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tDe^slias, lanttars 13, 1847. 






U^ )Mo-».<»WA 






Gentlemen of the Historical Society: 

In consequence of my compliance with the request of jour committee — 
a compliance, perhaps, unfortunate both for you and me— it has become 
my duty to address you, and our fellow-citizens generally, upon a purely 
Rhode-Island theme. I shall, accordingly, speak to you of that Idea of 
Government, which was actualized, for the first time in Christendom, here 
in this State, by those who described themselves as "a poor colony, con- 
sisting mostly of a birth and breeding of the Most High, formerly from the 
mother-nation in the bishops* days, and latterly from the New-England 
over-zealous colonies." I shall speak to you of the origin of this idea — 
of the various forms which it took, in its progress toward its realization 
here, in minds of much diversity of character and creed ; and of that 
"hvely experiment," which it subsequently held forth, that "a most flour- 
ishing civil state may stand, and be best maintained, with a full liberty 
in reUgious concernments " — a liberty which implied an emancipation of 
Reason from the thraldom of arbitrary authority, and the full freedom of 
inquiry in all matters of speculative faith. 

To the founders of this State, and particularly to Roger Williams, belong 
the fame and the glory of having realized, for the first time, this grand 
idea, in a form of civil government; but we should honor them at the 
expense of our common nature, should we say that they were the first to 
maintain that Christ's kingdom was not of this world, and that the State 
had no right to interfere between conscience and God. The idea must, 
undoubtedly, have had its historical origin in him who first endured per- 
secution for conscience's sake. "Saul! Saul! why persecutest thou me?** 
is a voice, implying a denial of right, which comes with a sudden shining 
round about of light, not only from Heaven, but has come, and shall ever 
come, from the depths of persecuted humanity, through all time ; and, in 
proportion to the violence and spread of the persecution, has been, and shall 
be, the depth and extent of the cry. It is the protest of that all-present 
Reason, which is, at once, the master of the individual and the race, against 
the abuse made by the creature, of its own delegated authority. And that 
time never was, and never shall be, when humanity could, or can, recog- 
nize the right of any human power to punish for the expression of a mere 
conscientious belief 

By what fraudful craft or cunning, then, was it, that this power to 
punish in matters of conscience came to be established throughout all 
Christendom, and has been continued down, in some countries, to the 
present day? — and how happened it that the odious office of punishing 

4 Judge Durfet^M 

heretics, and enforcing uniformity of opinion, fell, both in Roman Catholic 
and Protestant countries, on the civil magistrates? This question is fully 
answered by history. 

When men had been brought to believe that they had found a divine 
and infallible teacher in the Bishop of Rome, it was not difficult to induce 
them to think that whatever opinion they might entertain, which he thought 
proper to condemn as heretical, was, in truth, a sin, which they were bound 
to renounce, on the peril of their salvation ; and that then, on having 
renounced it, upon undergoing a voluntary penance, directed by some 
ecclesiastical authority, they might be assured of an absolution, and full 
restomtion to the bosom of the church. ' Thus far it was believed that the 
spiritual power might proceed. But then, there were frequently those who 
were much more confident in the truth of their opinions than in the infalli- 
bility of the Pope, or their priestly advisers ; and such persons, on their 
opinions being adjudged heretical, were, after all suitable admonition, con- 
demned as incorrigible heretics, and excommunicated. 

Yet this was not an extirpation of the heresy; and the Roman Church 
held that she had a divine right to extirpate heresy ; and yet she also 
adopted the maxim, Ecelesia abhorret a sanguine — the Church abhors 
Uood. The holy Church then could not take the life of the heretic ; and, 
therefore, she contrived to shift oif this odious office upon the secular 
authority, by imposing an oath upon the princes of Europe, generally, to 
sustain the Catholic faith, and to extirpate heresy out of the land. It was 
thus that it fell to the lot of the kings of Europe, and thtir subordinates, 
to become the executioners of the Church of Rome. And when the 
Reformation was established over a part of Europe, national churches took 
the place of the Roman church, and laws were passed to enforce uniform- 
ity ; and thus, even in Protestant countries, the ungrateful task of punish- 
ing non-conformity and heresy fell on the civil magistmte. 

It was by such cmft that the power to punish for matters of conscience 
came to be established, both in Roman Catholic and Protestant countries, 
Imd that in both, the odious office of inflicting the punishment fell on the 
secular authorities. 

But though the subjects of the Roman Church may have tacitly con- 
ceded to the Pope his claim to infallibility, and have submitted to an 
authority in the civil magistrate thus usurped over conscience and Reason ; 
yet it is not hence to be inferred that the inborn consciousness of soul- 
liberty — of the title of Reason to be free — ^became, thereupon, utterly 
extinguished and lost. Indeed, long before the Reformation — long before 
the time of Luther — ^there were great numbers in Europe, who had, them- 
selves, acquired some knowledge of the Scriptures, and had, consequently, 
adopted opinions quite inconsistent with the doctrines and traditions of the 
Church of Rome ; and they appeared to be opinions in which they had 
abundantly more confidence than in the infallibihty of the Pope. Wow, 
when these people came to be condemned as heretics, and consigned to 
the secular authorities, to undergo the sentence and punishment of death, 
can any one suppose that the appearance of the civil magistrate deceived 
them into the beUef that they had indeed conunitted a crime? Can any 
(me doubt that they questioned his right — as they had questioned the 
infallibility of the Pope— to come in, with the sentence of death, between 
their consciences and their God, for a matter of faith in which their eternal 

hopes were grounded? Indeed, their deaths were the strongest possible 
protest against the legitimacy of the power; since no one can be supposed 
to adhere to an opinion, as right, for which the magistrate may rightfully 
put him to death. The actual denial of the right of the dvil power to 
interfere in matters of conscience, must, therefore, be coeval with the 
assumption of the authority. 

But men sometimes act on a truth which they fedi, though they do not 
clearly express it in words ; and now was this denial of the claims of the 
secular authority put forth in language, and taught as a doctrine? History 
is not silent on this point By a mere glance at its pages, we may follow 
the progressive development of the inborn idea of the rights of conscience 
cuid Reason in the express denial of the legitimacy of the authority usurped 
over both, from the earliest dawn, to the broad day, of the Reformation. 
Time will not permit me to dwell on this point I am now hastening to 
the political manifestations of this idea, and I can do little more than say, 
that its protestations, against the exercise of secular power in the concerns 
of conscience, may be traced down to their results in the Reformation, 
more or less distinctly, in the doctrines of the Waldenses and Albigenses. 
These were names designating persons of a great variety of opinions, on 
minor points, and by which dissenters from the Roman Church were gen* 
erally distinguished, long before the appearance of Luther. The doctrines 
of these dissenters, when first noticed, stron^y resembled those of the 
primitive Christians. I cannot enumerate them ; t)Ut, like the first settlers 
of this State, they seem to have regarded '^Christ as king in his own king* 
dom ;" and, by separating the church from the world, and by repudiating 
the Roman Church an Mcaunt of its assumption of secular authority, they 
manifestly denied the right of the civil magistrate to interfere in the con* 
cems of conscience. These people were early found in the valleys of 
Piedmont, and, at a later period, in the south of France. A crusade was, 
however, instituted against them by Innocent III., and they wero driven 
from their homes, with conflagration and slaughter, into almost every 
European kingdom. Rome^thus undesignedly, scattered the seeds of the 
Reformation broadcast over Europe ; and with them those principles and 
doctrines which expressly separated the Church from the secular power. 

The doctrines of the Waldenses had been widely diffused at the dawn 
of the Reformation, and when Luther appeared, the number of dissenters 
froln the Roman Church, who had adopted these, or doctrines similar to 
these, were great in every country in Europe ; but particularly in Germany. 
Europe was, in fact, thus made ripe for an insurrection in' favor of soul- 
liberty against soul-oppression, in every form, and particularly against that 
despotism which the Church asserted, and which it maintained in the last 
resort, by the agency of the secular power, over the reason and the con* 
sciences of its subjects. And, indeed, the Reformation was nothing less 
than an effort made by this Reason for its own emancipation. 

But to break down its prison-walls was not to build its own house ; to 
emancipate itself, was not to secure and establish its own freedom ; and, 
therefore, in the very effort which it made for its emancipation, it necessa- 
rily kept this end in view— namely, the ultimate establishment of its own 
proper asylum, its own free home — so fortified, as to secure it against every 
attempt to enslave it. Let me endeavor to give this idea a more philo- 
sophical expression. This Reason exists in humanity, only in and through 

6 Iv4g9 Duffels 

the individual mind. Now, nothing could secure and establiah its freedom 
but the realization of the individual mind itself— free as its Creator had 
made it — in a congenial, social mind, standing out, fotlly developed and ex- 
pressed, in correspqndently free political institutions. This was the idea ; 
this was the then deeply-involved conception, to which the general mind 
of Protestant Europe gravitated, unconsciously, but of its own law, as to 
a common centre. I say unconsciously ; but it had its vague and inde- 
terminate aspirations and hopes. It ever had its object dimly and indis- 
tinctly before it, though receding at every approach. It was this idea 
which, for generations, shook Europe to its centre; it was this idea which, 
when the spiritual domination of Rome was overthrown, and Protestant 
J^urope stood forth in renovated institutions, still haunted the minds of 
our English ancestry, as a great conception, which had not been, but 
might yet be, realized ; it was this idea which brought them "from the 
mother-nation in the bishops' days,'' and finally, '' from the New-England 
over-zealous colonies," here, to the forest-shaded banks of the Mooshausic, 
where t)iey, at last, fully realized it, in the social order and government 
of a State. 

It may not be inappropriate to trace this idea, through the several 
stages of its progress, to its reaUzation here. It will, at least, give us 
confidence in that which may follow, and will, I flatter myself, show 
that we are not dealing with a phantom of the imagination^ but with a 
sober historical realitv. 

When the several Protestant governments of Europe had thrown oflf 
the spiritual dominion of the Pope, great was the expectation of their 
subjects that the individual mind would be no longer held in spiritual 
bondage. This expectation, however, was destined to a considerable dis- 
appointment. These governments had indeed thrown off the dominion of 
the Pope, but they substituted, in the place of it, a dominion of their own. 
Each estabUshed its own national church-*— Lutheran, Calvinistic, or Epis- 
copal. The king, or head of the nation, became the head of the estabhshed 
order; and laws were enacted, or ordinances promulgated, to enforce uni- 
formity and punish heretics. It is evident, however, that here had been 
a progress toward the realization of the idea which had caused the 
Reformation. In Continental Europe, the Lutheran and the Calvinist, 
under their respective church and state governments, were in the full 
enjoyment of that soul-liberty which would have been denied to them by 
the Pope. Each of their minds found its place in a congenial social mind : 
their idea of soul-hberty was realized. But how was it with those who 
could not conform to the established church? They were obnoxious to 
the laws; they were disfranchised, or punished for non-conformity, or 
heresy. That soul-liberty, for which they had struggled and suflfered so 
much, during the trials of the Reformation, had not been realized ; and 
they were, in respect to conscience, out of legal protection^ and objects of 
persecution. And this was particular^y the case in England, the father- 
land of our ancestors. The Reformation had there been commenced, not 
by the people — not by a Luther and his associates — ^but by the govern- 
ment itself, and for the interest and the purposes of the government It 
was commenced in the reign of Hemy V III. ; and, after a sanguinary 
struggle during the reign of PhiUp and Mary, was at length recognired 
as folly establ^hed, in the reign of Elizabeth. 

