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instalment of their Instructions. The portions now made known related to the royal protection for the natives; to an inquiry into the means of education; to examination into offences committed by persons in authority; and to a compliance with the royal demands, now remaining unaccomplished for nearly three years. To each of these passages, the Commissioners, as before, added, under the hands of them all, their suggestions for a practical issue. By an inquiry whether it would be most convenient to the Colony to have a hearing of a question, in which it was concerned, take place at Providence, or in the King's Province, or within its own territory, they gave a sus. ficient hint of the kind of jurisdiction to which they meant to lay claim. This course of proceeding terminated with the communication of three other particular Instructions. One, relating to the apprehension of traitors, was transmitted without comment. The order to collect the local statistics was accompanied by a request that some persons on the spot should be charged with that office. To the instruction relating to breaches of the Navigation Laws, the Commissioners added a notice of a particular case of violation, which, as they were informed, had taken place three years before, and declared their “will and pleasure” to be, that the colonial authorities should institute an inquiry concerning it, and “cause justice to be done.” They at the same time desired a copy of the colonial laws for examination." A transaction of a different character now intervened. One John Porter, imprisoned for gross miscon- ion. duct in Massachusetts, had been released on giv- * * ing a bond to depart from the jurisdiction.” At Warwick he complained to the three Commissioners, who gave him a paper, by which they appointed a day for him 165 to appear before them in Boston, to have his *** case heard; and they “required and commanded all officers, both military and civil, and all other persons,” to abstain meanwhile from “all molestation and restraint, he behaving himself civilly.” This was a startling measure to the Magistrates; for Porter, in their judgment, was one of “the vilest of malefactors,” and the revisal of his sentence by an extraneous authority would be a fatal obstruction of the course of their justice. In a short note from their Secretary, the Court informed the Commissioners, that, by the “warrant to John Porter, . . . . . they apprehended their patent, and his Majesty's authority therein committed unto them, to be greatly infringed.”” The Commissioners asked a conference with a committee of the Court. At this interview, “the gentlemen sent by the Court humbly pleaded, that his Majesty's charter gave to the Governor and Company here full and absolute power and authority for the government of his subjects of this Colony, for the making of laws suitable to that end, not repugnant to the laws of England,” and “for the putting such laws in execution; ” and they enlarged on the “insufferable burden" that would be laid upon them by the admission of appeals from their decrees. They asked the Commissioners whether, for any trials which they should conduct, they proposed to impanel a jury; by what law they should proceed; and whether they would admit new evidence. To the first question, a reply was made in the negative ; to the last, in the affirmative ; and to the other, that the law of England would be the rule. The committee insisted that the King's subjects in Massachusetts had a right to trial by jury, and by the local laws. It was “on the assurance” of this and other like privileges, they said, “that they left their dear relations, and parted with their inheritances in their native country, venturing the lives of themselves and families into this wilderness, and here, without any expense to his Majesty, had raised up a colony of people to his Majesty, proceeding out of their own loins; and now this would be a great addition to their former sorrows for their so great bereavements, to be at once reduced to such an exigence, that either they must be charged with denial of his Majesty's authority over them, or else must yield to the prostrating of his Majesty's authority, orderly established here according to the grant of his royal charter, under the broad seal of England, and submit themselves, their lives and estates, and their liberties, far dearer than them both, to another authority, whose rule was their own discretion.”’’ The Commissioners were immovable, and the conference broke up. The Court delivered answers in writing to the further requisitions which, in conformity with their Instructions, the Commissioners had made. As to transactions with the natives, they said that the “Acts of the Commissioners” of the United Colonies might be seen in the record kept by them, and would afford the best information. They furnished the required minutes respecting the frame of their government, the order of their churches, their military organization, the amount of their tonnage, the condition of their College and schools, and their arrangements for instructing the Indians. To the permission to choose a place where complaints against them should be heard, they replied that “the inviolable observation” of their charter “seemed inconsistent with the Commissioners' hearing and determining complaints and appeals;” but that, when the Court should be informed what those complaints were, they “hoped to give such an answer and account as should be consonant to
* Mass. Rec., IV. (ii.) 186–195. and drunkard,” was a rebellious son. * Ibid., 137, Porter, besides being His offences are described, further on “a vile, profane, and common swearer (Ibid., 216), with abundant detail.
reason and equity.” For their proceedings in respect to the “persons attainted of high treason,” they referred to their narrative before transmitted to the King. The Act of Navigation they were “not conscious to themselves that they had greatly violated, neither knew they any law of theirs against it.” As to matters specified in the King's former letter, they “expressed and declared, that it was their resolution, God willing, to bear faith and true allegiance to his Majesty, and to adhere to their patent;” that they had given orders for the taking of an oath of allegiance; and that, “for some time past,” justice had been administered in the King's name. “The use of the Common-Prayer Book” among them, they said, “would disturb their peace in their present enjoyments;” and they would not have been “voluntary exiles from their dear native country, - - - - - could they have seen the word of God warranting them to perform their devotions in that way, and to have the same set up here.” “The word of the Lord” was the rule “concerning ecclesiastical privileges,” by law “commended to the ministry and people.” By a late law, they had “accepted the qualifications mentioned in his Majesty's letter, to elect or be elected unto civil offices.” The oath of allegiance which they had framed, and , of which they furnished a copy, may pass for a specimen of ingenuity. It was as follows:– “Whereas I, A. B., am an inhabitant within this jurisdiction, considering how I stand obliged to the King's Majesty, his heirs and successors, by our charter and the government established thereby, do swear accordingly, by the great and dreadful name of the everliving God, that I will bear faith and true allegiance
* By their Instructions the Commis- lain; and it was recommended that he sioners had been permitted, rather than should not wear the surplice. (O'Caldirected, to be accompanied by a chap- laghan, Documents, &c., III. 58.)
to our sovereign lord the King, his heirs and successors; and so proceed as in the printed oaths of freedom and fidelity.” " The arrangements thus described could not be expected to satisfy the Commissioners. They complained of the qualifications in the oath of allegiance; of the continued limitations to liberty of worship; and of the insufficiency of the new conditions of the franchise. “You have so tentered,” they said, “the King's qualifications as in making him only who payeth ten shillings to a single rate to be “ of competent estate;’ . . . . . the truth is, that not one church-member in an hundred pays so much, and that, in a town of an hundred inhabitants, scarce three such men are to be found.” “These answers are so far from being probable to satisfy the King's expectation, that we fear they will highly offend him. Abuse not the King's clemency too much.” The question respecting the competency of the Commissioners to sit as a Court of Appeal was vital. They repeated their assertion of it in a short and peremptory letter, concluding with “one question, whereunto,” said they, “we expect your positive answer, which we shall faithfully report to his Majesty: Whether you do acknowledge his Majesty's commission, ... wherein we are nominated Commissioners, to be of full force to all the intents and purposes therein contained.”” The Court were not taken by surprise. No English lawyer—still less the official strangers, who were men of other pursuits — understood the charter of Massachusetts better than Richard Bellingham. Perhaps, in the passing transactions, he had the interest of one who is to see whether the work of his own hands is as strong as he had meant to make it.” The Court
* Mass. Rec., IV. (ii) 198-203. * See above, I. 307, note. * Ibid., 203–206.