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Provoking Disorder: The Politics of Speech in Protectorate Middlesex

  • Caroline Boswell

Abstract

This article explores the impact of the 1654 ordinance against challenges, duels, and provocations. Despite the Council of State's original intentions, this legislation offered non-elites the opportunity to prosecute threatening and abusive language as “provocations,” recasting interpersonal conflicts as dangerous to society rather than to an individual's “common fame.” Indeed, many of the cases prosecuted at the Middlesex sessions centered on “provocative” behavior that questioned normative social and gender relations, revealing how the Protectorate's anti-dueling legislation provided a new weapon in contests over social power. Comparing the creation and implementation of the 1654 ordinance, this article argues that the Protectorate's legislation exposed the connections between the regulation of social interactions and the preservation of the social and political order.

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1 Several Proceedings in Parliament, no. 137 (6–13 May 1652), 2150.

2 Ibid.

3 Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660 (hereafter A & O), ed. Firth, C.H. and Rait, R. S. (London, 1911), 2:937–38.

4 Mercurius Democritus, no. 7 (11–19 May 1652), 55.

5 A & O, 2:937–38.

6 Blackstone, William, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 3rd ed., vol. 3 (Oxford, 1768), 124.

7 For the theory behind “speech acts,” see Austin, J.L., How to do Things with Words (Cambridge, MA, 1962). For the influence of speech act theory on the social history of politics, see, for example, Braddick, Mike and Walter, John, eds. Negotiating Power in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2001); Braddick, Mike, “Introduction: The Politics of Gesture,” Past & Present 203, suppl. 4 (2009): 935; Cressy, David, England on Edge: Crisis in Revolution, 1640–1642 (Oxford, 2006); Cressy, , Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England (Oxford, 2010); Walter, JohnGesturing at Authority: Deciphering the Gestural Code of Early Modern England,” Past & Present 203, suppl. 4 (2009): 96127; Walter, John, “‘The Pooremans Joy and the Gentlemans Plague’: A Lincolnshire Libel and the Politics of Sedition in Early Modern England,” Past & Present 203, no .1 (2009): 2967; Wood, Andy, The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007); Rollison, David, A Commonwealth of the People: Popular Politics and England's Long Social Revolution, 1066–1649 (Cambridge, 2010); Vallance, Ted, “The Captivity of James II: Gestures of Loyalty and Disloyalty in Seventeenth-Century England,” Journal of British Studies 48, no. 4 (2009): 848–58.

8 Austin, How to do Things with Words, 12.

9 For his theories on the “interaction order,” see Goffman, Erving, “The Interaction Order: American Sociological Association, 1982 Presidential Address,” American Sociological Review 48, no. 1, (1983): 117.

10 Some of the most influential writings include Williams, Raymond, Marxism and Literature (Oxford, 1977); Bloch, Political Language; Austin, How to do Things with Words; Voloshinov, V. N., Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge, MA, 1986); Kendon, Adam, Gesture as Visible Action (Cambridge, 2004); Bremmer, Jan and Roodenburg, Herman, ed., A Cultural History of Gesture: From Antiquity to the Present Day (Ithaca, 1991); Goffman, “The Interaction Order;” Goffman, , The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York, 1959); Bourdieu, Pierre, Language and Symbolic Power, trans. Raymond, Gino and Adamson, Matthew (Cambridge, MA, 1991).

11 See, for example, Hindle, Steve, “The Shaming of Margaret Knowsley: Gossip, Gender and the Experience of Authority in Early Modern England,” Continuity and Change 9, no. 3 (1994): 391419; Braddick and Walter, “Introduction: Grids of power,” 1–4; Wood, , “The Queen is ‘a goggyll eyed hoore’: Gender and Seditious Speech in Early Modern England,” in The English Revolution c.1590–1720, ed. Tyacke, Nicholas (Manchester, 2007), 8194; Cressy, Dangerous Talk, 17–38; Ingram, Martin, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour’: Slander Suits in Early Modern England,” in The Moral World of the Law, ed. Coss, Peter (Cambridge, 2000), 150.

