Why seizures

In May, at a special session of the Superior Court, at Hartford,
John Rogers is tried upon the following charges:—

1. For that in New London, in Feb. last, thou didst lay thy hand
upon thy breast and say: This is the humane body of Christ, which
words are presumptuous, absurd and of a blasphemous nature.

2. For saying, concerning a wheelbarrow thou broughtest into the
meeting house about a week or fortnight before, that Christ drove
the wheelbarrow—an impious belying of Christ, accusing him to be
the author of sin and was on the Sabbath day.

3. Thou art presented for disturbing the congregation of N. London
on the Lord’s day, when they were in the public worship of God.

4. Also for saying in court that thou did’st nothing and had said
nothing but what thy Lord and Master sent thee to doe etc.[77]
which expressions were spoken in answer to the governor, who
reproved thee for disturbing God’s people in his day and worship.

Footnote 77:

The “&c.” is of the record.

The evidence against the prisoner in regard to these matters is
given by Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, Daniel Wetherell and John
Christophers, and by “an old man in New London prison,” who
testifies that he heard John Rogers say “that he was in Christ and
just and holy, and ministers would carry people to the devil.”
Stated in record that John Rogers owned to saying he was in Christ,
but denied the rest of the statement by the old man. He also denied
that he said Christ drove the wheelbarrow into the church.

Messrs. Saltonstall, Christophers and Wetherell testify that (“at
Mr. Thomas Young’s”) they saw John Rogers lay his hand on his
breast, and heard him say: “This is the humane body of Christ;” they
also heard him say in a “laughing,” or “as they thought in a
flouting way,” “brother Jesus and brother Paul.” Owned in court by
John Rogers “that he said his body was Christ’s” (note this exact
agreement with his son’s statement, Part I, Chapter II), also that
he used the term brother in regard to Christ and Paul.

The opinions of four ministers are taken as to the blasphemous
nature of said expressions. The names of these ministers are “Samuel
Stow, Moses Noyes, Timothy Woodbridge and Caleb Watson.” They judge
that the expression, “This is the humane body of Christ,” has a high
blasphemous reflection. The saying “brother Jesus is also a
presumptuous expression, in the manner of his saying it” (viz., as
rendered by Gurdon Saltonstall). “The saying that Christ drove the
wheelbarrow is an impious belying of Christ” (regardless of the
prisoner’s denial of having made any such statement). “The
reflections on our worship are a slanderous charge against the
generation of the righteous, and heretical and impious.”[78] They
also “apprehend that in every one of the expressions evidenced
against him there is a high and abominable profanation of the name
of Christ.”

Footnote 78:

Although the “Proclamation” put out at the prison window appears
(by absence on the court records) not to have figured in open
court, it was evidently in the minds of these priestly judges.

Verdict, guilty. Sentence:—

To be led forth to the place of execution with a rope about his
neck, and there to stand upon a ladder leaning against the
gallows, with the rope about his neck, for a quarter of an hour.
And for his evil speaking against the ordinances of God to pay a
fine of £5; for disturbing the congregation to be kept in prison
until he gives security to the value of £50 for his peaceable
behavior and non-disturbance of the people of God for the future
and until he pay to the keeper of the prison his just fees and
dues.

Here is set forth a term of imprisonment which can be ended only by
some change of policy on the part of the authorities; since it is
well known by those who have this matter in charge that John Rogers
never gives such security or bonds.

By this time, excitement and sympathy on the part of friends,
followers and relatives of the prisoner are undoubtedly at their
height, and it is probable that these people give somewhat free
expression to their indignation, especially regarding the charge of
blasphemy and the consequent ignominious punishment. Neither they
nor the prisoner expected other than severe measures regarding the
wheelbarrow affair, which was a very bold stroke of countermove in
an extraordinary emergency.

In June, close following the trial and punishment inflicted upon
John Rogers at Hartford, the New London meeting-house burns to the
ground.

But for the excitement among the dissenters, this disaster might be
attributed to some other cause; but under the circumstances it is a
convenient and plausible charge to lay at their door. About the same
time, also, Stonington meeting-house is desecrated by “daubing it
with filth.”

Bathsheba Fox, John Rogers, Jr., and William Wright (the Indian
servant before referred to) are arraigned before the Superior Court
at Hartford, on suspicion of being “concerned in” both of the above
occurrences. The only evidence against John, Jr., and his aunt
Bathsheba is of a circumstantial character, to the effect that some
conversation transpired previous to these occurrences which it is
considered may have instigated the burning and desecration on the
part of others, notably of William Wright. The latter is convicted
of defiling the Stonington meeting-house.[79]

Footnote 79:

After diligent search, no evidence has been found of enmity on the
part of the Rogerenes towards the Stonington church.

It is probable that, in the height of their excitement over the
treatment John Rogers received at Hartford, Bathsheba, John, Jr.,
and others expressed great indignation against Mr. Saltonstall and
the New London church generally. Yet the burning of the
meeting-house was probably as much a surprise to them as to anyone,
and certainly as great a financial disaster; since upon them more
than upon others, by exorbitant seizure of property, must fall the
expense of a new edifice. This latter fact, as well as certainty
that suspicion and apprehension must surely fall in their quarter,
would naturally deter them from any such undertaking. Also,
retaliatory measures of this description are contrary to the
principles of this sect.[80]

Footnote 80:

Miss Caulkins says regarding this burning of the meeting-house:
“It was supposed to be an act of incendiarism, and public fame
attributed it to the followers of John Rogers. Several of these
people were arrested and tried for the crime, but it could not be
proved against them, and they may now without hesitation be
pronounced innocent. Public sympathy was enlisted on the other
side, and had they committed a deed which was then esteemed a high
degree of sacrilege, it is difficult to believe they could have
escaped exposure and penalty.”

At this same Superior Court session, John Rogers, Jr., and William
Wright are charged with having recently assisted in the escape from
the Hartford prison of a man, “Matthews,” who was condemned to
death.[81] William Wright is charged with assisting Matthews to
escape from prison, and John Rogers, Jr., is accused of conveying
him out of the colony. He appears to have been soon recaptured, and
is again in prison at the time these charges are preferred. This is
not the only instance in which John Rogers, Jr., is found running
great risk and displaying great courage in a cause which he deems
right before God, however criminal in the judgment of men.

Footnote 81:

The capital crime with which he was charged appears not to have
been well-proven, for which reason the condemned prisoner
petitioned that there might be a fuller investigation. (See _Book
of Crimes and Misdemeanors_, State Library.) The fact that,
although meriting severe punishment, this youth was not guilty to
the extent presumed by the penalty, is indicated by his after
reprieve.

For assisting in this escape, William Wright is to pay half the
charges incurred in recapturing Matthews. For “abusing” Stonington
meeting-house, for not acknowledging to have heard alleged
conversations among the Rogerses and their confederates in regard to
the burning of New London meeting-house, and for having made his
escape from justice (by which he appears to have recently escaped
from jail[82]), he is to be “sorely whipped” and returned to
Hartford prison.

Footnote 82:

Where he was doubtless confined for his “disturbance outside the
meeting house” in the recent countermove, the “ten stripes” being
too mild a punishment.

John Rogers, Jr., for being “conspicuously guilty of consuming New
London meeting house” (although no slightest evidence of such guilt
is recorded), “for having been in company with some who held a
discourse of burning said meeting house” (although no such discourse
has been proven), and “that he did encourage the Indian to fly far
enough” (this appears to refer to William Wright’s “escape from
justice”), and “for being active in conveying Matthews out of the
colony,” is placed under bond for trial. It is shown that his uncle,
Samuel Rogers, has appeared and given bail for him. (There is no
after record to show that such trial ever took place, and no
slightest mention of any further proceeding in the matter.) This act
of Samuel Rogers is one of the frequent evidences of cordial
friendship between John, Jr., and his uncle.

Bathsheba, for “devising and promoting” the firing of the
meeting-house, and the “defiling” of that at Stonington, is to pay a
fine of £10 or be severely whipped. This fine is probably paid by
Samuel Rogers. It certainly would not be paid by her. The sole
evidence against John, Jr., and Bathsheba is in the character of
vague rumors of indignant discourse relating to the recent moves
against John Rogers, Sr. No proof of any complicity is recorded.

John, Jr., and Bathsheba are freed, but William Wright remains in
Hartford jail with his master (and will continue there for three
years to come), not for burning the meeting-house, which is not
proven against him, nor for defiling that at Stonington (on
suspicion of which he has already been punished with the stripes);
not (save in part) for the charges incurred by the rescue of
Matthews, but (as will be evident three years later) for his averred
determination not to submit to the law regarding servile labor on
the first day of the week.

In the meantime, Mr. Saltonstall and his friends, who have recently
been congratulating themselves on the success of their scheme for
keeping John Rogers in Hartford jail, are gravely contemplating the
ashes of their meeting-house and the remnants of its new bell, with
still further uneasiness in regard to results like enough to ensue
from added distrainments of the nonconformists towards the building
of another edifice.

Nor is this all. There are prominent members of this very church who
have so long been witnesses of wrongs and provocations on the part
of the authorities towards the conscientious non-conformists, and
have seen these wrongs and provocations so increased of late, that
they are willing to join with representatives of those people in an
open remonstrance.

