A Stated Meeting of the Society was held in the Hall of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on Wednesday, 19 April, 1893, at four o’clock in the afternoon.
In the absence of the President, who was attending in Washington the session of the National Academy of Science, and of both Vice-Presidents, the meeting was called to order by the Recording Secretary, and Professor William W. Goodwin was called to the chair.
The record of the last meeting having been read, the following-named gentlemen were unanimously elected Resident Members90: —
Messrs. George Wigglesworth, Abner C. Goodell, Jr., and Francis C. Lowell were appointed a Committee to nominate officers at the Annual Meeting of the Society, on the Twenty-first of November next; and Messrs. William Endicott, Jr., and J. Montgomery Sears, a Committee to audit the accounts of the Treasurer, and to report at the same time.
The Corresponding Secretary announced that the Society had received a gift of one hundred dollars from Quincy A. Shaw, Esquire, as an expression of his interest in the purposes and work of the Society; and that the Council had ordered the same to be set apart as the foundation of a permanent Fund, the interest only of which shall be devoted to defraying the cost of such publications as the Society from time to time may undertake.
Dr. Daniel Denison Slade read the following paper: —
Few names are more intimately associated with the early history of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay than that of Daniel Denison. For more than half a century it stands conspicuous in most of the leading events of the period, whether in the Council-chamber or in the field. We are better able at this time than heretofore to honor his name, and to surround it with even a brighter halo, since chance has recently enabled us to acquire a knowledge of the family birthplace and of the fact that he was a graduate of Cambridge.
In the extreme east of Hertfordshire, one of the many fine counties of England, and about thirty miles north-north-east from London, is the market-town of Bishops Stortford, — a name derived from its position on the river Stort, and from its having been the property of the Bishops of London from the Saxon times. In that town the subject of this paper first saw the light, and passed his childhood and early youth. His grandfather was John Denison, who lived at Bishops Stortford, and whose widow married John Gace, a tanner of the same town, who in his will mentions — probably in a substantial manner — George, Edward, and William Denison, “children of my wife.” John Denison died of the plague, 4 December, 1582. Of the three boys, William was baptized at Stortford, 3 February, 1571, and married Margaret Monck, 7 November, 1605. His name is found in the records of St. Michael’s church as Warden in 1606. He had six sons and a daughter. The latter and one of the sons died in infancy; while another went to Holland as a soldier, was at the siege of Breda, and was not heard of again. John, Daniel, Edward, and George continued under the parental roof. Of Daniel’s home life, we have but few data. The records of St. Michael’s inform us that he was baptized at Stortford, 18 October, 1612. In all probability he attended in due time the grammar school of the town, and afterwards was prepared for his university life at Cambridge. The origin of many of the traits of character which Denison exhibited in the course of his life might have been surmised; but it is much more satisfactory to know, as we now do from his own words, some of the antecedents which led up to them. Thus it is established that he sprang from good stock, that the family were in more than comfortable circumstances, and that he was college-bred. In his autobiography,91 written for his grandchildren in 1672, he says, —
John and myself were bred scholars at Cambridge, where I continued till after I had taken my first degree. My father, though very well seated in Stortford, hearing of the then famous transplantation to New England, unsettled himself, and recalling me from Cambridge, removed himself and family in the year 1631 to New England, and brought over with him myself, being about nineteen years of age, and my two younger brothers, Edward and George, leaving my eldest brother John behind him in England, married with a good portion, who was a minister, and lived about Pelham or in Hertfordshire, not far from Stortford, where we were born. My father brought with him into New England a very good estate, and settled himself in Roxbury, and there lived (though somewhat weakening his estate) till the year 1653, in January, when he died, having buried my mother about eight years before, in 1645. I was the eldest of the three brothers brought to New England.
The early impressions which Denison must have imbibed from his home surroundings in England, and charming indeed they were, could not have failed to exert a permanent influence upon him. How often here in after life, during the few and short relaxations he enjoyed from public and private affairs, must his thoughts have wandered back to the banks of the Stort, to the little hamlet with its ancient church, and to the pleasant days spent in intercourse with his brother John, who was a man of culture, as they made excursions together to the places of interest in the environs of Stortford, or later, walked beneath the classic shades of Cambridge! What a contrast was all this, not only for Denison, but for many others who found themselves on these wild, inhospitable shores of New England! It is, however, to the refined and cultivated mind that these associations prove the strongest and most permanent source of pleasure or of pain. To the great body of men they prove far more weak and transitory.
Although Denison says that he came out to New England in 1631, he does not mention the name of the vessel in which he came, nor his fellow-voyagers. It is probable that it was in the ship “Lyon,” with Winthrop’s wife and son, and the Apostle Eliot, with whose church his father soon united. The parents of Denison, as they were known here, were of much worth. After settling at Roxbury, the father took the oath of freeman, and in the following year was chosen Constable. In 1634 he was chosen Deputy, and as such served on various important committees. He was one of the original “Donors” of the Roxbury Latin School;92 and he appears sometimes as an appraiser of the estates of deceased persons. Denison spent the first year in his father’s family, but in 1632 removed to Newtown,93 where his name is found among the earliest inhabitants. He became a freeman 1 April, 1634.
It may not be amiss to recount some incidents of the early days of Newtown. In the year preceding the coming of the Denisons, Governor Winthrop and Deputy-Governor Dudley, as leaders of at least one thousand colonists under the auspices of the Massachusetts Bay Company, arrived in New England. Having made preparations for the first winter, one of their chief objects was to choose a site for a fortified city. After due consultation, a spot was selected upon the Charles River, a mile below and to the east of Watertown. Thither nearly all of the Colony agreed to remove. Accordingly, early in the spring of 1631, Newtown was commenced; houses were built, and a canal dug to connect the town with the river. The colonists, however, were soon discouraged by unlooked-for events. A compact had been entered into with the Chief of the Indians about Newtown, which tended to allay the apprehensions of the settlers and made them less desirous of fortifying the town. The Governor had already set up the frame of his house. Dudley had finished his house and occupied it. It stood on the west side of Water Street near its southern termination at Marsh Lane. Before winter, Winthrop, without consulting his associates, decided to remove to Boston, which was to become “the chiefest place of resort of shipping,”94 and to this end quietly ordered his frame to be taken down,95 and set up in what was to be the future metropolis. In spite of the remonstrances and to the great disappointment of the rest of the company this was done; yet Newtown was not abandoned. The Court of Assistants still adhered to their original plan, as shown by their various orders, — such as levying upon the several plantations £30 for making the proposed canal; and again, in 1632, ordering a farther levy of £60 for erecting a palisade about the limits of the Plantation one mile and a half in length, and enclosing about one thousand acres. The town was laid out in squares, and assumed the appearance, according to Wood,96 of “one of the neatest and best compacted Towns in New England, having many fair structures, with many handsome contrived streets.”
