Here to return to
CRITICS of the Puritans, taking their text from Mrs. Heman's poem, are disposed to judge harshly, on the ground of inconsistency, that band of earnest Christians, Who, coming here because they had been persecuted in England persecuted in their turn those who ventured upon a spiritual angle in any degree different from their own. Such critics are, however, confusing the ideals cherished by our forefathers with their own ideals for them. They never claimed that their object in coming here was to secure for all men the boon of freedom in religion. On the contrary, they said quite plainly that the object of their emigration was to escape oppression for themselves. Upon that they laid the emphasis; and with that they stopped.
Far from being inconsistent they adhered through fire and water to their own self-defensive principle. All their legislation, all the 108 arrangements of their society were framed to secure this object. It was in accordance with this that they reserved to themselves the right of admitting only whom they pleased as freemen of the colony; and it was to this end that, a little more than a year after their arrival, they "ordered and agreed that, for time to come, no man should be admitted to the freedom of the Nit such is are members of some of the churches within the limits of the same." To them such an ordinance seemed the one and only way of forming the Christian republic towards which their hearts yearned, a community in which the laws of Moses should constitute the rules of civil life and in which the godly clergy should be the interpreters of those rules.
Of course, the weakness of the system lay in the fact that the clergy were only men. And being men, of like passions with ourselves, they grew, by the very deference they fed upon, into creatures insatiate for power. But pitifully narrow though they were, revoltingly cruel though they soon came to be, it should nevertheless be borne in mind that they were, in almost every case, sincere. They believed that they were conserving the great good of Christian amity in persecuting relentlessly all who differed from them, — and so, girding up their loins, they gave still another turn to the screw!
And now, having said in
their defence all, as I honestly believe, there is to he said, I can
clear conscience, record their persecutions and paint as
darkly as I must the
horrors of that terrible era. To understand it all we must bear in mind
fact that, not only was the number of clergy among the emigrants to
vicinity large, but being men of unusual gifts, that they of
exercised an enormous influence in this "Christian republic."
Moreover, the magistrates themselves were, in a. large number of cases
imbued with what we may call the ecclesiastical feeling. When
for instance, came to die, there were found in his pocket these lines
showed his own cast of mind to have been fiercely bigoted:
|"Let men of God in
Courts and Churches watch
O're such as do a Toleration hatch,
Lest that Ill Egg bring forth a Cockatrice,
To poison all with heresie and vice."
The "cockatrice" which most powerfully agitated Boston was Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, delicately characterized by the Reverend Thomas Welde as "the American Jezebel." To students of history calmly examining today the testimony on both sides, Mrs. Hutchinson stands out however as a gentlewoman of spotless life, kind heart, brilliant mind and superb courage. That she had a good deal of that intellectual vanity possessed by most clever women is also plain. And she had besides — and it was this which more than anything else occasioned her banishment — a tongue which could and did lash furiously those whom she disliked. Comparing with her own clergyman — the Reverend John Cotton — the host of other clergy then in the Massachusetts colony, she found between them a great gulf fixed; and she said this quite distinctly to the groups of people who used to come to her house opposite the place where the Old South Church now stands, to hear her discuss Mr. Cotton's sermons.
Mrs. Hutchinson came to the colony (in the autumn of 1634) primed for religious discussion. Her father had been Francis Marbury, a minister, first in Lincolnshire and afterwards in London, and in the scholarly and theological atmosphere of his house she had, for years, been accepted as the intellectual equal of his ministerial friends. Theology, indeed, was as the breath of life to her and she hinted in no uncertain way to some Puritan ministers who were on the vessel during her journey to New England that they might expect to hear more from her in the new world. For she regarded herself as one with a mission.
