Rev. John Wise, M. A., of Chebacco in Ipswich, "the first man in America ever known to oppose the idea of TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION," baptized 15 August, 1652, was the son of a servant of John Alcock, Joseph Wise, of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who married, 3 December, 1641, Mary Thompson.
"It is an illustration of the caprice which everywhere prevails in the domain of" the goddess Fame, says Tyler, in speaking of Wise, "that the one American who, upon the whole, was the most powerful and brilliant prose-writer produced in this country during the colonial time, and who in his day enjoyed a sovereign reputation in New England, should have passed since then into utter obscurity; while several of his contemporaries, … who were far inferior to him in genius, have names that are still resounding in our memories."
For his Commencement part on taking his second degree in 1676, he maintained the affirmative of the question "An impossibile sit Mundum fuisse ab æterno?'"
He was almost prevailed on to become the minister of Hatfield, where he was preaching in 1677-8, and, according to Savage, took the oath of fidelity in February, 1679.
After the unsuccessful attempts, which have already been mentioned on pages 268-271, to settle Jeremiah Shepard, H. U. 1669, at Chebacco, a part of Ipswich now incorporated as Essex, the Chebacco people, in April, 1680, presented Wise to a committee of the General Court "as a person vpon whom they have vnanimously agreed vpon for their minister." In February, 1682, they extended to him a formal call to become their pastor, and in May chose a committee to treat with him about a settlement. They offered him as a gift ten acres of land, and for an annual salary sixty pounds, one third in money and two thirds in grain at the current price, with the strangers' contributions; forty cords of oak wood and eight loads of marsh hay. They also agreed to build and keep in repair, for his use, a parsonage house and barn. He was ordained when the church was gathered, 12 August, 1683.
It was not many years before he gave evidence that "He was Zealously Affected towards his Country, and the Civil & Sacred Liberties and Priviledges of his Country: And was willing to Sacrifice any thing, but a good Conscience, to Secure and Defend them."
When Sir Edmund Andros ordered a levy of a penny on a pound throughout his jurisdiction, Wise and the people were alarmed. He and two of his parishioners went from
"We John Wise, John Andrews senior, Robert Kinsman, William Goodhue junior, all of Ipswich … about the 22d day of August  … were with several principal Inhabitants of the Town of Ipswich met at Mr. John Appletons. and there discoursed and concluded that it was not the Town's Duty any way to assist that ill method of raising Money without a general Assembly, which was apparently intended by abovesaid Sir Edmund and his Council, as witness a late Act issued out by them for such a purpose. The next day in a general Town-Meeting of the Inhabitants of Ipswich; We the above named … with the rest of the Town then met (none contradicting) gave our assent to the vote then made.
"The ground of our trouble, our crime was the Copy transmitted to the Council, viz. At a Legal Town meeting August 23. Assembled by vertue of an Order from John Usher Esq. Treasurer for choosing a Commissioner to join with the Select men, to assess the Inhabitants according to an Act of his Excellency the Governour and Council for laying of rates; The town then considering that the said Act doth infringe their Liberty, as free born English Subjects of His Majesty by interfering with the Statute Laws of the Land, by which it was Enacted that no Taxes should be Levied upon the Subjects without consent of an Assembly chosen by the Freeholders for assessing of the same, they do therefore vote that they are not willing to choose a Commissioner for such an end without said priviledge; and moreover consent not that the Select men do proceed to lay any such rate until it be
"The Jurors only twelve men and most of them (as is said) Non-freeholders of any Land in the Colony, some of them Strangers and Forreigners, gathered up (as we suppose) to serve the present turn. In our defence was pleaded the repeal of the Law of Assessment upon the place. Also the Magna Charta of England, and the Statute Laws that secure the Subjects Properties and Estates, &c. To which was replied by one of the Judges [Dudley], the rest by silence assenting, that we must not think the Laws of England follow us to the ends of the Earth, or whither we went. And the same person (John Wise abovesaid testifies) declared in open Council upon examination of said Wise; Mr. Wise you have no more priviledges left you, than not to be sold for Slaves, and no man in Council contradicted. By such Laws our Trial and Trouble began and ended. Mr. Dudley aforesaid Chief Judge, to close up the debate and trial, trims up a speech that pleased himself (we suppose) more than the people. Among many other remarkable Passages, to this purpose, he bespeaks the Jury's obedience, who (we suppose) were very well preinclined, viz. I am glad, says he, there be so many worthy
After Andros was deposed, Wise was one of the two Representatives from Ipswich, 9 May, 1689, to meet in Boston and help reorganize the former Legislature. He brought an action against Dudley for denying him the benefit of the habeas corpus act, and, it is said, recovered damages.
