The dissenters william Bradford



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THE DISSENTERS

William Bradford

Bradford expressed his nonconformist religious sensibilities in his early teens and joined the famed Separatist church in Scrooby at the age of seventeen. In 1609 he immigrated with the congregation, led by John Robinson, to the Netherlands. For the next eleven years he and his fellow religious dissenters lived in Leyden until their fear of assimilation into Dutch culture prompted them to embark on the Mayflower for the voyage to North America.

The Pilgrims arrived in what became Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 with a large number of non-Separatist settlers. Before disembarking, the congregation drew up the first New World social contract, the Mayflower Compact, which all the male settlers signed.

The Mayflower Compact is the written covenant of the new settlers arriving at New Plymouth after crossing the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower. It is the first governing document of Plymouth Colony and established the first basis in the New World for written laws.

Earlier New World settlements had failed due to a lack of government, and the compact was hashed out by the pilgrims, led by William Bradford, for the sake of their own survival. It was signed aboard ship November 11, 1620 OS (November 21, 1620 NS) by all 41 of the Mayflower's adult male passengers.

Bradford served thirty one-year terms as governor of the fledgling colony between 1622 and 1656. Under his guidance Plymouth never became a Bible commonwealth like its larger and more influential neighbor, the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Relatively tolerant of dissent, the Plymouth settlers did not restrict the franchise or other civic privileges to church members. The Plymouth churches were overwhelmingly Congregationalist and Separatist in form, but Presbyterians like William Vassal and renegades like Roger Williams resided in the colony without being pressured to conform to the majority's religious convictions.

After a brief experiment with the "common course," a sort of primitive agrarian communism, the colony quickly centered around private subsistence agriculture. This was facilitated by Bradford's decision to distribute land among all the settlers, not just members of the company.

Bradford did not interpret temporal affairs as the inevitable unfolding of God's providential plan. Lacking the dogmatic temper and religious enthusiasm of the Puritans of the Great Migration, Bradford steered a middle course for Plymouth Colony between the Holy Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the tolerant secular community of Rhode Island.



John Winthrop

He was an ardently religious person. From his early teens Winthrop threw himself into scriptural study and prayers, and gradually he trained himself into a full-fledged Puritan, convinced that God had elected him to salvation, or in Puritan terms to “sainthood.” His religious experience reinforced his elitist outlook, but it also made him a social activist. Like other prominent Puritans, Winthrop dedicated himself to remaking, as far as possible, the wicked world as he saw it, arguing that “the life which is most exercised with tryalls and temptations is the sweetest, and will prove the safeste.”

During the late 1620s, Winthrop felt increasingly trapped by the economic slump that reduced his landed income and by Charles I’s belligerent anti-Puritan policy, which cost him his court post in 1629. When, in 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company obtained a royal charter to plant a colony in New England, Winthrop joined the company, pledging to sell his English estate and take his family to Massachusetts if the company government and charter were also transferred to America. The other members agreed to these terms and elected him governor (October 20).

As Winthrop sailed west on the Arbella the spring of 1630, he composed a lay sermon, “A Modell of Christian Charity,” in which he pictured the Massachusetts colonists in covenant with God and with each other, divinely ordained to build “a City upon a Hill” in New England.

Opposition against him built up after a few years, however, as dissidents kept challenging Winthrop’s system in the mid- and late 1630s. He was nettled when the freemen (voters) insisted in 1634 on electing a representative assembly to share in decision making. He found Roger Williams’ criticism of church–state relations intolerable, though he secretly helped Williams to flee to Rhode Island in 1636. And he took it as a personal affront when numerous colonists chose to migrate from Massachusetts to Connecticut.

The greatest outrage to Winthrop by far, however, came when Anne Hutchinson, a mere woman, gained control of his Boston church in 1636 and endeavoured to convert the whole colony to a religious position that Winthrop considered blasphemous. It was he who led the counterattack against her. His victory was complete. Hutchinson was tried before the general court—chiefly for “traducing the ministers”—and was sentenced to banishment.

By 1640 Winthrop had become the custodian of Massachusetts orthodoxy, suspicious of new ideas and influences and convinced that God favoured his community above all others. With the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, many New Englanders returned home to fight against Charles I. Winthrop, however, stayed on in America, and he criticized the course of the Puritan Revolution. His own political philosophy was best summed up in a speech of 1645, in which he defined the magistrates’ authority very broadly and the people’s liberty very narrowly. But Winthrop was never a petty tyrant; the colonists respected and loved him to the end.

