Showing posts with label Puritans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puritans. Show all posts

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rhode Island: First to Rebel, Last to Sign

Another Great Share from Jo Ann Butler 
Check out her book The Reputed Wife has been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion 
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Declaration of Independence signing
Did you know that Rhode Island was the first North American colony to sever ties with Great Britain – two months before the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th, 1776?  However, Rhode Island was the last state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.  What’s up with that?
Roger Williams and Narragansetts
My immediate conclusion stemmed from the independent nature of Rhode Islanders.  The colony was settled by people who were either ejected from, or voluntarily abandoned Puritan Massachusetts after heated contention over – what else? – politics and religion.  Banished from Boston, Roger Williams beat it out of Salem ahead of the sheriff in 1636.  Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke and their compatriots comprised a mass exodus in 1638-39.  Religious and political tolerance were vital to these people.

Some of them had their idiosyncrasies.  Early Rhode Island was comprised of several towns circling Narragansett Bay, each led by charismatic leaders.  There were quarrels and dissension, but despite their ferocious independence, the various towns of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations united under a single government in 1647.

1663 Royal Charter
In 1663 King Charles II issued a new charter to Rhode Island.  The document reinforced Rhode Island’s freedom of religion, and granted them the ability to elect officers and enact laws – greater powers of self-rule than any other colony.

Gaspee burning
18thcentury Newport and Providence prospered as seaports, and Rhode Island became the northwestern linchpin of the Triangle Trade.  The colony had a reputation for shady shipping practices, smuggling, and harboring pirates.  In 1764 Great Britain’s Sugar Act strengthened trade regulations and raised the duty that Rhode Islanders paid for their molasses.  Resentment grew, and in July 1769 the sloop Libertywas sunk and burned in Newport harbor.  The ship had once belonged to John Hancock, but was seized by British customs a year earlier because it was once used to smuggle wine (though apparently not by Hancock).  In 1772 the Gaspee, a British customs boat, went aground and was burned near Providence.

Boston Tea Party
Boston’s Tea Party was on December 16th 1773.  In response, Great Britain’s Coercive Acts, known in America as the Intolerable Acts, soured relations further by closing Boston harbor until the tea was paid for, placing Massachusetts under direct royal governance, and quartering British troops in Boston homes.

The Intolerable Acts
On May 17th 1774 Providence’s leaders called for a general congress to resist Great Britain’s punitive policies.  Rhode Island’s General Assembly responded by electing Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward as delegates to an anticipated Continental Congress.  Providence held its own Tea Party on March 2nd 1775, and burned 300 pounds of India tea by “bringing in and casting into the fire, a needless herb, which for a long time has been detrimental to our liberty, interest, and health.”

A month later, after the battles at Concord and Lexington, Rhode Island’s government raised a navy of two ships, 24 cannons and swivel guns, crewed by 200 men.  At the same time, a 1500-man “army of observation” was also created, commanded by Nathaniel Greene.

Rhode Island state house
On May 4th in 1776, Rhode Island’s General Assembly met in the State House at Providence, and became the first American colony to renounce their allegiance to both Great Britain and King George III. Ten weeks later, on July 18, the Assembly ratified the Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps in an act of belated revenge, British forces invaded Newport in 1781, and seized the town’s land deeds, wills, and records.  The records were sunk in New York City harbor, creating endless frustration for historians and genealogists.

The British surrendered in 1781, and the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1787.  Delaware was the first state to ratify the document in that year.  However, Rhode Island was slow to accept the Constitution, and did not sign until May 1790.  Why so slow?  I’ll get that post up soon!
Helpful links:
Rhode Island’s 1663 charter: USA State GEN
John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence:
Roger Williams and the Narragansetts: 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

At Odds: My Puritan and Quaker Heritage

A submission by Laura George from her blog, The Great Ancestral Hunt, about the Southwick Family of Salem, Mass. The Southwick family had close relations with the Phelps family in Salem.

I've been moved my many stories of my ancestors but none more so than that of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick and two of their children, son Daniel and daughter Provided who lived in Salem, Massachusetts.

Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick of  England were members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in a very puritanical Salem. They were persecuted, fined, whipped, thrown in prison and eventually banished for not following the Puritan ways. They were my 9th Great Grandparents (and 8th great grandparents of Winston Churchill and Richard Nixon, my second cousins, 8 generations removed) and their daughter, Provided, my 8th Great Grandmother. To find out the horrors your family members went through is gut-wrenching. What I find utterly unbelievable is that the Puritans, who left England because of religious persecution became persecutors themselves and many Quakers suffered terribly as a result. Even more shocking to me was to find out that the person who passed judgement on them was my own 9th Great Grandfather, Puritan and first Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Endicott:

"According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Under his authority the colony of Massachusetts Bay made rapid progress, and except in the matter of religious intolerance in which he showed great bigotry and harshness, particularly towards the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)" (including religious executions), "his rule was just and praiseworthy. Of him Edward Eggleston says: A strange mixture of rashness, pious zeal, genial manners, hot temper, and harsh bigotry, his extravagances supply the condiment of humour to a very serious history; it is perhaps the principal debt posterity owes him."
Quaker Trial, 17th Century

Because of the unfair treatment of their parents, having bear witness to the repeated lashings and imprisonments, Daniel and Provided decided not to participate in a church that was so persecuting and for this they were fined ten pounds each even though it was known they would not be able to pay. The Governor then issued an order in the General Court of Boston that Daniel and Provided would be sold as slaves to any English nation at Virgina or Barbados.  

This image shows my 9th great grandfather, Governor John Endicott attempting to sell my 8th great grandmother, Provided Southwick into slavery. The writing below the image reads:
"The attempted sale into slavery of Daniel and Provided Southwick, son of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick by Gov. Endicott and his minions, for being Quakers." I wanted to know more and after several days of research I came upon the book:
"Genealogy of the Descendants of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick of Salem Mass. The Original Emigrants, and the Ancestors of the Families Who Have Since Borne His Name (1881)

I've discovered that books on family Genealogy such as this one don't come cheap! In fact, some can be selling for hundreds of dollars! But, this book was totally worth the purchase as I uncovered so much more than what I had found previously. It included Historical Extracts such as this one: "Lawrence, Cassandra and their son Josiah were imprisoned at Boston for being Quakers and were kept there twenty weeks on a charge of violating a law enacted while they were in prison."

Quaker Meeting House, 17th Century

Eventually all Quakers were banned from setting foot in Massachusetts under "pain of death" although several risked imprisonment and even death by hanging in order to continue their ministry. Lawrence and Cassandra were banished and fled to Shelter Island, Long Island Sound, New York where Nathaniel Sylvester, the island's first white settler gave shelter to them and many other Quakers. Another except from the Southwick Genealogy book reads: "Lawrence and wife Cassandra went to Shelter Island, Long Island Sound, being banished under pain of death in 1659, and died there in the spring of 1660 from privation and exposure; his wife died three days after him."
It was really sad to discover that they died of starvation and exposure. Even though they weren't family members that I knew in the physical sense, they were still my grandparents, whose blood flows through my veins. I still had an ache in my heart for the way they died which seems completely unfair and unnecessary.
Yesterday, as I was sitting on my patio in the morning sun, sipping my favorite brand of coffee and enjoying the views over the lake, I thought about Lawrence, Cassandra and Provided and how this day, this moment of enjoyment is a result of all my ancestors, on both sides of my tree. Those who suffered humiliation and persecution, those that fought and died in war, those who endured hardships in the new lands and on the open prairies. Those that gave me life, protected me and loved me. I honor all of them by continuing my research, telling their stories and keeping memories alive.