« AnteriorContinuar »
How by the thunder-blasted tree, was hid
The clock strikes ten
During the sixteen years of the administration of Mr. Jefferson, commencing March 4, 1801, and of the administration of Mr. Madison, which closed March 4, 1817, a policy was pursued by the Federal Government hostile to the commercial interests of Connecticut. To this policy, indicated by the embargo, by the non-intercourse act of Congress, and finally by the war, a large majority of the intelligent portion of Connecticut, including the ministers, were decidedly opposed. This opposition was freely expressed at different times and in different ways. War with England was declared June 19, 1812. The requisition of troops made upon Connecticut by the Secretary of War, was refused by the State authorities ; and a similar requisition made upon Massachusetts was refused by the authorities of that State. The ground of refusal in each case was that the requisition was unconstitutional. Mr. Madison, in his message in November 1812, calls this “a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the constitution relating to the militia." It was easier for him to call it " novel and unfortunate," than it was to prove that it was unsound in opposition to the opinion of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, of which Theophilus Parsons, the great jurist, was Chief Justice. The legislature of each of those states were as ready to maintain their rights in the Federal Union, as they were in the union with the mother country. They were as ready to resist Federal usurpations, as they were British usurpations. They believed that “resistance to tyrants was obedience to God.”
From 1783, when peace was declared, to 1818, when the constitution of the State was adopted, the ministers performed their professional duties with their usual earnestness and industry, in the changing condition of the times.
In 1792 an important change was made in the government of Yale College. Previous to that period, as ministers of Connecticut had founded Yale College, so none but ministers of Connecticut had been members of the corporation. In that year the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and six senior assistants were, by agreement with the General Assembly, made members of the corporation of Yale College, as a permanent arrangement. This act of the corporation, permitting laymen to have a share in the government of the college, increased the confidence of the people of the state in the college, and conciliated their favor towards the ministers. Thus, the ministers, by means of Yale College, had educated the leading men in the State up to the level of themselves, so that they could take part with them in the management of the college.
Nearly all of these lay members of the corporation received the honors of the college, reckoning from 1792 to 1818, when the new order of things took place.
In 1795, a fund, arising from the sale of the Western lands, 3,166,000 acres, amounted to $1,200,000. The committee appointed to make sale of the lands were, John Treadwell, James Wadsworth, Marvin Wait, William Edmund, T. Grovesnor, Aaron Austin, Elijah Hubbard, and Sylvester Gilbert. The school visitors annually appointed to visit the schools from time to time, were authorized " to superintend and direct the instruction of the youth in letters, religion, morals, and manners.” Of these school visitors, the minister generally, if not universally, was chairman.
We can readily believe that this noble grant of the fund for the support of common schools in Connecticut, never could have been made by the Legislature, without the favoring influence of the ministers of the State.
In 1798 the General Association of Connecticut formed themselves into a society, called “The Missionary Society of Connecticut.” The object of this society was to send missionaries to the new settlements and to the Indians. The chairman of the Board of Trustees, appointed by the General Association, was the same John Treadwell who was chairman of the committee appointed by the Legislature to dispose of the Western lands.
Great good was accomplished during the period we are considering, by the Missionary Society of Connecticut; and many of the churches in the West, founded by these missionaries, can look back with filial gratitude, and exclaim : “Connecticut, the mother of us all.”
As early as 1774, the General Association recommended subscriptions among the people for supporting missionaries "to the scattered back settlements in the wilderness to the northwestward,” in what is now Vermont and the northern part of New York. These settlements, to a large extent, were composed of emigrants from Connecticut. Rev. Messrs. Williams of Northford, Goodrich of Durham, and Trumbull of North Haven, were chosen a committee to receive funds and supply the place of missionaries, when those appointed by the General Association failed. Rev. Messrs. Taylor of New Milford, Waterman of Wallingford, and Bliss of Ellington, were selected as missionaries, to spend five or six months on a missionary tour “ if the committee are able to provide for their support so long." The War of the Revolution interrupted the scheme and the growth of the settlements.
“In 1786, the subject came again before the General Assoclation," who took action thereon.
In 1792, the General Association made a request of the General Assembly for “liberty to take up collections in the churches for the support of missionaries in this service. For several succeeding years a Committee of Missions was appointed by the General Association--annual contributions were taken up in our churches, and numbers of missionaries entered the field-chiefly pastors, who left their flocks temporarily, to minister to the destitute in the wilderness.”(From Con. to the Ecc. His. of Conn., pages 163–4.)
Thus it appears that Connecticut was the first State that moved to send missionaries to the Indians and to the new settlements. Thus Connecticut was the banner State in respect to missions, just as she was the banner State with respect to the magnificent fund for the support of common schools.
In 1810 the Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions was established, partly through the agency of ministers in Connecticut, and Governor John Treadwell, already mentioned, was appointed president, and continued in office until his death, in 1823.
In 1800 the ministers established the Evangelical Magazine of Connecticut. The first series continued for six years. The second series commenced in 1808, and continued eight years. This valuable work is an exponent of the piety, learning, and industry of the ministers of Connecticut in that period.
In ancient Connecticut, Sunday for a long time was the great day of the week, and was generally observed with strictness. Saturday was sometimes called Preparation Day, because on that day the people made preparation for the observance of the Sabbath. The good housewife would put her house in order, and prepare her viands, that she might have full leisure for the religious observance of the day. Baked beans was a common dish for Saturday's supper; so was hasty pudding. On Saturday evening the children recited the Assembly of Divines' Catechism in the family, as they did in the forenoon of Saturday at school. Punctuality of attendance on public worship, was throughout Connecticut common law. The church-going bell, after it had replaced the drum and the conch-shell, was rung at stated hours, and was tolled until the minister entered the house. There was the pulpit, sometimes elaborately finished; there was the red velvet cushion, and the hour-glass, which, when the minister turned it, called to mind the distich :
“As runs the glass,
Tithing-men were annually appointed in all the towns to secure the due observance of the Lord's Day.
“No traveller, drover, wagoner, teamster, or any of their servants, shall travel on the Lord's day, (except from necessity or charity) on penalty of forfeiting a sum not exceeding three dollars and thirty-four cents, nor less than one dollar and sixty-seven cents."
It was not an uncommon thing for the tithing-man, or some other town officer, to arrest strangers, as they passed through the town on the Sabbath, sometimes greatly to the annoyance of the traveler. On one occasion a traveler was arrested on the Sabbath and was taken to the house of a justice of the peace, where he spent the day. About an hour before the sun went down, he complimented the justice for his kindness and hospitality, and told him he would be willing to pay his fine if he could be permitted to go in a retired way to the next town. The justice consented to the proposal, took the fine, and permitted the gentleman to depart.
But the gentleman, who was a lawyer, said to the justice, “You, too, have violated the Sabbath law, by doing business prohibited by the statute. If you will return to me the fine which I have just paid, we will quit scores. If not, I will prosecute you and have you fined." The justice reflected a moment upon it, and wisely gave him back the fine which he had paid.