King William's War

A Brief History

"In 1677, a controversy which had subsisted for some time between the colony of Massachusetts and the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, relating to the Province of Maine, which was decided in England, and the colony adjudged to Gorges' heirs. Upon this, Massachusetts purchased the title, for one thousand two hundred pounds, and the territory from that time until 1820, was part of Massachusetts. The claim of Massachusetts to the province was founded upon her patent of 1628, which was construed as including the latter. The claim of Gorges' heirs, was founded upon a charter to Gorges in 1639, of all the lands from the Piscataqua to the Sagadahoc. In 1652 the province was taken under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, and was erected into a County, by the name of Yorkshire, and was represented in the General Court at Boston. In 1692, the territory was incorporated with Massachusetts, and although repeated efforts were made by a portion of the inhabitants to effect a separation, the connection continued until 1818, when separation took place, and on March 16th 1820, Maine became an independent State of the Union.

Two years after the above decision in regard to the Province of Maine in 1679, an order was issued by the Crown for the separation of New Hampshire from the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, and its erection into a royal province, over which was established the First Royal Government in New England. The form of government prescribed by the king ordained a president and council to govern the province, with an assembly, etc., the assembly to be chosen by the people, the president and council to be appointed by the crown. The colony had been under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts since 1640, or nearly forty years, the patent elders that year having agreed to surrender jurisdiction of the territory to Massachusetts.

On June 28th 1684, an event highly interesting to the colony of Massachusetts occurred in England. This was a decision, in the high court of chancery, that she had forfeited her charter, and that henceforth her government should be placed in hands of the king. Before King Charles had time to adjust the affairs of the colony he died, and was succeeded by James II. Soon after his accession, similar proceedings took place against the colonies. Rhode Island submitted, and relinquished her charter. Plymouth sent a copy of her charter to the king, with an humble petition that he would restore it. Connecticut voted an address to his majesty, in which he prayed him to recall the writ that had been tiled against her, and. requested the continuance of her charter.

The petitions and efforts of the colonies were of no avail. After all their hardships and dangers settling a wilderness, they had no other prospect before them but the destruction of their dearest rights, and no better security of life, liberty, and property than the capricious will of a tyrant. In pursuance of this cruel policy, two years after the charter of Massachusetts was vacated, King James commissioned and sent out Sir Edmund Andros as Governor of all New England, Plymouth excepted.

On his arrival at Boston, December 30th 1686, he entered upon his administration, which at commencement, was comparatively auspicious. But in a few months the fair prospect was changed. Among other arbitrary acts, restraints were laid upon the freedom of the press, and marriage contracts. The liberty to worship after the Congregational mode was threatened, and the fees of all officers of government were exorbitant and oppressively enhanced.

The condition of the New England colonies was now distressing, and as the administration of Andros was becoming still more severe and oppressive, the future seemed to promise no alleviation. But Providence was invisibly preparing the way for their relief. In November 1688, William, Prince of Orange, who married Mary, daughter of James II., landed at Torbay England, compelled James II to leave the kingdom, and assumed the crown February 1689, to the joy of the nation.

Under the sudden impulse of their feelings, on the news of the revolution in England, the inhabitants of Boston imprisoned Andros and fifty of his associates, and sent them to England to answer for mal-administration, at the same time reestablishing their former mode of government.

On leaving England, James fled to Louis XIV, King of France, who espoused his cause. This kindled the flames of war between the two countries, which extended to their colonial possessions in America, and which continued from 1690 to the peace of Ryswick in 1697. This is commonly known as King William's War.

The opening of this war was most shocking barbaric, perpetrated by different parties of French and Indians upon settlements in the northern colonies. In July 1689, Major Waldron and twenty of the garrison at Dover village, in New Hampshire, were surprised and murdered, and twenty-nine captives taken to Canada, most of whom were sold to the French. On February 18th 1690, three hundred French and Indians fell upon Schenectady, a village on the Mohawk River, and burnt it. Salmon Falls, a settlement on the east side of the Piscataqua, Maine, was destroyed in the following March; and in May, Casco, a fort and settlement also in Maine, shared a similar fate. Roused by these proceedings of the French, the colony of Massachusetts resolved to attack the enemy in turn. Accordingly, an expedition, consisting of seven vessels and eight hundred men, under command of Sir William Phipps, sailed in May, for the reduction of Port Royal, Nova Scotia, which was easily and speedily effected.

In the latter part of 1690, an expedition was planned by the colonies of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, for the reduction of Montreal and Quebec. Two thousand troops, furnished by the two former colonies, were to proceed to the attack of Montreal, by way of Lake Champlain, while a naval armament furnished by Massachusetts, under command of Sir William Phipps, with a similar number of troops, should invade Quebec. But the troops destined for Montreal, not being supplied either with boats or provisions sufficient for crossing the lake, were obliged to return. The naval expedition did not reach Quebec until October. After spending several days in consultation, the landing of the troops was effected, and they began their march for the town. At the same time, the ships were drawn up; but the attack, both by land and water, was alike unsuccessful. The troops soon re-embarked, and the weather, proving tempestuous, scattered the fleet and terminated the expedition. The success of the expedition had been so confidently anticipated, that provision had not been made for the payment of the troops; there was danger, therefore, of a mutiny. In this extremity, Massachusetts issued bills of credit, as a substitute for money; the first emission of the kind in the American colonies.

In 1692, King William, who had refused to restore to Massachusetts her former charter, granted a new one, almost the only privilege of which it allowed the people was the right of choosing their representatives. But it greatly extended the boundaries of the province, embracing, besides the former territory, Plymouth, Maine, and Nova Scotia.

To render the new charter the more acceptable, Sir William Phipps, who was a native of the colony, was appointed governor; and on the 24th of May 1692, he arrived in Boston with the new charter. No opposition was made by the inhabitants to the new government, whatever regret was felt at the loss of their former charter

Among the first acts of the new governor and his council was the institution of a court to try certain persons in the colony accused of witchcraft. A law punishing this supposed crime with death existed in England, and under it many had been tried and executed; a belief in the existence of such evil possessions was current on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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