William Hutchinson, the husband of this lady, was the type of man who is always married by strong-minded magnetic women. Winthrop has nothing but words of contempt for him, but there is little doubt that a sincere attachment existed between the married pair and that Hutchinson possessed sterling character and solid worth as well as a comfortable estate. In their Lincolnshire home the two had been parishioners of the Reverend John Cotton and regular attendants at St. Botolph's Church. When Cotton fled to escape the tyranny of the bishops, the Hutchinsons decided to follow, and when the Reverend John Wheelwright, who had married — Mrs. Hutchinson's daughter, began to be persecuted in his turn their departure was — naturally hastened.
Promptly upon their arrival in Boston both Hutchinsons made their application to be received as members of the church. This step was indispensable to admit the pair into Christian fellowship and to allow Mr. Hutchinson the privilege of engaging in business and otherwise exercising the rights of a citizen. He came through the ordeal easily enough but, in consequence of the reports already spread concerning her extravagant opinions, his wife was subjected to a most searching examination. Finally, however, she, too, was pronounced a "member in good standing" of the congregation over which her beloved John Cotton served as associate pastor. And now she was ready to enter upon the career which soon divided Boston into two violently opposed factions and which ended by the withdrawal to England of the brilliant young Governor Vane and by the banishment from the colony of her with whom he had sympathized.
Even so far back as 1635 Boston seems to have been capable. of great enthusiasm over a woman who could persuasively present "some new thing." The doctrine advanced by this woman was certainly an arresting one for that day. For, cleverly interwoven with what was ostensibly only a recapitulation of the sermon preached the Sunday before, ran constantly the astonishing proclamation that there are in this world certain "elect" who may or may not be ordained clergy and that to them are given direct revelations of the will of God. Now the ministers of New England were formalists to the core and the society which they dominated was organized upon the basis that if a man had a sad countenance, wore sombre garb, lived an austere life, quoted the Bible freely, attended worship regularly and took off his hat to the clergy he was a good man. Such a man alone might be a citizen. To admit, therefore, that, in place of these convenient signs of grace, — "works" as they were called, — one must rest salvation upon the intimate and so necessarily elusive relation between man and his God was to preach political as well as spiritual revolution. The logical result of accepting Mrs. Hutchinson's doctrines would have meant nothing less than the annihilation of those convenient earmarks by which the "good" and the "bad" in the community could be readily distinguished, — the "good" marked for civic advancement and the "bad" for the stocks and banishment.
At first the far-reaching import of the lady's views seems not to have struck her hearers. All the leading and influential people of the town flocked to her "parlour talks" and, for a time, she was that very remarkable thing — a prophet honoured in her own community. For the matter of her "lectures" was always pithy and bright, the, leader's wit always ready and "everybody was there," — which counted then for righteousness just as it does now. Hawthorne's genius has conjured up for us the scene at one of these Hutchinson gatherings so that we, too, may attend and be among the "crowd of hooded women and men in steeple hats and close-cropped hair... assembled at the door and open windows of a house newly built. An earnest expression glows in every face... and some pressed inward as if the bread of life were to be dealt forth, and they feared to lose their share."
Unfortunately Mrs. Hutchinson found the transition between the abstract and the concrete as easy as every other descensus Averni. From preaching against a doctrine of "works" she soon dropped into sly digs at the pastors who defended this belief. "A company of legall professors," quoth she, "he poring on the law which Christ hath abolished." No wonder it began to be noised abroad that the seer was casting "reproach upon the ministers,... saying that none of them did preach the covenant of free grace but Master Cotton, and that they have not the seale of the Spirit and so were not able ministers of the New Testament."
