The Hunt For The Regicides

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The death warrant was signed on Monday, and the business was then pushed with all haste. At ten o’clock on Tuesday morning—it was January 30, 1649 —Captain Hacker brought King Charles out of St. James Palace. The air was still and very cold—ice was piled up under the Thames bridges. Charles walked briskly, urging his guard to be quick: “March apace!” To the solemn muted roll of drums he crossed the park between lines of soldiers and entered Whitehall.

The death warrant was signed on Monday, and the business was then pushed with all haste. At ten o’clock on Tuesday morning—it was January 30, 1649 —Captain Hacker brought King Charles out of St. James Palace. The air was still and very cold—ice was piled up under the Thames bridges. Charles walked briskly, urging his guard to be quick: “March apace!” To the solemn muted roll of drums he crossed the park between lines of soldiers and entered Whitehall. The crowd that had streamed in from all over London shivered in the streets, packed tight as pebbles on a beach. About two o’clock Hacker, who was observed to have been seized with trembling, escorted the King along the corridors of Whitehall Palace and through a dismantled window of the banqueting hall directly onto the broad, black-draped scaffold. There, at last, Charles saw the block with its iron staples and tackle, the close ranks of soldiery, the masked headsmen grotesque in false grizzled beards and wigs. With composure, the King made a short speech, and then, handing his “George” (a jewelled collar from which hung a pendant of St. George slaying the dragon) to Bishop William Juxon with the one word, “Remember!” he pushed his hair up under a white satin cap and lay down (o the block. The axe glinted; a shudder ran through the crowd and a vast groan echoed up the streets. In that instant the fifty-nine signers of the death warrant became regicides.

Their lives would never be the same again. For the next decade they struggled to make a success of the Commonwealth government and, failing, watched in despair the Stuart Restoration of 1660. At the return of Charles II, regicides who had had the good fortune to die in peace during the Commonwealth were condemned posthumously, their bodies exhumed and abused, and their heirs’ property confiscated. Of the living, twenty-four vanished into royal dungeons or were executed with the cruelty reserved for traitors: a mere dozen escaped abroad. The three who fled to the American colonies have written a dramatic page in our history.

Among those who dared to kill a king on that fateful day in 1649 were Edward Whalley, William Goffe, and John Dixwell. In the gray, strenuous world of the Puritan revolt they were mighty men, deeply committed to an astringent and demanding faith, and strong in the conviction that the political cause for which they fought was just. As they saw it, Charles Stuart had threatened their political and religious liberties from the moment that he ascended the throne in 1625. Dissolving stubborn Parliaments, ruling by council and decree, levying new taxes to pay for his disastrous misadventures on the Continent, Charles had alienated all defenders of parliamentary rights. Further, his attempt to force the Prayer Book on the churches had raised cries of popery from Puritans. The Calvinistic Scots revolted. With King, nobles, and church leagued against Parliament and people, the issue was joined beyond conciliation; only arms would settle it. Charles had raised his standard at Nottingham in August of 1642.

Whalley, Oliver Cromwell’s cousin, had thrown himself into the civil war at the first rattle of sabers. With the zealot’s eye he saw the King as a traducer of liberties, and the established church as Roman Catholicism in disguise. Essentially he was a soldier, but like many men in an era when the rawest recruit argued theology and politics over the campfire, he was up to the elbows in affairs of state; and he was appointed one of the 135 members of the special High Court of Justice that tried the King. About half of those appointed never attended, but Whalley missed only one session of the Court and stood up to vote for the execution. He was among the fifty-nine signers of the death warrant, writing his name in fourth place, immediately after the bold, fierce signature of Oliver Cromwell.

William Goffe had married Whalley’s only daughter, Frances. His career paralleled that of his father-in-law, and their lives were knit to the end. An able soldier, a frequent “prayer-maker, preacher and presser for righteousness and freedom,” he attended a meeting of officers gathered for mutual counsel on the fate of the King and spoke with such fervor, and invoked God’s wrath on Charles with such eloquence, that tears flowed. Goffe voted for the execution and signed the warrant in fourteenth place.

