The Regicide Colonels in New England

BEFORE the restoration of Charles the Second, in 1660, to the throne of his ancestors, he had issued a “Declaration,” promising to all persons but such as should be excepted by Parliament a pardon of offences committed during the late disorderly times. In the Parliamentary Act of Indemnity which followed, such as had been directly concerned in the death of the late King were excepted from mercy. Colonel Whalley and Colonel Goffe were members of the High Court of Justice which convicted and sentenced him. It was known that they had fled from England ; and one Captain Breedon, lately returned from Boston, reported that he had seen them there. The Ministry sent an order to Endicott, the Governor of Massachusetts, for their apprehension and transportation to England.

The friendly welcome which had in fact been extended to the distinguished fugitives cannot be confidently interpreted as an indication of favorable judgment of the act by which their lives were now endangered. No one of the New-England Colonies had formally expressed approval of the execution of King Charles the First, nor is there any other evidence of its having been generally regarded by them with favor. It is likely that in New England, as in the parent country, the opinions of patriotic men were divided in respect to the character of that measure. In New England, remote as it was from the scene of those crimes which had provoked so extreme a proceeding, it may be presumed that there was greater difficulty in admitting the force of the reasons by which it was vindicated. And the sympathy of New England would be more likely to be with Vane, who condemned it, than with Cromwell. But the strangers, however one act of theirs might be regarded, had been eminent among those who had fought for the rights of Englishmen, and they brought introductions from men venerated and beloved by the people among whom a refuge was sought.

Edward Whalley, a younger son of a good family, first cousin of the Protector Oliver, and of John Hampden, distinguished himself at the Battle of Naseby as an officer of cavalry, and was presently promoted by Parliament to the command of a regiment. He commanded at the storm of Banbury, and at the first capture of Worcester. He was intrusted with the custody of the King’s person at Hampton Court; he sat in the High Court of Justice at the trial of Charles, and was one of the signers of the deathwarrant. After the Battle of Dunbar, at which he again won renown, Cromwell left him in Scotland in command of four regiments of horse. He was one of the Major-Generals among whom the kingdom was parcelled out by one of the Protector’s last arrangements, and as such governed the Comities of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Warwick, and Leicester. He sat as a member for Nottinghamshire in Cromwell’s Second and Third Parliaments, and was called up to “ the other House” when that body was constituted.

William Goffe, son of a Puritan clergyman in Sussex, was a member of Parliament, and a colonel of infantry soon after the breaking out of the Civil War. He married a daughter of Whalley. Like his father-in-law, he was a member of the High Court of Justice for the King’s trial, a signer of the warrant for his execution, a member of the Protector’s Third and Fourth Parliaments, and then a member of “ the other House.” He commanded Cromwell's regiment at the Battle of Dunbar, and rendered service particularly acceptable to him in the second expurgation of Parliament. As one of the ten Major-Generals, he held the government of Hampshire, Berkshire, and Sussex.

When Whalley and Goffe, upon the King’s return, left England to escape what they apprehended might prove the fate of regicides, the policy of the Court in respect to persons circumstanced as they were had not been promulgated. Arriving in Boston, in July, and having been courteously welcomed by the Governor, they proceeded the same day to Cambridge, which place for the present they made their home. For several months they appeared there freely in public. They attended the public religious meetings, and others held at private houses, at which latter they prayed, and prophesied, or preached. They visited some of the principal towns in the neighborhood, were often in Boston, and were received, wherever they went, with distinguished attention.

At the end of four months, intelligence came to Massachusetts of the Act of Indemnity, and that Whalley and Goffe were among those excepted from it, and marked for vengeance. Three months longer they lived at Cambridge unmolested ; but in the mean while affairs had been growing critical between Massachusetts and the mother country, and, though some members of the General Court assured them of protection, others thought it more prudent that they should have a hint to provide for their safety in some way which would not imply an affront to the royal government on the part of the Colony. The Governor called a Court of Assistants, in February, and without secrecy asked their advice respecting his obligation to secure the refugees. The Court refused to recommend that measure, and four days more passed, at the end of which time — whether induced by the persuasion of others, or by their own conviction of the impropriety of involving their generous hosts in further embarrassment, or simply because they had been awaiting till then the completion of arrangements for their reception at New Haven —they set off for that place.

A journey of nine days brought them to the hospitable house of the Reverend Mr. Davenport, where again they moved freely In the society of the ministers and the magistrates. But they had scarcely been at New Haven three weeks, when tidings came thither of the reception at Boston of a proclamation issued by the King for their arrest. To release their host from responsibility, they went to Milford, (as if on their way to New Netherland,) and there showed themselves in public ; but returned secretly the same night to New Haven, and were concealed in Davenport’s house. This was towards the last of March.

