In the penultimate year of the life and reign of the glorious Queen Elizabeth of England [1558–1603] (whose fame will never die), I was compelled to spend the whole winter in the city of Avignon, because the winter was very severe, with so much snow covering the mountains of [St.] Bernard that the passage into Italy was entirely blocked.
—ROBERT FLUDD, De naturae simia
So begins Robert Fludd’s hugely entertaining alchemic romance and travel narrative, written ostensibly from memory, which takes the form of a personal history of youthful geomantic experiences in France.1 After taking his M.A. at Oxford in 1598, Fludd’s task, like that of many other young disciples of Paracelsus before and after him, was to wander the world to learn directly from the novelties of Nature, illiterate “folk,” and the practical school of experience. Playing the well-rehearsed role of a Paracelsian seeker and traveler en route through France to northern Italy—the same path of experience taken by John Winthrop Jr. after he had witnessed the sieges of Saint-Martin-de-Ré and La Rochelle in 1627—Fludd was “compelled” by Nature to spend the winter of 1601–2 in Avignon, when snow blocked the Saint Bernard Pass, France’s “passage” and natural “doorway” to Italy. Thus Fludd preceded Winthrop the Younger to Italy, where both journeyed on a natural philosopher’s pilgrimage in search of alchemical secrets. After finally departing Avignon in 1602, Fludd met the great Paracelsian physician and rising courtier William Harvey, his fellow countryman, in Padua. This occurred soon after another encounter in Rome with one “Grutherus,” a conveniently obscure (and perhaps fictitious) Swiss adept. Fludd claimed that it was Grutherus who had taught him the lucrative secret of the weapon salve.2 Reading Fludd’s “De geomantia” together with de Bry’s pictograph of the oculus, we are immediately aware that his language of obstruction and passage was borrowed from Tobit, and was common to Fludd’s geomantic allegory.
As the voice of the wandering narrator trapped in contested territory where acts of confessional violence against Protestants were a common occurrence, Fludd was suddenly forced to identify with a Protestant refugee. Like Hogarth, he assumes the liminal identity of the Huguenot artisan and natural philosopher. This represented the persona of an outsider who relies on memory of artisanal skills and “the art” to survive contact with the politically dangerous, philosophically inexperienced Jesuits and “other young men,” all of whom were “former pupils of the Jesuits.”
Fludd called his deceptively simple narrative Of the Internal Principle of Terrestrial Astrology or Geomancy. The striking simplicity of its language seems, moreover, to be grounded mostly in disarming storytelling. Where “De geomantia” parses mens, intellectus, ratio, imaginatio, and sensus, Internal Principle, like Palissy’s Recepte and Discours, collapses these technical terms together and unifies them in the soul as the universal divine messenger. When de Bry harnessed Fludd’s practical history as a preface to the highly theoretical “De geomantia” in the second volume of Fludd’s De macrocosmi historia in 1618, his strategy was to supply the author with appropriate bona fides of Paracelsian experience to buttress the secretive and obscure rhetoric to follow.
So, at age twenty-seven, Fludd found himself stranded in Avignon “with many other young men of gentle birth and of sound education.”3 While the education of these companions was “sound,” Fludd found that it was also suspect, for the young gentlemen were “pupils of the Jesuits.” As a result, they had been indoctrinated in the repetitive pedagogy of militant Catholic scholasticism at the Jesuit school and noviciate at Avignon.4
Fludd confides that geomancy first came up in Avignon as conversation in table talk. Cleverness in polite philosophical debate was crucial for alchemists seeking patronage. To be sure, Fludd performed Internal Principle as an entertainment for noble auditors at court long before committing it to print. In the high-stakes battle for patronage, aspiring alchemist-courtiers such as Kenelm Digby, Fludd, and Harvey had to demonstrate mastery over this strategic form of charismatic “talk,” which, it seemed, was always constructed around copious amounts of alcohol. Fludd’s narrative thus centers around a debate at table over the “validity” of geomancy as an art. This was to become the main subject of an evening’s entertainment “at the house of a certain captain,” where “I received board and lodging”:
One evening, while we were drinking at table, I discussed philosophical subjects with the others and noticed their various opinions on geomantic astrology. Some of them denied its virtue altogether; others, with whom I sided, defended stoutly the validity of that art. I adduced many arguments whereby I proved myself fairly well versed in geomancy. The meal being over, I had no sooner repaired to my chamber, when one of my companions followed me there and asked me for our love’s sake to try my art (which, he said, he had seen was considerable) in the resolution of a problem of some importance which, he said, filled his mind with much anxiety. Having made many excuses, I was at last prevailed upon by his entreaties. So, instantly I projected a geomantic scheme for the question he proposed.5
Fludd convinces us that his position won the evening, as it was the most charismatic demonstration of table talk. As a result, Fludd’s companion “entreats” the geomancer to go beyond theory, and he comes to Fludd’s chamber with a “problem which ... filled his mind with much anxiety.” The “question he proposed,” for which Fludd “projected a geomantic scheme,” drives the story and distills the complex theory of “De geomantia” into the narrator’s testimony on a single “historical” moment and its context. Titillating, given Fludd’s vow of chastity (which, nevertheless, allowed the geomancer to see the “scheme” clearly): “This question was: whether a girl with whom he had vehemently fallen in love returned his love with equal fervor, and her entire mind and body, and whether she loved him more than anyone else.”6
Fludd’s lengthy response turns on his perception in the geomantic scheme of an obscure deformity: a sort of dot “or blot” on the girl’s left eyelid: “Having drawn my geomantic scheme, I assured him that I could rather well describe the nature and bodily disposition of his beloved and, having duly described to him the nature and shape of the girl’s body, I indicated also a particular and rather noticeable mark or blot thereon, namely a certain kind of wart on her left eye-lid, which he confessed was there.”7 Once he has perceived the impurity of Tobit’s cataract in the “certain kind of wart” on the left eyelid of his companion’s lover, an answer to the question is already prophesied. To establish his credibility, first Fludd gives certain other details about the girl that only an intimate would know, then tells his companion that his beloved is indeed “inconstant and by no means steady in her love of him, and that she loved somebody else more than him. Whereupon he said that he had always very much suspected that this was the case and that he was [now] seeing it, as it were, with open eyes.”8
Through the mediation of the oculus imaginationis, Fludd’s companion himself saw “with open eyes” the meaning of the mark on his lover’s eyelid, a symbol of her impurity and a reflection of his own blindness. He perceived, for the first time, a hidden reality beneath the surface of fleshy matter that he had always overlooked as nothing more than an ephemeral thing. In effect, he was unable to see his own reflection in his lover’s deformity. Yet publicizing this skill at seeing made Fludd’s situation even more dangerous. His life was jeopardized when the blot on the lover’s eye remained invisible in plain sight to the gentlemen, educated in the local Jesuit school, who attended the dinner party earlier that evening:
He left my room in haste and then related to his companions with some admiration the verity and virtue of my art. Yet some of them, who knew the girl rather well, denied altogether that she had any such mark on her eye-lid as I had described, until they talked to her the following day and thus became witnesses of the correctness of that detail which I had discovered to them by the art of geomancy and which even they had never previously noticed.9
Acting the role of the angel Raphael, Fludd leads his blind and inexperienced doubters and potential adversaries to perceive what was always there but had been invisible to them. An English Protestant “refugee” among hostile French Jesuits had negotiated their perception of the significance of a hidden form, as a contingency of social interaction in the “mixed composition” of a pluralistic urban context.
As in the work of refugee Huguenot artisans in colonial New York, however, noticing the overlooked could also be strategically reversed as a function of dissimulation, to protect the vulnerable, facilitate commerce, or simply to be secretive. If messages sent via an experienced refugee’s perception of “a particular” form were revealed to one group of hostile or competitive “companions” in Avignon, the same perceptions might also be concealed from another in New York. The moral purity and alchemic skill necessary to see through the veil of “mixed composition” to essential signs meant that composite forms could also be deployed form behind, to form a perceptual shield against the perceptions of outsiders.
Revealing his esoteric skill to his importunate companion (“despite having made many excuses”) puts Fludd—now exposed as a Protestant—in great danger from the Jesuits. “Thus,” he wrote, “I became better known than I desired, so much so that rumours of this matter reached the ears of the Jesuits.”10 A conspiracy is hatched, and “two of them went secretly to the Palace and impelled by envy, reported to the [papal] Vice-Legate that there was a certain foreigner, an Englishman, who had made predictions of future events by the science of geomancy, which science had been reproved by the Catholic Church.”11
Far from becoming the subject of an official papal inquest, “a few days later,” the vice-legate “kindly invited me to a meal,” where once again, Fludd engaged in table talk with his host:
“I hear,” he said, “that you are well versed in the art of geomancy. What then is your considered opinion of that art?”
I replied experience [emphasis added] had proved to me that it was a valid science, built on occult foundations.12
The vice-legate’s reference to “that art” and Fludd’s use of the Paracelsian code word “experience” identify them to each other as secret adepts.
It is now safe for Fludd to reveal further trade secrets to his inquiring host, as one experienced practitioner to another. “‘How can there be any certainty’, he said, ‘in a method that operates by means of accidental dots?’” Fludd’s response to this question, using plain language, unlike in “De geomantia,” was that geomancy was never really accidental, since—as with Palissy’s glazes—the human hand was directed to perform inward artisanry by a “peaceful” and “impartial” soul. Harmonic adjectives such as these adumbrate theoretical explications that were to follow in “De geomantia.” More than that, they conform well to Palissy’s abhorrence of the unbalancing effect of confessional violence and “esmotions” on the conjunction of macrocosm and microcosm, and by extension, the spiritual work of the soul on the material art of the earth.
Recall that Palissy’s metaphor for this harmonic conjunction is the angelic chorus of the seven earth spirits singing psalms along the banks of the Charente. Recall, too, that Homo sanus is protected by the “fortress of health” (see fig. 10.7) and sings psalms that put him in harmony with God (the “temple of music,” a giant cosmological music machine, was one of Fludd’s greatest projects). Suffering man, on the other hand, with walls crumbling around his body and beset by “enemies invading the fortress of health” (see fig. 10.8), cannot connect harmonically with the divine voice. He hears only God’s admonition that “because thou hast not harkened unto my voice, I will afflict thee [Deut. 28:15–22]; ... I will dissolve thee ... so that thy enterprises are hindered and thy mouth stopped, that thou canst not speak [1 Macc. 9:55].” Fludd, a heretic and refugee in Catholic France, desired “peaceful” and “impartial” judgment from the strangers and religious antagonists who were his hosts:
I said the principle and origin of those dots made by the human hand was inward and very essential, since the movement emanated from the very soul. I added that errors of geo-mancy were by no means caused by the soul, but by a base and incongruous mutation of the human body moving against the intention of the soul. For that reason it was a general rule in this art that the soul must be in a peaceful condition, and a condition in which the body is obedient to the soul; also that there must be no perterbation of body or soul, nor any partiality concerning the question; that the soul must be a just and impartial judge.13
And, in the context of Fludd’s construction of his personal refugee history, his “plain” elucidation of the animate role of the mens and its astral function to perform secretly and fly unbounded and invisibly over great distances, takes on specific historical meanings. We are already familiar with these ideas in general from reading “De geomantia,” our encounter with Digby’s weapon’s salve, and John Winthrop Jr.’s physician’s chair:
[It follows] that the human body is to the soul as a servant is to his master. “The master can send his servant hither and thither with letters, whilst the servant is not in any way aware of his master’s plans. And an eminent painter may send to the king a fine picture through a servant wholly ignorant of the mixtures of the colours and of their symmetrical proportions. Likewise a king may impose taxes on his people through others, whilst the reason for his imposting them is known only to the king himself. In the same way, no doubt, can the body perform an action which the soul commands from its secret domain without the body’s perceiving in any way the principles of that action if not merely by its effects.”14
Having listened to this speech, the vice-legate, in earshot of “some bishops and deans,” secretly called Fludd aside to “a table nearby where he took quill and ink, drew a geomantic figure, and disoursed about it in a most learned way, so that I saw clearly he was far more learned and skilled than I in that science for which the Jesuits had denounced me to him [emphasis added]. So, when the meal was over, I went away enjoying his favor.”15
Fludd’s dialogue with the vice-legate of Avignon represents the alchemical dream of the universal soul to reform the emotions of confessional difference and the baneful effect of both political and geographical displacement into a unified vision throughout the Atlantic world through convergence of spirit and matter. This utopian vision was to be directed by “impartial,” “peaceful” adepts who were able to discern the divine motives in the relationship between material revelation and spiritual concealment. Fludd reflects on the humane political qualities and deep natural-philosophical skill of the vice-legate: “For I noticed he was a very ingenious prince, well versed in the sciences, friendly towards foreigners, and in no way given to tyranny.”16 By constructing an inversion of growing Bourbon absolutism—a monarchical system that depended on violence and the perpetuation of shape-shifting culture of appearances to maintain a superficial and unnatural monolithic order—Fludd creates a new prince of the natural world. The vice-legate of Avignon rules ingeniously over an harmonic order of friends and strangers alike, through the flexible “innovations” of practical experience gained by manual knowledge and insights into the “mixed composition” of mutable nature, rather than the tyranny of the received wisdom of kings written by inexperienced “artisans of glory,” to uphold the corrupt power of hereditary repetition.17
Having found favor with the papal governor through shared practice of the geomantic arts, it remains for Fludd to reconcile with the despised Jesuits. Again, this transpires through his interaction with another natural philosopher. “When these events had become known among the Jesuits,” Fludd recalled, “one of them, who was a praelector in philosophy, desired very much to confer with me . . . I called on the Jesuit and was gracefully received by him. After mention had been made of a number of philosophical subjects [that is to say, more code words were exchanged], he soon fell into [a discussion of] the geomantic science, believing perhaps that I might use facile arguments [read artificial rather than natural language] in my defence.”18
Here, Fludd builds a metaphysical dialogue between ostensibly competing Christians, that unifies basic elements of the portable, uncontained, Neoplatonic discourse of the weapon salve, his friend William Harvey’s dedication to Charles I in 1628, the physician’s chair joined and carved for Governor Winthrop the Younger, and Dr. Ezra Stiles’s late eighteenth-century transatlantic theory of the friendship of souls after death:
“Well then,” he said, “is it or is it not possible that somebody should be able to predict by the art of geomancy danger to a man, or death threatening him on a journey to Rome? Or is there a participation and communication between the soul of that man and your own, though either soul be contained within a human body?”
I replied to him briefly thus:
“Since the soul of every body is that especial light that has dominion over everything else in the body, even as the Sun is predominant among the other stars in the heavens, yea since the soul is the very Sun of the microcosm directing the whole body by her vivifying rays, there is no doubt that it throws forth its invisible rays invisibly through the pores of the body in the same manner as that celestial Sun transmits its rays, through the sieve of the elements to the inferior [world] ... so also without any doubt are rays emitted between the soul of one man and that of another [both] which [souls] are invisible lights. In their emission the rays are so joined together that either the soul of the seeker or the seeker19 himself be the one to whom danger is imminent, or else a friend of his; for the [soul] is very prophetical. Being immortal, it may know within itself things that are in the future and things present. Like a guardian foreseeing danger with which a body [in his charge] is threatened, it may explain the secret future of its body to another soul applying to it—a future which it had been unable to communicate to its body because of that body’s grossness. And in this way may a quiet and peaceful soul, which is in a fit condition for judging, and to which the movements of its body are well subjected, prognosticate the future to that other soul . . . [such a soul could] leave its body so as to find a place whence it could enter into communication, and converse, with the souls of. . . friends. And, without any doubt, the rays of the soul extend imperceptibly outside the body and far beyond the range of visible rays. They . . . may pass through elementary media without any hindrance, like an influence. This is so because their form is exalted and their origin sublime.”
... We may conclude, therefore, that this art [of geomancy] is a way of knowing that depends immediately on the soul; that its root is the soul itself; and that, therefore, it is a science more subtle than any other science man may comprehend in this corruptible world.20
To comprehend “a way of knowing that depends immediately on the soul”—metaphysical logic that supports the only real attempt Fludd ever made to construct a lucid explanation of the practice of geomancy—is to consider seriously the proposition that historians (and in particular, students of the pluralistic American middle colonies) understand Fludd’s occult treatises as a rational theory of early modern sociological practice. Was not Fludd’s a useful framework for gaining access to the ways in which cultural mixing and convergence were perceived and manipulated by both hosts and refugees relocated to multicultural centers of commerce throughout the seventeenth-century world?
Hogarth demonstrated how perceptual boundaries between urban subcultures defined the subtle mastery of space as an artifact of the experience of cultural memory, economic competition, scientific process, and social distance. Hogarth acquired his mastery of both theatrical and private space by initially engaging in a series of famously public disputes with authority. To provide his carefully constructed image of the exalted outsider’s philosophical legitimacy, Hogarth reactivated Fludd’s Paracelsian texts on geomancy and the art of memory to identify his self-image, personal history, art, and commercial success with historically innovative outsiders and outcasts: the talented Huguenot artisans and refugees who made a virtue of being forced to live and work in the shadows by implacable enemies. The arc of Palissy’s tumultuous early history of conflict with Catholic and Calvinist authority in Aunis-Saintonge, and his adaptation of Paracelsian cosmology and alchemic methods to his religious outlook and practical artisanry, intersects neatly with Hogarth’s personal history and construction of an outsider’s social self-identity. By the time Hogarth painted Noon in 1736, he shared with Palissy the eyes of the heretic and critical primitive. Hence, Hogarth mapped human dispersion, relocation, and convergence as part of a natural process of concealment and revelation of knowledge. The universal, hermaphroditic access of tiny things was shared, of course, with the snail, who generated armor inside-out to carry on his back snakes and lizards, or “the spider,” from Proverbs 30:28. All moved invisibly in or out of cracks above the subterranean spaces in Palissy’s ceramic grottoes. These were living things so utterly small, voiceless and apparently natural that they may enter surreptitiously and live “in kings’ palaces.”
Key to perceptual mastery and access to the overlooked, hidden in shadow behind the chaotic Babel of converging strangers, was the seeker’s “participation and communication between the soul of that man and your own, though either soul be contained within a human body.” I have argued that it is possible to understand such bodily participation and communication of hidden knowledge—coded in the available language of sanctified natural materials—as ways in which natural philosophers conceptualized potential for convergence as a process of tacit social interaction, often mediated primarily by material bodies and things rather than words in the pluralistic, commercialized, and largely artisanal contexts that emerged wherever Huguenot refugees settled in the early modern transatlantic world. The logic implicit in this social system was also central to the function of the alchemic tradition Fludd knew from his reading of Neoplatonism, Paracelsian medicine, and the scientific canon of the Huguenot corpus to which arguments on occult perception in “De geomantia” and Internal Principles were key contributions. This context supports constant dialogues based on analogies between metaphysical and material binary oppositions, including macrocosm and microcosm, spirit and matter, or even Catholic and Protestant. Such interaction was central to the pluralist, potentially chaotic language of the street: “participation and communication . . . himself be the one to whom danger is imminent, or else a friend of his . . . like a guardian forseeing danger with which a body is threatened.” All this makes perfect sense when juxtaposed against the Neoplatonic ideal of “a quiet and peaceful soul” that could “leave its body ... to find a place whence it could enter into communication, and converse, with the souls of . . . friends.”
Fludd’s theory of convergence detailed a complex synthesis of cultural, social, political, economic and material, as well as religious practice. Unlike the elder Winthrop’s perception of the extension of Christ’s monolithic body to New England in “Modell of Christian Charitie,” Fludd’s alchemist and geomancer perceives “participation” in the convergence of multiple social realities, where danger and dissonance, as well as love and unity are subjects of “communication.” The differences between these Protestant positions as responses to the dual status of outsider and refugee as a result of reversals in La Rochelle and the Thirty Years’ War also elucidate tensions in the development of the younger Winthrop as he silently distanced himself from his father’s policies and grew to embrace his role as a New World Paracelsian physician.
