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Eaton, Theophilus

EATON, THEOPHILUS (c.1590-1658), English colonial governor in America, was born at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, about 1590. He was educated in Coventry, became a successful merchant, travelled widely throughout Europe, and for several years was the financial agent of Charles I. in Denmark. He subsequently settled in London, where he joined the Puritan congregation of the Rev. John Davenport, whom he had known since boyhood. The pressure upon the Puritans increasing, Eaton, who had been one of the original patentees of the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629, determined to use his influence and fortune to establish an independent colony of which his pastor should be the head. In 1637 he emigrated with Davenport to Massachusetts, and in the following year (March 1638) he and Davenport founded New Haven. In October 1639 a form of government was adopted, based on the Mosaic Law, and Eaton was elected governor, a post which he continued to hold by annual re-election, first over New Haven alone, and after 1643 over the New Haven Colony or Jurisdiction, until his death at New Haven on the 7th of January 1658. His administration was embarrassed by constantly recurring disputes with the neighbouring Dutch settlements, especially after Stamford (Conn.) and Southold (Long Island) had entered the New Haven Jurisdiction, but his prudence and diplomacy prevented an actual outbreak of hostilities. He was prominent in the affairs of the New England Confederation, of which he was one of the founders (1643). In 1655 he and Davenport drew up the code of laws, popularly known as the "Connecticut Blue Laws," which were published in London in 1656 under the title New Haven's Settling in New England and some Lawes for Government published for the Use of that Colony.

A sketch of his life appears in Cotton Mather's Magnalia (London, 1702); see also J.B. Moore's "Memoir of Theophilus Eaton" in the Collections of the New York Historical Society, second series, vol. ii. (New York, 1849).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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