Diteanrse. 7 

This event terminated, for ever, the spiiitual dominion of the Pope ki 
England, and established Episcopacy as an integral part of the monarchy, 
-with the sovereign at its head. Here, too, was a progress toward the 
realization of the great idea, but it was a progress made only for the 
benefit of the Episcopalian ; and, indeed, for his benefit only while he con- 
tinued to adhere to that particular faith. The moment that reason or 
conscience earned him beyond the prescribed hmits, he fell under the ban 
of Church and State, as a nor^conformist or heretic. Nor did he find 
himself alone. Many there were, who, from the first establishment of the 
Church of England, thought that the Reformation had not been carried 
ta a sufficient extent; and that the soul-liberty, for which they had endured 
so much, had not been realized. They were comprehended under the 
general name of Non-conformists, and consisted of those called Brownists, 
Puritans, Congregationalists, Independents, and so forth. Neither of these 
denominations felt that their idea of religious hberty had been realized in 
an Episcopal Church and State. On the contrary, they felt that how 
much soever of liberty there might be for the Episcopalian, there was but 
little for them. A part of those called Puritans, formed themselves 
into associations or churches, crossed the Atlantic, and established them- 
selves at Plymouth, Salem, and Boston, and became the first settlers of 

They sought these shores, to establish here, far from English bishops 
and their tyranny over reason and conscience, religious liberty for them- 
selves and their posterity. This, at first, certainly seems to promise the 
final accomplishment of the great object of the Reformation — even the 
entire emancipation of the individual mind from spiritual thraldom, and 
the establishment of its freedom in the bosom of a congenial community. 
But, in fact, it proved to 'be only another step toward that end. What 
they meant by religious freedom, was not the freedom of the individual 
mind from the domination of the spiritual order, but merely the fireedom of 
their particulai church ; and just as the English government had thrown 
off the tyranny of the Pope, to establish the tyranny of the bishops, they 
threw off the tjnranny of the bishops, to establish the tyranny of the 
brethren. But still, a small community, under the rule of brethren, id 
nearer to an individual than a nation under a monarch; and the establish- 
ment, here, of these churches or religious associations, even under their 
ecclesiastical and civil forms, proved to be a great approximation toward 
the realization of the full freedom of the individual mind in congenial social 
institutions. True, they established nothing but the liberty of Church and 
State corporations, and of their respective members ; but it was easier to 
break from the restraints imposed by a pet^ community, than from those 
imposed by the government and people of England ; especially when the 
daring adventurer had the wilderness before him. And the form, which 
these religious associations took, was particularly exposed to the liability 
of provoking diisaffection, even among themselves. 

Their Church and State governments were essentially the same institu- 
tion, under different names. The spiritual power was brought down to 
earth,^ and into all the relations of private and public life. It appeared in 
their laws — their judicial proceedings — ^in the administration of the gov- 
ernment, and in all the movements of the State. Nothing of importance 
was done without the advice of the minister and ruling elders ; and we 

8 M^is Durfm^s 

mtcynreBi suppose that, tmder mxch a form of govommeDt, poKties 4nd 
lehgion were identical. It was designed to make men religions aceoidmi^ 
to lav; and there ootdd not be two parties in the State^ without there 
being also two parties in the Church : and to question ^e authority of 
either, wsb to provoke the resentment of both. The brethren were, indeed, 
fiee as long as they continued brethren ; but Reason was, at ^at time, 
moving on to its emancipation, and it could dilate on nothing which did 
not bring it directly or indirectly into conflict with the Church. It, there* 
fore, soon happened, and particularly in Massachusetts, that numbers of 
the brethren, of diverse minds in matters of fiedth, lost their place in die 
Church, were cast out, and exposed to the penal inflictions of the civil 

Among the earliest, if not the very earliest, of these, was Roger Williams, 
the founder of this State. He had sought New-England (A. D. 1631) in 
the expectation that. he might here enjoy that religious liberty which wbb 
denied him in the mother-country. He was a minister of the gospel' He 
at first preached in Plymouth, and afterwards became a minister of the 
church at Salem. > He freely expressed his opinion on various subjects. 
He affirmed that the king's patent could not, of itself, give a just tiUe to 
the lands of the Indians. He maintained that the civil magistrate had 
no right to interfere in matters of conscience, and to punish for heresy or 
apostacy. He contended that ^4he people were the origin of all free 
power in government," but that "they were not invested by Christ Jesus 
with power to rule in his Church ;" that they could give no such power 
to the magistrate, and that to "introduce the civil sword" into this spiritual 
kingdom, was "to confound heaven and earth, and lay all upon heaps of 
confusion." In effect, he called upon the Church to come out from the 
magistmcy, and the magistracy to come out from the Church ; and de- 
manded that each should act within its appropriate sphere, and by its 
appropriate means. It was then, for the first time, that the startling 
thought of a complete separation of Church and State was uttered on 
these Western shores ; and it was then, also for the first time, that the 
individual mind, free in the sovereign attributes of Reason, stood forth 
before the Massachusetts authorities, and boldly claimed its emancipation, 
in the realization of its own true idea of government. 

Bnch a mind was manifestly too large for the sphere of a Church and 
State combination. It had already broken from its bondage, and now 
stood out, independent, individual, and alone. Roger Williams was neces- 
sarily banished by the Massachusetts authorities. He was s^tenced to 
depart from their jurisdiction within six weeks. But he went about, "to 
dmw others to his opinion," and he proposed "to erect a plantation about 
the Narragansett bay." The rumor of this reached the ears of the magis- 
tracy ; and, to defeat his intent, which had for them a most alarming sig- 
nificance, they proposed to send him to England, by a ship then lying in 
the harbor of Boston. He eluded their quest ; plunged into the forest- 
wilderness; and, after spending the winter among its savage, but hospita- 
ble, inhabitants, attempted to form a plantation at Seekonk ; but, defeated 
in this, came, at last, into the valley of the Mooshausic, and here, witix a 
small number of associates, of like aspirations, realized that idea of gov- 
ernment, in its first form, which had so long allured, but still evaded, the 
pmrsmt of natkms and men. 

HisiorietU Diswurs$. 9 

We havB thus traced this idea of govemment, from the first indistinct 
expressions of itself in the doctrines of the Waldenses, through the strug* 
gles of that revolution known as the Protestant Reformation ; we have 
next noticed the imperfect realizations of itself, in the Church and State 
governments of Europe ; we have then seen it cross the Atlantic, in the 
form of small religious associations, to be again reproduced, imperfectly, 
in a combination of ecclesiastical and civil institutions ; but we have now 
seen it, impersonated in the individual man, breaking from these restraints, 
and going forth into the wilderness, there to establish itself in an infant 
community, as the last result of centuries of effort 

We start, then, with this important fact, well worthy of being for ever 
fixed in every Rhode-Island mind : namely, that it was here that the great 
idea, which coi»tituted the very soul of that religious movement which so 
long agitated all Europe, Jirst took an organic fon^ in a civil community, 
and expressed itself in a social compact. 

Let us for a moment attend to the words of that compact; let us 
hearken to this, its first free expression of itself We ought not to expect 
it to announce itself in the clear, strong tones of manhood ; for it can 
speak, at first, only through an infant organization : it will only make 
known its advent into the material world, by lisping its earliest wants ; 
but, then, it will lisp them so clearly and distinctly, as to leave nothing to 
be misunderstood. 

<< We, whose names are hereunder, desirous to inhabit the town of Provi[ 
dence, do promise to subject ourselves, in active and passive obedience, to 
all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good of the body, 
in an orderly way, by the major assent of the present inhabitants, masters 
of families, incorporated together into a town-fellowship, and such as they 

shall admit unto them, only in civil things,*** 


Here the great idea resolves itself, manifestly, into two elements — Lib- 
erty and Law; the one, necessarily implied; the other, clearly and deter- 
minately expressed. Liberty, Soul-Liberty, they take from no earthly 
poweiv or being. It is the gift of God, in that Reason which is within 
them, as His law, and which human authority can neither rightfully 
enlarge nor diminish. In this, its exalted and exalting element, the reason 
is left to deal freely, and according to its own method, with the Divine, the 
Eternal, the Infimte, the Absolute, and all that pertains thereto, without 
let or hinderance. But in the region beneath, in this meum and tuum 
world, the proper sphere of the common-sense understanding of mankind — 
where man may jostle man, where each may claim to occupy the same 
space, to possess the same thing, to do the same act — they each jojrfully 
accept law at the hands of their fellows, cautiously requiring that it should 
be only in these, their civU thittgs. 

We have now this idea, with its two elements, as it first manifested 
itself in the infant community of Providence; but it was destined to 
extend thence, and organize itself in several towns. And, indeed, fully 
to try its capacity for government, it should take form in a population of a 

* In this compaet, we have a gOTenment founded on the relations of domestic life— « Patii- 
mnhal Republic, ruled by the **muien offamiOiuP What Bill of Ri«fats ever so effectuaUy 
secw«d soul-Uberty as this sin^e phrase, "only m ctvtl iftif^/" 

10 Ju4ge Dutfie^s 

great variety of religious creed; and exhibit itself in a diversity of hufEuui 
elements — elements antagonisticalj and, in some respects, even irrecon- 
cileable : for if they be perfectly homogeneous, such as Church and State 
require, they cannot give this idea the slightest development Now, in 
point of fact, what were these elements? 

Why, they were made up of men and women, of a diversity of creeds, 
who, flying from the soUl-oppression of the governments of Europe, and 
the neighboring colonies, came hither to enjoy soul-liberty. Shortly fol- 
lowing the settlement of Providence, the town of Portsmouth and the 
town of Newport were formed, and the settlement of Warwick was com- 
menced; each with the same object: namely, the enjoyment of soul-hberty, 
in security from the soul-oppressors of Massachusetts and other colonies. 
In proof of this diversity of faith, we might cite Dr. Mather, if he could 
be considered trustworthy authority for that purpose. He represents us 
to be, at this period, "% colluvies of Antinomians, Familists, Anabaptists, 
Anti*Sabbatarians, Arminians, Socinians, Gluakers, and Ranters; every 
thing in the world but Roman Catholics and real Christians ; so that if a 
man,'' continues he, ^^had lost his religion, he mi^ht find it at this general 
muster of opinionists." Well, the Rhode-Island idea may readily accept 
all the diversity which the Doctor has given it ; for it knows how to organ- 
ize it, and subject it to order and law. But we must lay the venerable 
Doctor aside : he lovingly deals to^ freely with unrealities and monstrosities 
of all sorts, to be reliable authority in spiritualities of any kind. Of what, 
then, did this diversity mainly consist? 

