Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/James, John (d.1661)

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1398662Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 29 — James, John (d.1661)1892Alexander Gordon

JAMES, JOHN (d. 1661), Fifth-monarchy man, was a native of England, born of poor parents, but his birthplace is unknown. He had little education, and was a ribbon-weaver by trade. For some years he earned a living as a small-coal man, but was not strong enough for the work, and returned to weaving. He appears to have been of weak frame and diminutive stature, ‘a poor, low, deformed worm.’ In 1661 he speaks of ‘having not worn a sword this eleven years,’ and implies that he had never been in the army. He became preacher to a congregation of seventh-day baptists, who met in Bulstake Alley, Whitechapel Road. Here he advocated the doctrine of the approaching millennial reign of Christ, and seems to have got into trouble, owing to the vehemence of his expressions, in Cromwell's time. He had no hand in the rising of Fifth-monarchy men under Thomas Venner in January 1661, and, apart from the fanaticism of his preaching, was a peaceable man. On the information of John Tipler, a journeyman tobacco-pipe maker, James and his congregation, to the number of thirty or forty, were arrested in their meeting-place on Saturday, 19 Oct. 1661. James was committed to Newgate, and brought to trial at the king's bench on 14, 19, and 22 Nov. The indictment was for high treason, with five counts. Sir Robert Foster [q. v.], the chief justice, with two other judges, tried the case; the attorney-general (Jeoffry Palmer) and solicitor-general (Heneage Finch, first earl of Nottingham [q. v.]), with four king's counsel, prosecuted for the crown. James was undefended. The evidence as to the use of treasonable language was conflicting; no evidence was given of treasonable action. James was found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged, disembowelled, and quartered. In the interval between his conviction and sentence his wife, Elizabeth James, twice waylaid the king with a petition. Charles held up his finger and said, ‘O, Mr. James, he is a sweet gentleman.’ The sentence was carried out at Tyburn on 26 Nov. 1661. His head was set up on a pole ‘over against the passage to the meeting-place where he and his company were apprehended.’ Some of his addresses, and a remarkable prayer, are contained in ‘A Narrative of the Apprehending … and Execution of John James,’ &c., 1662, 4to; reprinted in Cobbett's ‘State Trials,’ 1810, vi. 67 sq. (nearly in full), and in ‘The Fifth Monarchy of the Bible,’ &c., 1886, 12mo.

[Speech and Declaration of John James, 1661; Narrative, 1662; the accounts in Crosby's Hist. of the Engl. Baptists, 1739, ii. 165 sq., Ivimey's Hist. of the Engl. Baptists, 1811, i. 320 sq., and Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 391 sq., are abridged from the Narrative.]

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