Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phillips, George (1593-1644)

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PHILLIPS, GEORGE (1593–1644), nonconformist divine and colonist, was born in Rainham, Norfolk, of ‘honest parents,’ in 1593, and went to Caius College, Cambridge, in 1613. After graduating B.A. in 1617, he became a curate at Boxted in Essex. On 27 April 1630 he sailed for Massachusetts on the Arabella under Winthrop's auspices. He landed in June. On the voyage out he subscribed his name with others to a letter of ‘those who esteem it an honour to call the Church of England, from whence we rise, our dear mother.’ But he personally inclined to the congregational form of church government. ‘There is come over,’ says a correspondent of Governor Bradford, ‘one Mr. Phillips (a Suffolk [sic] man) who hath told me in private that if they will have him stand minister by that calling which he received from the prelates in England, he will leave them.’ To this attitude he did not adhere.

In company with Sir Richard Saltonstall and others, Phillips, on disembarking, formed a settlement on the Charles River, which they named Watertown. There, on 30 July 1630, they ‘observed a day of solemn fasting and prayer … organised themselves into a church, and built a house of God before they could build many houses for themselves.’ On 23 Aug., at the first court held at Charlestown, the first business was to arrange for building a house for the minister and to vote Phillips a stipend of 30l. a year as from 1 Sept.

At Watertown Phillips remained as pastor, declining an offer of preferment in Virginia. A man of decided force of character, he proved a learned scholar and able disputant. In 1631 a deputation from the church at Boston came to expostulate with him and his elder for disseminating certain opinions friendly to the church of Rome. His knowledge of the scriptures was profound; he read them through six times yearly. He was author of a tract on ‘Infant Baptism,’ published apparently posthumously (1645). He died on 1 July 1644. He married in England, but lost his wife soon after his arrival in Massachusetts. His eldest son, Samuel Phillips, obtained some reputation as a divine, and his descendants included many men distinguished in America ‘by their civil stations and munificent patronage of institutions of learning and benevolence.’

[Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society, especially Winthrop's Journal.]

C. A. H.