1646 A.D. Early in the history of New England, efforts were made to win the Indians to the Christian faith. The Governor of Massachusetts appointed ministers to carry the gospel to the savages. Mr. John Eliot, the Apostle of the Indians, was a minister near Boston. Moved by the pitiful condition of the natives, he acquired the language of some of the tribes in his neighbourhood. He went and preached to them in their own tongue. He printed books for them. The savages received his words. Many of them listened to his sermons in tears. Many professed faith in Christ, and were gathered into congregations. He gave them a simple code of laws. It was even attempted to establish a college for training native teachers; but this had to be abandoned. The slothfulness of the Indian youth, and their devouring passion for strong liquors, unfitted them for the ministry. These vices seemed incurable in the Indian character. No persuasion could induce them to labour. They could be taught to rest on the Sabbath; they could not be taught to work on the other six days. And even the best of them would sell all they had for spirits. These were grave hindrances; but, in spite of them, Christianity made considerable progress among the Indians. The hold which it then gained was never altogether lost. And it was observed that in all the misunderstandings which arose between the English and the natives, the converts steadfastly adhered to their new friends.
During the first forty years of its existence, the great city which we call New York was a Dutch settlement, known among men as New Amsterdam. 1609 A.D. That region had been discovered for the Dutch East India Company by Henry Hudson, who was still in search, as Columbus had been, of a shorter route to the East. The Dutch have never displayed any aptitude for colonizing. But they were unsurpassed in mercantile discernment, and they set up trading stations with much judgment. Three or four years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the Dutch West India Company determined to enter into trading relations with the Indians along the line of the Hudson river. They sent out a few families, who planted themselves at the southern extremity of Manhattan Island. A wooden fort was built, around which clustered a few wooden houses – just as in Europe the baron’s castle arose and the huts of the baron’s dependants sheltered beside it. The Indians sold valuable furs for scanty payment in blankets, beads, muskets, and intoxicating drinks. The prudent Dutchmen grew rich, and were becoming numerous. 1643 A.D. But a fierce and prolonged war with the Indians broke out. The Dutch, having taken offence at something done by the savages, expressed their wrath by the massacre of an entire tribe. All the Indians of that region made common cause against the dangerous strangers. All the Dutch villages were burned down. Long Island became a desert. The Dutchmen were driven in to the southern tip of the island on which New York stands.
1645 A.D. The war came to an end as wars even then required to do. For twenty years the colony continued to nourish under the government of a sagacious Dutchman called Petrus Stuyvesant. Petrus had been a soldier, and had lost a leg in the wars. He was a brave and true-hearted man, but withal despotic. When his subjects petitioned for some part in the making of laws, he was astonished at their boldness. He took it upon him to inspect the merchants’ books. He persecuted the Lutherans and “the abominable sect of Quakers.”
It cannot be said that his government was faultless. The colony prospered under it, however, and a continued immigration from Europe increased its importance. But in the twentieth year, certain English ships of war sailed up the bay, and, without a word of explanation, anchored near the settlement. Governor Petrus was from home, but they sent for him, and he came with speed. He hastened to the fort and looked out into the bay. There lay the ships – grim, silent, ominously near. Appalled by the presence of his unexpected visitors, the Governor sent to ask wherefore they had come. His alarm was well founded; for Charles II. of England had presented to his brother James of York a vast stretch of territory, including the region which the Dutch had chosen for their settlement. It was not his to give, but that signified nothing either to Charles or to James. These ships had come to take possession in the Duke of York’s name. A good many of the colonists were English, and they were well pleased to be under their own Government. They would not fight. The Dutch remembered the Governor’s tyrannies, and they would not fight. Governor Petrus was prepared to fight single-handed. He had the twenty guns of the fort loaded, and was resolute to fire upon the ships. So at least he professed. But the inhabitants begged him, in mercy to them, to forbear; and he suffered himself to be led by two clergymen away from the loaded guns. It was alleged, to his disparagement, afterwards, that he had “allowed himself to be persuaded by ministers and other chicken-hearted persons.” Be that as it may, King Charles’s errand was done. The little town of fifteen hundred inhabitants, with all the neighbouring settlements, passed quietly under English rule. And the future Empire City was named New York, in honour of one of the meanest tyrants who ever disgraced the English throne. With the settlements on the Hudson there fell also into the hands of the English those of New Jersey, which the Dutch had conquered from the Swedes.