Why, here were the plain matter-of-fact Baptists, ever the unyielding 
lovers of religious freedom — ever the repellers of State interference in the 
concerns of conscience — tracing their genealogy back through the Wal- 
dense's, even to the great original Baptist, John. Here, chiefly, at Newport, 
were the familistical Antinomians — so called by their persecutors — ^the 
highly-gifted Ann Hutchinson for a season at their head, confiding in the 
revelations of the indwelling spirit, and a covenant of free grace. Here, 
too, chiefly at Warwick, was the mystical Gortonist, dimly symbolizing 
his doctrines in cloudy allegory. Here also was the Fifth Monarchy man, 
preparing for the SecQnd Advent, and the New Reign on earth. Here, 
every where, was the Gtuaker — a quiet, demure, peace-loving non-resistant, 
in the world of the flesh ; but who, on taking fire in the silence of his 
meditations, became indomitable in the world of spirit, and gave the unre- 
sisting flesh, freely, to bondage and death, in vindication of his faith. 
And here also, it is true, were free-thinkers of all sorts ; some who had . 
opinions, and some who had none. Surely, even before other denomina- 
tions had established themselves within our borders, here were elements 
of diversity, all-sufficient to try the capacity of the Rhode-Island Idea of 

Amid such variety of mind, there was little danger that men would melt 
down into one homogeneous mass — a result to which a Church and State 
combination ever tends — and lose their moral and intellectual individuali- 
ties. Such variety of mind could not fail to be active, and to beget action, 
and to promote and preserve original distinctiveness of character, in ''all 
diversity. And such, we find, was the fact. I will endeavor to delineate 
the characters of a few of the leading minds of the colony, at this time, 
that we may form some faint conception of the originahty and diversity 

Hist&Hetd Disctmrse, 1 1 

of character, which marked those wh6 constituted the undistinguished 
numbei:^ that they led. 

Roger Williams and William Harris were the heads of two distinct 
political parties in Providence. Two marked and prominent traits of 
intellect gave a strong and decisive outUne to the character of Williams : 
namely, originality of conception in design, and unyielding perseverance 
in execution. These, every noted fact of his life clearly indicate and 
prove. He could assert the right of the. natives to the soil that contained 
the bones of their ancestors, and maintain it against the patent of England's 
sovereign, though he roused the wrath of a whole community against him. 
He could conceive a new idea of government, and contend for it, against 
Church and Court, with the penalty of banishment or death before him. 
He could be "sorely tossed for fourteen weeks, in a bitter cold winter 
season, not knowing what bed or bread did mean " rather than renounce 
this new idea. He could seat himself down amid savage nations — study 
their language, soothe their ferocious dispositions, make them his friends — 
that he might actualize, in humanity, his yet untried conception. He 
could write tracts in defence of this peculiar conception, while engaged 
at the hoe and oar, toiling for bread — while attending Parliament, in a 
variety of rooms and places — and sometimes in the field, and in the midst 
of travel. He could, at the age of threescore and ten, row thirty miles in 
one day, that he might engage in a three-days' discussion with George 
Fox, on some knotty points of divinity. He was, indeed, a man of the 
most unyielding .firmness in support of his opinions ; but no one can say 
that he ever suffered his firmness to degenerate into obstinacy. What- 
ever his doctrines were, he was sure to practice upon them to the utmost 
extent ; and if further reflection, or that practice, showed that they were 
erroneous, he cheerfully abandoned them. He was, indeed, a remarkable 
man, and one of the most original characters of an age distinguished for 
originality of conception. 

Harris was a man of ardent temperament, of strong intellectual powers 
— bold, energetic, ever active, and ever persevering to the end, in whatever 
cause be undertook. Nature seems to have supplied the deficiencies of 
his early education. Without having made the law a study, he became 
the advocate of the Pawtuxet purchasers, in their suit against the towns 
of Providence, Warwick, and others \ and of Connecticut, in her claims 
against Rhode-Island to the Narragansett country. He was rather fitted 
for the practical, than the speculative ; for the sphere of the senses, than 
for the sphere of the ideal. He could not, like Williams, contemplate both 
spheres at the same time in their mutual relations ; and the consequence 
was, that the moment he passed into the ideal, he became a radical, and 
was brought, at once, into violent collision with Williams. Basing his 
theories, for a time, at least, on conscience, he contended that any person 
who could conscientiously say that he ought not to submit to any human 
authority, should be exempt from all law. He asserted and defended this 
, position in a book ; yet he was by no means a non-resistant himself. 
When he obtained poUtical power, he wielded it with such effect against 
his adversaries, that they called him the Fire-brand. Like most men of 
genius, or eccentricity, who lead an active life, he has a touch of romance 
m his history. He had several times, in the prosecution of the compHcated 
controversies in which he was engaged, crossed the Atlantic to the mother- 

12 J^iige Thffi^s 

country. Upon the eve of etnbafking on his last voyage, as if seized with 
a presentiment of his destiny, he made his will, and had it forthwith proved 
hefore the proper authorities. He then left port for England ; but, on the 
voyage, he was taken by a Barbary corsair, carried into Algiers, was there 
sold into bcmdage, and detained, as a slave, fcnr one year. He was then 
ransomed ; and, after traveling through Spain and France, he reached 
London, and there died shortly after his arrival. The mind of Harris was 
strong; that of Williams, comprehensive. 

Samuel Gorton, the chief man of the settlement of Shawomet, (or War- 
wick,) was a person of the most distinctive originality of character. He 
was a man of deep, strong feelings, keenly alive to every injury, though 
inflicted on the humblest of God*s creatures. He was a great lover of 
souMiberty, and hater of all shams. He was a learned man, self-educated, 
studious, contemplative; a profound thinker; who, in his spiritual medita- 
tions amid ancient Warwick's primeval groves, wandered off into infinite 
and eternal realities, forgetful of earth and all earthly relations. He did 
indeed clothe his thoughts, at times, in clouds ; but then, it was because 
they were too large for any other garment. No one, who shall rivet his 
attention upon them, shall fail to catch some glimpse of giant limb and 
joint, and have some dim conception of the colossal form that is enshrouded 
within the mystic envelopment. Yet, in common life, no one was more 
}^n, simple, and unaffected, than Gorton. That he was courteous, affa- 
ble, and eloquent, his very enemies admit \ and even grievously complain 
of his seducing language. He was a man of courage; and when roused 
to anger, no hero of the Uiad ever breathed language more impassioned 
or effective. Nothing is more probable than that such a man, in the 
presence of the Massachusetts magistracy, felt his superiority, and moved 
and spoke with somewhat more freedom than they deemed suited to their 
dignity. Far more sinned against than sinning, he bore adversity with 
heroic fortitude, and, if he did not conquer, be yet finally baffled every 
effort of his enemies. 

William Coddington and John Clarke, two of the leading characters 
of the island towns, were both men of well-lyilanced and well-educated 
minds ; less remarkable for originality of thought, than for clear under- 
standing and practical judgments. They constituted a very fortunate 
equipoise against the eccentricity and enthusiaelm of such original geniuses 
as Williams and Gorton. The former furnished the ballast, and the latter 
the sails, of the ship. Each was necessary to the other, and both were 
indispensable to the whole. 

Coddington, before he left Boston, was one of the chief men of Massa- 
chusetts. He was an assistant, re-chosen several times ; treasurer of the 
colony, and a principal merchant in Boston. He was grieved at the pro- 
ceedings of the Court against Mr. Wheelwright and others; and came to 
befriend and assist them on their remoVal to Newport. He was a common- 
sense, sober, staid, worthy man. The political difficulty into which he 
was brought, is as likely to have sprung from his virtues as his failings. • 
He had in him a little too much of the future for Massachusetts, and a 
little too much of the past for Rhode-Island, as she then was. He died 
Governor of Bhode-Island, and a member of the Friends* Society. 

Clarke was a man of more active and effective zeal in the cause of 
ctvii and religioUB hberty, than Coddington; and was higUy competent 

Hi^mieai'Disemurse. tS 

to have charge of its interests ia the highest places. He was nmiiily 
instrumental in procuring the charter of 1663. Though originally a phy* 
sician in London, he became Pastor of the First Baptist Church in New- 
port. He was a man of learning ; the author of some tracts, touching 
the persecutions in New^England ; and left, in manuscript, a Ck>nconlance 
and Lexicon — "the fruit of several years' labor." To do full justice ta 
Portsmouth and Newport, it should be added, that their first setUers were, 
generally, men of more property, and better education, than those of 
Providence. But — 

♦ * . * Fuimui Troes, ftiit Ilium ♦ 

♦ * ♦ ♦ ♦ Omnia Jupiter Ai^jos 

Such were the leading minds of this State, while yet in its rudimental 
condition, awaiting a transition to a more perfect form. And I might now 
say something of the impress which these characters, and their like, have 
manifestly left on their posterity; but this would be foreign to my present 
purpose. I have described them as they exist in the conceptions given by 
History, that we may have some notion of the diversity and originality of 
the contemporary moral and intellectual forces which were brought into 
action by them. 

Now let us recollect that all this diversity and distinctive originality of 
character, were to be found within four little neighborhoods, consisting at 
first of a few famihes, and, as late as 1663*— -the utmost range of my present 
view — of not more than three or four thousand souls. Upon minds thus 
diverse, original, enthusiastic, active, and, in some respects, ccmflicting^- 
each bent upon the enjoyment of the most p^ect soul-Hberty, consistent 
with a well-ordered commanity-*>the Rhode-Island idea, subsisting the 
same in each and all, took form^-Hstood out in a constituted people — lived, 
breathed, and thought, in an organization of its own. 

When you look for the Constitution of this State, in its essential form, 
go not to compacts subscribed by men ; go not to chartere granted by 
kings ; go not to Constitutions given by majorities — ^they are but faint and 
imperfect expressions of the great reality ; but go to this grand idea, coming 
down from the distant past— struggling through the blood and turmoil of 
warring nations — passing through the fiery ordeal of Church and State 
persecution ; and here, at last, find it — ^standing out— realized — ^incarnated 
— ^in its own appropriated and peculiar people. 

This idea, thus realized, consisted, as already stated, of two elements—- 
liberty and law — the pure Reason above, and the common-sense under- 
standing beneath. There is no necessary conflict between these two ele- 
ments ; on the contrary, each is necessary to the proper existence of the 
other. Yet we shall find, as we follow the internal development of this 
idea, that these two elements fiwquehtly encounter, and sharply contend 
for victory. The idea being thus given, every new occasion wiJQ call ibr 
a new application, which will infallibly bring these elements into action. 
And now let us folldw it in some of its manifestations here in Providence, 
then a small village on the banks of the Mooshausic. 

Would that it were in my power, by a mesmeric wave of the hand, to 
bring Providence before you, as she then was. You would see the natural 
Mooshausic, freely rolling beneath his primeval shades, unobstructed by^ 

U Jfdge Dutfet*s 

bcidge, unhinged by wharf or made land, still laving his native mai^^e^ 
here expanding in the ample cove — there winding and glimmering round 
point and headland, and, joyous in his native freedbm, passing onward, 
till lost in the bosom of the broad-spreading NarTagansett. You would 
see, beneath the forest of branching oak and beech, interspersed with dark- 
arching cedars and tapering pines, infant Providence, in a village of scat- 
tered log huts. You would see each little hut overlooking its own natural 
lawn, by the side of fotmtain or stream, with its first rude enclosure of 
waving corn ; you would see the stanch-limbed draught-horse grazing the 
fcMrest-glade ; you would hear the tinkling of the cow-bell in the thicket, 
and the bleating of flocks on the hill. You would see the plain, home- 
spun human inhabitants — ^not such as tailors and milliners make, but such 
as God made ; real men and women, with the bloom of health on their 
cheeks, and its elasticity and vigor in every joint and limb. Somewhat 
of an Acadian scene this — ^yet it is not, In reality, precisely what it seems. 
A new occasion has arisen in this little community, whicii requires a new 
application of their idea of the State. 

