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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Men and Government in Early Massachusetts
By George Bancroft (1800–1891)
 
From ‘History of the United States’

THESE better auspices, and the invitations of Winthrop, won new emigrants from Europe. During the long summer voyage of the two hundred passengers who freighted the Griffin, three sermons a day beguiled their weariness. Among them was Haynes, a man of very large estate, and larger affections; of a “heavenly” mind, and a spotless life; of rare sagacity, and accurate but unassuming judgment; by nature tolerant, ever a friend to freedom, ever conciliating peace; an able legislator; dear to the people by his benevolent virtues and his disinterested conduct. Then also came the most revered spiritual teachers of two commonwealths: the acute and subtle Cotton, the son of a Puritan lawyer; eminent in Cambridge as a scholar; quick in the nice perception of distinctions, and pliant in dialects; in manner persuasive rather than commanding; skilled in the fathers and the schoolmen, but finding all their wisdom compactly stored in Calvin; deeply devout by nature as well as habit from childhood; hating heresy and still precipitately eager to prevent evil actions by suppressing ill opinions, yet verging toward a progress in truth and in religious freedom; an avowed enemy to democracy, which he feared as the blind despotism of animal instincts in the multitude, yet opposing hereditary power in all its forms; desiring a government of moral opinion, according to the laws of universal equity, and claiming “the ultimate resolution for the whole body of the people:” and Hooker, of vast endowments, a strong will and an energetic mind; ingenuous in his temper, and open in his professions; trained to benevolence by the discipline of affliction; versed in tolerance by his refuge in Holland; choleric, yet gentle in his affections; firm in his faith, yet readily yielding to the power of reason; the peer of the reformers, without their harshness; the devoted apostle to the humble and the poor, severe toward the proud, mild in his soothings of a wounded spirit, glowing with the raptures of devotion, and kindling with the messages of redeeming love; his eye, voice, gesture, and whole frame animate with the living vigor of heart-felt religion; public-spirited and lavishly charitable; and, “though persecutions and banishments had awaited him as one wave follows another,” ever serenely blessed with “a glorious peace of soul”; fixed in his trust in Providence, and in his adhesion to that cause of advancing civilization, which he cherished always, even while it remained to him a mystery. This was he whom, for his abilities and services, his contemporaries placed “in the first rank” of men; praising him as “the one rich pearl, with which Europe more than repaid America for the treasures from her coast.” The people to whom Hooker ministered had preceded him; as he landed they crowded about him with their welcome. “Now I live,” exclaimed he, as with open arms he embraced them, “now I live if ye stand fast in the Lord.”  1
  Thus recruited, the little band in Massachusetts grew more jealous of its liberties. “The prophets in exile see the true forms of the house.” By a common impulse, the freemen of the towns chose deputies to consider in advance the duties of the general court. The charter plainly gave legislative power to the whole body of the freemen; if it allowed representatives, thought Winthrop, it was only by inference; and, as the whole people could not always assemble, the chief power, it was argued, lay necessarily with the assistants.  2
  Far different was the reasoning of the people. To check the democratic tendency, Cotton, on the election day, preached to the assembled freemen against rotation in office. The right of an honest magistrate to his place was like that of a proprietor to his freehold. But the electors, now between three and four hundred in number, were bent on exercising “their absolute power,” and, reversing the decision of the pulpit, chose a new governor and deputy. The mode of taking the votes was at the same time reformed; and, instead of the erection of hands, the ballot-box was introduced. Thus “the people established a reformation of such things as they judged to be amiss in the government.”  3
  It was further decreed that the whole body of the freemen should be convened only for the election of the magistrates: to these, with deputies to be chosen by the several towns, the powers of legislation and appointment were henceforward intrusted. The trading corporation was unconsciously become a representative democracy.  4
  The law against arbitrary taxation followed. None but the immediate representatives of the people might dispose of lands or raise money. Thus early did Massachusetts echo the voice of Virginia, like deep calling unto deep. The state was filled with the hum of village politicians; “the freemen of every town in the Bay were busy in inquiring into their liberties and privileges.” With the exception of the principle of universal suffrage, now so happily established, the representative democracy was as perfect two centuries ago as it is to-day. Even the magistrates, who acted as judges, held their office by the annual popular choice. “Elections cannot be safe there long,” said the lawyer Lechford. The same prediction has been made these two hundred years. The public mind, ever in perpetual agitation, is still easily shaken, even by slight and transient impulses; but, after all vibrations, it follows the laws of the moral world, and safely recovers its balance.  5
 
 
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