To charge a sane person with insanity

“Nine and twenty knives.”—Ezra i, 9. It would take more than that number
of knives to sever the many threads of falsehood and malice wound about
the name of John Rogers, a name that may yet emerge as the royal
butterfly from its chrysalis, to dwell in the light and atmosphere of
heaven.

We must now charge the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, governor of the State of
Connecticut, and judge of its Superior Court, with concocting a plan
whereby he and his ecclesiastical accomplices might incarcerate John
Rogers in the Hartford jail, exclude him from the light, and hide him
from the public thought. Had this nefarious scheme succeeded, Rogers
would doubtless have been held a close prisoner for life; but he was
apprised of it and enabled to make his escape, like as St. Paul was let
down in a basket from the wall of Damascus to elude the fury of his
enemies. The governor’s suit against him for slanderous words—not
slanderous in law—for which a subservient jury awarded him damages in
the sum of £600, proves with what malign purpose Roger’s conduct was
watched by him.

Here follows an account of the above mentioned plot and other matters,
in Roger’s own words, copied from his address to the civil authorities
and particularly to Gov. Saltonstall, in which he recounts some of the
atrocious wrongs he had received from them,—wrongs which could hardly
gain credence had they not been openly published at the time, during the
life of Gov. Saltonstall, and not denied by him.

The last fine you fined me was ten shillings. All that I did was
expounding upon a chapter in the Bible between your meetings, after
the people were gone to dinner, which you call a riot. I went into no
other seat but that which I was seated in by them whom the town
appointed to seat every one. The building of the meeting-house cost me
three of the best fat cattle I had that year and as many sheep as sold
for thirty shillings in silver money. For which said fine of ten
shillings, the officer took ten sheep, as some told me that helped to
drive them away. The sheep were half my son’s. They were marked with a
mark that we marked creatures with that were between us, which said
mark had been recorded in the town book, I suppose for above twenty
years. And after they were sold, the officer went into my son’s
pasture, unbeknown to him, and took a milch cow which was between us
(my part he hired), all upon the same fine of ten shillings. Such
things as these have been frequently done upon us; but my purpose is
brevity, and such things as these would contain a great volume;
therefore I think to mention but one more. I was fined £20 by a
Superior Court for charging an Inferior Court with injustice for
trying upon life and death without a jury. The judge of the Superior
Court that fined me was this present Governor, who also denied me a
jury, though I chose the jury then panelled. For which £20 and the
charges, an execution was laid upon land which I bought for my son,
with his own money, and after it was taken away by said execution, he
went and bought it of you this present Government, and gave you the
money down for it, and you gave him a patent for it I think as
substantial as your patent from the crown of England for your
Government, upon all accounts, being sealed with your seal and with
your present Governor’s hand and your Secretary’s to it. The patent
cost 19s. to the Governor for signing it. And when you had got his
money for it, and given him said patent, then you took this very
individual land from him, and kept his money also, and left him
nothing but said patent in his hand; for said Governor kept the deed
which the man of whom I bought it gave, and keeps it to this day, I
think for that end that my son may not help himself of said deed; for
the man of whom I bought it lives in another Government.

I prosecuted the judges of your said Inferior Court before your
General Court for judging upon life and death without a jury, it being
by your own law out of their jurisdiction to judge in so high a fact
without a jury; the fact also charged to be done in New York
government; to wit, the stealing of three servants out of a man’s
house on Long Island in the night. But you non-suited me in your Court
of Chancery and laid all the charge upon me and fined me £20. So that
if the poor man had not obtained justice in Boston Government, he had
lost his wife and children by you, as I had mine; for he had tried in
Rhode Island Government before, and had got bondsmen to answer all
damages, if he did not make good his right and title to his wife and
children. But said Governor of Rhode Island sent them back to this
present Governor; but, by the good hand of God, they were after
transported into Boston Government, by which means the poor man came
at justice.

I thought to have concluded with what is above written; but, upon
consideration that it is but two things among many, I shall set before
you this last to the end of it. The said Inferior Court did proceed
and pass judgment in a case that was upon life and death by the law of
God, the law of England and your own law, upon a fact charged in
another government, as above said, and without witness. And when I saw
they would proceed, I then drew up the following protest and gave it
unto your court.

* * * * *

The Protest of John Rogers, senior, of New London, against the
proceedings of the present Court, against myself and John Jackson,
being a pretended fact done upon Long Island, within the bounds and
limits of the Government established there for to do justice and
judgment within their limits and territories, and do appeal to their
Court of Justice for a trial where I have evidence to clear myself of
any such fact.

_June 11, 1711._ JOHN ROGERS, Sr.

A true copy, testified George Denison, County Clerk.

_June 28, 1711._

* * * * *

And I do declare unto you, in the presence of God, that I was not at
that time upon Long Island, when the fact was charged to be done,
though I was at that time within the government of New York. But when
I heard the said Court’s sentence, I did declare it to be injustice
and rebellion against the laws of the crown of England; upon which
charge, the said court demanded of me a bond of £200 to answer it at
the next Superior Court. And when the Superior Court came, I desired
to be tried by a jury, and chose that jury then sitting. But this
present Governor, being judge of this Superior Court, denied me a jury
and fined me £20 and required of me a great bond for my good behavior
till the next Superior Court, which I refused to give, upon this
reason that I would not reflect upon myself, as if I had misbehaved
myself, as I had not. Whereupon, I was committed to prison, and kept a
close prisoner in the inner prison, where no fire was allowed me, and
that winter was a violent cold winter and there was no jailer, but the
sheriff kept the keys, who lived half a mile distant from the prison,
and my own habitation full two miles distant; so that it was a
difficult thing for my friends to come at me; the prison new and not
under-pinned, and stood upon blocks some distance from the ground; the
floor, being planked with green plank, shrunk much and let in the
cold. My son was wont in cold nights to come to the grates of the
window to see how I did, and contrived privately in cold nights to
help me with some fire (for the sheriff said he had order that no fire
be allowed me), but could not find any way to make it do by giving it
in at the grates, they being so close, and no place to make it within.
But he, coming in a very cold night, called to me, and perceiving that
I was not in my right senses, was in a fright, and ran along the
street, crying, “The Authority hath killed my father!” and cried at
the sheriff’s, “You have killed my father!” Upon which, the town was
raised and my life was narrowly preserved, for forthwith the prison
doors were opened and fire brought in, and hot stones wrapt in cloth
and laid at my feet and about me, and the minister Adams sent me a
bottle of spirits and his wife a cordial, whose kindness I must
acknowledge. And the neighbors came about me with what relief they
could, all which kindness I acknowledge. But when those of you in
authority saw that I recovered, you had up my son and fined him for
making a riot in the night, and he desired to be tried by a jury, but
you dismissed the jury that was in being and panelled a jury purposely
for him, as I was informed,—and since have seen it to be so by your
own court record,—and took for the fine and charge three of the best
cows I had.

