Pearson, Anthony (DNB00)

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PEARSON, ANTHONY (1628–1670?), quaker, of Ramshaw Hall, West Auckland, Durham, was probably born there in 1628. After a good education and some training in law, he became, in 1648, secretary to Sir Arthur Hesilrige [q. v.] He acted as clerk and registrar of the committee for compounding from its appointment on 2 March 1649 (Cal. State Papers, Committee for Compounding, pp. 812, 821). On 10 Feb. 1651–2 Pearson was nominated by the committee sequestration commissioner for the county of Durham (ib. pp. 541, 649).

On the sale of bishops' lands Pearson purchased the manors of Aspatricke, Cumberland (31 May 1650), and Marrowlee, Northumberland (5 March 1653), with other delinquents' estates belonging to Sir Thomas Riddell and the Marquis of Newcastle (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, p. 239), but he continued to reside at Ramshaw. He was appointed a justice of the peace in three counties, and went on circuit to Appleby, Westmoreland, in January 1652. James Nayler [q. v.], the quaker, was tried before him there (Sewel, Hist. of the Rise, &c. ii. 432). Pearson appears to have regarded him as a dangerous fanatic (see Nayler, Works, pp. 11–16, and Nicholson and Burns, Hist. of Westmoreland, i. 537 seq.), but Fox, who had previously been to his house, made a better impression. So attracted was Pearson by the quaker's teaching that he repaired to Swarthmore Hall, and came under the strong personal influence of Margaret Fell [q. v.] and her daughters. In a letter to Alexander Parker [q. v.], dated 9 May 1653, he says he heard from her the truth of quakerism, which he had ‘thought only the product of giddy brains’ (Swarthmore MSS.) Pearson and his wife afterwards accompanied Fox to Bootle in Cumberland, and Pearson was thenceforth a devoted follower of Fox (cf. Journal, p. 109). On 3 Oct. Pearson wrote ‘An Address to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England’ (4to, no printer's name or place), representing in measured terms the unjust persecution of the quakers.

In the spring of 1654 he was in London, and there wrote ‘A few Words to all Judges, Justices, and Ministers of the Law in England,’ London, Giles Calvert, 1654. On his return home he wrote to Fox, urging that no quakers should go to London ‘save in the clear and pure movings of the Spirit, for there were many mighty in wisdom, and weak ones would suffer the truth to be trampled on.’ The same year he was sent to Scotland as a commissioner for the administration of justice (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654, p. 126). On 9 May 1655 Pearson returned to London, and began a systematic visitation of all law courts, to gather information about tithes, and the treatment of the quakers who declined to pay them (Barclay, Letters of Early Friends, pp. 31, 33, 34). On 28 May he delivered to Cromwell papers gathered by Thomas Aldam [q. v.] and himself during a visit to most of the principal prisons in England as to the commitments (Swarthmore MSS.) Cromwell promised to read the papers, but was evidently averse to the release of prisoners. Aldam was soon after imprisoned, and Pearson with great difficulty, and after ‘seeing Treasury Barons of Exchequer and other great men about it,’ at last obtained, in a remarkable personal interview with Cromwell, a warrant for his discharge under the Protector's own hand.

This interview is related in a letter, dated 18 July 1654, from Pearson to George Fox (ib.) On the previous Sunday, near sundown, the Protector was walking alone on the leads of the housetop, after his return from chapel. He led Pearson to a gallery, and ‘kindly asked me how I did, with his hat pulled off.’ The quaker remained covered, stood still, and gave him not a word. Fixing his eyes on Cromwell, Pearson fell into a trance, and at length began an impassioned and highly mystical harangue. The late wars he described as a figure, not for the Protector's or any person's interest, but for ‘the seed's sake.’ Cromwell had been raised up to throw down oppression, and was alone responsible for the cruel persecution of the quakers. Cromwell's wife and fifty or more ladies and gentlemen then coming in, Pearson ‘cleared his conscience to them all;’ but the Protector now grew weary, and bade them let him go, maintaining that ‘the light within was an unsafe guide, since it led the ranters and their followers into all manner of excesses.’ Pearson adds, ‘I think he will never suffer me to see him again.’

