Saturday, February 19, 2011

Maximum Massachusetts 8: Dudley Do-Wrong

Boston, Massachusetts
11 June 1702

The Reverend Cotton Mather had to admit to himself that the ceremony was quite impressive. Two warships had sailed up to Scarlett's Wharf, to be greeted by cannon salutes from other ships, Castle William in the harbor, and the three forts in Boston. One of the warships had docked at Scarlett's Wharf, lowered its gangplank, and disgorged a company of scarlet-coated soldiers, who had formed up into two ranks. Then, to a rattling of drums, the newly-appointed Governor of Massachusetts, followed by a large retinue, walked imperiously down the gangplank and between the waiting rows of soldiers.

After being congratulated by Nathaniel Byfield in the name of the Executive Council, Colonel Joseph Dudley, Royal Governor of Massachusetts, was escorted from the waterside to the Town House by a large entourage of troops and prominent gentlemen of the town.

As the procession made its way down Fifth Street, Mather couldn't help taking note of the irony involved. Scarlett's Wharf being only a few blocks away from the Second Church, the procession escorting Governor Dudley traveled down the same streets that Mather himself had thirteen years earlier, on the day Sir Edmund Andros had been deposed and Dudley himself had been arrested and imprisoned. Mather couldn't help thinking of the image he had invoked from Ezekiel in his sermon that day thirteen years in the past, of the "fashion of the wheels and their work." The wheels had certainly been busily turning, raising Dudley up from an exiled former colonial official to a Royal Governor.

Thirteen years earlier, Dudley had been escorted to the Town House by half a dozen roustabouts from the docks, while Mather read to an onlooking crowd of Dudley's expressed belief that the only difference between New Englanders and slaves was their not being bought and sold. Now Dudley was surrounded by the cream of Boston society, most of whom were hoping to gain his favor. The main entrance to the Town House was opened as Dudley approached, and Byfield led the new Governor up the stairs to the Court chambers.

There, in the midst of as many men as could fit themselves into the Court chambers, Dudley read out his commission as Governor. Despite the reservations felt by many present (including Mather himself), Dudley's pronouncement was met with a fair amount of enthusiasm. Then, with the public part of the ceremony concluded, Byfield led Dudley to the nearby chambers where he would be conducting most of his official business while the mass of men who had attended the ceremony filed out of the room and back down the stairs to the street.

Mather was walking up Fifth Street on his way to the Second Church when he saw a coach-and-four approaching. His curiosity was aroused, for he couldn't imagine any man in Boston wealthy enough to hire or own a coach being absent from Dudley's arrival ceremony. As the coach passed him, one of the curtains masking the windows waved aside in the wind, allowing him a glimpse of the passenger. It was the most fleeting of glimpses, but it was enough to let Mather identify the man quite conclusively.

It was Sir Edmund Andros.

A disquiet began to fill Mather. He turned aside from his intended journey to the church, and walked quickly back to the Town House. The coach was waiting by the front entrance, its door open, its passenger gone. Mather hurried inside, up the stairs, and into the Governor's chamber. He saw Joseph Dudley standing in conversation with another man, and once again a moment's view was enough to confirm that the other man was former Governor Andros.

Dudley seemed annoyed by the intrusion at first, but upon recognizing Mather he became positively effusive.

"Ah, Reverend Mather, how good of you to join us. I believe you are already acquainted with my colleague, Sir Edmund."


Dudley smiled in a way Mather imagined the Serpent must have done after Eve had taken the first bite of forbidden fruit. "The official announcement won't be until my general address tomorrow, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be the first to learn. The Lords of Trade and Plantation back in London feel that the administration of Nova Scotia has proven to be too taxing for Massachusetts. Literally, in fact, since it is understood that the government here is so short of funds that it has been forced to resort to the printing of paper money. In any case, it has been decided to make Nova Scotia a separate colony, and I was able to convince the Lords of Trade and Plantation that Sir Edmund here would be ideally suited to serve as the new colony's first Royal Governor."

To his horror, Mather found himself stuttering for the first time in over a decade. "You c-c-c-can't do that!"

"My dear Reverend, I can and have! And there is nothing you or anyone else in this wretched colony can do to stop me!"

And Governor Dudley laughed.

(Proceed to part 9 - A Letter from America)

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