A STATED Meeting of the Society was held at the Club of Odd Volumes, No. 77 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, on Thursday, February 17, 1944, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Kenneth Ballard Murdock, in the chair.
The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported the receipt of letters from Mr. Henry Morse Channing, Mr. Roger Ernst, and Mr. Mayo Adams Shattuck accepting election to Resident Membership in the Society.
Mr. Zechariah Chafee, Jr., read a paper entitled:
THE existence of a Court of Equity in Rhode Island in the middle of the eighteenth century has long been known. Bartlett’s Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations prints the statute of May, 1741, establishing this court and the statute of February, 1743/44, abolishing it.1 Chief Justice Thomas Durfee alludes to the court in his Gleanings from the Judicial History of Rhode Island,2 but his information was obviously derived from the two statutes. His examination of the manuscript records of other courts was not repeated in this connection. Consequently, what the Court of Equity actually did has remained largely a matter of guesswork. It was fascinating, for instance, to surmise that these colonial contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke were supplementing the rigid doctrines of the English common law courts by the more flexible doctrines of the Court of Chancery. We could dream of them as enforcing trusts and hearing bills for specifically performing land contracts or enjoining the misdeeds of tenants. Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
All this time a nearly complete record of the proceedings of this mysterious Court of Equity was reposing unread in the Rhode Island archives and is now safe in the State Law Library. Recently the American Historical Association’s Committee on Legal History, which has charge of the expenditure of the Littleton-Griswold Fund, became interested in this manuscript. Professor Daniel J. Boorstin, one of our members, was then teaching Legal History at Harvard Law School. He enlisted the aid of two students, Mr. Lincoln W. Lauterstein and Mr. Lester C. Migdal, who went to Providence and with the kind assistance of Miss Grace M. Sherwood, the State Librarian, and the staff of the John Carter Brown Library made microfilms of the entire manuscript. They then selected about fifty-seven cases for typewritten transcription and also submitted a report on the whole material to Mr. Boorstin as part of their law school work.3 I have not seen the untranscribed portions of the microfilms, but the present paper is based on the transcribed cases and the report, and I am greatly indebted to Mr. Lauterstein and Mr. Migdal for making possible this investigation. The Legal History Committee has selected as one of its current projects the publication of the record of the Rhode Island Court of Equity, with Dr. John T. Farrell of the Catholic University of America, Mark DeW. Howe, and myself working on the editing.
The present paper is only a preliminary report. After describing the general nature of the work of the Court of Equity, I shall present sixteen cases with interesting facts. Although the material raises several significant legal questions, these must be deferred to the published book.
The Origins and Purpose of the Court of Equity
At the time that the General Assembly in 1741 was considering a Court of Equity, the judicial system of the colony for civil litigation consisted of three levels:4
A case started in the Court of Common Pleas of one of the four counties; this comprised “four judicious and skillful persons,” chosen by the General Assembly from citizens of the particular county. Their jurisdiction extended to “all civil actions arising or happening within such county, triable at common law, of whatever nature, kind or quality soever.”
The loser in one of these courts could next go to the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Gaol Delivery, which sat only in Newport. The members were not then chosen for judicial ability. They were the Governor, the Deputy Governor, and the ten Assistants, all of them popularly elected for political duties. It was like the Massachusetts Court of Assistants in composition and power.5 This court decided both civil and criminal cases, and all capital cases began there. In civil matters its jurisdiction was purely appellate. Subject to this limitation, it was declared to be as ample as that of “The Court of Common Pleas, King’s Bench, or Exchequer in His Majesty’s Kingdom of England.” Although this court developed into the present Supreme Court of Rhode Island, it did not become the court of last resort until its powers were defined by the Constitution adopted after the Dorr “Rebellion.”6
The highest stage in the Rhode Island judicial system of 1741 was occupied by the General Assembly itself, which as the colonial counterpart of the High Court of Parliament considered itself a court as well as a legislature.7
In trying cases the two houses sat together in grand committee. Although this mixture of legislative and judicial functions violated the doctrine of the separation of powers which Montesquieu was then formulating in far-off France, nobody ought to be astonished by it. The General Court of Massachusetts then behaved in much the same way,8 and the New York Senate sat as an appellate court into the nineteenth century as the House of Lords still does in theory.9 The Rhode Island General Assembly had one advantage over the other courts of the colony—some of the men who decided cases there were legally trained, unlike the judges in the Courts of Common Pleas or the officials in the Superior Court. Yet the activities of the lawyers in the legislature caused so much resentment among their bucolic colleagues that a few years earlier the General Assembly made all lawyers ineligible to represent any town because their sitting on hearing of appeals was “found to be of ill consequence.”10 Although the lawyers soon returned as lawmakers, the General Assembly, as might be expected, continued to decide a good many of its cases in a legislative rather than a judicial spirit. Thus Durfee writes:11
In fact the assembly was very frequently petitioned (not to enforce but) to modify the law in the particular case, or make it specially for the case, or to remedy some defect in it, or to help the petitioner get over the legal consequences of some mistake or omission of his own. It thus sat as a court to dispense justice not according to law but according to equity and according to equity in the popular as distinguished from the judicial meaning of the word. The records are full of illustrations of the jurisdiction. Thus the assembly early begun and long continued to grant divorces . . . There is an uncanny tradition, still vaguely surviving, that in such [divorce] cases grave legislators were sometimes plied in the lobby with solicitations and arguments too peculiar for public discussion . . .
Another phase of the jurisdiction is exemplified in the matter of appeals and petitions for new trial. The right of appeal was granted in 1680 in favor of any party to any “actional case” aggrieved by any judgment rendered in the higher court. The appeal seems to have taken the case up for re-trial on all the issues, though there was probably a good deal of arbitrariness in the procedure, the assembly acting as triers of both law and fact. At the conclusion of the hearing the judgment of the court below was either confirmed or modified, or, to borrow the contemporary euphemism, “chancerized” by mitigating the damages, or entirely reversed. In 1712, appeals to the assembly, technically so called, were abolished, though under another form, namely, by way of petition, the jurisdiction continued.
In granting such petitions [for trial or new trial], the general assembly assumed a large discretion . . . The usual grounds for such petitions were mistake, accident, surprise, or newly-discovered testimony; but the assembly did not limit itself to such grounds. It granted new trials for any cause, including even errors of law committed by the court. It would be presumptuous to say that the jurisdiction was not for the time salutary; but it was evidently liable to great abuses. For instance, it is scarcely conceivable that a case between a member of the assembly and one who was not would be impartially decided. So, too, in a case between a man of great political power or influence and a man without it, the latter would surely be at an incalculable disadvantage. And the danger was always inevitable that a case which involved large interests or excited strong feelings would get embroiled with party politics and become a potent influence in the elections.
Such was the judicial system of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation when its General Assembly in May, 1741, enacted:12
Whereas, the trial of appeals by the General Assembly, from judgments given at the superior court of judicature, have, by long experience, been found prejudicial, as well to the parties having their causes determined there, as well as to the government in general, by the public business being neglected;—
For remedy whereof, for the future, . . . it is enacted, that the act regulating the appeals from the judgments of the superior court to the General Assembly . . . is hereby repealed . . .
And that for the future, there be a court of equity appointed and established, to consist of five judges, to be chosen annually by the General Assembly . . . ; who are hereby empowered and authorized to hear all appeals from the judgments of the superior court, in personal actions, and to give a determination on said appeals, by affirming, reversing or altering the judgments of said superior court, agreeably to law and equity, in as full and extensive manner as the General Assembly hath been accustomed to do.
And . . . that the judgment and determination of said court shall be final, saving an appeal to His Majesty, in council, in those cases wherein the law hath already provided.13
The plain purpose of this statute was to relieve the General Assembly of the burden of hearing appeals and petitions of new trials in its short and consequently busy sessions. This work was to be shifted to the new court. The preamble, the repeal clause, the provisions establishing the court, and the clause quoted last make the point clear. Moreover, the statute directs the Court of Equity to meet twice a year to try appeals from the Superior Court, and fixes the time as a month after each semi-annual session of that court. Thus the General Assembly was simply setting up a new appellate court, which was to be the sole court of last resort in the colony.
Why then the repeated references to “equity”? Do they not indicate that the new court was to be a colonial counterpart of the Court of Chancery just as the Superior Court had been expressly given the powers of the three English courts of common law? Some support for this view is supplied by the statute of 1705, which was entitled “An Act for the Generall Assembly to be continued a Court of Chancery, untill such time as a Court of Chancery can be erected.”14 Lauterstein and Migdal surmise that this was a half-hearted response to criticisms of the Rhode Island judicial system made by Bellomont, Dudley, and Cornbury as the outcome of their unwelcome visit to the colony earlier in the same year, and that, after waiting thirty-six years till 1741, the General Assembly at last got around to the promised “mature consideration for orderly settling” of a separate Court of Chancery. Yet I find no complaint of the absence of a Court of Chancery in the Dudley and Cornbury reports as printed by Bartlett, and Weston Clarke’s reply to their charges fails to mention Chancery.15
There is, I think, an easier explanation for the title of the new court as a “court of equity” and for the direction that it was “to give a determination . . . agreeably to law and equity.” The word “equity” had in 1741, as now, three common meanings:16 (1) Very broadly, it was “fairness, impartiality.” (2) This led in jurisprudence to its use to describe “the recourse to general principles of justice to correct or supplement the provisions of the law.” (3) After the Court of Chancery had begun about 1400 to decide cases which were not adequately handled by the common law courts, it gradually developed its own body of rules. Hence arose the narrowest meaning of equity—“the distinctive name of a system of law existing side by side with the common and statute law (together called ‘law’ in the narrower sense), and superseding these, when they conflict with it.” A rough distinction between “law” and “equity,” thus taken technically, was that the victor in a court of law usually got a judgment for money which the sheriff would collect by seizing and selling some of the loser’s property whereas the victor in Chancery got a court order telling the loser to do something like signing a deed or not to do something, e.g., enjoining him from cutting down the plaintiff’s ornamental trees. In other words, the Chancellor protected the plaintiff in the very property to which he was found entitled, but the law judges merely gave him money after he had suffered a wrong. And that was just what the Rhode Island plaintiffs wanted—money. They and the legislators cared little or nothing about the remedies granted in Chancery. They did not have the technical third meaning of “equity” in mind. Instead, they used the word predominantly in its broader first and second senses, somewhat loosely intermingled I suspect.
The Court of Equity of 1741, then, was intended to correct mistakes in the early stages of a lawsuit and make it come out right without overmuch attention to the strict rules printed in the statutes or in the sparsely scattered treatises owned by Rhode Island lawyers. The colonists put a new court in place of the General Assembly, but they expected to continue getting much the same brand of substantial justice between man and man which the legislators had been accustomed to hand out.17
The foregoing conclusion could easily be drawn from the language of the statute of 1741, without further evidence, but such a priori conjectures are solidly confirmed by the recently examined records of the Court of Equity itself. All of the transcribed cases simply review decisions of the Superior Court in actions of the sort which we find in the three English courts of common law—actions to recover rent or the value of misappropriated merchandise and so on. If the plaintiff wins, he gets a judgment for money. Only one case18 faintly resembles what was going on in the Court of Chancery, and even this ended in an award of cash. The work of the court was not what lawyers in London then or in Providence today would call equity.
There should be no surprise in this. If the Rhode Island colonists had had a real Court of Chancery, they would have hardly known what to do with it. In their simply organized society, actions for damages met most legal needs. No doubt, as in the Massachusetts Bay,19 there was a little litigation of the kind which the Chancellor handled in London, but it was easily entrusted to the regular tribunals. In 1667 the General Assembly gave the predecessor of the Superior Court authority to proceed where any penalty, conditional estate or equity of redemption was sued for, according to the rules of equity, and to chancerize forfeitures.20 In 1719 each town council, which was the regular probate court and still is in many towns, was directed to inquire into all breaches of charitable trusts, with power to imprison for contempt until its orders were obeyed.21 Durfee speaks of cases where the General Assembly, without any previous proceeding in a lower court, entertained petitions for partition, specific performance, cancellation, accounting between partners, etc.22 But there was not enough of this sort of thing to occupy anywhere the full time of the new Court of Equity, and indeed there is almost nothing in its records about the matters I have just been describing. One finds little likeness to the activities of the Maryland Court of Chancery.23 Of course, if such a case had been appealed to the Rhode Island court, it would have been duly considered, but the judges would not have thought it any more within their province than a money action for the value of hogsheads of molasses. Whatever came up from the Superior Court was grist to their mill.
