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Small as it is in territory, the State of Rhode Island has a local and historical literature of no slight extent' and of no small importance. The works, however, which have aimed to present a connected view of the history of the whole colonial and State development, are comparatively few. Mr. Arnold, in the preface to his invaluable “History of Rhode Island," (published in 1859,) 2 thus refers to some of them :
“The first was by Governor Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who, in 1765,commenced to publish ‘An historical account [of the planting and growth] of Providence,' since reprinted in the second series of Massachusetts Historical Collections, volume ix. Only one chapter* was completed when the struggle for independence in: terrupted the work, which was never resumed."
The second was by Hon. Theodore Foster, a senator in congress from Rhode Island, who collected a large number of origi
(1)In 1864 the titles of about 1,000 works relating to Rhode Island were in
cluded in the “Bibliography of Rhode Island,” by Hon. John R. Bartlett. Nearly three times the number might be furnished from the valuable special collection of Rhode Island literature, gathered by Sidney S.
Rider. (2) Volume I was published in 1859, and volume II in the following year.
The two together cover the period from 1636 to 1790. The material was
chiefly gathered between 1840 and 1859. (3) Before this, however, in 1762, (in the number of the Providence Gazette
dated Oct. 20,) the earlier portion of this history had appeared. (4) Governor Hopkins did not divide his work into chapters. The fragment
which he published comprised matter printed in seven numbers of the
Gazette, and covered the period from 1636 to 1663, only. (5)Knowing that he would be unable to complete the work, he requested Mr.
Theodore Foster to undertake it, and placed in his hands many of his valuable papers.
nal papers, and made copies of nearly the whole of the colony records."
The intimate connection, indicated above, 4 in which the researches of Senator Foster stand to those of Governor Hopkins, is thus stated by the former :
“The infirmities of age induced him [Governor Hopkins] to relinquish” [the undertaking]. “But as he heard that I contemplated writing the history of the state, he kindly offered to assist me, by furnishing me with written materials and verbal information. It was therefore agreed that I should, one afternoon in a week, go to his house for the purpose. I accordingly did so for some time.”
It is for this reason that it has been thought desirable to print the materials of these two writers in connection with each other.
It is not correct to speak of any portion of Senator Foster's work as having been completed. He himself regarded his work as simply "materials for history ;” and it is clear that, although he hoped sometime to construct from these “materials” an actual history, he never did so. They consist, therefore, of entire paragraphs from such writers as Callender and Bentley, side by side with his own comment and narrative. He had apparently intended to bring these several
(1)These papers, both originals and copies, amount to about 1,000; and are
preserved in sixteen bound volumes, now in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society. A "Chronological table” of such of them as relate to Rhode Island history, has been prepared. They are bound and
labelled as the “Foster Papers." (2) So lately as 1856-65, the records of the colony from 1032 to 1790 have been
published under the direction of Hon. John R. Bartlett, with notes and
copious indexes. (3)Quoted from Arnold's "History of Rhode Island,” I. v, vi. He also men
tions Bull, whose work belongs to the present century. (4) See Note 5. (5) This was doubtless between 1776, in which year Governor Hopkins ter
minated his connection with the Continental Congress, and 1785, the
date of his death. (6) Foster Papers, VI. 19.
accounts into relation with each other, in constructing his narrative.
There are certain authorities of which Governor Hopkins, writing in 1762, and Mr. Foster in 1776 and later, would alike make use. Among these, named in the order of their publication, were probably the following : Samuel Gorton's "Simplicities defence,” (1646); 1 Winslow's “Hypocrisie unmasked,” (1646); Winslow's "New England's salamander, discovered,” etc., (1647); ? John Clarke's "Ill newes from New England,” (1652); 3 Morton's “New England's memorial,” (1669); 4 Cotton Mather's “Magnalia,” (1702) ; Neal's “History of New England,” (1720); Neal's "History of the Puritans,” (1732-38); Prince's “Chronological history of New England,” (1736, 1755); 5 Callender’s “Historical discourse,” (1739); 6 Douglass's “Summary, historical and political, of the British settlements in North America,” (174953); and Dr. McSparran's “America dissected,” (1753). ? Of these works, all of which touch to some extent on the settlement and subsequent history of Rhode Island, some are specifically cited by title in the writings of Governor IIopkins 8 and
(1) Reprinted, 1835, in “Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society,"
II. (2) Reprinted, 1830, in “Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,"
3d series, II. 110-45 (3) Reprinted, 1854, in “Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,"
4th series, II. 1-114. (4) Reprinted, 6th ed., with notes, etc., Boston, 1855. (5) In part reprinted in Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections, 2d series, VII, 189-296.
