“Some Scraps of New England History” The American Sentinel 7, 30, pp. 234, 235.

THE act of 1631 making membership in the church a test of citizenship had involved the Massachusetts theocrats in another dilemma. There was a considerable number of people who were not members of the churches, and because of unfitness could not be admitted. Even more than this, they did not want to to be admitted. But as membership in the church was necessary to citizenship, and as they wanted to be, and deemed it their right to be, citizens, they took to organizing churches of their own. But the theocrats were not willing that power should slip through their fingers in any such way as this; they found not only a way to escape from the dilemma, but with that to make their power more absolute. In 1635 the following law was enacted:—

Forasmuch as it hath bene found by sad experience, that much trouble and disturbance hath happened both to the Church and civil State by the officers & members of some churches, wch which have bene gathered…. in an vndue manner, …. it is … ordered that … this court doeth not, nor will hereafter approue of any such companies of men as shall henceforth ioyne in any pretended way of church fellowshipp, without they shall first acquainte the magistrates, & the elders of the greatr of the churches in this jurisdicon, with their intencons, and have their approbacon herein. And ffurther, it is ordered, that noe peson, being a member of any churche which shall hereafter be gathered without the approbacon of the magistrates, & the greater pte of the said churches, shall be admitted to the freedom of this comonwealthe.

Mrs. Hutchinson was condemned, but happily escaped with her life. A few days after her condemnation, the governor sent her a warrant banishing her from the territory of Massachusetts. At the solicitation of Roger Williams, she and her friends went to Narragansett Bay. Miantonomoh made them a present of the island of Rhode Island, where they settled.

In 1636 about a hundred people, under the leadership of Thomas Hooker, a minister second only to Cotton in the estimate of the colonists, removed from Massachusetts Colony to the valley of the Connecticut, and established there the towns of Springfield, Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield; and January 14, 1639, Springfield preferring to remain in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, the three remaining towns established a form of government under eleven “fundamental orders,” the preamble of which is as follows:—

Forasmuch as it hath pleased the Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we, the inhabitants and residents of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the river of Connecticut and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together, the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one public state or commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into combination and confederation together, to maintain and pursue the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also the discipline of the churches which according to the truth of the said gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such laws, rules, orders, and decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed.

Order number four was to the effect that the governor should “be always a member of some approved congregation, and formerly of the magistracy within this jurisdiction.” The oath of office for the governor was as follows:—

I, ____ ____, being now chosen to be governor within this jurisdiction, for the year ensuing, and until a new be chosen, do swear by the great and dreadful name of the everliving God, to promote the public good and peace of the same, according to the best of my skill; as also will maintain all lawful privileges of this commonwealth; as also that all wholesome laws that are or shall be made by lawful authority here established, be duly executed; and will further the execution of justice according to the rule of God’s word; so help me God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The oath of the magistrate was substantially the same. Unlike Massachusetts, church membership was not required in order to be a voter. Persons became citizens by vote of the major part of the town where they lived, or the major part of such as should be then present and taking the “oath of fidelity.”

In 1637 a colony of Puritan immigrants with John Davenport as their pastor, arrived in Boston, and remained until the spring of 1638, then founded the town and colony of New Haven. In 1639 a colony from New Haven settled the town of Milford, and another company from England settled the town of Guilford. In the same year a form of government was established, and “by the influence of Davenport it was resolved that the Scriptures are the perfect rule of the commonwealth; that the purity and peace of the ordinances to themselves and their posterity were the great end of civil order; and that church members only should be free burgesses.” A committee of twelve was appointed to nominate seven men to become magistrates. In August the seven met together to put into working order the forms of the new government. “Abrogating every previous executive trust, they admitted to the court all church members; the character of civil magistrates was next expounded ‘from the sacred oracles;’ and the election followed. Then Davenport, in the words of Moses to Israel in the wilderness, gave a charge to the governor to judge righteously; ‘The cause that is too hard for you,’ such was part of the minister’s text, ‘bring it to me, and I will hear it.’ Annual elections were ordered; and God’s word established as the only rule in public affairs.” The other towns followed this example, and thus “the power of the clergy [235] reached its extreme point in New Haven, for each of the towns was governed by seven ecclesiastical officers known as ‘pillars of the church.’ These magistrates served as judges, and trial by jury was dispensed with, because no authority could be found for it in the laws of Moses. [240]

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