The action of the Governor was naturally taken to heart by Dudley,97 who was zealous to have Newtown the metropolis, and furnished a reason for tendering the resignation of his office; though he finally became reconciled, through the efforts of several of the ministers, and together with Bradstreet, adhered to their compact to remain and carry out the original plans.
Denison’s house stood, as nearly as can be ascertained, on the Winthrop estate, near Bow Street, between Arrow and Mount Auburn streets. Into this new home, which, however, was not to shelter him long, he brought his bride, who was to be henceforth his life-long companion, Patience, the second daughter of Governor Dudley. They were married 18 October, 1632. He began his public career by serving his fellow-townsmen in various capacities, and by entering with spirit into civil affairs. He took the oath of freeman in 1634, and in the same year was granted two hundred acres of land above the Falls, on the easterly side of Charles River.
In 1635 Denison removed to Ipswich, — a name which the settlement under Winthrop’s son had received the preceding year from the Court of Assistants, in lieu of Agawam, “in acknowledgment of the great honor and kindness done to our people, who took shipping there.”98 Wood99 thus describes the town: —
Agawame is nine miles to the north from Salem, which is one of the most spacious places for a plantation, being near the sea. It aboundeth with fish, and flesh of fowles and beasts, great meads and marshes, and plain plowing grounds, many good rivers and harbors and no rattle-snakes.
It is difficult to understand why, after having connected himself with the church and town affairs of Newtown, Denison should so soon have quitted it for another place of abode. It is probable, however, that the differences which had sprung up between Winthrop and Dudley, his father-in-law, whose cause he would naturally espouse, and who had removed to Ipswich, decided him to take this step. Whatever may have influenced him, Ipswich was to be hereafter his permanent home. The journey thither by land was long and tedious in that day, there being only an Indian path which was so uncertain that one100 from Roxbury, who passed over it later, said “Sometimes I was in it, sometimes out of it, but God directed my way.” The easiest method of travel was by sea, which was undoubtedly the course taken by Denison and his young wife in 1635. He continued his public career of usefulness and honor in his new home. Land was assigned to him, “with a house lot of about two acres, which he hath paled in, and built an house upon,” say the old records. This dwelling, a humble one, was upon the banks of the Ipswich River, near the brick and stone mills, and was standing till our own day.
The people of Ipswich were not long in finding that they had among them a man whom they could safely place in positions of responsibility and trust. Hence Denison, scarcely twenty-three years old on his arrival, within two years was chosen successively Deputy, Town Clerk, and Captain of the militia. He was a Deputy to the General Court which, in 1637, condemned Mrs. Hutchinson. What views he himself held in this controversy, we have no means of deciding, but we cannot suppose that he sympathized with Mrs. Hutchinson, although both his father and brother George were among those who were disarmed. This controversy101 requires a passing notice. To the student of our colonial history, the intricacies presented by the Antinomian “heresy” are certainly confusing, and yet its chief points may be presented in an intelligible manner. “Antinomian” signifies a denial of the obligation of the moral law under the Christian dispensation; in other words, that the Gospel has abolished the Law, and that good works are not necessary as duties of Christianity. Those who felt spiritually that they were under “a covenant of faith” did not need to concern themselves about the “covenant of works.”
This heresy had its origin in Germany, and was there associated with much that was gross and licentious. No such evil, however, was connected with Antinomianism in New England. Its introducer and champion among the Colonists was Mrs. Anne Hutchinson,102 who was the daughter of an English clergyman. Being interested in the preaching of John Cotton and of her relative, John Wheelwright, she came to Boston in 1634. She soon made herself known by her friendly services to the sick, especially to those of her own sex; and being a woman of superior intelligence, “of nimble wit,” and gifted in powers of argumentation, she drew about her many listeners, who came to hear her discuss the sermons of those ministers whose views differed from her own, and who preached, in her judgment, “a covenant of works.” Many of the principal people of Boston sympathized with her; and these discussions led to the dissemination of jealousy, discord, and bitterness of spirit, not only among those immediately engaged in the controversy, but among the entire people, a great portion of whom were ignorant of the cause or significance of the contest in which they were engaged, and who had been excited thereto through the heat of strife.
The most serious charge brought against Mrs. Hutchinson was, that “she vented her revelations;” or, in other words, she prophesied judgment and disaster to come upon the Colony, as revealed to her by special divine communications. Being brought before the General Court, the following sentence was passed upon her: That “being convented for traducing the ministers and their ministry in this country, she declared voluntarily her revelations for her ground, and that she should be delivered and the Court ruined with their posterity, and thereupon was banished.”103 Many of the inhabitants in sympathy with her were disarmed by order of the Court “upon pain of ten pound for every default.” The reason given by the Court for this indignity, which, by the way, was a very serious matter, although effected quietly, was, that “there is just cause of suspicion that they, as others in Germany in former times, may, upon some revelation, make some sudden irruption upon those that differ from them in judgment.” The order for disarming extended to “guns, pistols, swords, powder, shot, and match,” which, “upon like penalty,” those who had been disarmed were forbidden to buy or borrow.104
The fact that so soon after his arrival in Ipswich, Denison was selected as Captain, argues that he had a proper bearing and capacity for command. In truth, he had shown such energy and resolution in military affairs that the Colonists early placed entire dependence upon him as a military leader, — a confidence which was never shaken. Accordingly, when in 1643 it was rumored abroad among the plantations that a general conspiracy existed among the native tribes, thereby causing great consternation, all looked to Denison as the man of prudence and sagacity to be relied upon for the raising of troops and the provision of war materials. In fact, those were times of constant alarms of this character, either local or more general; so that he was called upon to exert his best efforts to answer the continuous demands upon his services. At a general town meeting held in 1645, the inhabitants of the town engaged to pay yearly to him, so long as he should be their leader, the sum of £24 7s., “in way of gratuitye to encourage him in his military helpfullness unto them, as by severall subscriptions vnder their hands may appeare.” Here follow the names of one hundred and forty-five true-hearted friends. Just previous to this expression of regard for their leader, he had been chosen Sergeant-Major, — an office which he held until elected Major-General in 1653. Johnson105 thus speaks of him: —
The two Counties of Essex and Norfolk are for present joined in one regiment; their first Major, who now commandeth this regiment, is the proper and valiant Major Daniel Denison, a good soldier and of a quick capacity not inferior to any other of these chief officers; his own company are well instructed in feats of warlike activity.
It must be remembered that in addition to these military duties, Denison was called to take his part in the various civil and political affairs of the day, as they presented themselves in town, county, or colony. In the result of the contest between the several French claimants to the territory of Acadia and Cape Breton, which continued for more than half a century, the interests of the Massachusetts Colony, and especially of Boston, were involved. We have not space here to go into its history, which has been ably set forth by our associate, Dr. Francis Parkman, in his paper on The Feudal Chiefs of Acadia;106 but in 1646, when the struggle had reached a crisis, and an animated discussion took place in the General Court concerning the rival interests of La Tour and D’Auuay and the claims of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was decided to send Denison, with Dudley and Hathorne, to D’Aunay, with full powers to treat with him. Though this embassy was rendered unnecessary in consequence of D’Aunay’s sending three of his principal men to Boston to settle all matters of difference, the fact of Denison’s appointment is conclusive proof of the high esteem in which he was held in the Colony.107
In 1637, he was appointed one of the justices of the County Court at Ipswich. In educational matters he was much interested, being instrumental in the establishment of the Ipswich Grammar School, to the maintenance of which he afterwards contributed freely, and of which he was made one of the feoffees.
