Peters, Hugh (DNB00)
|←Peters, Charles (1690-1774)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45
PETERS or PETER, HUGH (1598–1660), independent divine, baptised on 29 June 1598, was younger son of Thomas Dyckwoode alias Peters, and Martha, daughter of John Treffry of Treffry, Cornwall (Boase, Bibl. Cornub. ii. 465, iii. 1310). Contemporaries usually styled him ‘Peters;’ he signs himself ‘Peter.’ His elder brother Thomas [q. v.] is noticed separately. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1617–18 as a member of Trinity College, and M.A. in 1622 (Gardiner, Great Civil War, ii. 323). A sermon which he heard at St. Paul's about 1620 struck him with the sense of his sinful estate, and another sermon, supplemented by the labours of Thomas Hooker, perfected his conversion. For a time he lived and preached in Essex, marrying there, about 1624, Elizabeth, widow of Edmund Read of Wickford, and daughter of Thomas Cooke of Pebmarsh in the same county (A Dying Father's Legacy, 1660, p. 99; Bibl. Cornub. iii. 1310). This marriage connected him with the Winthrop family, for Edmund Read's daughter Elizabeth was the wife of John Winthrop the younger.
Peters returned to London to complete his theological studies, attended the sermons of Sibbes, Gouge, and Davenport, and preached occasionally himself. Having been licensed and ordained by Bishop Montaigne of London, he was appointed lecturer at St. Sepulchre's. ‘At this lecture,’ he says, ‘the resort grew so great that it contracted envy and anger, though I believe above an hundred every week were persuaded from sin to Christ’ (Legacy, p. 100). In addition to this, Peters became concerned in the work of the puritan feoffees for the purchase of impropriations. He was suspected of heterodoxy, and on 17 Aug. 1627 subscribed a submission and protestation addressed to the bishop of London, setting forth his adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the English government, and his acceptance of episcopal government (Prynne, Fresh Discovery of Prodigious Wandering Stars, 1645, p. 33). But, according to his own account, he ‘would not conform to all,’ and he thought it better to leave England and settle in Holland. His departure seems to have taken place about 1629 (A Dying Father's Last Legacy, p. 100).
In Holland Peters made the acquaintance of John Forbes, a noted presbyterian divine, with whom he travelled into Germany to see Gustavus Adolphus, and of Sir Edward Harwood, an English commander in the Dutch service, who fell at the siege of Maestricht in 1632. It seems probable that Peters was Harwood's chaplain (Harleian Miscellany, iv. 271; Peters, Last Report of the English Wars, 1646, p. 14). About 1632, or possibly earlier, he became minister of the English church at Rotterdam. Sir William Brereton (1604–1661) [q. v.], who visited Rotterdam in 1634, describes Peters as ‘a right zealous and worthy man,’ and states that he was paid a salary of five thousand guilders by the Dutch government (Travels of Sir William Brereton, Chetham Soc. 1844, pp. 6, 10, 11, 24). Under the influence of their pastor the church speedily progressed towards the principles of the independents, and Peters was encouraged in his adoption of those views by the approbation of his colleague, the learned William Ames (1571–1633) [q. v.], who told him ‘that if there were a way of public worship in the world that God would own, it was that’ (Last Report, p. 14). Peters preached the funeral sermon of Ames, and had a hand in the publication of his posthumous treatise, entitled ‘A Fresh Suit against Roman Ceremonies’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1631–3 p. 213, 1634 pp. 279, 413).
The English government, at the instigation of Archbishop Laud, was at this time engaged in endeavouring to induce the British churches in Holland to conform to the doctrine and ceremonies of the Anglican church, and its attention was called to the conduct of Peters by the informations given by John Paget and Stephen Goffe to the English ambassador. He had drawn up a church covenant of fifteen articles for the acceptance of the members of his congregation, and showed by his example that he thought it lawful to communicate with the Brownists in their worship. In consequence of these complaints and disputes, Peters made up his mind to leave Holland for New England (Hanbury, Historical Memorials relating to the Independents, i. 534, ii. 242, 309, 372, iii. 139; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633–4, p. 318, 1635, p. 28; Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 6394, ff. 128, 146).
As far back as 1628 Peters had become connected with the Massachusetts patentees, and on 30 May 1628 had signed their instructions to John Endecott (Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, 1765, i. 9). His relationship with John Winthrop supplied an additional motive for emigration, and he also states that many of his acquaintance when going for New England had engaged him to come to them when they sent for him (Last Legacy, p. 101). Accordingly, evading with some difficulty the attempt of the English government to arrest him on his way from Holland, Peters arrived at Boston in October 1635 (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 5th ser. i. 211).
