Thomas Hobbes and the Blackloist Conspiracy of 1649

by Jeffrey R. Collins
Thomas Hobbes and the Blackloist Conspiracy of 1649
Jeffrey R. Collins
The Historical Journal
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The Historical Journal, 45, 2 (2002), pp. 305-331 O 2002 Cambridge University Press DOI: 10.IOI 7/S0018246)302002388 Printed in the United Kingdom



University of Chicago


In ajarringpassage toward the conclusion of Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes endorsed the abolition of episcopacy and the establishment of an Independent religious settlement within England. Most historians haue ignored this feature of Leviathan, or have dismissed it as an of-hand aside of no consequence. Others, more plausibly, have construed it as part of a royalist scheme (encouraged b3, Queen Henrietta Maria and her supporters) to secure a Stuart Restoration by allying with the English Independents. This article o&s an alternative theory. It argues that Hobbes's attentions were probably drawn to Independen9 by the political machinations of a group of idiosyncratic Catholics gathered around the philosopher-priest, Thomas White (alias Blacklo). In 1649,White and his 'Blackloist' followers engaged in secret negotiations with Oliuer Cromwell. In exchange for religious toleration for Catholics, the Blackloists promised allegiance to the Commonwealth and conformity to a Congregationalist religious settlement. This article examines Hobbes's close personal links with the leading Blackloists, documents similarities in their reactions to Independency, establishes the strong intellectual injuence Leviathan had on Blackloist tracts, and demonstrates that royalists consistently linked Hobbes with the Blackloist treason. The article concludes that the Blackloist plot to betrq the Stuart cause, rather than ary royalist scheme to strike a deal with the Independents, provides the most compelling contextual explanation for Thomas Hobbes's endorsement of Independency.

When Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan appeared in the spring of 1651,it was widely condemned among Stuart loyalists. Two features of the work enraged the royalists above all. The first was Hobbes's frank admission that his utilitarian theory of political obligation justified English subjects taking the Common- wealth's detested Engagement Oath.' This affronted royalist sensibilities about the Stuarts' hereditary legitimacy. Perhaps still more inflammatory was a passage found in the final pages of Leviathan, where, having narrated the historical 'Synthesis and Construction ofPontificall Power', Hobbes praised the 'dissolution of the praeterpoliticall Church Government in England '. First, the Tudors had abolished papal authority. 'After this', Hobbes wrote:

the Presbyterians lately in England obtained the putting down of Episcopacy ...And almost at the same time, the Power was taken also from the Presbyterians: And so we

' Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 484-6; Quentin Skinner, 'Conquest and consent: Thomas Hobbes and the engagement controversy', in

G. E. Aylmer, ed., The Interregnum: the questfor settlement, 164fi-1660(London, 1972).


are reduced to the Independency of the Primitive Christians to follow Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, every man as he liketh best: Which, ifit be without Contention . . . is perhaps the best.'

Royalists read Hobbes's endorsement of Independency with shock. Allied with Oliver Cromwell, the Independents envisioned a church composed of independent congregations, unified by no clerical hierarchy, tolerating an array of Protestant sects. For most royalists such a settlement promised only a limp, powerless church and a disorienting religious pluralism. Moreover, 'Independents' had become shorthand for the army and parliamentary hard- liners who had launched Pride's Purge, executed Charles I, and abolished the


monarchy. After 1649, the royalist struggle was carried on against 'Independent' armies in Ireland and Scotland, and the Commonwealth was ruled by the 'barbarous carriage of the Independents in England'.3

This article will offer a new context for understanding Leviathan's politically dangerous endorsement of Independency. Any historian, even those com- placently assured of Hobbes's life-long royalism, must explain this jarring concession to the royalists' most abhorred enemies. The prevailing explanation is by no means negligible: historians have plausibly theorized that Hobbes's endorsement of Independency was intended to further a royalist scheme to restore Charles I1 at the head of an Independent- royalist alliance. Such plans had been floated before 1651, and historians have sometimes assumed that Leviathan was the late manifestation of another attempt. However, the evidence presented below punctures the plausibility of this royalist interpretation of Hobbes's Independency. Rather, considerable evidence links Thomas Hobbes with a group of turncoat royalists who, after Charles 1's execution, attempted to abandon the Stuarts and strike a separate peace with the ascendant Independents. For reasons detailed below, this scheme can be called the 'Blackloist conspiracy', and it, rather than any covert royalist plan, provides the most likely context for understanding Hobbes's turn toward the revolutionary Independents.

Thomas Hobbes lived in France throughout the course of the Civil War, from late 1640 until approximately the early weeks of 1652. His earliest political works, adamantly absolutist, were widely interpreted as apologias for Charles I,* but Hobbes's links with the exiled royalist court are best described as episodic. In the early 1640s he spent much of his time among Father Marin Mersenne's renowned cohort of natural philosophers.5 Hobbes did not join the exiled Stuart court at Saint Germain until 1646, when he was appointed

"obbes, Leviathan, pp. 479-80. Ormonde to Clogher, 16 Feb. 1649, Bod. Library (Bod.) Carte MS 23, fos. 480-1 ;Nicholas to Hatton, I I Jan. 1649, British Library (BL) Birch 4180, fo. 9. "obbes to Scudamore, 12Apr, r 641, in The correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm (2 VO~S.,

Oxford, 1994), P. 1 14.

Thomas Hobbes, Vita [verse], in Thomae Hobbes malmesburiensis opera philosophica quae latine scr$sit omnia, ed. Sir William Molesworth (5 vols., London, 1839-45), I, p. xci; Richard Tuck, Hobbes (Cambridge, 1989),pp. I 3-20.

mathematics instructor to the prince of wale^.^ All told, he spent two years at Saint Germain. When Prince Charles departed for Holland in June of 1648, Hobbes returned to Paris.' There he began Leviathan, sometime shortly after the execution of Charles I.

Hobbes, like many English exiles, was required to navigate the bitter rifts that divided the exiled royalist court.' In one faction were the so-called 'old royalists'. Lead by Edward Hyde, Edward Nicholas, and James Butler, the old royalists counselled both Charles I and Charles 11to defend traditional royalist principles. Chief among these was protection of the episcopal church, and the old royalists thus enjoyed the allegiance of the exiled English clergy. Opposite the traditionalist royalists was arrayed the 'Louvre group'. The Louvre group, largely Catholic, coalesced around Charles 1's Queen Henrietta Maria. It sought expeditious alliances with continental powers, with Ireland and Scotland, or even with disgruntled factions of the parliamentary coalition. Unattached to English episcopacy and particularly willing to strike deals with Catholic powers, the Louvre group viewed the old royalists as nalve romantics. For their part, the old royalists saw the Louvre group as little more than a Catholic cabal, willing to compromise traditional English concerns to further a naked power grab. Disagreements between the two royalist factions were bitter and interminable, particularly over the defence of episcopacy, over proposed religious concessions to the Irish Catholics, and over the wisdom of expedient alliances with the scot^.^

Important historical work has tried to situate Thomas Hobbes within these royalist factions and has demonstrated that Hobbes's royalist associations were largely with members of the Louvre group.10 Hobbes's position as Prince Charles's mathematics tutor was probably secured by his patron, the earl of Newcastle, after his flight to France in 1644, was closely allied with Henrietta Maria and played a key role in Louvre group plotting.'' Henry Jermyn, the queen's Catholic favourite, also had a hand in securing the teaching position for Hobbes.13 Many of Hobbes's literary friends during the I 640s -William Davenant and Abraham Cowley, for instance -were courtiers to the queen.'* Among Hobbes's closest associates of these years was Kenelm Digby, the Catholic royalist who served as Henrietta Maria's representative in

'Hobbes, Vita [prose], in Opera, I, p. xv. His last letter from Saint Germain is dated June 1648.Hobbes to mersenne, 19June 1648,in Correspondence, p. 173. David Underdown, Royalist conspiracy in England, 164p160 (New Haven, 1960), pp. 10-1 I; Ronald Hutton, Charles II (Oxford, 1989),ch 2. 'Hutton, Charles 11,pp. 18-22. Richard Tuck, Philosophy and government, 1572-1651 (Cambridge, 1993)~pp. 320-2; Hans-

Dieter Metzger, Thomas Hobbes und die Englische revolution, 164+1%0 (Stuttgart, rggr), p. 98.

" Hobbes, Correspondence, p. 814.

l2 Geoffrey Trease, Portrait oJ'a cavalier (London, 1979),p. 158; Hutton, Charles 11,pp. 44-5.

l3 Hobbes, Correspondence, p. 818; Quentin Bone, Henrietta Maria (Urbana, IL, 1972)~p. 150.

l4 Arthur H. Nethercot, Abraham Cowley: the muses's Hannibal (Oxford, 1931), pp. 112-27;

Arthur H. Nethercot, Sir William D'Avenant: poet laureate andplqmrite manager (Chicago, 19381, PP 234-70,


Rome.'' Finally, there is the testimony of Edward Nicholas, a leading figure among the old royalists. After Hobbes's departure from France in early 1652, Nicholas associated the philosopher with the Louvre group when he condemned 'that father of Atheists Mr. Hobbes, who, it is said, hath rendered all the Queen's court, and very many of the Duke of York's family Atheists '.16

Hobbes's links to the Louvre group are of considerable contextual significance. Leviathan shared many of the political assumptions of the queen's faction. The willingness to abandon the episcopal church and to strike up pragmatic alliances with foreign powers represented the elevation of utility and interest over conviction and conscience. Leviathan's rights-based theory of sovereignty and interest-based theory of political obligation had similar foundational principles. Both Hobbes and the Louvre group disdained the old royalists for their legitimist notions. It is thus plausible to argue that during the 1640s Hobbes's political sympathies drew him toward the Louvre group.

