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Protestant Unity and Anti-Catholicism: The Irenicism and Philo-Semitism of John Dury in Context

  • Jeremy Fradkin

This article examines the religious and political worldview of the Scottish minister John Dury during the English Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century. It argues that Dury's activities as an irenicist and philo-semite must be understood as interrelated aspects of an expansionist Protestant cause that included Britain, Ireland, continental Europe, and the Atlantic world. Dury sought to imitate and counter what he perceived to be the principal strengths of early modern Catholicism: confessional unity, imperial expansion, and the coordination of global missionary efforts. The 1640s and 1650s saw the scope of Dury's long-standing vision grow to encompass colonial expansion in Ireland and America, where English and continental Protestants might work together to fortify their position against Spain and its growing Catholic empire. Both Portuguese Jews and American Indians appear in this vision as victims of Spanish Catholicism in desperate need of Protestant help. This article thus offers new perspectives on several aspects of Dury's career, including his relationship with displaced Anglo-Irish Protestants in London, his proposal to establish a college for the study of Jewish learning and “Oriental” languages, his speculation regarding the Lost Tribes of Israel in America, and his cautious advocacy for the toleration of Jews in England.

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1 The documents relating to this proposed colony are in the Hartlib Papers (hereafter HP), bundle 12. Transcriptions are digitally available through the University of Sheffield's Hartlib Papers project at The quotations are taken from 12/9B, 12/66A and 25/7/1B–2A HP. See also Leng, Thomas, “‘A Potent Plantation well armed and Policeed’: Huguenots, the Hartlib Circle, and British Colonization in the 1640s,” William and Mary Quarterly 66, no. 1 (January 2009): 173–94, at 180–83.

2 Dury, John, A memoriall concerning peace ecclesiasticall amongst Protestants (London, 1641), 45 . On Dury's “solemne vow” to dedicate his life to this work, see 68/2/1 and 9/1/69, HP.

3 Milton, Anthony, “‘The Unchanged Peacemaker’? John Dury and the Politics of Irenicism in England, 1628–1643,” in Samuel Hartlib and Universal Reformation: Studies in Intellectual Communication, ed. Greengrass, Mark, Leslie, Michael, and Raylor, Timothy (Cambridge, 1994), 95117 ; Mandelbrote, Scott, “John Dury and the Practice of Irenicism,” in Religious Change in Europe, 1650–1914: Essays for John McManners, ed. Aston, Nigel (Oxford, 1997), 4158 ; Webster, Tom, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620–1643 (Cambridge, 1997), 255–67; Gordon, Bruce, “‘The Second Bucer’: John Dury's Mission to the Swiss Reformed Churches in 1654–55 and the Search for Confessional Unity,” in Confessionalization in Europe, 1555–1700: Essays in Honor and Memory of Bodo Nischan, ed. Headley, John M., Hillerbrand, Hans Joachim, and Papalas, Anthony J. (Aldershot, 2004), 207–26; Léchot, Pierre-Olivier, Un Christianisme ‘Sans Partialité’: Irénisme et Méthode chez John Dury (Paris, 2011). Still valuable are the classic studies by Batten, Joseph Minton, John Dury: Advocate of Christian Reunion (Chicago, 1944), and Westin, Gunnar, Negotiations about Church Unity, 1628–1634: John Durie, Gustavus Adolphus, Axel Oxenstierna (Uppsala, 1932).

4 Scott, Jonathan, England's Troubles: Seventeenth-Century English Political Instability in European Context (Cambridge, 2000). See also White, Jason, Militant Protestantism and British Identity, 1603–1642 (London, 2012).

5 [Dury, John], Motives to Induce the Protestant Princes to mind the worke of peace Ecclesiasticall amongst themselves ([Amsterdam], 1639), 3 ; idem, To the Christian and unpartiall Reader,” in A Model of Church-Government; or, the Grounds of the Spiritual Frame and Government of the House of God (London, 1647), sig. b1r–b2r. Compare Amos 6:14.

