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Hugh Peters

PETERS, Hugh, clergyman, born in Fowey, Cornwall, England, in 1599; died in London, England, 16 October, 1660. After graduation at Cambridge in 1622 he took orders and preached for some time at the Church of St. Sepulchre, London, but was committed to prison by Archbishop Laud for non-conformity. Obtaining his release, he removed to Rotterdam, where he was pastor of an independent congregation with Dr. William Ames for several years, and in 1635 he came to New England with his brothers William and Thomas. On 21 December, 1636, he became pastor of the 1st church in Salem, Massachusetts, succeeding Roger Williams, whose doctrines he disclaimed and whose adherents he excommunicated. In 1637 he was appointed an overseer of Harvard. He took an active part in mercantile and civil affairs, and suggested coasting and foreign voyages, and the plan of the fisheries. In March, 1638, he was appointed by the general court to assist in collecting and revising the colonial laws. In 1640 he associated Edward Norris with him in the pastorate of his church. He received from his church 200 acres of land in what is now Northfield as a reward for his services, and his farm was known as Peters Neck. On 3 August, 1641, he was sent to England with Reverend Thomas Welde and William Hibbins to procure an alteration in the laws of excise and trade, and, probably owing to their influence, an act of parliament was passed in 1643 relieving all commodities that were carried between England and New England from the payment of "any custom, subsidy, taxation, imposition, or any other duty" till the further order of the house of commons. In England he joined the Parliamentary party and became a preacher in the army. He had interviews with Charles I. in regard to his " New England business," in which, said Peters, "he used me civilly, and I offered my poor thoughts three times for his safety." In 1651 he was appointed by parliament a commissioner to amend the laws, an office for which he was eminently unqualified. He said that he "went there to pray rather than to mend laws." In 1654 he was made one of the "tryers" of ministers, and in 1658 preached to the English garrison in Dunkirk. In 1660 he accompanied Gem Monk from Scotland to London, preached before him on a fast-day, and it is said "troubled the general with a long sermon." After the restoration of Charles II., Peters was committed to the Tower, and indicted for high treason as having been concerned in the death of Charles I. It was alleged that he was one of those that stood masked on the scaffold when the king was beheaded, and, to render him more odions, it was reported that he was the executioner. During his imprisonment in Newgate he wrote several letters of advice to his daughter, which were published under the title of "A Dying Father's Legacy to an Only Child" (London, 1660), of which his great-nephew, Samuel, said: "It was printed and published in Old and New England, and myriads of experienced Christians have read his legacy with ecstasy and health to their souls." Notwithstanding this prediction, the work is now very rare and almost forgotten. After execution his head was stuck on a pole and placed on London bridge. His preaching was popular with the multitude, owing to his coarse but striking images, His private character has been the subject of much discussion. He was charged by his enemies with gross immorality, and the most bitter epithets have been applied to him. Of late years he has been estimated more favorably. Governor Winthrop describes him as "a man of a very public spirit and singular activity for all occasions." He was said to have been " tall and thin, active and sprightly, and peculiarly forcible in language and speech." According to Dr. John G. Palfrey, his name should be written Peter. His publications are "God's Doings and Man's Duty opined in a Sermon preached before the House of Commons " (1646); " Peter's Last Report of the English Wars," in answer to the queries of a friend (1646); "A Word for the Army and Two Words for the Kingdom, to clear the One and cure the Other, Forced in much Plainness and Brevity from their Faithful Servant, Hugh Peters" (1647); "A Good Work for a Good Magistrate, or a Short Cut to a Great Quiet" (1651), in which he recommends burning the historical records in the Tower : and notes of a sermon that he preached in Newgate on 14 October, 1660. See "The Tales and Jests of Mr. Hugh Peters" (1660) ; "The History of the Life and Death of Hugh Peters, that Arch Traytor, from the Cradell to the Gallowes " (1661) ; "England's Shame : the Life and Death of that Grand Impostor, Hugh Peters," by Dr. William Yonge (1663); "An Historical and Critical Account of Hugh Peters," by William Harris (1751); and "History of Hugh Peters," by Samuel A. Peters (New York, 1807).