12 See, for example, Amussen, Susan Dwyer, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1988); Bound, Fay, “‘An Angry and Malicious Mind’? Narratives of Slander at the Church Courts of York, c.1660–c.1760,” History Workshop Journal 56, no. 1 (2003): 5977; Capp, Bernard, When Gossips Meet: Women, Family and Neighborhood in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2004), chaps. 5 and 6; Gowing, Laura, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford, 1998); Muldrew, Craig, The Economy of Obligations: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (Basingstoke, 1998), chap. 2; Shepard, Alexandra, “Manhood, Credit and Patriarchy in Early Modern England, c.1580–1640,” Past & Present 167, no. 1 (2000): 75106; Dabhoiwala, Faramerz, “The Pattern of Sexual Immorality in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century London” in Londinopolis, ed. Jenner, Mark and Griffiths, Paul (Manchester, 2000), 86106; Walker, Garthine, Crime, Gender and Social Order in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2003); Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour’,” 134–60; Sharpe, J. A., Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England: the Church Courts at York, Borthwick Papers, no. 58 (York, 1980).

13 Gowing, Domestic Dangers 2, 60–63, 107; See also Amussen, An Ordered Society, 99–104.

14 Shepard, The Meanings of Manhood, 154–57; Shepard, “Manhood, Credit, and Patriarchy,” 94, 97–104; Ari Friedlander, “Promiscuous Generation: Rogue Sexuality and Social Reproduction in Early Modern England,” (PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 2011), 29–76. See also, Capp, Bernard, “The Double Standard Revisited: Plebeian Women and Male Sexual Reputation in Early Modern England,” Past & Present 162, no. 1 (1999): 70100.

15 Gowing, Domestic Dangers 2, 60–63, 107; Amussen, An Ordered Society, 99–104; Walker, Crime, Gender and Social Order, 8, 99–100; Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour’,” 141–42.

16 Scott, James C., Domination and the Arts of Resistance (New Haven, 1990); Braddick and Walter, “Introduction: Grids of Power,” 1–5, 7–8. See also Wrightson, Keith, “The Politics of the Parish in Early Modern England,” in The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England, ed. Griffiths, Paul, Fox, Adam, and Hindle, Steve (Basingstoke, 1994), 1046.

17 Wood, Andy, “The Place of Custom in Plebian Political Culture: England, 1550–1800,” Social History 22, no. 1 (1997): 4660; David Rollison, A Commonwealth of the People; See also Thompson, E. P., Customs in Common (New York, 1991), especially chaps. 1 and 3; Walter, , “The English People and the English Revolution Revisited,” History Workshop Journal 61, no. 1 (2006): 175.

18 Wood, The 1549 Rebellions, 108–11, 119–22; Braddick, “Introduction: The Politics of Gesture,” 9–35; Walter, “Gesturing at Authority,” 101–08.

19 See Aylmer, G. E., ed., The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement 1646–1660 (Basingstoke, 1972).

20 A & O, 2:937–39.

21 Ibid., emphasis added.

22 See, for example, Bernard Capp, England's Culture Wars; Spufford, M., “Puritanism and Social Control?” in Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, ed. Fletcher, Anthony and Stevenson, John, (Cambridge, 1987); Martin Ingram, “Reformation of Manners in Early Modern England,” in The Experience of Authority in Early Modern England; Stoyle, Mark, Loyalty and Locality: Popular Allegiance in Devon during the English Civil War (Exeter, 1994); David Underdown, Revel, Riot and Rebellion; Wrightson, Keith, “Two Concepts of Order: Justices, Constables and Jurymen in Seventeenth-century England,” in An Ungovernable People: The English and Their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Brewer, John and Styles, John (New Brunswick, 1980); Hirst, Derek, “The Failure of Godly Rule in the English Republic,” Past & Present 132, no. 1 (1991): 3366; Durston, Christopher, “Puritan Rule and the Failure of Cultural Revolution,” in The Culture of Puritanism, 1560–1700, ed. Christopher Durston, and Eales, Jacqueline, (Basingstoke, 1996), 210–33.

