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7. Looking Backward

Politics is never just the effect of impersonal economic and social processes. It drives developments in society as well as responds to them; it transforms social facts into social forces. Social facts—facts about the varying distribution of wealth, the growth or decline of population, or the alteration of social structure—operate largely below the threshold of everyday awareness. They are usually discernible only to the trained eye looking in retrospect at the accumulated evidence of slow and steady processes of change. Present-day historians armed with the weapons of modern scholarship can often learn more about social facts than could those who lived through their various twists and turns. But the facts of social change can never be kept entirely below the surface of daily events. By showing the fault lines and rifts in society, they move individuals and groups to concerted action. They enter into consciousness and are transformed into ideology. Often this process involves assimilating the new into the old, first in order to find the right language by which to understand it, and later to try to contain it. In this respect the shaping of an ideology has a great affinity with the formation of ritual, especially of the kind that the Bristolians made for themselves in the later Middle Ages. There is both an inability to grasp the scale and significance of change and a hope of holding the community together as the pressures for change build within it. But as with those late medieval rituals, a backward-looking approach can only bottle up so much before its vocabulary of containment can no longer cope with the energies it tries to control.

Something of this process can be gathered if we look briefly to the Petition of Right. This document, justly famous in English history, also has a unique place in Bristol’s local history. In August 1628 the city’s two members of Parliament, John Doughty, an alderman, and John Barker, who had been mayor in 1625–26, brought into the Council House “six paper books containing the several arguments made in the Parliament house of the liberties of the subject,” which the council “thought fit” to be “entered into some of the register books of this citty there to remain of record forever.”[1] Why were the councillors so interested in these debates?

Much of the answer lies in the nature of the events that originally provoked the Petition of Right. Since war with Spain and France depended on sea power, Bristol, England’s second port, inevitably found itself in the thick of the action and thus bearing what its magistrates considered a disproportionate share of the burden. They were required to lay out money to supply the king’s ships and to offer him the services of their own, all without timely payment or clear purpose. Again and again they found themselves dutifully answering requests from the Privy Council for the pressing of sailors and staying of ships, only to be faced with countermanding orders and with seemingly inexplicable administrative confusion and delay.[2] As merchant shipowners deprived by the wars of the late 1620s of their principal markets, they could do little else with the ships, their main capital resources, except engage in privateering, which brought their enterprises into conflict with other naval activities and brought them into all too frequent dealings with the corruption of the Lord Admiral’s agents.[3]

Wartime frustrations had been building in Bristol from the inception of Charles I’s reign to the summoning of the 1628 Parliament, as the actions of naval commanders, press masters, Admiralty officials, and the like became increasingly intrusive. The climax came in the winter of 1628, when Captain William Buxton, under orders from the Admiralty, attempted to press into royal service seven of Bristol’s best ships and eight barques, totaling about eighteen hundred tons and carrying four hundred and forty-four men and one hundred and six pieces of valuable ordnance. The owners of two of the vessels refused to fit their ships, saying they would “not disburse any money in setting them forth.” The “stubbornnesse” of these two men, Giles Elbridge, son-in-law and partner of Robert Aldworth, and Humphrey Hooke, already a prominent councillor and leading Merchant Venturer, encouraged others to resist. Buxton found himself unable to complete his orders without paying “theise stiffnecked people” for everything in advance. “[F]or if possible,” he said, “I will not be behoulding to none of this towne for the smallest courtesie.”[4]

The crisis of 1628 hit the city’s merchants hardest. They wanted relief from the heavy fiscal burdens of the war,[5] and by the summer of 1628 all those who were owed large sums by the Crown had begun what can only be called a lenders’ strike. On 22 August, the very day the six paper books were registered in Bristol, the mayor wrote to the Privy Council that until the debts were repaid “noe man will contribute to any further charge.”[6] But the Bristol merchants were prepared to undertake some necessary burdens, such as guarding the coasts against piracy, provided they were guaranteed in advance that their costs would be met by the Crown. In June, for example, they had set forth two ships on condition that the expense would be covered by the Exchequer from the proceeds of the first two subsidies recently granted in Parliament. Indeed, the city’s two members of Parliament had brought this good news with them from Westminster, along with the arguments in Parliament that they wished preserved in the city’s records.[7] No wonder the leading common councillors found the issue of liberty as expressed in the Petition of Right so worthy of special treatment.

The Bristol magistrates’ concern for the “liberties of the subject” carries with it some important implications about their idea of the state. These men saw themselves in a coordinated relationship with the central government, with which they were jointly to preserve order and protect the subjects. They were willing to accept state power so long as it helped them perform these vital functions. Order to them meant the union of authority with property, a union expressed in their own leadership of their community, and they feared any use of state power that threatened this union. For this reason, no Bristol magistrate was anticipating an all-out breach with the monarch in defense of community against the encroachments of the king’s officers upon the city’s body politic. Many of the councillors, however, were concerned about the best way to distribute power between the local and the central authorities for the preservation of order and property, and in the later 1620s they feared that the unrestrained exercise of royal power might result in social chaos.

The same sense of danger to hierarchical order also troubled them in the 1630s, when a plague of royal commissions seeking concealed prizes and unpaid customs descended upon them in the aftermath of the Spanish and French wars. The commissioners, acting “as lords and judges over them, as if all law and justice lay in their hands,” threatened the networks of cooperation and deference in the city. They forced merchants to tell what they knew “of others their friends and partners…[w]hereby some are constrained (for discharging of their consciences) to accuse one another.” Even worse, they “tempted” the merchants’ factors, servants, and seamen “to accuse the Marchants and owners by whome they liue and are maintayned.”[8] Hence the Bristol magistrates faced the question of political choice by concentrating on what would best promote the maintenance of the national polity as they had come to understand it. For most of them, this was a polity in which men who had roots in the community, not strangers with few local ties and little comprehension of local conditions, properly exercised authority for the king. The Bristol magistrates envisioned a political world in which community and state were related to one another as parts to the whole, not as opponents. In this sense they measured the events of the early years of Charles I’s reign against the model of society made evident in Elizabeth I’s visit to Bristol in 1574 and confirmed in Queen Anne’s visit in 1613.[9]

The responses of the Bristol magistracy to the events of 1628, then, could not become the city’s first step along the “high road to civil war,” since the motives behind them were linked to ideals of hierarchical authority. Though these men were harshly critical of current policies, their grievances did not provide a firm footing for systematic opposition to the Crown. Even their experience in the 1630s of intrusions and usurpations by Charles I and his agents could not force them into rebellion against their king. When the Civil War finally came to Bristol in 1642 and 1643, the majority of the common councillors, and others of similar social and economic position, sided with the king against Parliament. Their long, if tumultuous, association with the Crown as its suitors and servants, culminating in the Merchant Venturers’ receipt of their new letters patent, seems to have anointed their loyalty with the chrism of self-interest. As Sir Ronald Syme tells us of another era of revolution, “liberty and the law are high-sounding words. They will often be rendered, on a cool estimate, as privilege and vested interest.”[10]

But words have a political efficacy of their own, since politics depends in part on how the parties express the issues. In this instance, the words used were corrosive of the very regime of privileges and immunities which those who uttered them sought to uphold. To secure for themselves the “liberties of the subject,” the Bristol common councillors adapted to their purpose a well-established procedure for registering the royal concessions and favorable judicial rulings affecting their corporate franchises.[11] By making the six paper books “of record” they showed their intention of using them as precedents in the law courts at Bristol and Westminster against future encroachments and usurpations by the Crown. But in doing so they transformed the nature of the issue from one of communal privileges and immunities to one of individual and collective legal rights. In a sense, they saw their particular problems as part of a larger dilemma of fundamental law affecting everyone, not as a series of separate challenges to them alone that were to be met one at a time using makeshift defenses.[12] Is it too much to say that these Bristolians—for a brief moment at least—conceived that their English liberties preceded their burghal rights? And that their civic franchises alone could not protect them against the arbitrary actions of the Crown or its officials? If most of these men saw their interests as allied with the king in 1642, that hardly diminishes the importance of this “declassification” of liberty, as J. H. Hexter has called it.[13] It represented a profound and irreversible shift in the conception of contemporary political problems that entered the general political culture, made it possible to juxtapose the claims of authority to those of rights, and—as we shall see—affected Bristol’s affairs in the ensuing period.