This distance was manifested over time by the son’s experiential peregrinations from Groton to Dublin to La Rochelle to the Levant to Massachusetts Bay to Essex County to Connecticut, and finally to the hinterlands in between New England and New York on the north shore of Long Island Sound, the Mediterranean of the New World. Land hunger and the quest to uncover the Northwest Passage and the philosopher’s stone—or, failing that, mineral wealth in the form of exploitable resources—drove the industrious Winthrop south toward the fertile Hudson and Delaware valleys. That quest included the desire to live on the threshold of New York Colony. The quietly tolerant, multilingual Winthrop, an avid collector of Fludd’s books, understood that alchemical mastery of the “mixed composition” of participation and communication was essential to mastery of space in the pluralistic middle colonies.
Fludd’s Internal Principles reminds us of the relationship between the younger Winthrop’s natural-philosophical and geographic orientations and his pursuit of the philosopher’s stone through the Long Island Sound-Northwest Passage-middle colonial nexus. Yet this relation is powerfully reinforced by resonances that link geomantic theories of the body and animate matter with core Quaker beliefs and practices. Fludd’s argument for the existence of an “especial light that has dominion over everything else in the body” was also, of course, the central metaphysical claim of seventeenth-century Quaker cosmology. What makes these linkages even more interesting however, is the widespread acceptance of some variation of the bodily light as a common language among a whole range of New World inheritors of the Germanic pietist tradition, including both the southwestern Huguenots and Quakers. Earlier we saw how the humiliating failure of the overt, bombastic style of south eastern Huguenot prophetic discourse forced many French Prophets in London to merge with quietism and some, ultimately, with Quakerism by the 1740s. I also showed how Palissy’s introduction of strategies of natural security—including artisanal discourse—to southwestern Huguenots to function as covert communication and a supplement (or sometimes an alternative) to overt speech and writing, paralleled later Quaker patterns that were developed during the English Civil War.
It must be said that Palissy began to teach mastery of the covert natural style in Saintonge much earlier; indeed, as early as the first French civil wars of religion of the 1560s. Such cross cultural parallels are not coincidental. They lay in the common origin of both Quakerism and the Saintongeais heresy in religious civil warfare and the rustic tradition of Germanic pietism. The potter credited immigrant monastic craftsmen—presumably Lutheran or possibly even Anabaptist refugees from the Germanic regions of central Europe—with initial conversion of French settlements in the isolated marais region of coastal Saintonge during the early sixteenth century. He also showed how the Saintongeais Reformation remained predominantly in the hands of lay preachers from artisanal backgrounds because trained ministers were vulnerable and on the run. Moreover, the Paracelsian movement made rapid progress among dispersed artisans in Saintonge because it was a lay religious as well as a materialist Reformed movement, and because Paracelsus had personal, regional, and intellectual links to Germanic Reformed culture.
The historical significance of Quaker influence on Long Island lies in liminal strategies necessitated by the transatlantic sect’s position among neighboring groups. These strategic patterns should be understood in geographical and theological as well as cultural terms. Quakers settled throughout western and west central Long Island, close enough to Manhattan Island for purposes of commerce, yet still maintaining the social distance required by both the wary Dutch colonial government and the Quakers’ need to acquire arable land to ensure privacy, independence, and expansion. This heterodox territory was a geographical bridge in between the majority northern European “west end” (the western towns in Queens and Kings Counties) and the predominantly Calvinist East Anglian “east end,” with ties to the New Haven Colony (from eastern Queens County through Suffolk County to Montauk Point). The east end was settled by New Englanders from coastal Connecticut, Lynn, Massachusetts, and Plymouth Colony, who migrated south across “permeable” Long Island Sound, beginning in the 1640s. In a very real sense, the Quakers of New Amsterdam and New York had a foot in each camp.
During the period of Dutch Calvinist religious and political authority that lasted until the capitulation of the fortress at New Amsterdam to English forces in 1664, Quaker farmers and craftsmen established new towns in Jericho, Jerusalem, Newtown, and Jamaica. They also attracted followers in the culturally mixed “Dutch” port town of Flushing. Flushing was called “Vlissengen” or “Vlishing” in the seventeenth century. Its Old World namesake had strong commercial and cultural ties to coastal England, Belgium, and France, as it was located on the Wester Schelde trade routes on the far southwestern coast of the Netherlands, directly across the Dover Strait from London and just north of Antwerp and Le Havre (and hence the Seine River Valley). In eastern Queens, Quakers families intermarried and influenced the diverse “English” towns of Oyster Bay and Hempstead. These prosperous towns straddled the fertile Hampstead Plains where they bisected the border with the more homogeneous “Puritan” settlers of Suffolk County.
The largest, wealthiest, most influential, and from Peter Stuyvesant’s authoritarian perspective, most threatening Quaker enclave, was in the town of Flushing. This was also the home of several family dynasties of Quaker craftsmen, more than any other place in the middle colonies with the exception of Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania. Marriage records and letters of recommendation of good character for new members of the Flushing Meeting show that it was common for Philadelphia and Flushing Quaker artisan families to intermarry. This had the effect of sending craftsmen and their wives back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania throughout the year. The same may be said for land transactions. Quaker merchants from Flushing maintained valuable property holdings in Philadelphia and Chester County. In a late seventeenth-century notation written in his account book, John Bowne, the dominant Flushing Quaker leader, recorded the sale of “my lott in ffiladelfa w[i]th all my lands [in] Chester County in penselvanie,” to his brother Samuel for £50.21
FIGURE 16.1. Friends meetinghouse, Flushing, Long Island, south elevation. Photo, Pasquali Cuomo. The meetinghouse was originally built in 1694, with many later additions. Among the major exterior alterations are the hipped roof and the porch. The eastern, or oldest, end is shadowed by the tree. The Quaker burial ground is no longer in use. Stone markers came into fashion after 1835. Permanent markers for Quaker graves do not appear to have been used in the seventeenth-century cemetery.
In 1694, as a sign of the sect’s growing population on Long Island and the place of Queens County at the center of its regional influence, the first Friends’ meetinghouse in New York Colony was built in Flushing. Its latest incarnation still fronts Northern Boulevard (fig. 16.1). In 1696, the first Yearly Meeting in New York was held there. Conventicles gathered in John Bowne’s house (ca. 1661, also still extant) before the meetinghouse was constructed. The use of private homes for secret meetings followed usual Quaker (and sectarian) practice from the English Civil War.
The original contract between the Flushing Yearly Meeting and the house carpenters John Feke and Samuel Andrews (both members of the meeting) is a rare document. It recorded the specific building practices for “strong and Sufficient” ecclesiastical architecture in the plain style acceptable to New York’s Quakers under English rule during the late seventeenth century. It denoted nomenclature for framing and fenestration of the meetinghouse, as well as costs, including diverse modes of payment to the artisans:
it is by ffriends agreed that Samm[uel] Andrews &John ffeakes shall make & sett a strong and Sufficient frame every waye [suitable] and Answerable for the End & use affore s[ai]d [and] they are to have the summe of fifteene p[ounds] which Summ is to bee p[ai]d: in wheate at 4s:6d, pease at 3s:6d, Indian [corn] at 2s:6d, porke at 4s [per pound.] [T]o all w[hi]ch: ye: d[ai]d John ffeakes & Sammuell [Andrews] are Contented with and promise they s[hall endeavor] to have it upp for the further fi[nishing by] ye: 30th daye of the first month:  93: It is further agreed that for ye s[ai]d [sum Samuel] and John shall make: 8: windows [2 on] one side the house, & 2 on the other side &: 2: [in the] ends belowe all made fitte for glasse, together [with] window shutts [that is, “shutters”] & 2 windowes in the Gable ends [with] Shutts likewise they are to make 2 Doors One in one side of itt & the other in ye o[ther side]. Itt is to bee understood both these doors a[re pro]per duble doores with 2: dorment windowes & for makeing all these they [are] to have 5 [pounds]: mor[e which] makes ye: Sum 20 [pounds].22
The building was expanded when a new meetinghouse was built near the old one in 1716 to accommodate women excluded after services from the 1694 structure, because the men took over the space to conduct the business of the meeting. This would enable them to join the men in these discussions—something that was becoming more prevalent in these years—rather than retiring to the Bowne house, as had been the practice for the first twenty-three years of the building’s existence.
Although the Flushing meetinghouse is among the few survivals close to the city of New York of regional architecture still visible above ground, it has been much altered both inside and out. So the contract provides an irreplaceable record of what the 1694 building looked like. The contract describes a fairly modest framed and clapboarded structure. The simple frame had gables at each end, but it was distinguished by the number (eight) and symmetry (two on each side) of its fenestration, which provided much light. It is tempting to link this plan of a plain, well-lit religious space to Quaker natural philosophy. There is however, no proof that extensive fenestration such as this was unique to Quakerism, or New York. Perhaps it indicated nothing more than affluence, as glass was imported and expensive. Still, this practice included the double doors on each side, which were to have frames for two dormer (“dorment”) windows set into the top.
Alterations of the original structure began as early as 1704, when the building was shingled, plastered, and “further repaired.” During most of the eighteenth century, John Farrington and various successors were paid £2 annually to maintain fires in a large medieval hearth in the center of the meeting room. In 1760, this opening was covered up and the meetinghouse heated by an efficient Franklin stove. In 1763, the building underwent its most dramatic (and disfiguring) renovation campaign. Unfortunately for historians of seventeenth-century artisanal practices, the original gallery overhead was removed and a new floor laid, making the building two stories. At the same time, the chamber was divided in two, and one of the rooms was devoted to a Quaker school. In 1776, the building was occupied by British soldiers, who found it useful as a prison, and then a barracks, field hospital, and storehouse. As a result, the New York Yearly Meeting was forced to move from Flushing to Westbury. The meetinghouse sustained enormous damage during the Revolution, when soldiers used every available piece of removable construction material as firewood. In 1783, the building underwent its final major renovation campaign before modern times, as it was rebuilt again after the war. By then little was left of the original Quaker joinery. In 1794, Flushing’s dominance finally ebbed, and the Yearly Meeting was moved to New York City.23
The builders of the original meetinghouse, Samuel Andrews and John Feke, were artisans with English backgrounds. And its framed exterior was designed as a modification of vernacular styles common to the late seventeenth-century British regional tradition. In the 1690s, New York City’s and western Long Island’s vernacular woodworking traditions were undergoing a period of intense change under the influence of anglicization as elite patrons began to support “Georgian” architecture and other building practices disseminated in international design books. The meetinghouse plan, with its plain, slightly old-fashioned “English” exterior, probably showed clear symmetry in the placement of windows and doors. This was a local colonial gesture toward the conservative adaptation of the new metropolitan style, a move that made sense in both religious and secular terms.
John Feke, a house carpenter, was the father or uncle of the accomplished portrait painter of aspiring colonial elites Robert Feke (1707?-52) of Oyster Bay, Long Island and later Newport, Rhode Island. In 1742, Robert married Eleanor Cozzens, thus tying two Quaker artisan families together across the Sound. John Feke was related by marriage to John Bowne, being a direct descendant of Elizabeth Feke Underhill, Bowne’s influential sister-in-law.24 The Feke (Feake, Feeke) family had its origins in Norfolk, but like many farm families from the English countryside, some members with artisanal skills migrated to London looking for work and then moved on to the colonies in the seventeenth century.25
John Feke’s name first appears next to “Housecarpenter” in John Bowne’s damaged and nearly illegible account book in 1666, when Bowne contracted his “brother” Feke to build a Norfolk-style thatched barn:
on the 12 day of the month was agreed betwixt us John Bowne and John ffeake namely that I John ffeake doe undertake to beuld for my brother John Bowne a good strong suffishant barne of 40 fout long [and] 20 fout wide and 9 foot [high?] from the [ ] of the ground to the top of the [ ] all the maine postes to be [ ] full twelfe inches [square] with all the rest of the timber [answerable] a lentwo [lean to] to one side anserable to [torn] to be nine foute wide within and [torn] sides and ends and the lentwo [ ] [ ] the [ ] and tolath all the rest of the roufe fit for thatching and to make all the dores both aloft and [a loe/ that is, “below”] and fit them all to make fast and to lay a good [ ] flouer and all the worke that belongs to this building I am to doe finding my owne [timber?] onely my brother [that is, John Bowne] is to cart the timber and [gett] the clabord boult [bolts] and to cleve out [that is, to rive from the bolts] the planks for the flore and to provide help to rayse the house timber [rest torn away, except] ... of the first mont 1665/6.26
Feke would not have done the thatching, a highly specialized task. The thatcher may have been John Shafton. Shafton was credited by Bowne in 1696, “for thathing the stable,” at a cost of £1.12s.27
John Feke was also the house carpenter Bowne hired when he expanded his original 1661 house to half its present size (fig. 16.2); the addition was to be complete by November 1680. Since Feke was a house carpenter, he was responsible for framing the exterior timbers (or skeleton) of the building, and he was to be assisted by John Clay, a carpenter who added openings to Feke’s frame for the doors, windows, and chimneys. Clay was also to prepare a lath foundation between the great timbers for subsequent carpenters and joiners to add the skin of sheathing, clapboards, and shingles necessary to finish the job and roof the building. Clay, like Feke, was a member of the Flushing Meeting. Bowne had to find a replacement when John Clay died of an unknown malady in February 1680, soon before work began on the addition. His replacement is also unknown. Bowne took charge of Clay’s final days and kept “an account of charges for John Clay In his sicknes and at funerall,” a not insubstantial total of £2.9.1½. This suggests he may have been considered part of Bowne’s household, perhaps an indentured servant, speculation supported by the fact that Bowne bought Clay a pair of shoes in 1680. Clay was constantly at work around the Bowne house and farm until his death, almost always acting as an assistant on major construction jobs.28 Unlike in the case of the barn Feke had built fifteen years earlier, the contract for the new addition to Bowne’s house specified that Bowne was to be responsible for providing Feke with the framing timbers “[al]redy hughed.” Such heavy materials were cumbersome to transport to the building site from the woods and required the labor of at least two men to dress down (or “hew”) the fallen trees. Hence, the timber was made ready for Feke to finish, cut out, and saw the mortise and tenon joints for the frame. Suitable lumber—oak and hard pine (Pinus taeda) common in Long Island architecture—was available locally in Kings and Queens Counties, but it was shipped to New York City by boat from as far away as Staten Island and northern New Jersey. On September 9, 1732, for example, an Irish shipwright named John Blake, then living in the city’s Dockward, was sued for trespass by Edward Stoughton, a sawyer who supplied Blake with wood. Stoughton sued for £13.8.3 “owed to Edward for carrying and transporting plank wood timber trees sticks and other merchandize from New Jersey to New York,” as well as £19 in damages.29 Hewn framing timber was thus a major expense, because it represented value added to the already substantial cost of rough sawn wood and transport:
FIGURE 16.2. The John Bowne House, Flushing, Long Island. Courtesy Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress. Bowne’s original house, built in 1661, is now encased in the east wing. The Georgian wing was added at the west end by his son Samuel (1667–1745), beginning in the early eighteenth century, and expanded by the family in the 1830s.
Agreement made with brother John ffeke ye 31th: of ye 11th: month 1680: at foloweth heeis to frame ye house I intend to build I providing ye: timber redy hughed [hewed] or sawne hee it to smooth frame and set by Joyning it Suffishantly to the house allredy built. John Clay to worke with him hee [Feke] in Structing J[ohn] C[lay] what hee cann in ye doing of it, [finishing] all framing both for doors windows and chimnis leveing it fit for clabording and Shingling and [Cobbing?] as it shall require for which I am to pay him six pounds t[h]ree in winter wheat and three in [different] good young sheepe at twelfe shillings a peece at the beginning of winter [that is, with a full coat of marketable wool].30
The last appearance Feke makes in Bowne’s accounts before our final encounter with him when he framed the meetinghouse in 1693, took place in June 1684. At that time, Feke presented Bowne with a scrap of paper showing the “rest dew upon balance of acounts,” for finishing the interior of the new addition. Feke did “six days worke to-warde the laying of the hous flour,” for which he was paid 18 shillings; and an additional “5 days worke about stayrs [that is, building the staircase] and other worke” (15 shillings). After finishing inside the house, Feke also charged Bowne 3 shillings for mending a spade and 5s. 6d. for “mending a Sadle a panill and making lath [bords].”31 These entries reveal that in addition to framing houses, Feke was able to supplement his income through joinery (the staircase, mending a panel) as well as other interior finishing work (laying the floors). His record of repair work increased his value to farmers as a jack-of-all-trades specializing in maintenance. The Bowne accounts reveal that Feke commanded 3 shillings a day, a realistic benchmark for skilled artisans in both Flushing and New York City on the eve of the Revocation. When compared with the difficulty French refugees had in gaining a competency in highly competitive European labor markets flooded with refugee labor, including Amsterdam and London, the wages commanded by Feke must have provided a compelling reason for Huguenot woodworkers to come to New York in 1685.
The record is much less forthcoming about Samuel Andrews (Andrew, Andros) than about the house carpenter John Feke. Samuel Andrews was the grandson of an Englishman of uncertain regional origin named Edward Andrews. After a sojourn in Barbados, Edward migrated to Flushing in 1663, to join the Quaker meeting. Bowne knew Edward personally, and his background, through correspondence with Friends in Barbados or Long Island, where newcomers were usually well known by one or more families in the meeting. This was true in Edward’s case. He came to settle in Flushing and join the meeting, to marry Mary Wright of Oyster Bay. He did so immediately, in a Quaker ceremony.
Although Oyster Bay was originally settled in the 1630s, the largest migration of New England sectarians joined the town in 1653. Oyster Bay’s New England connections ran deep, which helps in part to explain its opposition to Stuyvesant’s regime in New Amsterdam.32 Connections included the intriguing presence, as witnesses at the ceremony, of Captain John Underhill and his wife Elizabeth Feke (John Bowne’s sister-in-law), alongside many members of the Wright family.33 Of the subversive Underhill and his activities as an agent provocateur on Long Island in the employ of his patron John Winthrop Jr., more will be said later. Suffice it to say here, that the Underhills’ presence as witnesses establishes an early and close connection between the Andrews, Feke, and Bowne families. This suggests that in addition to his famously genocidal mercenary activities against local Amerindian settlements for New England’s land-hungry magistrates and the equally grasping Dutch West India Company, Underhill was, at minimum, a Quaker sympathizer by marriage and ritual and arguably a member of the Society of Friends.
In any case, even if he was not one himself, Underhill took great risks for the Friends. At the height of the prohibition of Quaker conventicles on Long Island, Underhill held secret meetings in his house at Oyster Bay.34 Indeed, by 1663, Underhill had broken with Stuyvesant—a military and political patron—and was now associated with Winthrop (his oldest ally from New England), as well as with John Bowne and his Flushing Quakers. All were the director general’s mortal political and religious enemies. From the start, Roger Williams’s letter to Winthrop of 1660 praising “your prudent and moderate hand in the late Quaker trials amongst us” reflected equal parts Winthrop’s soulishness and his growing interests on western Long Island.35
Soon after Edward’s marriage, a son named Samuel Andrews was born in Flushing. The exact date of birth of his son, who became the meetinghouse carpenter in 1693–94, is not certain. In 1683, the footloose Samuel Andrews Sr. moved his family to New Jersey and then to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where he died a year later. His son, Samuel Andrews Jr., may have stayed behind in Flushing when his father began his travels in 1683. It is possible that he returned home after his father’s death, or he may have remained apprenticed. John Feke was once his master, so perhaps he was then a journeyman. In any event, Samuel Andrews Jr. was in Flushing by 1693, where he worked with John Feke—a member of a family of Quaker artisans with whom he was allied by marriage—to build the meetinghouse.36
Germanicus Andrews—presumably named after the Roman general Germanicus Caesar—was the son either of Samuel Andrews Jr. or another Long Island Andrews of that generation. When he was made a freeman of New York City, on October 12, 1713–14, Germanicus was listed as an “upholsterer,”37 an identification perhaps even more unusual than his classical name. Upholstery was a highly specialized craft, at the apex of the furniture trade—a long way up from house carpentry. Such upward artisanal mobility, assuming that Germanicus was indeed of Samuel Andrews Jr.’s son, would suggest that much more was going on behind the scenes in Flushing and New York than is easily coaxed from the archives.
