Lothropp Family Foundation

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Keynote Address - Part 2

Laud, again sarcastically, asks Lothropp to produce a license from God: "Mr. Lothropp, you say that the Lord hath qualified you? What authority, what orders have you? The Lord hath qualified you - is that a sufficient answer? You must give a better answer before you and I part."

Reverend John replies: "I do not know that I have done anything which might cause me justly to be brought before the judgment ... of man" (and again refuses to take the oath.)

Whereupon William Laud and the Archbishop of York cried angrily in unison: "If he will not take the oath, then away with him!"

Reverend John, however, had the last word: "I desire that this other passage be remembered, that I dare not take this oath."

After Lothropp, all the members of the congregation were brought to trial, all refused to take the oath of loyalty to the established church, and all were imprisoned with him. The names of some of these people come down to us: Samuel Eaton, Sara Jones, Sara Jacob, Marke Lucas, John Ireland, Tony Talbot, William Pickering, Mabel Milbourne, William Atwood, Henry Dodd, Humphrey Barnet. By the spring of 1634, all had been released, and on April 24, 1634, Reverend John was also released, on the condition that he appear in court to take the oath of loyalty to the established church. He had no intention of doing so, for by now he had decided to remove his family and friends from his church to the New World

Finally, around August 1, 1634, Reverend John set sail for the Colony of Plymouth on the ship "the Griffin", with his family and thirty of his followers. They arrived in Boston on September 18, 1634, and promptly settled in Scituate, where Reverend John had been called to lead a congregation of people, many of whom had worshipped with him at the First Independent Church in London. These were unsettled years for the group, however. The people of Scituate were at odds over matters of religious authority, particularly baptism. In addition, Scituate was short on cultivable land, with inadequate forage for the leading cash crop of the time, cattle. Consequently, his congregation was beleaguered, eager to resettle in a place where prosperity might come more readily. On April 27,1637, Reverend John noted in his diary this problem and preached to his congregation from Genesis:

And Abram said unto Lot "Let there be no strife between me and thee, nor between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we are brethren. Is not the whole of the land before us? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou will take the left hand, then I will go to the right. Or if thou will depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."

Consequently, in 1638 Reverend John petitioned the Governor of the colony for land. Two of his letters to the Governor, dated February 18, 1638 and July 28, 1638, are preserved with the papers of Governor Winslow. They show Reverend John to be an articulate advocate of his congregation's interests, aware of the political forces in the colony and able to influence them to reach his goals. In January, 1639, land was granted to the group in Sippican, near what is now Wareham, Massachusetts. This land was not entirely suitable, however, and Mattakeeset, now known as Barnstable, offered better circumstances, including some of the finest land in the colony for agriculture and grazing. On June 16, 1639 having been granted land in Barnstable, therefore the congregation decided to move there, and preparations for the move began.

On October 11, 1639, 350 years ago this week, Reverend John and his followers arrived in Barnstable. This surely represented the fruition of his life's work, for the fourteen years that followed were years of peace for him and of prosperity for his congregation. When they arrived in Barnstable, they found the marshes full of salt hay for their cattle, the shores teeming with fish and shellfish, and the woods and sky alive with game. Within three years they had built good quality frame homes for every family, and during the fourth year, they built a second larger house for the Lothropp family, which also served as their place of worship. Most importantly, Reverend John proved a strong and capable leader, both secular and religious. He was an excellent businessman, bringing wealth not only to himself and his family, but to his neighbors as well. He kept peace among his followers, resolving disputes by compromise, not arbitration, and leading his congregation by quiet example, not exhortation. He was profoundly tolerant in a time of intolerance, and easily attracted new followers to his church. Amos Otis, the historian of Barnstable, reported in 1888 on these years as follows:

"Mr. Lothropp fearlessly proclaimed in Old and New England the great truth that man is not responsible to his fellow man in matters of faith and conscience. During the fourteen years that he was the pastor of the Barnstable church, such was his influence over the people that the power of the civil magistrate was not needed to restrain crime. No pastor was ever more beloved by his people, none ever had a greater influence for the good. Mr. Lothropp was as distinguished for his worldly wisdom as for his piety. He was a good businessman, and so were all his sons. Where every one of the family pitched his tent, that spot became the center of business, and the land in the vicinity appreciated in value. It is men that make a place, and to Mr. Lothropp in early times, we are more indebted than to any other family."

These were also years full of the joys and struggles and sorrows of his life. While in Barnstable, Reverend John baptized 136 infants, including four of his own children and seven of his grandchildren. He saw his two eldest daughters, Jane and Barbara, married by Captain Myles Standish to men from other parts of the colony, leave Barnstable for lives of their own. He witnessed the death in infancy of his youngest son. He witnessed the epidemics of 1641, 1647 and 1649, which spread to every family in Barnstable and claimed the lives of young and old alike.

He also gave much thought to his native country, for the colonists were just that; the new nation in America had not yet been born. Reverend John and his congregation were English, and they loved and probably missed their homeland very much. Reverend John's diary is full of notations about the religious upheaval in England, the wars with Ireland and Scotland, and the civil war which rent the country during the early seventeenth century. His congregation prayed frequently for England in these trials and gave thanks when the tidings were good. Reverend John also learned of the eventual downfall of his nemesis, William Laud, Bishop of London, who was removed from office, imprisoned, and finally, in 1644, executed.


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