On 3 March 1635–6 he was admitted a freeman of Massachusetts, and on 21 Dec. following was established as minister of the church at Salem. From the very first he took a prominent part in all the affairs of the colony. He began by arranging, in conjunction with Henry Vane, a meeting between Dudley and Winthrop, in order to effect a reconciliation between them. His own views, as well as his connection with the Winthrop family, led him usually to act in harmony with Winthrop. In ecclesiastical matters Peters was at this time less liberal than he subsequently became. He disapproved of the favour which Vane as governor showed to Mrs. Hutchinson, and publicly rebuked him for seeking to restrain the deliberations of the clergy, telling him to consider his youth and short experience of the things of God (Winthrop, History of New England, ed. Savage, i. 202, 211, 249, 446). At the trial of Mrs. Hutchinson in November 1637, Peters was one of the chief accusers, and endeavoured to browbeat a witness who spoke in her favour (Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, 1765, ii. 490, 503, 519). He also maintained orthodoxy and ecclesiastical authority by excommunicating Roger Williams and others, and utilised the execution of one of his flock to warn the spectators to take heed of revelations and to respect the ordinance of excommunication (ib. i. 420; Winthrop, i. 336). More to his credit were his successful endeavours to appease the dissensions of the church at Piscataqua, and his indefatigable zeal in preaching (ib. i. 222, 225, ii. 34; Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 3rd ser. iii. 106). Under his ministry the church at Salem and the whole community increased in numbers and prosperity (ib. 1st ser. vi. 250).
Ecclesiastical duties, however, occupied only a portion of the time and energy of Peters. He interested himself in the foundation of the new colony at the mouth of the Connecticut, and endeavoured to reconcile the disputes between the English settlers there and the Dutch (Winthrop, ii. 32). Influenced by what he had seen in Holland, he made the economic development of the colony his special care. In one of his first sermons at Boston he urged the government ‘to take order for employment of people (especially women and children) in the winter time, for he feared that idleness would be the ruin of both church and commonwealth.’ He went from place to place ‘labouring to raise up men to a public frame of spirit,’ till he obtained subscriptions sufficient to set on foot the fishing business. And ‘being a man of a very public spirit and singular activity for all occasions,’ he procured others to join him in building a ship, in order that the colonists might be induced by his example to provide shipping of their own. On another occasion, when the colony was in distress for provisions, Peters bought the whole lading of a ship and resold it to the different communities, according to their needs, at a much lower rate than they could have purchased it from the merchants (ib. i. 210, 221, 222, ii. 29).
In 1641 the fortunes of the colony were greatly affected by the changed situation in England. The stream of emigration stopped, trade decreased, and it was thought necessary to send three agents to England who should represent the case of the colony to its creditors, and appeal to its friends for continued support. Peters was selected as one of these agents, in spite of the opposition of Endecott. They were also charged ‘to be ready to make use of any opportunity God should offer for the good of the country here, as also to give any advice as it should be required for the settling the right form of church discipline there.’ With this combined ecclesiastical and commercial mission Peters left New England in August 1641 (ib. ii. 30, 37). He succeeded in sending back commodities to the value of 500l. for the colony; but finding the fulfilment of his mission obstructed by the distractions of the time, and his own means running short, Peters accepted the post of chaplain to the forces raised by the adventurers for the reduction of Ireland. From June to September 1642 he served in the abortive expedition commanded by Alexander, lord Forbes, and wrote an account of their proceedings (‘A True Relation of the Passages of God's Providence in a Voyage for Ireland … wherein every day's work is set down faithfully by H. P., an eye-witness thereof,’ 4to, 1642; cf. Carte, Ormond, ii. 315; Whitelocke, Memorials, iii. 105). On his return to England Peters speedily became prominent in controversy, war, and politics. He preached against Laud at Lambeth, spoke disrespectfully of him during his trial, and was said to have proposed that the archbishop should be punished by transportation to New England (Laud, Works, iv. 21, 66; Prynne, Canterburies Doom, 1646, p. 56; A Copy of the Petition … by the Archbishop of Canterbury … wherein the said Archbishop desires that he may not be transported beyond the seas into New England with Master Peters, 4to, 1642). He published, with a preface of his own, a vindication of the practices of the independents of New England, written by Richard Mather [q. v.], but frequently attributed to Peters himself (‘Church Government and Church Covenant discussed in an Answer of the Elders of the several Churches in New England to Two-and-thirty Questions,’ 4to, 1643). In September 1643 the committee of safety employed Peters on a mission to Holland, there to borrow money on behalf of the parliament, and to explain the justice of its cause to the Dutch (Cal. Clarendon Papers, i. 244). As a preacher, however, he was more valuable than as a diplomatist, and his sermons were very effective in winning recruits to the parliamentary army (Edwards, Gangræna, iii. 77). He also became famous as an exhorter at the executions of state criminals, attended Richard Challoner on the scaffold, and improved the opportunity when Sir John Hotham was beheaded (Rushworth, v. 328, 804). But it was as an army chaplain that Peters exerted the widest influence. In May 1644 he accompanied the Earl of Warwick in his naval expedition for the relief of Lyme, preached a thanksgiving sermon in the church there after its accomplishment, and was commissioned by Warwick to represent the state of the west and the needs of the forces there to the attention of parliament (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, pp. 266, 271). This was the prelude to greater services of the same nature rendered to Fairfax and the new model. As chaplain, Peters took a prominent part in the campaigns of that army during 1645 and 1646. Whenever a town was to be assaulted, it was his business to preach a preparatory sermon to the storming parties; and at Bridgwater, Bristol, and Dartmouth his eloquence was credited with a share in inspiring the soldiers (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, pp. 77, 102, 180; Vicars, Burning Bush, 1646, p. 198). After a victory he was equally effective in persuading the populace of the justice of the parliamentary arms, and converting neutrals into supporters. During the siege of Bristol he made converts of five thousand clubmen; and when Fairfax's army entered Cornwall, his despatches specially mentioned the usefulness of Peters in persuading his countrymen to submission (Sprigge, p. 229; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1645–7, p. 128; Master Peter's Message from Sir Thomas Fairfax, 4to, 1645).