In October of this year, occurs the terrible and mysterious public
scourging of John Rogers at Hartford, which is best given in his own
words and those of his son (see Part I, Chapters II and III), of
which act, or cause for it, no slightest mention is to be found on
court records. All this is but the beginning of vengeance for his
continued refusal to bind himself to what the court terms “good
behavior.” Close following any such bonds, would be the institution
of such procedures against the Rogerenes as would tend to annihilate
their denomination. But so long as the dreaded countermove is to be
looked for, in times of extremity, some degree of caution must be
exercised, even by the rulers of Connecticut.

The “Remonstrance,” to which reference has been made, appears in
January of this year, and is issued by Capt. James Rogers, Richard
Steer, Samuel Beebe and Jonathan Rogers. Appended to it are many
names. Briefly stated, it is charged that the Congregational church
have been so accustomed to persecute those that dissent from them
“that they cannot forbear their old trade;” that the design of the
Act of Parliament for liberty to Presbyterians, Independents,
Quakers and Baptists, to worship according to the dictates of
conscience

“is violently opposed by some whose narrow principles, fierce
inclinations and self interest have wedded to a spirit of
persecution and an itch for domineering over their neighbors. That
the present actions of the authority show that the king has
nothing to do with this colony. That the compelling them to pay
towards the maintainance of a Congregational Minister is contrary
to law and therefore rapine and robbery. That the rights of
peaceable dissenters have been of late, by permission of the
authorities, violated, and that the authority has illegally
oppressed them.”

(Here is proof of recent unusual procedures by the town magistrates,
not only against the Rogerenes, but in regard to the quiet
dissenters on the Great Neck and elsewhere. This persecution has
been going on out of sight of the general public, by action of the
town authorities, since no County Court record appears. Undoubtedly
it was this revival of indignities that stirred John Rogers to his
bold move.)

The “emitters” of this paper are placed under bonds for appearance
at the County Court, where they are fined £5 each “for defamation of
their Majesties,” viz.: “the Gov. of Conn. and others in authority,”
as well as “breach of His Majesty’s peace and disquietude of his
liege people.”

The “emitters” appeal to the Superior Court, not because they expect
any favor from that quarter, but it keeps the cause before that
public in whose sense of justice is all their hope.

1697.

Before May of this year, and while another trial of the case
regarding the claim of Joseph to land awarded Jonathan is still in
progress, occurs the death of Joseph Rogers. It is not unlikely that
had both brothers lived they would have come to an amicable
adjustment of the difficulty; since the evident perplexity of those
charged with examination into the case, indicates reasonable
arguments upon either side, and thus a matter well fitted for
compromise.

Our glimpses of Joseph Rogers are meagre. He and his wife appear not
to have joined the Newport church, but were evidently members of the
church of which John Rogers was pastor. (We have seen the wife’s
baptism, Chapter II.) Yet, of late years, Joseph has been scarcely
more noticeable than Jonathan, as regards arraignment for labor on
the first day of the week, which, as in case of the latter, appears
to prove that his labor was not of an ostentatious character. That
he was steady, thrifty, industrious and enterprising is very
evident. He added largely, by purchase, to the lands given him by
his father, and had become proprietor of a saw-mill and corn-mill at
Lyme. He died intestate, and his widow, Sarah, administered on his
estate. Sarah Rogers now carries forward the suit in which her
husband was engaged. The court appears not unfavorable to her
presentation of the case; but, on account of a neglect on her part
in regard to certain technicalities, the trial comes to a pause,
and, through lack of further action on her part, the case is again
decided in favor of Jonathan.

In March, 1697, complaint is made to the Governor and Council
that John Rogers and William Wright, who were “to be kept
close prisoners,” are frequently permitted to walk at liberty,
and the complainants (names not stated) declare their extreme
dissatisfaction with the jailer and any that connive with him
in this matter. It is ordered that said persons be hereafter
kept close prisoners, and that the jailer or others who
disobey this order be dealt with according to law. Has John
Rogers made such friends with the prejudiced and cruel jailer
of 1694? Even so (see Part I., Chapter IV., for testimony of
Thomas Hancox, and Part I, Chapter II., for scourging of John
Rogers at Hartford and part of same jailer in this abuse).

In 1697, the General Court appoint a committee to revise the laws of
the colony and certain “reverent elders” to advise the persons
chosen in this affair,[83] and also “to advise this court in what
manner they ought to bear testimony against the irregular actions of
John Rogers in printing and publishing a book reputed scandalous and
heretical.”

Footnote 83:

A very distinct glimpse of the power given to ministers of the
standing order in state legislation.

John Rogers, Jr., is now twenty-three years of age, a young man of
brilliant parts and daring courage. Since he is the printer and
circulator of this book, he is probably also its author. In this
same month of May, “John Rogers, Jr.,” is “bound in a bond of £40”
“to appear at court” (Superior) “to answer what may be objected
against him for bringing a printed book or pamphlet into this colony
which was not licensed by authority, and for selling the same up and
down the colony, as also for other misdemeanors”—the nature of the
latter not indicated. No complaint being presented against him, he
is dismissed.

[Could a copy of this pamphlet be found, great light might be thrown
upon this stormy period, by revelation of the full circumstances
leading up to the desperate entry of John Rogers into the
meeting-house in 1694, the plot of Mr. Saltonstall and the
“Remonstrance in Behalf of Peaceable Dissenters.”

That this book, sold “up and down the colony” by John Rogers, Jr.,
was for the enlightenment of the people at large regarding the
cause, and lack of cause, for the long imprisonment and cruel
treatment of his father, with representation of the case for the
nonconformists, can scarcely be doubted. We can picture this
talented and manly youth going from place to place, eagerly seeking
and finding those who will listen to his eloquent appeal to buy and
read this tale of wrong and woe, in the almost single-handed
struggle for religious liberty in Connecticut.]

Does the little book create so much sympathy “up and down the
colony,” that it is no longer wise to keep John Rogers incarcerated,
or are his ecclesiastical enemies at last sated by his nearly four
years of close imprisonment in Hartford jail? However this may be,
at the October session of the Superior Court, 1697, John Rogers is
brought from prison and “set at liberty in open court,” “in
expectation that he will behave himself civilly and peaceably in the
future.” The promise of good behavior is not required of him, as
formerly, but in its place the “in expectation,” etc., which is not
their expectation at all, unless with the proviso that they
themselves observe due caution in the handling of him and his
followers. They are apparently mindful of public opinion and of the
little book.

William Wright is also brought from prison to this court. He stands
here, in the presence of this master, who has just been set at
liberty, awaiting his own turn to be freed. For more than three
years, these men have been comrades in Hartford prison. They dwelt
together at the home of James Rogers, Sr., the Indian a servant of
the latter, and, since his death, servant of the executor, John
Rogers. The master has been kind and trustful, the servant faithful
to a remarkable extent. But for signal proof of heroic allegiance to
this nonconformist, he had not been in prison at all.

The master is waiting that his servant may go with him from the
court-room as a free man. But no! As the ceremony proceeds, the
Indian is offered his freedom only on condition that he will promise
to “behave himself civilly and peaceably in future,” which would
include refraining from servile work upon the first day of the week.
They are demanding promises of the despised red man that they dare
not exact of the white man, who has no lack of money or of friends.

Well may the warm blood of this master spring crimson to cheek and
brow. But not alone the master, the servant himself. They would
compel him to desert his master! The blood of the Indian is a match
for that of the Saxon.

William Wright, standing in swarthy dignity before this worshipful
court, declines his freedom on terms not only unjust to himself, but
demanding infidelity to that master and that cause for which he has
been so ready to venture and to suffer. He declares before this
assembly that he will not submit to the law against servile labor on
the first day of the week, that said law “is a human invention,” and
that he will work upon the first day of the week so long as he
lives.

For this admirable fidelity to his religion and his friends, he is
sentenced to be returned to prison “until there shall be opportunity
to send him out of the colony on some vessel, as a dangerous
disturber of the peace,” and in case of his return he shall be
whipped and again transported.

The wonder is that John Rogers held his peace until the full
completion of this sentence. Had an outburst of indignation and
condemnation of this unjust sentence not been forthcoming, as this
faithful servant was being returned to the close imprisonment of
Hartford jail, then might it be said that John Rogers could, for
fear or favor, stand silent in the presence of injustice. For such
an outburst as this[84] John Rogers is immediately fined £5. This
“contempt of court” is briefly rendered on the records as follows:—

“John Rogers upon the above sentence being passed upon William
Wright behaved himself disorderly, in speaking without leave and
declaring that he did protest against the said sentence.”

Footnote 84:

The words spoken do not appear on record.

Since he never pays such fines (except through execution upon his
property) he is probably returned to prison with his faithful
servant, there to continue until this fine shall be cancelled.

Before the close of this year, Jonathan Rogers is accidentally
drowned in Long Island Sound. Our glimpses of this youngest son of
James Rogers have been slight and infrequent. That he possessed
firmness and independence, is shown by his resolution to continue
fully within the Newport church. The fact that this made no
break—other than upon religious points—with his Rogerene relatives
reveals both tact and an amiable and winning personality. In his
inventory are “cooper’s tools,” “carpenter’s tools” and “smith’s
tools,” indicating an enterprising man concerned in several
occupations, according to the fashion of his time.

1698.

When John Rogers is finally released from prison, the rancor with
which he is still pursued by Mr. Saltonstall, with intent to weaken
his financial power to continue his bold stand, is proven by the
preposterous suit instituted against him almost immediately
(Superior Court) for alleged defamation, in saying that he
(Saltonstall) agreed to hold a public argument with him (Rogers) on
certain points of scripture, which agreement said Saltonstall failed
to fulfil.[85] (This case has been fully presented in Part I.,
Chapter VI.)