We know that Cromwell, after having subdued Ireland, looked about for some means of keeping it in subjection, and for tills purpose entertained the idea of transferring some of the hardy settlers of New England to that country. As Palfrey108 says, “He knew them for a set of men combining the best qualities of the English character. Their courage had been proved by strict tests. Their religious zeal was a light fit to be set upon a hill. They had shown themselves able to organize and to govern.” That Cromwell’s plan was favorably considered by some of the influential men, among whom was Denison, may be inferred from a letter109 written by him and others to the Protector, in 1650, asking for information, and giving the terms upon which a possible removal might be effected. Some of these terms were, that they should have liberty of religion as here in New England, that grants of land should be made for the advance of learning; that they should have the choice of a military governor, that they should occupy a healthy portion of country, be free from public charge, and “that no Irish may inhabit among us but such as we shall like of.” This project of Cromwell, however, made no general impression in the Colony.
The experience which Denison had acquired by previous conferences with the Dutch, in trade, and respecting differences, etc., induced the General Court to appoint him, in May, 1653, on a committee to join with the Commissioners of the United Colonies “to draw up the case respecting the Dutch and Indians.”110 Not being able to come to an agreement, Eaton, on the part of the Commissioners, and Denison, on the part of the General Court, were each instructed to prepare a short draft to be presented to the Court and Elders. While Eaton was “clamorous for war,” Denison did not advocate extreme measures, and it was undoubtedly through his influence that the House of Deputies communicated to the Commissioners their resolve: “That, according to their best apprehensions in the case, they do not understand we are called to make a present war with the Dutch.”111
In 1653, Denison was chosen an Assistant, and held the office continuously until his decease. In the autumn of the same year he was elected Secretary pro tempore of the Colony.
Denison’s capabilities seem, indeed, to have been versatile, for we find the following order passed in 1658 by the General Court:112 —
That Major General Daniel Denison diligently peruse, examine, and weigh every law, and compare them with others of like nature, and such as are clear, plain and good, free from any just exception, to stand without any animadversion as approved; such as are repealed or fit to be repealed, to be so marked, and the reasons given; such as are obscure, contradictory, or seeming so, to be rectified, and the emendations prepared; where there is two or more laws about one and the same thing, to prepare a draft of one law that may comprehend the same, to make a plain and easy table, and to prepare what else may present in the perusing of them, to be necessary and useful, and make return at the next sessions of this Court.
The General entered upon this work with zest and diligence, for in a few months the volume was finished, and was at once printed.113 Only a few copies of this volume are extant. As compensation for “his great paines in transcribing the lawes,” the Court granted him a quarter part of Block Island.114 Two years after, the entire island was sold for £400.
Of his further services as a statesman, a military leader, or as one of the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England it must suffice to notice only the more important duties he was called to perform. On 9 June, 1654, he was appointed by the General Court with Simon Bradstreet and Samuel Symonds to prepare letters to Cromwell and others to “be sent to England by the first opportunity,” together with a “narrative in way of remonstrance, of all matters respecting that which is charged on this Court concerning the breach of the confederacy,115 for the vindication of this Court’s actions in such respect.” In 1657, as one of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, he signed a manifesto116 in the form of a letter addressed to the Governor of Rhode Island in relation to the Quakers, the following extract from which shows his sentiments as to toleration of that sect: —
We therefore make it our request that you, as the rest of the Colonies, take such order therein that your neighbours may be freed from that danger; that you remove those Quakers that have been reed, and for the future prohibit their coming amongst you. We further declare that we apprehend that it will be our duty seriously to consider what further provision God may call us to make to prevent the aforesaid mischief.
When the English Colonies were alarmed at the capture of New York by the Dutch, in 1673, the Commissioners of the United Colonies, on which Board Denison had previously served for eight years, recommended to the General Courts of the Confederacy, to provide means of defence. The Governor and Assistants of Massachusetts had already, on the fourth of August, issued instructions by the seventh article of which Denison, as Major of the Essex regiment, was empowered and required to send “relief and succor” to any port in that county in case of the receipt of tidings of the approach of the enemy. On the tenth of December the General Court ordered a detachment of foot soldiers, besides troopers, to be placed in readiness against the Dutch. One hundred of these were from the Essex regiment. The conduct of this force when called to move on any expedition out of the Colony was committed to Denison as Sergeant-Major.117
In 1660, he joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and in the same year he was elected Commander, — the first authentic instance of the conferring of such honor.118
Almost the only allusion to his private affairs which we have been able to discover relates to the destruction of his dwellinghouse by fire, in 1665. This was the second he had built in Ipswich, and was near the Meeting-House Hill. A female servant of the family was “committed to prison on suspicion of her wickedly and feloniously burning it.” She was acquitted, but found guilty of stealing from the Denisons, and of lying, and was “whipt with ten stripes upon her naked body.” He rebuilt on the same site.
In the last years of his life, a storm which had been gradually but surely gathering burst upon the colonies. In 1675 King Philip’s War broke out, to be terminated only after months of physical and mental suffering, especially in the frontier settlements; hut we cannot here enter into the history of that direful contest. Denison had now reached his sixty-fourth year, and was in the zenith of his fame and popularity as a civilian and military leader. He was immediately recognized as the man best fitted to conduct affairs in the field at this crisis. Having been chosen Commander-in-Chief of the Massachusetts forces, the following instructions119 were given him by the Governor and Magistrates in Council, 28 June, 1675: —
In confidence of your wisdom, prudence, and faithfulnes in this trust committed to you for the honor of God, the good of his people, and the security of the interest of our Lord Jesus Christ in the churches, expecting and praying that you may be helped in a daily dependence upon him for all that supply of grace that may be requisite for your carrying an end therein, we must leave much to His direction and guidance of you upon the place, as occasion may occur from time to time, yet we commend unto you these instructions following, which we expect and require that you do attend:— You are with all expedition to march away with those soldiers you have, after those forces marched before, over whom you have the command by commission, unto whom you are to declare the same, so that they may know you to be their Commander-in-chief, and you are to require them to obey you in attending the service. You are to see that your commanders and soldiers be kept in good order and discipline, according to the rules military, and that all profaneness and disorder be avoided in the camp as much as in yon lies; and upon the breaking forth of any, you are to punish without partiality.… You are by all possible means to endeavor to put the enemy out of his skulkings (whereby he picks off the English), by pressing upon them with resolution the best you may, and so force them to engagement or leaving their station. Above all, endeavour the taking or destroying the head of them, Philip and his chief counsellors, that hath been the contriver and carrier and end of this treacherous and barbarous insurrection.… You are from time to time to give us intelligence of your proceedings, and how the Lord shall please to deal with you in this expedition.
