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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]

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