As round and round it takes its flight,
That lofty dweller of the skies,
And never on the earth doth light,
The fabled bird of Paradise;
So would we soar on pinions bright,
And ever keep the sun in sight,
That sun of truth, whose golden rays
Are as the “light of seven days.”
Falsehood is the bane of the world. It links men with him who was a liar
from the beginning. We would bruise a lie as we would a serpent under
our feet. Not so much to defend persons as to vindicate justice do we
It has been said that toleration is the only real test of civilization.
But toleration is not the word; all men are entitled to equal religious
freedom, and any infringement thereof is an infringement of a God-given
Who was the most calumniated person the world has ever seen,—stigmatized
as a blasphemer, as a gluttonous man, as beside himself, as one that
hath a devil? From his mouth we hear the words: “Blessed are ye when men
shall persecute and revile you, and say all manner of evil against you
John Rogers and his disciples, who, in the face of so much obloquy,
nurtured the tree of liberty with tears, with sacrifices and with blood,
would seem to be entitled to this blessing.
Is it not strange, as we have before said, that Mr. McEwen should say,
“To pay taxes of any kind grieved their souls”?
Ought a public teacher to state that which a little research on his part
would have shown him to be false?
Miss Caulkins sets this matter in its true light, as already shown, and
it will be further elucidated by the words of John Rogers, 2d, here
Forasmuch as we acknowledge the worldly government to be set up of
God, we have always paid all public demands for the upholding of the
same, as Town Rates and County Rates and all other demands, excepting
such as are for the upholding of hireling ministers and false
teachers, which God called us to testify against.
Now when the worldly rulers take upon themselves to make laws relating
to God’s worship, and thereby do force and command men’s consciences,
and so turn their swords against God’s children, they then act beyond
their commission and jurisdiction.
Thus it is by misrepresentations without number that the name and fame
of these moral heroes have been tarnished.
We will again refer to the false statements in Dr. Trumbull’s History,
nearly all of which aspersions are taken from that volume of falsehoods
written by Peter Pratt after Roger’s death, from which we shall
presently make quotations that, we doubt not, will convince the
intelligent reader that this author was unscrupulous to a degree utterly
incomprehensible, unless by supposition of a natural tendency to
Yet it is from this book of Pratt’s that historians have drawn nearly
all their statements regarding the Rogerenes.
Trumbull (quoting from Pratt) says: “John Rogers was divorced from his
wife for certain immoralities.”
The General Court divorced him from his wife without assigning any cause
whatever, of which act Rogers always greatly complained. It was left for
his enemies to circulate the above scandal, with the intent to blacken
his character and thus weaken Rogerene influence. John Rogers, 2d,
testifies that his mother left her husband solely on account of his
religion. He says (“Ans. to Peter Pratt”):—
I shall give the reader a true account concerning the matter of the
first difference between John Rogers and his wife, as I received it
from their own mouths, they never differing in any material point as
to the account they gave about it.
Although I did faithfully, and in the fear of God, labor with her in
her lifetime, by persuading her to forsake her adulterous life and
unlawful companions; yet, since her death, should have been glad to
have heard no more about it, had not Peter Pratt, like a bad bird,
befouled his own nest by raking in the graves of the dead and by
publishing such notorious lies against them “whom the clods of the
valley forbid to answer for themselves;” for which cause I am
compelled to give a true account concerning those things, which is as
Here John Rogers quotes from Peter Pratt.
John Rogers and his wife were both brought up in the New England way
of worship, never being acquainted with any other sect; and although
they were zealous of the form which they had been brought up in, yet
were wholly ignorant as to the work of regeneration, until, by a sore
affliction which John Rogers met with, it pleased God to lay before
his consideration the vanity of all earthly things and the necessity
of making his peace with God and getting an interest in Jesus Christ,
which he now applies himself to seek for, by earnest prayer to God in
secret and according to Christ’s words, Matt. vii, 7, 8, “Ask and it
shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be
opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that
seeketh findeth,” etc.
And he coming to witness the truth of these scriptures, by God’s
giving him a new heart and another spirit, and by remitting the guilt
of his sins, did greatly engage him to love God with all his heart,
and his neighbor as himself, as did appear by his warning all people
he met with to make their peace with God, declaring what God had done
for his soul.
Now his wife, observing the great change which was wrought in her
husband, as appeared by his fervent prayers, continually searching the
scriptures, and daily discoursing about the things of God to all
persons he met with, and particularly to her, persuading her to
forsake her vain conversation and make her peace with God, did greatly
stir her up to seek to God by earnest prayer, that he would work the
same work of grace in her soul, as she saw and believed to be wrought
in her husband.
