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“divers Lords and others of the Parliament” “professed their great desires” that he might have friendly treatment. Hastening towards his home, he was met at Seekonk by his friends, who in fourteen canoes had come out from Providence to offer their welcome, and conduct him on his way. To a sanguine temper, such as his, it may be supposed that the moment was one of exultation as well as of hope. “Being hemmed in, in the middle of the canoes, he was elevated and transported out of himself.”” But the exultation was premature, and the hope was destined to be long in suspense. It might seem that the terms of the patent of the “Providence Plantations” were easy enough to content minds not hard to be pleased; but the eccentric persons who had come into each other's neighborhood about Narragansett Bay were not prepared as yet to work together in any government. That pressure of encroachments from the adjacent Colonies, of which they complained, might alone have been supposed capable of uniting them for mutual security. Plymouth sent one of her Assistants to Rhode Island, “to signify to all that were interested in that newly erected government,” that a great part of the territory claimed by them was within the patent limits of Plymouth, and would undoubtedly, on better information be acknowledged to be so by Parliament, and to warn them against exercising any act of government within that domain." The Secretary of Massachusetts informed Williams of the recent reception of “a charter from the authority of the High Court of Parliament,” dated three months earlier than the patent of the “Providence Plantations,” and giving to Massachusetts “the Narragansett Bay, and a certain tract of land wherein Providence and the island of Quidy [Aquetnet] were included.” But a common danger did not yet avail to combine the Narragansett settlers for common action. With resolute perverseness they still stood apart, each settlement from the other settlements, and parties within each settlement from other parties. Whether it was to escape the annoyances of a turbulent neighborhood, or merely with a view to push his fortune, Williams, soon after his return from abroad, withdrew from what was for him the natural scene of action, to a residence in the heart of the Narragansett country, where he established a traffic with the Indians." It seems, however, that his political relation to his former associates did not cease; for, when preparation had at length been made for an attempt to put in operation a government under the patent, we find him Moderator of a meeting held at
* The letter is in Winthrop, II, 193. It does not purport to be from the Commissioners who signed the patent; and the names of only three of them (Holland, Wharton, and Corbet) are subscribed to it. Were the Commissioners cautious about compromising their dignity by demanding of Massachusetts what she was not unlikely to deny ?
* Richard Scott's letter, in the Appendix to Fox and Burnyeat's “New
England Fire-Brand Quenched.” – Scott, as a Quaker, had become angry with Williams before he wrote (which was in 1677); and, with an anachronism of his emotions, he supposes himself to have been angry at the time when he assisted with his canoe in the aquatic procession. “I was condemned in myself, that, amongst the rest, I had been an instrument to set him up in his pride and folly.”
* Winthrop, II. 220 ; comp. 251, 252. – Winslow says (Hypocrisie Unmasked, &c., 83) that this messenger, Browne, (a Magistrate of Plymouth,) reported, on his return from Rhode Island, that he found the people collected in a “public meeting for a most vile end; namely, to take into consideration a new disposal of the lands formerly given out, as if some had too much, and some too little, and for no respect of persons, and their estates was to be laid aside.” No wonder that the rich “Mr. Coddington, Mr. Brenabhorred their course, abstained from their meetings, looked upon themselves as persons in great danger, and bemoaned their condition to divers their friends, being now overwhelmed with cares and fears what would be the issue of things.” (Ibid.) The statement cannot be compared with the Newport Records, which present a large lacuna after March of this year. Gorton says that Browne “went from house to house, both in Portsmouth and Newport, discouraging the people for yielding any obedience to the authority of the charter.” (Simplicitie's Defence, 91.) Without doubt, Browne's business at Rhode Island was to “discourage’ the people there from all such use of the charter as would wrong Plymouth.
* Mass. Rec., III.49; R. I. Rec., I. 133; comp. Winthrop, II. 220. – Re
VOL. II. 19
specting this patent, dated in the sixth week after the Parliamentary Commission was instituted, (see above, p. 122, note 2,) there are some things obscure. It was probably obtained by Welde (R. I. Rec., II. 162); and, I presume, without authority from Massachusetts. Williams's patent conflicts with it; and we are left without information as to the cause which could have led to such an inconsistency on the part of the Commissioners. The forbearance of Massachusetts to found any practical claim upon it is remarkable. I conceive the reason to have been the caution of her Magistrates about involving themselves in an admission of the lawfulness of the authority intrusted to the Parliamentary Commissioners, which admission might presently be turned back upon herself. The patent also contained a provision which would have prejudiced them against it, even if it had come from Parliament itself. In the followlowing year, there was a movement to “petition the Parliament for enlargement of power, &c.” But, among other objections by which it was defeated, one was, “If we take a charter from the Parliament, we can expect no other than such as they have granted to us at Narragansett, and to others in other places, wherein they reserve a supreme power in all things.” (Winthrop, II. 280.)
