« AnteriorContinuar »
la the year
The No. of inhabitants was| In the year The No. of inhabitants was 1730 17,935 1783
51,899* 1748 34,128 1790
68,825 1761 40,636 1300
69,122 1774 59,678 1810
76,931 The inhabitants of this State are almost wholly descended from the English. The original planters were chiefly immigrants from Massachusetts; part of them led by Roger Williams, and a part by Mr. Coddington. The former settled at Providence, and the latter at Newport. The former division consisted principally of Baptists. Mr. Coddington, after having lived some time in Boston, became an Antinomian; and, having lost much of his influence, removed to Rhode Island with several other persons of the same class. Both he and Mr. Williams were held in high estimation by their followers. The wars carried on by Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, against Philip and the Narrhagansets, which terminated in the reduction of both, secured Rhode Island from the hostilities of the Indians, and probably from absolute ruin. From the circumstances of its early settlement Rhode Island became naturally the resort, not only of such adventurers as harmonized with them in religious opinions, but of most of those, who were discontented and restless. A gradual aggregation originated by a great variety of incidental causes, spread over the State; and occupied the whole of its territory. No single or regular scheme of colonization, beyond what has been already mentioned, was pursued. No common object united the immigrants ; and no common character could be traced through the mass. Of the number, who finally filled up its extent, were Calvinistic, Arminian, Sabbatarian, and Separate Baptists; constituting, together, the largest class of inhabitants; Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Moravians, Quakers, and Jews. Of most of these classes a considerable number are Nihilists. In such casual collections of mankind it is an almost necessary consequence of their junction in society, that their peculiar religious opinions are held with less and less tenacity; that concessions
This diminution was occasioned by the Revolutionary war.
are gradually, and insensibly, made by each to each; that each class respects its own doctrines less, and becomes more and more indifferent to those of others; and that all religious doctrines, imperceptibly perhaps, but really lose their influence, until the community becomes dispossessed of that beneficent efficacy, which is ever to be expected from the Gospel, wherever it is cordially believed by an undivided body of men.
The inhabitants of this State, in opposition to the rest of their New-England brethren, have uniformly refused to support the public worship of God by law, or in other words to make a legal provision for the support of ministers and churches. A contract between a minister and his Congregation for his maintenance they have placed on the same footing, as contracts made at the gaming-table. Hence, except in their large towns, a minister liberally educated cannot often be found. Hence the places of such ministers are filled by plain, ignorant individuals. Ordinarily, these are farmers and mechanics, who push themselves into the desk for two reasons; to avoid labour, and to display their gifts ; or in other words from sloth, and spiritual pride. In the desk, al. most all such men vociferate in a manner, which in every other place would be thought grossly indecent; distort doctrines and precepts ; dishonour ordinances; pervert the meaning of the Scriptures; and murder arguments, and language. They are destitute of dignity, propriety, and candour; coarse, and clown- ish, in their manners ; uncouth in their elocution; and in their discourses clumsy, and ridiculous. Next to a wicked ministry, the greatest evil, which can befal the church is a weak Ministry.
The churches in Providence and Newport I have already described. A large and handsome one has been lately erected at Providence. Those, which I have seen in the country towns, appear like badly built, and decayed barns.
To remedy the evil, which has been here specified, the sober and intelligent Baptists of this state founded Providence College; or, as it is now called, Brown University. The design was honourable both to their heads, and their hearts. A considerable number of young men, of this persuasion, have been educated ; and have been destined to the ministry. But, although the number of Baptists in most of the States in the Union is considerable, and in the whole, great; the places are not numerous, to which such ministers can look for a living. In the cities and large towns, several of them find a sufficient maintenance. Elsewhere, as they are generally obliged to look only to voluntary contributions, they must receive an imperfect support. Few of them therefore, as I believe, enter the ministry. This evil is radical; and, while men continue such as they have hitherto been, can never be remedied, but by the interposition of Government. Of such interposition in Rhode Island there is, however, very little hope.
