“We fix on our Standards and Drums the Colony arms, with the motto, Qui Transtulit Sustinet, round it in letters of gold, which we construe thus: God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.” – A letter regarding the Lexington Alarm dated Wethersfield, CT., April 23, 1775 Record of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, Adj. Gen., Hartford, 1889
Historical Series, Number Ten, July 7, (1586 & 1647) 2002
The Educational Outreach of the General Israel Putnam Branch No. 4
of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
A Puritan Foundation: Virtuous Liberty in the English Colonies of New England
Poet John Trumbull described Yale College as “the first in letters as the first in arms”. As a tutor at Yale, Timothy Dwight inspired Nathan Hale and others like Noah Webster, whose 1828 Dictionary became the standard for the English language. Webster’s 1802 New Haven Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence begins “The history of the first English settlements in America, and of the measures which prepared the way for a revolution in the colonies, is too interesting not to be well understood by men of common curiosity and reading in this State. That history unfolds a series of great events, evidently suited to accomplish important purposes in the economy of Divine Providence…events which every American of expanded views must contemplate with admiration; and every Christian, with delight”. He goes on to quote Montesquieu, “Virtue is the foundation of a republic. ” Dwight noted three pillars of virtue: “Piety to God, Good-will to mankind and the effectual government of ourselves“.
The Colonial struggle for independence in America from absolute and arbitrary control by England became known as the “American Revolution” and certainly had early beginnings in New England. The outcome, as CT Signer William Williams had stated, would determine if Americans “shall any longer enjoy the Sweets of Virtuous Liberty“. In July of 1774, the Reverend Ezra Stiles, the “gentle Puritan” soon to become President of Yale College, wrote that “British oppression may force an annual Congress and originate an American Magna Charta and Bill of Rights, THERE WILL BE A RUNNYMEDE IN AMERICA”.
Samuel Adams, “Father of the American Revolution”, understood that liberty did not exist without virtue. The papers of the Committee of Correspondence of Boston to the Committee of Correspondence of Cambridge dated December 29, 1772, clearly stated the colonists view of the relationship of Virtue to Liberty. “Our hands have been abundantly strengthend by the generous and manly Resolves of our worthy Brethren in the several Towns who have hitherto acted. Should such Sentiments, which we are convinced generally prevail through the province, be as generally expressd, it must refute the insidious misrepresentation so industriously propagated on both sides of the Atlantic, that the people have not Virtue enough to resist the Efforts made to enslave them! It affords us the greatest Satisfaction to find the Opportunity offerd to our Fellow Countrymen to wipe off so ignominious a Reproach so readily embraced. We trust in God, & in the Smiles of Heaven on the Justice of our Cause, that a Day is hastening, when the Efforts of the Colonists will be crowned with Success; and the present Generation furnish an Example of publick Virtue, worthy the imitation of all Posterity. In this we are greatly encouraged, from the thorough Understanding of our civil & Religious Rights Liberties & Privileges, throughout this province: The Importance of which is so obvious, that we are satisfied, nothing we can offer, would strenghten your Sense of it…it is an Evidence of their virtuous Attachment to the Cause of Liberty.” As Deputy Governor in July of 1768, Jonathan Trumbull wrote to CT’s English agent in London noting the unhappy situation in Boston. “You are sensible the people here are virtuous, and not disposed to sedition, faction, and disloyalty. They are fond of the great darling of Englishmen – Liberty – and ever zealous for their natural, constitutional rights and privileges.”