In Bristol, relations between the town authorities and the Crown had long worked at cross-purposes. They not only linked the local community to the English state but drove a wedge between the increasingly dominant faction in that leadership and the larger community over which it ruled. As we know, the roles of mayor, alderman, and common councillor served to separate the officeholders from the body politic at large and to give them advantages in dealing with the state on matters vital to their private interests. For members of this merchant elite, the later 1620s and the 1630s had been a period of conflict with the Crown that had ended in accommodation. Other groups in the city were not so fortunate, since they lacked the political resources of the Merchant Venturers. After 1634, for example, the city’s soapmakers had no one of their Company in the Bristol Corporation. Nevertheless, their difficulties with the Crown were just as great as those of the merchants. First, the royal patent granted to the Society of Soapmakers of Westminster resulted in a sharp cutback in legal soap production in Bristol; then the king’s impost on soap almost destroyed the industry in the city. By the late 1630s only four of eleven soap-houses survived in Bristol, and a full dozen of the soapmakers were lodged in Fleet Street prison for nonpayment of the impost. Yet no one from the Bristol Corporation came to the aid of the soapmakers. As a result, several prominent Bristol soapmakers struck private bargains with the Westminster company and the Crown, leaving their fellows to struggle to find a livelihood, a task made all the more difficult by the Merchant Venturers’ new charter, which deprived them of the right to trade overseas free of Merchant Venturer control. Such were the disadvantages of exclusion from civic office.[14]

The various Bristol responses to the summoning of the Long Parliament also show the existence of a divided community in pre–Civil War Bristol. When Parliament was summoned, the freeholders of the borough, namely the members of the Corporation and a few others of similar social rank, selected two Merchant Venturers, Alderman Hooke and Alderman Long, to sit for the city. In January 1641 these men were presented with the two grievances Bristol’s Common Council wished redressed in Parliament: the violation of Bristol’s rights as a staple town for trade in wool, and the actions of those persons who had given false or misleading information to the king about the merchants, causing them “to be Pursuivanted up and unjustly handled and ill dealt with.”[15] In other words, the grievances were the complaints of the narrow merchant group that dominated the city. But the excluded members of Bristol’s community did not go unheard at this time. In October 1640, as the Long Parliament was about to be elected, “a great number of burgesses of the Citie” petitioned the Common Council for the right to vote in the parliamentary elections. This renewed a request made as recently as 1625, which the council had denied. The result was the same in 1640. The Corporation preserved its hold over parliamentary elections.[16] In the absence of evidence naming the petitioners or information about whom they wished to elect, it would be a mistake to overinterpret this petition. Nevertheless, knowing what we do of the social and political structure of Bristol in the Elizabethan and early Stuart period, we can be reasonably certain that among the main beneficiaries of the requested change would have been precisely that excluded group of retailers and manufacturers whom the Merchant Venturers had sought to oust from foreign trade, since they vastly outnumbered the Merchant Venturers among the city’s freemen.[17] The petition called upon the same principles of freeman’s rights and community values that this group saw as being violated by the Society’s privileges. In 1571 their predecessors had responded to the Merchant Venturers’ monopoly with a similar de mand for the right to vote in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.[18] The redress they wanted involved gaining access to the one institution they might use to counter the wide political influence so long enjoyed by the Merchant Venturers.

For ordinary citizens as well as magistrates, the social and political changes of the previous century or more could not be completely covered by Bristol’s ancient traditions. The burghal rights of the former and the civic authority of the latter were now too deeply enmeshed in the institutions of the state and too dependent on events and developments occurring far from Bristol itself. Accommodation of differences would have to occur in a much wider field. The resulting division was deeply ideological. It touched the way various Bristolians understood their social and political world. What mattered was the distribution of authority, the capacity to rule. For one group the social order was arranged in a hierarchy headed by the monarch, with whom the local governors were associated as his lieutenants. In this view the requirements of justice provided that each rank receive its due according to its proper place in the hierarchy and that authority be concentrated at its head. On the other side, the principle of hierarchy, while hardly rejected, was subject to considerations of community and legal rights. Authority depended on recognition and acceptance by those over whom it was exercised, and justice demanded that the community’s governors act for the commonweal, which could override the claims of individuals or particular groups. Any claim for privileges and immunities at the expense of the rights of fellow citizens violated this rule. In consequence, what was necessary and proper in the first view might be a sore grievance in the second.

In the early modern period, political ideology normally was never far from religious outlook. Was there a religious dimension to the factional conflicts that had developed in Bristol from the middle of the sixteenth century? Although the prehistory of the Merchant Venturers is centered on a religious gild and its chapel, nothing we have learned about the earliest stages of the disputes between the monopolists and their shopkeeper and craftsman rivals suggests that differences about doctrine, liturgy, or church government might have colored the rivalry. There were certainly many in the city who desired further reform in the church and others who wished to return to the comforts of traditional practices, if not the authority of the bishop of Rome. For example, Roger Edgeworth, writing at the height of the Reformation, saw a city in which

som wil heare masse, some will heare none by theyr good wils, som wil be shriuen, som wil not, but for feare, or els for shame. some wyll pay tithes & offeringes, some wil not, in that wors then the Iewes which paid them truly, and fyrst frutes & many other duties besides. Som wil prai for the dead, som wil not, I heare of muche suche discention among you.[19]

But these differences did not play themselves out in controversies over the merchant monopoly in the second half of the sixteenth century. When Edgeworth lamented the dissension caused by the Merchant Venturers’ 1552 charter, it was not because he favored one side or the other for its religious views, but because he saw social and political conflict to be undermining the communal harmony he deemed essential to a proper religious life.[20] Moreover, the Common Council during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I seems to have been dominated by godly men of a moderate Calvinist outlook, who viewed the Anglican settlement as the exemplum of what Patrick Collinson has called “the religion of Protestants.”[21] The ministers they selected for town lecturerships, such as Thomas Thompson, Edward Chetwyn, and Thomas Palmer, certainly seem to fit this mold.[22]

But there was an important intellectual link between the desire to maintain the art of merchandise as a separate craft and some forms of religious conservatism. As Roger Edgeworth viewed the matter in the mid-sixteenth century, those in the priesthood, no less than in any other occupation, needed training and skills. Just as a tailor ought not to meddle in the work of a Merchant Venturer, and a shoemaker ought not to practice the grocery trade, the priesthood should be left to those called to it. “I have knowen many in this towne,” Edgeworth said, “that studienge diuinitie, hath kylled a marchaunt, and some other occupations by theyr busy labours in the scriptures, hath shut vp the shoppe windowes, faine to take Sanctuary.” What was needed instead was “a true instructour, not infected with wylful and newfangled hereseyes.”[23] Edgeworth’s reason for believing so was that Christ had distributed his gifts “as doth please his goodnes…to some more of them, to some fewer and not so many.” To some God had given “knowledge and cunning in spiritual causes, to some in temporall matters, to some learning in physicke, to some in surgerye, to some in handy craftes, to some in marchaundise or in such other occupying.”[24] In each craft, moreover, some were more fit to lead than others.

As if there should be a matter of the trade of marchaundise to be intreated of among the marchauntes of this citie, if there came in a marchaunte of graue and longe experience, all the others woulde geue eare and lysten to his talke, and would be gladde to followe his counsell.…Euen so it is in matters of higher learnynge pertaining to our soule[’s] health.[25]

Hence those in Bristol who believed in the priesthood of all believers were as wrong in their outlook as those who interloped on the trade of the Merchant Venturers.

For conservatives like Edgeworth there was a strong link between God-given skill and divinely ordained authority. Without authority, such figures were convinced, there would be nothing but disorder. “Experience teacheth,” Edgeworth argued,

that a great housholde wythout good officers is a troublous and vnruly busines. For where there is no quiet order of the subiectes among them selues, and of theym all in theyr degree toward theyr great mayster, soueraygne or ruler, euery man taketh his owne way, and so foloweth streife, brawling, and variaunce, and at the last destruction. The housholder must be fain to breake vp houshold if his folkes amende not. The great housholder almighty god hath a great & chargeable familie, that is the vniuersal multitude & company of al mankinde, which thoughe he could rule at his plesure accordinge to his own wil, yet it hath pleased him to put an order in this houshold, som head officers, som mean, som lower in auctoritie, som subiectes & seruantes.[26]

In such a social order everyone was “to do his office in his degree” and to cherish and help his fellows in safeguarding the whole. This view, of course, was but a commonplace of sixteenth-century social theory, as codified, for example, in the famous “Homily on Obedience.”[27] Most Bristolians, like most other Englishmen, would have accepted its general premises and its broad conclusions.

