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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-
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
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