John Wingate Thornton’s book, “The Pulpit of the American Revolution”, opens with the widely read 1750 sermon by Jonathan Mayhew, Pastor of Old West Church at Boston. His Sermon notes that the unwritten English Constitution was understood as a balance of lawful powers – Lords, Commons and Crown; essentially free since the ancient Britons, who were a people “extremely jealous of their liberties…and of a martial spirit“. “Rulers have no authority from God to do mischief”, thus a King, who violates his coronation oath and governs in an arbitrary manner, “unkings himself”. Thornton appropriately referred to this radical Sermon as “ The Morning Gun of the American Revolution“. John Adams thought “Dr. Mayhew was a whig of the first magnitude, a clergyman equalled by very few of any denomination in piety, virtue, genius, or learning, whose works will maintain his character as long as New England shall be free, integrity esteemed, or wit, spirit, humor, reason, and knowledge admired”. Adams recognized Mayhew’s Sermon as the “opening salvo” of the American Revolution, but understood American independence was not a recent novel idea, but rather “has been familiar to Americans from the first settlement…as a necessary and un-avoidable measure, in case Great Britain should assume an unconstitutional authority over us”.
“CT’s Fundamental Orders” established constitutional self government in 1639, but self-government remained precarious in New England with Royal Charters granted CT in 1662, RI 1663 and MA 1629/1691. The Stamp Act of 1765 violated Charter Government in CT causing Yale professor of Divinity, Naphtali Daggett, to attack the American stamp-masters in an article appearing August 9th in the Connecticut Gazette, signed “Cato“. The Rev. Stephen Johnson (Yale 1743), Minister at Lyme, CT and Chaplain to the 6th CT Regt., chose to sound the alarm to “Christ’s Freemen” using the pseudonym of “Addison” in his first of six articles in the New London Gazette on Sept. 6th. These, along with a pamphlet version of his Fast Day Sermon of Dec. 18 on the ancient theme, “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8), articulating the insidious spectrum of England’s intentions to destroy constitutional liberties under the pretense of a need for “better security and protection”. The 1713 English Play “Cato” by Joseph “Addison“, a tragedy based on the Roman
Patriot Statesman Cato (95-46 B.C.) who opposed Julius Caesar, was popular in the Colonies and a favorite of George Washington who had it performed for the troops at Valley Forge. The lessons of history had tempered ideas of liberty and self government with the realities of human nature and Cato was the classic story of the Roman Republic seduced by Caesar and a standing army of mercenaries. The Roman Republic would rise by temperance, but fall to luxury. The Colonies would heed the warning from the text of Cato: “It is not now a time to talk of aught, But chains, or conquest; liberty or death“. New England “Freemen”, under the “Covenant of Grace” (John 3:36), had enjoyed the “Sweets of Virtuous Liberty” and were charged to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1), a favorite Biblical verse of Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston. Samuel Adams as “A Puritan” was certainly familiar with that verse when he expected “to be treated with sneer and ridicule by those artful men who have come into our country to spy out our Liberties; and who are restless to bring us into Bondage, and can be successful only when the people are in a sound sleep”. Having escaped from Feudalism in Europe, and now facing loss of their Charter Rights, the call for “Liberty and Property” became a commitment to “Liberty or Death”. The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, but the CT 1769 Election Sermon was a reminder of Covenant relationship, “Ye are, as yet freemen”.
In Virginia, Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 had early questioned Royal policy and in May 1765, Patrick Henry, recently seated in the House of Burgesses, had sounded an early alarm, writing his Virginia Resolves against the Stamp Act. The debates leading to adoption of the Resolves would cause Patrick Henry to exclaim, amid shouts of Treason, “Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third may profit by their example! If this be treason, make the most of it.” The Resolves were quickly forwarded to Philadelphia, New York and New England where they were published by June 24th in the Newport Mercury and became a catalyst for the Rev. Stephen Johnson and activities of the Sons of Liberty throughout the Colonies. The importance of Virtue was understood throughout the colonies and Patrick Henry became known as “the Trumpet of the American Revolution” He later noted his Resolves had “brought on the war which finally separated the two countries and gave independence to ours. Whether this will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practise virtue thyself, and encourage it in others”. On March 23, 1775 he again sounded the alarm with his famous “give me liberty, or give me death” speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.
