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I PROPOSE to relate, in several volumes, the history of the people of New England.
In this first volume I treat of the Settlement of New England, meaning by that word, not only the arrival of European colonists, but the framing and establishing of that social system, under which, through successive generations, their descendants have been educated for the part which they have acted in the world.
The founders of the commonwealths of which I write were Englishmen. Their emigration to New England began in 1620. It was inconsiderable till 1630. At the end of ten years more, it almost ceased. A people, consisting at that time of not many more than twenty thousand persons, thenceforward multiplied on its own soil, in remarkable seclusion from other communities, for nearly a century and a half. Some slight emigrations from it took place at an early day; but they were soon discontinued; and it was not till the last quarter of the eighteenth century, that those swarms began to depart, which have since occupied so large a portion of the territory of the United States.
During that long period, and for many years later, their identity was unimpaired. No race has ever been more homogeneous than this remained, down to the time of the generation now upon the stage. With a near approach to precision it may be said, that the millions of living persons, either born in New England, or tracing their origin to natives of that region, are descendants
of the twenty-one thousand Englishmen who came over before the early emigration from England ceased upon the meeting of the Long Parliament. Such exceptions to this statement, as belong to any time preceding that of the present generation, are of small account. In 1651, after the battles of Dunbar and Worcester, Cromwell sent some four or five hundred of his Scotch prisoners to Boston; but very little trace of this accession is left. The discontented strangers took no root. revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, about a hundred and fifty families of French Huguenots came to Massachusetts, where, though their names have mostly died out, a considerable number of their posterity are yet to be found. A hundred and twenty Scotch-Irish families came over in 1719, and settled at Londonderry, in New Hampshire, and elsewhere. Great numbers of foreigners - especially of Irish, and, next to them, of Germans are now to be reckoned in a census of New England; but it is chiefly within the last thirty years that they have come, and they remain for the most part unamalgamated with the population of English descent.
Thus the people of New England are a singularly unmixed race. There is probably not a county in England occupied by a population of purer English blood than theirs. It is a race still more specially to be characterized as representing a peculiar type of the Englishmen of the seventeenth century. A large majority of the early planters were Puritans. Some of the small English settlements in the eastern part of the country were composed of other elements. But, from the early time when these were absorbed by Massachusetts, their anti-Puritan peculiarities began to disappear, and a substantial conformity to the Puritan standard became universal.
Sequestered from foreign influences, the people thus constituted was forming a distinct character by its own discipline, and was engaged at work within itself, on its own problems, through a century and a half. Down to the eve of the war which began in 1775, New England had little knowledge of the communities which took part with her in that conflict. Till the time of
the Boston Port Bill, eighty-four years ago, Massachusetts and Virginia, the two principal English colonies, had with each other scarcely more relations of acquaintance, business, mutual influence, or common action, than either of them had with Jamaica or Quebec.
This people, so isolated in its pupilage, has now diffused itself widely. I am to tell the early story of a vast tribe of men, numbering at the present time, it is likely, some seven or eight millions. Exactness in such an estimate is not attainable; but it would probably be coming somewhere near the truth to divide the present white population of the United States into three equal parts; one, belonging to the New-England stock; one, the posterity of English who settled in the other Atlantic colonies; and another, consisting of the aggregate of Irish, Scotch, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, and other immigrants, and their descendants. According to the United States' Census of 1850, the six New-England States had in that year 2,705,095 inhabitants, of which number 305,444 were of foreign birth. It would, I suppose, be making a liberal allowance to refer the round number of half a million of the present inhabitants of those States to the modern immigrations from abroad. On the other hand, more than seven hundred and fifty thousand natives of New England- often persons not inconsiderable in respect to activity, property, or influence- are supposed to be now living in other parts of the Union. The New-England race has contributed largely to the population of the great State of New York, and makes a majority in some of the new States further west. Considerable numbers of them are dispersed in distant parts of the world, where commerce or other business invites enterprise, though they do not often establish themselves for life in foreign countries. I presume there is one third of the people of these United States-wherever now residing-of whom no individual could peruse this volume without reading the history of his own progenitors.
* Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, XXX. 637.
"The principles of New England," says a distinguished foreign writer, "spread at first to the neighboring States; then they passed successively to the more distant ones; and at length they imbued the whole Confederation." * To allude here to influences exerted by the people of New England on the fortunes of the nation of which it now makes a part, would be to anticipate later portions of my narrative. But there is one evidence of their efficiency, which admits of the simple and precise illustration of figures. The reader of this volume will see how poor was Massachusetts in her early years. Her soil is barren; and she has no natural staple commodity of great value in the markets of the world. Yet at the present time, a little more than two centuries and a quarter from the date of her foundation, her taxable property — exclusive of property belonging to institutions of religion, education, and benevolence amounts to a thousand millions of dollars. Equally divided, it would afford more than eight hundred and eighty dollars each to every man, woman, and child within her borders. From the reserved fruits of the labor of eight generations "she could give a dollar to each of the thousand millions of the inhabitants of the earth, and still have all her schools, meeting-houses, town-houses, alms-houses, gaols, and literary, benevolent, and scientific institutions, left as nest-eggs to begin the world anew." The value of the regis tered products of the labor of her people for the year ending June 1, 1855, undoubtedly falling far short of the actual amount,—was two hundred and ninety-five million eight hundred and twenty thousand six hundred and eighty-one dollars.
The history and education of a race so numerous, so peculiar, so widely scattered, and constituting so large an element of the wealth and power of a great nation, present a subject well worthy of attention. When I began to think of it as offering a suitable * De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Chap. II.
† Christian Examiner, LXV. 34.
Statistical Information relating to certain Branches of Industry in Massachusetts, collected and published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth in 1856.