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Mr. Coddington-letters to John Winthrop-execution of Charles I.
The unhappy dissensions, which arose among the leading men on Rhode Island, were a source of disquietude to Mr. Williams, and of injury to the whole colony. The fierce controversy then maintained between the King and Parliament, in England, had some share in the difficulties between Mr. Coddington and his friends. Mr. Coddington was attached to the King, and was disposed to uphold his interest in the colony.
The following letter to Mr. Winthrop, which is without date, but which appears, from internal evidence, to have been written about the commencement of the year 1648-9, refers to these dissensions, and displays the pacific temper of Mr. Williams :
“For his much honored, kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop, at his house at Nameug, these.
“ Best salutations presented to you both, with humble desires, that, since it pleaseth God to hinder your presence this way, he may please, for his infinite mercy's sake, in his Son's blood, to further our eternal meeting in the presence of him that sits upon the throne, and the Lamb forever; and that the hope thereof may be living, and bring forth the fruits of love where it is possible, and of lamenting for obstructions. Sir, the affairs of our country (Vaderland, as the Dutch speak) would have afforded us much conferThe merciful Lord help us to make up
in his holy majesty, &c. Sir, for this land, our poor colony is in civil dissension. Their last meetings, at which I have not been, have fallen into factions; Mr. Coddington and Captain Partridge, &c. are the heads of the one, and Captain Clarke, Mr. Easton, &c. the heads of the other faction. I receive letters from both, inviting me, &c. but I resolve (if the Lord please) not to engage, unless with great
hopes of peace-making. The peace makers are sons of God. Our neighbors, the Narragansets, are now consulting, and making peag, to carry, within a few weeks, another payment. Sir, about a month since, one William Badger, a seaman, and now a planter at William Field's farm, near Providence, passed by me, travelling to the Seabrook. I have received letters since from Captain Mason, to whom I wrote by him, and hear nothing of him. I fear he miscarried, for he was alone, without a guide. And, since I mention Captain Mason, worthy Sir, I humbly beg of the Father of Lights to guide you, in your converse and neighborhood with him. In his letters to me, he tells me of some extraordinary lifts against Uncas, and that he will favor him, but no more than religion and reason bid him. He promiseth to visit me, in his passage, this summer, ward, (I guess he means toward Plymouth.) I shall then argue, if God will, many things, and how it stands with religion and reason, that such a monstrous hurry and affrightment should be offered to an English town, either by Indians or English, unpunished. Sir, you have seen many parts of this world's snowball, and never found aught but vanity and vexation. At Nameug shall you find no more, except in the fountain of living waters. Sir, heap coals of fire on Captain Mason's head; conquer evil with good, but be not cowardly, and overcome with any evil.
“If you have by you the Trial of Wits, at convenience, spare it me a few days. However, study, as the Lord commands, your quietness, for which I shall ever pray and endeavor.
“ Your worship’s unfeigned,
“ ROGER WILLIAMS.” Mr. Coddington, having failed in his endeavors to detach the island from the colony, and unite it to Plymouth, resolved to proceed to England, and procure a separate charter for the island. The following letter, dated January 29, 1648–9, mentions his departure, without any allusion to his object, which, perhaps, was not then known:
“For his honored, kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop, at Nameug.
“ Cawcawmsqussick, 29, 11, 48, (so called.)
“ Best salutations and wishes to the Father of mercies for
your worthy self, yoke fellow, sister, &c. It must be so in this world's sea. Sicut fluctus fluctum, sic luctus luctum sequitur. And every day hath his sufficiency or fulness of evil to all the children of the first sinful man; no persons, no places, exempted from the reach of the first curse. humble desire is to the most righteous and only wise Judge, that the wood of Christ's gallows (as in Moses' act) may be cast into all your and our bitter waters, that they be sweet and wholesome instructers of the fruits of sin, the sorrows of others abroad, (in our England's Aceldama,) our own deservings to feel upon ourselves, bodies and souls, (wives and children also,) not by barbarians, but devils, and that eternally, sorrows inexpressible, inconceivable, and yet, if Christ's religion be true, unavoidable, but by the blood of a Savior, &c. Sir, pardon me, this is not the matter. Sir, your letters I speedily despatched by a messenger on purpose. For a place, I know indeed of one in Plymouth claim, and would specify, but that your spirit being troubled, countermanded it again, in your postscript concerning Elderkin, whom I will, if God will, effectually labor with, and write the issue with speed. All our neighbors, the barbarians, run up and down, and consult; partly suspecting like dealings; partly ready to fall upon the Mohegans, at your word, and a world of foolish agitations, I could trouble you with, but I told the chiefest yesterday, that it is not our manner to be rash, and that you will be silent till your father and other ancient sachems speak first, &c. Sir, concerning the bags of ore, it is of Rhode Island, where is certainly affirmed to be both gold and silver ore, upon trial. Mr. Coddington went to the Bay, with his daughter, for England, and left Captain Partridge in trust with all, the last week, at Newport. George Wright, alias Captain Wright, stabbed with a pike, Walter Lettice, at Newport, and is in prison ; the other, if not dead, not like to live. “Sir, yours ever, in all unfeigned respect, &c.
