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upon the church, it is artfully, and with great good manners, cast entirely upon the legislature, and put upon the score of sedition, whereas it was well known the dissenters behaved peaceably, and were very far from disturbing the state. Nor does the preamble to the act charge them with disloyalty, but only says, "that for the providing speedy remedies against the practice of seditious sectaries, and others, who under pretence of tender consciences have or may at their meetings contrive insurrections*, be it enacted," &c. as if it was possible to do this in the company of women and servants, who were always present in their assemblies. It is therefore evident, that the act was levelled purely against liberty of conscience, and was so severely executed, that as sir Harry Capel observes, there was hardly a conventicle to be heard of all over England. The two houses, says our church historian +, were express for the execution of these laws; the bishops and clergy were sincerely zealous in it, and the honest justices and magistrates, as he calls them, bore the more hard upon them, because they saw them so bold in despising and evading the justice of the nation.
Great numbers were prosecuted on this act, and many industrious families reduced to poverty. Many ministers were confined in jails and close prisons; and warrants were issued out against them and their hearers, whereby great sums of money were levied. In the diocess of Salisbury the persecution was hottest, by the instigation of bishop Ward; many hundreds being pursued with great industry, and driven from their families and trades. The act was executed with such severity in Starling's mayoralty, that many of the trading men in the city were removing with their effects to Holland, till the king put a stop to it §. Informers were everywhere at work, and having crept into religious assemblies in disguise, levied great sums of money upon ministers and people. Soldiers broke into the houses of honest farmers, under pretence of searching for conventicles, and, where ready money was wanting, they plundered their goods, drove away their cattle, and sold them for half-price. Many were plundered of their household furniture; the sick had their beds taken from under them, and themselves laid on the floor. Should I sum up all the particulars, and the accounts I have
These words, as late experience has shewn, were slily omitted," says Dr. Grey, who adds, "Here he (Mr. Neal) injuriously lays the blame upon the bishops, as if the king and the two houses were wholly under their direction and influence; and treats Mr. Archdeacon Echard not over-civilly for being of a contrary opinion.' The first censure in this paragraph is not very civil in Dr. Grey; nor does it appear well grounded, since Mr. Neal has inserted so much of the paragraph as charges the sectaries with having contrived insurrections. Nor does Mr. Neal lay the whole blame upon the bishops, for he says, "the two houses were for the execution of these laws;" though, it is true, indeed, he is not willing that the guilt should be cast entirely upon the legislature; for "the bishops and clergy were sincerely zealous in this business of persecution."-ED.
† Page 286.
Calamy's Abridgment, vol. 1. p. 332. § Burnet, p. 398.
received, says Mr. Sewel*, it would make a volume of itself. These vile creatures were not only encouraged, but pushed on vehemently by their spiritual guides: for this purpose archbishop Sheldon sent another circular letter to all the bishops in his province, dated May 7, 1670, in which he directs all ecclesiastical judges and officers, "to take notice of all Nonconformists, holders, frequenters, maintainers, and abettors, of conventicles, especially of the preachers or teachers in them, and of the places wherein they are held; ever keeping a more watchful eye over the cities and greater towns, from whence the mischief is for the most part derived unto the lesser villages and hamlets. And wheresoever they find such wilful offenders, that then with a hearty affection to the worship of God, the honour of the king and his laws, and the peace of the king and his laws, and the peace of the church and kingdom, they do address themselves to the civil magistrate, justices, and others concerned, imploring their help and assistance for preventing and suppressing the same, according to the late act in that behalf made and set forth.-And now, my lord, what the success will be we must leave to God Almighty; yet, my lord, I have this confidence under God, that if we do our parts now at first seriously, by God's help, and the assistance of the civil power, considering the abundant care and provision the act contains for our advantage, we shall in a few months see so great an alteration in the distraction of these times, as that the seduced people returning from their seditious and self-seeking teachers to the unity of the church, and uniformity of God's worship, it will be to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, the praise of his majesty and government, and the happiness of the whole kingdom." Can this be the language of a Christian and Protestant bishop; or is it not more like a father of the Inquisition, or the dragooning commission of Lewis XIV. when he revoked the edict of Nantz +?