Pearson's well-known work, ‘The great Case of Tythes truly stated, clearly opened, and fully resolved. By a Countrey-man, A. P.,’ London, was published in 1657. The preface is addressed to the ‘Countrey-men, Farmers, and Husbandmen of England.’ A second edition was published in 1658; a third, corrected and amended, in 1659. An answer to this edition was published by Immanuel Bourne [q. v.] On 22 June 1659 he delivered, with Thomas Aldam, the ‘Friends' Subscription against Tithes’ to parliament (Barclay, Letters, p. 71). He acted as clerk to the general meeting of Durham Friends held on 1 Oct. 1659 (Letters, p. 292).

At the Restoration Pearson's loyalty was suspected. He was described as ‘the principal quaker in the north, having meetings of at least one hundred in his house almost every night, with two or three horse-loads of skeene knives and daggers concealed there’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. p. 93 a). He admitted to having stored the arms, but for the service of the king (Cal. State Papers, 1661–2, p. 239). On 14 Dec. 1661 he was examined at Whitehall, and reported that he had lately been in Scotland by direction of Sir John Shaw and Sir Nicholas Crisp, that he had not corresponded with any one there since the Restoration, nor borne arms against the king. He was apprehended on 16 Jan. 1662 for being in London contrary to the proclamation, but released under a certificate of Sir Edward Nicholas [q. v.], secretary of state. After this he appears to have renounced his quakerism, in his endeavour to stand well with the monarchy, going so far as to say that, although he had ‘embraced the chimerical notions of those times and ran into excesses in his zeal for religion, he was still one of the best friends to the king's distressed servants or to expelled ministers.’ He protested that he was won over to different opinions many years ago, ‘when it was not seasonable to express them,’ by Sir William D'Arcy, and in proof of sincerity surrendered the delinquents' estates that he had bought (loc cit.) He was further employed in Edinburgh by the government (cf. Cal. State Papers, 1663–4, p. 191).

In 1665 he was under-sheriff for the county of Durham, and high in favour with the bishop, John Cosin [q. v.], in whose nomination the office was (ib. 1664–5, p. 482, and 1665–6, p. 224). Pearson probably died at Ramshaw Hall in 1670. He appears to have been a man of many parts, and one who came to the front in whatever he did, but without much stability.

He married some time before May 1652. A daughter Grace married Giles Chambers, and became a noted quaker minister, travelling through England, Ireland, and Wales. She died in 1760, aged between 90 and 100 (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xii. 520).

Pearson's work on tithes was reprinted, London and Dublin, 1730, and again in the same year (London, J. Sowle), with ‘an Appendix thereto.’ To which is added a ‘Defence of some other Principles held by the People called Quakers … By J. M.,’ i.e. Josiah Martin [q. v.] Another edition, with a new appendix, consisting of ‘An Account of Tithes,’ by Thomas Ellwood, Thomas Bennett, and others, was published London, Luke Hinde, 1754, 8vo, and reprinted as the seventh edition, 1762. Subsequent editions have appeared, one by the Tract Association of the Society of Friends being dated 1850.

[Authorities quoted above; Lilburne's Just Reproof to Haberdashers' Hall, 1651, p. 6; Janney's Hist. of Friends, i. 162, 163; Fox's Journal (fol. ed.), pp. 95, 108, 109, 161, 181, 182, 265, 286, 456; Barclay's Letters of Early Friends, pp. 31, 33, 34, 71, 292; Sewel's Hist. of the Rise, &c., ed. 1834, i. 86, 95, 104, 240, ii. 431; Webb's Fells of Swarthmore, pp. 47, 59, 71, 81; Smith's Catalogue; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 979; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654 p. 126, 1658–9 p. 360, 1659–60 p. 127, 1661–2 pp. 177, 181, 239, 244, 1663–4 p. 191, 1664–5, p. 482, 1655–6 p. 224; Committee for Compounding, pp. 201, 541, 679, 812, 821, 1739; Thurloe State Papers, vi. 811. An autograph letter from Pearson is Addit. MS. 21425, fol. 178. Six letters from him are in the Swarthmore MSS. at Devonshire House, and continual mention of him is to be found in the letters from Thomas Willan and George Taylor of Kendal, to Margaret Fell, in the same collection.]

C. F. S.