“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 Four, February 1998
The Educational Outreach of the General Israel Putnam Branch No. 4
of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
LIBERTY DEFINED . . . NEW ENGLAND’S COLONIAL CLERGY
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut clearly constituted the Puritan concept of true LIBERTY as covenanted at Hartford, CT in 1638. The Commonwealth, like the gathered churches, originated in a covenant, with Christ the Sovereign of both. In his Sermon to the General Court, Thomas Hooker, the Congregationalist Minister and founder of Hartford, expounded on the Biblical basis of Congregationalism that “The Foundation of Authority is laid 1stly in the free consent of people”, but “according to the blessed will and law of God”, and closed with the challenge: “As GOD has given us LIBERTY let us take it”. This sermon was foundational to the drafting of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the preamble of which states:
“Forasmuch as it hath pleased the Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the inhabitants and residents of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield are now cohabitating and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our Successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our Civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders, and Decrees as shall be made, ordered and decreed as followeth: – ” (the eleven specific Orders follow in the document, but noticeably absent was any mention of a sovereign authority other then God).
The clergy leading the early Puritan settlers to New England had been educated in Bible based thought at the finest colleges in England, with Hooker receiving his M.A. at Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1611. Literacy in England had increased because of the availability of the King James Bible and resulted in a generation of children able to read and write and receptive to the Puritan ideal of a primitive and apostolic church described in the New Testament. Puritan attempts to continue the Reformation and purify the Church of England, however, were halted by King Charles I and his Archbishop William Laud, using the power of Star Chamber and the Court of High Commission, issuing a Declaration in 1628 that the King was the supreme Governor of the church; imposing severe restrictions on preaching and publication. These restrictions became intolerable because the success of English nonconformity in the Puritan movement depended on the liberty to preach the gospel message in sermon form. Archbishop Laud became sarcastically known as the Father of New England by forcing the Puritan leadership and twenty thousand followers to leave for New England and transplant the Church in the wilderness. The Puritan migration to found a Christian Commonwealth, chartered as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and having adopted the order of worship of the Pilgrim Separatist Church at Plymouth Colony, settled around Boston in 1630. Thomas Hooker arrived in 1633 and gathered by covenant, the First Church at Newtowne where he served as Minister 1633-36. The Puritan concept of true LIBERTY is evident in the Covenant drawn up at the Newtowne Meeting House in 1636: “Considering the instability and inconstancy of our hearts in cleaving to the Lord in that which is good, we do bind ourselves one with another this day before the Lord, that we will endeavor, by the grace of God assisting us, henceforth to walk as become the people ofGod, according to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and more particularly we do covenant before the Lord, that we will, according to our places and callings, stand for the maintenance of the liberty of his ordinances, and not to return to any human ordinances from which we escaped. And we further covenant to subject ourselves to every ordinance of Christ, which he shall please to make known to us to be his will. Also we do take him to be our only Priest to instruct us, our only High Priest to make peace with the Father for us; so we will set him up as our King and Sovereign to command us, to rule in us and reign over us by the help of his word and spirit. ” The covenants of the gathered churches, as well as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were expressions of true liberty which John Milton called “the Liberty which I love”.
The Bible is not silent on the concept of true LIBERTY as can be read in Lv 25: 10 (Liberty Bell inscription); Ps 119:45; Is 6 1: 1; Jn 8:32; Ro 8:2 1 II Co 3:17; Gal 2:4, Gal 5:1, Gal 5:13; Jas 1:25; Jas 2:12; II P 2:19. The Puritans knew that WITHOUT VIRTUE THERE WAS NO LIBERTY, ONLY LICENTIOUSNESS. In England, their view of the licentiousness of King Charles I led to the rebellion of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell in 1640. The English Civil War brought about the beheading of King Charles I and a temporary end to the divine right of kings to rule and regulate religious doctrine and practice. In Cromwell’s Parliamentary Army, the Roundheads were great psalm singers and every man carried a Bible in his knapsack, with a good deal of the preaching delivered by the soldiers themselves. Under the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, the freedom to preach “faith in God by Jesus Christ” continued in his New Model Army, creating many factions within the Puritan movement and seriously diffusing its message. After Cromwell’s death, the inability to maintain a unified Puritan perspective, accompanied by a disaffection in the general population for the rigors of imposed virtue, led to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II.
Those having signed the death warrant of King Charles I were pursued and executed as regicides. Three of the Puritan Regicides escaped to New England and were protected from the King’s agents by the colonial clergy in such places as Boston, New Haven (Judges Cave), Hartford, and Hadley (Angel of Hadley). The uniform issue of red coats to Cromwell’s New Model Army was retained at the Restoration in the new Royal Army and became the national color. Both the Puritan “Committees of Safety” and the Royal “Redcoats” would become familiar terms in New England. It is interesting to note that the blue coats, later adopted by the American Army, tie to the English Covenanters, having adopted that color from the ancient Israelites who were enjoined to put upon their garments a ribbon of blue (Nu 15:3741). The ready application to “the New Israel” as the colonials commonly called themselves is apparent. Within this English Puritan context, the extensive and thought provoking Prose and Poetry of John Milton, the poet of the Puritan epic, and Latin Secretary to Oliver Cromwell, profoundly offers an overview of true LIBERTY. A man’s liberty depends not on his circumstances; it depends on himself. Real and substantial liberty is rather to be sought from within than from without; its existence depends on sobriety of conduct and integrity of life. “Love Virtue, she alone is free”. “Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell”. The rebel angels have renounced their First Estate and complain that it is unjust to bind with laws the free. The loyal angels reply that Satan, who boasts himself “patron of Liberty” is himself “not free, but to thyself enthralled” and continue “Shalt thou dispute with him the points of Liberty, who made thee what thou art”. “Freely we serve, because we freely love”. ” Liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men”. Paradise is lost by man’s effort to obtain a false liberty. “License they mean when they cry Liberty”. He learns the divine lesson that to obey is best, and by one man’s firm obedience, fully tried, Paradise is regained.
