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THE SENTENCE OF EXPULSION. The expression, "sentence of banishment,” though used by Roger Williams himself in his earliest printed allusion to it,' and by Mr. Cotton in his “Reply," has been objected to, as being technically not a correct use of language. “Banishment,” it is said, “involved a state which could banish, and that the banished parties be members of it;" and neither of these conditions is in this instance fulfilled. The objection is well taken ; though it must be confessed, it is of somewhat slight consequence whether we adopt the word "banishment,” or “expulsion," or some other. A much more important matter it is, to form a conception of the exact grounds on which this action was taken by the Massachusetts government. There are three classes of original authorities whose statements are entitled to be weighed in this connection ;—the sentenced person himself; the writers who justify the sentence; and the court pronouncing it.
To begin with the latter, the first step officially taken was at the session of December 27, 1633;4 and this action was (1) The work by Roger Williams, entitled “Mr. Cotton's letter lately printed,
examined and answered," p. 40, etc. (Narragansett Club Pub., I. 324). (2)“Reply to Mr. Williams his examination,” by Rev. John Cotton, (Narragan
sett Club Pub., II. 19.) (3) Dexter's "As to Roger Williams," p. 17. (4) Compare the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company. (Mass. Col.
Records, I. 1-20). (5) If the language of their charter be followed, the word “expulsion" appar
ently comes nearer the mark than any other. It was to “be lawfull * * * to incounter, expulse," etc., all persons attempting their "annoy
aunce.” (Mass. Col. Records, I. 18). (6) Winthrop's Journal, I. 145.
solely concerned with the validity of the colony's claim under the royal charter, to the lands they possessed here. About one year later, (November 27, 1634.)' the court had under consideration this same ground of complaint and apprehension, and one other,—Mr. Williams's, "terming the churches of England anti-Christian.” Early in the next year, (April 30, 1635,)? his objections publicly uttered against the resident's oath” were considered. Not until the session of July 8, 1635,9 were complaints drawn up in systematic order against him ; laying to his charge, besides the matter of the “resident's oath,” the peculiar theories which he held concerning “giving thanks” and praying with an “unregenerate man,” and the method of punishing the breach of the first table.” In two of these instances a peculiarity of private religious opinion formed the issue; while in the other two the conception which he held as to the entirely separate functions of civil and religious authority was the point in question.
And finally, on the second week in October, 1635," there are cited against him his two letters, (probably written in July and August of that year), calling in question the action of the magistrates. Now in all these proceedings that which seems to have been the preöminent consideration in the mind of the court was the public teaching by an influential minister, of doctrines directly tending to undermine the status claimed by the colony under its charter,' and the authority of the existing magistrates. In view, therefore, not merely of his holding " newe & dangerous opinions, against the aucthoritie of magistrates,” but of the disorganizing tendency of his "contentious”? assertion of them, the magistrates ordered that he should depte out of this jurisdiccon within sixe weekes. They recognized that there was an “irrepressible conflict” between his views and theirs.
(1) Ibid, I. 180. (2) Ibid., I. 188. (3) Ibid., I. 193–94. (4) Whether the date should be Oct. 8 or Oct. 9 may well be regarded as an
open question. The evidence so comprehensively marshalled on this point by Professor Diman and Dr. Dexter, while it does not settle the question, makes it clear that the records had more than once failed to indicate the dates in case of an adjournment. (Compare Mass. Col. Records, I. 160-61; Winthrop's Journal, I. 204; Note by Professor Diman, in Narragansett Club Pub., II. 238-40; Diman's “Orations and essays,"
p. 138; Note in Dexter's “As to Roger Williams,” p. 58-59). (5) Mentioned in Winthrop's Journal, I. 195, 198.
In the second place, the views of Mr. Cotton are on record. In a letter written“ very soon after Mr. Williams's departure, he lays emphasis on the fact that Mr. Williams had termed the churches of England anti-christian. In a subsequent lettere he expressly declares : “Two things there were which (to my best observation and remembrance) caused the sentence of his banishment; and two others fell in, that hastened it.” These were :-(1)•His violent and tumultuous carriage against the patent ;” (2) the oath ; (3) “the heady and turbulent spirit” of his two letters already referred to; (4) his separation of himself from “all the churches in the country.” As regards Mr. Williams's opinion concerning “the civill magistrate's power,” Mr. Cotton was very far from considering this as the significant consideration’ in the matter. He says, indeed : “There are many knowne to hold both these opinions,” * * * “and yet they are tolerated not onely to live in the commonwealth, but also in the fellowship of the churches.” 1
(1)"At an anxious crisis when the very existence of the company was at
stake.” (Diman's "Orations and essays,” p. 114). Compare Palfrey's “New England,” I. 402-403. An examination of subsequent Rhode Island history will reveal the fact that "sensitiveness” as to charter rights
was by no means limited to Massachusetts. (2) Narragansett Club, Pub. II. 44. Yet if the charge of "contentiousness” be
raised, it is one which, to quote the language of John Quincy Adams, characterized “the founders of New England,” equally with him. (Mass.