In 1776, The Rev. Judah Champion, Pastor at Litchfield, addressed the CT General Assembly in the Annual Election Sermon, referring to the colonial struggle for independence in America, “Our ever memorable ancestors, left their native country, in times unfriendly to liberty, civil and religious…seeking an asylum for liberty…God sent them into the world to plead the cause of liberty, and prepare western mansions against arbitrary power, for the persecuted lovers of freedom”. He continued by quoting an Anglican Bishop’s earlier Sermon looking on “America as the only great nursery of freemen now left upon the face of the earth”. Notably, the Rev. Thomas Hooker graduated from Emmanuel College of Cambridge University, called “the nursery of the Puritans”, and Hooker became known as the “Father of American Democracy”. The 1633 poem, “The Church Militant” by George Herbert begins “Religion stands on tip-toe in our land, Readie to pass to the American strand”. The nursery was providentially transplanted in 1633 from England to America as validated on our Colonial Seal and Motto. Several years earlier in England, a Sermon by Mr. Hooker proclaimed “New England shall be a refuge for his Noahs and his Lots”.
The transplanting of Englishmen to their New England refuge and the growth of this Nursery of Freemen would follow a lengthy period of exploration. The Americas, while populated from earlier times by various tribes, federations and cultures, were unknown to Europeans. The ancient Phoenicians may have visited the Americas, but the westerly ocean route south of Iceland would begin the European exploration of North America. In the sixth century A.D., St. Brendan of Clonfert in Galway is recorded to have sailed from Ireland on a voyage with other monks to the islands in the northwest Atlantic. The beginning of the eighth century would find Irish Monks settled on the west coast of Iceland, to be followed by Norwegian settlers. “Eric the Red” Thorvaldson would leave Norway with his son Leif (Ericson) to settle in Iceland, but later continued westward to discover Greenland and begin an isolated settlement on its southern shore.
In the year 999 A.D., Leif Ericson returned to Norway carrying trade cargo of Walrus tusks and skins. Norway was now Christian and the Althing of Iceland declared for Christianity. King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway would send a priest and Christian teachers back with Leif to pagan Greenland. In the year 1000, Leif went ashore in North America at Helluland, at Markland and established a temporary settlement in “Vinland the good”, where grapevines grew in abundance. While Christianity had reached the shores of North America, and a later expedition may have reached much further inland (Kensington Runestone), the early Norse settlements in Vinland (Cape Cod?), in Greenland, and L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland eventually failed.
Almost 500 years later, with stories from European fishermen, much navigational study and travels to Iceland and Africa, where the Portugese found a sea route around Africa to reach the Indies, the blue-eyed and once red haired, Christopher Columbus would cross the Atlantic in 1492 by a more southerly route, landing at ” San Salvadore”. Believing he had reached the Indies, he would call the Natives “Indians”. Claiming the land for Spain, much treasure would be carried back from the Spanish conquest to fund the Spanish Armada, though harassed by Sir Francis Drake and the English Sea Dogs.
England’s claim to North America rested on a Patent granted by King Henry VII to John Cabot, a Venetian navigator then based in England, for a voyage of discovery, flying the English Cross of St. George, to the coast of North America in 1497. King Henry VII died in 1509, but the reign of his son as Henry VIII (1509-1547) would separate the English Church from Rome when he sought from the Pope, a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because their marriage had produced no male heir. He soon realized that the Pope’s inability to grant his divorce was not based on Church policy, but the Pope’s precarious position as the prisoner of Queen Catherine’s nephew, the Emperor Charles V. This break with Rome in 1534 established King Henry VIII as Head of the English Church and State. Henry gave the church’s property in England to his friends to insure their loyalty and sent his opponents to the executioner’s block.
Three of the King’s six marriages would extend the House of Tudor: Edward VI (Son by Jane Seymour), King 1547-1553; Mary Tudor “Bloody Mary” (daughter by Catherine of Aragon), Queen 1553-1558; and Elizabeth I (Daughter by Ann Boleyn), Queen 1558-1603. “Bloody Mary” would be remembered by the Puritans for having burned at the stake, nearly 300 English Church reformers including John Rogers (Matthew Bible) whose 1555 martyrdom in the fires of Smithfield in London was remembered by a woodcut illustration in the “New England Primer”. Smithfield was a market ground that also witnessed the execution in 1305 of William Wallace (Braveheart). The burning of Bishops Ridley and Latimer in 1555 at Oxford “town ditch” would be remembered in Gov. Trumbull’s August 12, 1776 “Exhortation” from Lebanon, with his reference to “Play the Man” (2 Sam. 10:12). Latimer stated “Master Ridley, play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out”. Elizabeth I, the “Virgin Queen”, came to the throne in 1558 and the East coast of North America would be named Virginia in her honor.
