Thomas Dudley - Encyclopedia

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THOMAS DUDLEY (1576-1653), British colonial governor of Massachusetts, was born in Northampton, England, in 1576, a member of the elder branch of the family to the younger branch of which Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, belonged. He was the son of a country gentleman of some means and high standing, was captain of an English company in the French expedition of 1 597, serving under Henry of Navarre, and eventually became the steward of the earl of Lincoln's estates, which he managed with great success for many years. Having been converted to Puritanism, he became a strict advocate of its strictest tenets. About 1627 he associated himself with other Lincolnshire gentlemen who in 1629 entered into an agreement to settle in New England provided they were allowed to take the charter with them. This proposal the general court of the Plymouth Company agreed to, and in April 1630 Dudley sailed to America in the same ship with John Winthrop, the newly appointed governor, Dudley himself at the last moment being chosen deputy-governor in place of John Humphrey (or Humfrey), the earl of Lincoln's son-in-law, whose departure was delayed. Dudley was for many years the most influential man in the Massachusetts Bay colony, save Winthrop, with whose policy he was more often opposed than in agreement. He was deputy-governor in 1629-1634, in 1637-1640, in1646-1650and in 1651-1653, and was governor four times, in 1634, 1640, 1645 and 1650. Soon after his arrival in the colony he settled at Newton (Cambridge), of which he was one of the founders; he was also one of the earliest promoters of the plan for the establishment of Harvard College. Winthrop's decision to make Boston the capital instead of Newton precipitated the first of the many quarrels between the two, Dudley's sterner and harsher Puritanism, being in strong contrast to Winthrop's more tolerant and liberal views. He was an earnest and persistent heresy-hunter - not only the unhappy Quakers, but even so good a Puritan as John Cotton,. against whom he brought charges, feeling the weight of his stern and remorseless hand. His position he himself best expressed in the following brief verse found among his papers: "Let men of God in courts and churches watch O'er such as do a Toleration hatch, Lest that ill egg bring forth a Cockatrice To poison all with heresy and vice." He died at Roxbury, Massachusetts, on the 31st of July 16J3.. See Augustine Jones, Life and Work of Thomas Dudley, the Second Governor of Massachusetts (Boston, 1899); and the Life of Mr Thomas Dudley, several times Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts, written as is supposed by Cotton Mather, edited by Charles Deane (Cambridge, 1870). Dudley's interesting and valuable "Letter to the Countess of Lincoln," is reprinted in Alexander Young's Chronicles of the Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay (Boston, 1846), and in the New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, vol. iv. (1834). His son Joseph Dudley (1647-1720), colonial governor of Massachusetts, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on the 23rd of September 1647. He graduated at Harvard College in 1665, became a member of the general court, and in 1682 was sent by Massachusetts to London to prevent the threatened revocation of her charter by Charles II. There, with an eye to his personal advancement, he secretly advised the king to annul the charter; this was done, and Dudley, by royal appointment, became president of the provisional council. With the advent of the new governor, Sir Edmund Andros, Dudley became a judge of the superior court and censor of the press. Upon the deposition of Andros, Dudley was imprisoned and sent with him to England, but was soon set free. In1691-1692he was chiefjustice of New York, presiding over the court that condemned Leisler and Milburn. Returning to England in 1693, he was lieutenant-governor of the Isle of Wight and a member of parliament, and in 1702, after a long intrigue, secured from Queen Anne a commission as governor of Massachusetts, serving until 1715. His administration was marked, particularly in the earlier years, by ceaseless conflict with the general court, from which he demanded a regular fixed salary instead of an annual grant. He was active in raising volunteers for the socalled Queen Anne's War, and in 1707 'sent a fruitless expedition against Port Royal. He was accused by the Boston merchants, who petitioned for his removal, of being in league with smugglers and illicit traders, and in 1708 a bitter attack on his administration was published in London, entitled The Deplorable State of New England by reason of a Covetous and Treacherous Governor and Pusillanimous Counsellors. His character may be best summed up in the words of one of his successors, Thomas Hutchinson, that "he had as many virtues as can consist with so great a thirst for honour and power." He died at Roxbury on the 2nd of April 1720.

Joseph Dudley's son, Paul Dudley (1675-1751), graduated at Harvard in 1690, studied law at the Temple in London, and became attorney-general of Massachusetts (170 2 to 1718). He was associate justice of the superior court of that province from 1718 to 1745, and chief justice from 1745 until his death. He was a member of the Royal Society (London), to whose Transactions he contributed several valuable papers on the natural history of New England, and was the founder of the Dudleian lectures on religion at Harvard.

The best extended account of Joseph Dudley's administration is in J. G. Palfrey's History of New England, vol. iv. (Boston, 1875).

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