But could ardent Protestants make its details consistent with the doctrine of justification by faith or election, which focused on the individual Christian’s relationship to God, not on the special skills of the priesthood? If so, could they also make its claims on behalf of a strict division of labor among the crafts consistent with the principles of justice owed to all Bristol freemen according to the spirit of civic brotherhood? Unfortunately, nothing in the evidence for the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I tells us how Bristolians answered these questions or shows us that those who responded to the first of them in opposition to strong claims of clerical authority consistently answered the second in opposition to the Merchant Venturers’ monopolistic claims. Given the complexity of these issues, we can hardly expect a clear-cut pattern to have appeared. However, by the 1620s and 1630s the city’s sociopolitical factions may possibly have taken on some characteristics of a religious rivalry, although the evidence is extremely fragmentary and must be viewed with caution.

We can see such a rivalry surface, perhaps, in the election for mayor contested between Robert Aldworth and Christopher Whitson. Aldworth and some of this supporters seemed to have favored the Laudian or Arminian position in the church and would have found Edgeworth’s view of the world congenial to themselves. Aldworth himself was a distant kinsman of Archbishop Laud.[28] In the 1630s, he and some of his allies favored church beautification and church music in their wills.[29] Unfortunately, we know nothing directly about Christopher Whitson’s religious views, though the use of the word “puntuall” to describe him may hint that his enemies viewed him as a Puritan, overly precise in his morality and public observances.[30] It is also possible that his cousin, John Whitson, was favorably disposed toward Puritan views, at least at the end of his life. The moral and religious reflections he left behind at his death and his charitable bequests conform nicely in thought and action to many teachings of Puritan divines.[31]

A bit more is known about Christopher Whitson’s brother-in-law, Mathew Warren, clothier, whose election to the mayoralty in 1633 also was disputed by Robert Aldworth and thirteen other Merchant Venturers.[32] In Queen Elizabeth I’s reign Warren had been servant to William Tucker, clothier, who as mayor in 1571 led the fight against the Merchant Venturers’ monopoly.[33] Warren’s wife was probably active in Rev. William Yeamans’s circle of Puritans, which met regularly in his house in St. Philip’s parish to discuss sermons and difficult matters of Bible interpretation; she and many others from this group were important sectaries after 1640 and later became early Quakers. Mathew Warren was also tied to George Bishop, one of Bristol’s leading sectaries of the 1640s and 1650s.[34] Most of the members of Yeamans’s group were small shopkeepers and craftsmen, exactly those most likely to see injustice in the Merchant Venturers’ monopolistic pretensions. But since they were not common councillors, their role in disputed municipal elections was, at most, indirect.[35] Although we have no direct evidence of Warren’s own involvement in Yeamans’s meetings, we can see that in his relations with his family and with the city’s craftsmen in the cloth industry he lived in intimacy with some of its most faithful attenders.

This evidence suggests, but only very tentatively, the possibility that the different social visions of the rival parties in Bristol sometimes went together with membership in different religious camps. Some of the monopolists, with their strongly hierarchical views, tended toward Arminianism, while some of the anti-monopolists, with their strong sense of a brotherly fellowship of freemen, tended toward a community-minded Puritanism and even toward what Patrick Collinson has called “voluntary religion.”[36] However, we are looking here at the extremes in the religious spectrum. They illustrate the ideological and cultural forces at work in the city, not the actual distribution of religious opinion among the various groups. It would be wrong to think that the majority of leading overseas traders were likely to be high churchmen while the majority of their opponents tended to be sectaries. Instead, difference in outlook turned on the relative weight given in each quarter to the demands of order and of fellowship. Divergent views on these issues could be readily expressed within the bounds of orthodox Calvinist Protestantism. We can see this point in the 1639 chamberlain’s election, where the evidence of religious affiliation is ambiguous and confused.

William Chetwyn was the cousin of Edward Chetwyn, former city lecturer and late dean of the Bristol Cathedral chapter, who died only months before the October 1639 chamberlain’s election. As we have already noted, Dean Chetwyn was an old-fashioned Calvinist.[37] He possessed a good library of Puritan books, including a Geneva Bible and the works of William Perkins, and he had strong views on the limited authority of bishops. He was also the brother-in-law of Sir John Harington of Kelston, whose Christian humanist learning and moderate Puritanism are well known. Edward’s son, moreover, was an outspoken Presbyterian in the 1640s and 1650s.[38] Hence it is possible that some of the opposition to William Chetwyn arose from the city’s Arminians in disagreement either with him directly or with his cousin and his cousin’s family. He certainly seems to have received little support from the old Aldworth clique, even in the first of the two elections, despite his apprenticeship to one of its leading members.[39]

If it was Chetwyn’s religious affiliation that drove opposition to him, however, support for Ralph Farmer was a poor way to have shown it. His patron, the earl of Berkshire, was hardly a friend or ally of Archbishop Laud or his party; indeed, he was rather the opposite. In April 1639, Laud had written Viscount Wentworth describing Berkshire as one of the “miserable builders” in the king’s council, working “at Babel,” “a very thin tree in a storm, and he will soon be wet that shelter there.”[40] Farmer, for his part, seems to have been anything but a Laudian. He was an “Independent” in the 1640s and later a Presbyterian.[41] Finally, there seems nothing in William Chetwyn’s service in the chamberlain’s office from 1639 to his death in 1651 to show obvious religious partiality.[42] He was almost certainly no Arminian, or he probably would not have survived the parliamentary purge of Bristol’s government in 1645, but he also does not appear to have been an outspoken Puritan, since he remained in office during the Royalist occupation of Bristol from 1643 to 1645, when the crown removed the leading Puritans and parliamentary supporters from their civic offices. Overt doctrinal differences seem distant from the rivalry between Chetwyn and Farmer.

Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the importance of religion even here, at least for some common councillors. It was Chetwyn who had well-known connections to a prominent clergyman whose orthodox Calvinist views would have been very familiar to the Bristolians from the days he had lectured to them on “The Strait Gate and the Narrow Way” and other subjects, and it was Farmer who had the backing of the king. For those leading Spanish and Mediterranean merchants who were emotionally and intellectually committed to hierarchical order in society and the beauty of holiness in liturgy and who understood their authority in the city to descend from God and the king, the choice between Farmer and Chetwyn would not have been a difficult one. They could vote but one way, even if they knew of Farmer’s dependence upon the earl of Berkshire and of Berkshire’s rivalry with Archbishop Laud. Laud and his followers, after all, were hardly likely to back Chetwyn even to thwart the patronage of the “thin tree” they so despised.

The choice would have been more difficult for the rest of the Common Council, whether they were content with the moderate Calvinism that had prevailed in the Anglican hierarchy before Charles I’s reign and that still engaged most Englishmen or whether they favored further reform in the church, since it required them to weigh their respect for the king’s nomination against their own commitment for or against Chetwyn. In the highly charged atmosphere of this election, the choice was likely to be made ideologically, depending on whether or not the voter honored the role of royal authority in overseeing the city more than the civic community’s liberty to decide the matter for itself. Yet no well-developed rules existed for making such a choice. The king and the community were understood to be joined in harmony in the body politic, not to be opponents or enemies. They were believed to receive mutual benefits from their union, not losses on one side to balance gains on the other. Ordinarily a choice between king and community never arose. Among the councillors who switched their votes in the second election—to Chetwyn from his previous opponents, and from Chetwyn to Farmer—the necessity of deciding between competing values, mixed with the need to make judgments regarding their own self-interest, must have posed a major dilemma. Out of such ethical ambiguity we cannot expect to find intellectual clarity.

We come away with a picture of Bristol in the 1630s as a city in which small but significant groups of high churchmen, many of whom where wealthy Spanish and Mediterranean merchants, and proto-sectaries, the vast majority of whom were shopkeepers and artisans, lived in a place populated by moderate Anglicans, for whom the potentially competing ideals of order and community remained in what at times became an uncomfortable equipoise, exemplified as much in the small disputes over local politics and commercial organization in the city as in the great controversies of church and state.

