Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Goffe, William

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GOFFE, William, regicide, b. in England about 1605; d. in Hartford, Conn., in 1679, or, as is held by some historians, at New Haven in 1680. The weight of testimony is in favor of Hartford. He was the fourth son of Stephen Goffe, rector of Stanmore, Sussex. The elder Goffe was “a very severe Puritan,” and his son inherited his hatred of papist and churchman. Prior to his joining the army in 1647 he was engaged in some commercial pursuit. He rose rapidly in the parliamentary army, becoming a major-general in 1655, with command in Sussex, Hampshire, and Berkshire. He commanded the soldiers at the clearing out of Barebones's parliament, and assisted in the violent proceeding known as Pride's purge, in which obnoxious Presbyterians were summarily excluded from parliament. He was returned a member of parliament from Yarmouth in 1654, and from Southampton in 1656, and Cromwell appointed him to a seat in his house of lords or “other house.” He varied his military duties by exhorting in religious gatherings. He was made master of arts at Oxford in 1649, in company with ten other parliamentary officers. He was held in great esteem by Cromwell and by the court in general — so much so that he was spoken of with favor as the successor to the protectorship. On the news of Charles's return, Goffe, with Whalley, his father-in-law, made preparations to go to America. They arrived in Boston, 27 July, 1660, and took up their residence in Cambridge. When the news arrived in Boston, on the last day of November, that the act of indemnity passed by parliament in August excepted them from its provisions, the government of the colony began to be uneasy, and a meeting of the council was held, 22 Feb., 1661, to consult as to their security. Four days later Goffe and Whalley departed for New Haven, reaching there 7 March, 1661. Here, or in the neighborhood, they remained till 1664, when they removed to Hadley. During their stay in New Haven they at times appeared in public, but often were compelled to conceal themselves when pursued by crown officers. At one time they lived in a cave in West Rock (Providence Hill). In 1675, according to tradition, Goffe appears as a savior of the town from the Indians. The truth of the story has been cast in doubt. Prof. Franklin B. Dexter, in a paper on the regicides, in the New England colonial historical society papers, finds evidence in its favor, while a late writer in the New England historical genealogical register re-examines the testimony and decides against it. The story has been woven into fiction by Walter Scott in “Peveril of the Peak,” and by Fenimore Cooper in “Wept of Wish-ton-Wish.” Whalley died, it is thought, at Hadley, between August, 1674, and August, l676. Goffe went to Hartford in 1679, and probably died soon afterward. It is held by some that he died at New Haven, and three rough stones, found in a cemetery there, are thought to mark the graves of Whalley, Goffe, and Dixwell. Goffe, from the time of his departure from Westminster, kept a diary, which was in Gov. Hutchinson's possession, and was destroyed by fire in the attack on his house in 1765. A contemporaneous transcript, covering only from 4 May to 6 Sept., 1660, found among the Winthrop papers, was printed in the Massachusetts historical society proceedings in December, 1863. Goffe's letters from 1662 till 1679, with other papers, are printed in the collection of the Massachusetts historical society (4th series, vol. iv.) from the originals in the Mather papers belonging to the Prince library, deposited in the Boston public library.