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First Settlement at Hartford. First Meeting house in Connecticut. Government organized. Union of New England Colonies.
and established a trading-house and built a small fort on the south side of the Mill River, at its junction with the Connecticut, near the site of Hartford. The place is still known as Dutch Point. About the same time William Holmes and others of the Plymouth colony sailed up the Connecticut, in a vessel having the frame of a dwelling on board, and, landing on the west side, near the present Windsor, erected the first house built in Connecticut. The Dutch threatened to fire on them, but they were allowed to pass by. In 1635, John Steele and others, under the auspices of Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Cambridge, reached Holmes's residence, and began a settlement near. Hooker and his wife, with about one hundred men, women, and children of his flock, left Cambridge the following year, and marched June, through the wilderness westward to the pioneer settlement, subsisting, on the journey, loo upon the milk of a herd of cows which they drove before them. Over hills and mountains, through thickets and marshes, they made their way, with no guide but a compass, no shelter but the heavens and the trees, no bed save the bare earth, relying upon Divine Provi. dence and their own indomitable perseverance for success. The first house of worship was erected the previous year, and on the 9th of July, 1636, Mr. Hooker first preached, and administered the holy communion there. The Dutch looked upon the new-comers as intruders, while the English settlers in turn regarded the Dutch in that light, because the whole country north of 40° belonged, by chartered rights, to the Plymouth and Massachusetts Companies. Much animosity existed for several years, the Dutch refusing to submit to the laws framed by the English colony, and often threatening hostilities against them. Finally, in 1654, an order arrived from Parliament requiring the English colony to regard the Dutch, in all respects, as enemies. In conformity to this order, the Dutch trading-house, fort, and all their lands were sequestered for the benefit of the commonwealth. The Dutch then withdrew. The first court, or regularly organized government, in Connecticut, was held at Hartford in the spring of 1636. The people were under the general government of Massachusetts, but were allowed to have minor courts of their own, empowered to make war or peace, and form alliances with the natives within the colony. The English settlement was not fairly seated, before the Pequots, already mentioned, disturbed it with menaces of destruction. The Pequot war ensued in 1637, and, although it involved the colony in debt, and caused a present scarcity of provisions, it established peace for many years, and was ultimately beneficial. In January, 1639, a convention of the free planters of Connecticut was held at Hartford, and a distinct commonwealth was formed. They adopted a constitution of civil government, which was organized in April following, by the election of John Haynes governor, and six magistrates. In 1642 their criminal code, founded upon Jewish laws as developed in the Scripture, was completed and entered on record. By this code the death penalty was incurred by those guilty of worshiping any but the one triune God; of witchcraft; blasphemy; willful murder, except in defense of life; man-stealing; false swearing, by which a man's life might be forfeited; unchastity of various grades; cursing or smiting of parents by a child over sixteen years of age, except when it could be shown that the child's training had been neglected or the parents were guilty of cruel treatment; and of a stubborn disobedience of parents by a son over sixteen years of age. The following year the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut (as Hartford was called), and New Haven confederated for their mutual safety and welfare, and called themselves the United Colonies of New England." Each colony was author
* This picture of the first house for Christian worship erected in Connecticut is copied from Barber's Historical Collections. He obtained the drawing from an antiquary of Hartford, and believes it correct. * The term New England was first applied by Captain John Smith, according to the dedicatory epistle to the “First Sermon preached in New England” by Robert Cushman. “It was so called,” says the address, “because of the resemblance that is in it of England, the native soil of Englishmen. It being much what the same for heat and cold in summer and winter, it being champaign ground, but no high mountains, someo, E
Conjunction of New Haven and Connecticut Colonies. James II. Quo Warranto. Governor Andross. The “Charter Oak.”
ized to send two commissioners to meet annually in September, first at Boston, and then at Hartford, New Haven, and Plymouth, with power to make war and peace, and enact federal laws for the general good. This union was productive of great benefit, for it made the united settlements formidable in opposition to their enemies, the Dutch and Indians. In 1662, Charles II. granted a charter to the Connecticut colony, by which the New Haven colony was included within that of the former. At first there was much dissatisfaction, but in 1655 the two colonies joined in an amicable election of officers, and chose John Winthrop for governor. Charles was succeeded by his brother James, a bigoted, narrow-minded, and unjust prince. Many of his advisers were ambitious and unprincipled men, scheming for the consolidation of power in the person of the king. Immediately on the accession of James, they arranged a plan for procuring a surrender of all the patents of the New England colonies, and forming the whole northern part of America into twelve provinces, with a governor general over . July, the whole. Writs of quo warranto were accordingly issued," requiring the several ** colonies to appear, by representatives, before his majesty's council, to show by what right they exercised certain powers and privileges." The colony of Connecticut sent an agent to England with a petition and remonstrances to the king. The mission was vain, for already the decree had gone forth for annulling the charters. Sir Edmund Andross was appointed the first governor general, and arrived at Boston in December, 1686. He immediately demanded the surrender of the charter of Connecticut, and it was refused. Nearly a year elapsed, and meanwhile Andross began to play the tyrant. His first fair promises to the people were broken, and, supported by royal authority, he assumed a dignity and importance almost equal to his master's, thoroughly disgusting the colonists. In October, 1687, he went to Hartford with a company of soldiers while the Assembly was in session, and demanded an immediate surrender of their charter. Sir Edmund was received with apparent respect by the members, and in his presence the subject of his demand was calmly debated until evening. The charter was then brought forth and placed upon the table around which the members were sitting. Andross was about to seize it, when the lights were suddenly extinguished. A large concourse of people had assembled without, and the moment the lights disap
THE CHARTER OAk.”