After some time, upon their diligent searching the holy scriptures,
they began to doubt of some of the principles which they had
traditionally been brought up in; and particularly that of sprinkling
infants which they had been taught to call Baptism; but now they find
it to be only an invention of men; and neither command nor example in
Scripture for it. Upon which, they bore a public testimony against it,
which soon caused a great uproar in the country.
And their relations, together with their neighbors, and indeed the
world in general who had any opportunity, were all united in
persuading them that it was a spirit of error by which they were
But the main instrument which Satan at length made use of to deceive
John Roger’s wife, was her own natural mother, who, by giving her
daughter an account of her own conversion, as she called it, and
telling her daughter there was no such great change in the work of
conversion as they had met with; but that it was the Devil had
transformed himself into an angel of light, at length fully persuaded
her daughter to believe that it was even so.
Whereupon, she soon publicly recanted and renounced that Spirit which
she had been led by, and declared it to be the spirit of the Devil,
and then vehemently persuaded her husband to do the like, telling him,
with bitter tears, that unless he would renounce that spirit she dare
not live with him. But he constantly telling her that he knew it to be
the Spirit of God and that to deny it would be to deny God; which he
dare not do.
Whereupon she left her husband, taking her two children with her, and
with the help of her relations went to her father’s house, about
eighteen miles from her husband’s habitation.
And I do solemnly declare, in the presence of God, that this is a true
relation of their first separation, as I received it from their own
mouths, as also by the testimony of two of their next neighbors is
fully proved. (See Chapter IV, 1st Part.)
So doubtful was she herself of the lawfulness of her subsequent
marriage with the father of Peter Pratt, that she never signed her
name Elizabeth Pratt to any legal document; but “Elizabeth, daughter
of Matthew Griswold,” many instances of which are on record.
This charge made against John Rogers, in Dr. Trumbull’s History, is
further shown to be false by the record of the Court at Hartford, May
25, 1675; the grand jury returning that they “find not the bill.” Yet,
in the face of this patent fact, has this false charge been perpetuated
by ecclesiastical historians and their followers. We note, however, one
shining exception, contained in the Saulisbury “Family Histories,” under
the Matthew Griswold line, treating of the divorce of his daughter
Elizabeth, which is here given:—
In 1674, her first husband departed from the established orthodoxy of
the New England churches, by embracing the doctrines of the Seventh
Day Baptists; and, having adopted later “certain peculiar notions of
his own,” though still essentially orthodox as respects the
fundamental faith of his time, became the founder of a new sect, named
after him Rogerenes, Rogerene Quakers, or Rogerene Baptists.
Maintaining “obedience to the civil government,” he denounced as
unscriptural all interference of the civil power in the worship of
It seemed proper to give these particulars with regard to Rogers,
because they were made the ground of a petition by his wife for
divorce, in May, 1675, which was granted by the “General Court,” in
October of the next year, and was followed in 1677 by another, also
granted, for the custody of her children, her late husband being so
“hettridox in his opinions and practice.”
The whole reminds us of other instances, more conspicuous in history,
of the narrowness manifested by fathers of New England towards any
deviations from the established belief, and of their distrust of
individual conscience as a sufficient rule of religious life, without
the interference of civil authority. There is no reason to believe
that the heterodoxy “in practice” referred to in the wife’s last
petition to the Court, was anything else than a nonconformity akin to
that for the sake of which the shores of their “dear old England” had
been left behind forever by the very men who forgot to tolerate it
themselves, in their new Western homes. Of course, like all
persecuted, especially religious, parties, the Rogerenes courted,
gloried in, and profited by, distresses.
That this was the true ground, both on the part of the Griswolds and
the General Court, is patent in the light of the many evidences, but
this being untenable ground for a divorce, an ostensible cause was
presented by the Griswolds, which, upon investigation by the grand
jury, brought forth “we find not the bill.” The divorce was,
therefore, granted upon no legal grounds and with no stated cause. For
the authenticated facts, see Part II, Chapter XI.
In Trumbull’s History, we also find the scandalous statement, to which
we have previously referred: “They would come on the Lord’s day into the
most public assemblies nearly or quite naked.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no evidence on record,
or tradition, concerning any such act. Among the hundreds of
prosecutions against the Rogerenes, no such thing is alluded to on the
records, etc. Miss Caulkins in her History makes no reference to this
stigma. Yet Mr. McEwen, in his Half-Century Sermon, says: “Dr. Trumbull
and perhaps some others give us some historical items of the Rogerenes.”
By thus referring to Dr. Trumbull’s History, he virtually, we would hope
not intentionally, indorses all the errors concerning this sect, which
are contained in that work.