Footnote 85:

It would be interesting to know exactly what doctrine or doctrines
were involved. By the occurrence of this suit so soon after John
Roger’s release from an imprisonment on charge of “Blasphemy,” it
would seem not unlikely that the Scripture expounded at the house
of Thomas Young in 1694 (probably Romans viii) might be that in
question. Public “disputes” of this kind were then and for many
years after in vogue in Connecticut.

(Motive for any such alleged statement, unless true, being lacking,
and a pamphlet being published not long after by John Rogers, giving
a detailed account of the whole cause and proceeding, by which the
exorbitant sum of £600 recovery for libel, with costs of court, was
levied upon him, it is presumable that enmity and court influence
were at the bottom of this suit, if not clearly on the surface.
Ecclesiastical power was dominant at this time in all the courts.
Ever back of Mr. Saltonstall stood this power, as intent as himself
upon the overthrow of this daring nonconformist. Could a copy of the
pamphlet by John Rogers,[86] giving details of that remarkable suit,
be found, much light would doubtless be cast upon this period in the
history of the Rogerenes.)

Footnote 86:

For full title, see publications of John Rogers, at end of
_Appendix_.

The death of Elizabeth, widow of James, has recently occurred.[87]

Footnote 87:

This fact is revealed by after procedures regarding settlement of
the residue of the estate, her death not being found on record.

John Rogers has changed his home from the Great Neck to Mamacock
farm, North Parish. His sister Bathsheba has also removed to the
North Parish, to a place called Fox’s Mills, from the mills owned
and carried on by her husband, Samuel Fox.

1698.

The long and close imprisonment of John Rogers in Hartford, attended
as it was with a bitter sense of wrong, would seem sufficient to
undermine the strongest constitution. To this was added anxiety
regarding home affairs, including charge of his father’s estate and
the care of his mother, which were devolving wholly upon his sister
Bathsheba. His mother’s death close following his release, and
business neglected during the past four years, must have borne hard
on his enfeebled system, to say nothing of annoyance and difficulty
on account of Mr. Saltonstall’s recovery of the £600. Although he
has gathered his family (son and servants) about him, at Mamacock
farm, and resumed the leadership of his Society, he can scarcely as
yet be the man he was four years ago.

It must be sweet to breathe again the open air of freedom, and such
air as blows over Mamacock; purest breezes from river and from sea,
fragrant with the breath of piney woods, of pastures filled with
flowers and herbs, and of fields of new-mown hay, mingled with the
wholesome odor of seaweed cast by the tide upon Mamacock shore.

Not far from the house, towards the river, in a broad hollow in the
greensward, bordered on the north by a wooded cliff and commanding a
view of the river and craggy Mamacock peninsula, is a clear, running
stream and pool of spring water. Here yet (1698) the Indians come as
of old, with free leave of the owner, to eat clams, as also on
Mamacock peninsula, at both of which places the powdered white
shells in the soil will verify the tradition for more than two
hundred years to come. In this river are fish to tempt the palate of
an epicure, and trout abound in the neighboring streams. A
strong-built, white-sailed boat is a part of this lovely scene, and
such a boat will still be found here for many years to come. (See
“Hempstead Diary” for mention of boat.)

1699.

If after the perilous trials, hardships and irritations of the past
four years, this man has a mind to enjoy life, as it comes to him at
Mamacock, it is not strange.

Nor is it strange that, among his house servants, he soon
particularly notices a young woman, lately arrived from the old
country, whose services he has bought for so long as will reimburse
him for payment of her passage. Perhaps the chief cause of his
interest is in the fact that she herself has taken a liking to the
half-saddened man who is her master. Surely he who could so attach
to himself a native Indian like William Wright, has traits to win
even the favor of a young woman. He is evidently genial and
indulgent with his servants, rather than haughty and censorious.

For twenty-five years he has been a widower, except that the grave
has not covered the wife of his youth. Through all these years, the
bitterest of his calumniators have not raised so much as a whisper
questioning his perfect fidelity to Elizabeth, who, since the
divorce, has been the wife of two other men and yet ever by this man
has been considered as rightfully his own. Such being the case, well
may his son wonder that he is becoming interested in this young
housemaid, Mary Ransford, even to showing some marked attentions,
which she receives with favor. She is a comely young woman, no
doubt, as well as lively and spirited. Her master will not object to
her having a mind of her own, especially when she displays due
indignation regarding the wholesale method of gathering the
minister’s and church rates. But when she goes so far as to
“threaten”[88] to pour scalding water on the head of the collector
of rates, as he appears at the front door upon that ever fruitless
errand, this master must give her a little lesson in the doctrine of
non-resistance, although his eyes may twinkle with covert humor at
her zeal. As for the rates, they must be taken out of the pasture.

Footnote 88:

The County Court record says Mary was fined for “threatening” to
pour scalding water on the head of the collector. Miss Caulkins
inadvertently says she was fined for “pouring” the same.

Evidently this attractive girl, Mary, is willing to assent to
anything this indulgent master believes to be right, taking as
kindly to his doctrines as to himself. A man of soundest
constitution, as proven from first to last, and of great
recuperative energy, he is not old at fifty-two, despite
imprisonments, stripes and ceaseless confiscations.

It soon becomes plain to John the younger that this is no ordinary
partiality for an attractive and devoted maid, but that his father
will ask this young woman to become his wife. For the first time,
there is a marked difference of opinion between father and son. Mary
is perfectly willing to pledge herself to this man, even under the
conditions desired. As for him, why should he longer remain single,
seeing there is no possible hope of reclaiming the wife whom he
still tenderly loves. There are arguments enough upon the other
side. John, Jr., presents them very forcibly, and especially in
regard to the inconsistency of putting any woman in his mother’s
place, so long as his father continues to declare that Elizabeth is
still, in reality, his wife.

To this latter and chief argument, the father replies that he shall
not put Mary in his first wife’s place, since that marriage has
never been annulled, by any law of God or of man. Did not God, in
the olden times, allow two kinds of wives, both truly wives, yet one
higher than the other? Under the singular circumstances of this
case, being still bound to Elizabeth by the law of God, yet
separated from her by the will of men, he will marry Mary, yet not
as he married Elizabeth Griswold. He will openly and honorably marry
her, yet put no woman in the place of his first wife. To this Mary
agrees.

It is but another outcome of this man’s character. He fears God and
God alone. He takes very little thought as to what man may think or
do concerning him. Yet not by a hair’s breadth will he, if he knows
it, transgress any scriptural law. (In his after treatise “On
Divorce,” how well can be read between the lines the meditations and
conclusions of this period, and chiefly the fact that, in deciding
upon a second marriage, he in no wise admitted that Elizabeth
Griswold was not still his wife, although so held from him that he
might lawfully take another, although under the circumstances a
lesser, wife.[89])

Footnote 89:

In this treatise “On Divorce,” he shows that the New Testament
admits but one cause for divorce, and does not admit adultery as a
cause. Therefore (by inference), although, by her after marriages,
his first wife leads an adulterous life (see statement of his son,
Part I., Chapter IV.), he does not consider that this fact
releases him from his marriage bond. But since, by the law of God
(“Mosaic” and still prevailing in the time of Christ), a man was
allowed another than his first and chiefest wife, in taking Mary
Ransford for his wife under the forced separation from his first
wife, he breaks no law of God. Not that he so much as mentions
himself, Elizabeth or Mary in this treatise; but the above is
plainly inferable to those acquainted with his history at this
period. Since, in granting the divorce to Elizabeth, the court
left him free to marry again, he broke no civil law in taking
another wife.

Oppose this unpropitious plan as he may, the son, whose influence
has hitherto been paramount, cannot prevail to weaken his father’s
resolution. It is the old and frequent glamour that has bound men
and women in a spell from the beginning, making them blind to what
others see, and causing them to see that to which others are blind,
in the object of their choice. The fact that Mary returns John,
Jr.’s, pronounced opposition to the marriage with consequent
aversion to the spirited youth, does not necessarily injure her
standing with the father. There is but one person for whom
favoritism on her part is absolutely necessary. As is usual in such
cases, the matter goes on, despite all opposition. He who has so
often borne to his mother the tale of his father’s unfaltering
fidelity, must now acquaint her with this sudden engagement. To the
young, the new loves of older people are foolishness. But, in this
case, there is still another reason for John, Jr.’s, opposition to
this mid-life romance; it is sadly interfering with a very natural
intention of his own.

With his usual habit of unhesitatingly executing a plan as soon as
it is fully determined upon, John Rogers improves the opportunity
offered by the session of the County Court in New London, to present
himself with Mary before that assembly (June 6), where they take
each other, in the sight and hearing of all, as husband and wife;
he, furthermore, stating his reason for marrying her outside the
form prescribed by the colony, to which form he declares he attaches
no value, since it was not sufficient to secure his first wife to
him, although no valid cause was presented for the annulment of that
approved ceremony. To fully make this a well-authenticated marriage,
he gallantly escorts Mary to the house of the Governor (Mr.
Winthrop) and informs him that he has taken this young woman for his
wife. The governor politely wishes him much joy.[90]

Much as this second marriage might be lamented, from several points
of view, and much trouble as it brought upon both Mary and John,
Jr., by their irreconcilable disagreement, to say nothing of the
perplexities and sorrows which it inflicted upon John Rogers
himself, it is scarcely to be regretted by his biographer; since it
brings into bold prominence a striking, and wonderfully rare,
characteristic of this remarkable man, viz.: the most reverent and
careful deference to every known law of God, combined with total
indifference to any law of man not perfectly agreeing with the laws
of God.[91] Evidently, what the most august assembly of men that
could be gathered, or the most lofty earthly potentate, might think,
say or do, would to him be lighter than a feather, if such thought,
speech or act did not accord with the divine laws.

