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- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 40/65 -


day Leddra suffered, Christison was brought before Endicott, and commanded to renounce his religion; but he answered: "Nay, I shall not change my religion, nor seek to save my life; ... but if I lose my life for Christ's sake and the preaching of the gospel, I shall save it." They then sent him back to prison to await his doom. At the next court he was brought to the bar, where he demanded an appeal to England; but in the midst a letter was brought in from Wharton, signifying, "That whereas they had banished him on pain of death, yet he was at home in his own house at Salem, and therefore proposing, 'That they would take off their wicked sentence from him, that he might go about his occasions out of their jurisdiction.'" [Footnote: Besse, ii. 222, 223.]

Endicott was exasperated to frenzy, for he felt the ground crumbling beneath him; he put the fate of Christison to the vote, and failed to carry a condemnation. "The governor seeing this division, said, 'I could find it in my heart to go home;' being in such a rage, that he flung something furiously on the table. ...Then the governor put the court to vote again; but this was done confusedly, which so incensed the governor that he stood up and said, 'You that will not consent record it: I thank God I am not afraid to give judgment...Wenlock Christison, hearken to your sentence: You must return unto the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there you must be hang'd until you are dead, dead, dead.'" [Footnote: Sewel, p. 279.] Thereafter Wharton invoked the wrath of God against the theocracy.

To none of the enormities committed, during these years are the divines more keenly alive than to the crime of disturbing what they call "public Sabbath worship;" [Footnote: _As to Roger Williams_, p. 139.] and since their language conveys the impression that such acts were not only very common, but also unprovoked, whereas the truth is that they were rare, it cannot fail to be instructive to relate the causes which led to the interruption of the ordination of that Mr. Higginson, who called the "inner light" "a stinking vapour from hell." [Footnote: Ordained July 8, 1660. _Annals of Salem_.]

John and Margaret Smith were members of the Salem church, and John was a freeman. In 1658, Margaret became a Quaker, and though in feeble health, she was cast into prison, and endured the extremities of privation; her sufferings and her patience so wrought upon her husband that he too became a convert, and a few weeks before the ceremony wrote to Endicott:

"O governour, governour, do not think that my love to my wife is at all abated, because I sit still silent, and do not seek her ... freedom, which if I did would not avail.... Upon examination of her, there being nothing justly laid to her charge, yet to fulfil your wills, it was determined, that she must have ten stripes in the open market place, it being very cold, the snow lying by the walls, and the wind blowing cold.... My love is much more increased to her, because I see your cruelty so much enlarged to her." [Footnote: Besse, ii. 208, 209.]

Yet, though laboring under such intense excitement, the only act of insubordination wherewith this man is charged was saying in a loud voice during the service, "What you are going about to set up, our God is pulling down." [Footnote: Hutch. _Hist._ i. 187.]

Dr. Dexter also speaks with pathos of the youth of some of the criminals.

"Hannah Wright, a mere girl of less than fifteen summers, toiled ... from Oyster Bay ... to Boston, that she might pipe in the ears of the court 'a warning in the name of the Lord.'" [Footnote: _As to Roger Williams,_ p. 133.] This appears to have happened in 1664, [Footnote: Besse, ii. 234. _New England Judged_, ed. 1703, p. 461.] yet the name of Hannah Wright is recorded among those who were released in the general jail delivery in 1661, [Footnote: Besse, ii. 224.] when she was only twelve; and her sister had been banished. [Footnote: _New England Judged_, ed. 1703, p. 461.]

But of all the scandals which have been dwelt on for two centuries with such unction, none have been made more notorious than certain extravagances committed by three women; and regarding them, the reasoning of Dr. Dexter should be read in full.

"The Quaker of the seventeenth century ... was essentially a coarse, blustering, conceited, disagreeable, impudent fanatic; whose religion gained subjective comfort in exact proportion to the objective comfort of which it was able to deprive others; and which broke out into its choicest exhibitions in acts which were not only at that time in the nature of a public scandal and nuisance, but which even in the brightest light of this nineteenth century ... would subject those who should be guilty of them to the immediate and stringent attention of the police court. The disturbance of public Sabbath worship, and the indecent exposure of the person-- whether conscience be pleaded for them or not--are punished, and rightly punished, as crimes by every civilized government." [Footnote: _As to Roger Williams_, pp. 138, 139.]

This paragraph undoubtedly refers to Mary Tomkins, who "on the First Day of the week at Oyster River, broke up the service of God's house ... the scene ending in deplorable confusion;" [Footnote: _As to Roger Williams_, p. 133.] and to Lydia Wardwell and Deborah Wilson, who appeared in public naked.

Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose came to Massachusetts in 1662; landing at Dover, they began preaching at the inn, to which a number of people resorted. Mr. Rayner, hearing the news, hurried to the spot, and in much irritation asked them what they were doing there? This led to an argument about the Trinity, and the authority of ministers, and at last the clergyman "in a rage flung away, calling to his people, at the window, to go from amongst them." [Footnote: _New England Judged_, ed. 1703, p. 362.] Nothing was done at the moment, but toward winter the two came back from Maine, whither they had gone, and then Mr. Rayner saw his opportunity. He caused Richard Walden to prosecute them, and as the magistrate was ignorant of the technicalities of the law, the elder acted as clerk, and drew up for him the following warrant:--

* * * * *

To the Constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Wenham, Linn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these vagabond Quakers are carried out of this jurisdiction. You and every of you are required, in the King's Majesty's name, to take these vagabond Quakers, Anne Coleman, Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart's tail, and driving the cart through your several towns, to whip them on their backs, not exceeding ten stripes apiece on each of them in each town, and so to convey them from constable to constable, till they come out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril: and this shall be your warrant.

Per me RICHARD WALDEN. At Dover, dated December the 22d, 1662. [Footnote: Besse, ii. 227.]

* * * * *

The Rev. John Rayner pronounced judgment of death by flogging, for the weather was bitter, the distance to be walked was eighty miles, and the lashes were given with a whip, whose three twisted, knotted thongs cut to the bone.

"So, in a very cold day, your deputy, Walden, caused these women to be stripp'd naked from the middle upward, and tyed to a cart, and after a while cruelly whipp'd them, whilst the priest stood and looked, and laughed at it.... They went with the executioner to Hampton, and through dirt and snow at Salisbury, half way the leg deep, the constable forced them after the cart's tayl at which he whipp'd them." [Footnote: _New England Judged_, pp. 366, 367.]

Had the Reverend John Rayner but followed the cart, to see that his three hundred and thirty lashes were all given with the same ferocity which warmed his heart to mirth at Dover, before his journey's end he would certainly have joyed in giving thanks to God over the women's gory corpses, freezing amid the snow. His negligence saved their lives, for when the ghastly pilgrims passed through Salisbury, the people to their eternal honor set the captives free.

Soon after, on Sunday,--"Whilst Alice Ambrose was at prayer, two constables ... came ... and taking her ... dragged her out of doors, and then with her face toward the snow, which was knee deep, over stumps and old trees near a mile; when they had wearied themselves they ... left the prisoner in an house ... and fetched Mary Tomkins, whom in like manner they dragged with her face toward the snow....On the next morning, which was excessive cold, they got a canoe ... and so carried them to the harbour's mouth, threatning, that 'They would now so do with them, as that they would be troubled with them no more.' The women being unwilling to go, they forced them down a very steep place in the snow, dragging Mary Tomkins over the stumps of trees to the water side, so that she was much bruised, and fainted under their hands: They plucked Alice Ambrose into the water, and kept her swimming by the canoe in great danger of drowning, or being frozen to death. They would in all probability have proceeded in their wicked purpose to the murthering of those three women, had they not been prevented by a sudden storm, which drove them back to the house again. They kept the women there till near midnight, and then cruelly turned them out of doors in the frost and snow, Alice Ambrose's clothes being frozen hard as boards.... It was observable that those constables, though wicked enough of themselves, were animated by a ruling elder of their church, whose name corresponded not with his actions, for he was called Hate-evil Nutter, he put those men forward, and by his presence encouraged them." [Footnote: Besse, ii. 228.]

Subsequently, Mary Tomkins committed the breach of the peace complained of, which was an interruption of a sermon against Quaker preaching. [Footnote: _New England Judged_, ed. 1703, p. 386.]

Deborah Wilson, one of the women who went abroad naked, was insane, the fact appearing of record subsequently as the judgment of the court. She was flogged. [Footnote: _Quaker Invasion_, p. 104.]

Lydia Wardwell was the daughter of Isaac Perkins, a freeman. She married Eliakim Wardwell, son of Thomas Wardwell, who was also a citizen. They became Quakers; and the story begins when the poor young woman had been a wife just three years. "At Hampton, Priest Seaborn Cotton, understanding that one Eliakim Wardel had entertained Wenlock Christison, went with some of his herd to Eliakim's house, having like a sturdy herdsman put himself at the head of his followers, with a truncheon in his hand." Eliakim was fined for harboring Christison, and "a pretty beast for the saddle, worth about fourteen pound, was taken ... the overplus of [Footnote: Sewel, p. 340.] which to make up to him, your officers plundred old William Marston of a vessel of green ginger, which for some fine was taken from him, and forc'd it into Eliakim's house, where he let it lie and touched it not; ... and notwithstanding he came not to your invented worship, but was fined ten shillings a day's absence, for him and his wife, yet was he often rated for priest's hire; and the priest (Seaborn Cotton, old John Cotton's son) to obtain his end and to cover himself, sold his rate to a man almost as bad as himself, ... who coming in pretence of borrowing a little corn for himself, which the harmless honest man willingly lent him; and he finding thereby that he had corn, which was his design, Judas-like, he went ... and measured it away as he pleased."

"Another time, the said Eliakim being rated to the said priest, Seaborn Cotton, the said Seaborn having a mind to a pied heifer Eliakim had, as Ahab had to Naboth's vineyard, sent his servant nigh two miles to fetch her; who having robb'd Eliakim of her, brought her to his master."...


The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 40/65

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