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CHAP. nothing on earth. Puritanism constituted, not the
Christian clergy, but the Christian people, the interpreter of the divine will. The voice of the majority was the voice of God; and the issue of puritanism was therefore popular sovereignty.
The effects of puritanism display its true character still more distinctly. Ecclesiastical tyranny is of all kinds the worst; its frụits are cowardice, idleness, ignorance and poverty; puritanism was a lifegiving spirit; activity, thrift, intelligence followed in its train ; and as for courage, a coward and a puritan never went together.
It was in self-defence, that puritanism in America began those transient persecutions, of which the excesses shall find in me no apologist; and which yet were no more than a train of mists, hovering, of an autumn morning, over the channel of a fine river, that diffused freshness and fertility wherever it wound. The people did not attempt to convert others, but to protect themselves; they never punished opinion as such ; they never attempted to torture or terrify men into orthodoxy. The history of religious persecution in New-England is simply this; the puritans established a government in America such as the laws of natural justice warranted, and such as the statutes of England did not warrant; and that was done by men, who still acknowledged the duty of a limited allegiance to the parent state.
The episcopalians had declared themselves the enemies of the
party, and waged against it a war of extermination ; puritanism excluded them from its asylum.
CHARACTER OF PURITANISM.
Roger Williams, the apostle of "soul-liberty," weak- CHAP. ened the cause of civil independence, by impairing its unity, and he was expelled, even though Massachusetts always bore good testimony to his spotless virtues. Wheelwright and his friends, in their zeal for strict Calvinism, forgot their duty as citizens; and they also were exiled. The anabaptist, who could not be relied upon as an ally, was guarded as a foe. The quakers denounced the worship of NewEngland as an abomination, and its government as treason; and therefore they were excluded on pain of death. The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty; and he defended his creed, for, in the moral warfare for freedom, his creed was a part of his
army, and his most faithful ally in the battle. For “New-England was a religious plantation, not a plantation for trade. The profession of the purity of doctrine, worship, and discipline was written on her forehead." “We all,” says the confederacy in the oldest of American written constitutions, “came into these parts of America to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity and peace.” “He that made religion as twelve and the world as thirteen, had not the spirit of a true New-England man.” Religion was the object of the emigrants; it was also their consolation. With this the wounds of the outcast were healed, and the tears of exile sweetened.?
Of all contemporary sects, the puritans were the
1 Backus, v. i. p. 155. Win- Norton's choice sermons, p. 15. throp, v. ü. p. 193.
Higginson's Cause of God, p. 11. 2 Norton's Heart, &c. p. 58. Articles of Confederacy.
CHAP. most free from credulity; and in their zeal for rea form pushed their regulations to what some would
consider a sceptical extreme. So many superstitions had been bundled up with every venerable institution of Europe, that ages have not yet dislodged them all. The puritans at once emancipated themselves from a crowd of observances. They estab
. lished a worship purely spiritual. To them the elements remained but wine and bread; they invoked no saints; they adored no crucifix; they kissed no book ; they asked no absolution ; they paid no tithes; they saw in the priest nothing more than a man ; the church, as a place of worship, was to them but a meeting-house; they dug no graves in consecrated earth; unlike their posterity, they married without a minister, and buried the dead without a prayer. Witchcraft had not been made the subject of sceptical consideration; and in the years in which Scotland sacrificed hecatombs to the delusion, there were three victims in New-England. Dark crimes, that seemed without a motive, may have been pursued under that name; I find one record of a trial for witchcraft, where the prisoner was proved a murderess.
On every subject but religion, the mildness of puritan legislation corresponded to the popular character of puritan doctrines. Hardly a nation of Europe has as yet made its criminal law so humane, as that of early New-England. A crowd of offences was at one sweep brushed from the catalogue of capital crimes. The idea was never received, that the forfeiture of life may be demanded for the protection
CHARACTER OF PURITANISM.
of property the punishment for theft, for burglary, CHAP. and highway robbery, was far more mild than the penalties imposed even by modern American legisla tion. Of divorce I have found no example; yet a clause in one of the statutes recognizes the possibility of such an event. Divorce from bed and board, the separate maintenance without the dissolution of the marriage contract; an anomaly in protestant leģis lation, that punishes the innocent more than the guilty, was utterly abhorrent from their principles. The cares for posterity was every where visible.. Since the sanctity of the marriage bed is the safeguard of families, and can alone interest the father in the welfare and instruction of his offspring, the parity of the wife was protected by the penalty of death; a penalty, which was inexorably enforced. If, in this respect, the laws were more severe, in another they were more lenient, than modern manners approve. The girl, whom youth and affection betrayed into weakness, was censured, pitied, and forgiven; the law compelled the seducer of innocence to marry the person, over whose heart he had obtained such power. The law implies an extremely pure community; in to other would it find a place in the statute-book; in no other would public opin
ron tolerate, the rule. Yet it need not have surprised the countrymen of Raleigh, or the subjects of the grand children of Clarendon......
The benevolence of the early puritans appears from other examples; Domestic discipline was highly valued; but if the law was severe against the 64
CHAP. undutiful child, it was also severe against a faithless parent. Even the brute creation was not forgotten; and cruelty towards animals was a civil offence.— The sympathies of the colonists were wide; a regard for protestant Germany is as old as emigration ; and during the thirty years' war, the whole people of New-England held fasts and offered prayers for the success of their Saxon brethren...
The first years of the residence of puritans in America, were years of great hardship and affliction; it is an error to suppose that this short season of distress was not promptly followed by abundance and happiness. The people were full of affections; and the objects of love were around them. They struck root in the soil immediately. They enjoyed religion. They were from the first, industrious, and enterprising, and frugal; and affluence followed of course. When persecution ceased in England, there were already in New-England "thousands who would not change their place for any other in the world;" and they were tempted in vain with invitations to the Bahama Isles, to Ireland, to Jamaica, to Trinidad. The purity of morals completes the picture of colonial felicity. "As. Ireland will not brook venomous beasts, so will not that land vile livers.". One might dwell there "from year to year and not see a drunkard, or hear an oath, or meet a beggar."". The çonsequence was universal health; one of the chief elements of public happiness. The average duration of life in New-England, compared with Europe, was
1 New-England's First Fruits, printed 1643, p. 23, 26.