Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents


It will now be necessary to go back a little in the order of time, and notice some other grievances, which the people of New Hampshire suffered, under the administration of Governor Cranfield. When he accepted the government of the province, he undoubtedly supposed the office would be a lucrative one; and this, more than any other consideration, induced him to accept it. But this pleasing anticipation was far from being realized. Disappointment in his favorite object probably had no inconsiderable influence in shaping the course of his administration. He had undertaken to administer the government without calling an assembly; yet his want of money became so pressing, that, for relief, he was under the necessity of altering his policy, and issuing writs for the election of deputies. The assembly convened at Great Island, January 14, 1684. The governor tendered them a bill, which had already been passed by the council, for raising money. The bill had been artfully drawn up, under pretext of danger of invasion by a foreign foe, and the need of raising money for repairing the fort and supplying it with ammunition, and "other necessary charges of government."

After some discussion, the assembly adjourned. On flood tide that evening, the members went up the river to Portsmouth, and returned on the next ebb. Having met after their return, they refused to pass the bill. The governor, in his wrath, immediately dissolved the assembly. But this was not deemed a sufficient punishment for not yielding to his wishes. He caused the speaker and several of the members to be appointed constables for the ensuing year. If they refused to serve, a fine of £10 was the penalty in each case. The members from this town were Anthony Stanyan, Joseph Smith, and Lieut. John Smith, the last of whom, usually styled John Smith, the cooper, was made constable.

Having failed to procure money by an act of assembly, the governor now ventured on a hazardous experiment, the raising of money without the intervention of an assembly. In his commission was a provision that he and his council might "continue such taxes as had been formerly levied, until a general assembly could be called." This was evidently intended to meet any exigency that might occur at the beginning of his administration, when money might be needed sooner than it could be raised by the ordinary course of legislation. As such, it may have been a wise provision; but beyond this, it was not designed to operate. Yet it served the governor as a pretext for the authority which he now assumed, though it was clear to every person, that it was only a pretext; for not only had there been sufficient time for calling an assembly, but more than one had been convened and dissolved since his administration began. Such were the views of the council. When, therefore, the governor applied to them to take the repsonsivility of continuing the tax that had last been levied by the preceding administration, they hesitated. Soon it was rumored that a plot had been discovered among the Eastern Indians to renew the war in the following spring. The council were summoned February 14, in great haste. The governor told them that for the defense and security of the province, money was needed, and that it could not be raised in season in any other way than by continuing such taxes as had formerly been laid. The council now gave their consent, though their action was not immediately made public, for the people were not yet prepared for it. By a further order of the governor and council, the inhabitants of the province were required to fortify the Meeting houses and establish convenient garrisons in other parts of their several towns, and to provide themselves with a stock of ammunition. Other measures were also adopted betokening imminent danger.

At this juncture, Cranfield met with an obstacle he had not anticipated. A letter from the Lords of Trade directed him to levy no taxes on the people, except by an act of assembly. What now will the governor do? Will he obey this order? Yes--so far as to summon an assembly, but no farther. Having ascertained that several members of the last assembly had been elected again, he ordered an immediate dissolution; and then wrote to the Lords of Trade, that, though in obedience to their commands, an assembly had been called, yet he did not deem it prudent or safe to let them sit; and that the election of those four constables to the assembly--who had been ordered to serve in that office because they had acted independently in the last assembly--looked like a design to disturb the king's peace. He then intimated that the rate made in the time of Presidents Cutt and Waldron, had been continued, but could not be safely published without the presence of a small frigate.

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents