Historical Context of the Life of Daniel Hovey

(This portion is provided by the compiler, Steven J. Hovey)

Daniel Hovey lived a very long and interesting life. His life spanned nearly the entire reign of the English ruling family of the Stuarts. When Daniel Hovey was born, King James I was the King of England. James was the first of the House of Stuart, succeeding to the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth had been the last of the Tudors, as she died without ever having married or having any children. James' claim to the throne was that both his parents were grandchildren of Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and sister to Henry VIII, the father of Queen Elizabeth I. James' mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was beheaded by Queen Elizabeth. It was ironic that the son of Elizabeth's nemesis should succeed her to the throne of England. James was already King of Scotland by 1567 but, upon Elizabeth's death in 1603, he became King of both England and Scotland. James died of a stroke in 1625 after ruling Scotland for fifty-eight years and England for twenty-three years. Daniel Hovey was only 7 years old when King James I died. (Daniel's father, Richard, was born during the reign of Elizabeth I.)

James' twenty-nine years of Scottish kingship did little to prepare him for the English monarchy: England and Scotland, rivals for superiority on the island since the first emigration of the Anglo-Saxon races, virtually hated each other. This inherent mistrust, combined with Catholic-Protestant and Episcopal-Puritan tensions, severely limited James' prospects of a truly successful reign. His personality also caused problems: he was witty and well-read, fiercely believed in the divine right of kingship and his own importance, but found great difficulty in gaining acceptance from an English society that found his rough-hewn manners and natural paranoia quite unbecoming. James saw little use for Parliament, and his extravagant spending habits and nonchalant ignoring of the nobility's grievances kept king and Parliament constantly at odds. He came to the throne at the zenith of monarchical power, but never truly grasped the depth and scope of that power.

Religious dissension was the basis of an event that confirmed and fueled James' paranoia: the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes and four other Catholic dissenters were caught attempting to blow up the House of Lords on a day in which the king was to open the session. The conspirators were executed but a fresh wave of anti-Catholic sentiments washed across England. James also disliked the Puritans who became excessive in their demands on the king, resulting in the first wave of English immigrants to North America. All of these events led up to the incidents which Daniel Hovey saw transpire during his later life.

Charles I succeeded his father, James I, to the throne of England in 1625. Thus, it was King Charles I that sat upon the throne of England when Daniel Hovey left Mother England for the New World in 1635 at the age of 17. Charles ascended to the throne at the age of twenty-five. He was very strong-willed, which proved to be his undoing. Mismanagement of affairs (in the tradition of his father) forced a showdown with Parliament, which culminated in civil war and the king's execution for treason in 1649. Undoubtedly, Daniel Hovey was a witness to the beginnings of the civil war during his teenage years, living at Waltham Abbey, so near to London. Parliament was summoned and dissolved three times from 1625 to 1629. Parliament then went the next eleven years without being summoned, as Charles financed his reign by selling commercial monopolies and extracting ship money (a fee demanded from towns for building naval warships). Charles' marriage to the devoutly Catholic French princess further incensed the increasingly Puritan nobility, as her Catholic friends flooded into the royal court. She was a meddlesome woman who put her wants (and those of her friends) above the needs of the realm.

A problem in Scotland brought an abrupt end to Charles' eleven years of personal rule, and unleashed the forces of civil war upon England. Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the Scots, which resulted in rebellion. Charles' forces were ill-prepared due to lack of proper funds, causing the king to call, first, the Short Parliament, and finally the Long Parliament. King and Parliament again reached no agreement; Charles foolishly tried to arrest five members of Parliament on the advice of Henrietta Maria, his wife, which brought matters to a head. The struggle for supremacy led to civil war: Charles raised his standard against Parliamentary forces at Nottingham in 1642, only 7 years after Daniel Hovey arrived in America.