6 On Dury's reverence for Protestant secular authority, see Mandelbrote, “John Dury,” 43, 49–50.

7 On Dury and Spens, see Murdoch, Steve, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603–1746 (Leiden, 2006), 253–73, 283–84. On Spens and Gustavus Adolphus, see Grosjean, Alexia, “Scotland: Sweden's Closest Ally?,” in Scotland and the Thirty Years’ War: 1618–1648, ed. Murdoch, Steve (Leiden, 2001), 143–72. On Spens and the proposed “Evangelical League,” see idem, “Scottish Ambassadors and British Diplomacy, 1618–1635,” in Scotland and the Thirty Years’ War, 27–50.

8 [Dury, John], A Briefe Relation of That which lately hath been attempted to procure Ecclesiasticall Peace amongst Protestants (London, 1641), 45 ; Murdoch, Network North, 287. On the importance of the Scots, and particularly Colonel James Ramsay, at Breitenfeld, see Grosjean, “Scotland: Sweden's Closest Ally?”

9 Dury, John, The copy of a Petition, As it was tendered by Mr. Dury, to Gustavus, the late King of Sweden, of glorious memory (London, 1641), reproduced in Westin, Negotiations about Church Unity, 187–91. The term theological diplomacy comes from Murdoch, “Scottish Ambassadors,” 43. See also Mandelbrote, “John Dury,” 43–44.

10 Two letters from Dury to Roe, reproduced in full in Westin, Negotiations about Church Unity, 216–21.

11 These letters are preserved in Roe's state papers and printed in full in Westin, Negotiations about Church Unity.

12 Dury, John, Certaine Considerations shewing the necessity of a Correspondencie in Spirituall matters betwixt all Protestant Churches (London, 1642), 9 .

13 [Dury], Motives to Induce the Protestant Princes, 4; idem, The copy of a letter written to Mr. Alexander Hinderson (London, 1643).

14 The most essential study on the Hartlib circle is Webster, Charles, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine, and Reform, 1626–1660 (London, 1975). See also Slack, Paul, The Invention of Improvement: Information and Material Progress in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 2014), 91128 ; Greengrass, Leslie, and Raylor, eds., Samuel Hartlib; Trevor-Roper, Hugh Redwald, “Three Foreigners: The Philosophers of the Puritan Revolution,” in Religion, the Reformation and Social Change (London, 1967), 237–93; and Turnbull, George Henry, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius: Gleanings from Hartlib's Papers (Liverpool, 1947).

15 Webster, Great Instauration, 57–76, 81, 225–28, 428–48. See also the essays by Toby Christopher Barnard and Patricia Coughlan in Greengrass, Leslie, and Raynor, eds., Samuel Hartlib.

16 MacInnes, Allan I., The British Revolution, 1629–1660 (Basingstoke, 2005), chap. 4; Perceval-Maxwell, Michael, “Ireland and Scotland, 1638–1648,” in The Scottish National Covenant in Its British Context, ed. Morrill, John (Edinburgh, 1990), 193211 . For Forbes and the Bishops’ Wars, see Spalding, John, The History of the Troubles and Memorable Transactions in Scotland in the Reign of Charles I (Aberdeen, 1829). Spalding referred to him in the summer of 1640 as “colonel Alexander master of Forbes.”

17 32/1/8–9; HP 2/9/3–4; 2/9/10; 3/2/96–97; 3/2/105–106; 3/2/114–15; 3/2/137.

18 Forbes, Alexander, A trve copie of two letters brought by Mr. Peters this October 11 from my L. Forbes from Ireland (London, 1642), 12 ; Peter, Hugh, A true relation of the passages of Gods providence in a voyage for Ireland (London, 1642).

19 9/1/147A-150B HP; Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius, 223; Ian Atherton, s.v., “Sidney, Robert, second earl of Leicester (1595–1677),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online (hereafter ODNB),

20 Hunter, Lynette, The Letters of Dorothy Moore, 1612–64: The Friendships, Marriage and Intellectual Life of a Seventeenth-Century Woman (Aldershot, 2004), xvii, 6–9, 14–17, 35–36, 39–42; Pal, Carol, Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, 2012), 117121 , 127, 130–132.

