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CHAP.

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1651.

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The war between England and Holland hardly disturbed the tranquillity of the colonies. The

western settlements, which would have suffered ex1654. treme misery from a combined attack of the Indians

and the Dutch, were earnest for attempting to re-
duce New-Amsterdam ; but Massachusetts could de-
liberate more coolly, and its elders wisely answered,
that the wars of Europe ought not to destroy the hap-
piness of America, that " it was safest for the colonies
to forbear the use of the sword, but to be in a pos-
ture of defence ;” and the largest state in the con-
federacy refused to become a passive instrument for
the execution of injustice at the bidding of its neigh-
bors. The nature of the reserved powers of the
members of the union now became the subject of
animated discussion ; but a peaceful intercourse with
Manhattan continued.

The European republics had composed their strife,
before the fleet, which was designed to take posses-
sion of the settlements on the Hudson, reached the
shores of America. It was a season of peace be-
tween England and France; and yet the English
forces, turning to the north, made the easy conquest
of Acadia ; an acquisition, which no remonstrances
or complaints could induce the protector to restore.?

The possession was perhaps considered a benefit to New-England, of which the inhabitants enjoyed

1654.

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1 Hazard, v. ii. has all the docu- Irving is always right; in relating ments on this subject. Trumbull, the incident, his delightful humor v. i. p. 202—214, gives a wrong yields to the serious eulogy of becoloring to the affair. He is fol- nevolence. lowed by Marshall. The heart of 2 Haliburton, v. i. p. 61.

CROMWELL FAVORS NEW-ENGLAND.

483

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the confidence of Cromwell throughout all the period CHAP. of his success. They were fully satisfied that the battles which he had fought, were the battles of the Lord; and “the spirits of the brethren were carried forth in faithful and affectionate prayers in his behalf;" but at the same time they charged him to rule his spirit, rather than to storm cities. Cromwell, in return, was moved by the sincerity of their regard; he seems to have found relief in pouring out his heart to them freely; he confessed that the battle of Dunbar, where “some, who were godly,” were fought into their graves, was of all the acts of his life, that, on which his mind had the least quiet; and he declared himself “truly ready to serve the brethren and the churches" in America. The declaration was sincere. The people of New-England were ever sure, that Cromwell would listen to their requests, and would take an interest in all the little details of their condition. He left them independence; perhaps he gave them advantageous contracts; he favored their trade. When his arms had made the conquest of Jamaica, he offered to them the island, with the 1655. promise of all the wealth which the tropical clime pours prodigally into the lap of industry; and though they frequently thwarted his views, his magnanimity preserved for them his regard. English history must judge of Cromwell by his influence on the institutions of England; the American colonies remember the years of his power as the period, when British sovereignty was for them free from rapacity, intolerance and oppression. He may be called the benefactor of

X.

CHAP. the English in America ; for he left them to enjoy

unshackled the liberal benevolence of Providence, the freedom of industry, of commerce and of government.

Yet the puritans of New-England perceived that their security rested on the personal character of the protector, and that other revolutions were ripening; they, therefore, never allowed their vigilance to be lulled. The influence of the elders was confirmed ;

. the civil and the religious institutions had become intimately connected. While the spirit of independence was thus assured, the evils ensued, that are in some measure inseparable from a religious establishment; a distinct interest grew up under the system; the severity of the laws was sharpened against infidelity on the one hand, and sectarianism on the other ; nor can it be denied, nor should it be concealed, that the elders, especially Wilson and Norton, instigated and sustained the government in its worst cruelties.

Where the mind is left free, religion can never have dangerous enemies. No class has then an interest or a motive, to attempt its subversion ; while the interests of society demand a foundation for the principles of justice and benevolence. Atheism is a folly of the metaphysician, not the folly of human nature. Of savage life, Roger Williams declared, that he had never found one native American, who denied the existence of a God; in civilized life,

; when it was said of the court of Frederic, that the

a

1 Hutchinson's Coll. p. 233 and Mass. State Papers, Case i. File ff, Hutch. Hist. App. No's, ix, X. vii. No. 34. File x. No. 77.

LAWS AGAINST IRRELIGION AND SECTARIANISM.

485

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place of king's atheist was vacant, the gibe was felt chap. as the most biting sarcasm. Men revolt against the oppressions of superstition, the exactions of ecclesi- 1650. astical tyranny ; but never against religion itself. When an ecclesiastical establishment, under the heaviest penalties, requires universal conformity, the diversity of human opinion necessarily involves the consequence, that some consciences are oppressed and wronged. In such cases, if the wrong is excessive, intellectual servitude is followed by consequences, analagous to those, which ensue on the civil slavery of the people; the mind, as it bursts its fetters, is clouded by a sense of injury; the judgment is confused; and in the zeal to resist a tyranny, passion attempts to sweep away every form of religion. Bigotry commits the correlative error, when it attempts to control opinion by positive statutes, to substitute the terrors of law for convincing argu

It is a crime, to attack truth under pretence of resisting injurious power; it is equally a crime, to enslave the human mind, under the pretence of protecting religion. The reckless mind, rashly hurrying to the attack of superstition, has often, though by mistake, attacked intelligence itself; but religion, of itself alone, never had an enemy; except indeed as there have been theorists, whose harmless ingenuity has denied the existence between right and wrong, between justice and its opposite. Positive enactments against irreligion, like positive enactments against fanaticism, provoke the evil, which they were designed to prevent. Danger is inviting.

ment.

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CHAP. If left to himself, he that vilifies the foundations of

morals and happiness, does but publish his own un1650. worthiness; and the law which punished the offence

; by branding, was right in its spirit ; it was wrong only in making the magistrate the instrument. The blasphemer brands himself. A public prosecution is a mantle to cover his shame; for to suffer for opinion's sake is courageous; and courage is always an honorable quality. Public opinion, when freely exercised, can give life to institutions and mould the forms of society; and there are some kinds of crime which it alone can punish, and which it punishes with terrific energy. When public opinion, deliberately, and without passion, pronounces the sentence of ignominy, it sticks like the fabled garment, which could not be taken off but with the flesh itself. In such a case, the punishment is always around the culprit, and he can no more escape from it, than from the atmosphere.

The conscientious austerity of the colonists, invigorated by the love of power, led to a course of legislation, which, if it was followed by the melancholy result of bloodshed, was also followed among the cool and reflecting freemen of the new world by complete emancipation from bigotry, achieved by the friends of religion, without any of the excesses of intolerant infidelity. The inefficiency of fanatic laws was made plain by the fearless resistance of a still more stubborn fanaticism.

Saltonstall wrote from Europe, that, but for their severities, the people of Massachusetts would have

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