Notes for Samuel Gorton: Samuel Gorton, c.1592-1677, was the Anglo-American founder of a religious sect known as the Gortonites. Born in England, he seems to have received no formal education, but he influenced a small group of followers with forceful sermons. Gorton denied belief in a Trinity, claiming that only Jesus Christ was divine and that union with him would make an individual perfect. He emigrated to America in 1637 and immediately offended both the clergy and civil officials of Massachusetts by criticizing their control over religious affairs. Within a year he moved to Rhode Island, where he established (1632) the settlement later called Warwick. The Boston courts arrested him on charges of heresy, blasphemy, and political subversion, but by 1648 his legal disputes had come to a peaceful end, and he continued preaching until his death. The Gortonites remained an active sect for about a century. Ref: Grolier Encyclopedia 1993 Henry Warner Bowden, citing Janes, L.G. Samuel Gorton (1896)
Samuel Gorton's political creed maintained that the immigrants in America deserved the same rights as Englishmen in the old country; that government should be set up under law and royal charter, rather than be self-constituted, and should be limited to civil affairs. In his own words:"I was born in the town of Gorton, old England, where not only I but also were the fathers of my body for many generations." He gave his age in a letter to John Winthrop, Jr., dated 11 Aug. 1674, as "four score and two years." Samuel was not a university trained scholar. He did have a good classical education, however from private tutors, and learned to read the Bible in the original tongues. When Samuel arrived in London, Charles I had just begun his disasterous reign; Shakespeare was still living there, the King James version of the Bible had just been published. He filed a suit in London 10 Feb 1634/35 against William Lambe to whom he claimed he sold 15 score pairs of "mixt" stockings for which Lambe had not paid the agreed price. He is described as a "clothier" in the records, with a business address of Stratford Langton, co. Essex.
Samuel Gorton immigrated in 1636/37, arriving at Boston, removed first to Plymouth MA, then to Portsmouth, Providence, Cranston, and Warwick, RI. He was President of the Providence Plantations in 1651 and founder of the town of Warwick, RI. In the forefront of political reforms, he fought valiently for the separation of church and state, played an important role in the movement to ban slavery, and stood for the rights of Indians, paying them for his lands when many other colonists merely appropriated their real estate. A lay minister, he was the author of numerous historical and religious volumes. On a mission back to England he was instrumental in obtaining a royal charter for Rhode Island and in defending its political independence from the threat of dominance by Massachusetts. Ref: Samuel Gorton of Rhode Island
When he was summoned to MA to defend the legitimacy of their land titles he responded to Gov. Winthrop in what the governor described as " four sheets of paper full of absurd opinions." Gorton learned that a posse was underway from Boston, consisting of three commissioners including HUMPHREY ATHERTON, and 40 armed soldiers, accompanied by many Indians. Friends in Providence tried to stave off confrontation to prevent shedding of blood, but Winthrop stated that besides the title of the land, there was at stake the matter blasphemies against God and all magistracy. The raiders sent word to Gorton their great desire was to convince the Gortonites of the evil of their ways, but if there was no way of turning them, they would look upon them as men prepared for slaughter. The threat alarmed the women and children who ran into the forest or aboard boats just a few paces ahead of the muskets of the soldiers. The wives of John Greene and Robert Potter died through the hardship, Samuel Gorton's wife was in her final days of pregnancy but managed to flee. One of their sons had to swim after the boat to escape. Gorton was apparently some little distance from his family, heard the discharge of guns. At the same time two soldiers approached to announce the truce had expired, the raiders had rounded up all the cattle and pilfered the settlers' cabins. The Shawomet men fortified themselves in one house, believed to have been Gortons. The posse entrenched themselves "and the same day gave fire upon us; whereupon to show our allegiance to the State of Old England, we hung out the English colours, which they perceiving....shot the colours many times through....and so continued for divers days together, in their fierce assault." Gorton had thought the posse would observe the Sabbath, since one of Massachusett's laws was that breach of the Sabbath was punishable by death, but instead they attempted to burn down the house on Sunday and fired some four hundred rounds from their muskets. The Shawomet men did not return fire, firing only two warning shots at night to scare invaders from closing in. Another parley was held and the Gortonists consented to go to Boston on the assurance that they would be treated "as free men and neighbors." The captain asked to see the house, Gorton thought "only to refresh himself and his soldiers", but they "siezed upon our arms, using us as captives, and presently carried us away, not suffering us to dispose of any of our goods.... having not so much as a servant left behind, and so left them all as pillage to the Indians." Gorton claimed that they took four-score head of cattle plus swine and goats and corn and divided it among themselves. The strange procession wound its way the 70 miles to Boston, as Winthrop described it: "Captain Cooke and his company returned to Boston; and the captives, being nine (three had made their escape), were brought to the Governor his house, in a military order, viz. the soldiers being in two files, and after every five or six soldiers, a prisoner." As they were paraded through the little towns en route, the ministers gathered the people together to give thanks to God for the conquest of the "heretics." The soldiers fired volleys of shots into the air to signify their own military prowess and Governor Winthrop cried out to his troops, "God Bless and prosper you." Gorton, describing the tribulation, " after they were come into their own jurisdictions, the ministers gathered the people together, in the open streets, went to prayers, that the people might take notice, what they had done, was done in a holy manner., and in the name of the Lord; and when they came to DORCHESTER, there being many people together, with their ministers, Master Cotton and MASTER MATHER... they made vollies of shot, over our head in sign of victory.........."
The attempt to grab the Shawomet land was engineered by Massachusetts Bay's proxy, the crafty Benedict Arnold, with MA looking at the commercial possibilities of Access to Narragansett Bay and the acquisition of all the RI settlements. Then came the order for Gorton and cohorts to defend their title claim, then the raid. When the trial was to start, there was not a word about land claims, the focus instead on religious beliefs. The formidable, unbending practices of the Puritan clerics were juxtaposed against Gorton's rather free-wheeling theological ideas.
His tribulations with officials in MA are interesting in that they differ according to the teller's prospective. He is credited with calling his justices "just asses" in one confrontation. Once when requested to leave MA after being fined "not above 8 or 10 pounds" least it might lye to heauey upon his wife and children" according to the accusers, was reported by Gorton as a "penalty of another great summe of money (besides my fine paid) and further wrath and displeasure, which time to depart fell to be in a mighty storme of snow, as I have seene in the country, my wife being turned out of doore in the said storme with a young child sucking at her breast," &c. Ref: NEHGR Charles Deane, Esq., of Cambridge, Vol. IV, No. III July 1850.
On Nov 27, 1677, he deeded to his son Samuel the homestead at Warwick, to his son John all lands west of Warwick, other lands to Benjamin; and further deeded for love. etc., to sons-in-law and daughters lands in Narragansett. To son Samuel he commits "the care of my beloved wife during widowhood if she lives to be a widow, maintained with convenient housing and necessaries, and her recreation in case she desires to visit her friends." Ref: Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.
More About Samuel Gorton: Burial: 1677, Gorton Bur Grnd, Warwick, RI. Christened/Bapt.: 12 February 1592/93, Cathedral Church, Manchester, England. Immigration: March 1636/37, England to Plymouth, MA. Public Office: 1651, President of Providence Plantations. Vocation: lay minister.
More About Samuel Gorton and Mary Maplet: Marriage: Bef. 11 January 1629/30, England.1072, 1073
Children of Samuel Gorton and Mary Maplet are:
+Samuel Gorton, b. 1630, Gorton, Lancaster Co., Manchester, England1074, d. 06 September 1724, Rhode Island1074.