Odds & Ends

A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research

March 1997 No. 18

The Bull in New England's China Shop

The northern colonies were in an uproar. Committees of Safety were being formed. Many people would have called the talk in Massachusetts seditious. The King's agents had cause to be very uneasy as they waited, under arrest, in Boston.

Don't start humming Yankee Doodle or The World Turned Upside Down. Forget the names Adams, Jefferson, Paine, and Hancock. Ben Franklin was not even a gleam in his parents' eyes. And the official American Revolution was nine decades in the future.

One of the men under arrest in April of 1689 was New England's Governor-General Sir Edmund Andros. He may have reflected that this was not the sort of career's end he'd ever have contemplated when he first arrived in North America.

England had good reason for concern back in 1674. Launching the beginnings of Empire was messier than it looked on parchment.

Officers of His Majesty's Customs were vastly under-worked. "New Foundland" was considered locally as one of the Royal "plantations", a legal recipient of imported goods. But it was no such thing. What James, back in England, described as, "great quantities of wine, brandy and other European goods" were being shipped to Newfoundland, traded for fish and warehoused there until they could be smuggled south of the St. Lawrence. The English government was loosing thousands of pounds of revenue as untaxed goods poured into Canada from France, Holland, Ireland, and Scotland. Forged coquets (certificates) were the nuclei of many colonial fortunes. There were numerous purses fattened back in the mother country as well.

For these and other legal and administrative reasons (not to mention the ever present threat of the French and their Indian allies), it became obvious to the Duke of York that a royal troubleshooter on the scene was a necessity.

Edmund Andros was born in London on December 6, 1637, to Amice Andros, a bailiff of Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. One of the lesser nobility, the father held the title Seigneur of Sausmarez, and young Edmund soon became a page in the household of Charles I. At some point during this early phase of his career he became a member of the circle surrounding James, Duke of York. Destined for the military, Edmund then served as a major of foot in India, where England was defending her outposts against the Dutch.

1674 turned out to be a pivotal year for the 37-year-old officer. Amice Andros died that year and Edmund inherited the post of bailiff and the Sausmarez title. Later he would also become the Seigneur of Aldererney. And James, now one step away from the restored throne, decided Andros was the best choice to straighten out some of the vexing problems in the North American colonies. On July 1st he made his old friend governor of New York. Toward the end of the year the Royal governor stepped ashore in the New World. He wasted little time.

Today's executive, with her or his corporate jet, might well marvel at Andros' travel schedule. Being a military man, the safety of his charges was his foremost concern and February of 1675 found him well to the north at Albany, where he convened a Board of Indian Commissioners. He would keep these men busy. King Philip's War had been raging in New England and retaliatory raids against Philip's Indians by whites lead to a great dispersal of the Maine tribes. Only 4,000 Indians now remained in southern New England. Andros, seeking to gain tribal allies, offered some of the refugees sanctuary among the Mahican at Schaghticook, on the Hudson River.

By June Andros was at Saybrook, Connecticut, claiming all land to the west of the Connecticut River for New York. King Philip's death on August 12th did not give the colonial governors even a brief respite, as war broke out again, this time among the Maine tribes. Andros was not a man to stick to his own bailiwick and in August of 1677 he was overseeing the construction of a fort in Pemaquid, then negotiating the release of prisoners and concluding a peace treaty with the tribes, in April of 1678. The peace would not last, but Andros would not play a major role in subsequent Indian affairs in the region. He'd be busy elsewhere.

We'll fast forward through the next few years. In June of 1680 Andros attended a session of the East Jersey assembly, under the control of New York at the time, then dissolved it. The Duke of York became King James II on February 6th, 1685. His brother Charles had decided to enforce the Navigation Acts before he died and had abrogated the charter of Massachusetts, the chief offender against the acts. Joseph Dudley was made interim "president" until a new Royal governor could be appointed and arrive to take over. To James, now king, the choice was obvious. On June 3rd of 1686, the new Governor-General of New England, now Sir Edmund Andros, was commissioned and arrived in Boston on December 20th. Problems were not long in following.

James had nullified most of the Royal Charters, done away with the borders between the individual colonies and diminished even further their small amount of legislative and political independence. The new Governor was instructed to demand the surrender of the charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut and to crack down on the illicit trade in "New Foundland". He began by dissolving Rhode Island's government, on January 12, 1687, conferring on the former colony the status of a county. He then wrote to the officials of Connecticut, at Hartford, requesting the return of the colony's Royal Charter.

Connecticut knew what to expect. They also knew that to give up the Charter was to lose any semblance of self-rule. They stalled. Stalled for nine months and almost gave birth to armed rebellion. On October 31, Andros, "Mounted on a steel gray horse with tapering ears and crested neck," along with somewhere between thirty and sixty troops (accounts vary) crossed the Connecticut River and appeared at the local tavern to meet with the colony's governor Robert Treat and his council. Andros highhandedly demanded the Charter. It was produced. In the room lit by a single candle, Treat unrolled it.

If Agatha Christie had been Clio, Muse of History, she could have written the script. Council member Andrew Leete, of Guildford, gestured, and knocked the candle over, plunging the room into total darkness. When, after much confusion, the light was restored, a Captain Wadsworth of Hartford was missing. And so, of course, was the Charter. A search by the Governor-General and his troops failed to turn up the document. It was not until well after the intruders had returned to Boston that the document was removed from inside a large hollow oak tree, in front of the home of Samuel Wyllys. The Charter Oak would remain an icon of New England resistance to tyranny until it fell on August 21, 1856, a victim of old age.