It was, however, in Cotton's house and not in her own that Mrs. Hutchinson made the fatal admission for which she had afterward to pay so dear. The elders had come to Boston in a body to see how far Cotton "stood for" the things his gifted parishioner was preaching and, in the hope of clearing the whole matter up, the clergyman had suggested a friendly conference with Mrs. Hutchinson at his house. The interview tool: place, the lady cleverly parrying all attempts to make her say indiscreet things. But finally, the Reverend Hugh Peters having besought her to deal frankly and openly with them, she admitted that she saw a wide difference between Mr. Cotton's ministry and theirs and that it was because they had not the seal of the Spirit that this difference arose. If Mrs. Hutchinson had not thought herself in confidential intercourse with those who were men of honour as well as clergymen, she would never have put the thing thus bluntly. But the event proved that her confession was treasured up to be used against her, — and that there were many in the colony who chafed as she did, under the power of those preaching this "covenant of works." For promptly the liberals, whose mouthpiece she had unconsciously become, blossomed out a sturdy political party led by the enthusiastic Vane. The part which he played in the controversy has already been touched upon in the previous chapter and the brave way in which he fought against the decree which would banish the incoming friends of Wheelwright there described.
But it all availed nothing. The theocracy had been attacked and the clergy sprang like one man to its defence. Even Cotton, after a little, ranged himself on the side of his order as against the woman who lauded him above his brethren. The "trial," in the course of which Mrs. Hutchinson was condemned, is one of the ghastliest things in the history of the colony. The prisoner, who was about to become a mother, was made to stand until she was exhausted, the while those in whom she had confided as friends plied her with endless questions about her theological beliefs. Through two long weary days of hunger and cold she defended herself as well as she could before these "men of God," but her able words availed nothing; she had "disparaged the ministers" and they were resolved to be revenged. Though Coddington pointed out that "no law of God or man" had been broken by the woman before them, she was none the less banished "as unfit for our society." So there was driven out of the city she had adopted the most remarkable intellect Boston has ever made historic by misunderstanding.
Roger Williams was another
great and good man of whom the city founded by Winthrop soon proved
Just here seems as good a place as any to attempt some
explanation of the
change that had come about in Winthrop's character. His letters to his
show him to have been tender and gentle, but he was certainly
relentless in his
attitude towards Mrs. Hutchinson, — though all the time more
persuaded that what she said was true. The fact is that Winthrop's very
amiability made him subject to men of inflexible will. His
dream had been to
create on earth a commonwealth of saints whose joy should be to walk in
ways of God. But in practice he had to deal with the strongest of human
passions and become himself intolerant for the sake of leading an
party. The exigencies of life in America seem to have made him more and
narrow as the years went by, but he appears to have repented, at the
his tendency towards intolerance; for, being requested on his death-bed
an order for the banishment of some person for heterodoxy, he waved the
away, saying, "I have done too much of that work
Williams, though, was one whom he persecuted with a will. He had been glad to have him come to Boston and he recorded his arrival — in the Journal of February, 1631 — as that of "a godly minister." But he did not then know what startling doctrines the new arrival was to set forth or how iconoclastic to the state would prove this clergyman's earnest conviction that, in all matters of religious belief and worship, man was responsible to God alone. Scarcely had Williams set foot in Boston when things began to happen. In the first place, he was thoroughly convinced that the Puritans had done wrong in holding communion with Church of England folk, whose power and resources were constantly employed in crushing the spirit of true piety. So he refused to join with the church at Boston until its congregation had declared repentance for having had communion with the churches in England.
His chief offence against the state, however, was in immediately promulgating the principle for which he all his life contended, i.e. that the magistrates had no right whatever to impose civil penalties upon those who had broken only church rules. From the point of view of Bostonians of that day any man holding this opinion was by that very fact unfitted for the office of a minister among them. Consequently, the magistrates opposed with all the authority at their command the settling of Williams in the Salem pulpit to which he had now been called. His history from this time on does not properly belong to a book about Boston; but it is worth noting that he was persecuted for being, among other things, a believer in adult baptism and that against the Anabaptists, as they were called, were directed some of the most cruel persecutions ever waged in the Saint Botolph's Town of New England.
One can scarcely believe the records as one follows the story of the way President Dunster of Harvard College was treated for the crime of believing in adult baptism. Because he would not baptize infants he was deprived of his office (in October, 1654), and when he asked leave to stay for a few months in the house he had built, on the ground that
"1st. The time of the year is unseasonable, being now very near the shortest day and the depth of winter.
