Transcript:Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts:Wise, John, 1673

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Born 1652, died 1725, aged 72.

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?'"

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"He declined a settlement in the ministry at Branford, Connecticut, where he was preaching when the Governor and Council of that Colony appointed him "to goe forth minister … wth the sea side forces to New London, there to meet wth Major Treate"; with whom, Gershom Bulkley, H. U. 1655, and others, he marched from New London, 26 January, 1675-6, against the Narraganset Indians, returning in a few days.

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

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Chebacco to the centre of the town to confer with friends. What followed may be stated in the language of Wise, who, 24 December, 1689, was appointed by the town, in accordance with a vote of the General Court, to draw up the Narrative, which was sent to England to substantiate charges against Andros.

"We John Wise, John Andrews senior, Robert Kinsman, William Goodhue junior, all of Ipswich … about the 22d day of August [1687] … 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

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appointed by a general Assembly concurring with the Governour and Council. We the complainants with Mr. John Appleton and Thomas French all of Ipswich were brought to answer for the said vote out of our own County, thirty or forty miles into Suffolk, and in Boston kept in Goal [Gaol?], only for contempt and high misdemeanours as our Mittimus specifies, and upon demand, denied the priviledge of Habeas Corpus, and from Prison over ruled to answer at a Court of Oyer and Terminer in Boston aforesaid. Our Judges were Mr. Joseph Dudley of Roxbury … [H. U. 1665] Mr. Stoughton of Dorchester [H. U. 1650] John Usher of Boston Treasurer and Edward Randolph. He that officiates as Clerk and Attorny in the case is George Farwel.

"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

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Gentlemen of the Jury so capable to do the King service, and we expect a good Verdict from you, seeing the matter hath been so sufficiently proved against the Criminals. Note the evidence in the case as to the substance of it, was that we too boldly endeavoured to perswade our selves we were English Men, and under priviledges: and that we were all six of us aforesaid at the town meeting of Ipswich aforesaid, and as the Witness supposed, we assented to the foresaid Vote, and also that John Wise made a Speech at the same time, and said we had a good God, and a good King, and should do well to stand to our Priviledges.— Jury returns us all six guilty, being all involved in the same Information. We were remanded from Verdict to Prison, and there kept one and twenty days for Judgement. There, with Mr. Dudley's approbation, as Judge Stoughton said, this sentence was passed; viz. John Wise, suspended from the Ministerial Function fine fifty pound money, pay cost, a thousand pound bond for the good behaviour one year." Appleton, Andrews, Kinsman, Goodhue, and French were also sentenced to pay fines, pay costs, not to bear office, and were put under bonds for their "good behaviour one year." The cost of the prosecution was four hundred pounds or more, which the town of Ipswich subsequently made up to them.

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

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him." For this the Legislature 8 January, 1736-7, granted to his "children and legal Representatives and Heirs" three hundred acres of the unappropriated lands of the Province.

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

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Ashley River. It was expected, if the climate and prospects were favorable, that the emigrants would be followed by others. "In the name & wth ye Consent of the Companie," on the "9th: 12o: 1696-7," Wise addressed "To Wm Haskol senr." Purser for ye Company of Subscribers for ye voiage," very judicious, comprehensive, and condensed "Instructions for Emigrants from Essex County, Mass., who Intend to Remove themselves and ffamilies into South Carolina."

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,

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— a book that by its learning, logic, sarcasm, humor, invective, its consuming earnestness, its vision of great truths, its flashes of triumphant eloquence, simply annihilated the scheme which it assailed." Tyler, after giving an analysis of the book, adds: "It is, of its kind, a work of art; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, — each part in fit proportion, and all connected organically. The author is expert in exciting and in sustaining attention; does not presume upon the patience of his readers; relieves the heaviness and dryness of the argument by gayety and sarcasm; and has occasional bursts of grand enthusiasm, of majestic and soul-stirring eloquence: In tone it is superior to its time; keen and urgent in its reasoning, showing no pity for opposing principles, it is full of forbearance and even of urbanity for opposing persons. It is a piece of triumphant logic, brightened by wit, and ennobled by imagination; a master-specimen of the art of public controversy.

"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

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and powerfully; marshals his arguments with tact and effect; is nowhere freakish, or extravagant; never fails in good temper, or in good sense. "Upon the whole, no other American author of the colonial times is the equal of John Wise in the union of great breadth and power of thought with great splendor of style; and he stands almost alone among our early writers for the blending of a racy and dainty humor with impassioned earnestness."

"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

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fairly confuted. The second is professedly wrote in satire; and is full of ridicule and banter, of misrepresentation and false colouring, and calculated to inspire pride and independency, rather than to convince the conscience, and inform the judgment. I shall therefore pay little regard to it, unless where it may serve to show more fully his, and his admirer's sentiments, or hath some appearance of reason."

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."

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"A Character" of him "By another Hand," appended to White's Funeral Sermon, says he died 8 April, 1725, and "on the 12th was decently Buried amidst the Honours & Lamentations of his Distressed Friends, and of his Loving and Generous Flock, and at their Expence: Nor would they be satisfied without his Interment with them, who being their Glory while among the Living, even his lifeless Body might be an Ornament in the Dormitory of the Dead.

"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

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have his Eloquence. Such as knew him best, had the most Honourable Opinion of him, and Reverend Respect for him. His kind, condescending, and most generous and obliging Carriage, has often brought to remembrance, what is said of Titus Vespatianus, the Roman Emperor, viz. That no man ever went out of his Presence Sorrowful. And some who had viewed him at a distance thro' a false Glass, when they have Visited him, and familiarly Conversed with him, have been Charmed, and even Ravished. They have beheld Majesty mixt with Affability, Gravity with Facetiousness, Charity and Severity; Charity to the Persons, and Severity to the Opinions of his Antagonists. … He told me in the beginning of his Sickness, that he had been a Man of Contention, but the State of the Churches making it necessary; upon the most serious Review, he could say he had Fought a good Fight: and had comfort in reflecting upon the same: He was conscious to himself of his acting therein sincerely."

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-

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sisting of a house, barn, and ten acres of land, out of which the widow was to have her maintenance; but she died 18 October of the same year. To the other children he left a thousand dollars, to be divided equally among them. His library was to be divided between Jeremiah and Henry, except Gurnel's Armor of Light, Dalton's County Justice, and Speed's Chronicles of England, which were bequeathed to John.


1. Instructions for the Emigrants from Essex County, Massachusetts, to South Carolina, 1697. In the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, xxx. 64.

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.

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The same. 8vo. Boston: Printed and Sold by John Boyles in Marlborough-Street. 1772. pp. 80. 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.