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we say, it be not necessary to punish so high incorrigibleness in such and so many capital evils with death.” The provision which threatened with death persons returning after being banished, was no novelty in Massachusetts legislation.” It had been resorted to over and over again, through a course of years, and had never once failed of its intended effect in inducing the banished persons to stay away, and to confine themselves, at least, to such annoyance as they could inflict from a distance. Not to name such simple cases as those of Stone.” South", Buet,” Collins, and Francis Hutchinson,” it might naturally be presumed that the threat, which had proved adequate to rid Massachusetts permanently of the presence of persons so determined as Samuel Gorton and his compeers, would be effectual for the same purpose in any case that might arise. And there can be no doubt whatever, that, among those who favored a law threatening Quakers with death if they should return from banishment, there was a confident persuasion that the terror of the law would accomplish all that was desired, and would prevent any occasion for its execution." But they who thus reasoned did not yet know the persons with whom they had to deal. They had not taken the measure of Quaker pertinacity. There were others who had observed to better purpose the temper of the new sect, and who better understood the risk that would be incurred by the enactment which was proposed. It was warmly contested, chiefly in the House of Deputies. That body, which this year consisted of thirty-four members, at length passed it by a majority of one vote, after
* Mass. Archives, X. 246. — Among the petitioners were John Wilson and John Norton, the Pastorand the Teacher of the Boston church; Hezekiah Usher; John Hull, master of the mint; Anthony Stoddard, Deputy from Boston, a brother-in-law of George Downing; and Captain Thomas Savage, Speaker of the House of Deputies, the same who had himself been disarmed in the Antinomian controversy. See Bishop, “New England Judged by the Spirit of the Lord,” 101. The First Part of Bishop's book, bringing the story down to the middle of March, 1661, was published at London in that year. The Second Part, continuing the narrative to May, 1665, was published in 1667. Sewel, publishing in 1722, and Besse in 1753, made large use of Bishop's book in those parts of their respective works which relate to the hardships of their friends in New England.
* Nor was it known only to the legislation of Massachusetts. See Conn. Rec., I. 242.
* Mass. Rec., I. 108.
* Ibid., 234.
* Ibid., 312.
* Ibid., 336.
* See above, 135,136.-In the province of New York, laws of this tenor, against Romish ecclesiastics, were in force down to the year 1774. — As late as September, 1778, the General Court of Massachusetts passed an Act forbidding the return of loyalist refugees. If they came, they were to be sent away. If they returned a second time, they were “to suffer the pains of death, without benefit of clergy.” (Acts and Laws for 1778, Chap. XIII. : comp. Hist. Mag., III. 313; Joseph Willard, “Naturalization in the American Colonies,” &c., p. 25.)
long debate and repeated conferences with the
Law for punishing Quakers, returned from exile,
The provision was, that thenceforward persons convicted by a special jury “to be
*** of the sect of the Quakers,” should “be sentenced to banishment upon pain of death.”
* There was already a law of eleven years' standing, which banished Jesuits and Romish priests from Massachusetts, and threatened them with capital punishment, if they should return. (Mass. Rec., II. 193; III. 112.)
* Mass. Rec., IV. (i.) 346.- For the particular proceedings in the passing of this vote, see Bishop, “New England Judged,” 101. I always take for granted the correctness of the statements of the Quaker historians, as to matters respecting which they had access to good information.
At the meeting a year before the Federal Commissioners recommended this harsh measure to their constituent Colonies, they addressed a letter (September 12, 1657) to the Chief Magistrate of Rhode Island, acquainting him with the irruption of Quakers into Massachusetts through that territory, and desiring that measures might be taken for their exclusion from it. (Records, &c., in Hazard, II. 370,
371.) The Magistrates (Benedict Arnold being now President) made a courteous communication on the subject to the General Court of Massachusetts. They said: “We have no law among us whereby to punish any for only declaring by words, &c., their minds and understandings concerning the things and ways of God as to salvation and an eternal condition. And we, moreover, find, that in those places where these people aforesaid, in this Colony, are most of all suffered to declare themselves freely, and are only opposed by arguments in discourse, there they least of all desire to come. And we are informed that they begin to loathe this place, for that they are not opposed by the civil authority, but with all patience and meekness are suffered to say over their pretended revelations and admonitions. Nor are they like or able to gain many here to their way. Surely we find that they delight to be persecuted by civil pow
The Court was not insensible to the responsibility of
the step that had been taken, nor to the strong pressure of public sentiment in an opposite direction. Deferring to the necessity for an explanation of its course, it ordered that there should be “a writing, or declaration, drawn up and forthwith printed, to manifest the evil of the tenets of the Quakers, and danger of their practices, as tending to the subversion of religion, of church order, and civil government, and the necessity that this government is put upon, for the preservation of religion and their own peace and safety, to exclude such persons from amongst them, who, after due means of conviction, should remain
obstinate and pertinacious.” Mr. Norton, Teacher of Boston, was desired to compose the “declaration.”