23 Bernard Capp, England's Culture Wars, 152.

24 Durston, “Failure of Cultural Revolution,” 213–14, 217–20.

25 For the “failure” of the puritan reforms, see, for example, Durston, “Failure of Cultural Revolution,” 220–33; Hirst, “The Failure of Godly Rule,” 33–66; Capp, England's Culture Wars, esp. 258–63. Capp argues against the interpretation of interregnum reforms as “failures” given the confines and context of the period.

26 Durston, “Failure of Cultural Revolution,” 217–19.

27 Ibid., 168.

28 “House of Commons Journal Volume 5: 4 March 1648,” Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 5: 1646–1648, British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=25316&stquery=duels; Perfect Occurrences of Every Daie Journall in Parliament, no. 62 (3–10 March 1648), 509.

29 A Perfect Diurnall of Some Passages in Parliament, no. 240 (28 Feb.–6 March 1648), 1936.

30 Capp, England's Culture Wars, 168–69.

31 Council of State Order Books, 13 May 1652, The National Archives (hereafter TNA), SP 25/67 f. 45; Capp, England's Culture Wars, 168.

32 “House of Commons Journal Volume 7: 13 May 1652,” Journal of the House of Commons volume 7: 1651–1660, British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=23999%strquery=duels.

33 Cf. Council of State Order Books, June 1654, TNA, SP 25/75, ff. 354–56, 366, 400, 403–04; see also Capp, England's Culture Wars, 169.

34 Underdown, 98–100.

35 Ibid., 101–02; Council of State Order Books, June 1654, TNA, SP 25/75, ff. 358, 365.

36 Council of State Draft Order Books, 10 April 1654, TNA, SP 25/51 f. 11; A & O, 2:861; Durston, “Failure of Cultural Revolution,” 217; Capp, England's Culture Wars, 205.

37 TNA, SP 25/75, ff. 373–74.

38 TNA, SP 25/75, ff. 374–76; A & O, 2:580, 870–71.

39 TNA, SP 25/75 f. 413; Durston, “The Failure of Cultural Revolution,” 217; Capp, England's Culture Wars, 207–08.

40 TNA, SP 25/75, f. 419.

41 Goffman, “The Interaction Order,” 13.

42 Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour,’” 135.

43 March, Actions for Slaunder (London, 1647), 58; Sheppard, William, Action upon the Case of Slander (London, 1662), 2; Cressy, Dangerous Talk, 26; Ingram, Church Courts, 295–97.

44 March, 10–11; Blackstone, 122–23; Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, chap. 2; Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 59–138; Ingram, 297–319; Shepard, The Meanings of Manhood, 154–57; Cressy, Dangerous Talk, 23.

45 Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour,’” 140; Ingram, Church Courts, 298; Walker, 99; Shoemaker, 29.

46 March, 5; Sharpe, 3–4; Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 60; Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour,’” 147–150; Walker, 99–100.

47 March, 4.

48 Previous to the ordinance, slander cases prosecuted at the quarter sessions had only resulted in fines payable to the king.

49 Squibb, G. D., The High Court of Chivalry: A Study of the Civil Law in England (Oxford, 1959), 6367; Cust, Richard and Hopper, Andrew, “Introduction,” in Cases in the High Court of Chivalry, 1634–1640, ed. Cust, and Hopper, , Publications of the Harleian Society, new series, XVIII (2006), xxivxxvii.

50 For an in-depth discussion of the influence of the legal process on court narratives, see Bound, “‘An Angry and Malicious Mind?,’” 60, 67–68.

51 See Session files, 10 October 1653–20 June 1654, London Metropolitan Archives (hereafter LMA), MJ/SR/1112-1126. All subsequent LMA records refer to the Session Files. Recognizance records are noted as R. and Indictment records are noted as I.