In addition to his duties as a chaplain, Peters exercised the functions of a confidential agent of the general and of a war correspondent. Fairfax habitually employed him to represent to the parliament the condition of his army, the motives which determined his movements, and the details of his successes. His relations of battles and sieges were eagerly read, and formed a semi-official supplement to the general's own reports. Cromwell followed the example of Fairfax, and on his behalf Peters delivered to the House of Commons narratives of the capture of Winchester and the sack of Basing House (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, pp. 141–4, 150–3). It was a fitting tribute to his position and his services that he was selected to preach, on 2 April 1646, the thanksgiving sermon for the recovery of the west before the two houses of parliament (‘God's Doings and Man's Duty,’ 4to, 1646).
Here, as elsewhere in his sermons, he handled the political and social questions of the moment with an outspoken courage and sometimes a rough eloquence which explain his popularity as a preacher. He pleaded for more charity between the sects, for less bitterness in theological controversy, and for more energy in the reform of abuses and social evils. Among the independents his influence was great, and he was styled by one of his opponents ‘the vicar-general and metropolitan of the independents both in Old and New England’ (Edwards, Gangræna, ii. 61). But moderate men among his old friends in New England held that he gave too much countenance to the extremer sects (Massachusetts Hist. Soc. Coll. 4th ser. viii. 277). The presbyterians generally regarded him with the strongest aversion. ‘All here,’ wrote Baillie in 1644, ‘take him for a very imprudent and temerarious man’ (Letters, ed. Laing, ii. 165). Thomas Edwards eagerly scrutinised his sermons for proofs of heresy, and proved without difficulty that they contained expressions against the Scots, the covenant, and the king; and even independents like St. John were shocked by some specimens of his pulpit humour (Gangræna, iii. 120–7; Thurloe Papers, i. 75). No one advocated toleration more strongly than Peters, but his arguments were rather those of a social reformer than a divine. He regarded doctrinal differences as of slight importance, suggested that if ministers of different views dined oftener together their mutual animosities would disappear, and that if the state would punish every one who spoke against either presbytery or independency, till they could define the terms aright, a lasting religious peace might be established (Peters, Last Report of the English Wars, 1646, 4to, pp. 7–8). In the same pamphlet, which was derisively termed ‘Mr. Peter's Politics,’ he set forth his political views. Now that the war was over, a close alliance should be made with foreign protestants, and at home the reformation of the law, the development of trade, and the propagation of the gospel should be vigorously taken in hand (ib. pp. 8–13). He added in a vindication of the army, published in the following year, a list of twenty necessary political and social reforms (A Word for the Army, 1647; Harleian Miscellany, v. 607).
During the quarrel between the army and the parliament, Peters acted throughout with the former, preached often at its headquarters, and vigorously defended its actions. He protested on his trial that he had not been privy to the intended seizure of the king at Holmby, nor taken part in any of the army's councils. In June 1647 he had an interview with Charles at Newmarket, and was favourably received by Charles, who was reported to have said ‘that he had often heard talk of him, but did not believe he had that solidity in him he found by his discourses.’ Subsequently he had access to the king at Windsor, and, according to his own statement, propounded to his majesty three ways to preserve himself from danger (Rushworth, Historical Collections, vi. 578, vii. 815, 943; Last Legacy, p. 103; Trial of the Regicides, p. 173; A Conference between the King's Most Excellent Majesty and Mr. Peters at Newmarket, 4to, 1647).
When the second civil war broke out, Peters took the field again, and did good service at the siege of Pembroke in procuring guns for the besiegers (Cromwelliana, p. 40). He also helped to raise troops in the Midland counties, and negotiated, on behalf of Lord Grey of Groby, for the surrender of the Duke of Hamilton at Uttoxeter. In New England it was commonly reported that Peters himself had captured Hamilton (The Northern Intelligencer, 1648, 4to; Burnet, Lives of the Dukes of Hamilton, ed. 1852, pp. 491–3; Winthrop, ii. 436).
