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retired circles, and see the examples of affection, of sincerity, of stern conscientiousness, which abound there. We would then ask him to turn with us to the dark record, which contains the last four centuries of Italian history. We would show him on one side, a country parcelled out into petty states, some of them a prey to domestic oppression, some to the avidity of foreign dominion ; the spirit of liberty, and all that could contribute to its developement, cautiously suppressed ; local jealousies nourished, until that very division, which had once been among the greatest stimulants to the general developement of mind, had been converted into one of the most powerful instruments for its oppression; and, when he had considered well this state of things and weighed for himself its influence and its necessary consequences, we would withdraw the veil from the other side of the picture. He should there see art, literature, science, springing into life from the very bosom of death. He should see mind, circumscribed or cut off from one sphere of action, turning with irrepressible energy to another; the brightest beams of science irradiating the darkness of a dungeon ; the boldest flights of poetry and of philosophy winged from a garret or from a cottage ; the fondest hopes of life, and life itself, offered up a willing sacrifice at the shrine of scientific truth or of historical sincerity ; and then would we close our volume, and leave the decision to his own conscience.
Art. II. — An Historical Memoir of the Colony of Neu
Plymouth. Vol. II. Parts II. III. IV. By FRANCIS BAYLIES. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, & Wilkins. 1833. 8vo. pp. 286, 193, 170.
We are happy to infer, from various signs, that a new interest is awakened in the study of the early history of these now United States. The brilliant events of the Revolution, and the exciting topics, which had their origin in the formation of a new government, subsequent to the establishment of independence, seemed for a number of years to absorb almost the whole of public attention, and to cast a shadow over the equally important events, which led to the establishment of our institutions, and prepared the way for our national existence. In our admiration of our successful government, we hardly thought of going beyond the Revolution to discover its origin. We had almost forgotten what trials were endured, and sacrifices made, at an earlier day. Nor did we sufficiently remember how much we were indebted to those who were the pioneers of civilization in the western world, and who laid the foundation of free institutions upon the broad basis of learning and religion. The frequent publication of local histories, and the celebration of historical eras, which have taken place in all the chief towns of the north, within a few years, have given a new direction to public attention ; and we are now beginning to regard our whole history, from the settlement of the country to the present time, as but one chain of events, each and every link of which is equally important and equally necessary to the consummation of its grand design.
Among the local histories, which the prolific press has sent forth within a few years, there is none of greater interest than that of the colony of New Plymouth, by Mr. Baylies. The subject itself has the strongest claim upon attention, and the author has collected and arranged his materials with most praiseworthy research and good judgment.
We owe to him the first entire history of the colony, which has been published. Other writers have given faithful and minute delineations of detached portions of the subject, but no one before Mr. Baylies has attempted to bring these detached portions together, and to present us with a full account of the fortunes of the colony during its whole existence. A work upon a theme so important, executed with such ability and care, deserves to be greeted as a valuable public service.
But our purpose is not to review the history of Mr. Baylies, so much as it is to give some account of the colony itself. It is the oldest of the New England colonies, and to its early success may be traced the origin of all the others. It is the place where civilization and Christianity were first introduced into New England. It has been the scene of many a trial, and of the fulfilment of many a high and holy resolve. It was here that government, based on the will of the governed, was first established on the American continent, and the great principle, that all should obey such laws as a majority of the people should make, distinctly acknowledged. To this colony, we trace the first practical recognition of those political principles, which now form the basis of all the institutions of the United States. Independently of the remarkable circumstances under which the settlement was made, its history, after a government went into regular operation, and especially the history of its legislation, are entitled to more attention than we suppose them to have commonly received.
The history of this colony extends through a period of only seventy-one years; namely, from 1620 to 1691, when it was united to Massachusetts, becoming a part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
Its territory, comprising most of the present counties of Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol, together with a small tract of land on its southerly side, now included within the limits of Rhode Island, contained about eleven hundred square miles, or about one seventh of the present territory of this Commonwealth. It is described in the charter to William Bradford and his associates, as bounded on the north by Cohasset river, on the south by the Narragansett river, on the east by the western ocean, and on the west by the utmost limits of the “ Pahoninutt country.”