Furthermore, Hobbes's credentials as a member of the Louvre group seem, at first blush, to explain Leviathan's impolitic remarks on English church government. The book's willingness to abandon episcopacy was entirely in keeping with Louvre group principles. Even Hobbes's endorsement of Independency had some precursors within the Louvre group's political scheming. In 1647, when Charles I was the New Model Army's prisoner, Henrietta Maria had briefly urged the embattled king to strike a bargain with the Independents. The old royalists had insisted that Charles maintain his adamantine defence of episcopacy, but the less fastidious Louvre group sought to exploit divisions between the English Independents and Presbyterians. Throughout the summer and autumn of 1647, Henrietta Maria sent agents into England to tempt the Independents (and their champion Oliver Cromwell) into an alliance with Charles I." Some among the army grandees were toying with a separate peace with Charles, and the Louvre group was, for a time, willing to consider religious concessions in return. Sir John Berkley, representing Henrietta Maria, assured Cromwell that the queen was seeking to 'incline his majesty' to comply with the Independents." Army radicals such as Edmund Ludlow nervously reported that some royalists, in the summer of 1647, viewed the 'Independent interest as more consisting with episcopacy than the Presbyterian'.'' Reportedly, the Independents would even have conceded a moderate episcopal establishment, provided it was paired with a liberal toleration for Independent congregation^.^^

l6 R. T. Petersson,Sir Kenelm Digby: the ornament ofEngland, 163-1665 (Cambridge, MA, 1gj6), pp. 2 12-14. " Nicholas to Hyde, I I Jan. 16j2, BL Birch MS 4180, fo. 593.

l7 ~Wemoirsof Sir John Berkley, in Select tracts relating to the Civil Wars in England, ed. Francis Maseres (2 VOIS.,London, 181 j),p. 356; Endyrnion Porter to Nicholas, 19 Jan 1647, BL Egerton MS 2533, fo. 410. la Berkley, ~Wemoirs,p. 360.

lo lWemoirs of Edmund Lndloul, 1625-1672, ed. C. H. Firth (2 vols., Oxford, 1894)~ p. I jo; Huntington to Fairfax, g Sept. 1647, in The Clarkepapers, ed. C. H. Firth (London, 1992), p. 225.

20 Thejournal of Thomas Juxon, 1644-1647,ed. Keith Lindley and David Scott (Camden Society,

5th ser., 13, ~ggg), p. I 17; Berkley, ~Memoirs,pp. 366-7

But these plans for a royalist-Independent alliance soon foundered. Charles, distrustful of 'men whose hands were yet still hot with the blood of his most faithful subjects', maintained a hard line. Among the army grandees, the repression of the Leveller revolt and the need to unify the army made unpopular concessions to Charles politically ~ntenable.~'

For a time, however, the Louvre group had seriously urged Charles toward an understanding with the army Independents.

At first glance this history of royalist scheming with the Independents provides a sufficient context for the endorsement of Independency found in Leviathan. After all, royalist dealing with the Independents occurred in 1647, during the height of Hobbes's contact with the exiled Stuart court. Indeed, in his later history of the Revolution, Behemoth, Hobbes demonstrated familiarity with the entire episode. Charles, Hobbes recalled, 'was much complimented by Cromwell, who promised him, in a serious and seeming passionate manner, to restore him to his rights against the Parliament'.22 Hobbes disliked episcopacy, shared the Louvre group's opportunistic sensibilities, and knew of the proposed royalist-Independent alliance. Thus, it may well be that Hobbes first became convinced of the political virtues of Independency in 1647, and it is tempting to assume that Leviathan's endorsement of Independency was merely belated evidence of this conviction.

But there are problems with this explanation. For one, it ignores the decisive shift in the royalist evaluation of the Independents that occurred after the execution of Charles in January 1649. Cromwell and the Independents were universally blamed for this bloody sacrilege, and the fleeting hope that the Independents were more inclined toward the royalist cause than the Presby- terians was thus dashed. Hobbes almost certainly penned his endorsement of Independency at the tail end of Leviathan's composition, in the spring or summer of 1650.~~

By this time the royalist cause had thrown itselfinto the arms of the Scots. In April 1650, after months of painful negotiations, Charles Stuart allied with the Scottish Presbyterians and accepted the Solemn League and C~venant.~~

Indeed, the Louvre group had urged this expedient alliance on Charles, and Hobbes's patron Newcastle had been conspicuously involved in the Breda negotiation^.^' Charles had, in other words, cast his lot with the Presbyterians in their struggle with the English Independents. Leviathan thus advocated a royalist-Independent alliance while a key member of the Louvre group could write that 'the Scotch treaty is the only thing now in which we are vitally ~oncerned'.~~

This casts into doubt the supposition that Hobbes's

'' Berkley, Memoirs, pp. 361, 382-3.
'' Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth, or the Long Parliament, ed. Ferdinand Tiinnies (Chicago, lggo),

p. 138. " Thirty-seven chapters had been completed by May of 1650. Payne to Sheldon, 13 May 1650, BL Harleian MS 6942, fo. 128. 24 Hutton, Charles II, pp. 44-7.

" Intelligence from Paris, 4 Dec. 1649, BL Egerton MS 2533, fo. 507; Nicholas to Ormonde, 13 Apr. 1650, Bod. Carte MS 27, fo. 241 ; Parker to Nicholas, 21 May 1650, BL Egerton MS 2534, f0. 24.

26 Cowley to Bennet, 30 Apr. 1650, in Miscellanea aulica, ed. T.Brown (London, I 702)~p. 130.


politics during 1649-50 were 'likely to be most sympathetic to the political attitude represented by Ne~castle'~' and the queen's other counsellors. The Louvre group, however willing to adopt a divide and conquer strategy in I 64.7, had rejected a deal with the Independents by 1649. In this regard Charles's alliance with the Scots only'clarified a constellation of interests made inevitable by the execution of'his father.

All of this complicates Leviathan's endorsement of Independency. If Hobbes's attentions were first drawn to the Independents in 1647, within the context of royalist negotiations, his abiding fascination with the 'Congregational Way' demands a different explanation. That such an explanation has not yet been offered by historians can be blamed on the reflexive assumption that Hobbes, even after the publication of Leviathan, remained a consistent, if atypical, royalist.28 In truth, a radically different context better explains Leviathan's remarks on church government. There is considerable evidence that Hobbes's endorsement of Independency was not a vestige of defunct Louvre group schemes for a Stuart Restoration. Rather, Hobbes's Independency was encouraged by his proximity to a conspiracy against the interests of the Stuarts and in favour of the perpetual rule of the Commonwealth Independents.

The conspiracy occurred in 1649, although its ramifications unfolded for years thereafter. The principals involved were Oliver Cromwell and his Independent allies on one side, and a dissident cohort of exiled English Catholics on the other. The chieffigure in this latter faction was the unorthodox priest Thomas White, whose alias was Blacklo. The fascinating details of the Blackloist conspiracy, widely unknown to date, must figure prominently within any compelling contextualization of Thomas Hobbes's Le~iathan.~"

The philosopher-priest Thomas White was born in 1593 in Hutton, Essex. Schooled on the continent as a Catholic, he was ordained in 1617.~' Throughout his life White taught philosophy and theology at English Catholic colleges across Europe." His philosophical stance, unorthodox and provocative, spawned a school of thought known for over a century as 'Blackloism'. Blackloism -characterized by one authority as 'radically antiprobabilist and

"Tuck, Philosophy and government, p. 320.

" See, for instance, A. P. Martinich, Hobbe~; a biograp/y (Cambridge, rggg), p. 219; see also Glenn Burgess, 'Contexts for the writing and publication of Hobbes's Leviathan', History of Political Thought, I I (~ggo),pp. 675-702.

Richard Tuck who generally locates Hobbes within the Louvre group, deserves credit for his awareness and passing mention of the Blackloist flirtation with Cromwellian Independency. Tuck, Philosophy and government, p. 32 I.

30 John Bossy, The English Catholiccommunity, 1570-1850(Oxford, 1976), p. 43;Beverly Southgate, 'Couetons of truth' :the lge and work of Thomas White, 1593-1676 (Dordrech, I 993). DNB; 'Thomas White', Essex Recusant, 8 (1966); The Douay College diaries, 1598-1%4, ed. Edwin H. Burton and Thomas Williams (Catholic Record Society, IO), pp. 369, 376.

antipapal .. . a kind of English Jansenism ' -developed as a philosophical and political rejoinder to the Counter Ref~rmation.~' White wished to preserve Aristotelian philosophical categories, but he was also drawn to the new science. His effort to marry the two could prove clumsy, but it attracted a considerable following of devotees who were frightened by the rising spectre of scepticism.33 White's philosophical and theological positions occasionally skirted heresy, but more dangerous still was his disparaging of the Tridentine papacy. Blackloists took a conciliar view of the church and rejected the universal papal monarchy; this earned them the scorn of Rome and the Jesuits.34 White's polarizing career forced a schism within the English Catholic community between Blackloists and papalists. It exacerbated a long-standing split within English Catholicism (dating back to the Jacobean oath of allegiance) that divided Jesuit-influenced papalists from secular priests and gentry more deferential to England's Protestant monarchs. For generations these factions fought viciously over whether the English clerical Chapter could elect a bishop without Rome's approval.35 Blackloism thus threatened Roman supremacy within the church, and defended a national, English Catholic church, much like the French church envisioned by Gallicans. This ecclesiological stance would trigger a serious crisis of allegiance for the Blackloists during the English

Civil War.

Amidst recent attention to Hobbes's links with the Catholic Louvre group, what has remained largely ignored is the extent to which Hobbes's Catholic associations were very largely with leading members of the Blackloist faction. The Blackloists had fled into exile during the course of the Civil War. Their natural destination was Paris, where they gravitated to Henrietta Maria's Louvre group. White fled to France in 1643,ensconced himself at the queen's court, and at least once travelled to Rome as an agent for Henrietta Maria.36 White's intellectual followers -including the priest John Sergeant (later a perjurious witness during the Popish Plot), and two doctors of divinity at the English Catholic College at Paris named Henry Holden and Peter Fitton -also drifted within the orbit of Saint Germai~~.~~

The most politically powerful of the Blackloists was certainly White's close ally Sir Kenelm Digby, who acted for years as Henrietta Maria's ambassador to Rome.38

Importantly, Thomas Hobbes was closely associated with the leading

32 New Catholic encyclopedia, xrv, p. 894. 33 B. C. Southgate, 'A medley ofboth: old and new in the thought ofThomas White', History of European Ideas, I 8 ( r 994), p. 53.

34 Robert I. Bradley, 'Blacklo and the Counter-Reformation: an inquiry into the strange death ofcatholic England', in Charles H. Carter, ed., From the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation (New York, 19651, P. 364.

BOSSY,Catholic, pp. 35-43; John Miller, Popery andpolitics in England, 1660-1688 (Cambridge,

197313 P. 43. 36 Bradley, 'Blacklo', pp. 359-60.

37 DNB; Blacklo's Cabal, ed. Robert Pugh (London, 1680; reprint, 197o), epistle to the reader.

38 Digby's role as a 'disciple of Blacklo' is variously attested. Commentarius Rinuccinianzu ... 1645-1649 (5 vols., Dublin, 1949)~ "1, pp. 38-9; The embassy in Ireland of Monsignor G. B. Rinuccini ... ,trans. Annie Hutton (Dublin, 1873), p. 546; Petersson, Digby, p. 223.



Blackloists. White and Hobbes almost certainly met as members of Marin Mersenne's Parisian circle of natural philosophers. Their common intellectual endeavours are evidenced by Hobbes's voluminous rejoinder to White's Aristotelian text, De mundo. But theirs was a collegial rivalry, and the two men remained life-long friends.39 And Hobbes had other links to the Blackloist circle. His French friend Charles du Bosc was also friendly with the leading Blackloi~ts.~~

Kenelm Digby was an even longer-standing friend of Hobbes. The two men had met in France during the 163os, and again in the circle of Father Mersenne. They had engaged in 'sweet and learned conversation', and Hobbes had presented Digby with an inscribed copy ofDe cive when both men were back in Paris in the mid-I 640s."

Congenial for scientific, philosophical, and political reasons, the Blackloists constituted a major part of Hobbes's set of associates during his exile. But Hobbes's links to the Blackloists have, to date, only been investigated for any influence that they may have exerted on the development of Hobbes's religious and philosophical thought. White and Digby both espoused a heretical, quasi- mortalist eschatology that may have informed the theory of the soul found in Le~iathan.'~All three men were interested in employing the new science to combat scepticism and to offer a stable theory of language.j3 But equally significant was the influence that Blackloism probably exerted over Thomas Hobbes's political choices, and particularly over his endorsement of In- dependency in Leviathan. Hobbes's association with Blackloism, more than his links to Newcastle and the Louvre group, provides the fundamental context for understanding his Independency. For in 1649-50, long after the Louvre group had abandoned its flirtation with the Independents, the Blackloists were engaged in a conspiracy with them. This conspiracy not only sought religious toleration for Catholicism, it also threatened to abandon the interests of the Stuart dynasty, to accept the abolition of the English monarchy, and to acknowledge the establishment of the Commonwealth. The dismay with which royalists read Hobbes's Leviathan cannot be fully grasped unless the history of the Blackloist conspiracy, and of Hobbes's potential links to it, are exposed to view.

'The existence of an anti-royalist conspiracy between Catholics and Incle- pendents is jarring, and to make the conspiracy comprehensible a few critical factors must be borne in mind. First, while many English Catholics sided with

'' Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxoniensis, 11, p. 665; John Aubrey, Brief lives, ed. Andrew Clark (2 VO~S.,

Oxford, 1898), I, p. 369.

" Hobbes to Sorbikre 8 Jan. 1657, in Correspondence, pp. 429, 796.

41 Digby to Hobbes, I r Oct. 1636, 27 Sept. 1637, 21 Jan. 1637, in Correspondence, pp. 36, 42, 50, 830 " David Johnston, 'Hobbes's mortalism', History ofpolitical Thought, 10 (r989b

" Richard Tuck, 'The civil religion of Thomas Hobbes', in Political discourse in early modern Britain, ed. Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner (Cambridge, rggs), pp. 133-8; James hliller Lewis, 'Hobbes and the Blackloists: a study in the eschatology of the English Revolution' (Ph.D. diss., Harvard, 1976) ; Quenlin Skinner, Reason and rhetoric in the philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge, 19961, PP 262-3.

Charles I during the Civil War, the majority remained neutral.44 Charles's adamantly Protestant counsellors prevented the king and his Catholic subjects from any durable rapprochement. Second, while many Catholics were jittery about the crusading Protestantism of the English parliament, their deepest anxieties were directed toward the stringent Presbyterians. Occasionally, Catholics saw the fleeting promise of religious toleration in the ascendancy of the Independents.45

Finally, the schisms within English Catholicism must be kept in the foreground. English Jesuits followed the lead of the papacy throughout the Civil War. A reflexive royalism, a suspicion of the English revolutionaries, and a loyalty to Queen Henrietta Maria kept Rome within the royalist camp throughout the Revolution. English Catholics, such as George Leyburn (president of the English College at Douai) and Walter Montagu (Henrietta Maria's chaplain), were at times irritated by Rome's lack of financial support, but they appreciated the apparent royalism of papal The political calculations of the Blackloists proved very different. Preferring local religious control, they were willing to sacrifice features of the papal supremacy in return for toleration. Papal support for the Stuarts did not constrain them. Even while the Blackloists were allied with the Stuarts during the mid- 164os, their efforts on behalfof the royalist cause proved erratic. In Rome, Kenelm Digby squandered much of his political capital vainly trying to promote the English Chapter's right to elect its own bishop. This struggle was of no interest to the Stuarts, but the Blackloists expended massive energy on it during the mid-1640s.~'

All of these factors disposed the Blackloists to privilege their own interests as Catholics over those of the royalist cause. For a time in I 647 it looked as though they might have their cake and eat it too. The Louvre group's flirtation with an Independent alliance thrilled the Blackloists. It briefly reconciled the royalist cause on the one hand, and the hope that the Independents might establish religious toleration for Catholicism on the other. Seeking allies, the Independents had begun making overtures not only to Charles I but also to his Catholic subjects. Catholics thus keenly promoted the royalist-Independent alliance, hoping for some residual benefit. For a time the papacy itself countenanced these efforts, and the Jesuits participated in the negotiation^.^' In 1647 an uneasy unity prevailed among the English Catholics, who could now pursue religious toleration and the royalist cause without conflict. 'You must know', wrote an excited Fitton to Digby in August of 1647, 'that at last not only the Independents, but the King himself do give us solid hopes of a liberty of conscience for Catholicks in England. '49

44 K.J. Lindley, 'The lay Catholics of England in the reign of Charles I ',Journal of Ecclesiastical Histov, 22 (1g71),pp. 2 18-20. 45 Journal of Juxon, I 7 Dee. I 644, pp. 7~1.

4"o~~Y, Catholic, pp. 61-3.

*' Fitton to Digby, 21 Sept. 1646 and 1 Feb. 1646, Holden to Digby, 28 Dee. 1646, White to Digby, 25 Oct. 1646, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, pp. 5-6, 9-1 I. 48 Thomas H. Clancy, 'The Jesuits and the Independents: 16~7',Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu, 40 (1971). PP 67-89. 4R Fitton to Digby, 30 Aug. 1647, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 21.


But in the event, these early hopes came to grief. The general collapse of Charles's dealings with the Independents, and his decision to ally with the Scots, destroyed the Catholics' capacity to pursue religious toleration within a royalist context. What is more, the Independents' relentless demand that the Catholics prove their political quiescence reopened the split between papalists and Blackloists. The Independents had insisted that English Catholics sign a declaration of allegiance and this demand revived memories of the Jacobean oath of allegiance." The Catholics were to bear no arms, hold no public offices, attend their religious services privately and swear to three controversial propositions. These last, the so-called Three Oaths, denied the pope's authority to dissolve civil obligation, repudiated religiously motivated assassinations, and renounced the pope's power to release Catholics from political oaths. The Three Oaths troubled the Jesuits, and Rome had categorically refused to countenance them." 'This, in turn infuriated the Blackloists. By placating Rome, the Jesuits had again placed papal prerogatives above the interests of English Catholici~m.~'

The contretemps of 1647 thus revived the schism between the English Blackloists and papalists, and this soon began to complicate the political allegiances of the two factions. Henrietta Maria's chaplain \\:alter Montagu had been responsible for the consultations with Rome in 1647, and this had angered the Blackloists. Furthermore, Charles 1's Scottish alliance made the royalists increasingly unreliable protectors in Blackloist eyes. It was in the aftermath of the 1647 negotiations that prominent Blackloists first considered striking a separate peace with the Independents. In September 1647, the Blackloists I-Tolden and Fitton threatened 'to go streyght to the Independents Army' and negotiate directly." In October, Holden secretly drew up new proposals that acceded to the Independents' chief demands.j4 For their part, l'homas White and Kenelnl Digby, disgusted at the 'sordid ends' of the papal court, agreed that the English Catholics should begin looking out for themsel~es.~'

For most English Catholics the doomed negotiations of 1647 marked the first and last effort to secure a royalist deal with the Independents. Charles's intransigence had ended the scheme, and his death had ensured that it would not be revived. The Louvre group would never subordinate the interests of the Stuart dynasty to those of English Catholicism. But for the Blackloists, enraged at Rome and less devoted to the Stuarts, the Independents continued to present a temptation. The Blackloists began to associate the Louvre group Catholics (Walter Montagu in particular) with the 'wickedly interested court' in Rome.j6A complete fracture between the Blackloists and the Stuarts required

j0 Clancy, 'The Jesuits', pp. 73-6. " Ibid., pp. 78-9.
52 Holden to Digby, 6 Sept. 1647, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 26.
5%Hoen to Diby, 6 Sept. 1647, and Fitton to Digby, 13 Sept. 1647, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, pp. 26,

28. 54 Cabal, ed. Pugh, pp. 32-4.

65 nihite to Digby, 19Sept. 1647, and Digby to Fitton, 30 Oct. 1647, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, Digby to Holden, 18 I\Tov. 1647, in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 66.

PP 41-2, 45. j6

only a secure dominance for the English Independents. By 1649, the Cromwellians were in an ascendant, if uneasy, position. They needed allies. The shock of the king's death had enervated the royalist cause. The Louvre group in particular began to lose its coherence, as a stunned Henrietta Maria increasingly secluded herself in convents.57 The time was thus ripe for a Blackloist-Independent deal, and the final strands of loyalty tying the Blackloists to the Stuarts soon snapped.

The Blackloist conspiracy was launched in November 1648, when a spy named Leonard Watson appeared in Paris." Watson, an Independent and a close associate of Crom~vell's, had served as the scout master of the New Model Army.'' (A former goldsmith from Lincoln, he was rumoured to be a fraudulent alchemist and an Arian.OO) Whatever his original purpose, Watson soon established links with the Blackloists. 'I am fallen into the acquaintance', he wrote on 28 November

of 3 or 4 Catholiques of very great ingenuity and in their way of very much Religion. Undoubtedly it is an errour to look at all papists through the same perspective ... I finde their opinion of and dependance upon the Pope little or nothinge what we imagine it to bee, and better principled to make members of a Commonwealth then the most English. Their opposition to the Kinge is not to be reconciled, their hopes are now upon the Armie to whome they wish all prosperity; as to the settlinge of a Representative, beinge extreamely distasted with Royal1 hereditary power throughout the world. It seemes my Lord Say hath undertaken to procure a pass from the house for Sir Kenelme Digby to come over to England ... lett me desire you when it comes moved in your House give it the best promotion you cam6'

Watson's letter was addressed to Thomas Westrow, who was an MP elected in 1645, a former parliamentary soldier, an Independent, and a loyal Cromwellian.'"\ratson thus served as a direct link between the Blackloists and Cromwell's faction of Independents. His observations were jarring. Blackloist disaffection, chiefly directed at Rome in 1647, was by late 1648 targeted at the Stuart court. This was particularly startling in the case of Kenelm Digby, who had served the queen for so long. Digby had only recently returned to France from Rome, furious at the intransigence of the papacy in the face of plans for

" Dispatch of Browne, 24 Sept. 1649,BL Add. MS 12185,fo. 54.

