The Hunt for the Regicides
The Commonwealth of England did not last long. In 1660 King Charles II was restored. England then became an unsafe abode for all those who had helped to condemn Charles I to death, and two of those men, General Edward Whalley and William Goffe, fled to America. They were kindly received by the Puritans of Boston, and after a time they moved on to New Haven. But even in America they were not safe, and Royalist messengers were sent from England to arrest them, and take them home to be tried.
The Governor of Massachusetts pretended to be very eager to help these messengers. In reality he did nothing to help, but hindered them, rather. News of the search for the fugitives soon reached New Haven, and at once the people there helped them to hide. For their minister, John Davenport, had bidden them to “hide the outcasts and betray not him that wandereth.”
Goffe and Whalley knew that the people of New Haven would not betray them. But lest their enemies should gain any inkling of their being there they left the town and, going to another, showed themselves openly. Then secretly by night they returned to New Haven.
For a whole month they lay hid there in the cellars of the minister’s house. But soon that refuge became no longer safe, for the men in search of them had, in spite of their strategy, traced them to New Haven and set out to arrest them.
One Saturday the Royalists reached Guilford, not sixteen miles away. Here they demanded horses from the Governor to take them on to New Haven. But the Governor had little desire to help them. So with one excuse after another he put them off until it was too late to start that night. The next day was Sunday, and it was strictly against the laws of Puritan New England to ride or drive on Sunday save to church. So the Royalist messengers, chafing with impatience, might bribe and command as much as they liked; not a man would stir a hand to help them till Monday morning.
Meanwhile a messenger was speeding on his way to New Haven to warn the Parliamentarians. And while their pursuers were kicking their heels in enforced idleness they slipped away, and found a new hiding place in a mill some miles off. But even this was thought not to be safe, and they fled once more, and at length found refuge in a cave deep in the forest.
So on Monday when at length the Royalists arrived, the birds had flown. The minister owned that they had been there, but declared that they had vanished away, no man knowing when or whither.
The Royalists scoured the country far and wide in search of the fugitives. But their efforts were in vain. They were very much in earnest, but they were strangers, and they did not know the country. No one would help them in their search, and at length, very angry with the people of New Haven, they gave it up and returned to Boston.
Then, having spent several months in their cave, the Parliamentarians crept forth again. For two years they lived hidden in a friendly house. The King, however, was not satisfied, and after two years messengers again came out from England, and the search was again begun, more eagerly than before. Again, however, Goffe and Whalley were warned, and again they fled to the cave.
Here they lived in safety while the Royalists swept the country round in search of them. But they had many narrow escapes.
Once when they had left the shelter of their cave they were almost caught. Their pursuers were upon their heels, and to reach the cave without being taken prisoner seemed impossible. As the two men fled before their foes they came to a little river crossed by a wooden bridge. It was their last hope. Instead of crossing the bridge they crept beneath it, and crouched close to the water. On came the pursuers. They made no pause. Their horses thundered across the bridge and galloped away and away, while beneath the fugitives waited breathlessly. Then when all was quiet again they crept back to the shelter of their cave.
But at length the cave became a safe retreat no longer, for it was discovered by the Indians. And the fugitives, afraid lest the Indians, tempted by the large reward offered, might betray their hiding-place, resolved to seek another.
By this time the fury of the search for them had somewhat abated and another minister, John Russell, offered them a refuge in his house. This minister lived at a place called Hadley. Hadley was many miles from New Haven. It was a lonely settlement on the edge of the wilderness, and to reach it about a hundred miles of pathless forest had to be crossed. But with stout hearts the hunted men set out. By day they lay hidden in some friendly house, or in some lonely cave or other refuge. By night they journeyed onward. At length they reached their new hiding-place.
It was wonderfully contrived. The minister had lately made some alterations in his house, and in doing so he had made a safe retreat. In the attic there was a large cupboard with doors opening into rooms on either side. In the floor of the cupboard there was a trap door which led down into another dark cupboard below, and from there a passage led to the cellar. So that, should the house be searched, any one in the upper rooms could slip into the cupboard, from there reach the cellar, and thus escape. Here the regicides now took up their abode. And so well was their secret kept that they lived there for ten or fifteen years, their presence being unsuspected even by the inhabitants of the little town.
Henceforth the world was dead to them, and they were dead to the world. They were both soldiers. On many a field of battle,-Gainsborough, Marston, Naseby, Worcester, and Dunbar,-they had led their men to victory. They had been Members of Parliament, friends of the Great Protector, and had taken part in all the doings of these stirring times.
Now all that was over. Now no command, no power was left to them. The years went by, dragging their slow length of days, and bringing no change or brightness to the lives of these two men who lived in secret and alone. It was a melancholy life, the monotony only broken by visits from the minister, or a few other friends, who brought them all the gossip and news of the town. These were but small matters. But to the two men shut off from all other human beings they seemed of rare interest.
After ten years Whalley died. It is believed that he was buried in the cellar of the house in which for so long he had found a hiding-place. Then, for five years or so more, Goffe dragged out his life alone.
As one might imagine, the King was not at all pleased with Massachusetts and New Haven for thus sheltering the regicides; and in 1665 he suppressed New Haven as a separate colony and joined it to Connecticut.
The New Haven people did not like this at all, and they fought against it with all their might. But at length they gave way and joined Connecticut.
The King was angry with Massachusetts, too, not only for protecting the regicides, but also because of what is known as the Declaration of Rights. In this the people of Massachusetts acknowledged the King as their ruler. But they also made it plain that so long as they did not make laws which ran counter to English laws they expected to be let alone. This made King Charles angry, and if it had not been that he was busy fighting with Holland very likely the people of Massachusetts would have had to suffer for their boldness at once. As it was they were left in peace a little longer.