This is a day for reflecting on our country's roots in the human need for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." For my extended family, I can't help reflecting on my ancestor's little known contribution to the revolutionary fervor that culminated in the events of 1776. Doug Gove has submitted the following account of the man he calls "my grandfather":
Traveling back in time out 308 years. The King has given Robert Tufton Mason the authority to take care of the affairs of the new province. He is a failure and appoints Unprincipled Governor Cranfield to become his tool. The governor disbands the January 1683 assembly. The people considered this an unreasonable act and an unwarrantable abuse of power. Most however, though indignant at Cranfield's conduct, considered themselves good citizens and remained passive. Not so for Gove and a few others under his leadership who, in the exuberance of patriotism, "determined to revolutionize the government or at least to effect a reform." Friday, January 26, 1688, Reuben Hull, a Portsmouth merchant, was in Dover to pick up. a load of barrel hoops when he met Gove who had his sword and boots on, and said to him, "How now Gove, where are you bound? What's the matter with you?"
"Matter?" said Gove, "matter enough. We at Hampton have had a town meeting and we resolved as one man that. things shall not be carried on as it is like to be, and we have all our guns ready to stand upon our guard. I have been at Exeter and they are resolved to do the same. I have my sword at my side, and brought my carbine also with me which I have left some where."
Gove undoubtedly expected that when his arrest was attempted, there would be resistance and then a general uprising. It didn't happen. He returned to Hampton Saturday,Jan.27,1683. He and 11 other rebels, all on horseback, moved in two lines into the tiny colonial village on the New Hampshire Seacoast, shouting, "Freemen, come out and stand for your liberties."
Led by Gove, they were nearly all from Hampton, with their leader waving his sword and the trumpeter sounding their arrival with a military medley. Gove, seeing no demonstration in his favor at his appearance, lay down his arms and gave himself up to the authorities of the town, as did the others.
They were taken into custody by the militia, except the trumpeter, who escaped. They were brought before the governor and his council, where Gove behaved himself very insolently. Each of the prisoners then defended himself and his activities. Edward Gove acknowledged that the testimony against him was true. He "railed" at Governor Cranfield, saying he was a traitor and acted under a pretended commission and demeaned himself with "insolence and impudence." Judge Richard Waldren pounded his mallet, then solemnly pronounced the sentence. (The followers of Gove were to be held for a later judgment, and most of them were pardoned).
"You, Edward Gove, be drawn on a hedge to the place of execution, and there you shall be hanged by ye neck, and when yet living, be cut down and cast on the ground, and your bowels shall be taken out of your belly, and your privy member cut off and burnt while you are yet alive, your head shall be cut off and your body divided in four parts, and your head and quarters shall be placed where our Sovereign Lord the King pleaseth to appoint. And the Lord have mercy on your soul."
After the trial in Portsmouth in Feb. 1683, Cranfield, fearing to execute the sentence on Gove, sent him to England for the King to deal with. Gove was on board the ship Richard of Boston when it left port March 29. The Tower of London is in the east end of the city, a group of stone buildings including an ancient fortress, a dark prison, and a royal residence surrounded by a shallow moat and a high stone wall. This was the destination of Edward Gove, where he was sadly to spend the next three years. Many letters were written by the prisoner and people on his behalf during this time. Finally, Gove, in his cell, took up his quill pen and sent a petition to the King which brought results. In it he stated, "want of rest for 18 days before my apprehension deprived your Petitioner of the use of his reason and the control of his tongue and was the cause of your Petitioner's indiscreet actions towards the said Mr. Cranfield." He was released on his own recognizance to plead his pardon April 9, 1686. After Gove's incarceration in the the spring of 1683, the rule under Cranfield continued in its arbitrary and cruel manner.
From the Gove Book, written by William Henry Gove and published at Salem, Mass., in 1922, most of the preceding information has been researched. The author wrote, "the people were horrified at the bloody sentence of Gove and cried aloud for vengeance. It was already whispered about that public meetings would be held to express the indignation at the baseness of the manner in which the conviction was obtained and the cruel barbarity of the sentence, which was intended to awe the people into submission. It had a directly contrary effect." Like returning from the dead, Gove came back to his home and renewed his life in Hampton. He had the respect of the people of the province. From the earliest days of the Province of New Hampshire, Gove was involved in its government. He was elected as a member of the assembly from Hampton. He must have known the widespread disaffection and determination of the people not to yield to the demands of the Cranfield regime, and his views were well known to them because of his outspoken sentiments. He was thought to be the right man for the assembly. Gove died in Hampton on July 29, 1691, at the age of 61. He always contended that a slow poison was administered to him while in prison.