" He had reportedly withdrawn 'into France pretending rather wearyness than remorse' after the king's execution. Cottington to Father Wilford, 14Feb. 165?,Bod. Clarendon MS 39, fo. 43. 59 C. H. Firth, Cromwell's army: a history of the English soldiers during the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth,

and the Protectorate (London, I~OZ),

pp. 65, 139.

"O'instad to Nicholas, 27 Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 15.

61 'A true copie of a letter written by an Independent agent for the armie, from Paris, to an Independent member of the House ... extracted out of the original', Bod. Clarendon lvIS 31, fo. 316; the letter was printed in A full and true relation ofthe o&cers and armies forcible seizing oj"diuers eminent members of the Commons House .. . (London, 1648),pp. 12-1 3.

"David Underdown, Pride'spurge :politics in the puritan reoolution (Oxford, I 97I ), pp. 291, 389;

D. Brunton and D. H. Pennington, Members ofthe Long Parliament (Cambridge, MA, 1954))pp 51,



an independent English bishop and for securing religious toleration from the

independent^.^^ He and the rest of his faction were now disregarding the interests of the papacy and the Stuarts. The cause of religious toleration had trumped that of royalism. Securing an agreement with the Blackloists soon became Watson's chief end. He was sheltered in Paris by the Blackloist priest Peter Fitton, who 'entertained him in his colledge as in a sanctuarie to secure him from such as be suspected dangerous to Watson's person'.64

Pride's Purge followed Watson's letter by a week, and the stunning series of events that would culminate in Charles's execution was set in motion. The Blackloist's dealings with the Independents were now open treason against the king, and if the Blackloists hoped to keep their flirtation with the army secret, those hopes were soon dashed. Spies close to Edward Nicholas caught wind of the conspiracy and warned the old royalists. A copy ofwatson's damning letter mentioning Digby was intercepted in November." By December the old royalists were warning each other that the 'English priests' were causing trouble in Paris and Rome.66 When the beheading of Charles I did not end the Blackloist negotiations with the army, the royalists were doubly furious.

M7atson's initial contacts with the Blackloists proved sufficiently promising to necessitate more direct talks. In February 1649, a loyal Catholic royalist named Winstad informed Edward Nicholas that Digby had arrived in Rouen with a 'wry-necked' fellow.R7 Winstad was a physician, and Digby concocted a lame cover story claiming that his nameless companion was suffering from consunlption and had come into France for a change of air. A hasty examination convinced Winstad that this was 'but a pretence', and he soon discovered that the mysterious man was 'an Agent for that accursed crew, his name was Watson, scoutmaster to the Rebels'. Winstad 'spared no curses' and 'spake freely of [his] mind' on the murder of the king. Berated for his plan to return to England, Digby pleaded poverty, but Winstad was not fooled. 'I prest him', he wrote

to stay 2 or 3 months, he replyed That by that time all business would be settled; I desired him not to think to have from those at London any toleration, for that for my part I had rather live in exile all dayes of my life and suffer at Tyburne when I came home; than that my publique liberty to serve God should spring from the bloody murtherers of my Soveraigne; and this I know to he the opinions of all good Cath01i~ues.~'

'The Blackloist scheme was thus exposed, but Digby would not be deflected. To a livid Nicholas the conspiracy to treat with 'those horrid rebels the 1ndependent~'~"romised to subvert 'the successive hereditary monarchy' and

63 Petterson, Digb, p. 22 I. '"ad. Clarendon MS 37, fa. 218.

65 Bod. Clarendon MS 3I, fa. 316.

"John Digby to Ormonde, Dec. 1648,Bod. Carte MS 23, fo 34; Ormonde to king [?I Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fa. 76. MTinstad to Nicholas, 27 Feb. 1649,Bod. Carte MS 24, fa. 14. " Winstad to Nicholas, 27 Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fa. 14. Nicholas to Ormonde, 3 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte hlS 24, fa. 12.


to 'give toleration to all manner of relligions except that of the Church of England '.

By early March Digby and Watson had arrived in London 'with some other Romanists' in order 'to joyne the interests of all the English Papists with the bloody party that murdered the kinge in the opposition and extirpation of monarchical1 g~vernment'.'~ Among Digby's companions was the recusant John Winter, a Hertfordshire iron works owner who had provided weapons to Charles I years earlier.?' The Winters were a prominent Catholic family friendly with the Digbys. Winter and Kenelm Digby had been imprisoned to- gether by the Long Parliament in the early days of the Civil War," and while in exile Winter had apparently fallen in with the Blackloist plotters. The Catholics, it was reported, were to received toleration in exchange for recog- nizing either the abolition of monarchy or its transformation into an elective crown.73 Rumours of the talks soon split English Catholics along familiar lines. Some (like the Major Chamott who provided the old royalists with intelligence on the plot) 'much detested' the scheme; others were more favourable. It was rumoured, for instance, that Edward Somerset, marquis of Worchester, was 'a prime actor' in Digby's plan.74 The Blackloists in Paris, directing Digby's negotiations, urged him to treat the sensibilities of the English Catholics carefully, and to defer to Watson on tactical matters. But no one doubted that the planned agreement would require 'an assurance of the Catholicks Fidelity to the commonwealth they are to live under'.75

The negotiations were shrouded in secrecy, but seem to have been patterned on those of I G47 The context, however, was more dangerous, the stakes higher. The Catholics were to receive limited religious toleration, presumably to be enjoyed only in private homes. In exchange the Independents made steep demands, first and foremost a recognition of the Commonwealth's legitimacy and the abandonment of the Stuarts. Catholics would be required to take the Three Oaths of 1647 abjuring the pope's temporal powers.76 They would probably have had to disarm. The Jesuits were to be expelled. Further concessions drawn up by the Blackloist priest Henry Holden ceded vast control over English Catholicism to the state. The parliament was even promised the

'O Nicholas to Ormonde, 27 Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 15.Byron to Ormonde, I Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 27, fo. 3.

71 The true relation ofa wonderfull and strange passage that was lateb like to befall certaine souldiers at St. Albans ... (London, 1644, pp. I, 3-4; Evelyn to Brown, I Mar. 1649,BL Add. MS 15948,fo. 26; Nicholas to Ormonde, 4 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 38.

7a The examination of Sir Ralph Hopton, Sir John Winter, and Sir John Stowell . . . with the articles of high treason exhibited against them ... (London, 1642),pp 3, 7-8; Petersson, Digby, pp. 154, 161, 169, 73 Nicholas to Hatton, I Mar. 1649,BL Birch MS 4180, fo. 9; Byron to Ormonde, I Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 27, fo. 3. 74 Byron to Ormonde, I Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 27,fo. 3; Nicholas to Ormonde, 23 Apr.

1649,Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 610.

76 Holden to Digby, 24 Mar. 1649,in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 77.

78 Bod. Clarendon MS 37, fo. 219; The Blackloists in Paris had continued to defend these oaths in print. See T. H. Articlesproposed to the catholiques of England (London, 1648); Ormonde to Lord President of Munster, 26 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 251.


authority to appoint the Catholic bishop of England.7i Such concessions would have outraged Rome. In exchange for a limited toleration the Blackloists were willing to accept a national model of Catholicism, transforming it into one sect among many in the Independents' pluralistic religious settlement. Such concessions not only recognized the Commonwealth but accepted the normative status of the 'Congregational Way'.

The Blackloists' motivations are reasonably clear, but what tempted the Independents to the negotiations? It cannot be credibly argued that a general commitment to religious toleration was at work. Cromwell and his allies never aimed at a universal, modern tolerationism, but instead sought to secure freedom of conscience for non-episcopalian Protestants. Catholics, as a matter of principle, were considered beyond the pale, as would be evidenced by all religious legislation of the 16~0s.'~

The flirtation with the Blackloists cannot be explained as a matter ofprinciple. Rather, it must be placed within the context of the Commonwealth's security concerns. In the aftermath of the king's execution, facing revolts on the Celtic fringe and confronted with hostility across Europe, the Commonwealth needed allies.

After 1649, royalist schrmes to restore the Stuarts consistently banked on foreign aid from Scotland, Ireland, or from the Catholic powers on the conti~lent.'The Common.cvealth needed to defuse these threats. It was fortunate that the period was one ofinternal turmoil throughout Europe, coinciding with the last stages of the Thirty Years \Var, with the Fronde, and with the revolt of Catal~nia.'~Indeed, armed hostilities between France and Spain provided England with its most valuable diplomatic chip, as neithcr country could afford to see England thrown into the balance against it. An enervated Spain was the first foreign power to recognize thc English Comm~nwealth.~~

France, dynastically closer to the Stuarts, engaged England in an undeclared naval war throughout the early 165os, but she was unstable as well, and increasingly jittery about the 'overgrown strength ofthe Present powa- in England '." Some in England, preoccupied with the Irish and Scottish threats, counselled an alliance with France." The French court under Anne ofAustria and Mazarin, anxious to outflank Spain, secretl) sent diplomatic agents to London.83

In England, the chief concern was to defeat the more pressing challenges of the Irish arid Scottish revolts. Aid from Spain or the papac) might well have bolstered the Irish; aid Gom France might have strengthened the Scots. None

" 'Dr. Holden's Instructions'. in Cabal, ed. Pugh, pp. 32-4. 78 Blair FVorden, 'Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate', in W. J. Shields, ed.. Perrecutzon and toleration (London. I 9843. 7%obin Briggs. Ear& modern France, 156;31715 oxford, 1977). pp. 126-34; J. H. Elliott: Imperzal Spazn, 1469-1716(London, 19631, pp. 351-334. Charles P. Korr. Cromwell and the new model foreign poliq (Berkeley. 1975), pp. 9-IU;

J. R. Jones, Krztain and Europe zn the seaenteenth centuy (Idondon, 1966). pp. 30-3.

" Dispatch of Browme. BI, Add. MS I 2 186, 1.0. 11 I. Korr. Foreignpolzg~,pp, 14-27; Philip A. Knachel. England and the Fronde (Ithaca, SY, 196j),

llispatch of Brown?, 26 Sov. 1650. BL Add. MS 12186, fos. 202, 209.

pp. 14-17. 83

of this transpired in the event, but during the uneasy days of 1649, the Commonwealth engaged in shadowy diplomatic manoeuvring to prevent these possibilities. These efforts to soothe Catholic enemies abroad formed the backdrop for the negotiations with the Blackloist Catholics.