Agreeably to an invitation of the Legislature given in July, 1690, he went as chaplain in Phips's unfortunate expedition against Quebec, "where not only the Pious Discharge of his Sacred Office, but his Heroick Spirit, and Martial Skill and Wisdom did greatly distinguish
The position which Wise took and maintained in relation to the witchcraft persecution of 1692 deserves special notice. Upham says he was "a learned, able, and enlightened man. He had a free spirit, and was perhaps the only minister in the neighborhood or country, who was discerning enough to see the erroneousness of the proceedings from the beginning." Notwithstanding the danger to which any one was exposed who expressed sympathy for convicted or accused persons, or doubt of their guilt, he wrote "a sensible and manly appeal and remonstrance," and, having headed a list of thirty-two signers, presented it in behalf of John Proctor, after his condemnation. When an attempt was made to have a mutual council in Parris's case, the disaffected members of his church were resolved to have Wise in the council, as they knew him to be the man to meet Cotton Mather, who would be there in behalf of Parris. Parris was so much afraid of this that he had recourse to an ex parte council.
Wise was one of the signers of an address to the General Court, dated 8 July, 1703, to take off the infamy and reproach cast on the name and posterity of those who had been accused and condemned of witchcraft. The General Court, 17 October, 1710, passed an act that "the several convictions, judgments, and attainders be, and hereby are, reversed, and declared to be null and void."
Toward the close of the seventeenth century Wise was interested in a movement of the inhabitants of Ipswich and vicinity to make a settlement at the South. It was after John Lord, H. U. 1691, and others had gone from Dorchester, Massachusetts, and located themselves on
But a more serious subject demanded Wise's consideration. In 1705, "on the fifth of November — ominous day! — there was issued at Boston a very shrewd document, without any signature attached, but purporting to have been framed by an association of ministers in and near that city. It was addressed to the churches and ministers of New England. It bore the unassuming title of 'Questions and Proposals.' Masked under deferential and harmless phrases, it was really a project for taking away the power of the laity in all the churches of New England, for annulling the independence of each church, and for substituting in place of both the will of the clergy. The document was understood to have been the work of the two Mathers, backed by a coterie of clerical admirers, and representing an inclination widely cherished, even if concealed. The document had a meek look, innocuous, even holy; it sought only the glory of God and the good of man; it was not loud, peremptory, dogmatic; it only asked and suggested. But John Wise, from his rural study in Ipswich, saw its true character, — a plot for an ecclesiastical revolution, and a revolution backward; and having given ample time for the scheme to work its way into general discussion, at last he lifted up his hand, and, at one blow, crushed it. His blow was a book, 'The Churches' Quarrel Espoused,' published at Boston in 1710,
"The 'Churches' Quarrel Espoused' is an exposition of the theory of democracy, in the Christian church, but the argument is developed according to the exigencies of a special occasion." In 1717 Wise "published a systematic treatise upon the same subject, expounding in a formal and didactic way the principles of ecclesiastical polity then adopted in New England. He entitled his work 'A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches.' His theory of the best government for the church derives its character from his fundamental ideas of what is the best government for the state; and the treatment of the latter subject leads him into a broad discussion of the rights of man, the nature of civil obligation, and the various forms of civil polity."