Footnote 90:

It may be left to legal judgment to decide whether this marriage
was not more in accordance with the spirit and letter of the law
than was the divorce granted by the General Court of Connecticut,
through no testimony save that of a wife, bent on divorce, against
her husband, regarding a matter which he had confided to her in
marital confidence; said divorce being granted in the very face of
the “we find not the bill” rendered by the grand jury in regard to
the charge made by the wife.

Footnote 91:

Everything involved in the command to “render to Cæsar,” etc.,
being a law of Christ, he held binding, as regarded ordinary civil
legislation.

1700.

By some agreement the house at Mamacock, cattle on the place, and
other farm property, are under the joint ownership of John, Sr., and
John, Jr.; the one has as much right to the house and the farm stock
as the other. It now appears that the junior partner has himself
been intending to furnish a mistress for the house at Mamacock. In
January, 1700, seven months after the marriage of his father, he
brings home his bride and is forced to place her in the awkward
position of one of two mistresses. The young woman who now enters
upon this highly romantic and gravely dramatic scene is one with
whom John Rogers, Sr., can find no fault, being none other than his
niece, Bathsheba, daughter of his faithful and beloved sister of the
same name.

In spite of the difficulties sure to ensue, John, Sr., cannot but
welcome this favorite niece to Mamacock. Not so with Mary. Whatever
estimable and attractive qualities the latter may possess, here is a
situation calculated to prove whether or not she is capable of the
amount of passion and jealousy that has so often transformed a
usually sensible and agreeable woman into the semblance of a
Jezebel. The birth of a son to Mary, at this trying period, does not
better the situation. Even so courageous a man as John Rogers might
well stand appalled at the probable consequences of this venturesome
marriage. When he brought Mary home and directed his servants to
obey her as their mistress,[92] he in no wise calculated upon her
being thus, even partially, set aside. He stands manfully by her, as
best he may, though with the evident intention that she shall
refrain from any abuse of his son’s rights in the case.

Footnote 92:

Mary’s account in her petition to the General Court, 1703. See
“Book of Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Court Files.

Although Mary is fined 40_s_. by the County Court in June, for the
birth of her child, it is not declared illegitimate by the usual
form, the authorities being nonplussed by the fact she and John
Rogers so publicly took each other as husband and wife. She is not
called upon to declare who is the child’s father, nor is the latter
charged with its maintenance, as in cases of illegitimacy.
Evidently, John Rogers did not expect any court action, in the case
of so public a ceremony. He declines to pay a fine so disgraceful to
his wife and child, and appeals to the Superior Court. The court
decides that, since the fine was not accompanied by other due forms
of law, it is invalid, but refers the matter to the future
consideration of the County Court, which results in no further
action in regard to this child.

Mary is also summoned before this same June court and fined 10_s_.,
“for her wicked and notorious language to John Rogers, Jr.,”
evidently on complaint of the latter. In this crisis, her husband
presents himself at the court, partly in her defense and partly in
that of his son. He calls attention to a mark upon her face, which
he says she declares to have been inflicted by the hand of his son
John, during his own absence from home, and that upon this account
“she has become so enraged as to threaten the life of somebody, as
she has done before from time to time,” and he is “fearful that if
God or man do not prevent it,”[93] serious consequences may follow.
John, Jr., is fined 10_s._ on this evidence of his father. Although
the injury to Mary, as indicated by the fine, is nothing serious as
a wound, yet it proves how far the young man lost self-control in
this instance. John Rogers, Sr., objects to the fine imposed upon
Mary under these circumstances, but his statement before the court
is evidently intended not only as a defense of his son, but as a
check upon herself.

Footnote 93:

The statements in this paragraph are from an affidavit still
extant at New London, in the handwriting of John Rogers.

[There is the evidence of a no more partial witness than Peter Pratt
that John Rogers never complained, outside his own home, of the
domestic troubles resulting from this marriage.[94] In the above
instance, he was compelled, by the action of his son, to testify,
both in Mary’s defense and in excuse of his son. Upon this court
record and affidavit is founded Miss Caulkin’s statement that appeal
was made to the court to “quell domestic broils” arising from this
marriage. It is to the advantage of this history that the family
affairs of John Rogers were in this instance forced before the
public, since we may observe the manner in which the father and
husband endeavors to secure an impartial administration of justice,
and immunity of any one from harm.]

Footnote 94:

“Prey Taken from the Strong.”

However this marriage and its consequences may figure upon the
printed page of a less primitive period, they appear not to lessen
respect for this remarkable man in the eyes of his followers,
although these followers are persons of the highest moral character.
His blameless life as a single man for the last twenty-five years,
and his avowed reasons for taking another wife in the manner he has,
are known to all. Moreover, they find no word of God in
condemnation.

In this year, John Rogers publishes, in pamphlet form, an account of
the dispute agreed upon between himself and Mr. Saltonstall, telling
the particulars of that great extortion. (Would that a copy of this
might yet come to the light!)

1702.

In September, 1702, the County Court have a good opportunity to
exercise the “after consideration” recommended by the Superior Court
in 1700, which they improve by dealing with Mary, after the birth of
her second child, exactly as they are accustomed to deal with an
unmarried woman. Her presentment is in exactly the same wording, a
part of which calls upon her to declare under oath, before the
court, the name of the father of her child. To prevent their
carrying out this form, John Rogers is there in court, with his
six-months-old girl baby in his arms, to save it from this disgrace.
He has given Mary directions how to proceed, in order to supplement
his plan of breaking up the intended procedure. If she refuse to
take the oath and to declare John Rogers to be the father of her
child, the court will be baffled.[95]

Footnote 95:

See account of this court scene, by John Rogers, 2d. (Part I.,
Chapter V.).

Being ordered to take the oath, she is silent, as her husband has
enjoined, while he declares to the court that this her child in his
arms is his own. The court knows, as well as the man before them,
that his first marriage has not been annulled for any legal cause;
that he had reason to refuse a repetition of the ceremony. But while
those who make and administer laws may be allowed to ignore them
with impunity, lesser people must abide by them; least of all must
this man escape, who has imperilled the ecclesiasticism of the land.
They threaten Mary with stripes, if she continue her refusal to take
the oath. She looks from the judge to the man who stands, so earnest
and anxious, with the babe in his arms, bidding her not to take the
oath, declaring that, if she obey him, he will shield her from harm.
She knows he will do all that he can to protect her; but she has
seen marks of the stripes upon his own back; she knows how he has
sat for hours in the stocks, and been held for weary years in
prison. Can he rescue her from the stripes?

He sees her yielding and pleads with her, pleads that she will save
their child from this dishonor. The court sternly repeats the
threat. Again he promises to defend her, in case she will obey him;
but declares that, if she yield, branding his child as base-born,
herself as common, and himself a villain, he needs must hesitate,
hereafter, to own her as his wife.

She sees the court will not be trifled with. She knows that John
Rogers uses no idle words. Yet will it not be safer to brave his
displeasure than that of the court? She takes the oath, and declares
John Rogers to be the father of her child. The cloud grows dark upon
the father’s face. He folds his branded child against his heart and
goes his way. All this he risked to hold his first love first, in
seeming as in truth; has risked and lost.

The court proceeds as usual in cases of illegitimacy, pronouncing
John Rogers the father of the child, and ordering that he pay 2_s._
6_d._ per week towards its maintenance, until it is four years of
age. Mary is allowed until the end of the following month to pay the
usual fine of 40_s._, in case of non-payment of which she shall
receive ten stripes on the naked body. In the meantime, she is to be
detained in prison. Will John Rogers own his child to be
illegitimate by paying this fine? By no means.

1703.

To now take Mary back (even if so allowed by the authorities)[96]
would be to brand any other children in the same manner. To marry
her by the prescribed form would be to acknowledge these two
children to be illegitimate. Yet there is one thing that can be
done, and must be done speedily. Mary must be rescued from the
prison and thus saved from the lash. There are but two in all this
region who will risk an attempt like that. They are John Rogers and
his son. Mary escapes to Block Island.

Footnote 96:

Miss Caulkins states that Mary was threatened by this court with
heavy penalties if she returned to John Rogers. Although the
evidence of this has escaped our notice, Miss Caulkins doubtless
came across such evidence.

After a safe period has elapsed, Mary is returned from Block Island
to New London. Her children are placed with her, somewhere in the
town, to give the more effect to her Petition to the General Court,
which is presented early in May. It is a long and pathetic document
(still to be seen in “Book of Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in the State
Library, at Hartford), narrating the manner of her marriage to John
Rogers; his taking her home and “ordering his servants to be
conformable and obedient” to her; the trouble they had, “especially
myself,” on account of the displeasure of John, Jr., at the
marriage; a description of her presentment at court for her second
child; her compliance with the court’s importunity, although her
husband stood there “with it in his arms,” and how the result had
made their children “base-born,” by which her “husband” says he is
“grossly abused;” since “he took me in his heart and declared me so
to be his wife before the world, and so owned by all the neighbors.”
She beseeches that the sentence of the court be annulled; so that,
“we may live together as husband and wife lawful and orderly,” “that
the blessing of God be upon us, and your Honor, for making peace and
reconciliation between us, may have an everlasting reward.” Dated in
“New London, May 12, 1703.”

