Danforth, Thomas (DNB00)

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DANFORTH, THOMAS (1622–1699), magistrate in New England, son of Nicholas Danforth of Framlingham, Suffolk, was born in England in 1622. He was taken by his father to America in 1634, and became an inhabitant of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was admitted a freeman of that town in 1643, and elected representative in 1657 and 1658. For twenty years (1659–79) he held the office of ‘assistant,’ and he was deputy-governor of Massachusetts from 1679 to 1686. On 11 May 1681 he was appointed by the general court of Massachusetts president of Maine, and he continued in that office till the arrival of Andros in 1686. He was also a judge of the superior court of Massachusetts. To the old provincial charter his attachment was zealous and invincible. With Gookin, Cooke, and others he opposed the sending of agents to England, and he was ready to incur every peril rather than submit to the acts of trade, which, as the colony was not represented in the British parliament, he regarded as infringements on the liberty of the province. He became the acknowledged leader of the popular party in opposing the tyranny of Andros. Soon after the imprisonment of that governor he prevented, by his prudence and influence, many excesses to which in the violence of the times the people were tending. His zeal in favour of the old charter precluded him from public employment under the charter of William and Mary. The correctness of his judgment was evinced by a firm and open opposition to the proceedings of the courts of justice during the witchcraft delusion. His chief residence was at Cambridge, where he died on 5 Nov. 1699. He married Mary, daughter of Henry Withington, and had twelve children.

Danforth was the first treasurer of Harvard College (1650–8), and he subsequently assisted in the arrangement and care of its finances. His services to the institution were numerous and disinterested, and although he was not wealthy, he bequeathed to the college three valuable leases of land in the town of Framlingham. A condition was annexed to this bequest that these estates should revert to his heirs ‘if any prelatical injunctions should be imposed on the society.’

[Eliot's Biog. Dict. 145; Farmer's Genealogical Register, 78; Hutchinson's Hist. of Massachusetts Bay (1764), i. 189, 323, 329, 331, 380, 404; Collections of Massachusetts Hist. Soc. 1st series, i. 229, v. 75; Quincy's Hist. of Harvard Univ. i. 450, 457, 589, ii. 136, 137, 230–2; Sullivan's Hist. of Maine, 385, 386.]

T. C.