21 Hunter, Letters of Dorothy Moore, xviii, xix, xxi.

22 Canny, Nicholas P., Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford, 2001), 269 , 308–314, 327; Barnard, Toby Christopher, “The Protestant Interest, 1641–1660,” in Ireland from Independence to Occupation, 1641–1660, ed. Ohlmeyer, Jane (Cambridge, 1995), 218240 , at 220.

23 Quoted in Bottigheimer, Karl, English Money and Irish Land (Oxford, 1971), 49 . On Cork and his longtime ally, Sir William Parsons, see Canny, Making Ireland British; and Little, Patrick, Lord Broghill and the Cromwellian Union with Ireland and Scotland (Woodbridge, 2004).

24 Webster, Great Instauration, 62–64.; Barnard, “Protestant Interest”; Connolly, Ruth, “‘A Wise and Godly Sybilla’: Viscountess Ranelagh and the Politics of International Protestantism,” in Women, Gender and Radical Religion in Early Modern Europe, ed. Brown, Sylvia (Leiden, 2007), 285306 , at 289.

25 3/2/86–87 HP.

26 A Solemn League and Covenant for Reformation, and defence of Religion, the Honour and Happinesse of the King, and the Peace and Safety of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland & Ireland (London, 1643), 9, 11–12.

27 John R. Young, “The Scottish Parliament and European Diplomacy, 1641–1647: The Palatine, The Dutch Republic and Sweden,” in Murdoch, ed., Scotland, 77–108, at 90.

28 Dury, John, Israels call to march out of Babylon unto Jerusalem (London, 1646), 3940 .

29 Little, Lord Broghill, 71–74, 201–2; idem, s.v., “King, Sir Robert (d. 1657),” ODNB,; Webster, Great Instauration, 225–26.

30 Morrill, John, “The Drogheda Massacre in Cromwellian Context,” in The Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland, ed. Edwards, David, Lenihan, Padraig, and Tait, Clodagh (Dublin, 2007), 242–65.

31 [Dury, John], “To His Excellency Oliver Cromwel,” in Boate, Gerard, Irelands naturall history (London, 1652), sig. A4r–A4v. This epistle dedicatory was published under Hartlib's name but was composed and sent to him by Dury. See 4/2/18 HP.

32 Barnard, “The Protestant Interest,” 282–84; Patricia Coughlan, “Natural History and Historical Nature: The Project for a Natural History of Ireland,” in Greengrass, Leslie, and Raylor, eds., Samuel Hartlib, 298–317, at 299–300; Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius, 219; Hunter, Letters of Dorothy Moore, xix; Webster, Great Instauration, 65–67.

33 For an exploration of the more typical English Protestant colonial discourse concerning Ireland throughout the early modern period, and its reflection in maps and surveys, see Smyth, William J., Map-Making, Landscapes and Memory: A Geography of Colonial and Early Modern Ireland, c. 1530–1750 (Cork, 2006). I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for this reference.

34 53/6A HP; [Dury], “To His Excellency Oliver Cromwel,” sig. A5v. Barnard, Toby Christopher, Cromwellian Ireland: English Government and Reform in Ireland, 1649–1660 (Oxford, 1975), 5658 .

35 9/1/149B HP.

36 Little, Lord Broghill, 71–74.

37 Webster, Great Instauration, 225–26, 363–65, 394–95, 434–41; Bottigheimer, English Money, 137–139.

38 McKenny, Kevin, “The Restoration Land Settlement in Ireland: A Statistical Interpretation,” in Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled, ed. Dennehy, Coleman (Aldershot, 2008), 3552 . The quotation is taken from Canny, Making Ireland British, 558; for a detailed geographic study of this transformation, see generally Smyth, Map-Making.

