A STATED Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. Augustus P. Loring, Jr., at No. 2 Gloucester Street, Boston, on Thursday, December 20, 1934, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, in the chair.
The records of the Annual Meeting in November were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. Raymond Walker Stanley accepting Resident Membership; from Mr. Wilfred Joseph Doyle accepting Associate Membership; and from Mr. George Macaulay Trevelyan accepting Honorary Membership in the Society.
Dr. Reginald Fitz, of Boston, was elected a Resident Member; Mr. John Stewart Bryan, of Williamsburg, Virginia, was elected a Corresponding Member; Mr. John Chester Miller, of Cambridge, was elected an Associate Member; and Mr. James Bryant Conant, of Cambridge, the Hon. William Cushing Wait, of Medford, and Sir Charles Harding Firth, of Oxford, were elected Honorary Members of the Society.
Mr. Albert H. Hall read a paper on “The Revolution of 1634.”
Mr. George P. Anderson spoke on “Secret Entries in the Diary of John Rowe.”
Mr. Robert F. Seybolt presented by title the following note:
Schoolmasters of Colonial Boston
WITH the editor’s permission, I should like to amend my list of early Boston schoolmasters that was published several years ago:442
Daniel Henchman (Hinchman)
IT is a great pleasure to me as a member of this Society for many years to be able to add to its library three books: Chronicles of the First Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay (Boston, 1846) and Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth (2nd ed., Boston, 1844), both edited by my grandfather, the Reverend Alexander Young; and A Narrative of the Indian Wars in New-England (Boston, 1775), written by William Hubbard, an ancestor of mine, minister of the church at Ipswich during the greater part of his life.
The Reverend Alexander Young, D.D., was born in Boston on September 22, 1800, and lived in Boston all his life. He entered Harvard College at the age of sixteen and was graduated at the age of twenty. At the graduation exercises of his class in 1820 he delivered the Latin address, and he was always a thorough student of everything to do with ancient Rome. After a year or so of teaching he entered the Divinity School, then under the charge of Professor Andrews Norton, and in 1824 completed his theological studies. On January 19, 1825, he became pastor of the Unitarian Church on Church Green, Boston, an institution usually referred to as the New Old South Church or the Octagon Church, the latter name being derived from the beautiful spire, which has been portrayed to posterity by an oil painting which was reproduced by the Copley Prints. The original oil painting of the New Old South Church is in my possession, and it is interesting to recall the fact that it was found in an attic in Hingham by the late Arthur Lincoln (H. C. 1863), a cousin of my father, who gave it to my father sometime prior to 1900. William Prescott, Daniel Webster, and Lemuel Shaw were members of this parish.
Dr. Young was not merely a pastor but also a careful and thorough historical student and scholar. His Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers was published in 1841 and his Chronicles of Massachusetts Bay in 1846. Although these works were merely compilations of sources, his notes show great historical knowledge and also give proof of his industry and sound critical ability. He was proud of his city and commonwealth. As he stated himself, “No nation or state has a nobler origin or lineage than Massachusetts. My reverence for the character of its founders constantly rises with the closer study of their lives and a clearer insight into their principles and motives.”
Before the two volumes of Chronicles were published, Dr. Young had edited a series of volumes entitled The Library of the Old English Prose Writers, which was intended to bring before the American reading public the best examples of a period of English literature which was then little known in this country. As the editor himself said, “In this age of books, when everybody is sipping of the shallow and ofttimes poisoned fountains of an ephemeral literature, how few there are that draw from the deep and healthful wells of English undefiled.”
Dr. Young was also interested in public service and was for several years an efficient and faithful member of the School Committee of Boston. He also was one of the founders of the Boston Latin School Association, which was organized in 1844, the first officers being Benjamin Apthorp Gould, president, and Dr. Young, vice-president. Dr. Young was also elected a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard College in 1837, and in 1849 was chosen secretary of that distinguished Board.
He married Miss Caroline James of Barre, Massachusetts, daughter of Eleazer James and Rosefair Brooks. Eleazer James was a graduate of Harvard in the Class of 1778, was perhaps the leading lawyer in his section of Worcester County, and was always known as “Squire” James. Dr. Young had a large number of children, among whom may be mentioned Edward James Young, who was Hancock Professor of Hebrew at Harvard; Charles Loring Young, who was for many years in the China trade as a member of the firm of Young and Emmons and later was president of the National Union Bank; George Brooks Young, at one time a justice of the Supreme Court of Minnesota and one of the counsel who argued the Northern Securities case before the Supreme Court of the United States for Mr. James J. Hill; Caroline James Young, wife of General Robert Hooper Stevenson; and Benjamin Loring Young, the twelfth and youngest, my father.
Dr. Alexander Young was the son of Alexander Young of Boston, who was born in 1768 and who married Mary Loring, daughter of Joseph Loring and Ruth James. The elder Young was the publisher of the Massachusetts Mercury, the name of which was changed in 1801 to the New England Palladium. This paper was later merged with the Boston Advertiser.
It is not, however, my purpose to discuss the ancestry or personal qualities of Alexander Young, but merely to present to this Society his own copies of both volumes of the Chronicles. They contain many notes in his own handwriting showing that perhaps he intended to bring out a further and more accurate edition based on his extensive study and investigation.
William Hubbard was a member of the graduating class of Harvard College in 1642, and the first Harvard man to attempt the writing of history. Although his efforts in that direction were not altogether happy, his Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England (1677), a copy of the second edition of which, issued with an altered title, I am also presenting today, is a good straight chronicle of the Pequot and King Philip’s wars, comparing favorably with other writings of the times.
He was one of the most long-lived of the early Harvard graduates. He was already the senior graduate in New England in 1688 when Governor Sir Edmund Andros invited him to preside at Harvard Commencement in the absence of President Mather; “yet freshly ran he on” sixteen years more. It has always been a matter of jest between our family and the Appletons that a contemporary diary thus records the end of the Reverend William Hubbard: on September 14, 1704, Hubbard “goes to ye Lecture, after to Col. Ap̄letons, goes home, sups, & dyes that night.”
The President communicated by title a paper by Mr. Raymond Phineas Stearns entitled:
The Weld-Peter Mission to England
ALTHOUGH the Great Migration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the decade after 1630 has been given much deserved attention, the economic distress occasioned by the decrease in the numbers of newcomers after 1640 has been less noticed, and the consequent attempts of the colony to obtain relief from England have been scarcely mentioned. From the time of the arrival of the first Puritans, there were complaints of the soil and climate of the Bay region. John Pratt of Newtown doubtless expressed the sentiment of many others when he grumbled that the colony was “builded upon rocks, sands, & salte marshes,” and that it was impossible to subsist there.460 Impatient or less steadfast men early began to move to Connecticut, to Rhode Island, and to the West Indies, or to return to England. English financial supporters, seeking profits as well as godliness in the enterprise, urged the colonists to move farther south, either on the American coast or to the West Indies, where they could be more comfortable, more nearly self-sufficient, just as godly, and perhaps less expensive.461 By 1640, Bay Colony apologists were being driven to explain their stubborn immobility by mystical allusions to divine direction. Only widespread poverty and the faith and dissuasive force of Governor Winthrop, backed by Endecott and prominent elders, prevented a wholesale departure of colonists from Massachusetts shores.
Had the Great Migration extended a few years longer, it is likely that an abrupt conclusion would have produced much less disastrous consequences. By 1640, the colonists had made a significant start in the search for a livelihood, and, had this growth reached greater maturity, unmolested by British imperial ambitions, the sharp curtailment of the influx of English capital and goods might have had less adverse effects. Notable beginnings had been made in shipbuilding; companies had been organized to exploit the fur-trade; private individuals were beginning to find profits in lumber and other forest products; farmers were learning to till the soil successfully; acute business men were venturing into trade with the West Indies, envisaging something closely akin to the triangular trade of later importance.462 These were significant developments, which pointed the way to profitable existence. But time was required for their further growth before the colony could earn its way by such undertakings.
Meanwhile, despite financial assistance from England and the immigration of thousands of people throughout the 1630’s, the colony had become poorer and poorer. The settlers spent their money abroad for supplies, but they sold no products with which to balance their trade. Scarcity of money caused prices to fall to less than one half their former level.463 English merchants refused to extend more credit to Massachusetts buyers and complained that they could not collect their bills already outstanding. Supporters in the mother country began to turn their financial adventures into other channels. The brighter outlook in England after the Short Parliament was summoned in 1640 and die prospect of profits in the West Indies led such men as Lord Brooke, the Earl of Warwick, Lord Say and Sele, and Sir Arthur Hazelrigg—all formerly ardent for the New England enterprise—to cast in their lot with parliament and to invest their money in West Indies schemes rather than sink more funds in the seemingly bottomless and profitless pit of the Massachusetts Bay.464 In like manner, better prospects in Church and State at home caused a cessation of the Great Migration of the 1630’s. English Puritans were more willing to stake their future upon the outcome in England than to risk their lives and their fortunes in the reputedly barren and cold wastes of New England. Moreover, many settlers from thence, impoverished, tired of a cold, meagre existence, had gone or were preparing to go back to England or, like John Humfry, to the sunny, fertile islands of the Caribbean, so attractively set forth in the propaganda of Warwick, Lord Say and Sele, and other lords proprietors who had patents and needed colonists.465
The pronounced shrinkage in immigration to, and the beginnings of emigration from, the Bay Colony intensified economic depression there and so endangered the colony’s credit that the magistrates were forced to act. A palliative was sought in October, 1640, when the General Court, noting “a great stop in trade & commerce for want of money,” passed an act to make all debts, legacies, and fines payable in commodities at rates set by the Court.466 Zealous leaders, more loyal to the Massachusetts ideal than to mother England, proposed a league with the Dutch at New Amsterdam,467 but no official move in that direction is recorded. At length the magistrates, finding no effective relief within their power, determined to apply at home for aid. Charter troubles which had been brewing for several years were a further consideration and gave an added excuse for sending a commission to England. The colony had thus far defeated all attempts there to recover its patent, but if agents could both secure confirmation of charter rights and obtain economic assistance, the officials would be doubly relieved.468 Furthermore, when the magistrates learned that a parliament had been called, the likelihood of success for such an undertaking appeared to them certain. Nor did they lose sight of more purely idealistic motives; for if Stuart tyranny were now to be checked by the parliamentary curb, might they not expect the long-awaited reformation in the English Church and State to come to pass, and might not the colony lend its aid to such a glorious movement?
In the autumn of 1640 the Court of Assistants debated sending agents to England. Friends there had urged this course, but the magistrates were at first chary:
… we declined the motion [wrote Winthrop] for this consideration, that if we should put ourselves under the protection of the parliament, we must then be subject to all such laws as they should make, or at least such as they might impose upon us; in which course though they should intend our good, yet it might prove very prejudicial to us.469
Whatever the constitutional implications might have been in the minds of the magistrates, it is clear that they desired to take no chances with their charter “liberties.” In the following February, however, after the Court of Assistants had consulted with the elders, it was decided, since a ship was about to sail for England,
… to send some chosen men in her with commission to negotiate for us, as occasion should be offered, both in furthering the work of reformation of the churches there which was now like to be attempted, and to satisfy our countrymen of the true cause why our engagements there have not been satisfied this year, as they were wont to be in all former time since we were here planted; and also to seek out some way, by procuring cotton from the West Indies, or other means that might be lawful, and not dishonourable to the gospel, for our present supply of clothing, etc., for the country was like to afford enough for food, etc.470
The Assistants chose Hugh Peter, pastor of the church at Salem, Thomas Weld, pastor of the church at Roxbury, and William Hibbins, a prominent Boston merchant, as the agents to be sent. The governor and others wrote to the Salem and Roxbury churches, asking each to spare its minister for this purpose. Roxbury yielded with little hesitation; but at Salem the request met with intense opposition led by John Endecott. His objections were based upon considerations of state policy, not upon personal disapproval of Peter, except in view of the latter’s profession.471 He felt that the plan itself might prove “more hurtfull then helpfull vnto vs diuers ways.” First, he said,
… it will conferme my Lord Say and others of his judgement that New England can no longer subsist without the helpe of old England; espetiallie they beinge already informed of the forwardnes of diuers amongst vs to remoue to the West Indies because they cannot heere maintayne their families.
Further, it might lead to the dishonor of God if ill-affected persons were given the opportunity to jeer at the colony’s necessitous condition; it might deter persons from sending money, supplies, and settlers, instead of encouraging these things, “The report of our povertie having bene alreadie a manifest cause of debarring most from vs.” Again, said Endecott, if the colony would use what money it had more wisely, not dissipating it “in wines & liquors, & English prouisions of dyett & onnecessarie brauerie in apparell, all which tends to the scandal of religion & pouertie,” the want would not be so great. Rather than send agents to England, he proposed an alternative plan. Let “some Godlie wise men in seueral townes … (who are well knowen in England, & haue been of eminency & esteeme amongest them, as Mr. Cotton, Mr. Ezek. Rogers, Mr. Norrice, & many others such)” write “priuately” to their English acquaintances “who are likelie to doe vs good, by way of counsell to aduize them, that it might be pleasing to God to further the work of the Lord heere, by their purses & persons, &c. This we thinck wilbe more effectuall then the other.”
Endecott also objected that the agents nominated by the Court were “most vnfitt.” Unfortunately, since he feared that his letters might miscarry, he did not state his reasons fully. The chief points of his opposition are, however, clear. He argued against the colony’s employment of ministers in secular affairs, for, he queried, might it not appear as “something Jesuiticall”? He also pointed out that they were “men well affected to the West Indies” and might become prey to those in England who advocated moving the New England settlement to a Caribbean island—referring, no doubt, to his own pastor, Hugh Peter, who had been strongly tempted by West Indies propaganda.472
The Salem magistrate’s protests contained some sound arguments, and the people of the Salem church staged a bitter battle over giving up their minister for the colony’s service abroad. John Humfry vehemently attacked Endecott for his opposition, but the latter, backed by Emmanuel Downing and William Hathorne, prevailed for the time being.473 The church excused itself to the General Court for its refusal to yield up its pastor, saying that “It would be conceived we sent them begging.”474 In the end, the dispute between Endecott and Humfry, having extended through the colony, threatened widespread differences on similar grounds, and the plan was temporarily abandoned.475
The spring of 1641, however, found economic distress in Massachusetts even more severe, and the plan recently defeated was revived. Displeased elders and magistrates who aligned themselves with Endecott found their objections overriden. Once again, Peter, Weld, and Hibbins were chosen to act for the colony. On June 2, 1641, the General Court again asked leave of their respective churches for Peter and Weld to go to England “upon some weighty occations for the good of the Countrey, as is conceived.”476 This time the Salem church quietly assented, and the Roxbury church agreed as before.