But, like the entablature of a column, crowning all the rest, are the
words of Rev. Mr. Saltonstall, credited to same ‘History,’ and which we
have before quoted:—
There never was, for this twenty years that I have resided in this
government, any one, Quaker or other person, that suffered on account
of his different persuasion in religious matters from the body of this
Why were the Rogerenes fined for observing the seventh day instead of
the first day of the week, consistently with their profession? Why fined
for absenting themselves from the meetings of the Congregational church?
Why forbidden to hold meetings of their own? Why was John Rogers fined
for every one he baptized by immersion, and for entertaining Quakers, as
we have seen? And why did the Hartford jailer say to him: “I will make
you comply with their worship if the Authority cannot”?
Miss Caulkins, though writing in partial defence of the Church, speaks
truthfully on this subject when she says:—
It was certainly a great error in the early planters of New England to
endeavor to produce uniformity in doctrine by the strong arm of
physical force. Was ever religious dissent subdued either by petty
annoyance or actual cruelty? Is it possible to make a true convert by
persecution? The principle of toleration was, however, then less
This self-justification of Mr. Saltonstall would seem to vie for
insincerity with the language used by papists, as they handed over
heretics to the civil power, asking that they be treated with mercy and
that not a drop of blood be shed, meaning that they be burned.
It is not unlike what that most cruel persecutor, Philip II of Spain,
husband of Bloody Mary, said of himself: “that he had always from the
beginning of his government followed the path of clemency, according to
his natural disposition, so well known to the world;” or what Virgilius
wrote of the merciless Duke of Alva, while the latter was carrying out
some of the most diabolical devices of the Inquisition, under the orders
of this same king Philip: “All,” said Virgilius, “venerate the prudence
and gentleness of the Duke of Alva.”
Mr. Saltonstall’s words also run in a groove with those of Peter Pratt,
the great traducer. “In short,” says Pratt, “he never suffered the loss
of one hair of his head by the Authority for any article of his
religion, nor for the exercise of it.”
To which John Rogers, 2d, replies:—
In answer to this last extravagant assertion, which the whole
neighborhood knows to be false, I shall only mention the causes of
some few of his sufferings, which I am sure that both the records and
neighborhood will witness the truth of.
In the first place, he lost his wife and children on the account of
his religion, as has been fully proved.
The next long persecution, which both himself and all his Society
suffered for many years, was for refusing to come to Presbyterian
meetings; upon which account, their estates were extremely destroyed
and their bodies often imprisoned.
Also the multitude of fines and imprisonments which he suffered on the
account of baptizing such as desired to be baptized after the example
of Christ, by burying in the water. All which fines and imprisonments
were executed in the most rigorous manner. Sometimes the officers,
taking him in the dead of winter, as he came wet out of the water,
committed him to prison without a spark of fire, with many other cruel
acts, which for brevity I must omit.
Moreover, the many hundreds of pounds which the collectors have taken
from him for the maintainance of the Presbyterian ministers, which
suffering he endured to the day of his death and which his Society
But, forasmuch as his sufferings continued more than forty years, and
were so numerous that I doubt not but to give a particular account of
them would fill a larger volume than was ever printed in New England,
I must desist.
But the same spirit of persecution under which he suffered, is yet
living among us; as is evidenced by what here follows:—
The last fifth month called July, in the year 1725, we were going to
our meeting, being eight of us in number, it being the first day of
the week, the day which we usually meet on as well as the rest of our
neighbors; and as we were in our way, we were taken upon the king’s
highway, by order of Joseph Backus, called a justice of the peace, and
the next day by his order cruelly whipped, with an unmerciful
instrument, by which our bodies were exceedingly wounded and maimed;
and the next first day following, as we were returning home from our
meeting, we were again, three of us, taken upon the king’s highway, by
order of John Woodward and Ebenezer West of Lebanon, called justices
of the peace, and the next day by them sentenced to be whipped, and
were accordingly carried to the place of execution and stripped in
order to receive the sentence; but there happened to be present some
tender-spirited people, who, seeing the wounds in our bodies we had
received the week before, paid the fines and so prevented the
And also the same John Woodward, soon after this, committed two of our
brethren to prison, viz., Richard Man and Elisha Man, for not
attending the Presbyterian meeting, although they declared it to be
contrary to their consciences to do so. Neither have their persecutors
allowed them one meal of victuals, nor so much as straw to lie on, all
the time of their imprisonment; although they are well known to be
very poor men.
But, to return to the matter I was upon, which was to prove Peter
Pratt’s assertion false, in saying John Rogers never suffered the loss
of one hair of his head by the Authority for any article of his
religion, nor for the exercise of it. And had not Peter Pratt been
bereft as well of reason as conscience, he would not have presumed to
have asserted such a thing, which the generality of the neighborhood
knows to be false.
