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Griswold, of New Milford, from the text found in Romans, xii, 14-21: “Bless them who persecute you," etc. An oration was delivered by Abraham Bishop, and a song, entitled “ Jefferson and Liberty," was publicly sung for the first time.
A similar meeting was held in other places, the last one at Litchfield, August 6, 1806, for the special purpose of encouraging and relieving Selleck Osborn, the talented poet and editor of the Witness, who had long been incarcerated there. Several thousands were present on this occasion.
"When Mr. Jefferson was elected President of the United States, many good men were exceedingly distressed and alarmed. The thought of having a Chief Magistrate who was understood to be an unbeliever, was extremely painful. Dr. Azel Backus participated in these feelings, and did not hesitate to express them in the pulpit. On this account he was prosecuted for a libel against Mr. Jefferson, and arraigned before the District Court of the United States. The cause, however, after having been repeatedly postponed, was finally dismissed, without coming to trial.
“ This prosecution excited great interest in Connecticut. Some of the most distinguished lawyers proffered their services to Dr. Backus, and numerous friends stood ready to defray all the expense to which he might be subjected.
“There were some incidents connected with this prosecution, which afforded much amusement to his friends. When he was first summoned to appear before the court, which was then sitting in Hartford, the marshal called on him very early in the morning, and informed him that it would be necessary that he should be in Hartford by twelve o'clock. He immediately prepared for the journey, and in company with the marshal, rode to Litchfield, about eight miles, before breakfast. While there, the Hon. Uriel Holmes, then member of Congress, furnished him with his own horse and carriage,-his horse being a remarkably fleet and powerful animal. On starting for Hartford, the marshal, being on horseback, found it necessary to put spurs to his steed, to keep in sight of his prisoner. Coming near enough to call to him, he exclaimed, “Mr. Backus, you ride as if the d-1 was after you. 'Just so, just so,' he replied, and rode on not at all abating his speed.”—(Sprague's Annals, vol. ii, p. 286.)
Thus it appears that one party commenced prosecutions against Selleck Osborn under the laws of Connecticut, and the other party commenced prosecutions against Azel Backus, under the laws of the United States.
The conservative party were very strongly attached to the government of Connecticut formed under the charter. For it had grown up, they said, out of the wants of the colony, and was the product of the wisdom of the colony from 1662 to the period we are considering. It had conferred on the commonwealth, intelligence, virtue, and happiness.
The progressive party were clamorous for a change. It may be that they over-estimated the value of written constitutions as safeguards of liberty. They had not yet learned that “the legislative lion will not be entangled in the meshes of a logical net. The legislature will always make the power which it wishes to exercise, unless it be so organized as to contain within itself the sufficient check.”—(See Life of Governeur Morris, vol. iii, p. 323.) It may be that they were not aware that the people themselves, for whose benefit constitutions are framed, would, in the heats of party spirit, recklessly sever the bonds of the constitution, as “ flax that falls asunder at the touch of fire."
France, at a certain date in this period, had had six constitutions, Pennsylvania two, Georgia two, and Vermont two.
It is interesting to the historian to look back upon that series of causes and effects which has brought about some particular condition of public affairs. The weakness of the colony, and the fear of the Indians first, then the fear of the Dutch of New Amsterdam, backed by their “high mightinesses" of Old Amsterdam, and afterwards of the French of Canada, backed by the military and naval power of Louis XV,—these were the causes that inclined the colony to continue under the protection of the crown of England.
But when their fears were removed by the treaty of Paris, in 1763, the colony was prepared to set up for independence in order that she might carry out those notions of local law and self-government to which she had always been inclined. She had rejoiced in the generous charter of Charles II, so long as that charter was their protection against the encroachments of Parliament.
But after they had won their independence, the charter lost much of its value in their eyes, and in 1818, it gave place to the present constitution.
Thus the Revolution of 1776 prepared the way for the Revolution of 1818.
