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PROGRESS OF THE OLD COLONY.

447

VIII.

enlargement of both the grants; and he obtained CHAP. from the council of Plymouth concessions equal to all his desires. But it was ever impossible to ob- 1630. tain a charter from the king; so that, according to the principles adopted in England, the planters, with an unquestionable property in the soil, had no right to assume a separate jurisdiction. It was therefore in the virtues of the colonists themselves, that their institutions found a guarantee for stability. They never doubted their authority to punish for small offences; it was only after some scruples, that they inflicted capital punishment. Their doubts being once removed, they exercised the same authority as the charter governments. Death was, by subsequent laws, made the penalty for several crimes; but was never inflicted except for murder. House-breaking and highway robbery were offences unknown in their courts, and too little apprehended to make them subjects of severe legislation.

The progress of population was very slow. The lands in the vicinity were not fertile ; and at the end of ten years the colony contained no more than three hundred souls. Few as were their numbers, they had struck deep root, and would have out-lived every storm, even if they had been followed by no other colonies in New-England. Hardly were they planted in America, when their enterprize began to take a wide range; before Massachusetts was settled, they had acquired rights at Cape Ann, as well as an extensive domain on the Kennebec; and they were the first to possess an English settlement on the

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CHAP. banks of the Connecticut. The excellent Robinson VIII.

died at Leyden, before the faction in England would 1625. permit his removal to Plymouth; his heart was in

America, where his memory will never die. The remainder of his people, and with them his wife and children, emigrated, so soon as means could be provided to defray the costs. “ To enjoy religious liberty was the known end of the first comers' great adventure into this remote wilderness ;' and they desired no increase, but from the friends of their communion. Yet their residence in Holland had made them acquainted with various forms of Christianity; a wide experience had emancipated them from bigotry; and they were never betrayed into the excesses of religious persecution, though they sometimes permitted a disproportion between punishment and crime.

The frame of civil government in the Old Colony was of the utmost simplicity. A governor was chosen by general suffrage; whose power, always

subordinate to the general will, was, at the desire of 1624. Bradford, specially restricted by a council of five, 1633. and afterwards of seven, assistants. In the council,

the governor had but a double vote. For more than eighteen years, “the whole body of the male inhabitants” constituted the legislature; the state was governed, like our towns, as a strict democracy; and the

people were frequently convened, to decide on exec1639. utive, not less than on judicial questions. At length,

the increase of population, and its diffusion over a wider territory, led to the introduction of the repre

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PROGRESS OF THE OLD COLONY..

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VIII.

sentative system, and each town sent its committee CHAP. to the general court. We shall subsequently find the colony a distinct member of the earliest Ameri- 1639. can Confederacy; but it is chiefly as guides and pioneers, that the fathers of the Old Colony merit gratitude.

Through scenes of gloom and misery, the Pilgrims showed the way to an asylum for those, who would go to the wilderness for the purity of religion or the liberty of conscience. They set the example of colonizing New-England, and formed the mould for the civil and religious character of its institutions. Enduring every hardship themselves, they were the servants of posterity, the benefactors of succeeding generations. In the history of the world, many pages are devoted to commemorate the heroes, who have besieged cities, subdued provinces, or overthrown empires. In the eye of reason and of truth, a colony is a better offering than a victory; the citizens of the United States should rather cherish the memory of those, who founded a state on the basis of democratic liberty; the fathers of the country; the men, who, as they first trod the soil of the New World, scattered the seminal principles of republican freedom and national independence. They enjoyed, in anticipation, the thought of their extending influence, and the fame, which their grateful successors would award to their virtues. “Out of small beginnings,” said Bradford, “ great things have been produced; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in

CHAP. some sort to our whole nation.'

« Let it not be VIII.

grievous to you,” such was the consolation offered 1639. from England to the Pilgrims in the season of their

greatest sufferings, "let it not be grievous to you, that you have been instruments to break the ice for others. The honor shall be yours to the world's end."

CHAPTER IX.

THE EXTENDED COLONIZATION OF NEW-ENGLAND.

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The council of Plymouth for New-England, having CHAP. obtained of King James the boundless territory and the immense monopoly which they had desired, had 1620. no further obstacles to encounter but the laws of nature and the remonstrances of parliament. No tributaries tenanted their countless millions of uncultivated acres; and exactions upon the vessels of English fishermen were the only means of acquiring an immediate revenue from America. But the spirit of the commons indignantly opposed the extravagant pretensions of the favored company; and demanded for every subject of the English king the free liberty of engaging in a pursuit, which was the chief source of wealth to the merchants of the west. "Shall 1621.

April the English,” said Sir Edwin Sandys, the statesman, so well entitled to the enduring gratitude of Virginia, “ be debarred from the freedom of the fisheries, a privilege, which the French and Dutch enjoy ? It costs the kingdom nothing but labor; employs shipping; and furnishes the means of a lucrative commerce with Spain.” – “The fishermen hinder the plantations,” replied Calvert ; " they choke the har

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