Oddly enough — or, rather, naturally enough — ^this occasion has arisen 
out of the most interesting of domestic relations. Joshua Verin, that rude, 
old-fashioned man, with his Church and State idea still clinging to him, 
has been putting restraints upon the conscience of his wife. Yes, she is 
desirous of attending Mr. Williams' meetings, '^ as oflen as called for," 
and hearing his Anabaptistical discourses ; and her husband has said, 
"she shaU not;" and the consequence is that the whole community is in 
a buzz — the fundamental idea has been infringed. A town meeting is 
called on the subject, and a warm debate ensues ; for Verin has his 
friends, as well as his wife. The proposition is, that "Joshua Verin, for 
breach of covenant in restmining liberty of conscience, be withheld the 
liberty of voting, till he declare the contrary." "And there stood up," 
says Winthrop, " one Arnold, a witty man of their company, and with- 
stood it, telling them that when he consented to that covenant, he never 
intended it should extend to the breach of any ordinance of God, such as 
the subjection of wives to their husbands, and so forth ; and gave divers 
sohd reasons against it. Then one Greene, he replied, that if they should 
restrain their wives, all the women in the country would cry out upon 
them. Arnold answered thus : 'Did you pretend to leave the Massachu- 
setts, because you would not offend God to please men, and would you 
now break an ordinance and commandment of God, to please women?^^^ 
Winthrop, naturally enough, gives the best of the argument to Arnold ; 
but he may not be fairly entitled to it. 

It is the earliest record of a struggle in this State, between new-born 
Liberty and andent Law. If the facts were, that Mrs. Verin, after faith- 
fully discharging all her duties as a wife and mother, felt herself in con- 
science bound to attend Mr. WiUiams'meetings, and her husband restrained 
her, it was just such a restraint on conscience as was inconsistent with 
the new idea of government ; and the question, on this supposition, was 
correctly decided. Libeny won the victory; and Joshua Verin, for a 
breach of covenant in restraining liberty of conscience, was properly with- 
held the liberty of voting till he declared the contrary. 

But there was another occasion for the application of the fundamental 
idea, not more important in principle, but far more serious in its conse- 

Historieal Diseaurse. 16 

quences. It arose from an attempt of Liberty to come down upon earth, 
and realize )ierself entire, to the complete overthrow and destruction of all 
law and order. It was an idea given by pure reason-^-an idea subsist- 
ing only by relation to the Universal, the Absolute, the Infinite, the 
Divine — that sought to come down into a special form of humanity, and 
supplant the plain common-sense understanding of mankind. It was one 
of l^ose ideas which propose to navigate the ship by plain sailing, over 
an ocean vexed with winds, and waves, and var3ang currents, and perilous 
with islands, and banks, and ledges, and rocks — ^where nothing but 
traverse sailing, aided by the chart, will do. It has been the fortune of 
Rhode-Island, from her infancy to the present hour, to balance herself 
betwe«i Liberty and Law — to wage war, as occasion might require, with 
this class of ideas, and keep them within their appropriate bounds. And 
before c,ertain other States — some of them not fairly out of their cradles — 
undertake to give her lessons of duty in relation to such ideas, let me tell 
them that they must have something of Rhode-Island's experience, and 
have, like her, been self-governed for centuries. 

William Harris, as already stated, published and sent to the several 
towns of the colony, a book, in which he maintained, that he who could 
say in his conscience that he could not submit to any human legislation, 
ought to be exempt from the operation of all human laws. You will 
perceive that he bases this proposition upon the liberty-element of the 
fundamental idea — that he would transmute the relation which subsists 
between the secret conscience and God, and with which no human law 
should interfere, into the relations between man and man, citizen and State, 
and thereby dissolve the government, establish the sovereignty of each 
individual, and terminate all law. 

We may well suppose that, on such a proposition being announced — 
and announced in such a manner — ^by a man so considerable as Harris, 
the excitement in this little community was violent. The very existence 
of the fundamental idea was threatened, and the art with which the pop- 
ular element was supported by free quotations from Scripture, excited no 
little alarm. Williams harnessed himself for the contest, and came forth 
in vindication of his idea. He made the distinction between the absolute 
liberty of conscience, and the civil government, clear, by a happy illus- 
tration. The crew of a ship might consist of all varieties of creed, and 
each individual worship God in his own way ; but when called upon to 
do their duty in navigating the ship, they must all obey the commands of 
the master. Against his orders, given to that end, they must set up no 
pretence of soul-liberty — no affected conscientious scruples — do their duty 
they must, each as one of the crew enlisted for the voyage, on peril of 
suffering the penalties of mutiny. And he accordingly ifidicted Harris 
for high treason. The indictment, however, was not prosecuted to effect. 
Harris gave bonds for his good behavior, and a copy of the charge and 
accompanying papers were sent to England ; thus ended the indictment, 
but not the consequences of the discussion. 

The principles of the government had, indeed, become better under- 
stood ; the limits of liberty, and the limits of authority, were doubtless 
more clearly fixed ; but the feuds which the agitation generated, did not 
stop here. Two parties were created by the controversy ; and, passing 
from questions of Liberty, to questions of Law, touching the limits of the 

16 Juig$ Durfufs 

town, the J aged against each other whatever weapons they were able to 
command, and carried on their hostilities for twelve or thirteen years. 
The town was disorganized in the strife. Two sets of mimicipal officers 
w^e chosen, and two sets of deputies were sent to the General Assem- 
bly ; nor were the dissentions composed, until the Legislature, by a special 
acty appointed Commissioners, whose ultimate determinations appear to 
have restored the old order of things. 

Such were the developements which the new idea of govemntent 
received, here in this town, in the infancy of the State. The first, bearing 
on the relations of domestic life, and the second on the relations of citi- 
zens to each other and to the State. But we are now to consider it in its 
applications to municipalities — to distinct corporations ; and to show how 
it developed itself, when it gave law to a number of independent commu- 
nities and resolved them into unity and organic form. 

A free and absolute charter of civil incorporation, for the inhabitants of 
the towns of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport, to be known by the 
name of the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay 
in New England, was brought by Roger Williams from England, in 1644; 
but, owing to the claims of Massachusetts, or other obstruction, it did not 
go into effect until May, 1647. This charter granted the most ample power 
to the said inhabitants, and such others as should afterwards inhabit within 
the prescribed limits, to establish such a form of cti;t7 government as, by 
voluntary consent of all or the greater part of them, should be found most 
suitable in their estates and conditions ; and, to that end, to make and 
ordain such civil laws and constitutions, and to inflict such punishments 
upon transgressors, and for the execution thereof so to place and dis- 
place officers of justice, as they or the greater part should by free consent 
agree unto. I omit the proviso, as of no account here. Under this char- 
ter guarantee of the Mother Coimtry, the Rhode-Island idea of govern* 
ment was called upon to organize itself with the most perfect freedom, on 
the four distinct and independent municipalities — ^Providence, !Portsmouth, 
Newport, and Warwick. And in what manner do you suppose it did 
develope itself on these distinct and independent bodies politic ? Why, it 
developed itself in a manner the most natural, if not the most effective. 
It organized for itself a general form of government, which, if not pre- 
cisely, was, at least strongly, analogous to the organization of these 
United States, under their present Constitution. I will give you a brief 
abstract of their form of government, from the " Annals of Providence "-^ 
a magazine of facts, from which I take the liberty to draw copiously. 

The whole people, forming the General Assembly, met annually, for 
the enactment of general laws^ and for the choice of general officers ; as 
President — an assistant for each town, nominated by^the town — General 
Recorder, &c. A general code of laws, which concerned all men, was 
first approved by the towns, (as the States adopted the Constitution, and 
still adopt amendments,) but before it could go into effect, it was ratified 

a the General Assembly of the whole people. All legislative power was 
imately in the whole people, in General Assembly convened. Towns 
might propose laws, /as States amendmeiits to the Constitution,) and the 
i^proval of a General Court of Commissioners might give them a tempo- 
rary force ; but it was only the action of the General Assembly, (the 
General Govenmient) which could make them general and permanent fi^r 

all persona within the eoleny. But the towoB had their loe«l laws, (m 
the States have theirs,) which could noc he enforced beyond their own 
limits ; and thej had their town courts, (as the States have State Courts,) 
which had exclusive original jurisdiction ores' all causes, between 
their own citizens. The President and Assistants composed the general 
court of trials. They had jurisdiction over all aggravated offenses, and 
in such matters as should be referred to them by the town courts as too 
weighty for themselves to determine ; and also of tdl disputes beiween 
different taums, and between citizens of different towns and strangers. " It 
is apparent," continues the same authority, ^' that the towns, as such, 
parted with no more power than they deen^ed the exigency of the case 
required. They can scarcely be said to have consented to any thing 
more than a confederation of independent governments. If they intended 
a complete, consolidation of powere, their acts fkll far short of it. He who 
carefully peruses the whole proceedings of the original assembly of towns 
of this infant colony, will be struck with the resemblance there is between 
those towns, after that assemblv had closed its labors, and the several 
States now composing the United States of America, under the Constitu- 
tion." Yes, it is true, that at this early period, whilst Rhode-Island was 
yet in her rudiments, this, her Idea of Liberty and Law, took form in 
an organization that already foreshadowed the Constitution of this Union, 
and foreshowed its practicability. 

But do I say that the framers of the Constitution of the United States 
found their model here ? No ; but this I do say, than when the several 
States of the old confederation, following our lead, had gradually abaa- 
doned their Church and State combinations, and adopted the Rhode-Isknd 
idea of government, that then, this idea thus given by her, did but repeat 
itself in its most natural and effective form in the Constitution of the Uni- 
ted States, and the organization of the Union. Conceive, if you can, i 
will not say the practicability, but the possibihty, of the Constitution of 
this Union, without that idea of government, which Rhode-Island was 
the first to adopt, and, against fearful odds, through long years of trial 
and tribulation, to maintain. Conceive, if you can, thirteen distinct and 
diverse Church and State governments taking form under one common 
Church and State government — and if you cannot, then do not deem that 
assertion extravagant, which declares that without Rhode-ltsland's idea of 
Liberty and Law, this Union would have been impossible. True, others 
might have adopted it, had there been no Rhode-Island. So others might 
have given us the theory of gravitation, had there been no Newton. Yet 
the fame and the glory of the discovery, nevertheless belongs to him. 
Let Rhode-Island claim her own laurels, and we shall see how many 
brows will be stripped naked, and how many boastful tongues will be 

But let us follow this idea in its further developementSw I oan speak 
only of the most prominent ; and am under the necessity of speaking of 
them with all possible brevity. 