Compared to Whalley and Goffe, Dixwell was a quiet one. His ability to vanish into the wainscoting was to serve him well in his later years as a fugitive. He sat in three Parliaments and was twice a member of the Council of State, a position that he held at the time of the King’s trial. Never distinguished as a soldier, he was commissioned as colonel of a Kentish troop after the fighting was over. There is evidence, taken from the trials of the regicides in 1660, that Dixwell was less than enthusiastic about the condemnation of Charles. However, he attended the sessions regularly and signed the warrant thirty-eighth, in a precise, clerical hand.

Cromwell’s Commonwealth gained for English power abroad a prestige unknown since Elizabeth, but at home it was less successful. Cromwell found it necessary to dismiss the House of Commons as willfully as Charles had done. Alter 1655 he governed through major generals (among them Whalley and Goffe), each commanding a district. They quelled sporadic Royalist uprisings, raised money from reluctant lords, and imposed their Puritan habits on the whole population. England sickened of drab morality and army rule. The dissident factions held together by Cromwell’s strong mixture of God and gunpowder split apart at his death in 1658, and his son, the amiable Richard, had neither the wit nor the will to control them. During the spring of 1660 the Great Experiment staggered to its ruin.

In that year General George Monk, who had been Oliver Cromwell’s trusted lieutenant in Scotland, marched his troops into London, declaring for a free Parliament. From his listening post in the Dutch fortress-city of Breda, wily Charles Stuart, son of the dead king, issued an intention of general amnesty (except for those whom the new Parliament might choose to single out) should he return to the throne. In early May the new Parliament proclaimed Charles king and immediately buckled down to the vengeful business of making exceptions to those covered by the general amnesty. It was a time to flee.

Dixwell waited until Parliament named him specifically as unpardonable. Then, sending word that he was ill and could not surrender until he recovered, he slipped across the Channel and eventually found his way to the prosperous town of Hanau in Prussia.No further word is heard of him until his appearance in the New England colonies five years later. Whalley and Goffe risked no such delay. On May 4, 1660, a few days before Charles was formally proclaimed king, they kissed their families good-bye and took horse for Gravesend, where passage awaited them on the Prudent Mary, bound for Boston. In the streets of Gravesend, they watched with bitterness the proclamation of the restored monarchy. Golfe wrote in his journal that “there was much rejoicing among the people, but God’s people lamented over the great profaneness with which that joy was expressed.” He added darkly, “It was observed that many dogs did that day run mad: and died suddenly in the town.”

On boarding the ship, Whalley and Gofle assumed the names of Edward Richardson and William Stephenson. But they were unused to slinking in a corner and had no regrets tor their part in the King’s death. They did little to conceal their identity from such sympathetic fellow passengers as Captain Daniel Gookin, a prominent member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and William Jones of the New Haven Colony, whose wife was the daughter of one of the colony’s leading citizens. On the morning of July 27 they looked confidently upon the scattered roofs of Boston beside the sunlit channel of the Charles.

The fugitives had some reason for their confidence. Most of the New England colonists had felt, in one way or another, the heel of bishop and king. On this far continent, an ocean away from England, they were continuing the Puritan theocracy which had collapsed at home. England might persuade them but in the end could not coerce them. They were already masters of evasion and delay when orders from the mother country were not to their liking; if Charles was on the throne, let him say so: until then they would follow their natural sympathies. It was no wonder that Governor JoIm Endecott warmly embraced the newcomers, expressing hope that more men of their distinction would lend strength to the colonies.

On the day of their arrival Whalley and Goffe went four miles upriver to Cambridge as guests of Captain Gookin. There they lived openly, their identities well-known. “Colonels Whalley and Goffe were entertained by the magistrates with great solemnity, and feasted in every place, after they were told that they were traitors, and ought to be apprehended,” grumbled a Royalist report to England. John Crowne, a Royalist (he later returned to England and became a famous Restoration playwright) said that the regicides “were treated like men dropped down from heaven.”

They may have felt that way. At the Cambridge church Goffe handed to the minister a piece of paper extolling God’s mercy to them in their many dangers (including the voyage over “the great deeps”) and asking him to offer praise to God in their behalf during prayers.

In the tranquil New England summer, they supped with the Reverend Charles Chauncy, president of Harvard College, and made calls in some of the surrounding towns. The general opinion was that they were sober, righteous, and godly men. (Present-day America offers no parallel to this reception: but imagine, by way of very rough analogy, that John Wilkes Booth escaped safely to Virginia, to be warmly greeted by Jefferson Davis, prayed over in Richmond churches, and sumptuously dined by the president of William and Mary College.)

