The Emancipation of Massachusetts
Brooks Adams

Part 7 out of 7

being convinced of some of the cheats, many of them may duly consider of
the sin of schism." [Footnote: Conn. _Church Documents_, i. 12.]

"They have abundance of odd kind of laws, to prevent any dissenting ...
and endeavour to keep the people in as much blindness and unacquaintedness
with any other religion as possible, but in a more particular manner the
church, looking upon her as the most dangerous enemy they have to grapple
withal, and abundance of pains is taken to make the ignorant think as bad
as possible of her; and I really believe that more than half the people in
that government think our church to be little better than the Papist, and
they fail not to improve every little thing against us." [Footnote: Conn.
_Church Documents_, i. 9.]

He had little liking for the elders, whom he described as being "as
absolute in their respective parishes as the Pope of Rome;" but he felt
kindly toward "the passive, obedient people, who dare not do otherwise
than obey." [Footnote: _Idem_, i. 10.] He explained the details of
his plan in his letters, and though he was aware of the difficulties, he
did not despair, his chief anxiety being to get a suitable missionary. He
finally chose the Rev. Mr. Muirson, and in 1706 began a series of
proselytizing tours. Nevertheless, the clergyman was wroth at the
treatment he received.

* * * * *

HONOR'D SIR, I entreat your acceptance of my most humble and hearty thanks
for the kind and Christian advice you were pleased to tender me in
relation to Connecticut.... I know that meekness and moderation is most
agreeable to the mind of our blessed Saviour, Christ, who himself was meek
and lowly, and would have all his followers to learn that lesson of
him.... I have duly considered all these things, and have carried myself
civilly and kindly to the Independent party, but they have ungratefully
resented my love; yet I will further consider the obligations that my holy
religion lays upon me, to forgive injuries and wrongs, and to return good
for their evil.... I desired only a liberty of conscience might be allowed
to the members of the National Church of England; which, notwithstanding,
they seemed unwilling to grant, and left no means untried, both foul and
fair, to prevent the settling the church among them; for one of their
justices came to my lodging and forewarned me, at my peril, from
preaching, telling me that I did an illegal thing in bringing in new ways
among them; the people were likewise threatened with prison, and a
forfeiture of £5 for coming to hear me. It will require more time than you
will willingly bestow on these lines to express how rigidly and severely
they treat our people, by taking their estates by distress, when they do
not willingly pay to support their ministers.... They tell our people that
they will not suffer the house of God to be defiled with idolatrous
worship and superstitious ceremonies.... They say the sign of the cross is
the mark of the beast and the sign of the devil, and that those who
receive it are given to the devil....

Honored sir, your most assured friend, ...

RYE, _9th January_, 1707-8. [Footnote: _Conn. Church Documents_, i. 29.]

* * * * *

However, in spite of his difficulties, he was able to boast that "I have
... in one town, ... baptized about 32, young and old, and administered
the Holy Sacrament to 18, who never received it before. Each time I had a
numerous congregation." [Footnote: _Conn. Church Documents_, i. 23.]

The foregoing correspondence was with the secretary of the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel, which had been incorporated in 1701, and had
presently afterward appointed Colonel Heathcote as their agent. They could
have chosen no more energetic representative, nor was it long before his
exertions began to bear fruit. In 1707 nineteen inhabitants of Stratford
sent a memorial to the Bishop of London, the forerunner of many to come.
"Because by reason of the said laws we are not able to support a minister,
we further pray your lordship may be pleased to send one over with a
missionary allowance from the honourable corporation, invested with full
power, so as that he may preach and we hear the blessed Gospel of Jesus
Christ, without molestation and terror." [Footnote: _Idem_, i. 34.]

The Anglican prelates conceived it to be their duty to meddle with the
religious concerns of New England; therefore, by means of the organization
of the venerable society, they proceeded to plant a number of missions
throughout the country, whose missionaries were paid from the corporate
funds. Whatever opinion may be formed of the wisdom of a policy certain to
exasperate deeply so powerful and so revengeful a class as the
Congregational elders, there can be no doubt the Episcopalians achieved a
measure of success, in the last degree alarming, not only among the laity,
but among the clergy themselves. Mr. Reed, pastor of Stratford, was the
first to go over, and was of course deprived of his parish; his defection
was followed in 1722 by that of the rector of Yale and six other
ministers; and the Rev. Joseph Webb, who thought the end was near, wrote
in deep affliction to break the news to his friends in Boston.

* * * * *

FAIRFIELD, _Oct._ 2, 1722.

REVEREND AND HONOURED SIR, The occasion of my now giving you the trouble
of these few lines is to me, and I presume to many others, melancholy
enough. You have perhaps heard before now, or will hear before these come
to hand, (I suppose) of the revolt of several persons of figure among us
unto the Church of England. There's the Rev. Mr. Cutler, rector of our
college, and Mr. Daniel Brown, the tutor thereof. There are also of
ordained ministers, pastors of several churches among us, the Rev.
Messieurs following, viz. John Hart of East Guilford, Samuel Whittlesey of
Wallingford, Jared Eliot of Kennelworth, ... Samuel Johnson of West-Haven,
and James Wetmore of North-Haven. They are the most of them reputed men of
considerable learning, and all of them of a virtuous and blameless
conversation. I apprehend the axe is hereby laid to the root of our civil
and sacred enjoyments; and a doleful gap opened for trouble and confusion
in our churches.... It is a very dark day with us; and we need pity,
prayers and counsel. [Footnote: Rev. Joseph Webb to Dr. C. Mather.
_Mass. Hist. Coll._ second series, ii. 131.]

