The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Vane, Henry

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Vane, Henry
Edition of 1920. See also Henry Vane the Younger on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

VANE, Sir Henry, English statesman, fourth governor of Massachusetts: b. Hadlow, Kent, 1612; d. Tower Hill, London, 26 May 1662. He studied at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and also for a time at Geneva or Leyden; was a member of the retinue of the English Ambassador to Vienna in 1631, and after his return was so decided in his opposition to the doctrine and ceremony of the Established Church that he sailed for New England to obtain freedom of conscience. With royal license permitting a three-years' residence, he arrived at Boston 6 Oct. 1635. He was at the time a joint commissioner representing Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke and the other patentees of Connecticut. On 1 November he was admitted a member of the church of Boston, on 3 March 1636 received the freedom of the colony (that is, was made citizen). He had already taken some part in its political affairs, having effected a conference for the adjustment of differences at which articles were drawn up for the guidance of magistrates. He was elected governor 25 March 1636. The “fifteen great ships” then in harbor, according to Winthrop (‘History of New England,’ ed. Savage, 1825), “congratulated his election with a volley of great shot.” One of his first acts after induction into office was to make an agreement with the captains of these vessels as to the government of shipping. A difficulty arose through the request of the officers of British vessels that the king's colors might be flown from the fort. All the magistrates, with one exception, were opposed, since the flag contained the cross which Endicott had but recently cut away. Reply was made that there was no king's flag in the colony, but the captains supplied one and it was hoisted on the authority of the governor and his supporter in the council. At the outbreak of the Pequot War Vane joined Roger Williams in influencing many Indian tribes to refrain from hostilities. On 21 October he concluded a satisfactory treaty with Miantonomo, sachem of the Narragansetts. But in his interposition in ecclesiastical matters he was far less successful. The Antinomian controversy was reaching a critical stage and the colony was divided into two hostile camps, one holding to “sanctification” as evidence of “justification” and the “covenant of works,” the other to the “covenant of grace.” The latter were in a minority and far less influential, and Vane, as a champion of free inquiry, took their side. The colonists, unfortunately, did not, as Upham points out, favor such inquiry “whenever it threatened to lead to results different from their own.” As a consequence, at the election in March 1637 Vane and all his supporters were left out of office. Boston chose him to the General Court, and when the election had been declared void by the majority of the house, returned him the very next day. Winthrop was elected governor, and at once, as a means toward defeating heresy, a law was passed by the General Court that no strangers were to be received within the jurisdiction of the colony save those permitted by one of the council or two of the assistant magistrates. Discontent with this law so increased that Winthrop published a ‘Defense.’ To this Vane replied in ‘A Brief Answer to a Certain Declaration,’ a plea for toleration. On 3 Aug. 1637 he sailed for England. On his return, he labored to secure a charter for Rhode Island, and this was obtained chiefly by his influence. His services in this behalf were duly recognized by Williams. From 1639 to 1641 he was treasurer of the British navy, in 1640 entered Parliament for Hull, in the same year was knighted and in 1641 advocated the abolition of episcopacy and was dismissed by Charles I from the treasurership. He was head of the Parliamentary war party, was practically leader of the Commons in 1643-46, was a commissioner to treat with Charles I at Newport in 1648, but took no part in the king's trial. Under the Commonwealth he was a leader in all affairs of state. In 1651 he was sent to adjust Scottish affairs. When Cromwell forcibly dissolved the Long Parliament in 1653, Vane, who desired to continue it, was brought into open collision with him. Vane, therefore withdrew to Belleau in Lincolnshire, where he busied himself with literary composition. One of Milton's sonnets (17th) recognizes his activity in the Commonwealth cause. In 1656 he was imprisoned for a pamphlet against Cromwell's arbitrary procedure, in 1659 re-entered Parliament and having secured the abolition of the protectorate, was commissioner of the navy in the restored Long Parliament, from which he was finally expelled January 1660, generally distrusted by all parties. He was excluded from indemnity on the Restoration, held prisoner in the Tower and the Scilly Islands, and finally, after an able defense, sentenced to death for treason. His mystical religious views made him a puzzling character to his English contemporaries, most of whom apparently came to think him a fanatic. He was reported at one time to be the head of an Anabaptist revolt; at another, king of the Fifth Monarchy. His abilities were never questioned, but his high principles were once not seen so clearly as they now are. He appears briefly in Hawthorne's ‘Legends of the Province House’ (‘Howe's Masquerade’). Consult biographies by Sikes (1662), Upham (Sparks' ‘American Biography,’ 1st ser., Vol. IV, 1835), and Hosmer (1888); also Winthrop, ‘History of New England’ (ed. Savage, 1825 or ed. 1853), and Hutchinson, ‘History of Massachusetts’ (ed. 1765).