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through the various vicissitudes of his sad lot, has enlarged the domain of our sympathies and won for himself the benediction,
“ Blessings be on him and eternal praise,
Who gave us nobler hopes and nobler loves!”
ART. III. — 1. Records of the Governor and Company of the
Massachusetts Bay in New England. Printed by Order of the Legislature, Edited by NATHANIEL B. SHURTLEFF, M. D. Boston: From the Press of William White, Print
er to the Commonwealth. 1853. 2.- Archæologia Americana. Transactions and Collections
of the American Antiquarian Society. Vol. III. Part I. Cambridge: Printed for the Society. 1850.
The publication of the early records of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay has been often urged upon the government of the State of Massachusetts; but the State has only just now completed it. Meanwhile, all students of her history, from Hubbard downward, had used the manuscripts. It was well known that they were full, drawn up with care, and comprising much valuable detail in illustration of the early history of New England.
The manuscript volumes themselves have been of late years very carefully preserved. But it has been certain, that, in the face of all possible care, their illegibility increased. And as long since as May 29, 1844, the American Antiquarian So. ciety, finding that the State was not disposed to attempt the preservation of its own records, took measures to procure a careful copy of the first volume, and directed its publishing committee to publish it, with notes and illustrations.
In his valuable collection of works bearing on Massachusetts history, Dt. Young printed that part of the record which related to the operations of the Company in England, that is, as far as the period when the charter was brought to America by Winthrop, in 1630. In 1850 the publication by the An.' tiquarian Society began. The text was printed with the original spelling, with illustrative notes, and with a very valuable introductory essay by Mr. S. F. Haven, to whose care the whole work had been intrusted by the Society. In this essay he gives the history of the “ Origin of the Massachusetts Company"; and, after clearing up much which had been very obscure about the overlapping of the lines of patents, and the rights of successive companies, he traces, in some detail, as far as is possible, the lives of the several persons, nearly one hundred, who formed the original Massachusetts Company, under whose auspices the State of Massachusetts began to be. The first part of the Antiquarian Society's publication ended, like Dr. Young's, with the transfer of the charter to New England. The Society proposed to print the entire contents of the first volume, the whole of which had been copied for this purpose.
Before this was done, however, Governor Clifford having called the attention of the Council of the State to the decaying condition of its oldest original records, and, on the report of a committee of that body, sent a special message to the Legislature recommending earnestly that the first two volumes should be printed by the State, the Legislature passed a resolve in pursuance of his recommendation, on the 2d of May, 1853. The Secretary of State, who was intrusted with the superintendence of the work, committed it to the hands of Dr. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, certainly the most fit person, from the union of various essential qualifications, to carry it out promptly and thoroughly; and it was begun at once, and, with an expedition very unusual in such affairs, was completed before the end of the year. We shall have occasion, as we examine it, to speak of the singular accuracy and beauty with which it is printed. · This authentic and unabridged edition of the official records of the Company, and the invaluable Journal of Governor Winthrop, make up a mass of material for the early history of Massachusetts, complete to a degree almost without precedent. There are also several early letters, and other printed tracts; which furnish valuable illustrations and supply some deficiencies. If, then, the history of Massachusetts is not written, it is not now for want of material readily accessible for its first pages.
1.49 Those most competent to judge, indeed, most competent to write it, declare that it is not yet written. Mr. Haven, in his paper on the Origin of the Company, says:
" It is a just remark of the author of the Life of Sir Harry Vane, that the history of the Long Parliament has never been written. It is equally true that the history of Massachusetts remains to be written. What extreme of our united nation is there that has not an interest in its history? For where have not the descendants of its primitive settlers carried the moral and political principles they inherited ? The 'genius for government' of its founders must be traced in the records of their legislation, and the elements of its public character be deduced from an analysis of the characters of its prominent men.”
Mr. Willard says, to the same point, in his recent Lancaster Address: “ The history of Massachusetts is still a fresh subject, -in hackneyed phrase, is yet to be written. We now want the man. Heaven grant that he may be raised up to us, who will buckle on the armor for this great work.”