We have already seen how upholsterers—Huguenot refugees, in particular—operated as quintessential urban artisans in Britain and colonial America. The year 1707 was most likely the first of the young Quaker’s apprenticeship. To find an upholsterer’s shop and a master, and then test the limited market for his skills in 1714, Germanicus had to abandon Long Island for Boston or New York. Germanicus moved to the city with the intention of upholstering leather chairs made locally by Saintongeais Huguenots in lucrative competition with Boston chair makers. His intention is very easy to know, because from 1707 to 1714, precisely, the leather-chair industry was thriving. It was the only upholstery work available, or known to be sufficiently productive, to draw these specialized artisans to the New York market. Germanicus Andrews thus belonged to a very select group of colonial producers of luxury goods. In the best of times, a relatively limited demand existed, and there was only enough work in town throughout the year to maintain an average of about two such specialists. Between 1701 (when Anthony Chiswell appeared in town) and 1738 (when John Schultz was named a freeman), only seven artisans (including Andrews) were called upholsterers in New York, eight if we include Jean Suire, who was called a joiner but also did upholstery work. Unfortunately, only this terse record of his occupation survives to show any sign of Germanicus Andrews’s progress toward achieving his ambitious goal. The young man died prematurely in 1718, four years after becoming a freeman.38
Sudden death and disappearance plagued this highly skilled group in New York. Of the seven upholsterers who followed the trade in New York during the early eighteenth century, only two Huguenots, Benjamin Faneuil and Richard Lott, managed to survive and maintain themselves. Both families originated in southwestern France. Survival came through a skillful and secretive process of adaptation and innovation, and above all, the war-tested strength of a successful, migrating, regional refugee craft network. The fact of their survival in New York’s limited market likely assured the disappearance (Wenman, Schultz) or diversification out of the trade (Wileman), of those competitors who did not die prematurely (Chiswell, Suire, Andrews).39
Still, given his known family and religious contacts, it is useful to speculate as to who Germanicus Andrews’s master in upholstery was, and what sort of reception he received in 1714 from New York’s existing luxury craft networks. Relationships between Flushing’s artisans and the refugee craftsmen belonging to the southwestern Huguenot community in Manhattan were key. Consider the question of Andrews’s apprenticeship. As a Quaker, he would not have been welcome in Boston to train with the Congregationalist upholsterer Thomas Fitch, owing to the long history of religious violence between the two confessions.
French Calvinists were acceptable in Boston on religious grounds, given the right circumstances. In May 1730, the mother of James Renaudet, a refugee from Saintonge who had settled in New York, wrote Fitch in Boston to inquire if he would take her son on as an apprentice. Fitch replied quickly:
relating to my taking your Son an Apprentice, I’m much oblig’d to you for your good & charitable opinion therein expressed [and] . . . your . . . desires would be a considerable inducement if it were consistent with my present circumstances. But . . . having my Son with me and an apprentice that has several years to Serve It will neither consist with my convenience nor the Service or advantage of a youth for me now to take another ... I must defer to taking another to some considerable time hence.40
Of the master upholsterers available to train Andrews in New York in 1707, only Wileman, Faneuil, and Lott are known to be possibilities. But if Wileman intended to maintain his upwardly mobile status at Trinity, it seems doubtful that he would have risked incurring the disapproval of the anti-sectarian Church of England by taking on a Quaker apprentice with family connections in Flushing, with its long history of turbulent relations with the established churches in Manhattan. That leaves only the two Huguenots as possible masters for Germanicus Andrews.
It would have made economic sense, too, for either Faneuil or Lott to have taken on a new apprentice in 1707 to help manufacture leather chairs, production of which was expanding rapidly in New York by 1708–9. As we have seen, these Huguenot upholstery shops, and the chair makers in their craft network who built frames in imitation of the Boston style, captured the market from Thomas Fitch and other experienced competitors in New England. When consumer demand was high, production time was short. If Faneuil or Lott failed to supply an order, Fitch would fill the need. Thus, in New York City in 1707, leather-chair making became a competitive and very time-conscious enterprise, and an extra pair of hands would have been welcomed. Yet market forces alone cannot explain why Andrews himself was selected by one of these Huguenot upholsterers. Nor can the market tell us what sort of artisan’s world Germanicus prepared to enter in 1714, when he finally went out on his own after the traditional seven-year training period. Consider that the negotiation of the young Quaker apprentice’s selection by Faneuil or Lott transpired as part of a process of occupational and religious diffusion and convergence of economically, spiritually, familially, and ethnically related craft networks, made up primarily of Quaker and Huguenot artisans, and that Andrews’s entrance into this world was already well prepared before he gained his majority as a freeman.41
Clues to this process of French-Quaker artisanal convergence originate in 1663, with the marriage of Edward Andrews and Mary Wright, which reflected many religious, economic, and craft alliances. Such alliances were not simply between the two principals. In practice, they also spun webs that involved the Feke, Bowne, and Underhill families, as well as corollary relations and, if need be, patrons (such as Winthrop) and clients. Dutch-period Quaker alliances, although over a generation old by then, were still very much in place in 1693, when John Bowne selected Samuel Andrews and John Feke to build the Flushing meetinghouse together. And they were also there in 1707, when the decision was taken to apprentice Germanicus Andrews to one of the two available Huguenot upholsterers. Andrews’s seventeenth-century network of Oyster Bay and Flushing Quaker craftsmen and related families thus expanded into the lucrative urban market for polite luxury goods in the early eighteenth century. The strategic logic of this expansion to Manhattan, which had restricted open Quaker practice to Long Island since Stuyvesant’s time, was to join allied Huguenot-Quaker families in an effort to maintain control of limited skilled labor for production in the trade. Because only two upholstery shops could operate profitably at the same time in New York in the early eighteenth century, control of labor effectively controlled domestic design and production in the local market.
How was the way made for these Quaker families to carry their artisanal skills to New York City from the Manhattan side of the East River during the latter part of the Dutch period? The pattern was established in the personal history of another first-generation Huguenot refugee who sojourned briefly in Holland before settling in New Netherlands: Nicolas de La Plaine (1593–1697). Many skilled descendants of Huguenots became both Quakers and successful woodworkers in New York City, forming a cosmopolitan Huguenot / Long Island Quaker artisanal network, which centered primarily on the Delaplaine family.
Nicolas de La Plaine was born in the Seigneurie de la Grand Plaine, near Bressuire, just north of La Rochelle in Poitou. He migrated indirectly to the American colonies from “Bersweer in Vranckryck,” a way station for war refugees in the Netherlands. On April 14, 1657, Nicolas was living in New Amsterdam, where he was granted the Small Burgher’s Right, and identified as a “tobacco twister” by trade. On September 1, 1658, the sixty-five-year-old tradesman married Susanna Cresson in New Amsterdam’s Dutch Reformed Church. Exactly like her husband, Cresson had followed a typical pattern for pre-1664 Huguenots; she fled initially to Ryswyk, in Holland, before emigration to New Amsterdam. Cresson’s marriage to Nicolas merged substantial assets—clearly a major inducement for the much younger Cresson—inasmuch as Susanna brought a marriage portion of 200 guilders from her father Pierre. When the long-lived Nicolas died in 1697, he was worth an estimated £3,000.42
The origin of the Delaplaine family’s conversion to Quakerism is unclear. “Nicolaes d’la Plyne” was declared a freeman of New Amsterdam on April 13, 1657, the year of the first major influx and persecution of Quakers in Manhattan Island and Long Island.43 The Quaker “Remonstrance of the Inhabitants of the Town of Flushing to Governor Stuyvesant,” which was written to protest Stuyvesant’s very public persecution of sectarian groups in New Netherlands, appeared later that year (on December 27). It is not known whether Nicolas’s arrival in the colony was timed to coincide with that of the Quakers. We do know that he was married to Susanna Cresson in the Dutch Reformed Church of New Amsterdam in 1658, but this public display of loyalty to the only official confession in the colony may have been the price of doing business in Manhattan, rather than having to remove to the Quaker strongholds at Long Island’s west end.
This hypothesis is supported by evidence that Nicolas was also present at the standard Quaker rituals that marked rites of passage for his children. In the “6th mo., 12, 1686,” for example, when his daughter Elizabeth married Caspar Huet, a New York tailor, in a Quaker ceremony “at the house of Thomas Lloyd, New York,” Nicolas and his wife attended as first witnesses.44 Nicolas may, therefore, have been a Quaker from the start of his residence in the colony, or he may have converted later. That he married twice more during his long lifetime (to Mary “Delaplaine” and Rachel Cresson) may have influenced a later conversion. In any event, by at least 1686 (and probably as early as 1657), the French refugee Nicolas de la Plaine had strong family, religious, and occupational ties to the two important Quaker towns of Flushing and Oyster Bay on western Long Island. If he was converted by the late 1650s, as one suspects, Nicolas would surely have known John Bowne and Edward Andrews of Flushing. He may also have heard George Fox preach at Bowne’s house in 1672—early Quakers were also known as Foxians—and have been fully converted then. If one is certain of de la Plaine’s Quakerism after 1686, then he should have known the house carpenter Samuel Andrews, who built the Friends’ meetinghouse along with John Feke.
The Cresson family that intermarried with the Delaplaines were Walloons, a family that migrated to New Netherlands “from Walslant,” after finding refuge near Mannheim in the German Palatinate. The original name was shortened to two syllables from “Crucheron” (also Crocheron, Crosseron, or Cresseron) to facilitate pronunciation, or perhaps to sound like a typical southwestern French name. The Cresson family were among the first settlers of Staten Island, where the 1706 census shows that more than one-fifth (22 percent) of the 865 inhabitants were either Frenchspeaking Waldenses from the Palatinate—a group with a long history of spiritual enthusiasm—or French Huguenot refugees from La Rochelle or Saintonge.45 French refugees went to Staten Island because of the availability of large tracts of land for flax plantations near navigable waterways. They added value to the flax using their skill in textile manufacture to make linen, an enterprise that found many followers on Long Island as well. Virtually every Huguenot with property on Staten Island grew flax and possessed hatchels and spinning wheels. Many had slaves in their possession and as a result of slave labor, some had large textile operations.46
In the 1650s, a group of Waldenses broke off from the Staten Island contingent and moved north into the Hudson Valley in search of land. Members of this secondary migration were granted lots in the Esopus Creek district in 1653. In 1662, Stuyvesant established an independent fortified town for them on Esopus Creek that he called Wiltwyck (renamed Kingston by the English in 1669).47 Competition for the desirable land along the waterway brought the French refugees into direct conflict with the Esopus Indians, resulting in brutal warfare in 1659 and again in 1663. The settlement expanded first to New Village, later called Hurley,48 and then, in 1677, to New Paltz (“le nouveau palatinat”), fifteen miles south of Kingston by boat on the Wallkill River, which was in due course granted a patent by the English. This was the most homogeneous Huguenot refugee community in New York outside of New Rochelle.
Most settlers at New Rochelle had strong family links with refugees from Aunis-Saintonge who worked in New York City; however, in addition to their close linguistic, religious, and occupational ties to Huguenot families in New York and Staten Island, the settlers of New Paltz also had noteworthy Germanic connections, many having originally fled from Saintonge to the Palatinate. Each town’s New World name thus reveals something of the effect migration patterns had on transatlantic Huguenot cultural allegiance.49
More revealing, perhaps, is the stylistic relationship between a distinctive group of artifacts long attributed to New York City—specifically to the Delaplaine Huguenot-Quaker craft network—and furniture produced by French craftsmen in the region of human geography that centered on the three main Esopus Creek settlements adjacent to the Hudson River.50 This relationship owes much to the rapid diffusion of the land-hungry craft network, brought to light by the marriage of Nicolas de La Plaine to Susanna Cresson in 1658.
A distinctive group of oval tables ca. 1685–1730 share a variant of the same theatrically turned baroque legs with stacked elements and falling leaves that are supported by heavy lopers (or “draw bars”) drawn from under the table’s frame (figs. 16.3, 16.4a, 16.4b). These tables all have strong histories of ownership in Kingston, Hurley, or New Paltz, where they were made. They also share clear stylistic affinities with another group of tables made in New York City (fig. 16.5). The falling leaves of the New York City group differ only in that they are supported by “gates” (legs that swing from underneath), the usual method commonly found in British woodwork, a concession to the city’s anglophile elites. But the theatrically stacked, vessel-shaped turnings, like those on the New York leather chairs, were unmistakably drawn from similar sources in the coastal region of southwestern France.
FIGURE 16.3. Oval table with falling leaves, or “draw-bar table,” area of Kingston, New York, ca. 1740. H: 28½″, W: 60⅜″, D: 50″. Red gum, pine and oak. Courtesy Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz, New York. Photo, Gavin Ashworth.
Look closely at similarities in the stacked structure and rotund articulation of the banister turnings on four related late seventeenth-century staircases that survive on Saint-Martin-de-Ré—also a source for New York leather chairs—and compare them with the turnings on tables from both the Esopus Creek region and New York City.51 Of the four staircases, the one at the arsenal of the Citadel at Saint-Martin is the best documented and preserved (fig. 16.6). The arsenal was refurbished by Vauban between 1681 and 1685, so it was used in its unrefurbished state by Jean de Toiras when he defended the island against Buckingham in 1627. Still, the resemblance between the banister turnings and the New York tables from roughly the same period is striking. Consider, especially, the tripartite, vertical structure; the identical shape and breadth of the baluster with its compressed ball underneath; the use of the same large flat disc beneath the baluster and a double ring as primary elements of separation; and, though the position is reversed, the idiosyncratic truncated column at the bottom of the post. The distinctive use of lopers (or “draw bars”) in Esopus, has convincing antecedents in the French Renaissance. A “table à rallonges coulissantes” (“table with sliding leaves”) made in Paris in the late sixteenth century employed precisely the same peculiar loper system drawn from a stack of parallel tracks hidden underneath the frame (fig. 16.7), as do the Esopus tables, though on the latter they are drawn from the sides.52
Nicolas de La Plaine’s son Joshua Delaplaine made tables exactly like the one in figure 16.5, since these were among the most stylish and expensive furniture forms made in New York City during the early eighteenth century. At that time, Joshua Delaplaine was among several Huguenots who crafted hybrid Anglo-French furniture using the finest workmanship then available in the colonies. Thus Delaplaine’s approximated the best work done in London, where stylish furniture was made under the direction of refugee artisans. The high quality of workmanship and the fact that many of these tables were made of exotic imported materials, including mahogany from Latin America, meant they were purchased by the city’s elite and used in complex rituals of politeness and table talk that centered around exorbitant displays of eating or drinking.
FIGURE 16.4. (a) Detail of draw bar slide mechanism underneath the top of the table shown in figure 16.3; (b) loper, or “draw bar,” from a similar table from the same or a related shop. Courtesy Chipstone Foundation, Fox Point, Wisconsin. Photo, Gavin Ashworth.
FIGURE 16.5. Van Cortlandt family table, New York City, ca. 1700. H: 30⅛″, W: 72¼″, D: 58″. Mahogany, cherry, and yellow poplar. Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, New York. Photo, Gavin Ashworth. Like the leather armchair shown in figure 15.22, this table probably belonged to Philip Van Cortlandt (1638–1748), and it was used in the family manor house in Tarrytown.
The most opulent survival of this form is a gigantic (h. 29½″; top 71″×78½″) mahogany table, so big that four gates were needed (two on each side) to support the oversized leaves. The need for a stagelike platform of such extraordinary size, at a time when dining tables were usually small and light for portability, is explained by the fact that the table was owned by Sir William Johnson (1715–74), New York Colony’s influential commissioner of Indian affairs (fig. 16.8), who presided over this territory , from the portico of a well-equipped Georgian country estate in the wilds of the Mohawk Valley during the long period of imperial warfare. Imagine the financial and political resources the ennobled Johnson required to stock such a grandiose stage with consumables. These included the appropriate accoutrements for dining, slaves (African and Indian) to serve or move things around (including the unusually heavy table), and a set of at least eighteen fashionable leather chairs to surround the table’s vast circumference. Finally, Johnson required the power and prestige to command the presence of a sufficient number of clients worthy to fill them on a consistent basis.
FIGURE 16.6. Staircase in the Arsenal of the citadel at Saint-Martin de Ré, Ile de Ré, 1681–85. From Inventaire général des monuments et des richesses artistiques de la France, Commission régionale de Poitou-Charentes, Charente-Maritime, Cantons Ile de Ré (Paris: Ministère de la culture, Direction du patrimoine, 1979). A typical stacked baluster from the southwest coast of France made during the Revocation era, shows one of the many turning variations available to Huguenot refugee craftsmen that relate to early New York tables.
FIGURE 16.7. Engraving of the mechanism from a Parisian “table with sliding leaves,” ca. 1580–1600. Compare with figs. 16.4 (a) and (b). From Guillaume Janneau, Pour discerner les styles dans le mobilier—Les Arts decoratifs: Les Meubles de l’art antique au style Louis XIV (Paris: Librairie d’Art R. Ducher, 1929), 31, figs. 29–31.
FIGURE 16.8. Unidentified New York cabinetmaker. Dining table. H: 29½″, W: 78½″, D: 71″. Mahogany, sweet gum, yellow poplar, and eastern white pine. Courtesy Albany Institute of History & Art. Gift of the heirs of Major-General John Tayler Cooper. Photo, Gavin Ashworth. This imposing table—a sea of exotic mahogany—is the largest of its form to survive from early New York.
The British Quaker upholsterer Germanicus Andrews may not yet have been born when Nicolas de la Plaine finally died in 1697 at the age of 104. Nicolas was famously old in a city where Huguenot craftsmen mostly died young. Germanicus’s connection to the city’s French Quakers came through the large artisanal network associated with Nicolas’s son Joshua Delaplaine (working 1707, d. ca. 1771), and Edward Burling, Delaplaine’s master. Joshua was a productive joiner of luxury furniture in exotic woods, first recorded in New York in 1707, when he witnessed the will of another New York Quaker, a shopkeeper named William Bickley.53 Bickley is mentioned in passing in the journal of Thomas Story (1662–1742), an itinerant Quaker preacher from Cumberland in England who found truth in 1689 and eventually traveled to meetings throughout the Atlantic world spreading the gospel. Much of Story’s time was devoted to preaching in fertile territory in Flushing, as well as to the somewhat more resistant listeners in New York City. Yet he seems to have traveled the colonies ceaselessly on horseback between 1699 and 1705. Still, the Long Island Sound region became his main focal point north of Pennsylvania.
Story encountered William Bickley’s son in 1702 on his way to a Meeting in Stratford, Connecticut. “William Bickley (William Bickley’s son of New York),” Story recalled, “who (though gone from the Profession of Truth, in which he had been educated, yet retained a Respect for Friends and Professed no other Religion) came readily to us, and was very kind, and willingly let us have his house for a Meeting-place, and went himself, and also sent his servant about the Town, and invited the People.”54 William Bickley Jr. was typical of many of the people Story encountered in the Long Island Sound region who had never been—or were no longer—members of the society of Friends but remained in general sympathy with Quaker principles. Many, like Bickley, were former Quakers who still attended meetings from time to time. Others, as we shall see, were members of other sects that sought a religious or philosophical dialogue with Quakers; still others were nominally members of dominant religions, such as Calvinism.