In which prison I lay till the next Superior Court and in the
sheriff’s house. The time of the bond demanded by them being out, I
was dismissed. I think the next day, I was going to baptize a
person,[13] and, as I was going to the water, the sheriff came to me
and desired to speak with me. His house being close by, I went in with
him. He went through two rooms and came to the door of the third, and
then told me the Superior Court had ordered him to shut me up. Upon
that, I made a stop and desired him to show me his order. He said it
was by word of mouth. He keeping a tavern, there were many present who
told him he ought not to shut me up without a written order. He then
laid violent hands upon me to pull me in, but the people rescued me;
and then he told me he would go to the court and get it in writing.
And so he left me and brought this following Mittimus, this present
Governor being judge of this Superior Court also.

—–

Footnote 13:

Not for baptizing a person, but for going to baptize a person, was
Rogers arrested. “Yet,” said Gov. Saltonstall, “there never was any
one that suffered on account of his different persuasion in
religious matters from the body of this people.” The law against
baptizing (other than by the standing order) was simply a fine for
every such baptism.

—–

* * * * *

“To the Sheriff of the County of New London, or to his Deputy:

“By special order of her Majesty’s Superior Court, now holden in New
London, you are hereby required, in her Majesty’s name, to take John
Rogers, Sr., of New London, who, to the view of said Court, appears to
be under a high degree of distraction, and him secure in her majesty’s
jail for the County abovesaid, in some dark room or apartment thereof,
that proper means may be used for his cure, and till he be recovered
from his madness and you receive order for his release.

“Signed by order of the said Court, March 26, 1712. In the 11th year
of Her Majesty’s reign.

“Vera Copia, Testified JONATHAN LAW, _Clerk_.
JOHN PRENTIS, _Sheriff_.”

And upon this Mittimus, he carried me to prison and put me into
the inner prison and had the light of the window stopt. Upon this,
the common people was in an uproar, and broke the plank of the
window and let light in. And one of the lieutenants that came out
of England told me he had been with the said Superior Court and
desired that I might be brought forth to their view, and they
would see that I was under no distraction, and that they had
ordered that I should be brought out to the Governor in the
evening. When it was dark night, I was taken out by the sheriff
and carried to the Governor’s House, into a private room, and the
sheriff sent out by the Governor to see that the yard was clear;
but it is too much to write what was done to some that were found
standing there; but the body of them ran away. The Governor
ordered the sheriff to take me home with him, and keep me at his
house. Accordingly he did so, and gave me charge not to go out of
his yard, but set nobody to look after me; he himself tended on
the said court. About two days after, I was told that the sheriff
told a friend of his that he was ordered, after the court was
broke up and the people dispersed, to carry me up to Hartford
prison and to see me shut up in some dark room, and that one
Laborell, a French doctor, was to shave my head and give me purges
to recover me of my madness. I hearing of this, desired the
sheriff to give me a copy of the Mittimus, and after I told him
what I heard privately, he owned the truth of it. The night
following, I got up and got a neighbor to acquaint my son how
matters were circumstanced, who brought £10 of money for me, and
hired hands to row me over to Long Island, and pulled off his own
shirt and gave me.

I got to Southold, on Long Island, in the night, and, early in the
morning (it being the first day of the week), I went to a justice,
to give him an account of the matter, having told him that I got
away from under the sheriff’s hand at New London. He replied, “It
is the Sabbath; it is not a day to discourse about such things.”
So I returned to the tavern, and I suppose it was not above an
hour before the constable came and set a guard over me, till about
nine or ten of the clock the next day, and then took me where
three justices were sitting at a table, with a written paper lying
before them, who read a law to me that it was to be counted felony
to break out of a constable’s hand. I then presented a copy of the
Mittimus. They read it and desired to be in private. Being brought
before them again, they told me they did not look at me to be such
a person as I was there rendered, and so discharged me, without
any charge.

I told them my design was to their Governor for protection; and
that I expected _Hue and Cries_ to pursue me, and requested of
them to stop them if they could. They promised me they would, and
afterwards I heard they did stop them. I got a man and horse to go
with me to York, with all the speed I could, and the first house I
went into was Governor Hunter’s, in the fort. I showed him the
Mittimus and gave him an account of the matters. He told me he
would not advise me to venture thither again, and that I should
have safe protection. I told him I expected _Hue and Cries_ to
come after me. He told me I need not fear that at all, “For,” said
he, “I have heard you differ in opinion from them, and they will
be glad to be rid of you. It is evident you are no such man as
they pretend.”

