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soul, or the resurrection of the body, or any sin to be repented of in the regenerate, or any evil to be done by the outward man to be accounted sin ; or shall deny that Christ gave himself a ransom for our sins ; or shall affirm that we are not justified by his death and righteousness, but by our own merit; or shall deny the morality of the fourth commandment; or sball openly condemn or oppose the baptism of infants ; or shall purposely depart the congregation at the administration of the ordinance of baptism ; or shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful authority to make war and peace, and to punish the outward breaches of the first table ; or shall endeavor to seduce others to any of these opinions ; every such person, lawfully convicted, shah' be banished this jurisdiction. No schoolmaster shall be admitted who is unsound in the faith.” (Plant. Laws, 1704, pp. 44, 45, 89.) These laws seem to have been made in 1646, about ten years after the banishment of Roger Williams, the irrepressible advocate of religious liberty.
Sec. 4. In Connecticut, in 1642, the following laws were established : “1. If any man, after legal conviction, shall have or worship any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. 2.) If any man or woman be a witch--that is, hath or consulteth with a faminiar spirit—they shall be put to death. 3. If any person shall blasphemel the name of God the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous, or high-handed blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like mapper, he shall be put to death." In about 1655, the following laws were in force : “1. If any person turn Quaker, he shall be banished, and not suffered to return upon the pain of death. 2. No priest shall abide in this dominion ; he shall be banished, and suffer death on his return. Priests may be seized by any one, without a warrant. 3. No man shall hold any office, who is not sound in the faith ; whoever gives a vote to such person shall pay a fine of one pound sterling, and for a second offense he shall be disfranchised. 4. No Quaker, or dissenter from the established worphip of this dominion, shall be allowed to give a vote for the election of magistrates or any officer. 5. No food or lodging shall be afforded to a Quaker, Adamite, or other heretic. 6. No one shall run on the Sabbath-day, or walk in his garden, or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting. 7. No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave on the Sabbath-day. 8. No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath or fasting-day. 9. No minister shall keep a school." It is said by Peters, in his “ History of Connecticut,” that these laws were the laws made by the people of New Haven, previous to their incorpora tion with Saybrook and Hartford colonies, and were, as he says, very properly termed “ blue laws,"—that is, bloody laws—for, he adds, they vere all sanctified with excommunication, confiscation, fines, banishment; whipping, cutting off the ears, burning the tongue, and death. We do not reproduce these laws with pleasure, and have given only as m:iny as
seemed necessary to convey a proper idea of the spirit with which Connecticut laws were made in those days.
Sec. 5. In New York, in 1694, by act of the Assembly, held in New York city, all Jesuits, Seminary priests, or other ecclesiastical persons, made or ordained by any power or jurisdiction derived or pretended from the Pope or See of Rome, residing or being within the province, were, under heavy penalties, required to depart the same before the first of November, 1700 (Plant. Laws, p. 294.) A similar law was in force at this time in Massachusetts. (Plant. Laws, p. 54.)
Sec. 6. In Maryland, where a distinguished historian assures us “religious liberty obtained a home, its only home in the wide world” (1 Bancrofi's Hist. U. S., p. 247), it was enacted that if any person whatever, inhabiting within this province, shall blaspheme—that is, curse God, deny our Saviour to be the Son of God, or deny the Holy Trinity, or the Godhead of any of the three persons, or the unity of the Godhead ; or shall utter any reproachful words or language concerning the Holy Trinity, or any of the three persons thereof ;-he or she shall, for the first offense, be bored through the tongue, and fined twenty pounds sterling. For the second offense, he or she shall be branded on the forehead with the letter “B," and fined forty pounds sterling, or imprisonment for one year. And for the third offense, he or she so offending shall suffer death, with confiscation of all their goods and chattels. (Plant. Laws, p. 8.) The Book of Common Prayer, and administration of the sacraments, with other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, shall be solemnly read by all ministers in the churches and other places of worship in this province. (Plant. Laws, p. 62.)