The whole exercise turned out to be symbolic. Andros dissolved the Connecticut government as soon as he reached Boston.

He had not been instructed to alienate the people of Boston, but he proceeded to do just that. With a military man's disdain for civilians, and the aristocrat's complete lack of patience for the "rabble", he was autocratic and imperial. Boston might put up with that from their own people of position, but not from a foreigner. He levied heavy taxes on the inhabitants, including the local farmers, who had been used to bartering for what they needed (two sheep would get you a year at Harvard.) He also abolished all town meetings except for annual ones to elect officers. Taxation without representation had made its debut in Boston.

Perhaps the Governor-General's' greatest influence was on the Puritan theocracy, for which he had small patience. He proceeded to destroy it. This may endear him to many of us today, looking back on the Puritans, but it didn't endear him to the local establishment of the time. The decree went out that only ordained ministers of the English Episcopal Church could perform marriages in King's Chapel. Dissenters from the Puritan church were excused from contributing to the maintenance of the minister, which also resulted in diminishing the funds for education. Puritans gathering for the Sabbath in the Old South Church had to wait outside in all weathers, until after Anglican services were completed. He even allowed Saturday night festivities, a Puritan no-no. (It was considered part of the Sabbath.)

Andros was completely inept at public relations (to use today's term) and so was James II. Rumors began reaching the colonies that the Monarchy was threatened with revolution. Puritan leaders Cotton and Increase Mather began organizing opposition to Andros. And when the rumors were confirmed, on April 18th of 1689, Andros and several of his followers were placed under arrest and held in custody for a few months.

It might seem at this point that Sir Edmund Andros had a brilliant future behind him. But England's new king, William of Orange, was not about give North America back to the Indians, or the Colonials. "We do hereby will and require, that the said Sir Edmund Andros, Edward Randolph, John Trefrey, and others our subjects, that have been in like manner seized by the said people of Boston, and ...detained there under confinement, be forthwith sent on board the first shipp bound hither, to answer before us what may be objected against them: and that you take care that they be civilly used in their passage from New England, and safely conveyed to our royal presence."

His will was done. (He did back away from Andros' actions somewhat; Connecticut's Charter was declared still in effect.) Andros continued his service to the Crown, becoming Royal Governor to Virginia in 1692. He retired from Royal service in 1697, returning to Guernsey where he carried out his local duties until 1706, then moved to London. It was there, in he city of his birth, that Sir Edmund Andros died on the 24th of February, 1714, at the age of 76. The drama in which he had portrayed Prologue, would open sixty years later.


A search of Eagles Byte chronologies for "England" turns up the following events for 1688 and 1689.


Mar 7
Major Samuel Appleton is released from Boston jail, where he had been imprisoned by Governor Andros for rebellion.

Apr 7
The Massachusetts churches send Increase Mather to England to petition for the renewal of the Massachusetts charter. ** Sir Edmund Andros is given a new commission by James II, making him governor of New England, New York and New Jersey.

Apr 8
East Jersey proprietors surrender their authority to the Crown.

May 21
Poet Alexander Pope is born in London.

Andros annexes the governments of New York and the Jerseys to the Dominion of New England.
Aug 31
Author John Bunyan dies in Holborn, London.

The West Jersey proprietors surrender their government to the Crown.

Nov 15
Prince William of Orange lands at Tor Bay, off the English Channel.

Dec 11
James II flees to France.

Dec 21
James is captured by William of Orange's troops.

Thomas Shadwell is named Poet Laureate.

Princess Anne deserts her father, James II, takes refuge in London House in Aldersgate Street.


Jan 2
James II escapes from William of Orange.

Feb 13
Parliament declares William and Mary king and queen of England.

Feb 16
William and Mary appoint a new Committee of Privy Council on Trade and Foreign Plantations.

Mar 18
The Viscount Dundee leaves Edinburgh to raise a Highland army to fight for the deposed James II.
Apr 4
Boston receives the news of William of Orange's landing in England.

Apr 16
Novelist-playwright Aphra Behn, the first professional female British author, dies in London.

Apr 18
The citizens of Boston overthrow Governor Andros.

Apr 27
Virginia acknowledges William and Mary as its new sovereigns.

May 24
Parliament protects the religious liberties of Dissenters by passing the Toleration Act.

Jul 27
John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee, and 2500 Scots troops attack the 3400-man force of William of Orange, lead by General Mackay, at the battle of Killiecrankie, completely routing the Royalist forces. Dundee is killed and legend says his ghost appears this night to his captured Jacobite friend Lord Balcarres.

Aug 19
Author Samuel Richardson is baptized in Mackworth, England.

Dec 16
Parliament enacts a Bill of Rights.

Dec 30
English dancing master Joseph Priest of the Chelsea boarding school for girls presents Henry Purcell and Nathum Tate's opera Dido and Aneas.


It was necessary to greatly simplify (almost to the point of oblivion) the long and complex history of New England and its Native American tribes. Those curious to know more would do well to visit Lee Sultzman's website, First Nations Histories, which contains detailed descriptions of 40 North American tribes (histories of over 200 are planned):

EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY (more detailed versions available)

Copyright 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.

I am currently posting a weekly timeline of New York City and State history; now up through the 1820s. Each Monday I send out a new 4-year section. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please e-mail me. It also appears weekly on the New York State History listserv.

David Minor