Imágenes de página

of its scrupulous veracity. Lucian, who wrote an account of a voyage to the moon, containing more extravagance of invention than even the relations of those late travellers who have visited this country, called it The True History. Nobody ever believed one word of it, and since that time every historian who expected to gain the reputation of veracity, has cautiously abstained from any professions to that effect, and had much rather his history should attain to any other distinction than that of truth. The friends of our author, for this reason, very soon after its first publication, gave the work under consideration the title which has distinguished it ever since, and which, if we are not egregiously mistaken, will wonderfully recommend it to those who are disgusted with the grave falsehoods of authentic histories, as well as those who, not being in the secret we have hinted at, expect to find it a record of impossible events, or a chronicle of exploits beyond the reach of human power, like the early histories of all other nations.

Our author commences his work with a detail of the first attempts of the English to effect settlements within the limits of Connecticut. These, it appears, were made nearly about the same time by three different parties; the first headed by George Fenwick, Esq.'at Saybrook; the second by John Haynes and the Rev. Thomas Hooker, at Hartford, where they found a Dutch colony which they forth with sent about its business and a third under the direction of Theophilus Eaton and the Rev. John Davenport, at New-Haven. It appears that these parties were seceders from the mother church of Massachusetts, and, as the author dryly observes, came there to escape persecution, and to be at liberty to persecute others.” It is indeed a subject of serious concern to read in the history of these early times, of the dissensions of the different congregations, each of which considered its pastor as infallible, and held his doctrines to be the only true guide. Smarting as they were under the recollection of those severities which drove them into the wilderness; surrounded by savage enemies jealous of their encroachments, and ready to take advantage of their disunion, still being destitute of the wholesome cement of a little persecution, they seem to have lost sight of those principles of toleration which they demanded of others, and to have dealt not only with quakers, anabaptists,

adamites and papists, but those who differed with them in the most trifling ceremony, as if they were worse than heathens. Thus the congregation under Eaton and Davenport came from England to join their brethren in Boston, but bringing with them some new notions, which did not exactly correspond with those of the first emigrants, they could not agree. Eaton and Davenport went to New-Haven, and the people of Boston held a general thanksgiving, “because Providence had stationed Eaton and Davenport so far from them.” This unaccommodating spirit, however, answered one good purpose by contributing to the more rapid settlement of the eastern states. Every new town was the progenitor of three or four little ones in its neighbourhood, which were peopled generally by some flock of stray sheep, that, under the guidance of a popular preacher, departed from the mother church and went out into the wilderness to seek its fortune. The history under our consideration is full of instances of this sort. Each held its own pastor as the uncontrolled head of the church. But although they would not allow his infallibility to be questioned by others, yet it distinctly appears they sometimes took the liberty of doing it themselves, and numerous are the contests related between these sturdy republicans, and their preachers, who seem, like man and wife, to have been always quarrelling about who should wear the breeches. But it is a most pleasing result to discover, as we certainly do, that from these habits of almost indiscriminate resistance to established authorities, and from the infinite divisions of the church in the new world, sprung at last the most perfect system of rational freedom, as well as the first example of universal toleration, the modern christian world ever enjoyed. Singular and unaccommodating as were the manners and habits of the early emigrants, they furnished excellent raw materials for freemen. In process of time their unbending spirits softened down into a steady and rational abhorrence of tyranny, and what at first seems to have been a fidgeting impatience of all kinds of restraint, settled at length into a rational detestation of all restraints that were not sanctioned by the laws. When, too, the representatives of the different states met to devise the constitution of our general government, such a diversity of religions prevailed all over the land, and the numbers of each were so well balanced, that no particular sect was sufficiently strong to impose its ordinances on the other, or aspire to the dignity of an established church; and the consequence was, that they compromised matters by allowing an equal toleration to all. The divisions which at first sight seemed to menace the interests of religion, at last contributed to purify it, at least from the stain of that malignant persecution which sprinkled the sacerdotal lawn with the blood of men who believed in the same redeemer, and not unfrequently converted those whose errand and whose vocation was charity to all men, into bloody executioners, heaping coals of fire upon the heads of christians like themselves. Thus in this new world persecution became at last the cause of her own overthrow, and perished like the inquisitor Alvarez, in an auto-de-fé of her own lightning.