Rumour also credited him with a share in drawing up the ‘Army Remonstrance’ of 20 Nov. 1648, and Lilburne terms him the ‘grand journey-man or hackney-man of the army.’ In the discussions on the ‘agreement of the people’ he spoke on the necessity of toleration, quoted the example of Holland, and urged the officers to ‘tame that old spirit of domination among Christians’ which was the source of so much persecution (Gardiner, Great Civil War, iv. 236; Clarke Papers;;, ii. 89, 259). The royalist newspapers represented Peters as one of the instigators of the king's trial and execution, which he denied himself in his post-Restoration apologies; but his sermons during the trial, as was proved by several witnesses, justified the sentence of the court. In one of them he took for his text the words ‘To bind their kings in chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,’ and applied to Charles the denunciation of the king of Babylon in Isaiah xiv. 18–20 (ib. ii. 30; Gardiner, iv. 304, 314; Trial of the Regicides, pp. 170). In like manner Peters was credited with a part in contriving ‘Pride's Purge,’ though all he did was to release two of the imprisoned members by Fairfax's order, and to answer the inquiries of the rest as to the authority by which they were detained with the words ‘By the power of the sword’ (Gardiner, iv. 272). Towards individual royalists Peters often showed great kindness, and at his trial in 1660 he was able to produce certificates from the Earl of Norwich and the Marquis of Worcester expressing their thanks for his services to them. At Hamilton's trial, also in March 1649, Peters was one of the witnesses on behalf of the duke (Trial of the Regicides, p. 173; Burnet, p. 493).
The establishment of the republic and the end of the war seemed to set Peters free to return to New England, and at intervals since 1645 he had announced to Winthrop his intention of embarking as soon as possible. His wife had been despatched thither in 1645. ‘My spirit,’ he wrote in May 1647, ‘these two or three years hath been restless about my stay here, and nothing under heaven but the especial hand of the Lord could stay me; I pray assure all the country so.’ At one time, however, illness, at another the necessity of first disposing of his property in England, at others the state of public affairs, prevented his departure (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 4th ser. vi. 108, 110, 112). He was also detained by the wish to assist in the reconquest of Ireland, whither he accompanied Cromwell in August 1649. Peters landed at Dublin on 30 Aug., having been entrusted by the general with the charge of bringing up the stragglers left behind at Milford Haven (Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, i. 119). He was one of the first to announce the fall of Drogheda to the parliament, was present at the capture of Wexford, and returned again to England in October to superintend the forwarding of reinforcements and supplies. Cromwell even commissioned him to raise a regiment of foot for service in Ireland, but that project seems to have fallen through, owing to the illness of Peters himself, and to some difficulties raised by the council of state (Gilbert, Aphorismical Discovery, ii. 262; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, pp. 349, 390, 432; Yonge, England's Shame, 1663, p. 75). Peters remained in South Wales during the spring of 1650, employed in business connected with the expedition, and in persuading the Welsh to take the engagement of adherence to the parliament (Cromwelliana, pp. 75, 81; Whitelocke, Memorials, iii. 166). He took no part in the expedition to Scotland, but seems to have been present at the battle of Worcester, and exhorted the assembled militia regiments on the significance of their victory (Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth, i. 445). According to the story which he subsequently told to Ludlow, he perceived that Cromwell was excessively elevated by his triumph, and predicted to a friend that he would make himself king (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1894, ii. 9).
The fortunes of Peters were now at their zenith. On 28 Nov. 1646 parliament had conferred upon him by ordinance a grant of 200l. per annum out of the forfeited estates of the Marquis of Worcester, and he had also been given in 1644 the library of Archbishop Laud (Lords' Journals, viii. 582; Last Legacy, p. 104). According to his own statement, however, what he had received was simply a portion of Laud's private library, worth about 140l. (ib.) When John Owen accompanied Cromwell to Scotland as his chaplain, Peters was made one of the chaplains of the council of state in his place (17 Dec. 1650), and subsequently became permanently established as one of the preachers at Whitehall, with lodgings there and a salary of 200l. a year (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650 p. 472, 1651 p. 72, 1651–2 pp. 9, 56). Friends from New England who visited him there were struck by his activity and his influence. ‘I was merry with him, and called him the Archbishop of Canterbury, in regard of his attendance of ministers and gentlemen, and it passed very well,’ wrote William Coddington (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 4th ser. vii. 281). To Roger Williams Peters explained that his prosperity was more apparent than real, and confided the distress caused him by the insanity of his wife and its effect on his public life. ‘He told me that his affliction from his wife stirred him up to action abroad; and when success tempted him to pride, the bitterness in his bosom comforts was a cooler and a bridle to him’ (Knowles, Life of Roger Williams, 1834, p. 261; Masson, Life of Milton, iv. 533). In his letters he complains frequently of ill-health, especially of melancholia, or, as it was then termed, ‘the spleen,’ and both in 1649 and again in 1656 he was dangerously ill. His fear was, as he expressed it, that he would ‘outlive his parts’ (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 4th ser. vi. 112).