But, the next day, about ten of the clock, there came two printed
_Hue and Cries_ in at the tavern where I was, and I got them both,
and went directly to the Governor, who was walking alone on the
wall of the fort, and delivered one of them to him, who read it
and then called to a little man walking on the pavement of the
fort, saying, “Mr. Bickly, Mr. Bickly, come hither.” And when he
was come he read it, and said he, “I grant protection to this man;
he shall not be sent back upon this _Hue and Cry_,” and saith he,
“I will write to the Governor of Connecticut,” and to me he said,
“You are safe enough here; I will grant you protection.” I told
him I did believe no answer would be returned him. He found my
words true, and advised me to go for England and make my
complaint, and told me there was a ship then going from
Pennsylvania. A merchant being then present told me if I wanted
money he would lend it to me, and if I should never be able to pay
him he would never trouble me for it. All this kindness have I met
with from strangers; but have thought it my wisdom to commit my
cause to the all-seeing God.

And after I had continued in York about three months, I returned
home, and, after I was recruited, with great difficulty I
prosecuted the judges of said Inferior Court, for you had made it
so difficult to summon them that none could give forth a summons
but your General Court in such a case; but when I with great
difficulty brought it to your Court of Chancery, you non-suited me
and ordered me to pay all the charges and fined me £20. All which
causes me to suspect your pretended care expressed in your printed
_Hue and Cries_ to cure me of my distraction. And here follows a
copy for you to view:—

ADVERTISEMENT.

Whereas John Rogers, Sr., of New London, being committed to the
custody of her Majesty’s Goal, in the County of New London, which
is under my care, with special orders to keep him in some dark
apartment thereof, until proper means be used for the cure of that
distraction which he appears (to her Majesty’s Court of said
County) to be under in a very high degree, hath, by the assistance
of evil persons, made his escape out of the said custody, these
are therefore to desire all persons to seize and secure the said
Rogers and return him forthwith unto me, the subscriber, sheriff
of the said County, and they shall be well satisfied for the
trouble and charge they may be at therein.

_Dated in New London, March 31, 1712._ JOHN
PRENTIS.

After I returned home, I went to the printer to know who it was
that drew this advertisement up, and he showed me the copy, and I
took it to be Governor Saltonstall’s own hand.

_New London, 15th of the 7th month, 1721._ J.
ROGERS.

Matt. x, 26. “Fear them not therefore, for there is nothing
covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be
known.”

We will say a few words in this place concerning the crime of
falsely charging persons with insanity, whether from personal
dislike or from motives of a pecuniary or other nature. Depravity
can scarcely find a lower depth, or infamy wear a deeper brand. Even
now such atrocities are not uncommon, and should be guarded against
with the utmost vigilance. Nearly every one of long and large
experience has been made cognizant of some such diabolism, where the
laws have been too lax in reference to this matter. In the State of
Connecticut, until recently, nothing was required but the
certificate of a physician to secure the incarceration of any one in
a lunatic asylum, with the superintendent’s consent. But by the law
passed, May, 1889, the defect has been thoroughly remedied. It is
also enacted, Section 23, that “Any person who wilfully conspires
with any other person unlawfully to commit to any asylum any person
who is not insane, and any person who shall wilfully and falsely
certify to the insanity of such person, shall be punished by a fine
not exceeding one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the State
Prison not exceeding five years, or both.”

To charge a sane person with insanity, and then devise methods for
his cure which would tend to deprive a sane person of reason! Could
the blade of enmity be drawn to a keener point?

It is with regret that we are compelled to make the following
strictures upon “The Discourse Delivered on the Two Hundredth
Anniversary of the First Church of Christ, in New London, by Thos.
P. Field, 1870.” Amiable as was its author, and highly esteemed, yet
in this discourse, so far as it relates to the Rogerenes, he has
followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, showing how much
easier it is to float on the surface, with the tide, than to dive
deep and bring up gems from the bottom of the sea. We shall briefly
quote from this discourse and make reply.

Mr. Field says: “During the ministry of Mr. Saltonstall, peculiar
disturbances arose in the church,” referring to the sect called
Rogerenes.

Since we have shown the falsity of many of the statements concerning
the Rogerenes which are repeated by Mr. Field in this discourse, it
is needless to take further notice of them here. But is it not a
matter of surprise that Mr. Field should have spoken with seeming
favor concerning the malicious suit brought by Mr. Saltonstall
against John Rogers for slander? His words are: “On one occasion,
when John Rogers circulated some false report about him, he brought
an action in the county court for defamation and obtained a verdict
of the jury in his behalf.”

He does not tell us the verdict was the enormous sum of £600, and
that there was no legal basis for the action, even had the charge
been true; neither does he state that this suit was brought against
Rogers but a few months after release from his long confinement, of
three years and eight months, in Hartford jail, where he had been
placed at the instance of Mr. Saltonstall, on charge of blasphemy
for words truly scriptural. Mr. Field’s reference to this suit shows
how superficially he had looked into the subject.

We must also express surprise that the statement, so falsely and
unblushingly made by Mr. Saltonstall, should be quoted and indorsed
in Mr. Field’s discourse:—

There never was, for the 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 people.

A note appended to Mr. Field’s discourse, may be presumed to contain
his maturest thought, or rather absence of thought. “Lucus a non
lucendo.” The note reads:—

Some who heard the discourse thought the Rogerenes were not
sufficiently commended for what was good in them, and especially
for their protest against the improper mingling of civil and
religious affairs. It is the belief of the writer that there were
a great many who entertained similar views with the Rogerenes on
that subject, but who would not unite with them in their absurd
mode of testifying against what they deemed erroneous.

“Belief of the writer!” Belief is of little consequence, unless
based upon authority or knowledge; and the person who thrusts
forward his simple belief, to command the assent of others, seems to
proffer a valueless coin. But what if there were such among the
people? They were not heard from; and Seneca says, “He who puts a
good thought into my heart, puts a good word into my mouth, unless a
fool has the keeping of it.”

