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New England in the Seventeen-Thirties

H. B. Parkes

The New England Quarterly, 3 (3): 397-419.
(Jul 1930)

397

IN THE seventeen-twenties and thirties the inhabitants of New England were beginning to feel at home. They were no longer exiles thrown out upon a barren shore in the very kingdom of the devil and his children, the Indians; they no longer expected, with Joseph Mede, that America would be Satan's headquarters during the millennium. That pining for the homeland which had so racked the souls of men like Increase Mather in "this American wilderness," gave place to a substantial pride in their own country. Samuel Sewall ventured the suggestion that the most probable site for the New Jerusalem was America Mexicana. To Jonathan Edwards the New England countryside appeared as the garment of God. The spiritual rebirth of Christ, he argued, would surely be in America, and of all the colonies New England was plainly the best fitted. It would come soon, for the fifth vial had long been open,

398 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

and according to the calculations of Increase Mather, 1736 was the year appointed for the beginning of the end. Perhaps this very revival among his own congregation was the prelude for Christ's return to earth.1

If conscious of being Americans, the New Englanders were also subjects of King George, vying in loyalty with their brethren in the old country. When a royal prince was married, or the queen bore a child, or the king's birthday came around, all the church bells in loyal Boston rang out peal after peal throughout the day, the royal governor inspected troops amid the huzzas of his faithful fellow subjects; and in the evening there was a banquet and a ball. New Englanders watched all the fortunes of the crown: their hearts fell when some threatening alliance was reported from Paris or Madrid, when His Majesty was confined to bed by the gout; their hearts rose if British skill won another triumph in the West Indies, if the Prince of Wales distinguished himself in the hunting field. News from all the capitals of Europe was reported in the Boston journals; misadventures of papal envoys and marriages of British nobility, intrigues of Austrian archdukes and crimes of British highwaymen everything was transmitted to the loyal New Englanders. They were no Jacobites, but adherents of the Protestant succession. Catholic France was the kingdom of Antichrist, and her destruction had been prophesied in the Apocalypse; hatred became ridicule when an anecdote which can be found in Poggio was reported as an item of news and they read of divine honours paid to the breeches of a Jesuit priest.2

1 Works of Jonathan Edwards (1851-52), III, 313.
2 News Letter, September 19, 1734.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          399

Yet this attention to the fortunes of the mother country was beginning to have unlooked-for consequences ; for it was news they wanted news that was pleasing or sensational. So not only the hunting exploits of Prince Frederick were reported, but also the latest murders and scandals. Boston puritanism was tickled with stories of wicked debauchery, of London noblemen leading country girls astray ; it was flattered with reprints of articles bewailing the degeneracy of the times. Soon it was reading, in an essay taken from the Gentleman's Magazine, that the inhabitants of Great Britain "may possibly have reason to think this country no safe abode, and may find it necessary to seek a refuge in New England, where Justice and Industry seem to have taken their Residence."3 In the war of the Austrian succession, when New England captured Louisbourg, they felt indeed that the new world was outdistancing the old; that such a victory could "scarce be paralleled in history" ; 4 and their local pride was swelled by hearing that "every Body sees . . . that three Times the Force from us" (in old England) "could never so effectually have gained this Accession of Strength, Influence, and Wealth, to the British Crown and Dominions."5 When later news came of disasters in Europe, of the battle of Fontenoy, the landing of the Young Pretender, the battle of Prestonpans, the march on Derby a sequence carefully noted in many a New England diary and when finally Louisbourg was surrendered, then the Evening Post reprinted an obituary notice of Marlborough to remind men of the days when Britain won victories and "em-

3 Postboy, November 11, 1745.
4 Evening Post, July 15, 1747.
5 Gazette, November 11, 1746.

400 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

ploy'd able and faithful Men both as Counsellours and Generals."6 In the homely patriotism of an advertisement of 1750 one can detect the first faint throbbing of a note which in twenty years was to fill the welkin ; Samuel Adams recommends his beer, an American product ; let Americans "no longer be beholden to Foreigners for a Credible Liquor, which may be as successfully manufactured in this country."7