Whenever Peters was in health, his restless energy led him to engage in every kind of public business. In March 1649 he presented to the council of state propositions for building frigates which were referred to the admiralty committee (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50). One of the questions he had most at heart was the reform of the law. While in Massachusetts he had twice been appointed on committees for drawing up a code of laws for the colony, and in Holland he had seen much which he thought worthy of imitation in England. On 17 Jan. 1652 parliament appointed a committee of twenty-one persons for the reformation of the law, of whom Peters was one. ‘None of them,’ writes Whitelocke, ‘was more active in this business than Mr. Hugh Peters, the minister, who understood little of the law, but was very opinionative, and would frequently mention some proceedings of law in Holland, wherein he was altogether mistaken’ (Memorials, ed. 1853, iii. 388). In a tract published in July 1651, entitled ‘Good Work for a Good Magistrate,’ he summed up his scheme of reforms, proposing, among other things, a register of land titles and wills, and suggesting that when that was established the old records in the Tower, being merely monuments of tyranny, might be burnt (p. 33). R. Vaughan of Gray's Inn answered his proposals in detail on behalf of the lawyers, and Prynne furiously denounced the ignorance and folly shown in his suggestion about the records (‘A Plea for the Common Laws of England,’ 1651, 8vo; ‘The Second Part of a Short Demurrer to the Jews long-discontinued Remitter into England, by William Prynne,’ 1656, 4to, pp. 136–47). In the same pamphlet Peters proposed the setting up of a bank in London like that of Amsterdam, the establishment of public warehouses and docks, the institution of a better system for guarding against fires in London, and the adoption of the Dutch system of providing for the poor throughout the country. Unfortunately none of these public-spirited proposals led to any practical result.
Peters did not limit his activity to domestic affairs. During the war with the Dutch in 1652 and 1653 he continually endeavoured to utilise his influence with the leaders of the two countries to heal the breach. At his instigation, in June 1652, the Dutch congregation at Austin Friars petitioned parliament for the revival of the conferences with the Dutch ambassadors, which had just then been broken off, and the demand was earnestly supported by Cromwell. Confident of the approval of the army leaders, who were opposed to the war, Peters even ventured to write to Sir George Ayscue and bid him to desist from fighting his co-religionists. Ayscue, however, sent the letter to parlia- ment, and Peters was severely reprimanded (notes supplied by Mr. S. R. Gardiner). In April 1653 the Dutch made an overture to negotiate. A contemporary caricature represents Peters introducing the four Dutch envoys sent in July 1653 to Secretary Thurloe. In the same month he was described as publicly praying and preaching for peace, and, though it is said that he was forbidden to hold any communication with the ambassadors, it is probable that he was one of the anonymous intermediaries mentioned in the account of their mission (Thurloe, i. 330; Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 196, 223; Geddes, John de Witt, i. 281, 360; Stubbe, Further Justification of the Present War against the United Netherlands, 1673, pp. 1, 81).
In this series of attempts at mediation the conduct of Peters, however indiscreet, was dictated by a laudable desire to prevent the effusion of protestant blood; but in another instance his motive seems to have been simply a wish to put himself forward. When Whitelocke was sent as ambassador to Sweden, Peters sent by him to Queen Christina a mastiff and ‘a great English cheese of his country making,’ accompanied by a letter stating the reasons which had led to the execution of Charles I and the expulsion of the Long parliament. With many apologies for the presumption of the sender, Whitelocke presented them to Christina, ‘who merrily and with expressions of contentment received of them, though from so mean a hand’ (Whitelocke, Journal of the Embassy to Sweden, ed. H. Reeve, i. 283; Thurloe, i. 583).
During the Protectorate, Peters, who was a staunch supporter of Cromwell, continued to act as one of the regular preachers at Whitehall, but was more closely restricted to his proper functions. Besides preaching, he took an active part in ecclesiastical affairs and in the propagation of the gospel in the three kingdoms. In July 1652 he and other ministers had been instructed to confer with various officers ‘about providing some godly persons to go into Ireland to preach the gospel’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651–2, p. 351). He corresponded with Henry Cromwell, praising his administration, and urging him to maintain ‘a laborious, constant, sober ministry’ as the thing most necessary for the preservation of Ireland (Lansdowne MSS. 823, f. 32).
Report credited Peters with the inspiration of the policy adopted by the commissioners for the propagation of the gospel in Wales, but he was not one of the original ‘propagators’ appointed by the ordinance of 22 Feb. 1650, and no good evidence is adduced in support of the statement (Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 147; Yonge, England's Shame, pp. 80–6).