Roger Williams

Roger Williams was Chaplain to a wealthy family, and on 15 December 1629, he married Mary Barnard at the Church of High Laver, Essex, England. Even at this time, he became a controversial figure because of his ideas on freedom of worship, and separation of church and state. He did not join the first wave of Separatists in the summer of 1630, before the end of the year, he decided he could not remain in England under Archbishop William Laud's rigorous administration because he regarded the Church of England to be corrupt and false.

He preached first at Salem, then at Plymouth, then back to Salem, always at odds with the structured Puritans. The Puritans believed they were creating a new Israel, a society modeled on the Old Testament. That society demanded religious conformity. Williams argued that Jesus Christ had inaugurated a new age, a new dispensation that demanded a break with the past. It was the New Testament, not the Old, that mattered. For Williams, the commonwealth was based on a theologically faulty foundation.

Williams argued that the Puritans were hypocrites because they remained within the Church of England rather than making a clean break, as the Pilgrims had done. He went on to assert that it was dishonest and wrong to take land from the Indians without paying them for it. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans. His best-known literary work -- Key into the Languages of America, which when published in London in 1643, made him the authority on American Indians. Finally, he insisted that civil magistrates did not have the right to enforce religious duties like making people go to church on the Sabbath.

A restless spirit, Williams moved between Boston, Salem and Plymouth Colony, winning followers, irritating opponents and provoking controversy. Finally banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635, Williams headed south and established a small settlement at the headwaters of Narragansett Bay, in present-day Rhode Island. Named "Providence," the community officially guaranteed liberty of conscience. Baptists, Quakers, Jews and other religious dissidents, including Anne Hutchinson, soon found a haven there.

Williams believed passionately in "soul liberty" or liberty of conscience. God had created human beings and endowed them with the inborn right to make choices in matters of faith. "It is the will and command of God," wrote Williams, "that a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Christian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries; and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God's spirit, the Word of God."

For Williams, religion was an inherent God-given right. Belief must never be coerced. History clearly demonstrated that subjecting the conscience to "spiritual and soul rape" had caused endless bloodshed and cost countless lives. Rulers in all ages, Williams wrote, have practiced "violence to the Souls of Men."

George Whitefield

George Whitefield was an Anglican priest and powerful orator with charismatic appeal. At the age of 25, he created a sensation in England by preaching outdoors and going over the heads of other priests to reach their congregations. In 1740, he brought that same defiance of authority to America, along with a savvy sense of the media. Newspaper ads announced his sermons; messengers rode ahead to spread the news of his coming appearances.

Whitefield was a staunch Calvinist. His central theme -- what must I do to be saved? -- was not new. His preaching style was. Ministers traditionally wrote sermons in longhand and read the text out loud in a dull monotone. The effect was often soporific. Drawing on his youthful foray into drama, Whitefield memorized his sermons, spoke without notes, varied the timbre of his voice and gestured with abandon. He drew freely on his own emotions, crying out, "My Master! My Lord!" It was said that he could utter the word "Mesopotamia" so that the entire crowd wept. The effect was electric. Crowds responded with outpourings of emotion. People cried, sobbed, shrieked, swooned and fainted. All of New England, it seemed, was seized by a spiritual convulsion.

Whitefield ignited the Great Awakening, a major religious revival that became the first major mass movement in American history. At its core, the Awakening changed the way that people experienced God. Instead of receiving religious instruction from their ministers, ordinary men and women unleashed their emotions to make an immediate, intense and personal connection with the divine. From New England to Georgia, the revival was marked by a broad populist tone -- small farmers, traders, artisans, servants and laborers were especially swept up by the preaching of Whitefield and his followers.

At first, established ministers had welcomed Whitefield and his fellow revivalists. Church attendance swelled. New energy was in the air. Soon, however, the clergy realized that the revivalists were challenging their authority. Itinerant preachers like Whitefield could preach anywhere; they did not need a church. Ignoring parish boundaries, they lured crowds away from the pews and into the fields. Once the revivalist ministers stirred up the populace, they were free to move on. Their emotional style disrupted the usual social decorum.

By 1742, an acrimonious debate about the Great Awakening had split the New England clergy into rival factions. The "Old Lights" opposed preachers like Whitefield; the "New Lights" supported them. Whitefield himself appeared to have second thoughts about the religious movement that he had ignited. But it was too late. Although the energy of the First Great Awakening subsided in the late 1740s, revivals became a persistent feature of the American religious landscape.



Anne Hutchinson

Trained as a midwife and nurse, Hutchinson began to hold small meetings in her home to discuss John Cotton's sermons. Soon the meetings were attracting up to 60 people -- men and women. For a woman to engage theological discussions posed a subtle challenge to the patriarchy that governed the Bay Colony. From across the street, John Winthrop characterized Hutchinson as "a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, of a nimble wit and active spirit, and a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man."

