Peckard, Peter (DNB00)

PECKARD, PETER, D.D. (1718?–1797), whig divine, son of the Rev. John Peckard of Welbourn, Lincolnshire, matriculated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 20 July 1734, when aged 16, and was admitted on 9 Oct. He graduated B.A. 1738, M.A. March 1741–2, and became scholaris, or probationary fellow, in 1744 (Fowler, Corpus Christi Coll. p. 405). After having been ordained in the English church, he seems to have become a chaplain in the army, to have married about 1752, and to have settled for a time at Huntingdon. Probably through local influence he was appointed in 1760 to the rectory of Fletton and the vicarage of Yaxley, both near Peterborough. A dispensation for the holding of these two livings at the same time was requisite, and it was obtained with great difficulty from Secker, then archbishop of Canterbury. Peckard was considered heterodox ‘upon the question concerning an intermediate or separate state of conscious existence between death and the resurrection,’ and his examination was several times adjourned. He obtained his dispensation at last, but only after he had signed four articles to some extent modifying his views, and it was given at a date when the second benefice was within a day or two of lapsing. His own narrative of these proceedings and the Latin essays which he wrote for the archbishop are in Archdeacon Blackburne's ‘Works’ (vol. i. pp. xciv–cvii). The conclusion of Bishop Law was ‘Peter Peckard has escaped out of Lollard's tower with the loss of his tail.’

In 1766 Peckard became chaplain to the first troop of grenadier guards, and served with it in Germany. He was at that time noted as a man of convivial tastes, but in after years he practised the strictest economy. The rectory of Fletton was held by him until his death, but he vacated the vicarage of Yaxley in 1777. He was prebendary of Clifton in Lincoln Cathedral from 9 May 1774, and of Rampton in Southwell Minster from 23 Oct. 1777 to his death. He was also appointed in 1777, under dispensation, to the rectory of Tansor in Northamptonshire, and from 1793 to 1797 he retained the rectory of Abbots' Ripton, near Huntingdon.

In 1781 he was appointed to the mastership of Magdalene College, Cambridge, by Sir John Griffin Griffin, afterwards Lord Howard de Walden, who had the right of presentation, as owner of the estate of Audley End. He was incorporated at Cambridge in 1782, appointed vice-chancellor in 1784, and created D.D. per literas regias in 1785. In April 1792 he was advanced by the crown to the deanery of Peterborough, and it is recorded, as a crowning proof of his parsimony, that he only gave one annual dinner to his chapter. He built a new parsonage-house at Fletton, and was permitted by the patron, Lord Carysfort, to nominate his successor to the benefice. Peckard died on 8 Dec. 1797, and was buried at Peterborough. His wife was Martha (1729–1805), eldest daughter of Edward Ferrar, attorney at Huntingdon. A poetical essay on Peckard is in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1799 (pt. i. p. 325), and two poems, one by him and one by his wife, are in that periodical for 1789 (pt. ii. p. 748).

Peckard published many sermons of a liberal tendency, and those of later life drew attention to the evils of the slave traffic. The views which Archbishop Secker deemed heterodox were set out in: 1. ‘Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate State,’ 1756. 2. ‘Further Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate State,’ 1757. The last was in reply to the queries of Thomas Morton, rector of Bassingham. Peckard's opinions were also criticised by Caleb Fleming, D.D. [q. v.], in his ‘Survey of the Search of the Souls,’ 1759, and defended by him in ‘Observations on Mr. Fleming's Survey,’ 1759, which provoked from Fleming ‘A Defence of the Conscious Scheme against that of the Mortalist.’

Among Peckard's other sermons and tracts were: 3. ‘The popular Clamour against the Jews indefensible,’ 1753. 4. ‘A Dissertation on Revelation, chap. xi. ver. 13,’ 1756. This was written to prove that the passage was prophetical, and fulfilled by the Lisbon earthquake. It was criticised at some length in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1756 (pp. 138–139), and defended by the author in the same periodical (pp. 213–14). 5. ‘The proper Stile of Christian Oratory,’ 1770 (against theatrical declamation). 6. ‘National Crimes the Cause of National Punishments,’ 1795. It passed through three editions, and referred chiefly to the slave trade, on which subject Peckard often preached. On becoming vice-chancellor at Cambridge he put the question, ‘Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?’ He published anonymously in 1776 a treatise on (7) ‘Subscription with Historical Extracts,’ and in 1778 a pamphlet (8) ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother?’

Peckard's father-in-law, Edward Ferrar, left him by will many books and papers, including a ‘life,’ by John Ferrar, of Nicholas Ferrar [q. v.] It was published by him in 1790 as (9) ‘Memoirs of the Life of Mr. Nicholas Ferrar,’ but with some mutilations, through fear of a ‘scornful public.’ It was reprinted, with a few omissions, in Wordsworth's ‘Ecclesiastical Biography’ (v. 69–266), and published separately in an abridged form in 1852. Some of Peckard's manuscripts, which were valuable to students of the genealogy of the early American settlers, are referred to in J. W. Thornton's ‘First Records of Anglo-American Colonisation,’ Boston, 1859.

Peckard left property to Magdalene College, and also founded two scholarships. Portraits of him and his wife hang in the college hall. A ‘capital portrait’ of him is said to exist at Fletton.

[Gent. Mag. 1766 p. 496, 1777 p. 248, 1797 pt. ii. pp. 1076, 1126, 1798 pt. i. p. 440; Mayor's N. Ferrar, pp. 378–9, 382–3; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 119, 444; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, vi. 729–31; Le Neve's Fasti, ii. 134, 541, iii. 455, 611, 695; Sweeting's Churches of Peterborough, pp. 58, 187, 204; Blackburne's Works, vol. i. pp. xlii–xliii; Pinkerton's Lit. Correspondence, i. 44–9, 105–6; information from A. G. Peskett, Magdalene Coll.]

W. P. C.