stranger, on speculation, into this city, with a view to establish a press, if the prospect should be favourable, having observed by an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, that the partnership between Messrs. Franklin and Hall was expired, imagining as those gentlemen had made fortunes by the printing-business, that they were about retiring from the fatigues and cares incident to it. At this time I had a very complete office in Providence, in the colony of Rhode-Island, under the superintendence of Mrs. Sarah Goddard, my mother, and was in company with a gentleman of credit in the city of New-York. My inducement to leave Providence was the earnest invitation of Messrs. Parker and Holt, who wished to see me employed on a more extensive theatre, and offered to take me into partnership with them, without removing my materials from Providence, or advancing a shilling; but, unfortunately, after I had been a little time in New-York, a dispute arose between my two friends, which gave me great pain, and made my situation disagreeable, one insisting that I should join him, in opposition to the other, unless he would submit to particular terms proposed. I laboured incessantly to prevent an open rupture, and a newspaper controversy, and happily succeeded, preserving the good-will of both. I afterwards joined one of them, by the consent of the other, till I could find a more advantageous situation, which I soon after had a project of in Philadelphia.721
While this whole matter is obscure, there seems to be no good reason for rejecting Thomas’s conclusion that the Constitutional Courant “was printed by William Goddard, at Parker’s printing house . . . Goddard having previously obtained Parker’s permission to use his press.”
In regard to the place where the Constitutional Courant was printed, the facts are equally difficult to determine with certainty. Colden’s belief that it was printed at Woodbridge has been accepted by some writers, as Colden expressed the belief that it was printed at Woodbridge because copies of the skit were delivered to the post-rider at that place by Parker. But that may merely have been a blind on Parker’s part. If Thomas’s conclusion as to the printer of the piece is accepted, then the problem as to the place of publication resolves itself into the question as to where Parker’s press was on September 21, 1765 — whether at Woodbridge or at Burlington. Thomas says:
To accomodate the printing of Smith’s History of Newjersey in 1765, Parker removed his press to Burlington, and there began and completed the work, consisting of 570 pages, demy octavo, and then returned with his press to Woodbridge.722
That this statement is correct, is capable of proof. According to Mr. William Nelson,723 Parker published at Burlington only two works, both in the year 1765 — Smith’s History of New Jersey, and Votes of Assembly, November 26–30, 1765. The second work, as its title indicates, was published not earlier than November 26. The other work was also published late in the year. The following advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette of October 31 (p. 1/1):
NOW in the Press, to be speedily published, in one Volume Octavo, neatly bound and lettered, and sold by DAVID HALL, in Philadelphia, and JAMES PARKER, in Burlington;
The History of the Colony of NOVA CÆESARIA, or N E W-J E R S E Y.
Containing an Account of its first Settlement, progressive Improvements, the original and present Constitution, and other Events, to the Year MDCCXXI.
With some Particulars since, and a short View of its present State.
By SAMUEL SMITH.
Acts, 20th Assembly, 11th Session. (May 21–June 20, 1765.)
The Constitutional Courant.
Pierson, Rev. John. Discourse on the Nature and Benefits of Christ’s Intercession.
[The Stamp Act.]
Votes, May 21–June 20, 1765.724
Of these five titles, two only are dated by Mr. Nelson. It is at once obvious that the Constitutional Courant is misplaced, for it was printed September 21, and so should come after the “Acts” and “Votes,” both of which must have been printed in May or June or possibly July. Editions of the Stamp Act were advertised for sale in the Boston Gazette of June 17 (p. 1/1), in the Pennsylvania Journal of June 20 (p. 1/3), and in Holt’s New-York Gazette of June 20 (p. 2/3). Hence it may safely be assumed that Parker’s edition was printed in June, certainly not later than July.725 Pierson’s Discourse was apparently not advertised in either the Pennsylvania Gazette or the Pennsylvania Journal, and so its exact date of publication cannot be determined. But at all events there is no proof that Parker published anything at Woodbridge later than June or July; while it is certain that on October 31 Smith’s History of New Jersey was in the press and “to be speedily published,” and was published that year at Burlington.726 Was the printing of that volume of 584 octavo pages begun before or after September 21? Obviously, the known facts do not warrant a positive answer; but they do point to the probability that the volume was begun before that date.727
These remarks in regard to the place of publication refer only to the edition of the Constitutional Courant corresponding to form A, as that, being identical with the copy sent Conway by Colden, is supposed to be the original edition.728 As to the editions alleged to have been reprinted in New York,729 Boston,730 and Philadelphia,731 all is conjecture. It is possible that a minute comparison of types would determine the places of publication, but until that is undertaken it will be well to observe caution.