The government went on under the charter, — all the towns participa- 
ting — ^until 1651, when a commission was granted to Coddington,. by the 
Council of State, to govern the Island with a council chosen by the 
people, and approved by himself. This is properly called an obstruction 
— and an obstruction to the free developement of Rhode-Island's peculiar 


tt8 Jmige Bnrfw^s 

idlBa of {^vertimec^ h- oeftaiiify WAs. 6he lot^ liibeny^ a^d she loved 
law and legal authority ; but hbre was too much of the latter— it trenched 
toot far on the hberty clement. The main4and towns recoiled irom it — 
feii back upon* thehnsetves, and, in the midst of i^itestine broils and dissen- 
tions, often fomented by Massachusetts, continueid their government under 
the charter. The Island towns submitted ; but sulmiitted with deep mur- 
murs and invincible repugnance. Roger Williams and John Clarice ixrere 
imaiediateiy dispatched by the several towns of the colony, as their agents 
to England ] and they soon procured a revocation of Mr. Coddington's 
eommission ; who, without reluctance, laid down the extraordinary author- 
ity confenred upon him. After some delay, owing to a misunderstanding 
i»etween the Island and main-land towns, all returned to the old fbrm of 
government, which continued until the adoption of the charter of 1663. 
' In the meantime, Rhode-Island. (" the Providence Plantations,") not- 
withstanding all untoward circumstances, continued to prosper, and her 
inhabitants to multiply^ She was the refuge of the persecuted of all 
denominations, but particularly of those who sufifered from the hands of 
her New England Sisters. She was their shelter — their ark of safety in 
the storm. Here were no hanging of Quakers, or witches — no scourge — 
no chain— no dungeon for difference of opinion. Still it was not, as yet, 
a place removed from all apprehension, or even from very great annoyance. 
It, for a season, seemed but as a raft, — formed from the fragments of diverse 
wfecks, and tied together, for temporary security, — upon the bosom of a 
raging deep, and which, but for the utmost care and diligence, might; at 
any ntoment, be rent in pieces. 

• But the struggles and trials, through which Rhode-Island passed, with 
her sister colonies, did but give additional strength to her own love of 
Liberty and Law ; and some notice of them belongs as truly to the his- 
tory of her great idea, as the account which we are giving of its most 
important developements. In these struggles, whether carried on at the 
CJoiirt of the Stuarts, in the camp of Cromwell, or here in these Western 
wilds, it might be shown that she still baffled her adversaries, and tri- 
umphed alike over their diplomacy abroad, and their menaces and violence 
at home. I shall confine my remarks to the latter, and name some few 
prominent facts. They will afford a melancholy interest, but without, I 
trust, awakening any unkind feelings between the Sisters, as they now are. 
It will serve to mark the distinctive character of our State, and to confirm 
her identity. This is an important object to a State of such small territo- 
rial extent, and of such a limited and fluctuating population. 

Here, then, was Rhode-Island in the midst of three great colonies, Ply- 
mouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut — all bitterly hostile to the heretic 
—all anicious to rid themselves of her presence, and all regarding her as 
their natural and legitimate prey. And they, accordingly, fell upon her 
like three wolves upon the same lamb ; and had not God been her shep- 
herd, they must have torn her in pieces. Plymouth claimed the island of 
Rhode-Island; Connecticut, the Narragansett country; and Massachusetts 
claimed Providence and Warwick. They would not have left the poor 
heretics a single rod of ground, on which to rest the soles of their feet, or 
to bury tiieir dead. Connecticut, repeatedly, asserted her claim to th6 
Naxmgansett country; appointed officers' at Wickford and other placess ; 
and often resorted to violence for the ^^rcement of her laws. Plymouth 

HiHwritmi Dtseourse* 49 

was ever a more quiet and tolerant colony than either Massachusetts or 
Connecticut. She, indeed, insisted on her claims to the island of Rhode- 
Island, with such earnestness, that Mrs. Hutcl^inson, a woman of remark- 
able intellectual endowments, and the kindest sympathies, apprehensiye 
that she might again fall under the jurisdiction of Church and State, fled, 
with a number of her friends, to Long Island, where they were massacred 
by the Indians. Plymouth, however, never resorted to force. Her pre- 
tence to Shawomet she transferred, or yielded to Massachusetts, rather 
than attempt to eifforce the claim herself. But Massachusetts rested not 
herself, and gave Rhode-Island no rest. Her claims to jurisdiction over 
Providence and Warwick, on various pretences, were unremitted. During 
the village quarrels in Providence, several of its citizens applied to Mas- 
sachusetts for protection : and she induced theni, by some writing of theirs, 
to pretend to put themselves and their lands under her jurisdiction ; and, 
on this pretence, she actually assumed to exercise her authority, and to 
enforce her laws, here, in the town of Providence. Thus there were, here 
in the same municipality, two distinct code of laws, brought to operate on 
the same persons, and property ; and this state of things was ejected, 
according to Winihrop, with the intent of bringing Rhode-Island into sub- 
jection, either to Massachusetts or Plymouth. - You may easily conceive 
the confusion into which things were thrown, by this atrocious interference 
in the concerns of this little commimity. Gforton, who was then at Prov- 
idence, thought that it had a particular signification for him ; and be, and 
a few of his associates, left Providence, and settled at Shawomet, after- 
wards called Warwick There he purchased a tract of land of Meanti- 
nomy, the chief warrior sachem of the Narragansetts, and built and planted. 
But Massachusetts did not allow him to escape sa She assumed the 
claims of Plymouth, and procured from her an assignment or concession 
of her pretended jurisdiction over Shawomet. After this, two of Meanti- 
nomy's under-sachems, of that place, submitted themselves and lands to 
her jurisdiction ; and then, three or four of the English inhabitants, who 
had made purchases of these sachems, imitating the example of a few at 
Providence, feigned to put themselves and property under her protectiiwi. 
Thus trebly fortified with pretences, Massachusetts entered the settlement, 
at Warwick, with an armed force of forty men, accompanied by many of 
her Indian subjects ; seised Gorton, and his friends, and carried them pris- 
oners to Boston. There they were tried for blasphemy, and for " enmity 
to all civil authority among the people of God ;'* and were sentenced to 
imprisonment in irons, during the pleasure of the Court — Gorton himself 
narrowly escaping sentefice of death. This imprisonment v^as continued 
through the winter ; and they were then discharged, on condition, that, if 
after fourteen days, they were found within Massachusetts, Providence, or 
Shawomet, (the place of their homes,) they should suffer death. These 
proceedings, far from inducing the people of Rhode-Island to renounce 
their idea of Liberty and Law, did but strengthen their attachment to it 
But the government of the entire colony, was soon called upon to defend 
its peculiar principles by direct action. 

During the year 1656, a number of the people called Gluakers (more 
properly Friends,) arrived in Boston, and began to preach and practice 
their doctrines. ]^^o experience had yet been sufiicient to teach Massachu- 
setts or her confederates the folly of interfering between God and con- 

so /«<%« Thirfe^t 

science; and she began to fine, impriBon, banigh, wbip, and hang^ the 
GluakeFS. But these people could find, and did find, a place of refuse .in 
Rhode-Island; whence they occasionally issued forth, .as the Spirit 
promted, into the neighboring colonies, and startled them with revela- 
tions from above. Whereupon the Commissioners of the United Colonies 
of New England addressed a letter to the President of this place of refuge 
— the Plantations here — and urged him to send away such Cluakers as 
were then in the colony, ig[id to prohibit them from entering it. With this 
request, our government promptly refused to comply; alledging their princi- 
pie of soul-liberty as the ground of their refusal. And they went even 
further — apprehensive that their adversaries might attempt, in England, 
where this sect was particularly obnoxious, to e&ct indirectly, what they 
could not directly accomplish here, they charged John Clarke, their agent 
at Westminister, to have an eye and ear open to their doings and say* 
ings ; and if occasion were, to plead the cause of Rhode-Island in such 
sort, as that they " might not be compelled to exercise any civil power 
over men's consciences, so long as human orders, in point of civility, were 
' not corrupted and violated.'' Indeed, the love of their peculiar idea of 
government seems to have grown with the trials through which it passed, 
and strengthened with its growth. And what will prove that this love had 
become one and identical with the spirit of this people, and their peculiar 
idea dearer than life itself, are the facts to which I will now call your 

The first settlers at Providence and Warwick, were, at the commence* 
ment of their settlements, on the most friendly terms with their Indian 
neighbors. The Wampanoags, once a powerful people, though now consid- 
erably reduced, were on one side, and the Nanagansetts, who^ it is said, 
could number four or five thousand warriors, were on the other. A for- 
midable array of savage strength this ! and indeed, at that time, the Red 
Man may be said to have held all Rhode-Island's blood in the palm of his 
hand, the slightest agitation of which would have consigned it to the 
dust. Roger WiUiams, sensible of the perils of his position, early " made 
a league of friendly neighborhood with all the sachems round about" 
But this league with savages was necessarily very precarious. They 
were all alike jealous of the whites ; and, if any one provoked a war, it 
would be, of necessity, an indiscriminate war of extermination — race 
against race — and Rhode-Island would be the earliest victim. Now the 
Indians were at war among themselves ; and the United Colonies knew 
how to play off one hostile body against another for their own advantage; 
and they appear to have done so with Httle regard, to say the least, to the 
critical position of the heretic colony. Indeed, it so happens that its par- 
ticular Indian friends were the particular objects of their unremitted hos- 
tility. Meantinomy and the Narragansetts, generally, were, (as has been 
said,) on the most friendly terms with Williams and Gorton, Providence 
and Warwick. They cherished and fostered those infant settlements, as 
savages best could ; and it was against this chieftain and his people, that 
the United Colonies chose to excite Uncas and the Mohegans. Frequent 
strifes and, ultimately war and battle and slaughter were the consequen- 
ces. Meantinomy was taken prisoner, and Uncas was advised by the 
United Colonies to put him to death. Acting on this advice, Uncas mur- 
dered his prisoner. The whole Narragansett people were, thereupon, 

HiHcrietd Dimaurse, %\ 

deeply agitated — ^hobtilities were frequently threatened ; nor did the mem- 
ory of this atrocious deed die out of the Narragansett mind, ere the Wam- 
panoags rose in arms, and the whole body of Indians raised the tomahawk 
against the whites, without discrimination. Now in 1643, previous to the 
death of Meantinomy, the four New England colonies, Plymouth, Mas- 
sachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven^ formed a confederation for their 
better security against Indian hostilities. This confederation was, indeed, 
a castle of safety to them, but not to Rhode-Island. She was obliged to 
stand out exposed to every peril. Between the death of Meantinomy, and 
the outbreak of Philip's' war, again and again, did the fearful cloud 
of Indian hostility darken the land, and again and again, did Rhode-Isl- 
and apply for admission into this confederation, and was refused. Refused^ 
No ; not absolutely. If she would renounce her idea of govemment, and 
come in under the Church and State combination, then, indeed, they would 
take her under their protection ; but until she did, she must stand out 
exposed to all the horrors of Indian war. Rather than accept such con- 
ditions, she chose the exposure. She stood out ready to brave the terrors of 
Indian ferocity — the midnight conflagration, and the indiscriminate butch- 
eries of the tomahawk and scalping knife. Did she not love her Idea? 
Was it not dearer to her than life ? Did she not feel it to be one and iden- 
tical with herself, and that to renounce it, would be to commit treason 
against the Most High, and to terminate her own existence ? 

