Slike stranica

the Assembly, on paying such cost as may have accrued since his confinement."


Ere the close of the war hundreds of Connecticut Loyalists had voluntarily made public recantations of past errors; had taken the freemen's oath in open town-meeting; and, after the payment of certain costs, the whole or a part of their forfeited estates had been restored. Some, who had early left the colony and remained active in the British service throughout, were never pardoned. Nor was this through any fault or severity of the General Assembly; for as late as May 1779, "believing that many who had fled to the enemy, were convinced of their folly, and desired to be restored to the favor of their country," they passed a second liberal act, extending the same privileges to "absconding Tories" as had been done two years previously. But in this instance, before the governor issued the proclamation of pardon, many of these Loyalists had joined and accompanied Gen. Tryon in his infamous raid upon the defenceless shore-towns; in consequence of which the Assembly and Council of Safety subsequently voted (August 1779) not to issue the proclamation.2

The wives and children of this class, however, were treated humanely and generously; the former, whenever it was desired, being aided to join their husbands. If this was impracticable, the children (if any) were bound out to some respectable family in the neighborhood. In some cases, where the lands had been forfeited and the goods seized by the selectmen, the widow had one-third of the husband's personal property restored to her, and was granted the use of one-third of his real estate ; i. e., “to have and enjoy" during the pleasure of the General Assembly.3

In various towns in the southern and western section of the state town-meetings were held by citizens in the latter days of the war, and the question put to vote whether any person should be allowed to return and dwell in their midst who was previously an inhabitant of the town, but had gone over to and assisted the enemy in arms against them. This question was invariably resolved in the negative, unless such person should first obtain general permission to return. Few (especially of those who had been engaged with Tryon) ever obtained this permission, and the majority, having lost both their 1 Public Records, I. 30. The following is an example of the many resolutions of the Connecticut Council of Safety. "June 13, 1777. George Follick, of Ridgefield, who was committed to the gaol in Hartford, as a Tory, shall be liberated from said prison, by paying all the costs and taking the oath of fidelity."


2 Public Records, II. 279 and 386.

3 See the case of Mary Hoyt of Danbury in Public Records, I. 299.

Cf. Hurd's Fairfield County, 640, for a similar vote at Ridgefield, August 9, 1779-
Tories of Ridgefield, who had harbored the British on the occasion of Tryon's raid

credit and their property at home, eventually found an asylum in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. In after years some of these fugitives acknowledged and grievously lamented their mistake in having thus sided against their countrymen in the patriotic struggle for liberty.1

It has been seen that this province was thoroughly competent to deal with internal foes; that, while bloody scenes were enacted between Whig and Tory just over her border in the "Neutral Ground," she was enabled to prevent even the symptoms of a civil war. Though her attitude toward the Loyalists was firm and decided, it was not vindictive or revengeful. An examination of town and state records clearly evidences the fact that the governor and Assembly (and generally the freemen, too) were ready and willing to pardon the guilty and to accept repentance. As a result of this generosity hundreds of that unfortunate class retracted their hostile expressions and became loyal citizens, who otherwise would have remained hostile to the end.


to Danbury, were taken by the indignant citizens to the river late at night, and treated to a prolonged "ducking.'

1 Munson Jarvis, a prominent Loyalist of Stamford, wrote from St. John, N. B., (July 3, 1788), to Rev. Samuel Peters in London: "I have made one great mistake in politics, for which reason I never intend to make so great a blunder again." Genealogy of Jarvis Family, 29. For a curious "Confiscation Deed of Property," see ibid., p. 281.


AT the age of twenty-three John Adams wrote in his diary the following words: "Aim at an exact knowledge of the nature, end and means of government. Compare the different forms of it with each other and each of them with their effects on public and private happiness." This programme he carried out. To the end of his life "no romance was more entertaining" than politics. They were to him the "divine science, the grandest, the noblest, the most useful . . . in the whole circle" of sciences; and his study of them was characterized by breadth and depth as well as zeal. The principles of government, so he wrote his kinsman, Samuel Adams, are to be found by the observation and study of "human nature, society and universal history." He acquainted himself thoroughly with the political theories of the great writers, ancient and modern-the works of Lord Bolingbroke, for example, he read through more than five times although, in his opinion, the author was "a haughty, arrogant, supercilious dogmatist;" but he owed far more to the direct study of “human nature, society and universal history" than to the conclusions of the philosophers. As a rule he quotes to refute; and his work presents in every part unmistakable signs of an original, independent, and profound thinker.