There were a few, however, who did protest against the tyrannical
treatment of the dissenters and in favor of religious freedom; but
they were heavily fined and laid under the ban of the church, as the
blind man who had received his sight was cast out of the temple by
the Jews. From Miss Caulkin’s history, we quote the protest:—

While Rogers was in prison, an attack upon the government and
colony appeared, signed by Richard Steer, Samuel Beebe, Jr.,
Jonathan and James Rogers, accusing them of persecution of
dissenters, narrow principles, self-interest, spirit of
domineering, and saying that to compel people to pay for a
Presbyterian minister is against the laws of England, is rapine,
robbery and oppression.

“A special court was held at New London, Jan. 25th, 1694-5, to
consider this libellous paper. The subscribers were fined £5 each.”

Mr. Field goes on to say, “There can be no justification of their
conduct in disturbing public assemblies as they did, which would not
justify similar conduct at the present day.” So much has been said
about their disturbing public assemblies, and to such varied notes
has the tune been played, that the paucity of other arguments
against the Rogerenes is thereby evinced. Fame, with its hundred
tongues, has no doubt greatly exaggerated these offences, if such
they were. There are some Bible commands that might seem to justify
conduct like that above referred to; as, “Go cry in the ears of this
people.” Fines, whippings, imprisonments, setting in stocks, etc.,
for no crime, but simply for non-conformity to the Congregational
church, were grounds for their conduct which do not now exist. Did
Mr. Field suppose that an intelligent audience would give credence
to his above assertion? or had he taken lessons of the teacher of
oratory who told his pupils to regard his hearers as “so many
cabbage stumps”?

“No justification of their conduct” at that time “which would not
justify similar conduct at the present day!”

There was an evil to be assailed then that has now passed away. The
man who should enter a meeting-house now with a plea for religious
liberty might properly be regarded as a lunatic. But, if the old
abuses were revived, some Samson would again arise, to shake the
pillars of tyranny.

Mr. Field closes his remarks by saying:—

There is no evidence that their testimony or their protestations
had the slightest influence in correcting any of the errors of the
times in respect to the relation of civil and ecclesiastical
authority.

Had Mr. Field said that there was no evidence within his knowledge,
we should have taken no notice of this statement. Confession of
ignorance, like other confessions, may sometimes be good for the
soul. But when he presumes to assert that a fact does not exist of
which other people may be cognizant, he transcends the bounds of
prudence.

Proof is abundant, that the Rogerenes and their descendants were
foremost in advocating the severance of church from state and the
equal rights of all to religious liberty. Their uniform testimony in
Connecticut, for more than a century, in defence of true liberty of
conscience, which awakened so much discussion throughout the State,
could not have been without its enlightening influence.

But we will be more minute by mentioning some of the things which
were said and done by Rogerenes,[14] and by those into whose minds
their doctrines had been early and effectually instilled.

—–

Footnote 14:

Abundant proof of the prominent stand taken by John Rogers himself
in behalf of religious liberty will be found not only throughout
this volume but by extracts from his writings to be found in
Appendix.

—–

John Bolles, whom Miss Caulkins calls “a noted disciple of John
Rogers,” wrote largely on the subject of religious liberty. In his
work, entitled “True Liberty of Conscience is in Bondage to No
Flesh,” this point is amply discussed. In his address to the Elders
and Messengers of the Boston and Connecticut Colonies, concerning
their Confessions of Faith, which were one and the same, he says:—

First, the Elders and Messengers of each Colony have recommended
them to the Civil Government, and the Civil Government have taken
them under their protection to defend them. And now God hath put
it into my heart to reprove both Governments.

After showing by Scripture that the civil government is ordained of
God to rule in temporal affairs, and not for the government of men’s
consciences in matters of religion, he goes on to say:—

Thus it is sufficiently proved that God hath set up the Civil
Government to rule in the Commonwealth, in temporal things; and as
well proved that he hath not committed unto them the government of
his church. I have proved that the Civil Government as they
exercise their authority to rule only in temporal things are the
ministers of God, and that God hath not committed to them the
government of his Church, or to meddle in cases of conscience.—And
now I speak to you, Elders and Messengers; as you have recommended
your Confessions of Faith; and to you, Rulers of the Commonwealth,
as you have acknowledged them, and established them by law, and
defend them by the carnal sword; I speak, I say, to both parties,
as you are in fellowship with each other in these things, and so
proceed to prove that exercising yourselves in the affairs of
conscience and matters of faith towards God, you do it under the
authority of the dragon, or spirit of antichrist.

And you, Elders and Messengers (as you are called), as you stand
to maintain and defend the said confessions, are not Elders and
Messengers of the churches of Christ, but of antichrist. And you,
Rulers of the Commonwealth of each Government, as you exercise
yourselves as such in the affairs of conscience, and things
relating to the worship of God, you do it not under Christ; but
against Christ, under the power of antichrist, as by the Scripture
hath been fully proved. In the form of church government in
Boston, Confession, Chapter 17, par. 6, they say: “It is the duty
of the Magistrate to take care of matters of religion, and improve
his civil authority for observing the duties commanded in the
first, as well as for observing the duties commanded in the second
table.” And further say, “The end of the Magistrate’s office is
not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of
righteousness and honesty, but also in matters of Godliness, yea,
of all godliness.” The gospel was preached and received in
opposition to the civil magistrates, as is abundantly recorded:
And the encouragement Christ has given to his followers is by way
of blessing under persecution: “Blessed are they which are
persecuted for righteousnes’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven.” And for any people professing the Christian faith to set
up a form of Godliness, and establish it by their human laws, and
defend it by the authority of the Magistrate, is to exclude Christ
from having authority over his Church, and themselves to be the
supreme head thereof.