Calvinists in this region engaged in diverse and wide-ranging varieties of Protestant practices. A number were internationalistic, heterodox, and often pietistic.55 Many New York artisans were in this category, particularly those such as Andrews and Delaplaine, who were members of the Huguenot-Quaker craft network. Those who attended Quaker meetings in the Long Island Sound region should therefore be understood as having occupied a very broad spectrum of religious belief. If religiosity was deeply felt among the sects and heterodox Calvinists and Lutherans who attended meetings, along with the many Presbyterians who were almost always present, formal confessional connections seem to have been far less important than the quest for intensity and variety of spiritual experience.
The year 1707 was the first of Germanicus Andrew’s apprenticeship in the Faneuil or Lott shop. Joshua Delaplaine’s apprenticeship records and his account book survive, so we know more about Delaplaine than most contemporary artisans in New York. We know, for example, that his own master and later the choice of his shop apprentices reflected almost precisely the hybrid, “mixed composition” of Delaplaine’s New York French-Quaker worldview and craft network. Inasmuch as Nicolas was a tobacco twister, Joshua must have been apprenticed in the early eighteenth century to a joiner, although no indenture of apprenticeship survives. However, the earliest references in the Delaplaine accounts show him engaged in numerous shop transactions with Burling, a Quaker joiner with strong family ties to Long Island.
Two transactions in particular from the 1720s have an almost primordial quality. They suggest the ways in which Burling, as an extension of his former role as Delaplaine’s master, traded goods for labor with the newly freed apprentice to ease the transition for himself and, in the process, also help set up a young artisan’s shop. The first account, which runs from 1721 until 1727, shows Joshua Delaplaine in debt to Burling for a total of £65.5.7½ worth of the basic tools of the trade. The very first entry recorded “a tenant saw” worth 6 shillings. Burling subsequently provided Delaplaine with over fifty basic items, mostly tools and other equipment. These items included “a file and firmer ... a hammer auger and pr of compass ... 2 lb of nails ... a file . . . some small nails ... 8 chest lockes ... 2 thous[an]d brads ... 3 pr of chest hinges . . . 1 doz Screwers ... 1 doz [cupboard?] locks . . . some Coffin handles ... 6 Setts of bed screws ... a cask of nails [worth £11.1.4] ... 2 doz draps [imported brass “drop” handles for drawers] and  doz Scutches [imported brass “escutcheons”: engraved cutout faceplates for lock holes or backing plates for handles].56
Year by year, Burling credited Delaplaine in full in exchange for joinery work on items of furniture as well as for work on three ships in port: the Samuel, Oxford, and Essex. These accounts seem almost interchangeable. For example, the credit lines read: “work and Stuf to the Ship Samuel . . . a table . . . a table . . . 1 ditto . . . work to ye Samuel . . . 3 chest drawer locks returned . . . Cash for ye 2 mehoginy boards . . . 34 candle boxes and other work . . . a table . . . acct to ye Oxford . . . 2 tables . . . [and] work to ye Essex.”57 Thus, Burling was able to maintain a measure of control over Delaplaine’s valuable labor by extending his former apprentice credit, as Delaplaine went into debt to set up shop on his own account. This accommodation between the two artisans continued from 1728 until 1743, a total of eleven years. During this latter period, Delaplaine owed Burling £31.7.3 for more hardware and tools. Delaplaine made “6 oak Spars [for masts] ... a box ... a table for John Burling [Edward’s second son, born on August 9, 1703] ... a Chest of drawers [at an astonishing value of £11.10s., signifying both exotic woods and an enormous amount of labor] . . . [and] a tea table,” in exchange for credit.58 Clearly, Burling had a financial interest in the three ships. By 1736, he was no longer identified as a joiner, but rather as a merchant and freeholder of New York City. As early as 1728, Burling had already branched out considerably. He began to advertise real estate for sale in the New York Gazette. And due to his shipping interests, this ambitious Quaker quickly diversified into the trade in enslaved Africans, active among urban artisans in the busy East and Dock Wards. In 1731, Burling posted an advertisement in the Gazette offering for sale a “Negro man and two Negro Women and a Child.”59 Consignments of human cargo moved quickly in New York’s heated market in enslaved Africans, with its strong connections to the West Indian trade.60
On June 11, 1737, in his upwardly mobile capacity, typical of successful artisans in colonial New York, Edward Burling joined a group of petitioners to the Common Council from the East Ward, a neighborhood where “men engaged in sea-oriented pursuits frequently dwelled.” They succeeded in their petition to purchase water lots facing their properties on Van Cleeft’s Slip. This was an effort by rising artisans and merchants to accommodate new shipping on their street and to facilitate the repair and refitting of boats. Hence, Burling Slip once faced his house.61 Much more interesting to historians of New World artisans and material culture is the universal interchange-ability of Delaplaine’s joinery skills. He moved easily between high-style domestic furniture in the luxury trades and the heavy lifting of maritime woodworking. Indeed, if Delaplaine had not been credited with the fabrication of “6 oak Spars,” one would assume he merely worked on the finish of a ship’s interior. Such flexibility and adaptation was unheard of in the guilds of La Rochelle, from which, in any event, overt Huguenots had been expelled in 1628. Still, overlapping woodworking skills were common enough in coastal Saintonge.
FIGURE 16.9. Detail of the “French Ship Y[ar]d,” engraved by Thomas Johnson or Charles le Roux, from “A Plan of the City of New York from an actual survey, drawn by James Lyne, printed by William Bradford, 1730.” Collection of The New-York Historical Society. New York French woodworkers were both shipwrights and furniture makers.
For Joshua Delaplaine, if such skills were commonly adapted to domestic woodworking, then the presence in New York by the late seventeenth century of the Saintonge-dominated “French Ship Yard” (fig. 16.9) was a significant factor in both the concentration and the success of Huguenots in the city’s luxury trades. Being skilled in two related trades, in which large amounts of capital were available, and able to follow them more or less simultaneously, as Delaplaine did, provided the security of constant work and the potential for supplementation when demand for labor in either sector slacked. From the perspective of the survival of the constantly ramifying Huguenot craft networks, “mixed” duty also allowed kinship groups living on both sides of the East River to overlap and expand. This practice helped Huguenot-Quaker networks to further consolidate control over demand for highly skilled woodworkers through intermarriage, thus greatly extending the influence of a core group of related refugee families in the city and on western Long Island.
Crossover phenomena among Saintongeais and related woodworkers in New York help explain the presence of hybrid local joinery techniques in some of the colony’s refined early furniture. I am thinking here especially of the widespread use in furniture made along waterways of face-grain plugs to cover countersunk nail holes. This construction method is unique to the Long Island and upper New Jersey area. Perhaps it provided a smooth surface for finishes. Yet its use is not notable in the work of craftsmen from other regions, where exposed nails are commonly painted over. One might speculate that such plugs may have been adapted on Long Island from shipwright joints. Both nail holes and pins are known to have been concealed on wooden ships—northern European bateaux in particular—to keep hundreds of wood joints watertight and protect wrought-iron nails from corrosion.62
Hybridization was essential to development of shipbuilding in an era of expanding international trade, when a huge premium was placed on ship speed and adaptability to changing coastal contexts. Every busy early modern Atlantic port hosted ships made by all the major maritime powers, docked alongside colonial products. Local builders were thereby provided with a manual encyclopedia of international shipbuilding techniques. Ships’ crews and carpenters were gathered from all available nationalities, and most competent shipwrights had an expansive and eclectic worldview. “The Dutch would have had no hesitancy in borrowing from the French,” one historian of American colonial shipbuilding has observed, “or the French from the Dutch, or the British from both. Boat design is most certainly a mixing process of elements taken from many varied sources, both ancient and contemporary.”63 This cosmopolitan and improvisational theory of practice—long a hallmark of southwestern Huguenot artisanry—was fundamental to the crossover shop culture of the Burling-Delaplaine craft network.
Edward Burling was born into an English Quaker family on November 4, 1674 (d. New York City, May 1749). He and two young siblings (Grace, b. October 29, 1676, and William, b. December 26, 1678) emigrated to Flushing with their parents, Grace and Edward Burling Sr., as a family. They joined the Meeting in 1680, establishing close networking bonds, especially with community leaders.64 That same year, John Bowne’s account book records that he “Reckened with Edward Burling ye 29th of ye first mont 1680: 81 and [rest] due to him six bushels Indian corn or else one barrill of Sie=der[,] which[ever] he [pleseth].”65 The Edward Burlings were soon joined in Flushing by other members of their clan. The wheelwrights John Burling and Elias Burling were close relations (perhaps brothers) of Edward Burling Sr. Becoming members of the Flushing meeting, they were immediately established under John Bowne’s patronage. Both newcomers were credited with wheelwright’s work done for Bowne in 1681 in exchange for “Indian corn and cyder.” By 1687, Elias Burling was also doing wheelwright’s work for other Quakers on Bowne’s account.66
Meanwhile, Edward Burling Sr. had left Flushing, and he was declared a freeman of New York City on October 1, 1683, without the usual reference to occupation. This is a curious omission, but since every male Burling was in the woodworking trades, it is likely that he was too. Despite this sojourn in New York—how long he stayed is unknown—the elder Burling returned to Flushing, where he took up his last residence. He died there in August 1697.67 In the end, it was Edward Burling Jr. who found a way to reside permanently in the city. Transience was more or less commonplace for opportunistic Quaker craftsmen advantaged by strong artisanal networks and close proximity to waterways.
An intriguing notation was recorded as part of the transaction of 1681. Elias Burling paid John Bowne threepence for an unidentified “booke.” Bowne sold the same book to a number of other artisans that year. Although the author is uncertain, imported books were consigned to Bowne by the colonial printer and publisher William Bradford, who commissioned Bowne as his agent to sell a stock of titles on Long Island.68
Bradford began his career as a Quaker but was passionately estranged from the sect in the early eighteenth century, when he published polemical pamphlets against sectarianism for the Church of England faction in New York City. In 1702, in his role as a polemicist, Bradford attacked the English Quaker preacher Samuel Bownas for heresy on Long Island.69 As for the uncertain identity of Bradford’s authors in 1681, George Fox (1624–91) preached at Bowne’s house in 1672, so the Quaker theologian’s books would have found a ready market in Flushing. A stronger possibility, however, is William Penn (1644–1718), Bowne’s friend and business partner. Penn’s Brief Account of the Province of Pennsylvania was published in London in 1681; his Brief Account of the Province of East-Jersey followed from the same publishing house the next year. Both books were of enormous interest to land-hungry Quakers in Flushing. They supplied valuable “information of all such persons who are or may be inclined to settle themselves, families and servants in that country.”70 John Bowne himself acquired considerable property in both Philadelphia and Chester County before 1690. Doubtless he profited handsomely from commissions on land sales in Pennsylvania to resettled Long Island Quakers.71
It is clear that by 1696, the year after John Bowne’s death, Edward Burling Jr. had done substantial joinery work for him in Flushing. In April of that year, Samuel Bowne, John’s son, settled accounts with Burling for £6. Cash was “taken out of ye stock and ped [paid] to friends [Quakers] as [I] find was dew by ye book from my father.”72 On June 11, 1700, Edward Burling was called a carpenter, when he married Phebe Ferris (fferris), in a Quaker ceremony. Phebe was the daughter of John Ferris (d. 1715) and Mary (West) Ferris (d. 1704). She was the granddaughter of Jeffrey Ferris (1610–66), an Englishman who immigrated to Boston from Leicestershire in 1635. Ferris was named a freeman at Watertown, Massachusetts. By 1636, he had gone in search of land to Wethersfield, Connecticut.
Land hunger is the common theme among New England Quakers who migrated to Oyster Bay (Underhill and Feke), Flushing (Bowne and Andrews), coastal Connecticut, and Westchester (Ferris). Sometime before July 1640, Jeffrey Ferris acquired land in Greenwich using Robert Feke (the artist brother of John Feke, the Flushing house carpenter) as his agent in the transaction. Given these rapid southerly migrations and this early connection to the Feke family, it is unsurprising that Ferris appeared next in New Netherlands, where in 1657, he signed an oath of submission to the Dutch in Stuyvesant’s presence. The director-general was deeply suspicious of Ferris’s regional background and ethnicity. With an inkling of his Quaker leanings, Stuyvesant also appended the proviso: “so long as we shall live in this jurisdiction”; both a threat and an invitation to leave. Perhaps Ferris found these terms too restrictive, as next year he sailed back across the Sound to Greenwich. After the death of his second wife in 1660, Jeffrey Ferris married Judith Feke and acquired more land in the Greenwich area near Westchester. This growing network of acquisitive Quaker artisans strengthened occupational, economic, and religious ties between the Ferris and Feke families of coastal Connecticut, Westchester, and Flushing.73 Through the Fekes, the Ferris family was allied to the powerful Bownes and the dangerous, even more land-hungry Underhill.
John Ferris was a carpenter and originally a member of the Flushing meeting. Soon after 1664 (and the removal of the Dutch), Ferris took advantage of an Anglo-French land grab of former Dutch claims in the lower Hudson Valley. He migrated up the Sound just west of Thomas Pell’s newly awarded patent. There, Ferris joined four other Quakers in settling Westchester Town, acquired in 1668, in a grant of former West India Company land from Governor Richard Nicolls. By 1670, Ferris and his fellow grantees expanded the town and set out new lots for a growing influx of settlers. Ferris also profited by building houses and furniture for them. Growth only increased the local Quaker oligarchy’s appetite for further land acquisition.
Land expansion also meant expanded Quaker influence. Ferris stayed in constant contact with his former community, as New York Quakers traveled freely between Westchester Town and western Long Island. Intermarriage was common between these communities and Friends settlements in Rhode Island as well. A sense of this extreme mobility, with Flushing—and the Bowne family—situated at the nexus of travel, and the speed and efficiency with which Quakers could penetrate the entire permeable Sound region in small watercraft is clearly demonstrated by a packed itinerary noted in the journal of Thomas Story. In 1699, having just completed a Meeting in Oyster Bay, Story “went with Samuel Bowne and his wife to Flushing”:
where we had a glorious Meeting next day; and, the Day after, had a pretty large meeting in Jamaica, about four miles from Thence; and that Evening, we return’d to Flushing. . . . The next Day I went over the Sound, accompanied by several Friends, to West Chester; and the Day following, being the First of the Week, had a large Open meeting there, many Friends coming from Long-Island, and Abundance of People from all Quarters round. . . . The People were very still, and many affected with the Testimony of Truth. After the Meeting we returned over the Sound in a canoe.74
And, in 1702, after an unusually “comfortable” Meeting in hostile New York City, Story:
then took [a] Boat back for Flushing, about 16 miles by water, and lodged with Samuel Bowne; and on the 26th, we had a meeting at West Chester, over the Sound, and returned to Samuel Bowne’s in the Evening; on the 27th, were at their week-day meeting at Flushing . . . and then, accompanied with many Friends, we went over the Plains to Westbury, to a Quarterly Meeting, where we had good Service . . . the next [day] beiing the First of the Week, the Lord gave us a glorious Meeting in his Presence, in a new Meeting-house fitted up on that Occasion, and many Hundreds of Friends, and abundance of Other People were there, and generally satisfied, many things of Importance in Religion being clearly opened by the Wisdom and Power of Truth that Day.75
Note the careful, but still fluid, distinction that Story makes between Friends and “Other People” (or simply, “The People”). From Story’s perspective, this marked the temporary boundary between Friends and the many others who almost always attended meetings in New York. Though there were important doctrinal differences among them, the nature of the give-and-take at these meetings indicated that for Story and his audience, the Quakers and heterodox “other people” communicated across diverse confessions using common pious languages derived from perceptions of the presence of the animated soul. That is one reason why so many other sectarians attended these extraordinarily heterodox meetings. All were seekers of common ground on the basis of their shared understanding of potential for “mixing” within a universal soul.76
To supply land to accommodate this population influx, Ferris engaged in nasty boundary disputes with neighbors in Eastchester and Fordham, as the men from Westchester Town tried to extend their original grant to encompass adjacent claims. During this period, Ferris continued to nurture old alliances on Long Island, which he exploited to broker advantageous settlements. To curry favor and gain political support for expansion, he also forged alliances in the city. A leading Huguenot Leislerian, Nicolas Bayard, was asked to arbitrate disputes, and Ferris used leverage to acquire Bayard’s patronage. Edward Burling, a producer of elite goods in the city with strong ties to the pre-1685 Huguenot community through the Delaplaine craft network may have had direct influence with Bayard, whose public disgrace and trial did not occur until 1702. The Leislerians had strong economic and cultural interests in Westchester and would have been sympathetic to families with French connections. Jacob Leisler had powerful ties with New York’s Huguenot community. His father was Jacob Victorian Leisler, a French Reformed minister in Frankfurt am Main, so Jacob the Younger spoke French and German interchangeably and shared a strong internationalist religious perspective with New York’s French refugee community. Indeed, it was Jacob who organized the settlement at New Rochelle between 1687 and 1689, and made certain it was named after La Rochelle.77 But Burling knew others in the Dock Ward whose patronage would prove very useful in Westchester, as it did in Flushing.
Burling married into a clan of aggressively expansive Quaker artisans, solidified by the establishment of networks of old family ties between Europe, southern coastal New England, Westchester, New Netherlands, and western Long Island. As in the case of the Ferris-Burling alliance, marriage was a good way to solidify holdings in Westchester, western Long Island, and New York City.78 Successful establishment of this migrating network based on transatlantic ties, the universality of soulish religiosity and communication, acquisition of land, and dissemination of artisanal skill made Phebe Ferris an appropriate match for Edward Burling’s ambitions. At the same time, Burling’s family history, occupation, and geographic situation assured his ability to act as a broker between Westchester Town, Flushing, and New York. But the use of New York patronage for rural land acquisition was not the only reason for Burling to exploit his role as broker. The prospect of the expansion of an essentially rural artisanal network into the capital-rich city was equally attractive to Burling’s in-laws. Jeffrey Ferris tried without success to gain a foothold in the city over a generation earlier (again, in 1657), under the suspicious eyes of the passionately antisectarian Stuyvesant. This path was ultimately laid out for Germanicus Andrews to take under English rule in the early eighteenth century.
Delaplaine’s indenture of apprenticeship to Edward Burling is not extant. If Delaplaine set up shop in 1718 (the date he took on his first apprentice), he started his apprenticeship anywhere from 1711 to 1714. There is a lacuna in the records for this period, but Burling’s indentures are available for the years 1694 to 1707 and again from 1718 to 1727, so records of indenture for five other apprentices in Burling’s service do survive and are instructive.