Hutchinson gave Winthrop ample reason to worry. In the fall of 1636, she accused Puritan ministers of making salvation dependent on an individual's good works rather than on divine grace, which was contrary to Puritan teaching. The ministers denied this charge, arguing that good works are evidence of conversion and salvation, not the grounds of salvation. They argued that they were therefore not teaching a Covenant of Works.

Hutchinson persisted, arguing that assurance of salvation came from a mystical experience of grace -- "an inward conviction of the coming of the Spirit." She believed that by teaching that good works were evidence of true conversion and salvation, ministers were still preaching a Covenant of Works rather than a Covenant of Grace.

Hutchinson went further, claiming that God had communicated to her by direct revelations and declaring that she was capable of interpreting the Scriptures on her own.

Hutchinson's charges constituted a frontal attack on the spiritual authority of both the church and society. For Puritans, the ultimate source of authority was the Bible as it was interpreted by duly authorized ministers. Hutchinson's claim that she possessed the authority to interpret the Bible challenged this basic principle. Even more galling was her claim that she received immediate revelations from God. Her challenge to official doctrine threatened to tear the Massachusetts Bay Colony apart.

In November 1637, Hutchinson was brought before the General Court, the colony's principal governing body, on charges of sedition. Winthrop questioned her closely, but she eluded his grasp. The court adjourned.

The following day Hutchinson changed her position. She freely acknowledged that God spoke to her directly. This claim constituted blasphemy. Now the court had grounds to punish her. The assembly voted and handed down its judgment: banishment.

Anne and her husband, William, found refuge in Roger Williams' colony in Providence, R.I. Hutchinson's experience speaks to a persistent question: What is the source of religious authority? Is it the individual or the community? Who decides? How much dissent can a religious community tolerate? What are the limits, if any?

Jonathan Edwards

As the Great Awakening swept across Massachusetts in the 1740s, Jonathan Edwards, a minister and supporter of George Whitefield, delivered what would become one of the most famous sermons from the colonial era, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The sermon featured a frightening central image: the hand of all-powerful God dangling a terrified believer over a fiery pit, ready on a moment's notice to drop him into the flames of eternal damnation. Edwards hoped his sermon would wake up the faithful and remind them of the terrible fate that awaited them if they failed to confess their sins and to seek God's mercy.

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" eclipsed Edwards' more important contribution to religion in America. The son and grandson of preachers, he not only became a minister but also one of the greatest theologians in American history. His precocious intelligence and range of intellect was evident early on. He learned Latin, read Newton's Optics and wrote about rainbows and the captivating movement of spiders. Reveling in nature, he found "a divine glory, in almost everything." He described his own religious experience in almost mystical terms, as being "swallowed up by God."

A prodigious writer, Edwards produced volumes of sermons, journals and observations. His capacious mind engaged two persistent religious questions that transcend time: What is the nature of religious experience? What is the source of religious authority? The question of experience arose with urgency during the Great Awakening. Heeding the calls of Whitefield and his followers, men and women frequently engaged in flamboyant displays of emotional excess, often accompanied by extreme bodily movements. Boston minister Charles Chauncy sharply criticized this behavior, arguing that people were being tricked by their overheated imaginations into calling the result true religion. Reason, not emotion or "animal instinct," he argued, must govern religious experience.

Jonathan Edwards demurred. In his Treatise on Religious Affectations, he defended the place of emotion in religious experience not as "animal instinct," but as part of human will. At the same time, he questioned whether subjective experience alone could serve as the source of religious authority. He concluded that individuals could not rely solely on their own spiritual experience, however luminous it appeared. Satan, Edwards warned, stood ever ready to appeal to human self-centeredness.

By the time he died in 1758, Edwards had left behind a formidable body of work that addressed topics that have occupied Christian thinkers for nearly 2,000 years: the nature of sin, the will and virtue. As his biographer Perry Miller noted, Edwards treated these topics "in the manner of Augustine, Aquinas, and Pascal, not as problems of dogma, but of life."



William Penn

The son of a successful British admiral, William Penn displayed an interest in religion from a young age. As an undergraduate at Oxford University, Penn criticized the elaborate ceremonies of the Anglican Church and protested compulsory chapel attendance. At age 17, he was expelled. In 1667 he joined the Society of Friends, or the Quakers.

