Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goffe, William

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GOFFE or GOUGH, WILLIAM (d. 1679?), regicide, was the son of Stephen Goffe, rector of Stanmer in Sussex. He was apprenticed to a London salter named Vaughan, and in 1642 was imprisoned by the royalist lord mayor for promoting a petition in support of the parliament's claim to the militia (Old Parliamentary History, xi. 330; Harleian Miscellany, ed. Park, iii. 483; Wood, Athenæ, ed. Bliss, vol. iii.) In 1645 Goffe's name appears in the list of the new model as a captain in Colonel Harley's regiment (Peacock, Army Lists, p. 103). It is also attached to the vindication of the officers of the army (27 April 1647), and he was one of the deputation which presented the charge against the eleven members (6 July 1647) (Rushworth, vi. 471, 607). Goffe was a prominent figure in the prayer meeting of the officers at Windsor in 1648, when it was decided to bring the king to a trial (Allen, A Faithful Memorial of that Remarkable Meeting at Windsor, Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, vi. 501). He was named in the following December one of the king's judges, sat frequently during the trial, and signed the death-warrant (Nalson, Trial of Charles I, p. 93). Goffe commanded Cromwell's own regiment at the battle of Dunbar, ‘and at the push of pike did repel the stoutest regiment the enemy had there’ (Carlyle, Cromwell, Letter cxl.). He also commanded a regiment at Worcester (Cromwelliana, p. 114). After the expulsion of the Long parliament he continued to be a staunch supporter of Cromwell, and in December 1653 aided Colonel White to turn out the recalcitrant remnant of the Barebones parliament (Thurloe, i. 637). In July 1654 he represented Yarmouth, in the following March was active in attempting to suppress Penruddock's rising, and was in December 1655 appointed major-general for Berkshire, Sussex, and Hampshire (ib. iii. 237, 701, iv. 117; Official Return of Members of Parliament, i. 501). A large amount of his correspondence as major-general is printed in the fourth and fifth volumes of the Thurloe Papers, and proves that while active on behalf of the government, he was less arbitrary than many of his colleagues. In the parliament of 1656 he sat for Hampshire, supported the proposal to offer the crown to Cromwell, and was appointed one of the Protector's House of Lords (Thurloe, vi. 341–668). Sir Gilbert Pickering describes a speech made by Goffe on the thanksgiving for Blake's victory at Santa Cruz as ‘a long preachment seriously inviting the house to a firm and a kind of corporal union with his Highness. Something was expressed as to hanging about his neck like pearls from a text out of Canticles’ (Burton, Diary, i. 362). The ‘Second Narrative of the late Parliament,’ 1658, describes Goffe as being ‘in so great esteem and favour at court that he is judged the only fit man to have Major-general Lambert's place and command, as major-general of the army; and having so far advanced, is in a fair way to the Protectorship hereafter if he be not served as Lambert was’ (Harleian Miscellany, ed. Park, iii. 483). He is officially described in April 1658 as major-general of the foot, but does not seem ever to have become a member of the Protector's privy council (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1657–8, p. 373). Nevertheless he was one of the members of the important committee of nine persons appointed in June 1658 to consider what should be done in the next parliament (Thurloe, vii. 192). As being a member of that body Goffe was one of the persons summoned by Cromwell during his last illness to receive his declaration appointing his son Richard as his successor, attested Cromwell's appointment on oath before the council, and subscribed the proclamation declaring Richard Cromwell protector (Baker, Chronicle, ed. Phillips, pp. 653–4). On 15 Nov. 1658 the new Protector granted Goffe Irish lands to the value of 500l. a year, in fulfilment of his father's intentions (Thurloe, vii. 504). Ludlow describes Goffe as a creature of Richard Cromwell, and he is said to have urged the Protector to resort to arms to maintain himself (LUDLOW, Memoirs, ed. 1751, p. 241; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, p. 335). The fall of the Cromwell dynasty greatly diminished Goffe's importance. In November 1659 Goffe and three other persons were sent by the council of the army to Scotland to give an account to Monck of the reasons for the late interruption of parliament, and mediate with him for the prevention of a new civil war (Mercurius Politicus, 27 Oct.