Imagens da página
PDF

about this time the wheat of Massachusetts began to be generally blasted, and the peas to grow wormy. It ia no wonder, that, when the witchcraft excitement came on, the Quakers called it a retribution for these things. But let us be just, even to the unjust. Toleration was a newborn virtue in those days, and one which no Puritan ever for a moment recognized as such, or asked to have exercised toward himself. In England they did not wish to be tolerated for a day as sectaries: they claimed to have authority as the one true church. They held with Pym, that "it is the duty of legislators to establish the true religion and to punish false,"—a doctrine equally fatal, whether applied to enforce the right theology or the wrong. They objected to the Church of England, not that it persecuted, but that its persecution was wrongly aimed. It is, therefore, equally absurd to praise them for a toleration they never professed, or to accuse them of any inconsistency when they practised intolerance. What was great in them was their heroism of soul, not their largeness. They sought the American wilderness not to indulge the whims of others, but their own. They said to the Quakers, "We seek not your death, but your absence." All their persecution, after all, was an alternative sentence; all they asked of the Quakers was to keep out of their settlements and let them alone. Moreover, their worst penalties were borrowed from the English laws, and only four offenders were put to death from the beginning j—of course, four too many.

Again, it is to be remembered that the Quaker peculiarities were not theological only, but political and social also. Everything that the Puritan system of goverment asserted the Quakers denied; they rendered no allegiance, owned no laws, paid no taxes, bore no arms. With the best possible intentions, they subverted all established order. Then their modes of action were very often intemperate and violent. One can hardly approve the condemnation pronounced by Cotton Mather upon a certain Rarey among the Friends in those days, who could control a mad bull that would rend any other man. But it was oftener the Quakers who needed the Rareys. Running naked through the public streets, —coming into meeting dressed in sackcloth, with ashes on their heads and nothing on their feet,—or sitting there with their hats on, groaning and rocking to and fro, in spite of elders, deacons, and tithing men: these were the vagaries of the zealots, though always repudiated by the main body. The Puritans found themselves reproached with permitting these things, and so took refuge in outrageous persecutions, which doubled them. Indeed, the Quakers themselves began to persecute, on no greater provocation, in Philadelphia, thirty years afterwards,—playing over again upon George Keith and his followers the same deluded policy of fines and imprisonment from which they had just escaped;—as minorities have persecuted subminorities ever since intolerance began.

Indeed, so far as mere language went, the

minority always matched the majority. Grave divines did not like to be pelted with such epithets as these: Thou fiery fighter and greenheaded trumpeter! thou hedgehog and grinning dog! thou mole! thou tinker! thou lizard! thou bell of no metal but the tone of a kettle! thou wheelbarrow! thou whirlpool! thou whirligig! thou firebrand! thou moon-calf! thou ragged tatterdemalion! thou gormandizing priest! thou bane of reason and beast of the earth! thou best to be spared of all mankind 1" - all of which are genuine epithets from the Quaker books of that period, and termed by Cotton Mather, who collected them, "quills of porcupine." They surpass even Dr. Chauncy'i catalogue of the unsavory epithets used by Whiteiield and Tennent a century later; and it was not likely that they would be tolerated by a race whose reverence for men in authority wai so comprehensive that they actually fined some one for remarking that Major Phillips's old mare was as lean as an Indian's dog.

There is a quaint anecdote preserved, showing the continuance of the Quaker feud in fall vigour as lately as 1705. A youth among the Friends wished to espouse a fair Puritan maiden; bat the Quakers disapproved his marrying out of their society, and the Congregationalists his marrying into theirs; so in despair he thus addressed her :—" Ruth, let us break from this unreasonable bondage. I will give up my religion, and thou shalt give up thine; and we will marry and go into the Church of England, and go to the Devil together." And they fulfilled the resolution, the Puritan historian says, so far as going into the Church, and marrying, and staying there for life.

