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It will be remembered that New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) was settled by the Dutch in 1613, and Jamestown, Virginia, by the Elizabethan colonies in 1607. So that both of these colonies antedated the coming of the Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620. It is true that most of the histories of the United States have been written by men of New England origin, and that therefore by natural predilection they have made more of the New England influence than of the other elements among the Colonies. Yet this is not altogether the result of prejudice; for, despite the splendid roll of soldiers and statesmen from the Middle and Southern sections of the country who bore so large a share in the critical events of the transition era of the Revolution, it remains that the brunt of resistance to tyranny fell first and heaviest on New England, and that the principal influences that prepared the general sentiment of revolt, union, war, and independence proceeded from those colonies.

The Puritan exodus from England, chiefly from the eastern counties, first to Holland, and then to New England, was at its height during the persecutions of Archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles I. The Pilgrims--as the small company of Separatists were called who followed their Puritanism to the extent of breaking entirely away from the Church, and who left Holland for America--came to barren shores, after having learned many things from the Dutch. Their pilgrimage was taken, not with the view of improving their fortunes, like the more aristocratic settlers of Virginia, but to develop their peculiar ideas. It must be borne in mind that the civilization they brought with them was a growth from Teutonic ancestry,--an evolution from Saxon times, although it is difficult to trace the successive developments during the Norman rule. The Pilgrims brought with them to America an intense love of liberty, and consequently an equally intense hatred of arbitrary taxation. Their enjoyment of religious rights was surpassed only by their aversion to Episcopacy. They were a plain and simple people, who abhorred the vices of the patrician class at home; but they loved learning, and sought to extend knowledge, as the bulwark of free institutions. The Puritans who followed them within ten years and settled Massachusetts Bay and Salem, were direct from England. They were not Separatists, like the Pilgrims, but Presbyterians; they hated Episcopacy, but would have had Church and State united under Presbyterianism. They were intolerant, as against Roger Williams and the "witches," and at first perpetrated cruelties like those from which they themselves had fled. But something in the free air of the big continent developed the spirit of liberty among them until they, too, like the Pilgrims, became Independents and Separatists,--and so, Congregationalists rather than Presbyterians.

The first thing we note among these New Englanders was their town-meetings, derived from the ancient folk-mote, in which they elected their magistrates, and imposed upon themselves the necessary taxes for schools, highways, and officers of the law. They formed self-governed communities, who selected for rulers their ablest and fittest men, marked for their integrity and intelligence,--grave, austere, unselfish, and incorruptible. Money was of little account in comparison with character. The earliest settlers were the picked and chosen men of the yeomanry of England, and generally thrifty and prosperous. Their leaders had had high social positions in their English homes, and their ministers were chiefly graduates of the universities, some of whom were fine scholars in both Hebrew and Greek, had been settled in important parishes, and would have attained high ecclesiastical rank had they not been nonconformists,--opposed to the ritual, rather than the theological tenets of the English Church as established by Elizabeth. Of course they were Calvinists, more rigid even than their brethren in Geneva. The Bible was to them the ultimate standard of authority--civil and religious. The only restriction on suffrage was its being conditioned on church-membership. They aspired, probably from Calvinistic influence, but aspired in vain, to establish a theocracy, borrowed somewhat from that of the Jews. I do not agree with Mr. John Fiske, in his able and interesting history of the "Beginnings of New England," that "the Puritan appealed to reason;" I think that the Bible was their ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to religion. As to civil government, the reason may have had a great place in their institutions; but these grew up from their surroundings rather than from study or the experience of the past. There was more originality in them than it is customary to suppose. They were the development of Old England life in New England, but grew in many respects away from the parent stock.

The next thing of mark among the Colonists was their love of learning; all children were taught to read and write. They had been settled at Plymouth, Salem, and Boston less than twenty years when they established Harvard College, chiefly for the education of ministers, who took the highest social rank in the Colonies, and were the most influential people. Lawyers and physicians were not so well educated. As for lawyers, there was but little need of them, since disputes were mostly settled either by the ministers or the selectmen of the towns, who were the most able and respectable men of the community. What the theocratic Puritans desired the most was educated ministers and schoolmasters. In 1641 a school was established in Hartford, Connecticut, which was free to the poor. By 1642 every township in Massachusetts had a schoolmaster, and in 1665 every one embracing fifty families a common school. If the town had over one hundred families it had a grammar school, in which Latin was taught. It is probable, however, that the idea of popular education originated with the Dutch. Elizabeth and her ministers did not believe in the education of the masses, of which we read but little until the 19th century. As early as 1582 the Estates of Friesland decreed that the inhabitants of towns and villages should provide good and able Reformed schoolmasters, so that when the English nonconformists dwelt in Leyden in 1609 the school, according to Motley, had become the common property of the people.

The next thing we note among the Colonists of New England is the confederation of towns and their representation in the Legislature, or the General Court. This was formed to settle questions of common interest, to facilitate commerce, to establish a judicial system, to devise means for protection against hostile Indians, to raise taxes to support the common government. The Legislature, composed of delegates chosen by the towns, exercised most of the rights of sovereignty, especially in the direction of military affairs and the collection of revenue.

The governors were chosen by the people in secret ballot, until the liberal charter granted by Charles I. was revoked, and a royal governor was placed over the four confederated Colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. This confederation was not a federal union, but simply a league for mutual defence against the Indians. Each Colony managed its own internal affairs, without interference from England, until 1684.

Down to this time the Colonies had been too insignificant to attract much notice in England, and hence were left to develop their institutions in their own way, according to the circumstances which controlled them, and the dangers with which they were surrounded. One thing is clear: the infant Colonies governed themselves, and elected their own magistrates, from the governor to the selectmen; and this was true as well of the Middle and Southern as of the Eastern Colonies. Even in Virginia quite as large a proportion of the people took part in elections as in Massachusetts. It is difficult to find any similar instance of uncontrolled self-government, either in Holland or England at any period of their history. Either the king, or the Parliament, or the lord of the manor, or the parish priest controlled appointments or interfered with them, and even when the people directly selected their magistrates, suffrage was not universal, as it gradually came to be in the Colonies, with slight restrictions,--one of the features of the development of American institutions.