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her stand. “They knew well,” they said in their replies, “that no authority or power in parents, magistrates, commissioners, &c., doth or ought to hold against God or his commands.” They “readily acknowledged that all counsels, laws, and conclusions, whether of magistrates, General Courts, or Commissioners, so far as they were manifestly unjust, were, and ought to be accounted, of no force. But,” they added, “we conceive that is not the question here.” With Massachusetts, however, — professedly, at any rate, – that was precisely the question. And, that being the question, she was immovable. In the sequel of an animated correspondence, the dissatisfied Commissioners threatened to dissolve the Confederacy, and “return without loss of time to their other occasions.” The Court briefly replied on the next day:—“We see not reason to protract time in fruitless and needless returns; we shall acquiesce in our last paper, and commit the success to God.” To make sure, however, of being “rightly understood,” when they learned that the Commissioners were about to disperse, they followed their “short writing” with a vote expressing their sense, “that, by the Articles of Confederation, so far as the determinations of the Commissioners are just and according to God, the several Colonies are bound before God and men to act accordingly, and that they sin and break covenant if they do not; but otherwise,” they added, “we judge we are not bound, neither before God nor men.” This explanation the Commissioners “so far accepted" as to determine to refer to their respective General Courts the question which had arisen, and to proceed to the ordinary business of the session.” Whatever judgment may be passed upon the skill in argument with which Massachusetts vindicated her course on this occasion, no conclusion, different from that which she announced, could have been expected to follow from the principles which steadily guided her action in the early times, provided the conviction professed by her respecting the character of the facts, to which those principles were now to be applied, was really entertained. Whether or not she had either incautiously or deliberately subscribed to a form of words expressing a contract with others to join them, at their pleasure, in what she might account a causeless and therefore wicked war, her enlightened conscience could not fail to satisfy her, as soon as the case arose, that she had not, and could not have, entered in fact into a stipulation to that effect; inasmuch as such a stipulation would have been essentially invalid and void from the beginning, as being contrary to good morals. It is not possible, in the nature of things, for two par. ties to enter into an obligatory engagement together to do a wrong to a third party. A mutual engagement to spoil and kill the innocent, is the bond of banditti, which courts and gibbets, carrying into effect the moral sense of men, refuse to recognize. What the sense of justice of Massachusetts was to be overruled by on this occasion, if overruled by anything, was her confederation with her sister Colonies. A confederation is a mutual compact, or promise, made between communities; and a promise made by a community is subject to the same conditions as a promise made by an individual. One of these conditions is, that, so far as a promise, by its terms, would require the doing of an immoral act, it has, and can have, no binding force. It is not, and never was, a promise, because the essential element of obligation was absent from it; or rather—to present the truth more fully — because antecedent, paramount, and inviolable obligations would be violated by its being kept. If the contingency that an engagement with another party will prove to have pledged the promiser to an unrighteous act be looked forward to, the engagement cannot be made without crime ; but in any case, a promise, whether of an individual or of a community, has no virtue to require, or justify, or excuse, or palliate an act which, independent of it, would be culpable." On this occasion, the Commissioners of the three smaller Colonies declared that Massachusetts was dissolving the Confederacy, when she refused to do at its bidding what in their view was right, but what was in her judgment a gross iniquity; and a famous divine of the day could find Scripture to quote against her.” But she knew no obligation entitled to interfere with that allegiance to the right and to God, which, however it may be stigmatized in the wickedness or the fatuity of party strife, is the only salt the world affords to keep either men or states from rottenness. She had made the Confederacy, and it was valuable and dear to her. But when its engagements were pleaded for what to her was a crime, she could not shut her eyes to the truth, that the frown of the God of justice was a calamity more to be dreaded than a severance of that union. They who spoke her magnanimous purpose knew that a strife with persons made resolute by a thoughtful and religious sense of duty often ends, when the adverse party is accessible to reason, in its abandoning the point in dispute. They knew further, that they were now dealing with men of religious integrity; and they did not believe that, on reflection, such men would decide to break with them for refusing to do what their honest convictions condemned. The event easily justified their wisdom. But, had the prospect, or the event, been different, these were not men who chiefly regarded present perplexities or apparent hazards. They had an absolute conviction that, so long as they followed their sense of right, and only so long, an Almighty Protector was at their side. There had been, within the same time, important transactions with the Indians besides those incident to their supposed conspiracy with the Dutch. The leading spirit among them, after the death of Miantonomo, was his ally, Ninigret, sachem of the Nyantics. Pessacus was a person of unenterprising character, and the energy with which he had been treated had a permanent effect.' Hearing that an assault had been made upon some Long-Island Indians, said to be friendly to the English, the Coman....... missioners sent a message to the Narragansett so. and Nyantic chiefs, requiring them to appear at o, Boston in person or by envoys, and “clear them** selves, or render a reason of their hostile invasion.” The bearers of the message returned with a report of “rude and hostile affronts offered by Ninigret's men,” and of “proud, peremptory, and offensive answers” from himself. He had also told them that “his heart was not willing to come to the Bay.” Upon these grounds, and in consideration of the other causes of suspicion and displeasure which the savage had given through a course of years, the Commissioners voted, that they “conceived themselves called by God to make a present war against Ninigret, the Nyantic sachem, and such as, by cleaving to him, should maintain his late hostile and bloody proceedings.” For this service they resolved to raise a force of two hundred and fifty men; one hundred and sixty-six to be furnished by Massachusetts, thirty-three by Connecticut, thirty by Plymouth, and twenty-one by New Haven. Neither of the Commissioners from Massachusetts signed these votes. Bradstreet formally registered his dissent. “There being no agreement,” said he, “produced or proved, whereby the Colonies are obliged to protect the Long-Island Indians against Ninigret or others, and so no reason to engage them in their quarrels, the grounds whereof they cannot well understand, I therefore see not sufficient light to assent to this vote.” " The resentment of the western Colonies, now directed specially against the Nyantic chief, was again overruled by the calmer judgment of Massachusetts. On receiving information of the action of the Com- ... missioners, the Magistrates of that Colony re- o solved that they “did not see sufficient grounds, either from any obligation of the English towards the Long-Islanders, or from the usage the messengers received from the Indians, or from any other motive presented unto their consideration, or from all of them; and therefore dared not to exercise their authority to levy force within their jurisdiction to undertake a present war against Ninigret.” The flame, that had scarcely been kept under, now broke out afresh. The Commissioners of the three smaller Colonies united, not only in confirming their recent action against the Nyantics, but in renewing their vote for war against the Dutch; and they passed a Resolve, that “the Massachusetts had actually broken their covenant.” Bradstreet recorded his protest against this Resolve, “solemnly professing” that it was not “the mind” of his government “to oppose the determination of the Commissioners further than they conceived the same to oppose the mind of God.” The Commissioners admitted “that any determination of theirs manifestly unjust was not binding;” but they insisted, that, their present determination not being of that character, the plea of Massachusetts was not to the present purpose.” The General Court of Massachusetts now addressed themselves directly to the governments of the other Col
* Records, &c., in Hazard, 273 – 283; – 173; comp. Mass. Rec., II. 140 – 144, Mass. Rec., III. 323-327, IV. (i.) 166 III. 311 – 316.
* Paley has stated these principles phy, Book III, Part I. Chap. V. § 3, with the clearness and neatness, which Chap. VI.; comp. Wattel, Droit des were usual with him when he treated Gens, Liv. II. § 228.) subjects that he had mastered. (Prin- * Letter of Mr. Norris, of Salem, in ciples of Moral and Political Philoso- Hazard, II. 255, 256.