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MASSACHUSETTS IN THE REBELLION.
P PART I.
HISTORICAL POSITION OF THE COMMONWEALTH AT THE
COMMENCEMENT OF THE CIVIL CONFLICT.
This Country designed for Freedom. — The History of Massachusetts. — The Founders of
the State. — Their Exile, first in Holland, then in America. — The Growth of the Colony. – The Progress of Free Principles. - Resistance to Oppressive Acts of the Mother-country. — The first Blood shed. — The Revolutionary Struggle. — Massachusetts in the Republic. — The Opening of the Great Rebellion.
IOD designed this country for free thought, and its highest
expression in human society, - a republic. The history of Massachusetts is an imperishable record of this divine purpose, unfolding in national life and destiny. As, in a mountain-group, the beams of morning kindle first upon some solitary summit; so the light of the sun of Liberty, rising on a new world, fell upon this ancient Commonwealth, and spread over the widening landscape. In the advancing day, the single form of evil, admitted into the colonies, without a dream of its continuance, much less of its expansion into a system of oppression, whose “ barbarism ” would shock the civilized world, has yielded its life amid throes that imperilled the life of the nation itself.
For a twofold reason, it is well to take a backward glance along the salient points of the history of Massachusetts, as introductory to her part in the late civil war. It will give, in her own progress and discipline, while educating the people at large for the triumphant vindication of nationality, and of the free principles that underlie its outward form through which we have just passed, a sufficient answer to the unjust and repeated attacks, from certain quarters, upon New England. Wrote Hutchinson in 1674:
“ The Massachusetts Colony may be considered as the parent of all the other colonies of New England. There was no importation of planters from England to any part of the continent northward of Maryland, except to Massachusetts, for more than fifty years after the colony began. In the first two years, about twenty thousand souls had arrived in Massachusetts. Since then, it is supposed more have gone hence to England than have come thence hither. Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, probably contain five hundred thousand souls; a surprising increase of subjects of the British crown!”
While it is not in accordance with the spirit of our institutions to raise the question of ancestral honor to that importance which it must always hold under the shadow of a throne, the Great Rebellion has forced upon us a just consideration and appreciation of our origin.
The leaders in the revolt, though few in number, led and forced into its battle-field multitudes who had nothing to gain in the treasonable cause. In another part of the Republic was presented the spectacle of a free people paying their willing homage to government and law, and united by this single bond of loyalty running through all classes and conditions in life.
It can be clearly shown, in opposition to the aristocratic assertion at the South and across the Atlantic that the unanimity among the enemies of the national flag arose from their common origin and superior blood, that it was, in fact, the unnatural agreement to which tyranny brings a people in its degrading and lawless service; and the long-denied, incomprehensible union of the North was the normal state of the millions sprung from the same English stock, and pervaded by that intelligent devotion to freedom which inhered in them from the beginning of their colonial existence.
Whittemore, in his “ Cavalier Dismounted,” has demonstrated by facts and figures “that very few of the early settlers of the Virginia and other Southern Atlantic colonies possessed any ghereditary claim to the rank of gentlemen; and even these were without the indispensable body of hereditary retainers, in whom a reverential submission was a matter of faith. In the true sense, in the signification yet attached to the word in Europe, they never did establish an aristocracy; yet they founded an imitation which has yearly become more despicable. Instead of tenants, the new aristocrats peopled their lands with black slaves,
or white convicts bound to them for a term of years. As a natural consequence, their aristocracy became composed, not of those who had hereditary rank, not of gentry in the English sense, but of all those who could invest capital in flesh and blood. In Virginia and the Carolinas, the slave-owners usurped the name of gentlemen : they had a sufficient intermixture of that class to serve as a screen, and there were none to question their claims. The United States are essentially English to-day, despite the millions of foreigners which have been absorbed into the population. The tendency of its citizens has been toward a democracy, and yet not toward anarchy and lawlessness.
“When we inquire what controlling influence has impressed this form upon the national character, the enemies of the predominant sentiment instinctively show that it is New England ; not the comparatively limited New England of 1863, but the NewEngland stock and influence which has invigorated nearly every State of the Union. In their ignorance of the past, these revilers of New England have been blindly attacking a greater fact than they were aware of. Not only is nearly a third part of our native-born population the offspring of the New England of the Revolution, but, long before that time, the intermixture had commenced. New England, colonized by Englishmen, homogeneous in a remarkable degree, has been the only thoroughly pure nationality within our territories. The few stray Englishmen of education in the Southern Colonies, the much greater number of convicts, the increasing immigration of French, Irish, Scotch, and German settlers, have not only failed to overwhelm this compact and thoroughly alive minority, but have been formed and moulded into shape by it. In protesting against New England, the Vallandighams and Coxes are only proving the nullity of * expunging resolutions.“Can they make that not to be which has been?' Until they can recall the past, annihilate the past inhabitants of these States, and from stones raise up some other progenitors for the present generation, they cannot destroy the influence of New England.”