Once the proposition had been determined upon, the agents made haste to depart upon their mission. Finding no ship going directly to England, they decided to go first to Newfoundland, intending to obtain passage thence in the fishing fleet. Accompanied by John Winthrop, Jr., Thomas Lechford, the disbarred and discontented lawyer, and forty other passengers, the three commissioners left Boston on August 3 and arrived at Newfoundland on August 17.477 There they were delayed by a lack of ships for England, and the two clergymen improved their time by preaching to the fishermen. At length, some three weeks later, passage was secured, but even then they were obliged “to divide themselves and go from several parts of the island, as they could get shipping.”478 Winthrop, who arrived in Bristol on September 28, described his twenty-day voyage aboard a sixty-ton fishing vessel as being marked by “foule weather” and “continual storms.”479
Although no copy of their instructions is known to exist, the agents’ objects in going to England in 1641 are clear enough. Governor Winthrop’s account of the mission, and their own subsequent activities, leave no room for doubt. They were to explain to the colony’s creditors “the true cause why we could not make so current payment now as in former years we had done”;480 they were to seek whatever aid they could get from friends of Massachusetts in the way of money and supplies for the colony, for the college at Cambridge, and for the conversion of the benighted Indians—“but with this caution,” said Winthrop, “that they should not seek supply of our wants in any dishonourable way, as by begging or the like, for we were resolved to wait upon the Lord in the use of all means which were lawful and honorable”;481 they were to apply to the English authorities “for ease in Customs and Excise; the Country being poor, and a tender Plant, of their own setting and manuring”;482 and they were to try in every other way possible to secure English support for the budding commerce of the colony. In all these endeavors the agents were to be on their guard lest they compromise the rights of the colony as guaranteed by the charter, and they were to attempt to remove the difficulties suffered for years by the colony in retaining its patent.483 Lastly, and for Peter and Weld most fateful of all, they were to further “the work of reformation of the churches” in England “which was now like to be attempted.”484
In addition to the duties imposed upon all the agents in general, Peter was entrusted with a special diplomatic mission to the Dutch. From the time in 1633 when Edward Winslow and Governor William Bradford recognized the trading possibilities of the Connecticut River area, the English at Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay had been in constant conflict with the Dutch of New Amsterdam over the possession of that territory. The Dutch had established a trading post and fort at Good Hope, on the site of Hartford, in 1633, but they had failed to plant a strong settlement in the region. After Plymouth had invaded the valley, Massachusetts men had established settlements in the neighborhood, and young John Winthrop, on behalf of the Saybrook patentees, had constructed a fort at the mouth of the river in 1635. Meanwhile, though the Dutch had protested against such inroads upon territory to which they asserted title, they had entered into profitable commercial relations with the English and had tended to lose sight of their territorial claims as long as the trade was profitable.485 More and more, however, the English, especially those at Hartford, had extended their claims westward until they were within a short distance of New Amsterdam itself.486 By 1641, the Dutch, now thoroughly aroused by these “unlawful usurpations,” were prepared to defend their alleged rights by force of arms. Governor Haynes of Connecticut applied to Massachusetts for aid, but, when an Indian attack diverted the Dutch from their purpose, he and the elder Winthrop determined to commission Hugh Peter, who, “being well acquainted with the chief merchants in Holland” by reason of several years’ residence there, was to attempt to pacify the Dutch West India Company.487 The instructions, signed by Haynes and Winthrop, were not drawn up until October 10, when Peter had already departed for England, but they were sent to him there. They provided “Authority to the Reverend Mr. Peters to treat with the West India Company,” as follows:
Whereas Mr. Hugh Peters, Minister of Salem, the bearer hereof, is sent at the public request to England, to negotiate with the present Parliament respecting such matters as concern us which we confide to his care and fidelity,
This is to authorize him, if occasion permit him to go to the Netherlands, to treat with the West India Company there, concerning a peaceable neighborhood between us and those of New Netherland, and whatever he shall further think proper touching the West Indies, to the end that we may have union and intercourse with one another, God willing, in a matter of such great importance the details to be negotiated are referred to such propositions as shall be presented on meeting together.488
The occasion for Peter to go to the Netherlands on this mission did not arise until nearly two years later, but when it did, he performed his task according to these instructions.
When the mixed nature of the Massachusetts undertaking is considered, the instruments selected by the colony do not appear wholly inept. Of William Hibbins little is known prior to his arrival in Massachusetts late in 1638. He was a merchant and a “gentleman” whose abilities inspired ready confidence on the part of his contemporaries, as is attested by his rapid rise in Boston. Admitted an inhabitant of that town in May, 1639, he was chosen selectman in the following December, a post which he held frequently during the next decade. Though not admitted a freeman of the colony until 1640, he became treasurer for the Boston town stock in April of that year and was chosen deputy to the General Court in September. By the time he set out as agent, he was recognized in the community as a prominent man whose wealth, prestige, and contacts with the English mercantile world might well be employed for the colony’s benefit.489
Both Hugh Peter and Thomas Weld were revered and respected in the colony as orthodox, godly ministers, whose loyalty to the ideals of the Bible Commonwealth could not be questioned. Both had education, experience, and convictions common to most of their colonial colleagues. Graduates of Cambridge, they had served apprenticeships in East Anglia under the greatest Puritan divines of the 1620’s, whose influence had led them to adopt the New England way of church discipline. For nonconformity each had smarted under English prelacy. Weld had experienced unusually sharp treatment at Laud’s hands,490 and Peter, having been forced out of England, had been hounded by the archbishop for several years in the Low Countries.491 Arriving in the Bay Colony in 1632 and 1635 respectively, Weld and Peter had been quickly called to churches where they ministered to their flocks with much success.
To such qualifications Peter could add a high repute for his efforts on behalf of the colony’s material welfare. An original investor in the Massachusetts Bay Company, he had been much affected when, in 1635, he saw with his own eyes the colony’s poverty and straitened circumstances. To a very considerable degree it was through his efforts that the Massachusetts settlers engaged actively in fishing, shipbuilding, the fur-trade, and the West Indies trade in the late 1630’s.492 So great were his abilities in such matters that the colony employed him in 1636 to purchase supplies abroad and, in April, 1641, to press its claims to the Piscataqua territory.493 Because of his usefulness in secular affairs, Winthrop was led to refer to him as “a man of very public spirit and singular activity for all occasions.”494 Indeed, in view of his experience and contacts with prominent merchants, ministers, and politicians in England and in Holland, the colony had reason to consider Master Peter their most valued agent.
In many respects, the colony’s confidence in both Weld and Peter was justified, for there could be no doubt of their thorough sympathy with the varied objects of their undertaking. Nevertheless, as agents they had defects whose seriousness depended upon whether the colony desired to concentrate on the material or the spiritual objects of the mission. If the former were to be of first importance, then, as John Endecott had said, there was “something Jesuiticall” about asking ministers of the gospel to leave their pulpits and “attend to secular businesses which maybe done by others.”495 If, on the other hand, the furtherance of reformation in England were to be the prime object (a circumstance most unlikely in view of the conditions prompting the enterprise), probably no better agents could have been found, since Weld’s interest in theological controversy and Peter’s zeal for political intrigue were certain to find a fertile field in the England of 1641. Again, whether or not reformation was the colony’s chief design, the training, experience, and professional interest of both men were such that they were likely to be carried away by this phase of their duties to the detriment of all others.
When the agents landed in England at the end of September, 1641, they found a country very different from that which they had known less than a decade before. The Long Parliament, after a ten-month session, had been in recess since September 9, and the struggle between king and parliament was well under way, although it had not yet reached the point of armed hostilities. During those ten months parliament had done much to relieve England from the arbitrary government of Charles I, to punish men who, according to the casuistry of the day, had tempted His Majesty into unlawful ways by their “evil” counsel, and to amend the constitution so that such practices might no longer be possible. The Star Chamber, the Court of High Commission, tonnage and poundage—all these had been destroyed. Strafford had been executed as the scapegoat of the king’s “evil” counsellors; Laud was in the Tower awaiting similar treatment as the symbol of ecclesiastical wrong-headedness. In all these proceedings the members of parliament had demonstrated an unusual singleness of purpose. The only violent note of dissension had arisen when some ill-advised persons had introduced a petition to destroy episcopacy “with all its dependencies, roots and branches,” and to establish a church government “according to God’s Word.”496 The petition had failed of its purpose, although demonstrating that beneath the surface the Long Parliament seethed with potential party spirit on religious questions; and unanimity prevailed once more. When the recess was over and parliament reassembled on October 20, these issues were reintroduced into the chaos of English affairs.
The time of the agents’ arrival found King Charles in Scotland meeting with the Scottish parliament in an effort to quell disturbances from that quarter. The plague was raging in London, and, except for a few important parliamentary committees appointed to watch the progress of events during the recess, influential people had scattered. What action the Massachusetts men took first is not recorded. It is likely that they communicated at once with powerful friends of the colony. Probably there was some doubt as to whom they should approach about their business. No permanent machinery for the control of colonial affairs had ever been set up in England, and the question had become an issue between the Crown and parliament. The Crown claimed exclusive jurisdiction, and, prior to 1641, parliament had had practically nothing to do with colonial matters.497 From the Commission for Foreign Plantations, which the king had created in 1634 to discipline Massachusetts Bay for its recalcitrance in the matter of giving up its charter, the agents could expect no help: the commission had been too unfriendly, and now some of its members had fled to escape parliamentary action and imprisonment with Laud. Since 1640, the Privy Council had assumed management of the colonies, with the aid of special committees of its own, but now it, too, was dispersed by the Long Parliament, and the agents could expect no sympathetic treatment from that source.498 At the same time, although it was clear that parliament intended to assert control over the colonies, it had not yet done so; it had no machinery established for that purpose, and its hands were so full of other affairs that it was difficult to secure a hearing for the needs of Massachusetts.
However, during the course of the winter of 1641–42 the agents did gain the ear of parliament in an effort to remove the restraints placed upon New England shipping by the Laudian commission.499 In March, 1641/2, the House of Lords listened to their appeal and appointed a committee of six, including lords Brooke and Say and Sele, to “Move His Majesty that these restraints be taken off.”500 Evidently the king did not heed their lordships’ advice, for the matter was brought up again in August, 1643.501 At this time, with the Civil War under way and parliament in full control of the colonies, the House of Commons declared all restraints removed from ships, persons, and goods bound for New England.502 With the navy and the chief ports of England in parliament’s hands, it appears likely that this order was observed, perhaps with some benefit to Massachusetts. But in matters relating to the excise concessions and to the charter the agents were compelled to bide their time.
Meanwhile the appeal to wealthy friends of the colony for money and supplies met with some measure of success.503 At the moment of their arrival the season was, of course, too far advanced to make it possible to send supplies for the winter then close at hand. But during that first troubled winter the agents exerted themselves to secure the needed relief. The donors that they found were of various sorts, but as a whole they were wealthy London business men, most of whom had been benefactors of or investors in the colony before. A group headed by Robert Houghton,504 a Southwark brewer and former donor,505 gave £500 in linens, woollens, and “other useful Commodities,” which were shipped to Massachusetts in 1642 by one Captain Sedgwick. In order that “the stock might be preserved and returned this year for a further supply,” the goods were sold in the colony at a profit of £80, which was divided equally between President Dunster “for the college” and Captain Sedgwick,506 and “the principal returned by Mr. Stoughton in the next ship.”507 A second consignment of goods, valued at about £500, was sent over the same season, the gift, it appears, of William Willoughby and others of London.508 Hibbins returned to Massachusetts with this shipment.509 But before he returned, he and his colleagues prevailed upon Mr. Richard Andrews, an alderman of London, to give a sum of money to the colony, “to be laid out in cattle, and other course of trade, for the poor.” The money was part of what Governor Bradford and his Plymouth associates owed Andrews, James Sherley, and John Beauchamp, their English partners in the fur-trading enterprise which had been launched in 1628.510 The business had not been profitable, and, in 1641, Sherley had been anxious to terminate the agreement. The Plymouth partners agreed and appraised their debt to the English investors at £1,200. The London partners accepted the estimate. Weld, Peter, and Hibbins, learning of the transaction, prevailed upon Andrews to give his portion, £544, to the Bay Colony.511 For a time, it appears, the agents hoped to prevail upon all three men to give the entire amount to the two colonies, two thirds to Massachusetts and the rest to Plymouth. But Sherley refused, and Beauchamp drew back, so that Massachusetts alone received benefit to the extent of Andrews’s share.512 Furthermore, Peter and Weld, in order to obtain even this, were compelled to sign a bond for £110 to guarantee Sherley’s release in the partnership; and later, when Sherley and Beauchamp failed to carry out their respective parts as the agents had anticipated, Weld and Peter were forced to pay the price of the bond out of their own pockets.513
Besides these three large gifts the agents secured several smaller ones. John Pocock and other London merchants advanced credit to the extent of £200 in goods.514 Francis Bridges of Clapham, Surrey, who died in June, 1642, wrote into his will that he bequeathed “vnto Mr. Wells, Mr. Hooker, Mr. Peters and Mr. Symes (Ministers of New England)” fifty pounds “towards the enlargement of a Colledge in New England for students there.” Bridges likewise gave to “the said Fower New England Ministers Twenty Poundes to be disposed towards the clothing of the poore in New England according as they in their discretions shall think fitt.”515 At this time Peter, Weld, and Hibbins also procured money “from diverse Gentellmen & merchants in England towards the furnishing of the [Harvard College] Library with books to the vallue of an hundred & fifty pound.”516 It is likely that various other small donations were secured, but the dates of their receipt and the names of the donors are uncertain.517 By the end of their first year abroad, however, the agents had gathered nearly £2,000 in money and supplies for the languishing Bible Commonwealth, no small achievement in view of the conditions under which their work was done. But even before all the goods were shipped to New England, Peter had become deeply involved in another phase of the enterprise, that of driving on the reformation of the English Church and State; and as at this point Hibbins returned to Massachusetts, Weld temporarily was left alone to collect money and to oversee the details of the begging mission.