In reviewing the new edition of Winthrop last October, we took the occasion for a sketch of the development of constitutional institutions in the Colony, and the growth, under the somewhat inconvenient mechanism of the charter, of the germs of a representative government. The published records more than sustain the views we then expressed as to the good sense and sound political judgment of the founders of this State. It is only when they are read with their own illustration of their own meaning, that they can show, in its full extent, the judgment of these men. It has been very easy, for one glancing over the manuscript records, to select an absurd enactment here, and another there, - to copy them without their connection, even without the repeal which very likely followed at once, and, calling them specimens of the early legislation, to give the impression that Puritan statesmanship in New England was as ludicrous as the monarchical writers represented it at home. In fact, we have never seen the records of nineteen years of legislation which show progress so steady, and purpose so firm in the consolidation of a state, as these indicate. They begin as the records of a commercial company might be expected to begin. On its transfer to this country, the record continues, again, as might be expected of the record of the only governing body of a little group of newly settled towns. There is nothing absurd in the collocation of the choice of a Gov. ernor and the fine of a sleepy watchman in the same day's proceedings of the General Court. But regularly-with an advance really solemn from its simplicity and dignity - the government disposes of various portions of its duty to proper officers; the division of labor appears in the work of administration; the various scattered functions of the commonwealth array themselves in fitting and beautiful forms in their respective departments; and, out of the chaos of the mixed business of the Directors' meetings, the constitution of a state is born. It would be well, indeed, if the students of government would become conversant with this record, in which not only the vestiges of the creation of a state are presented, but every step in its progress is carefully laid open in exact order.
We wish now, however, to call attention to the interest which attaches in England to the history of the Massachusetts Company, and to the influence of the men who united in it on the fortunes of England. Here we see their efforts on a small scale, unimpeded and successful. There we see their efforts, against the prejudices of ages, in reforming a constitution which had elements entirely hostile to their own principles, and in contest with a king who was false to every principle and every promise. Yet there, with such difficulties, they achieved what measure of success was achieved in the Great Rebellion. We mean to speak carefully when we say they; for it is indeed true, that the very men who in 1630 united to build up New England were the men who were turned to with most confidence, and who responded most heartily, when, in 1642, it became necessary to build Old Eng. land anew.
Mr. Haven, in his History of the Origin of the Company, care fully illustrates this point, and shows how indissolubly united are the histories of the short-lived Commonwealth of England and the long-lived Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After his short biography of the various members of the Company,
e companied actiores ibe
- both those who remained in England and those who came out to America, about one hundred in all, — he says, very truly, that historians have, in general, lost sight of the influence exerted by those who remained at home. But 6 the amount of political influence that can be traced directly to members of the Company is a fact of striking significance, and leads to an inference of combined action, as well as community of sentiment. The town of Dorchester, where the Company had its origin, has been described as one of the earliest positions fortified against Charles I. ; as 'particularly disaffected to the royal cause, more so than any place in England'; and as the magazine whence the other places were supplied with the principles of rebellion.
“ When the adventurers from the two counties of Dorset and Lincoln had united to establish their head-quarters at London, they were joined by many of the most prominent and wealthy citizens, as well as by men of standing from most of the country shires. Clarendon says of London, that it was the 'sink of all the ill-humor in the kingdom'; meaning, that the revolutionary tendencies existing in the kingdom were there concentrated and strengthened. If Parliament never became, like the National Assembly of France, the servant of the populace, it was often impelled by the popular voice of the city, while it was sustained by its physical strength and pecuniary resources. When we find in our Company the wealthy merchants, the commanders of the military bands, and the chief municipal officers (of London], we may form some estimate of the amount of public sentiment they would be likely to control. Samuel Vassall * was one of the first to resist the payment of illegal taxes. Hampden's case was only more conspicuous from having been selected for trial by the King's Council; an honor that Lord Say made great efforts to secure for himself. John Venn,* commander of the train-bands, led the six thousand citizens who surrounded the House of Peers during the trial of Strafford, and shouted · Justice ! Justice!' Thomas Andrews,* the Lord Mayor, assisted by Alderman Bateman * and others, proclaimed the abolition of kingly government, his predecessor having declined to perform that office. We refer to these cases now, merely to exemplify the character and position of the London members. Owen Rowe,* (that fire-brand of the city,' and John Hewson,* the bold shoemaker, might be adduced for the same purpose. Not only the corporate authorities and organized bodies, but the masses of the metropolis, must have had great weight in the affairs of the
* Of the Massachusetts Company.