The force of events in the 1640s, during which Bristol found itself the focus of contention by opposing parties both within and without the city, gave its politics a new and harder edge. But in the face of continued uncertainty on the part of many Bristolians about the best course to follow, political necessity and the opportunity for material advantage took the place of intellectual clarity in the debates. Given the effect of the Merchant Venturers’ 1639 letters patent on the trading activities of nonmembers, it is no surprise to find that the old rivalry between the merchant monopolists and the retailers and craftsmen resurfaced with the calling of the Long Parliament. As we know, from the very moment of its foundation the Society of Merchant Venturers had engendered bitter conflict within the city whenever it triumphed in its battle for effective monopoly powers. The attempt by some of the freemen to win the vote in the October 1640 elections is only the first hint of the troubles. Signs of the character of the political alignments appear in the fate of Aldermen Long and Hooke, Bristol’s members in the Long Parliament. In 1642 both were ousted from their seats for participating, along with many other Merchant Venturers, in Alderman Abell’s wine license. In 1645 the Long Parliament removed them from the municipal office as delinquents.[43] Their replacements, elected in 1642 under the same franchise as Long and Hooke, had similar histories. Both John Glanville, the city recorder since August 1630, and John Taylor, an alderman since January 1640, were adherents of the same social, economic, and political view held by the conservative leaders of the Merchant Venturers. Taylor went to Oxford when the king set up a Parliament there, and in 1645 he died in Bristol defending the city against Fairfax and Cromwell. Glanville, who had been Speaker of the Commons in the Short Parliament, also joined the king in Oxford in 1643, was disabled from future service by the Long Parliament, and was imprisoned for a time in the Tower before compounding for his delinquency. Bristol purged him as its recorder in 1646.[44]

According to John Corbet, minister in the city of Gloucester and ardent supporter of the parliamentary cause in this period, with the outbreak of Civil War Bristol was “much distracted” between the “well-affected and malignant parties,” with the “basest and lowest sort” together with “the wealthy and powerful men” supporting the “King’s Cause and Party,” while “the middle rank, the true and best Citizens,” were on the parliamentary side. “[T]he present state of things,” he says, “had taught men to distinguish between the true Commons of the realm and dreggs of the people, the one the most vehement assertors of Publike Liberty, but the other the first rise of Tyrannical Government and the foot-stoole upon which Princes tread when they ascend the height of Monarchy.” The shortcomings of “the needy multitude” he attributed not only to “their natural hatred of good Order,” but also to the fact that they “were at the devotion of the rich men,” who, he tells us, were “des-affected to reformed Religion” and “conscious of delinquency” and therefore “did much distaste the wares of the Parliament.” By implication, he saw the virtue of the true Commons resulting from their support of “good Order” in civic affairs, their independence from the patronage of the powerful, and their affection for “reformed Religion.”[45]

In offering this analysis Corbet refers specifically to events in December 1642, when Bristol was garrisoned by parliamentary forces under the command of Colonel Essex. Fearful that a garrison would make Bristol the target of attack from the king’s forces, the city government, already committed to the Western Association in support of Parliament, sought to man the fortifications on its own. As Corbet tells the story, Essex found himself blocked “by the multitude” at one of the gates and had to force his way into the city at a less well-manned place to which he received direction “from a Party within.”[46] But Corbet may also have been thinking of the events of the following spring, when a band of Bristolians, including the two sheriffs for the year, organized a plot to reverse these events by opening the city’s gates to Prince Rupert. The attempt was thwarted when a considerable number of sailors and portside laborers, along with many of the leading merchants, were arrested by Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes and his soldiers. Although there were certainly men of “the middling sort” in this conspiracy, its leaders came from that same group of Merchant Venturers who had supported Robert Aldworth in his bids for a second term as mayor in 1626 and 1633.[47]

Many of these men had also been behind the effort in the spring and fall of 1642 to send petitions to both the king and Parliament urging an “accommodation” of their differences. At first glance this petition campaign appears to support the claim that a large number of Bristolians, if not most, preferred a form of neutrality to partisan commitment in the Civil War.[48] But a closer look shows that even neutrality had its partisan edge. Unfortunately, only the city’s petition to the king has survived. It is focused primarily on the grievances of its great merchants but openly follows the very similar petitions mounted in London in 1642 by a group of its prominent citizens, many of whom later became involved in Edmund Waller’s plot to turn the metropolis over to the king. Comparison of London’s petition to the Lords and Commons, which has survived in a copy printed by the king’s supporters in Oxford in 1642, with Bristol’s somewhat later petition to the king, also printed in Oxford, shows them to be very similar in their ideological outlook and political purpose, though somewhat different in their emphasis. There can be no doubt that each city’s petitions had an independent history, but in genesis and ideology Bristol’s shares a great deal with its London counterpart.[49]

The Londoners in their petition to Parliament stressed how “by a knowne Law” the realm had “setled and preserved our protestant Religion, our Liberties, and properties, with a right understanding betweene King and Subjects, which produced peace and plenty in our streets.” Continued civil war, they said, threatened “the destruction of Christians, the unnatural effusion of bloud; Fathers against Sons, brothers by brothers, friends by friends slaine, then famine and sicknesse, the followers of civill war, making way for a generall confusion, and invasion by a forraigne Nation, while our Treasure is exhausted, our Trade lost, and the kingdome dis-peopled.”[50] The emphasis was on the danger to true religion, public order, and social hierarchy engendered by the “divisions” between the king and Parliament. The Bristolians, too, were concerned about these matters. They lamented that the realm was now “as full of horror and wrath as any object which can incounter humane eye-sight, appearing meerly the Ghost of that England which it was so lately.” They complained that they were “overwhelmed with an increasing perpetuity of cares and troubles, such as not time nor history had scarce mentioned in this Kingdome, neither in the Barons nor any other civill warres: Your Majesty being, as it were divorced from those husbands of the Common-wealth, the honourable the high Court of Parliament.” And they spoke bitterly of the “strange and uncouth distractions that have lately broken forth into the Church of England.[51]

Somewhat more than the Londoners, however, they emphasized the disastrous toll on trade created by the outbreak of war. “[I]nstead of the continuall and gainful trade and commerce, which all maritime towns, in especial this City of Bristoll had into forraigne parts,” they said,

[o]ur ships lie now rotting in the Harbor without any Marriners or fraught or trade into forraigne parts, by reason of our home-bred distractions, being grown so contemptible and despised there, that our credits are of no value, wee being (through the misfortune of our nation) reputed abroad as men meerly undone at home; and what detriment this discontinuance of traffique with forrainge nations may beget and bring forth, both to your Majesties particular revenue, by decay of the emolument of customes, and to the Subject in generall by want of exportment and importment of commodities, cannot to your sacred wisdome be unknowne.[52]

As a result, “no man injoyes his wife, children, family or estate in safety this day…so that unspeakable is our misery, unutterable our grievances, fathers being ingaged enemies against sons; and sons against fathers; every good Towne and City, as this your City of Bristoll, being inforced to their great and infinite expence, to maintaine garrisons and courts of guards for their security.”[53] The debt to the Londoners’ language is apparent enough in these sentiments, but the differences suggest how much the Bristol petitioners saw a well-established trade as one of the principal sources of good order in their community.

The logic of the London petitions of 1642 had linked support of the Crown with the defense of liberty and the church. With the 1643 plot in Bristol to turn the city over to Prince Rupert, this same conjuncture of ideas became apparent among the conspirators, although again with something of a Bristol twist.[54] Their motives were heavily colored by the economic and financial burdens imposed upon the city by the war, the blame for which was placed by the conspirators squarely on the shoulders of the parliamentary forces resident within their walls. As an anonymous pamphleteer said in commenting on the martyrdom of Robert Yeamans and George Bowcher in the Royalist cause, “it is no wonder…that a city thus robbed of its wealth and libertie, groaning under the insupportable yoke of bondage and tyranny should endeavor by restoring the king to his rights, to restore themselves to their former freedome,” which could not be done but by casting off the bonds in which the parliamentary garrison had ensnared them.[55] According to one source, the plotters considered themselves as standing for “the King, the Protestant Religion, and the Liberties of this City.”[56] Yeamans said as much in his own defense. His commission from the king, he argued, was

for the mayntenance of the true Protestant Religion established in the Church of England, the King’s Prerogative and safety of his Person, Priviledges of Parliament, and the liberty and propriety of the Subject, and the defense of the City against all forces without the joynt consent of the Maior, Aldermen and Common Councell amongst whom there was some difference at that time concerning the admission of any Forces.[57]

Earlier, in their petition to the king, these same men had indicated that they were also pained by the “too much power of the Prelacie in forcing new Canons and unheard of doctrines upon us.” They saw them as “the immediate and efficient causes of the many dissentions and troubles now raigning in this Realm, no oppression being so forcible or oppressive to mens consciences, as that which is intruded on them concerning their Beliefe and the worship of God.”[58] They were neither Laudians nor sectaries in their religious beliefs. Their identification of local liberties of self-rule with the more general liberties of the subject, however, gives us an insight into the inherent royalism of their position. Serving as a member of the Corporation meant to Yeamans, Bowcher, and many of their colleagues on the Common Council being a royal officer, acting according to the city’s charters for the mutual benefit of the urban community and the kingdom at large. Among those committed to this vision, any action that threatened the political role of the mayor, aldermen, and Common Council as the proper agents of royal authority in the city would be met with resistance, whether it came from the king’s principal officers, as in the late 1620s and 1630s, or from the parliamentary army, as in 1642 and 1643. Since their own position in Bristol, and more generally in the English polity, depended in large measure on their relationship to the Crown, preserving the “liberties” of the city in the 1640s required restoring the king to his proper place at the head of the state.