With the Puritan Congregational Ecclesiastical Establishment known as the “Standing Order” secured in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Thomas Hooker leaves Newtowne with many members of the church in 1636 to set the foundation for the “Constitution State” on the Connecticut River at Hartford (QUI TRANSTULIT SUSTINET). In 1638, Harvard College is founded on the Truth of Christ and his Church at Newtowne, to train ministers of the gospel, as explained in “New England’s First Fruits” of the transplanting: “After God had carried us safe to New England and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for Gods Worship and settled the Civil Government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust”. Newtowne is renamed Cambridge to identify it with Cambridge, England, where many of the Puritan Ministers had graduated.
The Congregational clergy remained as the “Standing Order” throughout the settlement of the New England towns and they were the most significant factor in the civil, religious and cultural affairs of most communities before and after their legal civil disestablishment in Massachusetts in 1833 (150 years in colonial Massachusetts and 50 years after the close of the Revolutionary War); in Connecticut in 1818; and in New Hampshire in 1817.
At the time of the American Revolution, the Congregational clergy of New England were the prominent voice for Civil and religious liberty in the colonies, as their forefathers had been in the previous century, here and in England. First of the Revolutionary Preacher Patriots was Jonathan Mayhew of Boston, having graduated from Harvard College in 1744, he was regarded as the best preacher in the New England of his day. His most famous sermon preached at Boston January 30, 1750, the 101st anniversary of the execution of King Charles 1, declared the people’s right to resist tyrants. His sermon was widely read in the Colonies and Great Britain and has long and appropriately been called: “THE MORNING GUN OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION”.
In another sermon titled “Th Snare Broken”, preached as a Thanksgiving Discourse on May 23,1766, occasioned by the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jonathan Mayhew, D.D. talked about his view of Liberty: “Having been initiated, in youth, in the doctrines of civil liberty, as they were taught by such men as Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero, and other renowned persons among the ancients; and such as Sidney and Milton, Locke and Hoadley, among the moderns; I liked them; they seemed rational. Having, earlier still learnt from the Holy Scriptures, that wise, brave and virtuous men were always friends to liberty; that God gave the Israelites a King in his anger, because they had not sense and virtue enough to like a free commonwealth, and to have himself for their King; that the Son of God came down from heaven. to make us ‘free indeed”; and that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty “; this made me conclude, that freedom was a great blessing. Having, also, from my childhood up, by the kind providence of my God, and the tender care of a good parent now at rest with him, been educated to the love of liberty, tho’ not of licentiousness; which chaste and virtuous passion was still increased in me, as I advanced towards, and into manhood; I would not, I cannot now, tho’ past middle age, relinquish the fair object of my youthful affections, liberty; whose charms, instead of decaying with time in my eyes, have daily captivated me more and more”. An intimate of James Otis, John Adams and Samuel Adams, he suggested to Otis in a letter dated June 8, 1766, the idea of “Committees of Correspondence”, which later rendered invaluable service to the Patriot Cause by uniting the Colonies. Jonas Clarke was Pastor to the Lexington Congregation for fifty years and he was the most influential politician in the Lexington-Concord area. Mr. Clarke’s home was the rendezvous for many of the patriot leaders and his wife was a cousin of John Hancock. On the very night of April 18, 1775, John Hancock and Samuel Adams were being entertained by Jonas Clarke. When asked by his guests that night if the Lexington people would fight, Clarke replied: “I have trained them for this very hour.” When the first blood of the Revolution was shed on the following day, April 19th, the men who fell were his parishioners. Upon seeing the slain, Clarke observed “From this day will be dated the Liberty of the World.” The patriotic preaching of the Reverend Jonas Clarke had primed their guns. As most of the militiamen were members of his own church, Clarke had seen to it that Sunday after Sunday they were exposed to the kind of patriotic preaching guaranteed to produce “Christian Soldiers.” When the militia assembled at 2:00 A.M. that morning, the Reverend Clarke was the first man to greet them. In Concord, that fateful day, the first person to arrive in response to the call of impending battle was the pastor of Concord, the Reverend William Emerson. Having graduated from Harvard in 176 1, he was a patriot long before April 19, having served as Chaplain to the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774, and was heavily involved in the activities of a Committee of Safety. He had previously preached at Concord “Arise! my injured countrymen! and plead even with the sword, the firelock and the bayonet, plead with your arms the birthright of Englishmen, the dearly purchased legacy left you by your never-to-be-forgotten ancestors.”
In Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull, Governor and Commander in chief of the English Colony of Connecticut in New England, issues a Proclamation on June 18, 1776 which has become known as Connecticut’s Declaration of Independence. As a graduate of Harvard College in 1727 and being a licensed Congregationalist Minister, “Brother Jonathan”, as he was referred to by Gen. George Washington, offers the Puritan perspective on our condition and “the repeated and powerful efforts, by many of (Britain’s) haughty Kings, to destroy the constitutional Rights of the People, and establish arbitrary Power and Dominion.”
Timothy Dwight, a graduate of Yale 1772, Chaplain to Parson’s Brigade, and President of Yale (1795-1817) will forward the truth of a Sovereign God and Liberty in Jesus Christ, into the Age of Reason, against the base and arbitrary idea of Power and Dominion in a sovereign people, as expressed in the French Revolution and Reign of Terror.