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street, and that between Robert Cole's and William Carpenter's lots, is now called Meeting-street. The dividing lines between all these lots, run east and west, and many of them may be traced by the walls and fences now standing. Several of these lots have never been transferred by deed.
The northwesterly corner of the Roger Williams lot, is now occupied by the stone house at the corner of North Main-street and Howland's Alley. The spring was on the opposite side of the street. A pump is now set in it. The tide then flowed almost up to the spring, and the street passed along on the shore. By referring to the foregoing list of home lots, a tolerably correct conclusion can be formed as to the order in which the first inhabitants arrived here. The first twelve are found on either hand of their leader. Within their extremes are lots which were set off to the persons under age and the lone women who accompanied them. Those who succeeded them and were admitted inhabitants had their lots set off" to them upon the one or the other extreme, thus extending the line as their strength increased.
In addition to the home lots each individual had a "six acre lot" assigned him.
Seven of these lots are located between Mile-end cove and the one set off to Mr. Williams. His lot adjoined "What cheer," and is the last to the north on Seekonk river. Other "six acre lots" were located in other parts of the purchase, as "on the North side of the Wanasquatucket," and "by the west river." There can be no mistake as to the
location of Mr. Williams' six acre lot. The entry in this list is "six acres of Roger Williams with What cheer;" and in a deed that he made of What cheer and his six acre lot to James Ellis, Jan. 29, 1667, he recites that in disposing of his purchase unto the "Township or commonality," he reserved to himself " the two Indian fields, called 'What cheer and Saxefrax Hill,'" and that the town afterwards "laid out unto me the aforesaid field, called What cheer, and adjoined my six acre lot unto it." In 1718 the proprietors of the purchase made another division of home or house lots. They divided the lands on the southerly and easterly side of Weybosset-street, on the west side of North Main-street north Canal market, and on the south side of Olney-street, into one hundred and one house lots, being one for each proprietor, which were drawn for by the proprietors or their assigns. The land on the west side of Main-street north of Mile-end cove, was subsequently platted and divided into warehouse lots, and in most cases sold by the proprietors to the owners of the house lots opposite them. With respect to the other lands in the propriety, it was generally disposed of by vote to particular persons, or a division of a certain number of acres made to each purchase right, the location of which was left to the individuals interested, to be surveyed by the proprietors' surveyor, allowed by the proprietors or their committee and recorded by the clerk. The returns, as they are called, of the surveyors, constitute the first link in the chain of the title of almost every estate in the county of Providence. The record of
these returns and of subsequent conveyances were made by the clerk chosen by the town, until 1718, after which the proprietors met by themselves and chose their own officers.
During the first years of the colony, it is not probable, that any of the powers of the community were exercised by or delegated to, any portion of its members. The original purchasers, with " such as they received into the same fellowship of vote " with them, met in town meeting, monthly, and there transacted all the business pertaining to their little commonwealth. It is matter of regret that their records from month to month have not been preserved. It would be interesting to peruse the proceedings of a colony of civilized men, commencing a political existence with the principles of perfect equality, and to mark the growth and increase of difficulties which gradually and necessarily led them to the abandonment of their pure democracy, to the delegation of part of their powers, and to the institution of a representative government. They must have adopted some general rules for their government at a very early period. This is fairly to be inferred from the following agreement entered into by " the second comers." It is copied from the first book of the records of the town. It is there without date. When the early records of the town were copied, the transcriber added to his copy the date of August 20, 1637, from the inside of the cover of the same book. This date evidently refers to another matter which follows it, and is in a different hand writing from the agreement itself. The precipe time when any
of these signers removed to Providence cannot be ascertained. Richard Scott, who is the first, left Massachusetts before March 1638. Two of the others, Thomas Angell and Francis Wickes, came with Mr. Williams. The tradition is, that they were then minors, and that that was the reason they were not named in Mr. Williams' deed. They probably signed this agreement as soon as they became of age.
"We whose names are hereunder, desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to subject ourselves in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good of the body, in an orderly way, by the major assent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a town-fellowship, and such others whom they shall admit unto them, only in civil things.
Richard Scott, Thomas -f- Angell,
William -J- Reynolds, Thomas -J- Harris,
John -f- Field, Francis -j- Wickes,
Chad Brown, Benedict Arnold,
John Warner, Joshua Winsor,
George RickArd, William Wickenden."
It is worthy of remark, that the signers of this instrument, submit "only in civil things." That there existed some kind of an agreement between the first settlers "masters of families" is apparent from the terms of these articles. They are referred to as a town, as "incorporated together into a town fellowship." And, it is equally certain that the first agreement, whether in writing or not, provided for obedience "in civil things only," otherwise this would not have been so guarded. The testimony of Governor Winthrop is in point here, as before quoted in relation to Verin's case. He says, "at their first coming thither, Mr. Williams and the rest did make an order that no man should be molested for his conscience." Here then was established a christian community based upon the great principles of perfect religious liberty, as contended for by Mr. Williams both at Salem and at Plymouth.
The first delegation of power, the first remove they made from pure democracy, was in 1640. The colonists had undoubtedly experienced the difficulties attendant on this form of civil government. They found it not only onerous to individuals, but wanting in that energy necessary to preserve the peace and ensure the prosperity of a growing community. The change adopted is found embodied in the following report.