52 See LMA, August 1654–September 1655, MJ/SR/1127–1141. A further eight cases that did not contain “provoking” or “provocative” employed the terms “challenge” or “challenging” while another three used “disgraceful.”

53 See, for example, LMA, MJ/SR/1129 R. 72 (25 August 1654); MJ/SR/1127 R. 212 (10 August 1654); MJ/SR/1127 I. 373 (3 July 1654); MJ/SR/1129 R. 72 (25 August 1654).

54 For a discussion of the integration of sexual offenses into the common law courts, see Ingram, “Law, Litigants, and the Construction of ‘Honour’,” 149; Morrill, J. S. and Walter, J. D., “Order and Disorder in the English Revolution,” in Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, ed. Fletcher, Anthony and Stevenson, John (Cambridge, 1987), 137–65.

55 A & O, 2:938–39.

56 LMA, MJ/SR/1127 I. 372 (30 July 1654).

57 LMA, MJ/SR/1127 R. 212 (10 Aug. 1654).

58 LMA, MJ/SR/1127 R. 218 (13 July 1654).

59 LMA, MJ/SR/1127 I. 373 (3 July 1654).

60 Griffiths, Paul, “Punishing Words: Insults and Injuries, 1525–1700,” in The Extraordinary and the Everyday in Early Modern England, ed. McShane, Angela and Walker, Garthine (Basingstoke, 2010), 68.

61 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 R. 317 (27 Sept. 1656). By the seventeenth century, the term “quean” largely denoted a woman of loose morals or a prostitute. See “quean, n.”. OED Online. June 2013. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/156192?redirectedFrom=quean.

62 LMA, MJ/SJ/1136 I. 462 (17 April 1655).

63 Keith Thomas, “Introduction,” in A Cultural History of Gesture, 6.

64 Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 72.

65 LMA, MJ/SR/1136 I. 449 (1 April 1655).

66 LMA, MJ/SR/1141 R. 276 (6 Aug. 1655).

67 Braddick, “The Politics of Gesture,” 28.

68 LMA, MJ/SR/1140 I. 459 (1 May 1655).

69 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 R. 258 (11 Oct. 1656).

70 LMA, MJ/SR/1172 R. 85 (29 June 1657); MJ/SR/1187 R. 333 (21 Aug. 1658).

71 LMA, MJ/SR/1144 R. 110 (14 Nov. 1655).

72 Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, 29; Ingram, “Litigants,” 139–40; Ingram, Church Courts, 315; Walker, 8, 99.

73 Braddick and Walter, “Introduction: Grids of Power,” 1–5.

74 Walker, 99; Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 61; Wood, 1549 Rebellions, 120–22; Hughes, Ann, Gender and the English Revolution (New York, 2012), 1620.

75 LMA, MJ/SR/1127–MJ/SR/1141 (August 1654–September 1655).

76 Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 35–37.

77 Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, 213.

78 LMA, MJ/SR/1140 R. 78 (18 July 1655); Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 101-02; Hughes, Gender and the English Revolution, 20.

79 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 I. 443 (29 Sept. 1656).

80 LMA, MJ/SR/1185 R. 175 (30 July 1658).

81 See, for instance, LMA, MJ/SR/1134 R. 103 (27 March 1655); MJ/SR/1139 R. 114, 131 (May 1655); 1143 I. 371 (10 Oct. 1655).