"Throughout this entire work, the author shows abundant learning; but always he is the master of his learning, and not its victim. He lays out his propositions clearly
"Perhaps even greater than the distinction he deserves for his brilliant writing is the distinction due him for the prophetic clearness, the courage, and the inapproachable ability with which, in that unfriendly time, he, almost alone among Americans, avowed his belief in civil government founded on the idea of human equality. He was the first great American democrat. In the earlier years of the eighteenth century, he announced the political ideas that, fifty years later, took immortal form under the pen of Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, in 1772, when the doctrine of human right had come to be a very urgent and very practical one among men, the two books of John Wise were called for in Boston by the Revolutionary leaders; they were reprinted in response to this call; and they proved an armory of burnished weapons in that stern fight. 'The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all, and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth, without injury or abuse to any.' No wonder that the writer of that sentence was called up from his grave, by the men who were getting ready the Declaration of Independence."
In 1774, Nathaniel Whitaker attempted a confutation of these works of Wise. He says: "The first of these hath the appearance of argument and reason; and therefore seems to call for serious attention, and to be received as solid truth; or
Wise took part in the exciting controversy about singing by note, which prevailed about the year 1720. He wrote to Thomas Symnies, H. U. 1698, "That when there were a sufficient number in a Congregation, to carry away a Tune Roundly, it was proper to introduce that Tune."
But in 1721 he was engaged in the more exciting controversy about inoculation for the small-pox; and was one of the few ministers who, against bitter prejudices and opposition even to violence, advocated it.
About this time the depreciation of paper money was so great that, though the parish had repeatedly increased his salary, it did "not come up to the original value even when they had added forty pounds." A proposition to make up the entire deficiency was voted down. September 25, 1722, he entered a complaint at the Court of the General Sessions at Newbury, and though it led to the addition of fifty-five pounds to the original sum, it does not appear that it materially affected the amicable relations between him and his people.
Felt relates a "remarkable coincidence between one of his prayers and the result. A boat's crew from his parish were captured by pirates on our coast. When beseeching the Lord, on a Sabbath morning, to give them speedy deliverance, he said, 'Great God! if there is no other way may they rise and butcher their enemies.' The next day the men arrived and related, that, the very morning before, they had attacked the pirates and killed them."
"He was a Gentleman of such uncommon Merit, that it's no easy Task to do [him] Justice. … He was richly adorn'd with the Beauty's of Nature and Grace, & brightly polish'd with the Ornaments of the best Erudition. The graceful Structure of his Manly Body, Majestick Aspect, and sweet Deportment, were but an Emblem of the mighty Genius brighter Excellencies of his Superiour Soul: He had a strong and elevated Fancy, solid Wisdom, steddy Fortitude, great Generosity, Courtesie and Integrity. … He was a Great Divine … a Learned Scholar, & an Eloquent Orator." He "appeared in Defence of our Church Constitution, both by his Valuable Writings & observable Actions, & when great Dissensions arose in some Churches, & Difficulties thereupon, (tho' to others insuperable) yet his wise Counsels, forceable Arguments, irresistible Eloquence, inimitable Zeal, Courage, Candour & Diligence did so happily succeed, as to accommodate all things, & procure & establish the Peace & Order of the Churches where-ever he was called. … Justice and Gratitude both oblige us to give him the Title of a Patron of his Country, and a Father in Israel, & to join with an Eminent Minister, in his publick mention of him, That he was our Elijah, the Chariots of Israel, and the Horsemen thereof, our Glory and defence."
White says, "I dare not Presume … to give you" his "Character. … He that would do it to the Life, must
He was buried near the centre of the graveyard. In 1815 the slab over his grave was elevated upon four granite pillars, and a copy of the inscription, cut in slate, inserted in the place of the one which had been broken. It says, "For talents, piety and learning he shone as a star of the first magnitude."
