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The Capitalism of the Spirit, 1650–1700
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3. The Capitalism of the Spirit, 1650–1700

8. A Shoemakers’ Holiday

Through much of its history, Bristol had looked to the Atlantic for its fortune. Its sailors were already busy in Iceland’s waters at the beginning of the fifteenth century.[1] But until the mid-seventeenth century, their inner eye was always elsewhere. When they surveyed the ocean they saw either the fish they needed in their quest for the wealth of the Iberian and Mediterranean markets or the passage that would take them directly to the riches of the East. It was only in the 1620s and 1630s that the English settlements in the Americas began to produce goods that attracted Bristol’s merchants and suggested the genuine possibility that America might be as lucrative as the markets of southern Europe or even the pleasure domes of Asia. At first this new trade, profitable though it could be, was conducted on a very small scale. But by the 1650s it had grown considerably in volume. Now ships were returning to Bristol from the Chesapeake and the West Indies by the dozen, not just in twos and threes. This growth, however, represents more than a change in the character of this trade. It also reveals a change in the nature of the trading community that conducted it and in the political economy governing the city’s life. Trans-Atlantic commerce became in an almost literal sense a shoemakers’ holiday, an arena in which small men—artisans and shopkeepers—could, like Thomas Dekker’s Simon Eyre, play the merchant.

Sometimes historical processes of this magnitude are captured in a single source. Such a document, when we are lucky enough to come upon one, can let us see a whole world in a grain of sand, as it were. It can show us its larger structures in interaction. For late seventeenth-century Bristol we have just such a source in the city’s Register of Servants to Foreign Plantations, calendaring the indentures of over ten thousand individuals who migrated from England to America through Bristol between 1654, when the Register begins, and 1686, when the last entries were recorded. It reveals a city at the center of colonial trade, supplying Virginia, Maryland, and the West Indies with the labor necessary to make their settlement successful. This source has long been known to students of seventeenth-century colonization in the New World and of geographical mobility in England itself.[2] But along with evidence of the early migration to the West Indies and the Chesapeake, it also yields insight into the economic, political, and ideological developments affecting Bristolians in the era that followed the Civil Wars. Within it, the main facts and forces of change affecting early modern Bristol have converged. To pursue the story of social and political change we have been telling, then, I propose to examine the history of this Register in some detail, as a way of understanding Bristol’s encounter with the newfound land into which it and its people had now entered. As we shall soon see, the Register’s dry-as-dust pages contain within them something of the world of the shoemaker merchant.

The story of the Bristol Register has been colored from the outset by the social problem it professed to remedy. According to the September 1654 city ordinance that established this book of enrollments, it originated in response to the

many complaints…oftentimes made to the Maior and Aldermen of the inveigling purloining carrying and Stealing away boyes Maides and other persons and transporting them beyond Seas…without any knowledge or notice of the parents or others that have the care and oversight of them.[3]

Not surprisingly, these dramatic words have attracted the attention of nearly every modern writer who has discussed the ordinance or the Register.[4] But no one has asked what prompted these charges of man-stealing or whether they present a satisfactory explanation for the Register’s existence. An answer to the first question will show on reflection that they do not.

In September 1654, Bristol’s government had only one relevant case before it. It involved Farwell Meredith, an orphaned, runaway apprentice, who had importuned passage aboard the Dolphin of Bristol, bound for Barbados, and upon arrival had been sold as a servant to a planter there. According to a deposition given by several of the Dolphin’s crew, Meredith first came to the ship on 14 October 1653, when he was rescued from the tidal flats at Kingroad onto which he had ventured in his efforts to board the vessel. The following morning Marlin Hiscox, the ship’s carpenter, asked the young man whether he would go ashore, but, according to the crewmen, Meredith responded that “he would leape overboard rather than goe on shore and yt he would goe to ye Barbadoes where he said he had a brother.” With this the runaway entered himself into the “Merchants booke” by the name of John Chetwind of Gloucester, and only later at sea did he reveal his true name to be Meredith. When the Dolphin reached Barbados, Hiscox and John Blenman, the ship’s supercargo, put young Meredith in service in a plantation “according to the Custome of the Iland,” in return for which John George, the planter, promised Hiscox and Blenman a quantity of sugar. But Meredith refused to serve, saying “he would not worke for he did not come thither to worke for he was a gentlemans sonn & if he had thought he should have been sold he would never have come along with…Hiscox.” His refusal resulted in severe beatings from the planter. Meredith arrived in Barbados just before Christmas 1653. At about the same time, efforts began in Bristol to recover the young man. By July 1654, his guardian had initiated proceedings in the Bristol Mayor’s Court on actions of trespass and assault. The matter was still before the court on 11 September, when the last of a series of depositions was taken.[5]

Instead of a case of kidnapping in the strict sense of the word, what we have here is an allegation of “spiriting”—that form of treachery through which, according to contemporaries, countless men and women in the mid-seventeenth century were “enticed” or “seduced” into bonds of servitude in the plantations.[6] In this story, the runaway Farwell Meredith apparently learned only at the end of his journey of the custom of paying in service for passage to the colonies. But his case differs little in practice from the more common cases in which “spirits” gulled their victims into voluntarily sailing to Virginia or the West Indies with false tales of rich prospects upon completion of their service. In all these instances the hapless person found himself bound in a contract for labor which he had entered without his informed consent. There can be little doubt that “spiriting,” and perhaps also kidnapping, were sometimes practiced in mid-seventeenth-century Bristol. As early as 1644, for instance, an accusation arose against Michael Diggens, a Bristol mariner, for being “an old Roge” who “Cozened…many men and brought them out of the Country.” In the mid-1650s and early 1660s the Bristol archives record examples of nearly half a dozen man-stealers, kidnappers, and spirits.[7] But granting the prevalence of this evil and the widespread desire to crush it, the question remains: in September 1654 did the Bristol Common Council intend only to remedy this wrong, or did it have broader aims?

The ordinance established a simple arrangement for regulating the traffic in servants from Bristol. To prevent “mischeifes,” it required

all Boyes Maides and other persons which for the future shall be transported beyond the Seas as servants…before their going aship board to have their Covenants or Indentures of service and apprenticeship inrolled in the Tolzey booke as other Indentures of apprenticeship are and haue used to be and that noe Master or other officer whatsoever of any ship or vessell shall (before such inrolment be made) receive into his or their ship or vessell or therein permit to be transported beyond the Seas such Boyes Maides or other persons.[8]

However, this seemingly straightforward procedure conceals a rather puzzling fact.[9] By treating servants’ covenants as in the same class as indentures of apprenticeship, it placed them in a category of contract into which minors could freely enter without their parents’ consent.[10] Apprenticeship indentures were normally bipartite agreements, with reciprocal obligations made exclusively in the names of the master and the servant.[11] In the mid-seventeenth century, English law on this subject was clear and unchallengeable. Coke, in his Commentary upon Littleton, for example, laid it down as “common learning” that “an infant may bind himself…for his good teaching or instruction, whereby he may profit himself.”[12] Even though the courts held that ordinarily a master could not sue an underage apprentice for damages upon such a covenant, the indenture remained binding.[13] As the judges say in the case of Gylbert v. Fletcher (1630), if the servant “misbehave himself, the master may correct him in his service, or complain to a justice of the peace to have him punished.” In this fashion local police powers rather than private litigation insured the apprentice’s adherence to his covenants.[14]

Requiring indentures from all servants bound to the plantations might prevent future complaints of the type made by Meredith and his guardian, but it could neither halt the activity of “spirits” who chose to operate within the rules nor prevent the escape of runaways who chose to abuse them. At best, it placed only a minor obstacle in their paths. Provided the “spirit” had induced his underage victim into signing an indenture, no real hindrance stood in the way of transporting him beyond the seas to the complete ignorance of his family or master. Moreover, any runaway willing to conceal his past could easily avoid detection, as the Dolphin’s crew claimed Meredith had done. In 1654, therefore, the Bristol Common Council acted more to set the trade in indentured servants on a secure legal footing than to attack the evil of “spiriting” proper.[15]

The registration procedures themselves lend some credence to this view. Although servants usually appeared at the Tolzey to acknowledge their indentures as they were being drawn and enrolled,[16] nothing in the Bristol legislation required them to do so, and it was possible—as with apprenticeship—for the master to present indentures already in being for the clerks merely to enroll.[17] During some periods servants seem already to have been aboard ship when their indentures were presented, a fact which must have made seeking acknowledgment of the contracts no more than perfunctory.[18] Moreover, nothing in the Bristol ordinance demanded consent from parents or masters before indentures for underage servants could be entered, and the Bristol Register mentions such consent only once in all its ten thousand entries.[19] A master could even legitimately avoid bringing a servant before the clerks to acknowledge his indenture, “for feare of [his] running away.”[20] If the problem of runaways was the primary concern of the Bristol magistrates, these arrangements appear woefully inadequate to their task. The welfare of the servants hardly seems to have been what was at issue.

We also miss the point, however, if we look at the Bristol ordinance primarily as a means of securing the servant trade in the interests of the traders. The ordinance’s most salient feature, its lengthy enforcement clause, suggests that the Common Council’s main purpose was not to protect either servant or master, but to require the use of indentures by traders not otherwise disposed to employ them. The enforcement clause imposed a £20 fine on all ships’ masters who received servants for transportation before the enrollment of their indentures. Violators were to be punished either by distress and sale of their goods or by action of debt sued before the Mayor’s Court by the city chamberlain.[21] Those who informed against violators stood to gain one-quarter of the fine. Finally, the councillors provided that the water bailiff should from time to time

make strict and diligent search in all ships…after all Boyes Maides and other persons that are to be transported as Servants beyond the Seas and if vppon examinacon he find any such Boy maide or other person which haue not their…Indentures of service and apprenticeship so inrolled in the Tolzey booke as aforesaid then the Water bailiff shall immediately give an Accompt thereof to the Maior or some of the Aldermen who are desired…to take such speedy course therein as by Law they are enabled to doe.[22]

Presumably the water bailiff also stood to collect £5 for each fine that was recovered. No more thoroughgoing administrative arrangement for the enforcement of a local ordinance existed in mid-seventeenth-century Bristol.[23] The councillors clearly wanted each servant, of whatever age or description, to have an indenture, yet they expected some of the servants’ masters and some of the ships’ captains to resist the requirement. In order to see the significance of this simple administrative point we must turn our attention from legislative interpretation to political history.

The men who passed the servant ordinance of 1654 represented the same mercantile elite that had long dominated Bristol. They came from a narrow range of the city’s most lucrative occupations (Table 24). Of the twenty-one merchants who attended the council session on 29 September, some had themselves participated in the colonial trades during the 1650s (Table 25). However, most of them engaged much more heavily in traffic with Bristol’s main continental markets in France, the Iberian peninsula, and the Mediterranean. Only a handful of the councillors appear, directly or through their agents, among the dealers in servants. The council’s American traders—slightly over half the membership—primarily enjoyed the fruits of the import trade in sugar and tobacco, not the difficulties of the export trade in human labor. Of the twenty-four councillors who belonged to Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers, twenty had become members before the marked liberalization of admissions standards in 1646.

24. Occupations of the Common Councillors
Present and Voting on 29 September 1654
  No. Merchant Venturer Members
as of 29 September 1654[a]
Source: Bristol Record Office, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 72, compared to Bristol Record Office, MS 04220 (1), and Society of Merchant Venturers, Wharfage Book, vol. 1. The occupations of council members are based on prosopographical research using wills, court records, apprenticeship and burgess books, and similar sources. Membership in the Society of the Merchant Venturers was established from Patrick V. McGrath, ed., Records Relating to the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol in the Seventeenth Century (Bristol Record Society 17, 1952), pp. 27–32, 261. I am grateful to Dr. Jonathan Barry for his assistance in assembling the data from the Wharfage Book.
Merchant 21 20
Mercer-Linendraper 8 3
Woolendraper 2 1
Grocer 2  
Ironmonger 1  
Vintner 1  
Soapmaker 1  
Brewer 4  
    Total 40 24
25. Colonial Traders Among the Common
Councillors of 29 September 1654
Traders[a] Merchant
Source: Bristol Record Office, MS 04220 (1), and Society of Merchant Venturers, Wharfage Book, vol. 1, compared to Bristol Record Office, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 72.
Certain 17 3 20
Possible 2 2 4
    Total 19 5 24

In order for us to understand what disturbed these men about the traffickers in servants, we need to return to the case of Farwell Meredith. The men responsible for “spiriting” Meredith to Barbados represent a nearly ubiquitous but largely unregulated element in Bristol’s mercantile community in the mid-seventeenth century. They were “interlopers” according to the Merchant Venturers’ definition. John Blenman, the Dolphin’s so-called merchant, was in fact a shipwright’s apprentice. His master, Richard Basse alias Philpott, probably owned all or part of the vessel and with it engaged in overseas commerce as an adjunct to his trade of shipbuilding. To the tradition-minded overseas merchant, such an individual threatened the stability of the market both at home and abroad and usurped the rightful place of the true merchant, whose skills alone assured a steady trade at reasonable prices. Marlin Hiscox, the Dolphin’s carpenter, symbolized an even greater challenge to the traditional commercial order. Unlike Basse, he did not enjoy the freedom of Bristol. Never having sworn the burgess oath, he possessed no ordinary trading rights within the city. The sugar that John George owed him for Meredith’s labor might as well have belonged to a foreigner or stranger who legally could bring goods to port only under economic restrictions.[24]

John Blenman, Richard Basse, and Marlin Hiscox were typical of the men who engaged in Bristol’s American trades in the 1650s. In contrast to the city’s traffic with the European continent, still largely in the hands of the Merchant Venturers, this trans-Atlantic commerce was not conducted primarily by traditional wholesale merchants. A broad spectrum of crafts was represented among the hundreds of individuals who indentured servants to themselves between 1654 and 1660. Judged by the entries in the Register, as David Souden has noted, “the whole Bristol trading community appear to have been involved in the trade of sending servants to the colonies.”[25] However, this is only part of the picture. As a practical matter, a profit could only be returned from the West Indies and the Chesapeake markets in the form of commodities.[26] In general, the shippers of servants seem to have initiated transactions as speculative ventures and were paid in colonial products only when they sold their cargoes in the colonies.[27] Fortunately, we can study the import side of Bristol’s trade with these markets by using the records of the wharfage duty kept by the Society of Merchant Venturers.[28] Viewed together with the Register of Servants, the wharfage records yield an astonishing picture of Bristol’s colonial trading community. Even the importers were far from being a body of traditionally trained merchants. In the two-year period after May 1654, when the Wharfage Books begin, four hundred and twenty-three individuals imported colonial sugar and tobacco. Thirty were women; some of these were themselves planters, but most were the wives or widows of mariners and shopkeepers who engaged in the trans-Atlantic traffic. Of the three hundred and ninety-three men, we know the occupations of three hundred and five. The vast majority were Bristolians, but on the whole they were not merchants. Somewhat surprisingly, only about 26 percent of the list can be identified with this occupation, at least as it is narrowly defined (Table 26). For the rest, soapboilers, grocers, and mercers were especially prominent among major retailers and manufacturers, and tailors, shoemakers, and metal craftsmen among those in the lesser trades. In the shipping industry, mariners, coopers, and shipwrights account for the majority of those engaged in the traffic.[29]

26. Bristol Traders with the American Colonies, 1654-1656
  Importers[a] Shippers of
Both Total
  No. % No. % No. % No. %
Source: Bristol Record Office, MS 04220 (1); Society of Merchant Venturers, Wharfage Book, vol. 1; the names were cross-checked with other sources, including wills, Merchant Venturer records, apprenticeship and burgess books, and the Bristol deposition books.
  Leading entrepreneurs
    Merchants 80 26.23[c] 34 15.11[d] 18 21.69 96 21.48
  Other leading entrepreneurs[e] 80 26.23 20 8.89 11 13.25 89 19.91
      Total 160 52.46 54 24.00 29 34.94 185 41.39
  Lesser crafts and trades[f] 30 9.84 11 4.89 5 6.02 36 8.05
  Gentlemen, professionals, etc.[g] 4 1.31 5 2.22     9 2.01
  Shipping industry[h] 100 37.79 121 53.78 41 56.63 180 40.27
  Planters 11 3.61 34 15.11 8 9.64 37 8.28
      Total known 305   225   83   447  
      Total unknown 88   5   1   92  
        Total 393   230   84   539  
Women 30   8   2   36  
      Total men and women 423   238   86   575  
Importers, 15 May 1656–24 March 1656/7 38       6   44  
      Adjusted total[i] 461   238   92   619  

The representation of Merchant Venturers among the colonial importers is also revealing. In all, only seventy-six importers of Virginian and West Indian commodities in this two-year period were associated with the Society at some point during their lifetimes, and only twenty-four had entered the organization before 1646. Twenty-nine became members only after 1656, eight of them after 1670 (Table 27). According to the Wharfage Book, many of the older members of the Society who engaged in trans-Atlantic commerce still bought sugar at Lisbon, while others who did not engage in colonial trade at all also frequented Lisbon for sugar.

27. Merchant Venturers Trading with the American Colonies, 1654-1656
Merchant Venturers Importers Shippers of
Both Total
Source: Comparison of Bristol Record Office, MS 04220 (1); Society of Merchant Venturers, Wharfage Book, vol. 1; Patrick V. McGrath, ed., Records Relating to the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol in the Seventeenth Century (Bristol Record Society 17, 1952), pp. 27–32, 261.
Admitted before 1646 24 6 2 28
Admitted 1646–1656 23 5 5 23
Admitted after 1656 29 12 6 35
    Total[a] 76 23 13 86

If we analyze the exporters of servants during the first two years of the Register, we get a picture of trade dominated yet more heavily by those who were not Merchant Venturers. Men identified as merchants represent only about 15 percent of the servant traders, and the role of the Merchant Venturers was smaller still, amounting to only 10 percent of the total (see Tables 26 and 27). Although some of Bristol’s better-established overseas merchants, like Joseph Jackson, John Knight, and William Merrick, imported substantial quantities of colonial products in these years, such men did not dominate the colonial trades in the way they did the European ones. Instead, members of the shipping industry appear to have taken the largest share of the business (see Table 26).

These characteristics of the colonial trading community become even clearer when we consider trans-Atlantic commerce as a two-way traffic, with each shipment of servants resulting in a return cargo of sugar or tobacco. Between 30 September 1654 and 29 September 1656, two hundred and thirty-eight persons appear as masters in the Register of Servants, but only slightly more than a third of these traders imported any colonial products through Bristol from mid-May 1654 to late March 1657. During this overlapping thirty-four-month period, a total of six hundred and nineteen individuals traded with the American colonies, vastly exceeding the numbers who regularly traded in any way with Bristol’s traditional markets in Europe and the Mediterranean. But only ninety-two men and women, or about 15 percent, were two-way traders who exported servants as well as importing colonial sugar, tobacco, and other goods.

Since many of the importers must have sent manufactured goods and other items to the colonies rather than servants, the absence of their names from the Register of Servants should be no surprise. But how did the servant traders who, according to Table 26, appear to have done no importing manage their affairs? A number of possible explanations suggest themselves. Returns from the colonies may have gone to another English port, such as Plymouth or London, though no evidence of such a pattern has come to light. Perhaps some Bristolians sought to avoid English customs by bringing their imports directly to market in Europe, in violation of the Navigation Acts. If such illicit transshipments occurred we should find some evidence of them when the traders returned to Bristol with European goods paying wharfage duty. We find just the contrary. The vast majority of colonial traders rarely, if ever, imported continental commodities to the city.[30]

The true explanation of the imbalance between exporters of servants and importers of sugar and tobacco lies in the social organization, not in the economics of the colonial trade. Most of the “masters” who appear in the Register and not in the Wharfage Book must have been agents for principals who actually financed the trade, enjoyed its profits, and appear only in the Wharfage Book. Many of the figures designated in the Register as masters, such as Gabriel Blike, William Rodney, Henry Daniel, John Vaughan, and Robert Culme, in fact were apprentices acting as factors or supercargoes for their own masters, on whose account trading took place.[31] Blike, for example, shipped eight servants, mostly to Barbados, between 1654 and 1656 while he was apprenticed to Walter Tocknell, but imported no colonial goods during that time. Tocknell, by contrast, shipped no servants but imported large quantities of sugar and tobacco.[32] Seafaring men such as mariners, shipwrights, coopers, and surgeons, sailing aboard vessels bound for American waters, could offer the same service to those in Bristol who traded to the colonies less frequently or who could not spare an apprentice for the long journey.

This seafaring population represented a potential threat to the principles and practices of the traditional merchant. Ships’ crews had a long-standing right to conduct trade on their own account in the vessels on which they sailed, and, as we have just seen, many mariners took advantage of this custom to import colonial products in their own name. But the mariners’ privilege sometimes concealed illicit trade by non-freemen who merely used the good offices of sworn burgesses to escape restrictions imposed on the commerce of “foreigners.” As we know, from the Middle Ages onward this “colouring” of strangers’ goods had been roundly condemned as a violation of the spirit of the urban community. Every freeman took a solemn oath against the practice. Mariners, however, had strong incentives to violate this oath, if they had ever sworn it. Not only did they often lack the capital with which to conduct trade on their own, but they spent far too much time at sea to dispose properly of the goods they imported. By allowing other individuals to trade through them, they could profit from a privilege that they might otherwise never use. Sometimes the strangers for whom they colored goods were colonial planters. However, trade by resident non-freemen was a far greater challenge to the principles by which the mercantile community operated.[33] Young merchants, serving aboard ship as factors, supercargoes, or pursers, fell into a somewhat similar category. Although by custom they also could trade on their own account, even during their apprenticeship,[34] they often lacked the capital and the commercial outlets at home to take full advantage of the privilege. Hence they too might be tempted to color strangers’ goods, not only against local ordinances but against the interests of their employers as well.[35]

Bristol’s Merchant Venturers were acutely aware of the problems that the trading privileges of mariners and young merchant factors posed for the control of overseas trade. Their 1639 ordinances complained that mariners

have of late very often taken, vpon theire credit and other waies, divers goods and marchandice of great value, And carried the same…vnto the partes beyond the Seas, and in Returne thereof have brought home…divers other wares and marchandice…the most part thereof, without the leave, privitie, or knowledg of the Ouners of the said Shippes, or Marchants whoe tooke the saide Shippes to Fraight…Whereby his maiesty is much deceyved and the marchants disheartened in theire trade.[36]

For this reason, the Society forbade any ship’s captain or crew member from putting goods aboard his vessel without the specific approval of two of the chief laders and two of the chief owners. A fine of double freight was imposed for every violation. Moreover, the ship’s purser, under pain of losing his wages, was to inform his principals of the quantity and type of goods brought aboard by crew members. For their part, the factors and apprentices of Merchant Venturers were forbidden to act for “any Stranger or Forreiner not free of [the] Societie.” They were neither to lade any export goods on behalf of the ineligible traders nor to buy any goods abroad for them. The penalties imposed were heavy, amounting to over 15 percent of the value of goods for a first offense and over 30 percent for a second offense.[37] Nevertheless, judging by the number of non–Merchant Venturers in the Wharfage Books and Register of Servants, it is clear that these efforts had failed.

Roger North long ago observed the same peculiarities in Bristol’s trading community that we have just examined. “It is remarkable there,” he said,

that all men that are dealers, even in shop trades, launch into adventures by sea, chiefly to the West India plantations and Spain. A poor shopkeeper, that sells candles, will have a bale of stockings, or a piece of stuff, for Nevis, or Virginia, &c. and, rather than fail, they trade in men.[38]

At the Restoration, the London merchant John Bland portrayed the Chesapeake traders—especially those he believed had procured the passage of the Navigation Acts—in much the same way. “They are no Merchants bred,” he complained,

not versed in foreign ports, or any Trade, but to those Plantations, and that from either Planters there or whole-sale Tobacconists and shopkeepers retailing Tobacco here in England, who know no more what belongs to the commerce of the World, or Managing new discovered Countries, such as Virginia and Mariland are, than children new put out Prentice.[39]

North and Bland present a dark vision—to them, a nightmare—of a bustling, disorderly world of small men advanced beyond their stations. Bristol’s old-line Merchant Venturers would have deemed their description a prophecy of doom all but come true.

Their viewpoint, upheld largely unchanged down to 1639, not only reflected their economic interests but had conformed to the economic and social realities of overseas trade as well. So long as commercial profits were derived primarily from scarce and high-priced imports drawn from a small number of continental markets, successful trade depended on the maintenance of regular mercantile networks abroad and a complex form of organization at home. As we know, merchants habitually acted as agents, partners, creditors, and brokers for one another, switching roles as circumstances required. They chartered ships together and used each other’s servants as factors in overseas trade, and much of their business abroad proceeded through fellow Bristolians resident in the principal foreign markets trading for commission on behalf of their brethren at home.[40] Even though Merchant Venturers had reason to concern themselves with the overseas trade of artificers and shopkeepers, the actual conditions of foreign commerce limited the danger, since the Society of Merchant Venturers could readily control that trade. Only the Society’s membership commanded the necessary capital and organization to conduct such commerce on a consistently large scale. They owned the shipping; they had the foreign contacts; and they enjoyed the services of fellow merchants to help them drive the trade. The high prices of the luxury goods in which they dealt, moreover, would have kept all but the wealthiest of retailers from competition with them. In 1618 and 1639, the Merchant Venturers had relied on these truths when framing their ordinances. Since others who would attempt to trade could be barred from the services of the factors, servants, and mariners traveling abroad for the Merchant Venturers, craftsmen and shopkeepers would need to acquire their own shipping, establish their own credit network, and build their own organization in foreign markets to conduct their trade. The Merchant Venturers counted on them being unable to do so.

Across the Atlantic, however, a new commercial world was taking shape. The inhabitants of the colonies were Englishmen with family and business ties in their home country. The social composition of the colonial communities therefore provided commercial connections between planters and traders which elsewhere required specially established resident factors, commission agents, and brokers to achieve.[41] In a sense, the settlement of a colony already contained within itself the seeds of a mercantile organization to cultivate commerce as it was needed. Moreover, many of the colonists came from the west of England, and even from Bristol itself, which gave the city some particular advantages in the trade.[42]

Among these West Countrymen, a number of Bristol-based merchants and mariners stand out. For example, Anthony Dunn, a Bristol merchant though not a Merchant Venturer, resided in Barbados in the 1650s, leaving his wife behind in Bristol to supply him with servants. He may also have been connected with Richard Dunn and Ann Dunn of Bristol, each of whom also traded between Barbados and Bristol in these years. Another emigrant Bristol merchant was John Yeamans, brother of Robert, the Bristol martyr to Charles I’s cause in 1643, and himself an ex-colonel in the Royalist army. He settled on Barbados in 1650, later to become one of the great men of the island, governor of Carolina and a baronet. Other members of his family, however, remained in Bristol to trade with him. In 1654–55, when his Barbados holdings probably were still undeveloped, one hogshead of sugar was registered in his name for wharfage duty owed at the Backhall.[43] Richard Allen, a ship’s surgeon with political views nearly opposite to those of Yeamans, also became a colonial planter in these years, although in Virginia, not Barbados. And Robert Glass, mariner, reversed the process. In the 1640s he lived as a planter in Barbados, doing business with Bristol, but by 1655 he had set up as a merchant in the western port to conduct trade with his former West Indian neighbors. Finally, in 1657, he became a freeman of the city after marrying the daughter of John Dee, cooper. Dozens of such stories could be told.[44]

The early Chesapeake and West Indian colonists, moreover, traded under conditions far different from those experienced by commercial dealers in Europe. Rather than develop production in a variety of necessary goods for home consumption, they used their comparative advantage in natural resources—in this case, land—to produce one highly valued commodity, which they exported in return for the manufactured items and other resources that they needed.[45] This type of economy had a profound effect on the character of trade. At the major European ports a merchant could buy a variety of goods, each governed by its own market conditions. To maximize his profits he needed to play these markets with great care, neither committing all his capital to one commodity whose home price might later collapse nor buying everything that seemed quickly merchantable.[46] To purchase these wares, the merchant needed cargoes of quite specific items in high demand and scarce supply among his foreign customers. At Cádiz he might choose among sherry, wine, olive oil, oranges, almonds, and even sugar and tobacco. To acquire them, however, he could use only lead, calfskins, Welsh butter, salt fish, or certain varieties of English cloth. Each of these commodities, of course, also had its own market which needed careful cultivation. A trading venture, therefore, usually involved a complex series of transactions, often requiring numerous brokers and go-betweens, sales at San Lucar de Barrameda and purchases at Jerez de la Frontera, with bills of exchange drawn on Seville.[47]

How different trade looks in the Chesapeake and the West Indies during the mid-seventeenth century. At Jamestown in Virginia, a merchant found tobacco and little else; at Bridgetown in Barbados, he found sugar, with perhaps small quantities of ginger, cotton, or tobacco as well. To get these goods he could bring the most varied of cargoes; the early colonists lacked practically everything in the way of household wares, manufactured items, clothing, and even food and drink—hence the bales of hosiery and pieces of stuff mentioned by Roger North. Most of all they lacked labor. This need was answered by huge shipments of servants that arrived every year from Bristol and London. Since the colonies possessed no system of currency, the colonial merchant operated by a form of barter: so many pounds of tobacco or sugar for so much of this or that. Although by the 1660s elements of a more complex commercial organization had begun to appear,[48] many colonial traders still operated on the same speculative basis that Richard Ligon described for the 1640s, using their vessels as both warehouses and trading counters, bringing mixed cargoes of servants and manufactures to the colonies in hope of finding a market for them. This pattern in much of colonial commerce would have struck the itinerant merchant of the Middle Ages as thoroughly familiar.

The survival of speculative commerce along these lines depended on the settlers as much as the traders. So long as the colonists relied so heavily on sugar or tobacco as a cash crop, they could hardly escape the market economy for many of the goods they needed. Only a few had the capital to serve this market themselves by becoming merchant planters or industrial producers. The others, even those with skills in highly valued manufacturing crafts, looked upon the acquisition and development of land as their best hope of gain. Even the early Chesapeake factors, with their important business connections in England, rarely became shopkeepers trading exclusively at their own risk and on their own account. The more successful among them used their accumulated profits to buy land, not to expand their trading operations.[49] According to Richard Ligon, the Barbados merchants operated in just the same way, pyramiding their commercial gains until they had amassed the funds to set up a sugar plantation for themselves.[50] Under such conditions the growth of sophisticated and well-capitalized commercial institutions was bound to be slow, at first utilized only by the biggest and most ambitious planters, while the others made do with more primitive forms of organization. Until the final decades of the seventeenth century, the trade remained largely decentralized, despite evident signs of increasing concentration.

In its formative years, this emerging Atlantic economy conformed poorly to the economic theories advanced by Bristol’s Merchant Venturers. From the point of view of the settlers, sugar and tobacco, still luxuries in England, were staples. They represented the lifeblood of their economic activities. If they did not have them to sell, the colonists could purchase little they needed.[51] Thus planters were unable to restrict production to uphold prices. Doing so would only idle servants, who nonetheless continued to require maintenance, and waste the labor already expended in clearing land for cultivation. For this reason, planters met falling prices for sugar or tobacco by more intensive efforts at production, not less. As Russell Menard has shown, until about 1680 the faster tobacco prices fell, “the more rapid the growth of output.”[52] Sugar production reveals the same relation to declining prices.[53] Above all, the colonial economy’s dependence upon land conditioned the expansion. During the mid-seventeenth century, planters simply had no alternative ways to use their capital. They could either employ it in growing sugar or tobacco, or they could save it by buying land for later use. Thus, contrary to the Merchant Venturers’ expectations, the prices of sugar and tobacco did not automatically rise when large numbers of traders competed for the goods. Rather, production grew in order to uphold income as prices fell. As a result, the colonial trades in the mid-seventeenth century could not be regulated in the same way as the European. Trade proceeded through too many outlets, and production remained high and continued to grow. Although to the Merchant Venturers, with their traditional viewpoint, the American trades represented the very image of disorder, their Society could offer no ready and easy way to bring discipline to the market.[54]

Not all Bristolians, as we know, agreed with the Merchant Venturers’ view of the proper urban social and economic order. Many of the retailers and artificers saw freedom to trade as a natural concomitant of their status as burgesses. For these shopkeepers and craftsmen, the American trade represented a shoemakers’ holiday of its own. It offered an opportunity to trade abroad in an area outside the control of the Merchant Venturers. It gave small men the chance to use their capital and their contacts to become merchants. Of the many who did so, some indeed were shoemakers. James Wathen, for example, ran a steady business in the American colonies in the mid-seventeenth century. During the early 1650s he traded with both Virginia and Barbados, importing tobacco and sugar and shipping servants. During these same years his brother Richard acted as servant to a Barbados planter, providing James with a business connection on the island. Although Wathen never achieved Simon Eyre’s eminence, like the London shoemaker his commercial activity continued unabated through his later life. After the Restoration we find him still plying the colonial trade just as he had under the Commonwealth.[55]

Wathen’s career not only reveals the ways the emerging Atlantic economy disrupted traditional patterns of commercial life in Bristol but also illustrates how the troubled politics of the 1640s and 1650s had thrown the city into turmoil. For Wathen not only “interloped,” as the Merchant Venturers might have said, in foreign commerce, but in his kinship ties he represented the forces of political and religious radicalism in the city. He came from a large family of middling men—tanners, wiredrawers, shoemakers, pinmakers, and mariners—who not only engaged in American trade but challenged the civic establishment as well.[56] For example, James Wathen, Senior, a pinmaker and cousin of James the shoemaker, was one of Bristol’s more outspoken sectaries in the early 1650s; so was John Wathen, apothecary, another kinsman. John Wathen eventually became a partner in the Whitson Court sugar refinery founded by Thomas Ellis, merchant, in 1665, while other Wathen relations also engaged in American trade. Moreover, Ellis, a leading Bristol Baptist, had gotten his start in the sugar trade in the 1650s by shipping large cargoes of shoes to Barbados, which perhaps links him directly with James Wathen, shoemaker, as well.[57]

The men who “spirited” Farwell Meredith to Barbados share this same combination of religion and economics. Marlin Hiscox and Richard Basse also were tied to a group of active sectaries. The Hiscox clan was closely connected through apprenticeship with William Philpott, a cooper who was Richard Basse’s stepfather—a fact which makes the crew of the Dolphin almost as cosy as an eighteenth-century cousinage. Basse himself grew up in the same household as William Bullock, a shipwright who was one of Bristol’s truly large-scale dealers in colonial goods in the mid-seventeenth century. Both Philpott and Bullock, like James Wathen, pinmaker, and John Wathen, apothecary, appear among the supporters of the radical Colonel John Haggatt in the 1654 elections to the first Protectorate Parliament. Moreover, Bullock and some of the Hiscox family were early Quakers.[58]

Numerous other Bristol sectaries also engaged in colonial commerce during these years. For example, Christopher Birkhead, a mariner who sometimes voyaged to the West Indies and the Chesapeake, was one of Bristol’s more militant saints. In the mid-1650s, Birkhead, by then a follower of George Fox, had already acquired an international reputation as a troublemaker for disrupting Presbyterian services at Bristol, Huguenot services at La Rochelle, and Dutch Reformed services at Middleborough.[59] Captain George Bishop, a New Model Army man, an Agitator at Putney, onetime secret agent to the Commonwealth’s Council of State, Haggatt’s colleague in the 1654 parliamentary election, and early sectary, also engaged in colonial trade in this period.[60] Captain Thomas Speed, another New Model Army man and also by 1655 a leading defender and propagandist for the Bristol Friends, was if anything an even more important American merchant. In the early 1650s he engaged with several other Bristolians in a series of projects to transport Irish prisoners to the colonies.[61] By the middle of the same decade he had become almost as important as William Bullock in American commerce, importing over seventeen tons of Barbados sugar during 1654–55 and accounting for considerable quantities of Virginia tobacco during the following year.[62]

Other American traders among the sectaries led somewhat more sedate political and economic lives. The Baptists Major Samuel Clarke and Robert Bagnall, for example, were the merchants of the Samuel Pinke of Bristol, which Christopher Birkhead sailed for the Caribbean in August 1653.[63] Both of them traded in West India sugar and Virginia tobacco in the mid-1650s. Samuel Clarke’s brother Joseph, a scrivener, and Robert Cornish, a sailor, were also Baptists dealing in American imports in these years. Among the Quaker traders we find such men as the grocers Thomas Ricroft and John Saunders, the ironmonger Henry Roe, the mariner Latimer Sampson, and the merchant Jasper Cartwright. These were middling traders, importing smaller quantities of American goods than Bullock and Speed but maintaining a steady commerce nonetheless. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make a complete tally of the Bristol Baptists and Quakers who invested in colonial enterprise during the mid-seventeenth century, since we do not know the names of all the city’s sectaries in this period. But for the ten years following the establishment of the Wharfage Book and the Register of Servants we can identify more than sixty such individuals in the city who engaged in trans-Atlantic commerce, some trading only once or twice, some like Bullock and Speed among the city’s largest dealers in colonial commerce, but many, like Wathen, conducting a modest but continuous traffic with America.[64]

These men possessed ideals of community and individual commitment different from the hierarchical views held by conservative Bristolians such as the leading Merchant Venturers. In their congregations they had long since rejected the structures of authority of the established church. They believed in a community of the spirit, and they governed themselves through regular meetings at which a democratic ideal of brotherhood prevailed.[65] To men and women reared with these religious convictions, Simon Eyre’s world, as depicted by Dekker, would have seemed far more congenial than the Merchant Venturers’, for the idea of a rigid structure of occupations ranked in a neat hierarchy bore little resemblance to their most profound experiences of community life. It is perhaps no surprise to find them often acting to break down the strict boundaries separating stranger from Bristolian and mere inhabitant from full citizen. The “coloring of strangers goods” was a commonplace of business practice among them. When the civic authorities made a concerted effort to end this ancient misdemeanor in the mid-1660s, they found Thomas Ellis and his Baptist associates heavily engaged in it.[66] Some of the sectaries even began their careers in Bristol as “interlopers” pure and simple. Major Samuel Clarke, for example, only entered the freedom of the city in 1652 after a shipment of imported fruit belonging to him had been seized as “foreign bought & sold.”[67] Moreover, the merchant sectaries, especially the Quakers, could not follow Clarke’s lead in becoming Bristol freemen, since their consciences prevented them from swearing the burgess oath. Many traded illicitly all their lives. Among them perhaps was John Wathen, whose name never appears in the Bristol burgess books.[68]

The year 1654 brought many of these issues of economics, politics, and religion to a head. According to James Powell, Bristol’s chamberlain at the time, there were two causes for the “distempers” of that year: the dispute over the parliamentary election, and “the comeinge of the quakers.” The election, he said, “bred an extreame feud” between the magistracy and the two defeated candidates, Colonel Haggatt and his cousin Captain George Bishop. These men looked upon their opponents as Cavaliers; they accused Alderman Miles Jackson, one of the newly elected members of Parliament, of royalism, made similar charges against those electors who voted for Jackson, and accused the sheriffs and their fellow common councillors of complicity in a plot to defeat “the godly party” in the town. Afterward, Powell continues, “they waited occasions to blast the cittie by all possible meanes.”[69]

Although Powell does not tie the arrival of the Quakers explicitly to the election, in truth they were closely connected. The Quakers first came to Bristol in the spring of 1654; by June they already had won some important converts. Moreover, John Audland and John Camm made one of their initial visits to the city at the time of the poll itself, although for what reason we cannot tell. Many of their early converts appear as parties to the election squabble. George Bishop soon became one of Bristol’s most outspoken Quakers, his tireless pen turning out pamphlet after pamphlet for the cause from 1655 on. Haggatt never went so far, but he was allied through his family with many of Bristol’s first Friends, his wife among them. Their supporters too appear connected to the Quaker movement. A third of them became Friends in the waves of conversion following the visits of Audland, Camm, and other first publishers of Truth.[70] In Powell’s view, the “franticke doctrines” of these Quakers had not only “made…an impression on the minds of the people of this cittie” but also “made such a rent in all societies and relations which, with the publique afront offered to ministers and magistrates, hath caused a devision, I may say a mere antipathy amongst the people, and consequently many broyles.”[71]

As a result, these events ushered in a period of nearly unprecedented dissension within the city. Haggatt and Bishop, using their allies among the Bristol garrison, mounted a concerted attack on the loyalty of the Bristol Common Council. A broad body of their supporters petitioned the Lord Protector to quash the election results, and George Bishop filed information accusing the magistrates of complicity in Royalist plots. By the end of 1654 the effects of the Quaker conversions had become all too apparent to the civic authorities. Individual Quakers began disrupting religious services in the city’s churches and resisting the authority of the aldermen to punish them for their breaches of the peace. At the same time, large public meetings were held, some drawing over one thousand participants. As the movement grew, fear of Quakerism also grew in many quarters. Riots ensued in which bands of apprentices assaulted Quakers on the streets and threatened their public meetings. Moreover, George Cowlishay confirmed the worst suspicions of many Bristolians by spreading a rumor that he had picked up from an Irishman. The Quakers, he charged, really were Franciscan and Jesuit subversives, in England to undermine Protestantism. Many Baptists, their ranks severely depleted by losses to the Quakers, accepted the story as gospel.[72] These developments certainly did not grow only from seeds planted by the expansion of Bristol’s trans-Atlantic trade, nor were they mere reflections of economic divisions within the city. The election and its aftermath hardly reveal the conflict as one simply between the mere merchants and their rivals. Differing views on the constitution and on religious settlement lay at the bottom of the troubles. Nevertheless, the two political factions do show some interesting socioeconomic differences. Although many of Aldworth’s and Jackson’s supporters had interests in the American trade, just like Haggatt’s supporters, the latter consisted much more heavily than the former of men in the lesser crafts and in the shipping industry. Only seven of Haggatt’s votes came from men identified in any way as merchants, and only five from Merchant Venturers. Although both factions in the election found considerable support among soapmakers, grocers, and other major retailers and entrepreneurs, a higher percentage of Aldworth’s and Jackson’s votes came from this quarter. In addition, twenty-six of their backers identified themselves as merchants and the same number were Merchant Venturers, most of them older members of the Society (Table 28).[73] Jackson himself had been a member since at least 1618, and Aldworth, a lawyer by profession, was the son of a Merchant Venturer of the 1620s and 1630s.[74] The impression is strong, therefore, that Aldworth’s and Jack-son’s supporters on the whole came from the richer segments of Bristol’s population and were closely tied to the Merchant Venturers.