“ROGER WILLIAMS. "I want wax to seal, otherwise I would have expressed something, which I reserve till another season, if the Lord will." In March following, Mr. Williams again wrote to Mr.
Winthrop. In this letter, he mentioned, that he had been elected Deputy President, in consequence of the absence of Mr. Coddington.
“For the worshipful, his kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop, at Nameug.
“ Cawcawpsqussick, 1, 48 (so called.) Sir, “Best respects and love presented, and thanks hearty for your letters, former and latter, all now received. I am again importuned by our neighbor sachems, having heard of Wequashcook's carrying of peag to Captain Mason, to pray you to inform them whether that peag be part of the payment; because Wequashcook and his company refuse to pay. They desire me also to write to the Bay about it, which I defer to do until their payments go, which are something delayed because of the death of Ninigret's wife's mother, which is the same you write of, Wequashcook's mother, and it is now qunnantacaun, that is, lamentation. Sir, since I wrote to you, our four towns met by deputies, six out of a town. This Court last week wrote to me information of their choice of myself Deputy President, in the absence of the President, who, whether they have fixed on yourself, or Mr. Coddington's faction prevail to keep his name in, now gone for England, I cannot yet learn, but I have excused myself for some reasons, and I hope they have chosen better. I wrote to them about an act of oblivion, which, blessed be the God of peace, they have past, and have appointed a Court of election in the third month, at Warwick. Sir, I am exceeding glad of your beginnings at Pawcatuck. I pray fail not to inquire whether there, or from Mohegan or Connecticut, you can help me to one hundred bushels of Indian corn. To your dear yokefellow and sister respective salutation. The sun of righteousness graciously shine on you. I desire, unfeignedly, to be your worship's unfeigned in love,
“R. W. “The sachems pray you to tell them whether their peag will be sold at under rates, as Pumhommin, coming two days since from the Bay, informs them, viz. that they must pay great black at thirteen to the penny, and small black at fifteen, and white eight to the penny. I tell them the last year it was measured, and so word was sent to me they should
pay it by measure.”
Another letter, written about this time, will be inserted here. It treats of the usual topic, the rights and interests of the Indians :
“For his honored, kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop, at Pequod. *
“I am the more easily persuaded by this barbarian prince, Ninigret, to trouble you so often, that I may the oftener hear of your welfare, and at present how it pleased God to bring you home to yours again. Upon your word, Ninigret prays you to send him word, whether within ten days of this 5th of the week present, you will please to meet him at Wequatucket, so it be when Mr. Stanton is present. He would confer about Mr. Eliot's letter and coat, about Wequashcook’s usurping at Pawcatuck, about his present hunting, about the present disposal of the Pequod fields, about his letters to the Bay, which, in your name, I have almost persuaded to suspend until the meeting of the commissioners at Boston. Here is now a great hurry made by Anquontis, one of those petty sachems, of whom Mr. Eliot wrote to you and me. He hath offered great abuse to one of the chief, and Ninigret is now going to Conanicut about him. I persuade not to engage themselves, but to send him to the Bay with my letter. Sir, loving respects to Mrs. Winthrop, Mrs. Lake, whom God graciously, with your loving self and yours, bind up in the bundle of that life, which is eternal in Christ Jesus, in whom I desire to be,
- Yours ever,
The following letter alludes to a narrow escape from death, which Mr. Williams met with, in his passage in a canoe, from Providence to Narraganset. His habitual piety is here exhibited in a manner the more satisfactory,
because it is evidently the unstudied emanation of his feelings:
* This letter is without a date. It was, perhaps, written in March or April, 1649.