Diplomacy between England and the Catholic powers always necessitated negotiations over some toleration for Catholicism. In Ireland particularly, the Catholic cause mingled discordantly with royalism and national feeling. The Independents had considered toleration for Catholicism for strategic reasons in 1647. In 1649 they did so again, this time in an effort to quell the Irish unrest and to defuse the threat of foreign intervention. Indeed, while the Blackloist negotiations proceeded, the Commonwealth engaged in secret talks with yet another group of renegade Catholics. The Catholic faction in Ireland had, of course, been only fitfully allied with the Stuarts. Particularly for the Old Irish families loyal to Owen O'Neill, Irish independence and the Catholic cause trumped allegiance to the Stuarts. The vacillating policies of Charles I regarding Catholic Ireland are well known, as are the ineffectual efforts of Ormonde to secure the military aid of the Catholics. The machinations of the papal nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, who was dedicated to the church alone, only made Ormonde's task more vexing.84

One fascinating sidelight to this convoluted history helps illuminate the political calculations that underlay the Blackloist conspiracy: namely, long- running, covert negotiations between the Independents and a cohort of Irish Catholics interested in betraying the Stuarts in exchange for religious toleration. The key man during these negotiations was the mysterious Cistercian abbot Patrick Crelly, a counsellor to the marquis ofantrim. In 1648 the royalist Antrim began to consider striking a deal with the independent^.^^ Allied with Rinuccini and O'Weill, he helped destroy Ormonde's efforts to forge a common royalist front out of the fractious Irish parties. By late 1648 Antrim and O'Neill, interested chiefly in securing Irish and Catholic interests, launched full-scale negotiations with the Independents. They sent Abbot Crelly to London as their agent, and Crelly met with a committee of leading Independents in Oct~ber.~~

The Commonwealth, desperate to foil Ormonde, promised religious toleration in exchange for recognition of the Common- wealth.87 A major residual benefit for England was to be the support of Spain. O'Neill and Crelly both had strong connections within Spain, and the Spanish ambassador had been instrumental in gaining a hearing for Crelly in London."

8"~basv in Ireland, pp. 425-58.

BL Birch MS 4180, fo. 24; Jane H. Ohlmeyer, Civil war and restoration zn the three Stuart kingdoms: the careers ofRandal MacDonnell, Marquis of Antrzm, 1609-1683 (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 191, 2 12-20; Michael J. Hynes, The mission of Rinucczni (Louvain, 1g32), pp. I 77-81, 253.

Castlehaven to Ormonde, 27 Oct. 1648, Bod. Carte MS 22, fo. 694; Jerrold I. Casway, Owen Roe O'Neill and the strugglefor Catholic Ireland (Philadelphia, 1984), pp. 233, 228-9

The memoirs of Edmund Ludlow ... 1625-1672, ed. C. H. Firth (2 vols., Oxford, 18gq), I, pp. 228-9.

Crelly to Antrim, 6 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24, fos. 40, 81 ;Ohlmeyer, Antrim, p. 225.


Crelly proposed an alliance between Spain, England, and the Irish forces of Antrim and O'Neill against a feared French-Scottish axis8'

Ormonde's belated and unsteady treaty with the Confederate Catholics intervened in late 1648, but Crelly's negotiations continued into the spring of 1649." Cromwell and Ireton figured centrally in these talks." In the end, O'Neill's death, Antrim's fickleness, and Cromwell's military triumphs destroyed Crelly's scheme, although he himself long remained an intelligence agent for the Commonwealth and protector at^.^^ But the episode of Crelly's negotiations helps lo contextualize the Independents' secret negotiations with the English Blackloists. There is no conclusive evidence of an open link between Crelly's scheme and that of the Blackloists, although Crelly was in Paris during I 648." The discussions were more likely separate parts oi"a common context.94 There is, indeed, some evidence that Digby was encouraged to treat with Cromwell by no less a figure than Anne of Austria, queen regent of France. Digby divulged in February of 1649 that 'the queen regent knew of his going [into England]' and had helped him acquire a passport.95 This raises the intriguing possibility that Anne had encouraged the Blackloists to explore a possible rapprochement with England in an effort to outflank Crelly and Spain.96 Cromwell's motivation would have remained consistent : to neutralize the threat of European intervention in British affairs and to pacify Ireland by conceding religious toleration to Catholics.

The Blackloist conspiracy was thus deeply threatening to the royalist cause. Itself, the allegiance of English Catholics was of little import, but the threat that the Blackloists might facilitate a foreign treaty with the Commonwealth, or split the Irish Confederates away from the Stuarts, was deadly serious. By the summer of 1649 English episcopal clergymen learned of the Blackloist conspiracy and nervously warned the exiled court.97 In Ireland, Ormonde was kept abreast of the plot, and the royalists worried that 'the divellish designe' would 'have an influence upon Ireland, especially upon Owen O'Neales party'." By February of 1649 spies in London reported that Cromwell had sent


Crelly to Antrim, G Mar. 1649. Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 54: Jerrold Casway, "The clandestine correspondence of Father Patrick Crelly, 1648-9', Coliectanea tlibernica. 20 (19783, pp. 10-11. 18-19; there were rumours of Spain urging a deal with the Independents on the Irish late into 16jo. Lord Taafe to Ormonde, 20 Sept. 1650, Bod. Carte hIS 28, fo. 485.

Rinuccini to Panzirolo, 14 Apr. 1649, in '1 contemporary hi st of^^ oj'aff'airs zn ZrelandJrom 1641to 1652,ed. John T.Gilbert (3 vols. in 6, Dublin. 18791, Ir, pp. vi, 138, 207; Ohlmeyer. Antrzm, p. 222.

" Inchiquin to Ormonde, 31 Jan. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 23. fb. 272; Richard Bellings. History oj the Irish confederation and the war zn Ireland. 1641-1649,ed. John T. Gilbert (2 vols., Dublin, 188.2); 11, p. 239; S. R. Gardiner, The histog, oJ'the Cbmnzonwealth andProtectorate, 1649-1660(3 vols., London,

1894),1,PP. 90-3." "Thomas Scot's account of his actions as intelligellcer during the Commoncvealth', ed.

C. H. Firth, English Historical Review, 12 (1897). pp. "9--20: Ohlmeyer, Antrirn, pp. 325, 353 " Calendar of Stale Papers Venelzan, I 647-52, p. 54. " Ormonde to Charles 11, 1649, Bod. Carte &IS 23, fo. 599. " FVinstad to Nicholas, 27 Feb. 1649. Bod. Carte MS 24, fo. 14. " Ruth Kleinman, Anne oj Austria: yueen ofFrance (Columbus, OH. 19851, pp. 183, 21~. " Gatford to Hyde, Aug. 1649, Calendar ofthe Clarendon state papers. 2 :19.

Digby's fellow agent, John Winter, into Ireland 'with large offers of toleration for the Roman religion here as well as there, to make them leave all hopes of the king'." An anxious Ormonde followed Digby's negotiations through rumours in the London news- sheet^.^" Nicholas wrote to Ormonde in March to warn him of Winter's mission, urging him to 'prevent the ill misfortune' that would come to 'his Majesties affairs'."' A week later Charles himself wrote, ordering Ormonde to 'apprehend' Winter, 'keep him prisoner', and 'privately and strictly' examine him 'upon the causes of his coming into that Kingdom'.""

In the event, these fears about the Blackloist plot were not realized. 'I have sifted a great Papist', wrote a royalist spy from London in August of 1649, 'to know how the squares went between them and Cromwell (because I found the business . . . asleep, at least for the present), his answer was a strong assurance that the business between them was cleerly broken off.'lo3 The Blackloist negotiations had collapsed under the pressure of events. First, when O'Neill received a 'peremptory command to do nothing prejudicial1 to the Crowne of England' from Rome, he withdrew from the talks.lo4 This dashed Cromwell's hopes that the promise of toleration would pacify Ireland.lo5 But more crucially, Cromwell's departure for Ireland in August had removed the Commonwealth's prime negotiator from the scene. The testimony of Watson, Nicholas, and others all establish incontrovertibly that Cromwell had been the moving force behind the overtures to the Catholics. His decision to settle the Irish problem by force deprived the Catholics of their best bargaining chip, and his departure from London gave free rein to anti-Catholic sentiment in the Rump Parliament. In September John Winter was imprisoned. Parliament, acting in concert with a faction of the Council of State, issued a proclamation banishing Kenelm Digby from London.'06 'This is done', reported one royalist, 'by the presbiterean party that doth now beginne to showe more courage and confidence in the carriage of affayres since Cromwell's departure. 'lo'

For the Blackloists, the moment of promise had passed. Among the exiles the

98 Byron to Ormonde, I Mar. 1649,Bod. Carte MS 27, fo. 3; Nicholas to Hatton, I Mar. 1649. BL Birch MS 4180, fo. 9.

99 Hyde to Edgeman, 19Mar. 1649,Bod. Clarendon MS 37. fo. 40; Bod. Carte MS 23. fo, 489. The royalists had difficulty keeping track of John Winter's acti.rities. In March of 1649John Exelyn reported from London that Winter 'had [one] day to be gone' This was false, and in any case was 'mysterious to such as have understood how he hath been received here'. Evelyn to Richard Brown. 22 Mar. Diav and Correspondence of John Evelyn, ed. LVilliam Bray (4vols., London. 1894). 111. p. 36.

loo Ormonde to resident of Munster. 26 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 24. fo. 251.

lo' IVicholas to Ormonde. 4 Mar. 1649, Bod. Carte XIS 24, fo. 38.

lo' Charles I1 to Ormonde, 12 Mar. 1649. Bod. Carte MS 24. fos. I 16, I 18.

lo3 Intelligence report, 2 Aug. 1649.Bod. Carte MS 25. fo. 69.

lo4 Intelligence report, 2 Aug. 1649. Bod. Carte MS 25. fo. 69.

lo5 Dongan to Ormonde. 24 Aug. 1649,Bod. Carte MS 25. fo. 349: for Rinuccini's ~iew of the

plot. see Embas9 to Ireland, p. 546. lo' Calendar of State Pajers Domestzc, I 649-jo, pp 294, 295 : .journals of the House of Commons. j. p 289. lo' Anon to Clainricarde. 7 Sept. 1649. Bod. Carte MS 25, fo. 482.

