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GOVERNOR PHIPS AND HIS SUNKEN TREASURE
It does not often fall to the lot of one individual to discover a valuable sunken treasure-ship and then to be elected Governor of a State. Such was the history, however, of William Phips. He was born on Phips Point, near Wiscasset, Maine, and being apprenticed to a ship-builder of his native town he learned much about ships and the sea. He moved to Boston in the early part of his life and soon married. He was very poor, but had a determination to accumulate money. In the taverns of Boston he heard of sunken galleons and conceived the idea of getting his heart’s desire, which was “A brick house in the Green Lane of North Boston,” now Salem Street. It was not many years before he did actually own one.
Setting sail in 1681 for the West Indies he cruised around on his wild search, falling in with many pirates, including Morgan, the most bloodthirsty buccaneer of them all. He managed to discover a small treasure and went to England to finance an expedition to procure the rest of it. For two years he tried to persuade King Charles II to join him, and finally succeeded. The King loaned him the frigate “Rose” which belonged to the Navy, having been captured from some corsairs. In 1683 he sailed to Boston, where he found that the owners of another ship had gotten wind of his treasure, and so he had to allow them to join him. Both ships sailed for the West Indies, but found no treasure: as often happens, it had vanished. Nothing daunted, however, he continued his search near Hayti and San Domingo, where he found an old Spaniard who told him where he knew lay some treasures. Again he sailed to England in order to ship a new crew, his sailors having mutinied. He found that King Charles had died, but he was able to induce King James II to interest himself in the new venture. A syndicate was organized, and Phips, as “an authorized treasure seeker,” sailed in the “James & Mary” in 1686 for Port de la Plata. One of his crew noticed a large marine plant in the water and on diving for it discovered a cannon. On the second plunge he brought up a lump of silver which he put before Phips’s place at the dinner-table that night. The surprise and delight of the treasure-hunter can easily be imagined. Thirty-two tons of silver as well as gold, pearls and jewels were brought to the surface. The supply of provisions unfortunately got so low that it was thought best to return to England. On the way the seamen, though hired by the month, struck for their share, and Phips was obliged to accede to their demands. Up the Thames sailed this extraordinary expedition with the equivalent of $1,500,000 on board. The commander was most honest and only took exactly the amount to which he was entitled, which was one-sixteenth or about £16,000. For his discovery the King knighted him in Windsor Castle. Another visit was made to the wreck, but all the rest of the valuables had been taken away in the mean time.
King James offered Phips a place in the Navy, but his heart yearned for New England, whither he returned and built his brick house on Green Street. He was appointed the first Royal Governor, took part in the Quebec expedition, and did much to suppress witchcraft, but he endeavored to rule the lower officials of the Colony in much the same way that a pirate commands his crew. He got into many quarrels, returned to England, and there died.
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