Very little is known about Thomas Sutton and Richard Berry. On June 1700 and February 1705, respectively, these two artisans with English backgrounds were the first apprentices Burling recorded in the presence of Robert Lurting, a city alderman. Sutton was eighteen years of age—old for an apprentice—and for that reason he was only expected to serve three years (rather than the usual six or seven), whereafter he was to receive “a good Sett of Carpenters Tools.” Sutton also expected that his master “shall learn him to write Read & Cypher.”79 Other than his apprenticeship record, nothing more is available for Thomas Sutton. His religious affiliation is thus unclear, but he was probably connected with the Flushing Quaker network. Much the same may be said of Richard Berry, although we do know he was declared a “joyner” and a freeman of the city on September 7, 1725. It would be interesting to learn how (and where) Berry spent the fourteen-year-long interval, after his six-year apprenticeship expired.80
The Flushing connection was made perfectly clear on 8 February 1705, when the next apprenticeship recorded: the “indenture of Benjamin Burling, aged 16 years, with the consent of his mother to his brother, Edward Burling, joyner, for four years, from February 1st.”81 Sadly, like Germanicus Andrews, his close contemporary and coreligionist, Benjamin Burling died just four years later.82 But even as the joiner Edward Burling rose in status to merchant and slave trader in New York City, while Edward’s son James (b. 1701) added the rank of attorney as well,83 Edward’s grandson Thomas Burling (active 1769–97) remained an artisan and maintained the strong Flushing craft connections of his father, grandfather, and uncles before him. Again, the Bowne family is at the hub of the record. The cabinetmaker Thomas Burling was declared a freeman of New York City in 1769. Not long afterward, Thomas produced a small mahogany table, under the top of which he placed a label: “Made and sold by Thomas B[u]rling, in Chappel Street, [New York].” This meant that the table was probably made as venture cargo, or to be shipped out of town. Indeed, Burling sold the table to another Flushing Quaker, a descendant of John Bowne, and it remains in the collection at the Bowne House.84
The final two apprenticeships Edward Burling recorded are particularly interesting, given what we now know about his working relationship with Joshua Delaplaine. On October 8, 1707, Burling engaged his first Huguenot apprentice before Delaplaine’s indenture in 1714, “John Vignoud Tillou, aged 15 years, with the consent of his mother,” apprenticed, “to Edward Burling, Joyner, from November 6th, 1706, for five years.” Young Tillou’s indenture follows the conventional form, except that it lacks the usual reference to remedial education. Unlike the terms of Thomas Sutton’s indenture, this apprentice was to be taught “to read write & Cypher English [emphasis added].” This is an intriguing alteration. Tillou could write. He signed his full name in its French form, Jean Vignau Tillou. The indenture implied, however, that Edward Burling (or someone in his household) understood French well enough to teach an already literate Huguenot apprentice to read and write in English.85 Because of his mercantile interest in shipping and shipbuilding, it would not be unusual for Burling to converse in French, since many New York shipwrights, like Joshua Delaplaine, were Huguenot.
Indeed, the shipbuilding trades ran deep in the family of John Vigneau Tillou. He was the grandson of Pierre Tillou, who had fled from persecution in the old shipbuilding town of Saint-Nazaire, a short sloop trip of seventy-five miles up the Atlantic coast from La Rochelle, in 1681 and was naturalized in England on March 21, 1682. Pierre first appeared in New York in 1691, where he declared himself a French refugee and asked for protection and rights of citizenship. His son Vincent joined forces with another Huguenot family, of which little is known, when he married Elizabeth Vigneau. Before 1709, possibly about the same time that his son John was apprenticed to Burling, Vincent died, leaving another son, also Vincent, along with three daughters.86
Vincent was a favored Christian name for sons in the Tillou family. But it was also the surname of a prominent family of New York craftsmen, indicating strong connections between the Tillous and the Vincents. Two Huguenots witnessed the apprenticeship of John Tillou to Edward Burling: François Vincent and Benjamin d’Harriette. Both were artisans in the maritime trades with strong family ties to La Rochelle and Soubise in Saintonge. Vincent family members were seen working as block makers, sail makers, and coopers everywhere in New York’s French shipyard. Moreover, they were allied during the eighteenth century with the upholsterer and merchant Benjamin Faneuil, their fellow émigré from La Rochelle and one of two masters available to Germanicus Andrews in 1707. Indeed, François Vincent signed the broadside in defense of Faneuil’s loyalty to New York in 1708.
One of the few times a Vincent was recorded in a transaction outside the maritime trades was in making upholstery materials. John Vincent Jr. of New York City, was called a “leather dresser.” Vincent père was a cooper.87 In addition to shoe and saddle leather, John Vincent also dressed leather for upholstery. Faneuil and Lott were principal customers in this limited market. More typically in this family, when declared a freeman of New York on August 9, 1698, “Francis” Vincent was called a “saylemaker.”88 Vincent died in 1732, but his inventory was not probated until 1734, owing to the demands of his creditors. When the estate was settled, it was worth a substantial £i,700.89 In order to settle the estate however, Vincent’s three Huguenot executors—Ann Gilbert, John Dupuy, and the silver- and coppersmith Joseph Leddell (whose work we see in figs. 17.1 and 17.3)—posted an advertisement in the weekly New York Gazette for March 13 to March 20, 1732:
All Persons that have any Demands on the Estate of Mr. Francis Vincent, late of the City of New-York, Sail-Maker, deceased, are to give notice of the same unto John Dupue or Joseph Leddell, Executors, or to Mrs. Ann Gilbert, Executrix to the said Estate, in order to receive Satisfaction. Also notice is hereby given that the Dwelling House of the said Francis Vincent, situate on the West Side of Broad-Street, near the Long-bridge, is to be SOLD, together with two young Negro Men, both good Sail-makers, and sundry Sorts of Household Goods. Those that incline to purchase the same, or any part thereof, may apply to the above mentioned Executors.90
The success of François (or Francis) Vincent in the sail maker’s trade was manifested not only in the size of his estate and its extensive list of creditors, but also by evidence that he owned at least two African slaves trained in his craft. These two slaves were among the most valuable commodities at the vendue of Vincent’s household possessions in 1732. This corresponds with abundant evidence of large numbers of slaves skilled in the maritime trades at work on the docks in eighteenth-century Philadelphia, Richmond, and Charleston. Not only did Vincent’s slaves provide scarce skilled labor on those projects in which he had a personal stake, but they could be hired out to other New York artisans at high rates for day-to-day work on their projects during Vincent’s down time, providing added income. The shorter the term, the higher the rate of return for slaves’ labor. Most “other artisans” who hired from Vincent were usually linked to the Huguenot-Quaker network, whose members gained further competitive advantage by having available a familiar and reliable source of skilled slave labor. Certainly, Vincent could expect a similar arrangement in exchange from other members of the network if he needed to hire additional temporary help to complete a big project.91 The artisans’ business practice of hiring skilled slave labor at the docks was absolutely necessary for the success of the network. A group of Charleston master shipwrights, many of them French refugees, defended everyday use of skilled slave labor against fears expressed by less successful white artisans of black economic competition. The masters pointed out that “his Majesty’s ships have been repaired and refitted only by the assistance of Our slaves, And . . . without these slaves the worst consequences might ensue.”92
The Vincents undertook ambitious civic projects for the city down at Dock Ward. Because of the capital they commanded for such work, ownership of skilled slave artisans to labor in the maritime trades and add profit from the business of hiring out was the norm. It was folly to waste valuable time and energy of skilled slaves on the heavy, unskilled labor for which such civic projects involving maritime woodworking were known. This could be handled by younger family members, unskilled white laborers, and, ideally, large gangs of unskilled slaves gathered precisely for such tasks. Slave gangs were often shipped in from plantation populations in Brooklyn, the Hudson Valley, and Staten Island.93
It was commonplace for unskilled slave laborers to ship down the Hudson River to Manhattan, a practice followed constantly by the planter Frederick Philips, one of New York colony’s most active slave traders. Philips’s boatman Diamond, one of several slaves implicated in the conspiracy of 1712, made the trip south piloting his master’s sloop at least once a week. He carried individuals back and forth from the community of forty-eight slaves at Philips’s flour mill in Tarrytown, which specialized in making hard tack for New York shipping. Most slaves ferried by Diamond went to work at Philips’s warehouse in New York. Philips profited from hiring out both skilled and unskilled slaves.94
In 1736, for example, it was necessary to gather large gangs of unskilled slave labor from a source such as Philips to do heavy work for Wynant “van Zandt,” a batavianized “Vincent Vincent.” A master turner and a maritime block maker, Wynant worked alongside several family members (represented by the city as “Mess:/rs Van Zandt”), when he was awarded an enormous city contract worth £4,137.11. Wynant, head of the Vincent-Van Zandt clan after the death of François, was paid in cash by the Common Council: “on account of the Expense of Improvements at the Battery . . . [the] Corporation Dock . . . [and the] Warren Street Bulkhead.”95 That year, the same prosperous Wynant Van Zandt joined forces with Edward Burling, his Quaker neighbor and another ambitious, upwardly mobile woodworking artisan, in a successful petition to the Common Council to acquire those valuable water lots facing Van Cleefts’ Slip. Perhaps it was Edward Burling himself who sold Francis Vincent the two enslaved sail makers.96
This suggests that when John Vigneau Tillou signed an indenture of apprenticeship to the Edward Burling in 1706, he helped establish an alternating pattern of interchangeable and overlapping trades in shipbuilding and luxury woodworking that his fellow Huguenot Joshua Delaplaine followed when he joined the Quaker Burling’s francophone shop. After Tillou’s apprenticeship ended in 1711, he maintained this pattern with his former master. On January 9, 1718, Edward Burling registered his final and most unusual apprentice. In this instance, the witnesses were “John Tillou,” and a Danish carpenter, block maker, and turner named Simon Breeste (Bresteade).97
This apprenticeship was unusual because it represents the only known female apprentice registered by a woodworking artisan in colonial New York City. The indenture was for Mary Mariot, another Huguenot, “aged about eleven years, with the consent of her Mother, to Edward Burling, Joyner, for seven years, from December 1st.”98 The language of the contract, also fairly unique, was extremely generous and included furniture often associated with dowries:
the said Master dureing the Said Term Shall find and provide unto the Said Apprentice sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparell, Lodging and Washing fitting for an Apprentice, and at the Expiration of Said Term Shall give unto her a New Suit of Apparell both Woolen and Linen, besides her Common Wearing Apparell, and a New Cubboard worth three pounds and a Chest worth fifteen shillings and also three pounds in Money.99
Mary Mariot was promised no joiner’s tools because, although her trade was not specified, she was not apprenticed as a woodworker. Women were not commonly associated with woodworking artisans in Europe unless they were involved with the cutting and application of textiles. Diderot shows women working alongside men in French upholstery shops, fitting covers to chair frames. Because Burling was not known to be an upholsterer but did build and repair boats, and since Mary Mariot was a French refugee accompanied by two witnesses who were shipwrights as well as furniture makers, it is logical to assume she apprenticed as a sail maker. By the time Delaplaine set up shop on his own in 1718, while continuing to work eleven years for Burling on credit, this pattern of Quaker-Huguenot artisanal communication and exchange was well established among craftsmen in the port and, based on the personnel in the Delaplaine shop, in Flushing as well.
While Burling may have indentured more than the six apprentices attributed to his shop, Joshua Delaplaine trained four known apprentices. Like Burling’s six, however, these artisans were a mixture of English and French Quakers. When Delaplaine set up shop in early 1718, his first apprentice joiner was a Quaker with British antecedents named Francis Warne, whom he indentured for a period of eight years.100 Not much is known about Warne’s life in New York, except that he was made a freeman of the city on June 29, 1731.101 The reason for his obscurity was Warne’s decision to leave New York to test his skill in the West Indies. Unfortunately, like many colonists in Kingstown, Jamaica, he fell ill. Warne left his wife and sons behind, and they became the subject of a remarkable letter “to Joshua Delaplaine Joyner in New York,” his former master whom he now addressed by the Quaker honorific, “Respected Friend.” “I make bold . . . by this opportunity,” Warne wrote on April 26, 1740, “to let thee hear that through the mercy of the Lord I am in a very likely way of getting of my health at ye last”:
I have had nothing but sorrow trouble and Sickness; as for hardship I have had my Share since I left New York but through the mercy of God I now begin to get a little health, tho I can safely say, I never enjoyed 2 weeks health since I left home. I Desire thee and thy wife will please to accept a pot of tammarins [tamarid]102 which I send by the bearer. it is but of a small value, stil I hope smal as it is I hope thee wil accept it. I wish I was able I would send more. I have got to work and hope I shall do wel at Last. if I can but get my health as I am in hopes I shal I should be very willing to come home but am very loth to come naked. it has cost me a great deal of money for to pay charges for sickness. I desire thee to advise my wife to put my sons to a good master and let her bind them out. I shall be very willing to it and hope to be at home next spring tho I shal be no ways wanting to do my best endeavor for my wife and children. I desire thee to advise her and tel her to make her self easy a little longer. I desire thee to be remembered to thy wife and Family and al Friends. I Rest thy Loveing Friend and old apprentice, Francis Warne.103
We do not know whether Warne survived his illness, or if he ever returned home to New York City. No evidence has been found that his sons were bound out to other joiners, or which of Warne’s “Loveing Friends”—French or English—may have been their masters. Still, it is a measure of Warne’s confidence in Delaplaine and the strength, reach, and memory of this Quaker-Huguenot network that in a time of personal danger, Warne turned to his old master to advise his wife to bind their sons out within the network. Warne’s children would follow a strategy intended to reduce risk of failure and dependency and increase the chance of competence and security as skilled artisans. Warne’s letter is poignant, both in the great regret he expresses over his decision to follow the path of artisanal transience—“to do wel,” he left the relative security of New York and ran the very real risk of tropical disease in the West Indies—but also in its implication that in his absence, his sons had become vulnerable. These boys would not leave the shop floor and manual labor to rise to the status of merchant on the firm foundation of their father’s work. Warne asked, in effect, that arrangements be made that his sons ensure his continuity (and theirs) by taking up his tools and resuming the artisan’s interrupted life at “home” with “friends.” Perhaps the next generation would achieve the lofty goals aimed at in his journey to Jamaica. Warne asked his “Loveing Friend” and Huguenot master to become surrogate father to his children. The powerful Quaker-Huguenot craft network was their best hope of an artisan’s education, and hence employment and protection from the outside world.
Not all Delaplaine’s apprentices felt as warmly about their master as Warne. The next Quaker apprentice to work at the bench Warne had formerly occupied in Delaplaine’s shop was a contentious young man named William Jones, “the son of Margaret Jones, widow.” On March 26, 1725, shortly before going out on his own, Warne had witnessed Jones’s indenture to Delaplaine.104 Jones, an ephemeral and transient figure, did not stay long in one place. A clue to his personality is his litigiousness; nothing about Jones’s life is known outside of several appearances in court. By his surname and certain Quaker background, British ethnicity may be inferred. Yet Jones may also be Jansz. Guessing names is a risky business in New York. British or not, Jones is interesting for the meager record of his activities after he began his apprenticeship to Delaplaine in 1725.
His stay with Delaplaine was typically brief. Sometime before 1728, Jones entered into the service of yet another Huguenot master, Charles Jandine, who, like Delaplaine, had proven skills as a joiner and turner of elite goods. Jandine’s work as a turner and designer was highly regarded by the city’s anglicizing elites. This is made clear in the vestry minutes of Trinity Church for February 1, 1743, when the Huguenot’s design for the new pews was accepted by the vestry: “Order’d that Each of the bloks and Squares of pews in the body of the Church as all the Owners of Each block Shall Agree to be turned Comformable to the Draft made by Charles Jandine dated ye 7th day of December Last at the Charge of the Church.”105
On October 1728, Charles Jandine took Jones to mayor’s court, where the illustrious William Smith represented Jandine in a suit against Jones, who was cited for “leaving the employ of Jandine as a carpenter and joiner.” By January 31, 1729, all the parties were back in court again. Jones was again identified as Jandine’s apprentice and sued for breach of contract.106 Charles Jandine’s confessional allegiance is unclear. If Delaplaine took Jones on as his apprentice, with Warne as witness, then Jones was a probably at least a Quaker sympathizer. It may be that Jones had a falling out with the Quakers and opted for an Anglican master, or that Jandine had some Quaker associations as well, despite the fact that he designed and turned Trinity’s pews and retained William Smith as his lawyer.
With the exception of Warne’s signature as witness, the only contacts on record for Jones involved Huguenot masters. Most ended in litigation. Indeed, our final encounter with Jones involves yet another lawsuit. This time, Jones sued the Huguenot joiner Francis Bomier, who had hired him. Jones claimed that Bomier failed to pay him as agreed “for labor as a house carpenter and joiner at 5 s[hillings]” per day. If Jones was telling the truth about his wages, then skilled journeymen woodworkers in New York City could command between 20 and 40 percent more pay than their counterparts in Flushing, who normally expected to earn between three and four shillings per day. Jones managed to get Bomier thrown in jail in the end, despite William Smith’s defense.107 Lacking specific evidence, it is difficult to assign responsibility for these heated interactions between artisans. Was the problem transparently economic, or does Jones’s litigiousness show animosity that runs deeper? Whatever the specifics, however, on complex levels of family, religious, and craft history that we can only begin to parse here, networks of New York Quaker and Huguenot artisans were engaged in intensive interaction on a number of levels. Between “friends,” engagement was not always benign. There was tension as well as security in the shadows.
About a year after Warne signed on with Joshua Delaplaine in 1718, the Huguenot joiner and shipbuilder found enough work to add a second Quaker apprentice. On October 15, 1719, Benjamin Lawrence, the “son of Elizabeth Lawrence of Flushing on Nassau Island,” was indentured to Delaplaine for a term of seven years.108 The patron for this member of the Lawrence family was Edward Burling himself. Sometime in the 1730s, Edward Burling Jr.’s third son, also Edward (February 3, 1714-May 1749), married Mary Lawrence of Flushing (b. April 2, 1718). This marriage consolidated ties between the Burlings and the Lawrence family of artisans and merchants in both Flushing and New York City.
The Flushing-New York bilateral relationship made for similarities in the cross-river geography of occupational and religious lives. Mary Lawrence Burling was the daughter of Richard and Hannah Bowne Lawrence. Hannah was the daughter of John Bowne’s son Samuel, thus further strengthening the already strong ties between the Burlings and Bownes. Soon after, the family web drew even tighter as Edward III’s sister, Sarah Burling, married his brother-in-law Caleb Lawrence.109 Elizabeth Lawrence “of Flushing on Nassau Island,” the well-located mother of Delaplaine’s new apprentice, was thus a member of this family—possibly the sister-in-law of Richard Lawrence. After registering his apprenticeship, however, Benjamin Lawrence disappears completely from the record.