At this time he was prevented by illness from taking the field in person, and Major Savage was placed in command; but that Denison directed affairs in his usual methodical manner, is shown by the correspondence which he carried on with his officers, as well as with the government. Many of his letters are still extant in excellent preservation, written in clear, concise language, and exhibiting superior penmanship.
In the autumn of 1676, the Court ordered him to proceed to Portsmouth, and to take chief command of the forces there destined for the war at the eastward. He was authorized “to impress men, horses, provisions, and ammunition, etc., as to him shall seem mete.” In this connection we quote the following from Hubbard120; —
The Governor and Council of the Massachusetts had at this time their hands full, with the like attempts of Philip and his complices to the Westward, yet were not unmindful of the deplorable condition of these Eastern plantations, having commited the care thereof to the majors of the respective regiments of the several counties on that side of the country, but more especially to the care and prudence of the honored Major D. Denison, the Major General of the whole Colony, a gentleman who, by his great insight in and long experience of all martial affairs, was every way accomplished for the managing that whole affair.
Active operations against the enemy at the eastward were carried on until late in the autumn of 1676, under Denison’s direction. Mugg, the Sachem, surrendered himself to the Commander-in-Chief, and passing through Ipswich, was sent to Boston, where a treaty was concluded, stipulating the cessation of hostilities, the restoration of prisoners, etc.121 This state of peace continued, however, only until the following spring, when hostilities were renewed, and continued until the spring of 1678, when the war ended.
In January, 1681, the General Court ordered a copy of a letter from the King, respecting Mason’s claims to certain territory, to be given to Denison and the other magistrates of the County of Essex, for their consideration; and the next June, probably in accordance with their report, the Court made answer122 to the king’s letter. The following is an extract: —
We also published his majesty’s pleasure to those villages of this Colony on the south of Merrimack, some part whereof Mr. Mason makes his pretensions unto; but what are his bounds and limits we nor the inhabitants there do not know, but are in hope that what may be presented to his majesty on their behalf will be sufficient to obviate the clamor and groundless pretences of the complainer.
Of the remaining months of his life we know but little. As he was chosen an Assistant, and called upon for other offices, we may suppose that the distressing disease of which he died, did not prevent him from performing his public duties until very near the end. In the discharge of these duties, he had served as Representative eleven years; Speaker of the House three years;123 Assistant thirty years; Major-General of the entire military force of the Colony eleven years; Commissioner of the United Colonies eight years, and in 1662 President of that Board. He certainly had not many leisure moments for private literary efforts; but among his papers was found a treatise, which was published two years after his death, by his pastor, William Hubbard. This publication, now exceedingly rare, is entitled “Irenicon, or A Salve for New England’s Sore: Penned by * * Major General [Denison]; and Left behind him as his Farewell and last Advice to his Friends of the Massachusetts.”124 He says: —
Among the manifold symptoms of this disease, I apprehend none more threatening our dissolution than the sad and unreasonable divisions about matters of religion.… A receipt of these five simples without composition, accompanied with Fasting and praying till they are well digested, with God’s blessing may bring about the expected cure: for the dose you need not trouble yourself, there is not danger of taking too much; and if this should fail, which I fear not, I have another receipt, but I fear it is somewhat corroding, which I hope I shall never have occasion to use, my lenitives working according to my expectations: so I take my leave, committing you to God and a good nurse.
He died, 20 September, 1682, at the age of threescore years and ten. His funeral obsequies were conducted in a manner worthy of his distinguished rank. The death of so illustrious a public servant called forth expressions of grief, not alone among his immediate family and townsmen, but throughout the Colony. That he was a man of distinguished abilities, and those of a most varied character, his long retention in offices of high public trust abundantly testifies. That he performed his duties faithfully, and satisfactorily to his constituents, is shown by his repeated re-election, even after it was known that he was ready to yield to the king’s prerogative. Randolph, in 1676, in answer to inquiries respecting the present state of New England, and who were the most popular in the magistracy, mentions Denison among “the most popular and well-principled men.”125
Savage, in his edition of Winthrop’s History of New England,126 speaks of him thus: —
The moderate spirit by which he was usually actuated, had not a general spread, yet the continuance of his election to the same rank for many years, when his sympathy was not, in relation to the controversy with the Crown, in unison with that of the people, is evidence of the strong hold his virtues and public labors had acquired.
We have neither portrait nor description of the person of Denison. His outward form must be left to the imagination. What manner of man he was inwardly, we learn from the words of one who knew him well, — his minister and friend, William Hubbard, who preached, at Denison’s death, a funeral sermon127 from Isaiah iii. 1–3: —
For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator:
There are but few men born into the world in any age in whom all these desirable qualities are eminently met together.… The greater is our sorrow who are now met together to solemnize the funeral of a person of so great worth, enriched with so many excellencies, which made him neither live undesired, nor die unlamented, nor go to his grave unobserved.… His parts and abilities were well known amongst those with whom he lived,… having indeed many natural advantages above others for the more easy attaining of skill in every science.… His military skill, some years before his death, advanced him to the conduct and command of the whole, which he was able to have managed with great exactness, yet was he not inferior in other sciences; and as a good souldier of Christ Jesus, he had attained to no small confidence in his last conflicts with the King of Terrors, being not afraid to look Death in the face in cold blood, but with great composedness of mind received the last summons: For though he was followed with tormenting pain of the stone or strangury that pursued him to the last, he neither expressed impatience under those grinding pains, nor want of confidence, or comfort from his first seizure.
Peace to the noble soldier’s dust, as he sleeps quietly on the hillside at Ipswich, beneath the old red sandstone slab bearing the heraldic crest128 upon its weather-stained face! Spring, with its flowers and birds, again brings “bloom and joy” to the spot, as it has in the successive years of more than two centuries since he was laid there, — “æternumque tenet per sæcula nomen.”
At the conclusion of the reading of Dr. Slade’s paper, Mr. Goodell spoke as follows: —
I have listened to the reading of Dr. Slade’s paper with interest and satisfaction. By combining his previous contributions upon the subject, he has produced, it seems to me, the most complete and graphic sketch of the character and career of Major-General Daniel Denison that has been given to the public. It is interesting to have the distinguished men of early New England artistically and sympathetically, as well as exactly, portrayed; and it is the singular merit of the paper just read that it exhibits a play of imagination and a power of appreciation which have enabled the author to rehabilitate the scattered remains of a forgotten personality in the obscure past with a vividness that is most charming.