It was not till the year 1682 that the uneventful but quietly prosperous career of Pennsylvania began. The Stuarts were again upon the throne of England. They had learned nothing from their exile; and now, with the hour of their final rejection at hand, they were as wickedly despotic as ever.
William Penn was the son of an admiral who had gained victories for England, and enjoyed the favour of the royal family as well as of the eminent statesmen of his time. The highest honours of the State would in due time have come within the young man’s reach, and the brightest hopes of his future were reasonably entertained by his friends. To the dismay of all, Penn became a Quaker. It was an unspeakable humiliation to the well-connected admiral. He turned his son out of doors, trusting that hunger would subdue his intractable spirit. After a time, however, he relented, and the youthful heretic was restored to favour. His father’s influence could not shield him from persecution. Penn had suffered fine, and had lain in the Tower for his opinions.
Ere long the admiral died, and Penn succeeded to his possessions. It deeply grieved him that his brethren in the faith should endure such wrongs as were continually inflicted upon them. He could do nothing at home to mitigate the severities under which they groaned, therefore he formed the great design of leading them forth to a new world. King Charles owed to the admiral a sum of ?16,000, and this doubtful investment had descended from the father to the son. Penn offered to take payment in land, and the King readily bestowed upon him a vast region stretching westward from the river Delaware. Here Penn proposed to found a State free and self-governing. It was his noble ambition “to show men as free and as happy as they can be.” He proclaimed to the people already settled in his new dominions that they should be governed by laws of their own making. “Whatever sober and free men can reasonably desire,” he told them, “for the security and improvement of their own happiness, I shall heartily comply with.” He was as good as his word. The people appointed representatives, by whom a Constitution was framed. Penn confirmed the arrangements which the people chose to adopt.
Penn dealt justly and kindly with the Indians, and they requited him with a reverential love such as they evinced to no other Englishman. The neighbouring colonies waged bloody wars with the Indians who lived around them – now inflicting defeats which were almost exterminating – now sustaining hideous massacres. Penn’s Indians were his children and most loyal subjects. No drop of Quaker blood was ever shed by Indian hand in the Pennsylvanian territory. Soon after Penn’s arrival he invited the chief men of the Indian tribes to a conference. The meeting took place beneath a huge elm-tree. The pathless forest has long given way to the houses and streets of Philadelphia, but a marble monument points out to strangers the scene of this memorable interview. Penn, with a few companions, unarmed, and dressed according to the simple fashion of their sect, met the crowd of formidable savages. They met, he assured them, as brothers “on the broad pathway of good faith and good will.” No advantage was to be taken on either side. All was to be “openness and love;” and Penn meant what he said. Strong in the power of truth and kindness, he bent the fierce savages of the Delaware to his will. They vowed “to live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the moon and the sun shall endure.” They kept their vow. Long years after, they were known to recount to strangers, with deep emotion, the words which Penn had spoken to them under the old elm-tree of Shakamaxon.
The fame of Penn’s settlement went abroad in all lands. Men wearied with the vulgar tyranny of Kings heard gladly that the reign of freedom and tranquillity was established on the banks of the Delaware. An asylum was opened “for the good and oppressed of every nation.” Of these there was no lack. Pennsylvania had nothing to attract such “dissolute persons” as had laid the foundations of Virginia. But grave and God-fearing men from all the Protestant countries sought a home where they might live as conscience taught them. The new colony grew apace. Its natural advantages were tempting. Penn reported it as “a good land, with plentiful springs, the air clear and fresh, and an innumerable quantity of wild-fowl and fish; what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be well-contented with.” During the first year, twenty-two vessels arrived, bringing two thousand persons. In three years, Philadelphia was a town of six hundred houses. It was half a century from its foundation before New York attained equal dimensions.