In further proof of the falsity of Mr. Saltonstall’s assertions, and as
showing also the spirit of those times, we quote the following from Dr.
But though the churches were multiplying and generally enjoying peace,
yet sectaries were creeping in and began to make their appearance in
the Colony. Episcopacy made some advances, and in several instances
there was a separation from the Standing Churches. The Rogerenes and a
few Baptists made their appearance among the inhabitants; meetings
were held in private houses, and laymen undertook to administer the
sacraments. This occasioned the following act of the General Assembly,
at their sessions in May, 1723.
“Be it enacted, &c., That whatsoever persons shall presume on the
Lord’s Day to neglect the public worship of God in some lawful
congregation, and form themselves into separate companies in private
houses, being convicted thereof before any assistant or Justice of the
Peace, shall each of them on every such offense, forfeit the sum of
twenty shillings, and that whatsoever person (not being lawfully
allowed minister of the Standing Order) shall presume to profane the
holy sacraments by administering them to any person or persons
whatsoever, and being thereof convicted before the County Court, in
such County where such offense shall be committed, shall incur the
penalty of £10 for every such offense and suffer corporal punishment,
by whipping not exceeding thirty stripes for each offense.”
This act was not materially different from the former laws of this
Previous to this act, the penalty for baptizing by immersion was £5,
which penalty was often inflicted upon John Rogers, as we have seen.
In the Boston plantation, for merely speaking against sprinkling of
infants the like penalty was incurred. Thus thick was the cloud of
bigotry and ignorance which had settled down on the people at that day
and which John Rogers, and his followers by the light of truth labored
to disperse, deserving honor instead of the reproaches which they have
suffered from prejudiced and careless historians and narrow-minded
Still, in the face of facts like these, “all of which he saw and a large
part of which he was,” the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall asserts “that no man
hath suffered on account of his religious opinions,” etc.
Dr. Trumbull says, “Mr. Saltonstall was a great man.”
“They helped every one his neighbor; so the carpenter encouraged the
goldsmith.”—_Isaiah._ “And the great man he uttereth his mischievous
desire: so they wrap it up.”—_Micah._
One has said that an angel would feel as much honored in receiving a
commission to sweep the streets as though called to a service higher in
the world’s estimation. We confess to something like a street-cleaning
duty in removing the scandals which have settled about the name of John
Since the enemies of Rogers have mainly taken their artillery from
Pratt’s work, the falsity of which has in part been shown, we now
proceed to give it further notice and refutation. Base coin is sometimes
passed around and received as genuine; put to the test, its worth
vanishes. Written in a malignant spirit, with no regard to truth
whatever, the untrustworthiness of Pratt’s book can scarcely be
We will continue to quote from this book, and John Rogers, 2d’s “Reply”
to the same.
It remains (says Pratt) that I speak of the third step in Quakerism
taken by John Rogers, who received his first notions of spirituality
from Banks and Case, a couple of lewd men of that sort called
Singing Quakers. These men, as they danced through this Colony, lit on
John Rogers and made a Quaker of him; but neither they nor the Spirit
could teach him to sing. However, he remained their disciple for a
while, and then, being wiser than his teachers, made a transition to
the church of the Seventh Day Baptists. But, the same spirit not
deserting him, but setting in with the disposition of his own spirit
to a vehement affectation of precedency, he resolved to reach it,
though it should happen to lead to singularity; whereupon, after a few
revelations, he resolved upon Quakerism again, though under a
modification somewhat new. I call it Quakerism, not but that he
differed from them in many things, yet holding with them in the main,
being guided by the same spirit, acknowledging their spirit and they
his, he must needs be called a Quaker.
We have been unable to find any historical account of Banks and Case;
but that any of the Quakers were “lewd men,” is so incredible as to
need more proof than the mere assertion of Peter Pratt.
Reply of John Rogers, Jr.:—
Every article of this whole paragraph (so far as it relates to John
Rogers) is notoriously false; for the proof of which I have taken
these following testimonies from two of his ancient neighbors, which
though they have always been enemies to his principles, yet have been
very free in giving their testimonies to the truth, signifying their
abhorrence of such an abuse done to a dead man.
“The testimony of Daniel Stubbins, aged about eighty years,
testifieth, that from a lad I have been near neighbor and well
acquainted with John Rogers, late of New London, deceased, to his
dying day, and do testify that the time he first pretended to
spiritual conversation and declared himself to be a converted man,
upon which he broke off from the Presbyterian church in New London and
joined with the Seventh Day Baptists, and his wife therefore left him
and went to her father, Matthew Griswold of Lyme, was about the year
1674, and the time that Case and Banks, with a great company of other
ranters, first came into this Colony was about twelve years after; and
I never heard or understood that J. Rogers ever inclined to their way,
or left any of his former principles on their account.