Those who called for “accommodation” in 1642 and 1643 followed this same line of thinking. As we have seen, they spoke of the “strange and uncouth distractions that have lately broken forth into the Church of England,” the “many dissentions and troubles now raigning in this Realm,” and even of the king being “divorced from…the honourable the high Court of Parliament.”[59] This language carries with it a theory about what has gone wrong. “Distraction,” for example, refers to the physical rending asunder what organically belongs together; it is what happens when a traitor is beheaded, drawn, and quartered. “Divorce,” a relatively new word in the early modern period, refers to the separation of the head of a family from his helpmate.[60] From its earliest usage it carried a sense similar to “distract.” In the Third Book of Sir Philip Sidney’s New Arcadia, for example, Pamela’s executioner is said to have used his sword “to divorce the fair marriage of the head and body.”[61] “Dissent”—used especially in relation to religious matters—is the opposite of “consent” and implies a failure to apprehend and submit to the unifying truth. It depends on the existence of a natural union of parts that together form a harmonious whole. Taken together, the use of these terms to describe the disorder of the times gives us the image of a body politic—with head and members—torn apart. “Accommodation” was the proper remedy for this condition. In a strict sense it means bringing things into measure. In other words, it signifies putting back together in proper order that which belongs together. In the 1640s this could only mean restoring the king to his leadership, just as healing “divorce” in a family meant restoring the husband to its head. Bristolians who adopted this language were neutralists only in a tactical sense; their hierarchical vision of the social order, which made them desire peace within their community, also allied them with the king as the one force ultimately able in their vision of the world to bring harmony and proportion to the body politic.

For most of the Bristol magistrates this desire for unity was very strong in the early days of the Civil War.[62] In November 1642, when they decided to go ahead with the petitions that they had first discussed the previous May, they declared themselves “to be in love and amity one with another and doe desire a friendly assotiacion together in all mutuall accomodation.” At the same time, they ordered the parish clergy to meet with a committee for an “amiable accomodacon one with another throughout the whole Citty to the end the Ministers themselves and other of the inhabitants may be drawn” into discipline and order.[63] But it is clear that the possibility of preserving harmony was growing very dim. Not only had it taken them from May to July to agree on a first draft of their petitions and from November to January to redraft and send them,[64] but in the interval strong political forces were beginning to stir elsewhere in the city. By the end of November, the Common Council even found it necessary to forbid the wearing of colors and ribbons on hats to signify affiliation with the king’s party or the Parliament’s.[65] The aim was to prevent street violence as the political issues of the era diffused into the lower echelons of Bristol society and factionalism threatened to undermine authority in the city.

Despite its shortcomings, then, Corbet’s analysis of the politics of Bristol in the early 1640s has much to commend it. However, its efficacy depends precisely on avoiding a reductionist interpretation of his language.[66] Like the ancient writers from whom he derives his threefold system of categorization, Corbet’s understanding of the concept of class is never exclusively economic. It turns instead on understanding political power and wealth to be intertwined precisely because the possession of wealth typically carried with it the obligation of service and the capacity to command. It is true, of course, that no city’s politics can be made to fit neatly into a simple sociopolitical framework. It would be an oddly utopian world if all members of a given group, however defined, were found to conform their lives to a single formula. Nevertheless, Corbet was certainly right in seeing the majority of leading merchants taking sides with the king when events forced them, sometimes against their will, to decide where they stood. Their view of the world as well as their interests lay with him. And the king, for his part, knew well how to seal their allegiance to his cause. After his forces had seized Bristol in 1643, for example, he rewarded the Merchant Venturers for their “loyalty and fidelity” to him “in these late tymes of difficulty” by granting them the right to trade freely in the heretofore protected markets of the Company of the Merchant Adventurers of England and the Eastland, Russia, and Turkey Companies.[67] Although this patent had no more efficacy than Charles could give it, and his power in commercial matters was very limited in the mid-1640s, it was politically as well as legally the kind of grant that only a king could make. The leading Merchant Venturers lived according to a vision of public order that depended for its coherence on exactly this type of authority. They had spent decades in pursuit of favors of a similar sort. Hence Charles I’s generosity harmonized with their understanding as well as their self-interest.

Corbet was also right in thinking that many of the most ardent supporters of the parliamentary cause during the Civil War came from the ranks of the city’s shopkeepers and craftsmen. We can perhaps see this from the list of witnesses who appeared at Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes’s court-martial in December 1643 to support charges made by William Prynne and Clement Walker against Fiennes for his surrender of Bristol to Prince Rupert the previous July. These witnesses joined with Prynne and Walker in vigorously attacking Fiennes, the son of Lord Saye and Sele, for what they considered his lukewarm commitment to victory against the king and thoroughgoing reform in church and state. Where the leading Merchant Venturers had played the most important role as supporters of the Yeamans-Bowcher conspiracy, here we find on the parliamentary side precisely those middling men whom Corbet had argued were the greatest strength in Bristol. They were figures like Robert Bagnall, Henry Hassard, James Powell, William Deane, Abell Kelly, and John Batten, shopkeepers and artisans who later in the period would be prominent both as interlopers in overseas trade and as leaders in radical politics. Several came from William Yeamans’s circle in St. Philip’s, among them Dorothy Hassard, daughter of a prominent scrivener, sister or sister-in-law to other small dealers, and wife of Matthew Hassard, who had succeeded Yeamans as minister at St. Philip’s.[68] Given the links between the leading mere merchants and the Crown, it is hardly surprising that many men and women in the city’s middling ranks were filled with zeal for the good old cause. By the early 1640s, as we have already seen, a rich legacy of antagonism between figures from these groups and the Merchant Venturers had already been sustained for at least ninety years.

It would be a mistake to think that those who sided with Parliament in the Civil War did so primarily because of their grievances against the Merchant Venturers. No doubt most of them acted, as did the members of Yeamans’s circle, from deeply held religious and ideological convictions, not narrow self-interest. But for many Bristolians those convictions had taken shape in the context of long-standing grievances against the mere merchants’ claims of monopoly. The grievances themselves depended not only on the actual damage done by the Merchant Venturers to the social prospects or material welfare of their opponents but the aggrieved citizens’ beliefs about the requirements of justice owed to all of Bristol’s freemen. These views in turn helped define what it meant for them to live in a properly ordered and godly community. It is perhaps only to be expected that as a result of this process of ideological self-definition, men who opposed the Merchant Venturers’ monopolistic practices would be stirred into support for the parliamentary cause in the early 1640s, when politics continuously cut the middle ground from under the feet of those who might wish to stand upon it. The history of the Society was so deeply embedded in Bristol’s life and culture by this time that a person’s views about it could readily tip the balance one way or the other when large and difficult political decisions had to be made. The Merchant Venturers’ receipt of new letters patent in 1639 seems to have provided a number of the Society’s old opponents with a good reason to take the parliamentary side.

The careers of several leading supporters of the Long Parliament in Bristol can illustrate this connection between political radicalism and opposition to the Merchant Venturers’ monopoly. One of these supporters was Richard Vickris, trained as a fishmonger. He served on the commission appointed by the Long Parliament in 1645 to purge Bristol’s government of “delinquents” after Prince Rupert had been ousted from the city and to settle affairs in the interests of the parliamentary side. Although he had become a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers in the 1630s, he was among those resisting its authority to collect wharfage in 1638–39.[69] During the 1630s he had also regularly traded in partnership with nonmerchants, in violation of the Society’s strict ordinances forbidding this practice. So had another ardent parliamentary supporter, Richard Aldworth, cousin to Robert and a member of the Merchant Venturers, although he had been trained as a mercer. Aldworth was one of the Recruiter members of the Long Parliament added in 1646. Like Vickris, and perhaps John Whitson before him, Richard Aldworth seems to have held a view of the Merchant Venturers as a useful institution for commercial regulation but not as an exclusive organization for promoting the interests of a few. The other Recruiter member for Bristol was Luke Hodges, a grocer and sometime partner of Vickris, though never himself a member of the Merchant Venturers. In 1635 he had fallen afoul of the Bristol Corporation and was threatened with a heavy fine when he resisted election to the Common Council.[70] Although neither Aldworth nor Hodges was an extreme radical, both were politically committed members of the Long Parliament who conformed themselves to the revolution as it unfolded in the late 1640s and early 1650s. Hodges eventually became an excise commissioner for the Commonwealth in 1652.[71] For these three men, the shaping experience of opposition to the Merchant Venturers’ monopolistic claims and practices in the 1630s seems to help account, though by no means completely, for their alignment with Parliament in the 1640s.

