John Dixwell (1607 – 18 March 1689) was an English man who sat in Parliament, fought for the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War, and was one of the Commissioners who sat in judgement on King Charles I and condemned him to death. At the restoration he fled to Connecticut where he lived out the rest of his life as John Davids untroubled by the authorities who thought him dead.
He was the younger son of Edgar Dixwell, but was raised by his uncle Basil Dixwell of Broome Park, near Canterbury in Kent. He became a colonel in the Parliamentary army and was active on various county committees, and was elected to the Long Parliament of 1640 as MP for Dover. He was appointed governor of Dover Castle by Oliver Cromwell. Dixwell was a member of four parliaments. He was one of fifty-nine signatories of the death warrant of King Charles I. After the Restoration, the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was passed in August 1660, granting pardon to those who supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate, but it specifically exempted those who had played a direct role in the trial and execution of King Charles I eleven years previously.
Dixwell was condemned to death as a regicide, but escaped this punishment by fleeing to New Haven, Connecticut. He assumed the name John Davids and was reunited in 1664 with two other men likewise condemned, William Goffe and Edward Whalley, who had found refuge in Hadley, Massachusetts. The two had initially settled in Massachusetts, but fled for New Haven when their safety was compromised. They were housed by Rev. John Davenport. After a reward was offered for their arrest, they pretended to flee to New York, but instead returned by a roundabout way to New Haven. In May, the Royal order for their arrest reached Boston, and was sent by the Governor to William Leete, Governor of the New Haven Colony, residing at Guilford. Leete delayed the King's messengers, allowing Goffe and Whalley to disappear. They spent much of the summer in Judges' Cave at West Rock.
Dixwell was not the subject of any searches or arrest warrants, as it was believed in England that he was dead. He was known in New England only by his pseudonym: only on his deathbed was his identity revealed. His house in New Haven was at the corner of Grove and College Streets, near his friend Rev. James Pierpont. His favorite study in exile was the History of the World, which Raleigh had written in prison, and he cherished a constant faith that the spirit of liberty in England would produce a new revolution.
Dixwell died in New Haven in March 1689, a month after the House of Commons of England had approved a Declaration of Right (the precursor of the Bill of Rights 1689) following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He was buried in the Old Burying Ground behind the Center Church on New Haven Green. The original monument is still visible; a larger one was added later. The Dixwell family monument is in Holy Trinity church Churchover, Warwickshire. The three regicides are commemorated by three intersecting streets in New Haven (Dixwell Avenue, Whalley Avenue, and Goffe Street ), and by place names in other Connecticut towns.
He had married twice during his exile in America: firstly, in 1673 he married Joanna Ling, a widow and secondly, in 1677, he married Bathsheba How, with whom he had a son and two daughters.
- "John Dixwell, Regicide, c.1607-89". British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Dixwell, John". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
- Heinz, Bernard (1976). Center Church On-the-Green. New Haven: First Church of Christ. p. 15. Retrieved 2012-05-09.