Chapter 9: civil History.
On the 17th day of May, 1686, Joseph Dudley and his associates communicated to the General Court a copy of the King's commission authorizing them to assume the government of the Colony. The Court replied, under date of May 20, 1686, addressed, “These for Joseph Dudley, Esq. and the rest of the gentlemen named in his Majesties commission,” as follows:—
1  Dudley was superseded in the government by Sir Edmund Andros, who “landed at Boston Dec. 20, 1686, and his commission was published the same day.” 2 During his administration, the people were in a condition little better than slavery. In the “Massachusetts Archives” 3 is a statement by Thomas Danforth, that, “Our rulers are those that hate us and the churches of Christ and his servants in the ministry; they are their daily scorn, taunt, and reproach; and yet are we, our lives, and liberties, civil and ecclesiastical, in their hands, to do with us as they please; some of the chief of them have said,—no better than slaves, only they had not power to sell us for slaves. We are deprived of privileges of Englishmen, of the benefit of the great Charter of our nation; our lands and possessions seized and granted to strangers, contrary to the Stat. Car. I. Cap. 10, and contrary to the assurance given to his Majesty's subjects here, by the declaration of his late Majesty and of his present Majesty, copies whereof I herewith send you.” A tract was published at London, in 1689, entitled “A Sixth Collection of Papers relating to the present juncture of affairs in England.” The tenth and last paper in the collection is “A narrative of the miseries of New England, by reason of an Arbitrary Government erected there.” It was evidently prepared by a person well acquainted with the facts, perhaps by Increase Mather, who was at that time in London. The case is so well stated that I shall quote freely:— Before these changes happened, New England was of all the foreign plantations (their enemies themselves being judges) the most flourishing and desirable. But their Charters being all (one way or other) declared to be void and insignificant, it was an easy matter to erect a French Government in that part of the King's dominions, (no doubt intended by the evil counsellors) as a specimen of what was designed to be here in England as soon as the times would bear it. Accordingly Sir Edmond Andross (a Gernsey man) was pitched on as a fit instrument to be made use of; and a most illegal commission given him, bearing date June 3, 1686, by which he, with four of his Council (perhaps all of them his absolute devotees) are empowered to make laws, and raise moneys on the King's subjects without any Parliament, Assembly, or consent of the people. . . . . Laws are made by a few of them, and indeed what they please: nor are they printed, as was the custom in the former governments, so that the people  are at a great loss to know what is law, and what not. Only one law they are sensible of, which doth prohibit all Town-meetings, excepting on a certain day once a year: whereas the inhabitants have occasion to meet once a month, sometimes every week, for relief of the poor, or other Town-affairs. But it is easy to penetrate into the design of this law, which was (no question) to keep them in every town from complaining to England of the oppression they are under. And as laws have been established so moneys have been raised by the government in a most illegal and arbitrary way, without any consent of the people. “4 ‘Several gentlemen in the country were imprisoned and bound to their good behavior, upon mere suspicion that they did encourage their neighbors not to comply with these arbitrary proceedings, and that so they might be sure to effect their pernicious designs, they have caused juries to be picked of men who are not of the vicinity, and some of them mere strangers in the country and no freeholders, which actings are highly illegal. One of the former magistrates was committed to prison without any crimes laid to his charge, and there kept half a year without any fault; and though he petitioned for a Habeas Corpus, it was denied him. Also inferior officers have extorted what fees they please to demand, contrary to all rules of reason and justice. They make poor widows and fatherless pay 50s. for the probate of a will, which under the former easy government would not have been a tenth part so much. Six persons, who had been illegally imprisoned, were forced to give the officers 117l., whereas upon computation they found that here in England their fees would not have amounted to 10l. in all. And yet these things (though bad enough) are but a very small part of the misery which that poor people have been groaning under, since they have been governed by a despotic and absolute power. For their new masters tell them that, their Charter being gone, their title to their lands and estates is gone therewith, and that all is the King's; and that they represent the King; and that therefore all persons must take patents from them, and give what they see meet to impose, that so they may enjoy the houses which their own hands have built, and the lands which, at vast charges in subduing a wilderness, they have for many years had a rightful possession of as ever any people in the world had or can have.’5” These were the miserable effects of New England's being deprived of their Charters,  and with them of their English liberties. They have not been altogether negligent, as to endeavors to obtain some relief in their sorrowful bondage; for several gentlemen desired Increase Mather, the Rector of the College at Cambridge in New England, to undertake a voyage for England, to see what might be done for his distressed country, which motion he complied with; and in June the 1st, 1688, he had the favor to wait on the King, and privately to acquaint him with the enslaved and perishing estate of his subjects in New England. The King was very gracious and kind in his expressions; then and often after promising to give them ease as to their complaints and fears. Amongst other things the said Mather caused a petition from the town of Cambridge in New England to be humbly presented to his Majesty; which, because it doth express the deplorable condition of that people, it shall be here inserted.
