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The New England Knight

The New England Knight: Sir William Phips, 1651-1695

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    The New England Knight
    Book Description:

    A biography of William Phips: sea captain out of Boston, Caribbean adventurer, and the first royal governor of Massachusetts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6462-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  6. 1 Early Life, 1651–1682
    (pp. 3-24)

    Cotton Mather′s biography of Sir William Phips was designed to leave no doubt about the obscurity of the origins from which Phips rose. Assuring his readers that ′a Person′s beingObscurein hisOriginalis not always a Just Prejudice to an Expectation ofConsiderable Mattersfrom him,′ Mather described Phips as being born ′at a despicable Plantation on the River ofKennebeck, and almost the furthest Village of the Eastern Settlement ofNew-England.′ For good measure, Mather also related how Phips as governor later sailed in sight of the Kennebec and would address the young soldiers and sailors under...

  7. 2 The Making of a Projector
    (pp. 25-49)

    As William Phips approached thirty years of age, his efforts at self-advancement had brought real but limited progress. Ambitious and acquisitive, drawing constantly on the network of family and other associates whose northeastern connections matched his own, Phips the sea captain was well established in Boston. His, however, was not the Boston that formed the social and political centre for the agricultural towns lying farther inland. Phips′s environment was the port, where his peripheral origins and colourful language smoothed rather than hindered his path to acceptance and a modest prosperity. However, the conventional pattern of coastal and Caribbean trading voyages...

  8. 3 Treasure Gained and Patrons Lost
    (pp. 50-69)

    Calmness and competence are not virtues that historians have normally associated with William Phips. In some phases of his life, they were qualities he seldom if ever evinced. At Puerto Plata in February 1687, however, as during two subsequent months at the wreck and on the return voyage to London in the spring, Phips was firmly and steadily in command. To convey some thirty tons of silver safely to the Deptford naval yard with a crew hired for wages was arguably the greatest single feat of his improbable career. It was an achievement that brought him considerable wealth and a...

  9. 4 Respectability and Revolution
    (pp. 70-85)

    The Revolution of 1688-9 dealt surprisingly kindly with Sir William Phips. Between August 1688 and March 1690, he succeeded in overcoming both the humiliation of his brief career as provost marshal general of New England and the loss of his principal patrons. The spring of 1690 saw him admitted to membership of Cotton Mather′s North Church and given command of an expedition against Port-Royal, the headquarters of French Acadia. The revolution itself and the overthrow of the Dominion of New England that followed it provided an essential context for these attainments and the new respectability they symbolized. More specifically, Phips′s...

  10. 5 The Expeditions of 1690
    (pp. 86-109)

    The preparations for the Port-Royal expedition were hasty and controversial. Not surprisingly, the recorded comments of members of the organizing committee were optimistic. Samuel Sewall noted in his diary on 24 March that eight companies were already training. ′I goe into the field,′ he added with gusto, ′[to] pray with the South Company, Exercise them in a few Distances, Facings, Doublings,′ Governor Bradstreet wrote on the twenty-ninth to the earl of Shrewsbury, senior secretary of state, that success against Port-Royal would set the stage for an assault on Canada, provided that munitions could be supplied from England. Elisha Hutchinson, writing...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 6 The Charter and Beyond
    (pp. 110-133)

    The negotiations that led to the issuing of the Massachusetts charter of 1691, and the role played by Increase Mather, have been analysed frequently by historians. The role of Sir William Phips has been examined largely in the context of Phips′s emergence as the first governor under the new charter, with as much attention being paid to his failings while in office as to the reasons for his appointment. ′How unsuited he was for the governorship was still to be discovered,′ commented Michael G. Hall in 1988. ′For the moment he seemed a fine choice to take the sting out...

  13. 7 Statecraft and Witchcraft, 1692
    (pp. 134-155)

    When Sir William Phips arrived in Massachusetts in May 1692, he found the colony in a fragile state. Repeated military efforts, including Phips′s own expeditions in 1690, had exhausted the provincial treasury without stemming the tide of Wabanaki and French advances. The revolutionary regime, still headed by the aged Simon Bradstreet, had lost all semblance of its ability to meet the military threat effectively during what the prominent minister Samuel Willard characterized soon afterwards as ′the shortAnarchyaccompanying our late Revolution.′ Certainly, John Pynchon of Springfield was one influential inhabitant who welcomed Phips′s governorship as offering the chance of...

  14. 8 Frontier Governor and Projector, 1692–1694
    (pp. 156-177)

    The military conjuncture that greeted Sir William Phips in May 1692 was difficult and complex, and not only in the Wabanaki territory. The charter of 1691 defined Massachusetts as including the entire area from the Piscataqua River up to and including ′the Country or Territory Commonly Called Accadia or Nova Scotia.′ This broad swathe of north-eastern North America was seen by Phips as having enormous economic potential for both the empire and himself.¹ The difficulty was that beyond Wells the territories were firmly controlled by the Wabanaki, Wuastukwiuk, and Mi′kmaq, as well as being subject to French influence that radiated...

  15. 9 Factional Currents, 1692–1694
    (pp. 178-201)

    During the spring of 1692, soon after the arrival of Sir William Phips as governor, Cotton Mather had circulated a paper of ′political fables′ among his friends and political acquaintances in Boston. The first fable, ′The New Settlement of the Birds in New England,′ took as its premise the loss of an old charter by which the birds had formerly ′maintained good order among themselves.′ After the efforts of a few dedicated agents of the flocks had led to a ′comfortable settlement′ by - of all deities - Jupiter, in the form of a new charter, the birds were divided...

  16. 10 Imperial Governorship: Conflicts and Clientage, 1692–1693
    (pp. 202-222)

    ′Sir W.P. having been at Charge to obtaine his Government not knowing how long it will last, drives on furiously.′¹ Edward Randolph′s evaluation, written in a letter to William Blathwayt just over four months after Sir William Phips had arrived in Boston as governor, was directed specifically at Phips′s outfitting of a speculative cruise against French shipping at the mouth of the St Lawrence and at the building of Fort William Henry at Pemaquid. It also drew attention by implication to the difficulty of Phips′s position as a governor who neither enjoyed solid support from Blathwayt′s Plantations Office nor had...

  17. 11 Imperial Governorship: Recall, 1693–1694
    (pp. 223-246)

    On 4 July 1694, Sir William Phips received official notice of his recall to England to face the charges of his critics in a hearing before the Privy Council. As well as the grievances of Richard Short, there were two other areas of complaint. One concerned abuses of admiralty jurisdiction, especially in connection with Phips′s condemnation of the prize vesselsCatharineandSt Jacobin 1692. The other, which proved to be crucial in the process leading to Phips′s recall, consisted of accusations by the customs collector Jahleel Brenton regarding Phips′s personal conduct and his alleged violations of the Navigation...

  18. 12 Endings
    (pp. 247-256)

    On 7 December 1694 a vessel arrived at Cowes carrying news that Sir William Phips was preparing to sail from Boston. Phips reached London on 1 January 1695, whereupon he was immediately arrested in connection with a £20,000 legal action brought against him by Joseph Dudley and another individual. Although details of the affair have not survived, Sir Henry Ashurst attributed it to Dudley′s efforts to be named as Phips′s successor. ′Mr. D- thought himself as sure of being governor,′ Ashurst later wrote to Increase Mather, ′as you are of my friendship.′ Ashurst bailed Phips out, his sense of responsibility...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 257-322)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 323-342)
  21. Index
    (pp. 343-359)