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History of Connecticut
CIVIL AND ECCLESIASTICAL
From the Emigration of its First Planters, from England,
Close of the Indian Wars
IN TWO VOLUMES
BENJAMIN TRUMBULL, D.D.
CONTAINING THE ORIGINAL PATENT OF NEW ENGLAND
Published by H. D. Utley
It is an open question whether a reprint of Dr. Benjamin Trumbull's History of Connecticut should be modernized even by an introduction. It stands to-day, as it has stood for a century, the most careful, minute, and conscientious chronicle of the colonial history of the State which has ever been written; and it is safe to say that the future historian will, like his predecessors, make numerous citations from this old standard history, and will take the risk—always a dangerous one-of omitting some of the minute details which its venerable author has so carefully recorded.
At the request of the publisher, and under circumstances affording but little time for a full and careful review of the subject, I have undertaken to preface the reprint with a few words of introduction and explanation, and have added an index, lacking in the original, in which an attempt has been made to give, as far as possible, full names in instances where the author only gives surnames of persons; and the present names of places by references from the original names which he uses in many instances. I have also undertaken to add to the reprint a few annotations, correcting the errors, surprisingly few in a work of such minuteness, which have been noted by various historians and others in the course of a century of reading and criticism. No pretension is made either to completeness or editorship in doing this.
It is quite possible that it will be a disappointment to some of the profounder students of history that this reprint is not edited in such a way as to modernize it completely, if that were possible. This would be a difficult, if not an impossible task. The author's chief aim is to give a fair and faithful recital of the events of this all-important period of the history of Connecticut. His own point of view, his personal opinion, rarely appear in the course of his work, and never in an obtrusive way. He is more of a chronicler than historian. A modern writer with the same task before
him would, no doubt, employ different methods and reach more numerous conclusions, varying widely from those of the author in the few instances where comparison could be made. It might be edifying, for example, to compare his statement that the propagation of religious liberty was one of the leading motives for the settlement of New England by the Puritans, with John Fiske's statement that “the notion that they came to New England for the purpose of establishing religious liberty in any sense in which we should understand such a phrase, is entirely incorrect.” But, after all, the grafting of new ideas on such a sturdy old trunk as Trumbull's Connecticut can hardly yield the best results; and it is doubtful if there is such a thing as hybridizing history successfully. For the reason that a reprint so edited would not form even a composite colonial history of the State, and that it might be the means of discouraging some historian who may have in view the much needed work of writing a complete history covering the period of the Revolution and the Civil War, it is best that Trumbull's work should be left as we find it, with only the additions already mentioned. His expressed wish “ to assist future historians " has already been partially fulfilled, as may be seen by reference to the “luminous page of Hollister," and others; but the complete history of the State still remains to be written, and a mine of unused information still remains in the work now reprinted.
In addition to the corrections which the footnotes afford, a few words should be said regarding the author's mention of the subject of witchcraft in Connecticut, or, rather, his explanation of his omission to record any executions for what was once known as that crime. It is, I believe, strictly true, as he says, “ that no indictment of any person for that crime, nor any process relative to that affair, can be found.” It must be confessed, however, that a careful study of the official colonial records of Connecticut and New Haven leaves no doubt that Goodwife Bassett was convicted and hung at Stratford, for witchcraft in 1651, and Goodwife Knapp at Fairfield in 1653. It is also recorded in Winthrop's Journal, to the no small satisfaction of its editor, Savage, that “ One of Windsor was arraigned and executed at Hartford for a witch" in March, 1646-47, which, if it actually occurred, forms the first instance of an execution for witchcraft in New England. The quotation here given is the only known authority for the statement, and opens the question whether something probably recorded as hearsay in a journal may be taken as authoritative