During the existence of the colony, this territory was divided into three counties, whose names are still retained, and into twenty townships and districts, containing, as is supposed, at the union in 1691, a population of about nine thousand. The same territory is now divided into upwards of fifty townships, and contains a population of about one hundred and forty thousand.
The origin of this colony is too well known to require recapitulation. It is enough to say, that it owed its existence to persecution for religion's sake. As early as 1602, a number of persons in England, feeling themselves aggrieved, began to converse upon the subject of removing from that country ; but they took no measures for that purpose till 1610, when a small company of Puritans, with the distinguished Robinson for a pastor, settled at Leyden, in Holland. Here they were well received, and protected in the enjoyment of their religion. During their whole stay in that country, it appears they were on the most friendly terms with its inhabitants. But still they were not satisfied. They were
among a people, whose language they did not understand, and whose morals were far below the elevated standard which they had prescribed for themselves. Nor did they find there such means of education as they desired for their children ; but, on the other hand, had reason to fear that they would suffer from evil example, and that, by joining the Hollanders, either as soldiers or sailors, the identity of their little community would be lost, and its members be dispersed. They never had a cordial sympathy with the people of that country, but felt that they were strangers and sojourners, and that here was not their home. After about nine years' residence they began seriously to think of a second removal, but they knew not where to go. They still had attachments for England, but her partial and rigid laws would not protect them in the enjoyment of their rights. They desired to retain for their children their language as well as their religion, and for this reason they preferred a residence in a wilderness to an alliance of their fortunes with a foreign nation. It was at length determined to make America their place of refuge; and, soon after, negotiations for settlement were entered into with the merchant adventurers, and with them a hard bargain for the Puritans was concluded.
Various accidents and difficulties detained them in Holland till July, 1620. They then commenced their adventurous voyage. They first sailed to Southampton in England, where they remained till the 5th of August. Soon after, one of their vessels becoming leaky, they put into Dartmouth to repair her. These repairs having proved insufficient, they were again compelled to put into Plymouth, where they were detained till the 6th of September. They then left, most of them for ever, their native country ; and, after a perilous voyage of about two months, made land at Cape Cod. It was about six weeks after this, before they made the first permanent settlement at Plymouth, on the 22d of December.
It is well known, that their original destination was near Hudson's river, and within the limits of the Virginia Company, with which they had made a contract for settlement, and that, by bribery (as is supposed), the master of the vessel was induced to land them on the barren shores of New Plymouth. On their arrival they found themselves without government, and without any constituted authority by which the members of their little community could be restrained, and its affairs managed. They still acknowledged themselves subjects of the king of England, and knew they were within his dominions. Yet they were too insignificant, as well as too remote, to feel or fear his authority, or to expect any protection. They were literally free from all political restraints, and as favorably situated as any people ever were to begin the world anew, and to establish well such a government and institutions as were suited to their new condition.
From the peculiar character and situation of the Pilgrims, we might naturally expect a political organization different from any the world had before seen. No people had so fully appreciated the value of the rights of each member of the state ; none had felt so deeply the great cause of humanity, or entertained such cheering hopes of human improvement. They regarded the forms and institutions of society then existing in the old world as wholly unfit for the advancement of the true objects, for which society was formed, and civil governments instituted. They had Red from a government which they believed to be tyrannical, and it is not strange, that they should have used every precaution to resist, in their new situation, the evils from which they had escaped. The remark of Burke is as true of them as of their descendants, — that “they judged of an evil in government, not by the pressure of the grievance, but by the badness of the principle. They augured misgovernment at a distance, and snuffed the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.” In their new situation they were free from all political restraints, and could make, in the establishment of their government and institutions, a practical recognition of those political principles upon which they believed the well-being and happiness of society rested. In this respect they had an advantage over most of the other American colonies, for which governments were formed previous to their settlement by means of charters from the King.
The government of the colony dates its origin from November 11th, 1620, when the Pilgrim fathers met in convention for the purpose of forming a social compact. This is the first meeting of the kind, of which the history of the world gives us any information ; and, if we may judge of the wisdom of its deliberations by their results, it has never been sur