Founded in 1647 by George Fox, the Quakers believed that all persons were equal before God and guided by an indwelling "inner Light," the Holy Spirit. Like the Puritan dissident Roger Williams, they opposed any attempt to restrict individual conscience. Church services were simple and unadorned: There were no ministers, no sacraments and no liturgy. They refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the king, to pay tithes to the church or to bear arms. In Anglican England, Quakers were considered heretics and were subject to arrest, persecution and imprisonment.

Penn himself was imprisoned six times. From his cell he wrote a passionate case for religious toleration titled No Cross, No Crown. In 1670, he completed The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience an argument against intrusion of civil authority in matters of religion. Over time, Penn produced a series of tracts, books, treatises and pamphlets, creating a canon that articulated Quaker beliefs and principles. But persecution of Quakers continued. Thousands were sent to prison. Penn began to envision a solution to the "Quaker problem": a new colony in the New World where Quakers and good Christians could live together in a "Holy Experiment."

In 1682, his "Holy Experiment" became a reality. Penn sailed to America on the ship Welcome and established Philadelphia, the "city of brotherly love," on an immense tract of land west of the Delaware River that King Charles II gave him in repayment for a debt owed to Penn's father.

Christians, especially persecuted Protestants, came in droves -- Mennonites, Amish and other Anabaptist groups; German Lutherans; German Reformed (Calvinists); Moravians; Scots-Irish Presbyterians; Welsh Baptists; Irish Catholics; and Missionary Anglicans. But there were limits. Atheists were excluded; Jews and other non-Christians were barred from holding office and voting.

The experiment faltered. Religious differences spawned political factionalism. In the Legislature, the Quaker party held the upper hand and resisted sharing power. Quakers themselves split into rival factions. Penn's trusted associates mismanaged funds. Penn was thrown into debtors' prison. He suffered two strokes, lost his memory and died penniless in 1718. Before his death, he had concluded that his Holy Experiment, his life's work, had been a failure.

Yet Penn's Holy Experiment lived on. By the time of the Revolution, the population of Pennsylvania had grown to 300,000, becoming a religious melting pot where Protestants of all kinds competed freely in a vibrant, if contentious, religious marketplace.



Thomas Hooker

Thomas Hooker was born of Puritan parents in the county of Leicestershire in 1586. As a University student he studied first at Queens College, Cambridge, but was later given a scholarship to Emmanuel College. While there he was challenged to a personal Christian faith through the encouragement of a fellow student.

After completing his studies he preached in various places. His reputation as a gifted preacher spread through England causing the folks of Chelmsford to invite him to be their "lecturer." As lecturer he was to preach to the community on market days and assist in the preaching on Sundays. Chelmsford had a reputation as a place full of alehouses and drunkenness, but under the influence of Hooker's godly preaching the town was changed for the better.

It was during this time that Archbishop William Laud became powerful. As the head of the English Church he determined to restrict the liberty of those preachers who did not strictly conform to his ideas. Though many ministers testified to his integrity and peacefulness, Hooker was ejected from his position in the Chelmsford Church.

Hooker set up a school in a nearby village. Here he trained children and gave wise counsel to ministers from around the area. Laud continued his harassment of Hooker, forcing him to flee the country. He preached for a time in Holland, but then returned to England to join others who were fleeing to the New World for religious freedom. Even as the ship set sail Laud's henchmen were searching for him.

Thomas Hooker arrived in Massachusetts in 1633. For a time Thomas and his family settled there while he served as the pastor of the 8th church in that colony. The civil situation was not completely harmonious between the leaders. John Cotton, another leader, wanted to set up a community in which only men who were members of the church and held property could vote. Thomas Hooker, like Cotton, wanted to build a godly community, but he believed all the men should have a voice and a vote.

This difference was settled when Thomas Hooker led about one hundred people away to begin a new settlement, which is now called Hartford, Connecticut. Later three settlements merged to form the Connecticut Colony. This colony put Hooker's principles into practice when it adopted the Fundamental Orders sometimes called the first written constitution.

John Davenport

Davenport, together with his long time friend Theophilus Eaton, members of St. Stephenn's parish, and other London puritans, arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in June 1637, at the time of the controversy swirling around Anne Hutchinson. Davenport boarded with John Cotton and sought to heal the breech that was threatening to divide the colony. He participated in the synod called to define religious errors, and preached to the Boston church. During the church trial of Anne Hutchinson he stood out among the clergy for his effort (unsuccessful) to bring her to a position that would have been considered orthodox.