28. Occupational Background of the Disputants in the Parliamentary Election of 1654
  Haggatt Aldworth and Jackson
Occupations No. % No. %
Source: The names of those who supported Aldworth and Jackson are known from H. E. Nott and Elizabeth Ralph, eds., The Deposition Books of Bristol. Vol. 2: 1650–1654 (Bristol Record Society 13, 1948), pp. 181–83. The names of those who supported Haggatt have been established by collating ibid., pp. 180–81, and Public Record Office, SP 18/75/14vi (two slightly different copies of the list drawn by Haggatt’s teller at the 12 July poll) with Public Record Office, SP 18/75/14ii (the petition made to the Protector on Haggatt’s behalf protesting the election). The petition contains ninety-five names, thirty-eight of which do not appear on either of the teller’s tallies. Thirteen of the ninety-five later swore they never signed the petition, but eight of those appear on one or both of the tellers’ lists. A further two are known to have been early Quakers and Baptists. I have counted all thirty-eight among Haggatt’s supporters. It appears likely that they were not counted because they were deemed ineligible. Bishop’s supporters walked out without voting, after protesting against the eligibility of many of their opponents’ supporters.
Merchants 7 5.83[a] 26 15.76[a]
Major retailers and other leading entrepreneurs 38 31.67 76 40.06
Lesser crafts and trades 49 40.83 39 23.64
Shipping 23 19.17 18 10.91
Gentlemen, professionals 3 2.50 6 3.64
   Total known 120   165  
   Total unknown 8   17  
     Total 128   182  
Members of the Society
of Merchant Venturers
5 4.17 26 15.76

Despite the resistance of conservative-minded Bristolians to the excesses of the colonial traders, these citizens could no longer look backward to the traditions of commercial organization for relief of their grievances, since the Society of Merchant Venturers had long since ceased to protect against the competition of interlopers. Not only did the conditions of colonial trade defeat the techniques of regulation available to the Society, but the Society itself no longer possessed the political power it once had had to control the trading community. The politics of the 1640s had broken its once united leadership and reduced its significance in local affairs. After the parliamentary victory in Bristol in 1645, the new regime in the Corporation and the Society does not seem to have shared the old order’s prejudices against artisan and shopkeeper merchants. Perhaps political allegiances made it difficult even for veteran Merchant Venturers to insist on their exclusion. Between December 1646 and December 1651, seventeen of the thirty-five men admitted to the Society were redemptioners of one sort or another. Some were highly irregular appointments by pre–Civil War standards.[75] Among these redemptioners, we find Thomas Speed, William Bullock, George Bishop, and at least one other sectary, who came to play important roles in the government of the Society in the early 1650s. Speed was one of the Society’s wardens in 1651, and he often served on committees engaged in negotiations with the Rump Parliament or the Council of State. He and Bullock also served on the Court of Assistants, as did Captain Henry Hassard, the fourth sectary and redemptioner. Finally, Bishop used his leverage with the Commonwealth’s officialdom to gain trading privileges for the membership.[76]

However, this was not an era of good feeling in the Society’s history. Although on paper the membership continued to grow, the records of the Merchants’ Hall in the mid-seventeenth century reveal a deep malaise. All through the 1650s and 1660s, considerably less than half of the membership appeared at the quarterly meetings, including the annual election meeting; fewer still turned out for special assemblies. Many of the members stayed away for years on end, prompting the passage in 1652 of a stiff ordinance against all who “wilfully refuse to come to the Hall upon reasonable summons” or who failed to leave proxies when they traveled from town on business.[77] The Society’s finances also appear in disarray. Time and time again the Hall Book says that the payment of fines and of wharfage were seriously in arrears.[78]

The crisis appeared to be one of authority as much as economics. In 1650 the Hall felt obliged to cite its ancient patent from Edward VI, the parliamentary statute of 1566, and Charles I’s charter of 1639 in insisting on the “power and authority not only to make laws and ordinances agreeable to reason for the good of the said Company, But to impose and assess such reasonable paynes, penaltyes and punishments by ffynes and amerciaments for breach of them.” To better collect these fines, the Society adopted the procedure by action of debt, bill, or plaint in the name of the wardens and treasurer before the Mayor’s Court in the Guildhall.[79] Despite this measure, the collections of fines and wharfage remained a continuing problem throughout the 1650s and 1660s.[80]

If the established Merchant Venturers could no longer rely on the Society to achieve their ends, however, they could still use the Common Council to do so. There, as we have seen, they still enjoyed a clear majority of the membership. Moreover, most of the Merchant Venturers on the council had joined before the Civil War, and even before the issuance of the new charter in 1639. Their commercial lives showed a commitment to the principles upon which the Society had stood for so long. The dominance of these men in the city government is clear from the way they handled the election of the first Protectorate Parliament. They controlled the poll both through the sheriffs and through insisting that their voices be heard before the others could vote,[81] and thus they assured victory for candidates who would act in the Society’s interest. Once the members were in Westminster they became spokesmen for this dominant interest, as they had been in the 1620s, using their positions to advance the Merchant Venturers’ claims in such matters as the trade in Welsh butter, and attacking the roots of radicalism in the city as well. According to instructions sent by the magistrates, the MPs were not only to help “establish and settle order in the Church” and to rid the city of the Cromwellian soldiers who had so ardently supported Bishop and Haggatt but were also to address some symptoms of the breakdown in the civic social order arising from the American trade. “The Privildges & liberties of the Citty,” the magistrates complained,

are very much incroached upon to the great discouragement of the Inhabitants, especially young men who thinke it much that they should serve apprentishippe for many yeares; whilst other men that have never served halfe their time & others that were never apprentices at all, are permitted to keepe shope in as free away as themselves.[82]

The common councillors proposed no specific remedy for this last ill, perhaps because it sprang from a number of separate, if interrelated, sources. Most of all, they could no longer urge the principle of monopoly as the solution to their troubles, since even the conservatives of the Protectorate could not be expected to endorse it. However, one of the acts of the Long Parliament, arising from political circumstances similar to those we have found in Bristol in 1654, offered a start toward a cure. In May 1645, the House of Commons received word that Edward Peade, a London merchant, had engaged in child-stealing in the course of his trade. Peade served, along with such radicals as Maurice Thompson, Cornelius Holland, and Owen Rowe, as a commissioner for Somers Islands, and he and Rowe were associated with John Goodwin’s congregation at St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street.[83] During 1645 this intimate connection between the leading London Independents and the Somers Islanders, also noted for their religious zeal, appeared as one theme in London’s “counter-revolution” mounted by the so-called Presbyterians in the capital.[84] The information against Peade only confirmed for these conservatives that Goodwin’s followers were without scruple in all they did. Enemies of London radicalism such as William Spurstow pounced upon the accusation as a means to punish their opponents.

We have no evidence that the parliamentary ordinance of May 1645 or the measures later taken to strengthen it were ever enforced, but they provided the legal authority upon which the Bristol Common Council rested its own registration scheme.[85] With it the common councillors took a first but vital step in regulating the disorder of the colonial trades—a disorder produced largely by the trading activities of their political enemies. The Register worked against those shoemaker merchants and shopkeeping interlopers in various ways. It authorized the water bailiff to board ships in harbor to make inquiry about the indentures of servants and thereby placed the trading activities of all those who used the port under far closer official scrutiny. In this way illicit traders—especially traders who had not paid the entry fees for admission to the freedom of Bristol and had not sworn the freeman’s oath—became somewhat more vulnerable to arrest and to payment of local duties. But the requirement that indentures be used for all servants did something more: it placed the traffic of marginal traders under new economic restraints, which reduced their threat to the established merchant community.

The new registration scheme introduced in Bristol raised the transaction costs associated with conducting the servant trade, since shipping a servant across the Atlantic now required coping with a cumbersome administrative system and with the need to pay for the drawing and registration of the servants’ indentures. Although the charges were small, they had to be paid in coin, as did the fee for admission to the freedom of Bristol. Even for the relatively well-to-do, coin was not always easy to come by. Since most of the servants exported to the colonies in the 1650s were poor men and women seeking subsistence and without money in their purses, it seems clear that these charges would have had to be borne by the servant traders. The trade in servants also operated under certain constraints unusual in other types of commerce. Conditions in the Chesapeake and the West Indies were devastating to newcomers in the seventeenth century. According to some estimates, about 40 percent of those who arrived in these regions died during their terms, many in the first year. The others went through a period of severe “seasoning” during which they were ill for much of the year. As a result, planters usually tried to protect their investment in valuable labor by keeping the new servants free from work during the hot months. Only in the second year, if these newcomers had survived, could the planter expect to get a full year’s work from them.[86] Thus a difference of a year or more in a servant’s term represented a significant difference in his value. As it turns out, servants with indentures had, on average, shorter terms by a year or more than those who came on the custom of the country, since they enjoyed far more leverage to negotiate their terms while in England than after they had crossed the Atlantic. Once the servant had received his payment in the form of passage, he could do nothing but accept the custom as it existed. He had no freedom to return.[87] The use of indentures to regulate the trade therefore had the effect of cutting into its profitability for the trader. In this way it might be thought to bring the evil of “spiriting” under some control, since the poorer traders, those most easily tempted to inveigle or purloin servants to the colonies, were more susceptible than their richer competitors to the disincentives created by the new registration scheme.

For the marginal traders such as the mariners, shopkeepers, and artisans so heavily represented among the sectaries, the forced shift in operation instituted by the registration scheme of 1654 was especially significant, since the price of tobacco and sugar was already in decline in the 1650s. For the large merchants the losses involved would have been easier to absorb, especially because these men could more readily trade in other goods not affected by the same market conditions as servants. Thus the Register sought to accomplish what other economic regulations could not. Since it was no longer possible to exclude marginal traders from the use of ships and the services of factors, it sought to take advantage of the wealth of established merchants to reach the same end. In doing so it conceded an important point. If the larger retailers and manufacturers, such as those we find supporting Aldworth and Jackson in the election, could no longer effectively be barred from overseas trade, at least the Quaker shoemakers might.

To cope with the disorder of the colonial trades the Bristol common councillors sought a new market-based discipline in foreign commerce, something that would overcome the apparent anarchy of the sectaries while avoiding the self-defeating rigidities of the old regime. Although in the context of Interregnum politics their action had only limited significance, seen in the light of the history of Bristol’s political economy this new strategy signaled the beginnings of a revolution at least as important as the one it sought to end. It employed political authority to regulate the market so that in turn the market could regulate the distribution of political power. It was a move fraught with possibilities, to which we now turn.


1. Carus-Wilson, ed., Overseas Trade of Bristol, pp. 65–68, 71–73, 79–81, 87–93, 94–97, 120–22, 125–26, 127–30, 135–37, 139–40, 144, 155–56, 208, 252, 253; Carus-Wilson, Medieval Merchant Venturers, pp. 1, 5, 8, 11, 13, 14, 66, 73, 81, 89, 96, 98–142. [BACK]

2. BRO, MS 04220 (1–2), which covers 1654 to 1679; further material covering parts of the years 1679–1681 and 1683–1686 can be found in rough form in the records of the Bristol Mayor’s Court: BRO, MSS 04355 (6) and 04356 (1). The entries have now been painstakingly edited by Peter Wilson Coldham, The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations, 1654–1686 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1988). See also William Dogson Bowman, ed., Bristol and America: A Record of the First Settlers in the Colonies of North America, 1654–1685, preface by N. Dermott Harding (London: R. S. Glover, 1931). For discussions of this source, see Mildred Campbell, “Social Origins of Some Early Americans,” in James Morton Smith, ed., Seventeenth-Century America: Essays in Colonial History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), pp. 63–89; Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624–1713 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972), pp. 70–71; James Horn, “Servant Emigration to the Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century,” in Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, eds., The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), pp. 51–95; Salerno, “Social Background of Seventeenth-Century Emigration,” pp. 31–52; David Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds? Indentured Servant Migration to North America and the Case of Mid-Seventeenth-Century Bristol,” Social History 3 (1978): 23–39; David W. Galenson, “ ‘Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’? The Social Origins of Some Early Americans Reexamined,” with a rebuttal by Mildred Campbell, WMQ, 3d ser., 35 (1978): 499–540; David W. Galenson, “The Social Origins of Early Americans: Rejoinder…with a Reply by Mildred Campbell,” WMQ, 3d ser., 36 (1979): 264–86; David W. Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), esp. pp. 34–39, 183–84 [BACK]

3. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 72. David Galenson prints the document in Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 189–90. [BACK]

4. Latimer, Annals, pp. 254–55; Abbott Emerson Smith, Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607–1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), p. 71; MacInnes, Gateway of Empire, p. 161; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 70; Horn, “Servant Emigration to the Chesapeake,” p. 55n. 17; Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” pp. 25–26; Galenson, “ ‘Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’?” pp. 504–5, repeated verbatim in White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 37–38, and see p. 183 [BACK]

5. The relevant documents are in H. E. Nott and Elizabeth Ralph, eds., The Deposition Books of Bristol. Volume 2: 1650–1654 (BRS 13, 1947), pp. 166–67, 174–75, 192. Meredith had been apprenticed on 7 March 1653, for nine years, to Anthony Barnes, baker, and his wife Anne. Meredith is identified in the apprenticeship indenture as the son of a deceased gentleman of Landovery, Carmarthenshire: BRO, MS 04352 (6), f. 279v. The nine-year term suggests that Meredith may have been as young as twelve when his apprenticeship indenture was drawn. The sailors aboard the Dolphin, however, identify him as “a Young man as they conceive aboute the age of 18 yeares”: Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 174. But they had good reason to shade the truth in their favor. Nevertheless, their story clearly has a modicum of truth to it. Meredith looks like the runaway young son of a Welsh gentleman apprenticed in Bristol after his father’s death. For doubts about the veracity of the sailors’ deposition, see McGrath, “Merchant Shipping in the Seventeenth Century,” 41 (1955): 29–30. [BACK]

6. See, e.g., William Bullock, Virginia Impartially Examined (London, 1649), p. 14; Smith, Colonists in Bondage, pp. 67–69. The Middlesex County Records abound with references: see John Cordy Jeaffreson, ed., Middlesex County Records, old ser. (1886–1892), vols. 3–4, esp. vol. 4, pp. xli–xlvii. [BACK]

7. See, e.g., BRO, MS 04417 (1), f. 47v; Latimer, Annals, pp. 254–55. [BACK]

8. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 72. [BACK]

9. For some comments to the contrary, see Galenson, “ ‘Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’?” p. 505; Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, p. 38 [BACK]

10. See Gylbert v. Fletcher (4 Car. I Trin.), Cro. Car. 179, in English Reports 69, p. 757 and the cases cited there. There is no doubt that indentured servants were treated administratively exactly like apprentices. Servants’ covenants and apprentices’ indentures were recorded in the same rough entry books of the Mayor’s Court: see BRO, MSS 04354, 04355 (1–6), 04356 (1); Bowman, ed., Bristol and America, pp. viii–ix; Elizabeth Ralph, Guide to the Bristol Archives Office (Bristol: Bristol Corporation, 1971), p. 52; Galenson, “ ‘Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’?” p. 515; Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, p. 183. Indeed, the second volume of the Register is officially entitled “The Inrollment of Apprentices and Servants as are shipped at the port of Bristoll to serue in any of the forraigne plantations”: BRO, MS 04220 (2), f. 1r. The earliest known indenture for service in the plantations, dated 4 December 1626, is to be found in an ordinary apprentice book: BRO, MS 04352 (5)a, f. 23r; see MacInnes, Gateway of Empire, pp. 151, 158. [BACK]

11. See 1 Sid. 446, in English Reports, vol. 82, pp. 1208–9; Joseph Chitty, A Practical Treatise on the Law Relative to Apprentices and Journeymen and to Exercising Trades (London: W. Clarke and Sons, 1812), pp. 29–31; Henry Evans Austin, The Law Relating to Apprentices, Including those Bound according to the Custom of London (London: Reeves and Turner, 1890), pp. 18–19. By the 1620s all indentures involving men, even those for parish apprentices placed by the churchwardens, are made only in the names of the apprentice and the master. For early sixteenth-century practice see Hollis, ed., Bristol Apprentice Book, part 1, p. 14; for the standard in the seventeenth century, see BRO, MS 04352 (5)a. [BACK]

12. Edward Coke, The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, or a Commentary upon Littleton (London, 1620), p. 172a. [BACK]

13. Bristol, which from very early on kept a summary of the constitutions of London as part of its precedent books, may have followed the rules of London, where the contracts of apprentices over fourteen years of age were deemed those of an adult and those under fourteen were subject to the common law as stated by Coke: see Bohun, Privilegia Londini, pp. 175–78, 338; Ricart, Kalendar, pp. 102–3. [BACK]

14. Cro. Car. 179 in English Reports, vol. 69, p. 757; see the astute remarks of Fry L. J. in Walter v. Everard, 2 Q.B. (1881), 376. See also Staunton’s Case (K.B. 25 Eliz. I), Moore, 135–36 in English Reports, vol. 72, pp. 489–90; Walker v. Nicholason (K.B. 41 Eliz. I, Hil. 12), Cro. Eliz. 653 in English Reports, vol. 68, p. 892. [BACK]

15. For the Privy Council’s attempt to do just this in 1682, see PRO, PC 2/69/595–96, printed in Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 190–92. [BACK]

16. BRO, MS 04220 (1), f. 351r. [BACK]

17. See, e.g., ibid., f. 43r and the entry for 20 July 1659 on an unnumbered page at the end of the volume; the Statute of Artificers, Stat. 5 Eliz. I c. 4, required only that indentures be enrolled within a year of being drawn. [BACK]

18. BRO, MSS 04220 (1), ff. 351r–352r, 355v–367v, 482r–497v, 04220 (2), ff. 187r–231v, 271v, 278r– d of volume. [BACK]

19. BRO, MS 04220 (2), f. 196r. In this case the child was apprenticed to eleven years in Montserrat, which suggests that he was below the age of fourteen—probably about ten—at the time of the indenture. [BACK]

20. BRO, MS 04220 (1), entry for 20 July 1659 at the end of the volume. [BACK]

21. See above, pp. 247–48; Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 139–40. A suit could proceed even though the party was out of town or had concealed his goods. [BACK]

22. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 73. [BACK]

23. See Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chap. 3. [BACK]

24. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 104–21. According to the Wharfage Book, Hiscox brought five hogsheads and five butts of Barbados sugar aboard the Dolphin on 5 May 1654. Clearly he had exported more than just Farwell Meredith. Mary Hiscox, perhaps his wife, had an additional four hogsheads in her name aboard the Thomas and George on 11 August of the same year. [BACK]

25. Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” pp. 34–35; Horn, “Servant Emigration to the Chesapeake,” pp. 87–89. Horn’s figures exaggerate the number of “merchants,” for many of those who identified themselves as members of this occupation appear to have apprenticed as coopers, mariners, mercers, soapboilers, and the like. By cross-checking the names in the Register with other Bristol sources, I calculate that only about 15 percent of the traders in servants for whom occupations are known were “merchants” by apprenticeship or patrimony, and even this figure may somewhat exaggerate the total. [BACK]

26. For planters like John George, Farwell Meredith’s colonial master, the produce of their own estates—sugar, tobacco, indigo—served in place of money. See, e.g., Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 115; BRO, MSS 04439 (3), f. 188r, 04439 (4), f. 89r; McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, pp. 242–43, 246, 255. Virginia, in fact, lacked hard currency of any sort, but instead its economy operated with an elaborate system of tobacco equivalencies: Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975), p. 177; Gloria L. Main, Tobacco Colony: Life in Early Maryland, 1650–1720 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 50. [BACK]

27. Bullock, Virginia Impartially Examined, pp. 12–14, 46–47. [BACK]

28. The Bristol wharfage duty fell on a variety of luxury imports, among which were sugar, tobacco, indigo, ginger, cotton, and other colonial products. The Society of Merchant Venturers’ earliest surviving Wharfage Book, modeled on the Exchequer’s own Port Books, begins in mid-May 1654. Much like the Register of Servants, greater care in keeping the records seems to have been taken in the mid-1650s than later. By 1662 the recording clerks no longer always took pains to distinguish entries vessel by vessel, which makes the books extremely difficult to use. [BACK]

29. Of the unknowns, many undoubtedly were planters shipping goods in their own names to the English market, but a few might have been Bristolians like Marlin Hiscox who never became freemen. For further evidence of shopkeepers and craftsmen engaged in colonial commerce see BRO, MSS 04439 (3), ff. 10r–v, 40v–41r, 57r, 66v, 102v, 126r–v, 131v, 193v–94r, 04439 (4), ff. 15v, 55r. [BACK]

30. To avoid confusion caused by ships that stopped several places in the colonies before returning to England, in Table 26 any import of colonial goods by an individual is counted as a return for the export of any servant, no matter what the servant’s original destination. [BACK]

31. Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” p. 35. [BACK]

32. On Blike’s efforts on behalf of Tocknell, see BRO, MS 04439 (3), ff. 86r–89r. [BACK]

33. McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 258; McGrath, “Merchant Shipping in Seventeenth-Century Bristol,” 41 (1955): 29. For evidence of the magistrates’ concern about this issue in the 1650s, see BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, pp. 152–53. The earliest surviving example of the freeman’s oath dates from 1683 and is printed in McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 26. [BACK]

34. BRO, MS 04339 (4), f. 49r. [BACK]

35. Latimer, Merchant Venturers, p. 78. [BACK]

36. Ibid., p. 104. [BACK]

37. Ibid., pp. 100–101, 102, 104. These ordinances repeat in somewhat different form the ordinances of 1618; see ibid., pp. 78–79. [BACK]

38. Roger North, The Lives of the Norths, new ed. in 3 vols. (London: H. Colburn, 1826), vol. 1, p. 250; emphasis added. Although Spain remained one of Bristol’s principal markets in the later seventeenth century, trade with it was largely in the hands of the great wholesale dealers—the Merchant Venturers— rather than being shared with the city’s shopkeepers. North seems to mean that Bristolians in general traded with the West Indies and Spain, but the poor shopkeepers dealt primarily with the American plantations; see also Robert Brenner, “The Social Basis of English Commercial Expansion, 1550–1650,” JEcH 32 (1972): 361–84; and Robert Brenner, “The Civil War Politics of the London Merchant Community,” Past and Present, no. 58 (November 1973): 53–107. There are close parallels in Bristol to the developments Brenner discusses for London, though many of the “new men” he discusses were richer and better connected than the Bristol shopkeepers who traded in the colonies. [BACK]

39. “To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty: The humble Remonstrance of John Bland of London, Merchant on behalf of the Inhabitants and Planters of Virginia and Mariland,” printed in Virginia Magazine of Biography and History 1 (1893–94): 144. Bland was asking the king for a special exemption for the Chesapeake colonies from the Second Act of Navigation. For discussion of the economic and political forces behind the First Act of Navigation, see J. E. Farnell, “The Navigation Act of 1651, the first Dutch War and the London Merchant Community,” EcHR, 2d ser., 6 (1964): 439–54, and the critical comments of J. P. Cooper, “Social and Economic Policies under the Commonwealth,” in G. E. Aylmer, ed., The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement, 1646–1660 (London: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 121–42. [BACK]

40. See above, chap. 2. [BACK]

41. Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, orig. pub. 1657 (London, 1676), p. 109. [BACK]

42. See, e.g., Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 160; BRO, MS 04220 (1), f. 16v. [BACK]

43. On the career of Sir John Yeamans, see “Sir John Yeamans,”Dictionary of American Biography. Other men associated with Robert Yeamans’s 1643 plot also seem to have ended up in Barbados in this period. For example, Henry Russell, a Barbados planter in 1654, was a Bristol mariner arrested with Yeamans in 1643: see The Copy of a Letter Sent from Bristol (London, 1643), p. 6; BRO, Burgess Book (1607–1651), f. 283r. [BACK]

44. For Bristolians who emigrated to the colonies, see Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” p. 36. Bristol’s court records abound with cases of its citizens having settled in the colonies: see particularly Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2; BRO, MSS 04439 (3) and 04439 (4). [BACK]

45. The literature on this theme is enormous and growing. The works I found especially illuminating in framing the following discussion are: Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, esp. chaps. 6–9, 15; Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986); Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), chaps. 1, 2, 4, 7; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, esp. chaps. 2–3, 6–10; Richard S. Dunn, “Servants and Slaves: The Recruitment and Employment of Labor,” in Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole, eds., Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early American Era (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), pp. 157–94; Wesley Frank Craven, White, Red and Black: The Seventeenth-Century Virginian (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1971); John J. McCusker and Russell Menard, The Economy of British America, 1607–1789: Needs and Opportunities for Study (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), chaps. 2–4, 6–7, 11, 13–14; David W. Galenson, Traders, Planters, and Slaves: Market Behavior in Early English America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); David W. Galenson, “White Servitude and the Growth of Black Slavery in Colonial America,” JEcH 41 (1981): 39–47; Darrett B. Rutman and Anita H. Rutman, A Place in Time: Middlesex County, Virginia, 1650–1750, 2 vols. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1984); Paul G. T. Clemens, The Atlantic Economy and Colonial Maryland’s Eastern Shore: From Tobacco to Grain (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980), chaps. 1–3; Allan Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680–1800 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), part 1, esp. chaps. 1–2; Allan Kulikoff, “The Colonial Chesapeake: Seedbed of Antebellum Southern Culture,” Journal of Southern History 45 (1979): 513–40; Main, Tobacco Colony, esp. chaps. 3–7; Gloria L. Main, “Maryland and the Chesapeake Economy, 1670–1720,” in Aubrey C. Land, Lois Green Carr, and Edward C. Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society and Politics in Early Maryland (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), pp. 134–52; Gary A. Puckrein, Little England: Plantation Society and Anglo-Barbadian Politics, 1627–1700 (New York: New York University Press, 1984), esp. chaps. 1–5; Terry L. Anderson and Robert Paul Thomas, “Economic Growth in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake,” Explorations in Economic History 15 (1978): 368–87; Brenner, “The Civil War Politics of London’s Merchant Community,” pp. 65–72; Stuart Bruchey, The Roots of American Economic Growth,An Essay in Social Causation (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), chaps. 1–2; Jacob M. Price, “The Transatlantic Economy,” in Greene and Pole, eds., Colonial British America, pp. 18–42; Richard B. Sheridan, “The Domestic Economy,” in ibid., pp. 43–85; R. C. Batie, “Why Sugar? Economic Cycles and the Changing of Staples in the English and French Antilles, 1625–1654,” Journal of Caribbean History 8 (1976): 1–41; Carville V. Earle, “A Staple Interpretation of Slavery and Free Labor,” Geographical Review 68 (1978): 51–65; David Galenson and Russell Menard, “Approaches to the Analysis of Economic Growth in Early America,” Historical Methods 3 (1980): 3–18; Richard E. Caves, “ ‘Vent for Surplus’ Models of Trade and Growth,” in Robert Baldwin et al., Trade, Growth and the Balance of Payments (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), pp. 94–104; L. C. Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1933), vol. 1, chap. 2; Stanley Gray and V. J. Wyckoff, “The International Tobacco Trade in the Seventeenth Century,” Southern Economic Journal 7 (1940): 1–26; D. Klingaman, “The Significance of Grain in the Development of Tobacco Colonies,” JEcH 29 (1969): 268–78; Russell Menard, “From Servants to Slaves: The Transformation of the Chesapeake Labor System,” Southern Studies 16 (1977): 355–90; Russell Menard, “Secular Trends in the Chesapeake Tobacco Industry,” in Working Papers from the Regional Economic History Research Center 1, no. 3 (1978), pp. 1–34; Russell Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies, 1617–1730: An Interpretation,” in Research in Economic History: A Research Annual 5 (1980): 109–77; Russell Menard, “Population, Economy and Society in Seventeenth-Century Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 79 (1984): 71–74; Terry L. Anderson and Robert Paul Thomas, “The Growth of Population and Labor Force in the 17th-Century Chesapeake,” Explorations in Economic History 15 (1978): 290–312; Hilary M. Beckles, “The Economic Origins of Black Slavery in the British West Indies, 1640–1680: A Tentative Analysis of the Barbados Model,” Journal of Caribbean History 16 (1982): 36–56; Hilary M. Beckles and Andrew Downes, “The Economic Transition to the Black Labor System in Barbados, 1630–1680,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18 (1987): 225–47; Carole Shammas, “Consumer Behavior in Colonial America,” Social Science History 6 (1982): 67–86; Carole Shammas, “How Self-Sufficient Was Early America?” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 13 (1982): 246–72; Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, “The Standard of Living in the Colonial Chesapeake,” WMQ, 3d ser., 45 (1988): 135–59; Edward Papenfuse, “Planter Behavior and Economic Opportunity in a Staple Economy,” Agricultural History 46 (1972): 297–311; James F. Shepherd and Gary N. Walton, Shipping, Maritime Trade and the Economic Development of Colonial North America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 1–48; Richard B. Sheridan, Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623–1775 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), esp. chaps. 16–17. [BACK]

46. Marchants Avizo, p. 10. [BACK]

47. “A speciall direction for divers trades” (ca. 1575–1585), in R. H. Tawney and Eileen Power, eds., Tudor Economic Documents, 3 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1924), vol. 3, pp. 199–210; Roberts, The Merchantes Mappe of Commerce. [BACK]

48. See Ligon, History of the Island of Barbados, pp. 109–12; BRO, MS 04439 (3), ff. 12r–13v; K. G. Davies, “The Origins of the Commission System in the West Indies Trade,” TRHS, 5th ser., 2 (1952): 94–95; Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, p. 177; Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” p. 34. [BACK]

49. Clemens, Atlantic Economy, pp. 93–95. [BACK]

50. Ligon, History of the Island of Barbados, pp. 109–12; see Puckrein, Little England, pp. 56–72. [BACK]

51. See J. H. Bennett, “The English Caribbees in the Period of the Civil War, 1642–1646,” WMQ, 3d ser., 24 (1967): 360. [BACK]

52. Menard, “Secular Trends,” p. 7. See also Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” esp. p. 115. [BACK]

53. Sheridan, Sugar and Slavery, pp. 399–401; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, p. 205. [BACK]

54. The Merchant Venturers, moreover, could expect no help from the colonists in their efforts to control the foreign trade of Bristol, for the planters had no interest in restricting their export market: see “The humble Remonstrance of John Bland,” pp. 142–55. The problem of regulation was compounded by the development of the shipping industry at Bristol. Between 1650 and 1654, the city’s Deposition Book contains references to one hundred fifty-six vessels frequenting the port. Forty-nine name Bristol as home port. For another forty the home port is not identified, but most of these ships probably were Bristol-based as well. The remaining sixty-seven vessels came from thirty-two different places: Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2. Moreover, the Bristol ships did not all belong to Merchant Venturers. In the city, shipwrights and ship’s masters as well as some shopkeepers and manufacturers often had shares in vessels and sometimes even owned them outright: H. E. Nott, ed., The Deposition Books of Bristol. Volume 1: 1643–1647 (BRS 6, 1935), pp. 85, 104–5, 117, 214–15; Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 109; BRO, MS 04439 (4), f. 55r; McGrath, “Merchant Shipping in the Seventeenth Century,” 40 (1954): 283–84. On shipowning in general, see Ralph Davis, The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London: Macmillan, 1962), chaps. 3, 5. Obviously, only some of these ships frequented American waters, but the important thing is that a large supply of shipping was available at Bristol for hire by non–Merchant Venturers. [BACK]

55. Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, pp. 131, 140, 169; SMV, Wharfage Book, vol. 1; BRO, MS 04220 (2). For examples of other shoemakers in the colonial trade see BRO, MS 04439 (3), ff. 40v–41r, 66v. Shoes, of course, were an important trading item in the colonies: see BRO, MS 04439 (4), ff. 44v, 103r. [BACK]

56. On the political proclivities of shoemakers in the preindustrial period, see Eric Hobsbawm and Joan W. Scott, “Political Shoemakers,” Past and Present, no. 89 (November 1980): 86–114. [BACK]

57. Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 180; I. V. Hall, “Whitson Court Sugar House, Bristol, 1665–1824,” BGAS 65 (1944): 14, 22, 26–27. Andrew Wathen and James Wathen, sons of William Wathen, pinmaker, and nephews of James Wathen, pinmaker, were both active as mariners, Andrew with Christopher Birkhead (BRO, MS 04352 [6], f. 45r) and James as servant to Henry Gough (SMV, Hall Book, vol. 2, pp. 188–89). James Wathen, Junior, was his father’s apprentice while he served Gough, a mariner turned merchant in the colonial trade: see BRO, MS 04352 (6), f. 93v. [BACK]

58. BRO, MS 04359 (2)a, ff. 121r, 148r, 319r, 359r; BRO, MS 04359 (3)a, f. 1r; Nott, ed., Deposition Books, vol. 1, 173; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, p. 204. [BACK]

59. Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 120; BRO, 04220 (1–2); SMV, Wharfage Book, vol. 1; George Bishop, Thomas Gouldney, Henry Roe, Edward Pyott, and Dennis Hollister, The Cry of Blood…being a Declaration of the Lord arising in those People of the City of Bristol who are Scornfully called Quakers (London, 1656), pp. 90–94, 108–11, 126–27, 134–35; Joseph Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, 2 vols. (London: L. Hinde, 1753), vol. 1, p. 42, and vol. 2, pp. 395–96. This is the same Birkhead to whom Andrew Wathen was apprenticed. [BACK]

60. PRO, SP 18/40/40; George Bishop, Mene Tekel, or, the Council of Officers of the Army against the Declarations, &c. of the Army (London, 1659), p. 48; George Bishop, A Manifesto Declaring What George Bishope hath been to the City of Bristol (London, 1665); Henry Fell to Margaret Fell, 14 August 1656, Friends’ House Library, London, Swarthmore MSS 1/65. The Wharfage Book indicates that Bishop imported tobacco and sugar during 1656–57. For Bishop’s political career see Richard L. Greaves and Robert Zaller, eds., Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals in the Seventeenth Century, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982–1984), vol. 1, p. 67; G. E. Aylmer, The State’s Servants: The Civil Service of the English Republic, 1649–1660 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), pp. 272–74. [BACK]

61. PRO, SP 25/30/11, 25/34/2. William Bullock also engaged in this sort of trade, using the Love’s Increase belonging to Speed’s sister-in-law, Ann Yeamans. [BACK]

62. SMV, Wharfage Book, vol. 1, 1654–55. [BACK]

63. Nott and Ralph, eds., Deposition Books, vol. 2, p. 120. [BACK]

64. This conclusion is based on a comparison of the Wharfage Book, Register of Servants, and Deposition Books entries with Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 193–222; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 2, pp. 637–38; and Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 281–310. [BACK]

65. Hayden, ed., Records, esp. pp. 47–56, 100, 101–2; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. vii, xi–xii, xviii–xxi; William C. Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism, 2d ed. rev. by Henry J. Cadbury (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), pp. 130–53; Richard T. Vann, The Social Development of English Quakerism, 1655–1755 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969), chaps. 4–5; Barry Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, foreword by Christopher Hill (London: Temple Smith, 1985), chap. 1, esp. pp. 20–31. [BACK]

66. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 6, 70, 154, 174; Hall, “Whitson Court Sugar House,” pp. 24–25, 36–37; Latimer, Annals, pp. 341, 346. [BACK]

67. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, pp. 31–32. [BACK]

68. On oaths see Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, p. 121; George Bishop, A Vindication of the Principles and practices of the people called Quakers ([London], 1665), pp. 48–51. In the 1650s and again in the 1670s Quaker shops were closed because the shopkeepers refused to swear the freeman’s oath, even though they were eligible to do so: BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 5, p. 150; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 93 and 93n. The Quakers in the mid-1650s thought that every citizen, whether stranger or burgess, had the right to go peaceably about his business anywhere in the realm, and they objected strenuously to the forcing of Quaker missionaries from Bristol: Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 9–10. The Bristol common councillors thought differently and periodically tried to root out all strangers and inmates in the town, partly to rid themselves of vagrants and partly to purge Bristol of the Quaker menace: BRO, MS 04417 (1), ff. 46r, 62v; Orders of the Justices of the Peace, January 1655, printed in Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 62–64. [BACK]

69. John Thurloe, A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, Esq., ed. Thomas Birch, 7 vols. (London: Executor of F. Gyles, 1742), vol. 3, p. 170. [BACK]

70. Henry Fell to Margaret Fell, 11 August 1656, Friends’ House Library, London, Swarthmore MSS 1/81. On the Quaker missions to Bristol, see John Camm and John Audland, The Memory of the Righteous Revived, ed. Thomas Camm and Charles Marshall (London, 1689), esp. Charles Marshall’s Testimony, published as an appendix; “A Book of Letters which were Sent to G. F. from John Audland and John Camm,” Friends’ House Library, London, MSS, pp. 7–12, 26–27; Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 2–14; [Robert Purnell], The Church of Christ in Bristol Recovering her Vail (London, 1657), pp. 1–2. Of the one hundred twenty-eight men who supported Haggatt and Bishop with their votes or in petitions, forty-one were Quakers by 1665 or, if deceased, had close kin who were Quakers by this time. [BACK]

71. Thurloe, State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 3, p. 170. [BACK]

72. PRO, SP 18/75/14i; Thurloe, State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 3, pp. 117, 153–54, 161, 165–69, 172, 176–78, 181, 183–84, 191–92, 223–25, 242, 248–49, 259–60, 268; Bishop et al., Cry of Blood; Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 105–14; BRO, MS 04417 (1), ff. 18v, 27v, 28r–v, 29r. In this period Bishop was identified with Wildman’s plot: see Thurloe, State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 3, pp. 147–48. On popular fear of the Quakers in this period, see Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, chap. 4. [BACK]

73. I have been able to identify thirty-four (28.33 percent) of Haggatt’s supporters and fifty-one (30.91 percent) of the Aldworth/Jackson supporters as engaged in the American trade; these figures undoubtedly underestimate the totals for both sides. [BACK]

74. Aldworth and Haggatt were admitted to the Society at a banquet for Lord Whitelocke on 12 August 1654, in what seems to have been a peace gesture engineered by Whitelocke: SMV, Hall Book, vol. 1, p. 249. Bishop had been a member of the Society since January 1651, when he was admitted gratis in thanks for his efforts at the Council of State on behalf of the Merchant Venturers’ interest in trading butter and calfskins: ibid., p. 187. Although occasionally he attended meetings, he does not appear to have engaged in overseas trade before 1655. Thus although after 12 August all the parties in the disputed election were members of the Merchant Venturers, only Jackson was a real merchant regularly engaging in trade. Bishop, moreover, made it clear in the early 1650s that he did not think the Society could exclude nonmembers from trade: see Bishop, A Manifesto, p. 22. [BACK]

