The English Home of MR. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : The Laudian Persecution

We now approach the crisis in Timothy Dalton's life -- his "difficulties with the bishops." As we have pointed out elsewhere, he should have been a pronounced Puritan when he left the university. His subsequent intimacies with Samuel Ward and John Humphrey establish his connection with their party. Yet in his peaceful home on the banks of "the softy-flowing Orwell" he seems to have been on good terms with the authorities, at least until the elevation of William Laud1 to the archiepiscopate in 1633. Until then he had probably kept himself in the background of politics.

In the twenty years next after his graduation (1613-33) Puritanism had made a rapid growth in East Anglia. Like the camomile plant, it grew faster when it was the more trodden upon. But it did not come to maturity until the sad days (1633-40) of "the new persecution under Laud." This was also the turning-point in the history of Massachusetts Bay, when the success of Winthrop's "Solemn Venture," as he called it, was definitely assured. In the unhappy home-land the "famous infamous High Commission" held an almost continuous session. The calendars of the diocesan courts were heavy with complaints of a local character. Special cases were reserved for the archbishop in the Star Chamber and Privy Council.2 There was no rest or hope of rest, for the clergy who did not submit. Sentences of suspension were dealt out with a liberal hand, often in advance of any warning. Frequently they were followed by deposition and excommunication. Sometimes legal proceedings were threatened in order to secure a "voluntary" resignation. Many a pulpit was vacant, while the fever-breeding prisons were crowded with clerks and laymen who had the courage of their opinions. Douglas Campbell says: "In nothing did the High Commission fall behind Alva's famous Council of Blood, except in the power of punishing by death; and, in the then condition of the English prisons, even this power was indirectly granted, for the gaol-fever was as fatal as the ace of the executioner."3

In 1635-36, while Timothy Dalton was preaching his last sermons at Woolverstone, a special attack was made by the government upon "the honest Netherlanders" of Norfolk and Suffolk. These foreign artisans and their families, being mostly weavers or other workers in wool, were good citizens. It is true that they did not belong to the National Church, and that their Protestantism was of an advanced type. Hitherto they have been treated leniently. Now they-or at least their English-born children-are to be compelled to conform. Receiving ample encouragement from their disaffected neighbors, they resist, and more stringent orders are sent from Lambeth to Norwich. The "so many of them [and their friends] as were able, solemnly resolved to flee out of England." The so-called "savage desert," with its perils and hardships,4 was to be preferred to the gaol and its abominations. The duty of emigration was taught openly. Thereby it happened that the growth of Massachusetts Bay was again quickened after a season of repose, and, as before, with colonists of a superior quality. Quaintly said old Governor Stoughton: "God sifted a whole nation, that He might send choice grain into this wilderness."5 Nearly every minister who emigrated carried with him a select party of personal friends, usually members of his own congregation. When John Cotton had been in doubt two or three years before as to what he himself should so, he was advised by a brother divine: "The removing of a minister is like the draining of a fish pond. The good fish will follow the water, but eels & other baggage-fish will stick in the mud."6 So it was that Timothy Dalton, when afterward settled in Hampton, was sustained in the controversy with Stephen Bachiler by those who had been his countrymen and acquaintance in old England." This flitting of the weavers "into Holland and other parts beyond the seas" was described in the impeachment of Bishop Wren (1640) as leading "to the great hindrance of trade in this kingdom, and to the impoverishing and bringing to extreme want very many who were by those parties formerly set on work." It was also charged in the same document, that three thousand of these refugees had gone from the diocese of Norwich alone in a single year.7 Some went to the convenient continent, others to the far-distant colony. In their haste many went first to Holland and afterward to Massachusetts. The "faithful and free-born Englishmen" naturally chose America for their permanent home. Here in New England, as they loved to call it,8 they gave to their plantations and counties the familiar names of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Boston, Lynn, Ipswich, Dedham, Braintree, Hingham, and Cambridge. Captain Johnson said by way of explanation: "They would their posterity should mind whence they came."9
  1. Of land it is just to say, not only that he rose by force of great abilities, but that, while narrow even to a signal degree in an age of narrowness, and a burning enthusiast in his antipathies, he was not a bad man. He was by no means lacking in personal piety; his diary shows him capable of celestial dreams; and, beyond question, his public course was conformed to his sincere convictions.-Twichell's Life of John Winthrop, 121.
  2. While we condemn the Star Chamber and Privy Council for their cruel punishments, we should not forget the case of Philip Ratcliffe, in the colony, who, in June, 1631, lost his ears and was whipped and banished "for vttering malliious & scandalous speeches against the gou'mt & the Churche of Salem."
  3. Campbell's Puritin in Holland, England and America, I, 474. But it should be remembered, that during the eleven years preceding the Long Parliament "there were no political executions, and no executions for religion. The atrocious but familiar punishment of the pillory, with its accompaniments of flogging and ear-clipping and nose-slitting, was resorted to now and agin; but to state that the name of every political sufferer is still a 'household word' is enough to prove those sufferers few.'-Simpkinson's Life and Times of William Laud, 104.
  4. Mr. Dalton had at least one actual experience of the dangers of the wilderness. In 1641 he and Mr. John Ward-a son of Nathaniel-strayed from their patch in the forest, "and thought it be but six miles, yet they lost their way, and wandered two days and one night, without food or fire, in the snow and wet." -Savage's Winthrop, II, 29.
  5. During the two years next after Winthrop's arrival immigration was light. In 1633 it was greatly increased, including such men as John Cotton and Thomas Hooker. At least six ministers came in 1634; twelve in 1635; six in 1636; eleven in 1637; seven in 1638; and nine in 1639; but only one in 1640. (N. E. Hist. and Hen. Reg., I, 289.) In March, 1638, Sir William Maynard wrote to Laud that "there are 14 ships in the Thames, to be ready for the voyage by Easter Day." On two early days in January, 1640, the Privy Council ordered the clearance of seven vessels, which were engaged to carry 105 passengers.-Calendar of State Papers, Colonial series,1574-1660, pp. 206, 307.
  6. Mather's Magnalia, I, 241.
  7. Browne's Hist. of Cong. In Norf, and Suff,, 89. As to the effect upon the linen trade of Suffolk, see Wodderspoon's Memorials of Ipswich, 204.
  8. The name of New England" was given by Capt. John Smith, in 1614-1616, to a large territory. It was coolly appropriate by the Bay people. They also restricted the use of their own "Massachusetts Bay" to the waters of Boston Harbor, and stamped the letters "N. E." upon their first coinage.-Goodwin's Pilgrim Republic, 324.
  9. Johnson's Wonder-wworking Providence, 191. See also Fiske's Beginnings of New England, 63.