Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winslow, Edward
WINSLOW, EDWARD (1595–1655), governor of Plymouth colony, born at Droitwich, near Worcester, on 18 Oct. 1595, grandson of Kenelm Winslow (d. 1607) of Kempsey, was the son of Edward Winslow (1560–1630?), who married as his second wife, at St. Bride's, London, on 4 Nov. 1594, Magdalene Ollyver. In 1617 young Edward Winslow ‘left his salt-boiling’ and went to Leyden, attracted possibly by the fame of the university there. He soon joined the English church (Brown, Pilgrim Fathers, 1895, p. 131), and at Leyden on 16 May 1618 he was married by John Robinson (1576?–1625) [q. v.], the pastor of the English congregation, to Elizabeth Barker of Chetsum. In July 1620, with his wife and three servants, he sailed from Delft Haven in the Speedwell to Southampton, and thence in the Mayflower, having decided to cast in his lot with the pilgrims to the new world. Hutchinson states that he was a gentleman of the best family of any of the Plymouth planters (Hist. of Massachusetts, i. 172), and this statement is borne out by the prefix of ‘Mr.’ to his name in the ‘Covenant’ drawn up by the settlers in November 1620 before their disembarkation at Cape Cod. His wife died on 24 March 1620–1, and on 12 May following he married Susannah (whose maiden name was Fuller), widow of William White, and mother of Peregrine White (d. 1704), the first English child born in New England. In the summer of 1621 and the spring of the following year Winslow was one of the two colonists selected to visit the sachem, Massasoit, at Pokanoket, on a diplomatic errand. On a second visit to this sachem at Sowams, though his knowledge of therapeutics was of the slenderest, he managed to cure Massasoit of a distemper (March 1623), and so to gain his goodwill towards the colonists. On 10 Sept. 1623 Winslow sailed for England in the Ann as agent for the colony, and while in London published a narrative of the settlement and a history of its transactions from December 1621, under the title ‘Good News from New England; or a True Relation of Things very remarkable at the Plantation of Plimoth in New England’ (1624, pp. 66, sm. 4to). In it he significantly warns idlers, beggars, and persons with ‘a dainty tooth’ from attempting to join the colony. In March 1624 he returned in the Charity from England, taking with other necessaries three heifers and a bull, the first neat cattle exported from the old country to the new. In the summer of 1624 he revisited England to represent the transactions and the needs of the colony to the adventurers. During his absence, at the annual election of 1624 Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) [q. v.] having prevailed on the people of Plymouth to increase the number of assistants to five, Winslow was first elected to this office, in which he was continued by successive appointments until 1647, with the exception of 1633, 1636, and 1644, when he was chosen governor. In 1635 he undertook another agency to England for the two colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts, partly to obtain moral support for the New England plantations against the threatened intrusion of the French on the east and the Dutch on the west, and partly to answer complaints which had been preferred against the colony of Massachusetts and against Winslow in particular by Thomas Morton, a disaffected colonist who had returned to England and obtained the ear of Laud (see Bradford, Hist. ap. iv. Massachusetts Hist. Coll. iii.; cf. Doyle, English in America, i. 161). The special charges brought against Winslow were that he, not being in holy orders but a mere layman, had taught publicly in church and had celebrated marriages. He admitted his occupation of the pulpit ‘for the edification of the brethren,’ but pleaded that he had solemnised marriages only as a civil contract in his capacity as a magistrate, and in the absence of a licensed minister. For these offences he was in July committed by Laud's order to the Fleet prison. Thence in November he addressed a petition to the privy council (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, 1574–1660, p. 157), which procured his release and his consequent return to New Plymouth.
Winslow was chosen governor again for 1636 and also for 1644, and two years later the colony of Massachusetts prevailed upon him to return to England in their behalf to answer some not ill-founded complaints of cruelty, raised by Samuel Gorton and others, and to defend them against the charges of religious intolerance and persecuting tendency by which they were assailed (Life and Letters of John Winthrop, 1867, ii. 347). His Plymouth associates, including Bradford, appear to have disapproved of his mission (Bradford, Hist. 1650, ad fin.; Goodwin, Pilgrim Republic, 1888, chap. lv.). He sailed from Boston in October 1646, and was not destined again to revisit the settlement which he had made in Marshfield, and to which he had given the name of Careswell, after the ancestral seat of the Vanes. Upon arriving in London he lost no time in issuing a harsh answer to the party of toleration in ‘Hypocrisie Unmasked: by a True Relation of the Proceedings of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts against Samuel Gorton, a notorious Disturber of the Peace.’ Appended to this was a chapter entitled ‘A Brief Narration of the True Grounds or Cause of the First Plantation of New England,’ which supplied the first connected account in print of the preparations in Leyden for removal to America, and incidentally preserved the substance of John Robinson's farewell address to the departing portion of his flock. The whole tract was reissued without change in 1649 as ‘The Danger of tolerating Levellers in a Civill State’ (the supplementary chapter was reprinted in Young's ‘Chronicles of the Pilgrims,’ 1841). John Child and William Vassall [see under Vassall, John], whose ideas of toleration were considerably in advance of his time, assailed Winslow's championship of New England religious policy in ‘New England's Jonas cast up at London’ (1647), and Winslow, who held the pen of an able controversialist, retorted in his pungent ‘New England's Salamander’ (1647, pp. 29, 8vo).