The first great opportunity to promote the work of reformation came before civil war formally began. Little more than a month after the agents landed in Bristol, the Irish broke out in fierce rebellion. Discontented because of religious and economic conditions, thrown into governmental disruption by the trial and execution of Strafford, and encouraged by the success of the Scottish rebellion and by the weakened position of Charles I, the Irish rose against the English on October 23, 1641.518 Murder, torture, atrocious cruelty, and plundering followed. No English person—man, woman, or child—was spared. Between eight and ten thousand English people, many of them Puritans, were killed, though the exact number is difficult to determine because, as is common in such cases, highly exaggerated figures were given.519
Reports of the rebellion soon reached London, reports of a dazed and panic-stricken people: thirty thousand English Protestants, it was said, had been murdered by the Irish fiends; all the remaining English were in grave danger; the king was in league with the Irish to suppress the Protestant religion; the cause of truth—Puritan truth—was at stake. The accounts, of course, were highly colored, and the Irish had forged a commission under the king’s Broad Seal to seduce people to their ranks.520 The rebellion itself was aimed as much against the king as against parliament. But Puritans could easily believe, or pretend to believe for political effect, that the king was fostering it to befuddle the issues at home the more. As Irish depredations continued, news of fresh outrages reached London every week: the Protestants, it was reported, were outnumbered ten to one; the papists were threatening to murder them all; multitudes of “distressed poor People, who were stripped of all they have by the Rebels,” were pouring into Dublin; and unless help arrived speedily the English in that city could hold out no longer.521
Irish events greatly affected the progress of reformation in England. Just as the Puritans were about to assume the offensive against prelacy, the papists forced them to take the defensive once more. The Puritans were eager to assist their Protestant brethren in Ireland with soldiers and supplies. Parliament voted a three-day fast and set up machinery over all England to collect relief contributions.522 No doubt this collection absorbed moneys that might have been turned towards New England, but the Massachusetts agents, in full sympathy with the objects involved, readily lent aid to the new enterprise as one entirely consonant with their commission.
The question of sending soldiers to put down the Irish rebellion led to a protracted struggle between king and parliament over the control of the proposed troops. Charles had been in Scotland when the rebellion began, but he quickly took steps to suppress the Irish. He sent commissioners, arms, and supplies out of Scotland to the English troops in Ireland, and dispatched messages to parliament urging an immediate grant of money to enable him to raise forces to crush the revolt.523 Parliament, likewise, sent armed men to Ireland, but it was suspicious of the king, hesitant because of rumors that he was in league with the papists, and fearful lest he use an army, ostensibly raised to crush the Irish, to browbeat parliament and to defeat its designs.524 Thus throughout the winter of 1641–42 parliament sparred with the king, and little effective action was taken by either side to put down the Irish uprising.
The delay occasioned by this controversy caused many zealous Puritans to become impatient. They believed that the revolt should be crushed before it reached greater proportions. Yet they were loyal to parliament, and were unwilling for that body to forsake its pretended prerogative over the army even for the sake of speedy action in Ireland. They were torn between the two desires until someone suggested a way to crush the Irish, help the Protestants in Ireland, and, at the same stroke, leave parliament free to oppose the king’s claims. It is not recorded who originated the plan, but early in February, 1641/2, “divers well affected persons” petitioned parliament for the right “to raise Forces upon their own charge, and to maintain them for the reducing of the Rebels of Ireland into obedience, and after to receive such recompence out of the Rebels estates as the Parliament should think fit.”525 In other words, the petitioners asked permission to form a corporation which would secure the means with which to fight the Irish, provided that, when the rebels were conquered, the subscribers should receive recompense in Irish lands.
The petition was favorably received, and, as the promoters appeared to have ample funds subscribed for an expedition, parliament quickly introduced and passed (March 19, 1641/2) a bill embodying their proposals.526 Immediately the Adventurers for Ireland, as the promoters were called, hastened to get in their funds and to arrange for the expedition. Evidently, however, a large proportion of their money had been only promised, not paid, and cash came in more slowly than had been anticipated. Unless haste were made, the spring and summer months would pass with nothing effected. Meanwhile English officers in Ireland were reporting that speedy action by an adequate, properly equipped force would end the rebellion and reduce Ireland to its former subjection. King and parliament were so hopelessly at odds that no effective action in Ireland could be expected immediately from either source. The Adventurers for Ireland were the Puritans’ only hope.
At first the Adventurers planned to send 5,000 foot soldiers, 500 horse, and 15 ships to guard the coast, all to be added to whatever forces parliament might be able to send.527 But when money failed to come in, plans were altered and action was postponed, until it appeared that the Adventurers would accomplish nothing. Finally, in June, 1642, a group of Puritan merchants and gentlemen, headed by Sir Nicholas Crispe, Maurice Thompson, Gregory Clement, William Willoughby, and Thomas Rains-borough, “as well out of their pious and charitable Disposition towards their distressed Brethren… as also out of their loyal Respect to His Majesty, and Detestation to that Rebellion,” announced their readiness by themselves to send twelve ships and six pinnaces, with soldiers, cavalry, and sailors, in order
… to reduce the Rebels in the said Realm of Ireland to their due Obedience, and (as much as in them shall lie) to prevent and hinder all such Supplies as shall be sent unto the said Rebels, and likewise, by all possible Ways and Means, to assist and help His Majesty’s good Subjects there, and to infest, spoil, and waste the said Rebels by Land and Sea.…528
Parliament readily approved the plan and permitted the undertakers to assume the task with as many as 1,000 horse and 2,000 foot soldiers. For their further encouragement, parliament permitted them to “hold and enjoy to their own Use, without any Accompt whatsoever, … all Ships, Goods, Monies, Plate, Pillage, and Spoil” which they might seize.
Thus encouraged, the undertakers quickly gathered volunteers, hired soldiers, and purchased supplies for an expedition. One thousand foot soldiers, about five hundred seamen, fifteen vessels, and a quantity of arms and other supplies were obtained. Lord Brooke was appointed general, but he remained in England to arrange for still larger forces which the undertakers hoped to be able to send later. Alexander Lord Forbes was placed in actual command of the expedition as lieutenant-general under Lord Brooke, although the king did not concur in the appointment. Before the end of June, the “additional forces,” as they were called, were ready to go; on the twenty-ninth, after a day of fasting and prayer, the little fleet set sail from Dover.529 And in the company was Hugh Peter.
Although in many ways it seems surprising that Peter should have appeared to abandon his New England business to join the Forbes expedition, his action is not wholly inexplicable. There was, of course, an opportunity for personal profit; there was also a chance that the profits might be turned to the benefit of New England. Many of the undertakers of the expedition were Peter’s friends of long standing: Lord Brooke, Lord Say and Sele, the Earl of Warwick, John Humfry, and others. Thomas Andrews, John Pocock, Gregory Clement, Richard Shute, and Thomas Vincent were also financially interested in the plan.530 Of these men at least Vincent, Andrews, and Pocock had been investors in Massachusetts Bay; they had given or soon were to give liberal contributions to the colony; and they might contribute more if they were properly encouraged. Further, Lord Forbes himself was a kinsman of Peter’s former friend and colleague in Holland, John Forbes; and other officers with the force had even more intimate connections with Peter. Among the commanders of the land troops, John Humfry was sergeant-major. Among the leaders of the naval forces, Captain Thomas Rainsborough was vice-admiral; his brother William, who was also with the fleet, had been an inhabitant of Charlestown, Massachusetts, while Peter was in New England, and probably the two men were known to each other.531 Lastly, and perhaps most important of all, the admiral of the fleet was Peter’s half-brother, Benjamin Peter, a merchant of London.532 Any or all of these men might have enlisted Hugh Peter’s services for the Irish expedition. Besides these personal elements, however, it is well to recall that Massachusetts had commissioned its agents, among other things, “to further the work of reformation of the churches” in England, and that Peter held this object uppermost in his mind. Though the Irish scheme was in part a commercial enterprise, it had a pious objective as well: to help crush the papist revolt which endangered the progress of the reformation in England, to root out hated Catholicism, and to plant godly Protestantism in its stead. Had Peter been asked to justify his action in accompanying Forbes, his answer would probably have been that he went to destroy Antichrist in Ireland, whence it threatened to undo the work of thousands of righteous persons in England. It is significant that no one at the time demanded any such explanation of him, not even those back in Massachusetts.533
Whatever impelled him, Hugh Peter sailed with Lord Forbes as a chaplain, probably on Benjamin Peter’s vessel, when the ships left Dover. It is unnecessary, for the purpose at hand, to describe in detail the activities of Forbes’s expedition. Peter was with him for only three months, after which he returned to England. During this time, the forces from England engaged in several skirmishes in Ireland and relieved distressed Protestants in the southern and western parts with foodstuffs and military supplies. But little of permanent value was effected because of the small numbers and inadequate support of the expeditionary forces. Moreover, as Forbes’s commission was not signed by Charles I, English officers in Ireland, who were more inclined towards the king than towards parliament with regard to the English quarrel so rapidly approaching a crisis, refused to coöperate with Forbes. Unfortunately, their action lent color to the Puritans’ charge that the royalists were in league with the Irish, and, when Forbes attacked Irish rebel and English royalist alike, he tended to unite them against parliament and thus to begin the Civil War in Galway before king and parliament clashed in England.534 That Protestant king and Irish papist were allied in an anti-Protestant cause became a charge well embellished and effectively employed as parliamentary propaganda, especially by the Massachusetts agent who served Lord Forbes as chaplain.
On September 29, after Forbes had captured the castle of Glyn, the stronghold of the royalist Thomas Fitzgerald on the river Limerick, Peter returned to England to bring letters from Forbes to parliament and to report the achievements of the expedition. Just before he sailed, Forbes’s ships had captured two naval prizes, vessels attempting to bring relief to Irish rebels. As the prizes represented the most considerable accomplishment of the enterprise, particularly from the point of view of potential plunder and profits for the undertakers, Peter placed great emphasis upon this feat when he arrived in England. By such means, despite the actually meagre success of the undertaking, he managed to make his return appear like that of a herald announcing glad tidings of his master’s triumphs. Nearly three weeks before, it had been reported in England that Forbes had had great victories in Munster and that he had taken Galway and other coastal towns. Now the news-sheets reported:
M. Peters the minister comming lately out of Ireland, brought Letters to the house, signifying, that the Marchant Adventurers have taken five ships that were comming out of Spain towards Washford in Ireland, to aid the Rebels, and had taken therein great store of Arms and Ammunition, which is conceived to be of the value of about 200,000l and that five ships are gone from Dublin towards Washford, to prevent the bringing in of any aid to the Rebels there.535
Either because he believed it himself or because he saw the propaganda value of such reports, Peter was careful to state that these vessels had been sent from Spain or from France and that there was imminent danger of a union being effected between the Irish rebels and the Catholic countries of the Continent.536 Further, he made it clear that in all these proceedings the king had been hoodwinked into a conjunction with the popish rebels; that the entire affair was a malignant plot of Satan to overthrow the glorious reformation of England; and that the case was complete when the king, deluded by wicked advisors, had defied parliament at Nottingham on August 22.
With the Civil War actually under way in England when Peter returned, it was difficult to impress people with the accomplishments of the Forbes expedition; but the undertakers needed to be assured that their money had not been wasted and that, with a little larger investment, they might reap fruitful Irish harvests. However, on the very day that Lord Forbes’s letters were read in parliament, London was thrown into panic by reports that the king was marching upon the city with a great force. Within ten days king and parliament faced each other on Edgehill field. With such convulsions at home, England no longer could be greatly concerned with Irish affairs.
Nevertheless, Peter delivered Forbes’s letters to both houses of parliament, and they were read on October 12.537 Forbes said little of his exploits, leaving Peter to tell whatever the circumstances demanded. His lordship confined himself to a description of the miseries of Ireland, to offering advice for the better regulation of Irish affairs, to demands for larger forces and more supplies, and to lamentations over his inability to subdue the Irish without greater military aid.538 In his letter to William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, Forbes wrote (September 28, 1642):
I Had a purpose to have sent you a full relation of all our proceedings heere in Ireland, but this bearer Mr. Peters, who hath beene an eye-witnesse, can out of his Diurnall give you more full satisfaction and acquaint you with these things, that are most requisite for the subduing of Ireland, which will be an easie worke, if it be yet taken in time, and rightly prosecuted; for I dare say five or sixe thousand men well commanded and well provided for, could take both Limerick and Galloway, and so end the Warre before Christmas, for the strength of the Rebellion lies here, and there would be no difficultie in subduing the rest, Mr. Peters will acquaint you what was my purpose; but I dare not goe beyond my limits, the Countrey diseases as Fluxes and Feavours have mightily weakened these few men I have, yet blessed be God we have done good service as could be done with so many men, as you will perceive by Mr. Peters Diurnall; to the which, and his own Relation, and the Copies of the Letters I have sent, I remit all further.