In the Massachusetts Archives6 is a manuscript by Thomas Danforth, so nearly identical with this petition that it may properly be regarded as its first draught. It is highly probable that Danforth prepared it, and sent it; to Mather, who made a few verbal alterations before presenting it to the king. It seems to have been written in 1688, while Randolph was endeavoring to obtain possession of seven hundred acres of land near Spy Pond. This was one of his many attempts, of a similar kind, to enrich himself at the public expense. Besides asking for free grants in divers other places, he ‘petitioned for half an acre of land, to be taken out of the common in Boston, for a house lot.’7 Several documents relating to the Cambridge case are here inserted, as a specimen of the wrongs and indignities to which the inhabitants were subjected under the arbitrary government of Sir Edmund Andros. Other communities suffered like evils; and other persons were only less rapacious than Edward Randolph.
Per virtue of this order, notice is given to the persons concerned. 5 March 87-8, pr. Samll. Gookin Shff.8 March 4, 1687-8. Memo. This warrant was sent up from Boston to Cambridge on the Sabbath day morning by a boat, which was an unusual thing in that place to see the Sabbath day so profaned and a warrant posted on the meeting house to give notice.9 At the time appointed, the inhabitants of Cambridge asserted their claims, to wit:—
 In his rejoinder, Randolph gives an abstract of his petition and the order thereon, together with the objections urged by the inhabitants of Cambridge, and then proceeds thus:— To which the Petitioner answereth, that, in case the inhabitants of Cambridge do produce to your Excellency and the Council the royal grant to any person or persons of the said land petitioned for, and from such person or persons a legal conveyance to the inhabitants of the said town, and that the said town were by that name, or by what other name the same hath been to them granted, able and sufficient in the law to receive a grant of such lands, then the petitioner will cease any further prosecution of his said prayer: otherwise the petitioner humbly conceives the right still to remain in his Majesty, and humbly prays a grant for the same. Ed. Randolph. Boston March ye 17th 1687-8.11 Subsequently, another order of notice was issued:—
Superscribed, ‘To Samuell Gookin Esq. High Sheriff of Middlesex, at Cambridge.’12 At the time appointed, the proprietors of the lands in controversy presented their case more fully:—
On the same day, June 28, 1688, the Council passed the following order:—
Nothing further is found in the Archives concerning this transaction, and the Records of the Council are not accessible. As the title to the lands in controversy was not afterwards disputed, it seems probable that the act of robbery was not consummated; or, if it was, such arbitrary proceedings were held to be utterly void, after the Revolution which soon followed.16  Early in 1689, much excitement was produced by a rumor that the Prince of Orange had landed in England, with an armed force, and that a Revolution in the English Government was probable. This rumor took a more definite form, April 4, when “one Mr. Winslow came from Virginia and brought a printed copy of the Prince of Orange's declaration. Upon his arrival, he was imprisoned by Justice Foxcroft and others, for bringing a traitorous and treasonable libel into the country, as the mittimus expressed it. Winslow offered two thousand pounds bail, but it could not be accepted. A proclamation was issued, charging all officers and people to be in readiness to hinder the landing of any forces which the Prince of Orange might send into those parts of the world. The old magistrates and heads of the people silently wished, and secretly prayed, for success to the glorious undertaking, and determined quietly to wait the event. The body of the people were more impatient. The flame, which had been long smothered in their breasts, burst forth with violence Thursday, the 18th day of April, when the Governor and such of the Council as had been most active, and other obnoxious persons, about fifty in the whole, were seized and confined, and the old magistrates were reinstated.” 17 Several accounts of this Revolution appeared within a few months after it occurred, in which there is a substantial agreement in regard to the most important circumstances. Among others, a pamphlet of twenty pages, written by Judge Nathaniel Byfield, was published at London in 1689, entitled “An account of the late Revolution in New England, together with the Declaration of the Gentlemen, Merchants, and Inhabitants, of Boston, and the country adjacent, April 18, 1689.” He describes the outbreak thus: “Upon the eighteenth instant, about eight of the clock in the morning, it was reported at the south end of the town that at the north end they were all  in arms; and the like report was at the north end respecting the south end: whereupon Capt. John George18 was immediately seized, and about nine of the clock the drums beat through the town, and an ensign was set up upon the beacon. Then Mr. Bradstreet, Mr. Danforth, Major