Finally, we can also see something of the way the Merchant Venturers’ monopoly had entered into politics in the history of relations between the Society and its opponents in the aftermath of the New Model Army’s victorious siege in 1645. Parliament’s purge of the Common Council in 1645 removed ten men for their military service in the Royalist cause and for other forms of “delinquency.” Eight of them were Merchant Venturers, drawn from that same group of Spanish and Mediterranean traders who in the 1630s had looked to Robert Aldworth for leadership. In the years from 1645 to 1650, eighteen men were either restored to or newly elected to the Common Council. Only eight were Merchant Venturers. One of these members of the Society was Richard Vickris, who had been ousted from his council post by the Royalists in 1643. A second was his son Robert, who was probably an early sectary in his own right and who later married the daughter of George Bishop, one of the city’s leading radicals and a founding member of the Society of Friends in Bristol.[72] Two more were men who joined with the large throng of interlopers who entered the Merchant Venturers after the crackdown on illicit trade that followed the grant of new letters patent in 1639. A further two became members only after 1645, when the Society had markedly relaxed its old standards of admission.[73] In other words, not only did the proportion of Merchant Venturers added to the council drop from about 75 percent in the 1620s and 1630s to about 45 percent in this period, but even among the Merchant Venturers on the council there was no longer the same support for the old monopolistic policies and practices.

Because Bristol’s history in this era was so dominated by the relations of the Merchant Venturers to their fellow freemen, whether friends and associates or competitors and opponents, it is perhaps not surprising that the city should have faced the cataclysm of the Civil War by looking backward to this history. When victory came to the anti-monopolists in 1645, the remedy desired was the restoration of what they considered the rightful order of city life, an order in which the members of each trade or craft had their due place in the fabric of the community. Insofar as the reformed Common Council had a program in these years it was devoted to this end. Not only did the council seek to fill its ranks with a more even distribution of the wealthier occupational groupings in the city—mercers, grocers, soapmakers, and the like, as well as mere merchants—but it set out to put the city’s crafts on a footing equal to that enjoyed by the Merchant Venturers. In 1647, for example, the mercers and linendrapers organized themselves into a gild for regulating their trade; the turners did the same in 1649, the milleners in 1651, and the woolendrapers in 1658.[74] At the same time, several of the older gilds strengthened their enforcement powers by passing ordinances permitting them to recover fines by legal action before city courts rather than by the traditional but difficult and dangerous procedure of seizing goods directly from wrongdoers. The whitawers did so in 1646, the weavers in 1649, and the newly revived company of barber-surgeons in 1652.[75] In these various ways a concerted effort was made to use the old mechanisms of social and economic control, strengthened by new procedures, to bring balance and order to the civic community. The same principle was at work in 1647 when the Common Council ordered the city’s law courts, the Tolzey and the Mayor’s Court, to “be kept & continued as antiently.”[76] In 1652 it carried its purposes further when it made general the use of legal process to collect fines for violation of its own ordinances and regulations.[77]

This evidence also hints at another important feature of the period—its social and economic turmoil. The very fact that the gilds and the city government needed to revive or revise their old regulatory schemes suggests that enforcement had fallen into disarray. During a half-decade or more of strife, Bristol’s affairs had been marked by two full-scale sieges in 1643 and 1645, a major outbreak of plague, the garrisoning of the city by Parliament, by the king, and by Parliament again, and the corresponding turnover of power in the city from one local faction to another. It is no wonder that the traditional mechanisms of social and economic control required renovation. Moreover, the presence of a substantial parliamentary garrison at Bristol Castle after 1645 made the city something of an open market for strangers who might wish to come to the city to take advantage of the new, more fluid economic and political situation this created.[78] In response to these chaotic conditions, the reformed Common Council of Bristol was anxious to establish a social order in which each trade and craft received its due according to the council’s understanding of the ancient traditions of the city.

In a sense, the reformers had accepted the main premise behind the Merchant Venturers’ own desire for control of its trade. They saw a city composed of functionally interrelated economic specialties, each supporting the others through the proper management of its own affairs. To assure this outcome the council wanted all the crafts to have the necessary powers to protect themselves against encroachments from others, and it willingly granted them new privileges to assure that they could. Where a particular group could not defend itself on its own, or where economic disorder arose outside the bounds of craft organization, the city government was ready to assist in imposing its tradition-minded vision of order, employing its own new techniques to do so. This conception of policy implied that the Merchant Venturers would take their place—inevitably, an important one—within the prevailing division of labor. They would no longer be guaranteed superiority in rights and privileges, as they had long desired. Instead, they would become the first among equals in an economy of coordinated and mutually supportive parts.

No matter how fervently the Common Council sought to restore the old vision of order in this newly purified form, they were bound to have difficulty in doing so. Between the late 1630s and the early 1650s, the economic world in which they lived had undergone a profound and irreversible change. We can get a brief glimpse of that change in the preamble to the ordinances of yet one more new gild founded in 1652, the Company and Fellowship of Tobacco Pipemakers. According to this document, “the Art and Skill of makeing Tobacco Pipes” had now “become a Trade…very usefull and beneficial to the makers of them within this Citty,” one capable of supporting “many Inhabitants and Free Burgesses,” their wives, families, and apprentices. At its foundation there were already twenty-five active masters in the Company, who had “been bread and brought up Apprentices in the same Art.”[79] Tobacco had been a highly valued trading item for decades, of course, but this new industry could never have taken hold in Bristol on this scale during the 1620s or 1630s, when only tiny quantities of Spanish and Virginia tobacco found their way to the city. We have here the first hint that a major new market in American commodities had emerged in Bristol between the granting of the Merchant Venturers’ letters patent in 1639 and the founding of this Company of Tobacco Pipemakers in 1652. In the next section we shall examine the effects of the extraordinarily rapid growth of this market on Bristol’s life in the second half of the seventeenth century. Previously we explored the history of the city from William Smith’s double perspective, laying it in platform, if you will, in its changing landscape of socioeconomic practices and political and ideological structures. Now we shall use a microscope to study the new form of life that emerged in the city after 1650. When we have completed this task we will be in a position to evaluate Bristol’s transition from a medieval commercial center to an entrepôt of early modern capitalism.

Notes

1. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 6v, printed with an incorrect citation in McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 144. The six paper books do not appear to have survived. Possibly they were a version of the so-called “Proceedings and Debates,” many copies of which were made and circulated after this Parliament: see Robert C. Johnson, Mary Frear Keeler, Maija Jansson Cole, and William B. Bidwell, eds., Proceedings in Parliament, 1628, 6 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977–1983), vol. 1, pp. 4–33; see also Wallace Notestein and Frances Helen Relf, eds., Commons Debates for 1629 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1921), introduction; R. Malcolm Smuts, “Parliament, the Petition of Right and Politics,” Journal of Modern History 50 (1978): pp. 714–15. [BACK]

2. See, e.g., PRO, SP 16/21/111, 16/23/105, 16/40/25, 16/42/84, 16/43/52, 16/47/37, 16/49/62, 16/51/31, 63, 66, 16/75/9, 16/77/10, 16/78/30, 34, 36, 16/79/6, 16/80/36, 42, 69, 16/82/24, 16/94/58, 58i, 63, 63i, 16/95/43, 46, 16/96/14, 16/100/42, 16/101/39, 16/109/28, 16/113/46, 16/119/50; APC (March 1625–May 1626), pp. 38, 272; APC (June–December 1626), pp. 47–49, 109–10, 129–30, 209, 415–16; APC (January–August 1627), pp. 33–34, 159–61, 398, 506, 508; APC (September 1627–June 1628), pp. 4, 55, 58, 75, 82–83, 105–6, 132–33; APC (July 1628–April 1629), pp. 57, 100. [BACK]

