Phips, Sir William

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Phips, Sir William

Sir William Phips, 1651–95, American colonial governor. Born in what is today Maine, he was a carpenter and shipbuilder in Boston and became interested in sunken treasure. On his second hunt for treasure, which was financed by the 2d duke of Albemarle, he recovered (1687) some £300,000 worth of Spanish gold off Haiti. His fortune made, he was knighted and became provost marshal general at Boston. He supported Increase Mather in the fight against Sir Edmund Andros for restoration of charter government in Massachusetts, which ended with the overthrow (1689) of Andros. In King William's War (see French and Indian Wars) Phips led (1690) the expedition that took Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal) but failed to take Quebec, and he was also involved in the unsuccessful expedition against Montreal. He was made first royal governor of Massachusetts through the influence of Increase Mather and took office in 1692. In the great witchcraft mania, he appointed a commission to try those accused of witchcraft. However, when his own wife was accused of witchcraft, he ordered an end to the trials. Many disputes won him enemies, and in 1694 he was called to London to answer charges, but he died before hearings began. The name is also spelled Phipps. The biography by Cotton Mather (ed. by Carl Van Doren, 1929) is, naturally, biased.

See biography by A. Lounsberry (1941); C. H. Karraker, The Hispaniola Treasure (1924).

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