To me the story of this colonial soldier and magistrate is specially attractive. Some of my nearest and dearest kindred were born in the old town of Ipswich, where he spent the most important years of his life. In the same burying-ground, on the side of the Town Hill, in which reposes the dust of this ancient worthy are entombed or interred the bodies of my maternal ancestors; and the brief allusion to that quiet inclosure with which Dr. Slade closed his paper brought to my mind the days when I pondered over the quaint inscriptions on its sunken headstones before I had come to know the history of its distinguished dead, and, later, the sunny hours when I sat under the shade of the surrounding shrubbery with my friend Whitmore, and compared for the Heraldic Journal, which we were editing, our tracings of the ancient legends and armorial devices cut upon its tombs and gravestones. Indeed, I have further cause for interest in the town, since, with the voyagers who formed one of the largest single accessions to the little community settled at Agawam (which that very year was renamed Ipswich), came my paternal ancestor, Robert Goodell. Although he settled farther up on Ipswich River, within the limits of Salem, he was one of those who sailed from Ipswich in old England 30 April, 1634, in the “Elizabeth,” commanded by William Andrews, — a voyage memorable in the history of the town as bringing the founders of so many families still prominent in Ipswich and its vicinity. Denison’s name has ever been proudly cherished in Ipswich, and is borne not only by his descendants, but as a Christian name by many who have received it originally or by inheritance as an honorable distinction.
I trust I may be pardoned if I take this opportunity to offer a word of dissent from Dr. Slade on one incidental matter in his essay. While I applaud the candor which would not conceal the darker side of Denison’s career, as shown in his bearing toward the Antinomians, so called, and the Quakers, I cannot quite agree that the most serious charge brought against Anne Hutchinson was that she “vented her revelations.” As I understand the gravamen of her offence in the apprehensions of her contemporaries, it was that she held to the heresy that “sanctification was no evidence of justification,” and that her “revelations” were not more certainly the “ventings” of a perverted imagination than were those of hundreds of the Puritan saints. The importance of her visions and vaticinations was magnified and distorted, and made a plausible pretext for enlisting against her those who were not entirely convinced that her peculiar doctrines were erroneous.
In the gradual relaxation of our hold upon the strict tenets of our fathers, the words in which Mrs. Hutchinson’s heresy was described, though of exact signification two or three centuries ago, have become almost meaningless, even to some of the doctors in divinity among the so-called Orthodox, as appears by their confessions of inability to comprehend the meaning of the Antinomian controversy, or by their unsatisfactory statements of the issues upon which the Colony was divided in 1636. This is the more surprising inasmuch as the disputed points are clearly brought out by the most cursory study of the doctrines of Calvin (which are the foundation of our ancient New England theology), or even by recalling our childhood’s drill in the questions and answers of the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, — a statement of doctrine that was accepted by our fathers as a satisfactory solution of all the perplexities, and an authority for harmonizing all the dissensions, of this very Antinomian controversy.
In view of the manner in which, as I conceive, the subject has been slighted by many historians, I venture to restate my understanding of the principal issue involved in the theological agitation which nearly paralyzed the Colony about seven years after Winthrop’s company had removed from Charlestown to Boston.
According to Calvin, the great purpose of the Divine mind and the proper chief end of all human endeavor was the gathering of elect souls into the Church Triumphant, where, after the judgment, they should “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This could only be done through the medium of the Church Militant, as the body of believers in this world was called. Membership of the visible church, therefore, was presumptive evidence that the subject had been effectually “called” of God and “elected” to salvation, — both of which processes were necessary to his final beatification. All who were not thus elected to salvation were elected to eternal condemnation, which meant utter and hopeless subjection to the infinite wrath of God. As calling and election to salvation, if “effectual,” necessarily implied that the sinner, who through Adam’s fall had justly incurred and merited condemnation, had been justified, arbitrarily and without any consideration of his good deeds or intentions, by an inscrutable decree of the Divine will, it was essential for the comfort of the believer that he have assurance of having been thus called and elected. According to Calvin and the Catechism, this assurance was a reasonable inference from certain preceding or concurring emotions, experiences, and observances; and these together constituted “sanctification.” Ordinarily, therefore, sanctification was wholly a matter of rational perception or deduction. Constant attention to religious duties, public and private, and persistent or increasing interest therein, — especially attendance upon stated preaching and divine worship in the sanctuary, — joined to moral conduct conformable to the commandments of the Decalogue, were a sufficient foundation for such a profession of faith in the leading doctrines of Calvinism as would entitle the professor to admission to church fellowship and to communion, he having been previously baptized. This admission completed the presumptive proof of his sanctification, which in turn, as I have said, established by inference his justification.
Now in all this business of attaining salvation there was nothing necessarily of fervor, enthusiasm, or rapture. Essentially it was a process as methodical as logic, and as cool and calculating as mathematics. Indeed, it could hardly have been otherwise when the end to be reached was believed to be unattainable through human longing or striving, but absolutely fixed and predetermined by an unalterable, inexorable decree formed before the foundation of the world.
Against this theory, which I believe we in all candor owe it to our fathers to confess may be fairly traced through Augustine back to Saint Paul, there appears to have been arrayed in the Christian Church, from the remotest times, a spiritual or emotional school, which held that the assurance of reconciliation to God or adoption by him was internal, and immediately and divinely communicated. With this school, the supreme object of spiritual yearning was close, personal communion with God, and implicit submission to his will, rather than the averting of his anger or the assurance of being the subject of his undeserved partiality. Although, owing to the prepotency of their self-abnegation and resignation (which involved the subordination of intellect to emotion, and consequently a contempt of the refinements of philosophical reasoning), the tendency of this school was toward disregard of the letter of the law, there is no evidence except the untrustworthy inferences and imputations of their enemies that in laxity of morals they exceeded the orthodox standard.
The difference between these two schools in religion is analogous to the difference between the philosophic schools of Plato and Aristotle, and is probably as old as that divergence in speculation, — or rather is traceable to the differences of mental constitution from which sprang those contrarieties in philosophy.
Clearly, since the fourteenth century, when the data for accurate conceptions of individual views and character became fixed in literature or so firmly impressed upon contemporary life and manners as to furnish history with materials for a sound criterion of personal traits and a clear understanding of the rise and effects of doctrines then taught, we are warranted in believing that this spiritual school was neither insignificant in its influence nor in the number of exemplary characters among its members. That its effect upon Christian life and thought was beneficial and permanent there can be no doubt. No essential difference is discoverable between what are commonly understood to have been the teachings of John Tauler, the Strasburg mystic of the fourteenth century, and those of Anne Hutchinson and the Quakers. Again, those who were condemned, disarmed, or expatriated here for heresy in 1637 seem generally to have acquiesced in the doctrines of the Quakers as soon as they began to be promulgated in New England. A striking illustration of this is the experience of Mary Dyer, who, having been banished in 1637 as the friend and disciple of Anne Hutchinson, was hanged on Boston Common in 1660 as a Quaker.
Absurd as it may appear to us in these days of enlightened criticism, Anne Hutchinson, as she tells us, came suddenly to the perception of the Divine voice within while pondering some verses of the Songs of Solomon. This inward impulse or monition, which, borrowing the words of the oriental idyl, she called “the voice of my Beloved,” is indistinguishable from the inward movings of the Spirit which incited, guided, and solaced George Fox and his followers.
