Friday, March 4, 2011

Maximum Massachusetts 13: Trick or Treaty

Boston, Massachusetts
17 June 1713

Sir Joseph Dudley, Governor of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Nova Scotia and Canada, read through the newly-arrived copy of the Treaty of Utrecht a second time, but the words were still just the same.

"Collins!" he called out, and in response his aide, Sergeant Philip Collins of the Massachusetts colonial militia, entered the governor's chambers.

"Yessir?" said Collins.

"Send word out to the Council that there's to be an emergency meeting at four o'clock this afternoon." Gritting his teeth, Dudley added, "And inform Dr. Mather as well."

"Yessir," said Collins as he saluted and departed on his task.

At four o'clock, the twelve members of the Council, along with Dudley and Mather, were seated around a table in the Town House's Council Chamber. Ironically, half the men making up the Council, such as Elisha Cooke and Dr. Thomas Oakes, had been Dudley's enemies in 1702, and his gaolors in 1689. The success of Dudley's expeditions to Louisbourg and Quebec, and the revenues they brought to the colony, had done much to enhance his popularity and reconcile his enemies.

The Governor went straight to the point. "Gentlemen," he said, "I have here a copy of the recently concluded peace treaty with France. Under the terms of that treaty, Canada and Louisbourg are to be returned to French control by next April."

Stunned silence ruled the Council Chamber for the next minute. Nobody asked if Dudley was attempting a jest, for Dudley's lack of humor was well known to all. If he said Canada and Louisbourg were being returned to the French, then they were.

Finally, Cooke spoke. "Why in God's name would they do such a thing?"

"Although we cannot know the minds of the men who negotiated the treaty," said Mather, "we can still hazard a guess. Sir Joseph's conquests of Louisbourg and Canada were carried out during the ministry of Godolphin and Marlborough, and thus reflect no credit upon Harley and Bolingbroke. As well, it is common practice in peace negotiations to trade one territorial acquisition for another of greater value. You've read the treaty, Sir Joseph. Did Britain gain any territories from the French?"

Unhappily, Dudley growled out, "Guadeloupe. Martinique. St. Domingue."

Cooke was astonished. "They've traded Canada for a few islands?"

"Extremely valuable islands," Mather pointed out. "The sugar trade from those few islands is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year."

"What shall we do, then?" said Cooke.

"What can we do?" said Dudley.

"We can do the same thing we did fifteen years ago," said Mather firmly. "We can tell Harley and Bolingbroke that we took Canada, that it's ours, and that we're not giving it back!"

Cooke, along with Thomas Oakes and the other Council members who had been in Boston fifteen years earlier, applauded Mather's defiant statement. Dudley, however, remained grave.

"Canada is not Port Royal," Dudley pointed out to them. "The Queen's ministers cannot overlook such defiance. If we do not do as they say and return Canada to the French, then they will hang us as traitors and send men to replace us who will. If anything, I relish the idea of returning our hard-won conquests even less than you do, for I know precisely what sacrifices were made to gain them. But I have no wish to hang for treason, and that is our only alternative."

The Council Chamber was sunk in silent gloom for a time then. But the silence was finally broken by Mather, who said slowly, "If this be treason, then make the most of it."

"What?" said Dudley, perplexed.

"Who are Harley and Bolingbroke to deserve our obedience? Only the latest in a long line of ruthless curs whose only goal is to subjugate us and turn Massachusetts into another Ireland. And who is Anne to deserve our loyalty? Just another sinful, avaricious Stuart monarch seeking to destroy our church and place a bevy of worthless bishops over us! What have they ever done to aid Massachusetts? Nothing! All that Massachusetts is now, was done by our own labors, and our own sacrifice!

"What need have we for a gluttonous tyrant and her court of worthless sycophants? We've proven these last ninety years that we can do better without them than with them, and best on our own! I say we should declare ourselves an independent republic, a commonwealth of New-England!"

"And so say I!" exclaimed Cooke.

"And I!" stated Oakes.

One by one, the other members of the Governor's Council declared for independence, until at last only Governor Dudley himself had not spoken. Silence returned to the Council Chamber for a moment, until finally Mather said softly, "The choice is yours, Sir Joseph. You've done well by the Massachusetts Bay colony these last eleven years, and the colony has done well by you also. If you say nay, we'll not molest you. If you wish to take leave of us and return to Great Britain, you may do so. But I for one would feel better knowing you were with us than against us, for you have proved yourself a man of valor and deeds, and we will need such men in the times ahead. What say you?"

There was a distant look in Dudley's eyes as the others waited for him to speak. Finally, he rose up from his seat at the head of the table and said, "Long live the Commonwealth of New-England."

(Proceed to part 14 - Cotton Comes to Haarlem)

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