In 1636, that central
period in Wentworth's seven-year game of thorough on the Irish
chessboard—when Laud began his fourth year as Archbishop of Canterbury by
replacing a Romish crucifix in Lambeth Chapel—when the constables of King
Charles I. were knocking at the gates of John Hampden for ship money—in
that year were planted three ideals of government: the Puritan, the
Cavalier, and the Scotch-Irish.
I. The Puritan Ideal.
The year 1636 saw the corner stone of Harvard College set in place. The
Puritan ideal held aloft the torch of learning. But in its very
foundations the ideal of the New England Puritan was a narrow one. The
Puritan immigration from the east Anglian counties of England came to an
end in 1640. That year in which the Long Parliament began its work saw
twenty-six thousand souls gathered within the colony of New England. More
than a century was to pass away before any great addition should be made
to this number. About five hundred of these colonist came before the year
1629. When Eliot went to prison in 1629, there to end his days as a martyr
in the cause of English liberty, the stream of Puritan immigration began
to flow more rapidly. During the eleven years (1629-40), when the iron
hand of the despot, Charles, was felt; when the Eliots, the Hampdens, the
Pyms were struggling to maintain the rights of Englishmen, New England was
gradually filling up with those who represented the spirit of flight. King
Charles thought seriously of stopping the "exodus," but "amid the first
mutterings of the great rebellion, the proceedings against Massachusetts
were dropped, and the unheeded colony went on thriving in its independent
course; possibly, too, some locks at Whitehall may have been turned with
golden keys, for the company was rich, and the king was ever open to such
arguments." [John Fiske, the "Beginnings of New England," p. 113. (120)]
The year 1640! The cause of
human liberty in the balance! The Ironsides of Cromwell are getting ready
for Naseby and Marston Moor. Where is Puritan New England? Closing her
gates. The migration is ended. Her passports are paid for—two hundred
thousand souls are shut up in the new colony.
Have the Puritans come in
search of religious liberty? "The notion that they came to New England for
the purpose of establishing religious liberty in any sense in which we
should understand such a phrase is entirely incorrect. It is neither more
nor less than a bit of popular legend. . . . There is nothing they would
have regarded with more genuine abhorrence." [John Fiske, the " Beginnings
of New England," p. 145.]
Further than this, is there
any foundation for civil liberty in their form of government? They have
"township meetings," in which "the people" take part in ruling. But who
are "the people?" The members of the Congregational Church. Toting and
officeholding are limited to Church members. The right of citizenship is
decided • by the Church register. The form of government is a theocracy.
The real rulers are the Church officials, more intolerant of personal
liberty than Archbishop Laud himself.
In this close corporation
there was not room for even the peaceful Quaker. The scale of punishment
for Quakers who persisted in remaining was flogging, cutting off the ears,
boring the tongue with & hot iron, death. The only crime chargeable to the
account of the Quaker was his unbelief in the Puritan form of government.
The Quakers preached against the union of Church and state. For that were
they called upon to suffer and to die. The year 1659 saw two Quakers
hanged on Boston Common, and their bodies denied Christian burial. The
year 1660 saw a Quaker woman suffer the same fate. The following year
(1661) another Quaker man paid the penalty of martyrdom for his boldness
in refusing to leave the colony. The persecution was finally checked only
by that arch-tyrant, King Charles II.
Throughout the seventeenth
century there was little in New England that deserves the name of civil
liberty. "Under the influence of the clergy justice was administered in
somewhat inquisitorial fashion. There was an uncertainty as to just what
the law was, a strong disposition to confuse questions of law with
questions of ethics, and great laxity in the admission and estimation of
evidence." [Ibid., p. 250.] Hardly one-fifth of the adult population
belonged to the Congregational Church, but this oligarchy of "saints"
ruled the rest with a rod of iron.
The revolution of 1688 made
a change in the charter of Massachusetts: no longer was Church membership
made a requisite for voting. But the old spirit of intolerance was still
present. The clergy continued to hold the reins of government. The year
1692 witnessed a woeful spectacle of priestly tyranny. Cotton Mather sat
on horseback at the foot of a scaffold denouncing a brother minister,
George Burroughs, who died before his eyes for no other crime than a
denial of belief in witchcraft.
With such a record as this
did the Puritan ideal enter into the eighteenth century.
II. The Cavalier Ideal.
This is the charter ideal. Its first typical scene is Runnymede, when the
barons compelled King John to sign Magna Charta. This is the ideal of
chivalry. The subject renders obedience to his king only in accordance
with the feudal oath. The charter marks out the privileges of the subject.
If the king invades these chartered rights, then the sting that wounded
honor feels stirs up the knight's pride to resistance. The king has
"divine right" to give the charter, but the charter makes the subject
himself a king within the limit of his accorded privileges.
The Virginia cavalier held
his laws and his rights as an English freeman by the charter of King James
I. That charter united Church and state. Hence was the cavalier a royalist
and a Churchman.
But the year 1636 found the
Virginia House of Burgesses engaged in a quarrel with King Charles I. In
the previous year (1635) they had "thrust out" Sir John Harvey, the king's
Governor, because he had violated the chartered rights of the colonists.
The second typical scene of
the cavalier ideal is the rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon. Of high birth,
university training, a member of the Governor's council, Bacon drew sword
for his charter rights against the tyranny of Gov. Berkeley. In the light
of midnight torches at Williamsburg Bacon's followers lifted hands to
swear opposition even to the king's troops if they should come to
transgress the privileges accorded in the royal charter.
Civil and religious liberty
were preserved to a greater extent by the Cavalier than by the Puritan
ideal. Every freeman had a right to vote. There was no death penalty
against dissenters. But the problem of Democratic, free government was not
solved even by the Cavalier. Representation in the House of Burgesses was
after the order of representation in the English House of Commons before
the passage of the Reform bill. Then, too, every colonist was taxed for
the support of the Church of England. The charter gave certain privileges,
but it likewise imposed certain restrictions upon the freedom of the
III. The Scotch-Irish
This ideal upholds the "divine right" of the enlightened conscience. In
government it supports that system where laws are made and administered by
representatives who are coequals with those represented. This ideal
represents a century of growth, a century of special revelation.
The year 1636 saw its
beginning. The "Eagle Wing" set sail from Ulster, Ireland, with one
hundred and forty passengers, in September, 1636, bound for New England.
The storm winds carried the ship back, and the passengers were left in
Ireland as the seed plants of the Scotch-Irish ideal. Two leaders of this
band, Blair and Livingston, had already been ordained by a Presbytery of
associated ministers in Ulster, a Presbytery in which a bishop of the
Established Church had stood as a mere presbyter among coequal ministers.
In 1638 the "Eagle Wing"
leaders went over to Scotland to assume a prominent part in stirring up
the League and Covenant. A little later they sat in the Glasgow Assembly
which denied the "divine right" of bishops, and made Presbyterianism the
It must be admitted that in
1640-50 the ideal of the Ulsterman was as intolerant as that of the
Puritan of New England. But the man of Ulster was called to learn higher
things through suffering. Like Elijah at Horeb, he must hear the wind and
the earthquake, and see the fire, and then learn that God speaks in the
"still, small voice." During the "killing time," from 1661 to 1688, on the
lonely moor and in the mountain glen, at Bothwell Bridge, and in
Killicrankie Pass, must he listen for his only comfort to the " still,
small voice " of God in the upright conscience.
The last half of the
seventeenth century saw the Cavalier upholding the royal charter, saw the
Puritan strengthening the reign of bigotry, saw the Ulsterman enduring
torture and death. The Ulsterman could claim naught of advantage over the
others, except that God had chosen him to learn toleration by suffering
The eighteenth century
opens her doors to admit the three ideals.
As the Puritan enters, we
behold in the background the death scene of Burroughs. Cotton Mather, at
the foot of his brother minister's scaffold, typifies the theocratic ideal
of New England.
As the Cavalier ideal
enters, we see as its typical scene Nathaniel Bacon crossing swords with
Gov. Berkeley—the privileged right contending with the king's man.
The Ulster ideal presents a
scene of legal strife. The year 1707 finds Francis Makemie arraigned
before the bar of Lord Cornbury, in New York, for preaching the gospel
without license. Makemie's training at the University of Glasgow, his
principles imbibed from the men of Ulster, have equipped him well for the
battle of religious freedom. He pleads, with success, the Toleration act.
He has learned the lessons of a hundred years, and successfully upholds
the divine right of the individual conscience in religious matters.
Makemie is the forerunner
of the Ulster clans. The spirits of freedom are loosed from the narrow
limits of the province of Ulster to make their home on the Alleghany
Why do they not go to New
England? The Puritan ideal holds them away. A detachment does migrate
thither to guard the frontier, and bold up another ideal in the very face
Why not to the Chesapeake
Bay? The intolerance of the Cavalier drives them away. Between the two
enter the Ulstermen, a political and religious wedge. Up the Delaware and
into Charleston Harbor zigzag their ships. Along the crested ridges of the
Alleghanies do they fortify themselves. There rise up the church, the
schoolhouse, the military fort—all in the same inclosure.
On that castled fortress
they face westward in 1755 to withstand the onset of the French and Indian
war. They are the leaders in this "war of Anglo-American advance."
In 1763 they face eastward
to resist the power of British aggression.
The Ulster ideal leads now
in the sentiment for independence. It represents military bravery and
skill, the result of the training gained in the seven years' war. It
represents the cause of education, pointing in proof thereof to the "log
colleges'' scattered along the Alleghanies from north to south.
The Ulster ideal is a
religious ideal, championed by the able ministers of the gospel, trained
in the log colleges, who are now foremost as soldiers, statesmen, and
From Fincastle and
Mecklenburg come the first declarations of independence.
Throughout the war of the
Revolution, the men of Ulster lead the way—chiefly because they are the
only people who have, from the first, made up their minds to fight until
freedom is gained. They supply the moral force that carries the revolution
to a successful issue. At the turning point in many critical battles their
mountain rifles gain the victory.
When a Constitution is
sought to crown the work of revolution, from which ideal is it drawn? Not
from the Puritan. The theocracy is not in sympathy with the new instrument
of government. The vote of Massachusetts in the convention of 1787 is
divided, and hence becomes a nullity in the framing of the government.
The Cavalier subordinates
his ideal to that of the Ulsterman. The Constitution of 1787 is a
declaration that the enlightened conscience has the "divine right" to
issue a new charter, more authoritative than that of king or Parliament.
In form, the Constitution is drawn from the ideal of the Cavalier; but in
spirit it is the embodiment of the ideal wrought out by the Scotch-Irish
race: a free conscience in a free home.