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Definitions of Liberty on the Eve Of Civil War: Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke, and the American Puritan Colonies*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Karen Ordahl Kupperman
The University of Connecticut


Arthur Wilson, in his History of Great Britain, (1653) named William Fiennes, first Viscount Saye and Sele, as among the few ‘gallant Spirits’ who ‘aimed at the publick Liberty more than their own interest’. He went on to say that the men he singled out, including in addition to Saye the earls of Oxford, Southampton, Essex and Warwick, ‘supported the Old English Honour and would not let it fall to the ground’. In 1640 Warwick and Saye, this time in company with their associate Robert Greville, Lord Brooke, were praised by a commoner as ‘the best men of the kingdom’ according to the report of a government informer.

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1 Wilson, Arthur, The history of Great Britain (London, 1653), p. 161Google Scholar; Report on Brinckley, Daniel, Calendar of State Papers. Domestic, 1640, p. 377Google Scholar.

2 Saye and Sele to Winthrop, 9 July 1640, Winthrop papers, IV, 266–7; John Cotton to Saye and Sele, 1636, reprinted in Thomas Hutchinson, The history of the colony and province of MassachusettsBay, ed. Lawrence Shaw Mayo (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), I, Appendix III.

3 On the debate between the two colonies over which location was best suited to realize the goal of supporting the cause of true religion in England, see Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, ‘Errand to the Indies: Puritan colonization from Providence Island to the Western Design’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XLV (1988), 7099CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 On the need for public service in the maintenance of liberty, see Skinner, Quentin, ‘The paradoxes of political liberty’, The Tanner Lectures on human values, Harvard University, 1984, 227–50Google Scholar, esp. 233, 234, 242, 243, 248–9; and ‘The idea of negative liberty: philosophical and f historical perspectives’, in Rorty, Richard, Schneewind, J. B. and Skinner, Quentin, eds., Philosophy in history: essays on the historiography of philosophy (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 193221CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 205, 210, 213–14, 217.

5 Contemporary political theory held that all Englishmen were present in parliament, by proxy if not in person. See Zagorin, Perez, Rebels and rulers, 1500–1660 (2 vols., Cambridge, 1982), I, 114Google Scholar, 20.

6 Winthrop to D'Ewes, 21 July 1634, in Winthrop papers, III, 171–2.

7 Dunn, Richard S., Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop dynasty of New England, 1630–1717 (Princeton, 1962), p. 68CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Breen, T. H., The character of the good ruler: Puritan political ideas in New England, 1630–1730 (New Haven, 1970), pp. 50–1Google Scholar; Gura, Philip F., A glimpse of Sion'sglory: Puritan radicalism in New England, 1620–1660 (Middletown, Ct., 1984), p. 79Google Scholar.

8 For discussion of the Massachusetts Bay polity and its theoretical underpinnings, see Breen, Character of the good ruler, and Morgan, Edmund S., ed., Puritan political ideas, 1558–1794 (New York, 1965)Google Scholar, ‘Introduction’.

9 Morgan, EdmundS., Visible Saints: the history of a Puritan idea (Ithaca, N.Y., 1965), pp. 99101Google Scholar. Though this step made Massachusetts a genuinely radical polity according to Stephen Foster, Philip Gura argues that the requirement of evidence of conversion for church membership and civil rights may have been instituted to head off even more radical demands from those who looked forward to an order based solely on the Bible. John Cotton's rejected code of laws, called Moses hisjudicialls, was part of this campaign for a true Bible commonwealth. Foster, Stephen, Their solitary way: The Puritan social ethic in the first century of settlement in New England (New Haven, 1971), pp. 46–7Google Scholar; Gura, , A glimpse of Sim's glory, pp. 127–8Google Scholar, 133, 140, 162–3. For Cotton's legal code, see Ford, Worthington C., ‘Cotton's “ Moses his judicials”’, Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, 2nd ser., XVI (1902), 274–84Google Scholar and Anon., , An abstract of the lawes of New England as they are now established (London, 1641)Google Scholar. See also Maclear, J. F., ‘New England and the fifth monarchy: the quest for the millennium in early American Puritanism’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XXXII (1975), 231–40Google Scholar. Gura points out that only the Indian praying towns of Eliot, John were true biblically-based commonwealths, A glimpse, 134Google Scholar, 136, 140. As argues, Maclear, Eliot saw his ‘Indian theocracy’ as a model to be extended to Europe, ‘New England and the Fifth monarchy’, p. 247Google Scholar.