"2nd. The place into which I go is unknown…
to me and my family, and the ways and means of subsistence....
"3rd. The place from which I go hath fuel and all provisions for man and beast laid in for the winter.... The house I have builded upon very damageful conditions to myself, out of love for the college, taking country pay in lieu of bills of exchange on England, or the house would not have been built....
"4th. The persons, all
beside myself, are women and children, on whom little help, now their
under the actual stroke of affliction and grief. My wife is sick and my
youngest child extremely so and hath been for months, so that we dare
him out of doors, yet much worse now than before...."
The Wells-Adams House, on Salem Street, where the Baptists held secret meetings.
Still slight heed was paid to him. For in answer to these pathetic demands Dunster was reprieved only until March and then, with what was due him still unpaid, he was driven forth, a broken man, to die in poverty and neglect. Clearly Massachusetts was not a comfortable place for the Baptists. You see the eminent John Cotton had declared that the rejection of infant baptism would overthrow the church; that this was a capital crime and that therefore, those opposing this tenet were "foul murtherers!" The offence was plainly enough admitted to be against the clergy rather than against God. When John Wilson — of whom in his venerable old age Hawthorne has given us a pleasing portrait in "The Scarlet Letter" — was in his last sickness he was asked to declare what he thought to be the. worst sins of the country. His reply was that people sinned very deeply in his estimation when they rebelled against the power of the clergy.
Upon the Quakers, who absolutely refused to conform, and who promulgated the doctrine that the Deity communicated directly with men, were naturally visited the worst of all the religious persecutions. The first Quakers who came to Boston were women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, the former being a person whose previous experience enabled her to compare unfavourably the manners of New England Christians with those of Turkish Mahometans! For, some time before setting out for Boston, Mary Fisher had made a romantic pilgrimage to Constantinople for the purpose of warning the Turks to "flee from the wrath to come." This was at a time when the Grand Vizier was encamped with his army near Adrianople, to whom this astonishing person having journeyed "600 miles, without any abuse or injury" had herself announced as "an Englishwoman bearing a message from the Great God to the Great Turk." She was promptly given an audience and treated with great respect, an escort being even offered to her when the time carne for her to depart.
As for her treatment in Boston, let us read Sewel: "It was in the month called July, of this present year (l656) when Mary Fisher and Ann Austin arrived in the road before Boston, before ever a law was made there against the Quakers; and yet they were very ill-treated; for before they came ashore the deputy governor, Richard Bellingham (the governor himself being out of town), sent officers aboard, who searched their trunks and chests and took away the books they found there, which were about one hundred and carried them ashore, after having commanded the women to be kept prisoners aboard; and the said books were, by an order of the council, burnt in the market-place by the hangman.... And then they were shut up close prisoners and the command given that none should come to them without leave; a fine of five pounds being laid upon any that should otherwise come at or speak with them, tho' but at the window. Their pens, ink and paper were taken from them. and they not suffered to have any candlelight in the night season; nay, what is more, they were stript naked under pretence to know whether they were witches, tho' in searching, no token was found upon them but of innocence. And in this search they were so barbarously misused that modesty forbids to mention it. And that none might have communication with them a board was nailed up before the window of the jail.
"And seeing they were not provided with victuals, Nicholas Upshal, one who had lived long in Boston and was a member of the church there, was so concerned about it (liberty being denied to send them provision) that he purchas'd it of the jailor at the rate of five shillings a week lest they should have starved. And after having been about five weeks prisoners, William Chichester, master of a vessel, was bound in one hundred pound bond to carry them back, and not suffer any to speak with them, after they were out on board; and the jailor kept their beds and their Bible, for his fees."