In 1638 Davenport and his followers moved to southern New England, establishing the town of New Haven on land that they had been authorized to settle on by Lord Say and Sele and other holders of the Warwick Patent. Say and Sele and his fellow English proprietors had intended to establish a colony in the region and settle on it. The disruptions caused by the Pequot War in 1636 and developments in England at this time led to an abandonment of those plans. Subsequently, the New Haven settlers would accept additional towns under their control and in the process form what became known as the New Haven colony.

New Haven reflected Davenport's strong belief in religious congregationalism with church authority vested in those deemed elect, and his belief in the control of civil affairs by the godly. During the remainder of the 1630s and into the 1640s and 1650s, Davenport labored to promote education in his colony. He also followed events in England, taking hope from the Long Parliament's challenge to Charles I and the subsequent establishment of a puritan regime in the mother country. He was invited to sit in the Westminster Assembly of Divines, called to reform the Church of England, but declined. He also declined an invitation to play a role in the reformation of the religious scene in Ireland. But while remaining in New England, Davenport preached and wrote in support of the transformation of England.

Following the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in England in 1660, Davenport played a key role in sheltering some of the English regicides that had been condemned for their role in the execution of Charles I. In 1662 the New Haven colony was incorporated into its neighbor Connecticut. Davenport was strongly opposed to this but could not prevent it. At this time he also found himself fighting an uphill battle against a liberalization of church membership requirements in New England that became known as the Half-Way Covenant.

With the role of New Haven having been marginalized, Davenport welcomed a call in 1667 to become the pastor of the First Church in Boston, a congregation previously served by John Wilson, John Cotton, and John Norton. A strong minority of the Boston church were opposed to his call and the New Haven church was reluctant to let him go. Davenport proceeded anyway and the episode became a very divisive one. In 1669 he preached the election sermon to the Massachusetts General Court and used the occasion to urge his fellow New Englanders to hold fast to their mission and covenant with God.



Nathaniel Bacon

Nathaniel Bacon was born in England in 1647, was born a gentleman, educated at Cambridge and was related to the famous philosopher, Francis Bacon. By 1673 Bacon has migrated to America to start a new life in the Virginia Colony. Bacon was quickly accepted by the ruling elite in Virginia due to his background, given a place on Governor Berkeley's council (to whom Bacon was related by marriage), and well regarded--at least for a time.

Bacon's arrival in Virginia coincided with a number of crises that were roiling the colony. Previous trade problems had made tobacco trade less profitable, Native American relations had broken down into open warfare, and the governor, Sir William Berkeley had presided over the, "Long Parliament" that had sat for fourteen years without democratic elections. Berkeley's inaction in the face of these challenges prompted the colonists to seek leadership elsewhere--Bacon was not shy to assume that leadership.

Nathaniel Bacon responded to the security panic of the subjects in Charles City County by assuming the command of a force to attack the native tribes. Berkeley charged Bacon with rebellion and treason for attacking the tribe without commission. Bacon, however, was supported by public opinion and elected to the House of Burgesses from Henrico County even as Berkeley removed Bacon from the council. The new elections only solidified the radical faction in the colony and made government less manageable than before.

Bacon was captured and taken to the Capitol in Jamestown. Berkeley seems to have been effected by the large crowds that gathered to support Bacon, and so Berkeley offered Bacon a pardon if he could once again behave like a "gentleman" along with Bacon's written admission of guilt.

Bacon returned to Jamestown at the head of 100 men to demand a commission from the Governor. The Governor and Assembly gave Bacon a commission and enacted several reforms that democratized the Virginia government, but not without the Bacon men shooting into the Assembly building and frightening the sitting lawmakers. "Bacon's Laws" as the reforms became known reduced the influence of the ruling few in Virginia. Voting was now to be the franchise of all freemen, the Vestry was to be elected instead of serving life appointments, more representation in taxation was made possible, and overlapping office holding was abolished.

As soon as Bacon left Jamestown to fight the native tribes, the Governor denounced Bacon as a traitor and tried to raise troops to end the rebellion. Bacon returned with his force to Jamestown, estimated at 1300 strong, and forced the Governor to flee. Bacon's force was doomed to be swamped by disease and the gathering might of the British Empire. Before a major battle could be fought, Bacon died of fever in October of 1676. Bacon's Laws were immediately repealed, but over time many were reenacted by the Burgesses who sympathized with the mode moderate aims of the rebellion.

Jemmy (The Stono Rebellion)

Small groups of runaway slaves, led by an Angolan named Jemmy, had made their way from South Carolina to Florida, where they had been given freedom and land from the Spanish. Looking to cause unrest within the English colonies, the Spanish had issued a proclamation stating that any slave who deserted to St Augustine would be given the same treatment. Certainly this influenced the potential rebels and made them willing to accept their situation. A fall epidemic had disrupted the colonial government in nearby Charlestown (Charleston), and word had just arrived that England and Spain were at war, raising hopes that the Spanish in St. Augustine would give a positive reception to slaves escaping from Carolina plantations.