Peters was a member of a committee appointed by the army to assist the commissioners for the propagation of the gospel among the Indians in New England, but he quarrelled with the commissioners, who, in February 1654, charged him with hindering instead of helping their work. At one time he roundly asserted that ‘the work was but a plain cheat, and that there was no such thing as a gospel conversion amongst the Indians.’ At another he complained that the commissioners obstructed the work by refusing to allow the missionaries employed a sufficient maintenance. They answered that he was dissatisfied simply because the work was coming to perfection and he had not had the least hand or finger in it (Hutchinson Papers, Prince Soc. i. 288). There was doubless an element of truth in these charges, for Peters, in one of his letters to Winthrop, owned that he would rather see the money collected spent on the poor of the colony than on the natives (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 4th ser. vi. 116). He vindicated himself, however, from a charge of embezzlement which had also been brought against him (Rawlinson MS. C. f. 934, f. 26, Bodleian Library). The Protector, to whom these charges were doubtless known, showed his continued confidence by appointing Peters one of the ‘Triers’ whose business was to examine all candidates for livings (Ordinance, 20 March 1653–4; Scobell, Acts, p. 279). Peters was also frequently applied to personally when ministers were to be approved or chaplains recommended for employment (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654 pp. 124, 553, 1655 p. 50).
In December 1655, when Menasseh Ben Israel [see Menasseh] presented his petition for the readmission of the Jews to England, Peters was one of the ministers appointed to discuss the question with the committee of the council of state. But though he had advocated the cause of the Jews as early as 1647, he seems now to have raised a doubt whether the petitioners could prove that they really were Jews (ib. 1655–6, pp. 52, 57, 58; Cromwelliana, p. 154). During the later years of the Protectorate Peters was less prominent, partly owing to ill-health, and in August 1656 he informed Henry Cromwell that he ‘was very much taken off by age and other worry from busy business’ (Lansdowne MSS. 823, f. 34; Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 3rd ser. i. 183). On 1 May 1657 he preached a rousing sermon to the six regiments assembled at Blackheath to serve in the expedition to Flanders (Mercurius Politicus, 30 April to 7 May 1657). In July 1658 he was sent to Dunkirk, apparently to inquire into the provision made for the spiritual needs of the newly established garrison. He utilised the opportunity to inquire into the administration of the town in general, and to obtain several interviews with Cardinal Mazarin. Lockhart, the governor, praised the ‘great charity and goodness’ Peters had shown in his prayers and exhortations, and in visiting and relieving the sick and wounded. In a confidential postscript to Thurloe he added: ‘He returns laden with an account of all things here, and hath undertaken every man's business. I must give him that testimony, that he gave us three or four very honest sermons; and if it were possible to get him to mind preaching, and to forbear the troubling of himself with other things, he would certainly prove a very fit minister for soldiers.’ ‘He hath often,’ he continued, ‘insinuated into me his desire to stay here, if he had a call;’ but the prospect of his establishment in Dunkirk was evidently distasteful to the governor (Thurloe, vii. 223, 249).
On the death of the Protector, Peters preached a funeral sermon, selecting the text, ‘My servant Moses is dead’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 143). During the troubled period which followed he took little part in public affairs, probably owing to ill-health. He deplored the overthrow of Richard Cromwell, protested that he was a stranger to it, and declared that he looked upon the whole business as ‘very sinful and ruining.’ When Monck marched into England, Peters met him at St. Albans and preached before him, to the great disgust of the general's orthodox chaplain, John Price (Maseres, Select Tracts, ii. 756). On 24 April, in answer to some inquiries from Monck, he wrote to Monck saying ‘My weak head and crazy carcass puts me in mind of my great change, and therefore I thank God that these twelve months, ever since the breach of Richard's parliament, I have meddled with no public affairs more than the thoughts of mine own and others presented to yourself’ (manuscripts of Mr. Leybourne Popham). No professions of peaceableness, however true, could save him from suspicion. The restored Rump deprived him of his lodgings at Whitehall in January 1660, and on 11 May the council of state ordered his apprehension (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659–60, pp. 305, 338, 575, 360). Pamphlets, ballads, and caricatures against him testified to his general unpopularity (Cat. of Prints in Brit. Mus., satirical, i. 518, 522, 528, 532, 535–42). On 7 June the House of Commons ordered that he and Cornet Joyce should be arrested, the two being coupled together as the king's supposed executioners. On 18 June he was excepted from the Act of Indemnity (Kennet Register, pp. 176, 240). Peters, who had hidden himself to escape apprehension, drew up an apology for his life, which he contrived to get presented to the House of Lords. It denies that he took any share in concerting the king's death, and gives an account of his public career, substantially agreeing with the defence