What sort of men sat on the Court of Equity?24 The first five selected were Samuel Clarke of Jamestown, John Potter of Providence, William Robinson of South Kingstown, John Chipman presumably of Newport, and Captain Thomas Spenser of East Greenwich. Clarke and Robinson served for only the opening session of November, 1741; Chipman sat through the session of April, 1743. These men were replaced by Captain Robert Hassard of South Kingstown, Josiah Arnold of Jamestown, and William Anthony of Portsmouth. Two of these men had already been Assistants, Clarke and Chipman; Potter became one later. Robinson and Hassard were subsequently Deputy Governors. Clarke and Spenser had been speakers in the General Assembly, and had been recently appointed as commissioners to settle the eastern boundary with Massachusetts. Most of the judges often served as deputies from their respective towns and their colony. Legal training was not considered essential for a judge in the Rhode Island of those days and there is no indication that any of them possessed it. By and large, they were the same kind of men as the officials constituting the Superior Court. The only significant difference was that most of the new judges had not gone so far up the political ladder as the men whose decisions they were to review. Very likely this fact caused no resentment. The judges on the Court of Equity were not distracted by multifarious administrative duties like the Governor and Deputy Governor and Assistants on the Superior Court, and so were likely to do a better judicial job.
In more than fifty transcribed cases only ten attorneys appear—John Andrew, John Aplin, Henry Bull, James Honyman, David Richards, Jr., Matthew Robinson, William Robinson, Daniel Updike, John Walton, and Thomas Ward. The great bulk of the cases were argued by only five of these, Richards, M. Robinson, Updike, Walton, and Ward. Indeed, Ward appeared twenty-five times—in nearly half of these litigations. These ten attorneys were well-known men. All except Bull and W. Robinson attended the first bar meeting in 1745 and signed a compact as to fees and other professional matters.25 Bull, Honyman, M. Robinson, and Updike were given biographies by Updike’s descendant in his Memoirs of the Rhode-Island Bar. In 1749 the General Assembly requested Aplin, Honyman, M. Robinson, and Updike to prepare a bill for introducing into the colony a suitable list of English statutes. Such a list was submitted by Updike, Honyman, and Aplin, and was enacted into law.26 Honyman later became Advocate-General of the Vice-Admiralty Court in Newport.27 Therefore, these ten attorneys were much more learned in the law than the judges before whom they argued.
The Nature of the Papers
The papers fall into two groups. First is the Minute Book, of which all that survives has been completely transcribed. The entries are very bare and give no facts. By themselves they are even less informative than the entries of the Suffolk County Court from 1671 to 1680. The first few pages must be lost, for the book begins without any formal heading and I find no entries for a few of the early cases for which we have file papers. The first entries are in the term for September, 1741. Since some of the missing cases were decided by the Superior Court in March or May of that year and there was time after the establishment of the Court of Equity for a term in July, 1741, the whole of that term may have got torn off. Still, it is possible that no appeals came before the new court until September. A painstaking examination of the microfilms should establish the extent of the loss.
The second class of materials comprises the file papers, which are the chief source of interest. In nearly every case these contain the reasons of appeal to the Court of Equity, with several additional pleadings such as the writ which began the suit in the Court of Common Pleas, the declaration, plea and answer, and judgment in that court; the reasons of appeal to the Superior Court, and its judgment. Rather often other documents connected with the case are preserved, including contracts about merchandise, indentures of apprenticeship, inventories and accounts, rules for the crew of the privateer, and many affidavits or depositions by witnesses. These miscellaneous documents throw much light on the social history of the colony.
1. The Missing Law Books
Eleazer Metcalf, a merchant of Providence, sued John Aplin, the lawyer already mentioned who appeared in his own defense. Metcalf alleged that by his orders Huldah Carpenter, a Rehoboth widow, had delivered six law books and a Latin dictionary to Aplin for safe keeping and redelivery to Metcalf on request. Aplin claimed to have bought all these books except one, which he was ready to return. Although Aplin had won in the Common Pleas, the Superior Court held against him, but the Court of Equity again reversed and let him keep the books.28
This case gives helpful information as to what books lawyers used in their practice. Only titles are given, but I have filled in the probable authors and dates of publication as follows: Nelson, Lex Testamentaria (1724); Practick Law (1711); Universal Office of Justice (1730/31); Duncomb, Trials per pacis (1725); Jacob, Lex Mercatoria (1729); Tennants Law (1737).
2. The Recalcitrant Apprentice
Here Eleazer Metcalf was plaintiff again, this time seeking damages from John Randall for not living up to the terms of his appenticeship of four years in the saddler’s trade. The indenture runs in part: “Taverns and Ale houses he shall not frequent, at Cards, Dice or any other unlawful Game he shall not Play. Fornication he shall not Committ, Nor Matrimony he shall not Contract with any Person, within said Term . . .” The master and his wife promised, among other matters, that they “will find and Provide for and unto sd Apprentice good and sufficient Meat, Drink Apparrel, Washing and Lodging, both in Sickness and health fitting for an Apprentice, During sd Terme and at the End of said Terme to Dismiss said Apprentice with his Common wearing Cloaths And Thirty Pounds in Bills of Publick Credit as the Money now is, at twenty six Shillings for one ounce of Silver, or a good new Suit of Apparel fitt for all parts of his Body at his said Mothers choice.” We do not know the precise nature of the breaches charged, but the apprentice countered by claiming a balance due him. There are detailed lists of clothing and medical services furnished to him with prices. The apprentice lost in all three courts, in spite of Mrs. Esther Sweeting’s affidavit that she had heard Metcalf say “that he was a good sort of Lad and very servisable to him . . .”29
3. The Runaway Apprentice
In Bristol, England, in October, 1740, Daniel Connelly a perukemaker of Dublin, aged twenty-six, bound himself to Arthur Tough of Bristol, master of the ship William. The indenture provides that Connelly will serve Tough or his assignees four years following his arrival in the Plantations of New York, whither Tough promises to convey him and also allow him during the voyage and the service “all Necessary Cloths, Meat, Drink, Washing and Lodging and all other Necessaries, fit and convenient for him according to the Custom of the said Plantation and as other Servants in such Cases are actually provided for and allowed.” When the William reached New York, Tough assigned his rights to David Cox, a periwigmaker of that city.30 By August of 1741, Connelly was not happy in his bargain. A privateer sloop from Rhode Island, of which Charles Davidson of Newport was commander, was lying at Sandy Hook. The temptation to some restive apprentices was too strong to be resisted as one of them, William Quinton, narrates in his deposition of 1742:
That in the Month of August last, he was a Servant to John McMullen, of this City Cordwainer at which time he ran away from his sd Master and went on Board a Privateer Sloop belonging to Rhode Island of which Charles Davison was Commander, That on the Twenty third Day of the same Month of August, the said Sloop then lying at Sandy Hook they saw a Boat coming toward the said Sloop, whereupon he the Deponant Together with one Daniel Connelly a Servant then belonging to David Cox, of this City of New York Perukemaker, and two Servants or Apprentices belonging to Humphrey Jones of the Same City Perukemaker who he understood were likewise run away from their Masters were hid away in the said Sloop, before the said Boat was suffered to come on Board, that on the Wednesday following another Boat being coming on Board the said Sloop, the said Daniel Connelly and the Two Servants belonging to said Humphrey Jones were again hid away, That he heard that Capt Samuel C Tingley came on board the said Sloop in The said Boat, to demand the said Daniel Connelly for the said David Cox which sd Daniel Connelly was then also denied to be on Board the said Sloop, That afterwards he the Deponant and the said Daniel Connelly went out in the said Sloop, and that he the Deponant left the said Sloop in Carolina but what is become of the said Daniel Connelly he knows not—
The irate Cox thereupon sent a full-dress power of attorney to Andrew Hunter, a Newport perukemaker, empowering him to have Connelly imprisoned and to sue Davidson for enticing away the apprentice two years and eight months before his time was up. Captain Davidson answered Cox’s suit in such evasive terms that his wrong seems clear, but after losing in the two lower courts he persuaded the Court of Equity to let him off with £14 of costs to be paid by the unlucky Cox. Perhaps the Rhode Island tradition of hospitality to runaways from other colonies counted more than an overseas pledge of faith.31
4. Too Many Taxes
We get a glimpse of Jewish merchants in Newport in the suit of Jacob Isaacs against William Dyre, a constable. The General Assembly in 1738/39 directed each town to appoint three assessors for rating “Foreigners or strangers as shall come into any Town . . . and there carry on Trade and Business, in proportion to their Trade . . .” Accordingly, in 1742/43, a few months after Isaacs came to Newport from New York, he was taxed £9. When he refused to pay, Wm. Coddington, Junr., J.P., issued to a writ directing Constable Dyre to seize and sell enough of the goods of Isaacs to cover the tax. Shortly afterwards Isaacs sued Dyre in trespass for taking and carrying away “three Peices of Sagathees all of the Value of Twenty four Pounds and fifteen Shillings and to the Plaintiff belonging and other Enormities . . .” Honyman’s skill got Isaacs a judgment in both lower courts by persuading them that an old English statute was in force in the colony. In the Court of Equity, however, poor Isaacs lost, not only his Sagathees, but also £29 costs.32 The assessment roll, which is among the papers, shows similar taxes levied on Abraham Hart and Issachar Polock, who also sued Dyre without success.33
The medical profession figures in three cases in quite different ways. In the first of these, Dr. John Brett of Newport had sent Samuel Banister, “Merchant alias Book keeper,” a bill for £55, 4s., 6d. for attendance and drugs furnished to Banister and his family during the year between August 29, 1740, and August 14, 1741. The carefully itemized bill indicates that the charge for a house-visit was about five shillings. Many different drugs are mentioned, with prices.
The merchant’s defense was that Dr. Brett often dropped in at his house for a friendly drink, but gave very little professional advice. Sarah Allen, a neighbor, stated that she had seen him “two or three times in a Day come to Mr Banisters House and talk about Indifferent Things and Matters, when to her certain Knowledge there was no Sickness in the Family . . .” When illness did come, Dr. Brett arrived too late to do any good. Elizabeth Porter, a girl of fourteen who was apparently a servant in the Banister family, said in her deposition:
. . . that she lived in the House of Mr Samuel Banisters from and long before the tenth of August 1740 to and after September 1741 during which time Dr Brett used frequently and almost daily to come down to see Mr Banister, and that she saw no Sickness in the Family during said time, saving her Mother who was taken with the Colick on a Sunday and the next Day was well again, and Dr Brett was sent for and prescribed several things to be sent for from Mr Tweedy’s [the apothecary’s] on said Banisters Account which my Sister Mary went for and brought, and saving Susannah Banister which Dr Brett attended and saving Negro Tom’s Salivation, and Negro Sambo’s kibed [?] Heels; and this Deponent further declares that during said time Dr Brett used almost daily to come to Mr Banisters House, and more especially in the Winter time, and that Mr Banister used to order Punch to be made purely for him, the said Banister seldom or ever having any made for himself in the Winter Season, and this Deponent further declares that after Negro Tom was dead Dr Brett came down to see him, went up where he lay and endeavoured to persuade said Negro that he was not dead but had a good Master, and called by Name Tom, Tom don’t be sullen, you have got a good Master Tom and Tom not speaking nor stirring the said Dr said Tom be dead, and further this Deponent saith that what said Brett did for Negro Sambo during the time aforesaid Mr George Maddox gave said Brett his Note of hand for the same, which to the best of this Deponents remembrance amounted to upwards of twelve Pounds and further saith that Dr Brett prescribed hot Chamber lye for said Negro’s Heels, which the Negro used to wash himself with, and sometimes she saw Dr put Plaisters of Salve upon his Heels and further this Deponent saith not.
The doctor’s witnesses, however, pictured a hypochondriac wife and a household visited by frequent illnesses with everybody constantly turning to Dr. Brett for comfort and succor. Sarah Butler Matthew Collingwood was the star witness and deposed:
. . . that she from the Summer 1740 to the Midsummer 1741 had a very great acquaintance and Itimacy [sic] with Mr Samuel Banisters Family and that during that time Mrs Banister was daily making complaints to her (whilst she was in Maddox’s House) of the ill State of her Health, and has frequently told this Deponent that her Disorders were such that she was constantly taking some Stuff or other, and that from Dr Brett, and further said that was it in Dr Bretts Power by giving her Medicines to order so that she should be with Child she should think that she could never do enough for him, and that at one time Mrs Banister was taken with a Flax and she laid in the Bed Room and this Deponent carried a Bottle of Claret and that at that time this Deponent understood that Dr Brett had the Care of her, and this Deponent further saith that Mrs Banister said that the Things she had took from Dr Brett had done her little or no good, nor what she had taken from any other Person in the time of her Sickness, and that Mrs Eccles was then and there present when the Dr came in, and said Eccles assisted in turning the wine. This Deponent further saith that at another time Suse Banister was ill in the Bed room of a Fever, and that whilst this Deponent was there Dr Brett came in and went to the Child being much expected and looked out for by Mary Porter several times: this Deponent further saith that some time in the Winter Mary Porter was sick, and this Deponent going to see her, was informed by Mrs Banister that that was the second Day of her Illness and that she had been giving her a Vomit; the next Day this Deponent heard from the Family that she still continued sick, and was so to the best of her Knowledge several Days after, and that Dr Brett had the Care of her, and that Mrs Eccles was present when this Deponent was there, and that Mrs Banister told her that she was in such a faint and weak Condition as hardly to be able to crawl about, This Deponent further saith that Mr Banister was taken ill at Church, and afterwards told this Deponent that he was obliged to send for Dr Brett. This Deponent further saith that at another time Sus: Banister was sick so as to keep her Chamber some Weeks and that after Mr Collingwood came home Mrs Banister was sick and bled by Mr Collingwood and afterwards sent for Dr Brett as the Dr told me, and this Deponent also further saith that during her acquaintance with Mrs Banister she heard her making general Complaints of her Disorders, and from the time that Dr Robinson was discharged this Deponent beleives that Mrs Banister was always under Dr Bretts Care.