The court takes no notice of this appeal. Mary is returned to Block
Island and the children to Mamacock. Proof will appear, however,
that she is not forgotten nor neglected. Even after her marriage to
another man, and years after this hopeless separation, she will say
nothing but good of him who first called her his wife and acted
faithfully towards her a husband’s part.

[Miss Caulkins states that, some months before this period, John
Rogers “made an almost insane attempt” to regain his former wife
Elizabeth, wife of Matthew Beckwith. This statement is founded upon
a writ against John Rogers on complaint of Matthew Beckwith (Jan.
1702-3), accusing John Rogers of laying hands on Elizabeth,
declaring her to be his wife and that he would have her in spite of
Matthew Beckwith. The historian should ever look below the mere face
of things. For more than twenty-five years, John Rogers has known
that Elizabeth, married or unmarried, would not return to him,
pledged as he was to his chosen cause. He is, at this particular
date, not yet fully separated from Mary, but holding himself ready
to take her back, in case a petition to the General Court should by
any possibility result favorably. This and another complaint of
Matthew Beckwith—the latter in June, 1703—to the effect that he was
“afraid of his life of John Rogers”[97] indicate some dramatic
meeting between John Rogers and “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew
Griswold,” in the presence of Matthew Beckwith, the incidents
attendant upon which have displeased the latter and led him to
resolve that John Rogers shall be publicly punished for assuming to
express any ownership in his, Matthew Beckwith’s, wife.

Any meeting between John Rogers and Elizabeth Griswold could not
fail of being dramatic. What exact circumstances were here involved
is unknown; what attitude was taken by the woman, when these two men
were at the same time in her presence, it is impossible to
determine. But it is in no way derogatory to the character of John
Rogers, that in meeting this wife of his youth, he gives striking
proof of his undying affection. Ignoring her marriage to the man
before him, forgetful, for the time being, even of Mary, blind to
all save the woman he loves above all, he lays his hand upon
Elizabeth, and says she is, and shall be, his. Under such
circumstances, Matthew Beckwith takes his revenge in legal
proceedings. When summoned before the court, John Rogers defends his
right to say that Matthew Beckwith’s wife—so-called—is still his
own, knowing full well the court will fine him for contempt, which
process follows (County Court Record).]

Footnote 97:

This “afraid of my life” is a common expression, and was
especially so formerly, by way of emphasis. Matthew Beckwith could
not have been actually afraid of his life in regard to a man whose
principles did not allow of the slightest show of physical force
in dealing with an opponent. Although the court record says that
John Rogers “used threatening words against Matthew Beckwith,” on
presentation by Matthew Beckwith’s complaint, this does not prove
any intention of physical injury.

John Rogers is fifty-five years of age at this date, and Matthew
Beckwith sixty-six. Elizabeth is about fifty.

In this year, a fine of 10_s._ is imposed upon Samuel Beebe (Seventh
Day Baptist) for ploughing on the first day of the week (County
Court Record). Without doubt the Rogerenes (Seventh Day Baptists
also) have done the same thing. At this period John Rogers may do
whatever he pleases of this sort on the first day of the week.[98]
Nearly four years of imprisonment in Hartford jail, the little book
“sold up and down” the colony, and many a tale narrated of his
bravery and sufferings in the cause of religious liberty, have won
for him such popular sympathy that those who aid and abet
ecclesiastical rule in the state councils, are not as yet venturing
to resume stringent proceedings against the Rogerenes. The signal
failure to secure a promise of “good behavior” from the Rogerene
leader is also a prominent factor in the situation.

Footnote 98:

This by his statement to Mr. Bownas at this date.

Although there is no sign that Capt. James Rogers and his wife have
receded from their nonconformity, their son, James, Jr., has married
a member of the Congregational church and taken the half-way
covenant. He is prominent in the community and has political
ambitions, the attainment of which would be impossible for one of a
nonconformist persuasion. To have won this talented young man, must
be counted a signal victory by Mr. Saltonstall. Samuel, son of
Samuel, has also married a member of the Congregational church. He
is continuing the bakery on its old scale, has landed interests in
the neighboring country, and is surveyor for the town of New London.

Samuel, son of Joseph, now of Westerly, has become a member of the
Congregational church, while his older brother James, an
enterprising young man, is of the Baptist persuasion.

James Smith, son of Bathsheba, is a close follower of his uncle
John, although his sister Elizabeth (married to William Camp) is a
member of the Congregational church, in which her children are
baptized.

During the respite from graver cares, John Rogers has enough to busy
him at Mamacock, outside of his duties as preacher and pastor, in
caring for the place (in unison with John, Jr.) and other business
interests, making shoes, writing books, and attending to the welfare
and training of his two little children, to whom he must be both
father and mother. John and Bathsheba have a third child now. So
here are five little ones in the home at Mamacock. And there is Mary
at Block Island. She came from across the sea, and is likely to have
only the one friend in America.

In this eventful year, John Rogers visits Samuel Bownas, a Quaker
who is detained in jail at Hempstead, L. I., on a false accusation.

Through the whole of a long conversation with the Quaker (narrated
by the latter in his Journal), he makes no reference to Mary, the
prominent figure in this period of his history. It is not his
purpose to reveal to outsiders that, although he and Mary are
separated, he has not resigned her to her fate.

Mr. Bownas states that John Rogers is

“chief elder of that Society called by other people Quaker
Baptists, as imagining (though falsely) that both in their
principles and doctrines they are one with us; whereas they
differed from us in these material particulars, viz.: about the
seventh day Sabbath, in use of water in baptism to grown persons,
using the ceremony of bread and wine in communion, and also of
anointing the sick with oil; nor did they admit of the light of
truth or manifestation of the Spirit but only to believers,
alleging Scripture for the whole.”

Upon this latter point, Mr. Bownas and his visitor have a long
discussion. On any subject but the Quaker doctrines, Mr. Bownas
appears not particularly interested, for which reason he does not
furnish much information in regard to the part of the conversation
relating to John Roger’s sufferings for conscience’ sake, which he
avers to have been a portion of the converse, and which would have
been more edifying to many than the doctrinal views of the Quakers
so fully expounded to John Rogers, which are presented to the reader
through this account of their conversation.

John Rogers is quoted as describing the manner in which the young
people in his Society are trained in knowledge and study of the
Scriptures,[99] and stating that women “gifted by the Spirit” are
encouraged to take part in their meetings.

Of the Rogerenes, Mr. Bownas says: “They bore a noble testimony
against fighting, swearing, vain compliments and the superstitious
observation of days.”

Although John Rogers, in this narration, is represented as fluent in
speech, he is also shown capable of preserving complete silence,
allowing a person who is presenting views exactly the opposite of
his own to go on uninterrupted, rather than present counter views to
no purpose. He is also shown ready to concede much to the Quaker,
expresses no annoyance at the other’s very positive stand, and even
admits possible mistakes on his own part.

Footnote 99:

This shows us that at a date long prior to the time when we shall
find a sturdy band of Rogerene youth, of Rogers and of Bolles
blood, on Quaker Hill, there was no lack of young people in
training to carry forward this cause.

In short, the picture given of John Rogers by the Quaker, although
less particular than could be desired, is that of a genial, friendly
man, discussing questions with great fairness, and without
excitement. When he requests Mr. Bownas, if he ever sees Edmund
Edmundson, to convey to him his sincere sorrow for having argued
against his views that night at Hartford (see Chapter I), the
natural gentleman shows plainly in the man. Possibly, his own
opinions on the subject of that discussion may have changed.

1705.

There is still a refreshing respite from persecution, beyond the
minister’s rates and minor prosecutions carried on by the town
magistrates (of which latter there is so seldom any clear view), and
no attempt to disturb any of the meetings of the Congregational
church.

In this year, John Rogers publishes his book entitled “An Epistle to
the Church called Quakers.” This work, while heartily assenting to
many of the Quaker doctrines, is an earnest and logical appeal to
these people against the setting aside of such express commands of
Christ as the ceremony of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In this
same year he issues “The Midnight Cry” from the same press (William
Bradford, New York).

At this time, as for some five years previous, a youth by the name
of Peter Pratt is a frequent inmate of the family at Mamacock. This
is none other than the son of Elizabeth Griswold by her second
husband. Elizabeth could not keep her son John from fellowship with
his father, and it appears that she cannot keep from the same
fellowship her son by Peter Pratt. This is not wholly explainable by
the fact that Peter admires and is fond of his half-brother, John
(see Part I., Chapter IV.). Were not the senior master at Mamacock
genial and hospitable, Peter Pratt’s freedom at this house could not
be of the character described (by himself), neither would he be
likely (as is, by his own account, afterwards the case) to espouse
the cause of John Rogers, Sr., so heartily as to receive baptism at
his hands, and go so far in that following as to be imprisoned with
other Rogerenes.