--His daughter, Elizabeth, born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1640, returned to New England after the execution of her father and was kindly received. She married a Mr. Barker, of Newport, Rhode Island, with whom she removed to England. After his death she recovered from the crown her father's foreign possessions, which had been illegally confiscated. For several years previous to her death she was afflicted with a mental disorder, and suffered many years in extreme poverty.--Hugh's great-nephew, Samuel, clergyman, born in Hebron, Connecticut, 12 December, 1735; died in New York city, 19 April, 1826, was graduated at Yale in 1757, and travelled in Europe in 1758. In 1759 he took orders in the Church of England in London. After his return to Connecticut in 1760 he married, and in 1762 took charge of churches in Hartford and Hebron. He imitated the style of an English nobleman in his house, which he built in a forest, kept a coach, and looked with scorn upon Republicans. "In his domestic and private relations he was all that could be desired." The Whigs accused him of communicating with England, and a committee, accompanied by a threatening assemblage of 300 persons, visited him in August, 1774, and obtained from him a written declaration that he had not "sent any letter to the bishop of London, or the venerable Society for the propagation of the gospel, relative to the Boston port bill, or the tea affair, or the controversy between Great Britain and the colonies, and design not to, during my natural life, as these controversies are out of my business as a clergyman." He gave them also a copy of the " Thirteen Resolves" which he confessed that he had written for the press. They relate principally to the tea question, and their publication produced new difficulties. In September he was again visited by the people, who carried him to the meeting-house green, or parade-ground, and compelled him to sign another paper. Soon afterward he fled to Boston with the intention of sailing for England to make a representation there of his treatment. It was feared that he would procure a withdrawal of the charter of Connecticut, and his letters to his family and others were intercepted. One, dated 1 October, 1774, and addressed to Reverend Dr. Samuel Auchmuty, of New York, proposed that Connecticut should be divided between New York and Massachusetts. Dr. Peters obtained a pension and a grant for his property that was afterward confiscated by the Americans, but, owing to a quarrel with William Pitt, he lost this about 1803. In 1794 he was chosen bishop of Vermont by a convention of that diocese, but the archbishop of Canterbury refused his consecration on the ground that the number of bishops for America were limited. In 1805 he returned to this country and travelled to the Falls of St. Anthony, where he obtained from Captain Jonathan Carver (q. v.) a grant of a tract of land one hundred miles square. He spent several years in Washington petitioning congress for a confirmation of this grant. In 1817 he revisited the land, and in 1818 settled in New York city, where he lived in obscurity and on charity. After the death of his brother Andrew he frequently wrote his name Samuel Andrew. Columbia gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1761. He was the author of a " General History of Connecticut, by a Gentleman of the Province " (London, 1781 ; 2d ed., 1782; 3d ed., with illustrations, New Haven, 1829). This contains numerous anecdotes and is a satire independent of time, place, or probability. In this book he originated the story of the so-called "Blue-Laws" of the New Haven colony. He also published a "Letter" to the Reverend John Tyler concerning the Possibility of Eternal Punishments and the Improbability of Universal Salvation" (London, 1785); a "History of the Reverend Hugh Peters" (New York, 1807) ; and a brief " History of Hebron." John Trumbull, in his epic " McFingal," thus mentions him: "What warnings had ye of your duty, From our old revrend Sam Auchmuty ; From priests of all degrees and metres, To our fag-end man, Parson Peters?" --Samuel's grandson, Samuel Jarvis, merchant, born in York (now Toronto), Canada, 30 July, 1801; died in New Orleans, Louisiana, 11 August, 1855, after spending some time in a French counting-room in New York, removed to New Orleans in 1821 and became a merchant. In 1829 he was a member of the New Orleans city council, and chairman of its finance committee. He was an originator of the Pont-chartrain railroad, and the first president of the chamber of commerce, which office he held until his death. He was also president of the City bank, and the State bank of Louisiana, and in 1849 he was made collector of the port. He was instrumental in introducing into New Orleans the common-school system, in connection with which he founded a public lyceum and library.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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