3. See, e.g., PRO, SP 16/1/12, 16/21/111, 16/22/22, 16/26/45, 16/29/17, 35, 16/32/33, 16/36/96, 16/37/54, 65, 86, 16/38/77, 90, 16/41/80, 16/42/8, 14, 70, 84, 16/47/20, 37, 16/48/2, 6, 7, 28, 16/49/62, 16/51/51, 66, 16/70/48, 52, 16/72/43, 16/73/11, 11i, 16/74/20, 16/82/52, 16/83/19, 23, 27, 16/87/25, 66, 16/91/75, 16/115/p. 19, 16/144/22, 16/177/12; APC (January–August 1627), pp. 353–54; APC (September 1627–June 1628), pp. 86–87, 186–87, 277, 287–88, 323–24, 342. See also J. W. Damer Powell, Bristol Privateers and Ships of War (Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, 1930), pp. 69–85. For a general account of Admiralty regulation of privateering, see Kenneth R. Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering: English Privateering during the Spanish War, 1585–1603 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), esp. pp. 22–31; Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, chap. 11. [BACK]

4. PRO, SP 16/94/58, 58i, 63, 63i, 16/95/43, 16/96/14, 16/100/42. By the spring of 1628 the resistance of the Bristolians to the Crown’s demands had become focused on the duke of Buckingham. One reason Buxton had such difficulty in the city was that his commission came from the Lord Admiral, not the Privy Council. As Buxton wrote to Edward Nicholas, many Bristolians “do think nay in a manner say that my Lords warrant will not be sufficient”: PRO, SP 16/95/46. [BACK]

5. See Livock, ed., City Chamberlain’s Accounts, p. xxv. [BACK]

6. PRO, SP 16/113/46. [BACK]

7. PRO, SP 16/108/11, 16/109/6, 28, 16/112/47, 48. [BACK]

8. Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 256, 258; PRO, SP 16/273/1. See also PRO, SP 16/373/84. [BACK]

9. Put another way, the Bristol magistrates appear to have been tending toward a form of “country ideology”: see J. G. A. Pocock, “Machiavelli, Harrington and English Political Ideologies in the Eighteenth Century,” in his Politics, Language and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (New York: Atheneum, 1973), pp. 104–47, esp. pp. 123–24; Lawrence Stone, The Causes of the English Revolution, 1529–1642 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 105–8; Lawrence Stone, “Results of the English Revolutions of the Seventeenth Century,” in J. G. A. Pocock, ed., Three British Revolutions: 1641, 1688, 1776 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 32–37. [BACK]

10. Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), p. 59. [BACK]

11. For the materials collected in the city’s register books, see LRB; Veale, ed., Great Red Book; Ralph, ed., Great White Book. [BACK]

12. See J. H. Hexter, “Power, Parliament and Liberty in Early Stuart England,” in his Reappraisals in History: New Views on History and Society in Early Modern Europe, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 163–218. [BACK]

13. J. H. Hexter, “The Birth of Modern Freedom,” Times Literary Supplement, 21 January 1983, pp. 51–54. [BACK]

14. H. E. Mathews, ed., Proceedings of the Company of Soapmakers, 1562–1642 (BRS 10, 1939), pp. 6–8, 194ff.; PRO, SP 16/288/49, 16/289/94, 16/308/14, 16/328/33, 33i, 16/356/101, 16/377/46; Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 256–57; Latimer, Annals, pp. 121–22. [BACK]

15. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 110r. [BACK]

16. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 2, f. 134r; vol. 3, f. 198r. Derek Hirst argues that the freemen won a victory in 1640: Derek Hirst, The Representative of the People? Voters and Voting and the Early Stuarts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 195. But he misinterprets the evidence. The “allies” mentioned in the return for this election were the other freeholders, not the freemen. [BACK]

17. Based on analysis of BRO, Burgess Book (1607–51); see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 752–58. [BACK]

18. BRO, MS 04026 (9), f. 105r; Jean Vanes, “The Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Sixteenth Century,” Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1975, p. 167. [BACK]

19. Edgeworth, Sermons, f. 209v. [BACK]

20. Ibid., f. 211r–v. [BACK]

21. Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982). [BACK]

22. See above, pp. 145, 183–85, and 190–91. [BACK]

23. Edgeworth, Sermons, ff. 43v–44r. [BACK]

24. Ibid., f. 266r. [BACK]

25. Ibid., f. 279v. [BACK]

26. Ibid., f. 265v. [BACK]

27. Certain Sermons or Homilies Appointed to Be Read in the Churches in the Time of Queen Elizabeth I (1547–1571): A Facsimile Reproduction of the Edition of 1623, introduction by Mary Ellen Rickey and Thomas B. Stroup, 2 vols. in 1 (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968), part 1, pp. 69–77. See also ibid., part 2, pp. 271–310; Richard B. Bond, ed., Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547) and A Homily against Disobedience and Wilful Rebellion (1570): A Critical Edition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), pp. 161–73, 209–59. [BACK]

28. See William Laud, The Works of the Most Reverent Father in God, William Laud, D.D. Sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, ed. W. Scott and J. Bliss, 7 vols. in 9 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1847–1860), vol. 7, p. 31; Edward Elbridge Salisbury, Family Memorials: A Series of Genealogical and Biographical Monographs on the Families of Salisbury, Aldworth-Elbridge, Sewall, Pyldren-Dummer, Walley, Quincy, Wendell, Breese, Chevalier-Anderson and Phillips, 1 vol. in 2 (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor, 1885), vol. 1, part 1, pp. 103–21, and “Pedigree of Aldworth-Elbridge,” facing p. 142. [BACK]

29. See, e.g., “Will of Alderman Robert Aldworth,” BRO, Great Orphan Book, vol. 2, ff. 16r–17r, and “Will of Alderman Henry Yate,” ff. 21r–24r. Aldworth’s own funeral monument is itself an example of the high baroque style favored by many of the followers of Laud in this period; for a photograph see Damer Powell, Bristol Privateers and Ships of War, facing p. 72. [BACK]

30. PRO, SP 16/41/80; Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England (London: Secker and Warburg, 1964), pp. 13–29. [BACK]

31. See Whitson, Aged Christians Final Farewell; “Will of John Whitson,” BRO, Great Orphan Book, vol. 2, ff. 244v–250v; Jordan, Forming of the Charitable Institutions, pp. 23–24, 30, 33, 38, 39. But see also John Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. Oliver Lawson Dick (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), pp. 366–67; McGrath, John Whitson, pp. 1–22. [BACK]

32. See above, pp. 220–21 and p. 408 n.92. [BACK]

33. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, ff. 44–45; “Will of William Tucker,” in Wadley, ed., Great Orphan Book, pp. 245–46; “Will of Christopher Whitson,” BRO, Great Orphan Book, vol. 2, ff. 100v–103v. [BACK]

34. “Will of William Yeamans, gent.,” PRO, PROB 6/17 Essex; “Will of Mathew Warren,” BRO, Great Orphan Book, vol. 2, ff. 36v–39v; George Bishop, A Relation of the Inhumane and Barbarous Sufferings of the People Called Quakers in the City of Bristol during the Mayoralty of John Knight commonly called Sir John Knight (London, 1665), p. 75; see also Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, p. 220. [BACK]

35. For the early history of the group see Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 13, 17, 19, 84, 88. [BACK]

36. See Collinson, Religion of Protestants, chap. 6. [BACK]

37. See above, pp. 145, 232. [BACK]

38. “Will of Edward Chetwyn,” PRO, PROB 6/115 Harvey; PRO, SP 16/35/92; Anthony à Wood, Athenae Oxonienses: An Exact History of all the Writers who have had their Education in the University of Oxford, 3d ed., with additions by Philip Bliss, 4 vols. (London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1813–1820), vol. 2, p. 641, and vol. 4, p. 375; DNB, “Edward Chetwynd,” “John Chetwynd”; Thomas G. Barnes, Somerset, 1625–1640: A County Government during the “Personal Rule” (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 32, 34–35, 71; David Underdown, Somerset in the Civil War and Interregnum (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1973), pp. 22, 27, 143, 171. [BACK]

39. Many of them voted for “E” in the first election. If this indeed is the symbol for Giles Elbridge, it is perhaps understandable that the Aldworth faction should do so. [BACK]

40. Laud, Works, vol. 7, p. 568. For further evidence of poor relations between Berkshire and Laud, particularly involving their respective connections with the city of Oxford and the university, see ibid., vol. 4, pp. 174–75, and vol. 5, pp. 123–24, 244, 245, 274–80, 283–84. See also Edward Hyde, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars of England, new ed., 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1843), vol. 1, p. 371. [BACK]

