Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BURNET, William, colonial governor, born at the Hague, Holland, in March, 1688; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 7 September, 1728. He was the eldest son of Bishop Burnet, and had for his godfather William of Orange, afterward king of England. Having lost his fortune by speculation in the shares of Law's South Sea company, he obtained the appointment of governor of the colonies of New York and New Jersey, relinquishing the post of comptroller-general of customs in England. in which Robert Hunter, the retiring governor of New York, succeeded him. He arrived, 17 September, 1720, and instituted a vigorous policy to frustrate French schemes of aggrandizement, and to acquire the interior for Great Britain. In 1722 he established a trading-post at Oswego, where, in 1696, Frontenac, French governor of Canada, had built a stockade fort, and in 1727 he erected there and armed, at his own expense, a small fort, planting the English standard for the first time on the great lakes, though the friendly Senecas and Oneidas objected, and Beauharnois, governor of Canada, protested vigorously. He convened a congress of governors and commissioners at Albany in 1722, and persuaded them to send a message to the eastern Indians, threatening them with war unless they concluded a treaty with the English. He secured the passage by the assembly of an act forbidding the sale of goods to French traders, a very unpopular measure, and rendered himself obnoxious also by following out the instructions of the royal govern-merit in prolonging the period of the existing assembly until it had lasted more than eleven years, by obtaining for Horace Walpole his sinecure perquisites as auditor-general, and by supporting the court of chancery, which he brought into further disrepute by his precipitate decisions as chancellor. On 15 April, 1728, he was removed, not so much on account of his unpopularity, as to make a place for John Montgomerie, a favorite of George II. Governor Burnet was transferred to Massachusetts, and there became involved in a quarrel with the assembly by repeating the demand of his predecessor for a fixed salary. The assembly insisted on its chartered right to raise and appropriate all moneys for the support of the government. The British house of commons, in answer to a petition that 31assa-ehusetts might be heard by counsel in the matter, passed a resolve that the proceeding tended " to shake off the dependency of the said colony upon this kingdom, to which, in law and right, they ought to be subject." Burnet was eventually obliged to recede from his position. In 1730 he was made governor of New Hampshire also. He was a man of superior talents and accomplishments, an honest administrator, and was impelled to some of the more objectionable features of his policy by the instructions of his superiors, rather than by his own arbitrary nature. He published astronomical observations in the "Transactions" of the Royal society, and an essay on the fulfilment of prophecies in the book of Daniel (London, 1724).
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