The New Culture Wars: The Restoration

Lucy Hutchinson, from Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson >> note 1

Lucy Hutchinson was a well-educated Puritan author and the wife of Colonel John Hutchinson, one of Cromwell's trusted officers, one of the commissioners of the king's trial and a signer of his death warrant, and an active member of the parliaments and councils of state in the commonwealth. Following the Restoration, John Hutchinson was imprisoned and died while incarcerated, after which Lucy determined to write a Memoir of his life, ostensibly for the sake of their children. However, what she produced during the years 1664–70 is in fact a brief history of the political and religious conflicts of the first two Stuart reigns, and a much more detailed account of the civil war and commonwealth period, from her perspective as a Puritan who remains a dissenter after the Restoration. Her Memoirs reiterate, for her children but surely for a hoped-for larger audience as well, the ideals and issues for which the more radical Puritans fought, with some view to keeping those ideals alive. The selection presented here affords a Puritan retrospective on the court culture of James I and Charles I.

 

The court of this king [James I] was a nursery of lust and intemperance; he had brought in with him a company of poor Scots, who, coming into this plentiful kingdom, were surfeited with riots and debaucheries, and got all the riches of the land only to cast away. The honor, wealth, and glory of the nation, wherein Queen Elizabeth left it, were soon prodigally wasted by this thriftless heir; and the nobility of the land was utterly debased by setting honors to public sale, and conferring them on persons that had neither blood nor merit fit to wear, nor estates to bear up their titles, but were fain to invent projects to pill >> note 2 the people, and pick their purses for the maintenance of vice and lewdness. The generality of the gentry of the land soon learned the court fashion, and every great house in the country became a sty of uncleanness. To keep the people in their deplorable security, till vengeance overtook them, they were entertained with masks, stage plays, and various sorts of ruder sports. They began murder, incest, adultery, drunkenness, swearing, fornication, and all sort of ribaldry, to be no concealed but countenanced vices, because they held such conformity with the court example. * * *

As the fire is most fervent in a frosty season, so the general apostasy from holiness, if I may so call it, and defection to lewdness, stirred up sorrow, indignation, and fear, in all that retained any love of God in the land, whether ministers or people; the ministers warned the people of the approaching judgments of God, which could not be expected but to follow such high provocations; God in his mercy sent his prophets into all corners of the land, to preach repentance, and cry out against the ingratitude of England, who thus requited so many rich mercies that no nation could ever boast of more; and by these a few were everywhere converted and established in faith and holiness; but at court they were hated, disgraced, and reviled, and in scorned had the name of Puritan fixed upon them. * * *

The king had upon his heart the dealings both of England and Scotland with his mother, >> note 3 and harbored a secret desire of revenge upon the godly in both nations, yet had not courage enough to assert his resentment like a prince, but employed a wicked cunning he was master of, and called king-craft, to undermine what he durst not openly oppose — the true religion; this was fenced with the liberty of the people, and so linked together, that it was impossible to make them slaves, till they were brought to be idolaters of royalty and glorious lust; and as impossible to make them adore these gods, while they continued loyal to the government of Jesus Christ. The payment of civil obedience to the king and the laws of the land satisfied not; if any durst dispute his impositions in the worship of God, he was presently reckoned among the seditious and disturbers of the public peace, and accordingly persecuted; if any were grieved at the dishonor of the kingdom, or the griping of the poor, or the unjust oppressions of the subject, by a thousand ways, invented to maintain the riots of the courtiers, and the swarms of needy Scots the king had brought in to devour like locusts the plenty of this land, he was a puritan; if any, out of mere morality and civic honesty, discountenanced the abominations of those days, he was a puritan, however he conformed to their superstitious worship; if any showed favor to any godly honest persons, kept them in company, relieved them in want, or protected them against violent or unjust oppression, he was a puritan: in short, all that crossed the views of the needy courtiers, the proud encroaching priests, the thievish projectors, the lewd nobility and gentry — whoever was zealous for God's glory or worship, could not endure blasphemous oaths, ribald conversation, profane scoffs, sabbath breaking, derision of the word of God, and the like — whoever could endure a sermon, modest habit or conversation, or anything good — all these were puritans; and if puritans, then enemies of the king and his government, seditious, factious, hypocrites, ambitious disturbers of the public peace, and finally, the pest of the kingdom. Such false logic did the children of darkness use to argue with against the hated children of light, whom they branded besides as an illiterate, morose, melancholy, discontented, crazed sort of men, not fit for human conversation, as such they made them not only the sport of the pulpit, which was become but a more solemn sort of stage, but every stage, and every table, and every puppet-play, belched forth profane scoffs upon them, the drunkards made them their songs, and all fiddlers and mimics learned to abuse them, as finding it the most gameful way of fooling. Thus the two factions in those days grew up to great heights and enmities one against the other.

* * *

The face of the court was much changed in the change of the king, for King Charles was temperate, chaste, and serious; so that the fools and bawds, mimics and catamites, of the former court, grew out of fashion; and the nobility and courtiers, who did not quite abandon their debaucheries, yet so reverenced the king as to retire into corners to practice them. Men of learning and ingenuity in all arts were in esteem, and received encouragement from the king, who was a most excellent judge and a great lover of paintings, carvings, gravings, and many other ingenuities, less offensive than the bawdry and profane abusive wit which was the only exercise of the other court. But, as in the primitive times, it is observed that the best emperors were some of them stirred up by Satan to be the bitterest persecutors of the church, so this king was a worse encroacher upon the civil and spiritual liberties of his people by far than his father. He married a papist, a French lady, >> note 4 of a haughty spirit, and a great wit and beauty, to whom he became a most uxorious husband. By this means the court was replenished with papists, and many who hoped to advance themselves by the change, turned to that religion. All the papists in the kingdom were favored, and, by the king's example, matched into the best families; the puritans were more than ever discountenanced and persecuted, insomuch that many of them chose to abandon their native country, and leave their dearest relations, to retire into any foreign soil or plantation, where they might, amidst all outward inconveniences, enjoy the free exercise of God's worship. Such as could not flee were tormented in the bishops' courts, fined, whipped, pilloried, imprisoned, and suffered to enjoy no rest, so that death was better than life to them; and notwithstanding their patient sufferance of all these things, yet was not the king satisfied till the whole land was reduced to perfect slavery.  * * *

The example of the French king was propounded to him, and he thought himself no monarch so long as his will was confined to the bounds of any law; but knowing that the people of England were not pliable to an arbitrary rule, he plotted to subdue them to his yoke by a foreign force, and till he could effect it, made no conscience of granting anything to the people, which he resolved should not oblige him longer than it served his turn; for he was a prince that had nothing of faith or truth, justice or generosity, in him. He was the most obstinate person in his self-will that ever was, and so bent upon being an absolute, uncontrollable sovereign, that he was resolved either to be such a king or none. His firm adherence to prelacy was not for conscience of one religion more than another, for it was his principle that an honest man might be saved in any profession; but he had a mistaken principle that kingly government in the state could not stand without episcopal government in the church; and therefore, as the bishops flattered him with preaching up his sovereign prerogative, and inveighing against the puritans as factious and disloyal, so he protected them in their pomp and pride, and insolent practices against all the godly and sober people of the land. * * * But above all these the king had another instigator of his own violent purpose, more powerful than all the rest, and that was the queen, who, grown out of her childhood, began to turn her mind from those vain extravagancies she lived in at first, to those which did less become her, and was more fatal to the kingdom; which is never in any place happy where the hands which were made only for distaffs affect the management of scepters. — If any one object the fresh example of Queen Elizabeth, let them remember that the felicity of her reign was the effect of her submission to her masculine and wise counselors; but wherever male princes are so effeminate as to suffer women of foreign birth and different religions to intermeddle with affairs of state, it is always found to produce sad desolations; and it hath been observed that a French queen never brought any happiness to England.


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