[ocr errors]

Public events soon gave to these studies a fresh impulse and at the same time a practical turn. Two years after the entry given above, John Adams listened to the plea of James Otis against the Writs of Assistance. It was an event of profound significance to colonial America and indeed to the British empire. Otis's oration against writs of assistance," wrote John Adams long afterwards, "breathed into this nation the breath of life . . . American Independence was then and there born; the seeds of patriots and heroes were then and there sown . . . Every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take up arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain."1

One result of the plea of Otis was to direct attention to the 1 Life and Works, X. 362.

question of the rights of the colonists. It was a time when the doctrine of natural rights was beginning to work its way into general favor; there was, indeed, considerable risk that it might become in America, as later in France, the basis of popular resistance to governmental oppression. The validity of this doctrine when reasonably interpreted and applied, is well established; but in practical use it is dangerous and greatly demoralizing. Indeed, it can hardly be doubted that if resistance to the oppressive policy of Great Britain had rested solely or mainly on the doctrine of natural rights, it must soon have degenerated into mob violence, and could not have developed into a successful revolution.

At this time John Adams was a young lawyer with an abundance of time for reading and thought. He was a graduate of Harvard, had taught school and studied law at Worcester, had enjoyed intercourse with a number of stimulating men; and, for his years, had read and re-read a phenomenal number of good books. His letters and diary show that he had made great progress in self-acquaintance; that his aims were of the highest; that he revered the truth; and that he criticized himself with unsparing severity. The important historic events of his early manhood were the Seven Years' War and the philosophical movement in Europe; and these had helped to confirm in him the disposition to take broad views and to trace things to their sources.

In the year 1765, with the solid equipment just described, John Adams, at the age of thirty, entered the service of his country. He wrote in August a series of articles, four in number, for the Boston Gazette, which were reproduced in the London Chronicle, and later were published together under the title, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law. The Dissertation began with a statement of the views of the writer upon the relation of the Stamp Act to general history, to the history of the colonies, and to their higher interests, civil, religious, and intellectual; it closed with advice as to the means proper for meeting the emergency created by the adoption of the policy embodied in this act. This production did much to prepare the people for the critical times that were just ahead; it discloses at the outset of his long career of patriotic service, the very heart and mind of the author. Our immediate interest, however, is to learn what it tells of his system of politics.

The Dissertation opens with the inquiry, What is the source of oppression? This is found in that "noble principle" of human nature which is also the source of freedom, namely, "the love of power." This principle has always prompted the great of the earth to free themselves from every limitation to their power, "has stim

ulated the common people to aspire at independency, and to confine the power of the great within the limits of equity and reason." In this struggle the poor people have usually failed, because, owing to their ignorance, "they have seldom been able to frame and support a regular opposition." The great have taken advantage of this, and have labored "in all ages, to wrest from the populace. . . the knowledge of their rights and wrongs, and the power to assert the former or redress the latter. I say Rights for such they have . . . antecedent to all earthly government, Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws-Rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."

In these early paragraphs appear certain views that lie at the foundation of the politics of John Adams. The first is that slavery and freedom proceed from one and the same principle in human nature, namely the love of power; later in the Discourses on Davila, the more comprehensive phrase, "thirst for distinction" is substituted for "love of power"; but the change does not imply any departure from the original idea. A second view of the utmost importance to the comprehension of the system, is that this love of power is an "aspiring, noble principle, founded in benevolence." From this it follows that the aim of a wise public policy must be not to extirpate "the love of power" in the human heart, but so to direct and regulate its operation that it shall issue in freedom. It is certainly one of the noblest characteristics of John Adams that he felt habitually a profound reverence for human nature, and finds in the primary passions of man the proofs of divine wisdom. A third idea is that the common people have rights which are indefeasible. What these are he does not tell us here. But elsewhere he makes it evident that they include the right to equality with the great in the legal protection of person and property, the right to equal participation in law-making, the right of veto upon unfriendly legislation, and the right to education at the public expense.

The second portion of the Dissertation is historical. The canon and feudal law were invented by the great for their own advantage. In the canon law we have "the most refined, sublime, extensive and astonishing constitution of policy that was ever conceived by the mind of man," and the Romish clergy framed it "for the aggrandisement of their own order." The feudal law was formed for the same purposes as the canon law: it held the common people " in a state of servile dependence" and "of total ignorance of every thing divine and human excepting the use of arms and the culture of their lands." Then the supporters of these two systems made a "wicked confederacy," and "one age of darkness succeeded

« PrethodnaNastavi »