Hist. Soc. Collections, 3d series, IX. 206). (3) Mass. Col. Records, I. 160, 161. (4) It did not, however, appear in print until 1643. (5)Narragansett Club Pub., I. 299–310. (6)“Reply to Mr. Williams his examination.” (Narragansett Club Pub.,
II. 44, 48, 50, 53). (7"It seems strange”, says Mr. George Washington Greene, “that neither
the General Court nor Williams himself should have perceived that the only one of the charges wherein civilization was interested was that to
But the question of greatest interest is, What was the ground assigned for his expulsion, by Roger Williams himself? And it is significant that his view of it is found to be almost identical with that of Mr. Cotton. He begins, it is true, with the question of civil authority. “What,” he asks, in his pamphlet of 1644, “were the grounds of such a sentence of banishment against me?;" and he quotes with approval Governor Haynes's summing up of the court's sentence. He goes on to remark that "The frame or constitution of their churches is but implicitly national,"4 and that "the Common weale and church is yet but one, and hee that is banished from the one, must necessarily bee banished from the other also." 5 In short, he finds a complete union of the civil and religious authority where he maintains there should be complete separation. But having thus stated briefly his position on this point, he passes on to devote the large remainder of his tract to the technically theological question of “fellowship with the churches of England." There is, therefore, to quote from Professor Diman, “substantial agreement between the two most important witnesses," (Mr. Williams and Mr. Cotton), as to the subordinate place which "that opinion of Mr. Williams's concerning the province of the civil magistrate" held in this transaction.
This, in fact, appears to be the view taken by nearly every writer down to the time when Governor Hopkins wrote. Cal
which they have assigned the least conspicuous place.” (Greene's
“Short history of Rhode Island,” p. 6). (1) Narragansett Club Pub., II. 44. (2) Ibid, I. 324. (3) Ibid., I. 324-25. (4) Ibid., I. 326. (5) Ibid., I. 327. (6) It embraces no less than 69 pages in the reprint. (Narragansett Club Pub.,
I. 327-96.) (7) Note by Professor J. L. Diman, Narragansett Club Pub., II. 5. (8) Ibid, II. 5.
lender, the earliest Rhode Island historian of the affair, writing in 1738, thus enumerated the grounds of the sentence :-(1) the charges regarding prayer; (2) regarding breaches of the first table; (3) unlimited toleration or liberty of conscience; (4) his attitude towards the patent; (5) his objecting to the oath; (6) his renouncing communion with all the churches in the land. "For these things,” he adds, she was at length banished the colony, as a disturber of the peace of the church and commonwealth.” Similar views might be quoted from other writers of that time. The stress which has since been laid on the element of religious liberty as a preöminent factor in the occurrence has perhaps resulted from regarding it too largely in the light of Roger Williams's subsequent career, and reading into it an element which was chiefly of later development. To quote once more from one of the most recent and most careful treatments of this subject, "the controversy had its origin” partly “in the exigencies of a unique community, where the instincts of a private corporation had not yet expanded into the more liberal policy of a body politic."
It is easy, in this nineteenth century, to look back and see how thoroughly impracticable, unsound, and unjust was the course of proscription upon which the Massachusetts Bay Colony had now entered ;-a course which was to be carried to a fearful issue when dealing with the Quakers' twenty-five years later. (1) Century sermon, reprinted in R. I. Hist. Soc. Collections, IV. 72. (2) It must be regarded as plainly due to the interpretation given to these inci
dents by Governor Hopkins and Senator Foster, that the impression has gained so strong a hold on the public mind. Callender, as above stated, gave no such interpretation to the incidents; nor does it appear that any writer did until the two just mentioned. Since them, however, nearly every writer using their materials, has followed their view of the case.
See page 8, ante. (3) Diman's “Orations and essays, p. 116. (4)“There was," says Dr. Ellis, “a steadily progressive legislation of enact
ments and penalties.” (Lowell Institute lectures, 1869, p. 117). But they were based on the theory, (proved finally to be erronious), that the unwelcome Quakers would give way to some measure short of the death penalty. Compare also Hallowell's “Quaker invasion of Massachusetts.” (1883).