By this, her unconquerable love of her own glorious principles, she 
proved herself worthy of the Charter of 1663. Than that Charter, no 
greater boon was ever conferred by mother country on colony, since time 
began. No grant ever more completely expressed the Idea of a People. 
It, at once, guarantied our ancestors' soul-liberty, and granted a law-making 
power, limited only by the desire of their Anglo-Saxon minds. It gave 
them the choice of every officer, from the Commander-in-Chief down to the 
humblest official. It gave to the State the power of peace and war. It 
made her a sovereignty under the protection, rather than the guardianship, 
of England's sovereign ; so that the moment that protection was with- 
drawn, she stood independent and alone, competent to fight her own bat- 
tles, under her own shield. I shall say nothing more of the powers con- 
ferred by this Charter ; we have too recently put oflf, and hung on the 
castle walls, that Yulcanian panoply, still unscathed, glorious and bril- 
liant with nearly two centuries' wear. We know what it was ; God 
bless its memory ! 

There are those who are weak eru)ugh to think that they degrade the 
State, by calling this Charter the grant of a profligate king. The fools I 
As well might they think to degrade a man, by declaring that the gar- 
ment which he wears was made by a profligate tailor. But those who 
are endowed with this high wisdom, have yet to learn something of the 
manner in which Divine Providence operates its results in the great 
humanity, and that even this Charter is not the work of mere man. They 
have yet to learn, that there exists, throughout the grand totality, one 
presiding and all-pervading Mind, which, ever as occasion requires, brings 
out one element of humapity in opposition to another — balances excess 
against excess, and makes the best and the worst, the highest and the 
lowest, of mortals, equally, the unconscious instruments of its great 
designs j and thus moves man steadily onward, to a higher and higher 

gphere of duties and rights. Wh^kce comes the ifranVn will, unless it 
be from himself? But whence come the instinct of self-preservation, and 
deathless hope and faith, and that feeling, which knows no master, for 
the heroic sufferer in virtue's cause? They are all from the Divine Author 
of humanity ; and dwell alike in the beggar and the king. 

When Charles the Second heard the tale of Rhode-Island's woes — of 
the wrongs inflicted upon her by her giant sisters-«-when he heard of the 
scantiness of her territory, of the smallness of her numbers-'-of the per- 
ils to which they had been exposed, and of those which they must stilt 
encounter, in these distant wilds, could he have been accounted subject to 
the common laws of humanity, had he refused her feebleness a single 
demand ? Was not this Divine Power his master?-— and did he not grant 
the Charter because he could not do otherwise than obey it ? Yes — ^save 
as an instrument, neither Charles, nor Clarendon, nor Howard, nor other 
noble, gave that Charter. On the contrary, that very law of humanity 
which gave Rhode-Island's idea of^ government ere Rhode-Island was a 
name, and after passing it from generation to generation, gave it first to 
take form h&ce in an infant people — that very law now clad in the panoply 
of the Charter, and bade it suddenly stand out in the midst of New Eng- 
land's colonies, like another Minerva flashed from the head of Jove. 

Well might the surrounding colonies recoil from the splendid visicHi, 
and still look on in wonderment at its strange apparition. But be ye not 
too fearfully astonished, ye simple ones ! There is no witchcraft here. 
It is but an ordinary prodigy of that " Wonder-working Providence " of 
which ye have spoken so much, and know so little. John Clarke, our 
agent at Westminister, has not been dealing with the wicked one — he has 
simply performed his duty as a part of the organization of the great 
humanity, and that, operating under the laws of its Divine Author, has 
accomplished this grand result. 

Here, then, was Rhode-Island in the midst of them — after all, something 
more than the peer of her sisters. Her form has still the contour and soft- 
ness of youth, and something more than a century of growth and disci- 
phne must roll awayj ere the heart of the young sovereignty shall beat 
high in the maturity of its vigor, and her bone become hardened, and her 
muscles strong, to execute the purposes of her unconquerable will — and 
then — she shall march! — Yes, she shall BiAitcH! — and her banner shall 
stream daringly over Ocean's wave, and be rent in shreds on many a bat- 

But there is some one who thinks, or says to himself; " This is extrav- 
agant language for Rhode-Island — a little State." My indulgent hearer; 
whoever you may be, do you know what that word little means, when 
thus applied to a social power — to an integral part of the grand social and 
moral organization of the race ? Do you think that the greatness of a 
State is to be measured by the league or the mile ? Are you really in the 
habit of estimating moral and intellectual greatness by the ton and the 
cord ? Do you weigh ideas in a balance, or measure thoughts by the 
bushel ? If you do, and yom method be the true one, you must be deci- 
dedly right, and Rhode-Island is " a little State." But if the intellectual 
and moral be above the material and physical, and if that State be great, 
which actualizes a great central truth or idea — one congenial to the whole 
nature of man — one that must develope itself in a manner consistent with 

Um enber t^ Dirine PioTidenoe^ tfa&g>ieatciNnm^'(df mute, and leave •e^^ey^ 
Iftsliog lesults in humftDity-^ihen Rhode-Island is not a litHe State, bm 
ooe of such vast power as shall leave an ever-^nduiing impression on man^ 
kind. Give but the traneoendent Mind-^the great Idea, actualized — and 
whether it appear in an individual of the humblest physical conformation, 
or in the organization. of a State of the ssKtlleet territorial extent, and the 
most limited population, it shall tend to raise all mankind up to its own 
standard, jmd to assimilate men and nations to its^f The principle of 
the hydrostatic balance has its reality in the mass of humanity, as wdil 
as in Ocean's flood ; and give but the great fundamental Idea, brought out 
and embodied in the ever-enduring form of a State, and it shall act through 
that form, from generation to generation, on the elements beneath it, until 
it raise the enormous meiss up to its own exalted level. 

This, all history proves. The States which have produced the greatest 
effect on, mankind, are not those which are of the greatest material 
dimensions ; but^ on the contrary, they are States which, though of small 
territorial extent, and often of very limited population, have actualized 
great fundamental truths or ideas. Take Athens, for example ; with a 
ruling population of about twenty thousand, and with a territorial domain 
of about the extent of our own State, what a dominion did she hold, and 
holds she still, over the rising and nsen civilizations of the earth 1 Bar- 
barism todk hght from her lamp ; infant Rome organized herself upon the 
basis of her laws ; and surrounding nations were educated at her schools. 
Her ruling idea was given by the lesthetic element of the mind — strong 
in the love of the beautiful-^and she carried this grand idea into all her 
social institutions — ^her religion, her philosophy, her science, her art, and 
into the athletic discipline of her youth. It reflected itself from the physi- 
ognomy and physical conformation of her people ; from the statuary of 
her t^nples, and from her unnumbered monumental structures. She es* 
tablished an empire of her own, which shall out-last the pyramids — which 
shall be as enduring and cub broad as human civilization, ^e still teaches 
by her example, and rules in the truth of her precepts. 

Take ancient Judea — a State of small domain, and an outcast among 
the civilizations of old. The fundamental idea, or great truth, upon which 
her government was based, and which she carried into all her institutions 
and sacred literature, was the Idea of the Unity of the Divine. What 
an influence has this single idea, as derived from her, had upon all man* 
kind 1 You may trace its influence, through history, from her fall to the 
{Mresenjt day. It has brought down with it, to all Christian, to all Mahom- 
etan nations, a knowledge of her institutions, and the influence of h^ 
laws ; and,' regarding Christianity merely in a secular point of view, as 
necessarily sprin^ng from her in the order of Divine Providence, what 
a power does she now exert throughout all Christendom ! We can put 
our eye on nothing to which she has not given modification and form. 
She hves in om laws and institutions — the very current of thought now 
passing through our minds, and every hallowed sentiment by which we* 
ate now moved, may be tcaced back to the fundamental truth on which 
her legislator based that kuh Stata 

To say nothing of Tyre, or Carthage, let us take Rome — a single 

' municipaiity, that was called, by the state of the world, to propagate 

h^ own Idea of Qnler and Law^ aoiong the barbarous nations- of the 

94 Judg^Dmrfm^s 

earth. Rome and the Rcxnan Empire date their origin from the organi- 
sation of the fugitives and outlaws, that were gathered within the narrow 
compass of the trench struck out by the hands of Romulus. Within 
this small space, the roots of an empire; such as the world had never 
before, and has never since seen, were planted ; and thence they shot 
forth, assimilating to themselves every thing that they touched. Rome 
went forth in her legion, and did but repeat, on the barbarism of the 
earth, her own great Idea of Order suid Law. She everywhere established 
her distinct ntiunicipal order — assimilated diverse rude nations to her own 
civilization, and thus enstamped an everlasting image of herself on the 

I might name mcmy other Republics, of very limited territorial extent 
and population, but which actualized ideas that transcended the ordinary 
standard of their age, which have performed a noble part in history, and 
left an abiding impression on mankind — I might name the small Italian 
RepubUcs of modem times, and particularly of Venice — that Venice, who, 
with no boast of territorial extent, built her domain in the sea — drove down 
her piles in the Adriatic, and enthroned herself thereon as Ocean's queen. 
But I will not consume your time ; enough has been said to show that we 
must not estimate the capacity and destiny of States by the extent of their 
territory, or the figures of their census — these are but contingent results, 
which may, w may not, justify claims to the honor and gmtitude of man* 
kind. But, on the contrary, would you truly determine the- genius and 
destiny of a State, ascertain what part — what function in the grand or- 
ganic order of humanity, is hers — what that principle is which has given 
her being, informed her with its own life, and actualized itself in her 
social and political organization ; and, if that principle gives a contingent 
and secondary idea — one inferior to the general mind of the age in which 
it is called to act a part, such a State, however large its territory or popula* 
tion, cannot be great — ^it will ever be little, and will become less and less, 
until it die, and pass out of the system. The order of Divine Providence, 
the course of events, and the progress of the mce, are against it. On the 
other hand, if that principle give a great fundamental idea or truth— one 
congenial to the immutable laws of the whole social humanity — one g^* 
minating from the inmost soul of man, and transcending the genial mind 
of the age in which it is to take form — such a State cannot be little ; how- 
ever small its beginnings, its destiny is to act a high part in the grand 
course of events, and to become greater and greater in the worlds both of 
matter and mind, until, in the fullness of time, it has reflected its image 
entire, into the bosom of every civilized nation on earth. 

Such was Rhode-Island's Idea, and such was Rhode-Island's destiny, 
(yet to be fulfilled,) the moment she took organization under the Charter 
of 1663. 

Brevity requires that I should now pass from the history of the internal 
action of this idea, in order to take some notice of its external action, and 
of the exhibition it made of itself, in the grand theatre of the world. For 
this purpose, I shall inquire what part Rhode-Island acted in the sister- 
hood, at a memorable period in her and their history ; and we can, thereby, 
the better determine whether there be, or be not, that, in her conduct, 
which will give us confidence in these large promises and exalted hopes. 

We must suppose, then^ that from the adoption of her charter, moie 

Historical DigtaiMrse, M 

than a century of growth and discipline has roiled away, and brought us 
to the verge of the Revolution. 

