The English Home of Mr. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : The High Commission

The story of Priest Dalton in peril before the Court of the High Commission rests entirely upon a letter1 from Mr. Thomas Cobbett2 the mninister of Lynn, Mass., to "our honoured governor & his much esteem'd friend Mr Winthrop, at his howse in Boston'; dated at "Lyn, this 1313 of ye 1 m: 1643" [March 13, 1643-44];3 and reading as follows:

"Worthy Sr. I vunderstand yt you are by Mr Humphrey desired to take care if ye dispose of his children wherefore I thought meet to acquaint you wt a providence of God offering an opportunity for ye comfortabl disposal of one of ym. Mr Daulton of Hampton, staying at one of brethrens howses lately, inquired after Mr Humphreys children, offering to take one of ym, & to bring it vp as his owne, hauing of his owne but one child. His reason he gaue hereof was in yt Mr. Humphrey had formerly adventured himself for fr [illegible] him in Englandf, wn in yee High Comissior Court, & was a means of his liberty, & therefore he would gladly thus requite that his kindeness, & being told hear was none in this towne but Dorcas, formerly defiled, &c., he replied yt was indeed some blott vppon her, but yet he would be contentto take her, if Mr. Humphreis friends so pleased. Now, Sr. if you please, and yt you judge it meet, we shall take some care to send to Mr. Dalton, yt thear may be further order taken for ye conueyance of her to him in Hampton."

This letter makes Mr. Dalton himself responsible for the statement that John Humphrey had been "a means of his liberty" when he was "in ye High Comissior Court." As to the identity of "Mr Humphrey" there can be no question. He was a rich lawyer, one of the sons-in-law of that distinguished and influent-ial Puritan, the third Earl of Lincoln, and so a brother-in-law of the Lady Arbella Johnson.4 Although a charter member of the Massachusetts Company, and a deputy-governor, he was unable to come to this country until 1634.5 Seven years later he and his wife, lady Susan, returned to England, leaving their children in the care of Governor Winthrop. The unpleasant details of the scandal which involved two of the daughters may be read in the colonial chronicles.6

Our hunt for more substantial evidence of the truth of the story leads us to think that it has not been told correctly -- that Mr. Cobbett misunderstood Mr. Dalton. Indeed, the illegibility of a part of the letter makjes it possible that the incident did not happen to Mr. Dalton himself, but to some other person in whom he was interested. Or the tribunal to which he referred may have been the Star Chamber, or the Privy Council, or even a Diocesan Court.

As regards the High Commission, we have caused a search to be made in all its known exisiting records and files at Lambeth, Norwich, Oxford, and Durham, as well as at the British Museum and the Public Record Office ub London.7 In this labor we have had the help of several very competent men, namely: Mr. T. A. Roberts, the Record Office; Mr. George Clinch, of the Museum; Mr. Frank J. Burgoyne, of the Tate Central Library in London, Mr. B. Beedham, of Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Mr. J. J. Howe, of Durham; Mr. F. Johnson, of Great Yarmouth; and the late Mr. T. R. Tallack, of Norwich. Mr. Burgoyne was also benefited by the kind suggestions of Prof. S. R. Gardiner, the historian, and Rev. Dr. Augustus Jessopp, the genealogist and essayist, than whom there are none in all pof England better informed upon the subject of the Laudian persecution. The result was, in searchers' language: "Nothing found." Hence we adopt Mr., Burgoyne's conclusion: "I believe that if Mr. Dalton were actually summoned before the High Commission, he did not wait to be tried, but made his escape as speedily as possible, perhaps to Holland for a few months, and then to New England."8