In mid-August, a Charlestown newspaper announced the Security Act. A response to the white's fears of insurrection, the act required that all white men carry firearms to church on Sundays, a time when whites usually didn't carry weapons and slaves were allowed to work for themselves. Anyone who didn't comply with the new law by September 29 would be subjected to a fine.
Whatever triggered the Rebellion, early on the morning of the 9th, a Sunday, about twenty slaves gathered near the Stono River in St. Paul's Parish, less than twenty miles from Charlestown. The slaves went to a shop that sold firearms and ammunition, armed themselves, then killed the two shopkeepers who were manning the shop. From there the band walked to the house of a Mr. Godfrey, where they burned the house and killed Godfrey and his son and daughter. They headed south. It was not yet dawn when they reached Wallace's Tavern. Because the innkeeper at the tavern was kind to his slaves, his life was spared. The white inhabitants of the next six or so houses they reach were not so lucky -- all were killed. The slaves belonging to Thomas Rose successfully hid their master, but they were forced to join the rebellion. Other slaves willingly joined the rebellion. By eleven in the morning, the group was about 50 strong. The few whites whom they now encountered were chased and killed, though one individual, Lieutenant Governor Bull, eluded the rebels and rode to spread the alarm.
The slaves stopped in a large field late that afternoon, just before reaching the Edisto River. They had marched over ten miles and killed between twenty and twenty-five whites.
Around four in the afternoon, somewhere between twenty and 100 whites had set out in armed pursuit. When they approached the rebels, the slaves fired two shots. The whites returned fire, bringing down fourteen of the slaves. By dusk, about thirty slaves were dead and at least thirty had escaped. Most were captured over the next month, then executed; the rest were captured over the following six months -- all except one who remained a fugitive for three years.
Uncomfortable with the increasing numbers of blacks for some time, the white colonists had been working on a Negro Act that would limit the privileges of slaves. This act was quickly finalized and approved after the Stono Rebellion. No longer would slaves be allowed to grow their own food, assemble in groups, earn their own money, or learn to read. Some of these restrictions had been in effect before the Negro Act, but had not been strictly enforced.

William & Mary (The Glorious Revolution)

For eleven years from the execution of Charles I in 1649 to the restoration of his son Charles II in 1660, England and Scotland were republics.  Under the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, Great Britain was governed by Oliver Cromwell. The Puritans pioneered many principles of government that were later copied in Massachusetts and the New England colonies.  Many ideas, that we now call democratic, derive from these rigidly moralistic fundamentalists.  A majority of the English people, however, were not Puritans.  They did not like the Puritan laws against the theater, dancing, drinking, and gambling.  After Oliver Cromwell died, there was a general groundswell for a restoration of the legitimate king, Charles II.

The Restored Stuarts once again ran into conflict with Parliament and the influential personages of the kingdom.  Religion was, again, one of the root causes of disagreement.  James II had married, a second time while in exile during the Cromwell years, a French princess, who was Catholic.  It was widely believed that James II was himself a Catholic.  When this long-barren marriage produced unexpectedly a son, who was christened as a Catholic, the country rebelled against the king.  It was feared that a Catholic monarchy would try to re-establish Catholicism as the official religion of England.  Remember, in the 17th century, all European countries had an official religion and dissenters were not tolerated.  Since the Restoration, the official religion of England had been Anglicanism; in Scotland, it remained Presbyterianism.  It is difficult to explain to modern students the degree of fear and animosity that religious differences produced at this time.  A Catholic king who might restore Catholicism as the official religion of England was simply intolerable to England.  The result was the Glorious Revolution.

Between 1688 and 1689, Parliament engineered the ouster of the legitimate male line of Stuart kings and imported a new Protestant king and queen:  William III and Mary II.  Mary II was the Protestant daughter of James II from his first wife.  William was her husband. William of Orange was the Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic and the primary opponent of the French Catholic king Louis XIV.

William managed to take a small fleet from the Netherlands to England and marched on London to the cheers of the crowds who welcomed him.  James II and his family fled London to seek refuge, once again, at the court of Louis XIV.  James II fled because he remembered the fate of his father. The ouster of James II and the victory of William and Mary was largely bloodless.  Parliament had engineered a change of government.  Parliament had proven its ultimate superiority to the king.  This was the Glorious Revolution.

