Chronicles of America 

Governor Edmund Andros

The new Governor-General, who entered Boston harbor in the Kingfisher on December 19, 1686, was Sir Edmund Andros, a few years before the Duke of York's Governor for the propriety of New York. Andros at this time was forty-nine years old; he was a soldier by training and a man of considerable experience in positions requiring executive ability. His career had been an honorable one, and no charges involving his honesty, loyalty, or personal conduct had ever been entered against him. When he was in New York, he had been brought on several occasions into contact with the Massachusetts leaders, and though their relations had never been sympathetic, they had not been unfriendly. While in England from 1681 to 1686, he had been freely consulted regarding the best method of dealing with the problems in America and had shown himself in full accord with that policy of the Lords of Trade which attempted to consolidate the northern colonies into a single government for the execution of the acts of trade and defense against the encroachments of the French and Indians. He was probably fully aware of the difficulties that confronted the new experiment, but as a soldier he was ready to obey orders. His natural disposition and military training rendered him impatient of obstacles, and his unfamiliarity with any form of popular government — for New York had been controlled by a governor and council only — made extremely uncertain his success in New England, where affairs had been managed by the easy-going, dilatory method of debate and discussion. As a disciplinarian, he could not appreciate the New Englander's fondness for disputation and argument; as a soldier, he was certain to obey to the full the letter of his instructions; and, as an Anglican, he was likely to favor the church and churchmen of his choice. He was not a diplomat, nor was he gifted with the silver tongue of oratory or the spirit of compromise. He came to New England to execute a definite plan, and he was given no discretion as to the form of government he was to set up. He and his advisory council were to make the laws, levy taxes, exercise justice, and command the militia. He was not allowed to call a popular assembly or to recognize in any way the highly prized institutions of the colony.

On December 20, Andros, his officers, and guard, clad in the brilliant uniforms of soldiers of the British establishment, landed at Leverett's wharf and marched through the local militia up King's Street to the Town House, where he read his commission and administered the oaths. Except for the royal commissioners of 1664, no British officer or soldier had hitherto set foot on the streets of Boston. Redcoats had been sent to New York and Virginia, but never before had they appeared in New England, and this visible sign of British authority must have seemed to many ominous for the future.

Andros's early impressions of what he saw were not flattering to the colony. He found the people still suffering from the devastating effects of the late war and further harassed by bad harvests, disasters at sea, and two serious fires which had recently done much damage in the city. He found the fortifications in bad repair, almost all the gun-carriages unserviceable, no magazines of powder or other stores of war, no small arms, except a few old matchlocks, and those unsizable and in poor condition, no storehouses or accommodations for officers or soldiers, and no adequate ramparts or redoubts.

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