It was too idyllic to last. While Whalley and Goffe were in Boston to attend a lecture, a newcomer off a Scottish ship insulted them in the streets (the authorities told him to mind his manners or get out of town), and the same ship brought news that all former members of the High Court that had condemned King Charles I were liable to arrest and confiscation of property. It is a measure of colonial opinion that, even then, no one moved to seize Whalley and Goffe; to the contrary, when a violent Royalist named Thomas Breedon complained that the colony was housing traitors, Endecott replied firmly that he would not “meddle with them” without an executive order; and the marshal! general, whose duty it was to arrest thre, grinned in Breedon’s face and taunted him to “speak against Whalley and Goffe if you dare, if you dare!”

This was bold talk for English subjects on English soil. Toward the end of November a ship brought the final Act of Pardon and Oblivion. Whalley and Goffe were among thirty (along with Dixwell) “absolutely excepted” from pardon. This was followed by a specific order to seize the two regicides, who were known to be in the colony. A reward of £100, a lordly sum in those days, was offered for their capture, dead or alive. The last grisly bit of news was that some of the regicides had already been hung—briefly, to get the feel of it—then drawn and quartered while still alive.

The colony’s response to this royal edict was so slow as to amount to connivance. Not until February sa of the year 1661 did increasing apprehension force steps to be taken. On that day the Court of Assistants —the Massachusetts upper chamber, of which Captain Daniel Gookin was a member—met to debate what should be done about the embarrassing guests. Opinion in the council was so divided that no decision was reached, but it had become plain that for their own safety Whalley and Goffe should go to some more remote parts.

 

On February 26, with an Indian for guide, they set out for New Haven, 160 snowy miles away. On March 8, being assured that the two were safely out of the Massachusetts jurisdiction, Endecott put on a fine show of action. He handed a warrant to the same marshall general who had sneered in Captain Breedon’s face. That gentleman searched diligently as far as Springfield, but had to report, with a smile of satisfaction, that the fugitives were nowhere to be found. In New Haven, the travellers had a friend in William Jones, whom they had met on the Prudent Mary, and found a new supporter in John Davenport, pastor of the New Haven church. Mr. Davenport knew the terrors of flight at first hand. While he had been rector of St. Stephen’s Church in London his Puritan leanings had aroused the suspicion of his bishop, William Laud (later Archbishop of Canterbury), relentless advocate of episcopacy and throne. Davenport had fled to Holland “disguised in a gray suit and overgrown beard.” Later he and other members of his church had chartered a ship in order to seek religious freedom in an isolated corner of New England. One of his first sermons in New Haven prepared his flock for the arrival of political and religious refugees: “Hide the outcasts, betray not him that wandereth,” was the text, from the book of Isaiah.

Two weeks after the Prudent Mary dropped anchor Davenport wrote to Governor John Winthrop, in Hartford, telling him about the distinguished passengers, and wafered this addition to the side of the letter: “It is Commissary-General Whalley, sister Hooke’s brother, and his son-in-law who is with him is Col. Goffe: both godly men and escaped pursuit in England narrowly. I hope to see them here.” “Sister Hooke’s” husband, the Reverend William Hooke, had earlier been Davenport’s assistant in the New Haven church.

On March 7, nine days from Cambridge, the travellers lodged in the comfort of Mr. Davenport’s house, and the town buzzed with the news of their arrival.

Now the chase began in earnest. A pair of young Englishmen—Thomas Kellond, a merchant, and Thomas Kirke, a sea captain—at the moment in Boston with time on their hands, swore to dig the regicides out of hiding. When they offered to make a personal search south of Massachusetts, Governor Endecott could hardly refuse.

Armed with the King’s proclamation and letters from Endecott to the various governors, the two left Boston hot after the fugitives. Pushing at the rate of forty miles a day, they reached Governor Winthrop, of the Connecticut Colony, in Hartford on May 10 and Deputy Governor William Leete, of the New Haven Colony, in Guilford on Saturday, May 11. Leete, in the presence of several local citizens, opened the credentials that Kellond and Kirke handed him and began to read the King’s proclamation aloud. The two Royalists protested that it were better “to be more private in such concernments,” but the damage was done. Everyone within hearing knew their mission.