With the same careful discrimination we must try to study the astonishing part played by the ministers in the witchcraft delusions. It , must be remembered that the belief in this visitation was no new or peculiar thing in New I England. The Church, the Scriptures, the | mediaeval laws, had all made it a capital crime. | There had been laws against it in England for a hundred years. Bishop Jewel had complained j to Queen Elizabeth of the alarming increase of I witches and sorcerers. Sir Thomas Browne j had pronounced it flat atheism to doubt them, j High legal and judicial authorities, as Dalton, 1 Keeble, Sir Matthew Hale, bad described this crime as definitely and seriously as any other. In Scotland four thousand had suffered death for it in ten years; Cologne, Nuremberg, Geneva, Paris, were executing hundreds every year; even in 1749 a girl was burnt alive in Wiirtzburg; and is it strange, if, during all that wild excitement, Massachusetts put to death twenty! The only wonder is in the independence of the Rhode Island people, who declared that "there were no witches on the earth, nor devils,—except" (as they profanely added) "the New-England ministers, and such as they."

John Higginson sums it up best:—"They proceeded in their integrity with a zeal of God against sin, according to their best light and. law and evidence." '* But there is a question," he wisely adds, "whether some of the laws, customs, and privileges used by judges and juries in England, which were followed as patterns here, were not insufficient."

But what were the authorities to do, when, in addition to all legal and Scriptural precedents, the prisoners insisted on entering a plea of guilty? WheH Goody E testified that she

and two others rode from Andover to a witchmeeting on a broomstick, and the stick broke and she fell and was still lame from it,—when her daughter testified that she rode on the same stick, and confirmed all the details of the casualty,—when the grand-daughter confirmed them also, and added, that she rode on another stick, and they all signed Satan's book together,—

when W. B , aged forty, testified that Satan

assembled a hundred fine blades near Salem Meeting-House, and the trumpet sounded, and bread and wine were carried round, and Satan was like a black sheep, and wished them to destroy the minister's house, (by thunder probably,) and set up his kingdom, and "then all would be well,"—when one woman summoned her three children and some neighbours and a sister and a domestic, who all testified that she was a witch and so were they all,—what could be done with such prisoners by judge or jury, in an age which held witchcraft a certainty? It was only the rapid rate of increase which finally stopped the convictions.

One thing is certain, that this strange delusion, a semi-comedy to us,—though part of the phenomena may find their solution in laws not yet unfolded,—was the sternest of tragedies to those who lived in it. Conceive, for an instant, of believing in the visible presence and labours of the arch-fiend in a peaceful community! Yet from the bottom of their souls these strong men held to it, and they waged a hand-to-hand fight with Satan all their days. Very inconveniently the opponent sometimes dealt his blows, withal. Surely it could not be a pleasant thing to a sound divine, just launched upon his seventeenheaded discourse, to have a girl with wild eyes and her hair about her ears start up and exclaim, "Parson, your text is too long,"—or worse yet, "Parson, your sermon is too long,"—or most embarrassing of all, "There's a great yellow bird sitting on the parson's hat in the pulpit." But these formidable interruptions veritably happened, and received the stern discipline in such cases made and provided.

But besides Quakers and witches, the ministers had other female tormentors to deal with. There was the perpetual anxiety of the unregenerated toilet. "Immodest apparel, laying out of hair, borders, naked necks and arras, or, as it were, pinioned with superfluous ribbons,"— these were the things which tried men's souls in those days, and the statute-books and private journals are full of such plaintive inventories of the implements of sin. Things known as "slash apparel" seem to have been an infinite source of anxiety; there roust be only one slash

on each sleeve and one in the back. Men also must be prohibited from shoulder-bands of undue width, double rufl's and cuffs, and "immoderate great breeches." Part of the solicitude was for modesty, part for gravity, part for economy: none must dress above their condition. In 1652, three men and a woman were fined ten shillings each and costs for wearing silverlace, another for broad bone-lace, another for tiffany, and another for a silk hood. Alice Flynt was accused of a silk hood, but, proving herself worth more than two hundred pounds, escaped uupunished. Jonas Fairbanks, about the same time, was charged with "great boots," and the evidence went hard against him; but he was fortunately acquitted, and the credit of the family saved.

