Century of Conflict

By Joseph Lister Rutledge | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
THE AWFUL FROWN OF GOD

The youth and character of William Phips. His qualities and growing success. The favor of kings. Capture of Port Royal and its governor. Appointed to command the expedition against Quebec. Its hopeful promise and ignominious failure. The somber mood of Boston. The pattern of conquest set.

The history of William Phips is one of the earliest of the continent's success stories. It has all the familiar trappings of the rags-to-riches theme. For all that, Phips himself remains a rather shadowy figure in the history in which he played a large and lively, if not too impressive, part.

He was the twenty-first child of his mother, and the youngest son, and so he remained until the death of his father when the boy was six years old. His mother marrying again, there were six more brothers and sisters. It is not difficult to understand that there could have been little luxury in his boyhood home at Monsweag Farm on the Sheepscot River. Today the country is undeniably a part of Maine. In these earlier times it lay in the disputed land between the St. Croix and Kennebec rivers, where St. Castin had his squatter kingdom and where Indian, French, and English maintained a cruel and bloody seesaw of foray and reprisal for a century and more. Young William was by turns sheep boy, farm hand, woodsman, and apprentice to a business whose chief occupation was shipbuilding. There and not from books, of which there were none at his home, nor from schooling, for which there was little time or opportunity, came his passion for the sea and his dreams of achievement.

He was a grown man, broad-shouldered, quick-tempered, with large capable hands and a sublime confidence in him. self, before it became evident that he was to be one of for

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