* * * * *

From the tone in which these tidings were received it is plain that the
charity and humility of the golden age of Massachusetts were not yet
altogether extinct among her ecclesiastics. The ministers published their
"sentiments" in a document beginning as follows:--

"These new Episcopalians have declared their desire to introduce an
usurpation and a superstition into the church of God, clearly condemned in
the sacred Scriptures, which our loyalty and chastity to our Saviour,
obliges us to keep close unto; and a tyranny, from which the whole church,
which desires to be reformed, has groaned that it may be delivered.... The
scandalous conjunction of these unhappy men with the Papists is, perhaps,
more than what they have themselves duly considered." [Footnote: The
Sentiments of the Several Ministers in Boston. _Mass. Hist. Coll._
second series, ii. 133.] In "A Faithful Relation" of what had happened it
was observed: "It has caused some indignation in them," (the people) "to
see the vile indignity cast by these cudweeds upon those excellent
servants of God, who were the leaders of the flock that followed our
Saviour into this wilderness: and upon the ministry of them, and their
successours, in which there has been seen for more than forescore years
together, the power and blessing of God for the salvation of many
thousands in the successive generations; with a success beyond what any of
them which set such an high value on the Episcopal ordination could ever
boast of!... It is a sensible addition, unto their horrour, to see the
horrid character of more than one or two, who have got themselves
qualified with Episcopal ordination, ... and come over as missionaries,
perhaps to serve scarce twenty families of such people, in a town of
several hundred families of Christians, better instructed than the very
missionaries: to think, that they must have no other ministers, but such
as are ordained, and ordered by them, who have sent over such tippling
sots unto them: instead of those pious and painful and faithful
instructors which they are now blessed withal!" [Footnote: "A Faithful
Relation of a Late Occurrence." _Mass. Hist. Coll._ second series, ii.
138, 139.]

Only three of the converts had the fortitude to withstand the pressure to
which they were exposed: Cutler, Johnson, and Brown went to England for
ordination; there Brown died of small-pox, but Cutler returned to Boston
as a missionary, and as he, too, possessed a certain clerical aptitude for
forcible expression, it is fitting he should relate his own experiences:--

"I find that, in spite of malice and the basest arts our godly enemies can
easily stoop to, that the interest of the church grows and penetrates into
the very heart of this country.... This great town swarms with them
"(churchmen)," and we are so confident of our power and interest that, out
of four Parliament-men which this town sends to our General Assembly, the
church intends to put up for two, though I am not very sanguine about our
success in it.... My church grows faster than I expected, and, while it
doth so, I will not be mortified by all the lies and affronts they pelt me
with. My greatest difficulty ariseth from another quarter, and is owing to
the covetous and malicious spirit of a clergyman in this town, who, in
lying and villany, is a perfect overmatch for any dissenter that I know;
and, after all the odium that he contracted heretofore among them, is
fully reconciled and endeared to them by his falsehood to the church."
[Footnote: Dr. Timothy Cutler to Dr. Zachary Grey, April 2, 1725, Perry's
_Collection_, iii. 663.]

Time did not tend to pacify the feud. There was no bishop in America, and
candidates had to be sent to England for ordination; nor without such an
official was it found possible to enforce due discipline; hence the
anxiety of Dr. Johnson, and, indeed, of all the Episcopalian clergy, to
have one appointed for the colonies was not unreasonable. Nevertheless,
the opposition they met with was acrimonious in the extreme, so much so as
to make them hostile to the charters themselves, which they thought
sheltered their adversaries.

"The king, by his instructions to our governor, demands a salary; and if
he punishes our obstinacy by vacating our charter, I shall think it an
eminent blessing of his illustrious reign." [Footnote: Dr. Cutler to Dr.
Grey, April 20, 1731. Perry's _Coll._ iii.]

Whitefield came in 1740, and the tumult of the great revival roused fresh

"When Mr. Whitefield first arrived here the whole town was alarmed.... The
conventicles were crowded; but he chose rather our Common, where
multitudes might see him in all his awful postures; besides that, in one
crowded conventicle, before he came in, six were killed in a fright. The
fellow treated the most venerable with an air of superiority. But he
forever lashed and anathematized the Church of England; and that was

"After him came one Tennent, a monster! impudent and noisy, and told them
all they were damn'd, damn'd, damn'd! This charmed them, and in the most
dreadful winter that i ever saw, people wallowed in the snow night and day
for the benefit of his beastly brayings; and many ended their days under
these fatigues. Both of them carried more money out of these parts than
the poor could be thankful for." [Footnote: Dr. Cutler to Dr. Grey, Sept.
24, 1743. Perry's _Coll._ iii. 676.]

The excitement was followed by its natural reaction conversions became
numerous, and the unevangelical temper this bred between the rival
clergymen is painfully apparent in a correspondence wherein Dr. Johnson
became involved. Mr. Gold, the Congregationalist minister of Stratford,
whom he called a dissenter, had said of him "that he was a thief, and
robber of churches, and had no business in the place; that his church
doors stood open to all mischief and wickedness, and other words of like
import." He therefore wrote to defend himself: "As to my having no
business here, I will only say that to me it appears most evident that I
have as much business here at least as you have,--being appointed by a
society in England incorporated by royal charter to provide ministers for
the church people in America; nor does his majesty allow of any
establishment here, exclusive of the church, much less of anything that
should preclude the society he has incorporated from providing and sending
ministers to the church people in these countries." [Footnote: _Life of
Dr. Samuel Johnson_, p. 108.] To which Mr. Gold replied:--

* * * * *

As for the pleas which you make for Col. Lewis, and others that have broke
away disorderly from our church, I think there's neither weight nor truth
in them; nor do I believe such poor shifts will stand them nor you in any
stead in the awful day of account; and as for your saying that as bad as
you are yet you lie open to conviction,--for my part I find no reason to
think you do, seeing you are so free and full in denying plain matters of
fact.... I don't think it worth my while to say anything further in the
affair, and as you began the controversy against rule or justice, so I
hope modesty will induce you to desist; and do assure you that if you see
cause to make any more replies, my purpose is, without reading of them, to
put them under the pot among my other thorns and there let one flame
quench the matter.... HEZ. GOLD.

STRATFORD, _July_ 21, 1741. [Footnote: _Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson,_
p. 111.]

* * * * *

And so by an obvious sequence of cause and effect it came to pass that the
clergy were early ripe for rebellion, and only awaited their opportunity.
Nor could it have been otherwise. An autocratic priesthood had seen their
order stripped of its privileges one by one, until nothing remained but
their moral empire over their parishioners, and then at last not only did
an association of rival ecclesiastics send over emissaries to steal away
their people, but they proposed to establish a bishop in the land. The
thought was wormwood. He would be rich, he would live in a palace, he
would be supported by the patronage and pomp of the royal governors; the
imposing ceremonial would become fashionable; and in imagination they
already saw themselves reduced to the humble position of dissenters in
their own kingdom. Jonathan Mayhew was called a heretic by his more
conservative brethren, but he was one of the ablest and the most acrid of
the Boston ministers. He took little pains to disguise his feelings, and
so early as 1750 he preached a sermon, which was once famous, wherein he
told his hearers that it was their duty to oppose the encroachment of the
British prelates, if necessary, by force.