James Stuart (son of Mary, “Queen of Scots”) became King James I of England in 1603. Leaving Presbyterian Scotland, he favored the Episcopacy of the Anglican Church, understanding that “No Bishop” meant “No King”. Remember who sits next to the King & Queen on the chessboard. In 1607, English settlers would erect a Cross at Cape Henry in Virginia and settle at Jamestown. In 1613, to enforce England’s claim to Virginia, Capt. Samuel Argall, commissioned by Virginia to sail against any French incursions, destroyed Northern French settlements of Acadia at Mt. Desert Island, St. Croix and Port Royal, then raised the English Colors over a Dutch trading expedition stranded on Manhattan. Capt. John Smith of Jamestown, sailing the coast of Northern Virginia in 1614, renamed it “New England”, where three years later, a pestilence would wipe out more than half of the native population.
The providential “planting” of “the American Vine” (Psalm 80) from Old England to New England would begin with Puritan Separatists arriving aboard the “Mayflower” in Provincetown Harbor in 1620, then establishing their Plantation at Plymouth. Winthrop’s Fleet arrived in 1630 with the Charter for Massachusetts Bay. “Mr. Hooker’s Company” came over in 1632, then Mr. Hooker in 1633, where he would gather the Eleventh New England Church at Newtown and later transplant it to Hartford in 1636. Silenced by Laud in England, fearing “His genius will still haunte all the pulpits in ye country where any of his scholars may be admitted to preach”, Hooker had preached, “When corruptions are grown so strong that good men are defiled and their hearts tainted and their mouths stopped, woe to that kingdom and people”. If “they would not have he Word reform them, therefore they shall have the sword to plague them”. Later in revolutionary America, the Word or the sword became Benjamin Franklin’s “Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants”; the Bible or the bayonet. The liberty of the English Constitution was from ancient times dependent on the will of the people to maintain a balance between the lawful powers. Without Virtue, they would lose their liberty, or their will to resist the tyrant; or worse yet, their ability to recognize the tyrant.
Charles I (Son of James I) became King of England in 1625 and claimed absolute right and Royal prerogative contrary to his coronation oath to uphold established English law. This eventually brought on the English Civil Wars and the Kings execution by Parliament in 1649. A disaffection toward arbitrary power in government continued in England during the unconstitutional Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, and after Cromwell’s death when the Sons of Charles I were Restored to the Stuart Monarchy as Charles II in 1660 and James II in 1685. James II thought he also could replace English Law with Royal Prerogative and illegally revived the Court of High Commission, with Kirk and Judge Jeffries to enforce the King’s arbitrary acts. The King’s illegal “Declaration of Indulgence” in 1687 found opposition from the majority of Puritans including Richard Baxter and John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress).
By 1688, even the Royalist Cavaliers (renamed Tories) would reject the lawless acts of the King and side with the Puritan Roundheads. Virtue would now return to England when the obstinacy of the Fellows of Oxford’s Magdalen College, followed by the resistance of Archbishop Sancroft to the illegal designs of the tyrant James II, brought about the Glorious Revolution in England. Mary, a daughter of King James II was married to William III of the House of Orange in Holland. In the hope of restoring constitutional rule to England, William of Orange was invited to come to Englands aid against King James II. The providential arrival of William of Orange, on a fair wind, landing at Tor bay on November 5, 1688, would quickly bring about the bloodless revolution causing King James II to flee to France. The following February 13th, Prince William and Princess Mary of Orange were proclaimed King and Queen of England.
