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chapTRR presented at a former session, signed by seven citizens

of Boston, among others, by our old acquaintance Mav

1646. erick. In the name of themselves and many more, the

petitioners prayed for the rights of English subjects, with complaints of the exclusion, under the existing system, of all but church members from civil and ecclesiastical privileges. Though sufficiently moderate in its tenor, this petition had given great offense “to many godly, both elders and others.” The zealous Johnson denounces those who signed it as “of a very linsiewolsie disposition, some for Prelacy, some for Presbytery, and some for Plebsbytery.” Several replies to it were now presented to the court, which, by order of that body, were summed up into one; not, indeed, by way of answer, because the petition was adjudged a contempt, and therefore not worthy of an answer, but as a declaration of the court's opinion touching this audacious assault upon theocratic rights. Dr. Child, a young physician recently from London, whose name stood at the head of the signers, being summoned before the General Court, alleged, on behalf of himself and the others, that it was no crime to petition. He was told in reply that it was not for pe.

titioning they were questioned, but for the “miscar.

riages” which their petition contained, specified on the spot to the number of twelve, of which the principal were, calling the existing government an “ill-compacted vessel,” ascribing the misfortunes of the colony to its bad government, intimating that many persons were discontented, charging the government with tyranny, and claiming a right of appeal to England. To these specifications the petitioners returned elaborate answers in writing, to which the court rejoined extempore, to the entire satisfaction of an assembled multitude of church

members, whose exclusive right to political authority

the petitioners had presumed to question.

Thus beaten in argument, Child and his associates chAPTER were fined from £10 to £50, $50 to $250 each, and were exhorted to be quiet, to study to mind their own 1646. business, and to recollect the sin of Korah in resisting Moses and Aaron. On promise of the remission of their fines “if they would ingenuously acknowledge their miscarriage,” some of the petitioners, of whom Maverick was one, submitted; the others appealed to Parliament, and tendered their appeal in writing; but the court refused to accept, or even to hear it read. The majority was decisive in favor of this denial of appeal. Three, however, of the magistrates, Bellingham, Saltonstall, and Bradstreet, with two of the deputies, desired to be entered “contradicentes in all these proceedings.”

A similar effort in behalf of religious liberty had been made in Plymouth colony about the same time by Vassall and others. One of the magistrates had made a proposal for general toleration, and two others had supported him. “You would have admired,” wrote Wins

low to Winthrop, “to see how sweet this carrion relish-
ed in the palate of most of the deputies.” But Govern-
or Prince, sustained by a majority of the magistrates,
refused to put it to the vote, “as being that, indeed,
which would eat out the power of godliness.”
While Child hastened to get ready to go to England
in a ship about to sail, he and his friends bestirred them-
selves to get up a petition from the non-freemen, setting
forth their grievances, and praying the parliamentary
commissioners for relief. This was esteemed by the ma-
jority of the magistrates a new and still more serious of.
fense; and, without admitting the three dissenting assist-
ants to their council, lest some hint of their intention
might go abroad, an order was issued to arrest Child just
as he was about to embark, and to search his trunk, and

chores also the study of Dand, another of the petitioners. Noth

ing was found in Child's trunk, but in Dand's study were

1646. seized, in the hands of Smith, another of the petitioners,

copies of two memorials addressed to the Parliamentary
Commissioners for Plantations; the one from Child and
his associates, setting forth their case, the other from
some non-freemen, “pretending,” as Winthrop tells us,
“to be in the name and upon the sighs and tears of many
thousands,” praying for liberty of conscience and the ap-
pointment of a parliamentary governor. Only twenty-
five persons had dared to set their names to this petition,
and these either “ young men who came over servants,
and never had any show of religion in them,” or “fish-
ermen of Marblehead, profane persons,” or “men of no
reason,” like a barber of Boston, who apologized for sign-
ing that he did it to please the gentlemen his custom-
ers. How dangerous a thing it was to meddle with such
a petition was sufficiently evinced by the case of one Joy,
“a young fellow, a carpenter,” who had been very busy
in procuring signers, and who even presumed to question
the constable who searched Dand's study whether his
warrant were in the king's name. This audacious
young carpenter was kept in irons till “he humbled him-
self, confessed what he knew, blamed himself for med-
dling in matters belonging not to him, and blessed God
for these irons upon his legs, hoping they would do him
good while he lived... So he was let out upon reasona-
ble bail.” -
The offense of Dand and Smith, in whose custody the
petitions had been found, was still more serious. It was
held, indeed, under the fundamental laws, to be “in na-
ture capital,” being no less than treason against the Com-
monwealth, and bail was refused. Child, indignant at
his arrest, “gave big words,” but was soon silenced by

threats of irons and the common prison. He was kept chapter in custody till the ship was gone, and was then bound over for his appearance at court. * 1647.

At the next Court of Elections an attempt was made May. to displace Winthrop, and to secure the choice of some new magistrates. But as the right of voting was confined to church members, comparatively few of the dis-, contented possessed that franchise, and Winthrop was re-elected by a majority of two or three hundred. At the General Court immediately following, Child and the others were very heavily fined. Unable to pay his fine of £200, $960, Dand was kept in prison more than a year, and was only discharged at last upon a humble submission.

In spite of these high-handed proceedings, the obnoxious petition had gone forward by the very ship that carried the agent Winslow, intrusted to the care of Vassall, of Scituate, with whom the magistrates of Massachusetts hesitated to meddle, not only because he belonged to Plymouth colony, but for the more powerful reason that his brother was an influential member of Parliament. Yet he did not wholly escape animadversion. Just before the vessel sailed, Cotton, in his sermon at the Thursday lecture, advised the passengers, if a storm arose, to throw Vassall's trunk overboard, as containing the Jonah that would certainly sink them. A storm did arise, and, to appease the superstitious fears of ," some of the company, a package was thrown overboard containing copies of the obnoxious papers; but Vassall took care to preserve the originals. This occurrence is alluded to in the title of a pamphlet, “New England's Jonas cast up at London,” presently published by Child's brother, a major in the parliamentary army, containing a copy of the original petition to the Massachusetts Gen

chapTER eral Court, and an account of the proceedings upon it. — Winslow, the Massachusetts agent, published, in an1647. swer, “New England's Salamander discovered,” alluding to Vassall, a man, it was said, “never at rest but when in the fire of contention.” Yet the fire of New England proved too hot for him. His leaning toward episcopacy, or, at least, toward toleration, had made him obnoxious even in Plymouth colony; and, though his family remained there, he never returned. By the aid of Vane, who acted a magnanimous part toward his old opponents, and the friendly assistance of others of “the godly,” Winslow—almost the only colonial agent of Massachusetts ever able to give satisfaction to his constituents—succeeded so well with the Parliamentary Commissioners that they wrote to the magistrates of Massachusetts, disavowing any intention to interfere with their jurisdiction, or to encourage appeals from their “justice,” but requiring for the Gortonists peaceful possession of their lands till the claim of right could be decided. Similar letters were sent to Connecticut and Plymouth. No notice appears to have been taken of the appeal of Child, nor of the petition of the non-freemen. Child himself having got into a dispute on the London Exchange with a New England man, whom he struck in his passion, was obliged to apologize before all the merchants, and to give it under his hand “never to speak evil of New England men,” nor to occasion any further trouble; “and besides,” adds Winthrop, “God had so blasted his estate as he was quite broken.” Such was the result of the first struggle in Massachusetts for equal political rights, an enterprise not to be again attempted for many years, nor finally to be accomplished without royal aid. Yet liberty was not without one abiding spot in New England. In spite of the opposition of Massachusetts

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