… Mr. Maurice Thomson will acquaint you with what is necessary to be proposed to the House in the behalfe of poore distressed Ireland; and I neither doubt of his sufficiency in proposing, your willingness to doe that good is respected from you: so at this time I will trouble you with no longer Letter; but shall be much rejoyced to heare from you, of the happy and long wished for agreement betwixt his Majestie and the Parliament: for which I shall never cease to pray.…539
Hugh Peter’s “Diurnall,” to which Forbes referred the House of Commons, was a day-by-day account of the movements of the expedition. By an order of the Commons on October 20, it was published as A True Relation of the Passages of Gods Providence in a Voyage for Ireland. With the additional Forces sent for reducing of that Kingdome by his Maiesie and Paliament. Wherein every Dayes worke is set downe faithfully by H. P. an Eye-witnesse thereof, under the Command of Alexander L. Forbes, Lieutenant Generall under the L. Brooke for that Service; from the 29 of June to the 29 of September. 1642. Likewise, Severall Observations Concerning that Kingdome, and the Warres there: As also, the Interception of the Enemies Letters.540 At the end of his Journal, Peter summarized the results of the Forbes expedition:
So that to summe up our voyage, it comes to thus much, in two or three moneths time God helped us to take five ships, worth (if sold to value, above twenty thousand pounds, we burnt as much corne, as that summe came to, slew of the enemy many hundreds, fired many Irish Towns, relieved many English in Forts and Castles, tooke and spoyled thousands of cattle) burnt and spoyled many Castles, houses of note, and milk of the enemy, guarded the coast from Kinsdale, almost to London-Derry, blocked up Limericke, and Galloway, and diverted them still as we went from other designes; fighting with them whenever we came, and lastly taking in that lovely and usefull castle of the Knights of the Valley [Glyn], where we left our men ready for further service, which expired for which our ships and men were hired.541
His evaluation exaggerated to some degree the usefulness of the enterprise, but in view of its objects, the size of the force, and the complete failure of the undertakers to send a still larger force to follow up Forbes’s work (as had been planned), Forbes’s showing was not wholly discreditable. Subsequent events in England prevented immediate prosecution of the Irish designs, and Forbes’s accomplishments were nullified. These eventualities, however, cannot justly be blamed upon the expedition or its leaders. The basic plan of the enterprise was never carried to completion.
To his Relation Hugh Peter appended twelve “Briefe Observations concerning the Warre, and The State of Ireland, both for the raising and laying the Rebellion,” and an equal number of “Cures” for Ireland. In the latter, he added nothing to the advice offered in Forbes’s letters except to urge the need of good, faithful ministers; but in his “Observations,” Peter appears to have had his eye as much on the situation in England as on that in Ireland. He was convinced that the Irish rebellion and the royalist opposition to parliament were but different parts of the same thing. “Popery,” said Master Peter, “suffered among the Irish, and prophanenesse amongst the English, have been the Parents of this Monster; though it might have other Midwives and Nurses …”; and he added that “An Irish Rebel and an English Cavallier in worde and actions we found as unlike as an egge is to an egge.” All the Irish, he continued, professed that they fought “by the Kings Order for the Kings Honour, that wee were his enemies not they,” that the king had promised freedom of religion to the Irish in return for their assistance, and that nearly all the royalist officers in Ireland had covenanted with the rebels. These beliefs became widespread in England, and parliament fostered them in order to unite people under its banner by fear of a foreign invasion led by the king—for many persons otherwise loyal to Charles and to the Church of England would take up arms against the king if they were convinced that he was allied with papists abroad.542 Much of the ferocity displayed by parliamentary soldiers against Cavaliers was inspired by such beliefs, and Hugh Peter was foremost in spreading this propaganda.
Although Peter did not rejoin Lord Forbes, who persisted in his ineffectual attempts in Ireland for several months longer, there is no evidence that he actively resumed the cause of New England’s economic relief. In fact, with a war in progress in England, the conditions were hardly favorable for such an undertaking. Much to the chagrin of both parties, the early military encounters were indecisive, and, as winter drew near, the king retired to Oxford for the season. Pen and paper temporarily took the place of gun and pike; propaganda, manifestoes, petitions, charges and countercharges arose from all sides. But in view of the king’s strength on the field of battle, his initial financial advantages, his diplomatic prestige, and his growing popularity with conservative folk, who drew back in horror from the rebels who dared to oppose the sovereign, many people about London, including members of parliament, came to desire peace with Charles at any cost.543 It was a black outlook for Puritans.
The part which Peter and Weld played in this maelstrom of events is very indistinctly recorded, but there could be no doubt as to which party they would espouse. For the moment, when the Puritan cause hung in the balance, there was no time for dissension in Puritan ranks. Presbyterian and Independent were allied in opposition to the king’s party. To Peter and Weld, the most important things to be done were to prevent any treaty with the king that did not grant Puritan demands, and to strengthen the parliamentary forces for the struggle in the coming season. Like many of their colleagues of the cloth, they plainly wished a continuance of the war when it became apparent that Charles would not concede Puritan demands.544 Accordingly, to counteract the growing sentiment in London favoring “a peace at any terms,” Peter joined Jeremiah Burroughs and John Goodwin, Puritan ministers, Sir David Watkins, a Mr. Shute, and “fourscore and fifteen more” to frame a petition to parliament against any accommodation with the king that was not “safe and honourable.”545 It was the petitioners’ intent, said a contemporary news-sheet,
… not onely to subscribe the Petition in generall tearmes for peace (so framed as aforesaid) but humbly to present to the Parliament a particular of the grievances which they desire to have redressed; and if the Parliament approve thereof, resolve to insist upon the having of the same; if denied by the King (seduced by evill Councellors) that then every man that hath or shall subscribe that Petition shall truly declare and oblidge themselves with life and fortune to assist the Parliament, till the King be brought to his Parliament, and matters concerning Religion, Lawes, and Liberty be settled.…546
The requirements for a “safe” peace were divided into two groups, one “concerning religion,” the other “concerning priviledges of Parliament.” As part of the former, the petitioners desired “his Majesty no longer to delay the passing a bill for a Synod,” and demanded that the king abolish pluralities in the church, and remove idle, vicious ministers, replacing them with those of godly, sober life and, presumably, of a Puritan trend of mind. With reference to parliamentary privilege, the king was requested to acquit the five members, respect the privileges of parliament thereafter, and consent to parliamentary control of the militia, the navy, and the courts.
In order to gain these ends, the petitioners assured parliament of their unwavering support with money, men, and supplies. Although they had already expended much, “By all which they hoped to have seen the end of their dangers and removall of their feares … and to have been by this time settled in the enjoyment of that happy Peace they have always desired,” still they cheerfully would give more “so as it may be employed in a more speedy and effectuall prosecuting of the Warres,” until the just aims thereof be realized.547 But, the petitioners repeated again and again, do it now without further procrastination and vain negotiations, raise an adequate army, select active leaders, levy “upon Papists and Malignants, as well as they have done upon us,” and, above all, consent to no treaty except one which stipulates “those honourable and safe conditions which have sundry times been presented by both Houses, and expressed by Master Pym in Guild-Hall.…”548
The petition was delivered to the House of Commons by Shute on December 1, 1642. The House admitted him, read the document publicly, but refused to receive it formally until it had been approved by the lord mayor and the Common Council of London. When the city officials saw it, they debated for some time, and “at last by most voyces the said petition was rejected and throwne out of the Court.”549 Meanwhile, the peace party, learning of this petition, framed a counter-petition, which they took to the Guildhall for the Council’s approval on December 12, while the Council was considering the demands of Peter and his associates. Allegedly five thousand strong, the peace party crowded about the hall with cries of “Peace! Peace!” “Peace and truth!” replied Peter’s party. “Hang truth! let us have peace at any price!” was the shocking reply.550 Thus “words agravated, and ill language, caused spleen and choller to arise on each parties [sic],” and a riot followed.551 The few soldiers present at the Guildhall were unable to quell the disturbance, and a body of the city train-bands was called to restore order. The Common Council judiciously rejected both petitions and framed those of its own, one for parliament and one for the king, asking for peace on reasonable conditions so that both parties could claim victory.552
Peter and his fellow-petitioners did not let the matter drop without gaining their point more decisively. At the end of the following March, when it was apparent that the negotiations with the king in the proposed Treaty of Oxford were doomed to failure, a new petition was presented. This document chid parliament for pausing in the war to waste time in fruitless dealings; it stated that the king, by his obstinacy in the parleys, was demonstrating that, despite the rule that the king could do no wrong, the injuries suffered “proceeded not from evill Counsellers, but from the King himselfe”; and they asserted that the king had “no such eminent power in Parliament, but that they may conclude any thing which they thinke expedient for the Kingdome, and that whatever they concluded was to bind His Majesty without the Royall Assent.”553
This petition was submitted to the London Common Council by Mr. Steele, a lawyer well known in Puritan circles, accompanied by Sir David Watkins, Captain Mainwaring, Master Shute, and others “of the same feather.” These men desired the Council to read and approve the document so that they might present it to the House of Commons at once. When asked who had drawn it up, Steele replied that it was prepared “by the advice of the best Lawyers and Divines in the City.” In a contemporary account of the affair it was further reported that as the aldermen filed into the Guildhall, Hugh Peter, “one of the Amsterdamians, that now rules the roost, and passeth in the number of their best Divines, stood at the hall doore, and earnestly pressed every man as he went in to have a care of that Petition. . . .”554 Evidently Peter’s buttonholing had some effect, for the lord mayor, Isaac Pennington, and several aldermen favored the petition. Ultimately, however, it did not meet with approval and “died in committee.”555 Peter salvaged the ideas expressed in it by presenting them in a modified form in a Fast Day sermon on March 29, 1643. With several members of parliament in his congregation, he took advantage of the occasion to tax the king for his obstinacy and to chide parliament
… for abusing the people, in that they had fooled them all this while with hopes and promises of a reformation, and now would leave the worke and make peace without them; and therefore that it did concerne all them that had taken the Protestation to hold up their hands, and stick unto the cause themselves.556
One Edward Dobson, who heard the sermon, protested vigorously against this “new Gospell, which teacheth us (as he saies) to rebell and resist the King.” Likewise he objected against “the ministers who brought it ouer from New-England, the Land of Canaan, As Mr. Peters, whose zealous Doctrine we have stayed so long to heare on a Fast day.…”557 By such means, Peter strove to drive on the cause of reformation in his native country, and, as the royalists and the peace party would have said, “to make the worse appear the better cause.” In the light of subsequent events, it is evident that Weld upheld similar principles, though less vociferously; but his activities secured no such place in contemporary accounts as did Master Peter’s. How much influence either of them wielded on the course of events it is impossible to determine. Probably the king, by his stubbornness in the negotiations at Oxford, was the chief cause for the continuance of the war; but the Massachusetts agents contributed towards that end,558 not because they loved war but because they hated a peace without reformation.
While for this reason they were pressing forward the war against the king, the agents were not entirely neglectful of the material objects of their mission to England. Indeed, although Peter had appeared to leave the cause of the economic relief of Massachusetts entirely in Weld’s care, it is likely that by his usefulness in the parliamentary cause Peter so ingratiated himself with members of parliament that the case of Massachusetts received an attention in both houses with which it would not have been honored had it been presented by another, less forward representative.
No better example of the agents’ attempts to combine English affairs with Massachusetts business can be found than in their exertions during the winter of 1642–43. As events had developed, there was no longer any question that parliament was the only body from which the agents could expect favorable action with regard to excise duties. Furthermore, Peter had hit upon an idea whereby, at a single stroke, he hoped both to relieve suffering in Old England and to supply New England with a much needed commodity—labor. While he was in Massachusetts, he had noted the need for man-power to establish local household manufactures for the supply of clothing and other necessities. “Manufactures cannot sine minibus,” he had written to Governor Winthrop.559 Now he had the needed supply of hands if he could secure their transport to the colony.
Just before he left Ireland in the autumn of 1642, his half-brother, Admiral Benjamin Peter, together with Captain Daniel, both commanders in Lord Forbes’s fleet, had been directed by his lordship to “carry away the poor naked people that we found in such distress [in Ireland] being about 500.”560 Most of these were English Protestants; many of them were children orphaned by the Irish uprising, homeless and poverty-ridden. Carried to England, they had no place to go. At the same time, hundreds of English children, many of them orphans and bastards, roamed the streets of London with no one to care for either their bodies or their souls. In England they went “rogueing up and downe … not being imployed in any honest and lawfull calling”; but in New England they might “in time become useful servants, and this Land will be unburthened of many unnecessary and idle people.”561 As early as 1622 it had been suggested that London urchins be shipped to New England.562 Now, in January, 1642/3, Peter presented to parliament
The humble Petition of divers Inhabitants of New England, that are here intrusted for the Affairs of that Plantation, concerning a Collection to be allowed them, on the Two next Lord’s Days, in London, and the Parishes thereabouts, for Transplanting of poor Children driven out of Ireland; and other poor fatherless children of this Kingdom, that are out of Employment.…563
Parliament readily granted the petition and appointed Henry Walker and Edmund Calamy as receivers of such money as might be collected by free contributions from all the parishes of London, Westminster, Southwark, and adjacent areas “on the Two next Lord’s Days”; and it was left to Lord Mayor Pennington “so to appoint this Collection, that it may not be on the same Day as that for Ireland.”564
Peter, with Weld’s assistance, probably was extremely busy early in February organizing this new drive for funds. Together they collected money from persons with whom they had connections outside London—in Dedham, Yarmouth, Sudbury, Wrentham, and Terling; from persons about London, including Lady Armine; and from as many parents and relatives of the children as were able to donate anything.565 The receivers for the London parishes paid in nearly £680, and Weld and Peter raised enough more to bring the total amount for the poor children’s transportation to within a few shillings of £875.566
With such a large sum at their disposal, Peter and Weld should have been able to send more than a hundred children to New England.567 But unexpected difficulties and expenses arose. The cost of maintaining the Irish children, who had been in England for several months, was a heavy drain upon the funds. To collect the urchins from all parts of London, convey them to Gravesend, whence they were to embark for New England, and supply the needy ones with clothing, medical care, and other necessaries—all these were items requiring heavy outlays. Moreover, once the children were assembled at Gravesend, the agents found themselves delayed by want of transport facilities. Then, when the ships did arrive, they were forced to wait for a favorable wind before they could sail. Meanwhile, five or six children fell ill with “some noysom and infectious diseases” and had to be rejected, much to the dissatisfaction of their relatives or guardians. Others, frightened by the strange proceedings or nauseated by a sudden overdose of Puritan piety, ran away and were not recovered. By such mishaps, Weld estimated that more than £300 of the total fund was dissipated. Finally, in the summer of 1643, twenty children were safely transported to New England.568 How many more were taken later it is impossible to say. Records indicate that more did arrive in Massachusetts, but the number is not stated.569 Over £200 of the money sent to the Massachusetts General Court for the poor children’s care was misapplied;570 and there is evidence which gives considerable reason for believing that Emmanuel Downing and Nehemiah Bourne, who, as merchants, received 12, according to Weld’s accounts, for the care and transport of the children, pocketed some of the money without performing any services for it.571 Thus it is easy to discern that, as Weld said in his account to the General Court in 1647, Massachusetts had “little benefitt by all these moneyes, yea none Considering how great trouble the Court hath had about it.…”572 Untoward circumstances, bad management, and downright dishonest dealings nullified nearly all the advantages which the agents had hoped to effect in Old and in New England by their plan.