The lack of laws touching
the Quakers was now at once supplied. Those who brought in members of
were fined and those who entertained then) deprived of one or both
1656 an act was passed by which it cost five shillings to attend a
meeting and five pounds to speak at one. In October of the same year
penalty of death was decreed against all Quakers who should return to
colony after they had been banished. When Nicholas Upshall, the kindly
who had befriended Mary Fisher and her comrade, protested
against such legislation he was fined and finally banished. Then, to
fillip to zeal, constables who failed vigorously to break up Quaker
were themselves fined and imprisoned, a share of the fine
inposed being given
to the informer. The object of this last-named legislation was to
atrocious custom of "flogging through three towns," a privilege
established by the Vagabond Act, so called, of May, 1661, in which it
provided that any foreign Quaker or any native, upon a second
be ordered to receive an unlimited number of stripes, the whip for such
being a two-handled implement, armed with lashes made of
twisted and knotted
cord or catgut. The last Quaker known to have been whipped in Boston
Margaret Brewster, whose offence Samuel Sewall has chronicled in the
paragraph: "July 8, 1677, New Meeting House Mane: In sermon time there
came in a female Quaker, in a canvas frock, her hair disshevelled and
like a Periwigg, her face as black as ink, led by two other Quakers and
others following. It occasioned the greatest and most amazing
uproar that I
ever saw. Isaiah i. 12, 14." Whittier has put the scene into verse for
and made us poignantly to feel its horror:
|"Save the mournful
sackcloth about her wound,
Unclothed as the primal mother,
With limbs that trembled and eyes that blazed
With a fire she dared not smother....
"And the minister paused in his sermon's midst
And the people held their breath,
For these were the words the maiden said
Through lips as pale as death:...
"Repent! repent! ere the Lord shall speak
In thunder and breaking seals!
Let all souls worship him in the way
His light within reveals.
"She shook the dust from her naked feet
And her sackcloth closer drew,
And into the porch of the awe-hushed church
She passed like a ghost from view."
The meeting-house which provided the background for this very dramatic scene was the predecessor on the same site of the present Old South Church.2 Thither Margaret Brewster had travelled a long distance for the express purpose of protesting against further persecutions of her sect. At her trial, she said some brave words that effectually stirred-after an interval — the consciences of her persecutors. John Leverett was then chief magistrate and to him she appealed thus: "Governour, I desire thee to hear me a little for I have something to say in behalf of my friends in this place:... Oh governour I cannot but press thee again and again, to put an end to these cruel laws that you have made to fetch my friends from their peaceable meetings, and keep them three days in the house of correction, and then whip them for worshipping the true and living God: Governour, let me entreat thee to put an end to these laws, for the desire of my soul is that you may act for God, and then would you prosper, but if you act against the Lord and his blessed truth, you will assuredly come to nothing, the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it...."
"Margaret Brewster," carne the stern reply, "you are to have your clothes stript off to the middle, and to be tied to a cart's tail at the South Meeting House, and to be drawn through the town, and to receive twenty stripes upon your naked body."
But though Margaret Brewster suffered last she did not suffer most. Mary Dyer paid the extreme penalty in 1660 because she insisted on coming back to Boston after she had been reprieved from death and banished. In no case better than here may we see illustrated the lengths to which religious enthusiasm will carry the person possessed by it. For with William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson she had been condemned to hang on the Common, but "after she was upon the ladder with her arms and legs tied and the rope about her neck she was spared at the earnest solicitation of her son and sent out of the colony." But, because she thought she must needs die for the triumph of her cause she came back a year later to be executed.
Josiah Southwick, eldest son of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick, was another who "appeared manfully at Boston in the face of his persecutors" after he had been shipped to England. As punishment, he was "sentenced to be whipt at a cart's tail, ten stripes in Boston, the same in Roxbury and the same in Dedham." The peculiar atrocity of flogging from town to town lay in the fact that the victim's
wounds became cold between the times of punishment, and in winter often froze, the resulting torture being intolerably agonizing.
