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It is obvious, from the preceding sketch of " Hyperion,” that the book will and musi encounter a variety of critical opinions. The sentimental and melancholy tone that pervades it will not be listened to by many, in the throng, and pressure, and stirring practical interests of the present age. The scenery and embellishments are remote as possible from the circle of American life ; and the thoughts and feelings are too ethereal to be readily grasped by minds intent upon the exciting themes of the day. The impassioned part of the romance partakes of the same general character. It is a book for minds attuned to sentiments of tenderness ; minds of an imaginative turn, and willing and ready to interest themselves in reveries as gorgeous as morning dreams, and in the delicate perceptions of art and poetry ; - minds tried by suffering, and sensitively alive to the influence of the beautiful. Such readers will recur to it, as they come back again and again to a picture of Alston, which recalls the atinosphere and picturesque ruins of some distant land, around whose name are thickly clustered associations of poetry, valor, and romance. They will read it, as they gaze with pleasure, not unmixed with sadness, upon the shifting splendors of the clouds in the horizon, illuminated by the setting sun.
ART. VI. - Thirteen Historical Discourses, on the Comple
tion of Two Hundred Years, from the Beginning of the
RECENT as the New England communities are, compared with the dynasties of the old world, their origin and growth furnish no little matter for antiquarian research. Nor can we regard the subject as a frivolous one, or such as is fitted to interest those only, who take delight in exploring musty and worm-eaten records, and black-letter documents. True, like all topics of inquiry, it requires discrimination and judgment in order to a profitable result
. For the mere antiquary, the relic-hunter, the eulogist of the old simply because it is old, we confess we feel very little respect. But the early history
- No. 106. 21
of the New England Plantations presents matter of other and graver interest. Great principles are here involved ; deep passions have been at work ; human nature has exhibited itself under some of its most remarkable phases, and
a mine is open to the philosophical inquirer, rich in the best ore. To the principles and policy of the original colonists we must look for the germ of our present institutions, and the elements of our unexampled growth and prosperity. The destinies of the nation, we may say, were wrapped up in the character of the little bands of hardy adventurers, who first planted their feet on these then wild and desolate shores.
Fortunately, the occurrence, about this time, of the second centennial anniversary of the settlement of several of our towns, and the organization of our religious societies, or churches, is now directing attention to the existing monuments of our early history. We deem this circumstance fortunate ; for the sources, whence some of the best and only authentic information on the subject can be derived, are rapidly diminishing. Many documents, contemporary with the events they record or illustrate, have already perished ; valuable traditions are fast fading from the memory; private and family records are becoming dispersed, or falling a prey to the injuries of time or accident; and neglect, forgetfulness, and ignorance of their value are, in many instances, hastening their destruction. Facts, some of which are important to the elucidation of the past, and which diligent research may now arrest in their passage to oblivion, will soon, but for timely care, be lost beyond the possibility of recovery. Many of them exist in local or scattered records, and obscure manuscripts, consigned to garrets, or buried amid heaps of rubbish ; and but for the labors of those who, impelled by curiosity, or a sense of duty, or other motives, undertake to write the history of towns and parishes, would never be disinterred, or rendered accessible to future inquirers, and to the public.
For this reason we hail with pleasure the Historical Discourses to which occasions of the nature just alluded to, are now from time to time giving birth. However imperfectly executed, they can hardly fail of contributing something to the materials of correct history. Nor do these materials, so far at least as relates to the religious character and institutions of our fathers, already exist, in an accessible form, in sufficient abundance to render any addition to the stock superflu
ous. The ecclesiastical history of the country yet remains to be written ; nor can it be written as it should be, without a far more intimate acquaintance with the internal character and arrangements of the several settlements, particularly those of New England, than has hitherto been within reach of the historian or the annalist.
Now this is precisely the deficiency, which the sort of research called forth by occasions like that to which we owe the volume before us, will have the effect of supplying. And as the New England Plantations were strictly religious communities; as religion, in fact, was, in respect to nearly all of them, the “ mainspring of the enterprise,” as it intimately blended with all concerns of a civil nature, and, in truth, closely entwined itself with all social arts, and with every circumstance of business and amusement, important accessions, we think, are to be anticipated from this source, not merely to the materials of our ecclesiastical history, but to our means of becoming acquainted with the habits of social life, and general tone of thinking and feeling, among those into whose labors we have entered.