_Dated in New London, June 27, 1725._
“The testimony of Mary Tubbs, aged about seventy-seven years,
testifieth, that I was a near neighbor to John Rogers, late of New
London, deceased, at the time when his wife left him and went to her
father, Matthew Griswold of Lyme, and I had discourse with her the
same day she went, and she informed me that it was because her husband
had renounced his religion and was joined with the Seventh Day
Baptists, and this was about the year 1674, and it was many years
after that one Case and Banks, with a great company of ranters, first
came into this Colony and came to New London and were some days at the
house of James Rogers, where John Rogers then dwelt; but I never
understood that John Rogers inclined to their way or principles, or
countenanced their practices, but continued in the religion which he
was in before.
_Dated in New London, June 29, 1725._
Now the first falsehood which I shall observe in this place is his
asserting that “the first notions of spirituality taken by John Rogers
were from Case and Banks,” etc. Whereas the above witnesses testify
that he had broke off from the church of New London and joined with
the Seventh Day Baptists; upon which his wife had left him, and that
all this was many years before Case and Banks came into this Colony.
The second falsehood is his saying, “These men lit on John Rogers and
made a Quaker of him.” Whereas these witnesses testify that he never
inclined to their way, nor countenanced their practices, but continued
in the religion which he was in before.
The third falsehood is his saying, “He remained their disciple for
awhile;” since it is fully proved that he never was their disciple at
The fourth falsehood is his saying that “after he had remained their
disciple awhile he made a transition to the church of the Seventh Day
Baptists.” Whereas it is fully proved that his joining with the
Seventh Day Baptists was many years before those people first came
into this Colony.
And among his other scoffs and falsehoods, he asserts that John Rogers
“often changed his principles.” To which I answer that upon condition
that Peter Pratt will make it appear that John Rogers ever altered or
varied in any one article of his religion, since his separating from
the Presbyterian church and joining with the Seventh Day Baptists,
which is more than fifty years past (excepting only as to the
observation of the seventh day), I will reward him with the sum of £20
for his labor. No, verily, he mistakes the man; it was not John Rogers
that used to change his religion, but it was Peter Pratt himself.
Here follow more of the false statements made by Peter Pratt, which have
been repeated by Trumbull, Barber, and others:—
Great part of his imprisonment at Hartford was upon strong suspicion
of his being accessory to the burning of New London meeting-house.
To which John Rogers, 2d, replies:—
As to this charge against John Rogers concerning New London
meeting-house, were it not for the sake of those who live remote, I
should make no reply to it; because there are so many hundreds of
people inhabiting about New London who know it to be notoriously
false, and that John Rogers was a close prisoner at Hartford (which is
fifty miles distant from New London) several months before and three
years after said meeting-house was burnt. And that this long
imprisonment was for refusing to give a bond of £50, which he declared
he could not in conscience do, and to pay a fine of £5, which he
refused to do, for which reason he was kept a prisoner, from the time
of his first commitment, three years and eight months, and then set at
liberty by open proclamation, is so fully proved by the records of
Hartford that I presume none will dare contradict.
And now, in order to prove Peter Pratt’s affirmation to be false, in
that he affirms that “great part of his imprisonment at Hartford was
upon strong suspicion of his being accessory to the burning of New
London meeting-house,” take these following testimonies:—
“The testimony of Thomas Hancox, aged about eighty years, testifieth,
That when I was goal keeper at Hartford, John Rogers, late of New
London, deceased, was a prisoner under my charge for more than three
years; in which time of his confinement at Hartford, New London
meeting-house was burnt, and I never heard or understood that the
Authority, or any other person, had any mistrust that he was any way
concerned in that fact, nor did he ever suffer one hour’s imprisonment
on that account.
THOMAS HANCOX, Kinsington, Sept. 17, 1725.”
“Samuel Gilbert, aged sixty-two years, testifieth and saith: That at
the time when John Rogers, late of New London, deceased, was a
prisoner several years at Hartford, I did at the same time keep a
public house of entertainment near the prison, and was well knowing to
the concerns of the said Rogers all the time of his imprisonment, and
I do farther testify that New London meeting-house was burnt at the
time while he was a prisoner in said prison, but no part of his
imprisonment was upon that account.
SAMUEL GILBERT, October, 1725.”
Thus it plainly appears that this affirmation concerning New London
meeting-house is a positive falsehood.