Leete adopted the Fabian tactics of delay and evasion. He told Kellond and Kirke that he could not permit a search in New Haven without consulting the magistrates of the colony. Fuming, the pursuers demanded fresh horses, in order to press on to New Haven immediately. Leete smoothly agreed, but somehow found unusual difficulty in producing the mounts. As the afternoon waned, Kellond and Kirke saw that they could not reach New Haven, eighteen miles away, before the Sabbath began at sundown and all official business ceased.

But in Guilford, fretting away the Sabbath, the pursuers seem to have found citizens ready to betray the fugitives. One, a disgruntled fellow whom Leete had once ordered whipped for a misdemeanor, reported that Whalley and Goffe were not only in New Haven but that Leete knew it full well. Others said that Mr. Davenport had taken in a supply of food greatly excessive for his family; that Whalley and Goffe, watching a militia drill, had told the troops that if they had two hundred friends in arms they would snap their fingers at England; and that an Indian runner had already left Guilford to warn Mr. Davenport of the pursuit.

Monday at dawn Kellond and Kirke saddled up for New Haven, “but to our certain knowledge,” they later told Endecott, “one John Meggs was sent on horseback before us.” Governor Leete followed in the course of the morning, and the magistrates, slowly rounded up, argued the matter for six hours, finally deciding that nothing so delicate could be done without a full meeting of the freemen. This would take four more days.

We can imagine that Kellond and Kirke were fit to explode. They warned the stubborn New Haveners that “for theire respect to two Traitors they would do themselves injury and possibly ruine themselves and the whole Colony of New-Haven,” and shaking its rebellious dust from their shoes they went on to search for the regicides in the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam.

They might have saved their rage. At the news from Guilford, Whalley and Goffe had left town on Saturday and taken refuge in a cave on a rocky bluff nearby, which they called Providence Hill. There, among cyclopean boulders deposited by glaciers of the Ice Age, they found safety, if not comfort. Every day, a farmer left basins of food for them on a stump at the foot of the hill. When the farmer’s small sons, who carried them there, wondered that the basins always vanished and then reappeared empty, the farmer said that someone was working in the woods.

In England, under the royal thumb, sympathizers expressed awe at New Haven’s bravado. The Reverend William Hooke wrote to Davenport: “I am almost amazed sometimes to see what crosse-capers some of you do make. I should breake my shinnes should I do the like.”

Those who harbored Whalley and Goffe were in danger of more than broken shins. By law they were under the same condemnation as traitors—subject to being hung, drawn, and quartered alive, although in the case of ladies the sentence was moderated to burning at the stake. The fugitives offered to surrender themselves rather than bring tragedy upon their protectors.

Persuaded against it, they went to Milford, about nine miles southwest of New Haven, where they lived for three years with one Micah Tompkins, the first two years in utter seclusion “without so much as going into the orchard.” John Davenport knew where they were; so, most certainly, did Benjamin Fenn, the Milford magistrate. Fenn showed the most brazen courage of all. He was one of two New Haven commissioners to the United Colonies, a small advisory body representing Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven. The commissioners met in Plymouth on September 5, 1661, and voted a general order to arrest the regicides. Fenn simply refused to sign it. At the moment Whalley and Goffe were living within a mile of his house.

In the spring of 1664 Charles sent to Boston what amounted to an expeditionary force. Royal agents commanding four ships and 450 troops dropped anchor on April 23 with three grand designs in view: to take possession of New Amsterdam for England, to investigate thoroughly the general condition of the colonies, and to bring Whalley and Goffe home either in chains or in coffins.

The pack was again on the scent; the quarry must run for cover. Whalley and Goffe returned to their cave on Providence Hill. This time Indians chanced upon their hiding place, and, one dark night, a panther screamed noisily before the smoke-blackened entrance. These hazards, together with the onset of winter, decided them to move to Hadley, Massachusetts, a settlement about eighty miles north on the remote frontier of the Connecticut Valley. They travelled only at night. By prearrangement with Mr. Davenport they were received in Hadley by the Reverend John Russell. In one of the sunny upstairs chambers of Mr. Russell’s house, which had a convenient hideway under the floor by the chimney, the hunted men lived for ten years undisturbed.