ers; and when they are so, they are
to send them away out of the country,
Imprudently calculating on the effect of their threats, the Court had placed themselves in a position which they could not maintain without grievous severity, nor abandon without humiliation and danger. For a little time there seemed reason to hope that the law would do its office without harm to any one. The first six Quakers loo, who were banished after its enactment went * away and returned no more." But men more desperate than these had the matter in hand. William Robinson, “being in Rhode Island,” conceived that “the Lord had commanded him to go to Boston, and to lay down his life there.” Marmaduke Stevenson was at the island of Barbadoes when he “heard that New England had made a law to put the servants of the living God to death, if they returned after
they were sentenced away.”
He took passage for Rhode
Island; and there “the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, “Go to Boston with thy brother,
The pair went accordingly. Mary
Dyer “was moved of the Lord to come from Rhode Island ” to visit them; and they were also joined at Boston by Nicholas Davis, from Barnstable in Plymouth Colony. The four were apprehended and received sentence of banishment, with the addition that they should suffer death unless they withdrew from the jurisdiction. “Nicholas Davis and Mary Dyer found freedom to depart; . . . . . but the other two were constrained in the love and power of the Lord not to depart, but to stay in the jurisdiction, and to try the bloody law unto death.” Possibly they doubted whether the Magistrates had nerve to execute it, or would be able to resist the popular pressure in favor of mercy. In that case their own triumph would be signal. But, in the last resort, they expected to conquer by dying. Robinson and Stevenson were at that age of early manhood when enthusiasm is most inconsiderate, and when, however the fact may be explained, experience shows that life is least prized. The day after their discharge, they appeared at Salem, whence they pursued their way to the settlements on the Piscataqua. After four weeks they returned to Boston, accompanied by some Salem friends, one of whom, a woman, showed the Governor some linen, which she said she had brought for the winding-sheets of those who were to suffer. Mary Dyer, having reconsidered her duty, had returned to Boston a few days before. On the second day of the session of the General Court, Robinson, Stevenson, and Dyer were arraigned at its bar for “rebellion, sedition, and presumptuous obtruding themselves, notwithstanding their being sentenced to banishment on pain of death, as underminers of this government,” &c. Avowing themselves to be the persons “banished by the last Court of Assistants,” they were sentenced to be hanged on the eighth day following." Precautions were taken against a popular outbreak.
thought Norton, “which ventures over the wide sea, out of a ravening desire to prey upon the sheep, when landed, discovered, and taken, hath no cause to complain, though, for the security of the flock, he be penned up, with that door opening unto the fold fast shut, but having another door purposely left open, whereby he may depart at his pleasure, either returning from whence he came, or otherwise quitting the place.” (Heart of New England Rent, &c., p. 56; comp. Rel. Baxter., II. 291.)
* Bishop, New England Judged, 100 et seq. — Daniel and Provided Southwick, Quakers of Salem, being fined for absence from public worship, refused to pay their fines, or to work in prison. “In answer to what should be done for the satisfaction of the fines, the Court, upon perusal of a law (which
was made upon the account of debts), resolved, that the Treasurers of the several counties were, and should be, fully empowered to sell the said persons to any of the English nations, as Virginia or Barbadoes, to answer the said fines.” (Bishop, 108–112; comp. Mass. Rec., IV. (i.) 366.) The Treasurer of Essex accordingly applied to the master of a vessel to take the Southwicks to Barbadoes, but without avail. If the expectation in this case was to extort the fine, or otherwise enforce submission, by terror, it was disappointed. But to me it does not seem probable that, if the Magistrates had been in earnest in the desire to have their prisoners conveyed away to servitude in another English colony, the refusal of one shipmaster would have defeated them.