Berkeley, William (d.1677) (DNB00)
|←Berkeley, William (1639-1666)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 04
Berkeley, William (d.1677)
BERKELEY, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1677), governor of Virginia, youngest son of Sir Maurice Berkeley, and brother of John, first Lord Berkeley of Stratton [q. v.], was born in or near London. In 1625 he was elected probationer fellow of Merton College, Oxford; in 1629 was admitted master of arts, and in the following year started on his travels. He was one of the commissioners of Canada in 1632 (Cal. State Papers, Colon. Ser. 1574-1660, p. 9). Returning to England with a high reputation for knowledge and experience, he became gentleman of the privy chamber to Charles I (Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 691). In 1638 he published 'The Lost Lady, a tragi-comedy,' fol., which is included in the first and fourth editions of Dodsley's ' Old Plays,' but omitted in the editions of 1780 and 1825. Wood states that he was sent to Virginia in 1640; but this is a mistake, for the commission appointing him to the governorship of the colony (Cal. State Papers, Colon. Ser. 1574-1660, p. 321) is dated 9 Aug. 1641. When the parliamentarians were successful, Berkeley offered an asylum in Virginia to gentlemen of the royalist side; whereupon the parliament despatched a small fleet to the colony, and the governor, unable to offer resistance, was forced to resign his authority, but received permission to remain on his own plantation as a private person. At the Restoration Berkeley was reappointed governor. Among the State Papers is a letter of King Charles II for his recall, dated 13 May 1665; but he continued to administer the affairs of the colony for the next eleven years. His secretary, Thomas LudweU, in a letter dated 24 June 1667, writes to John, Lord Berkeley of Stratton, that the governor had resolved against all entreaties to solicit his return. A few days earlier Berkeley had written a desponding letter to Secretary Lord Arlington, in which he says that 'age and misfortune had withered his desires and his hopes.' Writing from Virginia on 18 July of the previous year, Ludwell describes the governor as 'pious and exemplary, sober in his conversation, prudent andjust in peace, diligent and valiant in war.' For his careful administration and for the zeal that he displayed in checking the Indians (whom he treated with the utmost severity), he received the honour of knighthood. Religious tolerance was not one of his virtues, ana the State Papers show that he put much pressure on the quakers. As a lawgiver he was esteemed wise and just. To him, in 1662, Moryson dedicated the 'Laws of Virginia now in force,' stating in the dedicatory address that Berkeley was the author of all the best laws. In 1676 he resigned the governorship and returned to England, and on 13 July 1677 he was buried at Twickenham. An unpublished play, 'Cornelia,' 1662, by 'Sir William Hartley,' is ascribed in 'Biographia Dramatica' — and no doubt correctly — to Berkeley.
[Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iii. 1111-12; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, bk. xiii. p. 173; Biographia Dramatica. ed. Stephen Jones; Indices of the Cal. State Papers, Colon. Ser., American and West Indies, 1574-1660, 1661-8; Hist. Commiss. Report, iv. 47, 100, 237, vii. 467, 493; A Perfect Description of Virginia, 1649.]