Other woodworkers from the Lawrence family of Flushing and New York City remained active, however. All were intertwined with the rapidly expanding Quaker-Huguenot craft network in New York and on Long Island. A certain Thomas Lawrence was declared a freeman and joiner of the City of New York on May 4, 1725.110 In 1725 and 1726, Thomas Lawrence signed a bond for £10 to John Bell, witnessed by a second Quaker joiner named Thomas Grigg. Bell, a carpenter of undocumented religious background, also aspired to merchant status. In addition to Bell’s carpentry, when he could attract a profitable consignment from his London agent, he sold luxury goods to catch the eye of New Yorkers who aspired to replicate metropolitan style. Hogarth’s trio of polite strollers on Hog Lane might be comfortable in some of these imports. Included was a combination of old-style native English (“Broad Cloths”) and fashionable Huguenot textiles (baises, or “bases”). There was a stock of “Ready made Cloaths,” and chinoiserie furniture; most were consumables then generally “in style,” yet slightly behind the current London fashion, a fate that befitted rustic colonial consumers. When the shipment arrived in New York, Bell took out an advertisement in the Gazette. On December 9, 1734, a year before the appearance of Hogarth’s painting in London, Bell’s advertisement read:
At the House of John Bell, Carpenter over against Capt. Garret Van Horne, there is to be Sold, Broad Cloths, Kersey’s, Kersey [Plains], [Frize], Green Colloured, Dussills, Druggets, Shalloons, Miniken Blew Bases, Frize, and Plains, And some Ready made Cloaths, &c. By Wholesale or Retail at Reasonable Rates. Also, Looking Glasses, and Eight Day Clocks with Japan Cases.111
John Bell’s confessional allegiance and ethnicity were undocumented. Yet in this they may resemble Thomas Lawrence’s witness, Thomas Griggs, a Welsh Quaker joiner with early ties to western Long Island, as well as with New York’s Huguenot maritime networks clustered around Dock Ward. Thomas descended from John, son of George Griggs, who immigrated to New England from Newport in Wales, a common port of entry for refugees from the civil wars of religion. John Griggs was living in New York in 1669, having left New England to join the English Quaker settlement founded at Gravesend in Brooklyn by Deborah Moody. Although his occupation is unknown, John Griggs acquired a substantial amount of land in and around Gravesend. He owned lots on Coney, Gishert’s, and Ambrose Islands, as well as in “Gravesend Plantation,” so he was probably a planter. The Kings County Census of 1698 showed John Griggs owned four African slaves. John had one child, also John (b. 1665), and the father of Thomas Griggs the New York joiner (b. ca. 1695). Thomas had property just across New York Bay from Gravesend on Staten Island, where he met and married the Huguenot Lena du Puy, whose family emigrated to New York from Artois in 1662 and settled, with so many French refugees, on Staten Island. Children from this couple married into the du Puy, Dey, and Bodin families, all Huguenot landowning families on Staten Island and in northern New Jersey.112
Like many Quaker woodworkers from Flushing, Griggs also followed his trade (if not the open practice of his religion) in the city. So, on April 24, 1716, Thomas “Grigg” was declared a freeman joiner of New York.113 As on Long and Staten Islands, Griggs fostered close personal and working relationships with a number of pivotal New York Huguenot artisan families with ties to Quaker landowners in communities outside the city. For example, on April 29, 1719, “Thomas Griggs and Henry Gillam [Henri Guillaume, Guillam, Guillaim, or Guliamne], of New York City, Joiners,” both posted bond for James McGrath, a Quaker carpenter from Flushing. McGrath died in 1726. His inventory was appraised by Adam Lawrence, a family member and close contemporary of Thomas Lawrence, the joiner and associate of Griggs.114 Henry Gillam was declared a freeman joiner of New York on the same day in 1716 as his “friend” and cohort Thomas Griggs.115 There is good circumstantial evidence of Gillam’s Quaker sympathies, if not his formal membership in the society. Gillam’s economic relation with Griggs and McGrath is suggestive. So was the location of Gillam’s two houses, lots and fields in the Flushing and Oyster Bay extensions, Westchester Town, and Eastchester, where there was much French-Quaker interaction. When Gillam died in 1735, a notice was published in the New York Gazette:
Notice is hereby given that . . . at the Court House in Westchester, there will be Exposed to Sale at Publick Vendue, the Dwelling-House and ground late of Henry Guillaim, in the Town of Westchester. Also, one lot of land in East-Chester, containing about three Quarters of an Acre, with a Dwelling-House thereon . . . and one other lot of land in East-Field of Bedford Township, containing about six acres; together with all other, the real Estate of Henry Guillaim.116
Ownership of these lands put Henry Gillam on the same side of the Long Island Sound as his father (or uncle), Charles Guillam (1671–1727) of Saybrook, in coastal Connecticut. Because of his ownership of French books and association with an idiosyncratic group of colonial American painted furniture made in the area of Saybrook, much research has gone into the location of Charles (and hence Henry) Guillam’s Old World origin in Jersey, one of two Channel Islands in the Gulf of Saint-Malo off Normandy that remained French linguistic domains. Furniture forms and painting patterns traditionally attributed to Charles Guillam (as yet none can be traced definitively to Henry) also have distinctive Channel Islands antecedents (see fig. 5.8).117
Thomas Griggs’s ties to New York’s French refugee artisans were not limited to the northern Channel Islands. To be successful in New York, a city in which Saintongeais artisans dominated the maritime and luxury trades, they had to extend to southwestern France as well. It is noteworthy that on October 1, 1747, Griggs was chosen to build the coffin of the Huguenot Samuel Boyer (Bouyer, Bouhier), which was evidently not a simple five or ten shilling pine box, since he was paid a healthy £2.4.3, making it one of the most expensive on record. The progenitor of the Boyer family in New York was Jean Bouyer, a turner and weaver from Bordeaux (d. 1698), who was probably the master of Jean Le Chevalier from Saintonge, a major supplier of leather-chair frames to Lott and Faneuil for upholstery and resale. The Boyer family thus had associations with the New York leather chair and its artisanal network.
So Benjamin Lawrence, Joshua Delaplaine’s second apprentice, entered his employ having come from a family of Flushing artisans with strong links to Delaplaine’s New York Quaker-Huguenot craft network. The strength of these links cannot be underestimated, as the Lawrence family itself, like the South Carolina branch of the family, was arguably of Huguenot origin. John Lawrence, a merchant and the first of the family in New York, was a founder of Flushing in 1645. He was also one of three commissioners from New Amsterdam sent by Stuyvesant in 1663 to negotiate with John Winthrop Jr. over English claims to Dutch territory in New Netherlands. Following the English takeover, he was alderman, mayor, and supreme court justice of New York Colony until his death in 1699.
The name Lawrence is commonly thought to be ethnically English by New York historians.118 It is true that John Lawrence immigrated from England, but so did almost all of his French ancestors, who, like Benjamin Faneuil and countless others, used London as a sort of relay point, just as the de La Plaines migrated via Holland. Despite the fact that the New York Lawrences must have left France a full generation before the South Carolina branch, John Lawrence and his Long Island Quaker family were known as the Laurent family of merchants in La Rochelle.119 Hence, two old New Netherlands families, Delaplaine and Lawrence (Laurens, Laurent, Lorentz, or Laurence), planted American roots early for growing Quaker-Huguenot craft networks. These ramified as craftsmen, credit and sympathetic religious sensibilities were exchanged between numerous Quaker towns in the British Midlands, west of England, and western Long Island, and Huguenot strongholds in Aunis-Saintonge, Amsterdam, London, and New York City. The transatlantic convergence of Quaker and Huguenot networks in New Amsterdam and New York, provides further evidence that for these two refugee subgroups, a combination of artisanal skill, technical innovation, and advantageous geographical placement substituted for the security of numbers they lacked.
The last indenture of apprenticeship known to be recorded for the shop of Joshua Delaplaine, identifies “Nicholas Bellanger son of Ive Belanger late of little Egg Harbour [a town on the Delaware River near Philadelphia] in West Jersey, with the consent of his mother.” He was apprenticed on May 2, 1720, “to Joshua Delaplaine, Joiner, for seven years.” Benjamin Lawrence was on hand to witness the indenture, which the apparently literate Bellanger also signed in his own hand.120
Nicholas was the son of a weaver who arrived in Philadelphia in 1690, after coming to the colonies from Poitou. This followed the customary sojourn in England during the 1680s. Eves Bellangée (Ives Belanger, Belleng, Bellinger, de Bellinger, Ballinger, or Bellanger), the father of Nicholas, joined the maritime trades when he settled permanently in the Quaker-dominated area of Burlington County, New Jersey. There is fragmentary evidence that Nicholas had been preceded to a Quaker enclave by another family member with New York connections. On February 18, 1688, the Hempstead deed book recorded: “There was given to Michael Belleng, the Frenchman that lives on Mr. Spragg’s land, twenty acres of woodland, lyng on the west side of Mr. Spragg’s land, near the [Hempstead] plains.”121 Because he came directly to Philadelphia, it is possible that Eves Bellangée converted to Quakerism in London. Eves was surely a member of the Society by 1697, when he married Christain de La Plaine at the Friends Meeting in Philadelphia. Christain de La Plaine, the daughter of Nicolas de La Plaine of New York and his second wife Rachel Cresson, was Joshua Delaplaine’s sister. This meant that young Nicholas Bellanger, another Huguenot-Quaker joiner, was Joshua Delaplaine’s nephew and the namesake of Joshua’s father. When his father Eves died, the Delaplaine family welcomed Nicholas into the security of the New York French Quaker woodworking trades under his uncle’s paternal eye.122 Here was another link between New York City, Flushing, and Philadelphia, suggesting that parallels in patterns of woodworking resulted from the convergence of these family networks through intermarriage and migration. Indeed, large dining tables made simultaneously in the Philadelphia and New York shops of Burling, Delaplaine, Tillou, and their contemporaries are very similar in design, construction, and materials. Many display the same stacked baluster arrangement we know from the Ile de Ré.123 It may be that some furniture forms attributed to Pennsylvania were made in New York and vice versa.
Christain’s marriage to Eves Bellangée in 1697 shows the utility of looking further into records of fragmentary artisanal alliances, through marriage, of the children of Nicolas de La Plaine and the Cresson sisters.124 Indeed, such an inquiry does bear fruit for our reconstitution of the brief working life and unrealized potential of the unfortunate Flushing Quaker Germanicus Andrews. Maria Delaplaine, another daughter of Nicolas and the sister of Joshua, married the talented and well-connected Huguenot chair maker and carver Jean Le Chevalier on June 27, 1692. We know Jean and Maria Le Chevalier had their two daughters baptized in New York’s French Church, a new place of worship for the refugees, its construction full of intense meaning and emotional solace after the destruction of the temples and exile in the désert.125 Nevertheless, Jean Le Chevalier was thereby fully integrated into the Burling-Delaplaine craft network. That meant he had become a client “of the blood” of the most venerable of New York’s Huguenot-Quaker artisanal dynasties. As the brother-in-law of Joshua Delaplaine, Le Chevalier assumed the pivotal brokerage role that brothers-in-law played in all Huguenot patronage networks. Le Chevalier was thus the perfect artisan to make the connection with his Huguenot patrons and broker Germanicus Andrews as an apprentice upholsterer to Faneuil or Lott. Had he survived, Andrews would have succeeded his Huguenot masters as one of two primary upholsterers of leather chairs in New York, thereby linking the Flushing Quaker artisanal and mercantile community to the most profitable medium of the international Huguenot style in urban America.
This is not to say that such linkages were absent on western Long Island or that they failed there to effect the “mixed composition” of hybridization and the creation of hybrid Anglo-French forms. The cultural, religious, artifactual, and documentary record points in just the opposite direction. Pluralistic interaction was pursued avidly on western Long Island by Quakers and other related regional sectarians and pietists. An improvisational cultural style circled back and forth between Manhattan and Long Island as Flushing Quaker artisans converged with their Huguenot allies in the city. In addition to members of the Lawrence family, other Huguenot artisans lived and worked in Flushing. These included James Clement, a French joiner and a member of John Bowne’s household, and his son Samuel Clement. The French-Quaker Clement shops were also essential to the process of cultural convergence and hybridization in Flushing.
A successful French-Quaker craft network thus circulated between New Netherlands / New York and western Long Island. It is now possible, therefore, to pose new sets of questions. What material and spiritual evidence remains of this interactive artisan network? How can we identify the permeable and fluid process of circulation and “unities” among refugees who so industriously ramified their networks in the material culture of French-Quaker convergence to acquire land and labor through commerce and marriage? To repeat a basic question from Part I, how do artifacts from this craft network communicate the material-holiness synthesis fundamental to international artisanal pietism during the seventeenth century? Was there something in the religious culture of the network that bound these two very specific groups together in joint material and spiritual projects in New York? Why, in other words, did they come together in the ways they did?
When they signed the contract to build the Friends Meetinghouse in Flushing, Samuel Andrews and John Feke “promise[d]” their patron, John Bowne, that “they s[hall endeavor] to have it up for further fi[nishing by] ye: 30th daye of the first month:  93.” That meant that the basic structure was to be standing for Bowne’s glazier to finish the windows and for his carpenters and joiners in addition to Feke who specialized in interior woodwork to make the meetinghouse fit for use by the Society of Friends. Unfortunately, almost nothing of the original work from this initial building campaign survives to connect the makers with their production. What can be deduced from both the contract and surviving elements of the building suggests a variant of English “plain” architecture in the exterior form and plan. Sadly, little to signify the hand of Feke or Andrews—or subsequent artisans who finished the interiors—is available for analysis.
Only a few brackets (or corbels) that support a joint between a post and beam in the upper room of the meetinghouse are distinctive and indisputably part of the original structure (fig. 16.10a and b). Building elements in early modern house construction like this one, although obscured by banal utility and easily “overlooked,” are not without interest. Interest is compounded by the realization that a similar distinctive bracket is found nearby, in the construction of John Bowne’s house. Inasmuch as the Norfolk man John Feke is the only housewright known to have played a major role in building at both sites (Feke also contracted with Bowne to construct the addition to his house in 1680, along with John Clay), he seems likely to have fashioned this joint. It may be that Feke also built the original section of Bowne’s house in 1661. Although the contract for this building does not survive, we know Feke built Bowne’s thatched barn in 1666. This puts Feke in Bowne’s employ as early as the 1660s, making him a likely candidate.
FIGURE 16.10. Friends meetinghouse, Flushing, New York, built for John Bowne by John Feke in 1694 and renovated in 1717 and 1763. Photo, Pasquali Cuomo. (a) One of the surviving brackets original to the 1694 structure. All the brackets are oak, with iron rivets and bars and oak and iron washers. The bracket was seated in the crook between a post and summer beam—itself secured by an iron strap nailed to the beam—and attached by nails and rivets toward the ends. At the stress points in the middle, bars secured by wooden and iron washers and staples pulled each corbel against its post. This bracket’s close relationship to ship architecture suggests that Feke may have followed both trades. (b) Bracket, possibly from the 1763 renovation, when a second story was added and the roofraised.
If Feke was indeed the maker, he probably did not learn to fashion such a corbel from Norfolk craftsmen, or from any English-trained artisan, for that matter, because they were not made in the vernacular English manner used in East Anglia. Abbott Lowell Cummings has shown that in early New England, all the surviving seventeenth-century New World English house brackets were joined to mortises in the post and beam with tenons. These thicker joints were then invariably fastened tight solely with long wooden pegs.126 If John Feke was responsible for fashioning brackets for the meetinghouse and the Bowne House, then he must have learned how to do so through encounters with continental woodwork (or woodworkers) on Long Island. The staircase in the Arsenal of the citadel at Saint-Martin-de-Ré on the Ile de Ré, for example, makes excellent use of similar brackets (see fig. 16.6). Such encounters would have been part of Feke’s daily routine.
What, then, is distinctive, or even idiosyncratic about the meetinghouse bracket? To begin, this bracket is unusual in the colonies because unlike ones found in New England and the south, it is unusually attenuated in form—akin, perhaps, to beams that attached the crown post to the roof frame in early English construction—and not attached with standard English mortise and tenon joints fastened by pegs. Here, the support system was held together originally by a series of formidable iron rivets driven up through the arch of the bracket and into the post and beam. This method of construction is known in New York furniture from the period as well. The top of a late seventeenth-century draw-bar table in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is also attached with enormous iron rivets. In addition, rods were seated into the bracket with large iron washers, and then pinned by iron pins. This seventeenth-century blacksmith work is, in fact, so unusual, that it suggests an elaborate old repair. Perhaps the rods were inserted into holes vacated by rivets that had worked loose over time? Yet, the presence of an early iron strap hinge to support the post and beam above the bracket and evidence from a turned and joined table made around 1700 in New York City or western Long Island (fig. 16.11) advances the possibility that the weight-bearing ironwork may be part of the original bracket.
This portable table, with the deep vase on the baluster, has strong northern European antecedents, and it may have been made by Feke himself, or indeed by one of several Continental or Anglo-New York or Long Island woodworkers trained in the Dutch, German, or French tradition. Huguenots found refuge in all these places, and such ambiguous forms, like their makers, were infinitely adaptable, reflecting the influence of their travels. The table is, moreover, turned in the same shop tradition as a large group of turned chairs made in New York City or western Long Island ca. 16501720. One example (fig. 16.12) has descended, in situ, in the Bowne house. Dating from John Bowne’s time, the chair’s back balusters are turned similarly to one supporting the table.127
Nothing in the form or construction of this table corresponds with known English types. If the table is disassembled, two of the component parts reveal similar modes of regional artisanal practice used on the bracket. The maple baluster of the table has a rounded tenon turned at the bottom that fits through the two sets of legs, which overlap when assembled. All three elements were secured by an iron washer of the type on the bracket, which is slipped over the rounded tenon, flush against the inside top of the lapped legs. An iron pin (now missing) was pushed through the washered tenon, thus fastening all the pieces together. This is fundamentally the same system used in the meetinghouse. Just as this system was rare craft practice in colonial house construction, so too it is rare in American regional furniture outside New York.
FIGURE 16.11. Tea table, Flushing, Long Island, ca. 1690–1720. Possibly by John Feke. H: 26½″, diameter of top: 18¼″. Maple, oak, and black walnut. Private collection. Photos, Jeff Rowe. The top, with cup of tea, can be rotated toward a guest without lifting the table. Compare the turned shaft with spindles shown in figure 16.12 and the arm supports in figure 16.14. Chamfering on the top’s bottom edge is reminiscent of similar treatment on the top of figure 16.3. (a) Detail below the base shows remarkable similarities to brackets illustrated in figure 16.10 (a) and (b), including the drawknife and chisel work and use of an iron washer and a pin (originally made of iron) to secure the shaft to the bottom and to facilitate movement of the shaft and top.
The other idiosyncratic regional feature of the meetinghouse bracket are the deeply chamfered edges and ends cut with a drawknife. The chamfer was worked as a decisive ornamental element drawn along the inside edge of the bracket and termini. The attenuated edges thus formed an architectonic arch when paired with the opposing brackets and seen from below. Deeply channeled edgework is powerfully visible on both the top and bottom of the tea table’s legs. When the table is apart, its lap joints form a similar bracket, articulated in the same forceful way.
FIGURE 16.12. Great chair owned by John Bowne, western Long Island, probably Flushing, or New York City, 1660–90. H (reduced by wear): 36″, W: 23″, D: 17¼″. Ash and maple. Courtesy Bowne House Historical Society, Flushing, New York. Photo, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. This chair has never been out of the Bowne House, where it was part of the seventeenth-century furnishings. The turnings, like those of a number of surviving chairs from related early shops on western Long Island and New York City, closely resemble the turned shaft on the tea table in figure 16.11.
Survival of the meetinghouse bracket in situ deepens our understanding of the historical processes that informed Long Island regional woodworking, just as it illuminates the fugitive hybridized culture of the local Quaker craft networks. Something as seemingly trivial to historians as this idiosyncratic form of chamfering may prove a signifier of cultural convergence, in particular when read together with related written and material documents of artisanal behavior and experience.
Consider the components of a joined great chair (fig. 16.13), from the middle Atlantic region, with no reliable history of ownership, but plausibly made in or around Huntington, Long Island, sometime between 1700 and 1740. The filial relation of this chair to one with an unimpeachable history of ownership in Huntington (fig. 16.14)—with turned elements under its arms formed like the blunted arrow terminus on the tea table—makes the intuitive attribution of figure 16.13 to an early Long Island maker seem reasonable. Resonance between the idiosyncratic crest in figure 16.13 and the arms in figure 16.14 is particularly convincing. Moreover, close comparison of specific elements on the chair with the meetinghouse bracket makes western Long Island its probable place of origin.128
FIGURE 16.13. Joined great chair, northwest shore, Long Island, possibly Huntington, 1720–40. H: 46½″, W: 23½″, D: 22¼″. Birch with a white pine back panel and seat. Private Collection. Photos, Jeff Rowe. (a) Detail of “hidden” edgework on back of scrolled crest and rear stile. The unusual carved volutes on the crest rail are perfect miniatures of the carved arms on the chair in figure 16.14.
FIGURE 16.14. Joined great chair, Huntington, Long Island, 1720–40. H: 54″. White oak, maple, red cedar, and hickory. Courtesy Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware. The initials “I C” inlaid on the crest stand for Jacob Conklin (1677–1754) or his son Israel (1719–77), both of Huntington, in whose family the chair descended. The finials are nineteenth-century additions.
This chair was the perfect artifact for a pluralistic social setting, precisely because it could have come from anywhere on the Continent, perhaps one of the Quaker counties in the English West Country or Midlands. In short, any potential buyer might have perceived something recognizable, competent, and comfortable in its artifactual language. Following Hogarth, this chair had something for virtually every perceptual grammar then known on Long Island. Above the seat, the dramatic scrolled crest and inward-turning ears were available to regional artisans in the Palatinate, the Netherlands (particularly the province of Limburg), France, the Channel Islands, Wales, and sometimes East Anglia; likewise the carved back and seat with perimeter moldings. Carved backs and perimeter seat moldings also appear on some chairs from seventeenth-century Plymouth Colony, with its early history of settlement in Holland. Hidden below the seat, however, is a molded front stretcher backed by a medial H stretcher, with no back stretcher. In the British Isles and British North America, this was uncommon (if not unheard of), and though much more common in the Netherlands and the Palatinate, this arrangement below the seat absent a back stretcher is most common in France.
