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THE ANDROS REGIME
68. New Yorkís Overlord Becomes King. King Charles II died in February, 1685, and the new King of England was the Duke of York, who had been the absolute despot over New York for over twenty years. Being a Catholic, he gave dissatisfaction in England because he began almost immediately his attempts to restore the rule of the Catholic Church in England. Besides, his experience in ruling New York had made him too arbitrary and absolute a ruler for even a submissive England which had already had an infiltration of Puritan ideas under the Cromwell regime.
The Province of New York now became the personal property of the crown, and remained so for nearly a hundred years. The South was submissive―nothing was really changed there; and Pennís proprietorship was a bit of protection to Pennsylvania, though Penn got into occasional trouble in England over attempting to stand between his province and royal authority. But the full blast of the fury of King Jamesí rule in America fell on New England, which the new king planned to make an extension of his absolute rule over New York, with the same absolutism under which New York had been laboring since its foundation.
Official notice of the English judgment forfeiting the Massachusetts charter did not reach Boston till after the accession of James II. A renegade Puritan, Dudley, was appointed temporarily Governor of New England (including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine), and installed with the aid of a fleet sent over to Boston for the purpose. The loud-mouthed theologian, Cotton Mather, whose sensational utterance and writings the Puritans have since unfortunately been judged, proved himself this time a supporter of the tyrants, so that both Mather and Dudley were regarded as traitors and renegades by the Puritans, with whom the new regime was unpopular from the start.
69. New York Annexes New England. Finally the king managed to carry out his plan of annexing New England to his old personal domain of New York. The mistake he made was in supposing New England would be as supine and unresisting as New York had proved itself to be.
Sir Edmund Andros, the governor who had so long wielded the mailed fist in New York with the full submission of the population there, was commissioned to succeed Dudley as governor of New England, and he established himself in the Province House in Boston with a large military force to guard him and oppress New England.
If the Puritans objected to Dudley, they found that their lot under Dudley (who was, after all, a Yankee) was easy compared with what they got when New Yorkís administration had annexed them. The regular inland trading with the tribes, as well as all manufacture, not merely of "notions," but even of such important things as clothing, was strictly forbidden. Puritan marriages were declared void because not performed by the Episcopal Church, and numerous arrests were made on that score; and the Puritan trial-marriage system known as "bundling" was completely broken up by the dictator Andros.
Then came the re-examination of all land titles. Androsí militia went all over the provinces under his domination, demanding proof of title from every occupant of land. And since, in spite of the wars with the Penacook Federation, most of the colonists had actually made their own peace by securing some sort of rights from the Reds, the titles usually consisted of some grant of permit from some tribal official. All these were waved aside by Andros and his minions as the scrawl of a bear. (In a sense, they were issued by a bear―the Great Bear, Passaconaway.) As a result, most New Englanders were evicted from the lands they occupied, or else allowed to remain as serfs; in either case, friends and followers of Andros were placed in possession and recognized as the true and rightful owners of the land. Large estates were created, and many of the town commons, including the great Common of Watertown reserved by treaty with the Penacook Federation, were given to Androsí friends as their share of the spoliation of New England.
All representative assemblies were dissolved under Androsí rule, although some continued to meet secretly. Even New York lost its "assembly," which had never been more than a debating body in the first place, while the people of New York had to pay heavy graft to renew their land titles.
Town meetings, which had been the basis of all New England organization, a form of government which the Pilgrims and Puritans had learned directly from the Penacook peoples, were strictly forbidden. But they were kept up in secret, and sometimes whole towns were arrested when caught in the act of holding a town meeting. But the town meeting was too fundamental in New England. This meeting of all citizens of a town to discuss and decide on current affairs was a universal institution then, as it was in New England long before the white invasion, and as it still is a common and recognised form of local government in New England today; an institution which trained New Englanders in independent political thought, and gave them a different attitude towards administrations from anything to be found elsewhere. Thus Androsí edicts against town meetings proved practically unenforceable, though Andros himself boasted that there was no longer such a thing as a town in New England.
A new royal edict in 1688 extended the limits of Androsí "Province of New England" to take in all the New England colonies, as well as New York and the Jerseys. Andros had already been in authority over New York, and there was no difficulty with the Jerseys.
But it was different with Connecticut and Rhode Island which had no experience whatever with outside interference. Andros went personally to Hartford and Providence to dissolve those governments. At Providence, the charter governor, Clark, tried to delay the proceedings, but Andros had his militia seize the colonial seal, charter, and records; Andros himself smashed the seal and destroyed the charter and records, and left the militia in charge as he went on to Hartford; but, in spite of that, the charter government of Rhode Island went on in secret, retaining the real allegiance of the people. At Hartford, the charter and records were accommodatingly placed on a table, where the charter officers were seated on one side, and Andros and his aides on the other; Andros had just written "Finis" at the end of the colonial record-book, while the charter was lying on the table ready for delivery, when the lights suddenly and mysteriously went out. The hall was quickly re-lit, but in the meantime the charter had disappeared. This, of course, did not prevent Androsí militia from taking control in Connecticut as they had done in the rest of New England, but it helped the secretly-conducted government to impress the people, all the time they were under Androsí yoke, that their charter was never surrendered, and was therefore still rightfully in force.