322 JEFFREY R. COLLINS implications of their betrayal were immediate. A despondent Kenelm Digby returned to France, but he and his relatives had fallen from favour, probably as a result of his treason.'08 For years he avoided the exiled court, condemned by Stuart loyalists as an 'errant m~untebank'."~ Thomas White also became persona non grata among the royalists; he languished in miserable poverty at The Hague.''' By August 1649 angry royalists at Saint Germain had openly charged the Blackloist priests Fitton and Holden with treason.'" Charles I1 ordered Hyde and Nicholas to investigate the charges112 and the two priests were soon sent packing.'13 Yevertheless, the exposure of the Blackloist conspiracy of 1649 did not end the efforts of White, Digby, and the others to reach an accommodation with the Cromwellians. The royalists learned in early 1650 that Fitton and the spy M'atson were both in Rome. Hyde followed their shadowy movements closely, enraged that the 'English Catholiques' would still 'not proppose to themselves a firme and entire union with the royal1 party hlarch 1651 Il'atson was back in Paris and (along with Henry Holden) was meddling at the French court in favour of the C~mmonwealth.'~~

IVatson and Holden continued for several years to do 'much mischief' on behalf of Cromwell at the French court.l16

For their part, having burnt their bridges to the Stuarts, Thomas Il'hite and Kenelm Digby continued to look to England for succour. Through inter- mediaries Digby begged the English Council's 'indulgence' that he might be readmitted to England as a loyal subject of the new regime, one ready to 'employ his life and fortune and all that he hath in their service'."' It required only Cromwell's final ascendancy in 1654 to facilitate Digby's wishes. 'Sir Kenelme Digby,' wrote Hyde, 'as soon as the assurance came of Cromwell's assuming the sole power, privately went . . . into England. ''la Digby became one of Oliver Cromwell's close intimates. He even served as a diplomatic representative for the Protector, attempting to prevent a Franco-Spanish alliance in the mid-16~0s.l~~

By this time Il'hite had already made his own move and was living in London by February of 1652.'~~

Throughout the

'OH Xlaxwell to Ormonde, 26 Nov. 1650, Bod. Carte MS 28: fo. 667: anon. to Ormonde. 7 Aug. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 25. fo. 175; Petersson, Digby: pp. 236-7. log Dispatch of Browne, I July 1651: BL Add. MS 12186, fo. 265; entry of 5 Nov. 1651, Dzary

of John Eoebn, ed. E. S. de Beer (6 vols.. Oxford, rgjg), 111, p. 47.

110 White to Digby, 21 Dec. 1649. in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 78.

11' Lt'inter Grant to Charles 11,Bod. Clarendon MS 37, fo. 216; Long to Clarendon, 26 Aug.

1649: Bod. Clarendon MS 37, fo. 216. Bod. Clarendon MS 3 7, fo. 2 18.

113 Meynell to Cottington, 28 Jan. 1650, Bod. Clarendon hfS 39: fo. 21.

11' Meynell to Cottington, 28 Jan. 1650. and Hyde to Sleynell: 13 Feb. 1650, Bod. Clarendon MS 39. fos. 21. 40: also Cottington to Father LVilford, 14 Feb. 1650, Bod. Clarendon MS 39, fo.

11' Nicholas to earl of Norwich. 3 Mar. 1651: BL Birch XIS 4180, fo. 33.

ll%icholas to Hyde, 2 hfay 1652. BI, Birch hfS 4180, fo. 68.


lli ~i gby to his cousin, 21 Feb. 1650. in Cabal, ed. Pugh, pp. 79.83-6: Digby to Boeve, I I Nov. 1650: in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 102. 11' Bod. Clarendon 51s 47, fo. 281. Wood. Athenae Oxonzenses. 11, p. 3j2 ; Abbott. The writings and speeches of Olicer Cromle'ell, 111:

p. 302, and IV, p. I I 5. lZ0Digby to Lt'hite, 25 Feb. 1652. in Cabal, ed. Pugh, p. 91 ; D.VB.

Interregnum, these betrayals served as raw reminders of the Blackloist treachery.l2l

When Thomas Hobbes left England in 1640 there was no Independent faction on the political scene. In 1651, he published a prominent endorsement of Independency. What drew the philosopher's attentions to Independency? And how might his endorsement ofthe 'Congregational Way' have been understood by the exiled royalists? No perfect answer to these historical problems can be offered; all historians must make do with the surviving, indirect evidence. What seems clear, however, is that Hobbes's neglected association with the Blackloist faction is contextually crucial in explaining Leuiathan's remarks on church government. To be sure, Hobbes was almost certainly not directly involved in advancing the Blackloist conspiracy itself. He was neither prone to bold strokes of political action, nor did he have any particular attachment to toleration for Catholics. However, there is considerable evidence that the leading Blackloists constituted Hobbes's circle of closest associates in I 649-50, and that Hobbes and his Blackloists friends exerted a strong and mutual intellectual influence on one another. Further, many of the royalists viewed Hobbes and the Blackloists as acting in concert. The context of the Blackloist conspiracy thus forms the critical backdrop to Leviathan's endorsement of

Independency, and to the furious royalist reaction to that endorsement.

The evidence linking Hobbes to the Blackloists in 1649 is certainly stronger than that linking him to Newcastle and the Louvre group. The prevailing supposition that Hobbes was a consistent ally of the Louvre group relies on his associations with Newcastle on the one hand, and with Catholic figures at Henrietta Maria's court on the other. Closer attention to the schisms within the English Catholic community, however, not only undermines but actually reverses the implications of Hobbes's Catholic friendships. Hobbes's closest associates within the exiled Catholic community were almost entirely with leading Blackloists. As demonstrated above, the chief among these were Kenelm Digby and Thomas White. True, both White and Digby served Henrietta Maria during the mid-164os, around the time of Hobbes's own tenure as Prince Charles's mathematics instructor. It is also likely that Digby, White, and perhaps Hobbes first recognized the utility of lndependency during the 1647 negotiations of the Louvre group with the Cromwellians. But it is now clear how dramatically the Blackloists broke with the Louvre group in the wake of Charles 1's execution. After January 1649, their continued efforts to treat with the Independents constituted treason in royalist eyes.

Hobbes's own endorsement of Independency, probably penned in 1650, must be viewed in this light. To locate Hobbes's embrace of Independency within the context of Louvre group politics proves virtually impossible. It is true that Edward Nicholas did speculate that 'some busy papist about the

Clement to Hyde, 12 Aug. 1656,Bod. Clarendon MS 52, fo. 163.


Queen' might have concocted the Blackloist plot in an effort to secure Catholic toleration, but even Nicholas acknowledged the speculative nature of this thesis.lZ2 The idea that Henrietta Maria would barter her family's interests in exchange for Catholic toleration is an absurd product of Nicholas's paranoia about the intrigues of the Louvre group. Indeed, Henrietta Maria and her cohort were appalled at the Blackloist treason and did everything in their power to contain it. Nicholas's speculation about the queen's involvement was fuelled by the knowledge that Winter and Digby were 'accompanied' into England in 1649 by the queen's chaplain, George Leyburn (under the alias Winter Grant). But definitive testimony by the Blackloists themselves establishes that Leyburn was actually sent 'with order and instruction to hinder the priests and Catholicks of England not only from obliging ... the present state of England, but even from receiving any favour from the Independents in matters of Religion'. Walter Montagu, another of Henrietta Maria's chaplains, was also sent for this purpose.123 As the English Catholics at the College at Madrid reported, 'all know Henrietta Maria and all her friends stand wholly for Presbyterians' and against 'Cromwell and the Independent~'.'~~

And this was only natural. The Blackloist conspiracy gravely threatened royalist hopes in Ireland. As we have seen, Charles I1 himself was troubled over this, and it was perhaps at his behest that the queen sent Leyburn and Montagu into England to hinder the Blackloist scheme. The Blackloist conspiracy cannot be located within the context ofLouvre group machinations.

For his part, Hobbes had left Saint Germain by 1648 and was living in Paris. Immersed in his old scientific circles, he must have maintained his friendships with Digby and White.lz5 Kewcastle was soon at Breda, negotiating Charles 11's Scottish alliance. Hobbes was thus in close proximity with the members of the Blackloist faction during the months when their conspiracy was hatched; he was distant from the Louvre group. His Leviathan followed the lead of the Blackloists in endorsing Independency at a time when such a step undermined Wewcastle and the Louvre group. In this regard it is noteworthy that what had been a friendly relationship between Hobbes and Newcastle throughout the 1630s and 1640s seems to have ended after Hobbes's return to London.lZ6

What is more, after Leviathan had appeared, Hobbes maintained his close ties

Nicholas to Ormonde, 8 Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 23, fo. 444.

12Wicholas to Ormonde, 8 Feb. 1649, Bod. Carte hlS 23: fo. 444; Holden to Digby, 1649. in Cabal: ed. Pugh, pp. 74-7; Kicholas to Ormonde, BL Birch hlS 4180, fo. 41. The testimony on Montagu is particularly important, as IVIontagu was arrested and banished along with Digby in August. That they were working at cross purposes seems fairly certain based on this letter and on Montagu's later behaviour. Berkley to Long, I I Dec. 1649, Bod. Carte MS 130, fo. 149. Further evidence of Leyburn's hostility to the Blackloist scheme is found in The Doug)-College diaries, 1598-1654, ed. Edwin Burton and Thomas Williams (Catholic Record Society, I I, London, 191 I),

PP. 533-4: 547. 12' Fr. Foster to Fr. Risley, 4 July 1650, The English college at Madrid, 1611-1767 (Catholic Record Society, 29, London, 1929). Hobbes, Correspondence, I, pp. 172-9. 12' hlalcolm, 'Mr~lliam Cavendish, duke of Newcastle', in Biographical Register, Hobbes, Correspondence, p. 8 I 4

within the Blackloist faction. Hobbes, Digby, and White all made their way to London during the early 165os, where they remained associates. But Hobbes's friendships within the Louvre group soured immediately after the publication of Leviathan. Members of the Louvre group seemingly secured his banishment from court. It is true that in January of 1652, gleefully reporting the downfall of 'that father ofAtheists Mr. Hobbes', Edward Nicholas linked Hobbes to the Louvre group when he accused him of 'render[ing] all the Queen's court, a very many of the Duke of York's family, Atheists'.12' This evidence has been critical in linking Hobbes to the queen's party, but Nicholas's persistent willingness to cast aspersions on the queen's courtiers renders it suspect. In any case, it may simply reflect the memory of Hobbes's earlier presence at the Louvre, before 1648. Nicholas himself, a week later, provided evidence of Hobbes's alienation from the Louvre. 'I heard', he wrote to Hyde:

