Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phelps, John

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PHELPS, JOHN (fl. 1649), regicide, matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 20 May 1636, describing himself as aged 17, and the son of Robert Phelps of Salisbury (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1st ser. p. 1155). His first employment seems to have been that of clerk to the committee for plundered ministers. On 1 Jan. 1648–9 he was appointed clerk-assistant to Henry Elsing, clerk of the House of Commons, and on 8 Jan. was selected as one of the two clerks of the high court of justice which sat to try Charles I (Commons' Journals, vi. 107; Nalson, Trial of Charles I, 1682, pp. 7, 9). The original journal of the court, attested under the hand of Phelps, and presented by the judges to the House of Commons, was published by John Nalson in 1682 (ib. p. xiv; Commons' Journals, vi. 508). In 1650 Phelps was called to the bar at the Middle Temple. On 14 Oct. 1652 he was made clerk to the committee of parliament chosen to confer with the deputies of Scotland on the question of the union (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651–2, p. 439). He was employed as official note-taker at the trial of Vowell and Fox in 1654, and was also concerned in the trial of Slingsby and Hewitt in 1658 (ib. 1654 p. 235, 1658–9 p. 11). From 7 to 14 May 1659 he again acted as clerk of the House of Commons (Commons' Journals, vii. 644, 650). By these different employments Phelps made sufficient money to purchase a part of the manor of Hampton Court, which was bought from him in 1654 for the use of the Protector (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654, pp. 180, 223).

At the Restoration the House of Commons included Phelps and his fellow-clerk Broughton among the regicides, and on 14 May 1660 voted their arrest (Commons' Journals, viii. 25). Prynne was ordered to secure all the public documents which were among the papers of Phelps, and his goods were also seized (ib. pp. 27, 32, 43, 47). On 9 June it was further voted that he should be excepted from the Act of Indemnity for future punishment by some penalty less than death; and on 1 July 1661 he was attainted, in company with twenty-one dead regicides (ib. pp. 60, 286). Phelps, however, succeeded in evading all pursuit, and in 1662 he was at Lausanne in company with Ludlow. At the close of that year he and Colonel John Biscoe bought goods at Geneva and other places, and resolved to try to make a livelihood by trading in Germany and Holland (Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 344, ed. 1894). In 1666 he appears to have been in Holland, and his name was included in a list of exiles summoned on 21 July to surrender themselves within a given time to the English government (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1665–6, pp. 342, 348, 358). The date and the place of his death are unknown. A tablet to his memory was erected a few years ago in St. Martin's Church, Vevay (Ludlow, ii. 513; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vi. 13).

[Authorities cited in text.]

C. H. F.