10 The Ten Demands were reprinted in Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts-Bay, ed. Mayo, I, 410–13. See also John Cotton to Lord Saye, 1636, ibid. 414–17; and Saye to John Winthrop, July 1640, Winthrop papers, IV, 263–8, esp. 266–7. The point at issue is blurred in Brown, B. Katherine, ‘The Puritan concept of aristocracy’, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XLI (19541955), 105–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Saye and Sele to John Winthrop, 9 July 1640, Winthrop papers, IV, 266–7.

12 Plato, , Protagoras, in The dialogues of Plato, trans. Jowett, B. (2 vols., New York, 1937), I, 91Google Scholar. See also Statesman, ibid. II, 320; and the Republic, passim. I owe this point to Joel Kupperman. On the puritan gentry's interest in Plato's writings, see Webster, Charles, ed. Samuel Hartlib and the advancement of learning (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 67Google Scholar and Haller, William, The Rise of Puritanism (New York, 1957), pp. 334–5Google Scholar Valerie Pearl points to the importance of classical scholarship to the Puritan, gentry: ‘Oliver St. John and the “middle group” in the Long Parliament: August 1643 – May 1644’, English Historical Review, LXXXI (1966), 50Google Scholar in.

13 John Cotton to Lord Saye, 1636, in Hutchinson, , History of Massachusetts-Bay, ed. Mayo, , I, 414–15Google Scholar

14 Williams, Roger, The bloudy tenent, of persecution, 1641, ed. Caldwell, Samuel L., in The completewritings of Roger Williams (New York, 1963), III, 398401Google Scholar; and The bloody taunt yet more bloody, 1652. ed. Caldwell, ibid. IV, 365. On Williams' thought, see Morgan, Edmund S., Rogei Williams: the chruch and the state (New york, 1967)Google Scholar. Roger Williams was expelled from Massachusetts Bay for his separatism early in 1637.

15 Cotton, Reply to Ten Demands in Hutchinson, , History of Massachusetts-Bay, I, 412Google Scholar; and Discourse about civil government in a new plantation whose design is religion (Cambridge, Mass., 1663), esp. pp. 79Google Scholar, 15–23. Isabel M. Calder argues that this treatise was actually written in 1637 for the guidance of Davenport, John, American Historical Review, XXXVTI (19311932), 267—9Google Scholar. See Foster, , Their solitary way, 14Google Scholar, 17. John Cotton was at Cambridge from 1598 to 1612, first as a student at Trinity and then as fellow of Emmanuel, where he was dean and lecturer. He was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1613. He was considered a major interpreter of the Bible's apocalyptic passages, and was consulted by Cromwell on the interpretation of events during the Protectorate.

16 The Providence Island Company Records, two large folio volumes that recorded company meetings in London and copies of letters and instructions sent to the colony, are in the Public Record Office at Kew, CO 124/1 and 2. Providence Island Company, court for Providence, 3 Dec. 1631; Instructions to the governor and council of the island of Providence from the governor and company of adventurers of the city of Westminster, etc, 10 Ma y 1632. Th e Providence Island Company records and related primary documents are available in the Microform Academic Publishers series of British records relating to America in microform, gen. ed. W. E. Minchinton, as The Providence Island venture, 1630–1641, ed. Karen Ordahl Kupperman.

17 Fiennes, William, Saye, Lord and Sele, , Two speeches in parliament (London, 1641), p. 2Google Scholar; Greville, Robert, Brooke, Lord, Discourse opening the nature of the episcopacie, which is exercised in England (London, 1641), pp. 58Google Scholar, 11–12, 14–17, 39–41, 61; Abbott, William M., ‘The issue of episcopacy in the Long Parliament, 1640–1648: the reasons for abolition’ (unpublished D.Phil dissertation, University of Oxford, 1981), pp. 6971Google Scholar, 79, 107. See also Lamont, William M., Godly rule: politics and religion, 1603–60 (London, 1969), ch. 3, csp. pp. 67–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Hunt, William, The puritan moment: the coming of revolution in an English county (Cambridge, Mass., 1984), p. 217Google Scholar.

18 Morrill, John, ‘The religious context of the English Civil War’, Transactions 0f the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., XXXIV (1984), 155–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 164, 170–1, 174.

19 Saye, and Sele, , Vindiciae veritatis. Or, an answer to a discourse intituled, truth it's manifest (London, 1654), pp. 37Google Scholar, 124, 128. Pearl, Valerie, in her ‘The “Royal Independents” in the English Civil War’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., XVIII (1967), 6976Google Scholar, attributes this tract to a joint venture of Lord Saye and his second son, Nathaniel Fiennes, but J. S. A. Adamson offers convincing proof that Saye wrote it alone between 1646 and 1648. See ‘The Vindiciae veritatis and the political creed of Viscount Saye and Sele’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, LX (1987), 4651Google Scholar. On Saye's belief that the congregation's power should be strictly limited, see Vindiciae veritatis, pp. 22–5, and Adamson, , ‘The Vindiciae veritatis’, pp. 58–9Google Scholar.