82 LMA, MJ/SR/1129 R. 134 (21 Sept. 1654).

83 LMA, MJ/SR/1172 I. 227 (6 Oct. 1657).

84 LMA, MJ/SR/1143 R., 371 (10 Oct. 1655).

85 Gowing, Domestic Dangers, 63–72; Shepard, “Manhood, Credit and Patriarchy,” 84–85.

86 Bound, “‘An Angry and Malicious Mind?’,” 70.

87 LMA, MJ/SR/1131 R. 44 (14 Dec. 1654).

88 LMA, MJ/SR1172 R. 88 (27 May 1657).

89 LMA, MJ/SR/1172 R. 75 (24 July 1657).

90 See Walker, chap. 3, especially 99–100.

91 LMA, MJ/SR/1141 R. 49 (28 July 1655).

92 LMA, MJ/SR/1163 R. 98 (7 March 1657).

93 LMA, MJ/SR/1134, R. 210 (17 Feb. 1655).

94 LMA, MJ/SR/1141 R. 264 (21 Aug. 1654); See also MJ/SR/1187 R. 352 (10 Sept. 1658).

95 LMA, MJ/SR/1187 R. 352 (10 Sept. 1658); MJ/SR/1202 R. 283 (20 Aug. 1659). For other cases of women “provoking” local officials, see, for instance, MJ/SR /1136 R. 131 (2 April 1655); MJ/SR/1156 R. 176 (21 Aug. 1656).

96 LMA, MJ/SR/1187 R. 346 (21 Sept. 1658); See also MJ/SR/1156 R. 192 (15 Sept. 1656).

97 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 R. 176 (21 Aug. 1656); MJ/SR/1136 R. 165 (9 March 1654/5).

98 LMA, MJ/SR/1134 R. 208 (8 Feb. 1654/5).

99 John Lassiter cites one case from 1657 in his study of defamation of peers. Another case in which a grocer alleged the Lord Mayor John Ireton sold out the Common Council was prosecuted at the Middlesex Bench in September 1659. See Lassiter, 223; LMA MJ/SR/1202 R. 299 (11 Sept. 1659).

100 Spierenburg, Peter, “Masculinity, Violence and Honor: An Introduction,” in Men and Violence: Gender, Honor, and Rituals in Early Modern Europe, ed. Spierenburg, , (Columbus, OH, 1998), 78; Peltonen, Markku, The Duel in Early Modern England (Cambridge, UK, 2003); Lassiter, 218; See p.1 in the above for narrative.

101 For cases between social elites, for instance, LMA, MJ/SR/1187 I. 414-5, 418 (1658); MJ/SR/1140 I. 458 (5 July 1655).

102 A & O, 2:448.

103 LMA, MJ/SR/1143 R. 303; MJ/SR/1140 R. 331-2; MJ/SR/1187 R. 333; MJ/SR/1136 R. 187; MJ/SR/1141 R. 189; MJ/SR/1156 R. 86.

104 LMA, MJ/SR/1144 I. 347 (1 Dec. 1655) and I. 449 (29 Oct. 1655).

105 Wood, The 1549 Rebellions, 109, 119–22.

106 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 I. 454 (14 April 1656).

107 LMA, MJ/SR/1141 R. 415 (5 Sept. 1655).

108 Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry, 63–67.

109 LMA, MJ/SR/1187 R. 154 (21 Aug. 1658).

110 LMA, MJ/SR/1156 R. 296 (26 Sept. 1656); MJ/SR/1144 I. 429 (11 Sept. 1655).

111 Orr, D. Alan, Treason and the State: Law, Politics, and Ideology in the English Civil War (Cambridge, UK, 2002), 1819; Cressy, Dangerous Words, 49–54.

112 A & O, 2:831; See also Orr, Treason and the State, 56–57.

113 Orr, Treason and the State, 201.

114 A & O, 2:937–39.

115 See, for example, LMA, MJ/SR/1144 R. 41 (29 Nov. 1655); MJ/SR/1169 R. 29 (29 June 1657); MJ/SR/1181 R. 198 (12 May 1658); MJ/SR/1187 R. 273 (4 Oct. 1658).

116 Session files, City of London Record Office, November-December 1656, SF 134.

117 LMA, MJ/SR/1136 R. 392 (13 April 1655).

118 LMA, MJ/SR/1136 R. 105 (5 March 1655); MJ/SR/1172 R. 70 (2 Oct. 1657).

119 LMA, MJ/SR/1193 R. 42 (22 Feb. 1658).

120 Cressy, Dangerous Talk, x–xiii.

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Provoking Disorder: The Politics of Speech in Protectorate Middlesex

  • Caroline Boswell

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