"Suppose, then, it was allowed, in general, that the clergy were a useful
order of men; that they ought to be esteemed very highly in love for their
work's sake, and to be decently supported by those they serve, 'the
laborer being worthy of his reward.' Suppose, further, that a number of
reverend and right reverend drones, who worked not; who preached, perhaps,
but once a year, and then not the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the divine
right of tithes, the dignity of their office as ambassadors of Christ, ...
suppose such men as these, spending their lives in effeminacy, luxury, and
idleness; ... suppose this should be the case, ... would not everybody be
astonished at such insolence, injustice, and impiety?" [Footnote:
"Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission," Jonathan Mayhew. Thornton's
_American Pulpit_, pp. 71, 72.] "Civil tyranny is usually small in its
beginning, like 'the drop of a bucket,' till at length, like a mighty
torrent... it bears down all before it.... Thus it is as to ecclesiastical
tyranny also--the most cruel, intolerable, and impious of any. From small
beginnings, 'it exalts itself above all that is called God and that is
worshipped.' People have no security against being unmercifully priest-
ridden but by keeping all imperious bishops, and other clergymen who love
to 'lord it over God's heritage,' from getting their foot into the stirrup
at all.... For which reason it becomes every friend to truth and human
kind, every lover of God and the Christian religion, to bear a part in
opposing this hateful monster." [Footnote: Preface to "A Discourse
concerning Unlimited Submission," Jonathan Mayhew. Thornton's _Amer.
Pulpit_, pp. 50, 51.]

Between these envenomed priests peace was impossible; each year brought
with it some new aggression which added fuel to the flame. In 1763, Mr.
Apthorp, missionary at Cambridge, published a pamphlet, in answer, as he
explained, to "some anonymous libels which appeared in our newspapers ...
grossly reflecting on the society & their missionaries, & in particular on
the mission at Cambridge." [Footnote: East Apthorp to the Secretary, June
25, 1763. Perry's _Coll._ iii. 500.]

By this time the passions of the Congregationalist divines had reached a
point when words seemed hardly adequate to give them expression. The Rev.
Ezra Stiles wrote to Dr. Mayhew in these terms:--

"Shall we be hushed into silence, by those whose tender mercies are
cruelty; and who, notwithstanding their pretence of moderation, wish the
subversion of our churches, and are combined, in united, steady and
vigorous effort, by all the arts of subtlety and intreague, for our ruin?"
[Footnote: Dr. Ezra Stiles to Dr. Mayhew, 1763. _Life of Mayhew_, p. 246.]

Mr. Stiles need have felt no anxiety, for, according to Mr. Apthorp, "this
occasion was greedily seized, ... by a dissenting minister of Boston, a
man of a singular character, of good abilities, but of a turbulent &
contentious disposition, at variance, not only with the Church of England,
but in the essential doctrines of religion, with most of his own party."
[Footnote: East Apthorp to the Secretary. Perry's _Coll._ iii. 500.]
He alluded to a tract written by Dr. Mayhew in answer to his pamphlet, in
which he reproduced the charge made by Mr. Stiles: "The society have long
had a formal design to dissolve and root out all our New-England churches;
or, in other words, to reduce them all to the Episcopal form." [Footnote:
_Observations on the Charter, etc. of the Society_, p. 107.] And
withal he clothed his thoughts in language which angered Mr. Caner:--

"A few days after, Mr. Apthorpe published the enclosed pamphlet, in
vindication of the institution and conduct of the society, which
occasioned the ungenteel reflections which your grace will find in Dr.
Mayhew's pamphlet, in which, not content with the personal abuse of Mr.
Apthorpe, he has insulted the missions in general, the society, the Church
of England, in short, the whole rational establishment, in so dirty a
manner, that it seems to be below the character of a gentleman to enter
into controversy with him. In most of his sermons, of which he published a
great number, he introduces some malicious invectives against the society
or the Church of England, and if at any time the most candid and gentle
remarks are made upon such abuse, he breaks forth into such bitter and
scurrilous personal reflections, that in truth no one cares to have
anything to do with him. His doctrinal principles, which seem chiefly
copied from Lord Shaftsbury, Bolingbroke, &c., are so offensive to the
generalty of the dissenting ministers, that they refuse to admit him a
member of their association, yet they appear to be pleased with his
abusing the Church of England." [Footnote: Rev. Mr. Caner to the
Archbishop of Canterbury, June 8, 1763. Perry's _Coll._ iii. 497,

The Archbishop of Canterbury himself now interfered, and tried to calm the
tumult by a candid and dignified reply to Dr. Mayhew, in which he labored
to show the harmlessness of the proposed bishopric.

"Therefore it is desired, that two or more bishops may be appointed for
them, to reside where his majesty shall think most convenient [not in New
England, but in one of the Episcopalian colonies]; that they may have no
concern in the least with any person who do not profess themselves to be
of the Church of England, but may ordain ministers for such as do; ... and
take such oversight of the Episcopal clergy, as the Bishop of London's
commissaries in those parts have been empowered to take, and have taken,
without offence. But it is not desired in the least that they should hold
courts ... or be vested with any authority, now exercised either by
provincial governors or subordinate magistrates, or infringe or diminish
any privileges and liberties enjoyed by any of the laity, even of our own
communion." [Footnote: _An Answer to Dr. Mayhew's Observations_, etc.
Dr. Secker, p. 51.]

But the archbishop should have known that the passions of rival
ecclesiastics are not to be allayed. The Episcopalians had become so
exasperated as to want nothing less than the overthrow of popular
government. Dr. Johnson wrote in 1763: "Is there then nothing more that
can be done either for obtaining bishops or demolishing these pernicious
charter governments, and reducing them all to one form in immediate
dependence on the king? I cannot help calling them pernicious, for they
are indeed so as well for the best good of the people themselves as for
the interests of true religion." [Footnote: _Life of Samuel Johnson_,
p. 279.]

