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THE PUBLIC LIFE OF
THE EARLY LIFE OF JOSEPH DUDLEY AND THE LOSS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS CHARTER
The life of Joseph Dudley falls between the period of the settlement of New England and the American Revolution. His public career did not begin until Charles II had been on the throne for more than ten years; and most of his associates were men of the second generation, who faced new conditions and were called upon to solve other problems than those of the first planters. The material condition of Massachusetts had also changed. Commerce had flourished, wealth had increased, and a party devoted to the preservation of these interests had arisen and was strongly opposing the leaders of the first generation of settlers, who recalled the time when Massachusetts existed independently of both crown and commonwealth. By birth and training Joseph Dudley belonged to the party of independence; but his career was a direct contradiction to his inheritance, and was spent in a consistent endeavor to realize the aims of the moderate party of the seventeenth century, which developed into the loyalist party of the eighteenth. This is the key to his political activity, and he should be judged by the aims
of this party rather than by the ideals of the first planters. This policy, too, explains his strength and his weakness, which made him at once influential in England and the most hated man in the colonies, — a man of great ambitions, who from the point of view of the party of independence has been justly termed a traitor, but whose real aims have been too little understood.
Joseph Dudley was born in Roxbury, September 22, 1647, the son of Thomas Dudley, the second governor of Massachusetts, who was over seventy years of age when Joseph, his fourth son, was born.1 The stern and intolerant character of the father was not inherited by the son; nor did he receive much training from his father, who died, leaving him a child of four years. His mother soon married the Reverend John Allen, minister of the church in Dedham, with whom Joseph lived and who was responsible for his upbringing. He received as good an education as the colony afforded, and was graduated from Harvard College in 1665 with the intention of becoming a minister, like his stepfather. Deciding, however, to enter the field of politics, he was made a freeman of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1672,2 and the next year was elected to the General Court as representative from Roxbury,3 from which town he was returned every year until 1676. During the war with Philip he was chosen one of the commissioners to accompany Major Savage in his attempt to hold the Narragansetts in obedience, and was also present at the destruction of the Narragansett stockade, where the power of the Indians was broken.4 It was possibly in
1 Savage, Genealogical Dictionary, ii. 76; Dean Dudley, History of the Dudley Family, 162.
< Massachusetts Colony Records, iv. pt. ii. 585. *Ibid. 550.
4 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, i. 273.
recognition of his services there that he was elected to the Court of Assistants (the upper house of the Massachusetts legislature),1 to which he was returned every year, with the exception of 1684, until the charter of the Company was revoked.
Meanwhile his position was strengthened by the marriage of his sisters. One, Anne, much his senior, had married Simon Bradstreet, the leader of the moderate party and the last governor of the Company under the first charter. Another had married Major-General Denison, who consistently supported his brother-in-law and was known as a prerogative man. Dudley himself married the daughter of Edward Tyng, who was an Assistant for over twelve years and later sat in the Council of his son-in-law. Thus, through inherited prestige and connections by marriage, Dudley exercised considerable influence. The position of Assistant was peculiarly suited to show his abilities as an administrator, and he was frequently put upon committees.2 In 1676 he was one of the committee appointed to draw up an answer to the king's letter; from 1677 to 1681 he served as one of the commissioners for the United Colonies; in 1679 he was on committees appointed to revise the laws and to determine the boundaries between the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New Plymouth. He was also frequently chosen to treat with the Indians, in dealing with whom he showed such skill and gained such insight and knowledge of their habits that his reputation as an Indian negotiator, though recognized in England, was regarded with suspicion by the colonists.
The conditions in Massachusetts and Boston were changing. The purposes of the original planters had hitherto been the ideals of the governors and the people. The aims
1 Massachusetts Colony Records, v. 77.
of the clergy and the magistrates, generally working in harmony, had prevailed, and had governed the morals and the political policy of the colony; and the stern idealism of Winthrop or Endicott had overborne the opposition of any who were inclined to substitute their own political or material interests for the ideals of the founders. But now, on the one hand, England was coming into closer touch with the colony, attempting to enforce her rule, and at the same time offering material advantages to men who were willing to accept this control. On the other hand, Massachusetts was no longer completely dominated by the old clerical party. The population was increasing more from natural causes than by the immigration of those bitterly opposed to England, and many men of the second generation who had not experienced persecution in England were willing to assent to some closer relations with the mother country. The colony, moreover, was prospering and increasing in wealth; trade was becoming more important, and was not only adding more resources to the community, but was arousing new ideas and influences; and as the stake of the colonists was larger they grew more cautious and less ready to risk their increasing prosperity in open conflict. In addition, there was a dissatisfied element in Massachusetts which had suffered at the hands of the colonial government. Many of this class had attempted to gain redress from England; but hitherto England had been able to give them little effective aid. From 1660, however, the government of the Restoration was willing to listen to these complaints and ready to give active help in enforcing its judgments, thus strengthening the hands of the party which was opposed to the old independent government. Although these conditions might be found in Boston, the country towns were less influenced by increasing wealth and new ideas. In them the old simplicity of life and austerity of thought and manners still remained, and the old spirit and ideals of the founders of the Puritan commonwealth were kept alive by the almost unchallenged influence of the clergy. Thus a conflict was inevitable, and the field of the struggle was the General Court. Although there were no legal distinctions in the qualifications for membership in the two branches that together formed this body, yet the freemen naturally chose as Assistants the more experienced, the better educated, or those best fitted to act in an administrative capacity. For the representatives they selected men whom they knew, inhabitants of the towns they represented, who were acquainted with and reflected the opinions of their constituents. Thus it happened that in the Court of Assistants there were many men of wealth and position amenable to new ideas and influences, while in the House of Representatives the country party, which reflected the old ideas, was most numerous. This distinction between the houses is the key to many of the political divisions of the period, — to the hesitancy that was displayed during the last years of the charter government, and to many of the conflicts during the administration of Dudley. The restoration of the Stuarts marks a change in the method in which England exercised control over her American colonies. Before the great civil war, both James I and Charles I had appointed committees of the Privy Council to regulate the colonial trade.1 With the rise and supremacy of Parliament during the war this control was assumed by Parliament, and a commission was appointed headed by Robert, Earl of Warwick, as governor-in-chief of all the colonies. In 1655 a