In the thirties New England was still in her tutelage. In literature, in philosophy, in political theory, she produced. nothing that was original. Her poets described Harvard commencements in the style of "The Rape of the Lock,"8 or else they sang of the charms of Woman and the delights of Marriage in the borrowed strains of Matthew Prior. John Adams gave Pope a puritan coloring, putting psalms into heroic couplets and describing Cotton Mather's entry into heaven, surrounded by attendant angels, chubby and florid as on a Versailles ceiling. Essayists imitated the Spectator, and meditated upon the extravagance of their wives or the uncertainties of human existence. The newspapers lay open for native talent; but the majority of their contributions were still reprints from London. Locke and Berkeley in philosophy, Locke and Puffendorf in political theory, were the reigning masters. All New England had by heart the doctrine that the main function of government was to protect the life, liberty, and property of each of its subjects ; but no new thing as yet had come from the children of the Puritans.

They were reading widely, and absorbing much. The-

6 Evening Post, July 3, 1749.
7 Evening Post, September 10, 1750.
8 Weekly Journal, July 3, 1727.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's         401

ological treatises were still predominant ; but poetry and fiction, science and philosophy increased rapidly. Young ladies were vehement novel-readers the daughters of the Reverend Benjamin Colman as well as of lawyers and merchants. Boston booksellers were advertising Aphra Behn and Restoration comedies; Thomas Fleet sold collections with such alluring titles as The Amours of Count Pulviana and Elionera, and The Loves of Osmin and Duraxa;9 the works of Samuel Richardson, advertised as likely "to Cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes" were passed from hand to hand among the young, and even appreciated by Jonathan Edwards. Libraries were being founded ; in 1739 three were started in Connecticut for "law, physick, philosophy, history, divinity, poetry, etc.";10 and ministers in country villages would lend out books among their parishioners plays by Shakspere as well as commentaries by Firmin.11 The sciences were cultivated at Yale; and for medical books there was a large and growing market.

The superstitions of the seventeenth century were passing away; there was less emphasis on the primeval notion that if God were not propitiated by worship he would blast the harvest, unleash the pestilence and the earthquake, and give his people as a prey to the Indians. The comet of 1744 was much feared as a portent of evil; in 1747 the minister of Charlestown declared that God punished swearers who took his name in vain by thundering from heaven in some extraordinary manner or by

9 Evening Post, February 14, 1737.
10 News Letter, March 30, 1739.
11 Church Records of Scotland, in the Connecticut State Library; a note on the inside of the cover ; but the date is uncertain ; and it may belong to the fifties or sixties.

402 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

storms, earthquakes, and inundations.12 In 1755 Charles Chauncy was still proclaiming that earthquakes were God's warning to drunkards, God making the earth to reel in mockery of their reeling when they were drunk.13 But when in the same year Thomas Prince produced the same supernatural theory, he was taken up by Professor Winthrop of Harvard, to such effect that a Connecticut clergyman, writing to Ezra Stiles, said that "Mr Winthrop has laid Mr Prince flat on his back."14 Science and medicine were progressing. America was no longer a land of mystery and terror, and God was being transformed from an ever-active force of nature with the passions of a Mosaic Jehovah, to a first cause or a moral principle.