At the same time that Peter petitioned parliament for permission to collect money for the children’s transport, he begged that the people of New England might “have their goods free from the paiment of Customes, according to their Charters.”573 The House of Commons at once (January 31, 1642/3) passed a resolution “That the Inhabitants of the new Plantation of New England shall, according to their Charter, be custom-free for such Commodities as are granted by their Charter; and for so long a Time as is granted by the same charter.”574 A few weeks later, upon further negotiation, the Lords and Commons,
… for the better Advancement of those Plantations, and Encouragement of the Planters to proceed in their Undertakings, Ordain, That all Merchandize and Goods, that by any Merchant, or any other Person or Persons whatsoever, shall be exported out of this Kingdom of England into New England, to be spent, used, or employed there, or being of the Growth of that Kingdom, shall be from thence imported hither, or shall be laden or put on board in any Ship or Vessel for Necessaries, in passing and returning to-and-fro; and all and every Owner and Owners thereof shall be freed and discharged of and from paying or yielding any Custom, Subsidy, Taxation, Imposition, or other Duty, for the same, either inward or outward, either in this Kingdom, or in New England, or in any Port, Haven, Creek, or other Place whatsoever, until both Houses of Parliament shall take further Order therein to the contrary.…575
The Act became effective March 10, 1642/3. Two and a half years later, parliament ordered that the exemption be extended to include excises.576 This action caused the Massachusetts magistrates to free all parliament ships from payment of a six-penny tonnage duty—with “good reason,” as Winthrop relates, for while the colony by its levy “might have gotten 20 or 30 pounds this year,… by the ordinance of parliament we saved 3 or 400 pounds.”577
Besides these exertions on behalf of the colony in the winter of 1642–43, Peter and Weld assisted John Winthrop, Jr., in raising funds to establish an ironworks in Massachusetts. As has been noted before, the younger Winthrop had accompanied the agents to England in 1641. He had assisted them in prosecuting the New England business, had attended to various personal affairs, and had collected skilled workmen, money, and other supplies necessary for the establishment of his pioneer industrial enterprise. On March 23, 1642/3, Peter, with Winthrop and Emmanuel Downing, signed an agreement with one Nicholas Bond of Westminster whereby, in return for £100 invested by Bond in the projected undertaking, they agreed to “be accomptable vnto the said Nicholas Bond his executors administrators and assignees for the same, according to the trew entent and meaninge of these presents, without frauds, covenn or collusion.”578 Thomas Weld witnessed the agreement, and it appears that Peter, Weld, John Pocock, and various other Bay Colony benefactors invested in the project.579 Winthrop prepared to sail for Massachusetts with his workmen and supplies in May, 1643, but was held up for six weeks by port authorities in England. A combination of unfortunate circumstances ultimately rendered the design fruitless, and such contentions arose that, as Hubbard wrote of it a few years later, “instead of drawing out bars of iron for the country’s use, there was hammered out nothing but contention and lawsuits, which was but a bad return for the undertakers.…580 Once again, through circumstances over which they had little or no control, the agents’ exertions on behalf of the colony came to naught.
With the money and supplies collected in 1642, the contributions secured for the orphans’ transport in the winter following, and the funds raised for the proposed ironworks, the agents had exhausted the sources of ready money available to them in England. It had indeed been difficult to solicit aid there for Massachusetts. Unfriendly persons had spread bad reports of its barren soil, its cold climate, and its lack of value to the mother country. Many merchants and gentlemen who had lost money invested in the colony lent weight to the stories, and the very fact that agents from thence had been sent on a begging mission to England gave further evidence of their truth. Moreover, the English people were not likely to be so receptive to beggars in the years after 1642. In the midst of a civil war, when both king and parliament were soliciting far and wide for men, money, plate, supplies, and aid of all kinds, when estates were being sequestrated and properties plundered, when trade was at a standstill because of the uncertainties of war, it was no easy matter to interest people in New England philanthropies. Besides, the agents were in competition with similar demands upon English purses, particularly with the appeals for the distressed Protestants in Ireland. Now that they had exhausted the generosity of New England’s friends, they needed to advertise their pious campaign more widely and to break down the sales resistance of potential contributors.
The agents had already communicated this necessity to their friends in Massachusetts, with a request for publicity material. President Dunster of Harvard College responded in the autumn of 1642 with an account of the first Commencement, a brief description of the institution, and a summary of its rules and regulations. Here, at least, was conclusive proof that the college at Cambridge was no mere paper institution, as that in Virginia had turned out to be after its proponents had collected money from many English folk. Possibly John Eliot and others in New England supplied further suggestions. At any rate, it seems clear that during the winter of 1642–43 Weld and Peter assembled the data sent over to them, made additions of their own, and published the results as New Englands First Fruits.581 As its full title indicates, the pamphlet contains three parts, each designed to advance the cause of a needy Massachusetts enterprise. The first deals with the benighted condition of the Indians, who, although formerly they had adored “the Divell himselfe for their God,”582 were now itching to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the second describes Harvard College, its “very faire and comely” hall, its “large Library,” its “learned conscionable and industrious” president, its “Rules and Precepts,” and its first Commencement exercises, ending with the statement that “All things in the Colledge are at present, like to proceed even as wee can wish, may it but please the Lord to … stir up the hearts of his faithfull, and able Servants in our owne Native Country, and here,… to advance this Honourable and most hopefull worke”;583 the third part praises the climate, the government, the soil, and the outlook for prosperous staple commodities in Massachusetts—all with the plain intent of refuting the current ill reports of the colony and of demonstrating, in present-day publicity terms, “why people should invest in New England.”
The pamphlet appeared early in the spring of 1643, and agents waited anxiously to reap whatever harvest it might bring forth for the colony. Their hopes were not entirely disappointed: in May, Weld received £100 from Lady Ann Moulson, wealthy widow of a former lord mayor of London, Sir Thomas Moulson, and a zealous Puritan who had often donated to Puritan causes. Her gift was presented as a fund for needy “schollers,” and it constituted the first scholarship established at Harvard College.584 Weld signed a bond for the money, and he was shrewd enough to arrange that the stipend should go to his own son John “till he attaine the degree of a Master of Arts.”585 Besides this fund, the agents collected for the “colledge and for the Advance of learning” money, books, and other supplies to the value of at least £200.586 The appeal for money to convert the Indians was less successful. Lady Armine made the largest contribution for this purpose, an annual payment of £20 “for ever for ye Preacher to ye poore Indians in N. Engl:”587 The other gifts for the benefit of the natives totaled only about £15. Despite the fact that in New Englands First Fruits they had boasted that there were no beggars in Massachusetts, Weld and Peter gladly received £31 15s for the “godly Poore.” But the discouraging prospects for the parliamentary party in England in 1643 greatly curtailed both the number and the size of the contributions. Probably the agents, as well as the expectant people of the colony, were disappointed in the response to their written appeal.
By the late summer of 1643, Peter and Weld recognized that their usefulness as agents in England for Massachusetts, at least in a material way, was at an end. Indeed, they planned then to return to New England in one of the vessels hired to transport the poor children, but, as Weld wrote afterwards, “providence appeared clearly to stop us in our way, more than once or twice, in our ful intentions and preparations for ye voyage, putting such cross bars in our way that (indeed) we could not with good conscience break thorow them.”588 Just what was the quirk of providence that prevented their departure is not fully explained, but the reasons appear clearly enough. Peter’s wife had by this time joined him in England. The poor woman had gone mad soon after he left Massachusetts, and in accordance with the practice of the time, though much to his anger and chagrin, the Salem church had excommunicated her.589 His friends shipped her to England, probably under the care of Weld’s wife, who also joined her husband there. Now, when Peter, Weld, and their wives planned to return to New England, the ship by which they had expected to sail was delayed “exceedingly late”; and the children, as has been said, were attacked by disease, so that Weld and Peter dared not venture “or owne & or wives healths & lives in a winter voyage.”590 Moreover, as Weld wistfully explained,
… the prsent condition of this kingdome, yt is now upon the Verticall point, together wth ye incredible importunities of very many godly Persons, great & smale (who hapily conceive we by or prsence doe more good here, then we orselves dare imagine yt we doe) have made us, after many various thoughts, much agitation, & consultation wth god, & men, vnwillingly willing to venter orselves upon Gods Providence here, & be content to tarry one six moneths longer from yr & or churches most desired prsence with whom or hearts are, wthout the least wavering, fixed. Things can not long stand at this passe here, as now, but will speedily be better or worse. If better, we shall not repent us to have bene spectators & furtherers of or Deare Cuntries good, & to be happy messingers of ye good newes thereof vnto you. If worse, we are like to bring thousands wth us to you.
If yr selves were here & favor all things as they stand, & hard all argumts on both sides, we prsume you would advise, at prsent, not to disert the cause of Christ, & discourage so many 1000ds at once, as will (say they) be weakened by or departure; The greatest Venter is or owne, but the Lord Jesus, whom we seeke herein, whose orselves, tallents & lives are, is able to carry us on Eagles wings, by the helpe of yr praiers, above all dangers & feares & bring us safly into yr bosomes wth a blessing by ye next Opportunity. We humbly intreate yt these letters, pervsed by yr selves, may be sent to or churches, wanting time to write severally vnto them.591
One is led to suspect that the agents’ reasoning was mixed with a bit of wishful thinking, but they were both sincerely anxious to further the work of reformation in England. The king’s forces controlled practically all England except London and Puritan East Anglia; Cromwell was busily raising an army with a spirit to fight. The glorious reformation hung in the balance; two generations of Puritan hopes and parliamentary desires were at stake. No wonder the agents could not desert the cause.
It was in the spring of 1643, while striving to ship the pauper children and collect new supplies for the colony, that the agents had first entered into the literary jousts between Presbyterians and Independents. Their inspiration appears to have come chiefly from New England592 as a result of their editing and publishing works written by Richard Mather and others of their Massachusetts colleagues. Mather’s pamphlet was the outgrowth of several years’ correspondence between the Presbyterians of England and the advocates of the New England Way. In order to clarify the issues between the two ecclesiastical parties, and, no doubt, in the hope that the New England divines would impair their own cause by the frailties of their answers, the English Presbyterians had published and sent over, about 1637, A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England, requesting the judgement of their Reverend Brethren in New England concerning Nine Positions. John Davenport had prepared an answer within the next two years, but his first manuscript had miscarried on its way to England. A second had been sent in 1639, and, in 1640, John Ball had replied to it.593 In the meantime, the English ministers had expanded their demands into thirty-two questions, sent to the Bay Colony in 1639. These had gone unanswered until 1642, when Richard Mather, probably in consultation with Cotton, Shepard, and other New England ministers, prepared a reply and forwarded it to the colony’s agents in England. Now, in June, 1643, Hugh Peter prepared Mather’s work for publication, added to it Davenport’s reply to the Nine Positions, an account of the New England Covenant, and a general introduction written by himself. He published the whole in that year as Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discussed, in an Answer of the Elders of the severall Churches in New-England to two and thirty Questions, sent over to them by divers Ministers in England, to declare their judgments therein. Together with an Apologie of the said Elders in New-England for the Church-Covenant, sent over in Answer to Master Bernard in the yeare 1639. As Also in an Answer to nine Positions about Church-Government.594
As its title indicates, the book was in reality three books in one. It constituted, for the time being, the official reply of the New England elders to their Presbyterian brethren on all points in dispute. Peter, with his ample experience with Presbyterians in Holland, was fully aware of the importance of the struggle between the two parties, and he was unalterably opposed to the Presbyterian polity; yet, in this pamphlet, he frankly sought peace with the brethren. In so doing, he appears not only to have desired an accommodation until the common enemy should be overthrown, but also to have sought a way wherein, by an earnest search for truth, the two parties might discover a means of settling their ecclesiastical differences. He said nothing in his introduction about toleration, although he hinted strongly that he now favored it as a means of peace among the Puritans. Probably the question was at that time an embarrassment to him; for on that point the Independent ministers of New and Old England differed. He was aware that his Massachusetts colleagues abhorred the thought of toleration; he was likewise cognizant of the need to practice tolerating principles in English Independent circles in order to recruit as many followers as possible to their ranks. Presbyterian writers already had called attention to the difference between the two groups of Congregationalism on this point. Peter gave them no opportunity to renew the charges of hypocrisy and opportunism which the divergence had provoked.595
Peter appears to have published the book just before the first meeting of the Westminster Assembly in order that parliament and the general public might have a brief, authoritative statement of the principles embodied in the New England Way. In his introduction he was remarkably moderate in tone, although he anticipated “divers censures” of the work and strove to counteract them. The “prophane and ignorant,” he said, loathe Christ and therefore would despise anything concerning Him; the “Formalist” would find it troublesome in that it might “ingage him in the change of his opinions and practices”; and “some of the wisest will be apt to question the tyming such light as this: yea doubtless this pamphlet-glutted age will so looke upon it, and lay it by.”596 However, he continued, “… I doe conceive that this sword will not be sheath’d which is now drawn, till Church-work be better known, and more countenanced, and since safety is laid up in the Temple, Psa. 27. 3, 4, 5. I could not but help on this, which attended and practised may prove our security next to Christ” Perhaps it would save some “faithfull soules, that call for light, and intend to use it well.” Others, “of what kind soever” would heap ridicule and scandal upon it; but “men of our judgement must carry” such burdens, “especially if zeale for the Truth draw them forth to publike observations.” We do not propose, Peter added,
… to succumbe under calumny, being the livery of quieter times than these, let us bee viler still, so God and his Arke may be more glorious. Yet this I doe professe for my selfe and Brethren that as we have not bin dealt with, nor convinc’d of any offence, so we shall ever be ready to give an account of that hope which is in us, being call’d thereunto; in the meane time we over looke these barkings of black mouthes, and wish a good Comment be made upon the text of our plaine meaning.
