Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

he performed the chief labor with his own hands. With this tender and canoe, they commenced their search, and more particularly around a reef of rising shoals, where the old Spaniard reported the wreck of the vessel. They peeped among the boiling waters, but could discover nothing. While they were about returning, however, full of disappointment, one of the men, on casting his eye in the crystal depths of the ocean, espied a sea-feather, springing apparently from a rock. One of the Indians dived down and brought up the feather, together with a most thrilling story. He said there were great guns in the watery world ; a large vessel lay beneath the surface of the silent sea, and there were many strange objects about it. On diving a second time, a lump of silver, worth two or three hundred pounds, was brought up. This success was most joyful intelligence for the captain ; and day after day they continued their labors, until thirty-two tons of silver bullion were drawn forth from the deep. A gentleman named ADERLY, of Providence, (RhodeIsland,) who had previously been engaged with Phips in the search of Spanish wrecks, about this time joined him, by previous agreement, and freighted his vessel with six tons more of this precious metal. But Aderly was so excited by his good fortune, that he ran distracted, and died about a year afterward in the Bermudas. This treasure, as Phips expresses it, ‘had been half an hundred years groaning under the waters, and a thick crust of several inches had gathered upon it. Beside this, they discoverd much gold, pearls,

, jewels, and all those riches with which the Spanish vessels of that day were so richly freighted. After causing Aderly and his crew to swear that they would not visit the spot during the year, he made arrangements for departing.

His crew about this time began to grow restless, for they had been too extensively engaged in the gold trade, to be satisfied with the moderate wages for which they stipulated to undertake the voyage. Phips, in this dilemma, solemnly promised them that they should be amply rewarded, even if he paid it out of his own indivi. dual portion.

Captain Phips arrived in London with near three hundred thousand pounds sterling; but his portion of the precious cargo amounted to less than sixteen thousand pounds. The Duke of Albemarle presented his wife, whom he never saw, a golden cup, of the value of one thousand pounds, and James II. conferred on him the order of knighthood.

After Captain Phips left the gold banks, some of the Bermudians compelled one of Aderly's boys to discover to them the exact spot where the treasure was found, and it is said that a large quantity of silver, etc., was obtained after Phips's departure. He remained in England for some time, and moved in the first society. King James at last desired him to name a favor, which should be granted. Sir William prayed that “ New-England might have her lost privileges restored.' Any thing but that,' replied the king. He then, at some expense, obtained a patent, which constituted him the high sheriff of a county, hoping, by the deputies in that office, to provide the country with conscientious juries. He returned to New-England in the summer of 1688, and built him a fine brick house in Boston. VOL. VIII.

83

6

[ocr errors]

a

I must here pass over the unwearied exertions he used to restore the liberties of the colony. There is no patriot, either in ancient or modern history, who labored more incessantly for the welfare of his country. He crossed the sea several times to petition the king, and finally, in union with the Rev. Increase Mather, succeeded in obtaining a new charter for the colony. He was appointed governor of New-England in 1692, and kissed the king's hand on the 3d day of January. He arrived at the colony the 14th day of May following, in the None-such frigate, where he was welcomed by the loud acclamations of the people.

This was a critical time with New-England. It was the commencement of that great and well-known mystery, the Salem witchcraft. We of the present enlightened age may consider it folly to revive such a ridiculous subject, but as it is so closely connected with the present sketch, it will be pardoned.

A very old work now before me says : • The arrival of Sir William Phips to the government of New-England, was at a time when a governor would have had occasion for all the skill in sorcerie that was ever necessary for a Jewish councillor — a time when scores of poor people had newly fallen under a prodigious possession of devils, which it was then generally thought had been by witchcraft introduced. It is to be confessed and bewailed, that many inhabitants of New-England, and young people especially, had been led away with little sorceries, wherein they did secretly those things that were not right, against the Lord their God; they would often cure hurts with spells, and practice detestable conjurations with sieves, and keys, and peas, and nails, and horse-shoes, and other implements, to learn the things for which they had a forbidden and impious curiosity. Wretched books had stolen into the land, wherein fools had been instructed to become able fortune-tellers, and by these books the minds of many had been so poisoned, that they studied this finer witchcraft, etc. Scores of people, continues our ancient author, 'were arrested, with many præternatural vexations upon their bodies, and a variety of cruel torments, which were evidently inflicted from the dæmons of the invisible world. The people that were infected and infested, in a few days' time arrived unto such a refining