He (Pratt) further says that “Rogers held downright that man had no
soul at all, and that though he used the term, yet intended by it
either the natural life, or else the natural faculties, which he
attributed to the body, and held that they died with it, even as it is
with a dog.”
In answer to this notorious falsehood charged upon John Rogers, I
shall boldly appeal to all mankind who had conversation with him in
his lifetime; for that they well knew it to be utterly false: and for
the satisfaction of such as had not acquaintance with him, I shall
refer them to his books, and particularly in this point to his
“Exposition on the Revelations,” beginning at page 232, where he
largely sets forth the Resurrection of the Body, both of the just and
unjust, and of the eternal judgment which God shall then pass upon
all, both small and great. All which sufficiently proves Peter Pratt
guilty of slandering and belying a dead man, a crime generally
abhorred by all sober people; and so shall pass to his 3d chapter,
judging that by these few remarks which have been taken, the reader
may plainly see that the account he pretends to give of John Roger’s
principles is so false and self-contradictory that it deserves no
answer at all, and that it was great folly in Peter Pratt so to expose
himself as to pretend to give an account of John Roger’s principles in
such a false manner; since John Rogers himself has largely published
his own principles in print, which books are plenty, and will fully
satisfy every one that desires satisfaction in that matter of what I
have here asserted.
In page 48 he (Pratt) tells the reader as follows: “But John Rogers
held three ordinances of religious use; viz., Baptism, the Lord’s
Supper, and imposition of hands.” Again, “that all worship is in the
heart only, and there are no external forms.”
Here the reader may observe that, first, he owns that Rogers held
three external ordinances, viz., Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and
imposition of hands; and in the very next words forgets himself and
tells the reader that Rogers held all worship to be in the heart only,
and that there were no external forms. See how plainly he contradicts
Here we ought to say, without soiling our pen with his obscene language,
that what Peter Pratt said and others have quoted about John Roger’s
“maid” has reference to his second wife, an account of his marriage to
whom, with other facts of the case, we now give to the reader, in the
words of John Rogers, 2d, in his “Reply” to Peter Pratt:—
After John Roger’s first wife had left him, on account of his
religion, he remained single for more than twenty-five years, in hopes
that she would come to repentance and forsake her unlawful companions.
But, seeing no change in her, he began to think of marrying another
woman, and, accordingly, did agree upon marriage with a maid belonging
to New London, whose name was Mary Ransford. They thereupon agreed to
go into the County Court and there declare their marriage; and
accordingly they did so, he leading his bride by the hand into court,
where the judges were sitting and a multitude of spectators present,
and then desired the whole assembly to take notice that he took that
woman to be his wife; his bride also assenting to what he said.
Whereupon, the judge offered to marry them in their form, which John
Rogers refused, telling him that he had once been married by their
Authority, and by their Authority they had taken away his wife again
and rendered him no reason why they did it. Upon which account, he
looked at their form of marriage to be of no value, and therefore
would be married by their form no more, etc. And from the court he
went to the Governor’s house with his bride, and declared their
marriage to the Governor, who seemed to like it well enough, and
wished them much joy, which is a usual compliment.
And thus having given a true and impartial relation of the manner of
his marriage to his second wife, which I doubt not but every
unprejudiced person will judge to be as authentic as any marriage that
was ever made in Connecticut Colony, in the next place, I shall
proceed to inform the reader in what manner he came to be deprived of
this his second wife; for, after they had lived together about three
years and had had two children, the court had up John Roger’s wife and
charged her with fornication, for having her last child, pretending no
other reason than that the marriage was not lawful; and thereupon
called her Mary Ransford, after her maiden name. And then vehemently
urged her to give her oath who was the father of her child, which they
charged to be by fornication, her husband standing by her in court,
with the child in his arms, strictly commanding her not to take the
oath, for these three following reasons:—
First, because it was contrary to Christ’s command, Matt. v, 34, “But
I say unto you, swear not at all,” etc.
A second reason was because it was a vain oath, inasmuch as they had
been married so publickly, and then lived together three years after,
and that he himself did not deny his child, nor did any person doubt
who was the father of the child, etc.
A third reason was, he told her, they laid a snare for her, and wanted
her oath to prove their charge, which was that the child was by
fornication; so that her swearing would be that he was the father of
that child by fornication, and so it would not only be a reproach to
him and the child, but also a false oath, forasmuch as the child was
not by fornication.
For these reasons, he forbid her taking the oath, but bid her tell the
court that her husband was the father of that child in his arms. He
also told her in the court that if she would be ruled by him, he would
defend her from any damage. But if she would join with the court
against him, by being a witness that the child was by fornication, he
should scruple to own her any more as a wife.