The Puritan, John Flavel, ordained to the Ministry in 1650, but ejected along with his Father Richard by the “Act of Uniformity” in 1662, would publish “The Mystery of Providence” in 1678. Preaching in 1689 at the public thanksgiving for the deliverance of England, he observed it was exactly a hundred years since the destruction of the Spanish Armada of 1588 by the Providence of God. “Yet behold another Eighty-eight crowned and enriched with mercies, no less admirable and glorious than the former.” Trevelyan thought it possible that the Glorious Revolution in England had postponed the American Revolution because “it relieved the violent tension between Colonial claims to self-government and James’s assertion of the Royal Prerogative overseas”.
As early as 1634, rumors that the Massachusetts Charter was to be revoked became serious when shiploads of Puritans destined for New England, were prevented from leaving England. By 1635, the threat from England caused the Puritans at Boston to build fortifications and erect a sixty-five foot high warning beacon on Beacon Hill. By 1640, their numbers in New England reached 20,000 but their struggle to maintain colonial self-government would continue. John Winthrop, jr., an original Patentee of Connecticut, obtained a Colonial Charter for Connecticut from King Charles II in 1662. In 1664, England seized New Amsterdam from the Dutch, ending CT’s westward expansion and establishing our neighbor Colony of New York, with its new namesake, the Duke of York as sole proprietor. In 1675, New York’s Royal Governor, Edmund Andros, under a new Royal Patent, attempted to add all lands west of the Connecticut River to the Province of New York. The Saybrooke Fort became part of the Connecticut Colony by 1644 with Stamford, Greenwich, Southold, L.I. and the New Haven Colony added by 1665. When Gov. Andros and his troops sailed from New York to the Saybrooke Fort to secure the land west of the Connecticut River, his plans were foiled by a force of about 100 CT militiamen under the command of Capt. Bull arriving from Hartford.
When King Charles II died in 1685 and his brother the Duke of York became King James II, royal policy changed and New England was commanded to surrender the Royal Charters to Gov. Andros, who would combine the New England Colonies with New York under his Dominion Government. At Hartford, Capt. Joseph Wadsworth hid our Charter in an oak tree and the story of the Charter Oak would symbolize early resistance to Royal tyranny. Self-government under the Charters was arbitrarily suspended in New England by King James II in 1687 and subverted to Gov. Edmund Andros and his Dominion Government. In his 1775 “Novanglus” letters (VII), John Adam’s writes
“It ought to be remembered that there was a revolution here, as well as in England, and that we, as well as the people of England, made an original, express contract with King William.” Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England, this “revolution here” had occurred in Massachusetts in April of 1689, with the Peoples sudden taking of Arms and presenting their “Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants of Boston, and the Country Adjacent”, demanding the surrender of Gov. Andros and his Dominion Government. Under the arbitrary rule of James II, New Englanders had lost their liberty and their property. “But all at once, on the morning of the 18th, the drums beat to arms, the signal-fire was lighted on Beacon Hill, a meeting was held at the town-house, militia began to pour in from the country, and Andros, summoned to surrender”. Andros and his agents were arrested. Having earlier surrendered their original Charter to Andros, Massachusetts was granted a new Charter in 1691 by England’s King William, but fearing the spread of the “Leprosie of Rebellion” a Royal Governor would be appointed. The Rev. Increase Mather had negotiated the new Charter which would now annex Plymouth Colony, Maine and Acadia (Nova Scotia) to Massachusetts Bay.
Connecticut had not surrendered its Charter and though it was annulled by James II in 1687, all the provisions of the Royal charter were later restored by King William. Connecticut, “the land of steady habits”, returned to self government under the Charter in 1689, which continued until the new CT Constitution of 1818. The interplay of American and European rivalries, however, would involve Connecticut in New England’s colonial wars beginning about 1689 as the wars of King William (1689-97), Queen Anne (1702-13), King George (1744-48) and the French and Indian War (1754-63). The French, having lost Fort Louisbourg to New Englanders in June 1745, launched a great fleet of about seventy ships and eight thousand troops, commanded by the Duke d’Anville. It would sail in June of 1746, with plans to recover Louisbourg, take Nova Scotia and “lay waste the whole seacoast from Novascotia to Georgia”. This great French fleet was to be joined by a French squadron of four ships of the line from the West Indies, but foul weather prevented the link-up and the West Indies squadron returned to France. An English Fleet in pursuit of the French was driven back by severe storms. News of the approaching French fleet caused much anxiety in New England. October 16th was observed as a day of Fasting and Prayer. By that evening, the arm of the Lord through a series of severe storms, fog, sickness and suicide, destroyed the French fleet and New England was saved. Again in 1781, a sudden “squall” during the evening of October 16th would thwart the “Last Hope of the British Army”, scattering their boats and halting the half executed escape from Yorktown, Virginia to Gloucester.