a alteration upon their eyes, that they could see their tormentors; they saw a devil, of a little stature, and of a tawny color, attended stiil with spectres, that appeared in more human circumstances. These tormentors tendered unto the afflicted a book, requiring them to sign it, or touch it, at least, in token of their consent to be listed in the service of the devil; which they refusing to do, the spectres, under command of that black-man, as they called him, would apply themselves to torture them with prodigious molestations. The afflicted wretches were horribly distorted; they were pinched black and blew; pins would be run every where in their flesh; they would be scalded until they had blisters raised on them, and a thousand other things before a hundred witnesses. Their hands would be tied together with a rope, plainly to be seen, and then by unseen hands presently pulled up a great way from the earth, before a crowd of people. One person was cruelly assaulted by a spectre, that she said ran at her with a spindle, though no one else in the room could see either

a

the spectre or the spindle : at last, in her agonies, giving a snatch at the spindle, she pulled it away, and it was no sooner got into her hand, but the other folks then present beheld that it was indeed a real, proper iron spindle, which they locked up very safe, yet it was nevertheless taken away by the dæmons, to do farther mischief.'

It was also stated, that the spectres proceeded so far as to steal several sums of money from various people, which were dropped from the air, in the presence of many spectators, into the hands of their afflicted subjects. It is mentioned, likewise, that poisons were forced down many people, by invisible hands, who instantly swelled to an alarming size. On some occasions, the rooms were filled with the smell of the drugs, and the pillows of the miserable subjects stained with them. Some complained of burning rags being forcibly pushed down their throats, and soon after the scalds were plainly visible to many witnesses. Others declared that they were branded by invisible hot irons; and it is added, th absolutely bore the scars about them until the day of their death.

An old manuscript of a distinguished gentleman says: 'Flashy people may burlesque these things; but when hundreds of the most sober people, in a country where they have as much mother-wit certainly as the rest of mankind, know them to be true, nothing but the absurd and froward spirit of Sadducism can question them. I have not yet mentioned so much as one thing that will not be justified, if it be required, by the oaths of more considerate persons

than any that can ridicule these odd phenomena.'

The above is given, to exhibit the dark and gloomy times that pervaded New-England when Phips was appointed governor. Many of the most respectable people were accused of witchcraft, and some lost their lives in the tumult which was raging. It appears, however, that Sir William immediately commenced an elaborate investigation into the nature of this evil. He is represented as being dropt as it were from the machine of Heaven' for this purpose. He left no means untried to accomplish his undertaking. Courts of inquiry and examination were held many who had been trivially committed for trial, discharged and those who were tried, had every thing thrown in their favor. The history of that age gives some strange accounts of the accused and afflicted, during the first administration of Phips, when they were brought together before the court. Suffice it to say, that although the afflicted were closely blind-folded, and the accused passed into the room ever so silently, the former were immediately thrown into the most excruciating agonies, and prayed that the tormentor might be removed.

Phips, however, finally succeeded in quelling this terrible calamity, and order and peace once more reigned throughout the land.

It is in favor of our ancestors, to find that they were not alone in the belief they had adopted. The Dutch and French ministers in the province of New-York, having been consulted by one of the chief judges as to their belief in witchcraft, declared their opinion in these words : • That if we believe no venefick witchcraft, we must renounce the scripture of God, and the consent of almost all the world.'

After Sir William had accomplished this great work, the New

6

6

a

Englanders publickly thanked him in these words: “As one of the tribe of Zebulan, raised up from among themselves, and spirited as well as commissioned to be the steersman of a vessel befogg'd in the mare mortuum of witchcraft, who now so happily steered her course, that she escaped shipwrack, and was safely again moored under the Cape of Good Hope, and cut asunder the Circean knot of enchantment, more difficult to be dissolved than the famous Gordian one of old.'