Boston was a gay metropolis. It catered for the pleasure-lover with one hundred and fifty-seven licensed drinking houses, with others, unlicensed, which stayed open all night for gambling ; in 1750 it was said that one-eighth of all the houses in the city were drinking places.15 Sometimes it had wild animals on show; one could see a catamount or a two-headed foal for sixpence, a leopard or a "tyger-lyon" for a shilling. There were dances and singing-lessons to be attended. The ships came in from Europe and the West Indies, bringing crockery and household utensils, bales of cloth and hogsheads of molasses. All the latest fashions were imported for New England girls to choose from; and they tripped about the streets with jewels and patches, in scarlet hoods and

12 Abbot, A Disswasive against the Imfious Practice of Profane Swearing.
13 Chauncy, Earthquakes a Token of the Righteous Anger of God.
14 Kraus, Intercolonial Asfects of American Culture, 188.
15 Gazette, July 17, 1750.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's         403

great hooped petticoats. There was always something happening in Boston a fire or a frolic, a riot or an execution ; and the hooped petticoats, wedged in among the crowds, were the terror of the bystanders. Sometimes a distinguished visitor came to Boston; and ladies would crane their necks to see swarthy Shick Sidi the Syrian pacing the streets, and would be piqued, perhaps, because "'tis said he does not like this Place very well."16 Or on the Sabbath a murderer or a thief was to be brought to church, and all the streets were lined with noisy crowds to see him as he passed. Sometimes a cheater would be stood in the pillory and pelted by the onlookers. Or a funeral procession would block the roadway, as the line of carriages wound its way up to Copp's Hill, full of mourners who were to be extravagantly feasted, presented with rings and gloves, and refreshed with lime. On Guy Fawkes' Day troops of children would march round the town, demanding money from passers-by and breaking the windows of householders who refused.

Any victory or anniversary gave a pretext for a frolic, and all day carriages would rush through the streets, children and serving-men would be merry, and the taverns would do good business. Sometimes the frolic would become a riot, when drunken bands of sailors and laborers and negroes paraded the town, smashing property and molesting women, raiding brothels and insulting justices of the peace; and respectable citizens would hurry home and write letters to the newspapers complaining that "the Inhabitants of the Town, with their Dwellings (had been) left to the Mercy of a rude and

16 Evening Post, July 25, 1737.

404 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

intoxicated Rabble, the very dregs of the People, black and white."17 The newspapers were full of complaints that the lower classes were growing luxurious and extravagant, that the younger generation were wasting their nights at dances and parties; but Boston grew merrier and merrier.

It had its rich merchants, building substantial houses out of the profits of the West Indian trade; they drank good Madeira wine, and clothed their wives in expensive gowns; they ate oranges and almonds, and drank chocolate and Bohea tea; ordered silver teapots, tankards, and sweetmeat boxes from Coney, Winslow, and Dixwell, and had their portraits painted by Smibert or Blackburn. On the Sabbath they went to Brattle Street meeting to hear Dr. Colman or Dr. Cooper; for they believed in setting an example of piety and decorum to the lower classes; soon they would be saying that it was "a very happy thing to have the people superstitious."18 The lower classes were petty tradesmen and tavern-keepers, sailors, and servants, and perhaps three thousand Indians and negroes; these last were required to be indoors by nine in the evening, but the law was rarely enforced.

Visitors from the country found Boston inexhaustibly fascinating. Parsons come to attend a convention, gentlemen come to put their daughters to school, could meet their old classmates at the inns, dine with the Boston clergymen, and walk down Cornhill to the bookshops to turn over reproductions of Raphael and Michael Angelo, Rubens, and Poussin,19 or to discuss with the bookseller

17 Evening Post, November 11, 1745.
18 C. F. Adams, The Life and Works of John Adams (Boston, 1856), II, 97.
19 News Letter, May 15, 1735.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's         405

the latest publications from England. The very buildings were worthy of attention the Town House and the South Meeting House ; and there was a kind of unholy fascination about the organs and the angels and the statues in the Episcopal churches. But Boston had a proper contempt for the countryfolk, as men without refinement and women without morals.