After the Constitutional Courant ran its course in 1765, the snake device did not again appear in a newspaper, so far as I have been able to ascertain, until June, 1774. Between those dates, however, it turned up at least once in an unexpected place. In 1769 Governor Bernard, having just before been made a baronet, returned to England. The language applied to him on his departure by the good Bostonians has for virulence seldom been surpassed in political warfare; while that with which he was assailed in the newspapers would at the present day scarcely be admitted to our most “yellow” journals. Dr. Benjamin Church wrote a savage poem entitled, “An Address to A Provincial Bashaw. O Shame! where is thy Blush? By a Son of Liberty. Printed in (the Tyrannic Administration of St. Francisco) 1769.” Another poem containing forty-five four-line stanzas bore the following title:
An Elegy to the infamous Memory of Sr. F---B------- “Auri cæcus Amore, Vendidit hic Patriam.” Printed in the Year M,DCC,LXIX.
On the verso of the title appeared our now familiar snake device — the design identical with that in form B of the Constitutional Courant of 1765. Above the device are the words “JOIN OR DIE,” while below are these lines:
Not the harsh Threats of Tyrants bearing Rule,
Nor Guile-cloak’d-Meekness of each cringing Tool;
Shall shake our Firmness, or divide That Love
Which the strong Ties of social Friendship prove.
John Holt, the publisher of the New-York Journal, used the Royal Arms as a device for his paper; but on June 23, 1774, they were displaced by a snake device. In Holt’s device, the snake itself is of a somewhat different design from either that of 1754 or that of 1765; and was divided into nine parts, instead of eight — Georgia forming the tail. The motto was also different from the previous devices, being now the words “unite or die.” This device was used by Holt in the issues of the New-York Journal from June 23 to December 8, 1774, both included. On December 15, 1774, he changed the snake device to another, thus described by Thomas:
The snake was united, and coiled with the tail in its mouth, forming a double ring; within the coil was a pillar standing on Magna Charta, and surmounted with the cap of liberty; the pillar on each side was supported by six arms and hands, figurative of the colonies.732
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from original in the Possession of the Lenox Library
On the body of the snake, beginning at the head, were these words:
UNITED NOW FREE AND ALIVE FIRM ON THIS BASIS LIBERTY SHALL STAND AND THUS SUPPORTED EVER BLESS OUR LAND TILL TIME BECOMES ETERNITY
This device was employed by Holt in the New-York Journal from December 15, 1774, to August 29, 1776, both included.
On July 7, 1774, Thomas introduced in the title of his paper the Massachusetts Spy, and retained until the last issue published in Boston on April 6, 1775, a design unlike anything that had thus far appeared. It is thus described by Thomas:
On the 7th of July, 1774, . . . a new political device appeared in the title of this paper — a snake and a dragon. The dragon represented Greatbritain, and the snake the colonies. The snake was divided into nine parts, the head was one part, and under it N.E. as representing Newengland; the second part N.Y. for Newyork; the third N. J. for Newjersey; the fourth P. for Pennsylvania; the fifth M. for Maryland; the sixth V. for Virginia; the seventh N.C. for Northcarolina; the eighth S.C. for Southcarolina; and the ninth part or tail, for Georgia. The head and tail of the snake were supplied with stings, for defence against the dragon, which appeared furious, and as bent on attacking the snake. Over the several parts of the snake, was this motto, in large capitals, “join or die!” This device, which was extended under the whole width of the title of the Spy, appeared in every succeeding paper whilst it was printed in Boston.733
In the issue of the Pennsylvania Journal of July 27, 1774, William and Thomas Bradford, having discarded the device previously used in the title, introduced a snake device. This was evidently copied from the snake device employed by Holt in the New-York Journal from June 23 to December 8, 1774. The chief difference between the two designs is that in the one used by the Bradfords the portion of the snake allotted to Georgia is apparently divided into two parts. I say “apparently,” because there is no conceivable reason why there should be a division, and I incline to the opinion that it was owing to a defect in the drawing or in the printing. The Bradfords retained their snake device for about fifteen months, it appearing for the last time in the Pennsylvania Journal in the issue of October 18, 1775.
These three papers — the New-York Journal, the Massachusetts Spy, and the Pennsylvania Journal — were, so far as I am aware, the only papers to adopt a snake device. It was not long before these devices attracted attention in the newspapers. In Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer of August 25, 1774, were printed these lines (p. 3/2):
For the New-York Gazetteer.
On the Snake, depicted at the Head of some American News Papers.