made at his trial and the statements contained in his ‘Last Legacy’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 115). Peters was arrested in Southwark on 2 Sept. 1660, and committed to the Tower. His trial took place at the Old Bailey on 13 Oct. The chief witness against him was Dr. William Young, who deposed to certain confessions made to him by Peters in 1649, showing that he had plotted with Cromwell to bring the king to the block. Other witnesses testified to supposed consultations of Peters with Cromwell and Ireton for the same purpose, and to his incendiary sermons during the king's trial. Peters proved the falsity of the rumour that he had actually been present on the scaffold by showing that he was confined to his chamber by illness on the day of the king's execution, but he was unable to do more than deny that he used the particular expressions alleged to have been uttered by him. He was found guilty and condemned to death (Trial of the Regicides, 4to, 1660, pp. 153–84). During his imprisonment Peters ‘was exercised under great conflict in his own spirit, fearing (as he would often say) that he should not go through his sufferings with courage and comfort.’ But, in spite of reports to the contrary, he met his end with dignity and calmness. On 14 Oct. he preached to his fellow-prisoners, taking as his text Psalm xlii. 11. He was executed at Charing Cross on 16 Oct. with his friend John Cook (d. 1660) [q. v.] One of the bystanders upbraided Peters with the death of the king, and bade him repent. ‘Friend,’ replied Peters, ‘you do not well to trample on a dying man. You are greatly mistaken: I had nothing to do in the death of the king.’ Cook was hanged before the eyes of Peters, who was purposely brought near by the sheriff's men to see his body quartered. ‘Sir,’ said Peters to the sheriff, ‘you have here slain one of the servants of God before mine eyes, and have made me to behold it, on purpose to terrify and discourage me; but God hath made it an ordinance to me for my strengthening and encouragement.’ ‘Never,’ said the official newspaper, ‘was person suf- fered death so unpitied, and (which is more) whose execution was the delight of the people’ (Mercurius Publicus, 11–18 Oct. p. 670; The Speeches and Prayers of some of the late King's Judges, 4to, 1660, pp. 58–62; Rebels no Saints, 8vo, 1661, pp. 71–80).
The popular hatred was hardly deserved. Peters had earned it by what he said rather than by what he did. His public-spirited exertions for the general good and his kindnesses to individual royalists were forgotten, and only his denunciations of the king and his attacks on the clergy were remembered. Burnet characterises him as ‘an enthusiastical buffoon preacher, though a very vicious man, who had been of great use to Cromwell, and had been very outrageous in pressing the king's death with the cruelty and rudeness of an inquisitor’ (Own Time, ed. 1833, i. 290). His jocularity had given as much offence as his violence, and pamphlets were compiled which related his sayings and attributed to him a number of time-honoured witticisms and practical jokes (The Tales and Jests of Mr. Hugh Peters, published by one that formerly hath been conversant with the author in his lifetime, 4to, 1660; Hugh Peters his Figaries, 4to, 1660). His reputation was further assailed in songs and satires charging him with embezzlement, drunkenness, adultery, and other crimes; but these accusations were among the ordinary controversial weapons of the period, and deserve no credit (Don Juan Lamberto, 4to, 1661, pt. ii. chap. viii.; Yonge, England's Shame, 8vo, 1663, pp. 14, 19, 27, 53). They rest on no evidence, and were solemnly denied by Peters. In one case the publisher of these libels was obliged to insert a public apology in the newspapers (Several Proceedings in Parliament, 2–9 Sept. 1652). An examination of the career and the writings of Peters shows him to have been an honest, upright, and genial man, whose defects of taste and judgment explain much of the odium which he incurred, but do not justify it.
In person Peters is described as tall and thin, according to the tradition recorded by one of his successors at Salem, but his portraits represent a full-faced, and apparently rather corpulent man (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 1st ser. vi. 252). A picture of him, described by Cole, as showing ‘rather a well-looking open-countenanced man,’ was formerly in the master's lodge at Queens' College, Cambridge (Diary of Thomas Burton, i. 244). One belonging to the Rev. Dr. Treffry was exhibited in the National Portrait Collection of 1868 (No. 724); the best engraved portrait is that prefixed to ‘A Dying Father's Last Legacy,’ 12mo, 1660. A list of others is given in the catalogue of the portraits in the Sutherland Collection in the Bodleian Library, and many satirical prints and caricatures are described in the British Museum Catalogue of Prints and Drawings (Satires, vol. i. 1870).
Peters married twice: first, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Cooke of Pebmarsh, Essex, and widow of Edmund Read of Wickford in the same county; she died about 1637. Secondly, Deliverance Sheffield; she was still alive in 1677 in New England, and was supported by charity (Hutchinson Papers, Prince Soc. ii. 252). By his second marriage Peters had one daughter, Elizabeth, to whom his ‘Last Legacy’ is addressed. She is said to have married and left descendants in America, but the accuracy of the pedigree is disputed (Caulfield, Reprint of the Tales and Jests of Hugh Peters, 1807, p. xiv; Hist. of the Rev. Hugh Peters, by Samuel Peters, New York, 1807, 8vo).