The doctor also produced the account book of John Tweedy, the apothecary, which showed drugs sold to Banister on many different days.
Dr. Brett fared well. The lower courts gave him his full claim. The Court of Equity merely knocked ten pounds off his bill, perhaps considering that sum to represent the visits when he took in punch instead of giving out medicines.34
6. The Perplexed Doctor
Dr. Theodore Coker of Providence was summoned on April 13, 1740, to attend John Wickes of Warwick, who had “a great Swelling in his Scortum or Body and thereby was greatly indisposed so that of his Life it was despaired.” According to Dr. Coker, Wickes by August 28 “was perfectly recovered of his Indisposition . . . by the skill and industry of the Plaintiff.” Wickes certainly lived long enough to be elected an Assistant in 1741,35 but he died soon afterwards without settling the doctor’s bill for £152, 4s. His son and executor, John, when sued by Dr. Coker in May, 1742, refused to pay, put in very technical defenses, and lost in the Common Pleas. Aplin succeeded in cutting the bill down to £80 in the Superior Court; but, as his client was still determined to pay nothing, he asked the Court of Equity to reverse the judgment “Because it appears by good Evidence that the Said Theodore Never cured the Malady or wound Mentioned in his Declaration but that his Administrations Used in Said performance were altogether bad and had his Advice been further pursued the Said John Muste have perished under his Hand.” Honyman then played his trump card, a deposition from the famous Dr. William Douglass of Boston, who had been called into consultation at the patient’s home.
Dr. Douglass (1691–1752) appears in the Dictionary of American Biography,36 and our fellow-member, Dr. George Minot, has kindly given me the following memorandum about him:
The only man in Boston who had an M.D., in 1730. He received it from Edinburgh. He was conceited, injudicious, inaccurate and contentious. He was opposed to Nicholas Boylston. In 1736 he wrote on scarlet fever. The book was called A New Epidemical Eruptive Miliary Fever with an Angina Ulcusculosa. Douglass an acute observer as shown by this report on scarlet fever. He was opposed to Boylston’s inoculations for smallpox but as time went by he believed in Boylston’s work.
Douglass had been in Boston three years when in 1721 the sixth epidemic of smallpox hit the town. It came from Barbados. Lady Mary Wortley Montague was active in Constantinople in 1716. The opponents of Boylston used the New England Courant, the newspaper of James Franklin, the father of Ben, and Douglass was on the anti side in this correspondence. Later on, however, as noted above, he considered Boylston’s work “a considerable improvement in physic.”
His paper on scarlet fever was published twelve years before Fothergill’s classic. A paper about Douglass appears in the Bulletin of the Society of Medical History, Chicago, for the year 1921–22. Also see Henry R. Viets’ book called A Brief History of Medicine in Massachusetts, published in 1930.
Douglass was undoubtedly one of the few leaders of the time. He was active in forming the first medical society. Sylvester Gardiner, 1708–1786, was a younger competitor. James Lloyd, 1728–1810, came to Boston the year that Douglass died.
Douglass was a philanthropist. He indeed was a student of botany. He was thoroughly interested in economics. He gave money to the town of Douglas, Massachusetts, which was named for him. He wrote two volumes on the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was a one-sided man as shown by these books. However, he did have widespread interests as mentioned above, and including natural history. John Warren, the younger brother of Joe, was taught particularly by James Lloyd.
The Boston physician gave vigorous support to his Providence confrère, declaring:
That some time in Aprill 1740 he in consultation with Doctor Coker of Providence did visit and advise John Wickes of Warwick Esqr in a most difficult and dangerous Scortal Tumour for single visit and advice Esqr Wickes of him self without any special demand gave me a Fee of Twenty three Pounds The Case being of a very extraordinary and difficult nature required in the Practitioner (who made conscience of his undertaking) a very great application and expence of time in private to consult and read the best Authors upon the subject as also with ruminating with himself. The like cure in any of the most polite parts of Europe would have been reckoned by all of the Profession a very great and meritorious performance—It has always been a custom all the world over where the Case is dangerous and the performance extraordinary to allow a generous Quantum meruit, thus it is in delivering difficult Births, in cutting for the Stone etc, in this Case there was an Addition of a considerable long attendance and at a considerable distance.
Dr. Simeon Brown of Smithfield stated that, while he was Dr. Coker’s apprentice, he had been sent to dress the wound of Wickes, who asked him “why Coker did not come himself.” Lettice Kelly, the doctor’s servant, remembered that Dr. Coker “was sundry times called upon to goe from home to People that were sick, but that he neglected going by reason as the Deponent then understood the said Theodore Coker had Esqr Wickes of Warwick so he was there under an indisposition under his immediate Care.”
. . . the said Wickes often requested the said Coker to open the place where the disorder was but the Doctor absolutely refused so to do telling the said Esqr Wickes that it was so much as his life was worth to open it and that he did not care to do it, upon which Esqr Wickes said he would have it don and if he would not do it, he would get some other Person to do it.
Contrary to the usual practice in these cases, the witness not only wrote out a deposition but submitted at the same time to an interrogation, during which, besides saying that Wickes had offered Dr. Brett of Newport £100 to cure him, he gave lurid details about the tumour:
Quest Did you see Doctor Coker open the Sore
Ans I did not see Doctor Coker open the Sore first but I always understood by their conversation he did do it, and I see him open it afterwards when it had grown up and I see him taste of the matter that came out, and I asked him what he tasted of it for and the Doctor told me to see if it was well digested
Other witnesses for the Wickes estate were Randall Holden of Warwick, who had heard Dr. Coker tell his patient “that if he should open the place where the distemper lay he was afraid it would kill him or that it was as much as his life was worth to open it”; and Dr. Ephraim Bower of Providence, who gave twenty shillings as his usual charge for a journey from Providence to Warwick besides advice and medicines.
Dr. Douglass carried the day and the Court of Equity awarded Dr. Coker his £80.37
7. The Seafaring Doctor
The last medical plaintiff was Dr. Robert Keith, a resident of Newport, who had joined the privateer sloop Mary as ship’s doctor at St. Kitts in the West Indies. The commander of the Mary was William Wilkinson of Newport, the defendant. According to the Articles of Agreement, the complaint avers:
. . . the Defendant did agree and promise that the Doctor of said Privateer or whoever was at the Expence of the Chest of Medicines should have and receive the Sum of Two Hundred Peices of Eight of eight Ryals each for the Chest of Medicines provided ’twas well furnished and one Share and a half for the Doctor (the Plaintiff) And all Things that should be taken belonging to the Surgeon of any Prize as Instruments, Medicine Chest and Cloaths (Gold Silver and Merchandize excepted)
This was during the War of Jenkins’s Ear. Several Spanish vessels were taken and condemned by the Court of Admiralty in Newport, but Dr. Keith was not paid his share of the proceeds of the “dry Goods of several sorts, Gold Dust and Silver Money together with the Tackling Furniture Guns and other Warlike Stores belonging to the said Vessels.” Hence he sued Captain Wilkinson for £234, 18s., 6d., which looks like his correct share of the prize-money, but the Court of Equity reduced the judgment to £169. Particularly interesting is the copy of the complete Articles of Agreement, which is not unlike the agreement between pirates quoted by Updike.38
8. The Overzealous Privateer
Benjamin Haszard, Robert Carr, John Easton, all of Newport, merchants, and Jonathan Haszard of South Kingstown, yeoman, brought an action of trespass against John Rous of Charlestown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, captain of the Billander privateer Young Eagle, for £10,000 for seizing their sloop Kingstown with her cargo. Although Captain Rous was served with process in Boston, he thought it prudent to appear in Newport because he had given a heavy bond to conduct his privateering lawfully.39
According to the deposition of Captain Thomas Haszard of the Kingstown, he sailed from Leogan in Hispaniola on March 1, 1741, having on board as owners’ cargo “above Thirteen thousand Gallons of Molasses and Three Thousand Weight of Sugar or more and about fifteen Pounds of Indigo.” On March 18, in latitude 35° N., longitude 70° W., the sloop was taken by the Billander, he narrates, “after he had brought me to by firing several Swivell Guns and small arms shott at us.” A boat from the privateer then took Captain Haszard and seven of his men aboard, where they were questioned by Captain Rous. Since England was at war with Spain, the privateer was out for booty. Even though the sloop was clearly not Spanish, the precise scope of lawful trade between the English colonies and the French West Indies was apparently doubtful enough to make the Rhode Islanders feel that they were in a tough spot. They had thrown their papers overboard, so the privateer’s master deposed, and tried to get rid of their English flag while professing that the sloop was the French vessel La Paon bound for Cape Breton. The record contains amusing accounts of the seamen’s conflicting stories and futile attempts to pass themselves off as Frenchmen. They produced French papers, a fictitious list of the crew, and one Pierre Richard who came forward as captain although (so some of the crew said) he had come aboard as “Peter” and been “only a common man on board” except on awkward occasions when the sloop’s nationality was challenged. Captain Rous became suspicious because “there were so many different stories” and decided to take the captured sloop into Charleston for adjudication in a prize court as required by the royal Instructions to commanders of privateers.40 Evidently he was so reluctant to let the rich cargo of the Kingstown go that he rashly assumed that trade between Newport and Hispaniola somehow violated treaties between Great Britain and France and thus fell within the Young Eagle’s authority to seize not only vessels and goods of the subjects of the King of Spain, but also “such other Ships, Vessels and Goods as are or shall be liable to confiscation pursuant to . . . Treaties . . .”
In the Vice-Admiralty Court of South Carolina the decree by Judge James Greene recites the contentions of the parties at length. It takes no stock in the cock-and-bull story of Pierre Richard that he had bought the sloop in the West Indies for 1,600 pieces of eight and changed her name to Paon and loaded her with a cargo on behalf of himself and other French subjects. This must have made Captain Rous happy, but not for long. Judge Greene went on to say briefly that the voyage of the Kingstown had violated no treaty or other law, and ordered her return to Rhode Island owners after they had settled matters with the customs authorities in Charleston.
Captain Haszard once more resumed command while Pierre Richard faded away, but by the time the Kingstown sailed out of Charleston harbor her Rhode Island owners (so they aver) had incurred expenses of £4,000 in South Carolina currency because of the capture and loss of some of the molasses and considerable sugar which had been carried aboard the privateer. “The Bag of Indigo was also gone and about twenty gallons of Rum and several Water hogsheads and a Bung Boarer and Tap Boarer, a Drawing Knife and a Saw, four Pewter Plates, One large Pewter Dish, Six Knives and Six forks was also wanting; . . . The Sloops Jib was tore all to Peices whilst Captain Rous was carrying said Sloop to South Carolina and her main Sail and Foresail much Damaged.”
For all these damages, a sympathetic Newport jury found that the overzealous privateersmen from Boston ought to pay their fellow Rhode Islanders £8,000 in current money of the Colony. Although this was much the largest sum awarded in any of the transcribed cases, the plaintiffs did not regard it as sufficient compensation. They appealed and so, naturally, did Captain Rous. The Superior Court stuck to £8,000. Both sides again appealed. The Court of Equity cut Captain Haszard and his associates down to £5,000. In no way discouraged, both sides went up to the Privy Council, but what happened there remains unknown.41
9. Bad Luck in the West Indies
The extent of Newport trading to the West Indies is further illustrated by the action of Jonathan Clark against Isaac Beauchamp. Clark was mate and Beauchamp master of the sloop Humbard, which was lost during the voyage. Apparently Clark blamed Beauchamp for the disaster and sued for his share in the trading venture. The defendant defaulted in the Common Pleas and was found liable for 618 “livres current money of the Island of Hispaniola” or in lieu thereof £103 Rhode Island money. The Superior Court affirmed, but the Court of Equity cut down the damages to 518 livres or £86, 6s., 8d.