The Congregationalists, on the other hand, inflamed with jealousy, were
ripe for rebellion. On March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act became law, and the
clergy threw themselves into the combat with characteristic violence.
Oliver had been appointed distributor, but his house was attacked and he
was forced to resign. The next evening but one the rabble visited
Hutchinson, who was lieutenant-governor, and broke his windows; and there
was general fear of further rioting. In the midst of this crisis., on the
25th of August, Dr. Mayhew preached a sermon in the West Meeting-house
from the text, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you."
[Footnote: _Galatians_ v. 12.] I That this discourse was in fact an
incendiary harangue is demonstrated by what followed. At nightfall on the
26th a fierce mob forced the cellars of the comptroller of the customs,
and got drunk on the spirits stored within; then they went on to
Hutchinson's dwelling: "The doors were immediately split to pieces with
broad axes, and a way made there, and at the windows, for the entry of the
mob; which poured in, and filled, in an instant, every room.... They
continued their possession until daylight; destroyed ... everything ...
except the walls, ... and had begun to break away the brick-work."
[Footnote: Hutch. _Hist._ iii. 124.] His irreplaceable collection of
original papers was thrown into the street; and when a bystander
interfered in the hope of saving some of them, "answer was made, that it
had been resolved to destroy everything in the house; and such resolve
should be carried to effect." [Footnote: _Idem_, p. 125, note.] Malice so
bitter bears the peculiar ecclesiastical tinge, and is explained by the
confession of one of the ring-leaders, who, when subsequently arrested,
said he had been excited by the sermon, "and that he thought he was doing
God service." [Footnote: _Idem_, p. 123.]

The outbreak met with general condemnation, and Dr. Mayhew, who saw he had
gone too far, tried to excuse himself:--

"SIR,--I take the freedom to write you a few lines, by way of condolence,
on account of the almost unparalleled outrages committed at your house
last evening; and the great damage which I understand you have suffered
thereby. God is my witness, that, from the bottom of my heart, I detest
these proceedings; that I am most sincerely grieved at them, and have a
deep sympathy with you and your distressed family on this occasion."
[Footnote: Mayhew to Hutchinson. _Life of Mayhew_, p. 420.]

Nevertheless, the repeal of the Stamp Act, which pacified the laity, left
the clergy as hot as ever; and so early as 1768, when no one outside of
the inmost ecclesiastical circle yet dreamed of independence, but when the
Rev. Andrew Eliot thought the erection of the bishopric was near, he
frankly told Hollis he anticipated war.

"You will see by this pamphlet, how we are cajoled. A colony bishop is to
be a more innocent creature than ever a bishop was, since diocesan bishops
were introduced to lord it over God's heritage. ... Can the A-b-p, and his
tools, think to impose on the colonists by these artful
representations.... The people of New England are greatly alarmed; the
arrival of a bishop would raise them as much as any one thing.... Our
General Court is now sitting. I have hinted to some of the members, that
it will be proper for them to express their fears of the setting up an
hierarchy here. I am well assured a motion will be made to this
purpose.... I may be mistaken, but I am persuaded the dispute between
Great Britain and her colonies will never be _amicably_ settled.... I
sent you a few hasty remarks on the A-b-p's sermon. ... I am more and more
convinced of the meanness, art--if he was not in so high a station, I
should say, falsehood--of that Arch-Pr-l-te." [Footnote: Thomas Seeker.
Andrew Eliot to Thomas Hollis, Jan. 5, 1768. _Mass. Hist. Coll._
fourth series, iv. 422.] An established priesthood is naturally the
firmest support of despotism; but the course of events made that of
Massachusetts revolutionary. This was a social factor whose importance it
is hard to overestimate; for though the influence of the elders had much
declined during the eighteenth century, their political power was still
immense; and it is impossible to measure the degree in which the drift of
feeling toward independence would have been arrested had they been
thoroughly loyal. At all events, the evidence tends to show that it is
most improbable the first blood would have been shed in the streets of
Boston had it been the policy of Great Britain to conciliate the
Congregational Church; if, for example, the liberals had been forced to
meet the issue of taxation upon a statute designed to raise a revenue for
the maintenance of the evangelical clergy. How potent an ally King George
lost by incurring their hatred may be judged by the devotion of the
Episcopalian pastors, many of whom were of the same blood as their
Calvinistic brethren, often, like Cutler and Johnson, converts. They all
showed the same intensity of feeling; all were Tories, not one wavered;
and they boasted that they were long able to hold their parishioners in

In September, 1765, those of Connecticut wrote to the secretary, "although
the commotions and disaffection in this country are very great at present,
relative to what they call the imposition of stamp duties, yet ... the
people of the Church of England, in general, in this colony, as we hear,
... and those, in particular, under our respective charges, are of a
contrary temper and conduct; esteeming it nothing short of rebellion to
speak evil of dignities, and to avow opposition to this last act of

"We think it our incumbent duty to warn our hearers, in particular, of the
unreasonableness and wickedness of their taking the least part in any
tumult or opposition to his majesty's acts, and we have obvious reasons
for the fullest persuasion, that they will steadily behave themselves as
true and faithful subjects to his majesty's person and government."
[Footnote: _Conn. Church Doc._ ii. 81.]

Even so late as April, 1775, Mr. Caner, at Boston, felt justified in
making a very similar report to the society: "Our clergy have in the midst
of these confusions behaved I think with remarkable prudence. None of them
have been hindered from exercising the duties of their office since Mr.
Peters, tho' many of them have been much threat'ned; and as their people
have for the most part remained firm and steadfast in their loyalty and
attachment to goverment, the clergy feel themselves supported by a
conscious satisfaction that their labors have not been in vain."
[Footnote: Perry's _Coll._ iii. 579.]

Nor did they shrink because of danger from setting an example of passive
obedience to their congregations. The Rev. Dr. Beach graduated at Yale in
1721 and became the Congregational pastor of Newtown. He was afterward
converted, and during the war was forbidden to read the prayers for the
royal family; but he replied, "that he would do his duty, preach and pray
for the king, till the rebels cut out his tongue." [Footnote: _O'Callaghan
Documents_, iii. 1053, 8vo ed.]

In estimating the energy of a social force, such as ecclesiasticism, the
indirect are often more striking than the direct manifestations of power,
and this is eminently true of Massachusetts; for, notwithstanding her
ministers had always been astute and indefatigable politicians, their
greatest triumphs were invariably won by some layman whose mind they had
moulded and whom they put forward as their champion. From John Winthrop,
who was the first, an almost unbroken line of these redoubtable partisans
stretched down to the Revolution, where it ended with him who is perhaps
the most celebrated of all.

