"to-day, a new man is beginning to rule over them"

John Endicott (1601-65) assumed the role of governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony on May 2nd, 1649. Strictly speaking, he was not new for he had served as the colony’s first governor for a brief period in 1629 and was elected to a year-long term once more in 1644.

Chopping down the Maypole (1895)
Public DomainChopping down the Maypole (1895) - Credit: Illustration from Benson Lossing's "Our Country"

Endicott was one of the chief founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, arriving in Salem from Devon, England in 1628, and its moral climate owed much to his influence. Both despotic and impulsive, Endicott deported settlers who continued to use the Anglican Prayer Book and was responsible for amongst the harshest persecution of the Quakers. He chopped down Thomas Morton’s Merrymount maypole, which he regarded as a pagan idol, and defaced the English flag on the grounds that the Saint George's Cross was a papist souvenir. Under his lead, a 1637 expedition to avenge the murder of a trader by a Pequot Indian escalated into a campaign of destruction that saw villages, crops and canoes annihilated and lives extinguished. It was this overzealousness that led to the tragic Pequot War. Despite his rashness, Endicott’s honesty and commitment to the colony saw him re-elected governor several times more before his death.