According to his own statement, this young man was present at the
County Court in 1699, when John Rogers appeared there with Mary
Ransford and took her for his wife. He seems at that time to have
been studying law in New London, and making Mamacock his
headquarters. He had every opportunity to know and judge regarding
John Rogers at that exact period. To this young man must also have
been known the particulars which led to the complaint of Matthew
Beckwith, his step-father, concerning John Rogers.[100] Had Peter
Pratt disapproved of either of these occurrences it would have
prevented his affiliation with this man. Evidently, nothing known or
heard by him concerning John Rogers, Sr., has availed to diminish
his respect for him or prevent a readiness to listen to his
teachings. (He admits that at this period he “knew no reason why
John Rogers was not a good man.”)[101]

Footnote 100:

He makes no mention of this occurrence in his book.

Footnote 101:

“Prey Taken from the Strong.”

We have seen proof, by statement of Mr. Bownas, that in 1703 John
Rogers was still a faithful observer of the Seventh Day Sabbath. But
in the Introduction to his Epistle to the Seventh Day Baptists,
written, according to date of publication, about 1705, he states
that by continual study of the New Testament, he has become
convinced that Christ Himself is the Sabbath of His church, having
nailed to His cross all the former ordinances (Col. xi, 14), that,
therefore, adherence to the Jewish Sabbath, or any so-called sacred
day, is out of keeping with the new dispensation. “Let no man,
therefore, judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy-day,
or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath.”—(Col. xi, 16.) He also
states that as soon as he came to this conclusion he gave up the
Seventh Day Sabbath and wrote this Epistle to his former brethren of
that church.

After the above conclusion on the part of John Rogers and his
Society, the Rogerenes begin to hold their meetings on the first day
of the week, in conformity with the common custom. Yet, much as they
might enjoy making this a day of entire rest, were there not an
“idolatrous” law declaring that sacred which was not so declared in
the Scriptures, they still consider it their duty to bear sufficient
witness against the assumption of its sanctity.

While the Rogerenes were preaching New Testament doctrines
antagonistic to the state church, on Saturday, when the rest of the
world were busy with secular affairs, not many outsiders would be
likely to attend their meetings; but now that these doctrines are
preached and taught on Sunday, in public meetings of the
Rogerenes,[102] many more are likely to attend these services, and
so become interested in this departure, despite the fine that might
be risked by such attendance.

Yet there are no indications that any new measures have been
adopted, on account of this change on the part of the Rogerenes.
They are at least ceasing labor for that portion of the day devoted
to religious services, which may possibly appear a hopeful
indication, to the view of the ecclesiastical party. At all events,
by the silence of the court records and the testimony of John
Bolles, the Rogerenes are not now being persecuted as formerly, and
we shall find these peaceful conditions existing for some years to
come.

Footnote 102:

Their services for preaching and expounding were always public;
their (evening) meetings for prayer and praise were for believers,
after the manner of the early church.

1707.

June 4, of this year, a complaint is made by Samuel Beebe against
John Rogers, as executor of his father’s estate, for detaining from
Samuel Beebe three cows, which, by the codicil of the will, were to
be given to his wife Elizabeth after the death of her mother. The
cows are evidently given up to him, since nothing further concerning
them appears on the court records.

The peculiarity about this complaint is that, while claiming what is
given to his wife under the codicil, he is still (as will be seen)
firmly adhering to the irregular proceeding of the widow in 1692,
which ignores the codicil to the extent of attempting a distribution
of the movables—and also a portion of the residue of land—in a
manner entirely different from that directed by the testator in this
codicil.

The determination of Samuel Beebe to, if possible, prevent the
executor from carrying out the full intent of the testator is
sufficient to account not only for the detention of the cows, but
for the much longer delay made by the executors, John and Bathsheba,
in attempting to make the final division indicated by the codicil, a
preliminary to which division would be their taking for themselves
all of the household goods.[103]

Footnote 103:

“Things about the house John and Bathsheba must take them first
before the others be divided.”—_Codicil._

No complaint against the Rogerenes has appeared on the court records
during the nine years previous to this date. While this does not
imply entire cessation of hostilities on the part of the town
authorities, it shows that none of these have been of such a
character as to call forth the countermove, which is punishable by
the County Court.

John Rogers has recently attracted to his following one of the
most intelligent and upright men in the community, who has been a
member of the Congregational church. This is John Bolles, a young,
married man, only son of Mr. Thomas Bolles, one of the wealthiest
and most exemplary of the early settlers of this place, himself
oldest son of Joseph Bolles (of an ancient family of the English
gentry—Nottinghamshire), who emigrated to Maine previous to 1640,
and by the death of his two elder brothers became heir to the
family estates in England.[104]

Footnote 104:

The pedigree of John Bolles in the male line is traceable to time
of the Conqueror. The name is on the Roll of Battle Abbey.

Mr. Thomas Bolles settled in New London at the earnest solicitation
of Governor Winthrop.[105]

Footnote 105:

The Thomas Bolles place is now the Lyman Allyn farm on the Norwich
road. Just south of the Allyn house is the site of an old well. By
this well stood the house of Thomas Bolles, where occurred the
murder of his wife and two children, leaving only the babe, John.
(For particulars, see “Bolles Genealogy.”)

The wife of John Bolles is daughter of Mr. John Edgecomb, another
prominent planter of New London, also of gentle blood of Old
England. (Edgecombs of Mount Edgecomb.)

As his father’s sole heir and by right of his wife in her father’s
estate, as well as through his own prudence and enterprise, this
young man is destined to be one of the richest men in New London.

On account of a remarkable escape from death while an infant in
arms, John Bolles was led, while still a youth, to pledge himself to
the service of God. Now, after careful examination into the
doctrines of John Rogers, he devotes himself, in obedience to his
youthful pledge, reverently and enthusiastically to that cause. (See
Part I., Chapter VI.)

The home farm of John Bolles is half a mile south of that of John
Rogers, on the same (Norwich) road, on a height of land known as
Foxen’s Hill (later Bolles Hill), directly overlooking the town of
New London, with a further view of Long Island Sound.[106] He has
lived for years in the near neighborhood of John Rogers, and has
been one of his personal acquaintances and friends. If this
extremely conscientious young man knew of any cause to distrust the
character of this reformer, even in the days when most maligned on
account of his independent marriage to Mary Ransford, he would not
(in this year) have been baptized by him and entered upon the
unpopular and perilous career of one of his followers.

Footnote 106:

His house stood just south of present house of Mr. Calvert. His
father’s home farm was about one-fourth of a mile south of this
point.

John Bolles states in his “True Liberty of Conscience” that although
the Rogerenes had not been molested of late, yet directly after his
leaving the Congregational church for that of the Rogerenes (1707)
serious persecutions were reinstituted, directed against the
performance of labor upon the first day of the week.[107] Evidently
something must be done, to prevent an influence that can still reach
within the precincts of the Congregational church, to draw forth to
this heretical following some of its brightest and its best.

Footnote 107:

John Bolles further says in regard to the persecution he suffered
upon joining the Rogerenes: “God gave me such a cheerful spirit in
this warfare, that when I had not the knowledge that the
grand-jury man saw me at work on said day, I would inform against
myself before witness, till they gave out and let me plow and cart
and do whatsoever I have occasion on that day.”

Here will be recognized an imitation of the early policy of the
Rogerenes in time of persecution, a policy likely to have been
recommended to all their followers; viz.: to give their opponents
so much more trouble when molesting them than when letting them
alone that the institution of a season of severe measures will be
the less liable to occur. This is the policy recognizable in the
countermove, so sure to take place in time of severe persecution.

1708.

In this year Mr. Saltonstall, so popular among the clergy and other
leading men of Connecticut, as a staunch and able advocate of
Congregational church supremacy, is elected governor, and is
succeeded in the ministry at New London by Rev. Eliphalet Adams.

Dissenters of several kinds are now so numerous that it is
impossible to disregard their combined outcry against ecclesiastical
tyranny. Accordingly, in this year we find the General Court
enacting a law allowing those “who soberly dissent” to worship in
their own way, “without any let, hindrance or molestation whatever,”
provided it be well understood that none are excused from paying
their full share towards the maintenance of the Congregational and
Presbyterian ministry, and that those who desire the liberty of
worshipping in other than the Congregational or Presbyterian way,
shall “qualify themselves at the County Court, according to an Act,
made in the first year of the late King William and Mary, granting
liberty of worshipping God in a way separate from that by law
established.”

The Rogerenes do not derive any benefit from this law; John Rogers
and his followers being resolved never to countenance, by their
obedience, any civil law whatever which dictates in regard to the
worship of God.[108] Baptists, Episcopalians and Seventh Day
Baptists build meeting-houses,[109] qualify themselves under this
law and hold their services in peace; but meetings of the Rogerenes
are still held without legal sanction and so without legal
protection.

Footnote 108:

It will be seen that as late as 1716 (see Chapter IX.), so
prominent a Rogerene as John Bolles was even declared to be
“ignorant of this law.” That he ignored it, with all other
ecclesiastical laws, is more likely to have been the case.

Footnote 109:

A Baptist church springs up at Groton and one on the Great Neck.
The Baptist edifice on the Great Neck (“Pepper Box”) is used in an
admirably liberal and pacific manner by both the regular Baptists
and the Seventh Day Baptists. The leading members of these two
friendly societies are largely of Rogers descent;—descendants of
Captain James and of Joseph being of the first-day persuasion, and
those of Jonathan of the seventh day, as a rule. Since the history
of these societies on the Great Neck has been given by Miss
Caulkins more largely than would be possible in this work, the
reader is referred to the “History of New London” for particulars
regarding them.

