ESTABLISHMENT OF A COLONIAL GOVERNMENT.
IN narrating the settlement of Stamford, we showed that its freemen were received as members of the General Court at New Haven. The court by so receiving them became a court for the jurisdiction. Six months afterward, when Stamford again made its appearance, the court formally declared that in its regular April and October meetings it was "a General Court held at New Haven for the plantations in combination with this town." Its records, however, were made in the same book and by the same secretary as before, and are intermingled with those of the New Haven plantation courts, both general and particular. The general courts for the jurisdiction are not distinguished from the general courts previously held in April and October by any different title, till the secretary styles it on the 26th of October, 1643, "a General Court of Election held at New Haven for this jurisdiction ;" and on the following day, " a General Court held at New HaVen for the jurisdiction."
Thereafter, as long as its proceedings were recorded in the same book, this colonial assembly is distinguished by this title from an assembly of the freemen resident at New Haven, which was sometimes but not always contra
distinguished as "a General Court held at New Haven for the plantation." The record-book of the New Haven plantation records only two courts for the jurisdiction later than April, 1644,-one a court of magistrates held June 14, 1646, and the other a court of election held Oct. 27 in the same year. Plainly some other book was ordinarily used; and probably some other secretary had been appointed in place of Fugill, who acted as secretary for the jurisdiction till.April, 1644. Unfortunately the first record-book belonging to the jurisdiction has been lost; and there is consequently, with the exception mentioned, a hiatus in the records of the jurisdiction extending from April, 1644, to May, 1653. The history of the colony during this period of nine years must be gleaned from the records of the towns and of the United Colonies. After May, 1653, the'records are complete, and furnish more copious information. At a general court held at New Haven on the 5th of April, 1643, the transaction of business, both for the jurisdiction and for the town, shows that the court itself, as well as its secretary, had not quite learned to discriminate between the local and the colonial government. Besides calling Goodman Osborne to account for spoiling divers hides in the tanning, and ordering " that sister Preston shall sweep and dress the meeting-house every week, and have one shilling a week for her pains," the court appointed Thurston Raynor " magistrate to execute that office at Stamford until the next general court of election at New Haven, which will be in October next, and "ordered that those four men already employed in the town's occasions there, namely, Capt. John Under-
hill, Mr. Mitchell, Andrew Ward, and Robert Coe, shall assist as the deputies at New Haven in counsel and advice for the more comely carrying on of public affairs."
Thus Stamford, like New Haven, had its magistrate and its four deputies. The meaning of the specification that the deputies should assist the magistrate in counsel and advice will be seen by referring to the order appointing "the deputies at New Haven "six months before, which reads thus: "Mr. Malbon, Mr. Gregson, Mr. Gilbert, and Mr. Wakeman are chosen deputies for this ensuing year to assist in the courts by way of advice, but not to have any power by way of sentence." There is no evidence that a magistracy had been at this time set up at Southold. The freemen there held general courts in which the affairs of the plantation were ordered ; and these assemblies were convened by persons commissioned to do so, and to act for the freemen in the intervals between the courts as the selectmen of a town now are. Besides these plantation officers, there was a constable at Southold appointed by the jurisdiction to be its representative and functionary till a magistracy should be settled.
Such was the condition of the colonial government when it entered into confederation with the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut, in 1643. A confederation of colonies had been proposed, and artcles of union had been drawn, before any government had been established at Quinnipiac. Gov. Haynes and Rev. Mr. Hooker of Connecticut had spent nearly a month in Massachusetts in 1639, endeavoring to
carry the project into effect. Various obstacles had retarded the desired union. Massachusetts, being much more populous and powerful than the other colonies, was not favorable to union on equal terms. The other colonies were still more averse to terms which implied inferiority. Besides, there were questions at issue between Massachusetts and Connecticut in regard to the Pequot country, Massachusetts claiming a part of it for the assistance she rendered in the Pequot war; and in. regard to the boundary between the two colonies, Connecticut claiming the towns of Springfield and Westfield. The union was finally consummated, notwithstanding the difficulties in the way. Their Dutch neighbors were troublesome to the planters of Connecticut and New Haven, and the Indians in various places throughout New England were hostile. The triumph of the Puritan party in the mother-country had brought to an end the large accessions of strength from that source, which till recently the colonies had annually received. Each of the parties needed, or might at any moment need, help from the others.