So, too, is deeply chamfered edgework by joiners. This was particularly true of chamfered legs, stretchers, and posts—although this may simply reflect a joiner without knowledge of turning, or one lacking the proper equipment (a lathe and chisels). All the regions that supplied artisans to New York also employed the deep chamfer to perform similar sorts of edgework. In Wales or the Palatinate, chamfered edges were also a significant part of the available artisanal language, though perhaps not used as often or as persistently as in Saintonge. As in certain particularly adaptable sounds in pidgin or creole dialects, the ubiquitous practice of chamfered edgework in Long Island may have helped to form the basis for a common visual grammar for artisanal discourse, innovation, and convergence; that is to say, the grammar of a hybrid regional style. The use of this idiosyncratic edgework certainly bound the language of the joined chair to the bracket, presumably made for John Bowne by the Norfolk-Flushing Quaker John Feke. Thus it was well known as a woodworking pattern by Quaker craftsmen attending the Meeting in Flushing.
Did Bowne specify this sort of work on the bracket, or was it simply considered natural in Flushing in 1693? Such specifications appear nowhere in the carefully worded contracts. Compare the deeply channeled edgework on the scrolls, legs, arms, and stretchers of the chair with the chamfered bracket (fig. 16.10a and 16.10b). The chair’s maker paid exquisite, lapidarian attention to detail when he chamfered two tiny, essentially hidden elements: the ends of the scrolls tucked invisibly behind the ears at the crest; and the ends of a molding strip behind the seat, a “backstop” to be covered later with a stuffed pillow. The private performance of drawknife work, built in to be overlooked, was secreted in the chair’s shadows as a kind of artisanal memory image. Was this simply to protect the sharp end grain from splitting, a consequence of disciplined self-mastery, or an act of convergence with diverse refugee artisans in the region who shared a common language with the maker of the meetinghouse bracket?
When John Bowne died in 1694, Samuel Bowne continued to use his father’s account book, where he noted names of local artisans responsible “for further finishing” of the meetinghouse interior. John Everad (Everett?), presumably a sawyer or cartman, passed briefly through the book’s pages in connection with construction between 1696 and 1701. Everad was paid, “for two load of bords fetching for formes [benches] for ye meetinghouse,” “nails for ye meetinghouse,” and “planks to use above ye meeting-house.”129 The use of leveling, rustic forms for seating the meeting, rather than elaborate, hierarchical pews used by the Church of England in New York City, suggests that the main vehicle for English Quakers’ unmediated rhetorical and aesthetic style was extended to Long Island’s interior furnishings (fig. 16.15).
The Quaker vernacular style was thus analogous to a kind of anti-Babel: where the tower of Babel was ornate, striving, high, concentric, and atomizing; the Quaker form was natural, humble, low, straight, and unifying. Here was a place where simple artisans—like the builders themselves—could rise up to testify in Palissy’s natural language (and in tongues) of the stark immediacy of their prophetic experiences and subtle encounters of the soul.
FIGURE 16.15. Interior view of the gallery of Brigflatts Friends Meeting House, Cumbria, UK. © Library of the Religious Society of Friends, Friends House, London. In 1714, these gallery seats were low oak forms. They were raised in 1720, as seen here, by adding backs and arms. This pattern was repeated in Flushing. A number of the slab-ended pine benches visible in figure 16.10 (a) are old, perhaps added sometime around 1760, when the meetinghouse underwent another of its many renovations. The Brigflatts Meeting House in Wales displays interior woodwork with deep chamfering and turned elements in the same general column-and- urn pattern seen on artifacts from Flushing. Were these Welsh, international Quaker woodworking patterns or simply generic?
An account of one such experience was recorded by the itinerant Quaker preacher Thomas Story, who made Samuel Bowne’s house in Flushing his center of operations for conversion in the crucial Long Island Sound region. In 1691, not long before he set out to evangelize in colonial America, Story wrote of the fluid convergence of spiritual experience he had experienced in northern England:
And, when we came to the Meeting, being a little late, it was full gathered; and I went among the Throng of the People on the Forms, and sat still among them in that inward Condition and mental Retirement. . . . For, not long after I had sat down among them, that heavenly and watery cloud overshadowing my Mind, brake into a sweet abounding shower of celestial Rain, and the greatest part of the Meeting was broken together, dissolved and comforted in the same divine and holy Presence and Influence of the true, holy and heavenly Lord; which was divers Times repeated before the Meeting ended . . . our Joy was mutual and full, tho’ in the Efflux of many Tears, as in Cases of the deepest and most unfeigned Love.130
Thomas Story described his Neoplatonic convergence experience—chaste and sexual at once—in material, elemental, and spiritual language closely approximating natural-philosophical, alchemical, and artisanal discourse. Their bodies still, “the People” turned all physical motion inward toward the soulish examination of their one common heart and “Mind” in Christ. An inseminating shower of celestial rain, like the binding, replicating tincture of the philosopher’s stone, thus caused their separated bodies, now met, to be “broken together, dissolved and comforted in the same divine and holy Presence.” The truth of this experience of their plural bodies, reduced, atomized, and recombined nonviolently in a crucible of divine love, was proven because, “it was divers Times repeated before the Meeting ended.” These temporary moments of repetition of bodily dissolution and soulish purification resulted in “mutual and full” convergence, while individuals were sitting side by side and back to front.
This action figuratively collapsed benches full of separate bodies together into a single spiritual seat. At the end of the process, the product of this purified solution was, in fact, distilled, “in the Efflux of many Tears.” Such a subtle material effluvium from the body could only occur “in Cases of the deepest and most unfeigned Love.” Every Paracelsian alchemist and natural philosopher, from Palissy to Fludd, understood that the primitive purity of deepest love was transitory. It was a shadow memory of Neoplatonic transparency, lost after prelapsarian times, recovered through the unity of the soul. The Quaker experiment was another sort of geomancy. It drew God’s transparent light of truth down into their bodies—and, like Palissy’s rustic figures, the material products of their artisanry as well—making security from the danger of corruption and personal assault a quotidian matter. Sir Kenelm Digby’s thesis of soulish motion that gave the weapon salve its fabled potency comes to mind here. And in Fludd’s Internal Principle, the inner movement of the light of the soul “communicated” from body to body, “like a guardian foreseeing danger”:
In their emission the rays are so joined together that either the soul of the seeker or the seeker himself be the one to whom danger is imminent, or else a friend of his; for the [soul] is very prophetical. Being immortal, it may know within itself things that are in the future and things present. Like a guardian foreseeing danger with which a body is threatened, it may explain the secret future of its body to another soul applying to it—a future which it had been unable to communicate to its body because of that body’s grossness. And in this way may a quiet and peaceful soul, which is in a fit condition for judging, and to which movements of its body are well subjected, prognosticate the future to that other soul . . . [such a soul could] leave its body so as to find a place whence it could enter into communication, and converse, with the souls of friends.”131
Verbal communication—what Story calls “Tongue and Lip Religion”—was superfluous—a dangerous impediment to authentic communication between natural bodies. Hence, “the Meeting being ended” when Story stood up, and “the Peace of God, which passeth all the Understanding of natural Man, and is unexpressible by any Language but itself alone, remained, as a holy Canopy, over my Mind, in a Silence out of the Reach of all Words; and no Idea, but the Word himself, can be conceived.”132
For Palissy and his transatlantic Huguenot followers—and their network of Quaker artisan patrons and clients both in and around New York—passionate, Neoplatonic quietism, experienced “out of the Reach of all Words,” was the essential language of material things engendered in the subterranean “bowels” of Nature and imitated by calling on the “inward condition” of man, where the silent “peace of God” lay hidden in the soul. This condition created the “holy Canopy” of the Word, which hovered invisibly over the simple form. More important, this edifice could be constructed anywhere in the microcosm, as by Huguenots in the désert.
Many artisans performed work inside the shell of the Flushing meetinghouse. The Bowne accounts show that this was an ongoing process. In March 1696, one George Langly, a Quaker carpenter who may have been a member of Bowne’s household, commanded a total of 16 shillings “for worke done about ye meeting hous.” Two months later, Thomas Ford was paid 19 shillings, “for 6½ das worke at ye meetinghouse,” and in March 1700, he earned £1.17.1½ for thirteen days of master carpentry. Not much more can be said with confidence about these and other unknown Quaker craftsmen. Blacksmiths did not usually warrant mention in the documentary record, but one Will Fowler was paid 12 shillings “for making hinges for ye meetinghouse.”133 Was he even a Flushing townsman? Blacksmiths were in short supply on Long Island and were often imported from elsewhere for specific jobs.134 Did this quiet craftsman forge the ironwork for the meetinghouse brackets or the related wrought-iron washer and pin, hidden under the tea table’s post for stability?
One craftsman from the Bowne accounts of the construction of the meetinghouse interior has enough history attached to his name to provide something more than a fragmentary biographical context. James Clement (ca. 1640–1725), was a Huguenot-Quaker joiner and, in an extraordinary synthesis, a scribe as well. Clement specialized in typical European notarial functions, including land transactions and similar economic documents for the Flushing Quaker community. He was also said to be “skilled in the law.”
Clement’s artisanal credentials are also readily apparent in the Bowne accounts. In December 1697, the same month that Clement received 2 shillings from Samuel Bowne for building “my Childs cofin,” death struck another local artisan. Clement was paid 12 shillings to make “g [Langleys] cofin” as well. This was for the body of carpenter George Langley, credited one year earlier “for worke done about ye meetinghouse.” Despite his lively trade in coffins—always a mainstay of any early modern carpenter’s craft—Clement still found time that winter to undertake more “work done about ye meetinghouse.” This remained a constant refrain in the accounts until September 1701, when the first campaign to finish the building’s interior finally ended, seven years after it opened for use. At one point, Clement worked side by side with Thomas Ford. Both craftsmen were probably responsible for making the forms from two loads of boards fetched to the meetinghouse by John Everad in 1696.135
Clement did much of his notarial work for the Quakers. On May 3, 1696, he received 5s. 6d. shillings “for writing a bill of sale for ye me[e]ting house” in Flushing. This bill of sale may refer to construction of the meetinghouse itself, three acres of land purchased for the site for £40 in 1692, or the purchase of additional land. The bill was followed in the Bowne accounts by another credit for 5s. 3d., to “James Clement for a deed for [the New] York meetinghouse land.” This property was acquired “from Jacob Were [Ware].” The month before, Samuel Bowne had paid 5 shillings “to James Clemant for recording the dead of Seal [deed of sale]” of the transaction.136
Who was James Clement of Flushing? How did he come to join the New York Quaker community in the dual capacities of craftsman and scribe? We do know that he was not the first of his line in the colonies. There were several individuals named Clement living in New Amsterdam / New York during the seventeenth century. All were clearly woodworkers, or in the building trades, and “close kin” to James and his family on Long Island.137 This small cell of related craftsmen included “Charles Clement ye Cooper [a.k.a. Clement the Cooper],” who appeared in New York City records for the last time in 1677. Charles Clement can be traced along collateral lines south to settlers on the Raritan River in New Jersey and as far north as Schenectady, in the Mohawk Valley. More important for our purposes however, are Bastien Clement and Jan Clement, arguably brothers, whose first appearances in New Amsterdam / New York may be traced to 1659 and 1665 respectively.138
Bastien came originally from the northern French province of Tournay and, following the pattern of most of the first refugees in the “old” (or pre-1685) Huguenot colonization of New Amsterdam, he traveled the well trodden route from the northern French provinces (Picardy, Normandy, Maine, Brittany, and Tournay) to the New World Dutch colony, arriving by way of numerous temporary residences where work was available in the coastal Netherlands. Bastien, a wheelwright, made his way first to Doornick in 1657, and then to New Amsterdam in February of 1659.139 The Clements split up to find work in various towns in Holland, which were burdened by a glut of skilled refugees. Then they migrated in a staggered pattern across the Atlantic. By 1665, a certain Jan Clement, a master mason by trade, had emigrated to Kings County, where he acquired land in New Utrecht and Flatlands and married Marie Bocquet (Bokee), another French refugee.140
There were other colonists named Clement with French refugee antecedents within reach of New York in the seventeenth century. All were skilled artisans. While asserting a direct relationship to James Clement of Long Island is uncertain, there are suggestive parallels. Abbott Lowell Cummings has found that Augustine Clement was the only decorative house painter recorded in Boston before 1650. Augustin is a common French name, and he pursued a quintessentially Huguenot trade. Indeed, the next acknowledged “painter-stainer” to advertise his services in Boston was another Huguenot, John Berger (fl. 1718–32). Augustine Clement embarked from Southampton in 1635. Described in Boston as a “sometime” (impermanent) resident of Reading, in Berkshire, Augustine enjoyed great longevity and also trained his son, Samuel Clement (1635–78), to master his rarified trade. James Clement trained his son, also named Samuel, but nothing more is known of either painter.141
In 1688, Richard Clement, another artisan with occupations related to James’s, appeared in Casco Bay, Maine, a French refugee settlement established after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, whence many southwestern Huguenots dispersed to the Boston area and, after the failure of the Oxford, Massachusetts, resettlement project, to New York. In an intriguing document, written in French, Richard Clement was called a [c]harpanteur (roughly, “builder” or house carpenter)” and named “deputy surveyor” for the settlement. In his dual capacity, Richard Clement also assumed the role of scribe in charge of the documentation of land transactions.
That is how he was identified in a petition to Governor Andros by Pierre Baudouin, a refugee who emigrated from La Rochelle to Dublin, and thence to Casco Bay, where he acquired 100 acres of woodland. In a long “Supplication,” Baudouin appealed “humbly” for tax relief to pay “the said Clement,” who was hired “to do carpentry work, after which he had to make his report so that the patents or leases on the said property may be delivered.” Baudouin claimed the exemption for hard times following religious persecution. He claimed further, that “because of hardships suffered by those of his religion, he had lost nearly all his assets,” which he was forced to leave behind in La Rochelle. Inasmuch as the highly specialized rhetoric of this notarial document was written about Baudouin, essentially in the third person—then signed by the supplicant—one wonders if Richard Clement was the scribe. After all, Clement clearly stood to benefit if Baudouin’s petition was successful.142
Our first encounter with James Clement of Flushing occurs in Amsterdam on May 30, 1663, when “James Clement of ye Buthrop-Bridge in Durham, in ye Kingdom of England” was bound as an indentured servant to “John Bowne, inhabitant in Flushing, in ye province of New Netherland, in America.”143 That James Clement came to Amsterdam from Durham, does not mean he was born there. Indeed, the date of Clement’s indenture (1663) and the place (Amsterdam) tie his migration closely to that of Bastien and Jan Clement—perhaps James’s brothers or cousins—whose arrival in New York and New Utrecht from Tournay via Holland may be dated to 1659 and 1665 respectively. Bastien was thought to have left Tournay around 1657. It is reasonable to assume James was made a refugee at about the same time, but instead of going directly to Holland, he first made his way to the Quaker region of Durham. He found work there and perfected his mastery of the scrivener’s trade before using his contacts with Durham Friends to reach terms on a suitable colonial indenture with a Quaker master in Amsterdam. During the interim of six years in Buthrop-Bridge, he may have been apprenticed to a clerk. Befitting a servant with such useful skills, Bowne granted James Clement reasonable terms of indenture. He was to receive half the cost of his “freight or passage” to New Amsterdam, 250 pounds of tobacco, and, most unusual in standard artisans’ contracts, cash “sufficient to Clothe him with two suits of Apparell, one fit to Labor, and the other fit to use on other occasions.”144 The other occasions were notarial in nature. James needed clothing that was appropriate to a public rank much higher than rough “Apparel ... fit to [manual] Labor.”
In 1663, John Bowne prepared his return to Flushing from Amsterdam, after successfully defending his town’s right to follow enthusiastic beliefs to the directors of the West India Company. James Clement traveled to Flushing on his new master’s triumphant voyage home. Clement’s skills were of enormous value both to Bowne himself and to the Society of Friends, because his clients were then acquiring as much land as possible. Accurate, clear, and detailed documents were necessary to the success of this process, particularly since such acquisitions were often challenged in court. As a skilled house carpenter and joiner, Clement would also be invaluable in the numerous building campaigns to come, both on Bowne’s expanding farm and other properties and as regards the new meetinghouse. Indeed, James Clement began to write deeds for land transactions in Flushing immediately upon his arrival in 1664. By 1669, he was identified as “clerk,” “town clerk,” or “clerk of the county court,” as well as a carpenter or joiner from Flushing and John Bowne’s servant. By September 1710, Clement had risen in the local bureaucratic hierarchy to become one of the five supervisors of Queens County.145
Clement may have been working privately on his own account as a freeman as early as 1670. Yet, like Burling and Delaplaine, he was still routinely employed by Bowne and continued to use the honorific “master,” as in a final balance recorded in Clement’s hand in Bowne’s account book:
All reconkings [reckonings] made Ballanced betwixt one James Clement & my master Jon Bowne & their is dew to him two good cowes wth cave [calf] or & calfes by their side wch I doe ingadge to deliver to him ore his order in ye begining part of may next as also twenty shillings more in marchant pay, to be pd in at Robert S[hr]eyes at New Yorke as wittness my hand ye 20th October 1676.
The context of this transaction is lost, but by 1675, James possessed a small farm on Little Neck Bay in Flushing (Bayside), where he raised cows. The agreement was significant enough to be witnessed by the politically influential Flushing merchant “Major” William Lawrence. A longtime patron of the Clement family, William was kin to Benjamin Lawrence, who apprenticed to Joshua Delaplaine in 1719, and whose master was John Bowne’s reliable client Edward Burling.146 Moreover, William Lawrence played host to the Quaker preacher Thomas Story if Samuel Bowne was unavailable, and because Clement was associated with the household of John and Samuel Bowne, he was known to Story as well.