The case of the Southwicks is particularly interesting as an extreme example of the far-reaching ferocity of persecution as pursued by Endicott. Whittier in his poem, "Cassandra Southwick," has given us the colour of this event but, for poetic purposes, has made the woman young. In point of fact, however, Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick were an aged couple, members of the Salem church. Besides the son Josiah, already referred to, they had a younger boy and girl named Daniel and Provided. The father and mother were first arrested in 1657 for harbouring two Quakers, and although her husband was soon released Cassandra was imprisoned for seven weeks and fined forty shillings because there was found on her person a Quaker tract. Later, the three elder Southwicks were again arrested and sent to Boston to serve as an example. Here, in the February of 1657 they were whipped without form of trial, imprisoned eleven days and their cattle seized and sold to pay a fine of £4 13 s. for six weeks' absence from worship on the Lord's day. The letter which they sent from their prison in Boston to Endicott and the others at Salem is worthy of being reproduced in full because it breathes the very spirit of that peace for which the Quakers ideally stood.
"This to the Magistrates at Court in Salem.
"Whereas it was your pleasure to commit us, whose names are underwritten, to the house of correction in Boston, altho' the Lord, the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, is our witness, that we had done nothing worthy of stripes or of bonds; and we being committed by your court to be dealt withal as the law provides for foreign Quakers, as ye please to term us; and having some of us suffered your law and pleasures, now that which we do expect is, that whereas we have suffered your law, so now to be set free by the same law, as your manner is with strangers, and not to put us in upon the account of one law, and execute another law upon us, of which according to your own manner, we were never convicted as the law expresses. If you had sent us upon the account of your new law, we should have expected the jaylor's order to have been on that account, which that it was not, appears by the warrant which we have, and the punishment which we bare, as four of us were whipp'd, among whom was one who had formerly been whipp'd so now also according to your former law.
"Friends, let it not be a small thing in your eyes, the exposing as much as in you lies, our families to ruine. It's not unknown to you the season and the time of year for those who live of husbandry, and what their cattle and families may be exposed unto; and also such as live on trade; we know if the spirit of Christ did dwell and rule in you these things would take impression on your spirits. What our lives and conversation have been in that place is well known; and what we now suffer for is much of false reports, and ungrounded jealousies of heresie and sedition. These things lie upon us to lay before you. And, for our parts, we have true peace and rest in the Lord in all our sufferings, and are made willing in the power and strength of God, freely to offer up our lives in this cause of God for which we suffer: Yea and we do find (through grace) the enlargements of God in our imprisoned state, to whom, alone We commit ourselves and families, for the disposing of us according to his infinite wisdom and pleasure, in whose love is our rest and life.
"From the House of
Bondage in Boston wherein we are made captives by the wills of men,
made free by the Son, John 8, 36. In which we quietly rest, this 16th
5th month, 1658.
When Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick were rearrested after banishment for not having gone away promptly, the old people piteously pleaded "that they had no otherwhere to go." But they were none the less commanded to get out quickly under pain of death. They went to Shelter Island, where they died within a few days of each other as a result of flogging and starvation. And, inconceivable as it seems, the sale as slaves of the younger children, Daniel and Provided, was actually authorized by law to satisfy a debt accumulated from fines for their non-attendance at church! Thus were free-born English subjects dealt with for cherishing a faith subversive of a theocracy.
In all honesty, however, it should be said that not all the Quakers, by any means, were as mild and inoffensive as the Southwicks. Even the gentle-spirited Roger Williams was at one time so sorely tried in patience by them that he allowed himself to write: "They are insufferably proud and contemptuous. I have, therefore, publicly declared myself that a due and moderate restraint and punishment of these incivilities, though pretending conscience, is so far from persecution, Properly so called, that it is a duty and command of God unto all mankind, first in Families, and thence unto all mankind Societies."