The question of veils seems to have rocked the Massachusetts Colony to its foundations, and was fully discussed at Thursday Lecture, March 7tb, 1634. Holy Mr. Cotton was utterly and unalterably opposed to veils, regarding them as a token of submission to husbands in an unscriptural degree. It is pleasant to think that there could be an unscriptural extent of such submission, in those times. But Governor Endicott and Rev. Mr. Williams resisted stoutly, quoting Paul, as usual in such cases; so Paul, veils, and vanity carried the day. But afterward Mr. Cotton came to Salem, to preach for Mr. Skelton, and did not miss his chance to put in his solemn protest against veils; he said they were a custom not to be tolerated; and so the ladies all came to meeting without their veils in the afternoon—probably the most astounding visible result from a single sermon within the memory of man.

Beginning with the veils, the eye of authority was next turned on what was under them. In 1675 it was decided, that, as the Indians had done much harm of late, and the Deity was evidently displeased with something, the General Court should publish a list of the evils of the time. And among the twelve items of contrition stood this: "Long hair like women's hair is worn by some men, either their own or others' hair made into periwigs;—and by some women wearing borders of hair, and their cutting, curling, and immodest laying out of their hair," (does this hint at chignons ?) "which practice doth increase, especially among the younger sort." Not much was effected, however,— "divers of the elders' wives," as Winthrop lets out, "being in some measure partners in this disorder." The use of wigs also, at first denounced by the clergy, was at last countenanced by them: in portraits later than 1700 they usually replace the black skull-cap of earlier pictures, and in 1752 the tables bad so far turned that a church-member in Newbury refused communion because "the pastor wears a wig." Yet Increase Mather thought they played no small part in producing the Boston Fire. "Monstrous Periwigs, such as some of our church-members indulge in, which make them resemble the Locusts that ca.me out of ye Bottomless Pit (Rev. ix. 7, 8)—and, as an eminent Divine calls them, Horrid Bushes of Vanity, such strange apparel as is contrary to the light of Nature and to express Scripture (1 Cor. xi. 14,15); such pride is enough to provoke the Lord to kindle fires in all the towns in the country."

Another vexation was the occasional arrival of false prophets in a community where every man was expected to have a current supply of religious experiences always ready for circulation. There was a certain hypocritical Dick Swayn, for instance, a seafaring man, who gave much trouhle; and E. F.,—for they mostly appear by initials,—who, coming to New Haven one Saturday evening, and being dressed in black, was taken for a minister, and asked to preach: he was apparently a little insane, and at first talked "demurely," but at last "railed like Rabshakeh," Cotton Mather says. There was also M. J., a Welsh tanner, who finally stole his employer's leather breeches and set up for a preacher,— less innocently apparelled than George Fox. But the worst of all was one bearing the since sainted name of Samuel May. This vessel of wrath appeared in 1699, indorsed as a man of a sweet gospel spirit,—though, indeed, one of bis indorsers had himself been "a scandalous fire-ship among the churches." Mather declares that every one went a-Maying after this man, whom he maintains to have been a barber previously, and who knew no Latin, Greek, Hebrew, nor even English,—for (as he indignantly asserts) "there were eighteen horrid false spells, and not one point, in one very short note I received from him." This doubtful personage copied his sermons from a volume by his namesake, Dr. Samuel Bolton,—" Sam the Doctor and Sam the Dunce," Mather calls them. Finally, "this eminent worthy stranger," Sam, who was no dunce, after all, quarrelled with his parish for their slow payments, and "flew out like a dragon, spitting this among other fire at them: —'I shall no longer pipe, no longerdance,'—so that they came to fear lie was a cheat, and wish they had never seen him." Then "the guilty fellow, having bubbled the silly neighbours of an incredible number of pounds, on a sudden was gone," and Cotton Mather sent a letter after him, which he declares to have been the worst penalty the man suffered.