The interesting document in the case is an affidavit made on the master’s behalf at Charleston by John Crusey, mariner, about a year after the loss of the Humbard. Being at Mount Christe, he swears he and Clark were ordered by Beauchamp “to go five days Cruse between Mount Christe and Turks Islands but meeting with bad Weather and Calms, could not reach the said Mount Christe till nine Days after then coming to an Anchor sent the Boat ashore for the said Master Isaac Beauchamp, that under point of Corke [?] met with a French Guard la Coste who took the said Boat, and beat the Men on board to make them confess where the said Master was they told them that he was ashore atrading and Receiving his Debts. They also asked them where the said Sloop lay, they told them at Mount Christe whereupon the said Guard la Coste maned the sd Boat and their own Boat and went and took the said Sloop Humbard in the Night, And this Deponant further saith That the said Jonathan Clark was always in Liquor on the said Cruse . . .”42
10. Dirty Work on the High Seas
Christopher Almy, a Newport merchant, sued Thomas Manning, mariner, for throwing two of Almy’s horses overboard from Almy’s sloop Eagle “on the main Ocean.” Among other sailors testifying against the “ill natur’d” defendant, John Grant swore that “He saw Thomas Manning Take the Ax and Cut the Brest Rope and took Two Horses and threw them overboard and got another to heave over board without any orders or reason so to do and Ephraim Tiffeny who was Master of said Vessel came forward and see it and forbid him, this he did of his Own Will without the orders of the Captain or any one on board being ill Humor’d.”
Manning’s lawyer, Matthew Robinson, objected that a wrong avowed to be done on the high seas belonged in the Admiralty Court. This technical point was brushed aside by the lower court, which gave the bereaved horse-owner £40. For some reason hard to understand, the Court of Equity let off Manning and made Almy pay £12, 95. costs.43
11. The Dishonored Draft
Still another voyage to the West Indies brought about the only appearance of negotiable instruments in the transcribed records. David Vanbrough and Samuel Carpenter, Jamaica merchants, sued Joseph Power of Newport, mariner, averring that on April 15, 1741, Power at Kingston drew a set of three bills of exchange on John Brown, John Banistor, and William Mumford, merchants in Newport, payable at twenty days after sight to the plaintiffs’ order for £632 Jamaica currency (at the rate of 27s., 6d. per ounce Rhode Island currency) for necessaries furnished to their sloop Victory, of which Power was master. The Newport partners had peremptorily refused to accept (obligate themselves to pay) when the first bill of the set was presented to them in Newport by Carpenter and James Martin, the sole notary public in the colony. Power was consequently sued as drawer. He was held liable in the Common Pleas and the only result of his appeal to the Court of Equity was to increase the damages. The case leaves him on his way to the Privy Council.
Presumably the dishonor was not on the ground that Captain Power had improperly charged his expenses in Jamaica to the owners, for several months after they refused to pay his draft they showed their confidence in him by having him appear on their behalf in the Vice-Admiralty Court in Newport, where the Victory was described as a brigantine.44 The owners were probably trying to avoid paying the bill because of some dispute over the quality or amount of the supplies put aboard the Victory while she was in Jamaica.45
12. The Baffling Bitch
Life ashore in Rhode Island must have been pretty quiet at the time of these records. Except among the Newport merchants, not much was happening so far as this litigation shows. Still, dogs are a perennial cause of excitement in all ages, and two of the transcribed cases illustrate the controversies into which men can be thrown by their oldest friend among the quadrupeds.
On the morning of May 29, 1742, a Newport butcher, Henry West, who was keeping some sheep in John Bennett’s pasture, discovered that his proposed slaughter of the animals had been anticipated by dogs. Seven sheep and four lambs lay dead. West promptly went to Nathaniel Coddington, the tanner, and charged Coddington’s bitch with participation in the canine crime. Sure of his bitch’s innocence, Coddington accosted William Read, a merchant, as he was coming along the street and begged him to look at the bitch, which was then lying in Coddington’s yard, and “pass his judgment” whether the animal had been killing sheep that morning. Read, who evidently regarded himself as an expert in such matters, looked the bitch over and exonerated her “by reason there was no appearance like any such thing” as having killed sheep that morning, “the Bitch not panting nor yet being worried.” Another expert witness for the defense was Stephen Hookey, a shipwright, who joined Read in the tannery yard. According to Hookey’s deposition, he “viewed said Bitch and took up her feet and felt of her Body and there was no Blood on her feet nor she was in no way sweaty and further this Deponent saw said Bitch not above half an hour before he was called to see her pass by his Door and further this Deponent saith that there was a Man by at the same time and viewed said Bitch and said he was well acquainted with Dogs that had been killing of Sheep and said he was well satisfied that said Bitch had not been killing of Sheep that day . . .”
These two masters of diagnosis were supported by eyewitnesses, John Jeffers and Peter Crandell. “They saw severall People as they were coming from said Jeffer’s Mill in Pursuit of a Bitch which They afterwards understood had been killing some Sheep in John Bennetts Ground belonging to Henry West and further those Deponents say that the Bitch they were following of was a Bitch with long Dugs to the best of their Remembrance and that the Bitch which William Dyers and others were in pursuit of seem’d to be so tired that she could hardly get out of the Horses way And further those Deponents say that some time after Isaac George was at said Jeffer’s Mill and told us that his Bitch46 was charged with killing of Henry West’s Sheep in John Bennetts field some time past whereupon we desired him to bring his Bitch and let us see her and They could tell whether it was the same Bitch that William Dyer and others were in pursuit of as abovesaid and it was our Opinion that it was not she not having any long Duggs . . .” Newport people must have talked of little else that day.
Six months later the bereaved butcher sued Coddington and a “house carpenter” named Robert Bennett,47 who was evidently a dog-owner too. The action was based on the 1698 statute on the liability of dog-owners for the death of sheep, with double damages for the second offense.48 West got a verdict in the Common Pleas for £30, 9s., recoverable from the two defendants half and half. The jurymen must have disbelieved the experts and sensed the flimsiness of the witnesses’ inferences. The Superior Court, however, put all the blame on Bennett’s dogs and valued the dead sheep at £15, 4s., 6d. Bennett admitted the fault of his dogs, but claimed a deduction for the money West had made by disposing of the dead sheep, we hope not as mutton. West also appealed to the Court of Equity in order to get relief against Coddington. Once more the bitch was found guilty. In spite of her unworried look after the tragedy, her owner had to pay £11 to the butcher, the same sum as Bennett.49
On the other side of Narragansett Bay too, dogs had their difficulties. The problem of identification of the murderer of sheep arose in a different way in East Greenwich. On April 28, 1743, Richard Mayhew, yeoman, had fourteen lambs killed and accused the dog of Richard Nicholls, “labourer alias husbandman.” Mayhew sued Nicholls for a pound per victim, averring that he knew his dog was accustomed to kill sheep and lambs. This bucolic controversy over £14 occupies more space in these records than almost any other case. No fewer than eleven citizens of East Greenwich, Warwick and Coventry gave depositions for the lamb-owner in the Common Pleas. They left little doubt of the slaughterous propensities of the Nicholls hound. He was plainly capable of attacking Mayhew’s lambs, but the evidence of his presence at the locus in quo was woefully weak. Nevertheless, the jury in the Common Pleas gave Mayhew ten guineas.
In the Superior Court Richard Nicholls rallied to the defense of his dog and produced three fresh witnesses on his own behalf. Two of them intimated that the slain lambs in Mayhew’s pasture were the offspring of somebody else’s ewes. The third, another Nicholls named Thomas from the neighboring town of Coventry, sprang a surprise. On the fatal twenty-ninth of April, he said, “being within a Mile and a half from the now Dwelling house of Richard Mayhew . . . I Saw a Creature which I thought was a Wolf by the Description that I had from People.” Upon interrogation, he elaborated as follows:
Q Did You hear any Body say about the Time You saw that creature say They heard Wolves howl?
Q Did you understand what Distance those Wolves were heard from the Place You saw that Creature?
A Two miles and a half or thereabouts.
Q Do You think that Creature You saw killed the said Mayhew’s Lambs?
A I don’t know what to think about it.
Only a few years before, Israel Putnam had slain a wolf in his den near Pomfret, over the Connecticut border, so that the presence of a wolf in East Greenwich was not impossible. Still, the Superior Court was unconvinced and affirmed Mayhew’s judgment for ten guineas. The Court of Equity cut him down to 40 shillings, but he got £20 costs. If the wolf was responsible, Mayhew should have got nothing at all. Probably the Nicholls dog had chased too many sheep in the past to be absolved, but Mayhew had been so free and easy with other people’s sheep that the Court of Equity made a rough guess as to how many of the dead lambs were his.50
14. Horse-trading at Freeborn’s Tavern
Horses also varied the monotony of country life. In the forepart of the night of October 29, 1742, James Nichols went over from Major James Stafford’s house in Warwick to Freeborn’s Tavern nearby, on a horse of a whitish color. Thomas Shippey, who rode with him, noticed that Nichols’ horse went lame. At the Tavern they were joined by several other men including Benajah Carr of North Kingstown, whom they had recently seen at Stafford’s. Shippey soon heard Carr and Nichols “begin to talk about Swopping Horses.” They agreed on the exchange, and Carr gave his note for £3 to boot. According to Shippey, Nichols said his horse was “sound wind and limb.” After the bargain was completed, the tavern-keeper heard the wily Nichols several times ask Carr to call off the deal and offer to treat Carr with a bowl of punch if Carr would release him. “No,” said Carr to Nichols, “I will treat you and let the bargain stand.” Nichols answered, “You had better release me, for he is a lame, good for nothing horse.” Although Carr had never ridden his whitish acquisition, he stubbornly replied, “No, I will not release the bargain if the horse I had of you had but three legs,” and accordingly called for some liquor to treat Nichols and rode off with the horse.
Next August Carr sued Nichols “in an action of the Case for Deceit for that the Defendant deceitfully sold to the Plaintiff one white Gelding horse at the Price of thirty five Pounds warranting said Horse to be Sound Wind and Limb when said Horse at the Time of Sale had one hoof defective and bad so that he is Lame and of no use or Value which the Defendant knew.” The Common Pleas and Superior Court sympathetically gave the trusting Carr £35, but the Court of Equity regarded him as having repented of his bargain too late. The deal stood and Nichols got over £12 for costs.51
15. Lo, the Poor Indian
The sad plight of the original owners of New England within a few decades after the arrival of white settlers is conspicuous in Massachusetts litigation,52 and one case in these records indicates that the race fared no better in Rhode Island despite the efforts of Roger Williams to deal fairly with the Indians. William Heffernan, a Newport vintner, sued Catharine Cooper, an Indian woman. She was described as a spinster though she had at least two children. The action was for the substantial sum of nearly £69, “part for goods sold and delivered part for nursing and attendance found for the Defendant when she lay in of a Child part for bringing up of another Child from eight months old till it was five Years of Age part for Cash advanced on the Defendants account All found provided and done by the Plaintiff for the Defendant and the Remainder for Liquor and Goods of the Plaintiff by the Defendant squandered away and consumed at sundry times . . .” Heffernan alleged that, in order to pay off this heavy debt, the Indian woman promised to bind herself to be his servant for seven years, and yet had fraudulently refused to sign and seal the indenture.
Honyman as her lawyer filed a flat denial. Whatever Heffernan’s legitimate outlay may have been, few will regret that all three courts declined to make the forlorn Indian pay a penny and awarded her costs.53
16. The Slave Who was “Wild and Free”
Slavery was not treated as undesirable by Rhode Island law until the eve of the Revolution, and one interesting case throws light on slaves’ legal status in the colony. Comfort Taylor, a widow from Little Compton, then part of Massachusetts, was on the island of Rhode Island shortly before Christmas in 1742. If she is to be believed, Cuff, a Negro slave of Thomas Borden of Portsmouth, brutally assaulted her and attempted rape. She was so hurt “that of her Life it was despaired . . .” A slave could evidently be made a party defendant in a civil action, for she sued Cuff in trespass for a thousand pounds.
As in Rhode Island tort suits today,54 the action opened with a writ of civil arrest. Probably the slave was already under a criminal charge, because the writ was served on him in jail. Daniel Updike for the widow rounded up three witnesses, who swore that Mrs. Taylor had made prompt complaint to them of the attack and appeared to be much injured. Matthew Robinson thought it wise for his client Cuff to default at the trial in the lowest court, and the widow recovered £100 and costs. In the Superior Court he agreed to have this judgment affirmed, with liberty to appeal to the Court of Equity. Perhaps, unlike most of the appellants, he relied on some point of law. At all events his resort to “equity” left him still worse off. The damages were raised to £200 and Cuff was ordered imprisoned until he paid in full.55
This was the second Tuesday of October, 1743. The widow lost no time in seeking to turn her assailant’s body into cash. Within a fortnight she petitioned the General Assembly for the purpose of cutting off any possible rights of Cuff’s master, Thomas Borden. After reciting the judgment of the Court of Equity against Cuff, she stated that “it is not clear that the sheriff can dispose of him, which she apprehends he ought to have power to do, because said negro is not free, but a private property; and therefore prayed that the said sheriff might be empowered to sell him, as other personal estate, taken by execution, to satisfy debts; and considering the great abuse she has suffered, and the charge that will come out of said negro, for prison fees, she desired that the fine of £20 against said negro Cuff might be remitted, otherwise she should get nothing for all the hardships she has endured.”