In this year, the Saybrook Platform, conceived by Mr. Saltonstall
and his ecclesiastic friends, becomes a law. By this device, church
and state are firmly welded together. Although certain dissenters
may secure leave to worship in their own way in their own churches
(provided they will pay for both their own and the Congregational
ministry), the indifferent or irreligious masses are still subject
to the dominant church, as regards compulsory Congregational church
attendance and money tribute. All yield except the Rogerenes, who
heroically go their way, regardless of menace or punishment. They
see their cattle and other property sold at outcrys to satisfy
extortion, yet hold their peace, unless some action threatening the
continuance of their following of New Testament teachings
necessitates an extraordinary show of nonconformity, by way of
unusual Sunday labor, or perhaps even brings out the countermove,
that last but most efficient means of defense.

1709.

In this year, James Rogers, Jr., is admitted to the bar, and soon
becomes a prominent lawyer of this vicinity.

An attempt is made at this time to stop the preaching and
proselyting of John Rogers. Among his followers at this period is
Peter Pratt, son of Elizabeth Griswold (see Chapter VI.). This young
man now experiences the great necessity for courage and endurance on
the part of anyone who would faithfully adhere to Rogerene
principles; since he is imprisoned with other Rogerenes.[110]

Footnote 110:

For what cause or by what pretense this imprisonment occurs does
not appear. It is revealed by a statement made by Peter Pratt
himself. (“Prey Taken from the Strong.”) In referring to his being
imprisoned with other Rogerenes, he speaks of his wife as a bride
at that time. He was married in 1709.

Judging from past indications, the fact of their having gained a new
convert from a prominent family of the Congregational persuasion is
at any time a sufficient cause for the institution of severer
measures against this sect.

But other annoyances are now at hand for John Rogers. There is the
still unsettled residue of the estate, so difficult of adjustment on
account of the claims of Samuel Beebe, (under the widow’s “deed” of
1692. See Chapter III.), which will be put forward as soon as any
move is made by the executor to divide the residue of the estate
according to the codicil. These claims include certain young slaves,
coming under the head of “moveables” belonging to the estate of
James Rogers, of which movables, by the widow’s deed, one-half was
to be given, after her decease, to her daughter Elizabeth Beebe, and
one-half to her son Jonathan.

During his executorship, John Rogers has freed a number of his
father’s slaves. Two of these slaves (called “servants”) are
mentioned in the inventory of the estate, in 1688, where it is
stated that they are to be free in three years. The bond-children
owned by James Rogers, as yet of no value, were not mentioned in the
will or inventory, but they appear to have been classed with that
residue of the estate (“moveables”) which, by the terms of the
codicil, was to be divided between John, Bathsheba and James.

[There are indications that not only had John Rogers come to regard
the keeping of slaves in life bondage as contrary to the teachings
of the New Testament, in the line of the Golden Rule; but that his
father had come to the same conclusion, and had made plans for
freeing all his slaves. His charge to his children—John, Bathsheba
and James—in the codicil to his will, to “remember Adam,” one of his
two able-bodied negro slaves, appears to have been understood by
them as referring equally to the children of this slave; since one
of the young slaves freed by the executor is proven—by “Hempstead
Diary”—to be Adam, son of this Adam (each being called “Adam
Rogers”). It is probable that others of the young slaves were Adam’s
children, while some of them were children of the negro woman,
Hager, who, as stated in inventory, was to be freed in three years.]

By various documents on record, it is evident that the
administration of the estate by John has gone on in a very
methodical manner and strictly according to the tenor of the will.
The order of the committee (1693) was that, after the death of the
widow, the remainder of the estate should be “disposed of according
to the terms of the will,” of which the codicil was the part that
referred to this residue. The codicil, however, does not contain
explicit directions regarding the movable estate, but simply says
that John and Bathsheba are to “take” the things about the house,
“before the others be divided,” and that—after the cows have been
given to Elizabeth—the remainder of the movable estate “whatsoever”
be divided by John, Bathsheba and James among themselves. The
residue of land legacies is clearly defined. The whole estate having
been placed under the executorship of John and Bathsheba, presumes
their continuance in that office until the final settlement. This is
evidently the expectation of the court and of those concerned, as
they continue to be called executors.

No fault has hitherto been found with the executorship, save in the
demand of Samuel Beebe for the cows. Yet the executor is well aware
of the irregular claims pending, and by his father’s request will be
held from making appeal to the court against any unjust action which
Samuel Beebe may take in this matter.

At this crisis, Captain James comes to the rescue, evidently by aid
and advice of his son James, the young lawyer. A method is devised
by which the irregular claims may be thwarted and, at the same time,
the testator’s request in regard to legal proceedings on the part of
any of his children be respected.

The first indication of the above intention is found in June of this
year, when Captain James makes over to his son James all interest
which he himself has in “all the moveable estate” left by his
father.

The next step is for James, Jr., to enter complaint (July 13) at the
Probate Court that the settlement of the residue (“moveables”) of
his grandfather’s estate—after the death of the widow—has not been
attended to by “the formality of the law.” Being himself interested
in the estate, he desires that “such methods may be taken _as the
law directs_.” The court, upon consideration of this enigma, finds
that the estate was to be settled not by legal form, but by
agreement among the children to John’s executorship, as approved by
the General Court. The Probate Court, therefore, declines to meddle
in the matter.

James, Jr., now enters complaint, at the Superior Court, that John
Rogers and Bathsheba Fox, administrators on the estate of James
Rogers,

“have not administered thereon according to the order of the law,
and have not ever yet made and exhibited in the Court of Probates,
and recorded there, any inventory of said estate; but dispose
thereof at their own will and pleasure without giving account.”

The manner of administration of John and Bathsheba regarding the
movables and lack of exhibition of any inventory of same to the
court, have been in entire accordance with the direction of the
testator. Moreover, had James Rogers, Jr., held to the mode of
division directed in the codicil, his share would be much larger
than by the method now being sought. An ulterior motive is evident
from the start. The court undoubtedly understands the full meaning
of this outwardly peculiar procedure on the part of James, Jr.

The Superior Court directs the Probate Court to issue a writ
summoning John and Bathsheba to render an inventory, etc.,
“according to law,” and if they do not appear, then the Court of
Probate shall grant letters of administration to James, Jr., “or
some other person,” “to the end that a just division be made.”

John and Bathsheba not complying with a demand so contrary to the
directions given them by their father, James, Jr., is appointed
executor, to complete the settlement, viz.: the division of the
movable estate. He now presents an inventory, which inventory is
dated as having been taken in 1788; just after the death of James
Rogers. The movables, of which he claims that John Rogers should
render an account, figure at £100 value. Although the original
inventory presented mentions an Indian and his negro wife and a
mulatto man, each having about three years to serve, also a negro
woman “deaf and dumb,” no mention is made of these or of any other
slaves by the new executor, and no complaint is made regarding the
fact that they and their children have been freed by the former
executor.

While this is going on, John and Bathsheba appear in court in regard
to Hager, a former slave of John Rogers (the negro wife mentioned in
the inventory), who has lost the written discharge from bondage that
was given to her years before by the executors. John and Bathsheba
testify that, shortly before his decease, their father agreed with
William Wright to sell him his negro slave, Hager, for a certain
term of service on the part of William Wright, and at the time of
this agreement gave her to him for his wife, providing for the
couple “a wedding dinner.” They also say that long before this
agreement with William Wright, their father and mother had promised
Hager her freedom at the age of thirty-six years.

“William Wright having been banished before his term of service had
expired, we, being intrusted by our deceased father with his whole
estate, seeing the support of the woman and her children was more
than her service, gave her a written discharge, upon condition she
should support her younger children” (her eldest son to be free at
the age of twenty-one), “which said writing she hath lost.” She is
herewith again discharged, with all her children except the above,
“by these presents.”

The next move by James, Jr., is to attach property belonging to the
late executor to the amount of the value of the aforesaid
“moveables.” Thus, with no appeal to court on the part of any of the
children of James Rogers, and with no breach of trust on the part of
John and Bathsheba, the residue of the estate passes fully into the
hands of the new executor, and is clearly minus any of the “negroes”
which the irregular claimants were prepared to demand.

By this time, Samuel Beebe sees that the young lawyer contemplates
nothing short of preventing every irregular claim which he may
venture to make. Samuel Beebe is no more in need of servants, lands
or goods than are the other heirs, having a good estate from his own
father and another by gifts to his wife from her father. He is now
living at Plumb Island, and in so showy a way that he is called
“King Beebe.”—(_Caulkins._) It is apparently, on his part, a game
played mainly for the zest of it; as Samuel Beebe might sail a boat
of his own against one of Captain James or that at Mamacock. But
alas! a young wife and mother is to become a victim of this game.

For about four years now, a young negro woman named Joan, who was
born of a slave of James Rogers, Sr., has been the wife of a free
colored man named John Jackson, a servant of John Rogers, living in
a house on the Mamacock farm. Joan has, by Jackson, one child, a
son, about two years old, and is expecting another. While yet a
child, Joan was given by the widow of James Rogers to Elizabeth
Beebe, in payment of the legacy of £10, which latter was to be paid
to said Elizabeth Beebe (according to the terms of the will), by
said widow, “with consent of my son John.” Said executor not seeing
fit to transfer Joan to a man who kept slaves in life bondage, and
not doubting that the arrangements for settlement of the estate
according to the will and codicil would fully sustain him in not
allowing this claim of Samuel Beebe by the unwarranted and
unsanctioned act of his mother, freed Joan in due course of time, as
he did the rest of the young slaves.

