Thomas Dudley

Thomas Dudley

Thomas Dudley was born in Northampton, England in 1576. He worked as chief steward of Theophilus Clinton, the Earl of Lincoln, where he developed Puritan beliefs.

In 1628 a group of Puritans, led by Dudley and John Winthrop persuaded Charles I to grant them an area of land between the Massachusetts Bay and Charles River in North America. That year the group sent John Endecott to begin a plantation in Salem.

The main party of 700 people left Southampton in April 1630. The party included Dudley, John Winthrop, William Pynchon, Simon Bradstreet and Anne Bradstreet. Before they left John Cotton gave a sermon where he emphasized the parallel between the Puritans and the God's chosen people, claiming it was God's will that they should inhabit all the world. During the 1630s over 20,000 people emigrated to Massachusetts.

John Winthrop was the first governor of Massachusetts Colony. He chose Boston as the the capital and the seat of the General Court and the legislature. Dudley was appointed his deputy and on four occasions (1634, 1640, 1645 and 1650) he served as governor.

Dudley and John Winthrop did not always agree about the way the colony should be ruled. Whereas Winthrop was tolerant and liberal, Dudley favoured the expulsion of any person he considered to be a heretic. It was Dudley who managed to get Anne Hutchinson and her followers removed from the colony. A crisis meeting was held in 1635 and these conflicts were resolved. Two years later Winthrop published a new policy on heresy. Thomas Dudley died in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on 31st July, 1653.

Primary Sources

(1) Thomas Dudley, letter sent to England (March, 1631)

In 1628 we procured a patent from His Majesty for our planting between the Massachusetts Bay and Charles River on the south and the river of Merrimac on the north and three miles on either side of those rivers and bay. And the same year we sent Mr. John Endecott and some with him to begin a plantation and to strengthen such as he should find there, which we sent thither from Dorchester and some places adjoining; from whom the same year receiving hopeful news, the next year, 1629, we sent diverse ships over with about 300 people, and some cows, goats, and horses, many of which arrived safely.

(2) In a letter sent to supporters in England, Thomas Dudley wrote about the Puritans arrival in Massachusetts in the summer of 1630.

In April 1630 we set sail from old England with four good ships. And in May following, eight more followed, two having gone before in February and March, and two more following in June and August, besides another set out by a private merchant. These seventeen ships arrived all safe in New England, for the increase of the plantation here, this year 1630.

Our four ships, which set out in April, arrived here in June and July, where we found the colony in a sad and unexpected condition, above eighty of them being dead the winter before, and many of those alive, weak and sick. All the corn and bread among them all hardly sufficient to feed them a fortnight, insomuch that the remaining of 180 servants we had the two years before sent over, coming to us for victuals to sustain them, we found ourselves wholly unable to feed them.

But bearing these things as we might, we began to consult of the place of our sitting down, for Salem, where we landed, pleased us not. And so to that purpose some were sent to the Bay to search up the rivers for a convenient place; who, upon their return, reported to have found a good place upon Mystic; but some other of us seconding these to approve or dislike of their judgment, we found a place we liked better, three leagues up Charles River.

It was decided, for our present shelter to plant dispersedly, some at Charlestown which stands on the north side of the mouth of Charles River; some on the south side, which we named Boston, some of us upon Mystic, which we named Medford; some of us westward on Charles River, four miles from Charlestown, which place we named Watertown; others of us, two miles from Boston, in a place we named Rocksbury; others upon the river of Saugus, between Salem and Charlestown; and the western men, four miles south from Boston, at a place we named Dorchester.

(3) Journal of the Massachusetts Bat Colony (1635)

Mr. Vane and Mr. Peter, finding some distraction in the commonwealth arising from some differences in judgment, and with some alienation of affection among the magistrates and some other persons of quality, and that hereby factions began to grow among the people, some adhering more to the old governor, Mr. Winthrop, and others to the late governor, Mr. Dudley - the former carrying matters with more lenity, and the other with more severity - they procured a meeting, at Boston, of the governor, deputy, Mr. Cotton, Mr. Hooker, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Dudley, and themselves.

Mr. Winthrop spoke, professing solemnly that he knew not of any breach between his brother Dudley and himself, since they were reconciled long since. Then Mr. Dudley spoke to this effect: that for his part he came thither a mere patient, not with any intent to charge his brother Winthrop with anything; for though there had been formerly some differences and breaches between them, yet they had been healed, and for his part, he was not willing to renew them again.

(4) When Thomas Dudley was governor he expelled Thomas Morton from the colony.

In the end of December we sent away Thomas Morton, a proud, insolent man who has lived here for many years and had been an attorney in the west countries while he lived in England. Multitude of complaints we received against him for injuries we received against him for injuries done by him both to the English and Indians, and among others, for shooting hail-shot at a troop of Indians for not bringing a canoe unto him to cross a river. He hurt one and shot through the garments of another. For the satisfaction of the Indians wherein, and that it might appear to them and to the English that we meant to do justice impartially, we caused his hands to be bound behind him and set his feet in the bilboes, and burned his house to the ground - all in the sight of the Indians - and kept him prisoner till we sent him to England.

(5) In March, 1637, John Wheelwright, the brother-in-law of Anne Hutchinson, was convicted of sedition and contempt because his religious views departed from orthodox Puritanism. In May, 1637, John Winthrop explained why dissenters would not be accepted by the colony.

(1) If we here be a corporation established by free consent, if the place of our cohabitation be our own, then no man has right to come into us, etc., without our consent.

(2) If no man has right to our lands, our government privileges, etc., but by our consent, then it is reason we should take notice of before we confer any such upon them.

(3) If we are bound to keep off whatsoever appears to tend to our ruin or damage, then we may lawfully refuse to receive such whose dispositions suit not with ours and whose society we know will be hurtful to us, and therefore it is lawful to take knowledge of all men before we receive them.