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The suspicions of the House were aroused by the frequent and prolonged voyages of Vetch; and it is possible that the governor's method of conducting all negotiations without reference to the House may have made them more willing to believe the idle gossip of the town. At any rate, their suspicions increased to such a feeling of certainty that in June, 1706, the deputies of their own initiative passed a resolution that Vetch should be taken into custody. The Council agreed, and the judges of the Superior Court were directed to take "caution" of Vetch for his appearance.1 This hardly satisfied the deputies, for "most of them were so furious as to have him confined in ye stone cage, for fear he should get away.2 In addition to Vetch, three other sea-captains and merchants were soon arrested. The House, unwilling to trust the cases to the Superior Court, continued to take the initiative. It ordered a vessel sent out to arrest other suspected traders,3 requested the governor to issue a proclamation against those of whose guilt it was certain,4 and at the same time and in apparent harmony with the Council, proceeded to take action against those already apprehended.6
The independent action of the House continued; and the "parcell of resolute rusticks" on the bench "led the Dance,"4 in which, however, the Council joined. A joint committee was appointed,7 and the traders were subjected to a sharp examination.8 The results proved that there was a just basis
1 Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 202.
'John Winthrop to Fitz-John Winthrop, June, 1706, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 6th Series, iii. 335.
'Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 204. 4 Ibid. 207. * Ibid. 205.
•John Winthrop to Fitz-John Winthrop, June, 1706, as above; SewaU's Letter-Book, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 6th series, i. 333.
7 June 24, 1706, Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 205.
'The examination of Bourland, Lawson, and Coffin is in Massachusetts Archives (Ms.), lxxii. 19, 20, 21, 22.
for the suspicions of the House; for it was found that Vetch and three others had been using flags of truce to cover their operations and were guilty of trading directly with the enemy. As a result of this examination the House "committed them one after another as suspected to be guilty of Treason," and proposed to try them at the next General Court.1 To this proposition the Council agreed;2 but Sewall was somewhat surprised to hear the governor say that the charter would allow this method, for at other times he "used very zealously Declame against the Gen. Courts intermeddling with any Judicial matter."3 Orders were accordingly passed by the House to draw up bills of attainder and to proceed at the next session of the Court, which was then prorogued till August 7.* "When the Seventh of August came, many of the Deputies were sick of what they had done, and prayd a Conference upon that head."6 This conference was held on August 10. The House expressed grave doubts as to the legality of the proceeding; but the governor insisted that the deputies were within their rights, and on August 13, by a close vote of nine to eight, the Council agreed and ordered the trial to proceed.4 The method of procedure was to summon each prisoner to the bar of the House, to furnish him with a copy of the accusation, and to allow him to be heard by counsel.7 The House at once voted all the prisoners guilty of the charges preferred against them, and ordered a joint committee of the House and
1 Sewall's Letter-Book, as above; Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 221. * Records of the General Court, viii. 221. 'Sewall's Letter-Book, as above, 333, 339. 4 Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 224. * Sewall's Letter-Book, as above, 334.
'Sewall's Diary, August 10, 1706, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 5th Series, vi. 164.
7 Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 235.
the Council to prepare a bill of punishment for each one of them.1 These bills were enacted on September 8, 1706;2 and the Court, after vainly trying to vote extra compensation to the governor and itself for the trouble taken in the trial, was then adjourned.3
There is no doubt that Sewall and the minority of the Council were correct in their contention that it was not within the power of the General Court to try these cases. It was a stretch of legal terms to call that misdemeanor which the law called treason, and it was entirely contrary to the charter to try cases of treason before a legislative assembly. That this was an unwarranted extension of the powers of the Massachusetts Court is seen by the action of the Privy Council. When the cases came before it the acts were ordered to be repealed, the fines were restored and the prisoners released on bail, and a new trial was ordered to be held before the regularly authorized court within six months.4 Thus by a burst of bitter feeling, the General Court had rendered nugatory its whole case. When the time for the new trial came, Vetch was commander of the expedition against Canada and too important a man to be touched by the criminal court. With the failure of his case the others were allowed to drop.
