Page images
PDF
EPUB

maintain, as well as to create, the power of making the laws and exercising the elective franchise.

So long as republican government is maintained in America, these distinctions must be held sacred, and the advocates of any other doctrine but promulgate what would work the downfall of the freedom of all. Upon the intelligence of the people depends the perpetuity of republican government; and while schools are maintained in most parts of the States of the Union free to all, a thorough system of education established and enforced. by State or Federal authority, wherein every person, regardless of age or sex, should be obliged to enter until they acquired some degree of education, would not only secure some enlightenment to every child born in the Republic, but would shed new life and new light upon the path of many of those from foreign lands who seek homes in the Republic of America. Republican government-long supposed to be incompatible with national greatness and national power-has in our country so completely leveled caste, sectionalism and intolerance, and blended the whole people into one family in ideas, interests and freedom, gathered the wandering exiles from the domination of kings, and wrought them into the concrete elements of American citizenship, as to fully demonstrate the power of Republicanism, not only to perpetuate the institutions of freedom and stable government, but to absorb the subjects of every throne, and mould them into elements of strength against the domination of kings.

Within the sphere of republican institutions, nothing so clearly demonstrates the natural, simple justice of equality, as the facility with which those born and educated in the chains of political and religious bondage in the Old World, unlearn the dogmas and tyranny of priest and king, and learn the paths of freedom and the laws of man's estate.

CHAPTER II.

COLONIAL CONDITION.—EARLY SETTLEMENT. — THE FIRST CONSTITUTION.— SIGNERS OF THE FIRST CONSTITUTION.- LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS.

So far as the political history of the Colonies goes, little can be gathered upon which to build any foundation that the intention of the early settlers was to build up a separate and independent Government; indeed, all the acts of the people go far to establish a contrary opinion. The charters granted by the King of Britain, from the beginning to the middle of the seventeenth century, and the submission of the people, the repeated petitions to the Mother Country to relax her oppressive laws upon them, their oft repeated avowals of filial attachment, their humble supplications through their representatives and commissioners, all tend to the belief that a strong attachment bound the early colonists to the British Goverment and laws.

The Colony of Virginia had from 1607 up to the Revolutionary War, almost two hundred years, conformed to the limits and laws imposed by the Home Government, and the Colonies on the Hudson and Manhattan were equally submissive; and although all seemed equally determined in 1776 to redress their long grievances, yet it is but reasonable to conjecture that what are now called the New England States, did, either by accident or design, gradually fall into a style of government that formed the basis of the General Government of the United States.

The Pilgrim Fathers who landed at Plymouth Rock

in 1620, did not in all things maintain nor apply that rule of Christianity and forbearance toward others that they so zealously desired to be applied to themselves; and now, as we lift the veil, although clouded by the mists of three centuries, obscuring many of their faults in the silent tomb, yet we sigh for that poor humanity in them and in us, of this and all ages, like the Crusaders of old, proclaiming that the "right of conscience," and "liberty to worship God according to their judgment," was what they demanded, and for which they were ready to die; whilst they denied the same right to others, and entered upon cruel inquisitions to deprive of life and liberty other people claiming to worship God by their consciences. But the ghost of Roger Williams has ceased to torment his persecutors; it has hied to its confine. His spirit, however, keeps eternal guard upon the altar of our religious freedom.

The first Constitution forming a civil government in America, was drawn up and signed on board the Mayflower, by the Pilgrims, on the 11th of November, 1620. At that time there had been a charter granted to parties to settle most of New England. The Pilgrims left England with the intention of settling on the Hudson, within the limits of the London or South Virginia Company, but by accident, or, as some suppose, and is generally believed, by the treachery of the Dutch who had themselves contemplated settling on the Hudson, and who had bribed the pilot to land them north of the Hudson, they were taken to the coast of Cape Cod, where they arrived on the 9th of November, 1620. Not having contemplated any plantation within the limits of the Plymouth company, they had not obtained from them any charter. Being, therefore,

destitute of any right to the soil, and without the powers of any government derived from the proper authority, on the 11th of November, before they landed, they drew up and signed the following compact, or constitution:

"In the name of God, amen. We, whose names are under written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, having undertaken for the glory of God, the advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern part of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together in a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts and constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."

The names of the signers were as follows (all the men on board): John Carver,† William Bradford,† Edward Winslow,† William Brewster,† Isaac Allerton,† Miles Standish,† John Alden, Samuel Fuller, Christopher Martin, William Mullins,+* William White,+* Richard Warren, John Howland, Stephen Hopkins,† Edward Tilly, John Tilly,+* Francis Cook, Thomas Rogers, Thomas Tinker, John Ridgdale,+* Edward Fuller, John Turner,* Francis Eaton,† James Chilton, John Crackston,* John Billington,† Moses Fletcher, John Goodman,* Degory Priest,* Thomas Williams, Gilbert Winslow, Edward Margeson,* Peter Brown, Richard Britterige, George Soule, Richard Clarke, Richard Gardiner, John Allerton,* Thomas English, Edward Dotey, Edward Leister.

Some idea of the privations and hardships endured by these stout Britons, may be ascertained from the

fact that by the end of March following their landing, about four months, more than half of them were in their graves-twenty-one of them having died in that short space of time. The names of those who died. within that period are marked with an asterisk (*). Of the number of these signers, eighteen brought their wives with them. Their names are indicated by a dagger (†).

It was signed by forty-one persons, the whole company being, including men, women and children, one hundred and one. Having settled a social compact, they proceeded to examine the coast, and finally settled at a place which they called Plymouth, after the name of the company owning the soil. They landed on the 22d of December, 1620, and commenced the first permanent settlement in New England. For ten years the colonists held their property in common, when they obtained from the company a grant of the land.

The government of the Colony was administered by a Governor and seven Assistants, all chosen by the people annually. Being a pure republic, the people in general meeting often decided upon both legislative and executive affairs. In 1630, their numbers having become such as to render deliberation in full assembly inconvenient, the representative system was adopted. In 1631, when permanent settlements began to be made in New Hampshire, Massachusetts threw her protection round them, and one by one as the new Colonies began to be formed and populated from Massachusetts, she protected them, and infused her ideas of government among them, until each of them made a Colonial Government assimilated to her own. In 1643 the Colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, formed a league, or confederation, by the

« PreviousContinue »