1693 — Benjamin Fletcher

Benjamin Fletcher succeeded Sloughter as governor of New York. He was a man of violent passions, weak judgment, greedy, dishonest and cowardly, and as dissolute as his predecessor. How he came to be entrusted with the governorship at all, and especially with the large powers of commander of the militia of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey with which he was invested, is a problem not easily solved. He soon disgusted all parties and the recklessness of his administration caused more decided resistance to imperial power than ever before. Among his acts of petty tyranny, which displayed his folly and weakness, was his visit to Hartford, with Colonel Bayard and others, late in the autumn of 1693, to assert his disputed military authority there, by ordering out the Connecticut militia at a season when parades had ceased. The charter of the colony denied Fletcher's jurisdiction, and the Assembly, then in session, promptly gave utterance to that denial on this occasion. "I will not set my foot out of this colony, till I have seen his majesty's commission obeyed," said Fletcher to the governor of Connecticut. The latter yielded so much as to allow Captain Wadsworth to call out the train-bands of Hartford.

When the troops were assembled, Fletcher stepped forward to take the command, and ordered Bayard to read his excellency's commission. At that moment Captain Wadsworth ordered the drums to be beaten. "Silence! " angrily cried the petulant governor, and Bayard began to read again. "Drum! drum! I say," shouted Wadsworth; and the sonorous roll drowned the voice of Bayard. Fletcher, in a rage, stamped his foot and cried "Silence!" and threatened the captain with punishment for insubordination. Whereupon Wadsworth stepped boldly in front of the governor and said, while his hand rested on the handle of his sword: "If my drummers are interrupted again, I'll make the sunlight shine through you. We deny and defy your authority." The cowardly governor sullenly folded up his commission, pocketed it and the affront, and with his retinue returned to New York in a very angry mood. He complained to the king. The matter was compromised by making Fletcher commander of the Connecticut militia only in time of war.

During the whole of Fletcher's administration of seven years, party rancor, kindled by the death of Leisler, burned intensely, and, at one time, menaced the province with civil war. At the same time it was threatened with a destructive invasion by the French and Indians from Canada, under the guidance of the venerable Count Frontenac, the energetic governor of that province. These foes were then traversing the wilderness in northern New York, seeking for a passage through the country of the Five Nations to the English settlements below. Fortunately the governor listened to the wise advice of Mayor Schuyler, of Albany, who had a marvelous influence over the Iroquois Confederacy and under his leadership, about three hundred English and as many Mohawk warriors beat back the foe to the St. Lawrence. They so desolated the French settlements in the vicinity of Lake Champlain, slaying about three hundred French and Indians at the north end of the lake, that Frontenac was glad to remain quiet at Montreal.