Petition - 1679

From: "Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations".

[The original document was one LOOOOOOONG paragraph, so I've broken in down giving each sentence a new space - since most sentences were looooong and run on as well, they will feel like paragraphs and will be easier to read. I've also kept the misspelling as they were written in the original.]

Petition from the inhabitants of the Narragansett Country to the King.

To the King's Most Excellent Majesty. The humble Petition and Remonstrance of our subjects, the inhabitants of the Narragansett Countrey, in the southerne parts of New England, called by your Majesty's Commissioners the King's Province.

May it please your Majesty: About forty-two yeares since, the father of one of your petitioner, namely, Richard Smith, deceased, who sold his possessions in Gloucestershire, and came into New England, began the first settlement of the Narragansett Country (then liveing at Taunton, in the Colony of New Plymouth), and erected a trading house on the same tract of land where now his son Richard Smith inhabits, not only at his cost and charge, but great hazard, not without the consent and approbation of the natives, who then were very numerous, and gave him land to sett his house on, being well sattisfied in his comeing thither, that they might be supplyed with such necessaries as afford times they wanted, and that at their owne homes, without much travell for the same.

The said Richard Smith likewise being as well pleased in his new settlement in a double respect; first, that hee might bee instrumentall under God in the propagating the gospell among the natives, who knew not God as they aught to know him, and took great paines therein to his dying day; secondly, that that place might afford him a refuge and shelter in time to come, for the future subsistence of him and his; wherein he was not only deceived in his expectation for loosing almost all hee had in the Indian war among the Dutch, where hee likewise made a settlement, chose at last this place of Narragansett for his own abode; no English liveing neerer to him than Pawtuxet, at his first settleing, being neare twenty miles from him.

That place now called Warwick, was not then thought on.

Much about that time, some gentlemen of the Massachusetts Collony removed from their habitations and came to the Narragansett Bay and purchased of the natives an Island in said Bay, and called it Rhode Island; Mr. Wm. Coddington being the chieftest of them, and who only purchased the same, and was the first and chieftest Governor they had for many years; settling up among themselves a government by consent for the well ordering of their owne affairs, and for the peace and security thereof.

In process of time, that place called Warwick, was settled by Mr. Gorton and Holden and others; whereby Richard Smith, aforesaid, had some neighbours nearer to him; and afterwards Mr. Roger Williams, of Providence, likewise came to Narraganset and built a house for trade, near unto the former house of Richard Smiths, who in some short time quitted his settlement, and sold it to the said Richard Smith, who lived there alone for many years, his house being the resting place and rendezvous for all travellers passing that way, which was of great benefit and use to the country; and was at no small cost and charge therein for many years together, to the great reliefe of all travellers.

But time, that produces changes, caused him, being wearie of living alone in a desolate wilderness; yet haveing plenty of Indians and wild creatures, to desire neighborhood and invited his neighbours in New England to purchase of the Indians and settle the countrey with him, which accordingly some well-affected persons of Rhode Island, and some of the Massachusetts Collony, Connecticut and New Plymouth joyned with the said Richard Smith and his son Richard Smith, your present petitioner, who lived there with his father, and made two small purchases of two tracts of land by the sea-side. And much about the same time some of Rhode Island purchased an Island in the Bay called by the natives Quononaquat, and another company of Rhode Island and Boston joyned together, but most of Rhode Island purchased another tract of land in the Narragansett country, to the southward of that above-mentioned, first for the digging of black lead, afterwards for their further settlement; whereby the country came to be inhabited with English to the great cost and charge of the first settlers.

The country being all this while under no setlted government; yet claimed by severall Collonies by virtue and grants from some Lords in England in the times of the troubles here.

But no settled government till your Majesty was pleased to grant your gracious Letters Pattents to Connecticut and Rhode Island, both which including the Narragansett Country, cause great troubles to the inhabitants by making them offenders for not complying with either as they were commanded, when in truth they knew not whom to submit to; and was the only hinderance of the settlement of that country.

Some of the purchasers and the proprietors thereof choosing to submit unto the government of Connecticut, as per articles of agreement made between the Agents of each Collony in England, by the Lord Brewerton, Capt'n Deane, Major Thompson, Doctor Worsley and Capt'n Brookhaven, may appear.

