Tracking down Humphrey's possible protestant inclinations in the
USA is, as Elizabeth notes, very difficult if not impossible. This is
equally true in England. When I came to look at this aspect originally
against the wider political issues prevailing here from approx. the
succession of James I to Humphrey’s departure in 1635, my conclusion
was he was probably a non-conformist of some kind. Not necessarily a
member of the 'Quaker' sect, although they were not generally known as
Quakers in England until about the 1660's, a description which spread
from the south (Devon) to the north.
One of the reasons I feel he may have been non-conformist is because he
emigrated. The north, Yorkshire in particular, was ruled by an
aristocracy which contained the greatest number of Roman Catholic
Recusants in the entire country. They very definitely took care of
their own. They also tended to be Royalists which became important when
Charles I lost his head.
As we all know a major reason why people left England was to obtain the
freedom to worship their God how they chose as well as the freedom to
prosper regardless of their birth status.
The non-conformist sects did not keep records in their earliest days.
Apart from the obvious security aspects it's highly likely most of the
members of the various groups were illiterate.
The Quakers were the exception. One of the features which distinguish
them is their belief from the onset in the necessity of literacy in
both sexes. This wasn't the norm, rather the reverse – educating women
particularly was considered to be quite shocking. In any event, it
wasn't until Humphrey had emigrated the 'Quakers' became known anywhere
other than in the south.
Oddly enough, the much maligned James I actually tried to change this,
spread literacy, with the first English language Bible which was one of
the most extraordinary and beautiful achievements, but apart from the
churches and universities there were few people available to teach.
There never was universal literacy until the 1880's.
I do remember a previous discussion about literacy and the conclusions
were we couldn't know for certain whether H. was literate before
arrival in Virginia or became so afterwards. Literacy would
indicate he was formally educated, which cost money and didn't really
make sense because of the terms under which he emigrated. But literacy
could mean that he was connected to a sect that actively promoted it.
the new information now available the last paragraph of this email can
be amended to read:
……….Humphrey would have been literate on leaving England. Moving in the
ambit of the Birkbecks and Whartons as a kinsman meant he didn’t
require money to be educated. He would have been in the company of
extremist nonconformist Protestant clerics, both religious and secular,
and was probably educated alongside their sons and daughters. This
explains how he was both educated, certainly sufficiently to read a
Bible which was the major reason the nonconformists insisted on
literacy, but wasn’t from a wealthy family.
© Dione M. Coumbe 9th June 2012