Henry Dunster–Bonus Material

Here’s an additional use for a blog: the posting of bonus material. I know some people devour all the extras that come on DVDs. So, one more thing I could use this blog for is to post material that doesn’t find a place elsewhere.

Today’s post might be thought of as a “deleted scene.” Due to space limitations, I had to cut it out of the final Henry Dunster article. But, so that words might not be lost, I’ll share it with you.

The set-up is that Henry Dunster’s memory became contested territory after his death. In fact, people were arguing about it into the eighteenth century. One example of this is that Henry Dunster shows up in the writings of a British historian, Daniel Neal.

I should highlight again that I was put onto this scent by Baylor’s Bracy Hill.

This paragraph deals with Neal’s treatment of Dunster:

Several decades later, Dunster also became a figure for comment for the British minister and historian Daniel Neal.[1] Neal walked a fine line as a British dissenter who was sympathetic yet critical of seventeenth-century Puritans. Neal’s larger point was to ally the dissenting tradition with the Protestant British empire.[2] Although he drew on [Cotton] Mather’s Magnalia, “he also exercised a critical judgment which to Mather might well have verged on disloyalty.”[3]  Neal rejected Mather’s easy accommodation of Dunster and others into a heroic, univocal New England Way. As a dissenting reformed Congregationalist, Neal was generally suspicious of the extremes of most Anabaptists, but he could also find some respect for a few devout baptists, of whom Dunster was one. In The History of New-England, Neal suggested Baptists deserved religious liberty because they were “following the Light of their Consciences” and making use of “the natural Rights of Mankind.”[4] Puritan persecution of these Baptists was thus unjust. In this context, Dunster was especially badly treated, because “He was an excellent Scholar, and a modest, humble, charitable Man.”[5] Dunster was thus worthy of respect and a personal lesson for reform in Britain and America. Although Neal remained most interested in religious liberty for dissenters, his histories could also be used to work for religious liberty for Baptists.


            [1] My specific thanks to Bracy Hill for pointing me to Neal’s treatment of Dunster. Hill, “Suffering for their Consciences: The Depiction of Anabaptists and Baptists in the Eighteenth-Century Histories of Daniel Neal,” The Welsh Journal of Religious History 5 (2010): 84-113.

            [2] Neal expresses this clearly in Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans, Or Protestant Nonconformists; From the Reformation in 1517, to the Revolution in 1688, Comprising An Account of their First Principles: Their Attempts for a Farther Reformation in the Church; Their Suffering, and the Lives and Characters of Their Most Considerable Divines (London: Richard Hett, 1732; Reprint ed., NY: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1863), ix-xv. For Neal’s general purposes, see Laird Okie, “Daniel Neal and the ‘Puritan Revolution,’” Church History 55 (December 1986): 456-467; John Seed, Dissenting Histories: Politics, History and Memory in Eighteenth-Century England (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008), 1-12, 41-72.

            [3] Neal’s historiography shaped how colonial New Englanders thought about their own history. Bruce Tucker, “The Reinterpretation of Puritan History in Provincial New England,” The New England Quarterly 54 (December 1981): 481-498. Qt. on p. 484.

            [4] Daniel Neal, The History of New-England, Containing an Impartial Account of the Civil and Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Country, To the Year of our Lord, 1700, The Second Edition (London: A. Ward, T. Longman, T. Shewell, J. Oswald, A. Millar, J. Brackstone, 1747), I: 303, 305.

            [5] Neal, The History of New-England, 309.

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