What did they do? Everything which they thought might tend to hatter down the intolerant spirit of Puritanism. A favourite method of protest was for Quaker women to break bottles over the head of a preacher "as a sign of his emptiness." John Norton was more than once thus affronted while engaged in the solemn delivery of the Thursday lecture in Boston. This could scarcely have been pleasant, of course, either to the preacher or his people. But a little tact, above all a sense of humour, would have smoothed the sharpness of the controversy. Only, these qualities were precisely the ones which the Puritans and the Quakers both conspicuously lacked. Against the Puritan persistency, therefore, there was ranged the exceeding contumacy of the Quakers. And if the war had been left to fight itself out, the Quakers, because they had a great principle on their side, would probably have won the day, revolting and bloody as must have been the battles. Happily, however, three or four influences cooperated to put an end to this unseemly conflict.
One of the sufferers from
persecution having gone to England and gained access to
Charles II, brought
back from that monarch a peremptory command that the death Penalty
Quakers should be no more inflicted and that those who were
under judgment or
in Prison should be sent to England for trial. Sir Richard Saltonstall,
who had returned to England some time before, and was watching wit],
at a distance, the course of
events in and about Boston, — perceived
that the intolerance of Wilson and Cotton would work great harm to the
and to these two teachers of the Boston First Church he had addressed a
letter of remonstrance. Most important of all for the Quakers, John
of all the clergy had exercised the most baleful influence in the
intolerance, died in 1663, suddenly and of apoplexy, and the friends of
after the fashion of the day, pronounced his sudden taking off a
sent by the Lord.
Sir Richard Saltonstall
Already John Norton had been nearly frightened to death in England by the Quakers. The narrow-minded but well-meaning priest had been sent with Simon Bradstreet to present an address to the just-crowned Charles and find out what his attitude towards the colonies was to be. Norton had accepted this mission with reluctance, for he knew perfectly well that, in the eye of the English law, the executions he had pushed against the Quakers were homicide. But, after long vacillation, "the Lord so encouraged and strengthened his heart" that he ventured to sail. From the king and his prime minister he and his companion soon found they had nothing to fear, but they were none the less uncomfortable in London, the reason whereof may be gleaned from this anecdote related by Sewel:
"Now the deputies of New England came to London, and endeavoured to clear themselves as much as possible, but especially priest Norton, who bowed no less reverently before the archbishop, than before the king.... They would fain have altogether excused themselves; and priest Norton thought it sufficient to say that he did not assist in the bloody trial nor had advised to it.
"But John Copeland, whose ear was cut off at Boston, charged the contrary upon him: and G. Fox the elder, got occasion to speak with them in the presence of some of his friends and asked Simon Bradstreet, one of the New England magistrates, 'whether he had not a hand in putting to death those they nicknamed Quakers'? He not being able to deny this confessed he had. Then G. Fox asked him and his associates that were present, 'whether they would acknowledge themselves to be subjects to the law of England? and if they did by what law they had put his friends to death?' They answered 'They were subject to the laws of England and they had put his friends to death by the same law as the Jesuits were put to death in England.' Hereupon G. Fox asked, 'whether they did believe that those, his friends whom they had put to death, were Jesuits or jesuistically affected?' They said 'Nay.' 'Then' replied G. Fox, 'ye have murdered them; for since ye put them to death by the law that Jesuits are put to death here in England, it plainly appears you have put them to death arbitrarily, without any law.' "
Fox might have turned the tables, it is clear, upon the magistrate and the minister, but he had no desire to do that. Though many royalists urged him to prosecute relentlessly these New England persecutors of his followers, he said he preferred to leave them "to the Lord to whom vengeance belonged." So Bradstreet and John Norton came back to their homes in safety though they passed a very bad quarter of a year in London.
The election in 1673 of
Leverett as governor sounded, however, the death-knell to
though he had been trained under Cotton's preaching, he was personally
to violent methods of suppressing dissenting sects, and, during his
administration, the Baptists, the Quakers and all the rest
God undisturbed by any legal interference. Long and bitter had
struggle, but now, at last, there was assured to those in Massachusetts
a boon for
which men have ever been content to yield up their life in
dungeons, on the
scaffold and at the stake, that very noble and precious thing we call
"freedom to worship God."
1 See "Among Old New England Inns."
2 See "Romances of Old New England Churches."