Probably Cuff’s fine was in a criminal court. The General Assembly refused to abandon this money for the widow’s benefit, but otherwise gave her all she requested. The sheriff was ordered to sell Cuff like any other personal property, pay £20 into the general treasury, deduct all other charges, and turn the rest over to the battered widow. The proceedings concluded: “God save the King.”56
The End of the Court of Equity
Four months after ordering Cuff to the auction-block the General Assembly sent the Court of Equity into oblivion. When it met in South Kingstown on February 14, 1743/44, it was confronted with a lengthy petition for the abolition of the three-year-old court. The signers were J. Ray (possibly Captain Simon Ray of Westerly, for the name is not clear), William Mumford (possibly the later deputy from Newport), Benjamin Sweet, Arthur Aylsworth (possibly Aylesworth), and Sam Perry (probably the frequently elected deputy from Charlestown, who had been dismissed in 1742 as trustee for Ninigret at the sachem’s request).57 Perhaps Perry, as the best known of the signers, drew the petition.58 At any rate, it is the work of a rather able lawyer although full of unfairness.
The petition begins by reciting that the Charter of Charles II limits the power of the colonial government to pass laws “not being contrary or repugnant to the laws and statutes of this oure realme” and then insinuates that the new court violates this prohibition. The specific charges are that the Court of Equity has “tried and decreed many cases contrary to the Law”; it has revised judgments given upon two jury verdicts, although Chancery in England cannot reverse even one verdict; it has denied appeals to the Privy Council; and it has meddled in matters determinable by the common law, which cannot in England be decided in Chancery. Last, “to save Charges and Trouble many Cases that were intended to be finally tried at the Court of Equity have often passed through the Inferiour and Superior Courts silently and without Trial and been only tried at the Court of Equity which renders the Courts of Law of no Use nor their Juries neither . . .”
These charges are buttressed with learned references to English authorities but no mention of particular litigations where the Court of Equity is accused of going astray. Consequently, it is hard to judge whether there was any basis for the charges. One is made very suspicious by the constant insistence that the Court of Equity must behave exactly like the English Court of Chancery when they obviously had no resemblance.
The peroration prays for a dissolution of the Court of Equity and “that We may all stand or fall by the Courts of Law as it is our Right and only firm Dependance . . .” However unjust its reasoning, the petition struck a responsive chord in the General Assembly. After declaring “Whereas, it is found, by experience, that the trials of causes by the said court of equity is inconvenient, and a great grievance to the inhabitants of this colony . . .” the Assembly repealed the Act of 1741. Any person thereafter aggrieved by any judgment of the Superior Court was to get relief through a second hearing of his cause in the same court, with opportunity for either side to introduce new matter.59 There is no mention of a renewal of reviews by the General Assembly itself, but they were undoubtedly resumed. Although the deputies had established the Court of Equity to get rid of their own judicial work, they probably regretted this abdication of their power to meddle in litigation. The abolition of the court did not, by its terms, take effect until the first Wednesday of May next, but the records indicate that the judges never sat again.
IN 1642 Harvard College produced nine graduates. They were the first of a series which would, in increasing numbers, augment and replace those servants of church and state whose training had been acquired in England. The Bay pioneers might well congratulate themselves that men trained in the New England way would henceforth be available. Yet New England was to lose many of this élite. Of the nine charter graduates, seven forsook the colonial scene and sought their fortunes in England. Over a third of Harvard’s pre-1660 students went abroad. Even after the reign of the Saints had terminated and the merriest of the Stuarts had returned from his travels, the magnetic force of the populous, wealthy, and sophisticated world of Britain continued to attract a substantial number of Harvard’s sons.1
Various conditions, English, colonial, and personal, drew even the most intransigent Calvinists to the home of their fathers. Between 1640 and 1660 England took on the aspects of a promised land. Even as the initial graduates received their degrees the motherland was embarking upon a conflict which would produce, for a time, a political and ecclesiastical regime generally acceptable to a majority of New Englanders. These rugged colonists, moreover, were in good repute with the new rulers of England, and Harvard College was known in England as an institution which could be expected to furnish young men who were untainted by the Prayer Book and unlikely to subscribe to the True Law of Free Monarchies. Letters describing the many opportunities offered in the new Old England began to reach the frontier. The colonists were for the most part English-born, with relatives and friends and sometimes property interests to lure them home. Thus, during the two decades following 1640, there was a “Great Migration” in reverse, and among the migrants were over fifty Harvard men, about half of the alumni body.
England did not long remain this happy hunting-ground for Puritan opportunists. In 1658 Oliver Cromwell died, and two years later the Stuarts were back. Preaching and teaching were the only professions for which seventeenth-century Harvard prepared her students in any direct sense. With the restoration of Anglican clergymen and dons and the legislative discrimination against nonconformist divines and schoolmasters, opportunities for the New England graduates largely evaporated. For a time the stream of England-bound Harvardians shrank to a negligible trickle. Only three seem to have gone over between the Restoration and the mid-seventies, and in the decade before 1688 we encounter none. But with the second overthrow of the Stuart system in that year the number increased once more. Altogether, at least sixty-five alumni—a little over ten per cent of that body—went to England between 1660 and 1714, nearly two-thirds of them after the Glorious Revolution.
Under the later Stuarts somewhat different and certainly more secular motives served to draw men across the sea. They now went more to serve Mammon than God: more as traders and travellers, office seekers and agents, and less as divinity students and clerics. And there is another noteworthy difference: while most of those who went to England before 1660 remained there, the majority of those who went thereafter made the round trip. Of the fifty-odd alumni who crossed during the era of Puritan ascendancy, under a fifth returned to the colonies. Despite the reaction of the sixties, with its blighting of careers and hopes, they chose to remain in a royal and episcopal England rather than return to a Puritan frontier. Few of them conformed, and thus few of them prospered; yet they stayed on, hoping that the wheel of fortune would turn. Doubtless the advantages which so many of them had enjoyed under Parliament and Protector made them loath to abandon the scenes of their successes, and to many of them New England, though orthodox, must have looked poor and rough. As for those who crossed over after the Restoration: few went with the intention of settling abroad; they went, rather, on private or public missions, returning home as a matter of course when their business was done. Even so, at least a third of them never returned to the colonies.
In the years before 1660 the withdrawal and permanent expatriation of so many educated men could not but create anxiety among those who stayed at home. We find President Dunster calling the attention of the Massachusetts authorities to the problem of inducing his alumni to remain in America, and as early as 1646 the Commissioners of the United Colonies recognized that steps should be taken so that when scholars “are furnished with learning, in some competent measure, they remove not into other countries, but improve their parts and abilities for the service of the colonies.”2 New Haven took heed and endeavored to expedite the corn collections,3 but generally speaking the recommendations were unavailing, and it is unlikely that any colonial device could have succeeded, before Cromwell’s death, in restraining the eastward traffic. With the comparatively slight exodus under the later Stuarts colonial apprehensions on this score passed away.
The activities, on English soil, of the Harvard migrants were naturally many-sided. But certain classifications can be drawn. They devoted themselves to further study; they filled pulpits, secured academic posts, practised medicine, and engaged in trade; they claimed inheritances and attended to their English property. Public or private business brought them into the courts and governmental offices of London, and even before the sovereign. The amusements and benefits of travel and the ties of blood led them to see the sights and seek out their kinsmen.
Before the Restoration a considerable number of Harvard men sought to further their English careers by acquiring degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, as well as from Dublin and some continental universities. Three members of Harvard’s first class, Woodbridge, Saltonstall, and Brewster, took this course. It was natural enough for Woodbridge to choose Magdalen Hall at Oxford; he had matriculated there in 1638, but left the following year to go to New England. First in his Harvard class, he secured an M.A. and possibly a D.D. from his English alma mater. Harvard men were encouraged to take up residence at the English universities when these institutions adopted the policy of admitting them to advanced standing or ad eundem degrees. This was sponsored by President Dunster as early as 1647,4 and the following year James Ward (1645)5 was the first to take advantage of it, being incorporated B.A. at Magdalen College, Oxford. Others followed suit: William Stoughton and Joshua Ambrose, for example, at Oxford, and John Haynes, Leonard Hoar, John Stone, and Thomas Parish, Jr., at Cambridge. Some could not stay to finish their course at Harvard; the Hooke brothers, whose mother was related to Oliver Cromwell, went their different ways toward the B.A. at Oxford and Cambridge, and Oxford also attracted Swinnock, Malbon, and Manasseh Matthews. At least a dozen Harvard men secured their M.A. degrees at Oxford and Cambridge prior to 1660. Samuel Mather (1643), the first fellow at Harvard who had been educated there, took an M.A. at Trinity College, Dublin. His younger brother Increase, travelling abroad in 1657, a year after his graduation from Harvard, also gained an M.A. from Dublin, and Nathaniel Brewster took a bachelor’s degree in theology there. All these degrees were granted before 1660; during the later Stuart era the close association of Harvard men with the English seats of learning disappeared, except for two champions of the Anglican cause, Samuel Myles and William Vesey, who secured M.A.’s from Oxford in the nineties.
Some of these students obtained desirable academic posts in addition to their degrees. Pembroke College, Cambridge, made fellows of Collins, Haynes, and Stone; Oxford found places at her high tables for Stoughton, Ward, and Saltonstall, the last-named attaining the dignity of the sub-wardenship of New College. Trinity College, Dublin, employed Samuel Mather as senior fellow, and sought in vain the services of his brother Increase. Such appointments, of course, belong to the Civil War and Interregnum periods exclusively.6
A number of Harvardians studied medicine abroad, though only three, James Ward, Henry Saltonstall, and Leonard Hoar, received medical degrees from English universities before 1714. Ward, by the favor of Sir Thomas Fairfax, secured a B.M. at Oxford. Saltonstall’s Oxford doctorate constituted a recognition of several years of study at Leyden and Padua, where in 1649 he took an M.D.7 Hoar (1650) turned to the study of medicine and botany when, at the Restoration, he was deprived of the benefice he had obtained after returning to England in the midfifties; by 1671 he had apparently acquired a sufficient knowledge of medicine to be recommended for an M.D. by several members of the Royal College of Physicians, and in the same year he gained a Cambridge doctorate by royal mandate.8 Thomas Oakes (1662) studied in London. Edward Oakes, who became a licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1661, is described by Munk as a medical student from Harvard’s class of 1655.9 Samuel Bradstreet (1653), in England from 1657 to 1661, probably studied medicine there, for he is known to have subsequently practised it in Massachusetts. Several, besides Saltonstall, studied the science beyond the borders of England. Samuel Bellingham, of Harvard’s first class, went to Leyden,10 and half a century later Rowland Cotton (1696), after travelling to England for his health, took an M.D. at Harderwyck. The name of Edmund Davie (1674) appears on the rolls of Leyden, Padua (where he secured his doctorate), and possibly Montpellier;11 while John Glover, apparently disappointed in an Oxford fellowship after his graduation from Harvard in 1650, became Aberdeen’s first M.D. a few years later.12
Most of this medical talent was permanently lost to New England. Only Bradstreet, Hoar, and Thomas Oakes are known to have ever returned to the colonies. Saltonstall, in addition to academic pursuits, served as physician to the parliamentary forces. Glover established himself in London, became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College, and is said to have died during the plague of 1665, after he “attempted to open a dead corpse full of the tokens.”13 Bellingham spent most of a long life in or near London, and Cotton combined medicine and divinity in Wiltshire. Davie returned from Padua to London, not Boston; there, in the few years remaining to him, he seems to have gained a reputation for scientific learning and research.14