Three great Preachers graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University and became the foundation of New England: Thomas Hooker, M.A. 1611; John Cotton, M.A. 1606; Thomas Shepard, M.A. 1627. “These three could be compared with one another; but with them could be compared no one else.” In his letter to Lord Say and Seal in 1636, John Cotton questioned Democracy as a fit government for either church or commonwealth: “If the people be governors, who shall be governed? John Cotton’s principal aime in 1636: authority in magistrates, liberty in people, purity in the church. “Purity, preserved in the church, will preserve well ordered liberty in the people, and both of them establish well ballanced authority in the magistrates. God is the author of all these three…” Such was the constitutional structure of early New England. That constitutional structure was in place in Connecticut at the time of the Revolutionary War and Timothy Dwight’s three pillars of Virtue would equate in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to “voluntary obedience to truth”. Pilate to Truth (John 18:37-38).
Preaching in August 1774, Ebenezer Baldwin, Yale graduate and former Tutor, now Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Danbury, CT was sounding the alarm because England again had “A Settled Fix’d Plan for Inslaving the Colonies”. His Sermon offers an overview of the New England experience: “Our fathers when they planted this wilderness, placed equal confidence in the royal word pledged in their charters; as in the patents by which they held their land”. “Charter governments have long been disagreable to the powers in Britain. The free constitution of these colonies makes them such nurseries of freemen as cannot fail to alarm an arbitrary ministry. They only wait a favourable opportunity to abolish their charters, as they have done that of the Massachusetts-Bay”. “This is the very thing that took place in Sir Edmond Andros’s time”. “To pray to God for redress is certainly innocent”. “Oft hath he delivered his people of old;–oft the people of New England;–this affords great encouragement to be fervent in our supplications to the throne of grace.” “But little will prayer avail us without unfeigned repentance and humiliation before God under the heavy frowns of his righteous providence. We have more reason to be afraid of the vice and wickedness that abounds among us, than of all the arms of Britain. These give us reason to fear lest we have not virtue enough to make use of the properest means of redress, and lest heaven should fight against us”.
John Adams was aware that the Colonies were again being “Wheedled” out of their liberties and argued in 1775 that New England Colonial Charters provided a legal basis for internal colonial self government and the English Parliament had no historic or legal right to interfere in colonial Charter Government. He mentions “that there is not more order or stability in any government upon the globe, then there ever has been in that of Connecticut”, and how Connecticut seemed to have no idea of dependence on parliament, noting “The Secretary of Connecticut has now in his possession an original letter from Charles II. to that colony, in which he considers them rather as friendly allies, than as subjects to his English parliament; and even requests them to pass a law in their assembly relative to piracy”.
The American Revolution would continue and VIRTUE… “IS THE PRICE OF LIBERTY”. The importance of VIRTUE is properly recognized on the 1999 U.S. Commemorative Pennsylvania Quarter Dollar. Without Virtue, the watchmen’s Eternal Vigilence becomes Isaiah 56:10-12. In a pamphlet printed at Boston in 1744, a past President of Yale, the Rev. Elisha Williams observed: “It has commonly been the case, that Christian Liberty, as well as Civil, has been lost by little and little; and experience has taught, that it is not easy to recover it, when once lost. So precious a Jewel is always to be watched with a careful eye; for no people are likely to enjoy Liberty long, that are not zealous to preserve it.”