At a general court, the 6th of April, 1643, "it was ordered that Mr. Eaton and Mr. Gregson, as commissioners from this jurisdiction of New Haven, shall go with other commissioners for other plantations into the Bay of Massachusetts, to treat about a general combination for all the plantations in New England, and to conclude and determine the same, as in their wisdom they shall see cause, for the exalting of Christ's ''ends, and advancing the public good in all the plantations." These commissioners met similar appointees from
Connecticut, Plymouth, and Massachusetts at Boston; and, on the 19th of May, articles of union were completed and signed by the representatives of Connecticut, New Haven, and Massachusetts. The commissioners of Plymouth approved the articles, but were not authorized to sign them. But, being afterward empowered to do so, they signed them in the following September. These articles declare in substance : -
I. That the four colonies agree to be and to be called, THE UNITED COLONIES OF NEW ENGLAND.
II. That they enter into a league of amity for offence and defence, mutual advice and succor.
III. That each colony shall have peculiar jurisdiction and government within its own limits; that without consent of all, no two members shall be united in one, and no new members shall be received. '
IV. That the expense of wars shall be borne in proportion to the number of male inhabitants between sixteen and sixty years of age.
V. That its confederates shall aid any colony invaded by an enemy in the proportion, of one hundred men for Massachusetts, and forty-five for each of the other colonies.
VI. That each of the four colonies shall choose two commissioners, " being all in church fellowship with us, who shall bring full power from their several general courts respectively, to hear, examine, weigh, and determine all affairs of war and peace, leagues, aids, charges, and number of men for war, division of spoils, or whatsoever is gotten by conquest, receiving of more confederates or plantations into combination with any of these confederates, and all things of like nature which are the proper concomitants or consequents of such a confederation for amity, offence, and defence, not intermeddling with the government of any of the jurisdictions, which by the third article is preserved entirely to themselves;" and that, if these eight do not agree, then any six agreeing shall have power to determine the business in question.
VII. That the eight commissioners at each meeting may choose a president by the concurrence of all or of six.
VIII. That the commissioners shall frame and establish such orders as may preserve friendship between the members of the union, and prevent occasions of war with others. Under this head are specified, the free and speedy passage of justice in each jurisdiction to all the confederates equally as to their own; not receiving those that remove from one plantation to another without due certificates; how all the jurisdictions may carry it toward the Indians; and the surrender of fugitive servants and fugitive criminals.
IX. That no colony may engage in war without the consent of all, unless upon some exigency.
X. That in extraordinary occasions, four commissioners, if more are not present, may direct a war which cannot be delayed, sending for due proportion of men out of each jurisdiction; but that the expense of a war thus begun may not be levied till at least six commissioners have approved of their action.
XI. That if any colony shall break any article of the confederation, or injure one of the other colonies, such breach or injury shall be considered and ordered by the commissioners of the "three other confederates.
XII. That this confederation and the several articles and agree-ments thereof were freely allowed and confirmed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven, and, ,if Plymouth consents, the whole treaty, as it stands, is and shall continue firm and stable without alteration; but, if Plymouth consents not, then the other three confederates confirm the confederation and all its articles, except that new consideration may be taken of the sixth article which determines the number of commissioners for meeting and determining the affairs of this confederation.
When the colony of New Haven entered into this confederation, it consisted only of the plantations of New Haven, Southold, and Stamford; but Guilford, establishing a plantation government in the following month, was ready to become incorporated into the
colony as soon thereafter as the consent of the confederated colonies could be obtained. Such consent was obtained in the following September, at the first meeting of the commissioners held under the articles. At the same meeting, " upon a motion made by the commissioners for New Haven jurisdiction, it was granted and ordered that the town of Milford may be received into combination and as a member of the jurisdiction of New Haven, if New Haven and Milford agree upon the terms and conditions among themselves."
