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The Puritans loved their new-fangled notions too well, I repeat, to die for them: they preferred to live and propagate them. Hence their Exodus to Holland. Hence their embarkation for the wilds of America. There they found neither Monarchy, nor Aristocracy, nor Catholics, nor Protestants, nor Presbyteriansnothing but the savage and the forest. They attacked one with gunpowder and brandy, and the other with the axe. They soon cleared space enough to erect their temple, and to worship after their own fashion.
No heretic, however, in the shape of a Catholic or Quaker was allowed to approach it.* In England they railed against Church and State for meddling with their conscience, and denying them religious liberty. Once their own masters in America, they forbade any other Sect to enter their boundaries. This was inconsistent, but such is human nature.
Having secured the Church from all rivalry, they next looked sharply after morals. Woe to all sinners against the Decalogue. But even the levities of life were not tolerated. Cotton Mather denounced the drinking of healths at table as Pagan; proscribed the use of ornaments for the hair by females; and rebuked the wickedness of leaving their arms and necks uncovered.
These daring innovators clearly meant to construct society anew, and mould human nature after their own pattern. The European mould they considered im
* By the penal law of Massachusetts, any Catholic Priest who set foot in the Colony after being once driven out of it, was liable to capital punishment. The law against Quakers, 1656, begins, "Whereas an accursed race of heretics called Quakers has sprung up," &c. They were sentenced to be whipped, and imprisoned with hard labor, if found in the Colony. A law in 1644 banished the Anabaptists from the Colony.
perfect, and essayed to break. They ignored the satirical Horace who asserted that, Naturam expelles furcâ, tamen usque recurret-“Vain is the attempt to suppress nature, for sooner or later it will vindicate itself.”
Religion and morals being now regulated after the Puritan standard, the problem of Government remained. The Puritans who landed at Plymouth, 1620, however they may have differed in intelligence, were otherwise. all equals. They represented the Middle Class of England.* "The settlers," says De Tocqueville, "who established themselves on the shores of New England all belonged to the more independent classes of their native country. Their union on the soil of America at once presented the singular phenomenon of a society containing neither lords nor common people, neither rich nor poor. These men possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater mass of intelligencef than is to be found in any European nation of our own time. All, without a single exception, had received a good education, and many of them were known in Europe for their talents and acquirements." Without title, privilege, or fortune, it was not likely that such men, at such a time and place, would dream of Monarchy or Aristocracy. Each stood in need of the right arm of the other, and they naturally entered into a Compact to combine themselves into "a civil body politick for our better ordering and preservation," and agreed "to
* A distinguished author remarks that "in England the stronghold of Puritanism was in the middle classes, and it was from the middle classes that the majority of the emigrants came.
† Strange to say, these intelligent men brought to America the absurd delusions existing in England and all Europe on the subject of witchcraft. They seemed to believe that Satan visibly interfered through his agents in the affairs of this world, and frequently condemned to death unfortunate persons accused of "witchcraft."
enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the good of the colony."* Had these emigrants come under a leader whose social or intellectual superiority was recognized, then, some one of the old forms of European Government might have been adopted. These Puritans, however, were in condition and intellect. so nearly on a level that assumption of authority by any one was impossible, until conferred by the Majority.
In this way was born in the world a Government till then unknown. It is true that thinkers both before and since the Christian era had indulged in visions of a pure Democracy, but out of dreamland it had never existed. Nor was such a scheme possible in Europe, Asia, or Africa, where the superior intellect of the Minority secured for them the Government of the Majority, and the control of the national wealth. It could not be otherwise, as the Majority, from ignorance, were unable to govern, and if at any period in any of these Continents the Minority had chosen to abdicate, anarchy in a thousand forms must have ensued. Το have proposed the establishment of a pure Democracy, therefore, in any part of the Old World, that is, the Government of the intellectual few by the ignorant many, would have been an absurdity.
Had the Majority of the English people in the seventeenth century possessed the capacity of the Puritans, there would have been no necessity for the latter to emigrate, as they would have had in their own country the Government of this Majority. But, as such
*This quotation is borrowed from the Compact drawn up by the Puritans in the cabin of the Mayflower before landing.
was not the case, these brooding men were dissatisfied. They had religious and political crotchets they were bent on testing. Was it wise to try the experiment in England or elsewhere? Some decided on the former course; others, more practical, chose the latter. The Puritans in England succeeded-1640-1660-in upsetting the rule of the Minority, but the Majority feeling themselves incompetent to govern, restored it at the earliest opportunity.
The band who embarked for terra incognita contained a Majority able to make laws and administer them. The 41 men who began business in December, 1620, on the frozen soil of America at a spot they named Plymouth, voted by a Majority the "just and equal laws" required; and in the same manner appointed a Governor and seven assistants" to carry them out. They were few enough, at first, to meet together, and make new laws and new Governors by a Majority, as aforesaid. Soon they grew too numerous, and then they chose, by a Majority, Delegates to attend to their Legislative and Executive affairs. This Representative System they were obliged to borrow from the Mothercountry, which had the honor of inventing it.
This proves that none but English Colonists who understood the political machinery that had been set up in England, and which was meant to supersede the arbitrary will of an individual, or of a single classit proves, I say, that none but Englishmen of the seventeenth century could have laid the foundation of a pure Democracy. The French and Spaniards who went to America knew nothing of the Representative
*The whole company, including women and children, numbered 101
System. A Government by the Majority of them would only have ended in confusion. They imported the arbitrary rule they had inherited. Even at this day the Majority in France and Spain have not the political knowledge necessary to govern.
The Puritans of Plymouth, however, were the descendants of that Middle Class who, as was shown, in conjunction with the Nobles wrested Magna Charta from King John, and members, too, of the same class which was still struggling against the Royal prerogative. These shrewd men doubted the fitness of the Lower Class in England-the Majority--to govern, but they knew what could be accomplished if they once had the fulcrum on which to work their lever. In quest of this they came to Plymouth, and planted there the seeds of that Government by a Majority which was sure to prosper so long as the Majority were able to judge if their governmental work was properly done. The whole secret of Self-government turns on this. If the Majority of the population can be deluded by their Delegates, then the Republican edifice must crumble. No such danger menaced the intelligent men who colonized New England. The chief function they assigned to Government was to preserve order. They wanted no laws to favor an individual, or a class, at the expense of the rest. They conferred no power on their Delegates, either Executive or Legislative, that could Jeopardize their persons or property. They conceded authority only for a time, and renewed it only when satisfied of its proper exercise.*
* Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts was accused on one occasion of arbitrary conduct during his Magistracy. In his reply, he defined the true boundaries of liberty and authority thus :—“ Nor would I have you to mistake in the point of your own liberty. There is a liberty of