Sir William, after the conclusion of the witchcraft in-New-Eng. land, found sufficient employment in quelling the Indian disturbances. The years immediately preceding his adminietration were particularly distinguished for the wars and murders of the savages. The colony of Plymouth and Massachusetts had, by 1685, become so strong as to alarm the natives for the safety of their hunting-grounds, and jealousy waxed strong among them. They saw the ‘old solemn wilderness,' that had waved amid a century of storms, melting away like the morning dew; the game that covered the hills were vanishing at the echo of the woodman's axe; the streams that made their own music in the green shadows of the forest, became parched and dry in the noontide sun : they mourned the change, and as far as they were able, resolved to protect the remainder of their soil from farther innovation.

The governor accomplished much in his military capacity. A few words here in regard to the Canada expedition

of which he was commander, and which departed from Hull, near Boston, August 9th, 1690, previous to his appointment of governor — may not be amiss. Canada had always been the source of much bloodshed to the NewEnglanders. There the Indians were supplied with ammunition and provision -- and the inhabitants even united themselves with the savages to murder and plunder their enemies.

The fleet spoken of, consisted of thirty-two ships and tenders, one of which, called The Six Friends, carried forty-four guns, and was manned by two hundred men. He arrived at Quebec, and sent his terms, in case Count Frontenac would capitulate, but the count declared, “No other answer was to be expected from him, but what should be from the mouth of his cannon.'

It appears that Phips attempted to take the city by force — but he did not succeed. All his schemes were, most unfortunately, of no avail. A strong land force, which he particularly relied upon, did not arrive; heavy winds and storms prevented the army's landing as soon as necessary; the small-pox broke out in the fleet, and six or seven hundred men were confined to their beds with the disease; and, moreover, they had about double their number to contend with. He was finally unsuccessful in the expedition, and arrived at Boston in November, with the consolation that his ill success could not be justly attributed to any want of courage or skill on his part.

Throughout the Indian wars subsequent to this, he met with good and ill success; but it was his misfortune to have his share of enemies. Some proceeded so far as to accuse him of being the cause of the Indian massacres, in not quelling them more promptly. There were many in England, also, who were extremely bitter against the governor, not from any plausible reason, but from motives of interest.

6

The king listened to their denunciations for some time, without paying much regard to them. At last, to appease the clamor, he summoned Sir William and his accusers to appear before him in England, where the true state of the case might be ascertained. He obeyed, and arrived in London in February, 1694. But before he had confronted his adversaries, he was suddenly seized with a malignant fever, and died on the 18th of that month, aged fifty-four years, and was buried in the church of St. Mary Woolmoth.

Thus ended the life of Sir William Phips. His sun rose in solitude and obscurity, but went down in glory and splendor. He was cradled in the depths of the wilderness, with the winds, and the waterfalls, and all the natural sublimity of nature about him, and he as simple and rustic as they ; but his pall was surrounded by kings, dukes, lords, and all the pomp of regal authority. Poor indeed must be the mind of that reader, who finds nothing rich and instructive in the life of such a man. The solitary shepherd, who whistled his way over the wild peaks of his native land, becomes the governor of his country, and emperors deem it an honor to grasp his hand. The uneducated youth, who was incapable of reading his own name, becomes the author of as sound and logical state papers as any which were produced in his time. And not only this, he distinguished himself in his military career, by fighting the battles of his country. Such was Sir William Phips. Like the oak of his own barren mountains, he found nourishment in the flinty cleft of a rock; and when once rooted, storms and whirlwinds could not disturb him, nor shake the foundation upon which his reputation was built.

H. H. R.

а

SONNET.

"There is a consciousness, which lies beneath the spontaneous consciousness natural to all reflect. ing beings.' - COLERIDGE.

"The mind differs from the soul.' - Plato.

[ocr errors]

UNEARTHLY thoughts, with printless tread,
As spirits move among the dead,
In silent chambers of the soul,
With mystic life, forever roll :

The motion scarce is felt,
Of things so dim and shadow-seeming,

Which sometimes stir, and breathe, and melt,
Along our hearts, like distant dreaming;

They have no kin to mortal thought,
Nor truths, the earth-born senses find;

The LIVING God their essence wrought,
And fixed them here, the soul of mind.

Oh! not for aye, with Night and Pain -
Pale Death will lead them home again!

C. A.

« PreviousContinue »