75. The admission of William Yeamans, for example, notes that “he hath bin bread in, and excercised the trade of a Marchant Adventurer in this Citty the greatest parte of his tyme”: SMV, Hall Book, vol. 1, p. 91. [BACK]

76. Ibid., pp. 105, 187, 221, 244, 250, 256–57, 262. [BACK]

77. Ibid., p. 228. [BACK]

78. See, e.g., ibid., pp. 107, 133, 153, 199, 201, 203, 234, 249. [BACK]

79. Ibid., pp. 162–63. [BACK]

80. For a somewhat different view see McGrath, Merchant Venturers of Bristol (Bristol: Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol, 1975), pp. 33, 97, 103 and 103n. 8. McGrath is right to say that the Society applied no religious test for membership in the seventeenth century, but in fact the openness of the Society varied a good deal from period to period. For a time in the 1640s, new men of all sorts found their way into it, but between January 1651 and January 1656 only Bulstrode Whitelocke, Robert Aldworth, and John Haggatt entered as redemptioners, all gratis. The thirteen others who were admitted in this period had all been apprenticed to members, most of them of long standing in 1645. It is also true that the Quakers and other sectaries once again sought membership in the later 1660s, but by then the Society had failed to reestablish its right to exclude retailers and shopkeepers from overseas trade, and the character of the mercantile community had changed. With sectaries owning sugar refineries, the Merchant Venturers could not cut themselves off from the nonconformists without undermining their own well-being. Hence they applied no religious test for membership. [BACK]

81. PRO, SP 18/75/14iii. [BACK]

82. BRO, MS 04373, pp. 58–59, dated 22 October 1654. [BACK]

83. CSP (Colonial), vol. 1, p. 404; Edwin Freshfield, Some Remarks upon the Book of Records and History of the Parish of St. Stephen, Coleman Street in the City of London (Westminster: Nichols and Sons, 1887), pp. 8–10 and facsimiles. There is little doubt that the Mr. Peate mentioned in the facsimiles is Edward Peade and that he and Owen Rowe were of Goodwin’s party to the disputes in that troubled parish. [BACK]

84. See, e.g., William Prynne, A Fresh Discovery of Some Prodigious New Wandering-Blazing Stars and Firebrands (London, 1645), which vigorously attacks Goodwin and his gathered church and to which is appended a file of letters from the Somers Islands smearing the Independents there as well. For an account of Goodwin’s affairs in London, see Thomas Jackson, The Life of John Goodwin (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1872), chap. 3. On London politics in general in this period, see Valerie Pearl, “London’s Counter-Revolution,” in Aylmer, ed., The Interregnum, pp. 29–56. On the history of the Somers Islands, see C. M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, 4 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), vol. 1, chaps. 11–12; J. H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands, 1515–1685, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1877–1879), vol. 1, chap. 9; Henry C. Wilkinson, The Adventurers of Bermuda: A History of the Island from Its Discovery until the Dissolution of the Somers Island Company, 2d ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), chap. 14; and, more generally, Henry C. Wilkinson, Bermuda in the Old Empire (London: Oxford University Press, 1950). [BACK]

85. The language of the Bristol ordinance with its distinctive phrases referring to the “Inveigling, purloining…and Stealing” of children was adopted from the May 1645 parliamentary ordinance, the printed version of which was bound into the front of the first volume of the Bristol Register to give added force to the Common Council’s legislation: BRO, MS 04220 (1); a photocopy is printed in Bowman, ed., Bristol and America, frontispiece. [BACK]

86. Lorena S. Walsh and Russell Menard, “Death in the Chesapeake: Two Life Tables for Men in Early Colonial Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 69 (1974): 211–17; Russell Menard, “Immigrants and Their Increase: The Process of Population Growth in Early Colonial Maryland,” in Land, Carr, and Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society and Politics, pp. 88–110; Russell Menard, “From Servant to Freeholder: Status Mobility and Property Accumulation in Seventeenth-Century Maryland,” WMQ, 3d ser., 30 (1973): 39–40; Darrett B. Rutman and Anita H. Rutman, “Of Agues and Fevers: Malaria in the Early Chesapeake,” WMQ, 3d ser., 33 (1976): 31–60; Lois G. Carr and Russell Menard, “Immigration and Opportunity: The Freedman in Early Colonial Maryland,” in Tate and Ammerman, eds., The Chesapeake, pp. 207–10; Carville V. Earle, “Environment, Disease and Mortality in Early Virginia,” in ibid., pp. 96–125; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, chap. 9; Daniel Blake Smith, “Mortality and Family in the Colonial Chesapeake,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 8 (1978): 403–28; Lorena S. Walsh, “Staying Put or Getting Out: Findings for Charles County Maryland, 1650–1720,” WMQ, 3d ser., 44 (1987): 89–103, esp. 91–93. The most illuminating remarks on this whole dismal subject can be found in Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, pp. 158–79, 395–432. [BACK]

87. Smith, Colonists in Bondage, chap. 11; Russell R. Menard, “British Migration to the Chesapeake Colonies in the Seventeenth Century,” in Lois Green Carr, Philip D. Morgan, and Jean B. Russo, eds., Colonial Chesapeake Society (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 126–27; Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” pp. 144–45; Menard, “From Servant to Freeholder,” esp. p. 49; Souden, “Rogues, Whores and Vagabonds?” p. 26; Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 10–15, 102–13; David W. Galenson, “The Market Valuation of Human Capital: The Case of Indentured Servants,” Journal of Political Economy 89 (1981): 446–67; David W. Galenson, “British Servants and the Colonial Indenture System in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Southern History 44 (1978): 59–66. [BACK]

9. Registering the Pilgrimage

The growing importance for Bristol of trade with the American colonies had the paradoxical effect of diminishing the power of the city’s mere merchants in its economy. For decades these men had been pursuing high-profit imports—tobacco and sugar, as well as other wares—to their first markets. This process had led them from the Iberian peninsula into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic islands. With dreams of their city becoming a new Venice or a new Lisbon, they searched for the Northwest Passage to the riches of the East, only to find Newfoundland and begin their quest for wealth on American shores. But the very openness of the trans-Atlantic markets and their nearly unquenchable demand for strong backs and small wares had made most of Bristol’s old techniques of commercial regulation ineffective. The damage done to conservative aspirations was only enhanced by the turmoil of the Civil Wars and Interregnum. As a result, the merchants’ long-standing efforts to control the city through the maintenance of an exclusive organization of traders, exercising political as well as social and economic power, gave way to a new approach, one employing regulations geared to the disciplines of the market in an attempt to protect the interests of the civic elite. By increasing the transaction costs associated with the servant trade, the Bristol common councillors sought to give an advantage to those dealers who could bear them and thereby to concentrate the trade in the hands of a small number of large-scale entrepreneurs, traders whose economic behavior would be predictable. Since the export of servants was paid for through the import of sugar and tobacco, such a system of economic regulation, if it worked, would give order to the American trades in ways that the Society of Merchant Venturers desired but could no longer accomplish through its corporate powers.

By some measures the Merchant Venturers’ new strategy may be counted a success, since the servant trade, which had reached enormous heights in the 1650s and early 1660s, settled down after 1662. The average number of servants shipped annually from Bristol in the period from 1662 to 1678, the last full year for which a separately kept Register of Servants has survived, was more than 50 percent below the peak annual averages reached in the previous period (Table 29).[1] But in other respects it might seem that the project had failed, since the servant trade never became concentrated in a small number of hands. Most servant traders still limited themselves to shipping one or two servants a year. For example, in 1667–68, when four hundred and forty-nine servants left Bristol for America, two hundred and forty individuals took responsibility for their indentures; in 1677–78 ninety-four men and women took responsibility for the indentures of one hundred and forty-four servants.[2] A similar pattern can be observed in other aspects of trade as well. Leaving the Irish trade and coastal enterprise aside, seaborne traffic to and from the American colonies in the early 1670s accounted for about 45 percent of the vessels and 60 percent of the tonnage frequenting the port of Bristol. But this expansion in the colonial trades was accomplished primarily by numerous small exporters, most of them Bristolians, who still sent every variety of manufactured item along with servant labor to the planters in return for their produce, primarily sugar and tobacco. The concentration of colonial enterprise in the hands of large firms was a phenomenon primarily of the eighteenth century.[3]

29. Emigration and the English Economy, Michaelmas 1654 to Michaelmas 1678
Harvest Year Servants Wheat Prices, England (s./quarter) Wheat Prices, Exeter (s./quarter) Index of Consumer Prices Real Wages
Source: The symbols for harvest years, and the wheat prices, are derived from W. G. Hoskins, “Harvest Fluctuations and English Economic History, 1620–1759,” Agricultural History Review 16 (1968): 15–31: * = Harvest deficient or bad in West only; ** = Harvest generally bad, but average in the West; *** = Harvest generally deficient or bad. Servant data from Bristol Record Office, MSS 04220 (1–2). Price index data from E. H. Phelps-Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins, “Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables, Compared with Builders’ Wage-Rates,” in E. M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, 3 vols. (London: Edward Arnold, 1954–1962), vol. 2, p. 195. Wage data from E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541–1871: A Reconstruction (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 693. These figures are derived from those provided by Phelps-Brown and Hopkins, “Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables,” p. 195.
A. 1654–55 228 21.04 26.41 531 565
1655–56 318 35.13 44.56 559 537
1656–57* 538 36.77 44.84 612 490
1657–58*** 727 44.43 47.78 646 464
1658–59** 884 50.13 43.66 700 429
1659–60*** 667 47.42 45.50 684 439
1660–61*** 822 48.30 50.78 648 463
1661–62*** 805 64.04 58.37 769 390
   Total A 4,989        
   Annual average 624        
B. 1662–63 471 41.30 42.16 675 444
1663–64 266 41.61 39.50 657 457
1664–65 212 35.93 36.76 616 487
1665–66 227 32.25 34.94 664 452
1666–67 379 25.13 30.16 577 520
1667–68 449 27.53 29.32 602 498
1668–69* 417 35.43 45.07 572 524
1669–70 362 32.83 41.16 577 520
   Total B 2,783        
   Annual average 348        
C. 1670–71 299 33.72 35.15 595 504
1671–72 206 31.08 31.17 557 539
1672–73 142 32.48 34.19 585 513
1673–74*** 281 49.57 54.77 650 462
1674–75*** 445 47.79 52.11 691 434
1675–76 263 32.02 30.69 652 460
1676–77 216 27.26 30.77 592 509
1677–78 144 38.94 43.20 633 478
   Total C 1,996        
   Annual average 250        
     Total A–C 9,768        
     Annual average 407        
1654–1662 / (significance level) +.87 (.01) +.72 (.05) +.87 (.01) -.91 (.01)
1662–1678 / (significance level) +.13 (N.S.) +.25 (N.S.) +.16 (N.S.) -.07 (N.S.)
1654–1678 / (significance level) +.68 (.001) +.60 (.01) +.49 (.02) -.58 (.01)

The above conclusions assume, in part, that the Register of Servants offers a consistently accurate record of the scale and structure of the servant trade over the full life of the registration scheme. But perhaps this premise is mistaken. In order for the Register to provide us with a trustworthy tally of the movement of servants to the colonies, the Bristol magistrates would have had to maintain efficient enforcement of the law over a long interval, something they could rarely accomplish even when the policy being enforced was not controversial. Given the political emotions behind the scheme, the policy is all the more unlikely to have been carried out with a steady hand. Can we turn this possible shortcoming for economic history to the advantage of the story we have been telling? Since the Register was created as a weapon of war in a period of political turmoil, did political considerations affect—even distort—the data we can derive from this source? The main targets of the original ordinance, as we know, were the Bristol radicals who had come to play a large role in the increasingly important colonial trades. After the Restoration, they were an even greater source of concern to the local authorities than they had been under the Protectorate. In this chapter we shall use the Register to provide clues to the history of political conflict and revenge in Bristol we have been following.

The Bristol Register presents evidence of an anomaly in the statistics of the servant trade. The number of servants leaving the port was relatively low in 1654 and 1655, then rose steadily through the later 1650s and early 1660s, only to drop off during the summer and fall of 1663, never again to recover the old peak. The largest number to leave in a single year, measured from Michaelmas to Michaelmas, was over eight hundred, but after the fall of 1662 the totals exceed four hundred only four times and never exceed five hundred (see Table 29).[4] Calendar-year totals show the same pattern as those for harvest years (Table 30). When measured against the best available estimates of total migration to the colonies, these figures seem rather puzzling. Between 1654 and 1662, for example, Bristol’s share of average annual emigration from the British Isles to America may have been as high as 9.6 percent. But from 1662 to 1669, the city’s share appears to have dropped to 8.1 percent, and by the 1670s it seems to have amounted to no more than 5.0 percent. Yet Bristol’s involvement in trans-Atlantic commerce became, if anything, even stronger in these years than it had been in the 1650s. We would expect it to have maintained its share of the servant trade or at least to have experienced a less precipitous decline.[5] The relation of servant enrollments in Bristol to English population trends also points to another puzzle. In the years from 1655 to 1662, emigration from the city was closely correlated to net migration from England. After 1662 there is no longer any correlation between the figures for Bristol and those for the country as a whole.[6] Was there in fact an abrupt change in the nature of the servant trade after 1662, or are we observing an artifact of the registration system itself? Why did it cease working uniformly and effectively in the period after 1662?

30. Emigration and Tobacco Prices, 1655-1678
    Servants to the Chesapeake[a]    
Calendar Year Total No.
of Servants
1 2 3 4 Farm Price
of Tobacco
Source: Servant data are from Bristol Record Office, MSS 04220 (1–20); tobacco prices, given in pence sterling per pound of tobacco, are from Russell Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” Working Papers from the Regional Economic History Research Center 1, no. 3 (1978): 158–59. The figures for 1654 to 1658 are Virginia prices; thereafter they are Maryland prices.
(1654) 2.65
A. 1655 267 112 112 113 113 2.30
1656 336 70 110 123 117 2.20
1657 616 58 115 165 140 2.40
1658 779 103 188 210 199 1.90
1659 903 99 266 305 286 1.65[b]
1660 603 76 181 170 176 1.50[b]
1661 723 89 349 338 344 1.50
1662 836 374 506 501 503 1.60[b]
    Total A 5,063 981 1,827 1,925 1,878  
    Annual average 633 123 228 241 235  
B. 1663 397 158 159 159 159 1.55[b]
1664 251 121 121 121 121 1.35
1665 309 242 244 243 244 1.10
1666 332 257 257 257 257 0.90
1667 355 222 222 222 222 1.10
1668 402 291 291 291 291 1.25
1669 344 201 201 201 201 1.15
1670 334 168 172 172 172 1.15[b]
    Total B 2,724 1,660 1,667 1,666 1,667  
    Annual average 341 208 208 208 208  
C. 1671 284 152 152 152 152 1.05
1672 255 208 208 209 209 1.00
1673 93 69 69 69 69 1.00
1674 369 194 194 197 196 1.00
1675 395 294 294 295 295 1.00
1676 223 171 172 172 172 1.05
1677 202 129 129 129 129 1.15
1678 177 138 138 138 138 1.15
    Total C 1,998 1,355 1,356 1,361 1,360  
    Annual average 250 169 170 170 170  
       Total A–C 9,785 3,996 4,850 4,952 4,905  
       Annual average 408 167 202 206 204  
1655–1662 / (significance level) -.72 (.05) -.66 (.10) -.69 (.10)  
  Time lag [c] / (significance level) -.78 (.05) -.75 (.05) -.77 (.05)  
1663–1678 / (significance level) +.12 (N.S.) -.23 (N.S.) -.23 (N.S.)  
  Time lag [c] / (significance level) -.20 (N.S.) -.20 (N.S.) -.20 (N.S.)  
1655–1678 / (significance level) -.03 (N.S.) -.02 (N.S.) -.03 (N.S.)  
  Time lag [c] / (significance level) -.17 (N.S.) -.10 (N.S.) -.14 (N.S.)  
1659–1678 [d] / (significance level) +.40 (.10) +.42 (.10) +.41 (.10)  
  Time lag (1660–1678)[d] / (significance level) +.23 (N.S.) +.21 (N.S.) +.22 (N.S.)  

In recent years we have come to know a good deal about the overall pattern of migration from England in the seventeenth century. The peak years of this migration were the 1650s, when perhaps as many as seventy-two hundred individuals, many of them servants, went each year from England and Wales to the American colonies. In the decades thereafter, the pace slackened to between 60 and 70 percent of this total.[7] A number of explanations have been presented for this course of development. Mildred Campbell has argued that decayed conditions in the clothmaking districts of the West Country and economic pressures on West Country leaseholders at renewal of their tenures account for much of the emigration of the 1650s and that religious persecution of the Quakers may also have been important in the later 1650s and early 1660s. Wesley Frank Craven has added to this list the harvest failures of 1657 to 1661, which, he argues, drove many of the hungry to migrate. His reading of the evidence suggests that improved conditions after 1662 account for the drop in servant registrations at Bristol. Other hypotheses have appeared. Some scholars, for example, point to rising real wages in England and the increased demand for labor caused by the rebuilding of London after the great fire. In addition, changes in the colonies, such as the introduction of black slavery in the sugar plantations and the falling prices of tobacco, have been suggested. To this we might add the effects of war with the Dutch.[8] How do these explanations square with what we have learned about Bristol?

Seventeenth-century emigration was of course a highly complex social phenomenon. Each year hundreds of men and women of assorted ages and backgrounds left Bristol for a variety of overseas plantations. Some undoubtedly felt conditions at home to be pushing them abroad, while others almost as certainly found the opportunities for a new life in the colonies calling them forth. Many probably responded to pressures of both kinds. We can hardly expect a single explanation to account completely for their movement. In a sense, history has presented us with too many explanations. Not all of them are testable with the surviving data. For example, we shall probably never know enough about the West Country land market to assess whether the renewal rate for West Country leases corresponds in any way to the rate at which migrants from this region headed for America. However, a quick examination of the evidence we do have calls in doubt a few proposed hypotheses, at least as they might apply to Bristol.

Take the case of the trade in slaves, which competed with the servant trade in supplying agricultural labor to the American colonies. At first glance, the grant in January 1663 of a new charter to the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa might seem to explain the precipitous decline in the enrollment of servants at Bristol during this year, especially to Barbados, where the Africa company made most of its slave shipments. But Bristol’s servant trade operated independently of this competition. During the 1650s and early 1660s it exported large numbers of servants to Barbados, even though slaves were already in heavy use there. There is no reason to think that the Africa company’s activities in the island changed the situation enough to explain the decline in the servant figures. Since the fall in the number of servant enrollments after 1662 also affected Bristol’s traffic to Virginia, where the demand for slaves did not yet match that in the West Indies, some other factor must have been at work limiting the market.[9] As regards the role of war in disrupting Bristol’s servant trade, the timing seems to be somewhat off. Although warfare with the Dutch certainly affected English enterprise in American waters, the Second Dutch War began only in March 1665, albeit after a year of earnest preparations. The decline in servant enrollments in Bristol had already set in more than a year before the talk of war with the Dutch had become serious.[10] Again we are driven to look for further explanations.

Many of the proposed economic explanations, taken individually, seem plausible enough in accounting for the general pattern of change in the servant trade during the second half of the seventeenth century. Undoubtedly, the state of food prices and real wages in England and Wales and of tobacco and sugar prices in the international market affected the numbers of servants indentured and shipped from England and Wales to the colonies during this period. Yet when we trace the history of any particular causal factor in relation to Bristol’s own servant trade, we find that its effects vary widely from period to period. For example, if we lay out our data from Michaelmas to Michaelmas, the state of the harvest is significantly correlated with emigration. This result is almost entirely a consequence of famine conditions during the first eight years of the registration. During these years, the annual peak of servant registrations, which always occurred in the summer and early fall, appears especially high, just as we would expect if food shortages were driving the emigration.[11] But for the period after 1662 the pattern does not hold. The correlation of enrollment with wheat prices breaks down completely: emigration rates appear relatively high in some bad years and relatively low in others. Indeed, 1667–68, with its low grain prices, yields the highest emigration figures for the period following 1662–63 (see Table 29), a fact made all the more puzzling by the increased demand for labor in London that is said to have begun in this year.[12] One possible explanation for this uneven effect of grain prices on emigration may lie in the character of the food market, which had changed after the Restoration, when substitutes for wheat became more widely used. It has been argued that this change diminished the threat of famine in England and thus reduced the effect of high wheat prices upon population trends.[13] Use of the Phelps-Brown/Hopkins index of consumer prices, based on a wide variety of foods and other commodities, permits a test of this hypothesis, even though the data are drawn primarily from the southeast of England. The results are almost exactly the same as those obtained using wheat prices alone. There is a strong and significant positive correlation, but it is heavily dependent on the results for the first eight years of the series; this relationship disappears after 1662 (see Table 29).[14]

Food prices alone, however, tell us little about the economic pressures on population in periods without famine, since a rise in food prices may be matched by a corresponding increase in wages. To correct for this limitation we can look at real wages. These were on the increase in the later seventeenth century, as population growth leveled and then entered a thirty-year period of stagnation or even decline.[15] This change has been used by historians not only to explain the slackening pace of emigration to the colonies but even to account for the shift from indentured servitude to slavery as the preferred labor system in some of them.[16] However, comparison of our Bristol data with real wages yields almost exactly the same results as before. Once again, a strong and significant correlation appears for the years up to Michaelmas 1662, though this time a negative one, but after 1662 the relationship no longer seems meaningful.

If economic conditions in England cannot account for the pattern of servant migration from Bristol after 1662, perhaps economic conditions in the colonies can. Although we know that in general sugar prices fell during the later seventeenth century, no reliable series of them exists against which to test our data. We are somewhat better off for the tobacco trade with the Chesapeake, for which it has been shown that the number of new servants indentured in this region each year rose and fell with the farm price of tobacco.[17] But the same direct relationship does not appear to hold for the registration of indentures at Bristol, even if we allow a year’s time for the news of changing prices to reach the city (see Table 30). In fact, Bristol’s trade in servants to Virginia and Maryland appears at times to contradict the price trends. In the late 1650s and early 1660s, emigration rose at a steady pace despite falling prices; the correlation is a negative one. The years after 1662 witnessed something of the same confused relationship between emigration and prices. According to Russell Menard, the period from 1665 to 1667 was among the worst for the Chesapeake tobacco industry in the century, yet Bristol’s shipments of servants to the region recovered in these years from the low figures of 1663 and 1664.[18] When tobacco prices rose between 1668 and 1671, however, Bristol’s recorded shipment of servants dropped. In the following decade the arrival of new servants in the Chesapeake was disrupted by the Third Dutch War, but recovery is said to have begun in 1674, rising to a peak in 1678 or 1679.[19] Bristol’s recorded shipments fall significantly only in 1673, and they rise to a peak in 1675, on stagnant tobacco prices. With more buoyant prices, the export of servants from the city appears to have fallen to about 45 percent of the level in 1675.

Of course, we are working with a rather blunt instrument, one based only on scattered prices primarily from Maryland, which did not receive the majority of Bristol’s servant exports. Still, this evidence, taken together with our examination of the effects of the Africa company’s new charter, the coming of the Dutch War, and domestic prices and wages on emigration, makes it hard to escape the conclusion that after 1662 some intervening factor, not already accounted for, affected the number of servants registered from year to year. Up to that year the servant trade followed a steady course in which the impetus of hard times in England overcame the effects of poor commodity prices in the colonies to produce a pattern of enrollments in the Bristol Register explicable in economic terms. Even though there must have been considerable underregistration in these years, what there was appears to have occurred at an even rate, with enrollments closely following the rhythms of migration itself. As a result, the figures we have derived for the period from 1654 to 1662 give us a reliable idea of the secular trend in the trade, though probably not of its true volume. After 1662, however, the administration of the Register seems much more haphazard, with the numbers of enrollments rising and falling in an erratic fashion.

If economics alone cannot explain the patterns revealed by the Bristol Register, can politics provide a further understanding? Did the registration of servants respond to the rhythms of politics as well as to the ebb and flow of economic or demographic trends? For example, does the persecution of the Quakers and their despair over religious conditions in England account in part for the large numbers of emigrants in the late 1650s and early 1660s?[20] There can be no doubt, of course, that the Chesapeake and the West Indies had significant Quaker communities in the mid-seventeenth century and that Bristol was a way station for them and for other sectaries on their pilgrimages to the New World.[21] Bristol’s Quakers, many of them heavily engaged in colonial trade, certainly did not shy away from helping their fellows on both sides of the Atlantic. George Bishop acted as such a conduit for emigrant Friends in 1656, continuing a tradition among the Bristol sectaries that went back to the earliest days of colonial migration.[22]

The role of persecution in accounting for this movement during the 1650s, however, cannot be demonstrated so readily. Between 1654 and 1656, only twenty-one Bristol Quakers were actually imprisoned for their religious activities, although there were several serious riots and warrants were issued in the city for the arrest of John Camm, John Audland, George Fox, James Nayler, and Edward Burrough as members of “the Franciscan Order in Rome.” Moreover, the Bristol Quakers carefully disassociated themselves from the James Naylor affair in 1656 and as a result suffered little serious trouble with the authorities in the aftermath of this scandal.[23] Although the Quakers themselves complained loudly of persecution in Bristol in these years, the pattern seems much the same in other prominent Quaker strongholds. In London and Middlesex, for example, there were clashes between the Friends and their opponents, but no systematic persecutions.[24] For all the upheavals caused by the Quakers in the mid-1650s, it appears that they enjoyed a degree of religious toleration from the authorities, even if they were subject to periodic attacks from their religious enemies and to regulation of their nonreligious activities.

The same could not be said, however, for the early 1660s. As the decade began even James Powell, no friend to the Quakers, could see the signs of a terrible change about to wreck the delicate balance that had been reached in the 1650s. Just before the king’s return in 1660 Powell wrote to acquaint John Weaver of the Council of State “in what sad state and condition we are fallen unto.”

How the old good cause is now sunke and a horrid Spirit of Prophanenes Malignity and revenge is risen vp Trampling on all those that have the face of godlinesse and have been in ye Parliament party insomuch that if the Lord doe not interpose I doubt [not] a Massacre will follow on the godly. And the very name of fanaticke shall be sufficient to ruine any sober Christian as the name of Christian amongst the Heathens Lollards amongst the Papists and Puritan of Late amongst the Prelaticks.…The Lord prepare us for the great storm that is approaching.[25]

Even before the Restoration, the sectaries, especially the Quakers, became targets of violent apprentice riots encouraged by many of their masters.[26] With the return of the monarchy, the persecution took on an official character and proceeded with depressing regularity through the decade. As Edward Terrill of Bristol’s Broadmead Baptist Church reported when the Second Conventicle Act came into force in 1670, this “trouble was our seventh Persecution in Bristoll, since K. Charles II returned.” He noted persecutions in 1660, 1661, 1662, 1663, 1664, and 1666, as well as in 1670.[27]

These persecutions sprang from a variety of motives, ranging from a wish for revenge against Commonwealthmen to a desire to suppress all heterodox religious practices. But one recurring theme was fear of the sectaries as a source of disorder or even insurrection.[28] In 1660, for example, Richard Ellsworth, one of Bristol’s most ardent scourgers of dissent, urged the imprisonment of those who refused the oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance, noting

[t]hat noe Quaker or rarely any Anabaptist, will take those Oathes, soe that the said Oathes are refused by many hundreds of those Judgments, being persons of very dangerous principalls, & euer Enimies (in this City) to his Majestie’s royall person, gouernment, & restauration, & some of them, petitioners to bringe His Martired Majestie of blessed Memory to his Triall; & will vndoubtedly fly out againe, & kicke vpp the heele against his Soueraigne Authority, should it lie in theire Power.[29]

The large public meetings favored by the sectaries were one source of this fear, for throngs, often composed of strangers as well as citizens, gathered at them. As Ellsworth says,

These…Monsters of Men with uss, are very, yea more Numerous, then in all the West of England…on this side [of ] London; & heere they all Confer, & haue Their Meetings, att all seasons till 9 of the clock att night, & later, sometymes aboue 1000, or 1200 att a tyme, to the greate affrighting of this City, as to what wilbe the Consequent thereof, If not restrained.[30]

At Bristol, moreover, the existence of the two fairs, at St. Paul’s tide in January and at St. James’s tide in July, only made matters worse; for these were not only great clearinghouses for trade but gathering places for the sectaries, many of whom, of course, were traders themselves.[31] At the same time, the city was well recognized by the authorities as a center vital to the control of the West, for, as a Somerset gentleman observed in 1663, it was “one of the most Considerable Townes vnder his Majesty’s subiection, beeing a good Port, and furnished with a well stored Magazine of Wealth & all ammunitions of warre, and able to secure themselves and give assistance to the neighbouring Countrys.”[32]

Not surprisingly, the authorities at Bristol displayed a marked skittishness at the first hint of danger.[33] Reacting perhaps to news of Venner’s Fifth Monarchy plot in London, they struck at once in January 1661, when Henry Roe, the Quaker ironmonger, and Samuel Clarke, the Baptist merchant, both former Cromwellian soldiers, were found to have large trading stocks of powder and shot in their cellars. These stocks, of course, were primarily to supply merchant vessels with the arms they needed on the high seas. Nevertheless, the ammunition was confiscated, and the magistrates in their zeal shut the city gates against impending insurrection.[34] Similar rumors of insurrection abounded in this period, forcing the civic authorities repeatedly into a posture of defense. The city gates had to be guarded again in November 1661, when wild stories of a fanatic uprising spread through the West, though these precautions were soon left off on “hearinge ye designe was quasshed.”[35] At the time of the St. James Fair of 1662, new rumors of trouble surfaced but could not be confirmed; still, the Trained Bands had to be called to keep watch over the fair-goers.[36] In the fall rumors spread again, and the deputy lieutenants resolved to raise part of the militia and to secure all suspected persons.[37] By December this vigilance had turned up evidence of what the deputy lieutenants called a “very dangerous” design to begin at Whitehall on 1 January and spread throughout the realm. Six or seven hundred persons were said to be engaged around Bristol alone, requiring “the speedy raising of the Militia for the safety” of the city.[38]

These conditions demanded vigilance from the authorities both against sectarian meetings and against the wanderings of vagrants and other masterless men, two issues closely connected in national politics from the outset of the Restoration, if not before.[39] Fear of sectarian vagabondage seemed to take precedence, partly to halt the work of the Quaker missionaries and partly to prevent the mass gatherings which caused such apprehension. For example, the very first day of business in the Convention Parliament saw a bill “against Vagrants, and wandering idle, dissolute persons,” which, having failed of passage in 1660, was entered again on the first day of business in the Cavalier Parliament and incorporated in part in the Quaker Act of 1662.[40] Moreover, this linkage of issues prevailed in Parliament even after the passage of the Quaker Act. It is no surprise, perhaps, that many of the MPs involved in the passage of the Act of Settlement in 1662 were also interested in the attack on the sects.[41]

Among these MPs we find John Knight, Senior, one of the members for Bristol. Not only did he work as a committeeman on the Act of Settlement and on later measures to explain and expand it, but he was similarly engaged in the Commons work on the Conventicle Act, and he is even said to have wept for joy on receiving news of its passage.[42] In Bristol this combination of issues had a special local flavor, conditioned by the city’s prominence both as a commercial center and as a sectarian stronghold. As we have seen, in the 1650s politics had already been penetrated by a mixture of religious and economic rivalries. Many of the old issues flared with new force at the Restoration. With Charles II’s return, the Smiths, the Bakers, the Barber-Surgeons, and the Shoemakers all complained that those not free of their gilds took apprentices and practiced their crafts outside gild regulations. As a result, the mayor and aldermen ordered the city clerks in each case to refrain from registering any apprentice in these crafts without the certificate of the master of each gild, and in 1667 the Common Council passed a comprehensive ordinance on the matter.[43] In these same years the Merchant Venturers made yet another try to halt the “interloping of Artificers & others…tradeing into forreigne parts, not haveing beene bounde Apprentices to ye Art & mistery.”[44] At the Restoration, the civic authorities turned their attention to the colonial trades, appointing as water bailiff John Towgood, son of a prebend in the Bristol Cathedral, and an enemy of the sectaries.[45] From early in 1660 evidence appears in the city of careful searches aboard ships for unindentured servants, and in Parliament in 1662 John Knight became engaged in an attempt to legislate against the stealing of children and servants.[46] When his efforts failed, Nathaniel Cale, mayor in 1662–63, petitioned the Crown, apparently without success, for letters patent to bolster his authority to enforce the procedures established in 1654.[47] The search for settlement at the Restoration revived with even greater force the heady mixture of religion, politics, and economics already present at the creation of the Bristol Register.

Although the scourging of the sects in England might well have encouraged some dissenters to seek relief in the colonies,[48] at the Restoration these places had become almost as incommodious for nonconformists as England itself. In Barbados, for example, official objections to the Quakers and other separatists began within weeks of Charles II’s return to the throne, and by the spring the Assembly of Barbados complained that the island’s many sectaries

have declared an absolute Dislike to the Government of the Church of England as well by their Aversion and utter Neglect or Refusal of the Prayers, Sermons and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ordinances thereof…as by holding Conventicles in private Houses and other places, scandalizing Ministers, and endeavouring to seduce others in their erroneous Opinions, upon Pretence of an alteration of Church-Government in England. All which their Misdemeanours have begotten many Distractions, a great Reproach and Disparagement to the Church and Ministry, and Disturbances of the Government of this Island.[49]

In response to an order from the Council of Foreign Plantations to settle religion, the legislature required all residents of the island to conform themselves to English law governing the practice of the Anglican church.[50] As a result, at least thirty-six of the island’s Quakers were imprisoned for their meetings and their subsequent refusals to take the oath of allegiance to the king.[51] During these same years the sectaries in Maryland, Nevis, Antigua, and other American plantations also suffered persecutions.[52]

Probably the most significant attacks on religious dissent, however, occurred in Virginia. Events there demand a close look, since the Bristol Register shows this colony to have experienced the greatest decline in the number of enrolled servants after 1662. Action against the sectaries in Virginia began even before the Restoration itself. In March 1660, at the same time as the Quakers in Bristol were being threatened by the city’s apprentices, the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation forbidding ships’ captains from bringing Quakers to the colony and ordered the suppression of Quaker publications, the punishment of those who held conventicles, and the arrest and deportation of all Quakers already there.[53] But the colony remained interested in attracting new population and seems not to have enforced this measure vigorously; in any case the legislation did not stem the tide of Quaker migration. With the Restoration a somewhat less harsh approach was tried for a time, using fines and other punishments short of outright banishment.[54]

By the winter of 1661, the Virginia General Assembly had taken its first tentative steps to settle the church.[55] A year later, more comprehensive legislation appeared arranging church finances, subjecting all nonconformists to heavy fines for failing to attend the services of the established church in the colony—now fully restored in Anglican practice—and specially punishing the Quakers “for assembling in unlawful assemblies and conventicles.”[56] In December 1662 the General Assembly extended this policy of intolerance by ordering the punishment of all those who refused to have their children baptized, a direct confrontation with all the sects.[57] These measures were given teeth by vigorous enforcement, for in 1662 it was reported that many of the Virginia Quakers were imprisoned or even banished because they would not aid the established church, promise to abstain from their own meetings, or swear oaths.[58]

The climax of this process of persecution came in 1663. September saw the passage of an act against the “Quakers and any other separatists” that signaled a renewed desire to destroy the sects. The Virginia General Assembly, liberally plagiarizing the English Parliament’s Quaker Act of 1662 and anticipating the language of the English Conventicle Act of 1664, called the nonconformists a threat to “public peace and safety” and “a terror to the people.” It forbade all conventicles and again subjected all ships’ captains to heavy fines for transporting Quakers to the colony.[59] This measure put the final touches on an anti-sectarian code in Virginia almost as strict as the Clarendon Code taking shape in England itself. Moreover, at about the same time, news came of a “barbarous designe” of what Robert Beverley called “several muntinous and rebellious Oliverian Soldiers, that were sent thither as Servants,” who, “depending upon discontented People of all sorts, form’d a villanous Plot to destroy their Masters, and afterwards to set up for themselves.” This event caused an immediate shock in the colony. The militia was called at once, the plot thwarted, and arrests made. Even after the execution of the leaders, fear of its nearly successful “subversion of…religion lawes libertyes, rights and proprietyes” lingered in memory, and as late as 1670 the colony enforced an act to keep 13 September, the day of the plot, “holy” and “in perpetual commemoration.”[60]

As a result, Virginia in 1663 and 1664 was not an especially congenial place for the sectaries. Persecutions were harsh and, according to Beverley, made many of the nonconformists “flie to other Colonies, and prevented abundance of others from going over to seat themselves among ’em.”[61] It is possible that the sharp decline in servant enrollments in Bristol in the summer of 1663 and after owes something to this history. Virginia nevertheless continued to draw some dissenters to it even in the years after 1663, since the anti-Quaker legislation of the 1660s was used only against those Quakers who engaged in controversy; others remained free as long as they lived peaceably in the colony.[62]

In Bristol, as in Virginia, the chronology of persecutions also made 1663 and 1664 an especially dangerous period for the sectaries. Despite the Declaration of Indulgence of 1662, throughout the winter and early spring of 1663 there was considerable uneasiness about an impending insurrection in England, particularly in the West.[63] By the end of May word had come of a major plot set in Ireland for taking Dublin Castle in which, as the king reported in a speech before the Commons, “many parliament men were engaged.” “You will not doubt,” he said, “but that those seditious persons there had a correspondence with their friends here.”[64] And although this conspiracy had been nipped in the bud, evidence of further plots in England began to appear.[65] The threat to Dublin Castle, moreover, drew Bristol into the center of these affairs. Not only was the city the major English port for travel to and from Ireland, but some of the conspirators, such as Captain John Gregory and John Casbeard, who had been uncovered earlier by the city’s magistrates, appeared to be deeply involved in the Irish matter.[66]

As the year went on conditions seemed to worsen. In July, news of the Derwentdale plot broke in Yorkshire,[67] and the king issued orders to the justices of assize to “prevent and punish the scandalous and seditious Meetings of Sectaries.” In addition, he asked the members about to return home at the proroguing of Parliament to use their vigilance and authority in their counties to prevent disturbances by “the restless spirits of ill and unquiet men,” securing their persons if need be.[68] At the same time, a new militia act came into force, authorizing the lieutenants and their deputies to call up contingents of the Trained Bands for fourteen-day intervals, a course followed in many places in the north and west.[69] Although no direct evidence of Bristol’s reaction to these events in the summer of 1663 has survived, careful precautions by the commanders of the militia, similar to those taken in the previous year, would have been in order as the time of the St. James Fair approached in July. Early in September, the king and queen journeyed to Bath and Bristol, only to be met by sectarian disturbances in the region, for which Charles Baily, the Bristol Quaker, was among those arrested.[70] Finally, in October definite word came of a plot set especially in the western counties, in which Bristol was to have been one of the principal targets.[71] On receiving word from the Privy Council, two companies of foot soldiers were immediately put on guard, and the following day the whole regiment was mustered. Sir John Knight, the new mayor, whom we have already met as one of Bristol’s MPs, quickly took the opportunity to “putt in Execution his Majesties pleasure against the Sectaries in this Citty & theire seditious meetings.”[72]

Knight’s entrance into the mayoralty at Michaelmas 1663 began one of the most violent periods of religious persecution in Bristol’s history. Even before news of the plot reached him in mid-October, he was already at work suppressing the sects, arresting Thomas Ewins and other Baptists and threatening the Quakers.[73] By the end of November he had begun a series of attacks on sectarian meetings designed to procure, as reported by the Quakers, “the rooting of us, and the generation of us, out of this City.”[74] Over a four-week period he and the deputy lieutenants repeatedly disrupted the Quaker meetings, closed the meeting house, and arrested the sect’s leaders and imprisoned them.[75] On Christmas Day these attacks reached a level of genuine barbarity when three Quaker servants at work in their masters’ shops were caught by members of the militia, “tied Neck and Heels with half hundred Weights and Muskets about their Necks, in extreme cold Weather, till the Eyes of two of them were thought to be drawing out, their Faces being black.”[76]

The remainder of Knight’s year in office proceeded in much the same vein. From Christmas on, he and his officers repeatedly interrupted Quaker meetings, made arrests, and at one point even had the meetinghouse door nailed shut. In February Knight, joined by two aldermen, one of the sheriffs, and “sundry officers,” broke up a meeting of three hundred at Samuel Tovey’s house in Broadmead and arrested and imprisoned eighty men and women.[77] When January brought word of another plot of the “fanaticks” to surprise Bristol, the civic authorities again struck at the Quakers, this time arresting fifteen of them for unlawful assembly.[78] Yet all of this was but a prelude to the outburst of persecutions that occurred when the Conventicle Act came into force at the beginning of July. On the first Sunday in the month, Knight and two aldermen came to the Quaker meetinghouse and opened a court for the judgment of the violators of the act. On this day alone, one hundred and seventy persons were fined for a first offense under the statute.[79] During the following weeks Knight returned again and again to the Quakers to close down their meetings and to arrest their membership. In all, he succeeded in convicting two hundred and nineteen for a first offense, a further one hundred and five for a second offense, and twenty-three more for a third offense, a dozen of whom were sentenced to banishment in the West Indies. When he left office, one hundred and forty-five Quakers remained in prison under the act. Moreover, the new legislation placed other dissenting sects in the same jeopardy as the Quakers. The Bristol Baptists also found themselves targets for arrest and conviction and “were forced to…meet more Privately” and “to move from house to house.”[80]

After reviewing this dismal narrative, we can hardly be surprised to find intolerance contributing in some measure to emigration from England. Between 1659 and 1662, attacks on the dissenters must have added considerably to the pressures already produced by poor conditions in the English economy. Yet no simple explanation is possible. During this same period, religious oppression also grew in the colonies, although in Virginia the persecution of the sects in 1659–1660 abated somewhat just after the Restoration, and broke forth anew only in 1663. Until that year, Virginia may have remained reasonably attractive to the sectaries as a possible place of safety; afterward it could no longer have seemed very secure. This change in the practices of persecution in the colonies, taken together with improvements at the same time in English grain prices and real wages, may help explain the decline in servant enrollments at Bristol after the peaks reached in the late 1650s and early 1660s. Nevertheless, the whole story cannot turn on these two considerations alone, if only because sectarian migrations continued to Virginia itself and to other colonies throughout the Restoration period.[81] If religious persecution played a significant role in driving Englishmen to the colonies before 1663, we must wonder why, according to the Bristol Register, its effects diminished so dramatically just as the attacks grew to their most intense. Nothing in the history of intolerance in the colonies could have outweighed the oppressions in England in the mid-1660s.