And where is Rhode-Island now 1- — that young sovereignty, so royally 
anned in her Charter, that she seemed like a goddess suddenly shot down 
among wondering mortak, from a celestial sphere. Where is she now ? 
There she stands — one of the banded sisterhood — ^among the foremost, if 
not the very foremost of the Thirteen. But on whom does she flash the 
lightnings of that well-burnished helmet and shield, and level that glitter- 
ing lance with the aim of her yet more glittering eye ? It is on " the 
Mother Nation" — on Parent England! What cause has she for this 
hostile attitude, and most unfilial ire ? Is not her Eden Isle still the resort 
of England's gentry? and what favor has been denied her? Or what 
decision, on the numerous controversies between her and her sister colo- 
nies, has indicated a single unkind feeting in Mother England^s breast ? 
Why, then, does she now band with those Sisters, and raise the hostile 
lance against England's protecting arm ? Ah i she has come on a great 
mission ; not sent by England, but by England's Lord ; and she is here, 
in obedience thereto, to perform her part in a great movement of the pro- 
gressive hunianity. She felt her own Idea of Liberty and Law threat- 
ened in the wrongs inflicted on her Sisters ; and, oblivious of the past, she 
stands here, banded with them, in vindication of her Idea. She has, 
moreover, assimilated them to herself She has conquered by her exam- 
ple. They have adopted, or are adopting, her own just Idea of Govern- 
ment ; and to defend it, has become the common duty of all. 

But let us come out of allegory, into plstin, matter-of-fact history, 
that spurns all embellishment. Rhode-Island, according to her high 
promise, should take a foremost part in this great movement, both in 
counsel and in action ; and now, let us see whether she disappoints our 

Do not understand that I mean to give even a general historical outline 
of her services and suflferings : I propose merely to name some prominent 
facts. But in order that these should be duly appreciated, it is necessary 
to state, that Rhode-Island, at the commencement of our struggle with 
Great Britain, did not contain a population of more than fifty thousand, of 
which, probably, one-fifth part was on the islands of the bay and coast ; 
and these were in the occupation of the enemy, for nearly three years of 
the war ; — ^that the State Treasiury^as already exhausted, and largely in 
debt, by reason of the expenses incurred during the French war ; — ^that 
she was extensively engaged in commerce, to which her beautiful bay and 
harbors invited her enterprising people, at the same time that they ex- 
posed them to the depredations of a naval power. Now, under all these 
disadvantages, in what was it that Rhode-Island was foremost ? Doubt- 
less, each of the Thirteen may claim to be foremost in some things ; but I 
speak only of those first steps, which manifested great daring, or were 
followed by great results. In what great movements, then, bearing this 
impress, was she first ?* - 

She was the first to direct her ofllicers to disregard the Stanip Act, and 
to assure them indemnity for doing so. 

■■■ —— ■■ *■ ■ II II ■■ ■■ ■ 1 ■■■■■■■■■ I ■ ■■■■■■ I ,1 ■!. I ■■ I ■■ ■■■■.■ -^ I M I W ■ ■ ■—^—■——^1^ 

* See the Annals of Providence. 

Sb« wttfi tbe foflt to reeoQ^mQQcl tb«. pennanenl ^e^ablilbsirai of & Coa- 
tinental Congress^ with a closer union among the colonies. 

She was among the first to adopt the Articles of Confederation^ and it 
may he added, the last to abandon them. 

She was the first to brave royalty in arms. 

Great Britain was not then here, as at Boston, with her land forces in 
the field, but with her marine--~behiAd her wooden walls*— on the flood ; 
and before the casting of the three hundred and forty-two chests of tea — 
the East India Company's property— into the harbor of Boston, and be- 
fore the battle of Lexington, men of Newport had sunk His Majesty's 
armed sloop Libeifty ; and men of Providence — after receiving, and return- 
ing mth effect^ the first shots fired in the RevoluUon-^-sent up the Gkispee 
in fiames. 

She was the first to enact and declare Independence. i 

In May, preceding the declaration of the Fourth of July by the Conti- 
nental Congress, the General Assembly of this State repealed the act 
more effectually to secure allegiance to the King, and exacted an oath of 
allegiance to the State, and required that all judicial process should be in 
the name of the State, and no longer in His Majesty's name ; whereby 
Rhode*Island, from that moment, became, and is at this day, the oldest 
sovereign and independent State in the Western World. 

She was the first to establish a naval armament of her own ; and here, 
on the waters of her own Narragansett, was discharged, from it, the first 
cannon fired in the Revolution, at any part of His Majesty's navy. 

She was the first to recommend to Congress the establishment of a 
Continental Navy. The recommendation was favorably received, and 
measures were adopted to carry it into effect ; and when that navy was 
constructed, she gave to it its first Commodore, or Commander-in-chied^ 
Esek Hopkins, of North Providence. She furnished three captains, and 
seven lieutenants, they beiag more than three quarters of the comaus- 
sioned ofiUcers for the four large ships, and, probably, the like proportion 
of officers for the four smaller craft. Under this command, the first Con- 
tinental fleet—- the germ of our present navy — consisting of eight sail, 
proceeded to New Providence, surprised that place, took the forts, made 
prisoners of the Governor and other distinguished persons, and sizing all 
the cannon and military stores found there, brought them safely into port, 
as a handsome contribution to the service of the American army. On our 
alliance with Prance, this armament gave place to the French navy. 

But this was not the only kind of naval warfare adopted. The har- 
bors of our State swarmed with armed vessels. Our merchants con- 
structed privateers, or arn^ed ships already on hand, and om* sailors man- 
ned them, and in spite of the utmost vigilance of the British cruisers^ 
they escaped to the Ocean, and were wonderfully successful. British prop- 
erty, to an immense amount, was brought into port, by which the wants 
of tjie people and army were supplied ; thus producing a douUe efi^t^-* 
invigorating their country, and enervating her foe. A questionable mode 
of warfare this, it may be said ; and so it may be said, that every mode 
of warfare is equally questionable. Nothing but the dk^st necessity can, 
in any case, excuse war ; but our ancestors seem to have thought that, 
when once the war was commenced, the shortest way, to conquer peace, 
and secure their independence, was the best ; and believing that the sen- 

sonum of the eoemy might be found in his purse, they struck at that, aod 
not without tjremendouB effect. At any rate, in tMs business, it must be 
conceded, that Rhode-Island was foremost. In fact, this port, here at the 
head of the bay, so swarmed with this terrible species of insect war-craft, 
that the enemy called it " the Hornet's Nest."* 

But whilst she was thus engaged in carrying war over the Ocean, she 
was not behind her Sisters in carrying it over the land. She raised two 
regiments at the commencement of the war — twelve hundred regular 
troops — -she furnished her quota to the Continental Line, throughout the 
war. In addition to these, from the sixteenth of December, '76, to the 
sixteenth of March, '80, she kept three State regiments on foot, enlisted 
for the State or Continental service, as occasion might .require. They 
were received as a part of the Continental estabhshment, and one of them, 
at least, w^s in the Continental service under Washington. 

To characterize the Rhode-Island officers who served in that war, it 
will suffice to name a few of them. 

There was General Greene, seccmd only to Washington ; perhaps his 
equal in the field. There was Hitchcock and Varnum, distinguished 
members of the bar, who did honor to the profession of arms. Hitch- 
cock commanded a brigade, consisting of five regiments— two from Mas- 
sachusetts, and three from Rhode Island — at the battles of Trenton and 
Princeton ; and ^^ for his signal gallantry received the special thanks of 
Washington, in front of the college at Princeton, and which he was 
requested to present to the brigade he had so ably commanded."t Var* 
num commanded a division of Washington's army on the Delaware; 
which included within it, the garrisons of Fort Mifflin, and Fort Mercer 
or Red-Bank. There were, also, Col Christopher Greene, Col. Jeremiah 
Olney, Col. Lippett — 1 merely give their names — Major Thayer, the true 
hero of Fort Mifflin ; Talbut, that amphibious Major, sometimes on the 
deep in some small craft, boarding His Majesty's galley, (the Pigot,) — 
soinetimes on land, driving at once into camp, three or four Rritish sol- 
diers, whom he, alone, had captured — many were his daring adventures 
and hair-breadth escapes— General Barton, the captor of Prescot, and 
Capt. Olney, the foremost in storming the first battery taken at Yorktown. 
Many others might be named; but what a host of recollections rise in 
the mind, on the bare mention of these 1 

As to the services of our troops in the Continental line, it is sufficient 
to say that they were engaged in every great battle fought under Wash- 
ington during the war ; and there are instances in which they sustained 
the whole shock of the enemy; as at Springfield, and at Red-Bank, 
where twelve hundred Hessians were repulsed with great slaughter, by the 
five hundred Rhode-Island men there, under the command of Col. Greene. 
These, together with the State regiments, were with Sullivan in his expe- 
dition against the enemy at Newport, and were, it is believed, the ^ear 
guard of the retreating army. The battle on Quaker Hill has never been 
appropriately noticed in history. ^' It was the best fought action during 

*' For this fact, I am indebted to ^e venerable Wol Wilkinson. 

t See the letter of Mr. J. Howland, the venerable President of the Bhode-Ialand Historical 
Society, as quoted by Mr. Updike, in his " Memoirs of the Rhode-Island Bar," p. 148. 

98 Judge Duff^V 

the Revolutionary War."* I use the language of Lafayette. There it 
was, that this rear guard checked the pursuing forces of Britain, and sus- 
tained an orderly retreat ; there it was, that our black regiment, with their 
cocked feats, and black plumes tipped with white, moving with charged 
bayonets as a single man, twice or thrice rushed on the banded force of 
British and Hessians, and as often drove them from the ground. f The 
estimation in which the Rhode-Island regiments were held, both by the 
Commander-in-chief, and the Continental Army, may be shown by a short 
conveBsation between Washington and Col. Olney. There was some dis- 
turbance in the Rhode-Island line, and Washington, riding up to Olney's 
quarters, said, in a state of excitement not usual for him, " Col. Olney ! 
what means this continued disturbance among the Rhode-Island troops ? — 
they give me Tnore trouble than all the rest of the urmyJ^ ** I am sorry for 
it," said Olney, composedly. " But, General, that is just what the enenlj 
say of them." A smile lit up the face of Washington, and the cloud 
passed from his brow. The freedom of this reply could have been war- 
ranted by nothing, but the known estimation in which the Rhode-Island 
troops were held, both by Washington and his army. 

For nearly three years, during the time that Rhode-Island was making 
these efforts, the territory occupied by one-fifth part of her inhabitants, 
was, as I have said, in possession of the enemy, and one-half of the 
remaining portion of her people may be said to have slept within range of 
his naval cannon. The shores were guarded ; artillery companies were 
stationed in every town bordering on the bay ; the militia were constantly 
either under arms to repel assaults, or ready at a moment's warning, for 
that purpose ; and in Sullivan's expedition, they were called out in mass. 
Such were the trials through which she passed, and such the efforts which 
she made, that on the return of peace, both State and people were utterly 
bankrupt. All the property within the State, both real and personal, 
would not have paid the debts of either. The subsequent laws, making 
paper money a tender, were, in fact, bankrupt acts. Massachusetts, by 
not adopting this course, forced the oppressed debtors into a resistance of 
the execution of her laws, and finally into rebellion and civil war. I say 
not which was the better course. It was, in fact, a choice between great 
and unavoidable evils ; but the course of each State was perfectly char- 
acteristic. Rhode-Island dissolved the contract, and saved the debtor ; 
Massachusetts saved the contract, and ruined the debtor. In Rhodelsl- 
and, Mercy triumphed over Justice ; in Massachusetts, Justice triumphed 
over Mercy. 

