Elias Parkman sailed from Sidmouth (Sydmouth), Devonshire, England in 1630 on the ship Mary & John. Then in 1635 he became a FREEMAN and took the following Oath of a Freeman. That same year he was one of the original 48 cofounders of Windsor CT, the oldest town in the state.
Freemen made at the General Court, May 6th, 1635.
Mr. Sachariah Syms
The Freemen of Massachusetts Bay
1630 – 1636
Redacted and introduced by Marcia Stewart.
A primary goal of The Winthrop Society is to determine the identities of the first settlers of Massachusetts Bay Commonwealth. There are no firmer grounds for establishing an early settler among the founders of the Commonwealth than the lists of the first Freemen — those who applied for that estate in Boston in October, 1630, and those so sworn thereafter. The Freemen were the only colonists who were franchised to vote, and the franchise was not offered to all. One generally had to be a mature male church-member, and must have experienced a transforming spiritual experience by God’s grace, as attested by himself and confirmed by church leaders. Therefore, the list of names below represents just a small percentage of the population. And apparently, a number of qualifying church-members would not take the oath because they had problems with the wording. An oath in those times was taken very seriously, as though it were a promise made directly to the Almighty with ones soul forfeit in the breach. Numerous persons who are on church and court records of 1630-1632 did not take the oath until 1634, when the oath was shortened and modified to replace the persons of the Governor etc. to whom obedience was due with the impersonal “common weale.” Others, such as those who later became Quakers, objected strongly to oaths in general. One can understand all their reservations when one reads this “mother of all American loyalty oaths,” below.
The Oath of a Freeman, or of a Man to be made free.
I, A B, etc., being, by the Almighty’s most wise disposition, become a member of this body, consisting of the Governor, Deputy Governor, Assistants and a commonalty of the Mattachusets in New England, do freely and sincerely acknowledge that I am justly and lawfully subject to the government of the same, and do accordingly submit my person and estate to be protected, ordered, and governed by the laws and constitutions thereof, and do faithfully promise to be from time to time obedient and conformable thereunto, and to the authority of the said Governor and Assistants and their successors, and to all such laws, orders, sentences, and decrees as shall be lawfully made and published by them or their successors; and I will always endeavor (as in duty I am bound) to advance the peace and welfare of this body or commonwealth to my utmost skill and ability; and I will, to my best power and means, seek to divert and prevent whatsoever may tend to the ruin or damage thereof, or of any the said Governor, Deputy Governor, or Assistants, or any of them or their successors, and will give speedy notice to them, or some of them, of any sedition, violence, treachery, or other hurt or evil which I shall know, hear, or vehemently suspect to be plotted or intended against the said commonwealth, or the said government established; and I will not at any time suffer or give consent to any counsel or attempt that shall be done, given, or attempted for the impeachment of the said government, or making any change alteration of the same, contrary to the laws and ordinances thereof, but shall do my utmost endeavor to discover, oppose, and hinder all and every such counsel and attempt. So help me God.
Applied for Freeman Status, October 19th, 1630
What follows is the entire record of the Court of the session of October 19, 1630. This occasion was nothing less than the birth of democracy on the American continent. The men that applied for freemen status were mostly arrived in 1630 with the Winthrop fleet and the Mary & John. However, the earlier arrivals are also represented here, and this list contains many of the surviving settlers from the the Abigail and the Higginson fleet, as well as a few who came before 1628.
All names were inscribed by the Court clerk, and give an indication of the pronunciation, if not the oath-taker’s prefered spelling of his name. The spelling of surnames and most prenames is given here as originally written down, but we have replaced abbreviated prenames by the common full spelling. Where prenames were omitted, they are inserted here in italics. The order of the names as written down originally can be seen here. There is no apparent indication of their social status in the order of the names, but some of the earliest settlers appear first, and study has revealed groupings according to the MBC township of origin.
At General Court, holden at Boston the 19th of October, 1630
The Governor (John Winthrop)
The deputy Governor (Thomas Dudley)
Sir Richard Saltonstall
Mr. (Roger) Ludlowe
Capt. (John) Endicott
Mr. (Increase) Nowell
Mr. (William) Pinchon
Mr. (Simon) Bradstreete
For establishing the government, it was propounded if it were not the best course that the Freemen should have the power of choosing Assistants when there are to be chosen, and the Assistants from among themselves to choose a Governor and a Deputy Governor, who with the Assistants should have the power of making laws and choosing officers to execute the same. This was fully assented unto by the general vote of the people and erection of hands.
