Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Lieut. Robert Pike

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In the year 1653, the General Court passed an act, to restrain unfit persons from preaching the gospel. This law was occasioned by gross irregularities, as they were then regarded, in the conduct of two men, living in that part of Salisbury, which is now the town of Amesbury, who were accustomed to exhort the people on the Sabbath, in the absence of a minister. Many of the people disliked this law, regarding it as arbitrary and far too severe in its positions. Among those was Lieut. Robert Pike, of Salisbury, who did not conceal his views, but spoke with some severity of the magistrates and deputies, by whom it had been made. The language used by him was regarded as a slander upon the court, and Lieutenant Pike was not only heavily fined, but also disfranchised, and put under bonds for good behavior. Petitions, numerously signed, were sent to the General Court, not only from Salisbury, but also from Newbury, Haverhill, Andover and Hampton, praying that the fine and punishment might be remitted.

The court, so far from granting the prayer of the petitioners, considered them highly censurable; and, in the language of the record, did "deeply resent, so many persons, of several towns, conditions and relations, should combine together to present such an unjust and unreasonable request," since Lieutenant Pike had been fully proved guilty of defaming the court, and charging the members with a breach of oath. "In this extraordinary case," commissioners were appointed, to call together the petitioners in the several towns, and "require a reason of their unjust request, and how they came to be induced to sign the said petition."

At the next session of the General Court, in 1654, Capt Thomas Wiggin, the commissioner for Hampton, reported that the petitioners from this town--more than thirty in number--had, with two exceptions, acknowledged their offence and humbly asked the court to pass it by. Christopher Hussey and John Sanborn, having refused to give any satisfactory answer, were put under bonds of £10 each, to keep the peace. In relation to these proceedings, Joshua Coffin justly remarks: "The whole case is a very instructive one. It exhibits, on the one hand, the watchful jealousy of the people in consequence of any supposed, or real, encroachment on their civil or eccestial rights; and, on the other hand, the determination of the magistrates not to have their authority lightly called inquestion."

At a town meeting in the spring of 1654, Richard Swaine, William Marston, Sen., and Thomas Ward were chosen, to consider and determine some method of estimating the value of lands for taxation, that would make the taxes more equal and satisfactory for the future, than they had been in former years.

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