After this warning to traducing writers, Peter besought his Presbyterian brethren carefully to examine the New England elders’ works in the light of God’s Word. They, he urged, strove solely to find the truth, and they believed that they had discovered it:
The onely way I know to reach Gods mind in Worship will bee to love the truth for its owne sake; yea to love it when it shall condemne our practises and persons also: Who hath not observed that the first step to error is the declining the truth in love to it?
… we would earnestly desire that none would call that unseasonable or unreasonable, which God seemes even now to call for, at the calling of this Synode, and will carry so much Reason with it, as God and his truth will owne; more tendernes and respect to our Brethren we know not how to shew, who sent us these 32. Questions, no other dealing would we have from our brethren consenting with us. Some Rivers have bin noted to differ in the Colours of the water, yet running in the same Channell: let Jesus Christ be lifted up by us all; let us love him whil’st wee dispute about him.
Episcopacy, he said, had been “cossind out” and buried “without expectation of another resurrection.” Presbyterianism and Independency were the chief ways looked upon in England. Independency had been grossly misnamed: “… we know not any Churches Reformed, more looking at sister Churches for helpe then ours doe.…” But they had found no Word of God to authorize any ecclesiastical power superior, in the final analysis, to the particular congregation: “We need not tell the wise whence Tyranny grew in Churches, and how Common wealths got their pressure in the like kind.” Only let self be conquered in England and these truths would be recognized. But the New England brethren stooped to no tricks:
Know (good Reader) [concluded Peter] we do not hereby go about to whistle thee out of any known good way of God. Commonly Questions and Answers cleare up the way, when other Treatises leave us to darknes. Read them, and what we say for a Church-Covenant, it may save charge and time in reading other Bookes, remember wee strive not here for masteryes, but give an account of our practise, wherein if thou know’st we faile Candidus imperti; if we agree let us worke by our plat-forme; and may thy soule flourish as a greene heath or watered garden.
Unfortunately, however tenderly the New England divines strove to handle their English brethren, the Thirty-two Questions stirred up differences which had been disputed in Holland between Presbyterians and Congregationalists without conclusion, and which were no more likely to be settled now: the questions of the visible as against the invisible church, of the baptism of children whose parents were not of the visible church, of the power of classes and synods, and of the ordination of ministers. The answers were couched in moderate terms, but the issues were too great for the parties to do more than to call a truce until the royalists were defeated. Both sides recognized that Peter’s disarming assurance that Independents sought no mastery was a delightful fiction: within two months after he had published these words, he was “roaring it up and down” over England, as his enemies said, for Independency.
How many more pamphlets passed through the agents’ hands to the English press it is impossible to say, but it is highly probable that Peter and Weld oversaw the publication of some of their other New England friends’ writings.597 In 1642, John Cotton published two works598 which might have been put out through their instrumentality; but, if so, Peter and Weld appear to have made no additions, changes, or identifying marks in them. Subsequently (1644), Weld embarked for himself upon a brief career of pamphlet writing,599 but Peter had little taste for paper bickering with quarrelsome Presbyterian allies, especially as English affairs demanded action, not words. To Peter, the ugly outlook for the parliamentary party acted as a spur to his latent energies, particularly when he saw the desperate situation which prevailed in the summer of 1643.
In July of that year Peter managed to strike once more at the supporters of the peace-at-any-price movement. At the execution of the conspirators in Waller’s Plot (July 5), he acted as chaplain to Chaloner, the linen-draper, with results that helped effectually to blast the hopes of the peace party in London. Chaloner, when on the ladder, “after many Teares of hearty contrition,” confessed his part in the plot; “Whereupon Mr. Peters said to him, You are now before the Lord of heaven, if you have any thing about the Lords, you spoke off [sic] so often last night, I beseech you speak your Conscience.” Then Chaloner, protesting “It is the happiest day that ever I had,” recited against his accomplices in the plot evidence which incriminated lords Conway and Portland, and proved Waller, who the day before had professed his innocence with regard to the military arrangements of the conspirators, to be a liar. After this relation, at Chaloner’s request, “Mr. Peters prayed very fervently and devoutly with him.” Chaloner then asked forgiveness of all and begged God to receive his soul; just before he was executed he turned to Peter and said: “I have received more comfort from such men, then ever I had before.”600 Peter probably was pleased that, through his ministrations to Chaloner, the victim was induced to tattle about his associates. The evidence was valuable, and the case would serve as a warning to all evil-doers who plotted against the cause of God that, sooner or later, God would reveal their perfidy to the saints. Chaloner’s trial and execution were not the last at which Hugh Peter was to perform similar functions for God and parliament.
Immediately after the execution, Peter set out on a journey through Kent and Sussex in the service of parliament. On May 30, 1643, parliament had passed an act “for the better securing and settling of the Peace of the County of Kent, and for enabling them to associate with the City of London, or any other Counties adjacent.”601 Strong royalist tendencies had existed in those counties, breaking out all too frequently for parliament’s comfort in local revolts, plots to seize county military supplies, and other unfriendly demonstrations. Parliament authorized the lord-lieutenant and the deputy-lieutenants to raise, arm, and maintain troops of horse and foot in each county to put down local royalist uprisings, to repel royalist invasions, to prevent the king from landing foreign aid on their shores, and to preserve the true Protestant religion, the laws of the land, the privileges of parliament, and the liberty of the subject. The chief parliamentary officers were: for Kent, Sir Thomas Walsingham, Sir Anthony Weldon, Sir John Sidley, Sir Henry Vane, Jr., Peter Wroth, George Sands, and Thomas Blunt; and for Sussex, Sir Thomas Pelham, Anthony Stapley, Herbert Morley, Edward Apsley, and Thomas Parker.602 Whether one of these men or a member of the parliamentary Committee of Safety or a combination of appeals induced Peter to devote his time from early July until late September as a propagandist for parliament in these troubled districts is not recorded. But it is clear that that is what he did. On July 15, the deputy-lieutenants for Sussex gave him a blanket commission,
… as the Deputy Lieftenants in Kent have done [to engage men] to appeare in person or with horse mony or plate, or imburst for two months to goe forth with Colonel Staply or any intended for the defence of the Kingdome or County, so to preserue their religion and libertyes, as is desired by the late vote of parliament for the raising the Countyes.603
Peter now transferred his begging activities from the service of New England to that of Old England, going from place to place, conferring with local committees, preaching sermon after sermon, and pressing people to come forward for the service of parliament, help disarm “malignants,” give money, plate, horses, and other supplies, join the county militia, or supply soldiers with equipment and pay for two months, six months, or as long as the donor could afford the outlay or the war might continue. No contribution was too small for the causes at stake.
Peter was very useful to parliament in this work. No such results were achieved as Cromwell was effecting in Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, and other counties of the Eastern Association, but the way was prepared for Sussex, Kent, Surrey, the Isle of Wight, and the town and county of Southampton to form an association similar to that of East Anglia, and Sussex was kept out of royalist hands. Meanwhile, at the parliamentary strongholds in Sussex and Kent—Lewes, Chichester, and Maidstone— Master Peter was making a name for himself. At Lewes he persuaded many people to take up arms for Church and State; according to Thomas Edwards, he not only enlisted people for the war but also converted many, including the chief men of the place, to Independency.604 At Maidstone he had such success that he jokingly referred to it as his “Diocese,” at which his Presbyterian critics promptly dubbed him “the new Arch-Bishop of Canterbury.”605 His work attracted the attention of the royalists, who began to reproach him and others who urged on the war as “Outlandish Teachers,” “New-English Canaanites,” and “Ridiculous Lecturers” that “commonly pray blasphemy, and preach treason, Rebellion, and sedition”; and likened their sermons to the writing of “the Poets of old who made Comedies to please the people.…”606 These men, said the royalist pamphleteers, received their inspiration from “Patriarch White of Dorchester, Mr. Cotton of Boston, or the like,” and had a “common Randevouz” at the Earl of Warwick’s house in Essex.607 Their sedition and disloyalty, it was charged, were equalled only by their blasphemy and bad taste: thus one of them, so it was said, preaching in London, began to administer the sacrament with these words: “All you that have contributed to the Parliament come and take this Sacrament to your comfort.”608 Calibute Downing was said to have preached in London that “for the defence of Religion and Reformation of the Church, it was lawful to take up Arms against the King”;609 and Hugh Peter was reported to have taught from the pulpit that the women should “hug their Husbands into this Rebellion.”610 Whatever the truth of such stories, the king’s party, both in 1643 and later, declared vociferously that “it was the seditious Preachers that stirred up the People, and were the cause of all this [civil strife].”611 Among these “seditious Preachers,” Hugh Peter was becoming a leading figure.
His work in the southern counties made his worth so evident to parliament that that body now determined to commission him for a larger task. Since the beginning of the war, the Low Countries had been a source of great annoyance and danger to parliament. Queen Henrietta had secured valuable aid for the royalists there, and it was believed that she might receive more. The English Merchant Adventurers and the Dutch themselves were divided in their allegiance to the warring parties in England. Parliament had sent Walter Strickland to The Hague as its representative in an effort to combat royalist enterprise. But conditions in the Netherlands remained far from satisfactory. Supplies of war were constantly being shipped to England and to Ireland for the royalists’ use, and the Cavalier sympathies of leading Merchant Adventurers of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Middelburg betrayed the likelihood of the continuance of such activities. Strickland could not successfully cope with the situation alone.
Besides this, a group of London merchants, including several who had financed the Forbes expedition in the previous year, had petitioned parliament to permit them to raise subscriptions in Holland for Ireland. On July 29, 1643, parliament had authorized Adam Laurence, Derrick Hoast, Maurice Thompson, and Nicholas Cursellis, London merchants, to go to Holland to promote the cause of Irish relief. The commissioners were permitted to raise money, victuals, arms, and ammunition; and receivers and treasurers were appointed in Dutch cities to conduct the business.612 For the prosecution of such designs, Hugh Peter was eminently fitted: he had been in Ireland; he was familiar with the people and the ways of Holland; and he was fired by a zealous desire to settle the affairs of Ireland and to relieve the distressed Protestants there. Moreover, as some of the men connected with the scheme were the same persons who had engaged him for Lord Forbes’s expedition, it is not surprising that he should be employed for the new begging campaign.613 But, though Peter went to Holland partly to assist in the raising of money for Ireland, he was also employed by the parliamentary Committee of Safety for “Speciall Services.” His commission, dated September 27, 1643, and signed by Lord Say and Sele, Nathaniel Finnes, Gilbert Gerard, John Pym, and Anthony Neville, began:
Whereas wee have latly by vertue of an Ordinance of Both Houses of Parliamt sent over Mr Samuel Glover into Holland with instructions to make triall amongst the well affected Persons of ye United Provinces for ye borrowing of diverse Sum̄es of Monye for Supplye of ye great and pressing necessityes of this Kingdome vpon Sufficient Security to bee given by Both Houses of Parliamt: We have now thought good to authorize you likewise to repayre into those Parts and to assist in that service ether Severally or ioyntly as vpon Conference it shall Seeme best to you with the advise of Mr Walter Strickland Esqr resident at ye Hague by Com̄issions from ye Lords and Com̄ons in Parliamt.614
In order to further the work, Peter was to be careful to give the people notice of
… ye Covenant and strict Union agreed upon betwixt ye Two Kingdomes of England and Scotland for defence of ye Religion and Libertyes in both agt ye Com̄on Enemyes ye Papists, Prelates, and their Adherents; and likewise of ye pious intention and indeavour of both Houses for ye Reformation of all Corruptions and Suꝑstitions in Government and Ceremonys in ye Kingdomes of England Ireland, and of procuring a more neere Vniformity and coniunction with Reformed Churches in other parts.
He was to assure the Hollanders of parliament’s good faith and of the adequacy of the security provided for the loans to be effected, to acquaint them with the justice of the parliamentary cause, to persuade them that England was endangered by the “Mischeivous principles, and designs of ye Papists which doe equally threaten all other States professing ye Protestant Reformed Religion,” and to demonstrate to them that if “They doe p’serve us from Ruin, They shall thereby the better secure Themselves.” Finally, he was to call attention to the supplies being sent from Holland to the enemies of parliament both in Ireland and in England, and to take whatever means were offered to put a stop to the practice.
Probably Peter enjoyed himself thoroughly in the winter of 1643–44. Back in Holland, where he knew many of the people and some of the magistrates, and armed with his commission from parliament, he was forwarding the work of God in a manner peculiarly pleasing to him. Moreover, his efforts met with some success. He helped collect a shipload of foodstuffs for the relief of suffering Protestants in Ulster,615 raise money, plate, and jewels for parliament’s coffers, urge people in Holland to support the parliamentary cause, and gather information against royalists in Holland who were sending supplies to Charles I and his followers. The sum raised for parliament is not recorded, but Edmund Ludlow reported that Peter gathered £30,000 in Holland for the Irish Protestants.616 When, however, the final report of all the agents was made, it listed total contributions of only £31,218 12s 5d.617 It appears likely, therefore, that Ludlow gave all the credit to Peter, whereas a number of persons were responsible.
At some time in the autumn of 1643 or early in 1644, Peter seized the opportunity, however incidentally, to present to the Dutch West India Company his instructions from the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut together with proposals for ironing out the difficulties between the Dutch of New Amsterdam and the English of the Connecticut Valley. It is impossible to say definitely who prepared the scheme, whether the New England governors or Peter himself. But in view of his statements to Governor Winthrop while he was still in Massachusetts, especially in proposing a league with the Dutch at New Amsterdam,618 and considering Peter’s former inclination to favor the removal of the English to the West Indies, it seems clear that he had the major part in its authorship. It was a strange mixture of the practical and the impractical and idealistic. In his first two suggestions, Peter asked:
1o That the Honorable Company will please to devise some expedient for the settlement of the Boundaries between New England and New Netherland, or at least to define for us their limits.