20 Rev. Richard Bernard of Batcomb in Somersetshire sent two manuscript copies of his book against the New England way of gathering churches to Boston in 1636, to which a reply was returned in 1638. See Winthrop, John, Winthrop's journal: history of Mew England, 1630–1649, ed. Hosmer, James Kendall (New York, 1908), I, 279Google Scholar, 293.

21 Moody, Robert E., ed., The letters of Thomas Gorges, deputy governor of the province of Maine, 1640–1643 (Portland, Maine, 1978), p. 57Google Scholar. See also ibid. pp. 7, 17–18, 36–7, 67, 109.

22 Thomas Hooker to John Winthrop, Dec. 1638, Winthrop papers, iv, 75–84, esp. 80–2; R. Stansby to John Wilson, 17 April 1637, Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 4th ser., VII (1865), 1011Google Scholar; Andrews, Charles M., The colonial period of American history (New Haven, 1936), II, 78Google Scholar, 87–90. Saye, Lord referred to Hooker with approval, especially on the question of Congregationalism, Vindiciae veritatis, pp. 123Google Scholar, 127–32. See also Gura, , A glimpse, pp. 165Google Scholar, 173. For a review of the controversy over whether Hooker was more democratic than the Massachusetts Bay leaders, see Ahlstrom, Sidney E., ‘Thomas Hooker – puritanism an d democratic citizenship: a preliminary inquiry into some relationships of religion and American civic responsibility’, Church History, XXXII (19621963), 415–31Google Scholar; and Miller, Perry, ‘Thomas Hooker and the democracy of Connecticut’, in his Errand into the wilderness (Cambridge, Mass., 1956), pp. 1647Google Scholar. Hooker had been fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1609 to 1618 and had been lecturer and catechist in the college.

23 Williams, , The hireling ministry none of Christs, 1652, ed. Miller, Perry, in Complete writings of Roger Williams, VII, 189–90Google Scholar; and The examiner defended, in A fair and sober answer to two and twenty questions, 1652, ed. Miller, ibid. 218.

24 Battis, Emery, Saints and sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the antinomian controversy in the Massachusetts Bay colony (Chapel Hill, 1962), ch. 17, esp. 258–68Google Scholar.

25 Cotton, John to Saye, Lord and Sele, , 1636, in Hutchinson, , History of Massachusetts-Bay, I, 415Google Scholar.

26 Battis, , Saints and sectaries, pp. 180–8Google Scholar. Foster, , Their solitary way, pp. 53Google Scholar, 55.

27 Theodore de la Guard [Ward], The simple cobler of Aggawam in America. Fifth edition reprinted in Peter Force, comp., Tracts and other papers (1844; rpt. Gloucester, Mass., 1963), III, no. 8, 6.

28 ‘A remonstrance and petition of Robert Child, and others’, 1646, in Hutchinson, Thomas, A collection of original papers relative to the history of the colony of Massachusetts-Bay (1769Google Scholar; rpt. Boston, 1865 and New York, 1967), I, 214–23; Gura, , A glimpse, pp. 195200Google Scholar, 307–10.

29 Hugh Peter to John Winthrop, 4 Sept. 1646, Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 4th ser., VI (1863), 109Google Scholar; Roger Williams to John Winthrop, Jr., 12 July 1654, ibid. 3rd ser., x (1849), 2; Stephen Winthrop to John Winthrop.Jr., 1 Mar. 1644/5, ibid. 5th ser., VIII (1882), 200; Roger Williams to John Winthrop, Jr., 12 July 1654, Bartlett, John Russell, ed., The complete writings of Roger Williams, VI, 259Google Scholar; John Leverett to John Endecott, 20 Dec. 1656, in Hutchinson, , History of Massachusetts-Bay, ed. Mayo, , I, 163–4nGoogle Scholar See also Howell, Roger, ‘Thomas Weld of Gateshead: the return of a New England Puritan’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th ser., XLVIII (1970), 303–32Google Scholar.

30 Derek Hirst has pointed to the elitest nature of such a commitment to public service as necessary to citizenship, Authority and conflict: England, 1603–1658 (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), p. 86Google Scholar. Cromwell later expected all men in the Western Design to contribute to the fortification of Jamaica ‘out of principles of nature’. See The letters and speeches of Oliver Cromwell, ed. Carlyle, Thomas, 2nd edn (London, 1846), III, 162Google Scholar.