what like the soil in Kent and Essex; full of dales and meadow grounds, full of rivers and sweet springs, as England is. But principally, so far as we can yet find, it is an island, and near about the quantity of England, cut out from the main land in America, as England is from Europe, by a great arm of the sea, which entereth in 40°, and runneth up north and west by west, and goeth out either into the South Sea or else into the Bay of Canada. The certainty whereof and secrets of which we have not yet so found as that as eye-witnesses we can make narration thereof; but, if God give time and means, we shall, ere long, discover both the extent of that river, together with the secrets thereof, and so try what territories, habitations, or commodities may be found either in it or about it.” This address was written, and the sermon preached at Plymouth, in December, 1621. By the Bay of Canada is meant the St. Lawrence, and by the “great arm of the sea,” the Hudson River. The explorations of Hendrick Hudson in 1609 seem not to have been known to the worthy divine, and he imagined a connection between the Hudson and St. Lawrence, by which New England was made an island. * A writ of quo warranto issues against any person or corporation that usurps any franchise or liberty against the king without good title, and is brought against the usurpers to show by what right and title they hold and claim such franchise and liberty.—Law Dictionary. * This venerable relic is still vigorous, and is a “gnarled oak” indeed. It stands upon the northern slope of the Wyllys Hill, a beautiful elevation on the south side of Charter Street, a few rods east of Main Street. This engraving is from a sketch which I made of the tree from Charter Street, on the 3d of October, 1848. I omitted the picket fence in front, in order to show the appearance of the whole trunk. The opening of
Concealment of the Charter. Expulsion of Andross. Accident at Hartford. Washington's Conference with Rochambeau.
peared they raised a loud huzza, and several entered the chamber. Captain Wadsworth, of Hartford, seized the charter, and, unobserved, carried it off and deposited it in the hollow trunk of a large oak-tree fronting the house of Hon. Samuel Wyllys, then one of the magistrates of that colony. The candles were relighted, quiet was restored, and Andross eagerly sought the coveted parchment. It was gone, and none could, or would, reveal its hidingplace. Sir Edmund stormed for a time, and threatened the colony with royal displeasure; then quietly taking possession of the government, he closed the records of the court, or Assembly, with a simple annunciation of the fact. The administration of Andross was short. His royal master was driven from his throne and country the next year, and his minion in America was arrested, and confined in the Castle, near Boston, until February, 1689, when he was sent to England for trial." Able jurists in England having decided that, as Connecticut had never given up her charter, it remained in full force, the former government was re-established. From that time until the Revolution no important events of general interest occurred at Hartford. A melancholy accident occurred there in May, 1766, on the occasion of rejoicings because of the repeal of the Stamp Act. The day had been spent in hilarity. Bells, cannons, and huzzas had testified the general and excessive joy, and great preparations were making for bonfires, fire-works, and a general illumination. In the chamber of a brick school-house that stood where the Hartford Hotel was afterward built, a number of young men were preparing fire-works in the evening. Under the house was a quantity of gunpowder, from which the militia had received supplies during the day. The powder had been scattered from the building to the street. Some boys accidentally set it on fire, and immediately the building was reduced to a ruin; several of the inmates were killed, and many badly wounded. The most important occurrences of general interest at Hartford, during the Revolution, were the two conferences between Washington and the Count de Rochambeau, the commander of the French army in America. The first interview was on the 21st of September, 1780, the second on the 23d of May, 1781. The French fleet, under the command of the Chevalier de Ternay, conveying the troops sent to our shores by Louis XVI. of France to aid us, arrived at Newport in July, 1780; and the conference of Washington with Rochambeau and Ternay, in September following, was to consult upon future operations.” This interview resulted in the conclusion that the season was too far advanced for the allies to perform anything of importance, and, after making some general arrangements for the next campaign, Washington returned to his camp at West Point, in the Hudson Highlands. It was during his absence at Hartford that Arnold attempted to surrender West Point and its subordinate posts into the hands of the enemy. The second conference between Washington and Rochambeau was at Wethersfield, four miles below Hartford. Rochambeau and General the Marquis de Chastellux, with their suites, arrived at Hartford on the 21st of May, where they were met by Wash
October 31, 1687.