Samuel Adams has been called the last of the Puritans. He was indeed the
incarnation of those qualities which led to eminence under the theocracy.
A rigid Calvinist, reticent, cool, and brave, matchless in intrigue, and
tireless in purpose, his cause was always holy, and therefore sanctified
the means.

Professor Hosmer thus describes him: "It was, however, as a manager of men
that Samuel Adams was greatest. Such a master of the methods by which a
town-meeting may be swayed, the world has never seen. On the best of terms
with the people, the shipyard men, the distillers, the sailors, as well as
the merchants and ministers, he knew precisely what springs to touch. He
was the prince of canvassers, the very king of the caucus, of which his
father was the inventor.... As to his tact, was it ever surpassed?"
[Footnote: Hosmer's _Samuel Adams_, p. 363.] A bigot in religion, he
had the flexibility of a Jesuit; and though he abhorred Episcopalians, he
proposed that Mr. Duché should make the opening prayer for Congress, in
the hope of soothing the southern members. Strict in all ceremonial
observances, he was loose in money matters; yet even here he stood within
the pale, for Dr. Cotton Mather was looser, [Footnote: See Letter on
behalf of Dr. Cotton Mather to Sewall, _Mass. Hist. Coll._ fourth
series, ii. 122.] who was the most orthodox of divines.

The clergy instinctively clave to him, and gave him their fullest
confidence. When there was any important work to do they went to him, and
he never failed them. On January 5, 1768, the Rev. Dr. Eliot told Hollis
he had suggested to some of the members of the legislature to remonstrate
against the bishops. [Footnote: _Mass. Hist. Coll._ fourth series, iv.
422.] A week later the celebrated letter of instructions of the house
to the agent, De Berdt, was reported, which, was written by Adams; and it
is interesting to observe how, in the midst of a most vigorous protest on
the subject, he broke out: "We hope in God such an establishment will
never take place in America, and we desire you would strenuously oppose
it." [Footnote: _Mass. State Papers_, 1765-1775, p. 132.]

The subtle but unmistakable flavor of ecclesiasticism pervades his whole
long agitation. He handled the newspapers with infinite skill, and the way
in which he used the toleration granted the Canadian Catholics after the
conquest, as a goad wherewith to inflame the dying Puritan fanaticism, was
worthy of St. Ignatius. He moved for the committee who reported the
resolutions of the town of Boston in 1772; his spirit inspired them, and
in these also the grievance of Episcopacy plays a large part. How strong
his prejudices were may be gathered from a few words: "We think therefore
that every design for establishing ... a bishop in this province, is a
design both against our civil and religious rights." [Footnote: _Votes
and Proceedings of Boston_, Nov. 20, 1772, p. 28.]

The liberals, as loyal subjects of Great Britain, grieved over her policy
as the direst of misfortunes, which indeed they might be driven to resist,
but which they strove to modify.

Washington wrote in 1774: "I am well satisfied, ... that it is the ardent
wish of the warmest advocates for liberty, that peace and tranquillity,
upon constitutional grounds, may be restored, and the horrors of civil
discord prevented." [Footnote: Washington to Mackenzie. _Washington's
Writings_, ii. 402.] Jefferson affirmed: "Before the commencement of
hostilities ... I never had heard a whisper of a disposition to separate
from Great Britain; and after that, its possibility was contemplated with
affliction by all." While John Adams solemnly declared: "For my own part,
there was not a moment during the Revolution, when I would not have given
everything I possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the
contest began, provided we could have had a sufficient security for its
continuance." [Footnote: Note of Sparks, _Washington's Writings_, ii.

In such feelings Samuel Adams had no share. In each renewed aggression he
saw the error of his natural enemy, which brought ever nearer the
realization of the dream of independence he had inherited from the past;
for the same fierce passion burned within him that had made Endicott
mutilate his flag, and Leverett read his king's letter with his hat on;
and the guns of Lexington were music in his ears.

He was not a lawyer, nor a statesman, in the true meaning of the word, but
he was a consummate agitator; and if this be remembered, his career
becomes clear. When he conceived the idea of the possibility of
independence is uncertain; probably soon after the passage of the Stamp
Act, but the evidence is strong that so early as 1768 he had deliberately
resolved to precipitate some catastrophe which would make reconciliation
impossible, and obviously an armed collision would have suited his purpose

Troops were then first ordered to Boston, and at one moment he was tempted
to cause their landing to be resisted. An old affidavit is still extant,
presumably truthful enough, which brings him vividly before the mind as he
went about the town lashing up the people.

"Mr. Samuel Adams ... happened to join the same party ... trembling and in
great agitation.... The informant heard the said Samuel Adams then say ...
'If you are men, behave like men. Let us take up arms immediately, and be
free, and seize all the king's officers. We shall have thirty thousand men
to join us from the country.' ... And before the arrival of the troops ...
at the house of the informant ... the said Samuel Adams said: 'We will not
submit to any tax, nor become slaves.... The country was first settled by
our ancestors, therefore we are free and want no king.' ... The informant
further sayeth, that about a fortnight before the troops arrived, the
aforesaid Samuel Adams, being at the house of the informant, the informant
asked him what he thought of the times. The said Adams answered, with
great alertness, that, on lighting the beacon, we should be joined with
thirty thousand men from the country with their knapsacks and bayonets
fixed, and added, 'We will destroy every soldier that dare put his foot on
shore. His majesty has no right to send troops here to invade the country,
and I look upon them as foreign enemies!'" [Footnote: Wells's _Samuel
Adams_, i. 210, 211.]

Maturer reflection must have convinced him his design was impracticable,
for he certainly abandoned it, and the two regiments disembarked in peace;
but their position was unfortunate. Together they were barely a thousand
strong, and were completely at the mercy of the populous and hostile
province they had been sent to awe.

The temptation to a bold and unscrupulous revolutionary leader must have
been intense. Apparently it needed but a spark to cause an explosion; the
rabble of Boston could be fierce and dangerous when roused, as had been
proved by the sack of Hutchinson's house; and if the soldiers could be
goaded into firing on the citizens, the chances were they would be
annihilated in the rising which would follow, when a rupture would be
inevitable. But even supposing the militia abstained from participating in
the outbreak, and the tumult were suppressed, the indignation at the
slaughter would be deep enough to sustain him in making demands which the
government could not grant.

