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MRS. BUNYAN APPLIES TO THE JUDGES FOR
HER HUSBAND'S RELEASE.
About three weeks after Cobb's visit, and just when the time drew nigh at which Bunyan, if he did not submit, was to suffer banishment, or
worse than that,” the coronation of the king took place. This was on the 23d of April, 1661, on which occasion a general pardon was proclaimed of persons accused of offences against the crown, and thousands who had been committed for nonconformity and other offences were set at liberty. Bunyan might also have taken the benefit of this, had not the justices put him down for a convicted
and as such he could not be released without suing out a pardon, for which twelve months were allowed by the proclamation.
At the next assizes, which were held in August, 1661, Bunyan, not willing to leave unattempted any lawful means that might possibly effect his release, presented several times, through his wife, a petition to the judges, “that he might be heard, and that they would take his case impartially into consideration.” What success she met with will be seen from what follows. The first time Mrs. Bunyan went, she presented the petition to Judge Hale, who very mildly received it, and told her he would do the best he could; but he feared he could do nothing
The next day, fearing lest in the press of business they should forget the subject, she threw another petition into the coach, to Judge 'Twisdon ; but when he saw it, he angrily told her, that her husband was a convicted person, and could not be released unless he would promise to leave off preaching.
After this she presented another petition to Judge Hale, as he sat on the bench, and he seemed willing to give her a hearing; but Justice Chester, who was present, telling him that Bunyan was a hot-spirited fellow, he waived the matter, and declined interfering.
Encouraged however by the high sheriff, Mrs. Bunyan made another effort to procure her husband's release before the judges left the town. The “two judges, and many justices and gentry of the country, were in company together at the Swan-chamber." With 6 a bashed face and a trembling heart” she entered the room. Addressing herself to Judge Hale, she said, “I make bold to come once again to your lordship, to know what may be done with my
husband." He replied, “ I have told thee before that I
could do thee no good; because they have taken that for a conviction which thy husband spoke at the sessions : and unless there can be something done to undo that, I can do thee no good.”
My lord,” said she," he is kept unlawfully in prison ; they clapped him up before there was any proclaniation against the meetings. The indictment also is false : besides, they never asked him whether he was guilty or no; neither did he confess the indictment."
One of the justices that stood by said, that he had been lawfully convicted.
"It is false," she replied ; " for when they said to him, 'Do you confess the indictinent ?' he said only this, that he had been at several meetings where there was both preaching the word and prayer, and that they had God's presence among
them.” “My lord, he was lawfully convicted," said Justice Chester.
“ It is false,” said she ; “ it was but a word of discourse that they took for a conviction.”
“ But it is recorded, woman, it is recorded," said Chester; and with these words he often attempted to stop her mouth; as if it must of necessity be true, because it was recorded.
Mrs. Bunyan then told Judge Hale that she had been to London, to see if she could get her husband's liberty; and that while there she had presented a petition in his behalf to Lord Barkwood, one of the House of Lords, who, after showing it to other noblemen, had told her they could not release him, but had committed his releasement to the judges at the next assizes. " And now," she said, “ I am come to you to see if anything may be done in this business, and you give me neither releasement nor relief."
“My lord,"said Chester," he is a pestilent fellow; there is not his fellow in the country again."
“ Will your husband leave preaching ?" said Twisdon: “if he will do so, then send for him.”
“My lord,” said she, “he dares not leave preaching, as long as he can speak."
“See there,” cried Twisdon, “ what should we talk any more about such a fellow? Must he do what he lists? He is a breaker of the peace.”
“He desires to live peaceably, my lord,” rejoined Mrs. Bunyan, "and to follow his calling, that his family may be maintained. I have four small children that cannot help themselves, one of which is blind; and we have nothing to live upon but the charity of good people.”
“ Hast thou four children?" said Hale; “thou art but a young woman to have four children.”
My lord,” said she, “ I am but mother-inlaw to them, having not been married to him
yet two full years." She then proceeded to add, that she was near her confinement when her husband was apprehended; and that the shock brought on premature labour, and the child died.
Upon hearing this, Judge Hale, looking very seriously, exclaimed, “ Alas! poor woman.”
Judge Twisdon brutally remarked, that she made poverty her cloak, and that her husband was better maintained by running up and down preaching, than by following his calling.
“What is his calling ?" asked Judge Hale. 'A tinker, my lord,” said one of the company.
“Yes," rejoined Mrs. Bunyan," and because he is a tinker and a poor man, therefore he is despised, and cannot have justice.”
Hale evidently felt the force of her appeals, and was disposed to do what he could in her behalf, notwithstanding the violence of the others. He replied very mildly, "I tell thee, woman, seeing it is so, that they have taken what thy husband said for a conviction, thou must apply thyself to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error."
Chester, who was one of the justices by whom Bunyan was tried, could not conceal his vexation on hearing the judge give this advice; especially at his mentioning a writ of error. “My lord,” he exclaimed," he will preach and do what he lists."