Under Androsí regime, the burden of taxation was increased to a point where it could no longer be collected―the secret town meetings aiding resistance. The object was to force the people into dependence on England for everything. Andros met complaints with the reply: "It is not for His Majestyís interests that you should thrive."
Thus Sir Edmund Andros was placed under the New Yorkish dictatorship regime the whole of New England, and, in fact, everything from the Delaware to the Kennebec (with claims east to the St Croix).
70. Witchcraft. One of Androsí special efforts in New England was to suppress such dissenting religious beliefs as the Puritan and Pilgrim. As Puritan landowners in Boston refused to sell land for an Episcopal church, Andros promptly got around this difficulty by confiscating the land; the church built there is still standing, and is still known by the title Andros gave it―the Kingís Chapel―though the Episcopalian sect has not had possession of it for a long time.
But a bigger trouble in the religious direction was introduced into New England by the Andros dictatorship. In Europe, witchcraft prosecutions had become so common that no attention was paid to them; and the South had followed this custom, while occasional witchcraft prosecutions were even found as far north as New York. At that period there was no actual disbelief in the existence of witches; but Puritans paid little attention to this sort of thing. In England, witchcraft prosecutions had gone on intensely during the first Stuart period, and, though suspended entirely under Puritan rule, were restored with the restoration of the Stuarts. As King Jamesí grandfather, James I, was the author of a book on witchcraft, Andros felt it to be his duty to introduce this form of prosecution into New England, which, till Androsí time had been comparatively a haven of safety from this sort of thing, to such an extent that accusations of witchcraft in Massachusetts under Puritan rule were more likely to result in libel suits against the accuser than in any accusation against the accused.
The tyrant governor and his supporters, however, made definite efforts to encourage this form of prosecution in New England, partly to create a reign of terror that should put people in fear of the law and the authorities. The renegade theologian, Cotton Mather, proved a good tool for this purpose, and a thorough investigation for such manifestations was made in Essex County. In 1688,a few epileptic children in Salem Village (now Danvers), claimed that a red woman, who had been captured and enslaved in Metacomís War, had bewitched them; it was easy to make of her a horrible example, and Cotton Matherís resulting investigation on behalf of Androsí government turned up a general witch-hunt which threatened the towns of Essex County, and would have turned into an organized bit of terrorism immediately had Androsí rule lasted much longer.
71. Rebellion Against Andros. In this situation, the tribal organizations of the white adoptees were best equipped to direct opinion secretly and without exposing either the source or the existence of the propaganda. Occasionally the authorities discovered something, as when the people of Ipswich were arrested for holding a town meeting. The beacon system established during Metacomís war as a warning against raids was selected by the secret red organizations as the best way to convey warnings, and, all through Sir Edmundís short reign, these beacon lights were constantly flashing mysterious warnings―flames lit by unknown hands for unknown purposes, conveying unknown messages to unknown recipients. Most of the mysterious bonfires were in Middlesex, the home country of the Okamakammesset Tribe.
Meanwhile the Puritans were repeating their tactics of forty years before, gradually returning to England to foment dissension there. Many advantages they had the previous time were now lacking―there was now no great solid body of Puritans in England they could rely on for support, so they had to stir up whatever dissatisfaction there was against the kingís Catholicism, the movement mainly centering around an attempt to set on the throne the kingís son-in-law, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange. As before, the revolt was led through Parliament, where the attempt to gain similar rights and powers to those at issue in the Massachusetts charter disputes indicated the real source of the ferment.
Those attempts were met in England with the same repressive measures as were being used in America. In Scotland, persecution mainly was directed against a sect called the Covenanters, which had been closely allied to the Puritans in Cromwellís period. Most of this sect escaped to New Jersey, where they were able to settle the lands in peace―even taking advantage of Androsí confiscations of land to find places to settle in.
But it was mainly the land of Penacook that was in a state of concealed rebellion. Governor Andros was given every reason to think he was in supreme power, and allowed to enjoy the pride that goes before the fall. As the repression grew, the plans for uprising were slowly taking shape, always aided by those mysterious bonfires that would occasionally illuminate the night skies of New England. In the winter of 1688, it was expected that revolution would come to a head in England, and plans were laid for a parallel seizure of power in Boston.
The governorís frequent marches at the head of his troops were now a common sight in Boston, and the well-known route of his parades―from the Province House along Cornhill (now Washington Street) and down King Street (now State Street)―became a sure guide to Androsí movements which the rebels could use in planning an attack.