We shall never know how many hardy souls in Hadley defied royal authority to protect the outcasts. Few secrets can be kept in a frontier community of fifty families where news consists mostly of gossip. With children (including John Russell’s) chattering, and servant girls trading tidbits over the back fence, it seems incredible that all Hadley would not know, and that some wretch, itching for the tantalizing £100, would not have written a letter—one small letter, a few scratches of the pen—to Boston. Yet the fact remains: Whalley and Goffe were never betrayed during their decade in Hadley.

 

By way of sickening contrast, see what a turncoat New Englander, George Downing, did to three regicides in Holland. Downing came of good colonial stock (his uncle had been Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts), but after graduating from Harvard in 1642 (with the first class), he went to England, where, no doubt, opportunities were greater. There Colonel John Okey, a leader of the Puritan revolt, befriended him and made him chaplain of his regiment. As Cromwell’s agent in Holland, Downing spied very efficiently on Charles and his meager court at Breda. Then, when he saw that the Restoration was inevitable, Downing went over secretly to the Stuart cause, feeding official information to Charles, for which he was rewarded by remaining as Charles’ minister to Holland after 1660. His friend and mentor, Colonel Okey, together with another escaped regicide, John Barkestead, applied for permission to come into Holland from Hanau. Colonel Okey wrote to inquire of his trusted comrade-in-arms if he would be safe in Holland. Downing replied that he had no order to molest them, “and they might be as free and safe there as himself.” As soon as they arrived, he arranged their arrest and also picked up Miles Corbet, another regicide, who had come to welcome them. All three went back to England in chains, to a brutal death. Even Samuel Pepys, stout Royalist that he was, scorned Downing as “a perfidious rogue.” Fortunately for Whalley and Goffe, Hadley had no George Downing.

John Dixwell, the quiet one, had not joined Okey and Barkestead on their fatal venture into Holland. With his genius for survival, he had stayed in Hanau, where he had become a burgess. On February 10, 1665, travelling under the name of James Davids, he appeared in Hadley, visited his old comrades for a time, and vanished as silently as he had come. It will be eight years before we see him again.

After 1667 Goffe gave up keeping a ciphered diary (it was destroyed when a mob sacked Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s Boston house in 1765) but continued a steady correspondence. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston sent Goffe’s letters to England under cover of his own. Goffe wrote to his wife, pretending that he was Walter Goldsmith, and that she was his mother, Frances Goldsmith. The Reverend William Hooke he addressed as “D.G.”, and his sister, Mrs. Hooke, was “Aunt Jane.” All of his letters were from “Ebenezer,” the biblical place where Samuel set up a stone to commemorate a victory of God’s people over the Philistines. He and Whalley relished news from England, especially when it concerned conjectures about their own whereabouts. Rumor had them in Brussels, Holland, Switzerland; when one of the regicides, John Lisle, was shot to death in Lausanne they took wry comfort in the report that they had been murdered at the same time.

In August of 1674 Goffe wrote that Whalley, now about sixty, was in poor health. He had evidently had a stroke. “He complains of no pain, and hath a good stomache, for the most part, to eat thrise in the day, sleepes well the latter part of the night and morning, and troubles not himself much with one thing or another that I can discern, but quietly waites to see what the Lord will do with him.” In one of Goffe’s next letters (according to Hutchinson) Goffe speaks of his friend as “now with God.” Whalley probably died in the latter part of 1674; no one knows where he was buried.

The next year Goffe’s refuge was shaken by the outbreak of King Philip’s War. Indians attacked all through the Connecticut Valley. Deerfield and Springfield went up in flames; at Bloody Brook, seventy-one soldiers and teamsters died in an ambush. On June 12, 1676, Indian raiders attacked both north and south gates of the Hadley stockade, but were driven off. And therein lies the famous legend of “the Angel of Hadley.”

Governor Hutchinson gave credence to this legend with this note in his History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, published in 1764: “I am loth to omit an anecdote handed down through Governor Leveret’s family. … It appears that the town people [of Hadley] were at church when an alarm sounded of an Indian attack and suddenly came from nowhere a man who organized them for defence and won the day, then disappeared.”

Nineteenth-century fiction writers made the most of it. The mysterious stranger is a pivotal figure of James Fenimore Cooper’s Wept of Wish-ton-Wish. Brandishing “a shining broadsword such as were then used by the cavaliers of England,” he rallies the panicked congregation: “Arm, men of the Wish-ton-Wish! arm, and to your defences!” The stranger was unknown to the end. His rough gravestone bore the one word: “Submission.” He left only “an orderly book of a troop of horse, which tradition says had some connection with his fortunes. Affixed to this defaced and imperfect document is a fragment of some diary or journal, which has reference to the condemnation of Charles I to the scaffold.”

