John Dixwell, c.1607-89

Republican MP and regicide who supported Cromwell's Protectorate and fled to New England after the Restoration.

The younger son of Edward Dixwell, a Warwickshire gentleman, John Dixwell was probably brought up by his uncle Sir Basil Dixwell of Brome in Kent. He attended Lincoln's Inn and was called to the bar in 1638. During the First Civil War, he was active on the Kent county committee and was a captain in the Kent militia. On the death of his elder brother in 1644, Dixwell succeeded to the estate inherited from their uncle, and became guardian of his brother's children.

In 1646, Dixwell was elected to the Long Parliament as MP for Dover, where he became associated with the Independent faction. He retained his seat after Pride's Purge and was nominated to the High Court of Justice to try the King in January 1649. Dixwell attended every session of the King's trial and was a signatory of the death warrant.

During the Commonwealth, Dixwell was a political ally of the republicans Ludlow and Marten. He was appointed to the Council of State in 1651-2, and took a particular interest in naval affairs. In January 1652, he was appointed governor of Dover Castle, which was of vital strategic importance during the Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-4.

Despite his reservations regarding the establishment of the Protectorate, Dixwell remained loyal to Oliver Cromwell and his successor Richard. He sat in all three Protectorate Parliaments. During the political turmoil of 1659, Dixwell was re-elected to the Council of State. He held Dover Castle on behalf of the civilian republican faction against the interests of Major-General Lambert and the Council of Officers.

Realising that the Restoration was inevitable, Dixwell sold up and fled abroad early in 1660. He joined some of his fellow-regicides at Hanau, but left Europe for New England in 1665. He settled at New Haven in Connecticut, where he lived under the assumed name of James Davids. He is known to have visited the former major-generals Whalley and Goffe at Hadley, Massachusetts.

Dixwell married twice during his exile in America. In 1673, he married Joanna Ling, a widow who died within a month of the marriage. Dixwell inherited the house belonging to Joanna's former husband. In 1677, at the age of seventy, he married Bathsheba How, who was aged about thirty. They had a son and two daughters. Dixwell died at New Haven in March 1689.


J. T. Peacey, John Dixwell, Oxford DNB, 2004

Thanks to William Owens of Boston MA for additional information on John Dixwell.