Washing was becoming fashionable in Boston. It had always been customary for men to swim in the rivers ; young people, moreover, had been advised to rinse their mouths and faces once a day for the prevention of toothache. But now people could have a bath in any weather for five shillings ; season tickets for a year, allowing one as many baths in that year as one pleased, were placed on the market at forty shillings.20 And in 1740, among the innumerable articles imported from England, was included for the first time a washbasin;21 yet New England had never taken very seriously the European doctrine that water was bad for the skin. In Boston people were beginning to use forks. Previously they had eaten meat, after cutting it, with their fingers wiping them on napkins.

In the country life was not so gay; the men toiled all day in the fields, and came home only for dinner at noon and supper at nightfall, when the meetinghouse bell rang out the signal ; the women wove cloth and made corn meal and rye bread and roasted meat for their husbands' dinners. On the Sabbath the men tricked themselves out in long red coats with three dozen buttons, the women in dresses that had been handed down for a generation or two ; and they rode or tramped across the

20 News Letter, August 16, 1743.
21 Ibid., November 6, 1740.

406 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

fields to the meetinghouse. In winter they carried foot-stoves with live coals inside ; the communion bread sometimes froze and rattled like pellets; and persons had to leave the service in the middle, from the cold. At midday, between the services, they sat in the noonhouse or out in the fields, and ate their dinner, and the children offended the more reverent by romping and shouting.

Outside the villages wolves and catamounts were a danger to children; in Massachusetts a hundred wolves were killed every year; and at Ipswich, in 1723, children could not go to the meetinghouse alone.

There was drinking and dancing and frolicking in the villages. As in Boston, on militia days all the men of the countryside, having

stood prepared
Of seeming arms to make the short assay,
would
Hasten to be drunk, the business of the day.22

When some prosperous farmer raised a new barn, he would invite his neighbors to celebrate the raising; and sometimes the noise would continue until midnight, and the parson had to leave his bed and come down and reprimand them for rioting like children of the devil, at an hour when all God-fearing citizens were asleep. Despite the fulminations of the stricter clergymen, who would tolerate "pyrrhical or polemical saltation" or dancing of men with men and women with women,23 but to whom mixed dancing along with health-drinking, maypoles, stage-plays, and celebration of Christmas, was a relic of paganism and therefore an invention of the

22  Dryden, Cymon and Iphigenia.
23 I. Mather, An Arrow . . . against Dancing (1684).

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          407

devil, there was dancing in New England; there was even dancing at the ordination feasts of ministers.

Sexual morals in the villages of New England were those of a primitive people. We may not believe the Courant that modesty was measured by bastards and that girls were permitted to bundle with casual strangers as well as with their future husbands. But it is certain that many couples married only to legitimize a coming child. Several churches formally voted that no questions should be asked about seven-months children. And that this was only declaratory of existing custom, we may perhaps deduce from an incident which occurred at Woodstock in 1748: Eunice Smith had a child seven months and fourteen days after marriage; there was no question of disciplining her, but when, afterwards, she asked for a letter of recommendation to another church, the minister insisted on an inquiry; the witnesses were reluctant to say anything, and some declared that they had never considered seven-months children to be sinful. The church voted to end the proceedings, but the minister refused to give way; and at the end of five church meetings, though such evidence as could be extracted was clearly against Eunice Smith, the church voted her innocent. Five years later a majority of the church seceded from their pastor, one of their grievances being his methods of church discipline.24 About one-fifth of the married couples connected with the church confessed to the sin of pre-marital intercourse.25 For those who were

24  Woodstock Church Records, in Connecticut State Library.
25  Statistics of both marriages and confessions for the same church during the same years are hard to obtain ; one-fifth was the approximate proportion during the twenties and thirties at Woodstock, Hanover, West Roxbury, and Watertown; during the revolutionary period it was, in some churches, almost one-half.

408 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

not pious enough to take the covenant there is no evidence. Lapses by actual church members, however, were rare; most of the confessions which are sprinkled over the records were made by persons at their conversion or when they took the covenant to secure baptism for their children, and relate to old offences; widows would tell how they had anticipated marriage with their buried husbands!