The Glorious Revolution established the victory of Parliament over the King.  Various contested issues of power were resolved in favor of Parliament.  Parliament had to be convened regularly.  All new taxes had to be approved by Parliament.  The king and his family had to belong to the Anglican religion. 



Jacob Leisler

Jacob Leisler was a German immigrant and penniless soldier, who shared in the widespread colonial resentment of colonial officials, particularly those appointed by Stuart King James II and thus suspected of being Roman Catholics.

Seeking advancement, German-born Jacob Leisler had emigrated to New Netherland in 1660. He married a wealthy widow and found success in business and trade. Although based primarily in Manhattan, in 1676, Leisler spent some time upriver and had appeared before the Albany court concerning the preaching’s of Dominie Nicholas Van Rensselaer. Upon receiving word of the Glorious Revolution in England, many colonists rebelled against the deposed king's colonial officials.

Leisler led an insurrection against local colonial and his militia managed to gain control of southern New York, proclaiming William and Mary as the new sovereigns, and appointing Leisler commander in chief. Though the wealthy viewed his rise as populism run amok, small farmers and city workers actively supported his rule by military force. He established a government to act in place of the existing provincial structure. Its activities included appointing local officials in Albany. Leisler's regime ended when he was arrested and then executed in 1691.

Led by Pieter Schuyler, Albany's established leaders were unmoved by Leisler's claim to de facto power. At that time, a number of Leisler's opponents in Manhattan had taken refuge in Albany among what was considered a majority of kindred spirits. Leisler sought acceptance in Albany and countered by appointing a slate of municipal officers to govern the new city. He also commissioned a number of militia officers. Under the pretense of rushing to Albany's defense against an impending French invasion, he sent his brother-in-law, Jacob Milbourne, upriver to foster Albany's compliance.

When King William sent troops under Major Richard Ingolesby in 1691, Leisler refused to recognize Ingoldesby's authority, and fighting soon broke out. New governor Henry Sloughter arrived thereafter, and Leisler surrendered. He and his son-in-law were tried, convicted of treason and hanged in May 1691. The lingering Leisler/anti-Leisler divide consumed New York politics for generations. Four years after their executions, Parliament retroactively exonerated Leisler and his son-in-law of all charges.



Popay (The Pueblo Revolt)

In 1540 the first Spanish expedition arrived in the area of present-day New Mexico, led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. However, it was not until the arrival of Oñate that a permanent Spanish colony was established. Oñate entered New Mexico hoping to find riches, but his failure to uncover mineral wealth nearly resulted in the abandonment of the settlement. The Franciscans, who had already set up an extensive system of missions among the Pueblos, fought to keep the settlement alive. They argued that they could not abandon those Pueblos that had already converted. In 1608, the Spanish government agreed with the Franciscans and continued to fund the venture with royal coffers.

Despite Franciscan attempts to facilitate conversion by fostering a sense of congruity between the two religious. Spanish Catholicism and Pueblo belief systems remained deeply irreconcilable. On the surface some Pueblos accepted the Catholic religion, however they also kept their traditional beliefs close to the heart. A sense of syncretism did not result from the two belief systems instead the Pueblos learned how to compartmentalize or keep these often-opposing religions separate. In response, the Spanish punished Pueblo individuals that continued to maintain their native religion.

Spanish authorities systematically subjugated the inhabitants of the pueblos. Spanish soldiers and priests imposed a forced-labor system, encomienda, which resembled slavery, and prevented the Pueblo Indians from communing with their gods. Indians who had lived and worshiped independently for centuries were forced to abandon their religions, adopt Christianity, and pay tribute to Spanish rulers. Their traditional centers of worship (kivas) were destroyed along with the sacramental objects (kachinas) with which their ceremonies and devotions had always been performed. The Spaniards lived in continual fear that their expulsion was imminent, and exercised unceasing vigilance in order to keep a hold on the province. Resistance to Spanish rule was met with imprisonment, torture, and amputations.

In the spring of 1680, the Pueblo Indians rose up to overthrow the Spanish. A religious leader from Taos Pueblo named Popay secretly organized a widespread rebellion to occur throughout the region on a single day. Planning took shape silently during the summer of 1680 in more than 70 communities, from Santa Fe and Taos in the Rio Grande valley to the Hopi pueblos nearly 300 miles west. On the night of August 10, 1680, Indians in more than two dozen pueblos simultaneously attacked the Spanish authorities. A force of 2,500 Indian warriors sacked and burned the colonial headquarters in Santa Fe. By the time the revolt succeeded, Indian fighters had killed more than 400 Spanish soldiers and civilians (including two-thirds of the Catholic priests in the region) and had driven the surviving Europeans back to El Paso.