The Quakers were the more radical, indefatigable, and successful in disseminating the new spiritual doctrine. It is mainly owing to their influence on religious thought in New England, I believe, that during the last century the Arminian teachings of the Methodists and Revivalists were so readily received here, thus laying a foundation for the growth of those sentiments respecting the evidence of salvation which now generally prevail among the so-called evangelical sects. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, Anne Hutchinson’s heresy, branded as blasphemous by our forefathers, and deemed by them, as good William Hubbard declares, a “pretence of crying up the free grace of God,” is now not only tolerated but embraced in the home of her persecutors. By flinging the portals of heaven wide open to all, it has furnished the preacher with an irresistible weapon in his assaults upon the infernal adversary; it warms the ardor of the revivalist, humbles and melts the obdurate sinner, inspires the hymn-writer, and to the solitary, anxious seeker for salvation it drowns the thunders of Sinai in the whispers of peace and the promise of a most free and gracious pardon.
Moreover, the doctrine of the immanence of the Holy Spirit logically demands absolute religious liberty; since no human being is authorized to deny or suppress the suggestions of the Divine mind. Hence, to the Quakers, who continued the faith of the so-called Antinomians, Massachusetts is demonstrably indebted for her boasted religious freedom, — which, however, was not fully established until the amendment of her Constitution in 1833.129
In the record of Mrs. Hutchinson’s career there is nothing, that is free from the suspicion of being calumnious, which will sustain the charge that she was either mischievous, meddlesome, froward, quarrelsome, insolent, or vindictive. Indeed, I see no good reason for doubting that she was one of the sweetest saints that ever walked the earth, — as good as the best in the Calendar. An ardent and ingenious mind (Hubbard says of her that she “was of a nimble wit”130) ordinarily finds little difficulty in reconciling all seeming contrarieties to its own cherished views; and hence the more profoundly she studied the Scriptures the more readily they opened to the new key with which she believed herself divinely intrusted for the enlightenment and edification of her fellow-creatures. In quickness of apprehension, acuteness, and the command of texts, she proved more than a match for the clergy who badgered her with their quibbles and paradoxes. They had never encountered her new and original propositions in the fields of scholastic controversy with which they were familiar. Thus thrown upon their native resources, they drifted about without pilot or compass. They were not only perplexed by the startling tenets broached by her or imputed to her by them, but alarm was added to their perplexity when they discovered that in arraigning her they could not agree among themselves in formulating articles of impeachment. By a plurality of votes, however, they specified a long list of errors, most of which, against her protestations, they had deduced from her teachings; and these, made by them the basis of her condemnation, still supply her calumniators with their stock arguments.
Her trial proved a veritable Pandora’s Box. The theological wrangles that ensued could not be quieted by repeated synods; and the clerical committee appointed to harmonize these contentions never reported. Happily or unhappily, the result of the Assembly at Westminster in 1643 was promulgated in season to be adopted as the end of controversies which the domestic authorities were unable to reconcile or suppress.
It is a source of profound and lasting regret that such good men as the earliest rulers and clergy of Massachusetts undoubtedly were, should have been so blinded by their devotion to a false system of religious belief, and so mistaken in their ideas of the proper function of the civil magistrate, as to have been totally inhospitable toward new doctrines that were not only harmless but, as now appears, beneficial to religion and the commonwealth, and to treat the holders of those doctrines as dangerous interlopers.
There was no sufficient reason for forcibly depriving the Antinomians of their birthright privilege to bear arms. No similarity existed between them and the Anabaptists of Münster, either in their professions or in the circumstances which led to the excesses committed by the latter. The language suggestive of physical warfare which the former borrowed from the Scriptures was clearly figurative, and not more menacing than when it fell from the lips of our Saviour; nor could there be charged upon these inoffensive disciples of one whose life was all benevolence, even such harmless demonstrations as the rabble parades of the Salvation Army in our day. As for their successors and representatives, the Quakers, their whole subsequent history shows there was more to fear of danger to the State from their depleting the militia by their refusal to bear arms than from their instigating armed insurrections.
A bad name is more easily incurred than got rid of. Literally Antinomian means opposed to law — impliedly, in this instance, the moral law of Moses; and from this circumstance it has been supposed that these conscientious Christians were in theory, if not in practice, lawless libertines. Nothing, as I have already intimated, could be further from the truth. The name was not of their adopting; it was contumeliously applied to them by their enemies. And the only reason for thus stigmatizing them was that they maintained that as the law came by Moses, and grace and truth by Jesus Christ, the literal observance of the law was not to be taken as proof of union with God without the indispensable corroboration of inward communion; or perhaps it would be more exact to say that, with them, the communion was the direct evidence, and legal conformity the corroboration. Doubtless extravagant expressions were occasionally uttered, and excesses perhaps occasionally committed, in the fervor of their zeal under their new and strange esoteric experiences, that they allowed to pass unrebuked; but as for their conduct in the main, I think it has not been and cannot be proved that there was more cause for scandal or reproach among these innovators than among their persecutors. Indeed, I believe there was less.
Let us have done with unmanly apology for the inexcusable wrong-doings of our ancestors. The story of the persecutions of the Antinomians and Quakers is a dreary chapter of inhuman malevolence, and an ineffaceable blot on the fair fame of those who themselves had fled from a milder form of tyranny. It was a deplorable refinement of cruelty for Denison and his associate Commissioners of the United Colonies, in their purpose to wield the sword of persecution against the Quakers, who were enjoying the quiet of their sanctuary in Rhode Island, to endeavor to intimidate the government of that Colony into an abandonment of the high principle of toleration which is her peculiar glory and boast. And it is sad indeed to reflect that the fathers of New England should have rejected with bitter reproaches and visited with the severest punishment the earnest, sincere pleadings of one of the brightest and most spiritually-minded women that ever landed on these shores. It is still sadder to feel that they resorted to sharp practices to convict her, and then quibbled to justify their doings.
note: the quakers as propagandists of religious liberty in massachusetts.
The immediate and efficient agency of the Society of Friends in bringing about, in Massachusetts, “religious liberty,” as we now understand that phrase, seems not to be generally appreciated. Indeed, our foremost historians who have touched upon some of the more important episodes in the course of this great reform appear to have been entirely unaware of their significance. While occasionally stating the facts with much particularity, they have been content to treat them as trivial, or to dismiss the subject with a sneer. (See Palfrey’s History of New England, iv. 449, 450, note.)
The following summary of the progress of this transcendant advance in civilization is appended at the request of the Committee of Publication, as pertinent to the passage in the text to which the first footnote on page 137 relates.
