September 15th, 2012 • 1:32 PM
Attacks upon Horrocks and Puritans, Kepler and America

Addendum to "Cranes of Kepler"

by David Shavin · July 5, 2012

I. Jeremiah Horrocks and the Puritans

Jeremiah Horrocks' devotion and passion, in his last four years, for continuing the truthful scientific path of Johannes Kepler was the blossoming of his devotion to and passion for his Puritan religion during his first eighteen years. The story is interwoven with the founding of America.

His maternal grandfather, Thomas Aspinwall, a well-known craftsman of watches, and Thomas' brother, Edward, had recruited the young Richard Mather first as a schoolteacher, and then also the preacher for their Puritan community. Mather became the head authority in Toxteth, a small community outside of Liverpool, for the whole of Jeremiah's childhood. In 1632, Jeremiah headed off to the Puritan stronghold of Emmanuel College at Cambridge.

In 1633, Mather came under attack from the Archbishop of York and was suspended. The Puritan reverend, John Cotton – who had married Elizabeth Horrocks (the cousin of Jeremiah's father) – moved to America that year. He convinced Mather, who followed him to America in 1635. In America, Richard's son, Increase Mather, and his grandson, Cotton Mather, would continue his work. And, of course, Cotton received his first name from his maternal grandfather, John Cotton, the in-law of the Horrocks. As such, Jeremiah Horrocks was connected to both sides of Cotton Mather's family.

Yet another of his father's cousins was a Rev. Alexander Horrocks, a fairly well-known Puritan preacher in England, who had performed the marriage of Jeremiah's parents. Alexander's story casts some light upon the shroud thrown around the mysterious and sudden death of the 22-year-old Jeremiah.

II. Was Jeremiah Murdered?

a) Rev. Alexander Horrocks

The Puritans had tried to stay within the English Church and within England, however, by the late 1620's, Charles I was already embroiled within the religious wars of Europe (i.e., the "Thirty Years War", begun in 1618). In brief, the expenses incurred, e.g., in sending troops in 1628 to Le Havre, against the French, became a point of conflict with Parliament. In 1629, Charles dissolved Parliament, beginning a decade of personal rule. In 1630, when John Winthrop's group of Puritans (including Thomas Dudley, William Pynchon, Simon and Anne Bradstreet) sailed from Southamptom, it was Rev. John Cotton who gave the famous sermon for the occasion, "The Divine Right to Occupy the Land". Cotton came under increasing attack, including from the High Commission Court. At the time that Jeremiah entered Cotton's 'alma mater', Emmanuel College, in 1632, Cotton had gone 'underground' to escape detention. He sailed with other Puritans in 1633, where he preached at the First Church of Boston. Jeremiah's teacher, Richard Mather, came under attack, from the Bishop of York, and listening to Cotton's advice, departed for America in 1635.

The cousin of Jeremiah's father, Rev. Alexander Horrocks, continued his preaching and activities in England. He had been cited as a noncomformist by the Archbishop Laud, the head of the Church of England. The tensions in England during Jeremiah's last two years (1639-41) were unrelenting, and in 1642, the religious wars of the continent broke out in England with some savagery. On May 28, 1644, Royalists raided the Reverend's town, Bolton, attacking the home of his nephew, with whom he was staying. However, the raiding Cavaliers had not located the Reverend there; so the nephew was put to death, and some 'unmentionable' actions were visited upon his wife, Elisabeth. (The 19th century phrasing is that she was "a woman of good quality" who was "inhumanly treated".) The key here is that the raiding Cavaliers made clear their central mission, calling out: "O that we had that old Rogue Horrocks that preaches in his grey cloak."1The modern (2003) biographer of Jeremiah, Peter Aughton, is certainly aware of the same 19th century source, but he covers up any mention of the attack upon Jeremiah's relatives. He simply clips off the opening of the quotation, "O that we had…", and presents the remainder of the quote simply as "[T]hat old Rogue Horrocks that preaches in his grey cloak" - as evidence that the Reverend was well-known. End of story. (It almost sounds like an endearing phrase. "That old Rogue…") Such is the continuing nervousness of British intelligence over the Horrocks case. Clearly, their target was the Reverend. The murder and molestation was incidental - or, what is now termed 'collateral damage'. So, at least one Horrocks was targetted for his intellectual position.