His removal into the Narragansett Country.
Providence for that purpose.
1647. May 16.
* In his letters thence, Williams calls the place Cawcawmsqussick. It was in what is now the town of North Kingston. He there became the neighbor, and perhaps a sort of partner, of one Richard Smith, who was probably there three or four years before him. In a paper signed by Roger Williams, in 1679, which I saw in the State Paper Office in London, he says: “Richard Smith, senior, deceased, for his conscience towards God, left a fair possession in Gloucestershire, and adventured with his relations and estate to New England, and was a most acceptable and prime leading man in Taunton, in Plymouth county. For his conscience’ sake (many difficulties arising) he left Taunton, and came to the Nahigansic country, where by the mercy of God, and the favor of the Nahigansic Sachems, he broke the ice at his great charges and hazards, and put up, in the thickest of the barbarians, the first house among them. I humbly testify, that about forty years from this date, he kept possession, coming and going, himself, children, and servants, and he had quiet possession of his housing,
With nine other
land, and meadow, and then, in his own
Greene and Richard Waterman, he was elected to represent the inhabitants of that town at a Convention of Deputies from the Narragansett settlements, appointed to be held on the second following day. They were invested with authority “to act and vote,” in behalf of their constituents, “for the settling of the General Court for the present, and for the composing of it into any figure for the future, as cause should require;” and further, “to act and vote for them, as aforesaid, in the choice of all general officers, as need should require.” Votes were passed at the same time, expressing the desire of the inhabitants to have their municipal government remain intact, and “to have an exact and orderly way open for appeals unto General Courts.”” The defective state of the records leaves us in ignorance concerning preliminary proceedings in the other settlements in this quarter. Deputies, representing all of them, came together, and remained in session three days. Their business must have been diligently prepared; for, in addition to a constitution of government, they established a minute code of laws. “It was agreed that Warwick should have the same privileges as Providence,” and “that the general officers for the whole Colony should be these; namely, one President, four Assistants (in every town one), one General Recorder, one Public Treasurer, and a General Sergeant, which officers should be chosen every year in the General Assembly, and towards the latter end of that session.” For the first year, John Coggeshall was elected President; William Dyer, Recorder; and Jeremy Clarke, Treasurer. These all belonged to Newport. The first Assistants were Roger Williams, for Providence; John Sanford, for Portsmouth; William Coddington, for Newport; and Randall Holden, for Warwick." The inferior position assigned to Williams and to Coddington may be a symptom of the jealousy between, or the party spirit within, the towns of which they were respectively the founders. The scheme proved a failure. The people were not yet ready for a government. The machinery had taken i.e., some three years to construct and set a-going, * after its construction had been authorized by the patent. In three years more it ran down. Three only of the proposed annual Assemblies were held. At the first, the Frame of Government was so far amended as to constitute a lawful General Court on a basis of representation, instead of an assemblage of the whole isis. eople. “Six men of each town,” so the Order * * provides, “shall be chosen, in whom the General Court shall continue; and each town here shall have the choice of their men, if they please; or, if any town refuse, the Court shall choose them for them ; if any else beside will tarry, they may, whose help is desired.”” 1619. At the second annual Assembly, some cases of ** fraudulent voting having become known, precautions were adopted against a repetition of the abuse; and it was ordered that persons refusing to take public office should be subject to fines.” Tokens of the indifference of the people to their government, and of the early igo derangement into which it had fallen, appear in ** measures which the third annual Assembly found
Institution of a government under the patent of Providence Plantations. May 19–21.
* R. I. Rec., I. 43.
* Ibid., 148. — So recklessly did these impulsive people transact their affairs. The patent under which they were proposing to erect a government was given to “the inhabitants of the towns of Providence, Portsmouth, and New
port.” Warwick was not mentioned;
nor, by any violence of construction,
could it be included within one or an
other of those which were; nor, had it
been so included, could it have had its
* R. I. Rec., I. 148. with propositions for Rhode Island to
* Ibid., 209. — September 23d of this subject to Plymouth, to which himself year, Williams wrote to the younger and Portsmouth incline. Our other Winthrop: “Our neighbor, Mr. Cod- three towns decline.” (Mass. Hist. dington, and Captain Partridge, ten Coll., XXIX. 271.) days since returned from Plymouth * R. I. Rec., L. 217, 218.