2o That their Honors will wholly abstain from molesting our people on the Fresh river, alias Coniecticutt, since we are willing that our title should be investigated by indifferent persons, if any such can be found.619
These ideas were entirely practical, although the second was one which the Dutch probably would not accept. If, however, the first proposition had been acted upon and the settlement had been honored by each party, it is likely that the molestation mentioned in the second would have ceased. Indeed, in the Treaty of Hartford, in 1650, a provisional boundary was established in the manner Peter had proposed.620 But in his other suggestions Peter advanced ways and means that, although probably the product of religious idealism, were diplomatically preposterous:
4o What conditions would the Company require if any Englishmen remove from our district to the West India Continent, being provided therefor with all necessaries except ships and ordinance which the Company should furnish?
5o The Company being aware that the English in America are about 50,000 inhabitants will please inform us in what manner can we, who are of the same religion with themselves and, we hope, trustworthy, be employed in advancing the great work there, and furnish us with an excerpt of such government as they, on our uniting with them there would desire.
From a diplomatic point of view these guarded offers probably lent more weakness than strength to the New England position: they betrayed, as the Dutch were quick to see,621 an English recognition of the Dutch claims to the territory along the Connecticut River; they divulged the insecurity of the English in New England (although they greatly exaggerated the English population); and they wholly lacked a single, coherent policy. One has the impression, not only that Peter played all his cards at once—always a poor procedure in diplomacy—but also that half of them were jokers. Yet there is a singular likeness between his proposals to unite the English and the Dutch in the New World and the later attempts of the Long Parliament and of Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector, to effect the same ends with the mother countries in the Old World.622 Peter desired to unite the nations in the New World, not merely for commercial ends, but, as Cromwell said of his plan for union in Europe, “for the preservation of freedom and the outspreading of the Kingdom of Christ.”623 Had Peter had his way, when the English and Dutch ambassadors sang the 133rd Psalm together in 1654, an echo would have come back from across the Atlantic: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” But in 1643 the Dutch had not tasted Cromwell’s naval power, and the West India Company had no use for idealizing parsons. Further, Peter held no actual commission from the officials of Hartford, the chief offender against the Dutch at New Amsterdam. Taking advantage of this technicality, the Company refused to treat with him on any terms.624
While Peter was in Holland, parliament, having to a degree assumed control of the colonies, passed an ordinance creating the Earl of Warwick governor-in-chief and lord high admiral of all the colonies in America. In the same Act, parliament appointed a standing committee of seventeen, any four of whom, in conjunction with Warwick, held authority “to provide for, order, and dispose all Things which they shall from Time to Time find most fit and advantageous to the well-governing, securing, strengthening, and preserving of the said Plantations.…”625 The committee had power “to send for, view, and make use of, all such Records, Books, and Papers,” as they might need; “to nominate, appoint, and constitute, all such subordinate Governors” and other officials as they might find necessary; and to remove such governors as they might judge unfit for that service. Likewise, the governor-in-chief and a majority of the commissioners (i.e., nine or more of them besides Warwick) were empowered
… to assign, ratify, and confirm so much of their aforementioned authority and power; and in such manner, and to such persons, as they shall judge to be fit, for the better governing and preserving of the said plantations and islands, from open violence, and private disturbance and distractions.626
News of the creation of this committee caused much dissatisfaction in Massachusetts. The elders and the magistrates feared parliamentary intrusion in their affairs and possible loss of their charter or negation of its terms.627 By this time, however, the complications in English affairs rendered it impossible for the king ever to complete the ineffective quo warranto proceedings against the charter. Parliamentary control of the navy precluded any further danger from the Crown for the time being; furthermore, New England’s obvious sympathy with the Puritan cause, and parliament’s concern with local affairs made any interference from that quarter most unlikely; and, as matters turned out, parliament’s assumption of active control of colonial affairs was not realized.628 Thus the questions relative to the charter, in which Emmanuel Downing had taken such pains to instruct Hugh Peter, were solved, for the period of the Interregnum at least, without active endeavor on the part of the agents.
Less than six weeks after parliament created the Warwick Commission, Thomas Weld, who had had sole charge of Massachusetts affairs during Peter’s absence from England, applied to it for a patent to the Narragansett territory.629 Whether Weld had been instructed by the colony to take action of this sort remains a mooted point; certainly sufficient time had not elapsed for the Massachusetts officials to hear of the formation of the Warwick Commission and to send instructions for such an application. More likely Weld was acquainted with the difficulties between Massachusetts and the waspish people, both red and white, of the Narragansett country.630 No doubt he knew that some of the people of that region had previously (1641) applied to Massachusetts for aid in their disturbances.631 At that time the Bay Colony had shown a disposition to assert its authority over the Narragansett area.632 Weld also knew that Roger Williams had recently arrived in England seeking a legal basis for his government in Rhode Island. It is probable, therefore, that the Massachusetts agent took it upon himself to attempt to defeat Williams’s purpose and to secure a legal right to the desired country for Massachusetts Bay. Despite all his patriotic efforts, Weld failed in his object. The patent which he received on December 10, 1643, was signed by only nine of the Commission, whereas at least ten signatures, including Warwick’s, were necessary to make it valid.633 On March 19, 1643/4, on the other hand, Williams secured a charter for the territory properly signed and sealed, and whatever pretensions the Bay Colony may have had to the Narragansett country were forestalled.634 No doubt Weld knew that Williams had outplayed him. Evidently Weld did not send his patent to Massachusetts until 1645, and then, it appears, only to demonstrate that he had tried to defeat Williams. The Bay Colony authorities used it in an attempt to restrain Williams from exercising jurisdiction in Rhode Island, but Williams, knowing their claims to be invalid, ignored their protest, and Massachusetts let the matter drop.635 Perhaps if Peter had been in England to assist Weld in negotiating with the Warwick Commission, the additional signature might have been obtained, and the subsequent history of Rhode Island might have been greatly altered.
Weld’s abortive attempt to forestall Roger Williams was the agents’ last important recorded act on behalf of Massachusetts. Peter did not return from his parliamentary mission to the Netherlands until March 2, 1643/4; after reporting to parliament,636 he was soon off again in its service, which he pursued thereafter without serious regard to his colonial commission. Weld, too, was comfortably established in a London parish, and, although his conscience occasionally troubled him because he had not returned to New England, he quickly forgot it in his activities as a defender of Congregational polity against the attacks of all comers. The agents were expected to return to Massachusetts in the summer of 1644, but they did not do so.637 During this season they conducted a few commercial transactions for the colony and completed the arrangements for the transfer of goods previously received as gifts for it.638 But they secured no more contributions of significance and attended to no more colonial affairs of consequence: they had become agents in name only. On June 23, 1645, Peter wrote to Governor Winthrop desiring him “to assure all the world that I am coming to you”; and he planned, “for diverse reasons,” to send his wife on before.639 The year passed, however, without the arrival of either Peter or Weld. In subsequent years, likewise, the erstwhile agents protested their intention to return to the colony. But the conjunction of affairs in England and the agents’ active participation therein precluded whatever real desire they may have had to go back to New England, and, as time passed, the colony, officially at least, lost all desire for a sight of its former representatives.
Meanwhile, although the agents remained in the mother country, they recognized that their preoccupation in English affairs made it impossible for them to look to the colony’s interests in every particular. Possibly Peter’s absence during the Narragansett patent negotiations brought them to this point of view. At any rate, because of his failure in this matter, Weld, in the spring of 1645, turned over part of the colony’s business to John Pocock and various other London friends of Massachusetts.640 At the same time, he recommended to the General Court that Pocock and his associates be formally commissioned as agents for the colony in England.641 The General Court acted upon the suggestion early in October, 1645, and ordered Richard Saltonstall, Captain George Cook, John Pocock, and others in London to negotiate with the Warwick Commission in an attempt to recover the territory lost to Roger Williams.642 Simultaneously, the General Court issued a curt note to Hugh Peter and Thomas Weld: “The howse of Deputies think it meete yt as Mr. Peeters & Mr. Weld being sente ouer as psons fitt to negotiate for ye Countrye, havinge bine long absent desire they may vnderstand ye Courts minde, that they desire their ꝑsence heere & speedy returne.…”643
The sharpness of the message was not entirely due to the agents’ failure in regard to the Narragansett patent. For some time before that mishap, relations between the colony and its agents had been strained. From the former’s viewpoint there was disappointment in the amount of money and supplies which Weld and Peter had collected: the large contributions in 1642 had aroused expectations which were never fulfilled. The collections procured for the poor children had been barren of any important results, and the colony might well have felt that the money could have been expended for more practical designs.644 Moreover, the mismanagement and the ill success of that affair had caused many people in England to turn their backs upon New England and to refuse to give anything further. Uncertainties bred by the Civil War closed many another English purse to the Massachusetts appeals. But the extenuating circumstances could not allay the colony’s displeasure with the agents’ accomplishments and, therefore, to a certain degree, with the agents themselves. The Massachusetts officials probably felt that Weld and Peter had neglected their opportunities for what they should have regarded as their major interest in order to take part in English internal dissensions. To be sure, Massachusetts had desired them to push forward the glorious reformation, but not at the expense of everything else.
Furthermore, as time passed, the agents, especially Peter, had come to uphold principles with which the Massachusetts elders and magistrates had no sympathy. To a certain extent the colony was proud of its agents’ prominence in English affairs; but it was sadly disappointed that Peter should advocate toleration of all manner of religious sects.645 In this respect, of course, Peter was inconsistent with his New England practices; but in the mother country he faced a political situation which required acceptance of toleration for the success of the Independent party. Massachusetts, on the other hand, was isolated from the upheavals of the British Isles; in New England, Congregationalists formed no minority party seeking to add to its following by a policy of inclusion. In the Bay Colony the New England Way reigned supreme in Church and in State; the Congregationalists were a ruling, if not a majority, party, which attempted to exclude those who refused to conform to its rigid rules. Since the day in 1641 when Peter had sailed for England, the position of Massachusetts in relation to that of England had undergone a great change. Whereas in 1641 the Bible Commonwealth was looked upon as an experiment in ecclesiastical liberalism, by 1645 it had become a stronghold of conservatism.646 Peter, who had witnessed the English political and ecclesiastical kaleidoscope with his own eyes, clung to Congregationalism but adopted the English refinements, especially the principle of toleration. To the elders of Massachusetts, his change of mind was a gross error which they could not brook in their English agent. Perhaps, then, after he was recalled, the elders breathed a sigh of relief that he should no longer advocate such an error in their name. If so, it is equally true that Peter vented a similar sigh to be relieved of thankless responsibilities for the colony, and he never again set foot in the land of the “Bloudy Tenent.”
The dissatisfaction of Massachusetts with its agents’ efforts and politico-theological beliefs was no greater than the agents’ displeasure with the colony’s use of the fruits of their activities. For, in addition to certain personal grievances, such as Peter’s after the excommunication and banishment of his distracted wife, Peter and Weld resented the ill repute brought upon them by the colony’s misapplication of funds which they had collected and transmitted to Massachusetts. The records of English contributions to the agents and of how they were disbursed are incomplete, but enough remains to show that the Massachusetts General Court failed to honor contracts made by the agents in England with donors to the colony. The misuse of funds occurred with money given for the orphans,647 the college,648 and the Indians.649 In one notorious case the colony failed to meet its financial obligations to one of its best friends, John Pocock.650 Unfortunately for Weld and Peter, some of the English donors discovered that their contributions had been misapplied. The word got out at first, it appears, with regard to the pauper children’s fund. On February 4, 1645/6, Weld and Peter handed in, under oath, to the parliamentary committee of accounts a statement of the receipts and expenditures for the orphans. But exacting givers hinted that the accounts did not square with facts; that money allegedly spent in New England for the poor children had not really been used for the purposes specified. The agents opened their accounts to public inspection at John Pocock’s shop in Wading Street,651 but while they showed clearly what they had done with the money received, they were unable to show what had become of it after it had left their hands.
The difficulty was, of course, in part due to the system, or lack of system, which had been employed for the transfer of the money and supplies to New England. No banks or other mediums of exchange existed to handle the transactions or to furnish the agents with a check of their accounts.652 Moreover, Massachusetts had had no auditor of its accounts: one was appointed in October, 1645, just after Peter and Weld had been discharged from their duties.653 Only their figures existed to satisfy objectors, and these, in some cases, chose not to accept their figures. There is reason to believe that the critics’ charges were made for purely political reasons: in 1646, the London Presbyterians were only too glad to find something with which to discredit Peter and Weld. It is significant, moreover, that the charges of fraud came largely from the pen of Thomas Edwards and appeared first in his Gangraena.654 Thus the agents were unjustly condemned for embezzlement because of circumstances over which they had no control.
