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JOSEPH DUDLEY, GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS
Parliamentary Relations With The General Court
The "Glorious Revolution" of 1689 produced a vital change in the constitution of the Massachusetts Bay colony. Until 1685 the colony was practically a self-governing community; from 1685 to 1689 it was completely dependent upon the will of the crown; from 1689 to 1691 the old magistrates resumed their powers, and, though the government had little show of legal foundation, it was tacitly recognized in England. Meantime the agents of the colony were utilizing every influence they possessed to gain the restoration of the old charter and the continuance of the de facto government upon a legally recognized foundation. The early years of the reign of William III, however, were not of such a character as to allow him to give calm consideration to the nice points of colonial administration or to weigh accurately the merits of the colony's claims. Much had to be left to his advisers; and of these, William Blathwayt, whose skill, industry, and knowledge impressed the king, was probably most influential in determining the fate of Massachusetts. Hence it happened that, although Mather and Cooke and the other agents for the colony employed good counsel and utilized every particle of proper, and possibly of questionable, influence that they could exert, their efforts came to nothing, and the old charter was not restored. On the contrary, Massachusetts received a form of government in which the powers of the colonists were limited and through which the influence of the crown could be more effectively exerted.
Weighing the possibilities of the restoration of the old charter with the genuine advantages offered by the new one, Increase Mather loyally accepted the inevitable and thus became influential in the appointment of the new governor and Council; but in so doing he aroused the enmity of Cooke, whose experience in England led him to develop into the leader of the opposition to the new government when it was established in Massachusetts. It was, however, on the whole fortunate that Cooke had failed. Had the old charter been restored, the colony would have been at the mercy of the crown in every dispute with England. Countless questions concerning the laws passed by the General Court would have arisen, which from the point of view of the English legalists, would have been decided adversely to the colony. The charter of a commercial company, however much interpretation and practice had altered it, was a precarious foundation for so large a community as the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The new charter, issued in 1691, established a royal province which included the Massachusetts Bay colony, Nova Scotia and Maine and the lands between them (which had in 1664 been granted to the Duke of York), Plymouth and the Narragansett country, — in short, all the colonies north of Connecticut and Rhode Island, except New Hampshire, which was left a separate royal province. The executive power was vested in a governor and deputy-governor, who, together with the secretary, were appointed by the crown. The upper house, or Council, was, after the terms of the original royal appointees had expired in 1693, to be elected by the House of Representatives with the assent of the governor. The House consisted of representatives chosen from each town by those who possessed a freehold of forty shillings or a personal estate of forty pounds. The two houses, with the governor, formed the General Court. To this General Court was given full legislative and financial power, subject first to the veto of the governor, and then to that of the king, to whom all laws must be sent for approval. Appeals to England in cases over three hundred pounds were allowed. Judges, sheriffs, and other officers, executive, judicial, and military, were appointed by the governor with the consent of the Council; and the governor was made captain-general of the military force of the colony.
This form of government stood midway between the type which existed in the so-called charter colonies and that which developed in the royal provinces. Connecticut and Rhode Island, relying upon their charters, were practically free from royal control in time of peace, except from such power as the crown could exert in hearing and determining appeals. In Virginia and New York, practically the same form of government existed as obtained in Massachusetts, save that, inasmuch as their councils were composed of royal appointees, their governors were less likely to be thwarted and their councils more ready to take a stand against the lower houses. The feature of an elected council was an anomaly in colonial constitutions, and by weakening the influence of the governor in Massachusetts made his task so much the more difficult. Thus, although Massachusetts was reduced to a royal province, her political life suffered no deterioration. Indeed, the colonial politicians, accepting the charter as their constitution, found in the frame of government which it established methods of thwarting the will of England which were nearly as effective and far safer than those which were tried under the old charter. A shrewd, vigorous, and able school of politicians was developed, which was the bane of the royal governors, but the hope of Massachusetts.
Possibly to gain the confidence of the colonists, William III accepted the advice of Increase Mather and appointed Sir William Phips, a native of Massachusetts, as the first governor. The horror of the witchcraft persecution, however, cast a shadow over his accession, his ill-fated expedition against Quebec hurt his prestige, and his constant wrangles with the General Court and royal officials made it possible for his enemies to secure his recall. Once in England, he was at Dudley's mercy, and there died, it is asserted, from the results of his persecution. Lord Bellomont was the second governor. Though personally popular with the colonists, he could make no headway against the colonial politicians, and was unable to secure the adoption of the policies of the Board of Trade. He died in office, worn out by disappointment and mortification, conscious of his failure in America, and embittered by his lack of support from England. It was Dudley's ambition to fill this dubious and uncomfortable post, and, as has been seen, his desire was gratified; but in gaining supporters to urge his appointment he also raised up new enemies in Massachusetts and added new difficulties to the task which had already proved too great for both Bellomont and Phips.
The commission granted to Dudley1 was more like the one issued to Phips than that given to Bellomont. In the latter, as the result of the discussions in the Privy Council, New York had been added to the jurisdiction of Bellomont; but now that colony was put under a governor of its own. Dudley, however, received a commission for the government of New Hampshire, and was directed to take command of the military 1 See Appendix A, below.
strength of Rhode Island and Connecticut in time of war or danger.
More significant than his commission are his instructions, which fill thirty folio pages in the " Colonial Entry Book,"1 and show clearly the plans of the Board of Trade and the pledges that Dudley hoped to redeem. By these instructions he was to take care that the members of the Council were "Men of good life and well affected to our Government and good Estates and abilities and not necessitous persons or much in Debt." Phips and Bellomont had received no fixed salary, but had been dependent upon the good will of the General Court as expressed in an annual grant; Dudley, however, had intimated that he would be able to have the salary of the governor determined by a general law, and was therefore instructed to use his "utmost Endeavour with them, that an Act be past for settling and establishing fixed Salaries [upon himself] and others." The question of the fortification of the northern posts had been a vexed one between the governors and the Court; and here again Dudley had probably given the Board of Trade to understand that he could carry out their desires, which were expressed by a special clause in his instructions. The English merchants were also feeling with increasing keenness the competition of the Americans in what had, since 1695, been an illegal trade for the colonists; and Dudley had probably pledged himself to put an end to this trade, for this would have been in keeping with his character as a strict upholder of the rights of the crown. Moreover, as has been seen, the merchants in England had petitioned for his appointment, — an unlikely circumstance unless he had given them some assurances of his policy. To fortify him, therefore, the Board not only inserted six clauses 1 Board of Trade, Colonial Entry Book, New England (Ms.), 39, D. 30 et seq.