–3 Nov. 1659; Baker, Chronicle, p. 693). Before the Restoration actually took place (16 April 1660) a warrant was issued for Goffe's arrest, probably on suspicion that he was concerned in Lambert's intended rising. He succeeded, however, in escaping, and was excepted from the Act of Indemnity, and a proclamation issued on 22 Sept. 1660 offered a reward of 100l. for his arrest (Kennett, Register, p. 264). In company with his father-in-law, Lieutenant-general Whalley, Goffe landed at Boston, Mass., in July 1660 under the name of Stephenson, but making no other attempt to conceal his identity. It was deposed by a certain John Crowne that the governor, John Endicott, embraced them and bade them welcome to New England, and wished more such good men would come over. They stayed for a time at Cambridge, ‘where they were held in exceedingly great esteem for their piety and parts,’ and ‘held meetings where they preached and prayed, and were looked upon as men dropped down from heaven’ (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1661–8, p. 54). In February following Goffe and Whalley moved to Newhaven, which they reached 7 March 1661. Meanwhile orders had arrived from England for their apprehension, and Endicott issued warrants for their arrest, and simulated great zeal (ib. pp. 15, 27). Nevertheless Kirke and Kellond, the persons who undertook the task of catching them, found, in spite of large promises, much disinclination to assist them (ib. p. 33; Hutchinson Papers, ii. 52, 63, Prince Soc. 1865). John Davenport, the minister of Newhaven, who had sheltered them in his own house, wrote protesting that they only stayed two days in the colony, and went away before they could be apprehended, ‘no man knowing when or whither’ (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1661–8, p. 53). They hid themselves for a time in a cave in the woods near Newhaven, at a place which they called Providence Hill, and for about three years lived in strict concealment till the heat of the pursuit had abated. In October 1664 they removed to Hadley in Massachusetts, and took up their abode in the house of the Rev. John Russell. In 1675 Hadley was attacked by Indians, and tradition describes Goffe as suddenly appearing from his hiding-place rallying the panic-stricken settlers, and by his leadership saving them from destruction. The tradition was first printed by Hutchinson in his ‘History of Massachusetts,’ 1764, and was, according to him, ‘handed down in Governor Leveret's family’ (History of Massachusetts, ed. 1795, i. 201). Scott makes Major Bridgnorth tell the story in ‘Peveril of the Peak,’ and Fenimore Cooper makes use of it in ‘The Borderers.’ Goffe seems to have died in 1679; his last letter is dated 2 April in that year. He was buried with Whalley, who had predeceased him, at Hadley, and no stone was erected to mark their grave. According to Savage his remains were discovered ‘in our own day’ near the foundations of Mr. Russell's house (Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of New England, ii. 268). Stiles mistakes the grave of Deputy-governor Matthew Gilbert at Newhaven for that of Goffe (ib.)

Goffe left behind him in England his wife, Frances, daughter of Major-general Whalley, and his three daughters—Anne, Elizabeth, and Frances. His correspondence with his wife, conducted generally under the pseudonyms of Frances and Walter Goldsmith, shows him to have been a man of deep and enthusiastic religious feeling, and explains his political action. Letters are printed in Hutchinson's ‘History of Massachusetts,’ ed. 1795, i. 532; ‘Hutchinson Papers,’ ed. Prince Society, 1865, ii. 161, 184; ‘Massachusetts Historical Society Collections,’ 3rd ser. i. 60; 4th ser. viii. 122–225.

[Noble's House of Cromwell, i. 424; Noble's Lives of the Regicides, i. 255; Stiles's Hist. of Three of the Judges of King Charles I, 1794; Polyanthea, 1804, vol. ii.; Palfrey's Hist. of New England, ii. 495–508, ed. 1861; and the authorities above cited.]

C. H. F.