Richards, Dr. Cooke, and Mr. Addington, &c., were brought to the Council-house by a company of soldiers under the command of Capt. Hill. The mean while, the people in arms did take up and put into goal Justice Bullivant, Justice Foxcraft, Mr. Randolf, Sheriff Sherlock, Capt. Ravenscroft, Capt. White, Farewel, Broadbent, Crafford, Larkin, Smith, and many more, as also Mercey, then goal-keeper, and put Scates, the bricklayer, in his place. About noon, in the gallery at the Council-house, was read the Declaration here inclosed,” etc.19 Under eleven heads, this Declaration sets forth the grievances which had become intolerable, and which justified armed resistance. It is scarcely possible that a document of such length and character could have been prepared in the four hours of intense excitement and confusion, between eight o'clock and noon. In all probability, it had been previously written in anticipation of some such occasion for its use. The twelfth article in this Declaration announces the conclusion: “We do therefore seize upon the persons of those few ill men, which have been (next to our sins) the grand authors of our miseries; resolving to secure them for what justice, orders from his Highness, with the English Parliament, shall direct; lest, ere we are aware, we find (what we may fear, being on all sides in danger) ourselves to be by them given away to a foreign Power, before such orders can reach unto us: for which orders we now humbly wait. In the mean time, firmly believing that we have endeavored nothing but what mere duty to God and our country calls for at our hands, we commit our enterprise unto the blessing of him who hears the cry of the oppressed, and advise all our neighbors, for whom we have thus ventured ourselves, to join with us in prayers and all just actions for the defence of the land.” 20 As a fitting result of this Declaration, Judge Byfield inserts the summons sent by the magistrates and others to Sir Edmond Andros, who had retired to the fortification on Fort Hill:—
Unable to resist the force arrayed against him, the Governor obeyed this summons, surrendered the fort, and with his associates went to the town-house, whence he was sent under guard to the house of Col. John Usher, who had been Treasurer under his administration, but, like Stoughton and other members of his Council,22 united with the patriotic party in this revolutionary movement. But this kind of duress did not satisfy the people; and on the following day, at their urgent demand, he was imprisoned in the fort. Some of his associates shared his confinement, while others were committed to close jail. The day after the Governor was thus securely confined, some of the old magistrates, together with several other persons who had been active in overturning the former government, organized a “Council for the Safety of the People and Conservation of the Peace,” of which the old Governor, Bradstreet, was elected President and Isaac Addington, Clerk. The authority of this Council needed the support of a body more directly representing the people. “On the second of May, they recommended to the several towns in the  colony to meet and depute persons, not exceeding two for each town, except Boston four, to form an assembly, to sit the ninth of the same month. Sixty-six persons met and presented a declaration to the president and former magistrates in particular, taking no notice of such as had associated with them, but upon receiving an answer in writing, they desired the whole council to continue in their station until the twenty-second instant, at which time it was agreed there should be a meeting of the representatives of all the towns in the colony, at Boston, who were to be specially instructed by their towns.” 23 A large majority of the towns instructed their representatives to vote in favor of reassuming the old Charter. The magistrates hesitated to adopt such a decisive measure; but at length, when a new House of Representatives, which assembled on the fifth of June, “urged the council to take upon them the part they ought to bear in the government, according to the charter, until orders should be received from England, and declared they could not proceed to act in any thing of public concerns until this was conceded, an acceptance was voted, this declaration being given as the reason of the vote. By these steps the change was made from the unlimited power of Sir Edmund and four of his council, to the old government, which had continued above fifty years; but the weight and authority did not return with the form.” 24 This form of government, by consent of the King, was administered about three years, until Sir William Phips arrived, in 1692, with the new Charter. In this change of government, the inhabitants of Cambridge were actively engaged, and took their full share of the responsibility. Their delegate to the Convention which assembled on the ninth of May, presented the following declaration:25—
