Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tical, and geographical view of the northern continent of America*.

Henry VII. of England, by the exertion of an authority similar to that of pope Alexander t, granted to Johu Cabot, a Venetian pilot, and his three sons, who were subjects and natives of England, a commission “ to navigate all parts of the ocean for the purpose of discovering islands, countries, regions, or provinces, either of Gentiles or Infidels, which have been hitherto unknown to all Christian people, with power to set up his standard, and to take possession of the same as vassals of the crown of England.” By virtue of this commission Sebastian Cabot, one of the sons,

A. D. explored and took possession of a great part 1498. of the North American continent, in the name and on behalf of the king of England. This discovery was made in consequence of an attempt to find a north-west passage to China ; an enterprise in which he failed, but which led to more important consequences.

For the space of more than half a century after the discovery, the English neither navigated the coast nor attempted to establish colonies.

The first English patent which was granted for

A. D. making settlements in the country, was

1578, issued by queen Elizabeth to sir Hum. phrey Gilbert. Shortly after she licensed Mr. Walter, afterwards sir Walter Raleigh, “ to search for Heathen lands not inhabited A. D.

1584. by Christian people," and granted to him, in fee, all the soil within 200 leagues of the places

* See the Table at the end of the volume,

+ See page 24 of this volume. VOL. XXIV.

where his people should make theirdwellings. URder his auspices an inconsiderable colony took possession of that part of the American coast which now forms North Carolina. In honour of the virgin queen, his sovereign, he gave to the whole country the name of Virginia. These first settlers, and others who followed them, were either destroyed by the natives, removed by succeeding navigalors, or died without leaving any behind to tell their melancholy story. No permanent settlement was effected till the reign of James the First. He granted letters patent to Thomas Gates and

his associates, by which he conferred on A. D. them 6 all those territories in America 1606.

which were not then possessed by other Christian princes," and which lay between the 34th and 45th degree of north latitude. They were divided into two companies. The one, consisting of adventurers of the city of London, was called the London company ; the other consisting of merchants of Plymouth and some other western towns, was called the Plymouth company The adventurers were empowered to transport thither as many English subjects as should willingly accompany them; and it was declared “ that the colonists and their children should enjoy the same liberties as if they had remained or were born within the realm." The

month of April is the epoch of the first perA. D.

manent settlement on the coast of Virginia, 1607.

the name then given to all that extent of country which now forms the original Thirteen States. The emigrants took possession of a peninsula on the northern side of James River, and erected a town in honour of their sovereign, which they called James-Town. In a few months diseases swept away one half of their number; which greatly dis

tressed and alarmed the others. Nevertheless, within twenty years from the first foundation of James-Town, upwards of 9000 English subjects had, at different times, migrated thither, of whom at this period only 1800 remained alive.

Thirteen years elapsed after James-Town be. gan to be built, before any permanent settlement was cffected in the northern colony. Various attempts for that purpose had failed, nor was the arduous business accomplished till it was undertaken by men who were influenced by higher motives than the mere extension of agriculture or commerce. These were denominated in England Puritans, from a desire of farther reformation in the established church, and particularly for their aversion from certain popish habits and ceremonies which they contended led to idolatry. So violent was the zeal of the majority for uniformity in matters of religion, that popular preachers among the Puritans were suspended, imprisoned, and ruined, for not using garments or ceremonies - which their adversaries acknowledged to be indif--ferent. And towards the end of queen Elizabeth's reign an act was passed for punishing those who refused to conse to church, or were present at any conventicle or meeting. The punishment in certain cases was perpetual banishment; and upon those who should return without licence, death was to be inflicted. This cruel law increased the pumber of Puritans. Some suffered death, others were banished; and not a few, to avoid these evils, voluntarily exiled themselves from their native country. Of this number was a congregation under the pastoral care of Mr. John Robinson, who, to elude their persecutors, removed to Holland. There they continued ten years highly esteemed

by the natives; when, on account of the morals.

of the Dutch, which in their opinion were A. D.

too lax, they began to think of a second 1620.

removal, lest their offspring should conform to the bad examples daily before them. They had also an ardent desire of propagating religion, in foreign lands, and of separating themselves from all the existing establishments in Europe. An application was made to James for full liberty. of conscience; but he promised only to connive at and not molest them. They nevertheless ventured, and sailed to the number of one hundred and one from Plymouth, and arrived at Cape Cod in November 1620. They formed themselves into a body politic under the crown of England, and employed themselves in making discoveries till the end of the year. Within six months of their landing they buried 44 persons out of the number that went out. Animated with a high degree of religious zeal, they supported every hardship with fortitude and resolution. The prospect of an exemption from ecclesiastical courts, and of an undisturb. ed liberty of worshipping their Creator in the way that was agreeable to their own consciences, were, in their estimation, a sufficient counterbalance to all that they underwent.

This handful of people laid the foundation of New-England, and from them sprung all those who have since inhabited Massachusetts, New.. Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Puritans, to which sect the first emigrants belonged, were a plain industrious people, and strict observers of the moral and social duties. According to their principles, the Bible was the sole rule both of faith and practice ; and the ima

no

position of articles of faith, modes of worship, &c; was subversive of natural rights, and an usurpation of power not delegated to any man or body of men whatever. It is to be lamented that these principles of religious liberty ceased to operate on the emigrants soon after they came into the possession of power. In the eleventh year after their

A. D. arrival in America, they resolved that “

1631. man should be admitted to the freedom of their body politic, but such as were members of their churches ;” and afterwards, “ that none but such should share in the administration of civil government or have a voice in any election.” In a few years more they had so far forgotten their own sufferings, as to press for uniformity in religion, and to turn persecutors in order to accomplish it. As the intolerance of England peopled Massachusetts, so the intolerance of that province made many emigrate from it, and gave rise to various distant settlements, which in the course of years were formed into other provincial establishments. Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New-Hampshire, sprung from Massachusetts, and their early growth was greatly accelerated by her impolitic zeal for uniformity. The country which was subdivided into these four provinces had been called New England ever since the year 1614. The propriety of classing them under one general name became inore evident, from their being settled by the same kind of people, connected with each other by blood, uniformity of manners, and a similarity of religious and political sentiments. The early population of this northern country was rapid. In the short space of twenty years from its first settlement, 21,200 persons arrived in 298 vessels; when, from a change in public affairs, the

« ZurückWeiter »