Joseph Dudley

Joseph Dudley


A colonial governor despised in his home province for his loyalty to England, Joseph Dudley nevertheless ably served the interests of the English empire as a whole. Dudley was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the seventh child of Governor Thomas Dudley. He had two siblings and five half-siblings, one of whom was the poetess Anne Dudley Bradstreet (see no. 36).

Dudley graduated from Harvard College in 1665. He served in the Massachusetts legislature from 1677-1682, when he was chosen to go to England. The Massachusetts Bay Colony needed an advocate in the mother country, where King Charles II seemed determined to revoke the colony’s charter.

Dudley failed in his mission. King Charles revoked the charter in 1684, and a new Dominion of New England was created in 1 686, with Sir Edmund Andros (see no. 47) as governor.Once the new charter was in place, Dudley returned to Massachusetts and served on Andros’s council.

This infuriated many Bostonians, especially when Dudley agreed to the new taxes that Andros laid upon the colony’s taxpayers.In April, 1689, Andros was overthrown by a popular rebellion. Dudley was confined for several months and then sent to England to stand trial on 1 1 9 charges. He was acquitted of all of them.

To show Dudley that the crown had faith in him, King William named him chief of the New York council. Dudley spent one year in New York, then returned to England, where he served as deputy-governor of the Isle of Wight. In 1692, he returned to Massachusetts, and in 1702 was named the colony’s governor.

Dudley found that the Massachusetts legislature was determined to thwart him in every possible way. The Bostonians had long memories, and many of them thought of Dudley as a traitor for having served under Andros. Whether they were right or wrong, Dudley made few friends during his time as governor.

He was always inclined to view the interestsof all the English overseas possessions, rather than the particular interests of the Massachusetts province.In 1709 and 1711, Dudley supported English-American invasions of French Canada.

The expansionist party in Massachusetts welcomed his actions, while the conservatives damned his actions as expensive and unnecessary.Weary from wrangling with his politicalopponents, Dudley stepped down as governor in 1715. He remained in Boston, and regained some of the popularity as a private citizen that he had lost during his public life.