Cambridge, May 6, 1689. We, the freeholders and inhabitants of the town of Cambridge, being very sensible of and thankful unto God for his mercy in our late deliverance from the oppression and tyranny of those persons under whose injustice and cruelty we have so long groaned; and withal desirous heartily to express our gratitude to those worthy gentlemen who have been engaged in conserving of our peace since the Revolution; yet withal being apprehensive that the present unsettlement may expose us to many hazards and dangers, and may give occasion to ill-minded persons to make disturbance:—do declare that we expect that our honored Governor, Deputy Governor, and assistants,  elected by the freemen of this Colony, in May, 1686, together with the Deputies then sent down by the several respective towns to the Court then holden, which was never legally dissolved, shall convene, and re-assume and exercise the Government as a General Court, according to our Charter, on the ninth of this instant May, or as soon as possible. And in so doing, we do engage that, to the utmost of our power, with persons and estates, we will contribute to their help and assistance, as in duty and equity we are bound, praying that God would direct them in this difficult juncture; and do hope that all that are concerned for the peace and good of this land will readily join with us herein. Memorandum. It is here to be understood that what we expect to be done, as above, is only for a present settlement until we may have an opportunity to make our address unto, or shall be otherwise settled by, the supreme power in England. These lines above written, as they are worded, was agreed upon by the inhabitants of the town of Cambridge, this 6th of May, 1689, as attests Samuel Andrew, Clerk, in the name of the town.This revolutionary movement was full of danger. It was not yet known here whether the Prince of Orange would be successful in his attempt to dethrone King James the Second. If he should fail, those who had resisted and imprisoned the king's Governor might well expect the direst vengeance. But this peril did not prevent the inhabitants of Cambridge from pledging their “persons and estates” to the support of the principal actors; nor did it prevent their favorite and trusted leader, Thomas Danforth, from taking a conspicuous position in the front rank of those actors. The venerable Bradstreet, indeed, was made President of the Council of Safety, and reinstated as Governor, when it was decided to organize the government according to the old Charter; but he was now eighty-seven years of age, and however desirable and important it may have been to connect his name and his presence with the enterprise, he was incapable of energetic action. Moreover, he was timid and yielding in disposition, and counselled submission rather than resistance during the controversy which preceded the abrogation of the Charter. On the contrary, Danforth had been recognized as a skilful and resolute leader through the former struggle; and now, at the age of sixty-seven, he retained the full possession of  his faculties, and bated not one jot in his hatred of tyranny. He was reinstated as Deputy-governor,26 ostensibly the second office, but, under the circumstances, the chief position of labor and responsibility. What Palfrey says of their respective capacity, when originally elected Governor and Deputy-governor in 1679, had become even more manifestly true at this later period:— Bradstreet “can scarcely be pronounced to have been equal, either in ability of mind or in force of character, to the task of steering the straining vessel of state in those stormy times. More than any other man then living in Massachusetts, Thomas Danforth was competent to the stern occasion.” 27 Danforth did not hesitate to act, though fully conscious that his head was in danger, if King James succeeded in retaining the throne,—the more because he had so long been the leader in opposition to arbitrary authority,— and, even if the Prince of Orange became King, that this seizure of the government, in opposition to the constituted authority, might be regarded and punished as an act of treasonable rebellion.28 Yet he took the prominent position assigned to him, and manfully performed its duties for the space of three years, until Sir William Phips became Governor under the new Charter in 1692. For some reason he was not one of the Councillors appointed under the new Charter; but his fellow citizens manifested their regard for him and their approbation of his long and faithful services, by placing him in the Council, at the first general election, 1693, and kept him there by successive elections as long as he lived. They could not reinstate him in his former position, nor promote him to a higher, because, under the new charter, both the Governor and Lieutenant-governor were appointed by  the King. Before his election to the new Council, he had been appointed one of the judges of the Superior Court. His associate, Judge Sewall, in his Journal, thus refers to his appointment: “Tuesday Dec. 6, [1692.] A very dark cold day; is the day appointed for chusing of Judges. Wm. Stoughton Esq. is chosen Chief Justice, 15 votes (all then present): Tho. Danforth Esq., 12: Major Richards, 7: Major-Genl. Winthrop, 7: S. S.,29 7. . . . . This was in Col. Page's30 rooms, by papers on Wednesday, Xr. 7th, 1692.” 