The book from which we quote was published about 1754. The
following, from the same book, has reference to the persecutions in
New England, of the Rogerenes and others:—

Now, Boston and Connecticut, let us briefly inquire into the
doings of our forefathers[15] towards those that separated
themselves from them for conscience’ sake, and testified against
their form of godliness. To begin with Connecticut: they punished
by setting in stocks, by fining, whipping, imprisoning and
chaining in prison, and causing to set on the gallows with a
halter about the neck, and prohibiting the keeping Quaker books,
and that such books should be suppressed, as also putting fathers
and mothers both in prison from their children, and then enclosing
the prison with a boarded fence about ten foot high, with spikes
above, points upwards, and a gate kept under lock and key to
prevent any communication of friends or relations with the
prisoners, or communicating anything necessary for their support;
but must go near half a mile to the prison keeper to have the gate
opened.

—–

Footnote 15:

This “Message” of John Bolles was written when the Rogerenes
were not under virulent persecution, of which there was
cessation after the death of Gov. Saltonstall (1724) until the
time of Mather Byles over thirty years later. See Part II.

—–

At New Haven, a stranger, named Humphrey Norton, being put ashore,
not of his own seeking, was put in prison and chained to a post,
and kept night and day for the space of twenty days, with great
weights of iron, without fire or candle, in the winter season, and
not any suffered to come to visit him; and after this brought
before their court, and there was their priest, John Davenport, to
whom said Norton endeavored to make reply, but was prevented by
having a key tied athwart his mouth, till the priest had done;
then, said Norton was had again to prison, and there chained ten
days, and then sentenced to be severely whipped, and to be burned
in the hand with the letter H, for heresy, who, my author says,
was convicted of none; and to be sent out of the Colony, and not
to return upon pain of the utmost penalty they could inflict by
law. And the drum was beat, and the people gathered, and he was
fetched and stripped to the waist, and whipped thirty-six cruel
stripes and burned in the hand very deep with a red-hot iron, as
aforesaid, and then had to prison again and tendered his liberty
upon paying his fine and fees.—See George Bishop: “New England
Judged,” page 203, 4.

These and other like things were done in Connecticut.

Now let us hear what was done in Boston Government, as it is to be
seen in the title-page of said Bishop’s history, touching the
sufferings of the people called Quakers: “A brief relation,” saith
he, “of the suffering of the people called Quakers in those parts
of America, from the beginning of the fifth month, 1656, the time
of their first arrival at Boston from England, to the latter end
of the tenth month, 1660, wherein the cruel whippings and
scourgings, bonds and imprisonments, beatings and chainings,
starvings and huntings, fines and confiscation of estates, burning
in the hand and cutting off ears, orders of sale for bond-men and
bond-women, banishment upon pain of death, and putting to death of
those people are shortly touched, with a relation of the manner,
and some of the most material proceedings, and a judgment
thereupon.” They also burned their books by the common
executioners (see Daniel Neal’s “History of New England,” Vol. I.,
page 292). They also impoverished them by compelling them to take
the oath of fidelity, which they scrupled for conscience’ sake,
and for their refusing of which they were fined £5 each or depart
the Colony; but they, not departing, and under the same scruple,
came under the penalty of another £5; and so from time to time,
and many other fines were imposed on them, as for meeting by
themselves. (See said History, page 320.)

And in said book is contained a brief relation of the barbarous
cruelties, persecutions and massacres upon the Protestants in
foreign parts by the Papists, etc. And now I return to Boston and
Connecticut, with reference to what was said touching the doings
of our forefathers; they not being repented, nor called in
question, but a persisting in acts of force upon conscience in
some measure to this day. But it is the same dragon, and same
persecuting spirit that required the worshipping of idols, and
persecuted the primitive church, that now professes himself to be
a Christian, and furnishes himself with college-learned ministers,
nourished up in pride through idleness and voluptuous living; and
these are his ministers; and they are the same set of men that
Christ thanked God that he had hid the mysteries of the kingdom of
God from, Matt. xi, 25. And he, the dragon, assures the rulers of
the commonwealth that God hath set them to do justice among men,
and to take under their care the government of the church also.

In 1754, I went to the General Court at Hartford, and also to the
General Court at Boston, considering their Confessions were both
one, and that both Governments lie under the same reproof,—and I
have published three treatises already, touching these things; but
there has been no answer made to any, and this is the fourth;
after so much proof, I think it may truly be said of them, as in
Rev. ii, 2, “And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles,
and are not, and hast found them liars.”

In a word, to rule the church by the power of the magistrate is to
destroy the peace of both church, families and commonwealths. But,
on the contrary, Christ is said to be the Prince of Peace. Isaiah
ix, 6. And all that walk in His spirit follow His example, to live
peaceably towards all men, as also towards the Commonwealth, as he
did, for peace’ sake, rather than to offend.

Perhaps we cannot give a better idea of the extent and versatility
of Mr. Bolle’s efforts in this direction, which extended over a long
period, than by transcribing some portion of what is said of him by
his biographer (in “Bolles Genealogy”):—

John Bolles, third and only surviving son of Thomas and Zipporah
Bolles, was born in New London, Conn., August 7, 1767. At the age
of thirty, he became dissatisfied with the tenets of the
Presbyterian church, in which he had been educated. That church
was the only one recognized by law. Its members composed the
standing order, and, from the foundation of the colony until the
adoption of a state constitution and the principle of religious
toleration, in 1818, every person in Connecticut, whatever his
creed, was compelled by law to belong to or pay taxes for
the support of the standing order. It was as complete an
“Establishment” as is the “Established Church of England.” Mr.
Bolles became a Seventh Day Baptist,[16] and was immersed by John
Rogers, the elder. Well educated, familiar with the Bible,
independent in fortune, earnest in his convictions and of a
proselyting spirit, bold and fond of discussion, Mr. Bolles
engaged very actively in polemical controversy, and wrote and
published many books and pamphlets; some of which still extant
prove him to have been, as Miss Caulkins, the historian of New
London, describes him, “fluent with the pen and adroit in
argument.” From one of his books in my possession, it appears that
his escape when his mother and her other children were murdered by
Stoddard, and his deliverance from other imminent perils, “when,”
to use his own words, “there was but a hair’s breadth between me
and death,” made a deep impression on his mind and caused him to
feel that God had spared him for some special work. This belief is
expressed in some homely verses, Bunyan-like in sound, closing
with the following couplet:

“Yet was my life preserved, by God Almighty’s hand,
Who since has called me forth for His great truth to stand!”

