The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in America by Nathaniel WardHistory

Nathaniel Ward: “The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America”

The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America

Nathaniel Ward (1578–October 1652) was a clergyman born in Haverhill, Suffolk, England. Known for his caustic temperament he was a key player in the Puritan movement. Reprimanded by the Bishop of London for his activism and fervent espousal of theocratic polities, Ward emigrated to Massachusetts in 1634. Already in his 60s, he served for two years as the minister in Ipswich.

While still living here he wrote The Body of Liberties for the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Company, the first code of laws established in New England. The Body of Liberties established a code of fundamental principles based on Common Law and Magna Carta but also incorporated Old Testament laws into the legal system. Nonetheless the book is believed to have been a fundamental resource in writing the United States Constitution. Ward’s cryptic and eccentric book The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America was published in England in 1647 under the alias Theodore de la Guard. After the English Civil War ended he was able to return to England, where he died in 1652. A collection of poems by Anne Bradstreet was published in London in 1650 by Nathaniel Ward, probably without her knowledge, as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America…by a Gentlewoman in these Parts

From the Body of Liberties:

  • “Authority must have power to make and keep people honest; People, honesty to obey Authority; both, a joynt-Councell to keep both safe. Moral Lawes, Royall Prerogatives, Popular Liberties, are not of Mans making or giving, but Gods: Man is but to measure them out by Gods Rule: which if mans wisdome cannot reach, Mans experience must mend: And these Essentials, must not be Ephorized or Tribuned by one or a few Mens discretion, but lineally sanctioned by Supreame Councel….
  • He is a good King that undoes not his Subjects by any one of his unlimited Prerogatives: and they are a good People, that undoe not their Prince, by any one of their unbounded Liberties, be they the very least. I am sure either may, and I am sure neither would be trusted, how good soever. Stories tell us in effect, though not in termes, that over-risen Kings, have been the next evills to the world, unto fallen Angels; and that over-franchised people, are devills with smooth snaffles in their mouthes.”

In The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America, Ward expressed his intolerance of all other religious sects:

  • “The devil desires no better sport than to see lightheads handle their heels, and fetch their careers in a time, when the roof of liberty stands open. First, such as have given or taken any unfriendly reports of us New English should do well to recollect themselves. We have been reputed a effluvium of wild opinionists, swarmed into a remote wilderness to find elbowroom for our fanatic doctrines and practices. I trust our diligence past, and constant sedulity against such persons and courses, will plead better things for us. I dare take upon me, to be the herald of New England so far, as to proclaim to the world, in the name of the colony, that all Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists, and other enthusiasts shall have free liberty to keep away from us, and such as will come to be gone as fast as they can, the sooner the better.”

(Nathaniel Ward is not to be confused with Nathaniel Wade, whose elegant home still stands near South Green on County Road.

Categories: History, People

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