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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Gorges, Ferdinando

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GORGES, Sir Ferdinando, lord proprietary of the province of Maine, born in Somersetshire, England, died at an advanced age in 1647. He was a partner in the conspiracy of the earl of Essex, against whom he testified on his trial in 1601. During the war with Spain he served in the navy, and after the peace, in 1604, was appointed governor of Plymouth. When Waymouth returned in 1605 from his voyage to North America, and brought with him five Indian captives, Gorges took three of them into his house, caused them to be instructed in the English language, obtained information from them of their native country, and determined to become a proprietor of domains beyond the Atlantic. He persuaded Sir John Popham, lord chief justice of England, to share his intentions, while at the same time influential persons in London were desiring to renew the attempts which had been made by Raleigh in Virginia. A joint application was arranged, and in 1606 the king incorporated two companies, the first called the London colony, and the second the Plymouth colony, between which was divided the territory extending 50 miles inland from the 34th to the 45th parallel N. lat. The Plymouth colony had the northern portion, which was styled North Virginia. An exploring ship was sent out by Gorges, but was captured by the Spaniards. Three ships with 100 settlers sailed from Plymouth, May 31, 1607, and reached the mouth of the Kennebec in Maine, where they began a settlement, which was abandoned the next spring. In 1614 Gorges engaged Capt. John Smith, who had already visited North Virginia (which he called New England), in the service of the Plymouth company. He set sail for New England with two ships in March, 1615, but his own was dismasted and returned to port, and Capt. Dermer in the smaller vessel made the voyage, but soon returned. Other attempts of Smith were unsuccessful, but in 1616 Gorges sent out a party, which encamped on the river Saco through the winter, and in 1619-'20 Capt. Dermer again made the voyage. In 1620 Gorges and his associates obtained a new incorporation for “the governing of New England in America,” which was empowered to hold territory extending westward from sea to sea between the 40th and 48th parallels N. lat. Gorges himself united with John Mason in taking grants of the district called Laconia, bounded by the Merrimack, the Kennebec, the ocean, and “the river of Canada,” and under his auspices several settlements were attempted. His son, Capt. Robert Gorges, was appointed in 1623 by the council for New England “general governor of the country.” This council resigned its charter to the king in 1635, surrendering the administration of its domains to a governor general to be appointed by him, and Gorges vainly expected this appointment. He now determined to establish a miniature sovereignty on his own domain. To this end he obtained from the king a charter constituting him lord proprietary of the province of Maine, with extraordinary governmental powers, which were to be transmissible with the property to his heirs and assigns. He sent his son Thomas to be deputy governor, and the officers took an oath of allegiance to the lord proprietary. The province was divided into two counties, of which Agamenticus (now York) and Saco were respectively the principal settlements; the former received a city charter as Gorgeana in 1642. When the four New England colonies formed a confederacy in 1643, the settlements of Gorges were excluded from it, “because,” says Winthrop, “they ran a different course from us both in their ministry and their civil administration,” and because the proprietary was then in arms in England for the king against the cause of the Puritans. On his death the people repeatedly wrote to his heirs; but as no answer was received, they at length formed themselves into a body politic for the purposes of self-government, and submitted to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.—His grandson Ferdinando, born in 1629, published “America Painted to the Life” (London, 1659), sold to Massachusetts in 1677 his proprietary rights to the province of Maine for £1,250, and died Jan. 25, 1718.