—–

Footnote 16:

This is an error. He became a Rogerene after the Rogerene
Society had given up the Seventh Day Sabbath.

—–

Under the spur of this conviction, he devoted himself to the great
cause of religious freedom, encountering opposition and
persecution, and suffering fines, imprisonments and beating with
many stripes.

After referring to several of his books his biographer says:—

I have another of his books, called “Good News from a Far
Country,” whose argument is to prove that the Civil Government
“have no authority from God to judge in cases of conscience,” to
which is added “An Answer to an Election Sermon Preached by
Nathaniel Eells.” Another, dated from New London 11th of 7th
month, 1728 (March being then the first month of the year), is a
pamphlet containing John Bolle’s application to the General Court,
holden at New Haven, the 10th of the 8th month, 1728, informing
that honorable body, “in all the honor and submissive obedience
that God requires me to show unto you,” etc., that he had examined
the Confessions of Faith established by them and found therein
principles that seem not to be proved by the Scriptures there
quoted, and had drawn up some objections thereto, etc. He
published many other works, and from 1708 to 1754 hardly a year
elapsed without his thus assailing the abuses of the established
church and vindicating the great principle of “soul-liberty.” Once
a year, as a general rule, he mounted his horse, with saddle-bags
stuffed full of books, and rode from county to county challenging
discussion, inviting the Presbyterian Elders to meet him,
man-fashion, in argument,[17] or confess and abandon their errors.
“But,” says he, in one of his books, “they disregarded my
request.” He even made a pilgrimage to Boston, Mass., in 1754, to
move the General Court of Massachusetts in this behalf, as he had
often endeavored to move the Connecticut Legislature. This last
exploit, a horseback ride of two hundred miles, in his 77th year,
may be regarded as a fit climax to a long life of zealous effort
in the cause of truth. It is no extravagant eulogy to say that
John Bolles was a great and good man.

—–

Footnote 17:

Such religious debates were common in those days between persons
of different persuasions, especially ministers, elders, etc.

—–

His works are his best epitaph. No man knoweth of his grave unto
this day; but the stars shine over it.

With all the humble, all the holy,
All the meek and all the lowly,
He held communion sweet;
But when he heard the lion roar,
Or saw the tushes of the boar,
Was quick upon his feet:
And what God spake within his heart
He did to man repeat.

So much from one of the early Rogerenes against the union of church
and state and in favor of equal religious liberty; thoughts,
sentiments, principles which lie at the basis of our new
constitution; published and scattered throughout the land at an
early period, instilled into the hearts of children, blossoming out
in speech and inspiring efforts which aided the complete
establishment of religious liberty in Connecticut. Descendants of
John Bolles were among the very foremost, ablest, and most efficient
workers in this cause, baptized, as it were, into these sacred
truths. A few examples will be given; but we can hardly hope that
the despisers of the Rogerenes will find in them “evidence that
their testimony or their protestations had the slightest influence
in correcting any of the errors of the times, in regard to the
relations of civil and ecclesiastical authority.”

To show that early descendants of the Rogerenes were trained in
goodness, as well as in argument, we will speak of John Bolles of
later times, brother of Rev. David Bolles and grandson of the John
Bolles of whom we have said so much. He was the founder, and for
forty years a deacon, of the First Baptist Church of Hartford, of
which Rev. David Bolles was one of the first preachers. We quote
some interesting passages concerning him from Dr. Turnbull’s
“Memorials of the First Baptist Church, Hartford, Conn.,” which were
read by Dr. Turnbull as sermons, after the dedication of the new
church edifice, May, 1856:—

There was no man, perhaps, to whom our church, in the early period
of its history, was more indebted than John Bolles…. He was a
Nathaniel indeed, in whom there was no guile. And yet, shrewd
beyond most men, he never failed to command the respect of his
acquaintances. Everybody loved him. Decided in his principles, his
soul overflowed with love and charity. Easy, nimble, cheerful, he
was ready for every good word and work. He lived for others. The
young especially loved him. The aged, and above all the poor,
hailed him as their friend. He was perpetually devising something
for the benefit of the church or the good of souls. How or when he
was converted he could not tell. His parents were pious, and had
brought him up in the fear of God, and in early life he had given
his heart to Christ, but all he could say about it was that God
had been gracious to him and he hoped brought him into his fold.
On the relation of his experience before the church in Suffield,
the brethren, on this very account, hesitated to receive him; but
the pastor, Rev. John Hastings, shrewdly remarked that it was
evident Mr. Bolles was in the way, and that this was more
important than the question when, or by what means, he got in it;
upon which they unanimously received him. He was very happy in his
connection with the church in Suffield. The members were all his
friends. He would often start from Hartford at midnight, arrive in
Suffield at early dawn, on Sabbath morning, when they were making
their fires, and surprise them by his pleasant salutation. After
breakfast and family prayers, all hands would go to church
together.