To see what mechanisms were at work in determining the rate of servant enrollments in Bristol we need to return to England once again. Unfortunately, we can say little about whether events outside the city played a decisive role in limiting the registration of servants there. It might be, for example, that West Country justices of the peace, apprehensive about insurrection in 1663 and 1664, used the Act of Settlement to turn back migrants before they reached the city, especially at fair time, when large numbers of indentures were usually drawn. But no evidence has come to light to confirm such actions. An examination of Bristol’s own Restoration politics, however, can show us something of the way noneconomic events governed the administration of the servant Register during this period. Even though the policy of persecution followed by Sir John Knight and his allies had considerable support within the city, there was also much opposition to it from moderate members of the Restoration Common Council, as well as from the larger body of citizens. As the Quakers said with only slight exaggeration, Knight’s zeal “set-up to counter-buff the stability of the City, and to overturn…the well poized Government of unity and peace into disunion and troubles.”[82]

Bristol’s politics in these years are difficult to unravel, for a number of rivalries were at work both inside and outside the government.[83] For example, Richard Ellsworth, the Customer for Bristol who during the last days of the Commonwealth had played a major role in organizing Royalist efforts in the city, looked upon Knight as “disaffectious to the interest Royall” and used his connections in Westminster to advocate an even more vigilant and extreme policy against the sects.[84] On the other side, a number of officials had close ties to the sectaries. Many were engaged in the colonial trades, which regularly brought them in contact with the sectarian community. Of the twenty-seven Bristolians who petitioned the Crown for a convoy to Virginia in September 1665, eleven were members of the Common Council, and one a recently retired member. Yet along with them were James Wathen and Thomas Ellis, whom we have already met, and Gabriel Deane, who voted for John Haggatt in the parliamentary election of 1654 and who was purged from the council in 1661.[85] With such shared business interests, councillors and sectaries sometimes entered into partnership. In the Commonwealth period, Robert Cann, mayor in 1662–63, had invested in ventures with Thomas Speed, with whom his relations remained good even after the Restoration, when Cann became a planter in Barbados.[86] In 1661 William Willett, another councillor, owned the ship Resolution with Speed, Gabriel Deane, and five others.[87]

At about the same time, Sir Humphrey Hooke, a man with important family and political ties in Bristol, Gloucestershire, and Barbados who was deputy lieutenant for the city in 1664, received from the king an extensive grant of land in Virginia which he held jointly with Robert Vickris, whose wife and children were Quakers.[88] Kinship ties also affected the relations of the civic authorities to the sectaries. Richard Streamer, sheriff in 1663–64 and sometimes a colonial trader himself, was George Bishop’s brother-in-law, and Sir Robert Yeamans, sheriff in 1662–63 and a former Royalist officer, was a kinsman of Thomas Speed’s wife, who was a prominent Quaker in her own right.[89] As George Bishop reminded Knight, the Bristol sectaries were

a considerable body of people in this City, we, our families, our relations, our estates; we are of the City, and in the City, and inhabitants thereof, and enterwoven we are therein, and with the people thereof, as a mans flesh is in his body, and his spirit in his flesh.[90]

Business and kinship connections, of course, could not always counteract the power of religious conviction or political principle among the Bristolians. Sir John Knight, whose zealous hatred of sectarian and republican ideas went back to the 1640s, did not alter policy because of his own close family ties to the dissenters.[91] Nor did the rather similar family relations of Sheriff Streamer prevent his conscientious, though reluctant, performance of duty.[92] But they made full enforcement exceedingly difficult, because many Bristolians did not share Knight’s bloody-mindedness. Though prepared to resist public outrages by sectarian incendiaries, they preferred to ignore those dissenters who lived peaceably in the city. For example, juries at the Sessions in January 1664 would not find the Quakers guilty of unlawful assembly as charged: one group of defendants was acquitted, and a second convicted, after considerable debate, by special verdict covering only a part of the indictment.[93] Later in the same year, when the authorities attempted to transport three Quakers for their third conviction under the Conventicle Act, the crew of the Mary Fortune refused to take them, saying that “their Cry, and the Cry of their Family and Friends, are entered into the Ears of the Lord, and he hath smitten us even to the very Heart, saying, Cursed is he that parteth Man and Wife.[94] Many others were moved to acts of compassion as well. Sir Robert Cann, by now a baronet, and Sir Robert Yeamans visited the arrested Quakers in jail, and Robert Yate and John Knight, of the Sugar House on St. Augustine’s Back, both of whom had extensive business connections with Speed and other Quakers, offered to stand surety for the jailed sectaries.[95]

These events illustrate the degree to which Bristol was torn by political division in the 1660s. Sir John Knight, Senior, was among the leaders of a significant group of Cavaliers in the city. His principal allies were men like Nathaniel Cale, soapmaker, who had been purged from the city government as a Delinquent in 1645, and John Locke, merchant, who had left in 1656 because of his Royalist views.[96] These men and a few others like them, including several prominent members of the local gentry, served as deputy lieutenants for the city. Although in law, as some of them said, they had “no Authoritie to exercise any Ciuil power as magistrates in the Citty agaynst any man for delinquency,” their military office gave them considerable ability to control events, especially when the mayor was in sympathy with their cause, as in Sir John Knight’s term. When necessary, a large body of citizens under their command could be relied upon for political aid.[97] For most of the period, however, only a handful of leading aldermen held the office of deputy lieutenant concurrently. In any case, the Common Council did not consist entirely of men of similar background. At the outset of Knight’s mayoralty in 1663, only five aldermen and three common councillors were old Royalists, either having been ousted for their political views in the 1640s or 1650s or, like Knight himself, having refused to swear the oath of office until the Restoration.[98] By contrast, four aldermen and five common councillors had served in the civic body during the Interregnum and thus had worked closely at times with the members of the sects. Furthermore, a number of those elected to the council after the Restoration served only with great reluctance, in some instances caused by their unwillingness to enforce harsh government policy against friends and kinfolk. Among the latter may have been John Knight, the sugar refiner, who though elected in 1661 would not be sworn until September 1664, and then only under the Privy Council’s threat of a stiff fine.[99]

Under these conditions, it should come as no surprise to find the city government rent by fierce battles for political primacy in this period. During Sir John Knight’s term, the conflict took the form of a challenge to the precedence of the local leadership, in which Sir Robert Cann, Baronet, and Sir Robert Yeamans were in the vanguard. Cann and Yeamans claimed on behalf of those titled members of the council that they should have precedence before all others regardless of their seniority. In large measure the issue was a symbolic one that served to draw political support for Cann and Yeamans from aldermen who possessed knighthoods. But more was at stake than mere symbolism, since nominations and votes in the civic body proceeded by order of precedence. In effect, Sir Robert Cann was seeking to use his baronetcy to oust the mayor from his privileged place in directing the affairs of the city. For Yeamans, who was not yet an alderman, the issue also had special importance; had he won his point, he would have gained precedence over all but those aldermen who had received knighthoods before him. It is no wonder, therefore, that the issue created an explosion of antagonism in the city that quickly evinced itself in challenges to Knight’s actions against the dissenters.[100]

To a large degree, the rate of servant enrollments in Bristol depended upon which faction controlled the civic administration at the time. After Sir John Knight’s year of terror, no other mayor before the 1670s undertook an all-out attack on the dissenters.[101] John Lawford, Knight’s immediate successor, aided by Knight himself, vigorously enforced the Conventicle Act; yet he did not make mass arrests or attempt to impose the penalty of banishment.[102] During 1667–68, peace and quiet were said to have reigned in Bristol, and in 1669 little was done to suppress the sects, even after the issuance of a royal proclamation against conventicles.[103] The mayors during these years were Alderman Edward Morgan, father of John Morgan, upholsterer, one of Bristol’s great exporters of servants to the colonies, and Alderman Thomas Stevens, a grocer much of whose business must have been in colonial products. Both of these men had joined the Common Council in the Interregnum, and, interestingly, both had resisted accepting high office in the 1660s until forced by threats of confiscatory fines.[104]

In addition to Lawford, Sir Thomas Langton, mayor in 1666–67, and Sir Robert Yeamans, mayor in 1669–70, receive mention as prominent persecutors in these years. But neither man was hellbent on routing the sects. Langton acted only on direct evidence of apparent seditious activity, to which he was especially alert because of the threat of a Dutch attack during his term.[105] Yeamans, for his part, had the misfortune to hold office when the Second Conventicle Act came into force. Thus he found it his duty to execute a policy his enemy Sir John Knight had helped create.[106] This act gave substantial authority to the deputy lieutenants to aid in enforcement and subjected the justices of the peace and the chief magistrates of the towns to stiff fines for each failure to respond to informations duly presented them.[107] Even so, Yeamans acted only reluctantly, prodded by the bishop of Bristol, whose informers made it impossible to disregard the dissenters’ meetings. Furthermore, many of his colleagues, assistants, and fellow citizens refrained from supporting his efforts. Statutory fines were imposed; but when the cases arose, numerous aldermen absented themselves from the bench, and the goods distrained to pay the fines often found no buyers. With the aid of the Trained Bands, Yeamans managed to close the meetinghouses for a time, but the Baptists and the Quakers took to the streets to hold their services. For two months, in fact, Yeamans’s persecution amounted to little more than halfhearted threats against the sectaries put forth in combination with plaintive letters of apology to the Privy Council for failing to do better. Yeamans confined himself to his duty narrowly construed; he attacked sectarian religion according to law, but had no interest in abusing the dissenters in their businesses or everyday lives. Perhaps to indicate his distaste even for this task, he ended his term by nominating as his successor the moderate-minded sugar refiner Mr. John Knight, although the king had previously ordered that only aldermen were eligible for the office.[108]

The years following Sir John Knight’s mayoralty brought with them a moderation of religious persecution in Bristol. These same years also saw the beginning of an era of more favorable material conditions for English labor. As population growth ceased and agricultural production diversified, England no longer suffered periodic subsistence crises and real wages improved, with the result that everywhere in the country the rate of emigration to America fell to levels significantly below those reached in the 1650s. In a general way the decline in the number of indentured servants enrolled at Bristol after 1662 parallels the development nationally. Had the registrations for these years recovered their earlier peaks, we would have every reason to be surprised. From the beginning of 1663, however, a number of factors other than wages and prices intervened to affect the flow of servants through Bristol. War in colonial waters and the plague in London, though not the fire, appear to have played a short-term role. Religion and politics, in both England and the colonies, seem more significant, sometimes stirring religious discontent at home and at other times threatening equal danger abroad.

But Bristol itself is where the most important intervening factors can be found. As we have seen, the city was at times an exceedingly dangerous place for sectaries. In 1663–64, many of the leading colonial traders found themselves in jail for their religious beliefs and no doubt were unable to attend to their businesses. In other years, religious persecutions must have thoroughly distracted them, even though they did not result in long imprisonment. When persecutions raged in Bristol, emigrating dissenters may have avoided the city on their way abroad, using other and safer ports instead. However, the greatest effect was probably administrative, rather than economic. The system of registration could not be enforced for long without cooperation from the traders. The city’s administrative resources simply were far too small to do the work day in and day out. In July 1662, when Mayor Nathaniel Cale was maintaining his vigilance against impending insurrection, the whole registration scheme had come under challenge. Periodically during the previous two years, city officials had boarded ships to assure themselves that all servants were properly registered. But resistance by the ships’ captains and traders seems to have halted this practice, causing Cale to petition the Privy Council for authority to make these inquiries.[109]

No such grant was forthcoming, and the practice of boarding ships did not begin again until August 1670, at the very end of Yeamans’s mayoral term.[110] Thus for most of the 1660s the city seems to have employed no effective means of checking the indentures of servants. During periods of persecution it was easy enough for servants to embark on Bristol ships far from the scrutiny of the city authorities, boarding, as Farwell Meredith had done in 1654, at Kingroad at the mouth of the Avon, rather than nearer to the sources of trouble. In other words, persecution served to increase underregistration. Only when the city was relatively free of attacks on the sects or when those attacks were accompanied by vigilant searches for unindentured servants, as was the case from 1660 to 1662 and again during Ralph Olliffe’s troubled mayoralty in 1674–75, can the Bristol Register give us a reasonably accurate picture of the servant trade.[111]

The scheme to register indentured servants in Bristol was never exactly what it pretended to be. Instead of offering genuine protection for boys, maids, and other persons who might be spirited beyond the seas by the rogues who plied the servant trade, it sought to control the commercial activities of the numerous men and women, some of them religious and political radicals, who pursued profit in the American colonies. The entries in the Register responded as much to the fortunes of politics as to the economics of trade and agriculture. Since Bristol was a commercial city whose very social structure and social geography rested on its role as a major port, its community life was dominated by its connections with distant markets on the continent and in the Atlantic. Its politics and its economy had been inextricably intertwined ever since it received its first grants of privileges in the twelfth century, if not before.[112] This meant that the exercise of power never took a single form. Those who contested for command of the city’s markets also vied for control of its government and of its rituals and symbols, sacred and profane. Political strife centered on the regulation of trade and manufacture, which in turn became the means to enhance economic power and advance an ideology. As Bristol’s commerce with America increased in importance during the middle and late seventeenth century, not surprisingly it became the arena within which these battles for local domination were fought.


1. From 1679 to 1686, rough notes of the servant indentures entered in the Bristol Tolzey appear intermittently in the records of the Mayor’s Court. Between 1 September 1679 and 29 September 1680, notations of one hundred fifty-seven servant indentures were made in the Mayor’s Court Action Book: BRO, MS 04355 (6). A further thirty-one such entries appear in the same source between 30 September 1680 and 12 January 1681, a very low total for this season. There are no more entries until 26 April 1684, whence they run to 12 June 1686: BRO, MS 04356 (1). Even these records appear to be incomplete. [BACK]

2. BRO, MS 04220 (2), entries for 1667–68 and 1677–78; see also Coldham, Registers of Servants, pp. 233–46, 339–45. [BACK]

3. Based on PRO, E 190/1138/1. In 1671–72, one hundred fifty-nine vessels totaling 13,387 tons were recorded by customs officials as entering Bristol from European or Atlantic ports. Seventy-two (45.28 percent) had come from American waters. They amounted to 7,830 tons, or 58.49 percent of the total. In the same year one hundred vessels, totaling 9,159 tons, left Bristol bound for European or American destinations. Forty-seven (47.00 percent), totaling 5,630 tons (61.47 percent), were headed for the American colonies. On later developments in the organization of colonial trade, see Jacob M. Price and Paul G. E. Clemens, “A Revolution of Scale in Overseas Trade: British Firms in the Chesapeake Trade, 1675–1775,” JEcH 47 (1987): 1–44. [BACK]

4. For purposes of this analysis only the data recorded in the two volumes of the Bristol Register, BRO, MSS 04220 (1–2), have been used. These volumes were redacted by clerks from original entry books kept by the Bristol Mayor’s Court. The entries end in August 1679, which means that the last complete year is 1677–78. Since the purpose of this analysis is to test the reliability of the record, the data from the original entry books for the years 1680–1686 have not been included in the analysis. [BACK]

5. Henry Gemery, “Emigration from the British Isles to the New World, 1630–1700: Inferences from Colonial Populations,” Research in Economic History: A Research Annual 5 (1980): 215–16. At best this analysis can only suggest the rough dimension of the change, since Gemery gives his totals by the decade. [BACK]

6. For 1655–1662 we find a correlation of m-.698 (significant at .05) with population as measured by E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541–1871: A Reconstruction (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 532. That is, migration from Bristol in these years fluctuated inversely with increases or decreases in England’s population as a whole. But after 1662 the correlation is only m-.249 (n.s.). For the whole period from 1655 to 1678 we get a correlation of m+.464, which is significant only at .25 and should be discounted. But we should not make too much of these calculations, since Wrigley and Schofield give estimates of population for England only, whereas a considerable number of the migrants from Bristol were Welsh. In addition, given the limited number of years in our series, our results, even for 1655–1662, should be taken only as suggestive, not definitive. [BACK]

7. Gemery, “Emigration from the British Isles,” pp. 215–16; Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, pp. 186–87, 219–28; Menard, “British Migration,” pp. 99–105. [BACK]

8. Campbell, “Social Origins of Some Early Americans,” pp. 82–89; Mildred Campbell, “Mildred Campbell’s Response,” WMQ, 3d ser., 35 (1978): pp. 527–28; Craven, White, Red and Black, pp. 19, 20–21; Menard, “British Migration,” pp. 108–9, 115–17; Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” pp. 121–22, 132–37, 148; Menard, “From Servants to Slaves,” pp. 379–80; Richard N. Bean and Robert P. Thomas, “The Adoption of Slave Labor in British America,” in Henry Gemery and Jan S. Hagendorn, eds., The Uncommon Market: Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic Slave Trade (New York: Academic Press, 1979), pp. 391–98; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, pp. 71–74; Galenson, Traders, Planters and Slaves, esp. chap. 1; David W. Galenson, “The Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas: An Economic Analysis,” JEcH 44 (1984): 1–26; Galenson, “ ‘Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’?” p. 504n. 9; Galenson, “Social Origins: Rejoinder,” p. 272n. 18; David Souden, “English Indentured Servants and the Transatlantic Colonial Economy,” in Shula Marks and Peter Richardson, eds., International Labour Migration: Historical Perspectives (Houndslow: M. Temple Smith, 1984), pp. 19–33; Clemens, Atlantic Economy, pp. 47–57 [BACK]

9. G. F. Zook, The Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa (Lancaster, Penn.: Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1919), pp. 17, 82; K. G. Davies, The Royal Africa Company (New York: Atheneum, 1970), pp. 41–43; V. T. Harlow, A History of Barbados, 1625–1685 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), pp. 310n., 338; Sheridan, Sugar and Slavery, p. 133; Dunn, Sugar and Slaves, pp. 74–75, 87; R. C. Batie, “Why Sugar?” pp. 1–41; Menard, “From Servants to Slaves,” pp. 360–71; Bean and Thomas, “Adoption of Slave Labor,” pp. 380–86; Beckles, “Economic Origins of Black Slavery”, pp. 36–56; Puckrein, Little England, pp. 30–32; Galenson, Traders, Planters and Slaves, chap. 1. [BACK]

10. Charles Wilson, Profit and Power: A Study of England and the Dutch Wars (London: Longmans, Green, 1957), chaps. 8–9. It is always difficult to judge the effect of war on commerce. In the Second Dutch War the Bristolians complained loudly of their losses at sea during 1664–65: PRO, SP 29/133/66. But in November 1665 at least thirty and possibly forty-five ships sailed from the port to the West Indies (PRO, SP 29/136/98), and in the following July a well-laden convoy of twenty-three vessels, mostly Bristol-owned, arrived in the port (PRO, SP 29/163/128; see also PRO, SP 29/175/3, and PRO, SP 29/ 177/39). Although the Third Dutch War seems to have made a much more noticeable impression on servant migration than did the second, it did so only during one year, that of 1673. In the previous and following years the war seems not to have damaged the trade to a significant degree: see Table 29. [BACK]

11. Andrew Appleby, Famine in Tudor and Stuart England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978), chaps. 7–8. [BACK]

12. T. F. Reddaway, The Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire (London: Jonathan Cape, 1940), pp. 112ff. It might be noted, however, that if the fire had only a minor effect, the plague may well have had a greater, for Bristol established a quarantine for all strangers entering the town and cancelled its fairs during this outbreak: see Latimer, Annals, pp. 334–35; Robert Steele, ed., A Bibliography of Royal Proclamations of the Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns, 2 vols. [Bibliotheca Lindesiana, vols. 5–6] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), vol. 1, nos. 3424 and 3446. [BACK]

13. Andrew Appleby, “Grain Prices and Subsistence Crises in England and France, 1590–1740,” JcHR 39 (1979): 865–87; see also Joan Thirsk, ed., The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Volume 5: 1640–1750. Part II: Agrarian Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 95–101, 325–71, 506–30, 542–71. [BACK]

14. Phelps-Brown and Hopkins, “Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables,” pp. 179–96. I am grateful to Philip Hoffman for his advice in analyzing these data and interpreting the results. [BACK]

15. Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, pp. 174–91, 210–12, 412. [BACK]

16. For a strong argument on the significance of real wages in determining emigration rates, see Menard, “British Migration,” pp. 108–9, 108n. 18, and Bean and Thomas, “Adoption of Slave Labor,” pp. 390–98. The analysis offered by Bean and Thomas is fraught with difficulties: see Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, p. 265n. 16. Menard’s analysis is also somewhat problematic. The real-wage figures he employs are based on harvest years: see Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, p. 312. But the migration figures Menard takes from Galenson and from Abbott Emerson Smith are for calendar years: see Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 220–21, 224–25; Smith, Colonists in Bondage, p. 309. For a more general critique of the use of the Phelps-Brown/Hopkins indexes to explain trends in the preindustrial economy, see Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, pp. 312–13, 431–35, 480–81, 638–41; Peter H. Lindert, “English Population, Wages, and Prices: 1541–1913,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 15 (1985): 618; David Loschky, “Seven Centuries of Real Income per Wage Earner Reconsidered,” Economica 57 (1980): 459–65; Donald Woodward, “Wage Rates and Living Standards in Pre-Industrial England,” Past and Present, no. 91 (May 1981): 28–45; David M. Palliser, “Tawney’s Century: Brave New World or Malthusian Trap?” EcHR, 2d ser., 35 (1982): 349–51; Menard, “British Migration,” p. 108n. 18. [BACK]

17. Menard, “British Migration,” pp. 116–17; Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” esp. pp. 118–20; Menard, “Immigration to the Chesapeake Colonies,” Maryland Historical Magazine 68 (1973): 327; Menard, “Farm Prices of Maryland Tobacco, 1659–1710,” Maryland Historical Magazine 68 (1973): 80–85. [BACK]

18. Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” p. 135. In July 1666, to give an example, nineteen ships, all Bristol-owned and totaling 2,770 tons, arrived in Bristol carrying tobacco. Most of these vessels must have carried some servants on the outward voyage the previous autumn: see PRO, SP 29/163/128 (20 July 1666); see also PRO, SP 29/133/66, 29/163/127, 29/164/23. [BACK]

19. Menard, “The Tobacco Industry in the Chesapeake Colonies,” p. 136. [BACK]

20. Campbell, “Social Origins of Some Early Americans,” p. 87; Campbell, “Mildred Campbell’s Response,” pp. 527–28. David Galenson has challenged this view by arguing, correctly, that Campbell has not “demonstrated” the presence of any Quakers among the servants on the Bristol lists. But the matter should not end with this negative criticism. As we shall see, there is good evidence to suggest that Campbell has a point. [BACK]

21. See, e.g., Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 2, pp. 278–391; James Bowden, The History of the Society of Friends in America, 2 vols. (London: C. Gilpin, 1850–1854), vol. 1, chaps. 19–20; Rufus M. Jones, assisted by Isaac Sharpless and Amelia M. Gummere, The Quakers in the American Colonies (London: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 265–356. [BACK]

22. Letter of Henry Fell to Margaret Fell, 14 August 1656, Friends’ House Library, London, Swarthmore MSS 1/65. In the 1630s Dorothy Kelly, one of the founders of Bristol sectarianism, whose family were among the early Quakers there, had used her house on the High Street for this same purpose: Joseph Fletcher, The History of the Revival and Progress of Independency in England since the Period of the Reformation, 4 vols. (London: John Snow, 1847–1848), vol. 3, pp. 197–98; David Masson, The Life of John Milton: Narrated in Connection with the Political, Ecclesiastical and Literary History of His Time, new and rev. ed., 6 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1894), vol. 2, p. 581. [BACK]

23. Letter of George Bishop to Margaret Fell, 27 October 1656, Friends’ House Library, London, Swarthmore MSS 1/188; George Bishop, The Throne of Truth Exalted over the Powers of Darkness (London, 1656); George Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism, 2d rev. ed., ed. H. J. Cadbury (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), pp. 253, 566. Besse names only two Bristol sufferers in the years 1657–1659, both of whom were punished for failing to swear the burgess oath and for refusing to remove their hats before the magistrates: Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 42. For an overview of the early history of dissent in Bristol, see J. G. Fuller, The Rise and Progress of Dissent in Bristol: Chiefly in Relation to the Broadmead Church (London: Hamilton, Adams, 1840); Russell Mortimer, Early Bristol Quakerism: The Society of Friends in the City, 1654–1700 (Historical Association, Bristol Branch, pamphlet no. 17, 1967); Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 16ff.; see also Jonathan Barry, “The Parish in Civic Life: Bristol and Its Churches, 1640–1750,” in Susan Wright, ed., Parish, Church and People: Local Studies of Lay Religion, 1350–1750 (London: Hutchinson, 1988), pp. 158ff. [BACK]

24. For Quaker complaints of persecution in this period, see, e.g., John Crook et al., A Declaration of the People of God in scorn called Quakers to all Magistrates and People (London, 1659), signed by Dennis Hollister of Bristol, among others; Bishop, Mene Tekel. But in contrast see Besse’s account of the actual persecutions in London and Middlesex, for example, Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, pp. 361–65. [BACK]

25. PRO, SP 18/220/80. [BACK]

26. BRO, MS 04376, f. 132v; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, p. 12; HMC, Report on the MSS of F. W. Leybourne-Popham, p. 160; PRO, SP 29/9/41, 42, 29/30/67; letter of William Dewsbury to Margaret Fell (February 1660?), Friends’ House Library, London, Swarthmore MSS 4/134; [Richard Ellsworth], A Letter of the Apprentices of the City of Bristol (London, 1660); William Sewel, The History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the Christian People Called Quakers, 2d ed. (London: J. Sowle, 1725), pp. 232–33; Seyer, Memoirs, vol. 2, pp. 507–9; Latimer, Annals, pp. 290–92; Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, pp. 364–66; Barry Reay, “Popular Hostility towards Quakers in Mid-Seventeenth Century England,” Social History 5 (1980): 403–4; Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, pp. 73–75. The outcries against the Quakers in this year were closely tied to discontent over the depressed state of trade, as is revealed in the Letter of the Apprentices of the City of Bristol, and to a sense of impending release from the social restraints imposed during the Interregnum. Just before Shrove Tuesday in 1660, for example, the mayor and aldermen issued orders to the apprentices and other young men of the town banning cockthrowing, to avoid tumults (BRO, MS 04376, f. 134r–v) and just before the king’s restoration in May they issued orders to prevent their playing “farthing pitt & lead pitt” while taking the name of the Lord in vain, and their setting up maypoles (BRO, MS 04273, f. 135r–v). On the role of the Quakers in the events leading to the Restoration, see W. A. Cole, “The Quakers in Politics, 1652–1660,” Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1955, chaps. 3–8; W. A. Cole, “The Quakers and the English Revolution,” in Trevor Aston, ed., Crisis in Europe, 1560–1660 (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1957), pp. 358–76; J. F. Maclear, “Quakerism and the End of the Interregnum,” Church History 19 (1950): 240–70; Barry Reay, “The Quakers, 1659, and the Restoration of the Monarchy,” History 63 (1978): 193–215; Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, pp. 81–100. [BACK]

27. Hayden, ed., Records, p. 127. For persecutions in London in this period and their effects on dissenters there, see Tim Harris, London Crowds in the Reign of Charles II: Propaganda and Politics from the Restoration until the Exclusion Crisis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), chap. 4. [BACK]

28. On this theme, see Jonathan Barry, “The Politics of Religion in Restoration Bristol,” in Tim Harris, Paul Seaward, and Mark Goldie, eds., The Politics of Religion in Restoration England (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), esp. pp. 168–69. [BACK]

29. PRO, SP 29/21/107; see also PRO, SP 29/21/87. [BACK]

30. PRO, SP 29/21/107; see also PRO, SP 29/28/87, 29/81/16. [BACK]

31. PRO, SP 29/28/87, 29/56/83, 29/57/87, 122, 29/58/16, 29/68/4, 44/10, pp. 38–39, 29/100/89. On the social background to the Quakers, see W. A. Cole, “The Social Origins of the Early Friends,” Journal of Friends’ Historical Society 48 (1957): 99–118; Cole, “The Quakers in Politics, 1652–60,” pp. 295ff.; R. T. Vann, “Quakerism and the Social Structure of the Interregnum,” Past and Present, no. 48 (August, 1970): 71–91; Vann, Social Development of English Quakerism, pp. 47–93; A. Anderson, “The Social Origins of the Early Quakers,” Quaker History 68 (1979): 33–40; Barry Reay, “The Social Origins of Early Quakerism,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 11 (1980): 55–72; Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, pp. 20–31; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. xxvi–xxix; Russell Mortimer, “Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Bristol,” M.A. thesis, University of Bristol, 1946, pp. 525–27. [BACK]

32. PRO, SP 29/81/16. [BACK]

33. For this and the following paragraphs, see, in general, Ronald Hutton, The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales, 1658–1667 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), esp. part 3; Richard L. Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); W. C. Abbott, “English Conspiracy and Dissent, 1660–1674: I,” AHR 11 (1908–1909): 503–28; Mortimer, “Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Bristol,” pp. 22–40. [BACK]

34. PRO, SP 29/28/87, 29/34/68, 29/43/26; see also Stat. Realm, 13 Car. II st. i c. 6. A portion of Roe’s stock was later returned to him, however, for, as Secretary Nicholas said to the Bristol magistrates, the king did not mean to disturb him in the innocent pursuit of his calling. Nevertheless, at Nicholas’s urging Roe was forced to give a weekly accounting of his purchases and sales: [Nicholas] to the mayor of Bristol, 5 October 1661, PRO, SP 29/43/25. For discussion of the Venner plot, see C. Burrage, “The Fifth Monarchy Insurrections,” English Historical Review 25 (1910): 739–45; Sir W. Foster, “Venner’s Rebellion,” London Topographical Record 18 (1942): 30–33; P. G. Rogers, The Fifth Monarchy Men (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 110–22; Bernard Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth-Century English Millenarianism (London: Faber and Faber, 1972), pp. 199–200; Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil, pp. 50–57. [BACK]

35. PRO, SP 29/44/39, 39i–iv, 40, 83; see also PRO, SP 44/1, pp. 19, 71–72, 29/77/74, 75. [BACK]

36. PRO, SP 29/57/42, 42i, 57, 57i, 85, 87, 87i, 29/58/16, 16i–ii, 44/4, p. 62. [BACK]

37. PRO, SP 29/57/1, 29/61/98, 29/64/4, 64; see also Stat. Realm, 14 Car. II c. 3. On the organization and operation of the militia during the Restoration period, see J. R. Western, The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century: The Story of a Political Issue (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), chaps. 1–2; Lois Schwoerer, “No Standing Armies!” The Antiarmy Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), chap. 5. [BACK]

38. PRO, SP 29/65/6, 33, 33i–iii, 34, 63, 63i, 29/69/48, 49, 63, 29/86/20, 201i–v. [BACK]

39. Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1972), pp. 32–40, esp. 40; Reay, “Popular Hostility towards Quakers,” pp. 388, 393–94; Smith, Colonists in Bondage, p. 175. [BACK]

40. CJ, vol. 8, pp. 2, 246; Stat. Realm, 14 Car. II c. 1. The bill against the Quakers and the bill against vagrants were so closely tied in the minds of the MPs that the two measures were sent to the same committee after the second readings: CJ, vol. 8, pp. 252, 285. [BACK]

41. Cf. the committees’ names in CJ, vol. 8, pp. 285, 346, 451, 491, 509. [BACK]

42. CJ, vol. 8, pp. 346, 451, 491, 509; Hutton, The Restoration, p. 210; A Relation of the Inhumane and Barbarous sufferings of the people called Quakers in the City of Bristol (London, 1665), pp. 76–77. The principal author of this work is probably George Bishop. As a member of the Cavalier Parliament, Sir John Knight sat on seven committees concerned with ecclesiastical legislation. Only ten other MPs sat on as many or more such committees: see Paul Seaward, The Cavalier Parliament and the Reconstruction of the Old Regime, 1661–1667 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 328. Later in Charles II’s reign, Knight’s Anglican and anti-popery views made him an active exclusionist: see Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 172–73. On Knight’s political career, see Basil Duke Henning, ed., The House of Commons, 1660–1690, 3 vols. (London: History of Parliament Trust, 1983), vol. 2, pp. 692–96. [BACK]

43. BRO, MS 04417 (2), ff. 136v, 158v, 159v, 166v; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 144–45. [BACK]

44. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, p. 36. This complaint found its way into one of the petitions drafted by the Common Council in April 1661 requesting a confirmation of the city’s charters. There was some question, however, whether it was politically wise to include this complaint in the petition, and a second petition was drawn without it; it was left to the mayor, Henry Creswick, a Merchant Venturer, to decide, after he had scouted the territory in London, which of the two to use. [BACK]

45. A Relation, pp. 51–52. [BACK]

46. On the searches, see BRO, MS 04220 (1), ff. 351r–352r, 355v–367v, 482r–497v. For Knight’s attempt at legislation, see CJ, vol. 8, p. 401. The bill originated in the Commons just before the recess of the summer of 1661. It may have been a response to complaints in London about the stealing of children for transportation to Virginia, which surfaced the year before: Acts of the Privy Council (Colonial), vol. 1, pp. 296–97; see also Jeaffreson, ed., Middlesex County Records, vol. 3, pp. 302, 303, 306, 315. The bill was left to Alderman Fowkes of London to draft. It received its first reading in January 1662 and its second reading and commitment in April: CJ, vol. 8, pp. 316, 349, 401. But although the committee received further instructions from the House, it did not produce the bill for a final vote. For a connection between this bill and revenge against Civil War enemies, see CJ, vol. 8, pp. 403, 412. Knight remained interested in the matter of child-stealing throughout most of his long parliamentary career, serving on committees when legislation was introduced in 1670 and 1673: CJ, vol. 9, pp. 138, 251, 286. On each occasion the bill failed, sometimes because it could not pass the House of Lords. [BACK]

47. PRO, SP 29/57/71. The Long Parliament’s ordinance of May 1645 no longer, of course, had any force after the Restoration. This request of the mayor, however, did not, as far as I can determine, result in the grant of any new authority to the Bristol Corporation. [BACK]

48. See, e.g., CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), no. 367. [BACK]

49. Acts of Assembly passed in the Island of Barbadoes from 1648, to 1718 (London: J. Baskett, 1721), p. 12. On the “Royalism” of the elites in the colonial Chesapeake region, especially Virginia, see David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 207–25; on the political effects of the Restoration on the colonies in general, see Stephen Saunders Webb, The Governors-General: The English Army and the Definition of Empire (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979); Alison Gilbert Olson, Anglo-American Politics, 1660–1775: The Relationship between Parties in England and Colonial America (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), chap. 2; Philip S. Haffenden, “The Anglican Church in Restoration Politics,” in Smith, ed., Seventeenth-Century America, pp. 166–91. [BACK]

50. CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), no. 24; Acts passed in the Island of Barbadoes, p. 12. The impetus for this order and legislation appears to have been the royal proclamation of 10 January 1661, suppressing conventicles in England and requiring persons found at them to take the oath of allegiance: Steele, ed., Bibliography of Royal Proclamations, vol. 1, no. 3278. During this same year, the island’s legislature passed an act requiring that morning and evening prayers be said by the head of every household and that all those who lived within two miles of a parish church attend morning and evening services there: Acts passed in the Island of Barbadoes, pp. 12–13. [BACK]

51. Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 2, p. 279. In the following year difficulties for dissenters only increased when the island established a tithe on all landowners for support of the parish clergy, for everywhere it appeared the tithe was anathema to the Quakers and to many other nonconformist groups: Acts passed in the Island of Barbadoes, pp. 20–22; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 2, pp. 280–87. On the dissenters and the tithe, see Margaret James, “The Political Importance of the Tithe Controversy in the English Revolution,” History 26 (1941): 1–18; Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament, 1648–1653 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), pp. 13, 293–95, 298, 307–8, 316; Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, pp. 78–79, 82–83, 152, 156–57, 189, 196, 244; Barry Reay, “Quaker Opposition to Tithes, 1652–1660,” Past and Present, no. 86 (February 1980): 98–120. For a Bristol Quaker’s view of the tithe, see Thomas Speed, Christs Innocency Pleaded against the Cry of the Chief Priests (London, 1656), pp. 10–11. [BACK]

52. Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, pp. 352, 366, 370, 380–82; on Maryland, see Bowden, Society of Friends in America, vol. 1, pp. 369–71. [BACK]

53. William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large: being A Collection of all the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the year 1619, 13 vols. (Richmond: Samuel Pleasants, Junior, 1809–1823), vol. 1, pp. 532–33. [BACK]

54. See Henry R. McIlwaine, The Struggles of Protestant Dissenters for Religious Toleration in Virginia (Johns Hopkins University Studies in History and Political Science, 12th ser., 1894, part 4), pp. 20–21; Sewel, Rise of the Christian People Called Quakers, pp. 264–65; Bowden, Society of Friends in America, vol. 1, pp. 347–49. McIlwaine says that no Quakers appear to have suffered under the act and suggests that this may have been due to the effect of the Declaration of Breda. But for evidence of such persecution, see The Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary 3 (1901): 103–6, 138–46; Jones et al., Quakers in the American Colonies, pp. 273–74. The Bristol Register shows that the leading Quaker traders in the city, such as Speed and Bullock, continued to ship servants to Virginia in the early 1660s, but of course these emigrants may not themselves have been Quakers. [BACK]

55. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, p. 37. In 1661 Virginia received the same instructions on church settlement as had Barbados, but these may not have arrived in the colony before the end of the legislative session of March, 1661: see CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), no. 24; Edward D. Neill, Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles the First and Second, a.d.1625–a.d.1685 (Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell’s Sons, 1886), pp. 282–83; see also George M. Brydon, Virginia’s Mother Church and the Conditions under Which It Grew, 2 vols. (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1947–1952), vol. 1, chap. 15; Fischer, Albion’s Seed, pp. 232–36. [BACK]

56. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, pp. 51–52, and esp. p. 48. [BACK]