Sexual immorality, however, was not the "great offense" to the Puritans as it is to their descendants. Blasphemy, irreverence, and Sabbath-breaking, which were insults to God and might provoke Him to rain down disasters upon the community which tolerated them, were more serious than sexual lapses. Asceticism and continence were not accounted virtues. It was the duty of men and women to marry and replenish the earth. As soon as your partner died, you were expected to look out for another.

Cotton Mather assures us that God punished women who blasphemed against the labor of childbearing with "multiplied and repeated miscarriages."26 Ministers did not regularly oppose bundling; according to Jonathan Edwards many persons laughed at its being condemned; and there is extant a diary of a divinity student for the year before he was ordained, who had five love affairs in succession, and who bundled with the fourth of his inamoratas magna cum voluptate.21 When the Reverend Ebenezer Parkman and a brother minister were detained for the night in a strange village and had to sleep in the same bed, the daughter of the house thought

26Magnalia (1855), I, 393.
27 Chaffin, History of Easton, 143.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          409

nothing of bundling in another bed in the same room.28 For older persons the tedium of village life was relieved by continual quarrels. The location and seating of a meetinghouse, the division of a parish, the boundary lines between two parishes, the choice of a minister, the minister's salary these were perennial sources of schism in church and town meetings: a slanderous word, a mild misconduct would convulse hundreds of persons during years. At Mendon, from 1727 to 1731, fifteen town meetings argued about the location of the new meetinghouse; the building was then started, and the defeated party chopped it down by night ; for ten years more there were arguments about a division of the parish; in 1741 a new precinct was set off, and the triumphant party then quarrelled among themselves about the position of their meetinghouse for another year.29 At Woodstock in 1739 three church meetings discussed the problem of whether David Wallis had or had not told lies about the attachment by the sheriff of the deacon's banyan tree; unable to solve it, they called in a council of seven churches; the council dismissed the case as insoluble, and suggested that it be forgotten; for four years more the question was then debated of whether David Wallis should be reimbursed for the entertainment which he had given to his half of the council.30 At Columbia, in 1738, eight pages of the records and four church meetings were devoted to the problem of whether or not Timothy Hutchisson had laughed in church. Timothy owned a horse which was accustomed

28  Parkman's Diary (American Antiquarian Society), February 15, 1744.
29  Ballou, History of Milford, 48-61.
30  Church Records, in the Connecticut State Library.

410 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

to make odd noises, and was therefore nicknamed "Old Groan"; upon this horse he had ridden to frolics with a young lady on the crupper. At a point in the sermon where the pastor referred to certain horses in the Old Testament which had groaned under the burden of their wicked riders, Timothy unluckily caught the young lady's eye, and thereupon covered his face with his handkerchief. Various witnesses deposed that those parts of his face which had remained visible looked as though he were laughing.31 Such incidents are typical of what was always happening in the New England villages.

Throughout the land there was much coming and going of ministers for conventions, associations, councils, ordinations, and friendly visits. Some of them were solemn and anxious because their flocks were going to hell, but others were merry and carefree, heavy drinkers and smokers. They travelled on horseback, for there were no carriages or carriage-roads in the country districts, and transportation was by water; Yale students living in eastern Connecticut would go home by sea; from Northampton to New Haven was a two-day journey, from Northampton to Boston was two days and a half; but a minister away overnight could sleep at the house of an old college friend; and if they were not of the serious kind, they smoked their pipes by the fireside and cracked jokes and made no mention of the work of God. The levity of ministers' meetings, indeed, became a scandal; and conscientious pastors complained that it was impossible even to mention serious things. A minister's ordination was often a "jolly" affair; it sometimes cost as much as 100; all the ministers and ministers'

