Sir Edmund Andros (1637-1714), an English colonial governor in America, was an able though arbitrary administrator. Because his regime conflicted with the interests of colonial Puritan leaders, he became a symbol of oppression.
Edmund Andros was born in London on Dec. 6, 1637. He was descended from the feudal aristocracy of Guernsey, and his father was master of ceremonies in Charles l's court. The family was royalist during England's civil war, and Andros served in the army following the Restoration. In 1666 he went as a major with an infantry regiment to protect the British West Indies against the Dutch. Six years later he became a landgrave in Carolina colony but showed little interest in the venture, possibly because, on his father's death in 1674, he became both bailiff of Guernsey and governor of the Duke of York's American possessions.
Though plagued by controversy with proprietors in New Jersey, Dutch settlers resenting British regulations, and boundary problems with Connecticut, Andros governed New York with reasonable success, particularly in defending its Indian frontier and in gaining Iroquois friendship. Yet friction with the colonists increased, and, though an investigation later cleared Andros of charges of financial irregularities and favoritism in trading licenses, he was recalled to England. His knighting in 1681 and other honors show that he was still esteemed by the royal family. After the Duke of York became James II, Andros was named head of the Dominion of New England on June 3, 1686.
The attempt to merge England's separate northern colonies into a single dominion was extremely unpopular in America, and Andros's reputation has suffered accordingly. New England colonists never appreciated the need for consolidating defenses against the French and Indians, and they especially begrudged replacing their own representative assemblies with a single, appointive, advisory council. (Their resistance to this council's reimposition of existing taxes was quickly suppressed.) At first the merchants and large landholders supported Andros, but his vigorous enforcement of the Navigation Acts, his efforts to eliminate piracy, refusal to promote land speculation, and insistence on confirmation of land titles alienated them. Puritan clergymen, outraged when he permitted Episcopal services in Boston, plotted a rebellion. When the news came that William of Orange had landed in England, the Bostonians arose and captured Andros and several Dominion officials. After lengthy delays the prisoners were sent to England, where the charges against them were never pressed.
William and Mary needed competent subordinates and so named Andros governor of Virginia in 1692; thus he eventually served as executive for every royal province on the American mainland. To Virginia he brought the charter establishing William and Mary College. Though Commissary James Blair believed him unconcerned about the college and established church, Andros was an industrious and respected administrator; Edward Randolph called his the only good government in America. Resigning over differences with Blair, Andros returned to England in 1698, served for a time as governor of Jersey island, and died in London on Feb. 27, 1714. Although he was impatient, skeptical of democracy, and unable to understand Puritans, he had been a conscientious and generally capable official.
Further Reading on Sir Edmund Andros
Nearly every history of the colonial period deals with Andros and the Dominion, but Viola F. Barnes, The Dominion of New England (1923), is most satisfactory. The Andros Tracts, edited by W. H. Whitmore (3 vols., 1868-1874), and Charles M. Andrews, Narratives of the Insurrections, 1675-1690 (1915), provide additional insight. See also Gerard B. Warden, Boston, 1689-1776 (1970).