Hutchinson and the English officers understood the danger, and for many
months the discipline was exemplary, but precautions were futile. Though
he knew full well how to be all things to all men, the natural
affiliations of Samuel Adams were with the clergy and the mob, and in the
ship-yards and rope-walks he reigned supreme. Nor was he of a temper to
shrink from using to the utmost the opportunity his adversaries had put in
his hands, and he forthwith began a series of inflammatory appeals in the
newspapers, whereof this is a specimen: "And are the inhabitants of this
town still to be affronted in the night as well as the day by soldiers
arm'd with muskets and fix'd bayonets?... Will the spirits of people, as
yet unsubdued by tyranny, unaw'd by the menaces of arbitary power, submit
to be govern'd by military force?" [Footnote: Vindex, _Boston Gazette_,
Dec. 5, 1768.]

In 1770 it was notorious that "endeavors had been systematically pursued
for many months, by certain busy characters, to excite quarrels,
rencounters, and combats, single or compound, in the night, between the
inhabitants of the lower class and the soldiers, and at all risks to
enkindle an immortal hatred between them." [Footnote: Autobiography of
John Adams. _Works of J. Adams_, ii. 229.] And it is curious to
observe how the British always quarrelled with the laborers about the
wharves; and how these, the closest friends of Adams, were all imbued with
the theory he maintained, that the military could not use their weapons
without the order of a civil magistrate. Little by little the animosity
increased, until on the 2d of March there was a very serious fray at
Gray's rope-walk, which was begun by one of the hands, who knocked down
two soldiers who spoke to him in the street. Although Adams afterward
labored to convince the public that the tragedy which happened three days
later was the result of a deliberately matured conspiracy to murder the
citizens for revenge, there is nothing whereon to base such a charge; on
the contrary, the evidence tends to exonerate the troops, and the verdicts
show the opinion of the juries. There was exasperation on both sides, but
the rabble were not restrained by discipline, and on the night of the 5th
of March James Crawford swore he he saw at Calf's corner "about a dozen
with sticks, in Quaker Lane and Green's Lane, met many going toward King
Street. Very great sticks, pretty large cudgells, not common walking
canes.... At Swing bridge the people were walking from all quarters with
sticks. I was afraid to go home, ... the streets in such commotion as I
hardly ever saw in my life. Uncommon sticks such as a man would pull out
of an hedge.... Thomas Knight at his own door, 8 or 10 passed with sticks
or clubs and one of them said 'D--n their bloods, let us go and attack the
main guard first.'" [Footnote: Kidder's _Massacre_, p. 10.] The crown
witnesses testified that the sentry was surrounded by a crowd of thirty or
forty, who pelted him with pieces of ice "hard and large enough to hurt
any man; as big as one's fist." And ha said "he was afraid, if the boys
did not disperse, there would be trouble." [Footnote: _Idem_, p. 138.]
When the guard came to his help the mob grew still more violent, yelling
"bloody backs," "lobster scoundrels," "damn you, fire! why don't you
fire?" striking them with sticks.

"Did you observe anybody strike Montgomery, or was a club thrown? The
stroke came from a stick or club that was in somebody's hand, and the blow
struck his gun and his arm." "Was he knocked down?... He fell, I am
sure.... His gun flew out of hand, and as he stooped to take it up, he
fell himself.... Was any number of people standing near the man that
struck his gun? Yes, a whole crowd, fifty or sixty." [Footnote: Kidder's
_Massacre_, pp. 138, 139.] When the volley came at last the rabble
fell back, and the 29th was rapidly formed before the main guard, the
front rank kneeling, that the fire might sweep the street. And now when
every bell was tolling, and the town was called to arms, and infuriated
men came pouring in by thousands, Hutchinson showed he had inherited the
blood of his great ancestress, who feared little upon earth; but then,
indeed, their adversaries have seldom charged the Puritans with cowardice
in fight. Coming quickly to the council chamber he passed into the
balcony, which overhung the kneeling regiment and the armed and maddened
crowd, and he spoke with such calmness and courage that even then he was
obeyed. He promised that justice should be done and he commanded the
people to disperse. Preston and his men were at once surrendered to the
authorities to await their trial.

The next day Adams was in his glory. The meeting in the morning was as wax
between his fingers, and his friend, the Rev. Dr. Cooper, opened it with
fervent prayer. A committee was at once appointed to demand the withdrawal
of the troops, but Hutchinson thought he had no power and that Gage alone
could give the order. Nevertheless, after a conference with Colonel
Dalrymple he was induced to propose that the 29th should be sent to the
Castle, and the 14th put under strict restraint. [Footnote: Kidder's
_Massacre_, p. 43.] To the daring agitator it seemed at last his hour
was come, for the whole people were behind him, and Hutchinson himself
says "their spirit" was "as high as was the spirit of their ancestors when
they imprisoned Andros." As the committee descended the steps of the State
House to go to the Old South where they were to report, the dense crowd
made way for them, and Samuel Adams as he walked bare-headed through their
lines continually bowed to right and left, repeating the catchword, "Both
regiments or none." His touch on human passions was unerring, for when the
lieutenant-governor's reply was read, the great assembly answered with a
mighty shout, "Both regiments or none," and so instructed he returned.
Then the nature of the man shone out; the handful of troops were helpless,
and he was as inflexible as steel. The thin, strong, determined, gray-eyed
Puritan stood before Hutchinson, inwardly exulting as he marked his
features change under the torture. "A multitude highly incensed now wait
the result of this application. The voice of ten thousand freemen demands
that both regiments be forthwith removed.... Fail not then at your peril
to comply with this requisition!" [Footnote: Hosmer's _Samuel Adams_,
p. 173.] It was the spirit of Norton and of Endicott alive again, and he
was flushed with the same stern triumph at the sight of his victim's pain:
"It was then, if fancy deceived me not, I observed his knees to tremble. I
thought I saw his face grow pale (and I enjoyed the sight)." [Footnote:
Adams to Warren. Wells's Samuel Adams, i. 324.]

