Bellingham, Richard (DNB00)

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BELLINGHAM, RICHARD (1592?–1672), governor of Massachusetts, was educated for the law, and from 1625 to 8 Nov. 1633 was recorder of Boston, Lincolnshire (Thompson, History and Antiquities of Boston p. 428). Nothing is recorded of his parentage, but he may possibly have been related to Francis Bellingham, who was member of parliament for Boston in 1603. In 1634 he emigrated, along with his wife, to Massachusetts, and in the following year he was elected deputy governor of the colony. By a majority of six votes over John Winthrop he was, in 1641, elected governor. He was several times re-elected, and from 1666 held office uninterruptedly till his death. In 1664 he was chosen assistant major-general. After the visit of the royal commissioners to the colony in the same year he and several others were summoned to England to be examined as to their management of affairs; but, standing on their charter rights, they refused compliance. Happily the present 'a shipload of masts' secured them the goodwill of the king, and no further steps were taken against them by the government in England.

Bellingham died 7 Dec. 1672, having attained the distinction of being the last survivor of the patentees in the charter. Notwithstanding certain eccentricities of character, his knowledge of law and the practical business of government, his strong will, and the incorruptible integrity of his public life, won him the high respect even of his opponents. In 1641 he contracted a second marriage by a method probably without a parallel. He proposed to a young lady who was engaged, with his approval, to a friend of his own, and, obtaining her consent, performed the marriage ceremony himself without any proclamation of banns. The great inquest presented him for breach of the order of court; but when he refused to vacate the bench and answer as an offender, the other magistrates were too nonplussed by the exceptional circumstances to venture on decisive steps, and he thus escaped without any censure. Bellingham was ardently attached to the principles of the 'first church,' and left the bulk of his estates —part of them after the decease of his wife, and part after the decease of his son — for the support and encouragement of 'godly ministers and preachers;' but the will was set aside by the general court as trenching on the rights of his family. Several of his letters and his signatures, and also his seals, will be found in the 'Winthrop Papers' (published by the Massachusetts Historical Society), 4th series, pp. 596-600. A sister of Bellingham, Anne Hibbins, widow of William Hibbins, was burned as a witch in June 1656.

[Savage's Geneal. Dict. of the First Settlers of New England, i. 161; Winthrop's History of New England, ii. 37-76; Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts; Allen's American Biog. Dict. 82; Thompson's History and Antiquities of Boston, 428-9.]

T. F. H.