Cook, John (d.1660) (DNB00)
COOK, JOHN (d. 1660), regicide, is stated in a royalist newspaper of 1649 (Mercurius Elencticus, No. 56) to have been employed in Ireland by Strafford, and this seems to be confirmed by a letter of Cook's to Strafford during the trial of the latter. Ludlow states that Cook had in his younger years seen the best part of Europe, spent some time at Rome, and lived several months at Geneva in the house of Diodati (Memoirs, p. 366). Occasional references to his travels in Cook's own pamphlets bear out this statement. Like Bradshaw and several other leading republicans, Cook was a member of Gray's Inn. In February 1646 he acted in conjunction with Bradshaw as one of the counsel representing Lilburn on the reversal of the Star-chamber sentence against the latter by the House of Lords (A True Relation of Lieutenant-colonel Lilburn's Sufferings). On 8 Jan. 1649 the high court of justice chose Cook one of the counsel to be employed against Charles I, and on 10 Jan. he was appointed solicitor for the Commonwealth, and ordered to prepare the charge. Owing to the absence, through illness, of Steele, the attorney-general, the conduct of the prosecution fell chiefly to his lot. On 20 Jan. Cook brought forward the charge. As he began to speak ‘the prisoner, having a staff in his hand, held it up, and softly laid it upon the said Mr. Cook's shoulder, bidding him hold; nevertheless, the lord president bidding him to go on, Mr. Cook did accordingly’ (Nalson, Journal of the High Court of Justice, p. 28). On 23 Jan., as the king continued contesting the jurisdiction of the court, and refusing to plead, Cook prayed the court either to oblige him to plead, or to pronounce sentence against him (p. 55). The charge drawn up against the king was printed under the title of ‘A Charge of High Treason and other high crimes exhibited to the High Court of Justice by John Cook, Esq., solicitor-general appointed by the said Court, for and on behalf of the people of England, against Charles Stuart, King of England.’ It is reprinted by Nalson (Trial of Charles I, p. 29). There was also published immediately after the trial, ‘King Charles his Case, or an appeal to all rational men concerning his trial in the High Court of Justice, being for the most part that which was intended to have been delivered at the bar if the king had pleaded to the charge.’ This tract (with an answer to it attributed to Butler, but more probably by Birkenhead) is reprinted in the fifth volume of Scott's edition of the ‘Somers Tracts.’ It is a very scurrilous production, comparing the king to Cain, Machiavelli, and Richard III, and accusing him among other things of complicity in the death of his father and in the Irish rebellion. In it he says that when called to this service he ‘went cheerfully about it as to a wedding, and I hope it is meat and drink to good men to have justice done, and recreation to think what benefit the nation will receive by it.’ Cook was rewarded for his services by being made master of the hospital of St. Cross (Whitelocke, 30 June 1649). In the following December he was further appointed chief justice of Munster, and has left a very curious account of the dangers of his passage to Ireland. ‘It almost split my heart,’ he says, ‘to think what the malignants would say in England when they heard that we were drowned’ (A True Relation of Mr. Justice Cook's Passage by Sea from Wexford to Kinsale, etc. See also Mrs. Cook's Meditations, etc., composed by herself at her unexpected safe arrival at Cork). In ‘Several Proceedings’ for 10–17 April 1651 a letter from Ireland describes Cook as ‘a most sweet man and very painful, and doth much good,’ and about the same time Cromwell affirmed to Ludlow that Cook, ‘by proceeding in a summary and expeditious way, determined more causes in a week than Westminster Hall in a year’ (Ludlow, Memoirs, p. 123). By the Act of Satisfaction of Adventurers and Soldiers, passed 26 Sept. 1653, Cook was confirmed in possession of a house at Waterford, and lands at Kilbarry near that city, and Barnahely in the county of Cork (Scobell, Acts, ii. 250). On 13 June 1655 the council of state appointed Cook a justice of the court of upper bench in Ireland (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655). In April 1657 he crossed over to England, whence he writes to Henry Cromwell in February 1659, apologising for his long absence (Thurloe State Papers, vii. 610). But having returned to Ireland he was arrested by Sir Charles Coote, who was anxious to make his peace with the royalists, and sent over to England in the spring of 1660. As he had been excluded by name from the Act of Indemnity, he was tried on 13 Oct. 1660, and condemned to death. The sentence was executed on 16 Oct. A full account of his behaviour during his imprisonment, and letters to his wife and her daughter Freelove Cook, is contained in ‘A Complete Collection of the Lives and Speeches of those persons lately executed, by a person of quality,’ 1661. He exhibited great courage and cheerfulness on his way to execution and on the scaffold.
Besides the pamphlets mentioned above Cook was the author of the following works: 1. ‘A Vindication of the Professors and Profession of the Law,’ 1646, republished with alterations and additions in 1652. 2. ‘What the Independents would have, or a character declaring some of their tenets and desires, to disabuse those who speak ill of that they know not,’ 1647. 3. ‘Redintegratio Amoris, or a union of hearts between the King's most excellent Majesty, the Lords and Commons, Sir Thomas Fairfax and the Army under his command, the Assembly, and every honest man that desires a sound and durable peace,’ 1647. 4. ‘Unum Necessarium, or the Poor Man's Case: being an expedient to make provision for all poor people in the Kingdom,’ 1648. An article is devoted to this tract in the second volume of the ‘Restrospective Review,’ ser. iii. 5. ‘Monarchy no Creature of God's making, wherein is proved by Scripture and Reason that Monarchical Government is against the Mind of God, and that the execution of the late King was one of the fattest Sacrifices that ever Queen Justice had,’ Waterford, 1652. The preface contains a character of Ireton and an account of the legal reforms carried out by Cook in Ireland.
[Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. 1751; Thurloe State Papers; Domestic State Papers; Nalson's Trial of Charles I; State Trials.]