The obstacle which had delayed the entrance of Mil-ford into the combination will be sufficiently displayed by the record of the action taken at New Haven for its admission. We transcribe, therefore, without abridgment, the proceedings at a general court held at New Haven, the 23d of October, 1643 : -
" Whereas this plantation at first with general and full consent laid their foundations that none but members of approved churches should be accounted free burgesses, nor should any else have any vote in any election, or power or trust in ordering of civil affairs, in which way we have constantly proceeded hitherto in our whole court with much comfortable fruit through God's blessing; and whereas Stamford, Guilford, and Yennicock have, upon the same foundations and engagements, entered into combination with us : this court was now informed that of late there have been some meetings and treaties between some of Milford and Mr. Eaton, about a combination, by which it appeareth that Milford hath formerly taken in as free burgesses, six planters who are not in church-fellowship, which hath bred some difficulty in the passages of this treaty, but at present it stands thus : the deputies for Mil-ford have offered, in the name both of the church and the town, First, that the present six free burgesses who are not church-members shall not at any time hereafter be chosen, either deputies or into any public trust for the combination; Secondly, that they shall
neither personally, nor by proxy, vote at any time in the election of magistrates; and, Thirdly, that none shall be admitted freemen or free burgesses hereafter at Milford, but church-members according to the practice at New Haven. Thus far they granted, but in two particulars they and their said six freemen desire liberty: First, that the said six freemen, being already admitted by them, may continue to act in all proper particular town business wherein the combination is not interested; and, Secondly, that they may vote in the election of deputies to be sent to the general courts for the combination or jurisdiction, which deputies so to be chosen and sent shall always be church-members."
" The premises being seriously considered by the whole court, the brethren did express themselves as one man, clearly and fully, that in the foundations laid for civil government they have attended their light, and should have failed in their duty, had they done otherwise, and professed ^themselves careful and resolved not to shake the said groundworks by any change for any respect, and ordered that this their understanding of this their way and resolution to maintain it should be entered with their vote in this business, as a lasting record. But not foreseeing any danger in yielding to Milford with the forementioned cautions, it was by general consent and vote, ordered that the consociation proceed in all things according to the premises."
The action taken above was the action of the town (as a plantation about that time began to be called) of New Haven; but it seems to have determined the question respecting the admission of Milford. Three days afterward a general court of election for the jurisdiction was held at New Haven, at which two magistrates were chosen for Milford; and on the next day after the election a general court for the jurisdiction was held, at which the two magistrates for Milford were present, as were also two deputies appointed by that town. At this general court a constitution for the colonial government was adopted, the provisions of which were as follows: -
1. "It was agreed and concluded as a fundamental order, not to be disputed or questioned hereafter, that none shall be admitted to be free burgesses in any of the plantations within this jurisdiction for the future, but such planters as are members of some or other of the approved churches in New England; nor shall any but such free burgesses have any vote in any election (the six present freemen at Milford enjoying the liberty with the cautions agreed); nor shall any power or trust in the ordering of any civil affairs be at any time put into the hands of any other than such church-members, though, as free planters, all have rights to their inheritance and to commerce, according to such grants, orders, and laws as shall be made concerning the same."
2. " All such free burgesses shall have power in each town or plantation within this jurisdiction to choose fit and able men from amongst themselves, being church-members as before, to be the ordinary judges to hear and determine all inferior causes, whether civil or criminal, provided that no civil cause to be tried in any of Plantation Courts in value exceed twenty pounds sterling, and that the punishment in such criminals, according to the mind of God revealed in his word, touching such offences, do not excee'd stocking and whipping, or if the fine be pecuniary, that it exceed • not five pounds. In which Court the magistrate or magistrates, if any be chosen by the free burgesses of the jurisdiction for that plantation, shall sit and assist with due respect to their place, and sentence shall pass according to the vote of the major part of each such court; only, if the parties or any of them be not satisfied with the justice of such sentences or executions, appeals or complaints may be made from and against these courts to the court of magistrates for the whole jurisdiction."