57. Ibid., pp. 165–66. [BACK]

58. PRO, SP 29/56/134; Neill, Virginia Carolorum, pp. 285–86; Bowden, Society of Friends in America, vol. 1, pp. 344ff.; William Meade, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, 2 vols., first ed. 1857 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1966), vol. 1, pp. 255, 427; in general see Brydon, Virginia’s Mother Church, vol. 1, pp. 191–98. In September 1662 the Council of Foreign Plantations ordered the continuance of the policies of church government already instituted in the colony, but at the same time instructed Berkeley not to molest men solely for religion, provided they “be content with a quiet and peaceably enjoying of it, not giving therein offense or scandall to the Government”: Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 3 (1895–96): 15; Neill, Virginia Carolorum, pp. 292–93. The council’s remarks suggest a desire to encourage some nonconformists to continue to people the colony, but since the Quakers were not thought to be peaceable or to act without offense to the government, probably they were not included. Nevertheless, see McIlwaine, Struggles of Protestant Dissenters, pp. 22–23. [BACK]

59. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, pp. 180–83. For a discussion of this measure see McIlwaine, Struggles of Protestant Dissenters, pp. 23–24. [BACK]

60. Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705 ed., ed. Louis Wright (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), p. 69; Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, pp. 191, 510; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 15 (1907–8): 38–43; A. P. Scott, Criminal Law in Colonial Virginia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930), pp. 155, 156; Richard B. Morris, Government and Labor in Early America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946), pp. 173–74; Webb, Governors-General, pp. 84–85. [BACK]

61. Beverley, Present State of Virginia, p. 68; see also Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, p. 198; Jones et al., The Quakers in the American Colonies, pp. 274–75. These conditions account for the specific exclusion of Virginia as a place to send those convicted of violating the Conventicle Act of 1664: Stat. Realm, 16 Car. II, c. 4; see also Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 2, p. 510. [BACK]

62. Brydon, Virginia’s Mother Church, vol. 1, pp. 197–98; see also Neill, Virginia Carolorum, p. 296; Jones et al., The Quakers in the American Colonies, p. 280 and book 3. [BACK]

63. PRO, SP 29/72/11, 11i, 29/73/12, 12i–iv; William Cobbett and John Wright, eds., Parliamentary History of England from the Norman Conquest, in 1066…to 1803, 36 vols. (London: T. C. Hansard, 1806–1820), vol. 4, pp. 257–58. [BACK]

64. Cobbett and Wright, eds., Parliamentary History, vol. 4, p. 268. [BACK]

65. PRO, SP 29/74/48, 48i–iii, 66, 66i–ii, 29/75/11, 54, 54i, 99, 105, 115. [BACK]

66. On Captain Gregory, see PRO, SP 29/67/63, 63i, 44/9, pp. 206, 269, 296, 29/67/25, 29/68/4, 44/10, pp. 38–39, 29/69/48, 49, 63, 64, 29/86/20, 20i–v, 29/95/99, 29/97/81, 84. The Gregory affair implicated Henry Roe in the plots. On Casbeard, see PRO, SP 29/76/41, 71, 72, 29/77/48, 74, 74i, 75. See also Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil, pp. 140–50, 160–61; Abbott, “English Conspiracy and Dissent,” p. 518. [BACK]

67. PRO, SP 29/77/31, 50. See also Henry Gee, “The Derwentdale Plot, 1663,” TRHS, 3d ser., 9 (1917): esp. 135; Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil, pp. 165ff.; Abbott, “English Conspiracy and Dissent,” pp. 521–23; Hutton, The Restoration, pp. 204ff.; Steven C. A. Pincus, “Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideology and the Making of English Foreign Policy, 1650–1665,” Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1990, pp. 332–449. I am grateful to Dr. Pincus for allowing me to consult his dissertation. [BACK]

68. Cobbett and Wright, eds., Parliamentary History, vol. 4, pp. 288–89. [BACK]

69. PRO, SP 29/78/46, 47, 29/79/64, 126, 29/80/1, 29/80/8. Cf. the king’s speech of 16 March 1664: Cobbett and Wright, eds., Parliamentary History, vol. 4, pp. 289–90. On the operation of the militia in this period, see Western, English Militia, pp. 35–36. [BACK]

70. PRO, SP 29/80/10, 19, 20, 29/81/16, 73, 73i–iv. Note, however, that the Bristol Quakers were willing to contribute to a gift for the king: Latimer, Annals, p. 319. [BACK]

71. PRO, SP 29/81/29. [BACK]

72. PRO, SP 29/81/73, 92, 96. Knight, responding to a specific request from the Privy Council, searched the house of Richard Moone, a Baptist stationer, for seditious pamphlets: PRO, SP 29/81/73, 73i–ii. [BACK]

73. Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 117–18; A Relation, p. 11. [BACK]

74. A Relation, p. 17. [BACK]

75. Ibid., pp. 12–36; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 47. Knight claimed to initiate the campaign after receiving the Privy Council’s order to do so, but according to the Quakers this order in fact was solicited by Knight in a letter reporting the city in danger from them: A Relation, pp. 16, 24–25, 32. [BACK]

76. A Relation, pp. 66–67; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 50. [BACK]

77. A Relation, p. 74; BRO, MS 04417 (2), f. 129r–v; see also Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 50. [BACK]

78. A Relation, p. 81; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 50; PRO, SP 29/110/77. [BACK]

79. BRO, MS 04417 (2), ff. 122v–124r; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 51. According to the Quakers, Knight had publicly stated that with the passage of the act “he now hoped to send four Hundred Quakers out of the Land before the Expiration of his Mayoralty”: Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 51. [BACK]

80. BRO, MS 04417 (2), ff. 107r–121v; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 51, and vol. 2, pp. 637–38; A Relation, pp. 83–125; Bishop, A Manifesto, esp. pp. 20–27; Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 118–20; Sewel, Rise of the Christian People Called Quakers, p. 424. Sewel suggests that some of those guilty of a third offense were redeemed by kinsmen who were not Quakers but who paid the £100 fine mentioned in the statute: ibid., p. 430. [BACK]

81. See, e.g., J. C. Jeaffreson, ed., A Young Squire of the Seventeenth Century, from the Papers (a.d.1676–1686) of Christopher Jeaffreson of Dullingham House, Cambridgeshire, 2 vols. (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1878), vol. 2, p. 61; Jones et al., The Quakers in the American Colonies, pp. 283–300. [BACK]

82. A Relation, pp. 3–4; on this subject, see Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 169–70. [BACK]

83. See Latimer, Annals, pp. 290ff.; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, pp. 35–57; Henning, ed., House of Commons, vol. 1, pp. 327–40; Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 163–89. [BACK]

84. PRO, SP 29/94/20. See also PRO, SP 29/92/110; McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 155n. Ellsworth’s animosity to the sectaries possibly was enhanced by the business disputes he had with William Bullock in the 1650s: see ibid., pp. 21–22. [BACK]

85. PRO, SP 29/133/66. [BACK]

86. PRO, SP 25/30/11, 44/25/111. On Robert Cann’s family ties, politics, and career, see Henning, ed., House of Commons, vol. 2, pp. 5–6; Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 172–73 and 185n. 35 with the works cited there. [BACK]

87. BRO, MS 04439 (4), ff. 156r–157v. [BACK]

88. CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), nos. 391, 520. Sir Humphrey Hooke was the grandson of Alderman Humphrey Hooke, whom we have met. Sir Humphrey was high sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1661. He was elected for Bristol to the Cavalier Parliament, but withdrew in favor of Lord Ossory. When Ossory was raised to the peerage in 1666, Hooke reclaimed the seat: Latimer, Annals, p. 305. For Hooke’s connections in Barbados, see CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), nos. 141, 1121, 1437. Robert Vickris was an officer in the militia during the Interregnum and a common councillor from 1650 to November 1662, when he withdrew or was ousted: PRO, SP 18/220/70i, 25/76A/33; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 7–8. See also BL, Stowe MS 185, ff. 157v–158r; Beaven, Lists, pp. 201, 311; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 218–19. [BACK]

89. A Relation, p. 13; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 216, 222; BRO, MS 04439 (4), f. 78v. Yeamans was the son of John Yeamans, brewer, and a nephew of William Yeamans, scrivener. The latter’s family provided one of the first contingents of the separatists in Bristol when the Broadmead church was formed in 1640 and later split from the Baptists to form the first Quaker group in the city: see Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 13, 84–90. Ann Yeamans, the daughter of William the scrivener, first married Robert Yeamans, merchant, who in 1643, as we know, became a martyr for King Charles I for attempting to turn Bristol over to Prince Rupert. She later married Thomas Speed, who adopted her children and brought them up in his household. John Yeamans, Robert’s brother, was also involved in the 1643 plot but was not executed. After a period of time in prison, he emigrated to Barbados and soon became one of the most important people on the island. Later he served as governor of Carolina: see “Sir John Yeamans” in Dictionary of American Biography. For an account of the 1643 plot, see above, pp. 238–41, and Seyer, Memoirs, vol. 2, pp. 341ff. The Robert Yeamans who was active in Restoration politics was a Royalist supporter in the Interregnum: see David Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy in England, 1649–60 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), p. 264. He was a significant colonial trader as well: CSP (Colonial) (1574–1660), pp. 350, 406. He has been identified as the son of Robert the martyr (see Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, p. 42n. 3), but this is an error; he was a close cousin. [BACK]

90. A Relation, p. 35. See also Some Reasons Briefly Suggested which have Prevailed with the Dissenters in Bristol to Continue Their Open Meetings, however Persecuted or Disturbed (London, 1675); Barry, “Politics of Religion,” p. 169. [BACK]

91. PRO, SP 25/94/87. Knight twice refused Common Council membership in the Interregnum: Beaven, Lists, p. 299. Knight’s sister-in-law was Joyce Warren, wife of Mathew Warren, who had been sheriff in 1639–40, and daughter-in-law of the Mathew Warren whom we have met as mayor in 1633–34. As we know, she was a leading figure among the Quakers in the 1660s: A Relation, p. 74. [BACK]

92. A Relation, p. 36. For Streamer’s defense of his position, see PRO, SP 29/90/10i, 76. [BACK]

93. A Relation, pp. 53–54, 65; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, pp. 48–49. It appears that Bristol grand juries in this period were more willing to indict sectaries than petty juries were to convict them: see BRO, MS 04451–52 (1); Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 167, 182n. 12. There were significant numbers of indictments for religious matters in 1662 and from 1664 on. Indictments for 1661, 1663, and 1667–1675 are missing, but for 1675 see A Sober Answer to the Address of the Grand Jurors (London, 1675). [BACK]

94. PRO, SP 29/110/42. Ironically, the crew members argued that the transportation of these individuals violated the ordinances against spiriting, because there were no indentures and because Barbados had a strict law against those who brought unindentured servants into the colony against their wills: see Acts passed in the Island of Barbadoes, pp. 22–23. [BACK]

95. PRO, SP 29/90/10, 10i, 62, 76, 29/92/76, 83, 83i–v, 104, 105, 110; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, p. 98; A Relation, pp. 33–35. On the business connection of Yate and John Knight, Junior, see PRO, SP 25/30/11; BRO, MSS 04439 (3), ff. 12r–13r, 04439 (4), ff. 156r–157v. John Knight, known as John Knight, Junior, was the cousin of Sir John Knight: Notes and Queries 3 (29 April 1899): 321–23; I. V. Hall, “John Knight, Junior, Sugar Refiner at the Great House on St. Augustine’s Back (1654–78),” BGAS 68 (1949): 110–64; I. V. Hall, “The Connections between John Knight, Junior, and the Jennings, Latch and Gorges Families,” BGAS 74 (1955): 188–99. [BACK]

96. Beaven, Lists, p. 185; Latimer, Annals, p. 265. [BACK]

97. PRO, SP 29/90/10; A Relation, pp. 14–18, 47–48; see also PRO, SP 29/11/185, 186, 44/1, pp. 71–72, 29/61/98, 29/64/4, 29/65/16, 63, 29/81/92, 96, 29/92/53, 76. On the significance of the deputy lieutenants as an inner circle of loyalists, see Western, English Militia, pp. 16–17. After 1679, this same function was provided by Bristol’s Artillery Company, formed under the inspiration of the marquis of Worcester, whom Barry calls the city’s “ultra-royalist” lord lieutenant: Barry, “Politics of Religion,” p. 170; M. de L. Landon, “The Bristol Artillery Company and the Tory Triumph in Bristol, 1679–84,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 114 (1970): 155–61. [BACK]

98. Beaven, Lists, pp. 186, 200–202; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 23, 45–47; BRO, MS 04417 (2), ff. 155v–156r; PRO, SP 29/14/77. See also Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, pp. 35–40; Latimer, Annals, pp. 296–98, 309–11. [BACK]

99. PRO, PC 2/51/217; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 108–9. John Knight was joined by eleven others under the order, but despite it only Knight and five more took the oath and sat: see BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 65ff.; PRO, SP 44/13, p. 135, 29/57/41; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, pp. 40–42, 175–78. [BACK]

100. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 55, 60, 68, 86, 95, 99, 104, 112, 125; PRO, SP 29/57/55, 29/92/48, 77, 78, 83, 91, 111, 118, 29/93/47, 47i, 69, 29/94/118, 29/96/39. The outcome of the dispute was an order applying the custom of London to Bristol. In London those common councillors with titles enjoyed precedence only when not exercising their public functions or appearing as members of the civic body. In the council and aldermanic meetings they proceeded by seniority of membership. [BACK]

101. See Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 52. [BACK]

102. BRO, MS 04417 (2), ff. 104v–105v; Hayden, ed., Records, p. 121; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, p. 51. [BACK]

103. PRO, SP 29/217/75, 114, 29/220/44, 29/225/38, 29/265/15. [BACK]

104. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 6, pp. 28–30, 111; Beaven, Lists, pp. 200, 302, 309. [BACK]

105. PRO, SP 29/177/39, 29/178/135, 29/180/5, 89, 29/181/129, 29/206/1, 1i–ii, 29/209/75, 75i–ii; Hayden, ed., Records, p. 125; W. C. Abbott, “English Conspiracy and Dissent, 1660–1674: II,” AHR 14 (1908–9): 709. [BACK]

106. For Knight’s involvement in promoting the passage of the Second Conventicle Act, see CJ, vol. 9, pp. 104, 130. [BACK]

107. Stat. Realm, 22 Car. II c. 1. For evidence of Yeamans’s responses to the actions of informers, see G. Lyon Turner, ed., Original Records of Early Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence, 3 vols. (London: T. F. Unwin, 1911–1914), vol. 3, pp. 51n., 52n. [BACK]

108. Hayden, ed., Records, p. 128; Besse, Sufferings of the People called Quakers, vol. 1, pp. 52–53; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 33, 40, 102; PRO, SP 29/275/132, 162, 163, 29/276/14, 75, 29/278/149. The king’s order requiring the mayor to be chosen from among the aldermen dates from 7 September 1665: PRO, SP 44/17, p. 134. Yeamans himself appears to have been elected in violation of the order, since he was not an alderman in 1669. The king’s order was to have been read before each election meeting and apparently was read in 1669, but Yeamans omitted to read it in 1670. The election of 1670 was hotly contested, with Mr. Knight winning by two votes over two conservative aldermen, and Sir John Knight moved immediately to quash the election. Having failed to get a Privy Council order soon enough, Sir John had his cousin hauled before the House of Commons. For the aftermath of the election, see PRO, SP 29/278/181, 210, 44/31/61, 29/279/45, 29/288/44; BRO, MS 04447 (1), p. 11; Latimer, Annals, pp. 355–57; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, p. 42. [BACK]

109. PRO, SP 29/57/71. Visitation of ships in Cale’s term appears to have begun on 21 April 1662 and to have ended abruptly on 7 July 1662: BRO, MS 04220 (1), ff. 482r–497v. [BACK]

110. BRO, MS 04220 (2), f. 187r. These entries run through 5 October 1672, i.e., they end soon after the installation of Christopher Griffeth as mayor: ibid., f. 231v. [BACK]

111. Olliffe’s year in the mayoralty saw almost as violent persecution as had Sir John Knight’s: see Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 144–70; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. 99–100. For evidence of the visitation of ships during his term, see BRO, MS 04220 (2), ff. 271v; these entries continue intermittently to the end of the volume in August 1679. Olliffe, an innkeeper and vintner, served as sheriff during Lawford’s term as mayor in 1664–65 and so had good experience of previous persecutions: Beaven, Lists, p. 303. The last days of the Register come at the height of the Exclusion crisis and its bitter aftermath of persecution and factional strife in Bristol: see Latimer, Annals, pp. 388ff.; HMC, The Manuscripts of the Duke of Beaufort, K.G., the Earl of Donoughmore, and Others, p. 101; Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 172–81. These disruptive events may account in part for the apparent breakdown in the enforcement of the servant registration scheme in its last years: see above, Chapter 8, n. 1. In fall 1681 the new mayor of Bristol, Thomas Earle, whom Charles II knighted on 4 December of that year, instituted another vigorous campaign against the conventicles, for which the marquis of Worcester wrote to thank him on the king’s behalf: marquis of Worcester to the marchioness, 17 December 1681, HMC, Manuscripts of the Duke of Beaufort, p. 87. [BACK]

112. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chap. 1. [BACK]

10. The Spirit World

For most scholars, the history of the Bristol Register has been the story of servants making their way to America. But it turns out to be as much, if not more, the story of their masters making their way in England. To stretch seventeenth-century usage only slightly, it is a register of spirits as well as of servants. To those who invoked the word “spirit” in the seventeenth century, it was a term charged with significance. It fit into folklore as well as theology, and into more than one branch of the natural sciences. In general it meant the principle or force that animates or directs a physical organism. In man, it could refer to the soul. But, as with the soul, it was a force for good or evil, a force that might impel one toward either God or Satan. It is to this turbulent world of the spirits that we must now turn.

To those who sought to regulate the servant trade, the spirit was a devil. For example, Lionel Gatford believed many children and servants sent to the plantations were

cheatingly duckoyed without the consent or knowledge of their Parents or Masters…and…sold to be transported; and then resold…to be servants or slaves to those that will give most for them. A practice proper for Spirits, namely the Spirits of Devils, but to be abhorred and abominated of all men that know either what men are, or whose originally they are, or what their relatives are, either natural, civil, or Christian.[1]

Like the devil, the spirit cozened, enticed, or tempted his, or sometimes her, victims into base servitude by taking advantage of their idleness. With false demeanor and engaging words, he appealed to their lust for fleshly pleasures and convinced them that “they shall goe into a place where food shall drop into their mouthes: and being thus deluded, they take courage, and are transported.”[2] Spirits especially prized children, and, like the evil demons of folklore, stole them whenever they could.[3] Hence they could be said to copy their counterparts of the invisible world in studiously endeavoring “to deprave and corrupt Mankind, and to enlarge their own Empire by the Accession of frail man, whose weakness they abuse and triumph over.”[4]

In this view, the servant trade brought depravity and disorder with it and fed the worst in human nature. In consequence, “spirit” was “so infamous a name” that riotous mobs “wounded to death” many who had been tarred with it, and convicted spirits ranked among the most vilified of criminals.[5] According to the Bristol magistrates, spirits took advantage of the moral and intellectual shortcomings of their victims. Many of the servants who came to the city to sail to America, the Bristolians said,

prove to be husbands that upon discontents & humor haue forsaken their wiues & children & thereby exposed them to misery or Parish mercy; otherwhile wiues out of a peevish passion haue abandoned their husbands and houses; children & apprentices yt runaway from their parents & Masters & often times vnwary & credulous persons haue been tempted & betrayed on shipboard by Men-stealers comonly called Spirits & many also which haue been persued by Hue & Cries either for robberies Burglaries or breaking Prison doe thereby escape ye persecucon of Law & Justice.[6]

Among the traders the traffic in servants encouraged covetousness and pride in the form of a supervening desire to abandon their calling for undeserved gain. Moreover, by trading abroad from their shops and workbenches these dealers in servants shared one further trait with the inhabitants of the world of darkness: like witch’s familiars, they shifted their shapes “at their pleasures” by changing places in the natural order of the economy from retailer or artisan to long-distance merchant.[7]

Because it was laden with such heavy implications, the word “spirit” also provided a handy weapon with which to slander opponents. The cases of Edward Peade in London and Marlin Hiscox in Bristol were by no means the only ones in which the technique was employed. For example, in 1652 Hugh Peter was called the “chief Agent, Actor or Procurer” among “the Spirits that took Children in England, said to be set awork first by the Parliament.”[8] Similarly, Secretary Thurloe was smeared in 1659 with a charge of selling Rowland Thomas, a Royalist agent, into slavery in Barbados.[9] The tactic was employed yet again in the aftermath of the Exclusion crisis when John Wilmore, merchant of London, faced charges of spiriting. Wilmore suffered less as a merchant than as a figure with strong Whig connections. He not only had served on the Middlesex grand jury that indicted the duke of York for recusancy, but also was foreman of the London jury that disregarded the charges of treason against Stephen College, the arch anti-papist follower of Shaftesbury.[10] In Bristol, too, party politics in the 1680s were brought near to the boiling point by similar charges of spiriting leveled against some common councillors. When Chief Justice Jeffries came to Bristol in 1685 to mete out his punishments to Monmouth’s rebels, he opened the assizes with a biting attack on Sir William Hayman, then the mayor, and Sir Robert Cann, among others, not only for neglecting to punish dissenters but for kidnapping. The mayor was fined £1,000 “for suffering a boy committed to Bridewell to go beyond the sea,” and Cann and four others were required to find £5,000 surety each to answer similar charges.[11]

From the beginning the best targets for these charges were the sectaries, whose political principles and religious practices gave them a reputation, among their enemies, for demonic possession. In Richard Baxter’s view, Satan himself had “notoriously deluded” the Anabaptists, Ranters, Fifth Monarchists, and other “Enthusiasticks,” as he called them, and they in turn had deluded more foolish men and women by “their pretended Angelical Revelation.”[12] The Quakers often bore the brunt of such criticism. Orthodox Calvinists like William Grigg and Ralph Farmer of Bristol were convinced that the sect merely put into practice what other separatist doctrines already implied.[13] “When the Quakers first arose,” it was said,

their Societies began like witches with Quaking, and Vomiting; and Infecting others with breathing on them, and tying Ribbons on their Hands. And their Actions as well as their Doctrines shewed their Master. When some as profesying, walked through the Streets of Cities naked; and some vainly undertook to raise the Dead.[14]

Moreover, by attacking the ordained ministry, permitting women to speak at Meeting, refusing to uncover before superiors or magistrates, and denying titles of honor, the Quakers seemed to stand for all that threatened the prevailing social order.[15] Their enemies therefore singled them out as men and women “big with swollen pride…as if neither God nor Nature nor State hath made any difference of persons.”[16] Worse yet, in Ralph Farmer’s words, they were high-minded lovers of their own “fancy”; they threatened “breaking the bonds of duty in all relations…Husband and Wife, Parents and Children, Masters and Servants, Magistrates and Subjects, Ministers and People.”[17] As the authorities in Virginia said, the Quakers were, therefore,

an vnreasonable and turbulent sort of people…teaching and publishing lies, miracles, false visions, prophecies and doctrines, which have influence vpon the comunities of men both ecclesiasticall and civil endeavouring and attempting thereby to destroy religion, lawes, communities and all bonds of civil societie, leaving arbitrarie to everie vaine and vitious person whether men shall be safe, lawes established, offenders punished, and Governours rule.[18]

In the aftermath of Bristol’s troubles in 1654 and of James Naylor’s infamous ride in 1656, the sober-minded magistrates and ministers of that stronghold of the sects could only concur with this trans-Atlantic view. “The damnable and blasphemous Doctrines of the Quakers,” William Grigg argued, “tend in their own nature, to the utter ruine of the true Christian Religion, and Civil Government; both in Cities, Families and all Relations, as would soon appear, had they power in their hands.”[19] To the city’s governors, then, the religion of the Spirit represented in the extreme many of the dangers inherent in the capitalism of the servant trade, and they readily identified the two. In this they did no more than recapture the logic of an earlier persecution. In the fourth century, Julian the Apostate himself identified the agape of the early Christians with

those who entice children with a cake, and by throwing it to them two or three times induce them to follow them, and then, when they are far away from their friends cast them on board a ship and sell them as slaves, and that which for the moment seemed sweet, proves to be bitter for all the rest of their lives.[20]

Among the city’s sectaries a very different view prevailed. For many of them the religion of the Spirit was a religion of liberation.[21] It freed them not only from doubts about their personal salvation but also from unwanted restrictions imposed on them by worldly institutions. Nearly all of them resisted the notion that their practices in any way undermined legitimate authority. “As to Government,” the Quakers told Sir John Knight in 1664, “they were not against it, but did own the Second Table as well as the First, Masters, Parents, and Magistrates &c., but all in the Lord; and…where they could and not sin against the Lord they were obedient; and where they could not, they did quietly suffer.” “What they did,” they insisted, “was not in obstinacy and contempt…but in Conscience to the Lord, whose worship was in the Spirit.” This test of conscience came first, and they would accept no authority of whose righteousness they were not personally convinced. What would “thou…have them do,” they asked, “seeing their Conscience was not satisfied? Suppose…that we are mistaken…wouldst thou have us do that which our conscience is against, because of what may be done to our bodies, before we are convinced of the contrary?”[22] Not even the devil could force them from their spiritual freedom; for, as George Bishop argued, “if he could compel, what man should be free? and in what condition were man, if he could be compell’d? and how could man be charged with evil, if he could not do otherwise?”[23]

Bristol’s Baptists, however, shied away from such forthright challenges to the established political order. Many of those who remained in the Broadmead congregation after the coming of the Quakers adhered to a version of election theology and would have agreed with Robert Purnell, their ruling Elder, “that nothing in the world…renders a man…more like Sathan then to argue from mercy, to sinfull liberty; [and] from Divine goodnesse, to licentiousnesse, which is the Devill’s Logick.”[24] Nevertheless, they maintained an open communion and shared many sympathies with their former brethren among the Quakers. Like them, they believed in a way of life guided by religious conviction, in which each person took absolute responsibility for his own actions. If man could not by himself achieve salvation, he still remained free to resist evil and was obliged to seek righteousness.[25] “Our omissions and commissions be charged upon ourselves,” Robert Purnell said, for the sin “lodging in our hearts…doth mischief us more then Satan, for he can but tempt, but our deceitful hearts do yield.”[26] Moreover, the soul was no passive thing, but reached out to fulfill God’s commandments. “Hath the Lord…made man an empty creature and void of reason?” Purnell asked.

[H]ath not man many members in his body and faculties in his soul?…for…is there not an understanding to understand? is there not a mind or memory to minde or remember? is there not a judgement to judge and determine of things? is there not a will to will the things that the Judgment doth judge as good? Are there not Affections to affect that, which the Judgment presents as good? Or else doth God speak to man as a stock or a stone?[27]

For these reasons, Purnell believed that God approached man by appealing to his rational judgment and his interest, as well as his conscience. “He doth not only offer mercy,” he told his brethren, “but doth labour with strong reasons, and arguments, and motives to draw the soul to himself” and “to out bid all other comforts we have in sin.” To counter the persuasions of the devil, the world, and our own corruption, he offers “honey, milk, rayment” and “such things as do most take with our hearts.” It is “as if the Lord hath said, well, though thou hast been a great sinner…yet if thou wilt but turn at my reproof…I will pour out my Spirit upon thee, I will give grace and glory, a House, a City, a Kingdome, Life, and all things.” In this way the Lord, appealing to our rational instincts, “doth…out bid them all, and so win our soul to himself.”[28]

With many of the Baptists, the test of “experience” had much the same force as Quaker “conscience.” Important truths came “experimentally,” either through “immediate inspiration” in which God “darted” his teachings directly into the heart, or through painstaking study and lengthy discourse with fellow Christians.[29] For this reason, the life of the Broadmead church centered upon its weekly conference, in which the experiences of individual members were employed to interpret Scripture “that so there was liberty for any brother (and for any Sister by a brother) to propose his doubt of, or their desire of, understanding any Portion of Scripture,” which the others sought to answer as the Lord moved them. In this way, Baptists came to understand the truth, not by authority, but as a thing living in their own souls.[30] They also knew they could not always confine their confessions of faith to these meetings. As one of them said in the face of Sir John Knight’s persecutions, “there is a time to speak, that we may not be dumb.”[31] Like the Quakers, they found it necessary to bear witness to their faith by the testimony of civil disobedience, following the rule that “every man look to his own heart” and that “no man can be forced beyond his freedom.” To honor Christ’s “prerogative,” they offered up their liberty “upon the service and sacrifice of the faith” and “in opposition to the inventions and usurpations of men therein.”[32]

Among the Quakers and the Baptists there was also a strong leveling impulse. George Bishop declared that in this earthly world “all are in the like state…and all have the same dependency…on the Lord,” whether “Rich or Poor, High or Low, Governours or governed, King or people, Master or Servant, Bond or Free.”[33] Robert Purnell also argued for the equality of men before God. “Justice hath no respect of persons,” he stated, and God brings “down the mighty from their seat…exalting them of low degree.”[34] Under heaven, he said, we should distinguish only saints and sinners, and accept the truth wherever it is to be found, “either in noble or ignoble, old or young, weak or strong, learned or unlearned.”[35] As is well known, the Quakers and the Baptists put these principles into practice in the organization of their own meetings. The Quakers, of course, had no professional pastor to head their community, but waited in silence upon the Lord. “We know his voice from a Strangers,” Bishop said, “and can try the spirits: and even those who oppose themselves have and may come to our Assemblies freely, and speak, whom we judge in the spirit of Jesus Christ.”[36] The Baptists, for their part, chose their teachers and pastors from among religious men, many of whom lacked formal education in theology and Scripture.[37] Among these early sectaries, we find servants as well as masters, youths as well as elders, and women as well as men taking on the obligations of religious leadership in their communities. The first Quaker sufferers in Bristol were Elizabeth Marshall, widow, and John Warren, an adolescent servant, both jailed in 1654 for their outcries against the “priests” in the “steeplehouses.”[38] Later, in 1682, when first the Quaker men and then the Quaker women were seized and imprisoned, their children, according to William Sewel, “now performed what their Parents were hindred from” and “kept up their religious Meetings as much as was in their Power.”[39] Among the Baptists, Mrs. Nethway, “a woman very eminent in her godlinesse,” played the leading role in selecting the Broadmead church’s teacher in 1651.[40] In other words, both groups lived by the doctrine that “God is no respecter of faces; but among all nations he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him.”[41]

These powerful ideas translated into an equally powerful vision of a new social order. Implicit in them was a conception of society which, though hardly devoid of distinctions of status and wealth or even of party, rejected the static hierarchical structure of the old regime and assumed a much more open communion of individuals. Both the Baptists and the Quakers accepted a degree of social diversity as an element of social unity and would not permit the state to override the freedom of individuals to choose their own way. Robert Purnell, for example, reminded Parliament in the early 1650s that, “next under God, all power fundamentally was in the people of God,” of whom those in authority were merely “Trustees.”[42] What he wanted was a new “Church-state,” in which the poor and forlorn would receive succour, the godly would go free from the meddlings of excisemen and contribution-collectors, and the sects would continue to have their separate existences, but now based upon a spiritual union; for, as he says, “the body is not one mem-ber, but many.”[43] Differences about discipline and about “how, and when, and in what places…God is to be worshipped” were to be tolerated.[44] “And when this day is dawned,” he prophesied,

and this Day-star is risen in our hearts, Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim; Presbyterians shall not so bitterly cry out against Independents, nor Independents have such hard thoughts of the Presbyterians. Yea, they will be ashamed to own one another by these fleshy titles, but look upon and love one another as Christians, members of the same Body, heirs of the same promise, children of the same Father, having all the same Spirit, all cloathed with the same Robe, inclined to the same Work, ruled by the same Word and Spirit, and so their love to each other, shall arise from the Union in the Spirit.[45]

For Purnell and his brethren, the religion of the Spirit permitted or, rather, demanded the communion of men and women in outward difference with one another. But for the Quakers it went even further, since in their doctrine, liberty of conscience was the keystone of all personal freedom. “Ye know,” George Bishop said, “that the Good Old Cause, was (chiefly) Liberty of Conscience…and the Liberties of the Nation were bound up and joyned together (with it), as two lovely Twins that cannot be divided.” Moreover, liberty of conscience was the preeminent civil right, “and where this Liberty is abridged by a State, that State is not free, For a free mind, and a free speech, and a Free State, go together, and weere the two former are wanting, the later is not.”[46] This meant, in effect, that the exercise of authority must rest on the acquiescence or consent of those subject to it. An individual who was not personally convinced of the righteousness of a governmental action was bound, not by it, but by his conscience. Consider, for example, the case of William Foord, a Quaker serge weaver, who first came to attention in 1655 when the Company of Milleners in Bristol accused him of keeping a stranger in his employ, contrary to their ordinances. The mayor ordered Foord “to turn the stranger a way and not to teach him.” But Foord refused, saying “he was not of their trade, and therefore their Ordinary had no power over him.”[47]

Foord’s remark might well be read as a manifesto for a host of sectarian small traders and dealers. These men and women envisioned a world in which arbitrary economic distinctions created by actions of the law or the state had no force. They insisted on the rights of Englishmen to “freely come into, and live in any place, within the English jurisdiction, giving an accompt of their names, former habitations, business, places of birth, and last abode, and freeing the parish from charge if it be demanded.”[48] In other words, they rejected the basic premise of urban life, which separated freeman from foreigner and gave the magistrates authority to remove unwanted strangers, vagrants, and rootless persons from the town.[49] They believed instead that the “Law of God” required “strangers to be entertained, and cherished, and loved as thy self, not to be vexed or oppressed,” and that the “Rights, Liberties, [and] Fundamental Laws” of the English demanded that “Justice be open and free to all” and that “the Magistrates without respect of persons, judge according to the Law, not their own wills or lusts.”[50] Their beliefs would not let them accept anyone’s exclusive trading privileges. For example, when George Bishop acted during the Commonwealth to defend the Merchant Venturers’ rights to trade in calfskins and butter, he would not limit his protection to merchants alone, but extended it to the shoemakers and shopkeepers who also traded in these goods.[51] For him and those like him, all who violated these basic principles were agents of the devil and “Merchants of Babylon.”[52]

These ideas come very near to the views upheld in more systematic seventeenth-century discussions of liberty in politics and society. They envision a social order grounded in personal choice and individual commitment. If William Foord had voluntarily placed himself under the rule of the Milleners, he could have no claim to disobey; but since he had not, he assumed a right to pursue his business free from outside interference. His own choice, based on a personal judgment of his rights and interests and of God’s will and its demands upon him, governed his activities. This freedom was far from unlimited, since he could not hope to succeed without God’s aid and blessing. But how was God to make his will manifest? For a trading man like Foord, the test of whether to continue in his enterprise was a test of the market. If the enterprise prospered, he would maintain it. The same sentiment seems to have prevailed among the sectaries in the colonial trade. They asked no more than for the market to decide whether they should engage in it. By implication, they also placed the colonial servant under the same regime, free to sell his labor to whom he wished, according to what the market would bear.[53]

Since R. H. Tawney’s time it has been something of a commonplace that the medieval conception of a social theory based ultimately on religion was discredited in the mid-seventeenth century. Where once the theory of a just price had ruled, Restoration Englishmen are said to have relied more upon the idea of an impersonal market that regulated all economic affairs.[54] The members of the dissenting sects, however, had a distinctively religious view of the market and their relation to it. Many of them believed it wrong to haggle over the price of a commodity. They thought instead that a good Christian should set one fair price and hold to it.[55] In the words of Charles Marshall, one of the leading Bristol Quakers of the Restoration period, a tradesman was to “use but a few words” in his dealings

and be Equal, Just and Upright; and…be not drawn forth in many words,…but after you have put a price on your Commodities, which is Equal, and as you can sell them, then if the Persons you are Dealing with, multiply words, stand you silent in the Fear, Dread and Awe of God, and this will answer the Witness of God in them you are dealing with.[56]

According to George Fox, Christ himself required this practice in his Sermon on the Mount when he ordered that all our communication be “Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more cometh of evil.”[57] “[Y]ou tradesmen, merchantmen of all sorts whatsoever, buyers and sellers,” Fox says,

set no more upon the thing you sell in exchange, than what you will have; is it not better and more ease to have done at a word, than to ask double or more? Doth not this bring you into many vain words, and compliments, and talk, that fills the vain mind? This is deceitful before God and man. And is it not more savoury to ask no more than you will have for your commodity, to keep yea and nay in your communication, when you converse in your calling, than to ask more than you will take? and so is not there the many words where is the multitude of sins? This is the word of the Lord to you, ask no more than you will have for your commodity…and here will be an equal balancing of things.[58]

These ideas were developed most systematically by the Quakers, but other dissenters, such as John Bunyan, agreed with them in principle.[59] They thought that in the ordinary course of business affairs each commodity should have one price, which the buyer was free to take or leave as he wished. In other words, they believed in what John Locke, writing in the mid-1690s, called “the common rule of traffic,” namely, the obligation to sell goods to one and all at the price set at the point of sale by the current state of supply and demand, i.e., by the prevailing market price. According to this view, as Locke outlined it, a merchant or shopkeeper who “makes use of another’s ignorance fancy or necessity to sell ribbon or cloth etc dearer to him than to another man at the same time, cheats him.” Similarly, if by “artifice” he raises his customer’s “longing” for his wares or by his great “fancy” sells them “dearer to him than he would to an other man he had cheated him too.” But so long as there is no deceit and each side is equally subject to the same trading conditions, the demands of justice are served. For this reason, Locke argues that “what any one has he may value at what rate he will and transgress not against justice if he sells it at any price provided he makes no distinction of Buyers but parts with it as cheap to this as he would to any other Buyer.”

In a market of this sort, the buyer guarantees no assured profit to the seller, but buys “as cheap as he can” even if it is to the “merchant’s downright loss when he comes to a bad market.” Conversely, the merchant or shopkeeper is at “liberty…to sell as dear as he can when he comes to a good market.” In this fashion they each expose themselves to the risks inherent in trade. Without this sharing of the dangers, Locke says, there would be “an end to merchandising,” since the possibility of loss would not be counterbalanced by the chance of gain. Trade would also halt if in practice the burdens were not distributed equitably, if either the buyer or the seller was more likely than his counterpart to suffer loss. “The measure that is common to buyer and seller,” Locke concludes, and that therefore moves the continuous exchange of goods between the parties

is just that if one should buy as cheap as he could in the market the other should sell as dear as he could there, everyone running his venture and taking his chances which by the mutual and perpetual changing wants of money and commodities in buyer and seller comes to a pretty equal and fair account.[60]

There is perhaps nothing new in the idea that the just price for a commodity is the market price and that this price ought to be the same to all. A number of scholastic thinkers had so argued in the Middle Ages, among them San Bernardino of Siena.[61] Nevertheless, the understanding of mercantile morality set forth by George Fox and Charles Marshall and given sharper theoretical form by John Locke makes a significant break from one of the most fundamental aspects of earlier economic practice, the full meaning of which becomes apparent only in the context of mid-seventeenth-century affairs. From the Middle Ages into the seventeenth century, most buying and selling were inseparable from bargaining. A price was set only after agreement between the parties. Gerard Malynes defined the process as “an estimation and price de-manded and agreed upon…according to a certaine equalitie in the value of things…[s]o that equalitie is nothing else but a mutuall voluntary estimation of things made in good order & truth.”[62] On its face, nothing would appear to uphold the idea of a modern, free market more than this. But in fact this regime of bargaining served an economic order that was anything but free.