For the confirmation of these views, we may fearlessly point to the unquestioned annals of the Commonwealth.
In 1602, while Bartholomew Gosnold was making the first English voyage of discovery along the coast of Massachusetts, naming Cape Cod, and afterward visiting the mainland, delighted with the “fair fields,” “ fragrant flowers," "stately groves," "pleasant brooks," and "beauteous rivers ;” in the rural
town of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, and also in Gainesborough, “the choice and noble spirits who planted New England" were learning the lessons of truth and liberty under such teachers as Clifton and John Robinson.
And when, in the spring of 1604, James I. declared, at the opening of the first parliament, that “his mother-church was that of Rome, and that the Puritans were a sect insufferable in a well-governed commonwealth,” the blow was struck whose great issue would be the founding of a republic.
Three months later, when the persecuting monarch demanded conformity or ejectment, upon no churches did the oppressive order fall with more severity than upon the Independents of Scrooby and Gainesborough.
Two years of suffering and thwarted attempts to seek the more friendly shores of Holland passed before the exiles were united in a land, to them a “new world,” because of its “ uncouth language, different manners and customs, and strange fashions and attires.” Among the Holland Pilgrims conspicuous in New England's early history was the scholarly and religious young Bradford, learning the art of silk-dyeing, although he had mastered the Hebrew, “because he would see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty.” Says the able and eloquent historian of Massachusetts, Barry, “ Of other members of this Pilgrim Church, it is impossible, at the present day, to state with exactness how many were connected with this church, either in England or in Holland. No records have descended to us from which a list of their names, or an account of their proceedings, can be authentically drawn; and, for the want of such knowledge, it is as absurd as it is unnecessary to “ forge ancient archives to stretch their lineage back, and to deduce it from the most illustrious houses. Their proudest pedigree is Massachusetts and America. Si monumentum quæris circumspice.'
Eight years' experience of toil and trial among a strange and uncongenial people convinced the Pilgrims that growth and freedom could not be secured in Holland; while they also shrank from the danger of assimilation to their neighbors by long-continued association, and intermarriages which would not unfrequently occur, until their distinctive character as a people was lost. They cast their eyes upon the sea, determined to seek a home somewhere beyond its waters. The colonial lands of Virginia, which had for a dozen years been occupied, and Guiana, the El Dorado of the age, had each enthusiastic advocates; but English asso
ciations and protection decided them “ to live in a distinct body by themselves, under the general government of Virginia, and by their agents to sue his Majesty to grant them free liberty, and freedom of religion.”
Three years later, in the year 1620, after prayers and tears, and counsel from Robinson worthy of the great crisis in their affairs, the exiles embarked for the English coast.
66 SO THEY LEFT THAT GOODLY AND PLEASANT CITY WHICH HAD BEEN THEIR RESTING-PLACE NEARLY TWELVE YEARS. BUT THEY KNEW THEY WERE PILGRIMS, AND LOOKED NOT MUCH ON THOSE THINGS, AND QUILTED THEIR SPIRITS.”
The voyage of the "Mayflower” followed, and the landing of the Pilgrims on a desolate coast, with a compact in their hands, which contained the true principles of republican equality, - an instrument whose dignified and reverent assertion of rights has no parallel in the history of colonial settlements.
On Clark's Island, Dec. 10 (0.S.), the Pilgrims observed the first Christian Sabbath kept in Massachusetts; and, the succeeding day, went to the mainland, where, stepping upon FOREFATHERS' Rock, they opened the first act in the “great drama,” whose last brought freedom to a wide-spread republic.”
Less than a decade of years had passed, when two great events in their formative influence upon New England occurred, the founding of a new colony, as a distinct enterprise from that of the Pilgrims, with the speedy transfer of its charter from the company in England to the colony abroad, thus making them virtually one, and taking a decided step towards colonial selfgovernment; and the settlement at Shawmut, on account of its "* excellent spring,” by Mr. Johnson, followed by Gov. Winthrop and others. These gifted and educated men who laid the foundation of Boston were not Separatists, but Churehmen, who desired to escape from the corruptions at home, and, with their neighbors at Plymouth, “lay some good foundation for religion" in the fresh, free air of the New World.
Mr. Johnson, and his wife Lady Arbella, left “a paradise of plenty and pleasure in the family of a noble earldom” for “a wilderness of wants ;” and John Winthrop, the Christian magistrate and gentleman, turned from the cherished associations which attend wealth and refinement to the same forest-home, leaving behind him his devoted and congenial companion. No loftier minds ever founded a city, a state, or an empire.
Their sympathy with the Independents at Plymouth in religious