National Geographic : 1923 Apr
MASSACHUSETTS: ITS POSITION IN THE LIFE OF THE NATION 341 So there was adopted the famous May flower Compact. It did not in form es tablish a government, but it declared the authority to establish a government, the power to make laws, and the duty to obey them. Beyond this it proclaimed the principle of democracy. The powers which they proposed to ex ercise arose directly from the express consent of all the governed. The date of this document, remarkable for what it contains, but more remarkable still because it reveals the capacity and spirit of those who made it, is November 11, 1620, old style; under the new calen dar it is destined long to be remembered as Armistice Day. Such was the beginning of Massachu setts, men and women humble in position, few in numbers, seemingly weak, but pos sessed of a purpose, moved by a deep conviction, guided by an abiding spirit against which both time and death were powerless. It is said that upon the old Colony of Plymouth there is no stain of bigoted persecution. They carried with them the atmosphere of holy charity. Their efforts and their experience stand forth dis tinctly, raising a new hope in the world. PURITAN COLONY WORKED OUT INSTITU TIONS OF THE COMMONWEALTH They were soon to be reinforced by the great Puritan migration, which estab lished a vigorous colony at their north, known as the Company of Massachusetts Bay. It was among them that there was worked out more in detail the funda mental institutions of the old Common wealth. They had a royal charter, granted in 1629, which provided for a Governor, a Deputy Governor, and a Council of eighteen Assistants, annually to be chosen by the Company. They were likewise given authority to make laws for the government of the settlers, provided they did not conflict with those of England. Here there came into existence the frame of a miniature republic. One of the main objects of this move ment was to provide a retreat for those of Puritan faith in case they were over whelmed at home by the rising tide of despotism of Charles the First. For this purpose men of such promi nence as Winthrop and Dudley and their associates came to the new colony, trans ferring with them the location of the gov ernment. Congregations and clergymen followed. With the arrival of thousands of people churches and towns were established and there began the making of American con stitutional history. These people were of the Puritans. What they have wrought in the old world and the new is known of all men. Their prime motive was self-mastery. To them the great reality was the unseen world. They had a high disdain for every as sumption of earthly authority, whether exercised in the name of the state or of the church. They were guided by the inner life. They rebelled against all gov ernment by others, but were humbly solicitous to govern themselves. With that same intensity of spirit with which they scorned kings and bishops, they reverenced the authority which came from on High. They trampled under foot and destroyed despotism in England, but they raised up and established freedom in America. It was these people, moved by such convictions, that from the day of her set tlement guaranteed that Massachusetts should be grandly placed in history. The Puritan spirit has always worked toward freedom and independence in all things. Its ultimate goal has not always first been reached within the domain of that Commonwealth. There have been times when it has seemed to be denied by some of her own people, but the foundation of it was laid there. The ultimate support for its progress has ever been found there. If, occasionally, she has been out stripped by those who have gone out from her in the practical application of this spirit which her entire history has illus trated, it is but just to remember that there was located the American source of the original inspiration. The Puritans cherished as their imme diate purpose not a broad latitude in either religious or political life. Their chief thought was to escape from the in tolerable tyranny of Charles and of Laud. If they were to maintain their safety against the Indians, or their freedom against the King, it was necessary to maintain solidarity in all things.