Outside of the trade in staples, the market was highly opaque. Commodities were not standardized, communications were slow, and, consequently, the overall state of the market was unknown and unpredictable. As a result, the needs and interests of the different buyers and sellers were not immediately apparent. The market was small both in number of dealers and number and variety of commodities traded within it. Buyers could not readily abandon one supplier for another when dissatisfied with the goods they were offered, or shift their preference from one type of goods to another. Bargaining helped remedy these shortcomings. The price asked and the price offered set the limits of the market, and the haggling permitted each of the parties to judge the other’s situation as it compared to his own. In the end the transaction was to give a profit or benefit to both sides. Hence Malynes’s insistence on the word “equality,” for this type of market was not inherently a competitive one.[63]

In such a market, transaction costs necessarily were high. It was difficult for sellers and buyers to locate each other; large risks were involved in the extension of credit; and little genuine recourse was available if the goods purchased turned out to be defective. To minimize these costs, however, a host of regulatory devices existed. Trade in “market overt” was a supervised trade, whether it occurred at a dealer’s stall in the market square or at the tradesman’s counter in his shop. In the towns, as we know, only sworn freemen enjoyed a right to trade in shops; and they were subject to a host of local regulations, including in many cases gild ordinances, intended not only to assure honesty and good quality but to limit competition. All others were confined to the market square, the market hall, or the fairgrounds, where local dealers had advantages and transactions were subject to close scrutiny by city officials. When disputes arose, they were subject to the decisions of a local market court, operating under the principles of law merchant and staffed by local tradesmen. Failure to obey its rulings would lead to a loss of trading privileges in the town. In other words, bargaining represented only a limited degree of freedom, designed to overcome the difficulties inherent in an opaque market. The economy itself was a restrictive one, subject to “custom and command.”[64]

The economic practices advocated by the Quakers and other dissenters stood in sharp contrast to this older regime. These tradesmen were, in a sense, market democrats. In their view, the seller was not merely to be consistent in all his dealings with his fellows; he was literally to be “no respecter of faces,” or, as the King James version has it, “no respecter of persons.” Once he had decided, without the benefit of bargaining, on a price for his goods, he was to welcome all comers without distinction. If he had found a price that would attract customers and still leave him a modest profit on which to maintain his enterprise, he would thrive, provided no outside authority interfered in the conduct of his affairs beyond setting down the common rules of fairness to be maintained by all parties.[65] The decision on what price to charge was his, and so was the risk. Customers would be equally free to take what was offered or go elsewhere. The requirement that dealers set one price and stick to it was tantamount to insisting on the creation of a free, competitive market of a modern type along the lines suggested by Locke. What had once required haggling now was to be done by one party’s judgment alone. How had this transformation of commercial practice come to be? What does it signify?

The new economic circumstances of the second half of the seventeenth century offer one element of the explanation. As Joan Thirsk has shown, England in these years experienced a veritable consumer revolution, conditioned by a secular rise in real wages, by the growing concentration of population in the towns, and by the expansion of the colonial markets. These changes not only assured a larger and more stable demand for non-staple items but were accompanied by the establishment of new trades and industries as new commodities, domestic and colonial, and new manufactures appeared in quantity for the first time. Consumers, in consequence, had much greater freedom to shift preferences from one type of goods to another, as well as from one dealer to another. This change in turn supported the development of new principles of business ethics. In these ways, then, the consumer revolution brought with it the rise of a new type of market society in England. It was a revolution that especially affected the small craftsmen and shopkeepers in the towns. Many of them very much depended for their livelihood on meeting the burgeoning demand for new wares.[66] In places like Bristol, where religious dissent was strong in these same circles of small tradesmen, it was also a revolution that especially affected the sectaries.

These new economic conditions affected everyone in the trading community, however, not just the Quakers and other dissenters. Why, then, did the sectaries become the first and strongest advocates of the new marketing practices? To find an answer to this question we need to place seventeenth-century economic practice in the context of the wider world of politics and culture. It is too easy to think of the economy as an autonomous realm of human behavior and to forget that for many purposes individuals or groups may be able to choose between economic and political solutions for a particular problem. This point has been made by Albert O. Hirschman in his Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Hirschman begins his discussion by considering the case of a customer who is dissatisfied with the goods he has bought from a firm. To register his protest, the customer has two choices. He can use the market mechanism and take his business elsewhere, a strategy Hirschman calls “exit.” Alternatively, he can return the goods with a complaint or appeal to the government for a remedy, a process Hirschman calls “voice.” The first is an economic solution, the second a political or quasi-political one, and Hirschman’s work has been concerned to understand the conditions under which individuals or groups would prefer one or the other, setting up a spectrum of possible actions between complete withdrawal from the market into a kind of autarky, and reliance upon open violence to obtain redress for one’s grievance. Given this polarity, individuals and groups can sometimes find themselves caught up in a process of what Hirschman has called “shifting involvements,” in which people move in a cycle from “voice” to “exit” and back to “voice,” as political engagement first attracts, then repels, them, then attracts them again. The great power of this insight is its treatment of these modes of behavior as alternatives, not as mutually exclusive categories. It sees them as opposite poles on a single, graded scale, not as an absolute dichotomy.[67]

This understanding of economic behavior illuminates the history of the dissenters. Adopting the viewpoint of the merchant and tradesman, they advocated a regime of “exit,” not “voice.” Why? Their arguments were universal ones, intended not merely to set ethical standards for themselves but to transform the actions of all traders in the market and therefore to change the economy as a whole. But the position they advanced was very much in their own interest. In the 1640s and early 1650s, the sectaries had been among the leading practitioners of “voice” in its most overt form. Some had been in the Cromwellian army, and many had pressed for social, moral, and religious reform by the Long Parliament and the Commonwealth. They had been especially active in the Rump and in Barebone’s Parliament. But their hopes had been frustrated by politics, and with the coming of the Protectorate they no longer had the leverage to exercise “voice” very effectively.[68] A number of sectaries, especially the Quakers, withdrew from politics in these years, or, to put this more precisely, from active efforts to win command of the institutions of the state. As we have seen in Bristol, many found themselves more likely to be the victims of “voice” than its beneficiaries—victims, that is, of attacks by their political and religious enemies who now had command of the instruments of the state.

The history of the Society of Merchant Venturers shows how the “voice” of the influential could win privileges for them to the detriment of their competitors. Similarly, the history of the Bristol Register of Servants demonstrates how the “voice” of political grievance, when exercised by those who controlled the institutions of force and coercion in society, could be turned against the economic activities of political opponents. With the Corporation and the Conventicle acts of the early 1660s, these trends became even more general. Not only did they force convinced dissenters out of political office, they placed the weapons of persecution in the hands of their long-standing social and political enemies. Under these conditions, “exit” was the only strategy available to the sectaries, and they expressed it both by disengaging from active politics and by advocating a free market economy in which to work. The strategy of “exit,” understood in this way, offers those who choose it a chance to achieve purity, where “voice” with its continuous engagement with political ambiguity is, as Hirschman puts it, “treacherous”: it sometimes requires compromising one’s principles to gain practical advantage.[69]

We should not think that for the sectaries this withdrawal into economic activity necessarily represented an abandonment of the public life for a completely private one. Just the contrary: the Quakers and other dissenters thought of it as a witness to their righteousness, which in the end would achieve what could not be accomplished by politics alone. Setting a fair and fixed price, Charles Marshall argued,

will answer the Witness of God in them you are dealing with; and if this should not please People at first, yet you will see it will Overcome; so that you in your Dealings therein keep out of the Spirit of the World, out of all Covetousness, Over-reaching, and Craftiness, in the harmless Life, seeking the Kingdom daily, and let other Things come as Additional: So all being diligent in the pure Fear of the Lord…you will see great Opportunity in your Dealings of reaching unto People, and thereby Thousands may be reached, convinced and brought to Truth.[70]

According to George Fox, such action inevitably would lead to triumph in this world, for

a child shall trade with you as a man, because of the equity, and yea and nay, and righteousness, and true weighing of things, and true consideration of things, and people shall not be afraid of one cheating the other, of destroying the other, where truth and equity is among them, and mercy and righteousness, and no more is set upon the thing than what they will take, who are in their yea and nay in their communication.[71]

For Marshall and Fox, therefore, economic activity was not politically passive, but a form of attack. It did not tame the old passions, but redirected them into new social realms. Far from abandoning the good fight, the Quakers and other dissenters redefined the arena of public action to include their ordinary engagements in everyday life and then sought to gain by their commercial interests and personal example what they had failed to achieve by their militant evangelism.[72]

What gave the sectaries an advantage in this form of warfare was the discipline imposed upon them by their meetings. Whereas they followed a doctrine of “exit”—of free and open market relations—in dealing with outsiders, they maintained a regime of “voice” in relations among themselves. Baptists and Quakers regularly assumed the obligation to offer moral guidance to individual members and to chastise them for their moral failings. They attacked drunkenness, gluttony, licentiousness, and evil conversation, and sought to assure that all brothers and sisters lived frugal, sober, and disciplined lives. These interventions extended to the members’ business practices, especially among the Quakers, whose Men’s Monthly Meeting, established in 1667, was specifically charged with this responsibility. These duties turned the Men’s Meeting into something akin to a medieval merchant gild that regulated the trading relations of its members among themselves and with the larger economic world. It assured that all members would uphold the reputation of the Friends for fairness in their dealings with outsiders. It intervened with merchants and shopkeepers to keep them from spendthrift practices and to prevent them from overreaching themselves in their investments. It set standards for manufacture and for honest dealing, and it arbitrated business disputes between members when they arose. If necessary, it acted as an agency for collection of their outstanding debts, and, when all else failed, it supported those in need, often helping them to cover their business obligations and to start anew. Where Quaker, and to a lesser extent Baptist, businessmen were individualists in regard to the state and the market, they were subjects of an egalitarian spiritual fellowship in regard to one another. Their dealings together were founded on the reasonable assurance that a promise made was a promise performed.[73]

What made this necessary was the prohibition against swearing which dominated the teachings of the Quakers and many other dissenters. Until Parliament passed the Affirmation Act in 1696, the unwillingness of the Friends and other sectaries to swear oaths cut them off from ordinary recourse to law, where oath-taking was essential.[74] The prohibition marked those who upheld it as a people apart, willing to suffer for their “testimony”; in a sense it drove them back upon one another’s assistance in all vital matters, economic and social as well as religious. A Quaker or Baptist tradesman who felt a scruple against swearing necessarily bore a large risk in offering credit in his trade, and outsiders bore a large risk in selling on credit to him. Yet, as we have seen, trade in the early modern period was virtually impossible without credit. This forced dissenters to deal primarily with other members of their sects whenever credit transactions were required. Here the moral discipline and economic intervention of the religious institutions gave them a measure of security that other Englishmen lacked. Not only did the sects promote among their members the development of a psychology of striving and hard work, but their meetings enforced this ethic with group efforts and real sanctions. In addition, the religious associations provided networks of business contacts both within and between communities that helped lubricate the wheels of commerce. Among the Quakers this was especially the case, for the Men’s Meeting, which formally controlled apprenticeships and marriage arrangements, provided a ready means for mobilizing capital among large groups of small investors.[75] Among the Baptists and other nonconformists, similar though less formal sources of social solidarity also reinforced the bonds created by shared religious convictions. Through these mechanisms the Quakers and other dissenters could play a prominent role in industries demanding large-scale investment in fixed capital, such as shipowning, sugar-refining, soapmaking, and metalworking, and in long-distance trades with lengthy turnarounds, such as commerce with the colonies.

This same point can be put another way. The old ideal of the town market had depended on the existence of a body of sworn freemen who alone fully enjoyed the benefits of the town monopoly. However, the restrictions imposed on the trade of non-freemen had economic purposes beyond guaranteeing a crude competitive advantage to the privileged body. We can see this if we look again at the various ways freemen could be made in most towns: patrimony, apprenticeship, marriage to a freeman’s daughter or widow, and redemption. Each method had its own significance, but each in its own way also assured that the new freeman had a strong tie to the community he was entering. A craftsman or shopkeeper who became a burgess after his apprenticeship, for example, would be well known to his master’s customers and business associates. His training not only would have taught him skills but would have woven him into the fabric of urban society and established his reputation for honest dealing. Similarly, admission by patrimony and, to a lesser extent, admission by marriage and by redemption relied on family or social ties within the city to certify and guarantee the good character of the new freeman.

By assuring that the sworn citizenry would have such strong local connections, these methods of admission to the freedom reinforced the most fundamental values upon which urban society depended. On the one hand, the town as a political community needed a body of men able and willing to pay local rates and bear the heavy burdens of office. Citizens with a long-term personal interest in the community were more likely to do so, if only for fear of losing face before their family, friends, and neighbors.[76] On the other hand, the town as a trading community needed a body of men honor-bound to pay their debts. In an economy habitually scarce of money, all business, even the most petty, depended on credit. Ordinarily a merchant or shopkeeper could not pay his suppliers until he had sold the goods and himself received payment for them. One trader along the line breaking faith could cause a credit crisis for everyone else in the chain. So long as most such trade was between fellow townsmen, however, community pressure acted to prevent such crises, both by encouraging debtors to pay if they could and by keeping creditors from unnecessarily destroying a debtor’s business by going to law too early or by refusing the efforts of local arbitrators to settle on mutually acceptable terms.[77]

Before the development of modern markets and modern methods of market discipline, there was a very close link in many towns between the desire to assure that citizens would perform public service and the need to guarantee the payment of personal debts. Under the trading conditions prevailing in the late medieval and early modern economy, a man’s good name was his principal capital asset. It bound him to the community in which he was known and reduced the risk that he would break faith with its members, either by refusing to meet his public obligation to serve them or by failing to meet his private obligation to fulfill his promises and contracts. Failing in the performance of these duties would hurt, even destroy, his ability to maintain his way of life in the city. At the same time, every improvement in his status was also an improvement in his fortune. Officeholding not only gave official recognition to his reputation for good judgment and reliability but enhanced it and thereby furthered his capacity to conduct his private affairs. For these reasons, the pursuit of gain in the market, which we have been calling the strategy of “exit,” was not distinguished in the medieval town from the strategy of “voice.” If one wished to advance in business one could not withdraw from political involvement or the demands of service to the community.

This regime was always somewhat fragile, even in its heyday in the high Middle Ages, but it became more and more frail as industry migrated out of the towns and as internal trade became regional or national in scope. It should be no surprise to discover that from the early sixteenth century, at about the same time as Bristol’s fairs and other old market institutions were taking on new functions and the city abandoned the collection of the traditional tolls at its gates, the tendency of its citizens to refuse service in civic office also grew. Such refusals persisted throughout the ensuing period.[78] The migration of George Monox, Paul Withypool, Robert Thorne, and other major cloth exporters to London in the early sixteenth century should be seen in this same light. Their public service followed their business interests.[79] By the second half of the seventeenth century these civic traditions in Bristol were in an advanced state of decay. As we have seen, the city became filled with shopkeepers and craftsmen who conducted retail trade without being sworn freemen and in many cases without even having been apprenticed in their occupations. Furthermore, Bristol found its substantial men refusing office with unheard-of frequency. Between the Restoration and 1680, for example, some fourteen Bristolians elected to be common councillors refused to serve and had to be discharged, and a further seven were sworn only after having put up considerable resistance.[80] Under these conditions, it became possible to separate “exit” from “voice,” to pursue alternative strategies for obtaining one’s ends.

But in examining the relation between credit and the scheme of admission to a town’s freedom, a question immediately arises. What mechanisms for assuring credit discipline developed to substitute for those that used to be in force in the cities? A partial answer to this question can be supplied if we look again at the economic implications of religious politics after the Restoration. The Clarendon code, especially the Corporation Act, had removed from the cursus honorum of the towns all those unwilling to conform themselves, even occasionally, to the Anglican service. Insofar as officeholding marked one’s rank in the social hierarchy, these men no longer stood on the same ladder of mobility as their fellows. Moreover, some nonconformists refused to swear oaths and thus found themselves unwilling—or, as they would have said, unable—even to enter into the freedom of their home communities. In Bristol and similar places, it is these religious dissenters we find most frequently arrested for illicit retail trading or fined for refusing to serve in office. Indeed, in many instances nonconformists were purposely elected to office in order that they could then be fined. The fines served both as a way of taxing their wealth, which would otherwise not be employed for civic purposes, and as a form of persecution. At least three of the fourteen unsworn common councillors elected between 1660 and 1680 fall into this category.[81]

However, the members of the dissenting sects had their own mechanisms for maintaining credit discipline when they were cut off from the older civic and gild forms. Those mechanisms were of a type that remained useful after the trader had left the jurisdiction of the town. The concept of “calling,” which demanded hard work, sobriety, honesty, constant striving to do one’s best, and, above all, a religious devotion to keeping one’s word, played an all-important role. As a dissenter went about his business, he showed his creditworthiness by the same means he used to manifest his commitment to God’s law. Among some groups, moreover, this psychological scheme of credit discipline was reinforced by a social one. Their religious meetings in many ways performed similar functions to the clubs, Masonic lodges, and pseudo-Masonic organizations that John Brewer has shown to have been essential in stabilizing the credit system of the eighteenth century.[82]

The world of the shopkeeper, the peddler, and the itinerant craftsman was the environment from which such religious dissent drew its greatest strength. It was peopled by individuals whom Christopher Hill has termed “masterless men” because they depended primarily upon their own resources, psychological as well as economic, in earning their livelihoods.[83] Far from being masterless, these men were their own masters. They viewed life as a pilgrimage on which they progressed along a straight and narrow path guided by a religious and ethical compass within them. They represented at one and the same time the two principles of independence and trustworthiness. Once they had bound themselves by a promise, whether it was to God or to creditor, they would do everything in their power to keep their word. It was this outlook, inculcated and reinforced by the work of the religious meeting, that made possible the dissenters’ participation in the economic revolution of the later seventeenth century.[84]

Take, for example, the sugar refinery established in 1665 at Whitson Court in Bristol by a group of Baptists headed by Thomas Ellis and Edward Terrill.[85] Its history in the 1660s and 1670s gives a good picture of how connections within the dissenting community could be employed to build up an enterprise from relatively small beginnings. Ellis, who became a freeman of Bristol in 1641, was the son of Walter Ellis, a prominent Merchant Venturer from before 1618, a common councillor in the 1620s and 1630s, and keeper of the Backhall under the reformed city government in 1647–48. Both Thomas’s father and his grandfather had been importers of sugar to the city in the years before the development of the West Indies trade. Ellis was also the cousin of John Gonning, Junior, another prominent Merchant Venturer and well-connected supporter of the parliamentary cause in the 1640s, who from 1651 to his death in 1662 was part owner of St. Peter’s sugar house, the first such establishment in Bristol, founded by Alderman Robert Aldworth in 1612. In Ellis, therefore, we have a man who not only had family ties to and personal interest in the sugar trade but who no doubt also benefited from a comfortable inheritance from two generations of successful trade in the city and who enjoyed close connections to the wealthiest and most prominent elements in the city’s commercial leadership.

By the later 1650s and early 1660s, however, Ellis’s religious convictions had almost certainly undermined his position in the city at large. We find him in the city’s commercial records only as a small-scale trader in West Indian sugar. At one point, for example, he shipped a modest cargo of shoes to Nevis for his supplies. When he started his own sugar refinery he turned primarily to his dissenting brethren, first buying the old priory property in Lewins Mead in St. James parish from William Davis, merchant, and John Teague, leatherseller, who were almost certainly co-religionists. Within two years of this purchase he was made Ruling Elder of the Broadmead Baptist Church, located not far from his new sugar house. To get started he depended on the expertise of two fellow Baptists as his sugar bakers: Anthony Wood, a colonial merchant who also became a trading partner and key supplier of sugar to Ellis’s enterprise, and Godfridt von Ittern, a recent émigré from Hamburg. To build up a capital stock for equipment and supplies, Ellis also looked for credit to his fellow Baptists, receiving it from Thomas Harris, an apothecary; Edward Terrill, a scrivener; and John Wathen, apothecary, kinsman of James Wathen, shoemaker, whom we have already met. In this way, capital of approximately £800 was built up to pay for the property and equipment on the site.

Although we find both William Colston of St. Peter’s sugar house and John Knight, Junior, who had a sugar house at the Great House on St. Augustine’s Back, importing sugar “ten tons at a time,” Ellis and his associates rarely made entries in the Customs House on their own. Instead of sending their servants to buy directly from the planters, they relied for their supplies on the large numbers of small traders who brought sugar to Bristol. At the same time, they undertook to secure further supplies by “coloring” sugar and molasses belonging to strangers as their own. In most cases the suppliers were American planters who were probably also fellow Baptists. Using these techniques, a risky investment in one of the few early modern industries requiring significant stocks of fixed capital was turned into a success. By 1682, when Ellis sold the sugar works to Edward Terrill and a partnership of three Presbyterian grocers headed by Michael Pope, the enterprise had multiplied in value. The three grocers each had invested £1,000 to start their business. These figures suggest that the original £800 investment had grown in value to perhaps between £4,000 and £6,000 in less than twenty years.

The nature of the shipping industry also offered room for pooling resources and talents. Ships were inherently complex pieces of machinery, demanding large outlays of funds and a variety of skills to build and maintain. To work efficiently they demanded a cohesion or solidarity among all the parties—investors, merchants, and crew—that could only be enhanced if these individuals also shared extra-economic loyalties.[86] Often these ties were promoted by kinship, but it is not surprising to find interconnected groups of dissenting shipowners, builders, and sailors operating in a fashion not unlike that of Ellis and his associates. We have already seen such a connection at work among the Quakers in the makeup of the crew of the Dolphin of Bristol, which brought young Farwell Meredith to Barbados in 1654. A similar pattern can be observed in the history of the ship Love’s Increase, which William Bullock employed to transport Irish prisoners to the West Indies as indentured servants in the 1650s. It was built in the 1640s by a team of sectaries headed by Bullock’s father and was owned in the 1650s by Thomas Speed’s sister-in-law, Ann Yeamans, herself a prominent Quaker. It was from Ann Yeamans that Bullock contracted for its use. Its name, chosen for it in the 1640s, was not a mere fancy but an expression of the fondest hopes of those associated with it.[87]

The link among the dissenters between the pursuit of gain in the wider world and the maintenance of solidarity in their own communities was an intimate one. Their external strategy of “exit” could not have succeeded so well without their internal practice of “voice.” Indeed, in the dissenters’ own minds these two methods of addressing humankind were conceived as interconnected parts of the same design. Both turned on their abhorrence of false swearing, since they understood bargaining in the traditional manner as simply another form of oath-taking. Their practice of setting a single price for the sale of a particular commodity thus arose from interpretation of the same scriptural passages that had produced their prohibition against swearing of any kind. In the Sermon on the Mount, they argued, had not Christ required “Yea, yea” and “Nay, nay” as an alternative to oath-taking? Had he not said, “Swear not at all”?[88] And in the Epistle of St. James were not Christians told, “above all things…swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be your yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into a condemnation.”[89] In conventional Protestant commentaries, such as those of William Ames, these words were not interpreted as absolutely prohibiting oaths or forbidding all bargaining—far from it.[90] The dissenters, who had experienced the defeats of the Interregnum and the religious and economic persecutions of the Restoration, used these doctrines to define their place in the world as an embattled remnant. At one and the same time they were able to face their enemies as militant proselytizers for the Truth and to draw together for moral guidance and material support.[91]

Anglican Royalists such as Sir John Knight saw religious uniformity as the only sound basis for a civilized society. So long as men and women remained united in their deepest convictions and devoted to a common heritage of worship, harmonious social relations and an orderly and productive economy were assured. In the face of dissent, only political and social upheaval and economic chaos could be expected. The dissenters, however, viewed the enforcement of an outward uniformity as no more than tyranny, out of which no public good could come. It not only destroyed the fabric of community but made the free course of economic exchange all but impossible.[92] When the dissenters put forth the idea of a free market, therefore, it was a counterattack to their Anglican Royalist opponents. But it also provided a mechanism for settlement with those Bristol common councillors who sought to use the constraints of competition to control the sectarian colonial traders. On the whole, the great servant traders among the sectaries—such men as Speed, Bullock, and even the irrepressible Christopher Birkhead—accepted the use of the indenture for servants bound for the plantations as right and proper and in their interest, and they continued to register servants most of the time throughout the Restoration.[93] Both parties seemed willing to let a man’s ability to compete determine whether he would remain a colonial merchant. Possession of the necessary investment capital, rather than training in the merchant’s craft or membership in the Merchant Venturers, became the primary determinant of one’s ability to engage in the traffic.

Nevertheless, it was not mere accommodation that the dissenters sought in accepting the challenges of the free market. It was spiritual victory, which would come in the form of converts to their religious way. But even if they could not draw large numbers by their personal example, they expected that their commercial successes would bring customers to them and thereby produce a harmonizing of interests and meeting of minds even with opponents. As Charles Marshall put it,

[W]hen the People of the World come to your Houses, to have Converse and Commerce with you, all being in Dread, Fear and Awe of the Lord God, in the Sweet, Savoury Chaste Life, the Witness of God will arise, and make them acknowledge, You are the People of the Lord, and that he is with you.[94]

The result would be a unified city. In the words of George Bishop, men could “begin to forget the old Engagements wherein they had been mutually exercised to the detriment of each other, and…apply themselves to things that concerned their Own, and the good of each other.”[95] Political moderation would guarantee this social harmony. So long as each man could pursue the dictates of his conscience and tend to the prospering of his estate, free from the meddlesome interference of the authorities, the city would be “at peace and unity within its self; men of all perswasions, as to Religion, well perswaded amongst themselves, and as to the Civil peace united in the hearts, and love of each man to another, and the public benefit.” With this guarantee of a unified social order, “every individual might rest assured of the peace and safety of his estate and Person, in the persuance of the publick.”[96]

By removing themselves from politics, the realm of the passions, to economics, the realm of the interests, the dissenters had come a long way toward intellectual agreement with their enemies. What remained was for those in authority to move toward them. We have already seen that the social history of dissent had laid the groundwork for this modus vivendi. The dissenters in Bristol were no newcomers lacking roots in the city. They had kinship and business ties with a wide variety of their fellow Bristolians and could neither be confined to a sectarian ghetto nor be driven from the town into exile. These conditions were only reinforced by economic developments in the second half of the seventeenth century. As the dissenters became established in their chosen trades, some, like Thomas Ellis among the Baptists and Thomas Gouldney among the Quakers, grew wealthy and could not be ignored. This was due to their importance in the colonial trades, whose role in Bristol’s economy grew at an extraordinary pace from 1660 to 1700. So long as the Quakers and Baptists owned ships and sugar refineries, they would have support from at least some Anglican traders and shopkeepers.

As we know, even in the 1660s these facts had helped promote a policy of religious toleration among some of the leaders of Anglican Bristol. By the end of the century, this view had won the support of statute and had become very widespread among Bristol’s elite. In 1695, John Cary, merchant of Bristol and member of Parliament for the city, himself the son of an Anglican minister, argued for “liberty of conscience” as one of the essentials necessary for the improvement of England’s trade. Although he believed that the Toleration Act had already helped to remedy the breach in the body politic, he still thought “it were to be wisht some way be found to make Methods of Trade more easie to the Quakers than now they are. I am apt to think,” he said, “that he who appears in the Face of a Court to give Evidence on his word, if he be a Man of Conscience looks on himself equally obliged to speak the Truth as if he is sworn, and nothing will deter a dishonest Man like the fear of punishment.”[97] In Bristol and many other places, the sectaries had become sufficiently important to the economy to make it necessary for their neighbors to accept them in peace and work with them in trust and harmony. In these respects Cary had accepted in principle the dissenters’ most profound teachings on the ethics of work and of charity.[98]

By the late seventeenth century, the English commercial economy had become dependent on a national market in which diverse activities were integrated over ever wider fields. Whereas in the late Middle Ages each of the major towns was a replica of its rivals, urban centers were now parts of a large, interconnected network in which each element had distinct functions to perform.[99] In this new economic order the insights of Marshall and Fox had a special place. As political economists such as Charles Davenant had come to recognize, a well-developed division of labor meant that human beings could not survive without the assistance of others to supply their wants. Commerce had the capacity to bring men together in peaceable intercourse, where, in addition to depending on judgment of their own self-interest,

[t]hey will find, that no trading nation ever did subsist, and carry on its business by real stock; that trust and confidence in each other, are as necessary to link and hold a couple together, as obedience, love, friendship, or the intercourse of speech. And when experience has taught each man how weak he is, depending only upon himself, he will be willing to help others, and call upon the assistance of his neighbours.[100]

Economic development, at first the source of social conflict, had become a wellspring of social cohesion. Davenant, of course, refers only to the market for trade and credit and neglects the market for labor, which did not always bring men together in harmonious and mutually beneficial relations. Even though he disregards the world of the servant, he tells us a penetrating truth about the world of the spirit. Its history in the later seventeenth century is one of political and religious rivalry transformed into economic and social cooperation. It is a view that sees economic activity itself, optimistically, as an example of “Love’s Increase.[101]


1. Lionel Gatford, Public Good without Private Interest (London, 1657), quoted in Neill, Virginia Carolorum, p. 278. [BACK]

2. Bullock, Virginia Impartially Examined, p. 14. Compare Richard Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Holbrook Jackson (New York: Vintage, 1977), pp. 187, 196–97; Richard Baxter, The Certainty of the World of Spirits (London, 1691), p. 11. [BACK]

3. See Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 204; K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967), p. 115. [BACK]

4. Henry Hallywell, Melampronoea, Or a Discourse of the Polity and Kingdom of Darkness (London, 1681), epistle sig. A4. [BACK]

5. Jeaffreson, ed., Middlesex County Records, vol. 3, p. 278. In Bristol, the mayor and aldermen nearly always took special pains to provide these culprits with protection at the pillory against mob action: Latimer, Annals, p. 255; see also Jeaffreson, ed., Middlesex County Records, vol. 3, pp. 182, 255, 259; CSP (Colonial) (1661–1668), nos. 769, 770. [BACK]

6. PRO, SP 29/57/71. [BACK]

7. See Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 182; Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 472. [BACK]

8. John Josselyn, Chronological Observations of America (London, 1674), reprinted in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3d ser., 3 (1883), p. 387. I thank Karen Ordahl Kupperman for this reference. [BACK]

9. John T. Rutt, ed., Diary of Thomas Burton, Esq., Member of the Parliaments of Oliver and Richard Cromwell, from 1656 to 1659, 4 vols. (London: H. Colburn, 1828), vol. 4, pp. 253–73; Calendar of the Clarendon State Papers Preserved in the Bodleian Library, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1872–1970), vol. 3, pp. 426, 428, 441, 446, 448, 453, 457, 463, and vol. 4, 159, 162, 164, 168, 170–72, 176–77; CJ, vol. 7, pp. 620, 622; Thurloe, State Papers of John Thurloe, vol. 7, p. 639; DNB, “John Thurloe”; Olson, Anglo-American Politics, p. 38. This case also implicated Mr. Thomas Noell. It was closely connected with similar charges against other prominent figures of the Interregnum put forth by Marcellus Rivers and Oxenbridge Foyle, also Royalists transported to Barbados: Rutt, ed., Diary of Thomas Burton, vol. 4, pp. 253–73; Marcellus Rivers and Oxenbridge Foyle, England’s Slavery, or Barbados Merchandize (London, 1659). [BACK]

10. See John Wilmore, The Case of John Wilmore Truly and Impartially Related (London, 1682); John Wilmore, The Legacy of John Wilmer, Citizen and Late Merchant of London (London, 1692); Roger North, Examen: or An inquiry into the credit and veracity of a pretended complete history (London: F. Gyles, 1740), p. 591; North, Lives of the Norths, vol. 2, p. 25n.; John Hawles, Remarks upon the Tryall of Edward Fitzharris, Stephen College etc. (London, 1689), esp. pp. 5, 16–17, 52; Smith, Colonists in Bondage, pp. 75–76. Stephen College, a London joiner and arch anti-papist, was arrested on a charge of treason for riding fully armed to Oxford in March 1681. He was first tried at the Old Bailey, where Wilmore and his colleagues returned a verdict of ignoramus, after which the case was removed to Oxford, where College was convicted. For his actions in the matter Wilmore was imprisoned for fifteen weeks in the Tower on a charge of treason and only released on £9,000 bail. Almost immediately afterward came a charge of spiriting involving a runaway like Farwell Meredith who had begged passage abroad. For Wilmore’s own connection to Shaftesbury, see HMC, Fourteenth Report, app. 4, p. 128. [BACK]

11. North, Lives of the Norths, vol. 2, pp. 24–27; Seyer, Memoirs, vol. 2, pp. 531–32; Latimer, Annals, pp. 433–36. The Bristol aldermen were accused of permitting vagrants and even felons to accept transportation to the colonies, a practice which undoubtedly went on, as North makes clear. For an instance in the 1650s, see BRO, MS 04273 (1), f. 45r. [BACK]

12. Richard Baxter, Certainty of the World of Spirits, p. 175. [BACK]

13. William Grigg, The Quaker’s Jesus (London, 1658), pp. 37, 38–52; Ralph Farmer, The Great Mysteries of Godlinesse and Ungodlinesse (London, 1655), p. 24; Ralph Farmer, Sathan Inthron’d (London, 1657), p. 28. See also Richard Baxter, The Quaker’s Catechisme (London, 1651[?]), epistle; Richard Baxter, One Sheet for the Ministry against the Malignants of all sorts (London, 1657), p. 5. Grigg was a Presbyterian glover in Bristol and a member of the city’s Common Council during the Interregnum; Farmer we have already met, above, pp. 222–23, 235–37. At this time he was the Presbyterian minister of St. Nicholas Church in the city, as well as city lecturer. [BACK]

14. Baxter, Certainty of the World of Spirits, p. 176. The idea that the Quakers were possessed people was widespread; see Richard Blome, The fanatick history (London, 1660), pp. 71–121; The Devil turned Quaker (London, 1656), sig. A4a–i; Grigg, The Quaker’s Jesus, epistle, sig. A3a–b; Farmer, Great Mysteries of Godlinesse and Ungodlinesse, epistle, sig. A2a, pp. 21–23, 30, 81–87; Farmer, Sathan Inthron’d, p. 2; Ralph Farmer, The Impostor Dethron’d (London, 1658), epistle, sig. Bb, pp. 5–9; Mortimer, Early Bristol Quakerism, pp. 4–5. In general, see Reay, “Popular Hostility towards Quakers,” esp. pp. 398–99; Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, chap. 4; see also Barry Reay, “Quakerism and Society,” in J. F. McGregor and Barry Reay, eds., Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 141–64. [BACK]

15. See Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” pp. 158–59. [BACK]

16. The Devil turned Quaker, sig. A2a. [BACK]

17. Farmer, Great Mysteries of Godlinesse and Ungodlinesse, p. 87. See Blome, The fanatick history, pp. 68–70, 87–99; Reay, “Popular Hostility towards Quakers,” pp. 388–89, 396; Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, pp. 152, 186–207; Hugh Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), pp. 111, 113, 115, 116, 161, 163, 164, 166, 168; Keith Thomas, “Women and the Civil War Sects,” in Aston, ed., Crisis in Europe, pp. 332–57. [BACK]

18. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large, vol. 1, p. 532. [BACK]

19. Grigg, The Quaker’s Jesus, pp. 35–36. [BACK]

20. Julianus, “Fragment of a Letter to a Priest,” in The Works of the Emperor Julian, 3 vols., ed. and trans. Wilmer Cave Wright, Loeb ed. (London: W. Heinemann, 1913–1923), vol. 2, pp. 337, 339. Cf. Julian’s remarks in the same letter on demon-possessed atheists, in Julianus, Works, vol. 2, p. 297. [BACK]

21. On this theme see, in general, Hill, The World Turned Upside Down; Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), chap. 2. This is not to deny that many of them also saw it as a religion of submission to God’s will. I owe this point to discussion with J. C. Davis. [BACK]

22. Bishop, A Relation, pp. 15–16. [BACK]

23. George Bishop, An Illumination to Open the eyes of the Papists (so called) and of all other sects (London, 1661), p. 11. [BACK]

24. Robert Purnell, The Way to Heaven Discovered (London, 1653), epistle, sig. B4d. See also Hayden, ed., Records, p. 47. Purnell was a carpet-weaver by occupation. For examples of his support of the Commonwealth, see Robert Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints (London, 1649), pp. 73–75; Robert Purnell, No Power but of God (London, 1651), pp. 166–67; Purnell, Way to Heaven Discovered, pp. 197–204; Robert Purnell, England’s Remonstrance (London, 1653). For his attacks on the Quakers, see Robert Purnell, A Little Cabinet Richly Stored with all sorts of Heavenly Varieties (London, 1657), epistle; [Robert Purnell], The Church of Christ in Bristol Recovering her Vail (London, 1657). For a general discussion of Baptist views, see J. F. McGregor, “The Baptists: Fount of all Heresy,” in McGregor and Reay, eds., Radical Religion, pp. 23–64. [BACK]

25. Purnell, No Power but of God, pp. 89–90; Robert Purnell, The Way Step by Step to a Sound and Saving Conversion (London, 1659), p. 103. [BACK]

26. Purnell, No Power but of God, epistle, sig. A4b. [BACK]

27. Ibid., p. 80. [BACK]

28. Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints, pp. 7–8. [BACK]

29. Purnell, Way to Heaven Discovered, epistle, sig. B3b; Robert Purnell, The Way to Convert a Sinner (London, 1652), pp. 20, 33; Purnell, A Little Cabinet (London, 1657), epistle, pp. 167–68; Purnell, Way Step by Step, pp. 62–65. [BACK]

30. Hayden, ed., Records, p. 100; see Purnell, Way to Heaven Discovered, epistle, sig. B3b. [BACK]

31. Robert Simpson to Edward Terrill, 27 June 1664, signed from Newgate, printed in Edward B. Underhill, ed., The Records of a Church of Christ, meeting in Broadmead, Bristol, 1640–1687 (London: J. Haddon, 1847), p. 79. [BACK]

32. Thomas Ewins to “the small remnant that meet this afternoon,” (1664?), in Underhill, ed., Records, pp. 80–81; Thomas Ewins to Edward Terrill, 23 July 1664, in ibid., p. 83. [BACK]

33. Bishop, An Illumination, p. 12. [BACK]

34. Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints, pp. 26–27; cf. Bishop, An Illumination, p. 19. [BACK]

35. Purnell, No Power but of God, epistle, sig. A4ab; see also Purnell, Way to Heaven Discovered, p. 188. [BACK]

36. George Bishop, Jesus Christ, the Same Today as Yesterday (London, 1655), p. 5. [BACK]

37. For example, Thomas Ewins, called as teacher in 1651 and then installed as pastor in 1662, was a London tailor by trade: Hayden, ed., Records, p. 27. [BACK]

38. Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, p. 102. [BACK]

39. Sewel, Rise of the Christian People Called Quakers, pp. 556–57. [BACK]

40. Hayden, ed., Records, p. 102. [BACK]

41. Acts 10: 34–35. This was a frequently cited passage among the sectaries: see, e.g., Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints, pp. 25, 26–27; Bishop, An Illumination, p. 31; Hayden, ed., Records, p. 102. [BACK]

42. Purnell, The Way to Heaven Discovered, pp. 193–94; see also Purnell, England’s Remonstrance. [BACK]

43. Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints, pp. 62–63, 73–75; Purnell, Way to Heaven Discovered, pp. 191–204; Purnell, England’s Remonstrance. [BACK]

44. Purnell, Way Step by Step, pp. 101–2. [BACK]

45. Purnell, Good Tydings for Sinners, Great Joy for Saints, epistle, sig. A2b. On this subject, see Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” p. 161. [BACK]

46. Bishop, Mene Tekel, pp. 4, 30–31. [BACK]

47. Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 106–7. Foord’s case shows how quickly a purely economic matter could become a religious cause célèbre. When called before the magistrates by the milleners, Foord showed them “his unmannerly carriage…in ye Tolzey by keeping on his hatt on his head though commended to take it of.” For this he was ordered to find sureties for his good behavior. At Quarter Sessions he reappeared to clear those who stood bond for him, and the whole matter reopened again when the town clerk, Robert Aldworth, asked him if he was sorry for keeping strangers. He said “he had committed no evill, therefore he hd no cause for sorrow, nor had he broken any Law.” For all this he was recommitted to Newgate: BRO, MS 04417 (1), f. 20v; Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 132–34. [BACK]

48. Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, pp. 9–10. [BACK]

49. The common practice in Bristol in dealing with newcomers to the city, as a condition of allowing them to stay, was to take certificates from them that saved the parish harmless from supporting them on the poor rates. The Quakers seem to be referring to this practice in their defense of the migration of strangers into the town: see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 231–32; Latimer, Annals, pp. 13–14. In general, see Philip Styles, “The Evolution of the Law of Settlement,” University of Birmingham Historical Journal 9 (1963): 35–42; A. L. Beier, “Vagrants and the Social Order in Elizabethan England,” Past and Present, no. 64 (August 1974): 3–29. [BACK]

50. Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, p. 10. [BACK]

51. Bishop, A Manifesto, pp. 21–22. [BACK]

52. Bishop et al., Cry of Blood, p. 2. [BACK]

53. For evidence that this is just what servants were doing, see Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America, pp. 102–13; Menard, “British Migration,” pp. 106–9. [BACK]