In the meantime Winslow had attended several meetings of the commissioners for the affairs of New England. In answer to the charge that the Massachusetts rulers were intolerant or arbitrary, he had been specially instructed to say that they had four or five hundred express laws as near the laws of England as may be, and when they had no law they judged by the word of God; while in reference to the offending scheme for a general government for New England, he was to assert for that colony the autonomous rights given them by their charter (cf. Winthrop, Journal, ed. Savage, ii. 306). The Earl of Warwick and Sir Henry Vane, both friends of New England, were now on the committee, and Winslow appears to have made a very favourable impression both for his clients and for himself; this was confirmed by the active assistance he gave to the puritan movement for propagating the gospel in New England. A charter of incorporation for a society with this object bears date 27 July 1649, and Winslow dedicated to the parliament in this same year a little tract called ‘The Glorious Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians of New England.’ His friend ‘President Steele’ (of the new Gospel Society) wrote to the New England commissioners that Winslow was unwilling to be longer kept from his family, but that his great acquaintance and influence with members of parliament required his longer stay. During his four years' service Massachusetts had paid him only 300l.; in view of his labours for the Indians he now received an additional 100l. But the ‘courtly pilgrim’ found more remunerative employment in England. He was appointed a member of the committee for compounding, and when, in April 1650, the committees were reorganised, he was put upon the joint board of ‘The Committee for Sequestration and Advancement of Money and for compounding with Delinquents’ at a salary of 300l. a year (Cal. Proc. Comm. Advance of Money, 1888, Pref. p. xi). In September 1651 the council ordered a hundred narratives of the battle of Worcester to be delivered to him for transmission to New England (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, 1574–1660, p. 362). During March and April 1652 he was endeavouring, but apparently without complete success, to obtain an exclusive grant for New Plymouth of the whole of the river Kennebec (ib. pp. 376, 378, 379). In July upon his petition a supply of ammunition was sent to New England, and a thousand swords by way of arming the colonists against the Dutch (ib. p. 386). In 1653 he issued his last tract, ‘A Platform of Church Discipline in New England’ (London, 4to). In June 1654 he was one of the commissioners appointed to determine the value of the English ships seized and destroyed by the king of Denmark, for which restitution was to be made, according to the treaty of peace made with the Protector on 5 April. When Cromwell despatched the naval expedition against the Spanish in the West Indies under Penn and Venables, he appointed Winslow as chief of the three civil commissioners, Daniel Searle and Gregory Butler being the other two, who were to accompany and advise with the commanders. He was allowed a fixed salary of 1,000l. per annum, 500l. being paid him in advance (ib. p. 419). During the passage of the fleet from Hispaniola, whence it was repulsed, to Jamaica, which it captured, Winslow died of a fever, aggravated by the intense heat, on 8 May 1655 (O.S.). He was buried at sea with a salute of forty-two guns. The following pious doggerel was inscribed to his memory, and perpetuated in Morton's ‘Memorial’ (1669):
The eighth of May, west from Spaniola's shore,
God took from us our grand commissioner,
Winslow by name; a man in chiefest trust
Whose life was sweet and conversation just.
By his second wife, Susannah, he had, with other issue, an only son, Josiah Winslow (1629–1680), who became a distinguished man in the colony; was a magistrate, governor, and in 1675 commander of the New England forces in the Indian war (see Cal. State Papers, Colonial, Addenda). Edward Winslow's widow survived until 1680, when she was buried in the Winslow burying-ground at Marshfield.
The first colony owed much to Winslow, whose popularity as an administrator was strikingly attested by an appeal from several Barbadeans that he should be appointed their governor in place of Lord Willoughby. His birth and breeding gave him an advantage over most of his fellow emigrants, and Winthrop and the New England council did wisely in deputing him upon a mission to the English parliament, among the members of which he moved as one of themselves. Cromwell recognised his value and his integrity and kept him constantly employed in responsible posts.
Winslow's dark features and dignified figure are well portrayed in an oil painting executed in England in 1651, when he was fifty-six years old. The original, which is the only authentic likeness of any of the ‘Mayflower pilgrims,’ is now the property of a descendant, Isaac Winslow (cf. Mass. Coll. vii. 286, and Proc. x. 36). Engravings, not distinguished by uniformity as regards likeness, have been executed for Young's ‘Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers,’ Moore's ‘American Governors,’ Bartlett's ‘Pilgrim Fathers,’ Morton's ‘Memorial’ (Boston, 1855), Winsor's ‘History of America’ (iii. 277), and Appleton's ‘Cyclopædia.’ Winslow's chair is engraved for Young's ‘Chronicles’ (p. 238); this and other relics are preserved in Pilgrim Hall at (New) Plymouth. Winslow's estate of Marshfield subsequently passed into the possession of Daniel Webster.
In addition to the works mentioned, Winslow was joint author with Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) [q. v.] of the ‘Diary of Occurrences’ or chronicle of the Cape Cod colony (November 1620 to December 1621), which was printed in London as ‘Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantations settled at Plymouth in New England,’ with a preface signed by G. Mourt. Mourt's ‘Relation,’ as it is often described, was abridged by Purchas in his ‘Pilgrimes,’ and reproduced in the abbreviated form in ‘I Massachusetts Historical Collections,’ viii. 203–9; the parts of the original omitted in the abridgement were published in ‘II Massachusetts Historical Collections,’ ix. 26–74; the whole was printed in Young's ‘Chronicles,’ and separately, with notes by W. T. Harris, New York, 1852. Winslow's ‘Good Newes’ (mentioned above) was in continuation of Mourt's ‘Relation.’ Copies of all Winslow's tracts are in the British Museum Library.[Full biographies of Winslow are given in Belknap's American Biographies (1794–8), in J. B. Moore's Memoirs of American Governors (New York, 1846, i. 93–138), and in D. P. Holton's Winslow Memorial (New York, 1877, vol. i. Introd.). Numerous details as to the family are to be found in the New England Hist. and Geneal. Register, 1850, 1863, 1867, 1870, 1872, 1877, and 1878, and in Savage's Genealog. Dict. of First Settlers in New England.]