After that I had received this sentence of banishing, or hanging, from them, and after the former admonition, touching the determination of the justices if I did not recant; just when the time drew nigh, in which I should have abjured, or have done worse (as Mr Cobb told me), came the time in which the King was to be crowned. Now, at the coronation of kings, there is usually a releasement of divers prisoners, by virtue of his coronation; in which privilege also I should have had my share; but that they took me for a convicted person, and therefore, unless I sued out a pardon (as they called it), I could have no benefit thereby, notwithstanding, yet, forasmuch as the coronation proclamation did give liberty, from the day the King was crowned, to that day twelvemonth, to sue them out; therefore, though they would not let me out of prison, as they let out thousands, yet they could not meddle with me, as touching the execution of their sentence; because of the liberty offered for the suing out of pardons. Whereupon I continued in prison till the next assizes, which are called Midsummer assizes, being then kept in August, 1661.
Now, at that assizes, because I would not leave any possible means unattempted that might be lawful, I did, by my wife, present a petition to the judges three times, that I might be heard, and that they would impartially take my case into consideration.
The first time my wife went, she presented it to Judge Hale, who very mildly received it at her hand, telling her that he would do her and me the best good he could; but he feared, he said, he could do none. The next day, again, lest they should, through the multitude of business, forget me, we did throw another petition into the coach to Judge Twisdon; who, when he had seen it, snapt her up, and angrily told her that I was a convicted person, and could not be released, unless I would promise to preach no more, etc.
Well, after this, she yet again presented another to judge Hale, as he sat on the bench, who, as it seemed, was willing to give her audience. Only Justice Chester being present, stept up and said, that I was convicted in the court, and that I was a hot-spirited fellow (or words to that purpose), whereat he waived it, and did not meddle therewith. But yet, my wife being encouraged by the high-sheriff, did venture once more into their presence (as the poor widow did before the unjust judge) to try what she could do with them for my liberty, before they went forth of the town. The place where she went to them, was to the Swan-chamber, where the two judges, and many justices and gentry of the country, was in company together. She then coming into the chamber with a bashed face, and a trembling heart, began her errand to them in this manner:-
Woman. My lord (directing herself to judge Hale), I make bold to come once again to your Lordship, to know what may be done with my husband.
Judge Hale. To whom he said, Woman, I told thee before I could do thee no good; because they have taken that for a conviction which thy husband spoke at the sessions: and unless there be something done to undo that, I can do thee no good.
Woman. My lord, said she, he is kept unlawfully in prison; they clapped him up before there was any proclamation against the meetings; the indictment also is false. Besides, they never asked him whether he was guilty or no; neither did he confess the indictment.
One of the Justices. Then one of the justices that stood by, whom she knew not, said, My Lord, he was lawfully convicted.
Wom. It is false, said she; for when they said to him, Do you confess the indictment? he said only this, that he had been at several meetings, both where there were preaching the Word, and prayer, and that they had God's presence among them.
Judge Twisdon. Whereat Judge Twisdon answered very angrily, saying, What, you think we can do what we list; your husband is a breaker of the peace, and is convicted by the law, etc. Whereupon Judge Hale called for the Statute Book.
Wom. But, said she, my lord, he was not lawfully convicted.
Chester. Then Justice Chester said, My lord, he was lawfully convicted.
Wom. It is false, said she; it was but a word of discourse that they took for a conviction (as you heard before).
Chest. But it is recorded, woman; it is recorded, said Justice Chester; as if it must be of necessity true, because it was recorded. With which words he often endeavoured to stop her mouth, having no other argument to convince her, but it is recorded, it is recorded.
Wom. My Lord, said she, I was a while since at London, to see if I could get my husband's liberty; and there I spoke with my lord Barkwood, one of the House of Lords, to whom I delivered a petition, who took it of me and presented it to some of the rest of the House of Lords, for my husband's releasement; who, when they had seen it, they said, that they could not release him, but had committed his releasement to the judges, at the next assizes. This he told me; and now I am come to you to see if any thing may be done in this business, and you give neither releasement nor relief. To which they gave her no answer, but made as if they heard her not.
Chest. Only Justice Chester was often up with this, -- He is convicted, and it is recorded.
Wom. If it be, it is false, said she.
Chest. My lord, said Justice Chester, he is a pestilent fellow, there is not such a fellow in the country again.
Twis. What, will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him.
Wom. My lord, said she, he dares not leave preaching as long as he can speak.
Twis. See here, what should we talk any more about such a fellow? Must he do what he lists? He is a breaker of the peace.
Wom. She told him again, that he desired to live peaceably, and to follow his calling, that his family might be maintained; and moreover, said, My Lord, I have four small children, that cannot help themselves, one of which is blind, and have nothing to live upon, but the charity of good people.
Hale. Hast thou four children? said Judge Hale; thou art but a young woman to have four children.
Wom. My lord, said she, I am but mother-in-law to them, having not been married to him yet full two years. Indeed, I was with child when my husband was first apprehended; but being young, and unaccustomed to such things, said she, I being smayed at the news, fell into labour, and so continued for eight days, and then was delivered, but my child died.
Hale. Whereat, he looking very soberly on the matter, said, Alas, poor woman!
Twis. But Judge Twisdon told her, that she made poverty her cloak; and said, moreover, that he understood I was maintained better by running up and down a preaching, than by following my calling.
Hale. What is his calling? said Judge Hale.
Answer. Then some of the company that stood by, said, A tinker, my lord.
Wom. Yes, said she; and because he is a tinker, and a poor man, therefore he is despised, and cannot have justice.
Hale. Then Judge Hale answered very mildly, saying, I tell thee, woman, seeing it is so, that they have taken what thy husband spake for a conviction; thou must either apply thyself to the King, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error.
Chest. But when Justice Chester heard him give her this counsel; and especially (as she supposed) because he spoke of a writ of error, he chafed, and seemed to be very much offended; saying, My lord, he will preach and do what he lists.
Wom. He preacheth nothing but the Word of God, said she.
Twis. He preach the Word of God! said Twisdon; and withal, she thought he would have struck her; he runneth up and down, and doth harm.
Wom. No, my lord, said she, it is not so; God hath owned him, and done much good by him.
Twis. God! said he, his doctrine is the doctrine of the devil.
Wom. My lord, said she, when the righteous Judge shall appear, it will be known that his doctrine is not the doctrine of the devil.
Twis. My lord, said he, to Judge Hale, do not mind her, but send her away.
Hale. Then said Judge Hale, I am sorry, woman, that I can do thee no good; thou must do one of those three things aforesaid, namely, either to apply thyself to the King, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error; but a writ of error will be cheapest.
Wom. At which Chester again seemed to be in a chafe, and put off his hat, and as she thought, scratched his head for anger: but when I saw, said she, that there was no prevailing to have my husband sent for, though I often desired them that they would send for him, that he might speak for himself; telling them, that he could give them better satisfaction than I could, in what they demanded of him, with several other things, which now I forget; only this I remember, that though I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet before I went out, I could not but break forth into tears, not so much because they were so hard- hearted against me, and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when they shall there answer for all things whatsoever they have done in the body, whether it be good, or whether it be bad.
So, when I departed from them, the book of statutes was brought, but what they said of it I know nothing at all, neither did I hear any more from them.