But the court continuing to urge her to take the oath, promising her
favor if she took it, and threatening her with severity if she refused
to take it, at length she declared she would not be ruled by John
Rogers, but would accept of the court’s favor, and so took the oath;
and the favor which the court granted her was to pass the following
* * * * *
_New London, at a County Court, the 15th of September, 1702._
Mary Ransford of New London, being presented by the grandjurymen to
this court, for having a child by fornication, which was born in March
last, and she being now brought before this court to answer for the
same, being examined who was the father of her child, she said John
Rogers senior of New London, to which she made oath, the said Rogers
The court having considered her offense, sentence her, for the same,
to pay unto the County Treasurer forty shillings money, or to be whipt
ten stripes on the naked body. She is allowed till the last of
November to pay the fine.
A true copy of the Record, as far as it respects the said Mary
Ransford, her examination and fine.
Test. JOHN PICKET, _Clerk_.
And now the poor woman found that by her oath she had proved her child
illegitimate, and thereby denied her marriage, and that her husband
dare not own her as a wife; for I think that no woman can be said to
be a wife (though ever so lawfully married) if she turn so much
against her husband as not only to disobey his most strict commands,
but also to prove by her oath that his children are by fornication, as
it was in this case. She was also greatly terrified on account of her
whipping, to avoid which she some time after made her escape out of
the Government, to a remote Island in Rhode Island Government, called
Block Island; and in about eight years after she had thus been driven
from her husband she was married to one Robert Jones, upon said
Island, with whom she still lives in that Government.
Whereupon, John Rogers again lived single twelve years, which was four
years after she was married to Robert Jones, and then he made suit to
one Sarah Coles of Oyster Bay, on Long Island, a widow, and by reason
of the many false reports which had spread about the Country, as if he
had turned away his second wife, etc., he offered the woman to carry
her to Block Island, where she might know the truth of the matter, by
discoursing with the woman herself, as well as the Authority and
neighbors, which accordingly he did; by which means she was so well
satisfied that she proposed to be married before they came off; and
accordingly was married, by Justice Ray.
There are other scandalous stories quoted nearly verbatim from Pratt’s
book by Trumbull, which neither space, nor the patience of the reader,
nor delicacy permits us to repeat, all of which have been completely
refuted by John Rogers, 2d, in his “Reply” to the same.
We will presently entertain the reader with Pratt’s poetical effort
deriding baptism by immersion, concerning which John Rogers, 2d,
replies. It should be remembered that Peter Pratt was the son of John
Roger’s first wife, by her second husband, and was much at the house of
John Rogers, Sr., on visits to his half brother, John, 2d. He was
baptized (viz., rebaptized by immersion) by Rogers, and even suffered
imprisonment, at one time, with other Rogerenes, but apostatized under
persecution and returned to the Congregational church, from which, after
the death of Rogers, he threw at him those poisonous shafts of which the
reader has seen some specimens.
Here follow Pratt’s verses, quoted in “Reply” of John Rogers, 2d:—
And now as to his songs and other verses, I shall be very brief, only
mentioning some of the gross blasphemies which they contain, not
doubting that all sober Christians, together with myself, will abhor
such profaneness as may be seen in page 36, and is as follows:—
That sacramental bond,
By which my soul was tied
To Christ in baptism, I cast off
And basely vilified.
I suffered to be washed
As Satan instituted,
My body, so my soul thereby,
Became the more polluted.
I suppose he intends by that sacramental bond by which he says his
soul was tied to Christ, that non-scriptural practice of sprinkling a
little water out of a basin on his face in his unregenerate state. Now
the scriptures abundantly show us that the Spirit of God is the bond
by which God’s children are sealed or united to him; as Eph. i, 13,
Eph. iv, 3 and 30, John iii, 24. Thus it plainly appears it is the
Spirit of God that is the bond by which God’s children are united to
Christ, and not by sprinkling a little elementary water on their
faces, as Peter Pratt has ignorantly and blasphemously asserted.
Whereas he says he suffered his body to be washed as Satan instituted,
I suppose he intends his being baptized according to the rule of
Scripture of which he gives us an account, page 18, how that he was
stirred up to this ordinance from those words, Acts xxii, 16, “And now
why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins,” and
that accordingly he was baptized by burying his body in the water.
As to the first institutor of this ordinance, we know that John the
Baptist was the first practiser of it, therefore let us take his
testimony as to the institutor of it, which is to be seen John i, 33,
“And I knew Him not, but He that sent me to baptize with water, the
same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit,” etc.
