Impeaching a despot — American Silver Eagle Coin

Today, the American Silver Eagle Coin remembers when the English colonies revolted against the governing despot and impeached him on June 27, 1689.

From the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume VI, edited by Distinguished Biographers, selected from each state and published by James T. White & Company in 1896:


Sir Edmund Andros, colonial governor of New England, was born on the Island of Guernsey, Dec. 6, 1637. He was brought up as a page in the English royal family, served during its exile in the army of Prince Henry of Nassau, and was attached to the household of the Princess Palatine, grandmother of George I.

After the restoration he gained some distinction in the war against the Dutch, and in 1672, having meanwhile married an heiress, was made major of a regiment of dragoons. This was the highest promotion he had reached before he came to New York, as the Duke of York’s lieutenant in 1674, except that the proprietors of Carolina had comprehended him in their scheme by making him a land-grave with an endowment of four baronies of 12,000 acres of land each, with four castles in Spain.

Andros took possession of New York when it finally fell into the hands of the English after its short re- occupation by the Dutch. He began his administration by laying claim to a part of the territory of Connecticut, on behalf of the Duke of York, but it was not allowed.

In the King Philip’s war he was charged by the New England colonists with indifference to their danger, and it was even alleged that he allowed the Indians to obtain their ammunition from Albany, but in August, 1676, he sent a force to Renaquis (in the present state of Maine), to build and occupy a fort, and the officer in command entered into communication with the neighboring Indians and procured the release of fifteen English captives.

In 1680 he was found laying claim for his master, the Duke of York, to Fisher’s Island, off New London Harbor, which claim was also resisted by the Connecticut authorities.

In January, 1681, Andros went back to England, and was succeeded by Thomas Dongan, in August, 1683.

But Andros returned to America, landing at Boston on Dec. 20, 1686, and bearing with him a royal commission for the government of all New England.

He was now “governor-in-chief,” to put in practice, as opportunity should serve, the theory of rules by which King James II of England became owner of all the land in New England, and might if it pleased him, oust all the holders from property which their families had acquired at great cost and hardship, and had peaceably possessed for nearly sixty years.

Andros had gotten the honor of knighthood in England, and had risen to the command of a regiment in the royal army. He forthwith demanded the surrender of the Rhode Island charter, which had been given him.

He also instituted at Boston the worship of the Church of England, frightening the sexton of the “Old South Meeting House” into opening the doors and ringing the bell, so that Episcopal worship was afterwards held there on Sundays and other holidays of the church, at hours when the building was not occupied by the regular congregation.

It was moreover charged against him that he or his officials corrupted juries: taxes were arbitrarily imposed upon the people, and the demand was made upon the land holders that they take out new patents for the ownership of their lands.

Quit rents were insisted on for the conformation of land titles. Portions of the common lands of towns were also enclosed, and given to friends of the governor.

Andros browbeat his council. He also exercised the same despotic government in the district of Maine, which was included in his commission as in that of Massachusetts.

The New Hampshire colony and that of Rhode Island submitted with little or no resistance.

He next assumed the government of Connecticut, and the story of the non-surrender of her charter, and of its being hidden in the Charter Oak at Hartford, which was long current, is now regarded as apocryphal by the best historians.

This assumption consolidated New England under one despotism.

The governor resumed his attacks on ancient laws and vested rights in Massachusetts, and when he returned to Boston speedily entered upon the business of vacating the prior land bills.

Writs of intrusion were served on some of the most considerable of those persons who did not come forward to buy new land patents.

The governor built a fort on Fort Hill, commanding the harbor, and felt that the great features of his administration were satisfactorily settled.

It was at this time (June, 1688), that he received from James II another commission, which made him governor of all the English possessions on the mainland of America, except Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Niagara, and extended the territory and dominion of New England southward to latitude 14°, this taking in New York and the Jerseys.

The governor at once went south to take possession. Meanwhile the Rev. Increase Mather, minister of the Second Church at Boston, and president of Harvard College, having gotten away from America in disguise, was in England presenting colonial complaints against Andros to the King, and had been well received by James, who was then courting Dissenters, although no decided measures of relief were promised him.

Meanwhile Gov. Andros led an abortive military expedition into Maine, 1688, to chastise recalcitrant Indians, and by its ill-success increased his unpopularity.

When the news of the Prince of Orange’s arrival in England to overthrow King James reached Boston (April, 1689), Andros saw such threatening signs in the local political atmosphere that he at once withdrew within the walls of Fort Hill.

And well he might, for the colonists were now in earnest. On Apr. 18th , the townspeople assembled, deposed him from his governorship, and imprisoned him with fifty of his followers.

On June 27th, Andros with several others was impeached before a colonial counsel by the newly formed house of deputies, and was denied admission to bail.

In November following, the new ministry in England sent an order to Boston for the forwarding of Andros to Great Britain.

There the colonists made their charges against him, but he was not tried, the American agents singularly enough declining to sign the statement of grievances which was prepared for them by their legal counsel.

Andros and his fellow culprits were therefore set free.

In 1692 he was again in America, this time as royal governor of Virginia, where for six years he had a remarkably prosperous administration, encouraging manufactures and cotton culture, and with others laying the foundation Of William and Mary College, which, next to Harvard University, is the oldest seat of learning in the United States.

Commissary James Blain (1656-1743), its first president and the highest ecclesiastical officer in Virginia, became involved in controversy with Andros, whom he called an enemy to religion, the church and the college.

Charges were preferred against him, and he was finally removed, but was made governor of the island of Guernsey in 1704. This position he occupied for two years, and then took up his residence in London, England, where he died, Feb. 24, 1714.


The American Silver Eagle Coin shows with an artist’s portrayal of Sir Edmund Andros.

American Silver Eagle Coin