Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leslie, Henry
LESLIE, HENRY (1580–1661), bishop of Down and Connor, eldest son of James Leslie and his wife, Jean Hamilton of Evandale, was born at Leslie Fife in 1580. The father, who appears to have been a Roman catholic, was the second surviving son of George, fourth earl of Rothes, by his wife, Agnes Somerville. Henry Leslie was educated at Aberdeen, and went to Ireland in 1614, where he was ordained priest 8 April 1617. He became prebendary of Connor in 1619, and rector of Muckamore in 1622, in which year he was selected by Primate Hampton to preach at Drogheda on Whit Sunday before the royal commissioners. The sermon was printed next year at Hampton's request, as 'a treatise tending to unity.' Leslie dedicated it to the archbishop as 'the first-fruits of my weak engine.' Leslie here proposed that no one should be allowed to go beyond seas for education, and that no popish schoolmaster should be allowed at home; as to the sectaries, Ireland was not much troubled with them. Even in 1698, when presbyterianism was well rooted in Ulster, South almost repeated this latter statement. Leslie did curate's duty at Drogheda from 1622 to 1626. He preached before Charles I at Windsor on 9 July 1625, and at Oxford the same year; and on 30 Oct., being then one of his majesty's chaplains in ordinary, he delivered 'a warning to Israel' in Christ Church, Dublin. The latter sermon is dedicated to lord-deputy Falkland. In 1627 Leslie again preached before the king at Woking, and in the same year he was made dean of Down. In 1628 he was made precentor of St. Patrick's, Dublin, three other livings being added to the dignity (Liber Munerum, pt. v.), and in 1632 he became treasurer also (Cotton, ii. 124, iii. 225), and he seems to have held all these preferments in addition to his deanery.
In the Irish convocation of 1634 Leslie was prolocutor of the Lower House, and came into immediate contact with Lord-deputy Wentworth, whose high-handed proceedings about the articles and canons were probably not disagreeable to him. It is clear that in Irish church politics he belonged to the party of Bramhall rather than to that of Ussher. The chief practical result of the struggle in convocation was that the Thirty-nine Articles were adopted in Ireland, and that the more Calvinistic Irish articles of 1615 were tacitly repealed. Leslie was consecrated bishop of Down and Connor in St. Peter's Church, Drogheda, on 4 Oct. 1635, when he resigned his other preferments, except the prebend of Mullaghbrack in Armagh.
During the six years which elapsed between the consecration and the beginning of the great rebellion, Leslie was chiefly engaged in warfare with the Ulster presbyterians of Scottish race, becoming a member of the high commission court in February 1636. In May he preached at Newtownards on the death of the first Viscount Montgomery, and in July he held his primary visitation at Lisburn. Five ministers, including Lord Clandeboye's nephew, James Hamilton, there refused subscription to the new canons. Being urged by Bramhall to extreme measures, he preached at Belfast on 10 Aug. on the significant text, 'If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.' This sermon, in defence of Anglican orders and of kneeling at the communion, was printed in the following year as 'A Treatise of the Authority of the Church.' It is dedicated in panegyrical strain to Wentworth, who is called 'Instaurator Ecclesiae Hibernicae.' Leslie says that presbyterianism made most progress among women. On the day after the sermon a disputation in strict syllogistic form took place between the bishop and Hamilton as spokesman for his brethren. Leslie, unlike Bramhall, played his part like a gentleman. The result was that the five ministers were deposed, the bishop expressing his sorrow at having to proceed so far (Reid, i. App. iv.) Leslie was now regarded as a champion of Laudian episcopacy, and works by John Corbet (1603–1641) [q. v.] were attributed to him.
The outbreak in Scotland gave great confidence to the presbyterians of Ulster, and on 26 Sept. 1638 Leslie preached at Lisburn against the solemn league and covenant. A Latin version of this sermon, entitled 'Examen Conjurationis Scoticae', was published by his chaplain, James Portus, in 1639. Along with his namesake, John Leslie (1571–1671) [q. v.], Leslie was one of those who signed the petition resulting in the proclamation of 1639. This imposed the black oath, by which every Scot, of either sex and of any age over sixteen, might be made to renounce the covenant and to swear unquestioning obedience to all the king's commands (Strafford, Letters, ii. 345). The bishop was active in the proceedings against Robert Adeir of Ballymena, who had subscribed the covenant as a Scottish laird, and whose Irish estate was confiscated by Wentworth (ib., ii. 219, 226). Leslie complains that his communications with Scotland were interrupted, that the very churchwardens had joined the general league against him, and that the contemners of his jurisdiction were 'more in number than would fill all the gaols in Ireland.' He even believed his life to be in danger. A viceregal commission giving him summary power of imprisoning those who refused to appear in his court furnished the ninth article of Strafford's impeachment.
At the beginning of 1640 Leslie had a long illness from which he hardly expected to recover, and was unable to attend the parliament which met on 16 March; but even from his sick bed he wrote a memorandum for Strafford as to the best means of increasing the royal revenues in Ulster (ib. ii. 302). In the following month Strafford left Ireland for ever, and the system which he had laboriously built up soon began to crumble away.
The rising of the Irish catholics followed. On 23 Oct. 1641 Leslie was at Lisburn, whence he wrote two letters to Lord Montgomery for help. At six in the evening he reported that Charlemont had fallen, and that Sir Phelim O'Neill [q. v.] and his horde were at Tanderagee. Four hours later he had heard that Newry was taken (Aphorismical Discovery, i. 384). Lisburn at once became the chief refuge of the Antrim protestants,l and fifteen hundred men were at once assembled in and about the bishop's house (Reid, i. 319). He did not take the field himself, but his sons James and William both led companies. In June 1643 he deposed to the total loss of his property by the war, and he withdrew to England; for north-east Ulster had escaped O'Neill only to fall into the hands of the covenanters. He preached at Oxford on the Fast-day 9 Feb. 1644, before a great many members of the House of Commons, and again on 27 March before some peers and many of the lower house. Afterwards he joined Ormonde in Dublin, and was one of eight Anglican prelates who, on 2 Aug. 1645, there refused to forgo the power of the keys over Roman catholics (Irish Confederation, v. 40). Just twelve months later he was one of thirteen bishops who, with seventy-seven other clergymen, presented an address of gratitude to the lord-lieutenant (Appendix to Carte, No. 471). Ormonde surrendered Dublin to the parliament in 1647, and Leslie went abroad either before or just after the king's execution. In June 1649 he preached at Breda on the royal martyrdom before Charles II and the Princess of Orange. The sermon was printed at the Hague and translated into Dutch, and there is an instructive English reprint of eighteenth-century date. In drawing an elaborate parallel between Charles I and Jesus, Leslie compares presbyterianism and independency to the two thieves between whom Christ was crucified.
The next ten years were doubtless spent in poverty and obscurity. He had an Irish pension of 120l. in 1654 and 1655, which would not have been given to an absentee (Reid, ii. 120). Evelyn says that in May 1656 he persuaded Jeremy Taylor to present a young French proselyte for ordination to the Bishop of Meath, whose great poverty he himself relieved by the fees. Meath was vacant, but it is at least probable that Leslie had a promise of it, and it is likely that the exiled hierarchy made some attempt to keep all sees nominally filled. Leslie was in Ireland for some time before the Restoration, for he preached in 1659 at Hillsborough in his own diocese. This sermon, on praying with the spirit and the understanding, was printed, and the title-page describes the preacher as 'maugre all anti-Christian opposition, Bishop of Down and Connor.' There is a prefatory letter by Jeremy Taylor, who says: 'You preached in a family in which the public liturgy of the Church is greatly valued and diligently used, but in a country where most of the inhabitants are strangers to the thing and enemies to the name.' The sermon itself condemns the extempore prayers of those whom Leslie had learned to call 'our dissenting brethren.' He was translated to Meath in January 1661, his friend Taylor succeeding him in Down, but he died in Dublin on 9 April, and was buried in Christchurch.
Leslie married Jane Swinton of Swinton, Peebles. Their eldest son, Robert, was successively bishop of Dromore, Raphoe, and Clogher, and died 10 Aug. 1672. From James, the second son, who was taken prisoner fighting for Charles II at Worcester, descends that family of the Leslies that has long been settled at Ballybay in Monaghan. Lord Belmore is descended through a daughter from the third son, William, who was also a royalist officer. Many valuable books brought from Scotland by the bishop, and attested by his signature, are preserved at Ballybay. They are chiefly theological, but a Petrarch with a history attached to it is among them. There is a Bible believed to have been bought abroad, and containing many entries of genealogical interest. A portrait, probably painted in Holland, is also in his descendant's possession.
[Strafford's Letters and Despatches; Lascelles's Liber Muneram Public. Hiberniae; Aphorismical Discovery, and History of Irish Confederation, ed. Gilbert; Carte's Ormonde; Reid's History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. ed. Killen; Robert Baillie's Letters, ed. Laing; Historical Records of the Leslie Family; Lowry's Hamilton MSS.; Ware's Bishops and Writers, ed. Harris; Cotton's Fasti Ecclesiae Hibernicae;. Ninian Wallis's Britannia Libera; Vesey's Life of Bramhall; Rushworth's Trial of Strafford; Evelyn's Diary; Mant's Church of Ireland; the bishop's known writings, all of which are mentioned above; information from Dr. Reeves, formerly bishop of Down, and from Mr. Robert Charles Leslie, the bishop's lineal descendant.]