 

Sir Walter Scott read a newspaper article about the finding of human bones in the cellar of John Russell’s house and concluded that this was “the obscure grave to which the remains of Whalley were committed.” Upon this fragile basis he inserted the legend into a novel, Peveril of the Peak, and cast Whalley as the nameless champion. He was tall, august, dressed in elk skin, sword and gun in hand. His voice had the roll of thunder in the Berkshires: “Follow me and you shall see this day that there is a Captain in Israel!” He quickly divided the settlers into two forces, surprised the Indians’ rear, and routed them with such bloody slaughter that the tribe “never recovered.”

Was the mysterious old warrior actually William Goffe? It may not be all legend. Hadley was now a garrison town where some of the officers were men vowed to bag the regicides; if Goffe had really showed himself at the attack, Hadley would soon have become too hot for him. Sure enough, the old Cromwellian was soon on the run.

He was in Hartford by early September of 1676. The loneliness, the loss of human society, the long separation from his family weighed upon him heavily. The last known letter from his pen—dated April 2, 1679—is a pitiable plea to Increase Mather for news of his wife and daughter. A year later a contemptible no-good named John London reported to Hartford authorities that Goffe was living in town with a Captain Bull. For his trouble, London was hauled out of bed on the Sabbath and brought before the appropriate Hartford officials, who gave him a cold reception. They forbade him to leave the county without permission. This order London promptly violated, making his way to New York (now British) and telling his story to Governor Edmund Andros. On order from Andros a sixth and final search was made throughout the colonies. No sign of Goffe was found. We hear no more of him; he may have been already beyond the reach of kings.

John Dixwell, after his brief visit with Whalley and Goffe in Hadley in 1665, had vanished like smoke in a gale. But in 1673 we find him comfortably settled in New Haven, still using the name James Davids, retired merchant aged sixty-six, a dignified, sober, and godfearing man whose acquaintance with British government policy and European history impressed his few confidants.

In that year he married a Mrs. Benjamin Ling, a widow who died within a month, and four years later he took a younger bride of thirty-one with the evocative name of Bathsheba How, by whom he had three children.

The last stroke of danger was not past. Sir Edmund Andros, the King’s man if there ever was one, attended a New Haven church service. He stared at the cultivated old gentleman in the pew, remarking that he surely was not the retired merchant that he professed to be. At afternoon worship Dixwell was absent—a rarity with him—and the psalm scored an obvious point:

Why dost thou tyrant boast abroad Thy wicked works to praise? Dost thou not know there is a God Whose mercies last always?

Sir Edmund did not like the choice and said so. The deacon explained that they took the psalms in order, and this one had come in its turn. Andros huffed but said no more.

Through the years others recognized him, but Dixwell continued to live in relative peace. After 1685, when he dared to join the New Haven church as “James Davids, alias Jn Dixwell,” the Reverend James Pierpont was certain of his illustrious parishioner. The two of them beat a private pathway between their adjoining houses, and Mr. Pierpont told his wife that Mr. Davids knew more about religion than anyone else in town.

On March 18, 1688, the last of the New England fugitives rested from the chase. Dixwell was buried on the New Haven green between the church and the future site of Yale College. At his request the stone bore only the initials “J.D.,” with age (eighty-one) and date, “lest his enemies might dishonour his ashes.” This precaution did not suffice. Yale President Ezra Stiles wrote in 1794: “Often have we heard the Crown Officers aspersing and vilifying them [the regicides]; and some so late as 1775 visited and treated the grave with marks of indignity too indecent to mention.”

The bitterness hung on because the Puritan fight for freedom hung on. The regicides were not men to repent acts of conscience. “If it had to be done,” Whalley once said, “I would do it again.” While the redcoats spat on Dixwell’s stone in 1775, the American colonists were finishing what the short and tumultuous Commonwealth had fitfully begun. In their graves the regicides must have stirred. If, now, they ever gather for a shadowy rendezvous on Providence Hill to remember older battles and the sad years of their exile, they can look proudly at the bronze plaque set by the city of New Haven upon the stone of Judges’ Cave. The inscription ends: OPPOSITION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD .