DUDLEY, WILLIAM, military officer, legislator; b. 20 Oct. 1686 at Roxbury (now part of Boston, Mass.), son of Joseph Dudley, governor of Massachusetts, and Rebecca Tyng; m. 10 March 1721 Elizabeth Davenport, daughter of Judge Addington Davenport; d. 5 Aug. 1743 at Roxbury; survived by eight children.
William Dudley graduated from Harvard College in 1704 and made his first venture into public life in 1705, when he travelled with Samuel Vetch* and others to Quebec to arrange with Governor Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil an exchange of prisoners, particularly of those taken in the Deerfield massacre of 1704. Dudley had been sent by his father to gain experience and to prove himself worthy of his name. The mission lasted six months (two and a half months in Quebec), but only a few prisoners were brought back, one being the son of the Reverend John Williams* of Deerfield. Following this mission, Governor Dudley was accused of countenancing illegal trade, and Vetch was convicted of trading with the enemy. The governor and his son, however, escaped from the controversy unscathed. In New France, Governor Vaudreuil received a mild reprimand from the colonial minister, Pontchartrain, because of the dangers of spying and illegal trade inherent in the mission. In 1710 Joseph Dudley wrote to the secretary of state, St John, that the mission had indeed been used for the purpose of spying.
William Dudley participated in Colonel John March*’s expedition to Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) in 1707. Appointed by his father as the expedition’s secretary of war, Dudley wrote a penetrating description of the dissension in New England ranks on this abortive campaign against Acadia. In 1710, holding a major’s commission from his father, he served in William Tailer’s regiment under Vetch and Francis Nicholson* in the capture of Port-Royal. As lieutenant-colonel he accompanied Vetch on the ill-fated expedition of Sir Hovenden Walker* against Quebec in August 1711. By 1713 he was a colonel in command of the 1st regiment in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
With the end of Queen Anne’s War, the northeastern Indians (Abenakis of the Penobscot, Saint John, and Kennebec rivers) sued for peace with New England, and signed articles of submission at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 13 July 1713 [see Mog*]. This was the first of several such peace conferences in which Dudley participated as witness or commissioner. Others occurred in 1717, 1720, 1722, and after the Indian war of 1722–25 [see Sébastien Rale*]. Early in 1725 Lieutenant Governor William Dummer sent Dudley and Samuel Thaxter to Montreal to seek an end to French assistance to the Indians and to obtain a release of prisoners. The French denied giving the Indians military aid, but did grant the release of 26 individuals.
Dudley held various public offices during his life. In 1713 he was appointed a justice of the peace, and was a sheriff about the same time. He served in the Massachusetts house of representatives from 1718 to 1729 and was speaker of the house (1724–29). From 1729 until his death he sat on the Massachusetts Council. In his legislative career Dudley, whom Shipton has called a “gentleman woodsman,” proved useful to the colony because of his knowledge of the back country. He served on every important boundary commission dealing with Massachusetts’ disputes with her neighbours and on many committees concerned with military and Indian affairs. Dr William Douglass, a contemporary, commented that he was the most knowledgeable legislator on land value and other provincial matters. Fellow councillor Thomas Hutchinson wrote that he was “deservedly esteemed and constantly employed in the most important services of government.”
Dudley died suddenly on 5 Aug. 1743, at his home in Roxbury. The Boston Weekly News-Letter, 11 Aug. 1743, stated that his passing was much lamented and that he was buried with great honour and respect.
Mass. Hist. Soc., Misc. Large coll., William Dudley commission, 1710. PAC, MG 18, N8 (Massachusetts muster rolls, 1710). The acts and resolves, public and private, of the province of the Massachusetts Bay (21v., Boston, 1869–1922), II, VIII–XIII. [John Barnard], “Autobiography of the Rev. John Barnard,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 3rd ser., V (1836), 177–243. Boston, Registry Dept., Records (Whitmore et al.), , , , , . Boston Weekly News-Letter, 11 Aug. 1743. Documentary history of Maine, IX, X, XXIII. William Douglass, A summary, historical and political, of the first planting, progressive improvements, and present state of the British settlements in North-America . . . (2v., Boston, 1747–52; London, 1755; London, 1760). Hutchinson, History of Mass.-Bay (Mayo), II. Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts (40v., in progress, Mass. Hist. Soc. pub., Boston, 1919– ), II–XX. “Papers connected with the administration of Governor Vetch,” ed. George Patterson, N.S. Hist. Soc. Coll., IV (1885), 64–112. PRO, CSP, Col., 1704–5; 1706–8; 1711–12; 1724–25. [Samuel Sewall], “Diary of Samuel Sewall,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll., 5th ser., V–VII (1878–1882); [ ], “Letter book of Samuel Sewall,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 6th ser., II (1888), III (1889), V (1892). Vital records of Roxbury, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849 (Essex Institute pub., Salem, Mass., 1925). Walker expedition (Graham). Shipton, Sibley’s Harvard graduates, V. J. P. Baxter, The pioneers of New France in New England, with contemporary letters and documents (Albany, 1894). Dean Dudley, History of the Dudley family, with genealogical tables . . . (2v., with supplements, Wakefield, Mass., 1886–1901) [contains biographical sketch of Dudley with many errors. d.f.w.]; Memorial of the reunion of the descendants of Governor Thomas Dudley (Wakefield, Mass., 1893) [gives some corrections to the History and a reproduction of a portrait of William Dudley. d.f.w.]. New Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, I (1847), X (1856), XXI (1867), XLI (1887), XLVI (1892).