It is safer to say little of the theological scheme of the Puritan ministers, lest the present writer be pronounced a Wanton Gospeller, and have no tithingman to take his part. But however it may be with the regular standards of theology of that period, every one could find a sufficient variety to suit him among its heresies. Eightytwo "pestilent heresies" were counted as having already sprung up in 1637; others say one hundred and six; others, two hundred and ten. The Puritans kept Rhode Island for what housekeepers call an "odd drawer," into which to crowd all these eccentricities. It was said that, if any man happened to lose his religious opinion, he might be sure to find it again at

some village in Rhode Island. Thither went Roger Williams and his Baptists; thither went Quakers and Ranters; thither went Ann Hutchinson, that extraordinary woman, who divided the whole politics of the country by her Antinomian doctrines, denouncing the formalisms around her, and converting the strongest men, like Cotton and Vane, to her opinions. Thither went also Samuel Gorton, a man of no ordinary power, who proclaimed a mystical union with God in love, thought that heaven and hell were in the mind alone, but esteemed little the clergy and the ordinances. The colony was protected also by the thoughtful and chivalrous Vane, who held that water baptism had bad its day, and that the Jewish Sabbath should give place to the modern Sunday. All these, and such as these, were called generally "Seekers" by the Puritans,—who claimed for themselves that they had found that which they sought. It is the old distinction; but for which is the ship bnilt, to be afloat or to be at anchor?

Such were those pious worthies, the men whose names are identified with the leadership of the New-England colonies,—Cotton, Hooker, Norton, Shepard, the Higginsons, the Mathers. To these might be added many an obscurer name, preserved in the quaint epitaphs of the "Magnalia :"—Blackman, "in spite of hi« name, a Nazarene whiter than snow;"—Partridge, "a hunted partridge," yet "both a dove and an eagle;"—Ezekiel Rogers, "a tree of knowledge, whose apples the very children might pluck;"—Nathaniel Rogers, "a very lively preacher and a very preaching liver, he loved his church as if it had been bis family and he taught his family as if it had been bis church;"—Warham, the first who preached with notes, and who suffered agonies of doubt respecting the Lord's Supper;—Stone, "both a loadstone and a flint stone," and who set the self-sacrificing example of preaching only one hour.

These men had mingled traits of good and evil, like all mankind,—nobler than their descendants in some attributes, less noble in others. The most strait-laced Massachusetts Calvinist of these days would have been disciplined by them for insufferable laxity, and yet their modern successor would count it utter shame, perhaps, to own a slave in bis family or to drink rum-punch at an ordination,—which Puritan divines might do without rebuke. Not one of them has left on record a statement so broad and noble as that of Roger Williams :— "To be content with food and raiment,—to mind, not our own, but every man the things of another,—yea, and to suffer wrong, and to part with what we judge to be right, yea, our own lives, and, as poor women martyrs bare said, as many as there be hairs upon our headi, for the name of God and for the Son of God'i sake,—this is humanity, this is Christianity; the rest is but formality and picture-courteous idolatry, and Jewish and Popish blasphemy against the Christian religion," And yet the mind of Roger Williams was impulsive, erratic, and unstable, compared with theirs; and in what respect has the work they left behind them proved, after the testing of two centuries, less solid or durable than his?