YE Sons of Sedition, how comes it to pass,
That America’s typ’d by a Snake — in the grass?
Don’t you think ’tis a scandalous, saucy reflection,
That merits the soundest, severest Correction,
New-England’s the Head too; — New England’s abused;
For the Head of the Serpent we know should be Bruised.
These lines, reprinted in the Boston News-Letter of September 8 (p. 2/3), drew from the patriots at least two replies. The first appeared in the Bradfords’ Pennsylvania Journal of August 31 (p. 3/2):
For the Pennsylvania Journal.
To the Author of the Lines, in Mr. Rivington’s Paper, on the Snake depicted in some of the American News-Papers.
THAT New-England’s abus’d, and by sons of sedition,
Is granted without either prayer or petition.
And that “’tis a scandalous, saucy reflection,
That merits the soundest, severest correction,”
Because she is pester’d with snakes in the grass;
Who by lying and cringing, and such like pretensions,
Get places once honoured, disgraced with pensions.
And you, Mr. Pensioner, instead of repentance,
(If I don’t mistake you) have wrote your own sentence;
For by such Snakes as this, New-England’s abused,
And the head of these serpents, “you know, should be bruised.”
Engraved for The Colonial Society of Massachusetts from Original in the Possesion of the American Antiquarian Society
The other reply was printed in the Massachusetts Spy of September 15 (p. 3/3):
On reading the piece, (inserted in Draper’s last paper) relative to the Snake at the head of some of the American Papers.
YE traitors! the Snake ye with wonder behold,
Is not the deceiver so famous of old;
Nor is it the Snake in the grass that ye view,
Which would be a striking resemblance of you,
Who aiming your stings at your own country’s heel,
Its Weight and resentment to crush you — should feel.
Violent as political controversies were in the stormy decade which preceded the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the printers of the newspapers at least showed a sense of humor and did not hesitate to print communications aimed at themselves. In his New-York Journal of September 15, 1774, Holt printed the following (p. 4/1):
A MIRROR for a Printer.
WITHOUT one grain of honest sense,
One virtuous view, or just pretence
To patriotic flame;
Without a patriot heart or mind,
(Your snake and stones have this defin’d)
Behold your type with shame!
In the same paper of September 29, 1774, appeared these lines (p. 4/1), which were reprinted in the Massachusetts Spy of October 27 (p. 4/1):
AN EPIGRAM. 1774.
BRitain’s sons line the coast of Atlantic all o’er,
Great of length, but in breadth they now wind on a shore
That’s divided by inlets, by creeks, and by bays, —
A snake*734 cut in parts, a pat emblem convey —
The fell junto at home — sure their heads are but froth —
Fain this snake would have caught to supply viper broth
For their worn constitution — and to it they go,
Hurry Tom, without his yes or his no,
On the boldest adventure their annals can show:
By their wisdom advised, he their courage displays,
For they seiz’d on the tongue ’mong their first of essays;
Nor once thought of the teeth, when our snake they assail —
Tho’ the prudent catch snakes by the back or the tail —
To direct to the head! — our GOOD KING must indite ’em —
They forgot that the head would most certainly bite ’em.
It has already been stated that on December 15, 1774, Holt changed the design in the title of his paper from a divided snake to a double coiled snake, with its tail in its mouth. As a result, the following lines appeared in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer of January 19, 1775 (p. 2/2):
To Neighbour H O L T, On his Emblematical Twistification.
TIS true, Johnny Holt, you have caus’d us some pain, by changing your Head-piece again and again;
But then to your praise it may justly be said,
You have given us a Notable Tail piece in stead.
’Tis true, that the Arms of a good British King,
Have been forc’d to give way to a Snake — with a Sting;
Which some would interpret, as tho’ it imply’d,
That the King of a wound by that Serpent had died.
By the happy Device which you lately display’d;
And Tories themselves be convinc’d you are slander’d,
Who see you ’ve erected the RIGHT Royal Standard.
In a Boston town meeting held March 13, 1775, it was “Voted, that the Com̄ittee of Correspondence be directed to draw up an exact State of the Behavior of the Troops, under the Command of General Gage; & of the Navy, under the Command of Admiral Graves.”735 This vote was printed in the Massachusetts Spy, published by Isaiah Thomas, in its issue of March 30; and was reprinted, “From Thomas’s chronicle of sedition,” in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer of April 6 (p. 3/2). It caught the eye of a Philadelphia Quaker and drew from him some satirical verses which, with the following introduction, were printed in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer of April 13 (p. 2/3):
When thy papers first appeared, thou used’st now and then to favour the public with some small specimens of poesy; but since the commencement of our political controversies, little of that kind of divertisement hath found its way into thy Gazetteer; albeit in other papers we have seen full many a speech, and full many a proclamation, right quaintly rhymed: in imitation of which worthy labours, I send thee the following versification of the proceedings of Boston great Teawn-ship,737 as they appeared in thy last, said to be taken from Thomas’s Snake of Sedition; by inserting of which in thy next, thou wilt at least oblige
A Friend and Customer.