Probably nothing prevented a complete rupture but the hopeless weakness of
the garrison, for Hutchinson, feeling the decisive moment had come, was
full of fight. He saw that to yield would destroy his authority, and he
opposed concession, but he stood alone, the officers knew their position
was untenable, and the council was unanimous against him. "The Lt G.
endeavoured to convince them of the ill consequence of this advice, and
kept them until late in the evening, the people remaining assembled; but
the council were resolute. Their advice, therefore, he communicated to Col
Dalrymple accompanied with a declaration, that he had no authority to
order the removal of the troops. This part Col. D. was dissatisfied with,
and urged the Lt G. to withdraw it, but he refused, and the regiments were
removed. He was much distressed, but he brought it all upon himself by his
offer to remove one of the regiments. No censure, however, was passed upon
him." [Footnote: _Diary and Letters of T. Hutchinson_, p. 80.]

Had the pacification of his country been the object near his heart, Samuel
Adams, after his victory, would have abstained from any act however
remotely tending to influence the course of justice; for he must have
known that it was only by such conduct the colonists could inspire respect
for the motives which actuated them in their resistance. A capital
sentence would have been doubly unfortunate, for had it been executed it
would have roused all England; while had the king pardoned the soldiers,
as assuredly he would have done, a deep feeling of wrong would have
rankled in America.

A fanatical and revolutionary demagogue, on the other hand, would have
longed for a conviction, not only to compass his ends as a politician, but
to glut his hate as a zealot.

Samuel Adams was a taciturn, secretive man, whose tortuous course would
have been hard to follow a century ago; now the attempt is hopeless. Yet
there is one inference it seems permissible to draw: his admirers have
always boasted that he was the inspiration of the town meetings,
presumably, therefore, the the votes passed at them may be attributed to
his manipulation. And starting from this point, with the help of
Hutchinson and his own writings, it is still possible to discern the
outlines of a policy well worthy of a theocratic statesman.

The March meeting began on the 12th. On the 13th it was resolved:--

"That ---- be and they hereby are appointed a committee for and in behalf
of the town to find out who those persons are that were the perpetrators
of the horred murders and massacres done and committed in King Street on
several of the inhabitants in the evening of the 5th instant and take such
examinations and depositions as they can procure, and lay the whole
thereof before the grand inquest in order that such perpetrators may be
indicted and brought to tryal for the same, and upon indictments being
found, said committee are desired to prepare matters for the king's
attorney, to attend at their tryals in the superior court, subpoena all
the witnesses, and do everything necessary for bringing those murtherers
to that punishment for such crimes, as the laws of God and man require."
[Footnote: _Records of Boston_, v. 232.]

A day or two afterward a number of Adams's friends, among whom were some
of the members of this committee, dined together, and Hutchinson tells
what he persuaded them to do.

"The time for holding the superior court for the county of Suffolk was the
next week after the tragical action in King Street. Although bills were
found by the grand jury, yet the court, considering the disordered state
of the town, had thought fit to continue the trials over to the next term,
when the minds of people would be more free from prejudice." "A
considerable number of the most active persons in all publick measures of
the town, having dined together, went in a body from table to the superior
court then sitting, and Mr. Adams, at their head and in behalf of the
town, pressed the bringing on the trial the same term with so much spirit,
that the judges did not think it advisable to abide by their own order,
but appointed a day for the trials, and adjourned the court for that
purpose." [Footnote: Hutch. _Hist._ iii. 285, 286 and note.]

The justices must afterward have grown ashamed of their cowardice, for Rex
_v._ Preston did not come on until the autumn, and altogether very little
was accomplished by these attempts to interfere with the due
administration of the law. "A committee had been appointed by the town to
assist in the prosecution of the soldiers ... but this was irregular. The
courts, according to the practice in the province, required no prosecutors
but the officers of the crown; much less would they have thought it proper
for the principal town in the province to have brought all its weight,
which was very great, into court against the prisoners." [Footnote:
_Idem_, iii. 286, note.]

Nevertheless, Adams had by no means exhausted his resources, for it was
possible so to inflame the public mind that dispassionate juries could
hardly be obtained.

At the same March meeting another committee was named, who were to obtain
a "particular account of all proceedings relative to the massacre in King
Street on Monday night last, that a full and just representation may be
made thereof?" [Footnote: Kidder's _Massacre_, p. 23.] The reason
assigned for so unwonted a proceeding as the taking of _ex parte_
testimony by a popular assembly concerning alleged murders, for which men
were to be presently tried for their lives, was the necessity for
controverting the aspersions of the British officials; but the probable
truth of this explanation must be judged by the course actually pursued.
On the 19th the report was made, consisting of "A Short Narrative of the
Horrid Massacre in Boston," together with a number of depositions; and
though perhaps it was natural, under the circumstances, for such a
pamphlet to have been highly partisan, it was unnatural for its authors to
have assumed the burden of proving that a deliberately planned conspiracy
had existed between the civilians and the military to murder the citizens;
especially as this tremendous charge rested upon no better foundation than
the fantastic falsehoods of "a French boy, whose evidence appeared to the
justice so improbable, and whose character was so infamous, that the
justice, who was one of the most zealous in the cause of liberty, refused
to issue a warrant to apprehend his master, against whom he swore."
[Footnote: Hutch. _Hist_. iii. 279, 280.] "Then I went up to the
custom-house door and knocked, ... I saw my master and Mr. Munroe come
down-stairs, and go into a room; when four or five men went up stairs,
pulling and hauling me after them.... When I was carried into the chamber,
there was but one light in the room, and that in the corner of the
chamber, when I saw a tall man loading a gun (then I saw two guns in the
room) ... there was a number of gentlemen in the room. After the gun was
loaded, the tall man gave it to me, and told me to fire, and said he would
kill me if I did not; I told him I would not. He drawing a sword out of
his cane, told me, if I did not fire it, he would run it through my guts.
The man putting the gun out of the window, it being a little open, I fired
it side way up the street; the tall man then loaded the gun again.... I
told him I would not fire again; he told me again, he would run me through
the guts if I did not. Upon which I fired the same way up the street.
After I fired the second gun, I saw my master in the room; he took a gun
and pointed it out of the window; I heard the gun go off. Then a tall man
came and clapped me on the shoulders above and below stairs, and said,
that's my good boy, I'll give you some money to-morrow.... And I ran home
as fast as I could, and sat up all night in my master's kitchen. And
further say, that my master licked me the next night for telling Mrs.
Waldron about his firing out of the custom-house. And for fear that I
should be licked again, I did deny all that I said before Justice Quincy,
which I am very sorry for. [Footnote: Kidder's _Massacre_, p. 82.
Deposition 58.]

