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curiously enough, was the name of “the last town they left in their native country.” 1
80. Self-government established. While still on the Mayflower, just before landing, forty-one of the men of the party — true to the ever-present English desire for local
Painting by H. Carmiench THE LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS AT PLYMOUTH
“home rule" — signed the following compact for the regulation of the colony:
“In the name of God, amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord King James, by the grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering
1 They came ashore in the ship's rowboats. It is said that a small granite boulder, lying on the sandy beach, was used by them in landing, as a steppingstone. This is called Plymouth Rock, and is still carefully preserved not får from the old landing-place.
and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620."
Such was the beginning of self-government in New England - a year and a half after the first meeting of the famous Virginia House of Burgesses.
81. Getting established. The Pilgrims at once erected log houses for their families; but food was scarce and the
winter far more severe than any they had ever experienced. About half of the colony died of various illnesses before spring. Fearing that they might soon have to fight the Indians, Miles Standish, a stout-hearted
soldier,was chosPainting by F. T. Merrill. Courtesy, N. E. Mutual Life Insurance Co.
en military comTHE VISIT OF SAMOSET 1
mander; but for
tunately for these poor Englishmen, most of the Indians in this region had recently been swept off by a terrible pestilence, and the few
1 Once, a chief named Canonicus sent to Governor Bradford a curious declaration of war. It consisted of a number of arrows tied together with the skin of a rattlesnake. Bradford said nothing, but filled the skin with powder and bullets and returned it to the chief. This meant that he would willingly reply to the war arrows of Canonicus with the white men's firearms. The savage leader at once understood this message, and did not attack the waiting palefaces.
remaining were not strong enough to attack the newcomers. After the colony was a few months old, it was visited by an Indian named Samoset, who had learned a few English words from sailors visiting this coast. With outstretched hands he came into the village, crying, “Welcome, Englishmen!" and later introduced to the Pilgrims Massasoit, the local chief; the latter soon made a treaty with them, which the red men of the neighborhood kept faithfully for fifty years.
In the spring of 1621, the Mayflower returned to England. After the terrible experience of that first winter in the wilderness, no doubt some of the Pilgrims were sorely tempted to go with her, forsaking Plymouth in the same manner in which the Jamestown colonists had decided to abandon their settlement. But not a man or a woman of those who survived turned back. They had come to America not for riches, but with a high and earnest purpose; and no hardship could discourage them.
82. Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the year 1628, sixty Puritans,' under the governorship of John Endicott, a man of the gentry class, with a fine reputation for purity of character and strength of mind, settled at Salem, on the shore of Massachusetts Bay, sixteen miles north of the site of Boston, on a strip of land which they had bought from the Plymouth Company. This grant was sixty miles north and south, and stretched westward to the Pacific Ocean. At that time most Englishmen thought the Pacific not far westward of the Hudson River.
Two years later they were joined by John Winthrop and nearly eight hundred other colonists, with a large stock of horses, cattle, and goods, filling eleven small sailing vessels. Winthrop was a wealthy man of the sturdy English
1 It has been explained that there were at first two parties dissenting from the Church of England — Separatists and Puritans; but gradually most of those who emigrated to New England became Separatists, even if they were not so when they arrived. For convenience, however, historians call all of these people Puritans, and we shall hereafter give them this name.
? A word meaning “Peace.” The settlers hoped to here find peace from religious persecution.
middle class, and several of his companions were graduates of the University of Cambridge. All of them were seeking religious freedom.
By this time the number of settlers in that neighborhood had become too great to be accommodated at Salem; so several new towns were at once started - Charlestown, Dorchester, Watertown, Roxbury, Lynn, Boston, and Cambridge, then called Newtown. The name Massachusetts Bay Colony was given to this group of towns, Winthrop was made its governor, and Boston was chosen as its capital. The affairs of the colony were looked after by a General Court, which consisted of delegates from the towns, and met once a year.2 In time most of the other settlements in this vicinity joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony and sent delegates to the General Court.3
83. Town meetings. The Puritans and their neighbors and successors managed all public affairs chiefly in town meetings, in which every man who belonged to the Puritan congregation had a right to participate. Nobody else could attend“ meeting ” and vote on public questions. At these gatherings laws were made, the public business of the town was talked over, even to the smallest affair, and town officers were told what to do. When the town meeting passed
1 In 1625 or 1626 William Blackstone, “a solitary, bookish recluse, in his thirty-fifth year," built a little cottage on the west slope of Beacon Hill, and was thus the pioneer settler on the peninsula of Boston, which was known to the Indians as Shawmut. Here he was quietly engaged in "trading with the savages, cultivating his garden, and watching the growth of some apple trees.” Governor Winthrop had first chosen the site of Charlestown as the residence of his party. But they found no good water there; so Blackstone went over and informed them of “an excellent spring" at Shawmut, and invited them to be his neighbors. They accepted at once, and in this way the city of Boston was founded. At first the English gave to Shawmut the name “Trimontaine," because of its three hills; but they soon shortened this to “Tremont” (a name surviving in one of the principal streets). After a little they selected the name Boston, from a town in England from which some of the settlers had come.
2 It will thus be seen that the Massachusetts General Court was quite similar to the Virginia House of Burgesses. The magistrates (judges) had also much influence and power in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
3 When the Massachusetts Bay Colony got well started, the Plymouth Colony ceased to be of much importance. It was not so well situated for commerce as were Boston and the other towns of that neighborhood. In 1691 Plymouth was annexed to Massachusetts Bay Colony.
a law, the town officers (called "selectmen ") must strictly enforce it; no favors were shown to any one, no matter how rich or powerful he might be. Thus each town in New England was as perfect a democracy — that is, for the church members themselves - as ever existed.
When there came to be several towns, it was found inconvenient to assemble all of the voters at the capital. There was then of necessity adopted a representative form
Copyright, A. S. Burbank
the crest of the hill
of government, for conducting the business of the entire colony; such was the General Court, just mentioned. But the people still kept to the old town meeting method of managing all local town affairs.
84. Increase of immigration. Immigration to Massachusetts Bay now increased rapidly. By 1634 there were nearly four thousand English men, women, and children settled in this region.
The life of the early colonists was one of constant toil; they often suffered terribly from the winter's cold, and crops were sometimes so poor in that stony soil that more than