One other medic is worthy of special note: George Stirk, a Bermudan who graduated from Harvard in 1646. After practising a few years in Boston he went to England, and there made a name for himself both as a physician and alchemist. Fond of polemics, he launched vigorous attacks on the medical techniques of his time, styling himself a “Professor of that Medicine that is real, not Histrionical.” He was said to be the only physician who could cure the plague, but, like Glover, he died of it when he ventured to dissect one of its victims. Stirk claimed that he had been introduced to the art of transmuting precious metals by the shadowy “Eirenaeus Philalethes,” and was the author of numerous alchemic works. His grounding in chemistry he attributed to Harvard, and, while his acquaintance with the science as an undergraduate must have been extracurricular, he may properly be called Harvard’s first chemist. Professor Kittredge described him as “a born fighter” with “no small share of self-assertion”; he was also a trimmer and a publicity seeker. At the Restoration he hastened to jump on the royal bandwagon, though in 1656 he had dedicated his Nature’s Explication to a regicide Lord Mayor of London. In Royal and Other Innocent Blood Crying Aloud to Heaven for Due Vengeance, addressed to Charles II and the Duke of York and published in 1660, he urged retaliation on the Puritans; and he is said to have been the author of The Dignity of Kingship Asserted (1660), a rebuttal of Milton’s Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, by which he evidently hoped to enhance his reputation at the poet’s expense.15
In comparison with medicine the law had an almost negligible appeal to Harvard men abroad. This is not surprising. Colonial lawyers were rare and frequently suspect, as is commonly the case in a backwoods society; formal, organized legal education did not exist in the Stuart colonies. If Anthony Wood is correct in saying that Sampson Eyton spent eight years studying at “Harwarden” College, he probably merits the distinction of being the first Harvard student to enter the inns of court; for Eyton, an Oxford M.A. in 1652 and a Fellow of University College, was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1658.16 With Benjamin Lynde (1686) we are on firmer ground. Following the advice of his father, a prosperous Massachusetts merchant and judge, Lynde took ship for England in 1692 to qualify himself as a barrister-at-law; he was admitted to the Middle Temple in the same year and a few years later was called to the bar. Having secured, as he wrote, “a commission under the great Seal, for King’s Advocate in the New Court of Admiralty in New England,” he returned to New England with his clerk late in 1697.17 There he was appointed to the Superior Court of Massachusetts—the first formally educated lawyer, it appears, to attain that eminence—and ultimately succeeded Samuel Sewall in the highest judicial post in the colony. Lynde’s career was paralleled to a considerable extent by that of Paul Dudley (1690). After reading law for a short time in Boston he too complied with the wishes of his father, Joseph Dudley, who was then in England, and entered the Middle Temple in 1697. He was called to the bar in 1700. After some lean years fortune favored the Dudleys, and in 1702, when the elder Dudley returned to Massachusetts as Governor, Paul accompanied him as Attorney-General. Like Lynde he rose to be Chief Justice, succeeding him in 1745. Two other Harvard alumni may have attended the inns of court before 1714. According to E. Alfred Jones, William Dudley, the Governor’s second son, having graduated from Harvard in 1704, was admitted to the Middle Temple two years later, after which he returned to a public career in Massachusetts; and he also states that the Thomas Banister who graduated from Harvard in 1700 is the one who entered the Inner Temple in 1710.18
Unlike the colonial bar, the ministry was in the seventeenth century a profession—indeed, the only profession—composed for the most part of university men. Harvard’s main purpose being to train young men in divinity, it is to be expected that a large number of her sons who went to England sought ecclesiastical preferment. Before 1660 no less than thirty-five of them wore the cloth in the British Isles. Chaplaincies of various kinds were then numerous. George Downing’s phenomenal English career had its beginnings in a regimental post of this sort. Calamy says that John Collins (1649) served as chaplain to General Monk, and we know that he was appointed to preach before the Council in Scotland in the days of the Protectorate.19 In 1659 Roger Alsop’s regiment at Dunkirk was attended by Chaplain Ichabod Chauncy, a Harvard B.A. in 1651.20 Increase Mather briefly ministered to the Governor of Guernsey. Oxford colleges employed the services of Samuel Mather and Joseph Swinnock, and the former was for a time chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London, a berth which gained for him many advantageous contacts. Like Collins, he became an official divine, being in 1654 recommended to preach before the Council in Ireland.21 Walter Hooke went much farther afield; after securing his B.A. at Cambridge in 1657 he became a chaplain in the service of the East India Company and died in the Orient in 1670.22
Many parochial openings for Harvard-trained men were created by the defeat of the royal forces in the forties and the attendant eclipse of Anglicanism. No less than a third of the parish priests were dispossessed of their benefices upon the triumph of the Roundheads; but it was easier to oust the old clergy than to find satisfactory replacements. Under the circumstances the products of such a staunchly puritan institution as Harvard College enjoyed particular favor; God, as some London divines put it, used Harvard “for service to himself in both Englands.” Around thirty rectories, vicarages, and curacies fell to Harvard men; they were located in at least fifteen of the English counties—mostly in the south and in East Anglia—as well as in Ireland and Wales. Isaac Chauncy’s and Leonard Hoar’s livings were presented by the Protector himself. Cromwell also had a high regard for Nathaniel Brewster, whom he recommended as “a very able holy man”; and his kinsman, John Hooke, evidently found favor in his eyes.23 Cromwell’s efforts to puritanize Ireland drew several graduates thither. Samuel Mather, besides preaching to the Irish Council, officiated in two Dublin churches. Like Mather, Nathaniel Brewster went to Ireland in the train of Henry Cromwell, the Lord Deputy; but he did not long remain there. Edmund Weld (1650) was a Cromwellian chaplain, who settled as an Independent minister in Ireland and lived there till he died.24 Increase Mather, drawn to Dublin by his brother’s prominence there, secured a parish in Ulster, but although the Lord Deputy assured him that he would never lack encouragement in Ireland, he soon left, preferring to try his fortune on English soil.25 On the whole the Harvard graduates in England seem to have been disinclined to reside in Ireland, even as the New Englanders in general were averse to moving there, despite Oliver’s entreaties.
Some of these clergymen gained a more than parochial importance. John Bulkeley, John Hooke, Urian Oakes, Comfort Starr, Benjamin Woodbridge, and Nathaniel Brewster all served as assistants to the lay commissioners responsible, by the Ordinance of 1655, for the ejection of “scandalous, ignorant and insufficient” clergymen and schoolteachers.26 Samuel Mather was a commissioner for the approbation of ministers in county Cork; his brother Nathaniel was a member of the Devon Association. Comfort Starr was summoned to attend the Savoy Conference of 1658, where about two hundred Congregational delegates drafted A Declaration of the Faith and Order Owned and Practised in the Congregational Churches in England.27
With the restoration of the Stuarts these Harvard divines found themselves, for the most part, in a difficult position. Late in 1660 the royal assent was given to an act restoring sequestered clergymen, and in 1662 the Cavalier Parliament pronounced non-episcopal ordination invalid and forced all clergymen to subscribe to the Prayer Book and to promise to conform to the Anglican liturgy, under penalty of being deprived of their livings. A few of the Harvard-bred ministers conformed. Edward Rawson (1653) petitioned that he might retain the rectory which he had held since 1656, claiming that he had suffered for orthodoxy and loyalty; in this he was unsuccessful, but the Church found employment for him elsewhere.28 Joshua Ambrose (1653), though deprived of his curacy in Lancashire, soon conformed, for he was Vicar of Childwall in 1664.29 Another Lancashireman, John Angier, also in the class of 1653, who had made the round trip from Emanuel College to Harvard and back to Ringley Chapel, conformed in 1662.30 John Whiting (1657) died “a Godly Conformist,” having become Rector of Leverton. Manasseh Matthews, who left Harvard to matriculate at Oxford in 1658, and John Haynes (1656), Logic Lecturer at Cambridge and Fellow of Pembroke College, probably enjoyed no cure before the Restoration; both certainly conformed, Matthews securing preferment in Glamorganshire and Haynes being ordained at Ely in 1663.31 Others, though they did not yield, were sorely tempted. Cotton Mather tells us that his father, Increase, was urged to come into the national church, but declined, despite lucrative offers. The Presbyterian Benjamin Woodbridge, though he was made a royal chaplain at the Restoration and might have had a stall at Windsor, in the end stayed with the Dissenters.
The majority remained true to their religious convictions, and found themselves thrust from their churches. In most instances they continued to preach as best they could, thereby incurring occasional penalties. Isaac Chauncy, for instance, having lost his rectory at Wanstead, served as pastor to the Congregationalists of Andover. Absence from church—that is, from the Established Church—got him into trouble with the Andover churchwardens in 1664, and a few years later we hear that he was “presented at the Assizes as a seditious person.” Henry Butler, forced out of the vicarage of Yeovil, was nonetheless active as a minister there and in four other Somerset parishes late in the sixties, suffering imprisonment and fines for his zeal. Benjamin Woodbridge was another ousted divine who remained active in the community where he had been beneficed. Although the broad-minded and kindly Samuel Mather was permitted at first to continue preaching at St. Nicholas’s in Dublin, he soon gave offense by two sermons against episcopacy and the Prayer Book and was silenced by the Earl of Mountrath. That the Earl was not entirely effective in muzzling Mather is indicated by his imprisonment for preaching in 1664. At least two appear to have found a haven as domestic chaplains, for Mather tells us that Urian Oakes was sheltered by Colonel Norton, and John Hooke ended his days at Tangier Park.
In 1672 the skies brightened when Charles issued his Declaration of Indulgence. This permitted Protestant Dissenters to worship in public, and provided for the licensing of their “teachers” and meeting-places. Harvard men known to have secured such licenses were Joseph Farnsworth, William Ames, and Benjamin Woodbridge, as Presbyterians; Comfort Starr and John Collins, as Congregationalists; and Henry Butler, who was licensed as of both denominations.32 But the Declaration, speedily attacked by Parliament, and thereupon revoked by the King, did not long ease the lot of the Dissenters. Woodbridge was silenced in 1675 by the Bishop of Salisbury, who felt that dissenting ministers did little but “lie gnaweing at the root of government and religion.”33 Ichabod Chauncy, who complained to Increase Mather in 1682 of the miserable plight of Dissenters in Bristol, became an object lesson two years later when, besides incurring an eighteen-weeks’ jail term, he was sentenced to forfeit his real and personal estate and to abjure the realm.34 Economic security was scarcely to be expected by these men. Butler, for years, “had not 20 l. per annum to live upon”; John Hooke was in 1690 described as having “very little if anything of his own Estate, and but Small recompense of his labours from ye people”; Farnsworth, according to Baxter, “dyed of meer poverty” in London.35
During the lean years between the Restoration and the Revolution many dissenting clergymen were forced to resort to other callings in order to make ends meet. A number of Harvard nonconformists fell back on medicine. John Bulkeley, graduated in Harvard’s first class, combined spiritual and physical ministrations at Wapping after he lost his Fordham rectory. According to Mather, the sons of Charles Chauncy resembled their father in the possession of “an eminent skill in physick.” In England two of them, Ichabod and Isaac, turned to its practice, both acquiring licenses from the Royal College of Physicians. Ichabod, when banished from the realm in 1684, took advantage of his exile to study medicine at Leyden, and upon his return to Bristol early in James’s reign he resumed his practice.36 When Isaac Chauncy grew older and less popular as a preacher he appears to have confined himself for the most part to medicine and teaching. That the New England conscience sometimes boggled at professional formalities is seen in the case of John Allin (1643). After Allin lost the vicarage of Rye he left his family in Rye and went to London, where he is known to have preached during the plague and to have acted as an agent for sailors seeking pay from the government, and where he had some repute as an alchemist. In 1667 he complained that, though qualified for medical practice, he could not secure a license without religious subscriptions which were both unpalatable and unnecessary, for, as he wrote, “a Physitian hath nothing at all to doe either with abrenuntiation of ye Covenant, nor with ye adopting of ceremonyes.” Though he did not get his license he nonetheless practised until 1680, when he crossed to New England.37 All were not so squeamish. Leonard Hoar certainly could not have obtained his Cambridge M.D. without attesting his belief in articles which violated Puritan religious principles.
Teaching doubtless helped some to support themselves, but the pickings here were very meager, for Anglican universities had been restored with an Anglican church, and even schoolmasters were forced to subscribe to the Prayer Book. We know that Urian Oakes, a former fellow and future president of Harvard, became master of the Southwark Grammar School; it was probably commoner to act as a tutor, as Nathaniel Higginson did in the household of Lord Wharton, or to provide private instruction for the youngsters of one’s loyal and irrepressible co-religionists, as the occasion afforded.