"CHARLOTTE BOURGATE + (his mark)."

* * * * *

While it is inconceivable that a cool and sagacious politician, whose
object was to convince Parliament of the good faith of Massachusetts,
should have relied upon such incredible statements to sway the minds of
English statesmen and lawyers, it is equally inconceivable lie should not
have known they were admirably adapted to still further exasperate an
already excited people; and that such was his purpose must be inferred
from the immediate publication of the substance of this affidavit in the
newspapers. [Footnote: _Boston Gazette_, March 19, 1770.]

Without doubt a vote was passed on the 26th of March, a week after the
committee had presented their report, desiring them to reserve all the
printed copies not sent to Europe, as their distribution might tend to
bias the juries; but even had this precaution been observed, it came too
late, for the damage was done when the Narrative was read in Faneuil Hall;
in fact, however, the order was eluded, for "many copies, notwithstanding,
got abroad, and some of a second edition were sent from England, long
before the trials of the officer and soldiers came on." [Footnote: Hutch.
_Hist._ iii. 279.] And at this cheap rate a reputation for magnanimity was

How thoroughly the clergy sympathized with their champion appears from
their clamors for blood. As the time drew near it was rumored Hutchinson
would reprieve the prisoners, should they be convicted, till the king's
pleasure could be known. Then Dr. Chauncy, the senior minister of Boston,
cried out in his pulpit: "Surely he would not counteract the operation of
the law, both of God and of man! Surely he would not suffer the town and
land to lie under the defilement of blood! Surely he would not make
himself a partaker in the guilt of murder, by putting a stop to the
shedding of their blood, who have murderously spilt the blood of others!"
[Footnote: Hutch. _Hist._ iii. 329, note.] Adams attended when the
causes were heard and took notes of the evidence; and one of the few
occasions in his long life on which his temper seems to have got beyond
control was when the accused were acquitted. His writings betray
unmistakable chagrin; and nothing is more typical of the man, or of the
clerical atmosphere wherein he had been bred, than his comments upon the
testimony on which the lives of his enemies hung. His piety caused him to
doubt those whose evidence was adverse to his wishes, though they appeared
to be trying to speak the truth. "The credibility of a witness perhaps
cannot be impeach'd in court, unless he has been convicted of perjury: but
an immoral man, for instance one who will commonly prophane the name of
his maker, certainly cannot be esteemed of equal credit by a jury, with
one who fears to take that sacred name in vain: It is impossible he should
in the mind of any man." [Footnote: _Boston Gazette_, Jan. 21, 1771.]

And yet this rigid Calvinist, this incarnation of ecclesiasticism, had no
scruple in propagating the palpable and infamous lies of Charlotte
Bourgate, when by so doing he thought it possible to further his own ends.
He was bitterly mortified, for he had been foiled. Yet, though he had
failed in precipitating war, he had struck a telling blow, and he had no
reason to repine. Probably no single event, before fighting actually
began, left so deep a scar as the Boston massacre; and many years later
John Adams gave it as his deliberate opinion that, on the night of the 5th
of March, 1770, "the foundation of American independence was laid." Nor
was the full realization of his hopes long delayed. Gage occupied Boston
in 1774. During the winter the tireless agitator, from his place in the
Provincial Congress, warned the people to fight any force sent more than
ten miles from the town; and so when Paul Revere galloped through
Middlesex on the night of the 18th of April he found the farmers ready.
Samuel Adams had slept at the house of the Rev. Jonas Clark. Before
sunrise the detachment sent to seize him was close at hand. While they
advanced, he escaped; and as he walked across the fields toward Woburn, to
the sound of the guns of Lexington, he exclaimed, in a burst of passionate
triumph, "What a glorious morning is this!"

Massachusetts became the hot-bed of rebellion because of this unwonted
alliance between liberality and sacerdotalism. Liberality was her
birthright; for liberalism is the offspring of intellectual variation,
which makes mutual toleration of opinion a necessity; but that her church
should have been radical at this crisis was due to the action of a long
chain of memorable causes.

The exiles of the Reformation were enthusiasts, for none would then have
dared defy the pains of heresy, in whom the instinct onward was feebler
than the fear of death; yet when the wanderers reached America the mental
growth of the majority had culminated, and they had passed into the age of
routine; and exactly in proportion as their youthful inspiration had been
fervid was their later formalism intense. But similar causes acting on the
human mechanism produce like results; hence bigotry and ambition fed by
power led to persecution. Then, as the despotism of the preachers
deepened, their victims groaning in their dungeons, or furrowed by their
lash, implored the aid of England, who, in defence of freedom and of law,
crushed the theocracy at a blow. And the clergy knew and hated their enemy
from the earliest days; it was this bitter theological jealousy which
flamed within Endicott when he mutilated his flag, and within Leverett
when he insulted Randolph; it was a rapacious lust for power and a furious
detestation of rival priests which maddened the Mathers in their onslaught
upon Dudley, which burned undimmed in Mayhew and Cooper, and in their
champion, Samuel Adams, and which at last made the hierarchy cast in its
lot with an ally more dangerous far than those prelates whom it deemed its
foe. For no church can preach liberality and not be liberalized. Of a
truth the momentary spasm may pass which made these conservatives
progressive, and they may once more manifest their reactionary nature,
but, nevertheless, the impulsion shall have been given to that automatic,
yet resistless, machinery which produces innovation; wherefore, in the
next generation, the great liberal secession from the Congregational
communion broke the ecclesiastical power forever. And so, through toil and
suffering, through martyrdoms and war, the Puritans wrought out the
ancient destiny which fated them to wander as outcasts to the desolate New
England shore; there, amidst hardship and apparent failure, they slowly
achieved their civil and religious liberty, and conceived that
constitutional system which is the root of our national life; and there in
another century the liberal commonwealth they had builded led the battle
against the spread of human oppression; and when the war of slavery burst
forth her soldiers rightly were the first to fall; for it is her
children's heritage that, wheresoever on this continent blood shall flow
in defence of personal freedom, there must the sons of Massachusetts
surely be.


Back to Full Books