By comparison with texts produced by the other two clerks we have encountered in this book—the learned Edward Howes and the polished writer of the supplication for Pierre Baudouin (perhaps Richard Clement)—James Clement’s awkwardly written account of his negotiation with John Bowne seems crude. Perhaps this shows that English was, after all, James Clement’s second language, while the other scribes wrote with facility in their native tongue. Still, the most significant aspect of this document is Clement’s failure to date it in the standard Quaker manner; that is to say, “20 d[ay] 8 m[onth] 19.” Despite the crudeness of the text, this must be considered a conscious decision, not a trivial oversight. Clement was probably a member of the sect in Amsterdam in 1663, or else it is doubtful Bowne would have accepted him into his household. William Wade Hinshaw, the great Quaker encyclopedist, did not share this opinion. Hinshaw believed that James Clement was an active member of the Society of Friends beginning in 1676.147
Evidence suggests that Clement was a member much earlier, however. Francis Cooley and John Adams stood up in the Flushing Meeting in 1667 because they found “it in their hearts to speak to James Clement about his absenting himself from meetings.”148 Did Clement’s indenture to Bowne, a principal supporter of the meeting, end in 1667? James Clement’s name disappears from Meeting minutes after that date. Although Clement absented himself from Meeting, he clearly remained a well-known adjunct of John Bowne’s household—if no longer a bonded servant—and arguably also in sympathy with fundamental tenets of Quaker theology. All evidence suggests that if Clement was no longer formally Quaker, he remained all his life a primitivistic, quietist Calvinist, of the sort Bernard Palissy encountered routinely in the artisans’ désert of Saintonge in the 1560s. In this posture, Clement was similar to many of the “other people” encountered by Thomas Story at meetings throughout the Long Island Sound region on his mission between 1699 and 1705. However, while Clement’s name appears with a fair degree of frequency in the economic records of the society—as well as Bowne’s accounts—in his capacity as craftsman and clerk for Quaker land transactions, the births of his children were not recorded there, and neither was his death. This was highly unusual among Friends in the New York Meeting. More anomalous still are the language and format of James Clement’s will, which employs a secular rather than the familiar religious formula preferred by most active members of the society and again eschews the usual Quaker dating system. In such a ritualistic context, this was a statement by omission of Clement’s religious independence and his desire for privacy.149
Yet some of James Clement’s off spring became full members of the Society. Following Catherine Swindlehurst’s research on refugee artisans in seventeenth-century Spitalfields and Hillel Schwartz’s findings on the Huguenot Prophets in eighteenth-century London, the Huguenots of New York, given their background in the religious practice of Civil War Saintonge, were drawn to the pietistic quietism of Quakerism. This was amplified by the Friends’ similar emergence from the fires of religious persecution. Still, some French refugee families did not join the confession until the next generation.150 Gradualism was facilitated in New York because the meetings retained an inclusive style until well into the eighteenth century. Long Island meetings were subject to fluid spiritual and social give and take, as Story shows. This gave New York Huguenots the benefits of convergence signified by the meeting, without the necessity of relinquishing their old patterns of hidden religious practice in exchange for the permanent communal devotion of adherence to formal confession. In a very real, familial sense, tension between the “two reformations” of communal devotion and personal piety was played out in nebulous cultural territory that surrounded the Long Island Sound basin. Negotiable religious space available in this ill-defined territory—the inverse of Winthrop’s Boston—was what drew the doomed Anne Hutchinson and her extended family to Long Island. Such unresolved spiritual tensions sometimes had crushing long-term consequences, however, perhaps more so for women.151
The name of James Clement’s first wife, the mother of their nine children, is unknown. The identities of the children and of his second wife Sarah Hinchman (married on 2 July 1696) are to be found in the Flushing Census of 1698, taken by the Quaker Jonathan Wright and James Clement, respectively the town’s “Constable and Clerk,” on “this Last of August 1698.”152 Clement’s marriage to Sarah Hinchman solidified ties to the Quaker elite of Flushing, despite his stubborn resistance to open membership in the meeting.153 Still, there is also evidence that Clement’s religious practices caused “trouble or disturbance as much as in me lyes,” as Sarah wrote in her will of June 15, 1725 (proved February 28, 1727). James Clement left all their daughters out of his will of May 5, 1724 (proved March 16, 1725), presumably because of their open religious affiliation with the Flushing Meeting against his wishes. This caused a tumult in the family, something Sarah sought to avoid (or perhaps compensate for) in her will by having three witnesses to reverse her husband’s passion for secrecy and contrariness, all of them “being known Quakers [who] did declare in due form [emphasis added].”154 For these and other reasons now lost with most of the early town records of Flushing, James Clement was judged an “unusual and peculiar man.”155
The census was also taken idiosyncratically, which was the fashion of this “peculiar” Huguenot clerk. First, it listed the heads of some prominent families, where Samuel Bowne is not named, though James Clement was placed with the grandees. No reference to ethnicity is made in this list (“Col. Thomas Willetts, Justice Tho: Hukes, Major Wm Lawrence, Richard Cornell, John Esmond, Samll. Thorne and James Clement”). Yet in the lists of Dutch, French, and English inhabitants following the elite, ethnicity is noted. After these came unmarried landowners called “freemen-men.”156 The census thus contains the names of two Huguenot families—Clement and Lawrence—which James Clement felt transcended ethnic identity with social status.
One name appears unexpectedly in the category of unmarried “freemen-men,” that of “John Clement,” a servant “In the family of Coll: Thomas Willett.” This could not possibly be Jan Clement the mason, who immigrated in 1665. Instead, John was almost certainly “Jan Clement 22 Jeare,” when he took the oath of allegiance in New Utrecht, in Kings County, on September 3, 1687, two years after the Revocation.157 This Jan (or John) would have been 33 years old in 1700. He was probably sent by Jan Clement the mason of New Utrecht to join their kinsman James Clement in Flushing, where he acquired some land and a place in the household of Thomas Willett, a town leader. In this way, John’s situation paralleled James’s modest beginnings in Flushing. Also like James Clement, John Clement was not—or did not dare stay—a member of his Quaker master’s Meeting. Given James’s harsh treatment of his daughters in the will, his distance from the Meeting may have been a condition negotiated in advance of John’s arrival from New Utrecht.158
James Clement’s local reputation for peculiarity also stems from a brief but ironically open theatrical performance during the Bownas controversy of 1702. I say ironic, in that James Clement’s only recorded public utterance was a dramatic defense of the right to act quietly—in the shadows—in which he defended the absolute value and inviolability of both corporate and personal secrecy from intrusion by the state. In the absence of other evidence, it may be possible to extrapolate from this incident Clement’s abhorrence of institutional intrusion on his material and spiritual privacy of any kind, including attendance at Meeting, where introspection can become a subject for analysis and judgment by the group.
The Bownas controversy was constructed in Quaker martyrology as a four-part passion play, set in three major western towns on Long Island, all of which contested for converts with the colony’s authorized Church of England ministry and the flourishing (albeit officially illegitimate) sectarians. Samuel Bownas’s year-long ordeal began in Hempstead, where he was charged with heresy by two New York judges; moved to the Flushing meetinghouse, where he was arrested; and culminated at Jamaica, where a grand jury refused to concur with the judges that a trial was warranted. Finally, he was imprisoned by Lord Cornbury despite the grand jury’s findings. We also encounter James Clement in Jamaica, where he was a juror. But before turning to Clement’s revealing moment on the grand jury, it remains to trace the momentum of prior events from accounts written by Bownas himself.
In November 1702, Samuel Bownas, an English Quaker preacher, traveled to Hempstead to preach at a Meeting held in a large barn, where he was to be the principal speaker. Bownas was trailed to Hempstead by two former Friends converted to fierce evangelical and political adversaries: George Keith (“once a Quaker,” according to Bownas, “but now an Episcopal minister”), and William Bradford, John Bowne’s main supplier of William Penn’s books for resale in Flushing during the 1680s (“who had been a printer for Friends at Philadelphia, but deserting the Society, Friends took the business from him”).159 The barn was immediately divided into two halves by the rivals, and as Bownas preached to one group of seekers in one half, Keith (with William Bradford attending) preached to his group in the other. From Bownas’s perspective, he easily carried the day in the open competition between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in early New York. “I being very young and strong,” Bownas wrote, “my voice was plainly heard by the people who were with Keith, so that they all left his meeting and came to ours (for we had room enough for both meetings, it being a very large barn), except the Clerk and one William Bradford.”160
Facing public humiliation and desertion, Keith and Bradford formulated a face-saving strategy. Both “agreed that the latter should come and try if no advantage might be taken of my doctrine: accordingly he [the printer William Bradford, acting the ancient role of inquisitor’s scribe] came to my meeting and pulled out of his pocket a small blank-book, with pen and ink, and steadfastly stared in my face to put me out of countenance if he could. . . . He opened his book and writ about two lines in it, then shut it again, continuing his staring . . . but I was past his skill, for I felt both inward and outward strength, and divine power to fill my heart, and my face was like brass to all opposition.” When Bradford failed to disconcert Bownas, he demanded a public dispute over doctrine. “I told him his questions being more for contention than edification,” Bownas replied, “I did not think myself obliged to answer them. He turned from me, and in a very angry manner said I should hear of it another way.”161
Bradford had in mind to produce a formal charge of heresy akin to Anabaptism (among other heresies) against Bownas in a deposition sworn before Edward Burroughs and Joseph Smith, justices of the court of New York, with a copy to Thomas Cardale, sheriff of Queens County:
I, William Bradford, of New York, aged 40, depose that on the 21st of November, 1702, going into the Quaker’s meeting, at Nathaniel Pearsall’s, deceased, in Hempstead, I heard one Bownas, lately come out of England, preach; and the first words I heard him say, were: “The sign of the cross; and thus, friends, having gone through the Papist baptism, let us examine the Church of England. Well, what do they do? Why, the Bishop lays his hands upon those who have learnt the languages, and ordains them to be ministers. Well, what do they do? Why, they baptize the children, the young children, and sprinkle a little water in their faces, and by this they make the child a Christian as they say, and for so doing the parents must give the priest four pence or a groat: indeed, this is an easy way of making Christians for a groat! And how do they do this? Their own Catechism tells us, The priest says to the child: “What is thy name?” The child answers, Thomas, James, Mary, &c. Well, and “who gave thee this name?” Ans.—“My godfathers and godmothers in my baptism, whereby I was made a member of Christ.” This is brave, to be a member of Christ. Who would not have a little water sprinkled in their faces? And “what did your godfathers and mothers then for you?” Ans.—“They did promise and vow three things in my name: 1. That I should renounce the Devil and all his works.” &c. Ay! did they so? This is brave. Well, what did they promise more? “Secondly, that I should keep God’s holy will and commandments,” &c. And yet, in contradiction to this, they plead for sin term of life, and say they can’t keep God’s commandments in this life. Why, this is strange, that godfathers and mothers should promise what they believe and can’t perform. Do they thus promise? Yes! they do. But this is strange, that their God should need a godfather and mother. But, friends, our God is the true and living God, and hath no need of godfathers and mothers. Well, and what do Presbyterians do? Why, they baptise their children also; but, as I take it, they do not make use of godfathers or mothers, nor the cross. They have thrown away that piece of popery. As to the Lord’s supper I shall be brief. The bread and wine which they receive and call the Lord’s supper, goes in at the mouth and into the draught, and profits nothing. They call it a sign, yea, and an empty sign it is. But by these ways and forms the hirelings deceive the people. They will turn with every wind, and every turn that will answer their priests’ ends, as we have seen largely fulfilled in our day.162
On November 24, 1702, Sheriff Cardale was empowered by the court to execute a warrant issued for Bownas’s arrest. Less than one week later the scene shifted to Flushing, where Bownas traveled on November 29 to attend New York’s “half-yearly meeting, which was very large, Keith being expected there,”
when the meeting was fully set the Sheriff came with a very large company, all armed, some with guns, others with pitchforks; others, swords, halberds, clubs, &c.; as if they should meet with great opposition in taking a poor, harmless, silly sheep out of the flock. The Sheriff stepping up into the gallery, took me by the hand and told me I was his prisoner. We pro’d and con’d a little time, and. . . . The sheriff allowed me to stay with my friends until the 5th day. . . . The meeting increased, there being near 2,000 the last day; but Keith did not come.163
Cardale was patient; wisely allowing Bownas to come in his own good time, doubtless fearing the incitement of such a crowd by an abrupt or violent arrest.
Apparently, the crowd did not diminish by the time the careful sheriff arrived in Jamaica with his prisoner. Threat of mob action was perceived great by the authorities. “I appeared at Jamaica before four Justices,” wrote Bownas. “A great crowd of people were deprived of an opportunity of hearing my examination, for want of a large hall, which they might have had,” he continued in a sarcastic vein, “but by reason of the cold [that is, popular resentment in the streets] the Justices would not go there. They wrote a mittimus [arrest warrant], ordering the sheriff to safely keep in the common goal of Queens Co. Samuel Bownas, charged with speaking scandalous lies of and reflections against the Church of England.”164 Bownas remained a prisoner in Jamaica for three months, after which “a court was held. The judges came, attended with much company, in great pomp, with trumpets and other music before them. The grand jury were called over, a very uncommon charge given them, and on retiring a bill165 was sent them. They had also before them sundry evidence [prepared by Bownas] to set Bradford’s evidence aside.”166
When the court met on February 29, 1703, James Clement was one of twenty-two members of a grand jury that included several Quakers and woodworking artisans. But Clement was by far the most vocal and memorable, so far as Bownas was concerned. “The Jury being asked what business they had to lay before the Court, presented the bill against me indorsed Ignoramus:
The Judge was very angry. . . . On the Judge [Chief Justice Bridges] demanding their reasons for not finding a bill, James Clement, a bold man and skilled in law, answered: “We are sworn to keep the Queen’s secrets, our fellows’ and our own.” The Judge replied: “Now, Mr. Wiseman speaks. You are not so sworn, and I could find it in my heart to lay you by the heels, and a fine on your brethren.” Clement retorted that neither Grand nor Petit Jurors are to be menaced with threats of stocks or fines, but they are to act freely to the best of their judgement on the evidence before them. Now, the Judge finding that he had not children to deal with, began to flatter, and requested the Jury to take back the bill and resume consideration on it. On this the Jury was in judgement divided, but at last all consented. Next morning the Judge asked the Forman [Richard Cornell]: “How find you the bill?” Ans.—“As yesterday.” The Judge then charged the Jury with obstructing justice. “Why?” said Clement; “because we can’t be of the same mind as the Court! We would have you know that we desire nothing but justice.” The Clerk called over the Jury singly to show their reasons. Some refused to say more than: “That’s our verdict.” Others said: “How unreasonable for the Court to try to perjure the Jury by revealing their secrets in the face of the country!”167
In the heated and sarcastic dialogue between Chief Justice Bridges and Mr. Wiseman, it is difficult not to perceive in the habitually secretive Clement’s overt and subversive role as Mr. Wiseman, the Long Island survival of Palissy’s ironic “pauvre artisan sans lettres.” It may be that Chief Justice Bridges’s use of such figurative and rhetorical speech was merely an angry response to Clement’s putative reputation as a local know-it-all. Be that as it may, we have no evidence that Bridges was even aware of Clement’s existence before the County Clerk called the grand jury into session. To be sure however, it is absolutely certain that Clement’s occupation as a carpenter and joiner was listed by the clerk, so Judge Bridges undoubtedly saw a “poor uneducated artisan,” “boldly” standing before him in court to elucidate his reading of the common law—hence, Mr. Wiseman. Most un-Palissian, however, was the jury’s open challenge in finding the charge Ignoramous, to block the extension of the state’s authority to the hinterlands. With the one exception early in his career when Palissy openly expressed his Protestant beliefs to the local authorities in Saintes (the potter’s openness nearly cost him his life), the “humble” Palissy tended to mask his contempt for the ignorance of authority in the indirect, flattering, and exorbitant language of patronage. This Clement found unnecessary in Jamaica.
The Palissian denunciation by Clement and his peers on the grand jury of the learned ignorance of arbitrary authority, was delivered from the ancient, experiential wisdom of the practical, natural artisan. Refugee tradesmen such as Clement kept essential secrets hidden, just as did the soul of nature. This competition between local and central authority in Jamaica, extended to the ultimate resolution of the Bownas controversy. The grand jury’s defiance of the court’s desire that jurors return a bill indicating just cause for prosecution, and the Huguenot joiner James Clement’s vigorous defense (with other jurors) of the right to secrecy from the state, “angered the Judge so that he adjourned the Court for six weeks, and ordered the prisoner to be kept closer than before, on account of crimes and misdemeanors of the most dangerous consequence, as tending to subvert Church and State, and threatening to send me [Bownas] to London.”168
In its desire to punish Bownas and warn his supporters, the court’s anger led to the construction of an oppressively small, isolated rustic prison, reminiscent of the one occupied by Elias Neau in France (see fig. 9.7). This parallel would not have been lost on Huguenots, Quakers, and “other people” on Long Island whose families had been the victims of religious oppression; nor would Samuel Bownas’s final refuge in artisanal production while a prisoner of the spirit have been lost on the many craftsmen living among these sectarian groups:
I was now put up in a small room made of logs, which had been protested against as an unlawful prison, and my friends denied coming to me. I appealed to the Governor [Lord Cornbury], but all in vain. Not wanting to be chargeable to my friends I applied to a Scotch churchman, Charles Williams, to let me have tools and teach me to make shoes. By night I finished one shoe, and next day the other, and made such improvement as to earn 15 shillings a week, and thus diverted body and mind, and had plenty of money.169
Under painful pressure in which the body and spirit (or “body and mind”) enter a sort of crucible, Palissy the Huguenot artisan reinvented himself as a preacher and Bownas the Quaker preacher mastered artisanry. The double roles become almost interchangeable in the literature of the history and martyrology of artisanal sectarianism, violent oppression of heterodoxy by the state, and ultimately secret refuge in the shadows. Just as Palissy imagined his spirit to be impregnated by the Neoplatonic soul of nature that planted the seeds of unity and recreation in the fragmentation of his besieged body, thus enabling the potter to communicate silently through the material language that emerged from his obstetric craft at the moment words failed or were choked off by absolutism, so, too, Samuel Bownas, silenced and isolated in a “small room” as an arbitrary prisoner of “Church and State,” produced shoes in his enforced “confinement . . . and thus diverted body and mind.” Was Bownas’s curious pattern of making one shoe by night and the other by day a metaphor for conjunction of macrocosm and microcosm? Following material-holiness themes that animate spiritual artisanry in Palissy, Fludd, and Hogarth, had the now isolated Bownas “withdrawn from the multitude . . . [to] perform very great actions and . . . direct them toward a felicitous climax and issue”? Indeed, skill became his path to spiritual and material security; the besieged oppression of Bownas’s body and soul was transmuted and hence reborn in the purification of materials. And, in the end, he “had plenty of money.” Even (or, perhaps I should say especially) in prison, natural artisanal skill learned from God through Nature and the intermediary of the soul and crafted wisely in secrecy, privacy, and isolation, was transformed into redemption and cash.
In October 1703, after a year in prison, the judge offered Samuel Bownas his freedom if he paid the jailer’s fees. He refused to acquiesce despite his cash reserves—a reward for patience, work, and steadfastness in adversity that he would not turn over to his persecutors—but he was released from his Long Island prison after Friends paid the charges. Upon Bownas’s release, he returned to his Long Island ministry, and “he now visited every corner . . . and had very large open meetings.”170
But tensions remained high between the Church of England and the Quakers and their sectarian collaborators. Almost as high as in the 1650s, when Stuyvesant persecuted sectarians in the name of the officially authorized Dutch Reformed Church. One can clearly see why New York City Huguenots remained vital to the Quakers’ economic and religious prospects in the colony. The Huguenots were the Quakers’ artisanal bridge to Manhattan’s rich material culture. Inroads had been made since Stuyvesant’s notorious prohibition of sects in New Netherlands. Quaker Meetings were now quietly held in private New York houses, while Lord Cornbury and his successors as governor usually looked the other way. But the controversy over Samuel Bownas poisoned the atmosphere between the Church of England and the Quakers and set up new boundaries against sectarianism in the city, which were not lifted completely until after the American Revolution.
In 1699, three years before the Bownas controversy, Thomas Story was amazed to hold a Meeting “at the House of one Thomas Roberts, a convinced man,” because it took place “in the Heart of the City.” After all, “the Testimony of Truth hath seldom any great Prevalence in that Place.” And yet there was still space available for optimism and light: “the Room,” at Thomas Roberts’ house, “was large, and all about the Doors and Windows were full of People.” By 1702, while Bownas was making shoes in prison, Story’s hope for effecting a spiritual convergence between western Long Island and New York City lessened. His spiritual light was nearly extinguished “in that hard and dark Place.” As Story wrote in 1704, “Samuel Bownas [was] still a Prisoner for the Testimony of the Truth, by the lawless arbitrary Imposition of that Government under the Administration of Edward Hyde, commonly called Lord Cornbury, an unreasonable and unjust Persecutor.”171 As a result, Story felt persecuted and threatened by Cornbury as well, and in advance of a Meeting that took place in New York later that year, he wrote in his journal:
I went to New-York; and the Day after had a good and comfortable Meeting there; and though I had heard, two months before I went from home, that the Lord Cornbury had threatened, that if ever I should come into his Government he would confine me, for some Words falsely alleged to have been spoken by me in my Testimony, some time before in Maryland (with which he had no business at New-York) about the National Church of England, her Sacrements, Order, and Catechism; yet I did not go one step out of my way, nor at all Shun him about it, either in my going to New York, or now in my returning [to Long Island], though the common talk in these Parts was, that a Warrant was lodged in the Sheriff’s Hand against me, at whose house I was several Times, yet the LORD preserved me free.172