Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hallett, Joseph (1656-1722)

HALLETT or HALLET, JOSEPH, II (1656–1722), nonconformist minister, son of Joseph Hallett (1628?–1689) [q. v.], was born and baptised on 4 Nov. 1656. He was probably educated by his father, was ordained in 1683, and on the erection of James' Meeting (1687) was appointed his father's assistant. He retained a similar office under George Trosse, his father's successor, and on Trosse's death (11 Jan. 1713) became pastor. Towards the end of the year James Peirce [q. v.] became his colleague. Hallett conducted at Exeter a nonconformist academy, which became famous as a nursery of heresy. Its opening has been dated as early as 1690; it had a well-established reputation when John Fox (1693–1763) [q. v.] entered it in May 1708. No taint of heresy attached to it until 1710, when Hallett's son Joseph [see Hallett, Joseph, (1691?–1744)] became an assistant tutor, and brought in the private discussion of Whiston's views. Rumours spread as to the freedom of opinion concerning our Lord's divinity permitted in the academy, until in September 1718 the Exeter assembly (a mixed body of presbyterian and congregationalist divines) called for a declaration of belief in the Holy Trinity to be made by all its members. Hallett was the first to comply; his declaration, though adopted by some and not formally objected to by any, was not satisfactory to the majority. In November the thirteen trustees who held the property of the Exeter meeting-houses applied to their ministers for further assurances of orthodoxy, and failed to obtain them. By the advice of five London ministers, of whom Calamy was one, the case was laid before seven Devonshire presbyterian divines, whose decision led the trustees to exclude (6 March) Hallett and Peirce from James' Meeting, and on 10 March from all the meeting-houses. In Calamy's view the trustees exceeded their powers; a vote of the congregation should have been taken. Hallett and Peirce secured a temporary place of worship, which was opened on 15 March. They were still members of the Exeter assembly. This body in May proposed that all its members should subscribe Bradbury's ‘gallery declaration;’ fifty-six did so, nineteen refused and seceded. On 6 May a paper was drawn up, apparently by Hallett, whose signature stands first, in which the charges of Arianism and of baptising in the name of the Father only are disclaimed.

A new building, called the Mint Meeting, was erected for Hallett and Peirce (opened 27 Dec. 1719); their congregation numbered about three hundred. Hallett's academy did not long survive these changes; it was closed in 1720. For a list of thirty-seven of his students see ‘Monthly Repository,’ 1818, p. 89. The most distinguished were James Foster [q. v.] and Peter King [q. v.], afterwards lord chancellor. Hallett died in 1722. His son Joseph is separately noticed.

Hallett published:

  1. ‘Twenty-seven Queries’ addressed to quakers, and printed by them in ‘Gospel Truths Scripturally asserted … by John Gannacliff and Joseph Nott,’ &c., 1692, 4to.
  2. ‘Christ's Ascension into Heaven,’ &c., 1693, 8vo.
  3. ‘A Sermon, … at the Funeral of … Geo. Trosse … to which is added a Short Account of his Life,’ &c., 1713, 8vo.
  4. ‘The Life of … Geo. Trosse … written by himself,’ &c., 1714, 8vo.

[Peirce's Remarks upon the Account of what was transacted in the Assembly at Exon. 1719, pp. 37 sq.; Fox's Memoirs in Monthly Repository, 1821, pp. 130 sq., 198; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 403 sq.; Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in West of Engl. 1835, pp. 386 sq.; The Salter's Hall Fiasco in Christian Life, 16 and 23 June 1888; manuscript list of ordinations in records of Exeter Assembly.]

A. G.