With the Revolution of 1688 the persecution of Protestant dissenters ceased, and a handful of the New Englanders who had weathered the religious blizzards of a generation were rewarded with more comfortable circumstances and some influence. Nathaniel Mather, who succeeded John Collins in an important Congregational pastorate in London, was one of the managers of the Common Fund, established to serve both the Presbyterian and Congregational ministers of the metropolis. When the Congregationalists seceded from this organization the straight-laced Mather was one of the founders of the Congregational Fund Board. Isaac Chauncy, another die-hard, was a sympathetic associate of Mather in both these ventures, and Comfort Starr, whose ministerial career in Cumberland, Kent, Berkshire, and Sussex spanned over half a century, received grants from both funds.38
It is remarkable that, with conditions so generally unfavorable, so few of these Harvard-trained clergymen left England after the Restoration. Two lived for a time in Holland. Nathaniel Mather was minister at the English church at Rotterdam in 1663, and the title-page of Samuel Malbon’s Death and Life, published in 1669, describes him as a preacher in Amsterdam. Only six—Allen, Urian Oakes, Hoar, Increase Mather, Brewster and William Stoughton—are known to have returned to the colonies, and the first three remained in England for many years before making the homeward voyage. On the other hand, England was not sought out by Harvardians with clerical ambitions until the days of the Revolution, and even then they were few. Four of these were Anglicans seeking ordination. Since there was no bishop in America it was necessary for them to apply to the Bishop of London, whose jurisdiction included the colonies. The first Harvard man to make the trip with this objective was Samuel Myles (1684), many years Rector of King’s Chapel in Boston. This may have occurred around 1688, though perhaps Myles was not ordained until after 1692, when he went to England to seek aid for his church and was successful in securing the interest of William and Mary.39 William Vesey (1693), the noted New York divine, went over for ordination in 1697. During Anne’s reign Gershom Rawlins (1705) and Dudley Bradstreet (1698) crossed the sea. Bradstreet, slated to serve a parish at Newbury, Massachusetts, died in London of smallpox a month after his ordination; Rawlins chose to remain in England, where it is known that he was preaching in 1709. Only two or three graduates who went to England after the Restoration settled permanently as nonconformist clergymen there. Increase Mather’s son, Samuel, who had accompanied his father on his mission in 1688, returned in the nineties. He inherited money, made a good marriage, and settled as the first Congregational minister in Witney, a small town in Oxfordshire. He was evidently popular, getting along well even with the Anglican clergy, and in 1703 declined to return to the pulpit of the Second Church in Boston. Rowland Cotton, who went to England in the early nineties, halfway through his Harvard course, ultimately succeeded in combining the practice of medicine with ministering to a dissenting congregation in Warminster. Though he contemplated returning to the colonies to save his family from a “loose profane and horribly wicked part of the earth” and hinted that he would accept a New England pulpit, he seems to have prospered in the old country and certainly did not return to America. According to the unreliable Dunton, James Allen (1689) became a minister at Northampton.40 Between 1692 and 1711 three graduates of note made, as we shall see, somewhat prolonged visits in England. All of them filled dissenting pulpits there. Benjamin Colman (1692), chosen by the Presbyterian Board to preach for an ailing minister in Cambridge, also officiated at Ipswich and, for two years, at Bath, “the best Stirrup in England, whereby to mount the best pulpits that might be vacant.”41 John Barnard (1700), who arrived in England in 1709, preached for several nonconformist clergymen in London and regarded Eltham, in Kent, as his parish, so frequently did he officiate there.42 Thomas Prince (1707), during his eight-year sojourn abroad, preached in East Anglia at several places, including Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Although all three were assured of attractive livings in England, they all chose to return to Massachusetts.
Although post-Restoration England became less attractive to professional men, the increase of trade, the ramifications of New England fortunes, and the centralization of empire provided motives for many sojourns abroad. No Harvard alumnus appears to have gone to England for mercantile purposes before 1660, unless Samuel Winthrop—a non-graduate who left college in the forties, sought his fortune in Teneriffe and the West Indies, and married in Holland—touched on British soil.43 Certainly we encounter no one like Adam Winthrop, of the class of 1668, who resided for some time as a merchant in Bristol, where he married and where his children were born; or like his son and namesake, who, after receiving a Harvard education, was sent to England in 1699 to “enquire into the art and way of merchandizeing” between the old and new Englands.44 Though the records are sketchy we may safely assume that William Payne, who learned “merchants accounts” after his graduation from Harvard in 1689, and Anthony Stoddard (1697) went to England to learn and transact business; both were abroad but a short time, and both set themselves up as Boston merchants. We know that David Jeffries (1708) bought a vessel on shares and went to London on business in 1712, returning the following year. Francis Wainwright (1707), the son of a wealthy Ipswich merchant, appears to have made a European tour or a business survey, which must have included England; and Addington Davenport (1689) went to England, as well as to Spain and the West Indies, before returning to the marts of Boston around 1692. Among the shipmasters engaged in the London trade was Josiah Willard (1698). Strangely enough he had been a college tutor, who abandoned the library and the classroom, not for the pulpit, which he considered himself too diffident to occupy, but the quarterdeck. Prince tells us that he “shined in the Politeness, Freeness, Openess and Pleasancy of his Conversation.”45 He must have been an exceptional skipper, but he was not unique: John Gore, a librarian at Harvard after his graduation in 1702, also became a sea-captain and did a little privateering on the side.
One of the most successful Harvard mercantile careers was that of Nathaniel Higginson, a Connecticut man and a member of the class of 1670. Four years later he went to England, intending to remain, according to his father, for seven years; but he stayed about ten, being employed in the mint under Lord Wharton, and as his steward and domestic tutor. In 1684 he went to Madras in the service of the East India Company; here he won the respect of its Governor, Sir Josiah Child, and established himself as a merchant. At the age of forty he was head of the Madras factory, succeeding Elihu Yale, in whose Council Child had given him second place five years before. He also served as mayor of the municipality of Madras and as Lieutenant General of India. In 1700 he “quitted all public employments” and with his family returned to London, where he enjoyed a wide acquaintance among those in power. He was repeatedly urged to return to New England, especially by his brother John, who on one occasion pointed out that he would receive greater respect in Massachusetts than in England, “there being there many that will be your superiors, and many your equals.” Samuel Sewall hoped that he might obtain the governorship of the colony, and Nicholas Noyes wrote that “it would be an honor and ornament to Salem to have so honorable and worthy a person well settled in it.” But although Higginson contemplated returning to Boston or Salem and conducting “a wholesale trade in East India goods” there, he remained in England until his death.46 The lure of the East enticed a few other seventeenth-century Harvardians. Like Higginson, Bezaleel Sherman (1661) became a merchant at Madras, where he died; and Chaplain Hooke, as we have seen, ended his life in Masulipatam. It is supposed that Japhet Hobart, who sailed for England as a ship-surgeon after his graduation in 1667, intended to go thence to the East Indies, but he “was never heard of more.”
Inheritances and family interests account for the presence of some Harvard men in England. In 1707 John Davie, a graduate in 1681 who was engaged in farming near New London, became Sir John Davie of Creedy when he inherited a baronetcy in Devon reputedly worth four or five thousand pounds a year.47 He went to England to take possession and, though his interest in the colonies remained keen, America saw him no more. Another graduate, William Whittingham (1660), is supposed to have died in London of smallpox while en route to Lincolnshire to recover possession of an estate; and his son, Richard (1689), occupied the property and died there.48 One of the reasons for Samuel Sewall’s trip to England in 1688 was a concern for the family holdings, some of the titles having been called in question; and Nathaniel Saltonstall crossed over around 1702 to attend to his father’s property interests, then giving some concern. It is worthy of note that Saltonstall, once in England, remained there for around a quarter of a century.
Public assignments, no less than private affairs, drew a considerable number of colonists to England under the later Stuarts. Harvard men who served as official agents for the colonies before 1714 were Increase Mather and Jeremiah Dummer, serving both Massachusetts and Connecticut; William Stoughton, Peter Bulkeley, Joseph Dudley, Thomas Oakes and Elisha Cooke, for Massachusetts; Fitz-John Winthrop, for Connecticut; George Vaughan and Henry Newman, for New Hampshire; and Ichabod Wiswall, for Plymouth. Most of these agents were commissioned to deal with specific issues, as they arose. Peter Bulkeley and William Stoughton, who went abroad in 1676 to represent the Bay colony in the New Hampshire boundary controversy, were the first graduates to act as agents, in any formal sense. Dudley, who went over in 1682, and Mather, Cooke, and Oakes, who were in London around 1690 as a joint Massachusetts embassy, were dispatched to secure the restoration of the old charter. Wiswall labored in vain to preserve the autonomy of Plymouth. Such missions, even though limited in scope, were frequently time-consuming. Stoughton was abroad for three years, Oakes and Cooke for two, and Mather for four. To Mather, at least, this interlude was far from unpleasant. He was very fond of England, and it was stimulating to be closeted with kings and peers and ministers of state at a time when Nonconformists were temporarily enjoying some political influence, and to make friends with such men as Richard Baxter and Robert Boyle. It was good for the ego to be able to report to the querulous colonists, notoriously ungrateful to their public servants, that he was regarded in England as an indispensable agent, and that he had been urged to remain there for the rest of his days, even as he had been solicited a generation before.49 On the other hand, Stoughton, who had also been in England as a student and budding cleric, twice refused the agency after he returned to Massachusetts, and Wiswall sought and gained recompense for his hardships and losses as an agent.50
A different type of emissary is represented by Newman and Dummer. They were retained to look after the interests of their colonies year in and year out, and, unlike their Harvard colleagues, were not sent to England as agents but became such after they had taken up residence abroad. Both may be said to have become Englishmen, for both prospered in England apart from their colonial connections and neither ever returned to the new world; yet they had been born colonists and remained loyal and serviceable to New England, both in and out of their agencies. It is significant that Dummer’s bookplate bears the inscription, “Anglus-Americanus.”
Newman was a graduate in 1687. After serving as college librarian and venturing into commerce in Newfoundland, he went to England. Here we find him in 1707 exerting himself in behalf of his alma mater, and two years later he was made the college’s official agent abroad. In the meantime he fell under the influence of Thomas Bray, the Anglican Commissary of Maryland, with whose religious and philanthropic enterprises he became closely associated. He conformed to the Church of England, and in 1708 was appointed secretary of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, a post which he occupied until his death thirty-five years later. In 1709 he became agent for New Hampshire, serving intermittently in this capacity until 1720 and regularly thereafter for seventeen years. He had a considerable acquaintance among members of the Royal Society, of which his New England friends took advantage in their endeavors to get communications before that body. At his death his estate was reputedly worth £20,000.51
Dummer, on graduating in 1699, went to Leyden and Utrecht for further study. At Leyden he received a Ph.D., the first ever granted to a Harvard man. Nevertheless, he failed to secure either a pulpit or a berth at Harvard upon his return to New England; his preaching, according to Charles Chauncy, “did not make any impression—it was without fault and without effect.”52 Thereafter his course took a more worldly turn. In 1708 he forsook the Bay and went to England. Though he had an offer to minister to the English church at Amsterdam, he devoted himself to politics. He became a henchman of Lord Bolingbroke, and it is said that he would have been rewarded with a “place of honor and profit” had not Anne’s sudden death overturned the apple-cart. But still he prospered; he became warier in politics, applied himself to trade, and developed into a prominent London attorney. Whatever Puritan scruples and inhibitions Dummer may have had seem to have been considerably relaxed by his association with Bolingbroke and his life in London. He became a skeptic in religion, a courtier, and a gentleman of fashion, of whom it could be believed, though it may not have been true, that he kept a bevy of female companions at his country residence at Plaistow.53
Though Dummer drew away from the standards and restrictions of Massachusetts, he was nevertheless recognized as a man of parts by the colonists he had left. He had not been in England long when the doughty Samuel Sewall suggested that he might be of use to the colony’s agent, Sir William Ashurst. By 1710 Ashurst was ready to relinquish the agency, which he had held for over twenty years, and recommended Dummer as his successor. Though Governor Dudley favored Newman for the post, he was prevailed upon to sign Dummer’s commission.54 For fifteen years he served Massachusetts, and from 1712 to 1730 he also acted as agent for Connecticut. He was one of the ablest of the colonial agents and, until handicapped by ill health in the twenties, was very zealous in the performance of his duties. Indeed, Dummer’s forceful defence of colonial interests on one occasion so angered the Board of Trade that it refused for a time to receive him. He held the chartered rights of the colonies in high esteem. In 1713 he warned the colonists of “a design to obtain a new modelling the plantations, and make alterations in their civil government,” and Rhode Island, as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut, sent him funds to be used in opposing the project. His Defence of the New England Charters, written at this time though not published until 1721, became the accepted apology of the advocates of colonial self-government. A series of documents elucidating the political, economic, and strategic gains to be secured from the reduction of Canada were presented by him or through him to the British authorities; and in 1710 he sought, without success, the judge advocacy and secretaryship of the projected Canadian expedition. When this campaign misfired Dummer wrote A Letter to a Noble Lord concerning the Late Expedition to Canada, defending the colonies against charges of non-coöperation.
Both Newman and Dummer deserve to be remembered for their services to colonial education. As Harvard’s first agent in England since the forties, Newman helped her obtain the Hopkins legacy, sent her gifts of books, and kept a wary eye out for private libraries about to come on the market.55 In Dummer Yale acquired her first notable benefactor. In 1714 he sent to Connecticut over seven hundred volumes, “about 120 of which were at his own Cost and Charge; and the rest by his Procurement from sundry principal Gentlemen in England.”56 Among the one hundred and eighty persons from whom this Harvard graduate begged books for the new college were Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Richard Blackmore, Sir Richard Steele, Edmund Halley, Bishop Kennet, Sir Edmund Andros, Isaac Watts, and Elihu Yale himself. Through this and subsequent donations, for which Dummer was responsible, Yale’s library was better stocked in contemporary literature than that of her older rival. Dummer’s acquaintance “with men of Learning and Estates” was, as he assured Rector Pierson, “very general,” and the array of those who brought the agent books to be shipped to Saybrook lends credence to the lines in his obituary which assert that “his Company was eagerly sought after by all Lovers of good Sense and Humanity.” His activities in behalf of the Connecticut institution were naturally regarded with misgivings by the denizens of Cambridge, particularly after he tried to divert the beneficence of Harvard’s great contemporary patron, Thomas Hollis. In this his efforts were fruitless, but he had already introduced the Saybrook school to the Maecenas whose name it would adopt. As early as 1711, before he was Connecticut’s agent, Dummer had sounded out Elihu Yale. Twenty-nine of the volumes sent over in 1714 had come from the nabob of Queen Square; greater gifts were to follow, until Yale’s death in 1721 forced Dummer to seek another benefactor.