John Peter Zenger

John Peter Zenger, the printer whose prosecution helped establish the principles of press freedom and jury nullification, came to America in his early teens. His father died during the family's voyage to America, and the younger Zenger worked for several years as an indentured servant for printer William Bradford before opening his own print shop in 1726. Seven years later he started the New York Weekly Journal, the second newspaper in the colony of New York, competing with the Gazette published by his former master.

In the early 1730's, the Colony of New York was under the jurisdiction of Governor William Cosby. The New York Weekly Journal became critical of the Governor after he replaced Lewis Morris, the Chief Justice of New York, for deciding a lawsuit against the Governor. Stridently partisan in its approach, the Journal was relentless in its criticism and lampooning of Royal Governor William Cosby and his administration.

The critical articles were authored by James Alexander, the founder and editorialist of the New York Weekly Journal, and printed by John Peter Zenger. Alas, it was the hapless printer (as publisher he could be held liable under law) who was sued by the Governor "for printing and publishing several seditious libels dispersed throughout his journals or newspapers, entitled The New York Weekly Journal; as having in them many things tending to raise factions and tumults among the people of this Province, inflaming their minds with contempt of His Majesty's government, and greatly disturbing the peace thereof" (Bench Warrant for Arrest of John Peter Zenger, November 2, 1734).

He engaged two lawyers to represent him, and both were promptly disbarred. He then called upon an out-of-state barrister, Andrew Hamilton (c. 1676-1741), who had less to fear from New York's oppressive Governor Cosby. English law at the time, which was designed to protect the government from critical elements, dictated that truth was not a defense to libel. At trial Hamilton admitted that the Journal had printed the items in question, but he made the novel claim that because the criticism was truthful, Zenger should not be punished. When the prosecution pointed out that truth was no defense to charges of sedition, Hamilton's next argument, perhaps even more radical, was to tell the jury to not merely judge whether the law was broken but to determine whether the law was just.

Zenger was held behind bars for 35 weeks but his trial took only two days, and in the next edition of the paper he reported that "The jury returned in ten minutes, and found me not guilty". The jury exonerated Zenger thereby establishing an ongoing central tenet to defamation law: that truth is an absolute defense.

During his time in jail, Zenger's wife and colleagues had continued publishing the Journal, and continued its criticisms of the Governor. His prosecution and trial, and his letters written from jail and published in the Journal, helped galvanize American resentment of the colonies' British overlords. More than forty years after his death, Zenger's name was frequently mentioned in the debate that culminated with the American Bill of Rights in 1789.

Metacom (King Philip’s War)

During the days of Massasoit, sachem (chief) of the Wampanoag, the tribe occupied the lands from the eastern side of Narragansett Bay to Cape Cod, including Martha`s Vineyard and Nantucket. Massasoit had cultivated harmonious relations with the colonists, being especially helpful to the Pilgrims in their early travails, but tribal lands diminished sharply as the colonists expanded. In 1662, Metacom, a son of Massasoit and known to the colonists as King Philip, became sachem.

By the 1660s settlers had outgrown their dependence on the Indians for wilderness survival techniques and had substituted fishing and commerce for the earlier lucrative fur trade. When combined with the Wampanoags` dependence upon English manufactured goods led them into ever-increasing land sales, resulting in further resentment and tension. In 1675, three tribal members were tried and executed by the English for the murder of a converted Wampanoag, touching off more than a year of hostilities.

Beginning in June 1675, the Wampanoag, outfitted with rifles and armor, attacked a series of settlements and took the lives of dozens of colonial men, women and children. English forces retaliated in kind by destroying native villages and slaughtering the inhabitants. Soon other tribes, including the Narragansett, joined the fray and the entire region fell into conflict.

The tide turned in April 1676, when the Narragansett were decisively defeated and their chief killed. Hostilities ground to a halt a few months later when Philip was betrayed captured and killed. His corpse was drawn and quartered and his severed head placed on a stake to be paraded through Plymouth Colony. Philip`s son was sold into slavery in Bermuda and many other captives were forced into servitude in homes throughout New England.

Also suffering tremendously during the conflict were the so-called "Praying Indians," who had been converted to Christianity, but were distrusted by both sides.



The colonists prevailed in King Philip`s War, but the cost was tremendous. It would be more than two decades before all of the devastated frontier settlements could be reoccupied, and longer still before they began further expansion in the West. The New England Native Americans had been decimated to the extent that their impact on future events would be almost nonexistent.

The conflict is the bloodiest in 17th-century New England, temporarily devastating the frontier communities but eventually eradicating native military resistance to the European colonization of that region.


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