Of course, he was equally at home with the church in Hartford, and
spent much of his time in visiting, especially the poor of the
flock. He had a kind word and a ready hand for every one. One
severe winter, a fearful snow-storm had raised the roads to a
level with the tops of the fences. A certain widow Burnham lived
all alone, just on the outer edge of East Hartford. The deacon was
anxious about her; he was afraid that she might be covered with
the snow and suffering from want. He proposed to visit her; but
his friends thought it perilous to cross the meadows. But, being
light of foot, he resolved to attempt it. The weather was cold,
and the snow slightly crusted on the top. By means of this he
succeeded, with some effort, in reaching the widow’s house. As he
supposed, he found it covered with snow to the chimneys. He made
his way into the house and found the good sister without fire or
water. He cut paths to the woodpile and to the well, and assisted
her to make a fire and put on the tea-kettle. He then cut a path
to the pig-pen and supplied the wants of the hungry beast, by
which time breakfast was ready. After breakfast, he read the word
of God and prayed, and was ready to start for home. In the
meanwhile, the sun had melted the crust of snow, and, as he was
passing through the meadows, he broke through. He tried to
scramble out, but failed; he shouted, but there was no one to hear
him. The wind began to blow keenly; he did not know but he must
remain there all night and perish with cold. But he committed
himself to God, and sat down for shelter on the lee-side of his
temporary prison. He finally made a desperate effort, succeeded in
reaching the edge, and found, to his joy, that the freezing wind
had hardened the surface of the snow, which enabled him to make
his way home.

On a pleasant Sabbath morning, some seventy years ago, might be
seen a little group wending their way from Hartford, through the
green woods and meadows of the Connecticut valley, towards the
little church on Zion’s Hill. Among them was a man of small
stature, something like Zaccheus of old, of erect gait, bright eye
and agile movement. Though living eighteen miles from Suffield, he
was wont, on pleasant days, to walk the whole distance, beguiling
the way with devout meditation; or, if some younger brother chose
to accompany him, with pleasant talk about the things of the
Kingdom. This was Deacon John Bolles, brother of Rev. David
Bolles, and uncle of the late excellent Rev. Matthew Bolles, and
of Dr. Lucius Bolles so well known in connection with the cause of
foreign missions.

In the year of our Lord 1790, just about the commencement of the
French Revolution, this good brother and a few others came to the
conclusion that the time had arrived to organize a Baptist Church
in the city of Hartford. Previous to that, they had held meetings
in the court-house and in private houses. On the 5th of August,
1789, the first baptism, according to our usage, was administered
in this city. On September 7, it was resolved to hold public
services on the Sabbath in a more formal way. Accordingly, the
first meeting of this kind was held, October 18, in the
dwelling-house of John Bolles. These services were continued, and
in the ensuing season a number of persons were baptized on a
profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. On the 23d of
March, 1790, sixteen brothers and sisters were recognized as a
church of Christ, by a regularly called council, over which Elder
Hastings presided as Moderator.

When the Baptists began to hold public services, an over-zealous
member of Dr. Strong’s society (the Centre Congregational Society)
called upon him and asked him if he knew that John Bolles had
“started an opposition meeting.” “No,” said he. “When? Where?”
“Why, at the old court-house.” “Oh, yes, I know it,” the doctor
carelessly replied; “but it is not an opposition meeting. They are
Baptists, to be sure, but they preach the same doctrine that I do;
you had better go and hear them.” “Go!” said the man, “I am a
Presbyterian!” “So am I,” rejoined Dr. Strong; “but that need not
prevent us wishing them well. You had better go.” “No!” said the
man, with energy, “I shan’t go near them! Dr. Strong, a’n’t you
going to do something about it?” “What?” “Stop it, can’t you?” “My
friend,” said the doctor, “John Bolles is a good man, and will
surely go to heaven. If you and I get there, we shall meet him,
and we had better, therefore, cultivate pleasant acquaintance with
him here.”

Dr. Bushnell, many years after, paid him a sweet tribute, in his
sermon “Living to God in Small Things.” “I often hear mentioned by
the Christians of our city (Hartford) the name of a certain godly
man, who has been dead many years; and he is always spoken of with
so much respectfulness and affection that I, a stranger of another
generation, feel his power, and the sound of his name refreshes
me. That man was one who lived to God in small things. I know
this, not by any description which has thus set forth his
character, but from the very respect and homage with which he is
named. Virtually, he still lives among us, and the face of his
goodness shines upon all our Christian labors.”

Dr. Samuel Bowles, founder of the _Springfield Republican_, says in
his “Notes of the Bowles Family:” “Deacon John Bolles of Hartford,
one of the most godly men that ever lived, a descendant of Thomas
Bolles, was a contemporary and neighbor of my father, and used to
call him ‘cousin Bowles.’”

Judge David Bolles, son of the Rev. David Bolles before named, was
prominent for many years as an active advocate of religious freedom.
We quote the following historical statement concerning him:—

David Bolles, Jr., first child of Rev. David and Susannah Bolles,
was born in Ashford, Ct., September 26, 1765, and died there May
22, 1830. He first studied and practised medicine, and afterwards
law. At the time of his death he was judge of the Windham County
Court. He received the honorary degree of A.M. from Brown
University in 1819. He was a Methodist in religion, and to his
long continued and zealous services, as advocate of “the Baptist
Petition,” before successive legislatures, was Connecticut largely
indebted for the full establishment of religious liberty in 1818.

He was the author of the famous “Baptist Petition” above referred
to, the original copy of which, written by his own hand, was shown
to the author by his nephew, Gen. John A. Bolles.

Judge David Bolles was extensively known throughout the State as the
earnest advocate of the liberal movement. The following anecdote was
told the writer by one who sat at a dinner with him. Calvin Goddard,
the late distinguished lawyer of Norwich, then a young man, said to
Judge Bolles on the occasion, “You will blow your Baptist ram’s horn
until the walls of Jericho fall.”

Rev. Augustus Bolles, another brother of Judge Bolles, a Baptist
preacher, many years a resident of Hartford and for some time
associated with the _Christian Secretary_ published there, referring
to the great controversy for equal religious rights in the State of
Connecticut, said to the writer, more than fifty years ago, “The
Bolleses were perfect Bonapartes in that contest.” Where was Mr.
Field then? Perhaps he wasn’t born.