The fact that Vetch was a friend of Dudley and that the governor was accused of complicity in the affair, led his enemies to conclude that he had procured the trial before the General Court knowing that the sentence would be annulled. Sewall, who at the time of the trial did not believe that the governor was concerned, says that the Council consented to a trial for
1 Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 235.
'Ibid. 240; Massachusetts Acts and Resolves, vi. 62-66, chs. 20-23.
■ Records of the General Court (Ms.), viii. 240.
4 Register of the Privy Council (Ms.), Anne, iii. 306; Report of the attorneygeneral, Board of Trade, Papers, New England (Ms.), 13, R. 19.
misdemeanor before the Court, out of pity for the prisoners.1 Cotton Mather, however, writing a few months later, was not so charitable. He accused the governor of favoring a trial of this nature (which he had hitherto opposed) solely because he hoped that some personal advantage might accrue to himself. Mather asserted that the whole affair was managed by the governor.2 If this be true, Dudley was certainly taking a great risk, for in the House were his most bitter enemies, ever ready to take advantage of every slip. Moreover, he would have had to count on the discretion and loyalty of the prisoners. Even on the supposition that he had promised them his protection and assured them that the acts of punishment would be disallowed, they were forced to remain in prison longer than their terms of sentence required, and by the decision given in England, were merely released on bail to be tried again. This would have been a severe test for the loyalty of an innocent man, to say nothing of criminals, who by the exposure of an accomplice might have lightened their own punishment.3
The failure of the Church expedition and of the trial of Vetch and his accomplices increased Dudley's difficulties. Indian raids continued, though Dudley reported that he was "in a much more Secure posture than in any former Warr and the people very easy and Satisfied."4 Still he was not content, but made far-reaching plans which he urged the English government to adopt. On October 8, 1706, he asked for English aid to subdue Canada and Nova Scotia, "without
1 Sewall's Letter-Book, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 6th Series, i. 334.
•Mather to Dudley, January 20, 1707-1708, ibid. 1st Series, iii. 126 et seq.; Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, ii. 148.
* For Dudley's report to the Board of Trade, see below, pp. 132-133.
which it were better if her MajtT see meet that I did accept the Truce they have offered mee . . . not [that] they can do me any great mischief, but [put] mee to an Infinite expense to guard The Frontiers . . . and they know that th6 I [have] men enough I cannot ruin Quebec without four or five of her Majestys ships & Some Mortars."1 This plan of striking directly at the seat of the danger was a favorite one of Dudley's which offered the true solution of the problem, and when fairly adopted by England and executed by skilful commanders brought about the final conquest of Canada.
Without waiting for the aid which he had asked from England, Dudley decided, perhaps because he felt that he must do something to increase his prestige, to make an attempt on his own account, and to utilize the war spirit of the colonists. Early in 1706-1707 he was in secret communication with Fitz-John Winthrop of Connecticut, asking him to influence that colony to join with Massachusetts in making a combined expedition.2 Winthrop's reply was characteristic of the attitude of Connecticut, and showed how bitterly the colonists resented the restoration of Port Royal after the Peace of Ryswick. "The temper of our people," he wrote "(tho very stout) is generally very thoughtfull and cautious; and 'tis possible some may insinuate that tho' wee should succede in the designe, yet if vpon the conclusion of a peace (w0!1 one would think not far off) it should be restored to them, the honr of our succes will soone be forgotten, and wee should much resent that we haue lavisht our blood and treasure."3 Again, on April 4, Winthrop officially communicated the decision of the Connecticut Assembly, that under the circumstances, they could not assist in the design.4
1 Board of Trade, Papers, New England (Ms.), 13, Q. 60. * Dudley to Winthrop, February 10, 1706-1707, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 6th Series, iii. 367. 'Ibid. 370-371. *Ibid. 376.