31 Church Records, in the Connecticut State Library.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          411

wives in the neighborhood would ride in and spend days in feasting and smoking and merriment, the bill survives for the ordination of Mr. Jackson of Woburn in 1729; 433 dinners, 178 suppers and breakfasts, 32 horses kept four days, 6 barrels of cyder, 25 gallons of wine, 2 gallons of brandy, 4 gallons of rum, loaf sugar, lime juice, and tobacco pipes; total 83 - 9 - 6.32

The ordinary minister's life was a ceaseless round of toil and hardship. Salaries were seldom paid punctually, in many parishes they went to law with their parishioners to secure what was due to them,33 and when inflation caused a fall in the value of money, the parsons could support themselves only by farming. And so, in the intervals of composing sermons and lectures, catechising children, reproving wrongdoers, acting as parish physician, and attending councils in other parishes (which sometimes involved an all-night sitting), a minister had to pasture his horses, milk his cows, and shear his sheep, sow his corn in the spring and reap it in the fall, cut his grass in the haying season, repair his barns, garner his apples, and brew his beer and cider. In the evenings, by the light of a single candle, he must ruin his eyes over the tiny lettering of his Bible and his commentary. Naturally he relished an opportunity to ride up to Boston for a ministers' convention or a Harvard commencement, to visit his classmates and relatives, and the bookshop of Edes & Gill.

In some parishes the ministers were losing their influence, and tactlessness or suspicion of misconduct would make their position intolerable. North Eastham,

32  Sewall, History of Woburn, 263.
33  Between 1720 and 1740 this happened at least thirteen times; between 1740 and 1776 it happened at least twenty times.

412 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

for example, in 1726 voted their pastor dismissed, and refused him his legal salary; when he refused to abandon his ministry, his parishioners pulled him down from his pulpit by violence while he was praying.34 A similar incident happened at Leicester in 1729.35 At Barrington, in 1739, when the minister refused to obey a vote of the town as to where he should preach while the meetinghouse was being built, the town voted that he should not be paid "the last half of his salary except he would comply with the vote of the town."36 Almost always the decision of external arbitrators was that the town, and not the pastor, was to blame.

In spite of the law people were ceasing to be regular church attendants. Enactments were passed against loitering in the streets or making noises outside a meetinghouse during public worship ; and even these decrees were not always taken seriously, for from time to time it was announced that they would be, or ought to be, or had not been enforced. In 1741, ministers found their congregations vastly increased by the Great Awakening: at Middleborough, for example, the change was so marked that when the Reverend Peter Thacher came near his meetinghouse and saw the crowds flocking towards it, he burst into tears. Certainly many persons omitted to have their children baptized, though the halfway covenant had made baptism possible for the children of all professing Christians; many adults were baptized for the first time when they took the covenant or became church members; frequently we find a family of seven or eight or nine children being baptized on the

34 Massachusetts Archives, XI.
35 Colman Papers: Massachusetts Historical Society.
36 Massachusetts Archives, XII.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's         413

same day, following the conversion of one of their parents; after the earthquake of 1727, when the droves of panic-stricken sinners who believed themselves converted were often larger than in the Great Awakening, the number of infant baptisms was in some parishes thrice the annual average.

The ice of the "glacial" period was melting, and only some great convulsion was needed to liberate the energies bound in by it. In Boston deists and anti-clericals were becoming outspoken. In 1721 Sewall told Colman that "it is too often a flouting expression to be called a ministerial man."37 When, in 1735, the ministers' convention elected Fiske of Salem to preach their annual sermon, although he had been dismissed by his congregation for trying to rule them with a particularly high hand, they were reprimanded by the legislature, and the anti-clerical press raved against such theocratic impudence. The Courant was founded by a group of combined deists and Episcopalians, with the purpose of mocking the Calvinist clergy; having described the tyranny of the Roman priesthood, it concluded that "we cannot be too jealous of Clergymen, of what Denomination soever, nor too prying into their Pretensions"; it complained that "some of our Clergy have asserted Power to admit Members, Administer Seals, Censure, and Excommunicate, without the Knowledge and Consent of the Brotherhood"; when bidden to be more restrained the editor retorted by describing a certain land whose rulers

always us'd (to blind the People)
To join the State unto the Steeple, . . .