41. Bishop, Throne of Blood, p. 109. [BACK]

42. For the outlines of Chetwyn’s career in civic office see Beaven, Lists, p. 235. [BACK]

43. Mary F. Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640–1641: A Biographical Study of Its Members (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1954), pp. 220–221, 255–56; CJ, vol. 2, pp. 415, 567; C. H. Firth and R. S. Rait, eds., Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660, 3 vols. (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1911) vol. 1, pp. 797–98. [BACK]

44. Latimer, Annals, pp. 157, 158, 181, 189, 205, 210, 214; DNB, “Sir John Glanville, the younger.” [BACK]

45. John Corbet, An Historical Relation of the Military Government of Gloucester from the beginning of the Civill Warre betweene the King and Parliament to the removall of Colonell Massie from that Government to the Command of the Westerne Forces (London, 1645), p. 14. [BACK]

46. Corbet, Military Government of Gloucester. See also Latimer, Annals, pp. 164–65; Roger Howell, Jr., “The Structure of Urban Politics in the English Civil War,” Albion 11 (1979): 118. [BACK]

47. The participation of “the middling sort” has been emphasized by Howell, “Structure of Urban Politics,” p. 115. For notes on the interrogation of the leaders and others, see Bodleian Library, Portland MSS, Nalson Papers, N. XIII, 151, 155–71, 190; see also Historical Manuscripts Commission, The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland Preserved at Welbeck Abbey, 10 vols. (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1891), vol. 1, p. 107. I am grateful to His Grace the Duke of Portland for permission to consult and photocopy this material. [BACK]

48. See Howell, “Structure of Urban Politics,” p. 118. [BACK]

49. In their petition to the king the Bristolians refer directly to the Londoners’ earlier petition, which the Bristolians say had invoked the king’s “Royall assistance and suffrage for the establishing an unanimous tranquillity throughout this Realme”: The Humble Petition of the Citie of Bristoll, for An Accommodation of Peace between His Majestie, and the Honourable the High Court of Parliament As it was presented to the Kings Most Excellent Majestie, at the Court at Oxford, by foure of the Aldermen of the said Citie; on Saturday the seventh of Januarie, with His Majesties gracious Answer therunto (Oxford, 1643), p. 3. See also The Petition of the Most Svbstantiall Inhabitants of the Citie of London, And the Liberties thereof, to the Lords and Commons for Peace Together with the Answer to the same And the Reply of the Petitioners (Oxford, 1642). For discussion of the campaign for “accommodation” in 1642, see Anthony Fletcher, The Outbreak of the English Civil War (London: Edward Arnold, 1981), pp. 264–82. For the link between accommodation and royalism, see John Pym, A Discoverie of the Great Plot for the Utter Ruine of the City of London and the Parliament. As it was at large made known…the eighth of June, 1643 (London, 1643); Edward Montague and John Pym, Two Speeches spoken by the Earl of Manchester and Jo: Pym; as a reply to his Maiesties answer to…Londons Petition (London, 1643); T. B. Howell, ed., Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials, 33 vols. (London: R. Bagshaw, 1809–1826), vol. 4, pp. 626–53; Samuel R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War, 1642–1649, 4 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1901–4), vol. 1, pp. 7–9, 74–75, 146–49; see also Warren L. Chernaik, The Poetry of Limitation: A Study of Edmund Waller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), pp. 19–34; Jack G. Gilbert, Edmund Waller (Boston: Twayne, 1979), pp. 24–25; J. H. Hexter, The Reign of King Pym (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1941), pp. 9–10, 31–32, 104n. 2; Valerie Pearl, London and the Outbreak of the Puritan Revolution: City Government and National Politics, 1625–43 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), pp. 253–56, 265–66. [BACK]

50. The Petition of the Most Svbstantiall Inhabitants…of London, sig. A1b. [BACK]

51. The Humble Petition, pp. 4–5. [BACK]

52. Ibid. [BACK]

53. Ibid. [BACK]

54. For a somewhat different interpretation of this material see Howell, “Structure of Urban Politics,” p. 119. [BACK]

55. Two State Martyrs, in Seyer, Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 373. [BACK]

56. J. Toombes, Jehovah Jirah, or Gods Providence in Delivering the Godly (London, 1643), sig. A4b. [BACK]

57. Clement Walker, The Severall Examinations and Confessions of the Treacherous Conspirators against the Citie of Bristol (London, 1643), p. 12. See also Bodleian Library, Portland MSS, Nalson Papers, N. XIII, 151, 155–71, 190, 210; HMC, The Manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland Preserved at Welbeck Abbey, 10 vols. (London, 1891), vol. 1, p. 107. [BACK]

58. The Humble Petition, p. 5. [BACK]

59. Ibid. [BACK]

60. The usage here seems to owe a debt to James I’s speech at the opening of Parliament in 1624, when he specifically referred to the king and Parliament as husband and wife: LJ, vol. 3, p. 209. [BACK]

61. Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The New Arcadia), ed. Victor Skretkowicz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 426. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this instance as the first known usage of “divorce.” [BACK]

62. See Howell, “Structure of Urban Politics,” p. 118. [BACK]

63. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 4, pp. 5, 6. [BACK]

64. In July the Common Council decided to withhold the petitions thus agreed upon “in regards they have bin so long retarded”: BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 122r–v. The first reference to the petitions is to be found on f. 119v. [BACK]

65. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 4, p. 13. [BACK]

66. Brian Manning falls into this trap in his The English People and the English Revolution (London: Heinemann, 1976), which is criticized by Howell, “Structure of Urban Politics,” pp. 114–15. [BACK]

67. It is evidence of the short-term political character of this grant that the original letters patent of 1643 do not survive in the records of the Merchant Venturers. The Society retained only a copy of the original, made under the Great Seal in 1669: Latimer, Merchant Venturers, pp. 106–7. [BACK]

68. William Prynne and Clement Walker, A True and Full Relation of the Prosecution, Arraignment, Tryall, and Condemnation of Nathaniel Fiennes, late Colonel and Governor of the City of Bristoll, Before a Councell of War held at Saint Albans during Nine dayes space in December, 1643 (London, 1643), pp. 16, 17, 42, 44, and the appended Catalogue of Witnesses, pp. 21, 27, 28, 32, 33; Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 17–19. [BACK]

69. SMV, Hall Book, vol. 1, p. 2. [BACK]

70. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 122r. [BACK]

71. On the politics of these men in the 1640s see David Underdown, Pride’s Purge: Politics in the Puritan Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), pp. 366, 376, 393; John R. MacCormack, Revolutionary Politics in the Long Parliament (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), pp. 328, 335. [BACK]

72. See Hayden, ed., Records, p. 103; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 58, 133, 218. [BACK]

73. These conclusions are based on analysis of McGrath, ed., Records, pp. 27–30, 261; Beaven, Lists, pp. 119 and 185–315. [BACK]

74. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, pp. 149, 165, and vol. 4, pp. 5, 18, 19, 178, 179; BRO, MS 04369 (1), pp. 69–70; BRO, MS 08157, pp. 37–46, 51–59; BRO, MS 01244; John Latimer, “The Mercers’ and Linen Drapers’ Company of Bristol,” BGAS 26 (1903): 288. The mercers’ and linendrapers’ act book beginning in 1647 has survived: Bristol Central Library, MS B 4939. [BACK]

75. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, pp. 160, 200; BRO, MS 04369 (1), pp. 61–67. This procedure was first adopted by the soapmakers in 1618 and later employed by the bakers in 1621, the wiredrawers in 1629, and the mechant taylors in 1640: BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 2, f. 78r–v; BRO, MS 04369 (1), pp. 125, 130; F. F. Fox, ed., Ancient Fraternity of Merchant Taylors, p. 90. For a discussion of the significance of this change in enforcement procedures see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 138–40. [BACK]

76. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, p. 163. [BACK]

77. BRO, MS 04273 (1), f. 72r. [BACK]

78. See, e.g., the Merchant Taylors’ ordinance of 4 December 1649 complaining of the intrusions of numerous strangers in their craft and ordering that for the future only men apprenticed in Bristol could receive protection from the Merchant Taylors’ Company: Bristol Central Library, MS B 4788, Ordinance. [BACK]

79. BRO, MS 04369 (1), p. 127; see also John E. Pritchard, “Tobacco Pipes of Bristol of the XVIIth Century and Their Makers,” BGAS 45 (1923): 165–91. [BACK]


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