Friday, February 18, 2011

Maximum Massachusetts 0: The Glorious Revolution

(Why, you may wonder, am I posting a prologue to this TL now, after already posting the first seven parts? Simple. Foreshadowing.)

Boston, Massachusetts
18 April 1689

There was a crowd following Cotton Mather as he walked the cobbled streets of central Boston that led from the Second Church to the Town House. They had all attended his sermon that morning at the church, where he reiterated the central theme from his sermon of the previous Sunday, "Men do God's business when they go on their own errands." It was a delicate balance between a call for action and a call for restraint. When his congregation followed him from the church afterwards, he had called upon them to bear no weapons, and they had heeded his call.

For nearly three years, tempers in Boston had been rising. The much-despised Edward Randolph had appeared in May 1686 to inform the people of Massachusetts that the charter by which they had governed themselves for sixty years had been revoked. From now on, the colony would be subsumed within a new Dominion of New England, ruled by a Governor appointed by the King.

The royally appointed Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, had appeared the following December, and it hadn't taken him long to show his true colors. He had dissolved the Assembly, the colony's counterpart to the House of Commons, limited Boston's municipal government to one meeting per year, and had curtailed the town's thriving trade by strictly enforcing the Navigation Acts. He had also declared that all land grants made by the colonial government under the old charter were null and void, and would have to be re-granted by himself for a generous fee. When two selectmen had protested on behalf of the town of Boston, Andros' attorneys told them "there was no town of Boston, or was there any town in the country."

Cotton Mather's father Increase had sailed for England to meet with the King and petition for the restoration of the colony's old charter and the removal of Andros. Andros, fearful of the elder Mather's persuasiveness, had attempted to arrest him on spurious charges in an effort to keep him in Boston, and Increase had only barely managed to depart in safety.

Matters had reached a crisis in early April 1689. John Winslow of Plymouth had appeared from the West Indies with a copy of a document proclaiming the fall of the Papist King James II and his replacement by his Protestant son-in-law William of Orange. Andros had jailed Winslow for treasonous libel, and had issued his own proclamation requiring the people and officers to hold themselves in a state of readiness should the usurper send forces to New England.

Mather and the town's other five Congregationalist ministers had privately gathered together to decide what should be done. The result was an unusual Thursday morning set of services at all the town's churches, all preaching the same sermon. After the services ended, the ministers had all led their congregations to the colony's center of government, the Town House. Mather and the other ministers met with other opponents of Andros's rule, and men were sent out into Boston to arrest Andros, his Lieutenant Governor Joseph Dudley, and some fifty of his other supporters in the town. Meanwhile, Mather and the others formed themselves into an ad hoc government called the Council of Safety and drafted a Declaration of the Gentlemen justifying their seizure of power.

As Cotton Mather stood in the gallery of the Town House and read out the twelve brief articles of the Declaration to the people gathered below, he saw a disturbance reach the edge of the crowd. A small group of men was making its way through the square to the front entrance of the Town House. As they neared him, Mather recognized them. They consisted of the force sent by the Council of Safety to arrest Lt. Governor Dudley, and the presence of Dudley within their midst showed that their mission had been a success.

It was surely a matter of Divine justice that the group with Dudley paused below him at the very time when Mather had reached the article of the Declaration which recounted the Lieutenant Governor's infamous declaration that "New Englanders are all slaves, and the only difference between them and slaves is their not being bought and sold." Mather had the pleasure of uttering the notorious phrase while looking Dudley in the eyes. Who is the slave now, Master Dudley? he silently asked the captive official. Dudley glared back at him in impotent rage before being escorted into the Town House.

Mather knew it was unseemly for a minister of God to take pleasure in another's misfortune, but he was a weak man in many ways, and unable to resist. Mather also knew that he had in a moment's time made an enemy for life, but there was little to fear from Joseph Dudley now. His days of power in Massachusetts were over.

(Proceed to part 8 - Dudley Do-Wrong)

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