Refugees from religious intolerance in the Colony of Massachusetts found their securest sanctuary in Rhode Island and in Providence Plantations. Although the Colony of New Plymouth, as George Bishope wrote in his “New England Judged,” “danced to the Massachusetts pipe,” it was not, even at the seat of government, so rigorous as the northern Colony in its treatment of heretics; and in that part of its territory which bordered upon Seaconnet River its coercive discipline was still further relaxed. This was either the cause or the result of the comparatively large proportion of dissenters domiciled in that territory, who seem to have enjoyed nearly as much liberty as their neighbors across the river. Upon the union of Plymouth and Massachusetts under the Province Charter, the extension to this territory of Massachusetts laws for the settlement and support of ministers and for the building and maintenance of meeting-houses, and the stringent enforcement of those laws, was a grievous burden to these dissenters. In the first General Court convened under the new charter the representatives from Little Compton — Henry Head and Daniel Wilcok — were expelled from the House for inciting the Rhode Island government to attempt to relieve their constituents from the Massachusetts yoke. This was to be accomplished by assuming jurisdiction over such of the territory next east of Seaconnet River as had been claimed by both Plymouth and Rhode Island under their respective charters, and the title to which had been left undetermined by the royal commissioners in 1665. In pursuance of this scheme, the assembly of Rhode Island nominated a surveyor to ascertain the eastern bounds of the disputed territory.
After their expulsion from the House of Representatives, Head and Wilcok were tried for seditious riot, convicted, and heavily fined. Head paid his fine; but Wilcok fled to Rhode Island, where he remaired several years, eluding pursuit by the sheriff of Bristol, who more than once attempted his recapture. He was eventually permitted to return upon commuting his fine by the surrender of his lands in Massachusetts to the General Court as the agents of the province.
This was the beginning of a series of conflicts between the provincial authorities and the dissenting inhabitants of several towns in the county of Bristol, in which encounters the dissenters usually succeeded in adroitly evading or effectually resisting the obnoxious laws.
These contests were brought to a crisis in 1722, after the imperfections of legislation by which the dissenters had secured immunity had been gradually remedied until apparently there was no further chance of evading them. In that year the refusal of the Quaker selectmen of Dartmouth and Tiverton — “the only remaining towns in the province which had not yielded to the ruling party in worship”131 — to assess the taxes for the support of the Orthodox ministry specially set upon those towns in the Province Tax Act, was followed by their arrest. The Quakers in these towns, who were now firmly resolved no longer tamely to submit to the tyranny of the Legislature, took this means to raise an issue before the Privy Council. As early as 1705 their brethren of Connecticut had effectually put a stop to persecution in that Colony, by their successful application to Queen Anne for relief against an outrageous piece of intolerant legislation enacted under the head of “Heretics.” They themselves had repeatedly prayed the General Court for relief; and in one of their petitions they had intimated that the Friends in England were co-operating with them in their endeavors to procure redress. The meek non-resistance of the English Friends, their absolute indifference to politics, and their readiness to pay to Cæsar his proper tribute, whether he appeared as a profligate Stuart or as the exemplary Prince of Orange, were greatly to their advantage. While it excited the contempt of partisans, their compliant demeanor had won for them an enviable position at court, to which they were permitted to resort on equal terms with the highest. They seem to have anticipated and enlarged Pope’s discovery, in finding that, for themselves at least, in the exercise of prerogative, as well as in “forms of government,” —
“Whate’er is best administered, is best.”
Upon the refusal of the assessors to comply with the statute, Joseph Anthony and John Sisson, assessors of Tiverton, and John Aikin and Philip Tabor, assessors of Dartmouth, were arrested, and by the Court of Sessions sentenced to imprisonment. They promptly appealed to the Privy Council, and employed the necessary agents to prosecute their appeal. The inhabitants of Dartmouth forthwith met in town meeting and voted to raise by a town tax money sufficient to pay for all “charges arising or set on the selectmen … either by execution of their bodies or estate or in appealing to his Majesty for relief;” and accordingly £700 was raised as an indemnity fund, including a per diem allowance to the prisoners “for every day they lie in jail on the town’s account.” A similar course was pursued by the inhabitants of Tiverton. These proceedings were repeated the following year, and two other assessors of Dartmouth were imprisoned for refusing to comply with the requirements of the Tax Act of 1723. These, however, seem not to have appealed, preferring to await the decision of the Privy Council in the former cases. That decision was announced in 1724, and by it the persons first imprisoned, after thirteen months’ incarceration, were liberated and their fines remitted. Upon representing to the General Court the similarity of the cases of the assessors of both years, those last imprisoned were in like manner released by a resolve signifying the “ready and dutiful compliance” of the Assembly “with his Majesty’s will and pleasure.”
The success of the Friends now encouraged other sects to apply to the Crown for relief. By an old law, all congregations in Boston were independent of the town and of each other in their prudential affairs. Hence the dissenting religious assemblies which had gained a foothold there could not complain of the tyranny which bore so hard upon their brethren in the country towns. However, when the Episcopalians began to think of building chapels and gathering congregations outside of Boston, they were particularly disturbed at being obliged to contribute to the support of Congregational ministers, besides bearing the expense of their own parishes. In 1727, therefore, Timothy Cutler and Samuel Miles, Episcopal clergymen of Boston, united with five other Episcopal clergymen of Massachusetts in a petition to the king in council for a repeal of all the laws (beginning with the Act of 1692) for the settlement and support of ministers and for the building and repair of meeting-houses. They sought the powerful aid of the Bishop of London, who had official charge of ecclesiastical affairs in partibus infidelium, and undoubtedly would have received the support, as they had the sympathy, of the whole hierarchy of England. This petition was received by the Privy Council on the nineteenth of October; but just two months thereafter the Legislature of Massachusetts, alarmed at the prospect, adroitly defeated the purpose of the petition by passing an act (Province Laws, 1727–28, chap. 7) requiring that all taxes collected of Episcopalians should be paid over by the town treasurer to the minister of the Church of England in the town where the tax was collected. The act also gave the Episcopal minister “the right to receive and, if need be, to recover the same at law.” The only objection that could be made to this act by the petitioners was that it confined the limit of a parish to a territory of five miles radius, which they alleged was too small, and that the deficiency in the tax for the support of the Orthodox minister, caused by this diversion of a part of the tax, was to be made up by reassessment, in which Episcopalians were to be taxed with the rest. As the matter was dropped here, it is to be inferred that the Privy Council deemed these objections unimportant. This easement of the Episcopalians continued to be the law in Massachusetts until the amendment of the Constitution, in 1833.
The next year after the passage of this act favoring the Episcopalians, the first act (1728–29, chap. 4) was passed recognizing the religious scruples of Baptists and Quakers. This act, which was limited to five years, exempted the polls only, of Quakers and Baptists, from being taxed for the support of ministers, and their bodies from being taken in execution on warrants for collecting such taxes. The next year an act (1729–30, chap. 6) in addition to the act of the previous year was passed, extending the exemption to the real and personal estates of Quakers and Baptists, or Anabaptists, as they were called.