39 Pestana, Carla Gardina, The English Atlantic in the Age of Revolution, 1640–1661 (Cambridge, MA, 2004), chap. 6; Games, Alison, The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560–1660 (Oxford, 2008), chap. 8; Donoghue, John, Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (Chicago, 2013), chap. 6.

40 Batten, John Dury, 125, 143. On Dury's support for the Engagement, see Skinner, Quentin, Visions of Politics (Cambridge, 2002), 3:189–99; Zagorin, Perez, A History of Political Thought in the English Revolution (London, 1954), 6277 .

41 J. D. [Dury, John], Considerations Concerning the present Engagement. Whether It may lawfully be entered into; yea or no? (London, 1649), 2124 .

42 Mandelbrote, “John Dury,” 48.

43 For a good summary of the existing research into the philo-semitism of Dury and Hartlib, see Kaplan, Yosef, “Jews and Judaism in the Hartlib Circle,” Studia Rosenthalia 38/39 (2005): 186215 . The quotation is from Richard H. Popkin, “Hartlib, Dury and the Jews,” in Samuel Hartlib and Universal Reformation, ed. Greengrass, Leslie, and Raylor, 118–36. See also Popkin, Richard H., “The First College for Jewish Studies,” Revue des Études Juives 143, no. 3 (June 1984): 351–64; idem, The End of the Career of a Great 17th Century Millenarian: John Dury,” Pietismus und Neuzeit 14 (1988): 203–20. For Dury's place in the wider context of English Judaizing and philo-semitism in this period, and for the circumstances of Jewish readmission, see the classic study by Katz, David S., Philo-semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603–1655 (Oxford, 1982).

44 Karp, Jonathan and Sutcliffe, Adam, “Introduction: A Brief History of Philosemitism,” in Philosemitism in History, ed. Karp, Jonathan and Sutcliffe, Adam (Cambridge, 2011), 17 , at 5.

45 For a recent objection to the characterization of Dury's thought as “millenarian,” see Gibson, Kenneth, “John Dury's Apocalyptic Thought: A Reassessment,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 61, no. 2 (April 2010): 299313 .

46 [Samuel Hartlib and John Dury?], Englands Thankfulnesse, reproduced in Webster, Charles, Samuel Hartlib and the Advancement of Learning (Cambridge, 1970), 9097 .

47 Dury, John, A Seasonable Discourse (London, 1649), 1314 . See Katz, Philo-semitism, chap. 2. The historiography of early modern Christian Hebraism is dominated by case studies. For a useful overview, see Coudert, Allison P. and Shoulson, Jeffrey, eds., Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe (Philadelphia, 2004). A provocative book on Hebraic political theory is Nelson, Eric, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Cambridge, 2010). For the Hartlib circle's wider interest in the “eastern” tongues, see Toomer, Gerald J., The Study of Arabic in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1996), 187200 .

48 See generally Popkin, “Hartlib, Dury and the Jews.”

49 John Dury, Model of Church-Government, 14–18, 28–32; idem, An Epistolary Discourse wherein (amongst other particulars) the following Questions are briefly resolved (London, 1644), 1417 ; idem, A motion tending to the publick good of this age and of posteritie (London, 1642), 9; Some few considerations propounded, as so many Scruples by Mr. Henry Robinson in a Letter to Mr. Iohn Dury upon his Epistolary Discourse: With Mr. Duryes Answer thereunto (London, 1646), 1820 , 44.

50 [Dury], Irelands naturall history, sig. A4r–A4v; Dury, Seasonable Discourse, sig. D3r–D4v; idem, A memoriall, 7–8.

51 Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius, 257; Dury, John, The reformed librarie-keeper (London, 1650), 1824 ; Dury, A memoriall, 7–8; idem, A peacemaker without partiality or hypocrisie (London, 1648), 8485 .

52 Dury, Seasonable Discourse, 15–16.

53 Dury, John, A Case of Conscience; Whether it be lawful to admit Jews into a Christian common-wealth? (London, 1656), 4 , 8; Katz, Philo-Semitism, 216–19; Dury, , “An Epistolicall Discourse Of Mr. Iohn Dury, to Mr. Thorowgood,” in Thorowgood, Thomas, Iewes in America; or, Probabilities that the Americans are of that race (London, 1650), sig. e2v–e3.

