William Leete 
Governor of Connecticut

"William Leete (c.1612-1683), Governor of Connecticut, came into New England, in 1638. He was bred a lawyer in the old country, and was clerk in the bishop's court, but gave up his office on account of the spiritual tyranny which was exercised in those courts.

He sailed in the vessel with Eaton and Hopkins, and joined Mr. Whitfield's company, who laid the foundation of the town of Guilford. His name is among the six planters who signed the deeds and writings at New Haven, in Newman's Barn, September, 1639, when they purchased the lands of the squaw Sachem; and afterwards 31st of January the same year when they confirmed the agreement; as appearing from the records of that colony.

He was also one of the seven pillars of Mr. Whitfield's church. When Whitefield went to England, several of the first planters went with him, but Mr. Leete remained at Guilford, where he lived much esteemed by the people of that town, and highly respected by the colony. Leete was chosen a magistrate in 1643.

In 1658, he was elected Deputy Governor of New Haven; and in 1661, placed in the chair of government. He was a rigid Puritan and stern Republican. In 1660, he contrived to evade the mandates of Charles II, concerning the condemnation of Charles I, though urged by the authority of the Governor of Massachusetts. Whaley and Goffe had taken refuge in Connecticut. They made themselves known to Mr. Leete, and he was charged with concealing them; but he was not intimidated by the wrath of their pursuers. Even when the regicides would have given themselves up, as victims to public justice, rather than expose their friends to a prosecution, he prevented them, and assisted in every measure for their comfort and safety.

In 1665, when the colonies united, he was chosen one of the magistrates of Connecticut; in 1669, Deputy Governor; and annually received this honor from the people, till in 1676, they chose him their first magistrate [Governor, 1676-1683]. After he was chosen Governor of Connecticut, he removed to Hartford, where he lived to a good old age, and in 1683 finished his course.

In both colonies, says Dr. Trumbull, "he presided in times of the greatest difficulty; yet always conducted with such integrity and wisdom as to meet the public approbation." That excellent historian mentions an instance where, in his latter days, he departed from those rigid principles of opposition to royalty, which once influenced him. "The acts of trade and navigation were exceedingly grievous to the colonies. They viewed them as utterly inconsistent with their chartered rights. This made them extremely unwilling to submit to them. Massachusetts never would fully submit; but as it was matter of great and continual complaint against the colonies, and as his majesty insisted on the respective governors taking the oath respecting trade and navigation, it was judged expedient that Governor Leete should take it, in presence of the assembly. It was accordingly administered to him at the session in May, 1680."

 

— Biographical Dictionary...of New England, by John Eliot, 1808 (edited)

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