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Sir Robert Harley, K.B., (1579-1656) and the 'character' of a puritan

Jacqueline Eales

Abstract

IN February 1621 Thomas Shepherd caused a furore in the House of Commons hy attacking the bill Mbr the Punishment of divers Abuses on the Sabaoth-day' at its second reading. It was, he said 'very inconvenient and indiscreete' and 'it savours of the spirrit of a Puritan', and he called Walter Earle, who had preferred the bill, a 'perturbator of the Peace The Commons were so scandalized that Shepherd was ordered to withdraw from the debating chamber, and his angry outburst and high words were widely reported, both in parliamentary diaries" and by men who were not members of the Parliament. In a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, the English ambassador in the Hague, his correspondent John Chamberlain noted ' yesterday one Shepheard, a lawier, was throwne out of the house and disabled for euer beeing there, for a speach the day before against a bill concerning the sabaoth, wherin girding and glauncing at the puritans, and seeking to make them ridiculous, him self grew foolish and profane'. In a draft letter to Sir Horace Vere, who was commanding the English volunteer force in the Palatinate, the Herefordshire gentleman. Sir Robert Harley of Brampton Bryan, recorded that 'one Shepharde, a lawyer that was of the lower house, made an Intemp[er]at speech ag[ain]st a bill, w[hi]ch was to restraine the profanatio[n] of the sabboth, & Inveyed w[i]th some bitter[ncs]s ag[ain]st puritanes sayinge that there were many snares to catch poore pa[pists], but not so much as a mouse trap to catch a puritane. Whereupon the house put hym out, & because I think the p[ar]liament will not proceede to define a Puritane, I take the bouldness to present y[ou]r Lo[rdshi]p w[i]th his Caracter, w[hi]ch bill if it should pass the lower house, the upper would never lett it come to the hassard of receauing Royall assent.'

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