Mr. Bacon's volume contains much useful matter. We think it, however, altogether too bulky, and parts of it might with great advantage have been condensed. The style is unreasonably diffuse, even for popular discourses ; and the author would have done well, before sending his work to the press, to have subjected it to a very thorough pruning. There is a good deal in the volume, which, though not perhaps absolutely irrelevant, yet is not strictly necessary to the illustration of the subject, and the insertion of which was not, as we think, called for. The author does not sufficiently distinguish between the province of the general historian and that of the annalist of a parish. The consequence is, he has allowed much to find its way into his pages from works now accessible to all, to the exclusion, we suspect, of some facts or circumstances, which original records might have furnished, and which, though perhaps apparently insignificant in themselves, yet, as throwing light on the character of the times, would have proved acceptable to the reader. To be sure, Trumbull, as his work evinces, * gleaned very thoroughly from the records of the New Haven colony, and Professor Kingsley
History of Connecticut.
has been in the field since, and possibly little was left to reward the search of the historian of the old church. Certain it is, that in reading a volume of such bulk, (an octavo of four hundred pages,) we were disappointed to find so small an amount of matter taken from unpublished documents.
The author sometimes prosessedly resorts to imagination or analogy for materials, as when, his records failing him, he undertakes, with Johnson's “ Wonder-Working Providence,” and Lechford's “ Plain Dealing" before him, to describe, not the circumstances actually attending the formation of the church, but those which may be supposed to have attended it, mentioning the probable hour of meeting, and other particulars, and adding an account, also hypothetical, of the exercises of the Sabbath. This is not history. Then, in the argumentative parts of his Discourses, or those intended to be such, in which the writer attempts, in some instances, to trace the connexion of cause and effect, to assign motives, or state consequences, we do not think that he is always very happy or discriminating. His reasoning occasionally reminds us of what we remember to have once heard called, somewhat slightingly, the “logic of the pulpit.”
Thus having, as in conscience bound, disburdened ourselves of the little we had to say in disparagement of the work before us, we will proceed to introduce to our readers some of the more interesting portions of history, of which the volume treats.
The New Haven adventurers, “ the most opulent company which came to New England,” arrived at Boston in July of 1637, and fixed themselves at Quinnipiack (New Haven), early the next spring. Among them were the Rev. John Davenport, Samuel Eaton, Theophilus Eaton, and Edward Hopkins, the two latter of whom were London merchants, men of eminent abilities and integrity. On arriving at their place of destination, the company immediately proceeded to form what was called their “ Plantation Covenant, in which they agree in laying the foundation of Church and State, to be governed by the rules, which the “ Scriptures held forth to ihem.” On the 4th of June, 1639, they assembled to take measures for organizing the government. Mr. Davenport preached, after the quaint manner of the day, from the text, “Wisdom bath builded her house, she bath bewn out her seven pillars," — the pith and marrow of the discourse being to show, that the church should be founded on " seven pillars, or principal brethren,” to whom others should be added as they saw fit. These, according to some resolutions which followed, were to constitute the “ free burgesses,” who alone should " choose magistrates among themselves,” and “have power to transact all the public civil affairs of the Plantation, including the “ making and repealing laws, dividing inheritances, deciding of differences,” and similar matters. The church was organized the 22d of August, 1639.* On the 25th of October following, the civil government was instituted on the principles above stated, and “ all former trust for managing the affairs of the Plantation was declared,” from that time, to cease and become utterly abrogated.” Subsequently in 1644), the “ judicial laws of God, as they were declared by Moses,” were adopted, as embodying the principles of moral equity, and as furnishing a “ rule to all ihe courts, in their proceedings against offenders.” In reference to the fundamental law of limiting the right of political suffrage to the members of the churches, Mr. Bacon quotes from a “Discourse about Civil Government, in a New Plantation, whose Design is Religion, attributed to Mr. Davenport. The danger apprehended from the absence of any such law of limitation, it seems, was twofold ; first, danger to the church, the peace of which might in various ways be disturbed, and its order and discipline impaired, if the management of civil affairs should be allowed to fall into the hands of unworthy or irreligious characters ; and, secondly, danger to the State, partly from factions, “as there will naturally be a party opposed to the churches,” and which must be disabled by being deprived of all political power, and partly from the “perversion of justice by magistrates of a worldly spirit.”
Among the leading men of the New Haven enterprise, John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton were of special note. Mather calls them the Moses and Aaron of the colony. Great efforts were made to detain them and their company in Massachusetts ; but, partly from the difficulty of
Mr. Bacon's Discourses purport to have reference to the “completion of two hundred years from the beginning of the first church," as the titlepage expresses it; though, in reality, they appear to have been delivered on the completion of the second century, from the commencement of the colo. ny. The difference between the two dates is about a year and four months. Why he has confounded them, it would be difficult to say.