Copies of this letter were sent by the archdeacons to the officers of the several parishes within their jurisdictions, earnestly exhorting them to take especial care, to perform whatsoever is therein required, and to give an account at the next visitation. Many of the bishops chose to lie behind the curtain, and throw off the odium from themselves to the civil magistrate; but some of the more zealous could not forbear appearing in person, as bishop Ward, already mentioned, and bishop Gunning ‡, who
Sewel, p. 493.
+ Calamy's Abridg. vol. 1. p. 328.
Henshaw, the bishop of Peterborough, declared publicly in the church at Rowel, after he had commanded the officers to put this act in execution," Against all fanatics it hath done its business, except the Quakers: but when the parliament sits again, a stronger law will be made, not only to take away their lands and goods, but also to sell them for bondslaves." On this Mr. Gough properly asks, "Who can acquit the church so called of their share in the persecution, when the rulers thereof were so intemperately warm and active in it, and still insatiate with all these severities, inhumanly planning more and greater." History, vol. 2. p. 303. -ED.
often disturbed the meetings in person once finding the doors shut, he ordered the constable to break them open with a sledge; another time he sat upon the bench at the quarter-sessions, upon which the chairman desired his lordship to give the charge, which he refusing received a very handsome rebuke; it being hardly consistent with one that is an ambassador of the Prince of peace, to sit in judgment upon the consciences of his poor countrymen and neighbours, in order to plunder and tear them to pieces*. The bishop was so zealous in the cause, that he sunk his character by giving a public challenge to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, and Quakers, and appointed three days for the disputation; on the first of which his lordship went into the pulpit in the church, where was a considerable congregation, and charged the former with sedition and rebellion out of their books, but would hear no reply +. When the day came to dispute with the Quakers, they summoned their friends, and when the bishop railed, they paid him in his own coin; and followed him to his very house with repeated shouts, "The hireling flieth."
The Nonconformist ministers did what they could to keep themselves within the compass of the law; they preached frequently twice a day in large families, with only four strangers, and as many under the age of sixteen as would come; and at other times, in places where people might hear in several adjoining houses; but after all, infinite mischiefs ensued, families were impoverished and divided; friendship between neighbours was interrupted; there was a general distrust and jealousy of each other; and sometimes upon little quarrels, servants would betray their masters, and throw their affairs into distraction. Among others that suffered at this time was Dr. Manton, who was apprehended on a Lord's day in the afternoon, just as he had done sermon; the door being opened to let a gentleman out, the justice and his attendants rushed in, and went up stairs; they staid till the doctor had ended his prayer, and then wrote down the names of the principal persons present, and took the doctor's promise to come to them at a house in the piazzas of CoventGarden, where they tendered him the Oxford oath, upon his refusal of which, he was committed prisoner to the Gate-house; where he continued till he was released by the indulgence. At another time his meeting-house in White-Hart Yard was broken up; the place was fined 40l. and the minister 20., which was paid by lord Wharton, who was then present; they also took down the names of the hearers, for the benefit of the justices of peace and spiritual courts.
The behaviour of the Quakers was very extraordinary, and had something in it that looked like the spirit of martyrdom ‡ They met at the same place and hour as in times of liberty, and
Calamy, vol. 2. p. 692.
+Ibid. vol. 2. p. 334.
Burnet, p. 398.
when the officers came to seize them, none of them would stir; they went all together to prison; they stayed there till they were dismissed, for they would not petition to be set at liberty, nor pay the fines set upon them, nor so much as the prison fees. When they were discharged, they went to their meeting-house again, as before; and when the doors were shut up by order, they assembled in great numbers in the street before the doors, saying, they would not be ashamed nor afraid to disown their meeting together in a peaceable manner to worship God; but in imitation of the prophet Daniel, they would do it more publicly, because they were forbid. Some called this obstinacy, others firmness, but by it they carried their point, the government being weary of contending against so much perverseness *.