1710.

About October 1, 1710, Samuel Beebe, in some manner not indicated by
the court records, succeeds in securing Joan Jackson and her boy and
detaining them at Plumb Island.

Unfortunately, and apparently very carelessly (as shown in Chapter
IV.), the committee, in their decision of 1693, instead of using the
wording of the will in regard to the payment of the £10 by the
widow, viz.: “with consent of my son John,” rendered it that the £10
be paid to Elizabeth “by John and Bathsheba, when the widow so
order.”

September 19, 1710, James, Jr., enters complaint at the County Court
that Samuel Beebe is illegally detaining from him, present executor
of his grandfather’s estate, a negro woman, named Joan, who was the
property of James Rogers at the time of his death. The defendant
claims that the woman was part of the legacy of £10 given his wife.

The court decides in favor of Samuel Beebe, its decision being
grounded on the blunder of the committee of division, in 1693.
James, Jr., appeals to the Superior Court. The latter court decides
that if the settlement of the committee in 1693, in accordance with
the terms of the will,

“were in point of law a sufficient conveyance of the negro woman
to Eliz. Beebe, without John Roger’s consent to said conveyance by
his mother, then the jury find the case for Samuel Beebe; but if
the consent of John Rogers was, in point of law, under said
settlement by said committee, necessary to such a conveyance, then
they find the woman for John Rogers.”

This calls for the decision of Judge Gurdon Saltonstall, the
archenemy of John Rogers, who, naturally, ignores the blunder of the
committee and adjudges Joan and her child to Samuel Beebe, as slaves
for life.

Two months later, a second child is born to Joan, at Plumb Island, a
babe its father may neither claim nor behold. Nearly six months more
drag slowly by, in great and grave suspense.

1711.

As for Joan herself, she is not likely to settle down at once, if
ever, in meek submission to her fate. Woman-like, her first thought
would be to escape, if possible, to her husband and the kind masters
at Mamacock, being sure that if she is once upon that shore, they
will not willingly return her to Plumb Island. She cannot be
supposed to consider, in so dire a strait, the peril they would
incur by harboring a runaway slave, such as she now is, by the
decision of the Superior Court.

In the latter part of May, 1711, John Rogers, Sr., is in the
vicinity of Long Island, and also on the mainland of New York.
Southold, L.I., is a common stopping-place for boats from New
London. His friend, Mr. Thomas Young, is now of that place.

If John Rogers landed at Southold, Joan might learn of this fact and
act upon it. But by nightfall the man for whose assistance she may
have hoped is at his objective point on the mainland. She finds
conveyance of some kind, however; for, this same night, she escapes
from Plumb Island with her two children. Upon his return to
Mamacock, the next day, John Rogers finds them there and is accused
of so poor a trick as the bringing them to his own home. He may have
had in view some scheme for their escape; but if so, his plans have
been thwarted by Joan’s imprudence, through her eagerness to reach
her friends in New London.

At the New London County Court, June 5, Christopher Christophers,
one of the chief enemies of John Rogers, being one of the judges,
Samuel Beebe enters complaint against John Rogers and John Jackson,
“on suspicion that they stole Joan and her two children out of his
house the night of May 29th last.” The accused men, being now before
the court, plead not guilty to the charge of taking Joan from Plumb
Island; but acknowledge that, after her arrival at Mamacock, they
conveyed her into Rhode Island. Samuel Beebe owns that the woman and
her children have since been returned to him by the governor of
Rhode Island, and that he has them now.

Upon no further evidence of theft than the fact of the presence of
Joan and her children at Mamacock and their conveyance into Rhode
Island by John Rogers and John Jackson, and having given the accused
parties but a few days to secure testimony, also without regard to
the fact that the alleged theft occurred in another colony, or that
it is a capital offense, on the law book, this court, without a
jury, adjudges John Rogers and John Jackson guilty of stealing Joan
and her children, and sentence them to pay twice the amount of the
worth of said slaves (£40) and costs of prosecution. In case John
Jackson be not able to pay his part, he shall serve Samuel Beebe or
his assignee at the rate of £5 per year until the whole amount is
cancelled. So that Samuel Beebe not only has the negroes fast, but
£40 reward for his complaint against John Rogers.

The record further states that

“John Rogers, upon hearing the above sentence, did, in open court,
declare the said sentence to be rebellion against her Majesty, and
that it was injustice, and declared that this court are rebels
against her Majesty,”

for which contempt, said court

“order said Rogers to give bond of £200 for his appearance at the
Superior Court, in Oct. next, to answer for his offense and for
keeping her Majesty’s peace and being in good behavior in the
meantime, and for want of sureties, to be committed to prison
until he shall be released by due form of law.”

Two of the justices on this occasion are bitter enemies of John
Rogers, while the Superior Court that is to try him for contempt has
Governor Saltonstall for its judge.

Thus, of the two men not proven to have committed this offense, one
departs from the court-room to a long imprisonment, to say nothing
of an execution upon his property, and the other to four years of
slavery, under dictation of the man who has stolen his wife and
children, unless he be able to pay the large sum of £20 for his
freedom.

In this dilemma, John Rogers makes an effort for justice. He
presents a Petition to the court, in which he objects to a trial in
the County Court of New London for a crime alleged to have been
committed within the jurisdiction of Long Island. He asks for a
trial in the latter jurisdiction, where he can produce evidence to
clear himself from any such charge. No attention is paid to this
Petition. (See John Roger’s account of this affair, Part I., Chapter
V.)

On no account will John Rogers go back of this charge of
man-stealing, to enter suit regarding Samuel Beebe’s seizure of this
freed woman; that would be bringing before the court something
relating to the estate of his father. Evidently, for the same
reason, he who fears not at his peril to denounce an unjust decision
in any court of the land, has made no complaint in regard to the so
plainly prejudiced award of Joan to Samuel Beebe, by the judge of
the Superior Court. Even thus can this man hold his peace, when he
will.

The next move, as revealed by the records, is the sale (June 13,
1711) of Joan and her children “for their natural life” to John
Livingston (a prominent attorney); one of the children “a boy of
three years named John,” the other “a girl of six months,” to all of
whom Samuel Beebe says he “has full right by judgment of court,
viz., for the woman and one negro she had with her when she came”
(that is, when, in some way, he secured her) “and the youngest born
since.”

Captain James Rogers appears to be as much opposed as his brother
John to keeping persons in lifelong bondage.[111] James, Jr., will
take any legal action yet possible to rescue Joan and her children.

Footnote 111:

In his own large inventory is no mention of any slaves.

Among other things, outspoken dissent to certain state church
doctrines and usages will be far less prominent with John Rogers
behind the bars. Popular opinion appears to have proven unfavorable
to continued persecution on religious grounds, ever since John, Jr.,
went “up and down the colony” selling that little book. The case
regarding Joan has been a fortunate happening for Governor
Saltonstall and his friends.

Although, by the sentence, the trial for contempt was to be before
the Superior Court at New Haven in October, we find it taking place
at a session of this court in New London, September 25, in the
meeting-house.[112]

Footnote 112:

In lieu of other suitable accommodation in New London this edifice
continued to be used, for some time, for sessions of this
court.—(For John Roger’s account of this trial, see Part I.,
Chapter V.)

John Rogers asks to be tried by a jury, choosing the one then
sitting, but Judge Saltonstall denies him trial by jury,—John Rogers
has too many friends in these parts. There must be no means of
escape for the opponent he has so often bled before, and would fain
bleed to the death. He pronounces judgment in a fine of £20 and
costs of prosecution, and a bond of £100 “for good behavior” until
the March session of the same court, with imprisonment at prisoner’s
expense,—unless he give surety for the bond, which Gurdon
Saltonstall well knows he will not do, thereby to acknowledge that
he has been “misbehaving” himself. All this is (by the court record)
because John Rogers “falsely and slanderously declared in court that
the sentence of said court against himself and John Jackson was
‘rebellion against her Majesty.’”

They examine the deeds to find suitable land to take in execution
for this fine of £20, and discovering such land, by Upper Alewife
Cove, that was sold to “John Rogers,” they proceed to claim it for
the Colony of Connecticut. John, Jr., in vain assures them that he
himself bought this land, with his own money, and it is also in vain
that he presents the original deed, in the copying of which, upon
the town records, the clerk omitted the word Jr. Nor will his
father’s after affirmation in court that he himself made out this
deed, and wrote the Jr. therein, secure its release. Moreover, as
John Rogers himself declares (Part I., Chapter VI.), they kept the
original deed presented in proof, and, after John, Jr., had paid
them their price for the redemption of this land, viz., £20—as
proven by court record—they took this very land again for another
fine of £20.[113] Here are indications of the bitterest venom on the
part of those in power, at this period, yet no complaint on the
records regarding “servile labor, etc.,” or baptisms, or
“blasphemy,” or any other nonconformity.

By these signs it may be judged that never was the influence of John
Rogers more feared than at this very period, yet never also were the
authorities more cautious regarding complaints and actions against
him on avowedly ecclesiastical grounds.

Footnote 113:

Why seizures at this time are confined to this piece of land, can
only be conjectured. At this date, the Mamacock land still lay
under the attachment of the new executor, James, Jr., and so was
safe from this sort of seizure. The attachment by James, Jr., was
evidently a mere blind, and it served a double purpose.

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