the cavity wherein the charter was concealed is seen near the roots. The heavy wind that had been blowing for thirty hours had stripped the tree of a large portion of its autumnal leaves, and strewn the ground with acorns. The trunk, near the roots, is twenty-five feet in circumference. A daughter of Secretary Wyllys, writing to Dr. Holmes about the year 1800, says of this oak, “The first inhabitant of that name [Wyllys] found it standing in the height of its glory. Age seems to have curtailed its branches, yet it is not exceeded in the height of its coloring or richness of its foliage....... The cavity, which was the asyhum of our charter, was near the roots, and large enough to admit a child. Within the space of eight years that cavity has closed, as if it had fulfilled the divine purpose for which it had been reared.” The cavity within remains as large as anciently, but the orifice will hardly admit a hand.
* At that time the French fleet was blockaded in Narraganset Bay by a superior English squadron. Ternay was quite dissatisfied with his situation, and wrote very discouraging letters to the Count de Vergennes, the French premier. In one (written September 10th, 1780), from Newport, he said, “We are actually compelled to remain on a very strict defensive. The English squadron is superior in number and in every other respect. The fate of North America is yet very uncertain, and the Revolution is not so far advanced as it has been believed in Europe.” An account of the negotiations and other circumstances connected with the sending of troops from France to aid in the Revolution will be given in a future chapter, devoted to the subject of the diplomacy of the United States during the war for independence.
Conference at the Webb House. Its Object. Junction of the allied Armies. • Attempt on New York. Windsor.
ington, and Generals Knox and Du Portail, and their suites. The meeting was celebrated by discharges of cannon; and, after partaking of refreshments, the officers, with several private gentlemen as an escort, rode to Wethersfield. Washington lodged at the house of Mr. Joseph Webb,” in Wethersfield, and there the conference was held. The object of the interview was to concert a plan of operations for the ensuing campaign. The minutes of the conference are in the form of queries by Rochambeau, - which were answered by Washington. The conclusion of the matter was an arrangement for the French army to march as speedily as pos. - sible to the Hudson River, and form a junction |H with the American army encamped there, for III o the purpose of making a demonstration upon the - - city of New York, if practicable. An expedi- tion southward seems to have been proposed by the French officers, but this idea was abandoned on account of the lateness of the season, and the danger to which northern troops would be exposed in the Southern States in summer. It was also agreed to send to the West Indies for the squadron, under Count de Grasse, to sail immediately to Sandy Hook, and, forming a junction with the fleet under Count de Barras, confine Admiral Arbuthnot to New York Bay, and act in concert with the combined armies in besieging the city, then the strong-hold of the enemy. The French troops consisted of about four thousand men, exclusive of two hundred that were to be left in charge of stores at Providence. A circular letter was sent by Washington to the Eastern Legislatures, and to that of New Jersey, requesting them to supply as large a quota of Continental troops as possible. Such a force as he felt sure could be mustered, Washington deemed adequate to undertake the siege of New York; and, on his return from Wethersfield, he began his arrangements for the enterprise. The two armies formed a junction near Dobbs's Ferry, at the beginning of July. After several ineffectual attempts upon the upper end of York Island, circumstances caused Washington to abandon the enterprise. The arrival of a reenforcement for Clinton in New York, the expressed determination of De Grasse to sail for the Chesapeake, and the peculiar situation of affairs in Virginia, where Cornwallis and La Fayette were operating against each other, induced Washington to march south with the combined armies. The result was the siege of Yorktown and capture of Cornwallis. The storm was raging as furiously as ever on the morning after my arrival in Hartford, and I abandoned the idea of visiting Wethersfield and Windsor.” With a letter of introduction to the Rev. Thomas Robbins, the librarian of the Connecticut Historical Society, I vis
THE WEde House.2
“May 18th. Set out this day for the interview at Wethersfield with the Count de Rochambeau and Admiral Barras. Reached Morgan's Tavern, forty-three miles from Fishkill Landing, after dining at Colonel Vanderburg's. 19th. Breakfasted at Litchfield, dined at Farmington, and lodged at Wethersfield, at the house of Mr. Joseph Webb.”—Washington's Diary. The Count Barras was prevented from attending the meeting by the appearance of a large British fleet, under Admiral Arbuthnot, off Block Island. The residence of Colonel Wanderburg, where Washington dined, was at Poughguag, in Beekman, Dutchess county.
* This house is still standing (1848), in the central part of Wethersfield, a few rods south of the Congregational Church.