The trouble was renewed, with many harsh words, when, in 1649, the New England Company was organized. This new plan for raising money was much better conceived than the Peter-Weld begging mission had been: in England all money was to be handled through a corporation created by act of parliament for that purpose, and in New England the Commissioners of the United Colonies were to administer the funds.655 But, though the system was much improved, the corporation had great trouble in securing contributions at the outset. William Steele, its president, wrote to the Commissioners of the United Colonies that many objections had arisen against the work because of
… the ill management of former Gifts bestowed on ye Countrey of New England of which no account hath been given to ye donors and som ꝑsonally Reflecting vpon Mr Wells and Mr Peters som vpon our selues the Corporation as if wee had so much ꝑ pound of what is collected or might feast our selues liberally therwith wheras through mercy wee never yet eat or drank of the fruit or charge of yt.…656
The corporation was aroused by these protests and probably would have severely censured Weld and Peter had not they themselves been active promoters of the new organization.657 As it was, Steele and others defended Weld and Peter, secured copies of their accounts, and wrote to New England that
… as for Mr Peters and Mr Wells they haue sufficiently satisfyed vs with what hath been formerly answared as by the Coppy of Mr Wells letters heere enclosed yet wee could desire ye Gouerment of ye Massachusets or their speciall Comissioners would give vs from thence a word or two what account hath been giuen by Mr Wells and what satisfaction theire Court receued by his account thither sent; and send it in such tearmes as wee may publish it to the world if wee see cause this will Conduce much to the furtherance of ye work but wee leaue it to your descretion.658
The Commissioners of the United Colonies were unable to supply the information requested. They deplored the charges that had arisen and they replied that they
…would gladly answare and Remoue them but those ancient Gifts and summs of Money Raised for New England were most (as wee conceiue) expended in foundation worke not onely before the Collonies did Combine but before two of them had any being; and though the Gentlemen Intrusted might in these times haue giuen a satisfying answare to soe Just a demaund yet som of them being sence dead and others Removed wee feare it wilbee now difficult if not Impossible onely wee shall the more seriusly consider and endeavor that ye money [which] … shalbee collected and sent ouer may bee not onely duly Improved but that a just Account bee kept (and as occasion may Require) bee duly Rendered … What Moneys Mr Wells and Mr Peters haue Receiued and how Imployed wee haue desired and hope you will Receiue satisfaction from the Massachusets though wee found no letter of his enclosed according to youer Intimation.…659
Weld had sent full accounts to the colony in 1645, but there was some difficulty about them, evidently because the colony refused to pay certain debts which Weld and Peter had incurred on its behalf until further details were known.660 In April, 1647, Weld sent a full relation “of what Moneyes were by myselfe and others, Receiued and from whome for New England towards a Com̄on Store, the poore Children, the Colledge, advance of learning, the Library, the poore of N: England and the Conversion of the Indians from the tyme of our first landing heere vntill the prsent 10th of ye 2d mo 1647.”661 Evidently the colony authorities had neither allowed nor rejected this account at the time of the trouble with the New England Company. But now, upon the latter’s request, the financial committee of the General Court audited Weld’s account and sent a copy of it to England endorsed: “Wee the Com̄ittee do accept of this account the 25th of the 8th mo 1651,” and signed by Increase Nowell, William Tyng, Edward Jackson, and Nathaniel Duncan.662
In the meantime, Weld and Peter had bestirred themselves. Weld wrote to Steele thanking him for his “friendly Faithful, and louing defence of mee and Mr. Peeters, as farre as you could before ye Corporation.”663 Weld regretted that “the best men living” may be “aspersed in publique businesse”; he pointed out “What my paines, Study, care, have bene to discharge my trust,” and “how much I am like to bee a looser”; yet he added: “I blame not those Godly Soules there in New England, but looke higher and sitt downe contented if any way I haue bene serviceable.” He was glad of the opportunity to make his defence to the corporation “soe farre as may remove obstructions in the businesse … that itt may appeare those guifts given for the good of Newe England were not in vaine.” But he closed by saying: “I shall learne some pointe of wisdome I hope, not to meddle noe more in this.”664 In order, then, to remove the difficulties facing the New England Company and to attempt to clear their own names from the scandals brought upon them by dishonesty and neglect on the part of Massachusetts, Weld, with Peter’s approval, drew up a statement called “Innocency Cleared Conteining a just defence of Mr Weld & mr Peters wherein their Sincere Intentions, and faithful dealings, (concerning monies received, for transporting poor children to N. Engl. and other pious uses there, and how disbursed) are made known to ye world. Together with the reasons why it is now (after so many years revolution) published, and not before. To silence the malitious, to satisfie the Sober & to remove the obstruction of ye contribution for propagating the Gospell to ye Natives in New England.”665 The manuscript was prepared for publication, Weld evidently expecting either to issue it himself or to turn it over to the New England Company for that purpose. What actual part Peter took in its preparation is not known, but it is clear that he collaborated with Weld in planning the piece; Weld, who had been bookkeeper for the begging mission, probably did the writing. The erstwhile agents explained that they felt that they had done enough to clear their names of the unjust charges, having given in a sworn account of the children’s fund in 1645, and having advertised in a news-sheet that their complete accounts were open to public inspection at Pocock’s shop. Yet those who whispered against them “would not come to or faces.” There they had let the matter drop until Edward Winslow learned “… from divers Ministers (who used to meet at Sion Colledge)666 the reason why they were so slow in the furtherance of that contribution, to bee, because they were unsatisfied in monies they had formerly collected for transporting Children … and never knew how it was disposed, and some went further, in blaming those that had been agents in that worke.”667 Now, in 1650, the agents had no hope of clearing themselves, for “the accuser of the Brethren” had been “playing his old prancks” for “almost these 6000 yeares” and had “now growne a Master of this devilish art”; but they did hope to remove all obstruction so that good people would freely give donations and godly ministers would excite their people to contribute “to this glorious worke on foot for houlding fourth the Lord Jesus Christ to those wofull soules yt now sitt in vtter darkness, & goe downe to hell by troupes for want of light, who (we know) are more ready then millions in England to embrace it, when it be held vnto them.”668 For this purpose they recapitulated, in only slightly different form, the receipts and disbursements of all the money received between 1641 and 1645 for the orphans, the colony at large, the college, the poor, and the conversion of the Indians. But for some reason, either because it was considered unfit for the purposes intended or because the opposition quieted of its own accord, the manuscript so carefully prepared was never published.
From correspondence between the corporation in England and its representatives in Massachusetts, it appears that the objections against Peter and Weld were finally silenced. Contributions, however, did not come in any the more readily. At last the truth was realized in England. The corporation there wrote to Massachusetts that the accounts which had been sent over had quieted critics of the English collectors, but “when (through mercy) our demeanors had stopped the mouths of all men heere, then the greate quere was, whether things sent were not misapplied with you in New-England.”669 Authentic reports of the colony’s attempts to lord it over all the other colonies in the New England Confederation gave a wider credence to this belief in England;670 and the attempts of Massachusetts to secure control of the funds sent over by the corporation to be administered by the Commissioners of the United Colonies (as the charter required) confirmed the conviction that the Bay Colony was a greedy cheat.671 English people were convinced that whatever they contributed would be misused in New England.
And truely Gentl[emen], [warned President Steele in a letter to the Massachusetts authorities], though wee did the Country noe smalle Service in the Vindicacion of Mr Weld and Mr Peters espetially, yett herewith have wee answered all the world, that if itt should haue bene graunted that things sent to one perticuler Governmt had miscarryed or otherwise bene disposed of then intended, yet when itt was left to the Comissioners of the Vnited Colonies … [it must be administered by them according to the charter of the corporation else the people and parliament of England will never be satisfied].672
Massachusetts grudgingly consented, especially after Steele warned the General Court that it should have a care lest the English government set a general governor over them to stop dissensions. Satisfactory financial accounts were not obtained from the Commissioners until after the Restoration.673
When it had become abundantly clear in England that the sins formerly attributed to Peter and Weld should in reality have rested upon the Massachusetts General Court, Peter became incensed. Before this time he evidently had felt that the charges against him and Weld had merely been manufactured by the Presbyterians for political purposes. Now, however, he investigated for himself the use made of the money which he and his colleague had sent over. From John Eliot he learned that the annual grant of £20 which Lady Armine had given in 1643 for the conversion of the Indians had not been applied for that purpose until 1647.674 Moreover, Eliot, who had taken great pains in this work and who had a large family to support, had been left with a mere pittance so that, as it was reported, he was compelled to run into debt every year and was unable to give his children proper educational advantages.675 To Peter, this was a great scandal. Although he had supported the design to convert the Indians when it was put under way in 1649,676 had tad little real sympathy with the object. Furthermore, he was not impressed with the various pamphlets which John Wilson, Thomas Shepard, Edward Winslow, and others had written to describe the progress of the work.677 These facts, together with his anger with the colony for its shabby treatment of himself and Eliot, led him to denounce the entire project in 1654. William Steele sadly reported to the Commissioners of the United Colonies in February, 1653/4, Peter’s desertion of the cause:
… but give us leave to tell you there is such a material objection here started as wee are ashamed of and know not how to answer, viz. the manifold complaints made by Mr. Elliot to sundry his friends here, that you allow him but £20 per ann. which doth not beare his charges, insomuch as he runnes in debt every yeare more and more, and is disabled for giving his children that education he otherwise would. Now whether it be or no wee know not, but verily believe the worke will suffer some thousands of pounds by it, for it flyeth like lightening and takes like tinder, men being extreame glad to meete with any thing may colour over their covetousnes, and dull theire zeale in so good a worke: Nay Mr. Peters who, but fourteene daies before, told Mr. Winslow in plaine termes he heard the worke was but a plaine cheate, and that there was no such thing as gospell conversion amongst the Indians, presently after, charged the same man upon a letter he received from Mr. Weld, by information from Mr. Elliot that you the commissioners for the united colonies forbad the worke in that you would not allow competent maintenance to Mr. Elliot, and others that laboured therein; and however wee have otherwise charitable thoughts of Mr. Peters yett he hath been a very bad instrument all along towards this worke, who (though of a committee in the army for the advance of it amongst them) yett protested against contributing a penny towards it in person, and indeede some of us have been faine to intreate the rest of the gentlemen not to trouble him any further in the busines, nor know wee any cause unlesse it be that the worke is coming to such perfection and he hath not had the least hand or finger in it.678
Peter’s protest may have lessened the contributions from England, but it was of material assistance to John Eliot. As soon as the Commissioners of the United Colonies heard of it, they doubled Eliot’s salary and wrote to England that “if there be cause, [we] shall readily enlarge further, and so to Mr. Mayhew.…”679 Two years later Peter learned from “some come ouer from N: E: yt those who carry on the worke are not lookt vpon, but are constrayned to take course cloth att Boston” in lieu of other pay.680 He renewed his objections, and the corporation in England offered it as their judgment that “Mr Eliott & Mr Mahew and such others as preach to ye Indians might for comfortable subsistance herein bee allowed 100li per Annum sterling to bee pd heere in England to their Assignee & or Assignees.”681 It is doubtful, however, whether this decision was ever put into effect.
Events in the organization of the New England Company had effected official exoneration of the Massachusetts agents and had brought to light the true villains in the case, but they did not obtain payment of the colony’s debts to the agents and their associates, debts incurred on the colony’s behalf. In his “Innocency Cleared,” Weld showed that the colony owed the agents £117 12s 2d. Most of this money had been paid for the bond of £112 which the agents had given to insure Alderman Andrews’s gift of £544. Weld, after persistent entreaties, received his portion of the debt in 1656,682 but there is no record to show that Peter ever received the sum owed him. In 1654, it appears that Peter decided to give up the attempt to collect it, saying that “the many vnkindneses I had from New England hath much deadend me in these things, rather contenting myselfe with what I can doe here, then further to bee troublesome to them.”683 In such a spirit the relations between the agents and the colony terminated. The colony had mistreated them, permitted them to bear the censure for which its own dishonest acts were responsible, failed to appreciate their efforts, and robbed them of their just dues. While not severing friendship with individual elders and magistrates, they would brook such ungrateful official treatment no longer. Though both parties had cause for dissatisfaction, the agents appear to have suffered the greater injury.
The ultimate break between the colony and Weld and Peter had not occurred, of course, in 1645, when Weld and Peter were officially relieved of their duties. At that time, events in the colony were only laying foundations for the troubles which took place a few years later, and, except that economic and psychological conditions in Massachusetts were such that no amount of material aid which the agents might have gathered could have satisfied the colony, Massachusetts had no justifiable cause to feel that its agents’ efforts had been unsatisfactory. Against great odds, they had obtained large contributions for the Bible Commonwealth. The accounts are incomplete, but they show that more than £2,000 in money and supplies had been collected for the colony, over £200 for the college, besides Lady Moulson’s scholarship, about £30 for the poor, and about £92 for conversion of the Indians. In addition, the agents raised £875 for the poor children’s care and transportation, and, though this pious scheme turned out badly, the colony had profited by misapplying more than £200 of the fund. Moreover, the agents obtained complete relief from excise taxes and other duties formerly levied upon the colony’s budding commerce, silenced most of the ill reports in England of the colony’s parasitical economic condition, and materially assisted in creating for Massachusetts a prestige in England which it enjoyed at no other period. In all these activities Weld and Peter avoided compromising the colony’s position with regard to its charter, proceedings against which disappeared until the days of the Stuart Restoration. The only tasks which the agents undertook without considerable success were the diplomatic negotiations with the Dutch West India Company, in which Hugh Peter showed so little judgment, and the attempt to forestall Roger Williams’s charter, in which Thomas Weld failed by a narrow margin. No subsequent Massachusetts agents to England in the seventeenth century obtained so great material benefits for the colony.
In view of such successes, it seems unfortunate both that the agents had been intrusted with the task of furthering reformation in England—a task which would almost inevitably lead them to become unmindful of the economic needs which had given birth to the mission—and that the agents themselves entered into this phase of their duties with such zest, particularly when they realized that English affairs had reached a state of complexity and confusion which had been neither foreseen nor fully comprehended by their colonial employers. When, while acting as representatives of the Congregational Commonwealth, the agents adapted their reforming tenets to English political exigencies and accepted the principle of religious toleration, they were extolling, as Thomas Edwards craftily pointed out, a way as contrary to New England orthodoxy as it was to Presbyterianism; had they preached such doctrines in Massachusetts, the colonists would have “trod them downe as mire in the street.…”684 Thus the agents broke with the colony on points of theology and ecclesiastical policy before financial difficulties arose further to impair relations between them.
More serious were the results to the agents themselves of their meddling in English affairs. John Endecott, if ever he unbent his rigid Puritan attitude of righteousness, might well have gloated with the “I-told-you-so’s” when neither Weld nor Peter returned to his New England congregation. Both men stayed in England throughout the period of the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Protectorate, and they lived to see their “reforming” efforts nullified by the return of the Stuarts. Weld, after an indecisive pamphlet controversy with Presbyterian writers, took a parish at Gateshead, where he fought with Quakers, Anabaptists, and imaginary Jesuits until the Restoration, when he returned to London; here he died shortly afterwards. Peter, after a previous record generally admirable for Congregational piety, orthodoxy, and zestful rectitude, turned his shrewd mind and active body to English politics, in which, though he rose to an eminent position in Independent circles, he stooped to methods and actions scarcely honorable to his cloth and suffered an ignominious death with the regicides in 1660. By attempting to further the reformation in the English Church and State, Massachusetts muddled the objects of the mission to England, and the agents, tending to neglect the material objects in view, lost themselves in the welter of English affairs.