Sir Ferdinando Gorges - Encyclopedia

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SIR FERDINANDO GORGES (c. 1566-1647), English colonial pioneer in America and the founder of Maine, was born in Somersetshire, England, probably in 1566. From youth both a soldier and a sailor, he was a prisoner in Spain at the age of twenty-one, having been captured by a ship of the Spanish Armada. In 1589 he was in command of a small body of troops fighting for Henry IV. of France, and after distinguishing himself at the siege of Rouen was knighted there in 1591. In 1596 he was commissioned captain and keeper of the castle and fort at Plymouth and captain of St Nicholas Isle; in 1597 he accompanied Essex on the expedition to the Azores; in 1599 assisted him in the attempt to suppress the Tyrone rebellion in Ireland, and in 1600 was implicated in Essex's own attempt at rebellion in London. In 1603, on the accession of James I., he was suspended from his post at Plymouth, but was restored in the same year and continued to serve as "governor of the forts and island of Plymouth" until 1629, when, his garrison having been without pay for three and a half years, his fort a ruin, and all his applications for aid having been ignored, he resigned. About 1605 he began to be greatly interested in the New World; in 1606 he became a member of the Plymouth Company, and he laboured zealously for the founding of the Popham colony at the mouth of the Sagadahoc (now the Kennebec) river in 1607. For several years following the failure of that enterprise in 1608 he continued to fit out ships for fishing, trading and exploring, with colonization as the chief end in view. He was largely instrumental in procuring the new charter of 1620 for the Plymouth Company, and was at all times of its existence perhaps the most influential member of that body. He was the recipient, either solely or jointly, of several grants of territory from it, for one of which he received in 1639 the royal charter of Maine (see Maine). In 1635 he sought to be appointed governor-general of all New England, but the English Civil War - in which he espoused the royal cause - prevented him from ever actually holding that office. A short time before his death at Long Ashton in 1647 he wrote his Briefe Narration of the Originall Undertakings of the Advancement of Plantations into the Parts of America. He was an advocate, especially late in life, of the feudal type of colony.

See J. P. Baxter (ed.), Sir Ferdinando Gorges and his Province of Maine (3 vols., Boston, 1890;1890; in the Prince Society Publications), the first volume of which is a memoir of Gorges, and the other volumes contain a reprint of the Briefe Narration, Gorges's letters, and other documentary material.

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