54. R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism: A Historical Study, 2d ed. (New York: New American Library, 1960), esp. pp. 11–20; see also Christopher Hill, “Protestantism and the Rise of Capitalism,” in Christopher Hill, Change and Continuity in Seventeenth-Century England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974), pp. 81–102. [BACK]

55. On the significance of this position for the later development of capitalism, see Max Weber, “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism,” in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 312. For discussion of the roots of this position in Quaker thought, see Isabel Grubb, Quakerism and Industry Before 1800 (London: Williams and Norgate, 1930), pp. 9–46; Richard Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few: Symbolism of Speaking and Silence among Seventeenth-Century Quakers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), chap. 7. [BACK]

56. Charles Marshall, Sion’s Travellers Comforted, and the Disobedient Warned: In a Collection of the Books and Epistles of the Faithful Minister of Christ Jesus, Charles Marshall (London, 1704), pp. 14–15. [BACK]

57. Matthew 5:38. [BACK]

58. George Fox, “A Cry for Repentence unto the Inhabitants of London,” in George Fox, The Works of G. F., 8 vols. (Philadelphia: M. T. C. Gould, 1831), vol. 4, p. 100. [BACK]

59. John Bunyan, Life and Death of Mr. Badman and The Holy War, ed. John Brown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1905), pp. 23, 31, 34, 37, and 118–25, esp. pp. 124–25; for discussion of this work, see Christopher Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628–1688 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), pp. 231–39. Richard Baxter, while permitting some bargaining and variation in pricing according to circumstances, also agreed on the whole with the principle of the fixed price: see Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory: Or, A Summ of Practical Theologie and Cases of Conscience…in Four Parts (London, 1678), part 4, pp. 97, 103–6 [misnumbered as 206] see also part 1, pp. 353–62 [misnumbered as 382]. On these themes, see Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, pp. 183–87; Grubb, Quakerism and Industry, pp. 28–29. [BACK]

60. John Locke, “Venditio. 95,” dating from 1695, in his Commonplace Book of 1661, as printed with modernized spelling in John Dunn, “Justice and the Interpretation of Locke’s Political Theory,” Political Studies 16 (1968): 84–87; see also Dunn’s discussion of this document in the body of his article, pp. 68–84. [BACK]

61. Raymond de Roover, “The Concept of the Just Price: Theory and Economic Policy,” Journal of Economic History 18 (1958): 418–34; Raymond de Roover, San Bernardino of Siena and Sant’Antonio of Florence: Two Great Economic Thinkers of the Middle Ages (Boston: Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, 1967), esp. pp. 16–23; Raymond de Roover, “Monopoly Theory Prior to Adam Smith: A Revision,” in Raymond de Roover, Business, Banking and Economic Thought in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Julius Kirshner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 273–305; Raymond de Roover, “Scholastic Economics: Survival and Lasting Influence from the Sixteenth Century to Adam Smith,” in ibid., pp. 306–35; Raymond de Roover, “The Scholastic Attitude Toward Trade and Entrepreneurship,” in ibid., pp. 336–45; see also John T. Noonan, Jr., The Scholastic Analysis of Usury (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957). It is possible that Locke was familiar with some of the scholastic literature on economic morality to which de Roover refers in his important articles. For example, Locke’s account of the moral obligations of a merchant bringing food to a famine-stricken market is virtually the same as the argument put forward by San Bernardino: see de Roover, San Bernardino of Siena and Sant’Antonio of Florence, pp. 20–21. [BACK]

62. Malynes, Lex Mercatoria, p. 67; for Malynes’s debt to scholastic economics, see Raymond de Roover, “Gerard de Malynes as an Economic Writer: From Scholasticism to Mercantilism,” in de Roover, Business, Banking and Economic Thought, pp. 346–66. [BACK]

63. For a good account of how such a market operates in practice, see Clifford Geertz, Peddlers and Princes: Social Change and Economic Modernization in Two Indonesian Towns (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 28–47. [BACK]

64. The system of regulation in Bristol is discussed in detail in Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chaps. 3–4; for an overview of economies run by “custom and command,” see John R. Hicks, A Theory of Economic History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 9–24. [BACK]

65. Marshall, Sion’s Travellers Comforted, p. 14. [BACK]

66. Thirsk, Economic Policy and Projects, esp. chaps. 1, 5–7; see also Lorna Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660–1760 (London: Routledge, 1988), esp. chaps. 1–4. [BACK]

67. Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), esp. pp. 3–5, 21–43; Albert O. Hirschman, Essays in Trespassing: Economics to Politics and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 211–65; Albert O. Hirschman, Shifting Involvements: Private Interests and Public Action (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), esp. pp. 92–120; Albert O. Hirschman, “Exit and Voice: An Expanding Sphere of Influence,” in Albert O. Hirschman, Rival Views of Market Society and Other Recent Essays (New York: Viking, 1986), pp. 77–101. [BACK]

68. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, chap. 9; Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament, 1648–1653, esp. chap. 7; Austyn Woolrych, From Commonwealth to Protectorate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), esp. pp. 223ff. [BACK]

69. Hirschman, Essays in Trespassing, p. 244. [BACK]

70. Marshall, Sion’s Travellers Comforted, p. 15. [BACK]

71. Fox, “A Cry for Repentence,” pp. 100–101. [BACK]

72. For surveys of the transformation of the Quakers after the Restoration, see William C. Braithwaite, The Second Period of Quakerism (London: Macmillan, 1919); Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution, pp. 103–22; Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries (New York: Viking, 1984), pp. 129–69. For comments on the Baptists in the same period, see Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man, pp. 101–53. On the history of the dissenters during the Restoration in general, see, along with Hill’s Experience of Defeat, Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, pp. 278–91; Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil; Hutton, The Restoration; see also Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” p. 161. [BACK]

73. See Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. xviii–xxv, 76–77, 87, 88–89, 93, 94, 95, 98, 99, 108, 117–18, 124–25, 153–54; see also Grubb, Quakerism and Industry, chap. 5. For an account of the operations of this system in Philadelphia, see Frederick B. Tolles, Meeting House and Counting House: The Quaker Merchants of Colonial Philadelphia, 1682–1763 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948), pp. 73–80. The Baptists were somewhat less active in this regard, but see Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 55–56, 121, 128–29, 187–88, 191, 202; see also Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” p. 161. [BACK]

74. See Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few, pp. 95–119, esp. p. 98; Craig W. Horle, The Quakers and the English Legal System, 1660–1688 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), pp. 49–52, 238–42; Gerald R. Cragg, Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660–1688 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), p. 51; in general, see Hill, Society and Puritanism, pp. 382–419. [BACK]

75. Mortimer tells us that issues relating to marriage occupied about a quarter of the business of the Men’s Meeting in Bristol; apprenticeship, while not taking as much time, was also important: Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, p. xxiii; for evidence on apprenticeship, see ibid., pp. 1, 2, 3, 6, 41, 59, 60, 69, 70, 74, 76, 80, 84, 85, 107, 143, 178, 183, 215, 221. References to marriage matters can be found on nearly every page. [BACK]

76. On officeholding as recognition of one’s worthiness and honor, see Phythian-Adams, “Ceremony and the Citizen,” esp. pp. 62–64. [BACK]

77. On the legal system in force in the city, see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chap. 4. [BACK]

78. See Leadam, ed., Select Cases before the Star Chamber, vol. 2, p. 150; Latimer, Sixteenth-Century Bristol, 12–13; BRO, Old Ordinance Book, f. 21v; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, p. 6; Latimer, Annals, pp. 33, 35, 133. [BACK]

79. See above, pp. 30–32. [BACK]

80. See Beavan, Lists, pp. 201–3. [BACK]

81. Beaven, Lists, compared to Hayden, ed., Records, and Mortimer, ed., Minute Book. If we knew more about the membership of the dissenting churches, we would probably find this number to be higher. [BACK]

82. John Brewer, “Commercialization and Politics,” in Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society in Eighteenth-Century England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), pp. 203–30. [BACK]

83. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, pp. 32–45. [BACK]

84. On these themes, see Paul Seaver, Wallington’s World: A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), esp. pp. 112–42; Paul Seaver, “The Puritan Work Ethic Revisited,” Journal of British Studies 19, no. 2 (Spring 1980): 35–53; Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man, esp. pp. 155–280. [BACK]

85. The following account is based on the evidence provided in I. V. Hall, “Whitson Court Sugar House, Bristol, 1665–1824,” BGAS 65 (1944): 1–97. [BACK]

86. On the organization and sociology of the shipping industry, see Davis, Rise of the English Shipping Industry, chaps. 3, 5–8; see also Marcus B. Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), esp. chaps. 1–2. [BACK]

87. Nott, ed., Deposition Books, vol. 1, pp. 177–78; McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 118. [BACK]

88. Matthew 5: 34. [BACK]

89. James 5: 12. [BACK]

90. See, e.g., William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, ed. and trans. John D. Eusden (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968), pp. 267–70. [BACK]

91. See Bauman, Let Your Words Be Few, pp. 103–19. [BACK]

92. See Barry, “Politics of Religion,” pp. 168–69; Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” pp. 157, 159; Pincus, “Protestantism and Patriotism,” chap. 3. See also Steven C. A. Pincus, “Popery, Trade and Universal Monarchy: The Ideological Origins of the Second Anglo-Dutch War,” English Historical Review (forthcoming). I owe the term “Anglican royalist” to Dr. Pincus. I have also benefited from discussions with him about the points made in this paragraph. [BACK]

93. See BRO, MS 04220 (2). [BACK]

94. Marshall, Sion’s Travellers Comforted, pp. 12–13. [BACK]

95. Bishop, A Manifesto, p. 2. [BACK]

96. A Relation, p. 3. [BACK]

97. John Cary, An Essay on the State of England in Relation to its Trade, Its Poor, and its Taxes, For carrying on the present War against France (Bristol, 1695), p. 43. [BACK]

98. In other respects, too, Cary’s ideas approached those of the dissenters. Since he believed that labor created all wealth, he argued that those economic activities were best that most encouraged productive employment. He favored the colonial trades because they supplied raw materials for manufacturers; he condemned the luxury trades because they drained away England’s coin without promoting its industry. As a result he was one of England’s greatest advocates for putting the poor on work, and as a member of Parliament and citizen of Bristol he led the movement for the creation of district workhouses under consolidated corporations of the poor. For further discussion of Cary’s ideas, see below, pp. 339–43 and the works cited at p. 449, n. 24. [BACK]

99. See, e.g., de Vries, European Urbanization, 1500–1800, chaps. 3–4; Wrigley, “Urban Growth and Agricultural Change,” pp. 157–93. [BACK]

100. Charles Davenant, “Discourses on the Public Revenues,” in Charles Davenant, The Political and Commercial Works of Dr. Charles D’Avenant, ed. Charles Whitworth, 6 vols. (London: R. Horsfield, 1771), vol. 1, p. 152. On Davenant, see J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), pp. 437–46; Istvan Hont, “Free Trade and the Economic Limits to National Politics: Neo-Machiavellian Political Economy Reconsidered,” in John Dunn, ed., The Economic Limits to Modern Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 57–95. [BACK]

101. See Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 56–63, 69ff.; Albert O. Hirschman, Rival Views of Market Society, pp. 105–41; see also Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, chaps. 13–14. For a recent and penetrating discussion of the problems brought to political discourse by these developments in economics, see J. G. A. Pocock, “The Political Limits to Pre-Modern Economics,” in Dunn, ed., Economic Limits to Modern Politics, pp. 121–41. [BACK]

Conclusion: The Widening Gate of Capitalism

For most English men and women of the Tudor and Stuart period, change never brought progress, though it might produce reform, renascence, or restoration. A perfect world was a stable world, unaltered and unalterable in its essentials. To signify this certainty Queen Elizabeth had adopted as her motto semper eadem, “always the same,” expressing her sense that the good and true were good and true for all times and all places. But the era through which she and her compatriots lived challenged the very premises of their thought, including the notion that change always represented either a falling away from perfection or a return to it. Bristol offers us a paradigmatic example of this great transformation, as much intellectual and cultural as social and economic in its character. Bristol’s history between 1450 and 1700 created a center of early modern capitalism out of a medieval commercial town. So fundamental were these changes that to a Bristolian born in the first half of the fifteenth century the world of the late seventeenth-century city, had it been possible to describe it to him, would have seemed almost as foreign and exotic as the cities of China had been to Marco Polo. At the end of the two hundred and fifty years of history we have been reviewing, Bristol had become in its own way a newfound land, as different from the old city as North America was different from the world that John Cabot and his Bristol colleagues had known in Europe.

We have seen how England’s loss of Bordeaux in 1453 marked the end of a long-stable pattern in the history of Bristol’s trade wherein every year cloth was exchanged in Gascony for huge quantities of wine, and how the Bristolians began a series of adjustments in the trade, society, and politics of their city. By the end of the sixteenth century, Bristol’s commerce, driven by its merchants’ quest for the highly profitable and scarce commodities of southern Europe, had come to focus on the Iberian peninsula, and new forms of merchant organization had emerged to exploit this traffic. A half-century later the pattern had changed again as Bristolians, still driven by “Bristol’s hope” for quick turnover and large gains in the luxury trades, transformed their city into an entrepôt of the trans-Atlantic economy. As recently as the 1630s, only a handful of vessels using the port annually had made the journey to and from the American plantations. But by the late seventeenth century about half of the shipping leaving British waters from Bristol was bound for Virginia, the West Indies, or Newfoundland, and a similar portion of the incoming traffic had originated there. As a result of this concentrated commercial effort, American sugar and tobacco had become by 1700 almost as much a staple of the city’s trade as French wine had been in the fifteenth century.

This transformation, so fundamental to bringing Bristol into the modern world, was as much a matter of outlook as of action. It could not have been accomplished without the will and ingenuity to break from the conventions of the past shown by many Bristolians, and it could not have been sustained without the growth among them of a new economic understanding. In Bristol as elsewhere, new economic ideas had been slow to emerge, and no single moment can be named as the turning point. But, fortunately, we can observe the main outlines of this important intellectual transition in the writings of three men: Roger Edgeworth in his Sermons, delivered in the 1540s and 1550s; John Browne in his Marchants Avizo, which appeared in 1589; and John Cary in his Essay on the State of England in Relation to its Trade, Its Poor and its Taxes, published in Bristol in 1695, and Essay on the Coyn and Credit of England: As they stand with Respect to its Trade, which appeared the year following. When looked at closely, these writings reveal a profound change in worldview of which Browne, who wrote in the late 1570s or early 1580s, represents the turning point between Edgeworth’s religious and ethical approach and Cary’s political economy.

As a city preacher in the 1540s and 1550s, Roger Edgeworth found it useful to draw many of his analogies and examples from the experiences of trade and the handicrafts familiar to most of his listeners. His sermons allow us to glimpse their world through its commonplaces. Edgeworth was well aware that this world, which involved the seeking of “gaynes” or “wynnynge,” operated according to ethical principles peculiar to it. “[T]he occupying that well besemyth som man,” he says,

is vnfitting and euil besemyng som other man…A Draper, a Mercer, a Shoemaker, and a hardwareman may stand in the open Market and sel hys ware to the most aduauntage and gaine, thereby sufficientlye to sustayne hym selfe, and hys familye or housholde. A knyght, a squyre, or a well landed manne maye not so do wyth hyse honestye. It were filthye, shame, and dishonestye for hym so to dooe, and hys winning shoulde not bee but fylthye wynnynge…and shamefull gaines.[1]

Nevertheless, even in the commercial environment of the city, the pursuit of gain was likely to be tainted. Covetous men, Edgeworth said, were like moles, blind to godly or heavenly counsel, who would rather descend “headlong” into the depths “to their lucre and aduantages” than feed on the “wine and wastel” of divine wisdom. Their lives were filled with “the temporall woe and paine they have in keping their goodes: for they be rather possessed and holden of theyr goods, then possesseth and holdeth them. And they haue their goodes as we say a man hath a paire of fetters or shackles vpon his legges, more to his paine then to his pleasure.”[2]

For Edgeworth, life in this urban world was fraught with unpredictable risks. It demanded courage as well as judgment and skill. To survive it was necessary to persist in one’s enterprises without regard to uncontrollable dangers and unforeseen losses. Since this was especially true for overseas traders, they became his model for fortitude in the face of adversity. If one or two storms or one or two losses should cause the shipman or the merchant to “abhorte and giue of going to the sea,” he says, “there would at the last no man aduenture to the seas, and then farewell this citye of Bristow, and all good trade of marchaundyse and occupying by sea.”[3] A merchant, although he has experienced many losses by shipwreck, still seeks out “straunge lands” and adventures “on his olde busynes” with a stock “gathered of borowed money, and dothe full well, and commeth to great substaunce and riches.”[4] But because survival required taking advantage of every opportunity to earn profit, this trading community was also a world of temptations to evil. Out of “couetousness to get the penye” men were driven to “sell false or noughty ware, or by false weightes or measures [to] deceiue [their] neighbours.”[5] We have all known “some Marchuntes and other occupiers,” Edgeworth says,

that in their prenticeshippe, and while they were iourneymen or seruauntes haue feared God deuoutlye, and the worlde busilye. And when they haue set vp and occupied for them selues, haue growen to muche riches in a little space, in so muche that within seuen or eight yeres they haue bene able to be shyriffes of the Citye, but when they were fatte, that their prouender pricked them, they haue begon to kycke againste GOD, and to do noughtelye.…They haue take their pleasures moste voluptuouslie, and haue contemned all others dispitefully which is a signe that the feare of GOD was cleane gone.[6]

For this reason, fearlessness in the face of danger could never be enough. It was also necessary to “sticke stedfastlye to thy fayth, doing accordinglye to Gods holye worde.”[7] According to Edgeworth, “He that feareth God will do good dedes, and will eschue the contraries, and his thrifte shall come accordinglye.”[8]

Since it was from God that men “had their thrift,” the only way to assure success was to live according to His will. All citizens were to do “their dutye in their tythes and offeryngs” to Him, keeping themselves “in the feare and awe” of His majesty, and “liuynge charitablye” toward their neighbors.[9] To illustrate these truths, Edgeworth told his listeners a little story. He asked them to consider two young men who had come to a town together as apprentices, “came forth to libertie together,” and set up in their occupations at about the same time. “[T]he one was more expert in his occupation then the other, the more quycke more liuelye, and more pregnant of witte, and he laboured…bothe earlye and late, as the other did, and yet he could not come forwarde, but euer almoste in beggars estate.” After a time the man “that was so farre behind” met his old acquaintance “and marueylynge of the chaunce of them boothe considerynge (sayth he) that when we were yong I was more likely to come forward then thou. And that I labour and studie…as many waies to haue the world, and to come to welthines, and more then euer diddest thou, & yet it wil not be, and the more I labour yet neuer the nere.” He suspected the reason must be that his fellow had “founde some bagges or treasure trouvy, some hid riches that bringeth thee alofte.” The second man agreed that his success was because he had indeed “founde some hydde ryches” and offered to bring his friend to where he “mayest finde like riches.”[10]

On the appointed day, the rich man brought his old acquaintance to church, where the first man “fell on hys knees and saide his prayers deuoutly as he was wont to do,” while “the other man called busily on him to shewe him his treasure. Tarye a while,” said the rich man,

we shall anone haue a Masse or some diuine seruyce compiled or gathered of the word of God, or some sermon of exhortation that may do vs good. Anone a prieste was ready & wente to masse: After masse this poore mannes minde was on the money, and called vppon his frende whiche at the laste aunswered after this maner. Frende, thou haste hearde and sene parte of the treasure that I haue founde. Here in this place I haue learned to loue GOD, heare I haue learned to feare God, Heare I haue learned to serue GOD. And when I haue done my duetye to God, home I go to my woorke about suche businesse as I haue, and all thinges goeth forward and so I am comne to this honeste Almes that GOD hathe lende me, wyth whiche I am well contented, and do thanke God for it, it commeth of God, and not of my deseruynge.[11]

His recommendation to his friend was to emulate this example if he wanted riches. “I see thy fashion,” he said, “thou little regardest God or his seruice, and lesse regardest his ministers. Thou haddest leuer goe to the market then to Masse, and on the holye daye, to idle pastimes, then to heare a Sermon.” Hence, “if thou thriue it is meruayle. And surely if thou prosper and go forwarde for a season, thou shalte haue one mischaunce or another that shall set thee further backwarde in a daye, then two or three good yeares hath set thee forward.”[12]

Skill, diligence, and the capacity for hard work were as nothing in Edgeworth’s economic world. By themselves they could not keep one from beggary. Even a successful enterprise was worthless, since it could not be counted upon as a firm foundation on which to build future successes. The world was simply too unpredictable, too likely to turn one’s days from good to bad in the twinkling of an eye. Only if one foreswore the market for the mass, respected the ministry, and performed the proper godly devotions would one receive a lasting reward. Hence the moral of Edgeworth’s tale was that “[t]hey that feare God haue no pouertie, for eyther they be ryche, or at leaste wyse be verye well pleased wyth that little that they haue, which passeth all gold and precious stoones.…Pietie or mercie with a hart content wyth that a manne hathe, is a greate gaynes and winnynge.”[13] Religious devotion also gave more than contentment with one’s lot; the spiritual merit built up through good works became the treasure upon which one could draw to go steadily forward in one’s everyday affairs. In this sense, the spiritual and material orders were united. God blessed those who gained His favor through their piety. In another way, however, they were radically disjoined, since there was little that one’s earthly endeavor could do to promote one’s earthly reward. Such success as one might have in one’s affairs came, as it were, from grace and not from works.

John Browne shared many of Edgeworth’s assumptions about the nature of the economy and its inherent dangers. The son of a Bristol draper, he was among the early Merchant Venturers in the city. Born about 1525, he was apprenticed in 1538 to a leading merchant, was married to the daughter of another in 1545, became mayor in 1572, and died in 1595. Hence he lived through the sixteenth-century climax of Bristol’s transition from being a specialist in cloth and wine to its new role as the entrepôt of the Iberian trades. His Marchants Avizo was intended as a handbook—or, as Browne himself says, “a patterne”—of merchant practice, designed especially for merchant apprentices in this era of economic change.[14]

Browne does not describe a modern economy. For him, the economy simply lacked the stable and predictable markets in which prices could be set without extensive haggling. As a result, a merchant could only use his “best indeuoure to sell as the time serueth.” If he could not “sel to some reckoning” in one place he took his goods to another “there to sell…as well as you may please.”[15] For this reason, the practice of merchants remained an art, subject to the wisdom of experience where nothing was hard and fast, and the best advice was “to haue good insight your selfe, and to do according as is your hast and necessities for your sales.”[16] No self-sustaining market mechanism could adjust the interests of buyers and sellers and control the dealings of merchants with each other. Browne believed, with Edgeworth, in a providential universe in which God’s visible hand could “destroy both thy bodie and soule.”[17] Trade, in this world, depended on personal relations among the traders, and the preservation of one’s good standing with them was more important than maximizing profit on a particular transaction. In Karl Polanyi’s phrase, the economy remained “submerged…in social relationships,”[18] subject to the unpredictable interplay of individual actions and chance events.

As if to mark this fact, Browne ends his book with “certain Godly sentences” which combine worldly wisdom and sage counsel on human frailty with admonitions to “first seeke the kingdome of God” and “remember often thy Creator.” Some of these sentences stress right actions, as in the admonition that “when thou promisest any thing: be not slacke to performe it, for he that giueth quickly, giueth double.” Others warn of dangers to be avoided from fellow merchants. “Be not hasty in giuing credit to euery man; but take heed to a man that is ful of words, that hath red eyes, that goeth much to law, and that is suspected to liue vnchaste.” For, through proper management of his relations with his fellows, a merchant “may liue with honestie and credit in time to come” and thereby have “prosperitie in all his wayes.” These moral precepts ring with an old-fashioned condemnation of covetousness and all that goes with it. “The godly and diligent man,” we read, “shall have prosperitie…but he that followeth pleasure and voluptuousnesse shall haue much sorrow.” Nevertheless, this condemnation was not in itself a critique of business enterprise. It focused instead on the morality of whoever might acquire wealth, no matter what his social rank or occupation. Did he gain it honestly, or by deceit? Did he act with reason and restraint, or rapaciously? Did he use his profits to maintain his family, to employ others, and to provide charity, or did he turn them to gluttony, wasteful luxury, and dissipation? If he was honest, selfless, and responsible, he was not covetous, even though he might be exceedingly wealthy. Browne’s overall aim was to encourage the merchant to live frugally and without greed, so as to avoid the threats of disaster around him. “Be circumspect and nigh in all your expenses,” he says, “that what you now spare and save…may grow the more to your owne benefit in time to come.” Here Browne differs from Edgeworth, since Browne believes that prudent conduct can limit risks and improve chances for prosperity.[19]

In the course of providing this tutelage Browne gives us a picture of the economy as he understood it. Since he saw its foundation in the exchange of goods, he dwelled primarily on relations among merchants. Nowhere in his book did he instruct the merchant apprentice in how to acquire domestic wares for export or how to dispose of imports once they had reached England. Instead, he focused on the manner in which a group of English traders, mostly from Bristol, worked together to dispose of their wares on the continent and to purchase the most profitable goods they could from foreign dealers. However, Browne had a clear comprehension of the mechanisms that made his economic world work. He knew the importance of foreign exchange and the role of credit, and he understood the necessity of organization and regulation in maintaining the vital networks. But the community of merchants was always at the heart of this world. Its success in mediating between domestic and foreign markets affected every craft—spinsters and sailors, weavers and dyers, landlords and tenants, husbandmen and victualers, grocers, clothiers, vintners, and mercers. If the merchant prospered through God’s blessing and his own prudence, those who depended on him would do so as well.

In other words, Browne had a sense of the economy as an integrated system, though not yet one separate from the larger social world. Its trades and crafts formed a social body in which each part worked to support the welfare of the whole. But his hierarchical ordering of occupations was concerned primarily with social distinction—“degree,” as he says—not functional economic integration. The merchant stood at the apex of a social pyramid, where he was the outlet for surplus domestic goods and the source of scarce foreign ones. His work, although it was of social benefit to each rank beneath him, did not promote the creation of trades and industries; it only redistributed their wares. Its very nature prevented this hierarchy from being a self-regulating mechanism of interconnected parts, since what was valued within it was set by absolute standards of virtue and not by the workings of the system itself. Nevertheless, this emphasis on the virtue of the trader placed some of the responsibility for the general welfare on his experience, choices, and effective actions.

Browne’s moral precepts, though familiar enough to men of Edgeworth’s outlook and their medieval predecessors, were conjoined to a growing sense that the merchant was a public figure, like the gentleman, the lawyer, and the cleric. The merchant’s activities affected the harmony of the commonwealth, because if he neglected his duties or failed in his enterprises those dependent on him would suffer. Hence his work required close regulation and demanded protection. This was a theme of the Commonwealthmen of the mid-sixteenth century, who usually are read more for their criticisms of trade and industry than for their vision of a new social hierarchy.[20] The same ideas became a theme for the merchants themselves as they petitioned for privileges and as they joined the royal court to advise the Crown.[21] Although Browne, writing at the age of sixty or so, appears to have held no hope for political advancement or personal benefit, he shared this new understanding. He looked on his book as the product of his public duty to aid his “profession.” When his profession prospers, he argued, “then common weales in wealth increase,” and everyone gains thereby:

Let no man then grudg Marchants state,
Nor wishe him any ill:
But pray to God our Queene to saue,
And Marchants state help still.[22]
Nevertheless, The Marchants Avizo is not a work of policy. Its chief purpose was “to worke a generall ease to all Marchants: whereby they may the lesse trouble themselues either with writing, invention, or thought of these matters,” and also to “be some stay to young and weake wits: yeelding them therby the more freedome of mind towards their other businesses.”[23] To accomplish these goals, it provided models of accounting procedures and of letters to and from servants sent abroad, drafts of various types of commercial instrument, and guides to weights, measures, exchange rates, and the qualities of certain imported wares.

John Cary wrote, however, with a deep concern for high matters of political economy. The son of Shershaw Cary, a Merchant Venturer, he was also a Merchant Venturer in his own right. Born about 1650, he was admitted to the Society in 1677 and became its warden for the year in 1683. He was briefly a member of the Bristol Common Council in 1687–88, helped to found Bristol’s famous Corporation of the Poor in 1696, and died about 1720.[24] He too witnessed a major transition in Bristol’s history, as the city moved from its focus on Spain and southern Europe to become an entrepôt of trans-Atlantic commerce. Writing in a genre that first became prominent during the economic crisis of the early 1620s, Cary attempted a systematic analysis of the present economic order with the goal of promoting national trade, increasing wealth, and improving government revenues. Of course, he had his own viewpoint, one that, if implemented, would have specially benefited the kind of commerce practiced by his fellow Bristolians. Far from advocating a single interest, however, he adopted the dispassionate and disinterested tone of the public commentator explaining the “Foundations of the Wealth of this Kingdom.”[25] “The general Trade of the Nation (which is the support of all),” he says,

requires as much Policy as Matters of State, and can never be kept in regular Motion by Accident; when the frame of our Trade is out of Order, we know not where to begin to mend it, for want of a Sett of Experienced Builders, ready to receive Applications, and able to judge where the defect lies.[26]

The ends advocated by Cary resulted from his belief that “true Profits” result, not from trade, but from “that which is produced from Earth, Sea and Labour…our Growth and Manufacture.”[27] Therefore, trade that neither exported English products or manufactures nor supplied things necessary to promote manufactures at home, to carry on trade abroad, or encourage navigation

cannot be supposed to be advantageous to this Kingdom, for there must be a difference made between a Nations growing rich and particular Mens doing so by it, and I humbly propose that it may be possible for private Men to be vastly improved in their Estates, and yet at the Years end the Wealth of the Nation cannot be a whit greater than at the beginning.…[W]hilst the thrifty Shopkeeper buys at one Price, and sells at another to the prodigal Beaux, and the industrious Artificer rents his Labour to the idle Drone, and the politick Contriver outwits the unthinking Bully, one raises his Fortunes on the other’s decay, the same for our Outland Trade, if we Export the true Riches of the Nation for that which we consume in our Luxury, tho’ private-Men may get rich by each other, yet the Wealth of the Nation is not any way encreased.[28]

On this basis he rejected the trade with the East Indies, since it extracted England’s wealth for high-priced goods without promoting domestic employments. But he had high praise for trade with the American plantations, which, in his view, had spared England a crisis of overpopulation. “People are or may be the Wealth of a Nation,” he argued,

yet it must be where you find Imployment for them, else they are a Burthen to it, as the Idle Drone is maintained by the Industry of the laborious Bee, so are all those who live by their Dependence on others, as Players, Ale-Houses Keepers, Common Fidlers, and such like, but more particularly Beggars, who never set themselves to work.[29]

The plantations not only employed the poor but encouraged navigation, were a market for England’s own goods, supplied commodities that could be wrought up at home or exported again, and made unnecessary the purchase of similar goods from the territories of other princes.

[F]or I take England and all its Plantations to be one great Body, those being so many Limbs or Counties belonging to it, therefore when we consume their Growth we do as it were spend the Fruits of our own Land, and what thereof we sell to our Neighbours for Bullion, or such Commodities as must pay for therein, brings a second Profit to the Nation.…This was the first design of settling Plantations abroad, that the People of England might better maintain a Commerce and Trade among themselves, the chief Profit whereof was to redound to the Center.[30]

All in all, Cary’s work depicted an economy transformed. Browne, a century earlier, had portrayed a commercial economy concentrated on Spain, Portugal, and France, and on only a handful of commodities—spices, sugar, wine, dyestuffs, oils, soap, iron, and salt—from which the greatest portion of a merchant’s profits ordinarily could be expected. Nothing was said directly about exports, although of course they are mentioned in various of the letters Browne used to give examples of form. But Cary’s economy encompassed the whole world—Asia, Africa, and especially America, as well as Europe, and the domestic as well as the international market—and valued the widest range of raw materials and finished goods, from the small and high-priced to the bulky and cheap. Its foundation lay in the relations between merchants and producers and in the creation through labor of new wealth.

Cary was no less religious than Edgeworth and Browne. Indeed, he is probably best known for his public acts of charity on behalf of the poor in Bristol. He was also no out-and-out free trader in the manner of the Bristol Quakers. He believed in state intervention to protect commerce and industry. Though he thought an outright “Monopoly by Law a thing very contrary to the Genius of the People of England”—something that “seems to barr the Freedom and Liberty of the Subject”—he nevertheless agreed with the old Merchant Venturer theme about the need to prohibit “the Merchant from being a Shopkeeper, or Retailer, and the shopkeeper from being a Merchant or Adventurer at the same time.” If “neither would interfere in the others business,” he said, each “would be better managed.”[31] But in so saying he was offering advice to tradesmen based on his analysis of the workings of the economy, not on a program of regulations and laws. Unlike Edgeworth and even Browne, Cary understood the economy to operate according to its own demonstrable rules. For him the market was a mechanical system, reaching a balance according to a scheme of weights and counterweights and working on a principle of the division of labor in which all the parts were linked by the circulation of wealth. “As the wealth and Greatness of the Kingdom of England is supported by its Trade,” he said, “so its Trade is carry’d by its Credit, this being as necessary to a Trading Nation, as Spirits are to the Circulating of Blood in the Body natural; when those Springs…Decay, the Body languishes, the Blood stagnates and the Symptoms of Death soon appear.”[32] If the economy depended on cogs to direct the wheels, it required only minimum adjustments “to keep them true.”[33]

One influence on Cary’s thinking was his acquaintance with major developments in the natural sciences. His papers even contain descriptions of three comets and a sketch of one of them.[34] He felt comfortable, as we have just seen, with analogies drawn from William Harvey’s path-breaking work on human circulation and had grasped the mechanistic paradigm emerging in astronomy and other branches of science in his day. He probably was familiar as well with the writings of John Locke and his circle; his work obviously owes a debt to Locke’s thinking on the role of labor in creating wealth. But the development of the economy in the second half of the seventeenth century also played a large role in accounting for Cary’s vision. He could easily see in his own city the integration of trade and industry about which he theorized. The plantations alone supplied it with

great Quantities of Sugar, Tobacco, Cotten, Ginger and Indigo…which being bulky for their transporting hither, and the greater Number of ships, imploys the greater number of Handicraft Trades at home, spends more of our Product and Manufactures, and makes more Saylors, who are maintained by a separate Imploy.[35]

The same was true for every trade. “For,” he argued,

if One Raised the Provision he eat, or made the Manufactures he wore, Trade would close, Traffique being a variety of Imployments Men set themselves on adapted to their particular Genius’s, whereby one is serviceable to another without invading each others Province; thus the Husbandman raises Corn, the Millard grinds it, the Baker makes it into Bread, and the Citizen eats it; Thus the Grazier fats Cattle, and the Butcher Kills them for the Market; Thus the Shepard shears his wool, the Spinster makes it into Yarn, the Weaver into Cloth, and the Merchant exports it; and every one lives by each other: Thus the Country supplies the City with Provisions, and that the Country with Manufactures.[36]

As Cary envisioned this interlocking of trade, it extended far beyond the boundaries of England. For example, according to him, the use of Indian calicos drove Silesian and German linens from the market and encouraged those who made them to convert their looms to the production of woolens. This in turn deprived England of a market for woolen cloths and even touched the manufacture of hats, which depended on central European wools for felt.[37] The same principle applied everywhere. In place of Browne’s hierarchical view, in which everyone depended on the merchant to succeed, Cary’s functional view stressed the reciprocity of all economic relations. “I comprehend all transferring of Properties under the general Notion of Trade; the Landlord, the Tenant, the Manufacturer, the Shopkeeper, the Merchant, the Lawyer all are Traders so far as they live by getting from each other, and their Profits arise from the Waxing and waning of our Trade.”[38] The guiding principle was indeed that “every one lives by each other.”[39] The merchant had a vital role to play, because he stimulated production, but he was only one among many, each of whom depended absolutely on his fellows in the division of labor.

Because Cary’s economy was subject to the laws of cause and effect, it was capable of development. “The first Original of Trade,” he tells us,

was Barter; when one private person having an Overplus of what his Neighbour wanted furnished him for his Value in such Commodities the other had, and stood in need of…And as People increased so did Commerce; this caused many to go off from Husbandry or Manufacture and other ways of living; for Convenience whereof they began Communities; this was the Original of Towns, which being found necessary for Trade, their Inhabitants were increased by expectation of Profit; this introduced Forreign Trade, or Traffick with Neighbouring Nations.[40]

This economic evolution created increasingly complex relationships among people. As they came more and more to depend on trade, the “buyer not only sold his commodities at home, but also dispersed them among those who were seated in the Country at a distance…and thence came in a skill and cunning to foresee their Rise and Fall according to their consumption and prospect of supply.”[41] Differences arising among buyers and sellers led next to the need for laws and lawyers, courts and judges, while the advance of “Trade brought Riches, and Riches Luxury, Luxury Sickness, Sickness wanted Physick and Physick required some to separate themselves” to become doctors. “[M]any also of ripe parts were fitted for Service of the Church, others of the State; great numbers were Imployed in providing Necessaries of Meat, Drink and Apparell both for themselves and other People…others fit things for their Pleasures and Delights.”[42] In this way economic growth produced civilization, with its benefits and discontents. As “Mens knowledge increases by Observation,” Cary concluded, “one Age exceeds another…because they improve the Notions of Men.”[43]

Roger Edgeworth could not conceive of improvement in our lives as in any way the consequence of human will. Only an ever-present God, working according to His own judgment of our true wants, could produce worldly satisfaction of them. Although John Browne had a more positive view of men’s ability to cope with the ways of the world, he too looked to God as the primary source of human welfare. “First seek the kingdome of God and the righteousness thereof,” he advised, “and then all things shall be giuen thee that thou hast neede of.”[44] He was also unable to contemplate a world ordered in any other than a static, hierarchical fashion. For John Cary, however, the social world was in a continuous process of change. It had begun in simplicity, but, driven by man’s need to balance existing supplies against his wants, it had grown day by day in complexity. Only the underlying laws of economic action, themselves open to human understanding and application, remained constant.

The history we have been recounting in this book tells of the transition from Edgeworth’s form of economy to Cary’s. But it was also a history that took Bristolians from one form of social and political order to another. Although it was possible at the end of the period to think of political economy, if not economics itself, as an autonomous subject, this was only part of a process of change that was as much social, political, and cultural as it was economic. To citizens of the fifteenth-century city, Bristol had appeared as a replica of the cosmos, an ordered and harmonious arrangement of parts that made a unified whole. Its trade may have extended their reach far beyond the city’s boundaries, but in theory the city remained a compact community of sworn brothers who acted with common interests and for the common good. By the fourteenth century a group of wealthy men, mostly engaged in the overseas trade in cloth, had emerged as a distinct body of civic leaders in Bristol. Although their prosperous circumstances had distinguished them from their fellow townsmen, as citizens they were but members of the commonalty, enjoying equal liberties and franchises with all other sworn burgesses. The loss of Bordeaux, however, and the course of change it helped set in motion had undermined the foundations of this community.

The first signs of a significant shift in social outlook had come quickly. In 1467, when the level of Bristol’s trade stood near its nadir for the fifteenth century, the city government created the first organization exclusively for overseas merchants. Although this special fellowship of merchants, comprised of officers, hall, and regulatory functions, appears to have been short-lived, ending when economic conditions improved, it marked a change and set a precedent. From this moment on, merchants would become increasingly separate from those in other occupations who engaged in buying and selling. In 1500, the idea of a separate fellowship of merchants became even more definite when the newly reformed Bristol Corporation issued an ordinance establishing a company “separate and distincte from every other companyes of handecraftymen.”[45] During the second half of the sixteenth century this concept crystallized further, first with the acquisition of a royal charter of incorporation for the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol, and then with the concerted efforts of its members to exclude all but wholesale merchants from overseas trade. The attempt at monopoly became the recurring theme in Bristol’s history until well into the seventeenth century.