An admirably edited version of Prince appeared in 1879, as vol. 2 of the "English garner," edited by Professor Edward Arber, (Birmingham,
England). . (6) Reprinted, 1838, in R. I. Hist. Soc. Collections, IV. (7) Reprinted, 1847, as an appendix to Updike’s “History of the Episcopal
Church in Narragansett," p. 483-533. (8) It is apparent that Governor Hopkins had access to some of the writings
of Roger Williams and John Cotton, but probably not to all.
Senator Foster, while others, no doubt, furnished the basis for various portions of their narratives. 1
The latter writer, however, surviving Governor Hopkins for many years, 2 had the benefit of several other authorities of great value. Governor Winthrop’s “History of New England,” 3 was not made public until 1790, when Part I was put in print, quite unsatisfactorily, at Hartford. Both parts, issued by Mr. Savage with his careful revision and annotations, appeared together in 1826. Dr. Abiel Holmes's “American annals ” appeared in 1805. From 1791 onward, the successive volumes of “Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Soci.. ety” have made their appearance, comprising works 4 which have added substantially to our knowledge of early New England history. 5
Yet that which gives to the writings of these Rhode Island annalists their chief interest and value, is the very large amount of original and previously unprinted material to which they had access. Much of it they used. The greater part of it, however, they have handed down to us unused. 6 There is reason to believe that Governor Hopkins's efforts at collecting this manuscript material began quite early in life—perhaps so early
(1) Of the works above mentioned, Prince's alone was in the Providence
Library in 1769. See the “Catalogue” printed in that year. (2) He died in 1828. (3) Constantly referred to in these pages as “Winthrop's Journal.” The ref
erences to pages follow the edition of 1853. (4) For instance, in 1815, the “General history of New England,” by Rev.
William Hubbard, written between 1680 and 1704, and never before printed. Also, in 1800, “A description and history of Salem," by Rev. William Bentley, which gives considerable space to the history of Roger
Williams. (5) Among other works which appeared in the interval between 1762 and
1800 may be mentioned Volume I, of Governor Hutchinson's "History of the colony of Massachusett's Bay," 1765; and Backus's “History of New England with particular reference to the denomination of Christians
called Baptists,” 1777, 1784, 1796. (6) It is comprised in the manuscript volumes known as the “Foster Papers,"
already alluded to. See Note 6.
as 1740. 1. Most of it was handed over to Senator Foster, himself a most assiduous antiquarian during the half-century, 1775-1825. When it is remembered that the efforts of these gentlemen almost entirely preceded the formation of any local historical society” in the state, for the collection and preservation of such material, it will be seen how largely they have laid succeeding generations under obligation.
It is curious that to these two writers, possessing so much that is valuable in their method and material, should be due what is apparently a misconception of the essential principle underlying Roger Williams's expulsion from Massachusetts and founding of Rhode Island. 3 . It is perhaps to be explained by the inevitably local point of view from which Governor Hopkins, writing so early in the last century, was obliged to treat the subject. Perhaps also by the fact that a full and comprehensive examination of Williams's relations to the communities in which he successively resided, has not been possible until our own generation. John Howland, writing so late as 1831, declared: “All that we at present know of the history of Roger Williams, would not fill more than half a dozen pages.”+ It is owing largely to the painstaking care with which Williams's writings have been edited and republished by the Narragansett Club, 5 that his character and career have, within the last twenty years, been brought into clear outline and into proper perspective.
No one, however, can examine the pages of Governor Hopkins and of Senator Foster without being impressed with the
(1) Foster's "Stephen Hopkins,” I. 133-34. (2) The Rhode Island Historical Society was organized in 1822. Senator
Foster was one of its earliest vice-presidents. (3) In their accounts the question of freedom of conscience is made the essen
tial occasion of this event. See Appendix No 2, where this matter is
examined. (4) Letter of John Howland to Rev. James D. Knowles, Jan. 27, 1831.
(Printed in Stone's Life and recollections of John Howland,” p. 240.) (5) "Publications of the Narragansett Club," 6 volumes, 1866-74.