Hugh Peters was the author of the following pamphlets: 1. ‘The Advice of that Worthy Commander Sir Edward Harwood upon occasion of the French King's Preparations … Also a relation of his life and death’ (the relation is by Peters), 4to, 1642; reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ ed. Park, iv. 268. 2. ‘A True Relation of the passages of God's Providence in a voyage for Ireland … wherein every day's work is set down faithfully by H. P., an eye-witness thereof,’ 4to, 1642. 3. ‘Preface to Richard Mather's Church Government and Church Covenant discussed,’ 4to, 1643. 4. ‘Mr. Peter's Report from the Armies, 26 July 1645, with a list of the chiefest officers taken at Bridgewater,’ &c., 4to, 1645. 5. ‘Mr. Peter's report from Bristol,’ 4to, 1645. 6. ‘The Full and Last Relation of all things concerning Basing House, with divers other Passages represented to Mr. Speaker and divers Members in the House. By Mr. Peters who came from Lieut.-Gen. Cromwell,’ 4to, 1645. 7. ‘Master Peter's Message from Sir Thomas Fairfax with the narration of the taking of Dartmouth,’ 4to, 1646. 8. ‘Master Peter's Message from Sir Thomas Fairfax … with the whole state of the west and all the particulars about the disbanding of the Prince and Sir Ralph Hopton's Army,’ 4to, 1646. 9. ‘God's Doings and Man's Duty,’ opened in a sermon preached 2 April 1646, 4to. 10. ‘Mr. Peter's Last Report of the English Wars, occasioned by the importunity of a Friend pressing an Answer to seven Queries,’ 1646, 4to. 11. ‘Several Propositions presented to the House of Commons by Mr. Peters concerning the Presbyterian Ministers of this Kingdom, with the discovery of two great Plots against the Parliament of England,’ 1646, 4to. 12. ‘A Word for the Army and Two Words for the Kingdom,’ 1647, 4to; reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ ed. Park, v. 607. 13. ‘Good Work for a good Magistrate, or a short cut to great quiet, by honest, homely, plain English hints given from Scripture, reason, and experience for the regulating of most cases in this Commonwealth,’ by H. P., 12mo, 1651. 14. A preface to ‘The Little Horn's Doom and Downfall,’ by Mary Cary, 12mo, 1651. 15. ‘Æternitati sacrum Terrenum quod habuit sub hoc pulvere deposuit Henricus Ireton,’ Latin verses on Henry Ireton's death, fol. . 16. Dedication to ‘Operum Gulielmi Amesii volumen primum,’ Amsterdam, 12mo, 1658. 17. ‘A Dying Father's Last Legacy to an only Child, or Mr. Hugh Peter's advice to his daughter, written by his own hand during his late imprisonment,’ 12mo, 1660. 18. ‘The Case of Mr. Hugh Peters impartially communicated to the view and censure of the whole world, written by his own hand,’ 4to, 1660. 19. ‘A Sermon by Hugh Peters preached before his death, as it was taken by a faithful hand, and now published for public information,’ London, printed by John Best, 4to, 1660.
A number of speeches, confessions, sermons, &c., attributed to Peters, are merely political squibs and satirical attacks. A list of these is given in ‘Bibliotheca Cornubiensis.’ There are also attributed to Peters: 1. ‘The Nonesuch Charles his character,’ 8vo, 1651. This was probably written by Sir Balthazar Gerbier [q. v.], who after the Restoration asserted that Peters was its author (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, p. 79). 2. ‘The Way to the Peace and Settlement of these Nations. … By Peter Cornelius van Zurick-Zee,’ 4to, 1659; reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ ed. Scott, vi. 487. 3. ‘A Way propounded to make the poor in these and other nations happy. By Peter Cornelius van Zurick-Zee,’ 4to, 1659. A note in the copy of the latter in Thomason's Collection in the British Museum, says: ‘I believe this pamphlet was made by Mr. Hugh Peters, who hath a man named Cornelius Glover.’[An almost exhaustive list of the materials for the life of Peters is given in Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, i. 465, iii. 1310. The earliest life of Peters is that by William Yonge, M.D.—England's Shame, or the unmasking of a politic Atheist, being a full and faithful relation of the life and death of that grand impostor Hugh Peters, 12mo, 1663. This is a scurrilous collection of fabrications. The first attempt at an impartial biography was an historical and critical account of Hugh Peters after the manner of Mr. Bayle, published anonymously by Dr. William Harris in 1751, 4to, reprinted, in 1814, in his Historical and Critical Account of the Lives of James I, Charles I, &c., 5 vols, 8vo. This was followed in 1807 by the Life of Hugh Peters, by the Rev. Samuel Peters, LL.D., New York, 8vo. Both were superseded by the Rev. J. B. Felt's Memoir and Defence of Hugh Peters, Boston, 1851, 8vo; thirty-five letters by Hugh Peters are printed in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 4th ser. vi. 91–117, vii. 199–204; a list of other letters is given in Bibliotheca Cornubiensis. Peters gives an account of his own life in his Last Legacy, pp. 97–115, which should be compared with the autobiographical statements contained in his Last Report of the English Wars, 1646, the petition addressed by him to the House of Lords in 1660 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. i. 115), and the statements made by him during his trial.]