Sir Edmund Andros received a commission to be governor of New England. He arrived at Boston on the 19th of December, 1686. The next day his commission was published, and he took on him the administration of government. Soon after his arrival he wrote to the governor and company that he had a commission from his majesty to receive their charter, if they would resign it; and he pressed them, in obedience to the king, and as they would give him an opportunity to serve them, to resign it to his pleasure.. But the colony [of Connecticut] insisted on their charter rights, and on the promise of King James, as well as of his royal brother, to defend and secure them in the enjoyment of their privileges and estates, and would not surrender their charter to either..
The Assembly met, as usual, in October, and the government continued according to charter until the last of the month. About this time, Sir Edmund, with his suite, and more than sixty regular troops, came to Hartford, when the Assembly were sitting, demanded the charter, and declared the government under it to be dissolved. The Assembly were extremely reluctant and slow with respect to any resolve to surrender the charter, or with respect to any motion to bring it forth. The tradition is that Governor Treat strongly represented the great expense and hardships of the colonists in planting the country, the blood treasure which they had expended in defending it, both against the savages and foreigners; to what hardships and dangers he himself had been exposed for that purpose; and that it was like giving up his life, now to surrender the patent and privileges so dearly bought and so long enjoyed. The important affair was debated and kept in suspense until the evening, when the charter was brought and laid upon the table, where the Assembly were sitting. By this time, great numbers of people were assembled, and men sufficiently bold to enterprise whatever might be necessary or expedient. The lights were instantly extinguished, and one Captain Wadsworth, of Hartford, in the most silent and secret manner, carried off the charter, and secreted it in a large hollow tree, fronting the house of the Honorable Samuel Wyllys, then one of the magistrates of the colony. The people appeared all peaceable and orderly. The candles were officiously relighted, but the patent was gone, and no discovery could be made of it, or of the person who had conveyed it away.
Sir Edmund began his government with the most flattering protestations of his regard to the public safety and happiness. He instructed the judges to administer justice, as far as might be consistent with the new regulations, according to the former laws and customs. It is, however, well observed by Governor Hutchinson, that "Nero concealed his tyrannical disposition more years than Sir Edmund and his creatures did months." He soon laid a restraint upon the liberty of the press; and then one far more grievous upon marriage.. Magistrates only were allowed to join people in the bands of wedlock. The governor not only deprived the clergy of the perquisite from marriages, but soon suspended the laws for their support, and would not suffer any person to be obliged to pay anything to his minister. Nay, he menaced the people that, if they resisted his will, their meeting-houses should be taken from them, and that any person who should give twopence to a non-conformist minister should be punished.
The fees of all officers, under this new administration, were exorbitant.. Sir Edmund, without an Assembly, nay, without a majority of his council, taxed the people at pleasure. He and Randolph, with four or five others of his creatures, who were sufficiently wicked to join with him in all his oppressive designs, managed the affairs of government as they pleased. But these were but the beginnings of oppression and sorrow. They were soon greatly increased and more extensively spread..
As the charters were now either vacated, surrendered, or the government under them suspended, it was declared that the titles of the colonists to their lands were of no value. Sir Edmund declared that Indian deeds were no better than "the scratch of a bear's paw." Not the fairest purchases and most ample conveyances from the natives, no dangers, disbursements, nor labors in cultivating a wilderness and turning it into orchards, gardens, and pleasant fields, no grants by charter, nor by legislatures constituted by them, no declarations of preceding kings, nor of his then present majesty, promising them the quiet enjoyment of their houses and lands, nor fifty or sixty years' undisturbed possession, were pleas of any validity or consideration with Sir Edmund and his minions. The purchasers and cultivators, after fifty and sixty years' improvement, were obliged to take out patents for their estates. For these, in some instances, a fee of fifty pounds was demanded..
The governor, and a small number of his council, in the most arbitrary manner, fined and imprisoned numbers of the inhabitants of Massachusetts, and denied them the benefit of the act of habeas corpus. All town meetings were prohibited, except one in the month of May, for the election of town officers.. No person was suffered to go out of the country without leave from the governor, lest complaints should be carried to England against his administration. At the same time, he so well knew the temper and views of his royal master that he feared little from him, even though complaints should be carried over against him. Hence he and his dependents oppressed the people, and enriched themselves without restraint.
Fortunately, this grinding tyranny was not of long continuance. Early in 1689 tidings reached Boston that James II. was no longer king: in November, 1688, William of Orange had landed in England and driven the tyrant from his throne. The Bostonians at once rebelled against Andros. His tyranny was denounced by the magistrates, and he, with several of his creatures, was seized and imprisoned. Andros twice attempted to escape from confinement, and once got as far as Rhode Island, but was captured and brought back. In July he was sent to England, where he was acquitted without trial. And so ended the most prominent early effort to take away the liberties of the American people. Andros was subsequently (in 1692) made governor of Virginia. Here, however, his rule was less arbitrary, and he became popular with the planters.
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