At the same time a parallel development occurred in the realm of politics. The medieval borough had long been governed by a mayor, annually elected at a general meeting of the burgesses. It was not until the mid-fourteenth century that a select body of councillors joined him in rule. Until then, government seems to have had a communal form; all major decisions were made at the same sort of general meeting as that which elected the mayor. In Edward II’s reign, when a group of fourteen local magnates set themselves up as a governing body, their rule was met with violent resistance from the townsmen. Finally, in 1344, the city established a Common Council of Forty-Eight, whose members were chosen from among the wealthier men engaged in cloth manufacture and trade. When Bristol was incorporated as a county in its own right in 1373, this body was reformed into a council consisting of the mayor, the sheriff, and forty of the “better and more worthy men” of the borough. At the same time, the mayor became the king’s lieutenant in the city and one of the justices of assize, and the mayor and the sheriff jointly became keepers of the peace and justices of gaol delivery, which linked the city to national administrative and legal institutions. Nevertheless, their elevation to these national offices did not break the mayor’s and the sheriff’s ties to the community. The Bristolians still considered them and their brethren on the Common Council as the representatives of the whole body politic of the town, not its overlords. They served by communal acceptance of their rule, ritually given and received by the shouts of acclaim at the annual mayoral elections and in the festivals of the civic year that followed.

The new Bristol constitution of 1499 altered this delicate balance between the role of royal official and communal representative for these civic leaders. By creating a bench of aldermen, who along with the mayor served as justices of the peace, and by adding as recorder a learned lawyer who was also an alderman, it integrated the city government into the same national regime of administration then emerging in the counties. In consequence, the members of the Corporation more and more were identified by their new status as a separate body of officials within the city, partaking of the authority of royal rule. What made this development especially potent was the way it connected with the changing character of the overseas trading community. Since the leading men in the council were also the leading men in commerce, the power and influence they enjoyed in government could be used to advance their interests in the economy. Time and again the city government intervened to support the leading merchants in their petitions for royal favor and in their quest for monopoly. Bristol had evolved a strongly hierarchical social order in which the great wholesale merchants dominated the economy, interposing themselves between other domestic dealers and foreign markets, and in which the magistrates—who in most instances were the same men—dominated the polity, interposing themselves between the ordinary citizenry and the central institutions of the state.

However, the rivals of the mere merchants among the city’s retailers and craftsmen of the city perceived issues very differently. To them the attempts at merchant monopoly usurped the ancient rights of citizenship, and those who performed this act violated the very bonds of community. This communitarian undercurrent surfaced only occasionally to produce political strife among the citizenry, but it seems to have been present in latent form throughout our period. Whenever the mere merchants’ efforts to secure a monopoly resurfaced, the retailers and craftsmen mounted stiff resistance to the Merchant Venturers’ claims as best they could. Among some of these rivals of the Merchant Venturers, an undercurrent of communitarian social feeling converged with religious ideals of community to create a revolutionary party in the city, anxious for fundamental reform in church and state. Indeed, many of the most radical Bristolians in the 1640s and after came from just those sections of the city’s economy most affected by the monopolistic claims of the merchants. To match the religious passions of some of the enemies of monopoly, among the monopolists themselves a small but powerful group emerged who favored a Laudian view of religion and society and who supported the king with fervor in the battles of the 1640s.

In these ways the central place of a state-supported, regulated merchant company in Bristol’s history contributed to the growing radicalization of the city’s politics. Clashes between rival economic interests, fueled by changing patterns of social mobility and political recruitment, took on increasingly more significance as the ideological edge already apparent in the battles of the 1560s and 1570s transformed the issue of monopoly into one of high morality and linked it to affairs of state. The Merchant Venturers’ new charter of 1639 only added kindling to the flames, since the antagonisms aroused by it became one element in the partisan rivalries of the Civil War period in Bristol. The coming of the Civil War also meant that the Merchant Venturers’ great victory of 1639 was short-lived. Once Parliament’s forces had defeated the Royalists, control of Bristol fell into the hands of citizens with no sympathy for monopoly, while in Westminster little support with which to challenge the new local regime remained for the Merchant Venturers. As the instrument of national economic policy and the product of political conflicts played out in Westminster as well as Bristol, the Merchant Venturers could not help being caught up in the upheavals of the 1640s; they were nearly destroyed by them. Just as the Society’s formation was the local expression of national politics, so was its fate.

It is sometimes said that all politics is local politics, since ultimately it must be played out by people in the context of their daily lives. However, local politics can either draw in upon itself and make the connections and rivalries of local inhabitants the foundation of local affairs, or it can reach beyond its boundaries to participate in the larger world of governmental institutions and political movements. Late medieval Bristol attempted with increasing difficulty to maintain the first kind of politics. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century Bristol was an example of the second type. In ordinary times, the focus of political action was the exploitation of the state for local advantage, but when a national crisis developed, it engaged Bristolians immediately because they were a politically integrated part of the realm.

Moreover, the seventeenth century witnessed a significant transformation in the ways the local effects of politics were experienced in the city. Before 1640, the main political issues concerned the role of the city in the state. The magistrates saw themselves in a coordinated relationship with the central government to preserve order and protect the subjects. They were willing to accept state power so long as it helped to perform these vital functions. When they found it necessary to defend their role as local governors, they were not acting because they considered themselves as buffers against the king but because they saw themselves as essential parts of royal government. Order to them meant the union of authority with property, as expressed in their own leadership of their community, and they feared any use of state power that threatened this union. For this reason they made their political choices by concentrating on what would best promote the maintenance of the national polity as they understood it. In the Tudor and early Stuart years, most of Bristol’s magistrates conceived of this polity as one in which authority was exercised for the king by men rooted in the community, not by strangers with few local ties and no comprehension of local conditions. In other words, during this period they envisioned a political world in which community and state were related to one another as parts to the whole, not as opponents.

This “country” attitude, which the Bristolians shared with many of the gentry, persisted into the Restoration and beyond. But after the Civil Wars the underlying structure of politics was vastly complicated by ideological and religious differences, which on the one hand drew many more Bristolians into the vortex of political conflict and on the other connected the city’s affairs in new ways with national political developments. Religious divisions founded on rival conceptions of universal truth touched men and women in the city who rarely, if ever, had engaged in public controversy. Local politics were no longer confined to the city’s better and more worthy men and their immediate opponents, but now involved many servants and apprentices, craftsmen, and shopkeepers in the lesser trades and their wives and daughters. Moreover, the efforts of the 1650s to regulate the trading activities of the sectaries and the attempts of the 1660s to purge the civic community of their presence were linked directly to shifts in the configuration of national politics and thus tied to extralocal institutions—Parliament, the national executive, and the leaders of sects, among others. When the Army in Bristol came to the support of the radical candidates for Parliament in 1654, when Cromwell ordered the demolition of the Castle and the disbanding of its garrison in 1656, when Sir Humphrey Hooke stood down from his parliamentary seat in favor of the earl of Ossory in 1661, and when the Conventicle Act became the weapon of Sir John Knight’s persecution in 1663, the gates of local politics widened. These events not only confirmed Bristol’s connection with the ever-present powers of the state but also revealed its participation in political conflicts that had their center far outside the city’s boundaries.

Another, deeper dynamic was also at work in this period to challenge Bristol’s standing as a closed arena. So long as commerce was confined to a few markets in Europe or the nearby Atlantic possessions of the European powers, where only a limited range of export goods could be sold and where only those with established reputations and trading connections could flourish, the members of Bristol’s merchant elite could use the Society of Merchant Venturers to protect themselves from all but the most determined interlopers. But the emerging American trade could not be managed through a regulated trading company, since the colonies had such high demand for small wares and for labor. Moreover, many Englishmen with the necessary supplies and the desire to profit from them had kinfolk and friends among the colonists with whom they could deal confidently on credit. Under these conditions, attempts to regulate trade according to the models of the sixteenth century were doomed to failure.

Once this new reality had been recognized in Bristol, the terms of conflict between the Merchant Venturers and their rivals shifted. Since overseas commerce with the colonies could not be controlled by limiting access to the market, a concerted effort was made to raise the marginal costs of enterprise, at least for those engaged in the lucrative trade in servants. The requirement that every servant leaving Bristol for the American plantations have an indenture allowed the larger traders to compete more effectively against the small, with the goal of driving the part-time merchant completely out of the traffic. Although this effort proved unsuccessful, in large measure because illicit dealing was far too easy, it marked a major shift in understanding. Now, to be a merchant was no longer an issue of training and status but one of wealth. The market was to control who entered and who survived the competition for power and riches.

It was not the Merchant Venturers alone who had come to this conception of the economy. Among the sectaries, whose numbers swelled with small shopkeepers and craftsmen, it became a matter of religious conviction and political wisdom to trade in a free market. The urban market they knew was a regulated market, subject to the political control of those who governed the city. In the 1640s, these sectaries had fought to gain control over this system of regulation in order to make it more equitable. But by 1654 their efforts had failed, and they became the victims of the city government, especially after the Restoration. It now made better sense for them to seek a free market, where their economic successes could be achieved without political hindrance. This strategy was not only a defensive one. Those who argued for it saw in it a way to win support for their point of view as their economic success drew more and more of their old enemies into peaceful intercourse with them, converted many to the virtues of their views, and convinced the authorities to desist from their persecutions. In this competition the sectaries had some advantages. Among themselves they represented a closed community of known and trusted members whose word was their bond. They could mobilize capital and deal together on credit with confidence that their fellows would uphold their promises, thus providing the necessary competitive edge to overcome their rivals. As a result, many of them found it convenient to comply most of the time with the new regulations imposed on their trade. In the end, their views converged with those of their enemies, and the basis for settlement became apparent.

Between 1450 and 1700, therefore, Bristol had become, not only a port specializing in trans-Atlantic commerce, but a society organized after the same fashion as the newly emerging economic order. The city, which in the fifteenth century had been thought the microcosm of a world of harmonies and correspondences, was now for many a network of functional relations, subject to the laws of cause and effect. Just as dealers were to compete for buyers in a free market, ideas were to compete for acceptance and men for power in an open forum. As the gates of Bristol widened, the logic of life moved from a theologian’s dialectic to a political arithmetician’s calculus.

What made this development so significant was the way it reinforced the changes in Bristol’s life wrought by the widening of its economic gates. Bristol had always been a comparatively complex community. From the time it became a great center of cloth manufacture and trade in the high Middle Ages, it had depended on an intricate division of labor. Clothmaking, even in those early days, involved numerous stages of production, many of which were performed by specialists. Overseas commerce also depended on the work of numerous specialists. When combined, these two aspects of Bristol’s medieval economy produced a relatively complex occupational structure. With the collapse of the cloth trade and Bristol’s development as a regional center for imports, this pattern became even more complex. Between the 1530s and 1540s sixty-eight different trades are mentioned in Bristol’s apprentice book; by the late 1620s and early 1630s there are one hundred and four different trades.[46] Although it is impossible to be as precise for the years after 1650, when the apprentice records become much less reliable, it is clear that growth was continuous into the second half of the seventeenth century. New trades such as sugar-refining and tobacco-pipe– making appeared, while older crafts, particularly in metalworking and clothmaking, showed a greater division of labor. We even find such specialized arts as “Gingerbread maker.”[47] In consequence, by 1675 there might have been as many as one hundred and seventy-five or even two hundred recognized crafts within the city.[48] Even the merchants, who never quite became the specialists in wholesale enterprise that some thought desirable, exhibited such a division. Only a small number engaged in trade with all of Bristol’s markets. Most, especially those interested in colonial commerce, concentrated their efforts in only one or two places.

These changes signaled not only a greater complexity of social life within Bristol but a greater degree of integration between the city and the larger economy. Throughout our period Bristol was preeminently a center of distribution. Its role in England was largely to provide a transfer point for goods produced elsewhere, although of course many of its inhabitants devoted themselves to altering those goods in one way or another to make them more marketable. But the seventeenth century brought Bristol an increasingly intricate and specialized pattern of commercial relations, as well as more diverse commodities to buy and sell. In the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries the city had played a somewhat specialized role in trade with England’s possessions in France. If we visualize a map of commerce on which are recorded Bristol’s markets, with smaller or larger circles depending upon where its enterprise was most concentrated, there would be but few such circles, and only the one marking Bordeaux would be large in size. In this period Bristol’s trade rarely left the well-known ports of nearby France and northern Spain. In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, however, the web of commerce was cast somewhat more widely, to cover the whole of the Iberian peninsula and the western Mediterranean, as well as the Atlantic islands off the African coast. Our map would show not only more circles but more large ones as well, as Bristol came to specialize in the commerce of southern Europe. Cádiz, San Lucar, Málaga, Marseilles, Toulon, Leghorn, Madeira, and the Canaries would now have to join San Sebastian and Bilbao and the ports of western France as Bristol’s main points of contact. By the end of the seventeenth century, this picture had changed again. Now the West Indies and the Chesapeake provided Bristol’s principal markets, although the city’s traders never lost interest in their older markets. Hence Bristol’s trade increased in density and complexity with its increasing concentration upon American colonial commerce.

As the development of Bristol’s commerce resulted in a wider and more intricate network of markets, with both an increased concentration of enterprise and a greater number of significant points of contact, the city’s place in the domestic economy underwent specialization of another sort. We can see the changing pattern by looking at the locations from which the city recruited its apprentices. Apprentices usually followed trade routes in seeking service; they made their contacts in those places with which their families had connections. In the early sixteenth century Bristol drew its apprentices from nearly everywhere in England. The main concentrations were in the nearby counties, but many came from the Midlands and there were even a number from the north of England and from East Anglia and the home counties. By the early seventeenth century, the percentages of apprentices coming from distant places had shrunk drastically. Nearly all now came from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, the Severn Valley, and South Wales, and this pattern persisted into the later seventeenth century.[49] In other words, as trade became denser and more diverse, Bristol’s hinterland became more clearly circumscribed, and the city moved from its indefinite place as England’s second port, a ranking that could only pale in the face of London’s vastly greater trade, to being what W. E. Minchinton has called “the metropolis of the West,” a center serving as the focus for the region’s economy.[50]

These changes in Bristol’s foreign and domestic commerce defined a particular function for it in an increasingly elaborate and interdependent economic order. They meant that Bristol’s prosperity was grounded more firmly in the health of the national economy and in the nation’s ability to protect its trading interests abroad. Moreover, this link between political and economic developments grew stronger in the period. In the sixteenth or the early seventeenth century it was far from unusual for Bristolians to recognize that their welfare depended on national policy and to seek to influence that policy accordingly. The Society of Merchant Venturers existed in part for just such a purpose. By the early 1620s, men like John Guy were well aware that their own prosperity could be deeply affected by economic actions taken in places with which they had no direct trading contact.[51] But John Guy’s memorandum on the crisis of the 1620s was only the forerunner of Charles Marshall’s and John Cary’s more systematic contributions to economic understanding. Guy implicitly recognized that economics and politics were inextricably connected. Later Marshall argued much more directly that economics could be used to direct the power of the state, and Cary wrote in the belief that proper public policy could improve the economy. Increasing interdependence meant that it was not sufficient to look to one’s own narrow interests in devising cures for problems. They now required systematic remedies. Since general solutions could only be political ones, political complexity grew as the economy developed.

It is a commonplace of historical study to conceive of social change according to one of two models: that of entropy, or that of evolution. For those who shared Roger Edgeworth’s and John Browne’s conservative sensibility, change meant declension, a move from order to chaos. For those of John Cary’s outlook, change held the hope of redemption. It brought a possible perfection of order as society moved from amorphous homogeneity to greater organization. Students of the early modern period have usually favored one of these views, either despairing at the loss of community or delighting in the improvement of the age. The story we have told about Bristol, however, has been ecological in character, concerned with the relationship between the city understood as a social organism and its environment. It presents a narrative of change from one kind of complexity to another—from a complexity based on the city’s political integration with the state to a complexity based also on its integration into the emerging Atlantic economy.

In Henry VIII’s reign the population of Bristol had stood at about ninety-five hundred or ten thousand persons, not far different from what it had probably been in the aftermath of the Black Death in the fourteenth century.[52] Late in Elizabeth I’s reign it began to grow, and by the beginning of James I’s reign it had reached twelve thousand or perhaps even a bit higher. In the early 1670s it seems to have been about sixteen thousand, and at the end of the seventeenth century it had exceeded twenty thousand. In other words, the period we have studied shows about a 25 percent increase in population in Elizabeth’s reign, a further 33 percent during the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century, and yet another 25 percent in its last quarter. The next century witnessed a doubling in size, as Bristol’s built-up area burst beyond the boundaries of the medieval city and spread into the surrounding countryside.[53] This history sets the seventeenth century apart as the beginning of a new period in Bristol’s long-term development. No longer was its population essentially stable in size, with every increase in the number of inhabitants almost immediately cut back by epidemic disease, as had happened periodically from the late fourteenth to the late sixteenth century. Even the great plague that killed between twenty-five hundred and three thousand Bristolians in 1603 and 1604 was unable to stop the steady growth of the city. Within five years the population had already made up between 50 and 75 percent of the loss. A second great plague in 1645, which killed three thousand inhabitants in the course of the New Model Army’s siege of the city in that year, also resulted in a rapid recovery. By 1600 Bristol had become a city of ever-expanding numbers, growing in size slowly at first but with increasing momentum. In 1700 it was twice as large as it had been in 1550.[54]

The face of Bristol was transformed as a consequence of this rapid population growth. We have already seen William Smith’s map of Bristol (Figure 1), which he sketched on his visit there in July 1568. It gives an aerial view of the city as it would be seen moving from southwest to northeast. About a century later, James Millerd, a mercer by occupation, executed a detailed plan of Bristol, drawn to scale, giving a similar bird’s-eye view of the city in the early 1670s (Figure 6).[55] Smith’s map shows us a city still largely contained within its medieval walls. To the north, there are large open spaces near the Cathedral and on St. Michael’s Hill; to the east, the Castle still stands as a fortress and the streets running near its walls are only sparsely settled. The Avon Marsh to the west is also relatively undeveloped, as are the lands just beyond Redcliffe and Temple gates. A large amount of open space also remains inside the walls. Throughout the city, in the central parishes as well as the southern ones, were scattered numerous gardens and orchards as well as large expanses of vacant ground, especially along the marshy areas on the river banks. The walls built in Henry III’s reign to allow for growth still left room for substantial development.

Fig. 6. James Millerd’s View of Bristol, 1673.
[Full Size]

In contrast to this small and seemingly underpopulated city of 1568, Millerd’s Bristol is a large and thriving center. Although only about a third of the city’s territory is substantially built up, and large expanses of vacant land are still to be seen in the Avon Marsh and in the southern parishes, the city center is now fully developed, the Castle has been replaced by a thriving city district, and the extramural districts all show a large number of dwellings. Both Redcliffe and Temple to the south have greatly expanded beyond the old walls. Still more densely occupied are St. Michael’s Hill and the neighborhood around the Cathedral, which seem to have been transformed from thinly populated, almost rural parishes to burgeoning urban districts. The Avon Marsh has also begun a new life; not only has it been carefully landscaped, but King Street has changed from a mere pathway below the city wall into a thoroughfare with handsome houses on both sides. But the most dramatic changes occurred in the parishes to the east of the Castle. Numerous gardens and orchards are still interspersed among the dwellings, but the Old Market, Broadmead, and Horsefair have all become significant new neighborhoods. Most of this expansion beyond the city walls can be dated to the second half of the seventeenth century, following Oliver Cromwell’s demolition of the Castle in the mid-1650s.[56] This picture is confirmed by the hearth tax records of 1671.[57] Again we see evidence of considerable growth in the transpontine and suburban districts. In the early sixteenth century only about 45 percent of Bristol’s population lived in these neighborhoods; at the later date almost 60 percent did so. There were also great gains in the north and east of the city. In 1524 only about 23 percent of Bristolians had resided there. In 1671 almost 35 percent did so, with the largest increase coming in the neighborhoods to the east of the city center.

Hearth tax records also allow us to see something of the distribution of wealth in the city. As in the early sixteenth century, the central and portside parishes were still the richest, but they no longer dominated the city as they once had. In 1524 they accounted for about 54 percent of its taxable wealth; in 1671 the figure was only 44 percent. In addition, the rank ordering of the neighborhoods had shifted. In 1524 the suburban districts were the poorest in the city, judged by mean assessments. In 1671 the transpontine parishes held this position. The portside wards came next. Taxpayers from the rapidly developing suburban neighborhoods now ranked second, behind those in the city center, in the average number of hearths on which they were obliged to pay taxes. The distribution of poverty through the city also shows a striking pattern, although here we cannot make a comparison to the figures for 1524, since the sixteenth-century subsidy rolls for that year did not note the number of paupers in each district. The hearth tax listings for 1671 show that about 20 percent of the city’s population were paupers by the standards of the assessors of the tax. The city center harbored the smallest share of these poor; less than 13 percent of its inhabitants were classified as paupers in this year. The next smallest proportion, amounting to just 16 percent, is to be found, somewhat surprisingly, in the transpontine neighborhoods. Both the portside and the suburban districts had relatively high levels of poverty, with the poor making up just over 19 percent of the population of the former and about 22 percent of the latter.

By 1671, then, Bristol had a social composition rather different from what we observed for the early sixteenth century. In the center we still find high concentrations of the rich and relatively small numbers of the poor. In the transpontine parishes we find a far narrower range of social types living in close proximity. Judging by the numbers of hearths possessed by each group in this district, those able to pay taxes inhabited dwellings not very much larger than those who could not. In these two parts of the city, little seems to have changed in the distribution of wealth from what we saw in 1524, although the evidence suggests that there was perhaps a decline in the number of independent craftsmen and shopkeepers in the transpontine district from the levels of a hundred and fifty years before. In the portside and suburban districts, however, the pattern had broken with the past. There we see significant concentrations both of the well-to-do and of the poor. However, subtle differences also appeared between these two sections of the city. In the portside parishes, where many merchants still resided, the houses of taxpayers were on the whole somewhat larger than in the suburban neighborhoods. In the newly formed Castle district and the other neighborhoods to the east of the city center especially, a picture emerges of a district with a heavy concentration of middling men and women—shopkeepers and artisans—living comfortably but not quite as well as the merchants and ship owners who resided near the port facilities and in the Avon Marsh.

The Restoration period also gave Bristol’s religious geography a new face. To a surprising degree, its dissenting communities concentrated themselves in the districts experiencing new growth. By the 1670s the Baptists had meetinghouses in Broadmead, in the vicinity of the Old Market to the east of the city center, and at the Pithay, near the south bank of the Froome to the northwest of the center. The Quakers, who once had occupied the Broadmead, now had two meetings: one near the Old Market in the Friary in St. James’s, and the other across the Avon in Temple Street. The Congregationalists had a chapel in Castle Street in the heart of the newly formed Castle ward and also met at a house on Philip Street nearby; Presbyterian congregations gathered at John Lloyd’s house on St. James Back, also near the Castle and the Old Market, and at Jeremy Holwey’s house in Corn Street in the city center.[58] Along with the separatists who attended services exclusively at these places, there were almost certainly also occasional conformists to Anglicanism and numerous other laymen who sought spiritual comfort and religious guidance from conformist and nonconformist ministers alike and who would have swelled the attendance at these dissenting meetings from time to time.

According to the surviving figures from the so-called Compton census of 1676, which attempted to tally the number of dissenters over sixteen years of age in each parish, about 11 percent of the city’s population were nonconformists. This figure probably understates the true total, since the Bristol returns are fragmentary and inconsistent in their presentation of the results. Nevertheless, judged by the results for the census as a whole, this was a high figure, since in the province of Canterbury the census showed dissenters to have amounted to only slightly over 4 percent of the entire population. For the diocese of Bristol, excluding the city of Bristol proper, the figure was between 2.5 and 3 percent. Not surprisingly, the heaviest concentrations of the city’s nonconformists came from the neighborhoods in which we find the churches, chapels, and meetinghouses of the dissenting sects.[59] According to the census, about 13.5 percent of the population of the transpontine and suburban districts were dissenters, with the areas around the Castle holding the largest numbers; only about 8.5 percent of the inhabitants of the center and portside neighborhoods were so designated, with the two portside parishes having the smallest share—each with less than 5 percent. Although the city’s old parish structure remained intact, the uniformity it had represented was shattered beyond repair. Bristol was now as complex a place in spirit as it was in economics, politics, and social organization.[60]

We can now return to the image with which we opened our story, the image of the castle and the gate. The early modern English city was always something of both: a stronghold with a distinctive way of life, and a point of communication and exchange. From one perspective, its Guildhall and law courts were its center and its high walls its symbol. They gave tangible form to its existence as a community, a body politic. However, from another point of view, its life focused on the boundaries where this community connected with the larger world. This was as it must be, for every boundary is potentially also a threshold; it is marked not only by barriers but by passing places. Indeed, there could be no meaningful frontier to separate friend from enemy or kindred from stranger without there also being figures who would traverse it. Only in the presence of outsiders do boundaries become necessary; and just as a world of infinite abundance would need no economics, a homogeneous world would be a boundless one.

The ancient Greeks viewed the god Hermes as both the protector of boundaries and the patron of the professional boundary-crossers. He guarded the home ground, making it safe against danger from outsiders, and aided merchants and others who went abroad to trade.[61] In his dual nature he captured the paradoxical character of trade before modern times. Since all commerce depended on the fragility of credit, its practitioners necessarily concerned themselves with the reduction of risk. The common method was to rely on highly restricted credit networks, entrance into which was limited to those of known reputation. Good fame and good name, established through long association with other traders, alone sufficed to guarantee trustworthiness. In this respect a trading community was a closed fellowship that distinguished between brothers, who enjoyed the privileges of full membership, and strangers, who either were required to pay a premium to participate or were excluded entirely. In the high Middle Ages whole towns had operated on this principle. Later, specialized groups of tradesmen, eventually including long-distance merchants, adopted the same idea to protect themselves even from fellow townsmen. But to trade meant to reach beyond one’s own borders, not only to move goods but to participate, at least briefly, in communities where the trader was himself a stranger. For this reason many in early modern England viewed the trader’s activity with skepticism, since his mobility raised doubts about his stake in his home community. By its very nature, a merchant’s life could never be a purely local one.[62]

These conditions left merchants in a state of constant tension, since they could not easily find safe methods for securing their wealth. Even in the sixteenth century, large-scale industry with its demands for fixed capital investment hardly existed, and trade itself was still little more than an adjunct to agriculture. In the absence of banking institutions and of a well-established market in stocks and government debt, traders could do little more than buy property, an opportunity open to only a few. Hence a trader’s commercial investments usually represented the vast majority of his wealth, and it was necessary to turn them over continuously if he was to survive. By the end of the sixteenth century, these severely restrained conditions began to ease somewhat for the Bristolians, as they moved into a wider world of commerce and as domestic trade and industry grew larger and more sophisticated. More opportunities became available for successful enterprise.

Yet the story is far from an epic of victorious expansion. Not only were there periodic crises that affected everyone and highly unstable markets that required constant vigilance, but the lives of individual artisans and merchants were subject to unpredictable disasters, for trade was an inherently uncertain undertaking. No matter how cautious or wealthy the entrepreneur, a great variety of events, often of the most prosaic kind, stood ready to disrupt his affairs and threaten his business establishment. The vicissitudes of wind and weather could destroy his fortune overnight, or the bankruptcy of a customer could create havoc with his own credit.

This dialogue between the need for security and the desire for expansion provided the prime stimulus for development in early modern commercial society. There was no ready and easy way to resolve the tension. Enterprise entailed risk, and no system of security could entirely remove that risk. Moreover, as commercial contacts grew and the market increased accordingly in scope and scale, it became more difficult to control trading activity through coercive organization. Neither the trading fellowship nor the state was sufficient to provide the discipline, especially the credit discipline, necessary for stability. What was needed was a new set of moral imperatives that impelled traders not merely to pursue gain but to pay debts. It has been the argument of this book that the rise of capitalism results as much from changes of this kind in the trader’s spirit as from new developments in the external circumstances in which he worked.

Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism rightly holds the preeminent place in the study of religion’s relationship to the rise of modern capitalism; he framed the questions and set the agenda for an ongoing and fruitful field of scholarship.[63] For eighty years now, the Protestant work ethic has been revisited time and again by historians of nearly every intellectual bent and ideological persuasion. In the main, this outpouring of research has examined the psychological effects of Protestant, and especially Calvinist, teachings on economic behavior, either to show how it impelled some groups to a single-minded pursuit of investment and production or to deny that it played any such role. Albert O. Hirschman, however, has offered another perspective. “Weber,” he says,

claims that capitalistic behavior and activities were the indirect (and originally unintended) result of a desperate search for individual salvation. My claim is that the diffusion of capitalist forms owed much to an equally desperate search for avoiding society’s ruin, permanently threatening at the time because of precarious arrangements for internal and external order. Clearly both claims could be valid at the same time: one relates to the motivations of the aspiring new elites, the other to those of various gatekeepers.[64]

But the theorists to whom Hirschman and other scholars have referred are not the only figures in the period to make “political arguments for capitalism before its triumph.”[65] As we have seen, the English dissenters made a similar argument, but for a very different purpose. In response to a political challenge that would have crushed them if it could, they advocated a free market, not so much because it would yield universal peace, but because it would bring them universal victory. Only as they found relief from their persecution and made their way in the world did their ideas begin to coincide with those of the “intellectual, managerial, and administrative elite” whom Hirschman properly calls the gatekeepers.[66] The success of the dissenters, moreover, depended as much on their social connections and religious institutions as on their ideology. Their family and business ties, their inability to deal on a large scale with creditors from outside their sects, and their reliance upon their meetings for moral guidance and economic assistance all gave material support to the doctrines of hard work and frugality in which they believed. Ideas and institutions went hand in hand to transform individual psychology into a social force.

Weber and his followers missed this political, social, and institutional framework for religion’s contribution to capitalism. They emphasized only the relation of religious belief to the spirit that underpinned the economy. According to them, Protestant thought, especially English Puritanism and nonconformity, promoted a moral commitment to hard work and achievement and thus led a Protestant to improve his property and to invest his profits, which made for business success in an expanding economy. Most of Weber’s critics have concentrated on this argument, pointing out that, far from encouraging moneymaking, Puritans, like their medieval predecessors, condemned as covetousness the pursuit of private profit. According to this view, only with the Restoration did Englishmen, including the Puritans, come to see the striving entrepreneur as anything but an upstart and a danger. As Paul Seaver has pointed out, however, there is also a third position, namely, that many religious-minded merchants and tradesmen

may have heard the Puritan message in its fullness, have accepted its strictures regarding the temptations and dangers of economic enterprise, and have perceived no contradiction between the values preached and their business practices, because what was in fact preached was supportive of, rather than at variance with, their way of life.[67]

This religion of Protestants, especially in the form of Puritanism and nonconformity, well served the kind of economic world in which the men and women of the early modern period found themselves. For those like the merchant John Whitson in the 1620s or the apothecary Charles Marshall in the 1670s, true Christianity stressed the importance of things higher than worldly wealth. They envisioned life on earth as a struggle to overcome obstacles and resist temptation; final triumph would come in the next world, not this. Disaster, if it occurred, was a test to be met and defeated. In the meantime every possible precaution was to be taken to prevent it. The sense of perspective and duty, reinforced by religious institutions and social networks, gave the pre–Civil War Puritans and the Restoration Baptists and Quakers advantages in the seventeenth century that others lacked. They lived in an economy fraught with danger and risk, but their religious confidence, their personal sobriety and frugality, and their reliance on their brethren’s guidance and assistance gave them the strength to bear whatever came to them.

“Be not conformed to this world,” St. Paul beseeched Christians, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”[68] In order to make one’s way in early modern England, it was necessary to achieve just such a transformation. Complexities abounded everywhere, and only a self-disciplined soul could provide a true center of stability. In a sense, each individual had to carry his own ordered world within him as he journeyed through the uncertainties. Community could begin only with the understanding that each of us possesses our own identity, our own world, and that to achieve social solidarity required an exchange among independent human beings. But this meant that every person must act according to his own will and judgment and bear his own risks. Insofar as capitalism is the rational pursuit of gain, this kind of ethical individualism is its necessary cultural and intellectual prerequisite. It depends on each person’s recognition that his inner life affects his world; it does not divide him from it. By his actions he can transform it, but he also remains forever open to its shaping influences.

The capitalism born in coping with the new demands of the Atlantic economy and the new conditions of politics in the Restoration was not only a set of beliefs but a system of organization for carrying them out, a way of doing as well as seeing—a distinct form of life. Forms of life have origins just as species do. They connect with past forms. Even though they live in environments different from those of their forebears, they use many of the characteristic features of their ancestors, if for quite unexpected ends. Moreover, just as with the origin of species, the rise of forms of life is unpredictable, contingent both on the nature of their surroundings and on the kind of adaptations they have been able to make. This means that they are not universal. The truths that apply to one form of life will be meaningless or false in others. It also means that they are not eternal. After they come into existence, they can experience catastrophic change or suffer extinction. The form of life whose emergence we have described here, based as it was on an uncertain system of credit, undependable trading conditions, and an unstable structure of politics, did not—could not—long remain as it was. As Britain underwent its financial and industrial revolutions in the eighteenth century and moved toward representative democracy in the nineteenth, the features of this form of capitalism were altered or passed out of use; and Bristol—England’s gate to the Atlantic—lost its central place in the still-widening economy to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and other industrial cities of the Midlands and the North. Nevertheless, Bristol’s contribution was a lasting one, for as it helped to open England to the world, it also helped to teach the world what it meant to live by the disciplines of the market, “ship shape and Bristol fashion.”


1. Edgeworth, Sermons, f. 288v. [BACK]

2. Ibid., ff. 6r–7r. [BACK]

3. Ibid., ff. 13v–14r. [BACK]

4. Ibid., f. 14r. [BACK]

5. Ibid., f. 61r. [BACK]

6. Ibid., f. 61r–v. [BACK]

7. Ibid., f. 125r–v. [BACK]

8. Ibid., f. 61v. [BACK]

9. Ibid., f. 61r–v. [BACK]

10. Ibid., f. 62r–v. [BACK]

11. Ibid., ff. 62v–63r. [BACK]

12. Ibid., f. 63r. [BACK]

13. Ibid., f. 63r. [BACK]

14. Marchants Avizo, pp. v–xi, 3. [BACK]

15. Ibid., p. 48. [BACK]

16. Ibid., p. 11. [BACK]

17. Ibid., p. 56. [BACK]

18. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), p. 46. [BACK]

19. Marchants Avizo, pp. 55–57. [BACK]

20. See, e.g., A Discourse of the Commonweal of This Realm of England, Attributed to Sir Thomas Smith, ed. Mary Dewar (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1969). [BACK]

21. The character of their rhetoric can be gauged from the documents collected in Tawney and Power, eds., Tudor Economic Documents, vols. 2–3. [BACK]

22. Marchants Avizo, p. 6. [BACK]

23. Ibid., p. 3. [BACK]

24. Latimer, Annals, p. 474; DNB, “John Cary.” The DNB account calls him the son of Thomas Cary, vicar of SS. Philip and Jacob, but this is in error: see McGrath, ed., Records, p. 48. Jonathan Barry identifies Cary’s politics as “radical whig”: Barry, “Politics of Religion,” p. 179. [BACK]

25. Cary, Essay on the State of England, sig. A4a. [BACK]

26. John Cary, An Essay on the Coyn and Credit of England: As they stand with Respect to its Trade (Bristol, 1696), p. 30. [BACK]

27. Cary, Essay on the State of England, p. 48. [BACK]

28. Ibid., pp. 49–52. [BACK]

29. Ibid., pp. 66–67. [BACK]

30. Ibid., pp. 67–68. [BACK]

31. Ibid., pp. 41, 61. [BACK]

32. Cary, Essay on the Coyn and Credit of England, p. 1. [BACK]

33. Ibid., p. 30. [BACK]

34. BL, Harl. MS 5540, f. 112. [BACK]

35. Cary, Essay on the State of England, p. 75. [BACK]

36. Ibid., pp. 75–76. [BACK]

37. Ibid., pp. 52–53. [BACK]

38. Cary, Essay on the Coyn and Credit of England, p. 3. [BACK]

39. Cary, Essay on the State of England, p. 76. [BACK]

40. Ibid., pp. 2–3. [BACK]

41. Ibid., p. 4. [BACK]

42. Ibid., pp. 5–7. [BACK]

43. Ibid., p. 17. [BACK]

44. Marchants Avizo, p. 55. [BACK]

45. Latimer, Merchant Venturers, p. 26. [BACK]

46. See Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 752–63. [BACK]

47. McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, p. 15. [BACK]

48. Based on BRO, MSS 04352 (6), 04357 (1). [BACK]

49. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 502–5; J. R. Holman, “Apprenticeship as a Factor in Migration: Bristol, 1675–1726,” BGAS 97 (1979): 85–92, esp. pp. 86–97. [BACK]

50. Minchinton, “Bristol,” 69–85. [BACK]

51. McGrath, ed., Merchants and Merchandise, pp. 140–43. [BACK]

52. For this paragraph and the next see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chap. 5. [BACK]

53. [J. Rickman], Abstract of the Answers and Returns made Pursuant to an Act Passed in the Forty-First Year of His Majesty King George III Intitled ‘An Act for Taking an Account of the Population of Great Britain, and the Increase or Diminution thereof.’ Enumeration, 2 parts (London: Parliamentary Papers, 1801–2), part 1, pp. 125–26. [BACK]

54. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 214–34, 250–54. Bristol’s demographic history in the seventeenth century, especially in midcentury, contrasts with that for England as a whole. While Bristol’s population growth probably slowed after 1600 from the rate achieved in the late sixteenth century, elsewhere in England, with the exception of London and a few other major urban centers, the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century was generally a period of stagnation, not growth: Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, pp. 207–13. [BACK]

55. For the history of this map, see J. E. Pritchard, “A Hitherto Unknown Original Print of the Great Plan of Bristol by Jacobus Millerd, 1673” BGAS 44 (1922): 203–20; J. E. Pritchard, “Old Plans and Views of Bristol,” BGAS 44 (1922): 334–36. [BACK]

56. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 245–50. [BACK]

57. The following remarks are based on analysis of PRO, E 179/116/541. [BACK]

58. Hayden, ed., Records, pp. 14–18, 105, 133; Mortimer, ed., Minute Book, pp. xxi–xxii; Turner, ed., Original Records of Early Nonconformity, vol. 1, pp. 230, 239, 244, 328, 439, 483, 560, 562; vol. 2, pp. 818–19, 824–25; vol. 3, p. 327; Moses Caston, Independency in Bristol, with brief memorials of its churches and pastors (London: Ward, 1860), pp. 39–52, 82–88. [BACK]

59. Anne Whiteman, ed., The Compton Census of 1676 (British Academy: Records of Social and Economic History, n.s. 10, 1986), pp. 547–51. In her introduction Whiteman makes a cogent case for the general accuracy of the census against the criticisms made by Thomas Richards, “The Religious Census of 1676: An Inquiry into Its Historical Value Mainly with Reference to Wales,” Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmordorion, 1925–26, Supplement (London: Society of Cymmordorion, 1927). But the figures for Bristol pose special difficulties, in part because no returns have survived from half of the central parishes in the city and in part because the results in two important centers of dissent, St. James and St. Mary, Redcliffe, are either misstated or confused. Given the location of Quaker, Baptist, and Presbyterian meetings in its midst, St. James probably had more than one hundred dissenters among its twelve hundred men and women over sixteen years of age. As for St. Mary, Redcliffe, its population of men and women over sixteen was almost certainly considerably larger than the hundred and fifty persons indicated in the return; in 1696 its total population equaled that for nearby St. Thomas, for which the Compton census gives three hundred and fifty persons over sixteen years of age: see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, pp. 239–40. [BACK]

60. On this point see Barry, “Parish in Civic Life,” pp. 152–78; see also Jonathan Barry, “Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century Bristol,” in Barry Reay, ed., Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), pp. 59–90; Barry, “Politics of Religion,” p. 165. [BACK]

61. See Norman O. Brown, Hermes the Thief (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1947), esp. pp. 6–45, 78, 85, 108; see also Jean-Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo-American Thought, 1550–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 17–56. [BACK]

62. On this theme see, e.g., Pocock, Machiavellian Moment, chaps. 13–14; J. G. A. Pocock, “The Mobility of Property and the Rise of Eighteenth-Century Sociology,” in J. G. A. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce and History: Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 103–23. [BACK]

63. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958). [BACK]

64. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests, pp. 129–30. [BACK]

65. The phrase is Hirschman’s, from the subtitle of The Passions and the Interests. [BACK]

66. Ibid., pp. 129–30. [BACK]

67. Seaver, “Puritan Work-Ethic Revisited,” p. 38; see also Seaver, Wallington’s World, chap. 5. [BACK]

68. Romans 12: 2. [BACK]

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