They had been so situated a month, when their friends had information from Boston that the search for them was to be undertaken in earnest. Further accounts of their having been seen in that place had reached England, and the King had sent a peremptory order to the Colonial governments for their apprehension. Endicott, to whom it was transmitted, could do no less than appear to interest himself to execute it; and this he might do with the less reluctance, because, under the circumstances, there was small likelihood that his exertions would be effectual. Two young English merchants, Thomas Kellond and Thomas Kirk, received from him a commission to prosecute the search in Massachusetts, and were also furnished with letters of recommendation to the Governors of the other Colonies. That they were zealous Royalists, direct from England, would be some evidence to the home government that the quest would be pursued in good faith. That they were foreigners, unacquainted with the roads and with the habits of the country, and betraying themselves by their deportment wherever they should go in New England, would afford comfortable assurance to the Governor that they would pursue their quest in vain.

From Boston, the pursuivants, early in May, went to Hartford, where they were informed by Winthrop, Governor of Connecticut, that “ the Colonels,” as they were called, had passed thence immediately before, on their way to New Haven. Thither the messengers proceeded, stopping on the way at Guilford, the residence of Deputy-Governor Leete. Since the recent death of Governor Newman, Leete had been Chief Magistrate of the Colony of New Haven, which was now, and for a few years later, distinct from Connecticut.

The Deputy-Governor received them in the presence of several other persons. He looked over their papers, and then “ began to read them audibly ; whereupon we told him,” say the messengers, “ it was convenient to be more private in such concernments as that was.” They desired to be furnished “ with horses, &c.” for their further journey, “ which was prepared with some delays.” They were accosted, on corning out, by a person who told them that the Colonels were secreted at Mr. Davenport’s, “ and that, without all question, Deputy Leete knew as much ”; and that “ in the head of a company in the field a-training,” it had lately been “ openly spoken by them, that, if they had but two hundred friends that would stand by them, they would not care for Old or New England.”

The messengers returned to Leete, and made an application, for “ aid and a power to search and apprehend ” the fugitives. “He refused to give any power to apprehend them, nor order any other, and said he could do nothing until he had spoken with one Mr. Gilbert and the rest of his magistrates.” New Haven, the seat of government of the Colony, was twenty miles distant from Guilford. It was now Saturday afternoon, and for a New-England Governor to break the Sabbath by setting off on a journey, or by procuring horses for any other traveller, was impossible. An Indian was observed to have left Guilford while the parley was going on, and was supposed to have gone on an errand to New Haven.

Monday morning the messengers proceeded thither. “ To our certain knowledge,” they write, “ one John Meigs was sent a-horseback before us, and by his speedy and unexpected going so early before day was to give them an information, and the rather because by the delays was used, it was break of day before we got to horse; so he got there before us. Upon our suspicion, we required the Deputy that the said John Meigs might be examined what his business was, that might occasion his so early going; to which the Deputy answered, that he did not know any such thing, and refused to examine him.” Leete was in no haste to make his own journey to the capital. It was for the messengers to judge whether they would use such despatch as to give an alarm there some time before any magistrate was present, to be invoked for aid. He arrived, they write, “ within two hours, or thereabouts, after us, aud came to us to the Court chamber, where we again acquainted him with the information we had received, and that we had cause to believe they [the fugitives] were concealed in New Haven, and thereupon we required his assistance and aid for their apprehension ; to which he answered, that he did not believe they were; whereupon we desired him to empower us, or order others for it; to which he gave us this answer, that he could not, or would not, make us magistrates. . . . . We set before him the danger of that delay and their inevitable escape, and how much the honor and service of his Majesty was despised and trampled on by him, and that we supposed by his unwillingness to assist in the apprehension he was willing they should escape. After which he left us, and went to several of the magistrates, and were together five or six hours in consultation, and upon breaking up of their council they told us they would not nor could not do anything until they had called a General Court of the freemen.”

The messengers labored with great earnestness to shake this determination, but all in vain. For precedents they appealed to the promptness of the Governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut, “ who, upon the recite of his Majesty’s pleasure and order concerning the said persons, stood not upon such niceties and formalities.” They represented “ how much the honor and justice of his Majesty was concerned, and how ill his Sacred Majesty would resent such horrid and detestable concealments and abettings of such traitors and regicides as they were, and asked him whether he would honor and obey the King or no in this affair, and set before him the danger which by law is incurred by any one that conceals or abets traitors ; to which the Deputy Leete answered, 'We honor his Majesty, but we have tender consciences ’; to which we replied, that we believed that he knew where they were, and only pretended tenderness of conscience for a refusal. . . . . We told them that for their

respect to two traitors they would do themselves injury, and possibly ruin themselves and the whole Colony of New Haven.”

“Finding them obstinate and pertinacious in their contempt of his Majesty,” the messengers, probably misled by some false information, took the road to New Netherland, the next day, in further prosecution of their business. The Dutch Governor at that place promised them, that, if the Colonels appeared wiihin his jurisdiction, he would give notice to Endicott, and take measures to prevent their escape by sea. Thereupon Kellond and Kirk returned by water to Boston, where they made oath before the magistrates to a report of their proceedings.