These men were stern even to cruelty against all that they held evil—Satan and his supposed emissaries, witches, Quakers, Indians, negligent parishioners, disobedient offspring, men with periwigs, and women in slash apparel. Yet the tenderest private gentleness often lay behind this gloomy rigour of the conscience. Some of them would never ohastise a son or daughter, in ipite of Solomon; others would write in Greek cnaracters in their old almanacs quaint little English verses on the death of some beloved child. That identical "Priest Wilson" who made the ballad at Mary Dyer's execution attended a military muster one day. "Sir," said tome one, " I '11 tell you a great thing: here's a mighty body of people, and there's not seven of them all but loves Mr. Wilson." "Sir," it was replied, "I '11 tell you as good a thing: here's a mighty body of people, and there's not one of them all but Mr. Wilson loves him." Mr. Cotton was a terror to evil-doers, yet, when a company of men came along from a tavern^ and said, "Let us put a trick upon Old Cotton,' and one came aud cried in his ear, " Cotton. thou art an old fool!"—" I know it, I know it!" retorted cheerily the venerable man, and pungently added, "The Lord make both me and thee wiser!" Mr. Hooker was once reproving a boy in the street, who boldly replied, "I see you are in a passion; I will not answer you!" and so ran away. It contradicts all one's notions of Puritan propriety, and yet it seems that the good man, finding afterwards that the hoy was not really guilty, sent for him to apologize, and owned himself to have been wrong.

What need to speak of strength and courage, the disinterestedness and zeal, with which they bore up the fortunes of the colony on their •boulders, and put that iron into the NewEngland blood which has since supplied the tonic for a continent? It was said of Mr. Hooker, that he was "a person who. while doing his Master's work, Would put a king in hie pocket;" and it was so with them all: they would pocket anything but a bribe to themselves or an insult to God or their profession. They flinched from no reproof that was needed: "Sharp rebukes make sound Christians" was a proverb among them. They sometimes lost their tempers, and sometimes their parishes, but never their independence. I find a hundred inecdotes of conscientious cruelty laid up against them, but not one of cowardice or of compromise. They may have bored the tongues of others with a bar of iron, but they never fettered their own tongues with a bar of p;old—as some African tribes think it a saintly thing to do, and not African tribes alone.

There was such an absolute righteousness among them, that to this day every man of New-England descent lives partly on the fund of virtuous habit they accumulated. And, on the other hand, every man of the many who still stand ready to endorse everything signed by a D. D.—without even adding the commercial E.E., for Errors excepted—is in part the victim of the over-influence they obtained. Yet there was a kind of democracy in that vast influence also. The Puritans were far more thorough congregationalists than their successors : they recognized no separate clerical class, and the "elder" was only the highest officer of his own church. Each religious society could choose and ordain its own minister, or dispense with all ordaining services at will, without the slightest aid or hindrance from council or consociation. So the stern theology of the pulpit only reflected the stern theology of the pews; the minister was but the representative man. If the ministers were recognized as spiritual guides, it was because they were such to the men of their time, whatever they might be to ours. Demonax of old, when asked about the priest's money, said that if they were really the leaders of the people they could not have too much payment, or too little if they were not. I believe that on these conditions the Puritan ministers well earned their hundred and sixty pounds a-year, with a discount of forty pounds if paid in wampum-beads, beaver-skins, and musket-balls. What they took in musketballs they paid back in the heavier ammunition of moral truth. Here is a specimen of their grapeshot:

"My fathers and brethren," said John Higginson, "this is never to be forgotten, that our New England is originally a plantation of religion, and not a plantation of trade. Let merchants, and such as are making cent.-per-cent., remember this. Let others who have come over since at sundry times remember this, that worldly gain was not the end and design of the people of New England, but religion. And if any man among us make religion as twelve and the world as thirteen, let such a man know he hath neither the spirit of a true New-England man, nor yet of a sincere Christian."

Knowledge.—When God created the world, the first fiat of his omnipotence was, "Let there be light!" So it is in all human enterprises, "Let there be knowledge 1" This, after all, is the most essential distinction between man and man. It is the first and most essential element of power; it is the germ of all prosperity; it is the means of all enjoyment.

SEEING OUR FRIENDS

BY SHIRLEY GERARD.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading in " Blackwood's Magazine" the excellent series of stories entitled "The Chronicles of Carlingford," will have had placed before them in very graphic descriptions a succession of pictures of society in a country town. Country towns, as far as our experience goes, have a remarkable resemblance to each other. The houses, it is true, may not all have been built upon the same plan: the church in one may have a Norman tower, and in another may be in the Renaissance style; but the people worshipping in each are strikingly alike—given a bit of country-town gossip, and it may have been spoken by Mrs. Smith of Mrs. Brown, in Muckleburg, or by Mrs. Jones of Mrs. Robinson, in Stopford-Regis.

