« AnteriorContinuar »
unchristian persecutions of men who bore the Christian name in the old. He was descended from one of the most respectable families in that colony, his ancestor being William Thomas of Marshfield, who was a particular friend of Governor Winslow, and settled near him. This William was a deputy from Marshfield to the Assembly of the colony, and an assistant several years. He did not come to Plymouth till about ten years after the plantation began : but he was active in promoting the interests and views of the company during this period.* One of his grandsons was clerk of the Court; and one was judge of probate for the county of Plymouth. After the union of Plymouth with Massachusetts in 1692, by the charter of William and Mary, the latter was one of the Council: and it is reported of him, that he was opposed to the severe measures at that time adopted against the pretended witches in Essex county.
The grandfather of Mr. Thomas married a Miss Pattishall of Boston, and resided there some years. His father, who was born in the town last named, was an eminent physician in Plymouth, and lived to an advanced age, greatly esteemed for his social virtues, and for his useful services in the profession.
Mr. Thomas received his education at Harvard University ; and was considered one of the first scholars in the large class of which he was a member. He was particularly distinguished for a flowing and elegant style of writing; and in subsequent periods of his life, he gave repeated evidence of this happy talent. He was graduated in July, 1772. • After passing a few months in teaching youth (an employment in which, formerly, some of the best scholars in the state engaged for a short period, on leaving the University) he gave his attention to theological studies, with a view to the clerical profession. But he was never employed in its publick services. The political controversy with Great Britain, which was now becoming highly interesting, and approaching to a crisis, seems to have engaged his chief attention, as it did that of other patriots
Şee Gov. Bradford's Letters, Vol. III. Hist. Coll.
of that eventful period. He was adjutant of a regiment of newly organized militia, raised in Plymouth county in the autumn of 1774; and, at their request, he delivered a publick address on the political state of the country, which was received with great approbation and applause.
In April, 1775, soon after the battle of Lexington, Col. John Thomas of Kingston, who had been an officer in 1758, raised a regiment, and marched, with others, to Roxbury. Here he acted for some months as commander of the several regiments encamped at that place, with the rank of general, while General Ward commanded at Cambridge, and was actually commander in chief of the Massachusetts troops, until the arrival of General Washington, in July following, who had received a commission to command the American forces of all the colonies. Mr. Thomas was aid to General Thomas at this period, and for this whole campaign; and his intelligence and activity rendered him highly useful to the general, and the division under his command.
In the same capacity he accompanied General Thomas, in the spring of 1776, to Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, who was entrusted with the chief command of the American troops in that quarter. After a few months' service in this expedition, General Thomas died, (greatly lamented,) and the command devolved on General Schuyler of New York. Major Thomas then left the army and returned to his native town, where he engaged in the study of the law; and was occasionally employed by government in various agencies for the publick service; but did not again go into the field. His father and three brothers engaged in the military service, in the trying period of May, 1775, and two of them continued to the close of the contest.
In the year 1781 he was elected a representative from Plymouth, and after serving the town in this capacity for several years, he was chosen one of the senators for that county, and in 1792 was appointed judge of probate, on the decease of the Hon. Joseph Cushing. This office he sustained until his death, a period of twenty-nine years; and its various duties were discharged with a correctness
and integrity, with an impartiality and patience, never exceeded, perhaps, by any one; and which secured to him the esteem and respect of the whole county. There was such amenity in his manners, and such a spirit of accommodation in the discharge of his official duties, as well as in the private circle, that all who associated with him, either for publick business or social converse, were pleased and delighted. His memory was uncommonly retentive, and he was full of anecdotes calculated to illustrate the opinions and manners of men of former days, particularly of the patriots and statesmen of 1775. He was fond of perusing the works of ethical and theological writers. His reading was very extensive on these subjects. He was well acquainted with the various systems of theology in the Christian world; but gave his decided preference to that, which is now denominated Unitarian and liberal. He went to the fountain of inspiration for his religious sentiments; he admitted no other authority as decisive but the Bible; and this, he believed, every one was bound to examine and interpret for himself. Yet he approved, generally, of the writings of Price and Watson, of Mayhew, Chauncy and others of their catholic views. In his political character he ranked among the ardent friends of rational freedom, and was a true disciple of the Washington School. Though an enemy to arbitrary rulers, who forgot right and attempted to exercise illegal and unconstitutional power, he was a firm supporter of all legitimate authority, and a ready advocate of law and order. In the various critical periods of the commonwealth, during his active life, he united his efforts, with other good men, in vindicating correct constitutional principles, in opposition to popular excitements and party feelings.