b) Two deaths and one raid

Now, let's revisit the matter of Jeremiah simply dropping dead at the age of 22 on January 3, 1641 – the day before he is, finally, to meet face-to-face with his collaborator of the previous five years, William Crabtree. Admittedly, one possibility is a heart attack. Even a 22-year-old could have, e.g., a congenital heart defect. However, the silence on the subject is deafening. Would not a simple investigation, lacking any medical leads at all, begin with the simple question as to whether he had any enemies? Later, we can take up the larger question as to what he was doing that last year, by way of addressing what would be 'freaking out' his enemies.

Now, sometime after Jeremiah's death, there is a raid by 'marauding soldiers' upon the home of James Horrocks, Jeremiah's father, where the marauders find and seize Jeremiah's papers, and burn them. It is not clear when this raid occurred, but if it was politically motivated, it were likely it occurred shortly after the death. This would appear to be an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, but no author writing of Jeremiah seems to think it raises any questions.

Further, it turns out that Jeremiah's father dies four months after Jeremiah - so it stands to reason that the raid occurred after Jeremiah's 1/3/1641 death and no later than 5/1/1641, the date in the church record of James' burial. And it certainly cannot be ruled out that the raid was the occasion of the death of James. Thirty years later, Flamsteed is able to assert, with no evidence, that the father simply dropped dead from grief over the demise of his son. (Flamsteed also put the father's death a couple of days after the church's burial date; so, his reliability in these matters is suspect.) For all we know, Jeremiah himself was murdered in the same raid that burned the papers, and his father died four months later from injuries suffered in the raid. Regardless, these are either 'lone' marauders who took time out from their plunder of foodstuffs and valuables, in order to locate and burn the manuscripts; or the obvious – physical force was deployed to raid the house and burn the manuscripts. That the raid was 'book-ended' by the two otherwise unexplained deaths only adds fuel to the fire.

c) Archbishop Laud

The same Archbishop Laud, who had targeted Rev. Alexander Horrocks as a 'nonconformist', also, it turns out, had a hand in astronomical theory. Earlier, as the Bishop of London, he had called in an underling, Bishop Bridgeman, to chastise him for not clamping down hard enough upon the Rev. Horrocks. Further, Laud was the key anti-Puritan force in the early 1630's, including his attempted jailings of Rev. Cotton. Laud was promoted to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. In 1634, his protégé, Alexander Ross – who previously, due to Laud's influence, had been installed as one of Charles I's chaplains – published the official word on the immobility of the earth, a defense of Aristotle entitled Commentum de Terrae Motu Circulari Refutatus. Ross followed that with his 1640 The New Planet, no Planet, or the Earth no Wandering Star, against Galilaeus and Copernicus. This was the year of Jeremiah's scientific breakout of Kepler's method.

However, Laud was a key enemy of the Long Parliament of 1640/41, and was losing his power at that point. (He himself would be imprisoned by the Cromwellians and, in 1645, beheaded.) If he was involved in the early 1641 attacks upon Jeremiah and his father's house or, less likely, the 1644 attack upon his father's cousin, it would have to be investigated whether Laud had the direct power to do so, or whether it were allies of his. Regardless, no one has been willing to revisit these matters in almost four centuries.

However, the Cranes of Kepler have their own methods.

Footnotes

1The modern (2003) biographer of Jeremiah, Peter Aughton, is certainly aware of the same 19th century source, but he covers up any mention of the attack upon Jeremiah's relatives. He simply clips off the opening of the quotation, "O that we had…", and presents the remainder of the quote simply as "[T]hat old Rogue Horrocks that preaches in his grey cloak" - as evidence that the Reverend was well-known. End of story. (It almost sounds like an endearing phrase. "That old Rogue…") Such is the continuing nervousness of British intelligence over the Horrocks case.

* Please follow the Commenting Guidlines.

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