When Penn, after a few years, revisited England, he was able truly to relate that “things went on sweetly with Friends in Pennsylvania; that they increased finely in outward things and in wisdom.”
The thirteen States which composed the original Union were, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
1732 A.D. Of these the latest born was Georgia. Only fifty years had passed since Penn established the Quaker State on the banks of the Delaware. But changes greater than centuries have sometimes wrought had taken place. The Revolution had vindicated the liberties of the British people. The tyrant house of Stuart had been cast out, and with its fall the era of despotic government had closed. The real governing power was no longer the King, but the Parliament.
Among the members of Parliament during the rule of Sir Robert Walpole was one almost unknown to us now, but deserving of honour beyond most men of his time. His name was James Oglethorpe. He was a soldier, and had fought against the Turks and in the great Marlborough wars against Louis XIV. In advanced life he became the friend of Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson urged him to write some account of his adventures. “I know no one,” he said, “whose life would be more interesting: if I were furnished with materials I should be very glad to write it.” Edmund Burke considered him “a more extraordinary person than any he had ever read of.” John Wesley “blessed God that ever he was born.” Oglethorpe attained the great age of ninety-six, and died in the year 1785. The year before his death he attended the sale of Dr. Johnson’s books, and was there met by Samuel Rogers the poet. “Even then,” says Rogers, “he was the finest figure of a man you ever saw; but very, very old – the flesh of his face like parchment.”
In Oglethorpe’s time it was in the power of a creditor to imprison, according to his pleasure, the man who owed him money and was not able to pay it. It was a common circumstance that a man should be imprisoned during a long series of years for a trifling debt. Oglethorpe had a friend upon whom this hard fate had fallen. His attention was thus painfully called to the cruelties which were inflicted upon the unfortunate and helpless. He appealed to Parliament, and after inquiry a partial remedy was obtained. The benevolent exertions of Oglethorpe procured liberty for multitudes who but for him might have ended their lives in captivity.
This, however, did not content him. Liberty was an incomplete gift to men who had lost, or perhaps had scarcely ever possessed, the faculty of earning their own maintenance. Oglethorpe devised how he might carry these unfortunates to a new world, where, under happier auspices, they might open a fresh career. 1732 A.D. He obtained from King George II. a charter by which the country between the Savannah and the Alatamaha, and stretching westward to the Pacific, was erected into the province of Georgia. It was to be a refuge for the deserving poor, and next to them for Protestants suffering persecution. Parliament voted ?10,000 in aid of the humane enterprise, and many benevolent persons were liberal with their gifts. In November the first exodus of the insolvent took place. Oglethorpe sailed with one hundred and twenty emigrants, mainly selected from the prisons – penniless, but of good repute. He surveyed the coasts of Georgia, and chose a site for the capital of his new State. He pitched his tent where Savannah now stands, and at once proceeded to mark out the line of streets and squares.
Next year the colony was joined by about a hundred German Protestants, who were then under persecution for their beliefs. The colonists received this addition to their numbers with joy. A place of residence had been chosen for them which the devout and thankful strangers named Ebenezer. They were charmed with their new abode. The river and the hills, they said, reminded them of home. They applied themselves with steady industry to the cultivation of indigo and silk; and they prospered.
The fame of Oglethorpe’s enterprise spread over Europe. All struggling men against whom the battle of life went hard looked to Georgia as a land of promise. They were the men who most urgently required to emigrate; but they were not always the men best fitted to conquer the difficulties of the immigrant’s life. The progress of the colony was slow. The poor persons of whom it was originally composed were honest but ineffective, and could not in Georgia more than in England find out the way to become self-supporting. Encouragements were given which drew from Germany, from Switzerland, and from the Highlands of Scotland, men of firmer texture of mind – better fitted to subdue the wilderness and bring forth its treasures.