54 Dury, A peacemaker, 26–32, 44–49, 56–59; idem, Epistolary Discourse, 22–24, 39–40; idem, Some few considerations, 12–20.

55 Dury, Model of Church Government, sig. d; Dury, Certaine Considerations, 9–11; [Dury], The copy of a letter, 2–6, 13; Dury, A peacemaker, 20–21.

56 Dury, Case of Conscience, 3; Klooster, Wim, “Networks of Colonial Entrepreneurs: The Founders of the Jewish Settlements in Dutch America, 1650s and 1660s,” in Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500–1800, ed. Kagan, Richard L. and Morgan, Philip D. (Baltimore, 2009), 3349 , at 35–37.

57 Dury, “Epistolicall Discourse,” sig. e3–e4.

58 van der Wall, Ernestine G. E., “Three Letters by Menasseh Ben Israel to John Durie,” Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 65, no. 1 (January 1985): 4663 , at 57–58.

59 ben Israel, Menasseh, The Hope of Israel, trans. Wall, Moses (London, 1650), 37 .

60 ben Israel, Menasseh, To His Highness the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland: The humble addresses of Menasseh Ben Israel, a divine, and doctor of physick, in behalfe of the Jewish nation (London, 1655), 1320 .

61 Pestana, English Atlantic, 78–81; Bross, Kristina, “From London to Nonantum: Mission Literature in the Transatlantic English World,” in Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic, ed. Gregorson, Linda and Juster, Susan (Philadephia, 2011), 123130 .

62 J. D. [Dury, John], “An Appendix to the foregoing Letters, holding forth Conjectures, Observations, and Applycations of them,” in The Glorious progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, ed. Winslow, Edward (London, 1649), 2228 .

63 Winslow, ed., Glorious progress, 6–17. See generally Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Ithaca, 2000).

64 Richard L. Greaves, s.v., “Durie, Robert (1555–1616),” ODNB, One of the leaders of this expedition was none other than Sir James Spens, the future patron of John Dury at Elbing. See Richard Z. Brzezinski, s.v., “Spens, James, of Wormiston, Baron Spens in the Swedish nobility (d. 1632),” ODNB,

65 Boate, Irelands naturall history, 7; Canny, Nicholas, “The Ideology of English Colonization: From Ireland to America,” William and Mary Quarterly 30, no. 4 (October 1973): 575–98.

66 [Dury], “Appendix to the foregoing Letters,” 25–27; 3/2/86–87 HP.

67 Thorowgood, Thomas, Iewes in America, or, Probabilities that the Americans are of that race (London, 1650), 5962 , 68–77.

68 Dury, Seasonable Discourse, 18.

69 Brauer, Karl, Die Unionstätigkeit John Duries unter dem Protektorat Cromwells (Marburg, 1907), 230–31; Dury, A memoriall, 10–11.

70 12/27A, 28A–29A HP, my translations from the French; Leng, “Potent Plantation,” 182–83.

71 Carla Gardina Pestana, “Cruelty and Religious Justifications for Conquest in the Mid-Seventeenth-Century English Atlantic,” in Gregorson and Juster, eds., Empires of God, 37–57, at 40–45; idem, English Character and the Fiasco of the Western Design,” Early American Studies 3, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 131 , at 2.

72 Pestana, “English Character,” 19–20; Winslow quoted in Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, “Errand to the Indies: Puritan Colonization from Providence Island through the Western Design,” William and Mary Quarterly 45, no. 1 (January 1988): 93 ; Len Travers, s.v., “Winslow, Edward (1595–1655),” ODNB,

73 Batten, John Dury, 158–59; Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius, 273–84. On Dury's 1654–1655 negotiations with the Swiss churches, see Gordon, “The Second Bucer.”

74 Turnbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius, 272.

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