Among the Harvard-bred agents who prospered abroad Joseph Dudley is worthy of special attention. No Harvardian of the period, save Sir George Downing, was more successful as a place-hunter. A graduate in 1665, Dudley first went abroad to preserve the Massachusetts charter. In this he failed; but by ingratiating himself with the court he laid the groundwork for his appointment as Governor of the Dominion of New England, which he obtained in 1685. The following year he was supplanted by Sir Edmund Andros, but was placed at the head of his council. With the collapse of the Andros regime in 1689 Dudley was shipped off to England, charged with the commission of over a hundred illegal acts. These charges were presently dismissed, and Dudley set about courting, with letters, visits, presents, and possibly bribes, influential colonial administrators like William Blathwayt. Again his efforts were successful, and he returned to America as chief of the Council of New York. But he could be content with nothing less than high office in New England, and in 1693 he went for the third time to London. For nearly a decade he remained abroad. He renewed old alliances and made new ones; he conformed to the Established Church and joined the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Upon the death of Governor Phipps, whose arrest Dudley had procured, he felt confident that he would be the successor; but though he had the support of such men as Blathwayt, Lord Cutts, the Earl of Portland, and the Duke of Leeds, the prize was given to the Earl of Bellomont. Though he longed to return to New England, where his wife remained, he could not go back a beaten man; pride and ambition kept him in England. There he supported himself as Deputy-Governor of the Isle of Wight, serving the martial Lord Cutts as both an official lieutenant and private factotum.57 In connection with his office and through Cutts’ influence he secured a colonelcy, became Mayor of Newport, and sat in Parliament for Newtown. On political questions he consistently supported the court party, and his knowledge and experience, in colonial matters, were respected by those in power. As the years passed he more and more took on the manners of an English gentleman, and sought recognition as such. John Chamberlayne, gentleman-in-waiting to Prince George, appears to have acted in London as his social sponsor, and he sought admission to the Royal Society.58 In 1702 his patient fence-mending brought results. Through Cutts he had the ear of the Duke of Marlborough; the Bishop of St. Asaph believed that he would champion the church and its missions; Blathwayt could be counted on; the resident colonists in London, the dissenting clergy, and the English colonial traders all joined in backing him. Dudley became Governor of Massachusetts.
Dudley’s ability to land on his feet was equalled only by that of George Downing. A graduate in 1642, he was restless and dissatisfied in New England and in 1645 betook himself to England. There he succeeded in serving Cromwell and Charles II with equal success. The only Harvard graduate to participate in the Civil Wars, he began as an army chaplain and rose to be scoutmaster-general. After the reduction of Scotland he aided Cromwell in its administration. Under the Protectorate he thrived, serving twice in Parliament and filling diplomatic posts abroad. His political perception was keen and his principles were flexible. He was associated with the movement for offering the crown to Oliver; but in 1660, while British resident at The Hague, he grasped the opportunity to make his peace with Charles, disowning his hitherto profitable alliance with the Roundheads and blaming it on his New England background. Thereafter he identified himself with the new regime, and even procured the arrest of Colonel Okey, in whose regiment he had begun his English career, for which Pepys called him a “perfidious rogue” and “ungrateful villain.”59 He continued to sit in Parliament, and was described as “the housebell to call the courtiers to vote.”60 He is said to have received at least £80,000 by the King’s favor; and he gained lucrative offices in connection with the treasury and the customs. In 1660 he was knighted and three years later was made a baronet. To this day his name is commemorated in the noted London street.
One other Harvard alumnus found a place at the court of Charles II. This was John Crowne, the college’s first playwright. Shropshire-born, he came to New England by way of Nova Scotia, where his father had a grant of land. He entered Harvard in 1657, but, according to Dennis, “the Vivacity of his Genius made him soon grow impatient of that sullen and gloomy Education, and soon oblig’d him to get loose from it and seek his Fortune in England.”61 This he did in 1660. Shortly thereafter his father lost his Nova Scotian lands, and by his own confession it was this misfortune which made him “run into that Madness call’d Poetry” and resort to “that Bedlam call’d a Stage.” Writing with a careful eye on the box office, he was chiefly successful in turning out comedies. The mercurial Rochester for a time took him under his wing; by his masque Calisto, he gained the favor of Charles II, and this was further assured by The Country Wit and City Politiques, a jibe at the Whigs. Crowne never ceased to regret his lost patrimony, “which, tho’ it lay in the deserts of America would have enabled me . . . to have liv’d at my ease in these beautiful parts o’ the world.”62 But he was unable to regain it, or to secure compensating property elsewhere. Late in Charles’ reign the King promised him an office in return for one more comedy. The result was Sir Courtly Nice, a piece which held the boards for over a century. Even so, Crowne did not gain the security he sought, for Charles died while the play was in rehearsal, and there was no hope of patronage from King James. Thereafter Crowne’s star declined, though he drew funds from Mary and from Anne, and in 1701 a satirist could quip in The Town display’d in a Letter
C——n, with a feeble pace and hoary hairs,
Has just outliv’d his wit by twenty years.
Nonetheless, the “deserts of America” held no attraction for him; and though his Harvard studies are revealed by his familiarity with such writers as Suetonius and Josephus, his numerous works contain no recollections of his New England youth. Indeed, his Toryism and Anglicanism may have been a reaction to that phase of his life.
Late in the Stuart era, and particularly after 1700, we encounter in England young Harvard visitors seeking the pleasure and knowledge that foreign travel can provide, and perhaps looking over the field for opportunities. The adventures of John Barnard and Benjamin Colman have been preserved in some detail for us.63 Colman went to England in 1695, to “make improvement by what he could see and learn there,” while Barnard took advantage of an invitation to voyage to Barbados and London as a ship-chaplain in 1709. Both secured a wide acquaintance with the dissenting clergy and, as we have seen, preached in various places; and they travelled extensively, seeing the sights and visiting relatives. Barnard appears to have presented a far from clerical appearance. He adorned himself with a long wig and a sword, and tells us that he was “taken for a small courtier, and treated as such by many country squires and knights”; while on another occasion he was mistaken for a lawyer. Both stayed with Sir Henry Ashurst at his country seat near Oxford, and John Caswell, the Oxford astronomer, conducted Barnard and some other Americans around the colleges, and took them out to Woodstock to see Blenheim Palace, then under construction. Barnard made a point of becoming acquainted with the Anglican clergy wherever he went, but found them generally “very empty.” He learned that Burton produced the best ale in England, and obtained recipes for burnt claret and for curing bacon. Unwilling to conform to the Established Church, he declined an invitation to go to Ireland as chaplain to the Viceroy. He also excused himself from a junket on the royal yacht, then about to carry Marlborough and other noblemen to Holland, though he was invited by her skipper. Business offers were tendered him by West Indian merchants, but he declined them, and in 1710 he was back in New England again. Colman, too, associated with persons of some prominence; and there was no better vantage point than Bath to observe the world of fashion. Both men became acquainted with the poetess, Elizabeth Singer—the “lovely Philomela”—and it is said that Colman might have married her had he been willing to remain in England. Several other graduates undoubtedly had interesting sojourns overseas. Thomas Brattle (1676) returned from England to Boston in 1689, having “very much improved himself in his Studies by his travels abroad.” Thomas Prince took advantage of the burning of his ship, before the homeward voyage, to stay on in England for seven years, preaching and travelling and ferreting out “a great variety of books and pamphlets . . . wrote in ancient times,” unquestionably absorbing and useful to the future author of the Annals.64 In the travels of Jonathan Belcher we are reminded of the grand tours of the European aristocracy. His father was a rich Boston merchant who, after Jonathan had secured his second degree in 1702, sent him abroad for the edifying experiences of travel. He visited various German principalities, including Hanover, where, he says, “I was Entertain’d by the Princess Sophia . . . as If she had been my mother.” He also visited Holland and “made a progress through the kingdom of Great Britain” five hundred miles in length; but nowhere, he tells us, did he find a place which he preferred to New England. While in England he secured a family pedigree and became a Mason, the first New Englander, it is said, to join this fraternity.65 Another traveller was Walter Price (1695). Sewall reports that he consorted with the London circles in which Colman moved, and he appears to have visited Spain.66
It is worthy of note that, both among those who remained behind and those who crossed the sea, there was a feeling that those nurtured by New England were not without obligations to her. “Dear brother,” wrote John Higginson to the absent Nathaniel, “you had your education here, and you do owe some service to your country. Come, and pay it.”67 When John Davie was about to take ship to England and his new baronetcy, Sewall asked Samuel Shepherd to “wish him and his lady joy of it, and pray that they may improve it for their own good, and for the good of New England, as opportunity may offer.”68 Davie was not indifferent to the needs of the colonists, and Yale’s library was enriched by nearly two hundred volumes through his generosity.69 Nor was he the only Harvardian who, though permanently settled abroad, still felt sufficient affection and loyalty to colony and alma mater to be of service. John Collins retained a keen interest in his college, of which he was a trustee. He helped to secure for it the Gale library and promoted Leonard Hoar as President Chauncy’s successor; he, in turn, was Increase Mather’s choice for President in 1681. Massachusetts showed her appreciation of his efforts in her behalf, during years when she possessed no regular London agent, by a grant of five hundred acres.70 The Anglican Gershom Rawlins swelled the volumes which Dummer sent to Saybrook.71 Even Downing, so mistrusted by New Englanders, was not unmindful of Harvard’s needs.72 Though Higginson could not be induced to return, he was not oblivious to the interests of his American friends and relatives; in 1706 he attempted to remove Governor Dudley from office, and he proposed to set his nephew up in business abroad.73 It was Nathaniel Mather of Dublin who provided for New England the only outside help which she received during King Philip’s War—a shipload of provisions collected in Ireland. Of those who merely visited the old country, the colonists could doubtless count on the services of many, in one way or another. Though Sewall was not an official agent, his trip to England in 1688 was motivated in part by a desire to aid Mather and his associates in their efforts to restore the charter. John Barnard took it upon himself to recommend Dummer for the Massachusetts agency,74 and Dudley Woodbridge, a graduate in 1696 who became a Barbados judge, supported Dummer’s demands that New England ships be protected against the Spanish. Many other errands and favors must have eluded the record.
There can be no doubt that the comings and goings of men who were educated and frequently of some prominence served to instruct both motherland and province in the ways of the other. Dudley, even when not serving as an agent, was often interrogated on colonial matters by the English authorities,75 and Captain Willard’s knowledge of North America was respected by the Board of Trade. Anthony Wood, though chronically allergic to Puritans, formed a good opinion of Increase Mather; while Mather, on being asked how he liked Archbishop Tillotson, replied that had England “always had such ArchBishops New England had never been.”76 From men like John Barnard and Thomas Prince Englishmen must have learned something of colonial mores. That some were ludicrously misinformed about their colonial cousins, at least at the turn of the century, is evident. “What strangers were even the city of London to New England, excepting a few merchants who traded with us!” exclaims Barnard in his autobiography;77 from him and Prince they learned, at least, that colonists might attain “Fairness & accuracy” in the use of English and commonly possessed white skins. From others the English might gain an impression of the confidence and independence of the Americans: from Prince, for example, who told his hosts that “in about an hundred years the New England people would be powerful enough to withdraw from the realm of Old England, and advance to the dignity of a free and independent nation,” and who so stimulated his audience that thirty of them are said to have determined to make the westward voyage with him.78
On the other hand, the return of colonists who had lived abroad tended to make New England—or at least Boston, to which most of our alumni gravitated—less provincial. Their accounts of English life and thought must have found ready listeners; and in some cases their sojourn abroad gave them a new prestige. Barnard observed that his preaching was more highly regarded after he returned from England, even though he was using his old sermons. Samuel Sewall in 1712 confided to his diary the hope that in Benjamin Lynde “we shall have an Instance of the Advantage of an Inns of Court education superadded to that of Harvard College.”79 Friendships made in England were commonly kept alive by pen and ink. Colman, back in Boston as pastor of the Brattle Street Church, corresponded with Thomas Hollis, Isaac Watts, Edmund Calamy, Bishop Kennet, Sir Richard Blackmore, and Daniel Neal, to whose History of New England he contributed.80 Paul Dudley carried on a scientific correspondence with John Chamberlayne, and for over twenty years prepared treatises for the Royal Society, which made him a fellow in 1721.81 Thomas Brattle furnished the Society with astronomical data based on his observations in Massachusetts.82 Leonard Hoar, while in England, had cultivated the friendship of such men as Robert Boyle and Dr. Morison, the royal physician. On returning to the Bay colony he did not leave his scientific interests behind; on the contrary, he nourished the hope that he might provide Harvard, whose President he became, with a botanical garden and chemical laboratory.83 It is quite apparent that New England, though deprived of some promising men reared in her traditions, yet regained others whose minds were broadened and stimulated by experiences unattainable to those who chose to stay at home.