If we discover nothing about Timothy Dalton in the records of the court, we find much concerning his friend Samuel Ward. The original complaint against the latter had been filed in 1633, but the final judgment thereon was not entered until November 26, 1635. It was then decided that the following charges had been proven, to wit: that he had "preached against set forms of prayer"; that he "spoke against the forms for the visitation of the sick, . . . and said that they were more fit for popish times;" that "he was not in the habit of kneeling or shewing any sign of devotion when he came into his seator pew in the church"; that "he preached disgracefully against bowing and other reverend gestures in the church, saying that a man may teach an ape or a bear to do it"; that "he preached doubtfully concerning Christ's descent into hell"; that "he spoke disgracefully of a reverend bishop, and concerning the real presence in the sacrament;" that "he uttered speeches derogatory to the discipline and goivernment of the Church"; that "he insinuated that there was cause to fear a change of religion in the kingdom";9 that "in October, 1634, he delivered the opinion that all who bear office in the Church or Commonwealth ought toi be elected by the people"; that "he spoke disgracefully of conformity to his Majesty's instructions concerning preaching and conformity"; and that "he preached by way of opposition to his Majesty's declaration concerning recreations to be permitted on Sundays."

William Prynne says that Mr. Ward was "censured in the High Commission at Lambeth; and there suspended from his Lecture and Ministry, and every part thereof, till absolved by his Majesty; Enjoined a publike submission and recantation, such as the High Commission should prescribe; condemned in ex-pences and costs of suite, and committed to prison. The severe sentence utterly ruined this famous pain-full preacher, who lay long in prison, and soone after ended his dayes in grief and sorrow."1

The case of Samuel Ward interests us not only because it is a good illustration of the methods of Puritanism in that troublesome diocese, but also because of the direct influence which it had upon his neighbor Timothy Dalton. We may believe that the latter was roused thereby into an activity which was really foreign to his nature. Loyalty to his friend and co-defendant was a sufficient excuse for almost any indiscretion of which he may have been guilty. Nor can we censure him, when :hotly pursued by the prelates," for having profited by Ward's experience, and for having made haste to put himself out of the way of arrest. Resignation was better than deprivation; exile, than imorisonment.


  1. Mass. Hist. Coll., 5th series, Vil. I, p. 333.
  2. Mr.Corbett landed on June 26, 1637, and died in Lynn, November 5, 1685. Cotton Mather called him "a treasure," a man of "availing prayers and most approved manners."-Sprague's Annals of Am. Pulpit, I, 102.
  3. The charter provided that a session of the Court should be held on "every last Wednesday in Hillery, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas termes," But the Roman nomenclature never appears on the court records. (Ellis's Puritan Age and Rule, 119.) In 1635 Winthrop abandoned the use of the old heathen names for the days and months. Thenceforth all were indicated by numerals: as, "ye 3d day" of the week, and "ye 20. of ye 3. mo." of the year. (Goodwin's Pilgrim Republic, 361.) Roger Williams protested against the usual method of stating the year by adding thereto the words: "(ut vulgo)" or "(so called)," or "(so accounted)"; thus: "Nar[ragansett], 22, 4, 45 (so called.")-Knowles's Memoir of Roger Williams, pp. 207, 342, 393.
  4. Cotton Mather wrote that the family of the Earl of Lincoln was "the best family of any nobleman then in England"; and that the Lady Arbella "took New England in her way to heaven."
  5. Mr. Savage says that it was "not before July, 1634."-Geneal. Dict., II, 494.
  6. Dorcas was only eight or nine years old when advantage was taken of her innocence to subject her to a cruel wrong.-Winthop's History, II, 54.
  7. Burn's Notices of ther court of the High Commission, 44.
  8. To all those who shall in the popular belief that the Commission was "a barbarous or even cruel tribunal," we commend the calkm review of its work by Prof. Gardiner, and especially his list of the fourteen ministers who were deposed, suspended, or deprived by it between February 18, 1643, and May 19, 1636. Two of them were deposed, eight suspended, and four suspended and deprived. In five cases the punishments were wholly or partially remitted. --Gardiner's History of England, X, 224.
  9. Religion stands on tip-toe in our land,
    Readie to passe to the American strand.
    --GEORGE HERBERT's The Church Militant.
    When he was on his defense, Mr.Ward said that "he was not of so melancholy a spirit, nor looked through so black spectacles, as he that write that Religion stands on the tip-toes in this land, looking westwards, nor feared their fear that feared an imminent departure of the Gospel."-Calendar of State Papers, Domestic series, 1634-35, pp. 361-62; quoted by John Ward Dean in his Memoir of Nathaniel Ward, 144-46.

  10. Prynne's Canterburies Doome, 361.