37 Colman Papers: Massachusetts Historical Society.

414 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

Till some o' th' Clergy and the College
Declar'd against the sin of Knowledge.88

William Douglas, the "snarling physician," was soon declaring in his Summary that "there is with all sober-minded Men only one General Religion The Practice of True and Solid Virtue" ; the doctrine of predestination encouraged wickedness, but was good for soldiers; puritanism was useful when America was first settled because "nothing but a religious Heat or Zeal, at that Time could have withstood the Severities of their Winters," but the Puritans were now "almost extinct."39 During the Great Awakening appeared a pamphlet which declared that the clergy had patronized White-field because they saw that "Bigotry, Superstition, and an implicit Faith in what the Clergy said were . . . every Day more and more dying away," while "Freedom of Inquiry, and Demands for the Proof of Doctrines . . . taught . . . increased"; they were recommended to use their reason and preach nothing which they could not prove and did not themselves believe.40

Episcopalians were rapidly increasing ; in Connecticut between 1722 and 1737 they grew from eighty to twelve hundred, and the number included a Rector of Yale and three of his colleagues! They received anybody who was dissatisfied with the standing order, from the minister of the Boston West Church, who in 1740 had alarmed his colleagues by declaring that Calvinism sometimes led men to think of God as "peevish, vindictive, re-

38 New England Courant, February 1, 1725; September 1, 1723; September 17, 1722.

39 Summary, Historical and Political, 249, 371, 438-452.

40  The Testimony of a Convention of Laymen, 1743.

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          415

vengeful,"41 to a group of old-fashioned puritanical bigots at Newbury, who disliked the place chosen by the parish for a new meetinghouse.42 In 1740, of the four richest congregations in Boston, two were Episcopalian, one was Arminian, and one was the very liberal Brattle Street Church. There was even, moreover, a cult of Toryism; John Checkley was refused ordination for ten years by the Bishop of London as being a non-juror; in 1750 Mayhew's very moderate sermon against "Unlimited Submission to the Higher Powers" was greeted with floods of invective; the News Letter even undertook to defend the memory of Archbishop Laud, and declared that "the Good Old Saying, No Bishop, No King, ought to be a standing maxim of the English Government."43 It is perhaps significant that there was a market in New England not merely for The Patriot King but even for Eikon Basilike.44

Within the Calvinist churches there were the first faint stirrings of liberalism. The foundation of Brattle Street Church and Stoddard's principle that unconverted persons should be admitted to communion were isolated breaches in the establishment. But it is plain from the strength and frankness of the clerical opposition to the Great Awakening that many of the clergy had departed from Calvinist orthodoxy, without perhaps formulating their opinions or realizing whither they were drifting; in the forties and fifties Arminianism increased rapidly, and men began openly to confess that they disagreed with their puritan ancestors. In 1735 occurred the first

41  Colman Papers.
42  Ibid.
43  News Letter, March 1, 1750.
44  Ibid., July 5, 1750.

416 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

case of heresy, when Robert Breck, invited to be pastor of Springfield, raised a storm by suggesting that there was just cause for doubt whether the story of the woman taken in adultery was given by divine inspiration, and propounded the theory that pious heathen who had never heard of Christ might be saved by God through some other means than Christian faith ; Thomas Clap, future rector of Yale, called in the civil authorities, and seems also to have committed perjury, in an effort to prevent the ordination, and he was backed by the Hampshire clergy; but a batch of more liberal ministers from Boston successfully installed Breck over the Springfield church.