That ably conducted paper, the _Hartford Times_, was established in
1817, by Frederick D. Bolles, a descendant of John Bolles, for the
express purpose of meeting this question. From the first number of
said paper, we copy the following:—

Anxious to make the _Times_ as useful and worthy of public
patronage as possible, the subscriber has associated himself with
John M. Niles, Esq., a young gentleman of talent. The business
will be conducted under the firm of F. D. Bolles & Co., and they
hope, through their joint exertions, to render the paper
acceptable to its readers.

F. D. BOLLES.

The subject of religious rights was the main topic of discussion in
this paper. A subsequent number, August 12, 1817, has a long article
signed, “Roger Williams.” It is headed, “An Inquiry Whether the
Several Denominations of Christians in the States Enjoy Equal Civil
and Religious Privileges.”

From the “History of Hartford County,” we quote the following:—

The _Hartford Times_ was started at the beginning of the year
1817. Its publisher was Frederick D. Bolles, a practical printer,
and at that time a young man full of confidence and enthusiasm in
his journal and his cause. That cause was, in the party terms of
the day, “TOLERATION.” First, and paramount, of the objects of the
Tolerationists was to secure the adoption of a new Constitution
for Connecticut. Under the ancient and loose organic law then in
force, people of all forms and shades of religious belief were
obliged to pay tribute to the established church. Such a state of
things permitted no personal liberty, no individual election in
the vital matter of a man’s religion; and it naturally created a
revolt. The cry of “Toleration” arose. The Federalists met the
argument with ridicule. The “Democratic Republicans,” of the
Jefferson fold, were the chief users of the Toleration cry, and
the _Hartford Times_ was established on that issue, and in support
of the movement for a new and more tolerant Constitution. It
proved to be a lively year in party politics. The toleration issue
became the engrossing theme. The _Times_ had as associate editor,
John M. Niles, then a young and but little known lawyer from
Poquonock, who subsequently rose to a national reputation in the
Senate at Washington. It dealt the Federalists some powerful
blows, and enlisted in the cause a number of men of ability, who,
but for the peculiar issue presented—one of religious
freedom—never would have entered into party politics. Among them
were prominent men of other denominations than the orthodox
Congregationalists; no wonder; they were struggling for life.
There was a good deal of public speaking; circulars and pamphlets
were handed from neighbor to neighbor; the “campaign” was, in
short, a sharp and bitter one, and the main issue was hotly
contested. The excitement was intense. When it began to appear
that the Toleration cause was stronger than the Federalists had
supposed, there arose a fresh feeling of horrified apprehension,
much akin to that which, seventeen years before, had led hundreds
of good people in Connecticut, when they heard of the election of
the “Infidel Jefferson” to the Presidency, to hide their
Bibles—many of them in hay-mows—under the conviction that that
evident instrument of the Evil One would seek out and destroy
every obtainable copy of the Bible in the land.

The election came on in the spring of 1818, and the Federal party
in Connecticut found itself actually overthrown. It was a thing
unheard of, not to be believed by good Christians. Lyman Beecher,
in his Litchfield pulpit and family prayers, as one out of
numerous cases, poured out the bitterness of his heart in
declarations that everything was lost and the days of darkness had
come.

Was not the soul of John Rogers marching on?

In fact, it proved to be the day of the new Constitution—the
existing law of 1818—and under its more tolerant influence other
churches rapidly arose; the Episcopalians, the Baptists, and the
Methodists all feeling their indebtedness to the party of
Toleration.

The _Times_, successful in the main object of its beginning, after
witnessing this peaceful political revolution, continued, with
several changes of proprietors. It was about sixty years ago that
the paper became the property of Bowles and Francis, as its
publishing firm; the Bowles being Samuel Bowles, the founder, many
years later, of the _Springfield Republican_, whose son, the late
Samuel Bowles, built up that well-known journal to a high degree
of prosperity.

Mrs. Watson, of East Windsor Hill, daughter of Frederick D. Bolles,
the founder of the _Hartford Times_, who courteously furnished us
with the above quotations, also sent us a paper containing the
following tribute to John M. Niles, early associated with her father
in the publication of the _Times_.

Mr. Niles, then a young man, who perhaps had not dreamed at that
time of becoming a Senator of the United States and of making
speeches in the Senate Chamber, which, however dry in manner, were
to be complimented by Mr. Calhoun as being the most interesting
and instructive speeches he was accustomed to hear in the
Senate—this then unknown young man was one of the editors. The
_Times_ was established on the motto of “Toleration”—the severance
of church from state—the exemption of men from paying taxes to a
particular church if they did not agree with that church in their
consciences. The reform aimed at the establishment of a more
liberal rule in Connecticut; a rule which would let Baptists,
Methodists, and other denominations rise and grow, as well as the
one old dominant and domineering church that had so long reigned,
and with which party federalism had become so incorporated as to
be looked upon practically as part of its creed and substance. The
cause advocated by the _Times_ triumphed; the constitution framed
in 1818 established a new order of things. Both Mr. Bolles and Mr.
Niles have passed out of the life of earth; but the work which was
accomplished by the agitation of the “Toleration” question, sixty
years ago, has remained in Connecticut and grown. The old
intolerant influence also is not dead; its spirit remains, but its
old power for intolerant rule has passed away.

A terrible weight of prejudice rested upon the Rogerenes who first
planted that seed in Connecticut, whose outshoot, ingrafted into the
constitution of every State in the Union, has become a great tree of
religious liberty spreading its branches over all the land, under
the shadow of which not only we but immigrants from every clime sit
with delight.

This weight of superstition and intolerance was not wholly removed
when Mr. Field wrote of the Rogerenes, which is the only excuse we
can offer for the statements made by him in his “Discourse Delivered
on the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the First Church of Christ, in
New London, October 19, 1870.” Compared, however, with what John
Rogers and his early followers endured at the hands of a tyrannical,
bigoted, blinded church, and the falsehoods and scoffs which
ecclesiastical historians have promulgated, Mr. Field’s utterances
are lighter than a feather.

Share