The fugitives had received timely notice of the chase. A week before Kellond and Kirk left Boston, they removed from Mr. Davenport’s house to that of William Jones, son-in-law of Governor Eaton, and afterwards Deputy-Governor of Connecticut. On the day when the messengers were debating with Governor Leete at Guilford, Whalley and Goffe were conducted to a mill, at a short distance from New Haven, where they were hidden two days and nights. Thence they were led to a spot called Hatchet Harbor, about as much farther in a northwesterly direction, where they lay two nights more. Meantime, for fear of the effect of the large rewards which the messengers had offered for their capture, a more secure hiding-place had been provided for them in a hollow on the east side of West Rock, five miles from the town. In this retreat they remained four weeks, being supplied with food from a lonely farm-house in the neighborhood, to which they also sometimes withdrew in stormy weather. They caused the Deputy-Governor to be informed of their hiding-place; and on hearing that Mr. Davenport was in danger from a suspicion of harboring them, they left it, and for a week or two showed themselves at different times at New Haven and elsewhere. After two months more of concealment in their retreat on the side of West Rock, they betook themselves, just after the middle of August, to the house of one Tomkins, in or near Milford, There they remained in complete secrecy for two years, after which time they indulged themselves in more freedom, and even conducted the devotions of a few neighbors assembled in their chamber.

But the arrival at Boston of Commissioners from the King with extraordinary powers was now expected, and it was likely that they would be charged to institute a new search, which might endanger the fugitives, and would certainly be embarrassing to their protectors. Just at this time a feud in the churches of Hartford and Wethersfield had led to an emigration to a spot of fertile meadow forty miles farther up the river. Mr. Russell, hitherto minister of Wethersfield, accompanied the new settlers as their pastor. The General Court gave their town the name of Hadley. In this remotest northwestern frontier of New England a refuge was prepared for the fugitives. On hearing of the arrival of the Commissioners at Boston, they withdrew to their cave; but some Indians in hunting observed that it had been occupied, and its secrecy could no longer be counted on. They consequently directed their steps towards Hadley, travelling only by night, and there, in the month of October, 1664, were received into the house of Mr. Russell.

There — except for a remarkable momentary appearance of one of them, and except for the visits of a few confidential friends — they remained lost forever to the view of men. Presents were made to them by leading persons among the colonists, and they received remittances from friends in England. Governor Hutchinson, when he wrote his History, had in his hands the Diary of Goffe, begun at the time of their leaving London, and continued for six or seven years. They were for a time encouraged by a belief, founded on their interpretation of the Apocalypse, that the execution of their comrades was “the slaying of the witnesses,” and that their own triumph was speedily to follow. Letters passed between Goffe and his wife, purporting to be between a son and mother, and signed respectively with the names of Walter and Frances Goldsmith. Four of these letters survive ; tender, magnanimous, and devout, they are scarcely to be read without tears.

In the tenth year of his abode at Hadley Whalley had become extremely infirm in mind and body, and he probably did not outlive that year. Mr. Russell's house was standing till within a little more than half a century ago. At its demolition, the removal of a slab in the cellar discovered human remains of a large size. They are believed to have belonged to the stout frame which swept through Prince Rupert’s lines at Naseby. Goffe survived his father-in-law nearly five years, at least; how much longer, is not known. Once he was seen abroad, after his retirement to Mr. Russell’s house. The dreadful war, to which the Indian King Philip bequeathed his long execrated name, was raging with its worst terrors in the autumn of 1675. On the first day of September, the people of Hadley kept a fast, to implore the Divine protection in their distress. While they were engaged in their worship, a sentry’s shot gave notice that the stealthy savages were upon them. Hutchinson, in his History, relates what follows, as he had received it from the family of Governor Leverett, who was one of the few visitors of Goffe in his retreat. “ The people were in the utmost confusion. Suddenly a grave, elderly person appeared in the midst of them. In his mien and dress he differed from the rest of the people. He not only encouraged them to defend themselves, but put himself at their head, rallied, instructed, and led them on to encounter the enemy, who by this means were repulsed. As suddenly the deliverer of Hadley disappeared. The people were left in consternation, utterly unable to account for this strange phenomenon. It is not probable that they were ever able to explain it.”

In the first years of the retirement of the Colonels at Hadley, they enjoyed the society of a former friend, who did not feel obliged to use the same strict precautions against discovery. John Dixwell, like themselves, was a colonel in the Parliamentary service, a member of the High Court of Justice, and a signer of the death-warrant of the King. Nothing is known of his proceedings after the restoration of the monarchy, till he came to Hadley, three or four months later than Whalley and Goffe. After a residence of some years in their neighborhood, he removed to New Haven, where, bearing the name of James Davids, and affecting no particular privacy, he lived to old age. The home-government never traced him to America; and though, among his acquaintance, it was understood that he had a secret to keep, there was no disposition to penetrate it. He married twice at New Haven, and by his second nuptials established a family, one branch of which survives. In testamentary documents, as well as in communications, while he lived, to his minister and others, he frankly made known his character and history. He died just too early to hear the tidings, which would have renewed his strength like the eagle’s, of the expulsion of the House of Stuart. A fit monument directs the traveller to the place of his burial, in the square bounded on one side by the halls of Yale College.