31 Providence Island Company, instructions to the governor and council of the isle of Providence, 7 Feb. 1630; letter to Gov. Philip Bell, Feb. 1630; court for Providence, 3 Dec. 1631.

32 Providence Island Company, instructions to the governor and council of the isle of Providence, 10 May 1632; a particular instruction concerning Mr Morgan the minister directed to the governor and council resident in the island of Providence, 10 May 1632; committee for Providence, 11 April 1632.

33 Providence Island Company, committee for Providence, 20 Feb. 1634/5; general court for Providence, 19 Feb. 1635/6; general court for Providence, 14 June 1636; letter sent to the governor and council of the Isle of Providence, May, 1636; a general letter to the governor and counsell, 23 April 1638.

34 ‘The copy of a letter sent to the governor and council of the isle of Providence by the Golden Falcon’, 20 July 1633; ‘A copy of all the public letters, instructions, and commissions sent by the Long Robert of London’, September 1634; Providence Island Company to governor and council, May, 1636; ‘Instructions for the governor and council established in the isle of Providence’, 7 June 1639; Providence Island Company preparatory court, 16 Jun e 1634.

35 Providence Island Company, preparative court for Providence, 4 Feb. 1632–3. ‘Letter to governor an d council sent by the Golden Falcon’, 20 July 1633. On the remnants of manorial customs, see Zagorin, , Rebels and rulers, I, 83—5Google Scholar.

36 The development of this issue can be traced in Providence Island Company letters to the governor an d council of 20 July 1633, September 1634, May 1636, March 1637, and 23 April 1638.

37 Ten Demands in Hutchinson, , History, I, 410–13Google Scholar; Saye to Winthrop, 9 July 1640, Winthrop papers, IV, 267. The agreement of Lord Saye and the others ‘lords and gentlemen’ with John Winthrop, Jr., governor of their colony at Say brook in Connecticut, called for provision of fifty servants whose sole role was to build fortifications and then accommodations for themselves and the ‘men of quality’ who intended to emigrate. 1000 or 1500 acres were to be set aside for the support of the fortifications. Never again would they allow such important work to rest on the virtu of colonists; ‘Agreement of the Saybrook Company with John Winthrop, Jr.’, July 1635, Winthrop papers, III, 198–9.

38 John Cotton wrote that, while servants and women could be church members, only ‘free Burgesses’ were eligible to be magistrates or to vote for them; Discourse of civil government, p. 5. Most Massachusetts men, according to Stephen Foster, owned their land in fee simple; Their solitary way, pp. 32, 37–8. The actual composition of the freemanship is still unclear. See Foster, Stephen, ‘The Massachusetts franchise in the seventeenth century’, William ami Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., XXIV (1967), 613–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar and his appendix of the same name to Their solitary way; and Simmons, Richard C., ‘Freemanship in early Massachusetts: some suggestions and a case study’, WMQ, XIX (1962), 422–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 Adamson, , ‘The Vindiciae veritatis’, p. 62Google Scholar; Bard, Nelson Parker Jr, ‘William Fiennes, first Viscount Saye and Sele: a study in the politics of opposition, 1620–1640’, (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, the University of Virginia, 1974), pp. 289–90Google Scholar.

40 The English colony on Providence Island was taken by the Spanish in 1641, in their third attack on the settlement.

41 Sir Nathaniel Rich, statement to 1628 parliament, B.L. Stowe M S 366, fos. 20V–21; Pym, John, A speech delivered in parliament, by a worthy member thereof, and a most faithfull well-wisher to the church and common-weale; concerning the grievances of the kingdome (London, 1641), p. 36Google Scholar (incorrectly numbered 26). This speech was delivered on 5 April 1640.

42 Smith, John, Mew Englands trials (1622)Google Scholar in Barbour, Philip L., ed., The complete works of Captain John Smith 1580–1631 (3 vols., Chapel Hill, 1986), I, 440Google Scholar; Smith, Advertisements for the unexperienced planters of New-England, or any where (1631), ibid. III, 275. See also John Humphrey to Lord Mandeville, 27 Mar. 1641, Historical Manuscripts Commission Eighth Report, 1884, Appendix n, item 424.

43 John Murrin and Gary Kornblith, Paper delivered to conference on Anglo-American social history, Williamsburg, September 1985, 11–12, 16; Fletcher, Anthony and Stevenson, John, eds., Order and disorder in early modem England (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 23CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 15–16. See also Breen, T. H. and Foster, Stephen, ‘The Puritans' greatest achievement: a study of social cohesion in seventeenth-century Massachusetts’, Journal of American History, LX (1972), 522Google Scholar.

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