And here I suppose none but Peter Pratt will dare deny that it was God
Almighty that instituted this ordinance and sent John the Baptist to
Having given a specimen of Peter Pratt’s poetical effusions, we will
further entertain the reader with some verses by John Rogers, 2d, which
precede his “Reply” to Pratt’s book:—
A POETICAL INQUIRY INTO WHAT ADVANTAGE P. PRATT COULD
PROMISE HIMSELF BY HIS LATE ENGAGEMENT WITH
A DEAD MAN.
I marvel that when Peter Pratt, in armor did appear,
He should engage, in such a rage, a man that’s dead three year.
Could he suppose for to disclose his valour in the field?
Or by his word, or wooden sword, to make his en’my yield?
Did he advance, thinking by chance, and taking so much pain,
To fright away a lump of clay, some honour for to gain?
Was his intent by argument, some honour for to have?
Or gain repute by making mute a man that’s in his grave?
Why did he strain his foolish brain, and muse upon his bed,
To study lies, for to despise a man when he is dead?
Why did he flout his venom out against the harmless dirt,
Which when alive did never strive to do the creature hurt?
No manly face, or Godly grace such actions will uphold,
Yet ’tis not new; apostates crew did do the like of old.
When Cain let in that dreadful sin which never can be pardoned,
He then did hate his loving mate, because he was so hardened.
Though Saul before did much adore his well-belovèd David,
Yet in the state that I relate his life he greatly cravèd.
In Judas we may also see another strange disaster,
Who for small gain did take such pain to sell his blessèd Master.
Apostates then, the vilest men, they’re always most forlorn;
Because such deeds from them proceeds which other men do scorn.
Such raging waves Satan depraves of all humanity;
They can embrace no saving grace, nor yet civility.
Had but this strife been in the life of his supposèd foe,
Then Peter Pratt would like a rat into a corner go;
Or flee apace, or hide his face, although that now he glories
To trample on one dead and gone, with his debauchèd stories.
A certain tribe of Indians would not allow the burial of any one until
some person could speak a word in his praise. On one such occasion,
silence long reigned, when a squaw arose and said, “He was a good
smoker.” What can we say of Peter Pratt, that the right of sepulture may
be granted him? This may be said: He at one time thought he had
discovered the “wonderful art of longitude,” by which he expected to be
made famous the world over, and presented his scheme to the faculty of
Yale College, who regarded it as the product of an hallucinated mind.
Upon this, Pratt gave up the fallacy, which should be spoken to his
praise. The following testimony which he gave in his book regarding John
Rogers, 2d, and incidentally in favor of John Rogers senior, should also
be put to his credit:—
My near alliance to John Rogers (then junior) who is my brother, viz.,
the son of my mother, proved an unhappy snare to me. He being,
naturally, a man as manly, wise, facetious and generous perhaps as one
among a thousand, I was exceedingly delighted in and with his
conversation. He also endeared himself to me very much by his repeated
expressions of complacency in me, by which I was induced to be
frequently in his company and often at his house, where his father
would be entertaining me with exhortations to a religious life,
warning me of the danger of sin, and certainty of that wrath which
shall come on all that know not God. I would sometimes, for curiosity,
be inquiring into his principles, and othertimes, for diversion, be
disputing a point with him; but I knew not that the dead were there,
Prov. ix, 18. I was not religious enough to be much concerned about
his principles, but pitiful enough to be extremely moved with the
story of his sufferings. I had also a reserve in his favor, that it
was possible he might be a good man (the strangeness of his doctrine
notwithstanding), especially seeing all his sufferings were not able
to shake his constancy, or oblige him to recede from the least part of
And here a just tribute may be paid to John Rogers, 2d, from whom we
have so largely quoted. The appreciative reader will agree with us in
saying he was a son worthy of the father, in defence of whose honor he
wrote. Clear in his statement of facts, conclusive in his reasoning, and
abundantly supplied with authority in proof of his assertions, his words
bear the sacred impress of truth. Malice has raised no aspersions
against his character. “Notwithstanding,” says Miss Caulkins, “his long
testimony and his many weary trials and imprisonments, he reared to
maturity a family of eighteen children, most of them, like their
parents, sturdy Rogerenes.” As soon as he was able to make choice for
himself, about the age of sixteen, he left the home of his grandfather,
Matthew Griswold of Lyme, the ancestor of many noted men, and chose to
live with his father. His sister did the same thing at the age of
fourteen, and was married at her father’s house. A purer, sweeter, and
higher tribute could scarcely be paid to that heroic defender of
religious liberty and great sufferer for conscience’ sake.
John Rogers, 2d, was the author of several other books besides his
“Reply to Peter Pratt,” each of them being of the same able character.