1736 A.D. With Oglethorpe there went out, on his second expedition to Georgia, the two brothers John and Charles Wesley. Charles went as secretary to the Governor. John was even then, although a very young man, a preacher of unusual promise. He burned to spread the gospel among the settlers and their Indian neighbours. He spent two years in Georgia, and these were unsuccessful years. His character was unformed; his zeal out of proportion to his discretion. The people felt that he preached “personal satires” at them. He involved himself in quarrels, and at last had to leave the colony secretly, fearing arrest at the instance of some whom he had offended. He returned to begin his great career in England, with the feeling that his residence in Georgia had been of much value to himself, but of very little to the people whom he sought to benefit.
Just as Wesley reached England, his fellow-labourer George Whitefield sailed for Georgia. There were now little settlements spreading inland, and Whitefield visited these, bearing to them the word of life. He founded an Orphan-House at Savannah, and supported it by contributions – obtained easily from men under the power of his unequalled eloquence. He visited Georgia very frequently, and his love for that colony remained with him to the last.
Slavery was, at the outset, forbidden in Georgia. It was opposed to the gospel, Oglethorpe said, and therefore not to be allowed. He foresaw, besides, what has been so bitterly experienced since, that slavery must degrade the poor white labourer. But soon a desire sprung up among the less scrupulous of the settlers to have the use of slaves. Within seven years from the first landing, slave-ships were discharging their cargoes at Savannah.
In the month of December 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers landed from the Mayflower. Their landing takes rank among our great historical transactions. The rock which first received their footsteps is a sacred spot, to which the citizens of great and powerful States make reverential pilgrimages. And right it should be so; for the vast influence for good which New England exerts, and must ever exert, in the world’s affairs, has risen upon the foundation laid by these sickly and storm-wearied Pilgrims.
A few months previously another landing had taken place, destined in the fulness of time to bear the strangest of fruits. In the month of August a Dutch ship of war sailed up the James river and put twenty negroes ashore upon the Virginian coast. It was a wholly unnoticed proceeding. No name or lineage had these sable strangers. No one cared to know from what tribe they sprang, or how it fared with them in their sorrowful journeying. Yet these men were Pilgrim Fathers too. They were the first negro slaves in a land whose history, during the next century and a half, was to receive a dark, and finally a bloody, colouring from the fact of Negro Slavery.
The negro slave trade was an early result of the discovery of America. To utilize the vast possessions which Columbus had bestowed upon her, Spain deemed that compulsory labour was indispensable. The natives of the country naturally fell the first victims to this necessity. Terrible desolations were wrought among the poor Indians. Proud and melancholy, they could not be reconciled to their bondage. They perished by thousands under the merciless hand of their new task-masters.
1542 A.D. Charles V. heard with remorse of this ruin of the native races. Indian slavery was at once and peremptorily forbidden. But labourers must be obtained, or those splendid possessions would relapse into wilderness. Spanish merchants traded to the coasts of Africa, where they bought gold dust and ivory for beads and ribands and scarlet cloaks. They found there a harmless idle people, whose simple wants were supplied without effort on their part; and who, in the absence of inducement, neither laboured nor fought. The Spaniards bethought them of these men to cultivate their fields, to labour in their mines. They were gentle and tractable; they were heathens, and therefore the proper inheritance of good Catholics; by baptism and instruction in the faith their souls would be saved from destruction. Motives of the most diverse kinds urged the introduction of the negro. At first the traffic extended no further than to criminals. Thieves and murderers, who must otherwise have been put to death, enriched their chiefs by the purchase-money which the Spaniards were eager to pay. But on all that coast no rigour of law could produce offenders in numbers sufficient to meet the demand. Soon the limitation ceased. Unoffending persons were systematically kidnapped and sold. The tribes went to war in the hope of taking prisoners whom they might dispose of to the Spaniards.
England was not engaged in that traffic at its outset. Ere long her hands were as deeply tainted with its guilt as those of any other country. But for a time her intercourse with Africa was for blameless purposes of commerce. And while that continued the English were regarded with confidence by the Africans. 1557 A.D. At length one John Lok, a shipmaster, stole five black men and brought them to London. The next Englishman who visited Africa found that that theft had damaged the good name of his countrymen. His voyage was unprofitable, for the natives feared him. When this was told in London the mercantile world was troubled, for the African trade was a gainful one. The five stolen men were conveyed safely home again.