Yet nothwithstanding this proved ineffectuall to the ends of peace and unity so much desired, to the great grievance and discouragement of the inhabitants that were there minded to improve their settlements; though some of the same purchasers having sold their rights to others, now endeavor to obstruct the rest of their co-purchasers in the enjoyment of theirs; but differences still increasing about the government, your Majesty's Commissioners in the yeare 1664, viz.: Sir Robert Carr, Collonell Cartwright, and Samuell Maverick, gave the name of King's Province to the Narragansett Country, and forbid any persons of any jurisdiction whatsoever to exercise any authority in the said King's Province; but who should be authorized by them under their hands and scales until your Majesty's please was further knowne.

Since which the said Commissioners granted forth orders for settling part thereof; as to Mr. Brown, Capt'n Willit and others.

Notwithstanding which the government of Rhode Island hath of late forced a settlement upon some of our said lands contrary to the said Commissioners' orders and our Majesty's letter as lately, at a place they called East Greenwich.

In the time of these troubles and contests, the Indians proved insolent and very injurious to our petitioners, the inhabitants, not without private abetters, as we suspected, killed our cattle, destroyed our creatures and plundered some of our houses, soe that wee were hardly bale to live among them; some of us loosing in some few years neare 150 head of cattle.

And when complaint was made to our superiours at Rhode Island, wee could have no reliefe, which made some of us apply ourselves to the Massachusetts Collony for redress of these outrages and enormities committed against us, according to an order of your Majesty's, granted unto them about the yeare 1663, but still were without remedy; which many of us foresaw would end in a warr with the Indians if not timely and wisely prevented.

Which afterwards come on apace, to the ruin and destruction of our petitioners' visible estates in that Province. So that it became a desolate wildernesse againe; and instead of Christian people, replenished with howling wolves and other wild creatures.

But it pleased the Lord in his due time to put a period to these warrs, and our petitioners the former inhabitants, went over from Rhode Island, whither wee retreated with that little wee had left, where it cost us one halfe of our cattle to keep the rest and carry us over.

So cold was their charity to their poore neighbours in distress; and then and since imposed taxes on us, when your petitioners had hardly any thing left for the subsistence of themselves and little ones; and settled in the King's Province againe, when very dangerous liveing in [cellars and holes] under ground, till we got a little beforehand to rebuild, which with our owne industry and hard laboure, wee hope in time to effect, if not discouraged and hindered by many that threaten to turn us off.

May it please your Majesty, his being in short, the true state of affaires at the Narragansett Countrey and the people there inhabiting, from the first settlement to this present times.

Your petitioners, the inhabitants thereof, do humbly supplycate your Majesty, as you have been pleased to send your gracious letters to the foure Collonys of New England strictly to will and require them to take care of the inhabitants there at present, so that you would in your princely wisdom and Royall bounty and justice, for the future vouchesafe an eye of favour upon the poore inhabitants our petitioners, the first settlers thereof, in a more peculiar manner, who have been at great cost and charge, and have laid out (most of us) all wee have in this world upon the same, and are not able to subsist, if removed from thence; it being now become in a manner out native country to some of us, and is as to many of our children who were there borne; and we hope and promise for ourselves and children that shall succeeed us, that your Majesty would put an end to these differences about the government thereof, which hath been so fatall to the prosperitie of the place; animositites still ariseing in peoples' minds, as they stand affected to this or that government, and may be wronged and injured by either government of these that take place, the transactions of former things being fresh in memory, and impartiall and equall judicature being the great and earnest the desires of your petitioners to live under, being wearied out with the former contests and the troubles wee have mett with from both Collonies commanding us, do all of us unanimously and with one consent supplicate our Majesty not to leave us to the government and dispose of those that seek advantages against us. The country being large and able to containe many families, may make entire Province, if our Majestye see cause. And your petitioners shall ever pray, &c. And subscribed your Majesty's humble, loyall and obedient subjects.

- King's Province in Narragansett, July 29, 1679

(Signed in one hand). William Bently, Henry Gardner, John Greene, Richard Smith, Nicholas Gardner, Benj. Gardner, John Coale, Jer. Bull, Geo. Gardner, Sam. Eldred, Tho. Gold, Daniel Greene, Arthur Aylworth, Geo. Whitman, Sam. Wilson, Hen. Reynolds, Robert Vinin, James Greene, James Reynolds, John Eldred, James Reynolds, Thomas Sovell, Daniel Eldred, Rob't Spink, Daniel Swete, Rob't Spink, Jun'r, Joseph Dalauer, Sam. Alsbery, John Shelldin, Alexander Fenix, William Gardner, William Coston, Henry Tipets, John Sheldon, Jun'r, Aron Jackwaies, William Knolls, Frell Newton, Thos. Brooks, Rouse Helme, Geo. Palmer, Joseph Reynolds, Lodwick Updike.