Such was the conduct of Rhode-Island, that young sovereignty, when 
called upon to act out of herself, and upon the world around her. And 
has she fallen, in anything, short of the high promise given by her funda- 
mental Idea ? Have our expectations been in any degree disappointed ? 
Is she not, thus far, first among the foremost, in the great cause of Lib- 
erty and Law? In this struggle, she has acted under the liberty element 
of her Idea, and it has triumphed over illegal force. 

But she is now called to another trial, in which the Law element, by 
force of circumstances, is destined to predominate. She is called to adopt 
a new constitution, prepared by the Sisterhood for themselves and her ; and 

* Annals of Providence, p. 256. t Tradition. 

Historieal Discaurte. d9 

ehe shrinks from it, as repugnant to her Idea of Qovernment. She had 
been the first to propose the permanent estabhshment of a Continental 
Congress. She had been among the first to adopt the Articles of Confed- 
eration under which it was held, and she was now to be the last to aban- 
don them. She had ever felt and acted as a sovereignty, even under 
Cngland ; and every freeman in the State felt her sovereignty and glory 
to be his own. His own individuahty — his own conscious being was 
identified with her Idea, and he lived, moved, and breathed, as if he were 
one and identical with her, or she one and identical with him. Under the 
old confederation, this sovereignty would have been continued, and with it, 
the same free individuality — the same glorious conceptions of Liberty and 
Law that had come down from of old. But under the new Constitution 
— '^ through what new scenes and changes must she pass — through what 
variety of untried being," under constraint and limitation to which she had 
hitherto been a stranger — exposed, perchance, to the annoyance of a new 
brood of States, or States, at least, that shared not in her sympathies, and 
which might become hostile for imputed poUtical, if not religious heresies 
— she paused — she hesitated. — If her Sisters, with something of their 
Church and State Ideas still clinging to them, and with their royal Gov- 
ernors just cast oflf— could put on this straight jacket — why let them do it 
— it might be natural enough for them — but she would hold to the old 
Confederation whilst she could — she could use her arms and her hands 
under that ; but under this, they would be tied down ; and she must pass 
her helmet and shield and lance into other hands, and trust them for the 
defense of her own glorious Idea — she determined to cling to the confed- 
eration — and who can blame her ? I do not — and she did cling to it, until 
she stood alone, and was obliged to abandon it. 

If Rhode-Island lost something of the freedom of her sovereignty, by 
the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, it must be admitted 
that she gained much, by the new position into which she was brought 
with her Sister States. She, in fact, acquired a new stand-point, and 
vantage ground, from which the influence of her Idea of Government, and 
of her enterprising and inventive genius has been transmitted, and is con- 
tinually passing, into every portion of the Union. The Constitution of 
the United States, itself, had adopted her own original Idea — indeed, with- 
out it, as I have said, it could not have been established ; and whatever 
remnant there was of old Church and State Ideas, has, under its influence, 
long since passed away. In the Constitution and Government of the 
Union, her own conceptions of Liberty and Law, have been conspicu- 
ously exemplified to the nations of the earth ; and have produced, and are 
still producing, on them their legitimate and necessary effects. 

From this new vantage ground, she has made her enterprising and 
original genius more sensibly felt by all. Having cast aside her shield 
and her lance, Minerva-like, she turned to the spindle and the loom. 
Without abandoning Agriculture or Commerce, she gave her attention 
to the Manufacturing Arts. The first cotton, spun by water, in the 
United States, was spun in North Providence. The first calico printed in 
America, was printed in East Greenwich. It was from these beginnings 
that the cotton manufacturing business of this country sprung, and soon 
came to give a most important direction to the legislation and policy of 
the Union. It was in 1816, that the manufacturing interest, ohiefly of 

'80 MIge Dnrfee^s 

this State, presented to Coogiiess the great question ef pf&iectvm to Amer- 
ican industry, in the most ef ective form. And from thslt time to the 
present, it has been a question upon which the policy of the Government 
has turned, and, in reference to which, administrations hav« been estab- 
lished and displaced, as this or that party prevailed. 

But she has given occasion to a question more important still — a ques- 
tion touching her own original conception of regulated liberty — a question, 
however, which she settled for herself, by direct legislative enactment, and 
almost by judicial decision, nearly two centuries ago; but which now 
comes back upon her, by reason of the new relations and immature influ- 
ences into which she is brought. I allude to that question which has 
grown out of events too recent for a particular discussion here, and at 
this time, but which I mention, because it forms a necessary part of the 
History of her Idea of Government. It is a question, which, when raised 
under the Constitution of the United , States, it was well should be first 
raised and decided here, in a State which has been so long accustomed to 
preserve a due equipoise between Liberty and Law j and be, then, pre- 
sented to those States, who are yet vernal in the enjoyment of that Lib- 
erty which has been so long her own. Upon then* ultimate decision of 
this great question, may turn the destinies of this^ Nation. Yet if Rhode- 
Island continue true to her own just conceptions of government, we need 
not despair of the final re-organization, even of the elements of anarchy 
and misrule. By force of her own example, shall she restore them to 
order. The future is big with fates, in which she may be called to enact 
a higher part than any that has yet been hers. Let her gird herself for 
the coming crisis, whatever it may be. Let her recollect her glorious 
Past, and stand firm in her own transcendent Idea, and she shall, by that 
simple act, bring the social elements around her, even out of anarchy, into 
Order and Law. 

We have thus reviewed the history of Rhode-Island's Idea of Govern- 
ment — of its internal development, and of its external action ; and I now 
ask you, fellow-citizens, all, whether there be not that in its history^, which 
is well worthy of our admiration ; and that in it, which is still big with 
destinie's glorious and honorable ? Shall the records which give this his- 
tory still lie unknown and neglected in the cabinet of this Society, ybr the 
want of funds for their publication ? Will you leave one respected citizen 
to stand alone in generous contribution to this great cause % — I ask ye, 
men and women of Rhode-Island ! — for all may share in the noble effort to 
rescue the history of an honored ancestry from oblivion — I ask ye, will 
yon allow the world longer to remain in ignorance of their names, their 
virtues, their deeds, their labors, and their sufierings in the great cause of 
regulated liberty ? Aye, what is tenfold worse, will you suffer your chil- 
dren to imbibe liieir knowledge of their forefathers, from the libelous 
accounts of them given by the Hubbards, the Mortons, the Mathers, and 
their copyists ? Will you allow their minds, in the germ of existence, to 
become contaminated with such racaggerations, and perversions of truth, 
and inspired with contempt for their progenitors, and for that State to 
which their forefathers* just conceptions of government gave birth ? Citi- 
zens ! — be ye native or adopted, I invite ye to come out from all minor asso- 
ciations for the coercive development of minor ideas, and adopt the one great 
idea of. your State, which gives center to them all, and, by hastening it 


Historical Discourse, 81 

onward lo its natural developmentSj jx)U shall realize your fondest hopfes. 
Let us form ourselves into one great association for the accomplishment of 
this end* Let the grand plan be, at once, struck out by a legislative enact- 
ment, making immediate, and providing for future appropriations ; let the 
present generation begin this work, and let succeeding ones, through all 
time, go on to fill up and perfect it. Let us begin, and let our posterity 
proceed, to construct a monumental history that shall, on every hill, and 
in every vale — consecrated by tradition to some memorable event, or to 
the memory of the worthy dead — reveal to our own eyes, to the eyes of 
our children, and to the admiration of the stranger, something of Rhode- 
Island's glorious Past. Let us forthwith begin, and let posterity go on, 
to publish a documentary history of the State — a history that needs but 
to be revealed, and truly known, in order to be honored and respected by 
every human being capable of appreciating heroic worth. Let a history 
be provided for your schools, that shall teach childhood to love our institu- 
tions, and reverence the memory of its ancestry ; and let myth and legend 
conspire with history, truly to illustrate the character and genius of ages 
gone by, and make Rhode-Island, all one classic ground. Let a literary and 
scientific periodical be established, that shall breathe the true Rhode-Island 
spirit — defend her institutions, her character, the memory of her honored 
deaidt, from defamation, be it of the past or present time — and thus invite and 
concentrate the efforts of Rhode-Island talent and genius, wherever they 
may be found. Let us encourage and patronize our literary institutions 
of all kinds, from the common school, to the college — they are all equally 
necessary to make the Rhode-Island Mind what it must be, before it can 
fulfill its high destinies. Let this, or other more hopeful plan, be forth- 
with projected by legislative enactment ; and be held up to the public 
mind, for present and future execution, and we shall realize by anticipa- 
tion, even in the present age, many of the effects of its final accomplish- 
ment It will fix in the common mind of the State, an idea of its own 
perpetuity, and incite it to one continuous effort to realize its loftiest hopes. 
If Rhode-Island can not live over great space, she can live over much 
time — past, present, and to come — and it is the peculiar duty of states- 
men to keep this idea of her perpetuity constantly in the mind of all. 

Legislators op Rhode-Island!* 

The State which you represent, is not an institution for a day, but one 
for all time. Greneration after generation passes away, but the State 
endures. The same organic people still remains ; the places of those who 
pass off are filled by those who come ; and the same sovereignty still 
lives on arid on, without end. Every particle of the human body is said 
to pass off out of the system, once in seven years ; yet the same organic 
form still continues here to act its part — to be rewarded for its good, and 
punished for its evil deeds. It is just so with that body which con- 
stitutes the State. The organized people continues ever the same. The 
individuals which compose it, are its ever-coming and ever-fleeting par- 


* The members of the General Assemblv, then in session at Providence, were invited to 
attend at the delivery of this discourse ; and most of them, it ia believed, were present 

i . . • 

32 Judge Durfee^s Historical Discourse, 

tides, anipiated within it for a time, and then passing off to be fieea no 
more : but unlike our own frail structures, it is qualified to endure thr(Mi^h 
all time, and, therefore, in all that is done, this idea of its perpetuity 
should be ever kept before it. A great object is accomplished, wjbiea 
once a people is fully impressed with this idea ; it almost secures the im- 
mortality of which you thus oblige it constantly to think. One great 
curse of*^ all popular institutions has ever been, a resort to paltry, tempo- 
rary expedients — to legislation that looks only to the day, or the petty 
requirements of the present. But once impress the people with the idea 
of its own perpetuity, and induce it to act thereon, and you change its 
character — you humanize it — ^you make it a being " of large discourse, 
that looks before and after." Once ingraft this idea upon the minds of 
the people of this State, and they will live in it — they will love it. Thej 
have now a boundless future before them, but "shadows, clouds, and 
darkness rest upon it." Vague and indefinite hopes thev indeed cherish, 
but they can not anticipate what is to be realized. Strike out, then, the 
grand plan for the future — give some distinctness to the object of the 
State's high aim — to the elevated stand, in distant ages, to which she 
aspires — and, even now, they shall live in that future, just as they already 
live in the past. They will enjoy it by anticipation, and cheerfully urge 
the State on to that high destiny, which the God of Man antf Nivture 
designed should be hers. 


I can not refrain from repeating the acknowledgment of my obligations to the autiior of the 
" Annals of Providence," for many valuable facts and suggestions, personally communicf^d, 
of which I have availed myself in the preparation of this discourse. Nor can I forget my 
obligations to the venerable Wm. Wilkinson, whose memory, at his present very advanced age, 
of the events of the Revolution, seems to be as perfect as if they were the oceurrencM of 
yesterday. J. D