His qualities as a parent, neighbour and friend, were peculiarly happy and commendable. He was indulgent, mild, generous, disinterested. As a lawyer, also, he shared largely in the esteem and confidence of the people. He was too honourable to impose on the ignorant, or to exact even the usual fees for professional business of the poorer classes. Most men, with the portion of business
which he had as a lawyer, and without a charge of dishonesty, would have accumulated much more than he did. He was many years president of the bar in Plymouth county ; and the following vote, passed, unanimously, at the first court holden in that county after his decease, fully shows the high estimation, which his brethren of the profession had of his talents and character. —“The Bar, taking into consideration the afflicting dispensation of providence, in removing by death their highly respectable President, the Hon. Joshua Thomas, distinguished by his literary and legal acquirements, his moral and social virtues, and with a deep sense of the loss, which the community, in general, and this Bar, in particular, have sustained by this melancholy event, do resolve, that they will, in token of their respect for his memory, wear crape from this time till the end of the next term of the Supreme Judicial Court for this county.”
The honourable notice taken of our friend by Judge Putnam, at a session of the Supreme Judicial Court in Plymouth, in May, 1821, at the first term thereof in the new court house, is worthy of preservation. —" Alas! that our joy, on this interesting occasion, should be mixed with grief for the loss of that excellent and venerable man, who presided in your courts, and was so long the widow's friend, and father of the fatherless. This temple of justice is but one of the durable proofs of his influence, and of the never-failing confidence, which your people had in his integrity and judgment. His respected name will descend with distinguished honour to posterity : but the benignity of his countenance and manners can be properly estimated only by those who had the happiness to know him. If he were here to-day, he would rejoice with you, because he would have believed that this welltimed liberality will be productive of lasting honour and benefit to the county as well as to the state. He was fully impressed with that veneration for the laws and for the magistracy, which will ever be associated with these. walls.”
When a Bible Society was formed in the counties of Plymouth and Norfolk in 1814, he was chosen president,
and so continued to the time of his death. He was also president of the Pilgrim Society, lately established at Plymouth, and his death is deeply lamented by all its members. The regrets of the Historical Society are mingled with those of others, with whom he was associated for useful and patriotick purposes; and they improve the earliest opportunity to record this sketch of his character and services, from a respectful regard for his memory, and as an incitement to others to honourable exertion for the good of the publick and of posterity.
DETECTION OF WITCHCRAFT.
[Governour Hutchinson, in Vol. II. p. 26 of edition 3, has given a
very brief abstract of this curious paper by the Rev. Mr. TURELL, minister of Medford. Our copy is from the original MS. which was owned by the historian of Massachusetts, made by Dr. Andrew Eliot, his friend. Ed.]
ALTHOUGH I am as far as any one from holding or maintaining the doctrine of the Sadducees; and firmly believe the existence of spirits, an invisible world, and particularly the agency of Satan, and his instruments, in afflicting and tormenting the children of men, (when permitted by God ;) yet I fear the world has been wretchedly imposed upon by relations of such matters. Tricks and legerdemain have been fathered upon Satan, and others, falsely reputed as being in covenant with him, by ignorant and designing people, in which they were not so immediately concerned. Many things have been dubb'd witchcraft, and called the works of the devil, which were nothing more than the contrivance of the children of men, who are wise to do evil, and which by strict examination might have been detected. There are some books in the world, filled with stories of witchcrafts, apparitions, trances,