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The Escape of Thomas Macy

From "The History of Nantucket,"
by Obed Macy, 1835


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        The first emigration of the whites, or English, to the island of Nantucket, was Thomas Macy and his family. In the year 1640, being then a young man, he moved with his family from Amesbury, county of Essex, in Massachusetts. He lived here in good repute twenty years, where he acquired a good interest, consisting of a tract of land of 1,000 acres, a good house, and considerable stock. But when this part of the country became more thickly settled by the English, dissensions arose among the people in regard to religion and religious denominations notwithstanding the purpose of their emigration from the mother country was that they might enjoy liberty of conscience in religious matters, they themselves commenced the work of persecution, and enacted laws to restrain people from worshipping God according to the dictates of their consciences. Among other restraints, a law was made, that any person, who should entertain one of the people called Quakers, should pay a fine of five pounds for every hour during which he so entertained them. Thomas Macy subjected himself to the rigor of this law by giving shelter to four Quakers*, who stopped at his house in a rainstorm. This act was soon sounded abroad, for, being influenced by a sense of duty; he had used no means to conceal it.

         He could now live no Longer in peace, and in the enjoyment of religious freedom, among his own nation; he chose therefore to remove his family to a place unsettled by the whites, to take up his abode among savages, where he could safely imitate the example and obey the precepts of our Saviour, and where religious zeal had not yet discovered a crime in hospitality, nor the refinements of civil law, a punishment for its practice. In the fall of 1659, he embarked in an open boat, with his family and such effects as he could conveniently take with him, and, with the assistance of Edward Starbuck, proceeded along the shore to the westward. When they came to Boston bay, they crossed it, passed round Cape Cod, and extended their course by the shore until they were abreast of the island to the northward; thence they crossed the sound, and landed on Nantucket without accident. Thus we see, that the same persecuting spirit, that drove our forefathers from England, drove Thomas Macy from our forefathers; that _bensame undaunted courage, which enabled them to breast the storm, and dare the wave, in search of a free altar and a safe home, prompted him, in search of the same blessings, to meet the same dangers. He sacrificed his property and his home to his religion; he found both in a remote region hitherto hardily known. His religion, we mean not its name, but its spirit, has been transmitted to the present generation, unsullied by the crime of persecution or by the disgrace of Inhospitality.

       * Two of these men were William Robinson, merchant, of London, and Marmaduke Stephenhon, of Yorkshire, England. They were hanged in Boston, on the 27th of the 10th month, 1659, for supporting the Christian principle, as believed by the people called Quakers.