In many respects the people of Carlingford are exceptional, and yet so natural, that we are quite satisfied if, in any Carlingford of our acquaintance, were to appear a high-church curate like Frank Wentworth, a gentlemanly Dissenter like the hero of Salem Chapel, and a doctor, to whom fate had given a brother like Fred Ryder, and a sister-in-law like Nettie Underwood, events similar to those related so charmingly, and with such quiet humour, by Mrs. Oliphant, would have been not only probable, but certain to take place.

The inhabitants of Carlingford, the people who pay rent and taxes, and carry on the trade of the little town, and represent the nobility and gentry, are possible inhabitants for any country town of our acquaintance. Take Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, the new Rector of Carlingford and his wife, for example, in the "Perpetual Curate ;" can anything be more natural than Mrs. Morgan's suppressed disappointment—if we may use the term—in the husband who had been perfection in her eyes during the ten long, weary years of her engagement, and also her regrets that they had not braved fortune and married when the illusions of youth were fresh and strong? And then her disgust at the glaring carpet in her drawing-room, which was not of her choosing, and her sensitiveness with regard to her own looks, which had waned sensibly during the long term of waiting, and left her, when she at last achieved the honours of matronhood, merely a plain, middle-aged woman. Mrs. Oliphant is perfectly at home in sketching these little traits of character, and we enjoy and appreciate them thoroughly.

But those who know country-town society will, we are sure, agree with us in thinking that Mrs. Oliphant has been scarcely so successful in her descriptions of the gaieties which, under the auspices of Miss Majoribanks, en

livened the dulness of Carlingford, as she has been in describing the persecutions endured by the refined Vincent from his vulgar colleagues, and by the much-enduring perpetual curate from his worthy aunts. However, Miss Majoribanks is not by any means an ordinary young lady, and the entertainments which the introduces into Carlingford are of a very novel description. We are startled at the cool selfpossession of a girl who tells everyone that she wants gentlemen at her parties who can flirt; still we would have preferred a young lady for a hostess whose aim was not to be "a comfort to dear papa," according to the fair Luanda's definition of the term, and we feel assured that the style of parties which actually do take place in country-towns described by Mrs. Oliphant's graphic pen would have been a rich literary treat.

But, for our own part, we confess that, were we obliged to live in Carlingford, we should hail with gratitude innovations of the Majoribanks type, while at the same time we bare grave doubts that her evenings were less stupid than the evenings of other people, and we suspect that after their first curiosity was satisfied, her guests would grow tired of accepting invitations when they knew that a duet between their confident young hostess and the defiant young plebeian Barbara Lake would be the principal amusement of the evening.

It is not that the usual style of evening-party in a country-town, at which the same people are always meeting the same people, is more lively than the festivities designed with a view to the special comfort of Dr. Majoribanks, but still they would be preferred to those festivities simply because the majority of people like that to which they are accustomed. And is it not wonderful, if we look into it, the amount of boring which the people who give evening-parties, and the people who go to them, endure? Let us consider the trouble, the actual manual-labour, which a lady of the middle-class, moving in the " best set in her town, has to undergo before she can "see a few friends" as it is called?

She has not much difficulty about her invitations, for, of course, she must ask all her friends in the town; that is, the friends who visit her, and whom she visits. But if she omits one, that one will have a grievance; people will talk, and the whole place will be in a small commotion. So the young ladies, her daughters, write the invitations for mamma; nice friend;/ little notes, just saying, "We expect a few friends to tea," on such an evening: "willy°u and Arabella and Lucy, and your son, join_" and tell the girls, please, to bring their rou«c

« AnteriorContinuar »