Calvinism itself seemed to be passing away, not in the heat of controversy, but silently, and from negligence. It was never more dead than in the first thirty years of the eighteenth century; there were no doctrinal developments, there were no lively experiences; sermons were a dreary repetition of stale dogmas, a harping upon old themes of church government and of God's methods in ruling the world, and preaching was purely expository and not emotional; for Calvinism is a fighting creed, and in New England apathy alone was a serious enemy. The smallpox in Boston slew hundreds; the throat distemper swept over the villages and struck down the children; but New England did not turn to the Lord. The earthquake of 1727 was followed by vast increases in church membership; but when it appeared that it was not, after all, the prelude to the Day of Judgment, the flame of religion burned even lower.

In this crisis a vast emotional cataclysm broke up the ice, and New England emerged into the sunlight. Jona-

NEW ENGLAND IN THE 1730's          417

than Edwards, George Whitefield, and Gilbert Tennent re-stated the old Calvinist dogmas in all their naked severity, and forced them upon men's attention by the passion, the terror, and the ruthless sincerity with which they preached them. In two years (1740-1742) from ten to fifteen thousand persons were newly converted, and perhaps as many more were quickened in their faith ; the zeal of 1630 was re-awakened, and in their fervor the Separatists in more than a hundred parishes went out from the established church of New England just as their ancestors had gone out in the old country. Around Boston and New Haven the clergy bitterly attacked the revival, and, in doing so, were forced to formulate their opinions and to admit that they had become more Arminian than Calvinist. When the Awakening had died away, the dawn of Unitarianism was plainly to be seen; after 1747 Mayhew was preaching from the pulpit of the West Church, Boston, that man's will was free, that Christianity meant "living piously and virtuously," and that God was a unity and not a trinity ;45 Briant of Quincy attacked the Calvinist dogma that the best works of an unconverted person were sin, and argued that Scripture should not always be taken literally;46 Balch of Bradford insisted that man was more inclined to virtue than to vice, and that justification was by works as well as by faith, and he struck a new note by arguing that his doctrine should be judged by Scripture, irrespective of whether or not it was consistent with the divinity of the reformed churches;47 in 1757

45  Mayhew, Fourteen Sermons, 1755; Eight Sermons, 1763.
46 Briant, Some Friendly Remarks, 1750; Some More Friendly Remarks, 1751.
47 Balch, The Apostles St. Paul and St. James Reconciled, 1743. A Vindication of Some Points of Doctrines, 1746.

418 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

Rogers of Leominster, expelled for Arminianism and Arianism, declared that he did not deserve to be thus singled out for punishment because he knew that many of the ministers round him shared his opinions.48 Episcopalianism, similarly, gained enormously from those who were disgusted by the emotionalism of the revival; in Connecticut between 1737 and 1747 it quadrupled its numbers, and among them were twenty-four graduates of Yale ; in 1747 a writer in the Evening Post was prophesying that "in a few Years' Time Episcopacy will generally prevail in this Part of the World,"49 The violent controversies of the Awakening caused a great decrease in clerical authority; large numbers of ministers-were expelled from their parishes or lost goodly portions of their flocks; and order was not reestablished until after the Revolution. A great change came over New England in the forties; in 1745 and 1746 the tone of the newspapers alters suddenly; there are more original verses and political arguments, there are fewer reprints from London and less attention to strange births, sudden deaths, and items of religious importance; New England seems suddenly to have come of age.

The Great Awakening is the most conspicuous landmark on the road from the organized conformity of 1630 to the individualism of 1930. It was the convulsion by which New England shed an outworn skin; afterwards she was no longer a unity; emotion and reason,, individualism and tradition, had fallen apart; and the Old Orthodoxy was threatened on one side by the Separatists and the sects, on the other by the Arminians and

48 Wilder, History of Leominster, 171.
49Evening Post, January 19, 1747.

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the Unitarians; in the religious controversies which followed it, and in the excitements of foreign war was born the generation which made the Revolution ; and out of the new forces which it liberated and the freedom and boldness of thought which its controversies necessitated, sprang those things for which the world has most cause to be grateful to New England.