Harrison, John (fl.1630) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25
Harrison, John (fl.1630)

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HARRISON, JOHN (fl. 1630), author and envoy to Barbary, according to his own account served in the wars in Ireland under Elizabeth, and on the accession of James I was made groom of the privy-chamber to Prince Henry (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–1610 p. 116, 1630–1 p. 508; Birch, Life of Henry, Prince of Wales, p. 452). He retained his position till the prince's death, except that in 1610 he was sent on a mission to Morocco. Afterwards he was in the suite of the Princess Elizabeth, and was at Heidelberg in 1619, when the Elector Palatine started to receive the Bohemian crown. Harrison then returned to England, and in 1622 was sheriff of the Somers Islands or Bermudas (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, America and West Indies, 1574–1660, p. 32); he himself states that he was governor. In 1625 he went on a mission to Barbary; a long letter, dated Tetuan, 10 July 1625, reporting his negotiations, is preserved (Harl. MS. 1581, ff. 320–4). In the autumn of 1626, when he is styled Captain Harrison, he was sent to treat with the kings or governors of Barbary and of the town of Sallee for the redemption of English captives and for mercantile intercourse (Fœdera, xviii. 793, orig. ed.; see also xviii. 807 and xix. 27, 21 Jan. 1629; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–6, pp. 440, 458). Sir Henry Marten objected to sending such a mission to treat with pirates, and Harrison wrote a letter in defence of the proposal (ib. pp. 480, 529). During the next four years Harrison constantly went backwards and forwards between Sallee and England, and succeeded in effecting the release of 260 British subjects (ib. 1631–3, p. 219; preface to The Tragical Life and Death, &c.) Harrison had an allowance of 40s. per diem, but says that he expended 4,000l. of his own money on the king's service, for which he could get no return, and was consequently in great distress (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1627–8, p. 361, 1629–1631, p. 508). On 26 June 1635 he received 100l. in full of 200l. due for his allowance. He is last mentioned in 1638, when he petitions for payment of a debt of 3,648l. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Ambrose Wheeler, ‘gentleman usher, quarter-waiter’ (ib. 1638–9, p. 254).

Harrison published: 1. ‘The Messiah already come. Or Profes of Christianitie, both out of the Scriptures and auncient Rabbins, to convince the Jewes of their palpable and more than miserable blindnesse (if more may be), for their long, vaine, and endlesse expectation of their Messiah (as they dreame) yet for to come. Written in Barbarie in the year 1610, &c.’ This work was first published in the Low Countries shortly after the death of ‘Prince Henry, my master’ (preface to 2nd edit.), 2nd edition, Amsterdam, 1619, 4to, with an address to Maurice, prince of Orange, prefixed. A third edition appeared in London, 1656, 12mo, as ‘A Vindication of the Holy Scriptures. Or the Manifestation of Jesus Christ. The Trve Messiah Already Come. … By that Learned and late Eminent Divine, John Harrison.’ (This probably accounts for the mistaken description of Harrison as ‘the Reverend’ in the ‘British Museum Catalogue.’). 2. ‘The Reasons which compelled the States of Bohemia to reiect the Archiduke Ferdinand, &c., and inforced them to elect a new King. Togeather VVith the Proposition … made vppon the first motion of the choice of th' Elector Palatine to be King of Bohemia. Translated out of the french copies,’ Dort [1619?], 4to. 3. ‘A Short Relation Of the Departure of the high and mightie Prince Frederick … from Heydelberg towards Prague. … Whearunto is annexed the Solempnitie or maner of the Coronation,’ Dort, 1619, 4to. 4. ‘Bohemica Iura Defensa. The Bohemian Lawes and Rights Defended against the Informer; or an Answer to an Information falsly so called secretly printed and divulged against the Writings published by the States of Bohemia. Translated out of Latin by I. H.,’ London, 1620, 4to. 5. ‘The Tragical Life and Death of Mvley Abdala Melek, the late King of Barbarie: With a Proposition or Petition to all Christian Princes annexed therevnto,’ Delft, 1633, 4to. This work is dedicated to Charles, prince elector palatine of the Rhine, and was presented to him as a new-year's gift.

[Authorities quoted; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1625 to 1638 (there are many small references to Harrison's mission to Barbary); Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 411; Brit. Mus. Cat.]