* Windsor is situated upon the Connecticut, a little above Hartford, at the mouth of the Farmington River. Here was planted the first English settlement in Connecticut, for here the first house was built. It was the egg from which sprang Hartford and the Connecticut colony. East Windsor, on the east side of the Connecticut, has a notoriety in our Revolutionary annals, on account of its being, for a short time, the quarters of a portion of the British and Hessian troops of Burgoyne's captured army, on their way to Boston; also as the quarters of Governor Franklin, of New Jersey, and General Prescott, captured on Rhode Island, while prisoners in the hands of the Americans. The events connected with the capture of these two persons will be noticed elsewhere. They were confined, under a strong guard, in the house of Captain Ebenezer Grant, which, I was told, is still standing, a few rods south of the Theological Seminary.
connecticut Historical Society. Dr. Robbins's Library. Brewster's Chest. The Pilgrim covenant. Names of the Pilgrims.
ited the room of that institution, situated in a fine edifice called the Wadsworth Atheneum. This building stands upon the site of the old Wadsworth Mansion, the place of Washington's first conference with Rochambeau. The cordial welcome with which I was received by Dr. Robbins was a prelude to many kind courtesies bestowed by him during a visit of three hours. He is a venerable bachelor of seventy-two years, and, habited in the style of a gentleman fifty years ago, his appearance carried the mind back to the time of Washington. The library of the society, valued at ten thousand dollars, is its property only in prospective; it belongs to Dr. Robbins, who has, by will, bequeathed it to the institution at his death. It contains many exceedingly rare books and MSS., collected by its intelligent owner during a long life devoted to the two-fold pursuits of a Christian pastor and a man of letters. There are many historical curiosities in the library-room, a few of which I sketched. The one invested with the greatest interest was the chest of Elder Brewster, of the May Flower, brought from Holland in that Pilgrim ship. Near it stood a heavy iron pot that belonged to Miles Standish, the “hero of New England,” one of the most celebrated of the Pilgrim passengers. The chest is of yellow Norway pine, stained with a color resembling London brown. Its - - dimensions are four feet two inches long, one foot eight --- o --> --> inches broad, and two feet six inches high. The - - key, in size, has more the appearance of one belonging to a prison than to a clothing receptacle. The chest is a relic of much interest per se, but a fact connected with its history makes it an object almost worthy of reverence to a New Englander, and, indeed, to every American. Well-established tradition asserts that the solemn written compact made by the passengers of the May Flower previous to the landing of the Pilgrims was drawn up and signed upon the lid of this chest, it being the most convenient article at hand for the purpose. That compact, brief and general, may be regarded as the foundation of civil and religious liberty in the Western World, and was the first instrument of civil government ever subscribed as the act of the whole people." It was conceived in the following terms: “In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under written, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c., Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith, and Honor of our King and country, a Voyage to plant
* The harbor (Cape Cod) in which the May Flower anchored was ascertained to be north of the fortieth degree of latitude, consequently the proposed landing-place and settlement would be beyond the jurisdiction of the South Virginia Company, from whom these emigrants had received their charter. That instrument was, therefore, useless. Some of those who embarked from England had intimated that they would be under no law when ashore. The majority of the emigrants, concerned on account of this appearance of saction, thought proper to have recourse to natural law, and resolved that, before disembarkation, they should enter into an association, and bind themselves in a political body, to be governed by the majority. This was the origin of the compact. The following is a list of the signatures to the instrument: John Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, William Brewster, Isaac Allerton, Miles Standish, John Alden, Samuel Fuller, Christopher Martin, William Mullins, William White,” Richard Warren, John Howland, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Tilley, John Tilley, Francis Cook, Thomas Rogers, Thomas Tinker, John Ridgedale, Edward Fuller, John Turner, Francis Eaton, James Chilton, John Crackston, John Billington, Moses Fletcher, John Goodman, Degory Priest, Thomas Williams, Gilbert Winslow, Edward Margeson, Peter Brown, Richard Britteridge, George Soule, Richard Clarke, Richard Gardiner, John Allerton, Thomas English, Edward Doty, Edward Leister. There were forty-one subscribers to the compact, each one placing opposite his name the number of his family. The whole number of souls was one hundred and one.—See Moore's Memoirs of American Governors, i., 25.
- Just previous to the landing of the Pilgrims, the wife of william white gave birth to a son, the first English child born in New England. From the circumstances of his birth he was named Peregrine. He died at Marshfield, July 22d, 1704, aged nearly eighty-four years. william white died soon after the seating of the colony, and his widow married Edward Winslow. This was the first English marriage in New England. It was a singular circumstance that Mrs. White was the first mother and the first bride in New England, and mother of the first native governor of the colony, who was also the sole bearer of the honor of commander-in-chief of the forces of the confederate colonics—See Baylics, ii., 18.