In 1662 John Hallowell at the age of 20 was bright, charming and ambitious. His father Hugh had been following with interest the career of Richard Nichols who had returned from exile in France with the restoration of Charles II and become groom of the bedchamber to the duke of York. It seemed like a good time to call in the favor Nichols owed Hugh.
Hugh wrote to Nichols asking if he could place his son John in the Dukeís service. Nichols replied that he would be glad to interview John and see what might be arranged. Nichols was so pleased with John that he took him on as assistant to his own secretary Matthias Nicholls.
John had an ear for languages and already a smattering of French and Dutch. His first assignment was to go to Paris and return able to pass for a Frenchman. John asked no questions but did as requested in only five months. Next, as a French student of architecture he lived for six months in Holland and came away with a serviceable Dutch identity.
In his first year as assistant to Matthias Nicholls, he had met that gentleman only once. Evidently Richard Nichols had something else in mind. Whatever it was, it was not immediately disclosed. In May of 1664, Richard Nichols was sent to America to take New Netherlands from the Dutch and declare it the colony of New York. Also he was to regulate the affairs of the New England colonies, settling disputes among them. When the expedition sailed, John Hallowell was on Richard Nicholsí staff.
Richard Nichols sailed with four ships and several hundred soldiers. John was instructed by Richard Nichols to travel with Samuel Maverick, one of the four royal commissioners in the Nichols expedition and on the voyage learn as much as he could from Maverick about conditions in the colonies.
Maverick had lived in Massachusetts for many years prior to the restoration of Charles II. He was instrumental in convincing Charles to create the commission to sort of lighten up the severe Protestantism in Massachusetts and, oh by the way, take New Netherlands from the Dutch.
On arrival in New England, John was to melt into the countryside and as a Frenchman, a Dutchman or an Englishman, as best suited the situation, learn as much as possible of the true sentiment in the Colonies. In about yearís time but not more than two years he was to find Richard Nichols, wherever he might be and report directly to him.
The four ships in the expedition lost contact in a fog and two, including the one carrying John, landed in Kittery on July 20, 1664. The other two landed in Boston three days later. Following his instructions, John remained a while in Kittery, then became a Frenchman and caught a ride to Quebec with a disaffected Dutchman sailing north from the now former Dutch colony of New Netherlands. Nichols had taken that colony from the Dutch in August without any bloodshed.
John remained several days in Quebec City (a village or about 500 people) talking to folks about their experience in the Colony of New France. Then he traveled up the St. Lawrence River with a fur trapper who welcomed another paddler in his canoe. From him John learned about the relations of the French with the natives, including a looming conflict with the Iroquois Confederation.
The other thing that John learned on the trip up the river was that once out of town he was going to spend most of his time without meeting a single European. If he was to cover the colonies in two years he would have to travel by ship from one populated area to another. He began his adventure with no real concept of the amount unpopulated space there was.
Travel by Canoe
When his trapper friend stopped at a native village about one-hundred miles up the St. Lawrence, John bought a canoe of his own and returned to Quebec. There he took passage to Boston and continued his tour of the colonies. On May 23, 1666 John returned to Richard Nichols, now governor of New York.
John told Nichols that the French in the north were staunchly Catholic but few in number and could not organize a two-horse parade if their lives depended on it. Their greatest strength was their relationship with the natives. Young Frenchmen were encouraged to marry into the tribes and the Native tradition of adopting strangers was adding to the connections. The down side of this was that the French were becoming embroiled in native disputes.
He reported that the religious fanaticism in New England was a factor but it diminished to lip service only, as one looked below the leadership level of society. The much deeper and more threatening issue was the devotion of the New Englanders to personal liberty. That was prominent among Puritans, Quakers, Anglicans, Catholics and heathens, and in Johnís opinion no amount of Royal pressure would ever squeeze this out of the New England people.
The Dutch of the Hudson River Valley were a stratified society. The patroons held huge estates and all the wealth. The average Dutchman was essentially a serf to the patroons. This lower class of Dutch society had recently gained some independence and wanted more.
The Swedes and Dutch of the Delaware River Valley were successful farmers who did not seem to be concerned very much with politics or religion.
The leaders in Maryland were mostly Catholic but made religious tolerance the law of the land, at least as far as Christians were concerned. Also the law in Maryland required enslavement of all Africans.
Virginia, John said, was a lawless collection of men without women, bent on cheating the natives and harassing their Maryland neighbors for their Catholic roots. Carolina was a territory with a hopeless climate and so few people as to be of no consequence.
In the summer of 1666 Nichols sent John back to England to report directly to the Duke of York. The Duke received him cordially, paid him handsomely and sent him home to Folkestone with instructions to ďÖ travel discreetly about the country and at six month intervals come to London to report on the sentiment of the common peopleĒ.
So John became an advisor to the Duke of York. Each August and February he provided a report to the Duke of the tavern talk, gossip and general feeling in the land. The reports were delivered in the form of stories, often humorous, of Johnís adventures as he traveled around England.
Tucked in among the amusing anecdotes was the message that John wanted the Duke to receive, that England was well on its way to becoming a secular state. Only among the gentry and the very poor was religion the preeminent issue. John counseled that the Duke surround himself with the most competent people of whatever religious persuasion. The Duke seemed to enjoy the meetings with John and each year renewed his commission to spy on his fellow citizens.
In his travels John had occasion to meet a great many young women at all levels of society. It was a woman from Folkestone he had known all her life however that proved to be the most irresistible. Mary Flint at the age of 23 was employed as governess in the household of Esau Sharpe, a prosperous Dover merchant, when John asked her to marry in 1668. She agreed and they were wed on February 11, 1669. By 1677 they had four children:
John Hallowell 1670
Mary Hallowell 1672
Ralph Hallowell 1675
Emma Hallowell 1677
The boy John was the most good natured of children but was slow witted nearly to the point of disability.
In 1685 Johnís friend the Duke of York became King James II. He continued to employ John but apparently had missed the main point of Johnís counsel and began to pack the court with Catholics. In November of 1688, at the invitation of a group of Protestant nobles, Prince William of Orange, Jamesís son-in-law, invaded England and in December James II tried to flee to France. He was apprehended in Kent, not far from Folkestone and John helped convince the Kingís captors that it would be better to let him escape than make him a martyr.
John and Mary lived comfortably on the income from Johnís investments over the years of his employment with James II. Mary died in 1700 from wounds received in a highway robbery. John lived on another 30 years.