Wednesday 29 April 2020

A Twitchy Tiverton in 1659

Here is an interesting article I came across in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries from January 1905:
TIVERTON IN 1659. The following account of the state of alarm into which Tiverton was thrown on July 25, 1659, is transcribed from the Mercurius Politicus (published by Order of Parliament) of three days later. It was evidently the work of a Parliamentarian, as shown by its concluding passage. It receives no mention from Dunsford in his History of that town, and for this, apart from other reasons, is well worth being reprinted in the pages of Devon Notes and Queries. It is of much interest for showing the state of unrest which, commencing at the time of Cromwell's death, on Sept. 3, 1658, came to a crisis when the Protectorate was abolished, on the abdication of Richard Cromwell on May 25, 1659. From that period until May 1, 1660, the country was in a condition bordering on anarchy. During the time that Monk was coquetting with the Royalists, wild and alarming rumours, such as those which were spread through Tiverton, were propagated which seemed to have some basis of truth, now that the Fifth Monarchy men, who had caused much trouble to Cromwell in the closing years of his office, were released from his "mailed fist" by his death.
There follows a full transcription of the aforementioned Mercurius Politicus from July 25, 1659:
Mercurius Politicus . . . . Published by Order of Parliament.
No. 580. From Thursday, July 21, to Thursday, July 28, 1659.
Tiverton in Devon, July 25, 1659.

Upon the Nineteenth day of this month, about midnight, the whole Town of Tiverton, as also several Families in the Parish, were raised up out of their Beds by a false Rumor and Alarm; That the Ministers of the Town, and others fearing God, should be all massacreed that night; whereupon the Magistrates, Ministers, and several others, gathered themselves together (many of them being in Arms) consulting in whose hands to put Arms, it being so dangerous a time. Neighbors rouzed up each other out of their Beds, crying pittifully one to another, Take Arms, take Arms, else they would have their Throates cut in their Beds. And when they came forth of their Houses, and asked the reason of this Hurliburlie and feare, the common Replie and general Crie was, that the Anabaptists and Quakers were joyncd together, and intended that night to cut the Throats of the Ministers, and all the Godly people. Whereupon some (being wiser than the rest) returned to their beds, as judging there was no Cause of Feare. But others (being thereto invited) took Arms, and walked through the Town. The Crie for a while increased and grew higher and higher, to wit, That, the Fifth Monarchic Men, Anabaptists and Quakers were joyncd together, not only to cut the Throats of the Godly in that Town, but the Throats of all the Godly in the Nation that Night. They had an intent to have beaten their Drums, and rung the Bells at Midnight, but some persuaded to the contrary, which was a great mercie to a few Anabaptists (so called) living in that Town; for it is probable, had such a thing been done, the rude multitude in their rage, by reason of the false Report, would have pluckt their houses down upon them. But they did only set a Guard about their Houses (which were 10 or 12 Families) as their Neighbors told them the next day.

The occasions of this Commotion, as it appears by inquiry, was from a Letter which a Parish Minister wrote to several of his Bretheren, That there was a designe on foot by the Fifth Monarchic Men, Anabaptists, and Quakers to CUT THROATS THAT NIGHT; whereupon for fear they left their Houses.

It is necessary that a word be added : 1, To undeceive many simple ones in the Nation, that is, to warn all men in their places to take heed of the secret Plotters, and cunning designs now every where on foot, to ensnare poor people. It is well known the Cavaliers in City and County are waiting for an opportunity to rise for Charles Stuart against the Commonwealth, neither care they what the way be, so they may reach their malicious end, against the Government by a Commonwealth, and what way more likelie then this of Tiverton?

But secondly, It is very strange that men professing to fear God, should not make more conscience of Lying, especially to devise such a thing as every one that shall hear of (if he be sober and discreet) will cry out against it as a most absurd and groundless thing. Truly this way will not do it, to bring in Monarchic; God hath hitherto cursed it, and therefore let men know they do but kick against the pricks in seeking to set up a King and House of Lords; it will not be, because the Lord himself is against it.

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