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the emigration to Rhode Island, did not involve questions Baptists at respecting the subjects or the mode of baptism. Newport. It is believed to have been about the seventh * year after the beginning of the plantation at Newport, that a church of Baptists — or Anabaptists, as they were called by their opponents — was gathered there." Its principal member was John Clarke, who had already been, during most of the time, the religious teacher, as well as the physician, of the settlement.” Coddington did not belong to it; and Clarke and he were thrown into further opposition. The opinions of the Baptists did not gain acceptance in Rhode Island only. Writing in the same year, when perhaps he already knew what had been there done, Winthrop says: “Anabaptistry increased and spread in the country, which occasioned the Magistrates at the last Court to draw an order for banishing such as continued obstinate after due conviction. This was sent to the Elders, who approved of it with some mitigations, and, being voted and sent to the Deputies, it was after published.”” In their statute the law-makers alleged the considerations which moved them to enact it. It was as follows:– “Forasmuch as experience hath plentifully and often ,...e., proved that, since the first arising of the Ana... baptists, about a hundred years since, they have setts. been the incendiaries of commonwealths, and the ** infectors of persons in main matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in all places where they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful have usually held other errors or heresies together therewith, though they have (as other heretics use to do) concealed the same, till they spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent them, by way of question or scruple; and whereas divers of this kind have, since our coming into New England, appeared amongst ourselves, some whereof have (as others before them) denied the ordinance of magistracy, and the lawfulness of making war, and others the lawfulness of magistrates, and their inspection into any breach of the first table, which opinions, if they should be connived at by us, are like to be increased amongst us, and so must necessarily bring guilt upon us, infection and trouble to the churches, and hazard to the whole commonwealth, –
R. I. Hist. Coll., 117; Backus, His- ginning, except in the time between
tory, &c., I. 149. August, 1640, and March, 1642, when
* See Vol. I. 511. Clarke had been Lenthall was there. (Backus, I. 114.) the minister of Newport from the be- * Winthrop, II. 174.
“It is ordered and agreed, that if any person or persons within this jurisdiction shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the administration of the ordinance, or shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful right or authority to make war, or to punish the outward breaches of the first table, and shall appear to the Court wilfully and obstinately to continue therein after due time and means of conviction, every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment.””
* Mass. Rec., II. 85. — The next year (October 18, 1645) petitions were presented to the Court for a repeal of of this law; but they had no effect. (Ibid., 141; comp. 149.)
Just before the passage of the law, “a poor man of Hingham, one Painter, who had lived at New Haven and at Rowley and Charlestown, and been scandalous and burdensome by his idle and troublesome behavior to them all, was on a sudden turned Anabaptist; and, having a child born, he would not suffer his wife to bring it to the ordinance of baptism, for she was a mem
ber of the church, though he was not.
Unhappily, the name Anabaptist, at this period, denoted a person very different from a mere religious errorist. It still revived the memory of those flagitious proceedings in Germany, which are referred to in this statute. The presence of those who bore it was still considered inconsistent with social security." When they had risen to consequence in England, the existence of this sentiment was expressly recognized, while it was disapproved, in a declaration which the two Houses of Parliament pubion lished in their favor. “The name of Anabaptism ** hath indeed contracted much odium, by reason of the extravagant opinions and practices of some of that name in Germany, tending to the disturbance of the government and peace of all states; which opinions and practices we abhor and detest.” It was of the law just quoted that Winslow had written, that it was designed always to remain a dead letter, unless some extraordinary occasion should arise for its enforcement.” And at the time when it was passed, and for several years longer, a clergyman who denied the lawfulness of infant baptism was at the head of Harvard College; and his successor held that immersion was essential to the rite. But the association between “Anabaptistry” and enmity to social order had not been broken up in the minds of the colonial rulers; nor had there been wholly wanting occurrences near at hand, to keep their apprehensions alive.” Five years after the law was passed, the General Court of Massachusetts was informed that at Seekonk, in the Colony of Plymouth, there had been “thirteen or fourteen persons rebaptized;” and the Court wrote to Plymouth, signifying their own sense of oralia danger from “the infection of such diseases, be "..." ing so near,” and expressing their hope that it or is. might be averted.” There can be no doubt that many of the sixty-five citizens of Newport and forty of Portsmouth, who were disinclined to acknowledge the “commission” of Coddington and to come under his rule, were of the Baptist persuasion. It is impossible that so clear-headed a man as Clarke should have overlooked the relation into which he and his party were brought by the new state of things. Coddington's desire for a connection with the Confederacy was well known. Should he be permanently established in the local government according to the terms of his “commission,” there could be no question that he would pursue that purpose. Perhaps he would even bring about a complete annexation to Massachusetts; but, should he do no more than become associated with her in the league of Colonies, it might be plausibly argued from the late application of Massachusetts to Plymouth, that, when she had acquired an excuse for remonstrating, she would not
the company that he was of very loose dalous.” (Crosby, History of the Eng
behavior at home, and given much to
lying and idleness, &c.” (Winthrop,
thority of magistrates, the lawfulness
lish Baptists, I. xxiii., xxiv.; see Vol. I.
- - - - - and live peaceably amongst us, tion against any of them, although such without occasioning disturbance, &c., are known to live amongst us.” such have no cause to complain; for it * See Vol. I. 517 – 521, 587 – 591. hath never been as yet put in execu- * Mass. Rec., III. 173.
VOL. II. 30
leave undisturbed the large body of Baptists on Rhode Island.
Here was furnished a vantage-ground for Clarke's resistance to the establishment of his rival's dominion. If Massachusetts was intolerant of Baptists, and if the execution of Coddington's scheme would place the RhodeIsland Baptists more or less under her control, the necessity of self-defence admonished them that, if possible, that scheme should be defeated. Clarke had known for seven years that his presence would not be allowed in Massachusetts. During that time a law had existed which his presence would affront. And indeed, seven years earlier yet, he had gone away under circumstances which made it next to certain that, had he not departed voluntarily, he would have been expelled."
Fourteen years he was content to stay away from Massachusetts. In the fifteenth, he was prompted to go
thither. The considerate reader may see a significance in
the time of this movement. The precise day of Coddington's arrival from England with his “commission” is not known. But it seems to have been when his arrival was expected from week to week, or even from day to day, that Clarke undertook his journey. Clarke was a man of influence and authority. His personal character, his sacred office, and his newly acquired position of Assistant in the government” placed him prominently before the people. He was a man of discernment and resolution, and felt no reluctance to expose himself to personal inconvenience for the furtherance of what he accounted a good public object. And he judged well, that, at this moment, some striking practical evidence of the hostility of Massachusetts to Baptists would be efficacious to excite his Rhode-Island friends to oppose the ascendency of Coddington.
* See Vol. I. 511. * R. I. Rec., I. 209, 216, 220.