After detailing the various attempts at colonization in Connecticut, the historian proceeds to inquire into the different titles'under which the first settlers took possession. This part of his work is highly curious, and the result is not a little to the discredit of the good people of that state, who, he maintains, never had any legal title whatever, but were a set of arrant squatters, that settled just where it suited them, without asking leave of any living soul, except the Indians, with whom, as is usual with white people, they made excellent bargains. The sum of these transactions with the aboriginal inhabitants forms another itein in the precious history of poor honest ignorance all over the face of the earth. Civilized nations have always thought themselves at liberty to impose upon those who were uncivilized, and to cheat an Indian has philosophically been considered nothing more than making a lawful use of the advantages derived from superior refinement in the art of bargaining.

They conceived, with great apparent justice, that because the opportunities which the savages possessed of acquiring information had not been equal to theirs, the Indians were not entitled to any of the privileges of humanity, and the consequence is, that their only experience of the superiority of civilized men, has been that of their refinement in injustice, and their dexterity in cheating. Everywhere they have been driven by syllogisms, and scripture quotations, from their ancient inheritance; everywhere they have been alternately the tools and the victims of the ambition of other nations, and everywhere the most that they have gained by associating with white men, is a more familiar acquaintance with vice, and an enlargement of their conceptions of immorality. Numerous attempts have indeed been made to draw them from the darkness in which they are plunged with regard to heavenly truths, but their general experience of the conduct of christians is little calculated, we think, to recommend their doctrines, as the antidote of the precept, for the most part, is too weak to overcome the poison of the example.

Little good will probably ever be done in this way, unless the attempt is connected with the introduction of a system which will gradually draw them into habits of cultivation, and convert them from hunters into farmers. When they become husbandmen, when they have a comfortable home, a happy fire side, and a regular sys. tem of domestic economy; when the minds of their children have been gradually prepared by education to receive the doctrines of truth, then, and not till then, will the attempt to convert them tend to any other result than to make them more wretched. To take from them the arrow and the spear, before they can handle the axe, and direct the plow, is to convert the hardy, active tenant of the boundless forest, not into a civilized being, but into a sort of incongruous monster, with all the vices peculiar to both stations of life. He will become such an animal as we see sometimes lounging about the taverns of the western frontier. A wretched sot who has lost his original cast without having acquired any other -a spiritless slave, whom every slave of the house chastises at pleasure, and whose sole business in life is to perform the most menial offices for the purpose of obtaining that liquor which is the only christian divinity that he adores. To call such a being a christian-to suppose him capable of comprehending or practising a single principle or rite of christianity, is a mnockery of religion, and a libel on real believers. It is earnestly to be wished that the plan of carrying religion on in one land, and agriculture in the other, originally adopted by this government, and so successfully prosecuted among the natives on the southern frontier, will suffer only a temporary interruption by the present war, and that the return of peace will bring with it a revival of that wise and benevolent system. Thanks to the impulse given by a people to

whom three quarters of the globe at least owe obligations they will never repay, we mean the quakers, the chains of the negro are broken; and may we not hope, now that the giorious race of emancipation is begun, the wrongs of the Indian may also cease? -There are other wrongs besides kidnapping and slavery, and more christian modes of retaliation than burning and conflagration.

Among the various curious particulars which the industrious research of our author has rescued from oblivion, there is nothing of more value than the transcript of the celebrated judicial code known by the name of Blue Laws, under which the first colonists of Connecticut subsisted for a considerable time.

We regret, however, that he has not informed us to whom we are indebted for this singular code, and the reader must, therefore, remain ignorant of the name of a legislator who, had he lived in days of yore, would certainly have rivalled the famous Draco.

All that we can do is to give the laws verbatim, leaving it to the industry of future antiquarians to discover their author. They are as follows:

“The governor and magistrates convened in general assembly are the supreme power, under God, of this independent dominion.

“ From the determination of the assembly no appeal shall be made. “The governor is amenable to the voice of the people.

“ The governor shall have only a single vote in determining any question, except a casting vote when the assembly may be equally divided.

“ The assembly of the people shall not be dismissed by the governor, but shall dismiss itself.

Conspiracy against the dominion shall be punished with death. " Whoever says there is a power holding jurisdiction above and over this dominion, shall be punished with death and loss of property.

“ Whoever attempts to change, or overturn this dominion, shall suffer death.

" The judges shall determine controversies without a jury.

" No one shall be a freeman, or give a vote, unless he be converted, or a member in free communion of one of the churches allowed in this dominion.

“No one shall hold any office who is not sound in the faith, and faithful to this dominion; and whoever gives a vote to such a person

« AnteriorContinuar »