Some of the ministers lived to see both Revolutions, aiding the one and opposing the other. When the General Association in June, 1875, appointed a committee on the subject we are now considering, they did but express the feelings of the people of Connecticut generally, that in the reminiscences of 1776, and of the Revolution, the ministers of Connecticut should not be forgotten. But they are now all sleeping in the midst of their several flocks, who knew their voice and their crook, as they led them through green pastures and beside still waters. Their names we would not willingly let die.
Dr. Franklin expressed the wish to visit the earth after a cycle of a hundred or two hundred years, to see the results of the political experiment which he and others were making. "We know not what a range the spirit takes." We can believe that if the spirits of the just made perfect take an interest in human affairs, that the ministers of Connecticut in the Revolution look upon us the ministers now, with such a love as that which parents bear to children, just as we look back to them with the love which children bear to parents. We can believe that on this great historic year a goodly company of these, from the fields of ether, visit the place where they were born, where they were settled in the ministry for life, where they studied, and prayed, and labored, and made sacrifices that their beloved Connecticut might become a "free and independent State."
From the proverb, “Like people, like priest,” it is inferred that the character of the priest can be known from the character of the people, and vice versa.
This was especially true in regard to the ministers and the people in Connecticut, where the connection between them, like the connection between man and wife, was life-long.
For centuries in England, down to the Reformation, the affection and reverence of Christian people were distributed upon popes, cardinals, bishops, and the inferior clergy. After the Reformation, the affection and reverence of Christian people were bestowed on archbishops, bishops, rectors, and curates.
In Connecticut, the affection and reverence of Christians in the several towns, were concentrated upon their own minister, whom they regarded as worthy of double honor. Hence they were willing to follow him as their chosen leader.
“ A condition of society so happy as that enjoyed by Connecticut at this period, especially during the long administration of Governor Saltonstall, has been rare in the experience of mankind.”—(Palfrey's Works, vol. iv, p. 375.)
In these halcyon days, thus described by Palfrey, namely, in 1708, when a clergyman was the Governor of the State, the ecclesiastical constitution of Connecticut was formed, in which the Consociation of churches and the Association of ministers were established, greatly to the advantage of churches and ministers. (See Trumbull's Ecc. Hist. of Conn., vol. i, chapter xix; sermon by John Eliot, D. D. ; Con. to the Ecc. Hist. of Conn., and Fowler's Essays, p. 38.)
The first ministers of Connecticut, on their settlement, generally received from the towns allotments of land, to be their own in fee simple, and likewise the use of other allotments of land, denominated parsonage lands. The consequence was that they nearly all became agriculturalists, and depended in part for their support on the cultivation of the soil, just as in England ministers of the Episcopal church cultivated the glebe lands. In 1852, when I was in England, Judge Burdon, chief justice in Yorkshire, took me to ride seven miles, in order to show me, as he said, the best specimen of tile draining which he had seen. This was made by a clergyman of the Church of England. He also told me that clergymen were some of the best cultivators of the soil that he knew.
The clergymen of Connecticut were more intelligent than the mass of the people, and therefore cultivated the soil in a better way than others, and thus became model farmers. This is true of Dr. Jared Eliot of Killingworth, Dr. Goodrich of Durham, and William Robinson of Southington, and many others. And in their houses the same industry and thrift was manifested by their wives and daughters. During, and just after the Revolutionary War, one clergyman educated five sons at Yale College, and, excepting the suit worn at Commencement, which was made of broadcloth, all their clothes were manufactured in his family, both woolen and linen, and the flax and wool from which the materials were made were furnished from his own farm, or at least from the contributions of his people, in payment of his salary. Thus, in many families during the war, the women followed the suggestion of Dr. Franklin : “We must light the fires of industry," while the husbands, brothers, and sons followed the suggestion of John Adams: “We must light fires of a different character."
The ministers, in their intercourse with others, borrowed their allusions from their agricultural occupations.
Æneas Munson, the well-known president of the medical