In the early spring of 1689, the rebels from Middlesex and other surrounding regions slowly crowded into Boston, ready for surprise action. The occasion came on the morning of April 18, when Andros led one of his military processions, most of which had no other apparent purpose than to impress the people with the governorís pomp and power.
The rebel tactics were strictly the surprise-attack tactics used in tribal warfare; and Androsí line of march led him past one spot that was ideal for such attack. This was the square at the head of King Street, just around the corner from the Cornhill, were stood the closed town hall (now the Old State House). Here a large crowd could gather and block the procession without even being seen by the militia before they reached the spot; and here more people could effectively hide in buildings ready to complete the surprise attack. So it was arranged; and a large number of people―more than could have been quickly recruited from Boston itself―jammed the square and the buildings along King Street. Andros marched proudly down the Cornhill, but, on turning the corner into King Street suddenly found himself face to face with a defiant mob in the ugliest possible mood. The governor shouted orders for the soldiers to fire into the crowd; but the crowdís reserves in the buildings started pouring out into the street at this point, and the militia were seized and disarmed before they could take aim. Sir Edmund Andros himself was also seized by the crowd, and, as the basement of the town-hall building contained a jail, he was promptly hustled in there, while Bradstreet, the last Puritan governor, was found and hailed as the new governor of Massachusetts, and he was installed in the Province House the next day.
Just after this King-Street revolution, a ship was sighted in the harbor, and, when it reached the port later in the day, it carried the news that a similar overthrow had taken place in England. This disorganized almost all opposition to the restored Puritan government in Massachusetts Bay, and the full support of the rest of Massachusetts was assured in advance.
It has very rarely happened in the worldís history that a powerful administration was so speedily and completely overthrown; and probably could never have happened without the self-reliant population guided by a secret organization unknown even to the rebels, such as was the case in Massachusetts then. Once again New England proved itself a center for the fight for liberty.
According to local legend, before the King-Street fight, an old man, a "gray champion," stepped forward and ordered Andros back and, with this gesture of defiance, he encouraged the rebels and disappeared. It is also told that on other similar occasions he again thus appeared and disappeared, whenever the rights of New Englandís people were at issue. The gray champion thus represents in a way New Englandís spirit of fighting for freedom. Reappearances of the Gray Champion are reported, for instance, on the same spot in 1770 at the so-called Boston Massacre; in 1775 at Lexington on the anniversary of the King-Street rebellion; again at the Boston Common at the 1917 conscription riots; and in Roxbury at a certain demonstration on Thursday, May 1, 1919. The "gray champion" legend, typifying New Englandís aspirations for liberty, has sometimes been identified with Goffe, one of the English judges who sentenced King Charles I, and who later lived in hiding in a cave near New Haven.
72. The Rebellion Spreads. On Tuesday, April 19, 1689, the day after the overthrow of Andros, a temporary government was organized in Boston, following the old forfeited Massachusetts charter, and Massachusetts was again temporarily under Puritan rule. This government was avowedly temporary, for hopes were held that England's new king would grant them a charter to restore freedom on a permanent basis; but this turned out to be a vain hope. Plymouth colony reorganized its old independent government, suspended since 1677. Rhode Island soon brought into the open its old charter government, which had been functioning under cover since Androsí rule. The same thing happened in Connecticut, but with the addition of a little dramatic effect; when the charter government reappeared in public, it declared that it had held on to its charter all the time, and the charter was duly brought out of the hollow of an oak tree on the shores of the Quinnitucket. In New Hampshire and Maine, where, except during their annexation by Massachusetts, the town meetings and the proprietors had been really two rival governments, the town meetings were hastily organized into temporary colonial governments, and they joined in celebrating the fall of the dictatorship. Thus, in a short time, every trace of the Andros regime had disappeared from New England, except that there still remained many of the land titles he had created.
The western section of Androsí claim was slower to rebel. New Jersey, feeling sure that Androsí lieutenant in New York no longer had backing from England, ventured to restore the old proprietary rule, leaving New York alone still loyal to its old-time governor, Sir Edmund Andros, now in a Boston jail.
But, even in New York, there was still a demand for an "assembly," a place to talk things over without doing anything about it, but New York was still waiting for aid from outside. But, when it appeared that Englandís new king was from Holland, New Yorkers felt that they had now an old countryman who would stand by them, and ventured at last to take matters into their own hands. Under the leadership of one Jacob Leisler, the people of New York arose and deposed Nicholson, Androsí New York lieutenant, and Leisler formed a temporary government to take charge until the new king should be pleased to make further provisions. This is the only time New York revolted against its authorities, whom it usually regards scared; but this time New York proved itself able to organize a revolution. This once, New Yorkers actually brought themselves to overthrow a ruler when they had a strong leader to follow, and after Boston had already completely broken up the regime rebelled against and thrown the ruler into prison.