3. "All such free burgesses through the whoje jurisdiction, shall have vote in the election of all magistrates, whether governor, deputy governor, or other magistrates, with a treasurer, a secretary, and a marshal, &c., for the jurisdiction. And for the ease of those free burgesses, especially in the more remote plantations, they may by proxy vote in these elections, though absent, their votes being sealed up in the presence of the free burgesses themselves, that their several liberties may be preserved, and their votes directed according to their own particular light; and these
free burgesses may, at every election, choose so many magistrates'1 for each plantation, as the weight of affairs may require, and as they find fit men for that trust. But it is provided and agreed, that no plantation shall at any election be left destitute of a magistrate if they desire one to be chosen out of those in church fellowship with them." 4. "All the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction shall meet twice a year at New Haven, namely, the Monday immediately before the sitting of the two fixed general courts hereafter mentioned, to keep a court called the Court of Magistrates, for the trial of weighty and capital cases, whether civil or criminal, above those limited to the ordinary judges in the particular plantations, and to receive and try all appeals brought unto them from the aforesaid Plantation Courts, and to call all the inhabitants, whether free burgesses, free planters, or others, to account for the breach of any laws established, and for other misdemeanors, and to censure them according to the quality of the offence, in which meetings of magistrates, less than four shall not be accounted a court, nor shall they carry on any business as a court; but it is expected and required that all the magistrates in this jurisdiction do constantly attend the public service at the times before mentioned, and if any of them be absent at one of the clock in the afternoon on Monday aforesaid, when the court shall sit, or if any of them depart the town without leave, while the court sits, he or they shall pay for any such default, twenty shillings fine, unless some providence of God occasion the same, which the Court of Magistrates shall judge of from time to time, and all sentences in this court shall pass by the vote of the major part of magistrates therein; but from this Court of Magistrates appeals and complaints may be made and brought to the General Court as the last and highest for this jurisdiction; but in all appeals or complaints from or to what courts soever, due costs and damages shall be paid by him or them that make appeal or complaint without just cause." '
5. " Besides the Plantation Courts, and Courts of Magistrates, there shall be a General Court for the jurisdiction, which shall consist of the governor, deputy-governor, and all the magistrates within the jurisdiction, and two deputies for every plantation in the jurisdiction, which deputies shall from time to time be chosen against
the approach of any such general court by the aforesaid free burgesses, and sent with due certificate to assist in the same, all which, ' both governor and deputy-governor, magistrates, and deputies, shall have their vote in the said court. This general court shall always sit at New Haven (unless upon weighty occasions the general court see cause for a time to sit elsewhere), and shall assemble twice every year; namely, the first Wednesday in April and the last Wednesday in October, in the latter of which courts the governor, the deputy-governor, and all the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction, with a treasurer, a secretary, and a marshal, shall yearly be chosen by all the free burgesses before mentioned, besides which two fixed courts, the governor, or in his absence the deputy-governor, shall have power to summon a general court at any other time, as the urgent and extraordinary occasions of the jurisdiction may require; and at all general courts, whether ordinary or extraordinary, the governor and deputy-governor, and all the rest of the magistrates for the jurisdiction, with the deputies for the several plantations, shall sit together till the affairs of the jurisdiction be despatched or may safely be respited; and if any of the said magis-trates or deputies shall either be absent at the first sitting of the said general court (unless some providence of God hinder, which the said court shall judge of), or depart, or absent themselves disorderly before the court be finished, he or they shall each of them pay twenty shillings fine, with due consideration of further aggravations, if there shall be cause; which general court shall, with all care and diligence, provide for the maintenance of the purity of religion, and shall suppress the contrary, according to their best light from the word of God and all wholesome and sound advice which shall be given by the elders and churches in the jurisdiction, so far as may concern their civil power to deal therein."
" Secondly, they shall have power to make and repeal laws, and, while they are in force, to require execution of them in all the several plantations."" Thirdly, to impose an oath upon all the magistrates for the faithful discharge of the trust committed to them, according to their best abilities, and to call them to account for the breach of any laws established, or for other misdemeanors, and to censure them as the quality of the offence shall require."
" Fourthly, to impose an oath of fidelity and-due subjection to the laws upon all the free burgesses, free planters, and other inhabitants within the whole jurisdiction."
" Fifthly, to settle and levy rates and contributions upon all the several plantations, for the public service of the plantation."
" Sixthly, to hear and determine all causes, whether civil or criminal, which by appeal or complaint shall be orderly brought unto them from any of the other courts, or from any of the other plantations. In all which, with whatsoever else shall fall within their cognizance or judicature, they shall proceed according to the Scriptures, which is the rule of all righteous laws and sentences; and nothing shall pass' as an act of the general court, but by the consent of the major part of magistrates and the greater part of deputies."
The adoption of this constitution seems to have put an end to that confusion ef ideas which had sometimes allowed the administration of both plantation and colonial affairs in the same court. The written constitution may have helped the New Haven men to discriminate; and the presence in the court of members from Guilford and Milford, hitherto independent plantations, necessarily tended strongly in the same direction. The colonial constitution remained substantially the same from this time till the colony was absorbed into Connecticut, more than twenty years afterward. The union of these plantations in a colonial government, and the confederation of the colony with the other colonies of New England, were auxiliary to security and peace.