Sec. 7. In Virginia, it was enacted that if any person brought up in the Christian religion shall, by writing, printing, teaching, or advised speaking, deny the being of a God, or the Holy Trinity; or assert or maintain there are more Gods than one ; or deny the Christian religion to be true; or the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be of divine authority ; and be thereof lawfully convicted upon indictment or information in the general court, such persons, for the first offense, shall be disabled to hold any office or employment, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, or any profit or advantage therefrom. And every such office or employment, held by such person at the time of his or her conviction, is hereby declared void. And every such person, upon a second conviction of any of the crimes aforesaid, in manner aforesaid, shall from thenceforth be unable to sue in any court of law or equity, or to be guardian to any child, or executor or administrator of any person, or capable of any gift or legacy, or to bear any office, civil or military, forever within this colony; and shall also suffer, from the time of such conviction, three years imprisonment, without bail or mainprize. (Laws of Va., 1758, p. 14.) This same law was in force in South Carolina from about 1703. . (Pub. Laws of 8. C., 1790, p. 3.) No other catechism could be taught than the Church catechism inserted in the Book of Common Prayer. (Plant. Laws of Va., p. 12.) The following law was made in Virginia, in the year 1663, and was “in force and in use" still in 1704: “If any Quakers, or other separatists whatever, in this colony, assemble themselves together to the number of five or more, of the age of sixteen years or upwards, under the pretense of joining in a religious worship not authorized in England or this country, the parties so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted by verdict, confession, or notorious evidence of the fact, shall for the first offense forfeit and pay two hundred pounds of tobacco; for the second offense, five hundred pounds of tobacco ; to be levied by warrant from any one justice of the peace upon the goods of the party convicted ; but if he be unable, then upon the goods of any other of the separatists or Quakers then present. And for the third offense, the offender, being convicted as aforesaid, shall be banished the colony. (Plant. Laws of Va., p. 52.) About the time this law was enacted in Virginia, and before any of the laws of the other colonies which we have cited were abolished, the people of the little colony of Rhode Island, perfectly consistent with their professions from the first settlement of their colony by Roger Williams, caused to be inserted in their charter, obtained from Charles II. in 1665, the grand original idea of religious liberty, which seems since to have been adopted to a considerable extent by nearly every State in the Union, and by some of them entire.
Sec. 8. RHODE ISLAND.—The language of the charter above referred to is as follows : “No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any difference in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceably and quietly, and not using their liberty to licentiousness and profanedess, or to the civil injury or outward disturbance of others.” The charter further says that this remarkable liberty of conscience is given to the people of Rhode Island, in order " that there may, in time, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors, be laid a sure foundation of happiness to all America." To show the remarkable strength of the faith of these men in their new theory and religious liberty, which was to be “a sure foundation of happiness to all America," we transcribe the following law in full from one of their ancient records : “Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapcitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body
and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his almighty power to do ; that the presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical ; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving bis contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions ; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he possesses or renounces this or that religious opinion, is depririog him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion which it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though, indeed, those are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude bis powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his own opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own ; that it is time enough, for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into open acts against peace and good order; and, finally, that truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself ; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless, by human interposition, disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate-errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted to contradict them. And whereas, a principal object of our venerable ancestors in their migration to this country and settlement of this State was, as they expressed it, “to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand, and best be maintained with a full liberty in religious concernments’—Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, and by the authority thereof it is enacted, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or minister whatever ; nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods ; nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief ; but that all men shall be free to possess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion ; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." (Laws of R. I., 1798, p. 81.) .
The same principles, in almost the same words, are enunciated in the present Constitution of Rhode Island (Art. 1, sec. 3). After being “ fourteen weeks sorely tossed in a bitter season, not knowing what bread or bed did mean," at last, in June, 1636, the exiled Roger Williams, with five companions, embarked in a frail Indian canoe to find and found a home for religious liberty. Tradition has marked the spring near which they landed; it is the parent spot, the first inhabited nook of Rhode Island. This place Williams called Providence. “I desired," said he, “it might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience" (1 Bancft. 379); and such a shelter it very soon became. At a time when Germany was a battle-field for all Europe in the implacable wars of religion ; when even Holland was bleeding with the anger of vengeful factions ; when France was still to go through the fearful struggle with bigotry; when England was gasping under the despotism of intolerance ; almost half a century before William Penn became an American proprietary; two years before Descartes founded modern philosophy on the method of free reflection (1 Bancft. 375); and nearly a whole century before any of the older American colonies stopped branding, cutting off the ears, boring the tongue with a red-hot iron, banishing, and putting to death for conscience sake-Roger Williams asserted the great doctrine of religious liberty, and suffered sorely for it; but afterwards had the satisfaction of laying the foundation of an independent State, based on the broad principles of civil and religious liberty, such as the world till then had never seen.
Nearly two centuries and a half have passed away since the settlement of Rhode Island, but the people, as we have shown, hold fast to their first principles. The spirit so manifest in the laws we have cited, is the spirit of their laws in general. In their schools religious liberty is practiced, inculcated, and protected by law. No teacher or scholar is proscribed there on account of religious opinions.
We will explain the laws of the other States hereafter.
A wit once asked a peasant what part he played in the great drama of life. “I mind my own business," was the reply.