Ralfe Sprage is chosen constable of Charlton, John Johnson of Rocksbury, and John Page for Waterton, for the space of one whole year, and after till new be chosen.
It is ordered that the sawyers shall not take above 12d a score for sawing oak boards, and 10d a score for pine boards if they have their wood felled and scored for them.
Walter Palmer made his personal appearance this day, and stands bound, he and his sureties, till the next Court.
The names of such as desire to be made Freeman
Mr. Samuell Mavracke
Mr. Edward Johnson
Mr. Edward Gibbins
Mr. William Jeffries
Mr. John Burslin
Mr. Samuel Sharpe
Mr. Thomas Graves
Mr. Roger Conant
Mr. Nathaniel Turner
Mr. Samuel Freeman
Mr. William Clerke
Mr. Abraham Palmer
Roger Williams (Roger Williams of Dorchester, not the Minister and later founder of Rhode Island.)
Thomas Williams alias Harris
Capt. Walter Norton
Mr. Alexander Wignall
Mr. William Jennison
Mr. Thomas Southcoate
Mr. Richard Southcoate
Mr. John Dillingham
Mr. Robert Coles
Mr. Charles Gott
Mr. George Phillips
Mr. John Wilson
Mr. John Mavracke
Mr. Robert Feake
Mr. William Pelham
Mr. Benjamin Brand
Mr. William Blackstone
Mr. Edmond Lockwood
Mr. Richard Browne
Mr. George Ludlowe
Mr. John Warham
Mr. Samuell Skelton
Mr. William Colbron
Mr. William Aspinwall
Mr. Richard Palgrave
Mr. Giles Sexton
Mr. Ralfe Glover
Mr. Samuell Coole
Mr. William Traske
Two separate groups were sworn on May 14th, 1634, and this redactor is uncertain of the reason. One might speculate that, after the first group, above, was sworn by the Oath of 1631, the New Oath was proposed by the larger second group containing many worthies and first settlers, including the notable ministers Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone, and was then adopted by the Court. At that same session, we note also that Thomas Dudley replaced the more conservative John Winthrop as Governor, and the powerful and persuasive Rev. John Cotton (among the second group of Freemen, below) was heard to speak on constitutional issues.
As was noted above, the Oath of 1631 was considered unreasonably demanding to many of the first settlers, and the Oath in 1634 was reworded to make allegiance binding to the Commonwealth, but not to the persons of the present government, and also allowed the oath-taker’s conscience to bear in its interpretation.
A significant portion of the first settlers of the Colony refused the first oath, but are found on the following lists of 1634 and 1635, among more recently arrived settlers. Below is the New Oath, and a list of all who took the New Oath in this and the subsequent court sessions up to the end of the Julian year 1635/36.
The Oath of Freeman agreed upon at the General Court, May 14, 1634.
I, A&B, being by God’s providence an inhabitant and freeman within the jurisdiction of this common weale, do freely acknowledge myself to be subject to the government thereof, and therefore do hereby swear by the great and dreadful name of the ever-living God that I will be true and faithful to the same, and will accordingly yield assistance and support thereunto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound, and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the privileges and liberties thereunto, submitting myself to the wholesome laws made and established by the same. And further, that I will not plot nor practise any evil against it, nor consent to any that shall be so done, but will timely discover and reveal the same to lawful authority now here established for the speedy preventing thereof. Moreover, I do solemnly bind myself in the sight of God that when I shall be called to give my voice touching any such matter of this State, wherein Freemen are to deal, I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall in my own conscience judge best to produce and tend to the public weale of the body, without respect of persons or respect of any man. So help me God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Freemen made at the General Court, May 6th, 1635.
Mr. Sachariah Syms
Captain William Trask was a fisherman who came with the Dorchester Company to Cape Ann in 1624. He came on the Zouch Phenix from Weymouth, England. When the Dorchester Company folded they offered the fisherman the opportunity to return to England. He, along with others moved down the Massachusetts coastline to a place the Indians called “Maumkeg.” It later became a charter for the settlement. It became known as “The Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.” In 1629, he was a member of the First Church in Salem. On October 19, 1630, he petitioned the court to be a freeman. On November 7, 1632, he appointed, along with seven others, to set boundaries between Roxbury and Dorchester. In 1634 he was made a Captain in the Militia.
The Winthrop Society
See page 239:
Mark Hoffman’s “Oath of a Freeman” forgery: