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f P.,-r'"'* '"'''"^*°'' "f tl'e Babington Conspiracy] li,t, and Crofts a pensioner
of Philip. With a Court so composed he was condemned before he was tried."'


The prosecutor reminded Davison that he had testified that the
queen had said that "■ slie thought of some other course to he
pursued." It must have recpired the utmost self-restraint for
Davison to refrain from the true explanation of this phrase.
But he loyally guarded her reputation, and sim])ly said that he
had acted as he thought the best interests of her majesty and
the kingdom required. As for the secrecy imposed, he had
understood that to refer not to the Privy Council, of whom
many must know and all had the right to know the facts, but
to the public. lie had told the Council that it was the queen's
pleasure to have the warrant executed, and respectfully put
himself upon her conscience whether he had not just cause for
saying so.

lie was acquitted unanimously of evil intent but condemned
for malfeasance through haste, and was punished by dismission
from the public service, a fine of 10,000 marks — equivalent at
our values to over ijlGO,000 — and imprisonment at the queen's
pleasure. Perliaps this excessive fine was named in the confi-
dence that her conscience never would suffer her to insist upon
its payment. But she exacted the uttermost fartliing. Per-
haps her greed could not resist the glamour of so large a sum.
Poor Davison was ruined, and in addition, ill though he was,
was left to suffer in the Tower indefinitely, probably little less
than two years. The Earl of Essex bravely sought without
success to regain for him the royal favor ; and he himself.
on Dec. 7, 1590, vainly addressed to her a touching appeal
" from my poor desolate house in London ; " but, while she
finally seems to have released him, she would do nothing else
for him. When James succeeded, he was more just than she
had been. But Davison did not long enjoy the little sunshine
that brightened his declining years, dying at Stepney, Dec.
21, 1G08. That he was a sincere, devout man, as well as a
statesman of wisdom and learning, is conceded. Indeed, the
sternness of his integrity probably was the real cause of the
queen's persistent hostility. lie was too much an embodied
conscience for her comfort.

Bradford makes it certain that Brewster clung to DaWson
for " some good time after " his condemnation and imprison-


meut. Davison himself fiirnislies the first positive subsequent
date in Brewster's life. In the State Papers survives an original
letter,^ already referred to, from Sir John Stanhope to the ex-
Secretary, dated simply Aug. 22. But Stanhope wrote as Post-
master-general and did not become such imtil June 20, 1590,
while other circumstances fix the date as not later than that
year. The letter answers a request from Davison that he would
appoint young William Brewster post-master at Scrooby, alleg-
ing objections. On its back are memoranda in Davison's hand-
writing, one of which urges that Brewster already has had prac-
tical possession of the place above a year and a half. This
implies necessarily that Brewster had left Davison's employ and
gone back to Scrooby as early at least as from January to
March, 1588-89, a few weeks, possibly months, less than two
years after Davison had been condemned and sent back to the
Tower. Davison's letter of Dec. 7, 1590, to the queen, from
his house in London implies that his imprisonment then was
ended, but how long before then is not evident. Whether Brew-
ster remained in his service until his release and went home af-
terwards, or something called the young man away before that
time, we do not know. It looks as if the heavy fine, together
with the large expense of the imprisonment itself, must have
exhausted Davison's resources so far that he no longer could,
or woidd, retain in his service one to whom such a position
thenceforth could not promise advancement.

Although this connection ended very differently from their pre-
sumable expectations, the value of it to Brewster, especially in
fitting him for the peculiar life which he was to live, must have
been inestimable. To have been so long, at the most formative
period of his career, in the family, feeling the example, and, as
Bradford's testimony fairly implies, in some sense enjoying the
intimacy, of so cultivated a scholar, so sagacious a statesman
and so excellent a man as Davison undeniably was, was extraordi-
nary good fortune. Close and constant attendance upon his
master in the Litter's official capacity at the Court and in Hol-
land necessarily involved, also, his becoming somewhat familiar
with all the most notable personages in the two cotintries. lie

' S. P. Dom. ccxxxiii : 48.


often must have seen the queen and her circle of lords and
ladies. He must have known well — at least in the manner
in which the attendants in the library of the British Museum, in
London, to-day come to know many great scholars — Burghley,
Walsingham, Brondey of the Great Seal, all the honorable
lords of the Privy Council and the two archbishops.

He must have seen and heard Francis Bacon, ^ then for the
first time in Parliament ; Sir Walter Raleigh, resplendent in
high favor at Court ; Sir Francis Drake, who was making the
whole nation wild with excitement over the just completed first
English voyage around the world; Sir Philip Sidney, whom
Elizabeth called " one of the jewels of her crown " and sent to
Holland among the distinguished men in whose train Brewster
was ; and the handsome, brilliant and notable, even if too am-
bitious, Leicester. And, when we remember that twenty-four
years later he was to find refuge there, it is easy to see how
specially instructive must have been his experiences in the Low
Countries ; although little can he have thought, when standing
with his master by the clock-tower of St. Peter's in Leyden,
that, by extending his hand, he could almost touch the very
waU, across the narrow street, within which he was to find shel-
ter for years, after he should have been driven out of his own

Nor woidd the knowledge of affairs unavoidably gained in
such a service at such a time be less helpfully instructive ; the
familiarity ^^'ith politics and statecraft, alike in their weightier
principles and their practical methods and processes ; and, espe-
cially, the discrimination of motives and the observation of the
true and high relations of conscience to a just public life. "Who
can tell how much Brewster's private knowledge of the nobility
of Davison's consent to suffer wrongfully — even to the extent
of WTccking his private fortune and bringing his public career
to what must have seemed to most men an inglorious end, rather
than to become accessory to conduct which he could not ap-
prove — may have had to do with heartening the young man
himself for the life of long self-denial which he lived ?

1 He brought over Bacon's volume, Of the Proficiencie and Advancement of



Whex Brewster returned to the Scrooby manor-house he soon
found himself indispensable, even if he had not been summoned
home, for his father appears to have been failing in health. As
we have seen, the latter had been commissioned as baihff and
receiver of the lordship, or manor, of Scrooby on Jan. 4, 1575—76.
In holding these offices he apparently became the legal repre-
sentative of the owner, ^ and this involved not merely collecting
the annual rents and generally managing the estates, but prob-
ably also presiding over the manorial courts and the custodv of
records. Further, it is clear that for some undefined pre-vious
period this manor-house had been a regular post-house on the
Great North Road, and its occupant post-master ; ^ a fact adding
much to his former duties.

In July, 1556, the Council took action in regard to " the
postes betweene this and the Xorthe." ^ When the stages of this
Great North Road from London to Scotland were established
systematically in the reign of Elizabeth, Scrooby was made
the twelfth from London and, in the other direction, the fif-
teenth from Berwick-upon-Tweed.^ When Brewster, the father.
died, in 1590, his son took his place as post. Such a post-
master, however, was not what the name now suggests. Letters
then sent by post usually, if not always, were government mis-
sives, passed from messenger to messenger at each station : per-
sonal correspondence, so far as it existed, being left to go by

1 H. Hall. Soc. in Ehz. Age. The. Steward. 17.

* The first Enf^lish Post-niaster-g'eneral on the records was Sir Brvan Tuke, in
1533. Very likely tlie route by Dover to the Continent was established first. But
that to York, Berwick and Edinburgh surely must have been second.

« Enc. Brit, six : .oC.2. S. P. Dom. Eliz. Add. xxvii: 116.

* Hunter, Coils. 09.


private hand.^ In connection with the carrying of government
despatches a system of forwarding travellers also grew up natu-
rally. Horses much of the time unemployed for the one purpose
served readily for the other. An additional service was the occa-
sional sending of messengers on government business out on the
cross-roads, and, although this might not be called for often,
constant reailiness for it had to be maintained. Into all this
responsibility Brewster, who could not have been much, if at all,
over twenty-three, now entered.

Probably one of his last experiences in London must have
been that of the wild excitement when, on the evening of Jidy
19, 1588, signal fires flashed over the kingdom the tidings that
the long expected, and, even by so brave a people, the much
dreaded Spanish Armada had been sighted in the Channel.
Doubtless he never forgot the sensations of the next sixty days,
during which frequent expresses on foaming horses came plung-
ing in from tlie coast, bringing tidings. Thrilling indeed it must
have been to hear how that enormous expedition, conceived in
the sin of Papal pride, brought forth in the iniquity of naval
inefficiency, and now knowni to have been iU provisioned, iU
armed, ill commanded and ill piloted, in spite of all its spirited
fighting had melted away under the fierce attacks of the smaller
but swifter and better handled English vessels and the stress of
weather and of want, until its miserable remnant found its
inglorious way back to Spain.

It was then, in the dawn of a new, and in most respects more
glorious, era for England that Brewster began to live again in
Scrooby. Gladdened by the amazing victory which, under Provi-
dence, it had won. and assured that there no longer need be fear
lest Spain should reduce tlie kingdom to vassalage to Rome, the
nation sprang forward at once to a condition of material prosper-
ity and intL'llectual advancement which speedily gained for the
succeeding years the title of " the golden age of merry England."
To men of Brewster's religious ideas, however, this new era
was to prove little better than the old. The queen hated the
new Presbyterian way. Yet she had no such devotion to the

1 In Enj,]and. as late as the fifteenth rentury. drovers were the principal me-
diums of private coirespondence. — Enc. Amtr. App. xiii: 74S.


State Church as to insist upon the subjection to it of any ex-
cepting Puritan dissenters. Kenmants of Popery lingered in her
own chapel. Romanist members of her own household were
winked at in their disobediences, and Catholic country gentle-
men were allowed to do much as they pleased at home. While
Mary Stuart lived, the exciting centre of perpetual treason, and
the Spanish Armada loomed in the future, Elizabeth had felt
the strength of her throne to be in the Puritans, and sometimes
had overlooked aberrations on their part. But that access of
new solidity to the realm which dated from the downfall of the
Spanish fleet modified all this.

Many Roman Catholics conformed, and not unnaturally de-
manded the full benefit of the by no means inconsiderable
Romanism still dormant in the estabhshed ritual. The screws
therefore were given a few additional turns. The bishops were
ordered to see the ecclesiastical laws executed — against Pre-
cisians. The spiritual courts, for a time comatose, took on new
vigor ; and that pressure upon Separatists, whicli ended in mar-
tyi'izing some and in driving multitudes out of the kingdom, was
felt once more.

Naturally, the battle of the books began again, preluded a
little by Bancroft's audacious sermon at Paul's Cross attacking
the Puritans. Indeed, Brewster may have carried with him
down to Scrooby the lately issued dialogue by UdaU, "• The
State of the Churche of Englande," or even a copy of Martin
Marprelate's " Learned Epistle," which his former fellow-stu-
dent, John Penry, had just contrived to get published.

Even if Brewster had not been summoned back to Scrooby,
his presence there soon must have supplied a real need. From
the beginning of 1589, as a practical and permitted, although
uncommissioned, dejmt}^ he discharged ^ his father's duty as the
" Post of Scrooby," and received the fee therefor. Very likely
he also acted as bailiff and custodian of the property. It would
be gratifying to know how far he had become a decided Puritan,
and whether he took any special interest in the Martin Mar-pre-
late war. But no record survives to enlighten us. It is of some
interest here to recall that George Sandys, son of the late Arch-
^ S. P. Dom. Eliz. ccxxxiii : 48.


bishop of York, and then less than thirteen, who was to be out-
done by Fynes Moryson only as a traveller, no doubt passed
through Scrooby, and probably stopped at his father's former
manor, on his way to be matriculated that summer at St. Mary's
Hall at Oxford. In the last weeks of the same year, also, on
Mar. 6, 1589-90, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners instructed
the High iSherilf of Nottinghamshire ^ to attach James Brewster
and others for having " jjrofaned and ruinated "' the house and
chapel of the Bawtry Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, to which
reference already has been made. This must have been a matter
of considerable local interest, especially to William Brewster,
and whether James were his relative or not.

In June, 1590, the Earl of Worcester went down to Scotland,
stopping at Scrooby, where Brewster, the father, furnished him
with post-horses. On his return, some weeks later, he found the
old man dead.^ The York records show that on July 24, 1590,
administration on his estate at Scrooby was granted to his son
William ;" his widow. Prudence, who alone, besides the son, is
mentioned, declining the tiust. In view of the interests involved,
young Brewster went up to London soon after his father's death,
to ask to be legalized in the place whose duties he really liad
performed for eighteen months. He was absent on this errand,
as the widow said, when the Earl of Worcester stayed at the
manor-house on his return.

It happened that Thomas Randolph, Post-master-general, also

^ Hunter, CoUs. 82. But why the sheriff of Notting-liamshire was addressed is not
explained. Bawtry, and Ilarworth, in which the hospit;il really stands, were then,
as now. in Yorkshire. Perhajis James Brewster lived near by in Xottinghamsiiire.

^ Stanhope's letter. S. P. Dom. Eliz. eexxxiii : 48.

^ The record is this (Act lik. for Deanery of Retford cum Laineham, s. d.) :
" Vicesiino quarto die niensis Julii 15'J0, Administraco oini et fc'ing'ulor Bonor
Juriu et Creditor qne fuerunt Wlllmi Brewster nup. de Scrooby defunct Comissa
fnit Willnio Brewster filio eiusdem dep. in forma Juris jurat. Saluo Jure, etc.
Prudentia Brewster Vid. Relca eiu.sdem Def. Administracoem hin Gi in se suscipere
renunciant et recusan. Et exhibint Inven™ solut v. s. Et d~ous Wilhnus et alii
obligantur. [On tlie twenty-fourth day of the month of July, l^'i'O. administration
of all and singular the poods, riijhts and credits which were of William Brewster,
late of Scrooby, deceased, w.as f;ranted to William Brewster, the son of the .said
dece.xsed, s«orn in form of l.iw. Savinir anv other person's right. Priulence Brew-
ster, Widow, tlu' lii'liitnf the Slid dece.ased having- renounced and refused to take
upon hersi'lf administration of tlie said dtceased. And he exhibited an Inventory.
Five shillings were paid. And the said William and others are bound.] "


had just died, so that his successor, Sir John Stanhope, was new
to his subordinates. One Samuel Bevercotes, Stanhope's cousin,
applied to Stanhope to give the place to a friend of his, and
Stanhope did so. Young Brewster understood that the position
had been substantially his for a year and a half, and had been
promised to him by Mr. Randolph, and therefore did not ask
appointment to it from Stanhope, whom he did not know, but
dealt with Mr. ^Nlylls, the chief clerk, with whom he always had
done his business. When he found that another had been com-
missioned over his head, he applied to Davison to intercede for
him, Davison, who seems to have been at liberty then in Lon-
don, remonstrated at once with Stanhope.

Stanhope replied with significant courtesy,^ and said that
Brewster had not applied to him, and rather complained of that-
neglect. He added that he had been informed that it was not
true that the young man had " had admyttanee and use of the
place in his father's tyme," nor did he know that Mr. Randolph
had promised Brewster the appointment. He therefore had given
it to another. But if any satisfactory way of retreat could be
found, he would revoke the grant. Davison replied, showino-
that Brewster had held the place by Randolph's gift long before
his father's death : as appeared from the record of his name in
the roll with the other post-masters ; from his receipt of the fee
for the year and a half just past ; from the testimony of his
master — probably Davison himself — who had recommended
him ; from the evidence of Mr. Mylls, who was aware of the
appointment, and had registered Brewster's name and paid him
his salary : and from the fact that he had been performing the
duties of the place for a year and a half, as the next post-masters
on each side would testif3^ He urged that no exception coidd
be taken to Brewster's honesty or efficiency ; that to remove him
would be unkind in view of his great charges incurred for pro-
vision for the service in that " hard year," and would ruin him ; '^
and that it would be a harmful public example. For all which
reasons he " ought to be no more displaced than the rest of the

' He addressed his letter to his " honorable frend, Mr. Secretary Daveson."
^ 5. r. Dom. Eliz. ccxxxiii : 48.


So vigorous a statement from sucli a quarter clearly prevailed.
Brewster was in full possession of the office at the earliest date
to which the existing post-office records run back, Apr. 1, 1594 ; ^
which implies that he had continued to hold it. He performed
its duties for seventeen years.

The year 1590 must have been absorbed so largely by the
special cares incident to the settlement of the estate and the
consequent readjustment of all affairs connected with his office,
that he could have had little opportunity for anything else.
Nevertheless, he probably kept his ear open to the voices on
behalf of reform in religion which were sounding in the king-
dom, and his eye upon that literature which was urgent, if not
eloquent, in that regard. Among the books which he left behind
him at Pl}Tnouth was Barrowe's " Brief Discouerie of the False
Church," already mentioned, which came out this year, and
which, if studied by Brewster, may have helped to form his
later opinions. Several other publications of the same year,
which have been named, also may have influenced him.

Down to the close of the century few data remain which shed
much light upon his life. Among events of which he probably
heard, and which must have moved him more or less, were
Browne's recantation and appointment as rector of Achurch-
cuni-Thorpe, in September, 1591 ; the arrest of Barrowe and
Greenwood in December, 1592, followed by their judicial mur-
der in April, 1593, and by that of Penry in the following June ;
and the departure of Francis Johnson's church to Holland,
completed by the wipter of 1595 ; while the death of Henry
Brewster, vicar of Sutton and Sorooby, near the end of 1597-
98, and the institution of James Brewster in his place early
in 1598 occurred close at hand. In the literature towards which
perhaps his mind was turning seriously were two or three light
skirmishing volumes between Barrowe and Greenwood and Gif-
ford and Siftclift'e ; two bitter ones by Bancroft ; the earlier
books of Hooker's masterly work ; and that treatise of Francis
Johnson's, on "■ The ]\Iinistery of the Clmrch of England," which
Brewster seems to have brought to Plymouth ; and one or two
other works claiming brief mention hereafter.

1 Hunter, Colls- 66.


His former fellow-servant, George Cranraer, may have sent
him, in 1598, the letter ^ which Cranmer published to his revered
instructor, Richard Hooker, in which, without accepting fully
the positions of the reformers, he made decided concessions to

Brewster's own work was steady and must have been exact-
ing. The earliest records of the Post Office mention him as
in full possession of the Scrooby division from Apr. 1, 1594,
through the century at a salary of twenty pence a day, or £30
8s. 4d. a year,2 about #760 in modern money. He seems to
have married as early as 1591 or 1592. But, beyond the facts
that his wife's first name was Mary, that she was about two
years younger than he,^ and that she lived until some years
after reaching New England,* we have no details about her.
Apparently their first child '^ was born in 1592 or 1593, and
that they named him Jonathan, a Bible name then rare, seems
to indicate the progress of the parental mind along the path of
Puritanism. A confirming hint is that the next child kno^\^l to
us, who seems to have been born before 1600, was called Pa-
tience,^ and that the second daughter of whom there is distinct
trace, also probably born at Scrooby, just before the flight to
Holland, was named Fear." In some one of these years, also,
Brewster's mother. Prudence, must have been borne from the old

* Concerning the New Church Discipline. This edition, of 1642, is said to be the
first (Hanbury, Hooker, i : cxxiii). But what motive led to its being- printed first
forty-two years after its author and its recipient both were dead ? Moreover, Dr.
Baxter's copy contains tlie endorsement, in a handwriting' apparently of the time,
" reprinted" 1642.

2 Hunter, Colls. 66. 8 gee p. 505 n. * Bradford, Hist. 451.

* Admitted a citizen of Leyden, twenty-five being- the age required, on June 30,
1617 (Poorter-Blc. l()03-38, 107), which confirms his affidavit.

* The two girls came to Plymouth in the Anne, in 1023, and then were ap-
proaching, if they had not reached, marriageable age. Patience married Thomas
Prence in 1624, and Fear became the second wife of Isaac AUerton in 1626. These
dates imply their birth at Scrooby. •

' " There was a meaning and purpose in the adoption of names such as these.
The names previously used in England had been for the most part the names of
holy men and women, who had been honoured by the Ancient Church, and placed
by her in the Kalendar. They had therefore a relation to the abrogated system,
and they contributed to keep up the memory of it, which the Puritans wished to
see die away. They had recourse therefore to Old Testament names, and to such
words as fear, love and patience." — Hunter, Colls. 142.


manor-house to tlie little cliurcliyard, where the shadow of the
beautiful spire of St. Wilfred's still daily rests for a little while
upon the unremembered spot.

In considering Brewster's progress towards Separatism it is
needful, in the lack of much direct testimony, to study the sug-
gestions of Bradford nearly, or quite, half a century later, as he
mourned tlie recent loss of his lifelong friend. Referring to
Brewster's leaving Davison's service, he says : ^ —

Afterwards he wente and lived in y° country, in good esteeme,
amongst his freinds and y* gentle men of those parts ; espetiallv the
godly & religious. He did much good in y^ countrie \yher he lived, in pro-
moting and furthering religion, not only by his practiss & example, and

Online LibraryHenry Martyn DexterThe England and Holland of the Pilgrims → online text (page 32 of 65)