Lord Percy is much concerned in the forbidding Hobbes to come to court, and says it was you and other Episcopal men that were the cause of it. But I hear that Wat. Montagu and other Papists (to the shame of the true Protestants) were the chief cause that that grand Atheist was sent away.lZ8

Walter Montagu's rumoured involvement is significant. He was a prominent enemy of the Blackloists, apparently sent into England by Henrietta Maria in order to foil their negotiations with the Independents. In reply to Nicholas, Hyde claimed that he had 'indeed some hand in the discountenancing of my old friend Mr. H[obbes] ', and he tried to deprive the Catholics of any share in the credit for this.12' But Nicholas's very specific information about the role of Montagu is buttressed by Hyde's own later testimony that the Catholic authorities had threatened Hobbes with arrest, and by Hobbes's own memory that certain English Catholics had turned against him.130

It is most likely that Leviathan had united the old royalists and the Louvre group against Hobbes. This was an unusual trick, turned almost exclusively by the turncoat Blackloist faction. The old royalists Nicholas, Hyde, and Ormonde131 had followed the Blackloist conspiracy nervously, and Montagu had been among those members of the Louvre group most actively opposed to the scheme. Some of Hobbes's closest associates, in short, had been cast under suspicion for their treasonable dealings with the Independents. Hobbes's own endorsement of Independency in Leviathan can only have been read in this context.

The plausibility of this thesis is obscured by the unfamiliar spectacle it

lZ7 Nicholas to Hyde, I I Jan. 1652, BL Birch MS 4180, fo 52.

lZ8 Nicholas to Hyde, 8Jan. 1652,BL Birch MS 4180, fo. jz.H yde to Nicholas, 27 Jan. 1652,Calendar of the Clarendon statepapers. Edward Hyde, A brigview and survy gthe dangerous andpernicious errors ... in Mr. Hobbes's book

entit1edLeviattian (Oxford, 1676),p. 9; Hobbes, Vita [prose], in Opera, I, pp, xiv-xv.

l3' The Blackloist conspiracy had particularly threatened Ormonde's efforts to secure the co- operation of the Irish Catholics, and it was Ormonde who, having returned to France, informed Hobbes that he was no longer welcome at the exiled court. Hyde to Nicholas, 27Jan. 1652,Calendar of tlie Clarendon state papers.


conjures of Hobbes acting in concert with a cohort of Roman Catholics. Hobbes's intellectual and political aversion to Catholicism is notorious, and indeed was vigorously voiced in Leoiathan itself. But the marginal and unorthodox nature of Blackloist Catholicism must be kept in mind. Much of Leoiathan's anti-Catholic polemic was directed at conservative scholastic philosophy and the high papalist ecclesiology of Cardinal Bellarmine.13"uch polemic would have been perfectly congenial to the Blackloists, whose own rhetoric against papal apologists could be equally intemperate. Most critically, Hobbes would have admired the political sensibilities of the Blackloists. \'Vhite and his allies sought to model English Catholicism along the lines of Gallican Catholicism. They envisioned a national Catholic church, independent of Rome and subservient to temporal power. Such 'Erastian Catholicism' was consistent with Hobbes's own Erastian ecclesiology, which vigorously empha- sized the unity of sovereignty and the need to subordinate church power to the state. The Blackloists, in exchange for religious toleration, had offered to recognize the religious authority of the English state, accept the dominance of Independency, and reduce Catholicism to one sect in a pluralistic religious settlement. Hobbes had no apparent commitment to Catholic toleration per se, but his own ecclesiology -and his own endorsement of Independency -were motivated by a similar vision of religion and state power.

Historians must view Hobbes notjust within an English Protestant context. For the decade of his exile in France, Hobbes's closest friends and associates were largely Catholic, and within the universe of seventeenth-century Catholicism, thc potential attractions of Blackloism to Hobbes are clear. The Blackloists and Hobbes were all interested in the new science. The Blackloists' radical theological ideas, particularly on the nature of the soul, probably influenced I,eoiathan's heretical theology. Both Hobbes and the Blackloists, as we shall see, adopted a de factoist, utilitarian theory of political obligation that rejected divine right claims. All of these parallels have been observed in the existing literature. This article has attempted to expose yet another, more politically explosive, parallel: the quasi-Erastian ecclesiologies that motivated both the Blackloists and Hobbes to endorse the establishment of Independency in England.

The circumstantial facts linking Hobbes and the Blackloists ~ersonall~

in 1649-50 is not the only evidence of their mutual intellectual influence. The published record, by both the Blackloists and their opponents, provides yet more compelling evidence. 'The disloyalty of Thomas Hobbes on the one hand and of the Blackloists on the other was never forgotten by the royalists. What is striking is the extent to which Blackloism and Hobbism were consistently linked in their historical memory. In 1655, several years after his return to England, Thomas V\;hite published The groz~nd.r of obedience and government. 'I'he work, written at the urging of Digby, justified the Blackloists' decision to

'" Hohhes, Leczathan. see ch, 42

submit themselves to the Cromwellian Pr0tect0rate.l~~ Crucially, White's Grounds borrowed core features of Hobbesian political theory.134 White, like Hobbes, rejected divine right defences of political authority and argued that political obedience was based on individual interest. Subjects obeyed de fact0 holders of power in exchange for protection. Like Hobbes, White justified this notion by offering a state of nature theory of politics and a contract theory of sovereignty.135 Both men grounded obedience on the combination of interest and fear, rather than on the more traditional bedrock of divine law. This effectively served to justify royalists who had abandoned the Stuarts and settled in under the Interregnum regimes. In 1656, Charles I1 himself complained bitterly that his Catholic subjects had 'more than a little zeal for Cromwell . . . a priest named White having published a book ofobedience and g~vernrnent'.'~~ Indeed, the royalists had long condemned the Blackloists for their utilitarian

theory of political obligation. The charges drawn up by Hyde against the Blackloist conspirators in 1649 included the allegation that they believed 'the subjects of England ought to obey the more prevalent partie, whether King or

Parliament'.13' The Blackloists' attachment to a de factoist political theory reminiscent of Hobbes was thus recognized as early as 1649.

The grounds of obedience and government defended the Blackloists' decision to pursue their own interest (Catholic toleration) rather than obey their obligation to the Stuart dynasty. White never cited Hobbes directly, but his dependence on Leviathan was widely recognized by those most acquainted with the Blackloist conspiracy. George Leyburn, one of the Blackloists' most hated foes, blasted the work as 'horrid, unparalleled, unauthorised, and unchristian', having been 'cut out of Mr. Hobbe's Leviathan'.13' On this basis it was condemned by the English Catholic College at Douai. Given his intimate knowledge of the Blackloist conspiracy, Leyburn's testimony on this point is highly significant, but he was not alone in noting the parallels between Hobbism and the Blackloists, leading apologia. The Presbyterian Richard Baxter blasted White as a defender ofCromwell and linked his writings to those of Hobbes.13$ The anonymous royalist tract Evangelitlrn armaturn, a work

'33 Thomas iyhite, The grounds of obedience and government (London, 1655), epistle dedicatory. White's Grounds was an 'emended edition', but the first edition (now lost) also seems to have been published in 1655 B. C. Southgate, 'Thomas White's Grounds of obedience andgouernment: a note of the dating of the first edition', Notes and Queries, n.s., 28 (1g81), pp. 208-9.

134 Skinner, 'Ideological context', p. 305; Metzger, Englische reuolution, p. 169; Mark Goldie, 'The reception of Hobbes', in J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie, eds., The Cambridie history ofpolitical thought, 1450-1700 (Cambridge, ~gg~),

p. 609. '35 White, Grounds, pp. 5-9, 27-30, 43, 158. 13' Beverly Southgate, '"That damned booke", the Grounds ofobedience andgouernment (I 655) and

the downfall of Thomas White', Recusant History, 17 (1985), p. qg.

13' Bod. Clarendon MS 3 7, fos. 218-219. They were also accused of teaching that 'neither church or pope can absolve any of the subjects of England from their obedience to the civil and politick government established in that nation or to be established'.

13* Southgate, 'Damned booke', p. 245.
13' Works of the reverend Richard Baxter ... , ed. lliilliam Orme (23 vols., London, 1830), I, p. 704.

328 JEFFREY R. COLLINS dedicated to exposing sectarian sedition, concluded that 'it will not be amiss to lay down some of the Principles of the Papists and the Hobbians'. Its author proceeded to cite some of the more obnoxious passages from both Hobbes's and White's work.14' An anonymous Restoration tract accused both Thomas White and Thomas Hobbes of having accepted pensions from Oliver Cromwell, presumably for their helpful political theo~-y.14' Contemporaries were mindful of the religious implications of PVhite's Grounds. If divine right were dismissed from the realm of political obligation, it would no longer serve to justify allegiance to the divine right authority of churches. Se-veral published critiques of White and Hobbes made this point explicitly. In a scathing denunciation of White and Hobbes, the royalist historian and political theorist Roger Coke marshalled traditional natural law arguments against their interest-based theory of sovereignty. Coke reminded his Restoration readers that White and Hobbes had been politically disloyal during the Interregnum. He also bitterly recalled their allegiance to 'atheists and schismaticks', those Independents and sectarians who had brought 'distractions and confusions' to the church. Loyal devotion to the church had served the Stuarts, Coke warned, not such pragmatic double-dealing with the sects.14' Likewise, the Evangelicum armatum brought the 'Papists and Hobbians upon the same stage, as vending Doctrines no less pernicious to the Ci-vil than to the Ecclesiastical state'. It specifically portrayed their betrayal as a sell-out to the sectarian zealots and false prophets of the Interregnum, and contrasted this with the loyal sufering of the persecuted episcopal ~1ergy.l~~

The Blackloist conspiracy almost certainly formed the subtext for such allegations. How close to the bone the Euangelium armaturn's charges struck can be gauged by the gravely concerned reaction of Digby and White after the Restoration, when their history of accommodation with Croniwell and of dabbling in Hobbist doctrines proved deeply embarra~sing.'~~

Perhaps the strongest confirmation of an intellectual commonality between Hobbes and the Blackloists tracing back to the Blackloist conspiracy of 1649is found in the writings of one John Austin. Austin was a Catholic pamphleteer, who lived in London during the Interregnum and published under the

'" Anon., Eoangelicum armatum .. . also the papists and Hobbists like pernicious principles (London, 2nd edn, r682), p. 53.