Religious and economic issues added to the differences between the supporters of the monarchy (Cavaliers) and the supporters of Parliament (Roundheads). The lines of division were roughly as follows: Cavalier backing came from peasants and nobility of Episcopalian roots -- Roundhead backing came from the emerging middle class and tradesmen of the Puritanical movement. Geographically, the northern and western provinces aided the Cavaliers, with the more financially prosperous and populous southern and eastern counties lending aid to the Roundheads. This placed Daniel Hovey's ancestral home of Waltham Abbey firmly within the Roundhead's sphere of influence. That, combined with the fact that Daniel Hovey was a devout Puritan, gives clear indication as to his political leanings in this struggle, even though he was, by now, removed from the fighting, being in America.(1)

The bottom line is that the Roundheads, with deeper pockets and more population from which to draw, were destined to win the battle. The Cavaliers were soundly routed by Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army at Naseby in 1645 -- scarcely a year later Charles surrendered to Scottish forces, who turned the king over to Parliament. In 1648, Charles was put on trial for treason; the tribunal by a vote of sixty-eight to sixty-seven, found the king guilty and ordered his execution in 1649. It was from this turmoil that Daniel Hovey sought refuge in America. Undoubtedly, the family he left behind were caught up in these events.

Daniel had lived a very long life (73 years of age) by the time he died in 1692. Not only had Charles I been deposed and executed, England also had gone through the Interregnum under Oliver Cromwell from 1649 to 1660, when England had no king. After Cromwell's death in 1658, no one was left in England to see Cromwell's vision of a land ruled by the will of the people.

In 1660 Charles I's son, Charles II was invited home from France where he lived in exile since his father's death. Like his grandfather, Charles II died of a stroke in 1685. Having no legitimate children, the crown fell to Charles' brother, James II. James tried to wipe out Protestantism and bring Catholicism back to England. He executed, tortured, or sent into slavery any Protestants who opposed him. James II was successful in rallying greater opposition to his rule than his father, Charles II, did. He ruled England for just under 4 years and was deposed in 1688, four years prior to Daniel Hovey's death. James, rather than face his father's fate, fled London. (James tried to invade with an armed force in later years but was soundly defeated. He lived the rest of his life in exile in France.) All factions within Parliament were unanimous in offering the crown to his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. Thus, in 1689, the only dual monarchy in English history began when William III reigned together with his wife, Mary II. Unfortunately Mary died in 1694 of smallpox, only two years after Daniel Hovey's death. King William III ruled alone for the remainder of his reign until 1702, when he died suddenly following a fall from a horse.

From early in his life to the end of his days, Daniel Hovey saw, even from American soil, that religion and politics were inseparable on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Daniel's time was the age of Shakespeare, Galileo, Cervantes, Rembrandt, Pascal, Descrates, and Rubens. The influence of these great minds did not circulate to the still-primitive colonies of America.

The influence of Puritanism was still strongly felt and, in the year of Daniel Hovey's death, led to the tragedy of the Salem Witch trials.(2) Puritanism fell victim to its own rigidity and pursuit of perfection through an American theocracy. The bedrock of Puritan New England society at all levels was characterized by a remarkable measure of independence, self-sufficiency and self-confidence. Only when all three had declined profoundly could an event as horrendous as the Salem witch trials have occurred. Dissenters, such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, brought new ideas from within. Also the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay found themselves coming into contact with traders and seamen from other colonies which did not share the Puritan ideals. Even within their own churches the Puritans began watering down their stringent standards. As the original founders gradually passed away, second and third generation colonists found the original ideals of Puritanism irrelevant in their struggle to tame the American wilderness.

1. Puritanism in the 16th and 17th cent., a movement for reform in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas in both England and America. Originating in the reign of ELIZABETH I, the movement opposed the ecclesiastical establishment and aimed at purifying the church-hence the name Puritan. They were cast out of the Church of England after the RESTORATION when Charles II assumed the throne. In America the early New England settlements were Puritan in origin and theocratic in nature. The spirit of Puritanism long persisted there, and the idea of congregational democratic government was carried into the political life of the state as one source of modern democracy. See Appendix 4 for a Puritan's description of themselves.

2. See Appendix 5 for a description of this tragic note in U.S. history.