Philadelphia, April 10, 1775.
So far as I have observed, the above is the last allusion to the snake device that appeared in the newspapers. This device was used for the last time by Thomas in his Massachusetts Spy on April 6, 1775; by the Bradfords in their Pennsylvania Journal on October 18, 1775; and by Holt in his New-York Journal on August 29, 1776.738 Thus disappeared from the press a design which had been before the public more or less for twenty-two years.
This paper may conveniently close with a list of the facsimile reproductions which accompany it:
- I. Snake device, Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754, from an original in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society, facing page 416.
- II. Snake device, Boston Gazette, May 21, 1754, from an original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, facing page 416.
- III. Snake device, Boston News-Letter, May 23, 1754, from an original in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, facing page 416.
- IV. Snake device, Boston Evening-Post, October 7, 1765, from an original in the possession of the Boston Athenæum, facing page 416.
- V. Title of the Constitutional Courant, September 21, 1765, form A, from an original in the possession of the Lenox Library, facing page 422.
- VI. Title of the Constitutional Courant, September 21, 1765, form B, from an original in the possession of the Boston Athenæum, facing page 422.
- VII. Title of the New-York Journal, June 23, 1774, from an original in the possession of the Lenox Library, facing page 446.
- VIII. Title of the New-York Journal, December 15, 1774, from an original in the possession of the Lenox Library, facing page 446.
- IX. Title of the Massachusetts Spy, July 7, 1774, from an original in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society, facing page 448.
- X. Title of the Pennsylvania Journal, July 27, 1774, from an original in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society, facing page 448.
Since the above paper was written I have been informed by Dr. I. Minis Hays that the American Philosophical Society owns a copy of form C of the Constitutional Courant, and that “in the third line from the end [p. 427, line 25, above] it reads ‘is abhorred by all the genuine sons of slavery’ without an interrogation mark. The word ‘slavery’ has been crossed out with a pen and the word ‘liberty’ inserted.” This interesting bit of information has caused me to collate the copy of form A printed in the text (pages 422–427, above) with the Harvard College copy of form C. It will be observed that while the American Philosophical Society’s copy of form C has, in the place indicated, “slavery” without an interrogation mark, the Harvard College copy of form C has “slavery” with an interrogation mark.
The collation follows.
Page 422, lines 2–3 of the address “To the Public,” instead of “the publisher, and the design of,” form C has “the publisher and design of.”
Page 422, line 6, instead of “authors of the following pieces,” form C has “author of the following piece.”
Page 422, line 8, instead of “them,” form C has “it.”
Page 422, line 12, instead of “these pieces are,” form C has “this piece is.”
Page 422, line 16, instead of “I,” form C has “I.”
Page 423, line 1, instead of “privileges,” form C has “priviledges.”
Page 423, line 14, form C has a comma after “terms.”
Page 423, lines 14–15, instead of “privileges,” form C has “priviledges” with a comma after it.
Page 423, line 25, instead of “Shall we,” form C has “shall we.”
Page 424, line 21, instead of “Gath!’” form C has “Gath!” — that is, without the single quotation mark.
Page 425, line 15, instead of “privilege,” form C has “privileges.”
Page 426, line 6, instead of “King,” form C has “a king.”
Page 426, line 9, instead of “Atlantic,” form C has “Atlantick.”
Page 426, line 11, instead of “villains,” form C has “villians.”
Page 426, line 20, instead of “Westward,” form C has “westward.”
Page 426, line 28, instead of “true lovers of their country,” form C has “true lovers of their country.”
Page 426, line 40, instead of “public,” form C has “publick.”
Page 427, line 13, instead of “and we fear,” form C has “and fear.”
Page 427, line 16, instead of “’tis too,” form C has “’its too.”
Page 427, line 21, instead of “villain,” form C has “villian.”
Page 427, line 23, instead of “Eastern,” form C has “eastern.”
Page 427, line 25, instead of “sons of liberty?” form C has “sons of slavery?”
It should also be added that in the title form C has “[NUM. 1.]” instead of “[NUMB. 1.]” as in form A; and that the word “COURANT” in the title is in form C followed by a period, instead of a semicolon as in form A.