'" L'rsa major and minor (London, 1681 j, p. 19; LVhite's treason was a bitter memory for Catholics after the Restoration. See Roger Palmer, The Cathollque apologl: wztli a reply to tlir answer ... (London, 3rd edn, 16j4),pp. 76-81.

'" Roger Coke, A suruty of the politicks of ..Mr. Thomas W7hite, .Wr. Tlzomas Hobbs, and Hu,qh Grotzus . . . [London, 1662), cpistle dedicatory.

'43 Anon., Evangelicurn armatum, to the reader.

'" 1Vhite to Digby, undatrd, BL Add. XIS 41846, fos. 84-6. Here IVhite, in response to Digby, answers the Eoangelicum armatum, with only occasional cogency. The thrust of his response is that his work, and implicitly that of Hobbes as well, was intended only to prevent total ruin for the rump of the royalist cause, and that such tactical obedience to Crom~gell was counte~lanced by Charles I1 himself. 'This ignores tht. fact that Charles I1 specifically- condemned Ll'hite's work o~lly months after its publication. Se? n. 133

pseudonym William Birchley. It has been observed that Austin, in a 165I tract, made the first known published reference to Hobbes's Leuiathan, but the contextual significance of this has never been recognized.14' Austin's tracts are of themselves pedestrian, but they provide strong evidence of the intellectual collaboration between Hobbes and the Blackloists. John Austin, it turns out, was a vocal member of the Blackloist faction of the English Chapter. He was associated with White himself, was a friend of the Blackloist philosopher John Sergeant, and was linked by one source with Kenelm Digby.146 In 1651 and I 653 Austin published two tracts, The Christian moderator, orpersecution for religion condemned, and the Oath of abjuration arraign'd. These tracts argued for the toleration of Catholicism under the Commonwealth, and they were deeply informed by the recent Blackloist efforts to receive this toleration from Cromwell. Austin echoed the Blackloists in renouncing papal infallibility and temporal power, and in urging English Catholics to live in peaceful quietism under the Interregnum governments. He specifically endorsed Henry Holden's Three Oaths, which had abjured the pope's deposing power and had formed the basis for the Blackloist negotiations with Cromwell.'" Indeed, Austin praised the supposedly tolerant religious sensibilities of Oliver Cromwell. He lavishly celebrated the 'zeal of the General', fondly recalled Cromwell's involvement in the 1647negotiations with England's Catholics, and declared

that 'the army ever had that compassion which the clergy wanted'.14'

It is striking that even after the collapse of the 1649negotiations, a Blackloist pamphleteer would publish such enthusiasm for the Cromwellian Independents. More revealing still is the evidence Austin provides of a strong Hobbist influence on the political machinations of the Blackloists. Scattered amidst his praise for Oliver Cromwell and the Independents, Austin included argumentative points lifted directly from Leuiathan. He based his case for Catholic toleration on a number of claims, including: a denial that Catholic veneration of 'angels, saints, and pictures' constituted an intolerable idolatry; a refusal to permit oaths which bind the inner conscience; and the argument that Christ left no coercive power to govern religion. In all of these cases, Austin appealed (at times awkwardly) to the argumenis ofLeuiathan. Austin attempted to defend Catholic images by appealing to Hobbes's thesis that image worship only constituted idolatry when the image 'was set up by private authority, and not by the authority of them that are our sovereign power'.14%ustin

145 A point made by Martin Dzelzainis and quoted in Goldie, 'Reception of Hobbes', p. 613. According to Thomason, the tract appeared in August 1651,only months after the appearance of Leuiathalz in the London bookstalls. Catalogue oftfle Thomason Tracts, I : 845,

14' See Sergeant's epistle dedicatory to John Austin, Devotions (Rouen, 1672);DdNB; for the link with Digby, see anon., Legenda lignea: with an answer to Mr. Birchley's moderator . . . (London, I 652), to the reader.

14' Wohn Austin], The Christian moderator, or persecution for religion condemned (London, I 651), PP. 1, 7-8, 17. 14' Austin, Moderator, pp. 4-5, I 2, 23; [John Austin], The Christian moderator, the thirdpart: or the oath ofabjuration arraign'd (London, 1653),pp. 3, 8, r 7, 23. '" Austin, Moderator, pp. I 2-1 3. citing Leuiathan. pp. 448-5 I.


condemned Presbyterian efyorts to craft theological (as opposed to political) oaths by enlisting Leuiathan's doctrine against 'extending the power oflaw ... to the barest thoughts and consciences of nlen'.'" He also called upon Leuiathan to confirm lhat 'ministers of Christ in this world have no power to punish any for not believing', and that 'no coercive power [was] left by our Savior'."'

Austin was forced to alter the text of Leviathan considerably in order to portray Hobbes as an advocate of Catholic toleration. Hobbes was chiefly concerned to restrain clerical power, and Austin wanted the state to surrender its coercive religious power entirely, so the latter dropped Hobbesian phrases deferential to slatc authority in order to make Leviathan appear more tolerationist than it actually was.15"e~,ertheless, Austin's revealing use of Leciathaiz demonstrates Hobbes's probable influence over the Blackloist effort to ally with the English Independents. 'I'he Blackloist Austin found Leuiuthan useful as an Erastian defence of Cromwellian Independency; he cited Hobbes specifically to condemn clerical power, and appealed to the declarations of Leviathan and those of Oliver Cromwell in support of the same project.l5"n short, the first known published references to Leviathan were part of a justification of the conspiracy between the Blackloists and the Cromwellian Independents. Nor did this go unnoticed at the time. FVhen, in 1652, Presbyterian stationers petitioned parliament against the publicatiori of Catholic books, Austin's Christian modelator and Hobbes's Leuiathan MIere condemned side by side. In a published rebuke to these advocates of 'Presbyterian slavery ',army Independents defended Austin's call for toleration and pronounced Hobhes 'very \\'ell able to answer' for himself.'" The royalists were not alone in viewing Blackloism and Hobhism as kindred phenoi-nena.

'I'he significance of the Blackloist conspiracy is threefold. First, historians interested in Cromwell's religion -and particularly his tolerationist instincts -must now iricorporate tliis flirtation with Catholic toleration. Again, this was almost certainly not a matter of conviction, but rather was driven by diplomatic and security considerations. Yevertheless, Cromwell's willingness to consider Catholic toleration for any reason will force some revision of the conventional wisdom. IVhen compelling state interests existed, and within stringent limits, Grornwell contemplated permitting some attenuated Catholic worship. In this respect he was ironically forced into a diplomatic posture

j50 Austin. Oath, p. 21, ci!in 1,euiaihan. pp. q71 2.

15' Austin. Oath. p. 27. citing Leczathan, p. 371.

'j2 1:os imtance, Austi~i citcs Hobbes's prohibition on 'minister's power', bu~ drops the qualifiers that rnini~t~rs [emphasis added], and that 'if they have

'haw no power bj that title' sobereign civil power, by politic institution, they may indeed lawfully punish'. .4ustin, Oath, p. I 27; Hobbes. Leuiathnn. p. 342. Elsewhere, .Austin cites Hobbes's stricture against laws aimed at consciencr, hut drops Hobbes's iriristcnce that .conformity or ... sprech dnd action' is always required and that the state can Glence any preacliing c~hatsocver. Austin. Oat11, p. 27; Hobbes. Lei~zathaiz,pp. 4j 1-2. Is" Austin, Moclelntor. p. 12; Austin, Oath, pp. 21-4. 21-7.

15' if Beacorz .re! on jre ... . Luke Fawn et al. (London, 1652). pp. 13-15; The B~~COIZS quenched .. . :landon, r 6521. 1)p. I 2 13; see Martin Dzelzainis. ' hIarvell transpos'd'. . 33

assumed by almost all of the Stuart monarchs, who were endlessly vilified for treating Catholic toleration as a bargaining chip. Cromwell was clearly the driving force in the Independent-Catholic negotiations of 1647 and 1649. In these moments he allowed hard-nosed political realism to soften reforming zealotry.

Second, Thomas Hobbes's ~roximit~

to the Blackloist conspiracy casts a new light on his departure from the royalist court in late 1651 or in early 1652. Historians have traditionally assumed that Hobbes was banished either because of his unorthodox theological views, or because the old royalists purged him as a member of the discredited Louvre group. Contemporaries, by contrast, almost universally condemned Hobbes as a traitor to the royalist cause. After 1660, Hobbes vociferously denied this charge. The 'Louvre group' thesis of Hobbes's Leviathan subtly credits Hobbes's denial, and thus preserves his royalist credentials. There is need for a great deal more research on Hobbes's political views between 1649 and 1660, but the unearthing of the Blackloist conspiracy, and of Hobbes's personal and intellectual ties to the leading Blackloists, must form one part of a new contextual understanding of Leviathan. At the very least the Blackloist conspiracy provides a crucial context for understanding why Hobbes's endorsement of Independency proved so un- acceptable to the royalists. It is likely that the conspiracy explains more, and was at least one of the factors that drew Hobbes's attention toward the political merits of Cromwellian Independency. The history of the Blackloist conspiracy, in short, lends some credence to the consistent allegation of contemporaries that Leviathan was intended to curry favour with the Interregum regime.

Finally, this history also forces a re-evaluation ofthe significance ofHobbes's endorsement of Independency within Leviathan. As long as Hobbes is viewed as a consistent ally of the Louvre group, his endorsement of Independency will be construed as a relic of the brief royalist fling with the Independents in 1647. It will, in other words, be dismissed as a tactical matter. But if they were in fact not a product of royalist tactics, Hobbes's remarks on Independency must be taken more seriously, as an expression of his considered views on church government. Like the Blackloists, Hobbes rejected divine right legitimacy, not just in state matters but in ecclesiology as well. Like the Blackloists, Hobbes wished to augment the religious authority of the state, and to reduce the political claims of the clergy. Like the Blackloists, Hobbes was drawn to a pluralistic religious settlement, presided over by a supervisory state in which remaining religious power was exercised by temporal and not clerical authorities. At least for a time, the Blackloists found the promise of all of this in the ascendency of the Cromwellian Independents. Perhaps influenced by their conclusions, Hobbes did as well. Seen within the context of the Blackloist conspiracy, Hobbes's endorsement of Independency looks less like a disingenuous matter ofroyalist strategy and more like a considered culmination to Leviathan's Erastian ecclesiology .

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