31 “Dec. 8, Mr. Danforth is invited to dinner, and after pressed to accept his place.” This place, which he seems to have accepted with some hesitation, he retained through life, and presided in a court at Bristol, less than two months before his death. It is due to the reputation of Danforth, to state emphatically, that he was not a member of the court which tried and condemned the unhappy persons accused of witchcraft. That special Court of Oyer and Terminer, appointed by Governor Phips and his Council, May 27, 1692, consisted of William Stoughton, John Richards, Nathanael Saltonstall, Wait Winthrop, Bartholomew Gedney, Samuel Sewall, John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, and Peter Sargeant;32 and it completed its bloody work before the next December, when the Superior Court was organized, of which Danforth was a member. Notwithstanding he held no judicial office during this period (except that he was one of the first Justices of the Peace and Quorum), the name of Danforth has often been very improperly associated with the witchcraft tragedy. Even Savage, familiarly acquainted as he was with the history of that period, was so forgetful as to say that he was appointed “in 1692, judge of Sup. Court for the horrible proceedings against witches.” 33 The only connection he had with those proceedings, so far as I have ascertained, is mentioned by Hutchinson.34 Before the arrival of Governor Phips, he presided as Deputy-governor, over a Court of Assistants at Salem, April 11, 1692, for the examination of accused persons,—not for their trial. There is no evidence that he was satisfied with the result of that examination, which, according to Hutchinson's account, seems to have been conducted chiefly if not entirely by Rev. Samuel Parris.35 On the  contrary, perhaps partly in consequence of this examination, he declared his dissatisfaction, and dislike of the judicial proceedings. In a letter dated Oct. 8, 1692, Thomas Brattle, one of the most intelligent and persistent opposers of the witchcraft infatuation, says: “But although the chief judge, and some of the other judges, be very zealous in these proceedings, yet this you may take for a truth, that there are several about the Bay, men for understanding, judgment, and piety, inferior to few, if any, in N. E., that do utterly condemn the said proceedings, and do freely deliver their judgment in the case to be this, viz., that these methods will utterly ruin and undo poor N. E. I shall nominate some of these to you, viz., the Hon. Simon Bradstreet, Esq. [our late governor]; the Hon. Thomas Danforth, Esq. [our late deputy-governor]; the Rev. Mr. Increase Mather, and the Rev. Mr. Samuel Willard. Major N. Saltonstall Esq., who was one of the judges, has left the Court, and is very much dissatisfied with the proceedings of it. Excepting Mr. Hale, Mr. Noyes, and Mr. Parris, the Rev. Elders, almost throughout the whole country, are very much dissatisfied. Several of the late justices, viz., Thomas Graves Esq., N. Byfield Esq., Francis Foxcroft Esq.,36 are much dissatisfied; also several of the present justices: and in particular, some of the Boston justices were resolved rather to throw up their commissions than be active in disturbing the liberty of their majesties' subjects, merely on the accusations of these afflicted, possessed children.” 37 That Danforth, in common with almost all his contemporaries, believed in witchcraft, and considered witches justly obnoxious to  punishment, is probably true; but it is not true, that he was a member of that special court which held such bloody assizes, nor, if we may believe Brattle, his personal friend, did he approve its proceedings. The Superior Court, of which he was a member, held a session at Salem in January, 1693, at which twenty persons were tried, and three convicted; but “spectral evidence” was not admitted;38 moreover, there is no proof that he concurred with his associates, all of whom had been members of the Commission of Oyer and Terminer. The latter years of Danforth's life seem to have been peaceful. Doubtless he lamented the loss of the old Charter, for whose preservation he had struggled so long and so manfully. His strong opposition to some of the provisions of the new Charter is said to have induced Mather to omit his name from the list of Councillors; yet he finally accepted it as the best which could be obtained, and faithfully labored, both as Councillor and Judge, to administer its provisions in such a manner as to secure the benefit of the people.39 In the long and perilous conflict on behalf of chartered rights, Gookin and Danforth were supported by their brethren the Deputies from Cambridge, all good men and true. Deacon Edward Collins was Deputy from 1654 to 1670, without intermission; Edward Oakes, 1659, 1660, 1669-1681; Richard Jackson,  1661, 1662; Edward Winship, 1663, 1664, 1681-1686; Edward Jackson, 1665-1668, 1675, 1676; Joseph Cooke, 1671, 1676-1680; Thomas Prentice, 1672-1674; Samuel Champney, 1686, and again, after the Revolution, from 1689 to 1695, when he died in office. Their names should be in perpetual remembrance.