On the Ist of September, 1670, two of their principal speakers, Wm. Penn and Wm. Mead, were tried at the Old-Bailey, for an unlawful and tumultuous assembly in the open street, wherein they spake or preached to the people, who were assembled in Gracechurch-street, to the number of three or four hundred, in contempt of the king's laws, and to the disturbance of the peace. The prisoners pleaded Not Guilty, but met with some of the severest usage that has been known in an English court of justice. They were fined forty marks apiece for coming into court with their hats on, though it was not done out of contempt, but from a principle of their religion. It appeared by the witnesses, that there was an assembly in Gracechurch-street, but there was neither riot, nor tumult, nor force of arms. Mr. Penn confessed they were so far from recanting, or declining to vindicate the assembling themselves to preach, pray, or worship the eternal, holy, just God, that they declared to all the world, they believed it to be their duty, and that all the powers on earth should not be able to divert them from it. When it was said, they were not arraigned for worshipping God, but for breaking the law, William Penn affirmed he had broken no law, and challenged the recorder to tell him upon what law he was prosecuted. The recorder answered, upon the common law, but could not tell where that common law was to be found. Penn insisted upon his producing the law, but the court overruled him, and called him a troublesome fellow. Penn replied, "I design no affront to the court, but if you deny to acquaint me with the law you say I have broken, you deny me the right that is due to every Englishman,
A respectable member of the society of Quakers has remarked, with propriety and force, on this language of bishop Burnet, "that had he concluded with the word perseverance instead of perverseness, his description had been less objectionable, as being nearer the truth. The prejudice discovered by that dignified prelate against this people tarnished his reputation as a faithful historian and as a man; as a true son of the church, it is not much to be wondered, when it is considered that they, rejecting its honours and its revenues, struck at the root of the hierarchy whilst other dissenters, in general, contending chiefly about rites and ceremonies, manifested little or no objection to that grand support, pecuniary emolument; as their practice in common, particularly during the interregnum, incontestably proved." A Letter to the Editor.-ED.
and evidence to the whole world that your designs are arbitrary." Upon which he was haled from the bar into the bail-dock. As he was going out, he said to the jury, "If these fundamental laws which relate to liberty and property must not be indispensably maintained, who can say he has a right to the coat upon his back? Certainly then our liberties are openly to be invaded, our wives to be ravished, our children enslaved, and our estates led away in triumph, by every sturdy beggar and malicious informer, as their trophies."
I am a
William Mead, being left alone at the bar, said, "You men of the jury, I am accused of meeting by force of arms, in a tumultuous manner.-Time was when I had freedom to use a carnal weapon, and then I feared no man; but now I fear the living God and dare not make use thereof nor hurt any man. peaceable man, and therefore demand to know upon what law my indictment is founded; if the recorder will not tell what makes a riot, Coke will tell him, that it is when three or more are met together to beat a man, or to enter forcibly into another man's lands to cut his grass or wood, or break down his pales." Upon this the recorder, having lost all patience, pulled off his hat, and said, I thank you, sir, for telling me what the law is. Mead replied, Thou mayest put on thy hat, I have no fee for thee now. The mayor Starling told him, he deserved to have his tongue cut out, and ordered him likewise to be carried to the bail-dock.
When the prisoners were gone, the recorder gave the jury their charge, upon which William Penn stood up, and with a loud voice said, "I appeal to the jury, and this great assembly, whether it be not contrary to the undoubted right of every Englishman, to give the jury their charge in the absence of the prisoners?" The recorder answered with a sneer, Ye are present, ye do hear, do ye not? Penn answered, "No thanks to the court; I have ten or twelve material points to offer in order to invalidate the indictment, but am not heard." The recorder said, "Pull him down; pull the fellow down." Mead replied, these were barbarous and unjust proceedings; and then they were both thrust into the hole.
After the jury had withdrawn an hour and half, the prisoners were brought to the bar to hear their verdict; eight of them came down agreed, but four remained above, to whom they used many unworthy threats, and in particular to Mr. Bushel, whom they charged with being the cause of the disagreement. At length, after withdrawing a second time, they agreed to bring them in guilty of speaking in Gracechurch-street; which the court would not accept for a verdict, but after many menaces told them they should be locked up without meat, drink, fire, or tobacco; nay, they should starve, unless they brought in a proper verdict. William Penn being at the bar, said, "My jury ought not to be thus threatened. We were by force of arms kept out of our meeting-house, and met as near it as the soldiers would give us