Rev. Nathaniel Ward

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Nathaniel Ward

Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Haverhill, Suffolk, England
Death: circa 1653 (60-75)
Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. John Ward and Susan Rogers
Husband of Jane Ward
Father of Rev. John Ward
Brother of Samuel Ward; Abigail Ashborne; Mary Waite and Rev. John Ward
Half brother of Rev. John Ward, ll

Occupation: Reverend
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Rev. Nathaniel Ward

Hi mother married 2nd to Richard Rogers father of Ezekiel Rogers making Nathaniel Ward Step-brother to Ezekiel Rogers. GM 2:7:229-35; TAG 36:35

Nathaniel Ward (1578–October 1652) was a Puritan clergyman and pamphleteer in England and Massachusetts. He wrote the first constitution in North America in 1641.

A son of John Ward, a noted Puritan minister, he was born in Haverhill, Suffolk, England. He studied law and graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University in 1603. He practised as a barrister and travelled in continental Europe. In Heidelberg he met a German Protestant reformer, David Pareus, who persuaded him to enter the ministry. In 1618 he was a chaplain to a company of English merchants at Elbing, in Prussia. He returned to England and in 1628 he was appointed rector of Stondon Massey in Essex. He was soon recognised as one of the foremost Puritan ministers in Essex, and so in 1631 was reprimanded by the Bishop of London, William Laud. Although he escaped excommunication, in 1633 he was dismissed for his Puritan beliefs. (Ward's two brothers also suffered for their non-conformity.)

In 1634 Ward emigrated to Massachusetts and became a minister in Ipswich for two years. He then resigned because of ill-health. While still living in Ipswich, he wrote for the colony of Massachusetts The Body of Liberties, which was adopted by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Company in December 1641. This was the first code of laws established in New England. The Body of Liberties defined liberty in terms that were advanced in their day, establishing a code of fundamental principles based on Common Law, the Magna Carta and the Old Testament. However, Ward believed in theocracy rather than democracy. One of his epigrams was:

The upper world shall Rule, While Stars will run their race: The nether world obey, While People keep their place. 

Ward thought that justice and the law were essential to the liberty of the individual. Some have said that The Body of Liberties began the American tradition of liberty, leading eventually to the United States Constitution.

In 1645 Ward began his second book, The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America. This was published in England in January, 1646-7, before Ward's return there, under the pseudonym of Theodore de la Guard. Three other editions, with important additions and changes, soon followed. The Simple Cobbler is a small book, which "in spite of its bitterness, and its lack of toleration" is "full of quaint originality, grim humor and power", according to the anthology Colonial Prose and Poetry: The Transplanting of Culture 1607–1650 (1903).

According to the anthology, the book is "probably the most interesting literary performance" in the first half of the seventeenth century in the English colonies that later became the United States. The book was later reprinted in 1713 and 1843 in Boston, Massachusetts.

He also wrote several religious-political pamphlets.

At the end of the English Civil War, when Puritan beliefs were acceptable, Ward returned to England. Ward became the minister of the church at Shenfield in Essex and died shortly after in Shenfield.

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Rev. Nathaniel Ward's Timeline

Haverhill, Suffolk, England
November 5, 1606
Age 21
Haverhill, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Age 68
Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
March 9, 1880
Age 68
September 10, 1897
Age 68
September 29, 1954
Age 68