On or before 5 December, 1678, Wise married Abigail, daughter of Thomas Gardner, of Roxbury, or of that part of Boston now Brookline, then Muddy River. They had Jeremiah, H. U. 1700, minister of Berwick, who died 1756; Lucy, married the Reverend John White, of Gloucester, H. U. 1698, who preached Wise's funeral sermon; Joseph, H.U. 1728, physician, died 1745; Ammi Ruhami; Mary; Henry, H.U. 1717, schoolmaster and merchant in Ipswich, died 1775 ; and John. Seven children are mentioned in Wise's will. To three of his sons he gave a college education. To John he bequeathed his real estate, con-
2. The | Churches Quarrel | Espoused: | or, A | Reply | In Satyre, to certain Proposals made, in | Answer to this Question, | What further steps are to be taken, that | the Councils may have due Constitution | and Efficacy in Supporting, Preserving, | and Well-Ordering the Interest of the | Churches in the Country? ║ The Second Edition. Boston, Reprinted: Sold by Nicholas Boone, at the Sign of the Bible in Cornhill. 1715. 8vo. P. (1) 44 Glocester, March 25th 1715. Reverend Sir, … if your Consent may be obtained to a New Edition, it may be of wonderful Service to our Churches. … Your Sons and Servants, Samuel Moody, John White." Pp. 1 — 116 Text. A, M.
The same. Boston: Printed and Sold by John Boyles, in Marlborough-Street. 1772. 8vo. pp. 96. A.
"A Platform of Church-Discipline" was printed in 1772, apparently to accompany and be bound with this of the "Churches Quarrel," and the publisher, at the end of the volume, says, that "only 500 copies were printed in the edition." He proposes another edition, and says a "List of the subscribers names, to both editions, (WHO SO NOBLY DISTINGUISHED THEMSELVES AS ZEALOUS ADVOCATES FOR THE LIBERTY OF THE CHURCHES, AND WHOSE MEMORY POSTERITY MUST RESPECT) will be printed in the second."
3. A Vindication of the Government of New England | Churches. | Drawn from Antiquity; the Light of | Nature; Holy Scripture; its Noble | Nature; and from the Dignity Di- | vine Providence has put upon it. ║ Boston : Printed by J. Allen, for N. Boone, at the Sign of the Bible in Cornhill. 1717. 8vo. pp. 1 - 105. A.
American Quarterly Register, vii. 250, 258. Boston News-Letter, 1725, April 15. Congregational Quarterly, iii. 245. Connecticut Public Records, ii. 399, 402. R. Crowell, History of Essex, 82, 88, 89, 97, 101, 136-141, 173. 452. J. Farmer, Genealogical Register, 325. J. B. Felt, History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton, 123, 258, 262. A. Holmes, Annals of America, i. 425, 537. T. Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, i. 365. 1. A. Jewett, Memorial of Samuel Appleton, 153-168. Massachusetts Bay Records, v. 285. Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, ix. 276; xviii. 166; xxiv. 291; xxxviii. 587. Massachusetts House Journal, 1735, April 12; 1736-7, January 8. Narrative of the Miseries of New England, 4. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, v. 315, 320; xviii. 73; xxx. 67. T. Parker, Trial, 59. Revolution in New England Justified, 14. J. Savage, Genealogical Dictionary, ii. 231; iv. 614. W. B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, i. 188. E. M. Stone, History of Beverly, 213. T. Symmes, Utile Dulci, or A Joco-Serious Dialogue concerning Regular Singing, 55. M. C. Tyler, History of American Literature, ii. 104. C. W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft, ii. 304 - 306, 477, 479, 494. E. Washburn, Sketches of the Judicial History of Massachusetts, 105. J. White, Funeral Sermon, 37, 38, 41. N. Whitaker. Confutation of Two Tracts.