By this time the Quakers in England had acquired such a degree of influence that the politicians began to see the wisdom of keeping on the right side of the leaders of the sect so recently derided and despised. Jonathan Belcher, upon his arrival from England with the commission of Governor, met the assembly with the usual opening speech, in which he took occasion to recommend that body to “imitate the Royal Indulgence of our gracious Sovereign, that none of our Laws may carry in them a Spirit of Rigour or Severity towards those who conscienciously differ from us in the modes of divine worship.” The next year an act (1731–32, chap. 11) was passed more clearly exempting the Quakers from taxes for the maintenance of ministers and meeting-houses, and removing some difficulties which they had encountered in proving their claim to exemption under the former laws enacted for their relief. This act immediately followed a second speech by Belcher to the Assembly, in which he had reminded them of his former appeal for toleration, and added: “Of this matter I am obliged to remind you from the repeated applications made to me by the people among us called Quakers, who think themselves under great hardships from some of the laws of this province. They are generally a set of virtuous and inoffensive people, and good members of the Commonwealth, and their friends in England are a great body of men, and esteemed as well attached to his Majesty and his royal house as any of the best of his subjects. I would, therefore, upon all these considerations think it an instance of your prudence and wisdom to pass some further law for their quiet and ease.”
The Privy Council were at first inclined to disallow this act because it did not extend to other dissenters besides Quakers, but concluded to let it stand, after ordering an additional instruction to the Governor to restrain him in future from assenting to any such act which did not embrace “all persons whatsoever being of the persuasion or denomination of Protestants.” For this service in behalf of the Quakers Belcher got his reward; it was the remonstrance of the Friends in England that prevailed to prevent his supersedure in office in 1739.
In 1734 (1734–35, chap. 6) it became the turn of the Anabaptists to receive more complete exemption. The next year (1735–36, chap. 15) the Episcopalians were altogether exempted from ministerial rates. In 1737 (1737–38, chap. 6) the last law exempting the Quakers was re-enacted and continued ten years; and in 1740 (1740–41, chap. 6) the law exempting the Baptists, which was temporary, was also re-enacted and continued for seven years. In 1747 (1747–48, chap. 6) both of these acts were again continued for ten years. In 1752 (1752–53, chap. 15) an act was passed to relieve the Anabaptists by establishing rules for identifying their members and ministers. In 1758 (1757–58, chap. 20) the provisions of the recently expired acts for the relief of Quakers and Anabaptists were incorporated in one act, and continued for three years, and again in 1761 (1760–61, chap. 21) for ten years. In 1770 (1770–71, chap. 10) this act, amplified and made less burdensome, was re-enacted for three years. In this act, for the first time, the Baptists were styled Antipedobaptists, instead of the more offensive name hitherto improperly applied to them. In 1774 (chap. 6) this act was again re-enacted and continued for three years; and again continued in 1777 (1777–78, chap. 4), to 1 November, 1779, and then, finally (1779–80, chap. 18), to the first day of November, 1785. The Constitution, which went into operation 25 October, 1780, continued all the previous laws in full force for the time for which they were respectively enacted.
By this time nearly all sectarian animosities had been forgotten in the superior concerns of common defence and the common welfare; still, it had been found impracticable to secularize the Constitution, and under it even the act which expired in 1785 was not renewed. The Baptists, however, by the provisions of their respective charters of incorporation, which were freely granted after 1780, were specially exempted; but the Quakers could only avail themselves of the provisions of Art. III. of the Declaration of Rights. This article conferred upon every citizen the right to have the money contributed by him for the support of public worship paid to the teachers of his own denomination. This was a privilege of doubtful value to the Quakers. They having no “hireling priesthood,” it was by no means clear that any class among them could be deemed “teachers” within the meaning of the Declaration; and as their professed preachers were not ordained conformably to ancient usage, their authority to give legal receipts for money contributed by their congregations was not so unequivocal as to be beyond dispute. Hence it became necessary to make some special legislative provision for removing these doubts. By the act of 23 June, 1797, therefore, substantially so much of the act of 1774 for the relief of Quakers and Antipedobaptists as applied to the former sect was re-enacted and made perpetual. By the act of 4 March, 1800, providing for the public worship of God, and repealing former acts, the polls and estates of Quakers were absolutely exempted from assessment in the raising of taxes for the support of ministers and meeting-houses. The certificate of membership prescribed by this act was changed by the act of 8 March, 1803, so as to leave no doubt of its application to Friends, by providing that the signatures of two overseers, and the counter signature of the clerk, of a Friends’ meeting should be sufficient authority to the assessors to abate such tax and to exempt the person named therein. In this act, for the first time in our legislation, this sect were called “Friends,” though six years before the Legislature had so far outgrown the ancient prejudice as to denominate them “Christians.” Finally, as late as 1811 it was deemed necessary to declare by statute (chap. 6) that money paid for the support of public worship might be paid to a public teacher “ordained according to the usages of his sect,” by those who “usually attend his instructions;” and to remove a further doubt, this was made to apply to societies, whether corporate or incorporate. This continued to be the law until 11 November, 1833, when the people ratified the eleventh article of amendment of the Constitution, by which all persons became entitled to a voluntary release from all obligations to support any religious society.
While the Quakers were thus securing for themselves and others immunity from pecuniary burdens imposed for the benefit of a hostile sect, they were making progress toward freedom of conscience in other directions. As early as 1719 (1719–20, chap. 11) they were granted the privilege of making a solemn declaration in lieu of the oaths of abjuration and supremacy which could be demanded of every subject. Twenty-three years later this privilege was extended to all cases where by law an oath was required; and the law, made thus comprehensive, together with an act passed in 1758 (1757–58, chap. 17), to exempt them from the penalty of the law for non-attendance on military musters, was revived, enlarged, and continued down to the time of the adoption of the Constitution.
This view of the successful efforts of the Friends is no disparagement of the Baptists. Indeed, the latter, who at all times and everywhere have been among the stanchest upholders of the rights of conscience, are entitled to even greater praise than the Friends for their steadfastness to the same great principle, inasmuch as it is not a necessary and logical consequence of their cardinal doctrines. The Friends could not consent that the Holy Spirit, which they believed immanent in the humblest child of God, should be silenced, nor its prophet molested in his vocation; but the Baptists combined the doctrines of Calvin and the principle of toleration which their Orthodox brethren, who were disciples of the same great teacher and more in harmony with him in respect to discipline, regarded as a sin against God and a crime against society. The persistence of the Baptists in avowing this great principle against the buffetings of opposition and under the terrors of oppression, without a logical foundation for it in their creed, is one of the most remarkable solecisms in all history.
The following letter from the Chief-Justice of the United States accepting membership in the Society has been received by the Corresponding Secretary: —
Washington, D. C., March 31, 1893.
Dear Sir, — It gives me sincere pleasure to accept the honor paid me in my election as an Honorary Member of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, with whose purposes I entirely sympathize.
I have the honor to be,
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Melville W. Fuller.
Andrew McF. Davis, Esq.