Schools usually go parallel with ministers, and churches. Here, certainly, they move in the same course. Exclusive of a few attempts, which have lately been made to establish academies, (of which, I believe one, two, or three, have succeeded) and some efforts, which are made in the principal towns, schools in this State can hardly be said to exist. The gentlemen, with whom I conversed on this subject, expressed their mortification, and their reprobation of the conduct of the State, in strong terms: but they seemed to be hopeless concerning a reformation. Without churches men will be vicious of course; without schools they will be ignorant; and ignorance and vice are sufficiently melancholy characteristics of the people, in whom they are united.
It is not impossible, perhaps not improbable, that the energy awakened in this State by the diffusion of manufactures, may be productive of some beneficial consequences both to learning and religion. The wealth of the inhabitants is visibly increasing with rapidity; and will probably continue to increase through an indefinite period. Wealth, wherever it is spread, generates of course the desire of character; and this passion regularly stimulates mankind to the use of those means, by which it may be gratified. The first step towards giving character to children is to give them at least a decent education ; and this step is always taken, whenever wealth begins to be diffused. The next is not uncommonly the building of churches ; and the next, the settlement and support of ministers : such, I mean, as are qualified to discharge the duties of the sacred office. Should this be the course of events in Rhode Island it is hardly possible, that the character of the inhabitants at large should not be essentially meliorated.*
The manners of the body of the people differ materially from those of Massachusetts, and Connecticut; as you will easily determine from the observations already made. The vices of ignorant people are always low, vulgar, and almost always predominant. Horse-racing has for a long period been a favourite pursuit. This gross amusement turns polished men into clowns, and clowns into brutes.
The Sabbath with a great part of this people, is merely a day of visiting, and sport. Many of the inhabitants have customarily devoted it to labour. A considerable number of persons in the trading towns, Providence excepted, have been deeply engaged in the slave trade. Some of the Missionary societies have in their proceedings considered Rhode Island as missionary ground.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
* These observations were made in the year 1800. Since that time, the prediction of the writer has to a considerable extent been fulfilled. The manufacturing establishments of this state have been enlarged and multiplied ; and the wealth of the inhabitants increased in a more rapid manner than in any other part of NewEngland. With the acquisition of property, the people, particularly in the large towns, appear to have acquired more liberal views concerning the importance of learning to the community. Within three years, also, preceding 1821, revivals of religion have taken place in a good number of towns and churches, refreshing the hearts of christians, and elevating the moral and religious character of the State.Pub.
, Helburne Woods-Westport-New-Bedford-Its situation, commerce, and settle
ment-Attack on Fair-Haven by the British in 1778.—Gallant defence of the place by Major Fearing-Rochester-Wareham-Proposed canal across the peninsula of Cape Cod--Sandwich.
From Tiverton the road speedily entered a forest, called Helburne woods: a wild, rocky, dreary tract, with hardly a cheerful object in view. The road is stony, and miserably repaired; the soil is lean; the little agriculture, found in a few solitary spots, is wretched ; and the scattering houses appear as if they were inhabited by persons, who knew not where else to find a shelter. Happily, they are supplied with one great necessary of life, fuel, on easy terms. This forest is composed almost wholly of oak.
The moment we entered Westport the scene was changed. At the very boundary the earth assumes a handsomer aspect. The surface is less hilly, and less rocky. The soil, also, and the husbandry, are sensibly better. All this tract is better fitted for grazing than for agriculture. Here we saw pines, both yellow and white; the former of which continued with little interruption to Race Point.
The houses in this township are decent farmers' habitations. Except a small trading village near the mouth of a creek, at some distance South of the road, the township is distributed into plantations. The inhabitants are principally Quakers; and furnish a considerable part of the daily supplies for the market of NewBedford.
Westport was incorporated in 1787; and contained, in 1790, 2,466 inhabitants ; in 1800, 2,361 ; and, in 1810, 2,585. The number of houses, in 1790, was 365.
New-Bedford is a town, situated on both sides of the river Acchusnutt,* the Indian name of the neighbouring country. The
* Written Acushnett by Mr. Colton, of Plymouth.--1674.