Open main menu

Ramsay, Thomas (fl.1653) (DNB00)

RAMSAY or RAMSEY, THOMAS (fl. 1653), Roman catholic agent, son of Alexander Ramsey, a Scottish physician, born in St. Dunstan's parish, near Temple Bar, about 1631, was sent by his father, at the age of sixteen, to Holland to his uncle, Alexander Petree, that he might study at Leyden. His uncle, however, disapproved of this plan, and on his advice he was removed to Glasgow, where he studied philosophy and Greek for a twelvemonth, and graduated M.A. Driven to Edinburgh by a visitation of the plague, he devoted himself to philosophy for another year, and graduated M.A. there also. Being advised to perfect himself abroad, he sailed to Bremen and thence proceeded to Würzburg, and eventually reached Rome. His actions there are not very clear. He himself asserts that he abode with the Dominicans a year and then entered the jesuit college. But there is no mention of him in the register of the college, and another account makes him an officer of the inquisition. After two years in Rome, he was sent to Hildesheim, whence he was ordered to England. Taking the name of Thomas Horsley, he made his way to Hamburg, stayed with Dr. Elborough, the English minister, and took a passage in the Elizabeth for Newcastle, where he had formerly made a stay with his father. Having landed early in 1653, he called himself Joseph Ben Israel, and described himself as a Jew from Mantua, who was convinced of the doctrine of the Trinity from the study of Plato, and was seeking the worthiest exponents of truth. Disappointed in the hospitality of the Newcastle ministers, he went into Durham to Lieutenant-colonel Paul Hobson, concerning whom he had made inquiries abroad. After a month's stay, Hobson sent him to Thomas Tillam, baptist minister at Hexham, by whom he was baptised. The presbyterian and independent ministers were not, however, well disposed towards a baptist convert, and measures were taken to test his story. Certain admissions which he had made in the throes of sea-sickness to Christopher Shadforth, master of the Elizabeth, were alleged against him, but he stoutly denied them. His ruin was completed, however, by the interception of a letter which he had written to his father. He confessed that the jesuits had sent him to England to seduce people to catholicism. On 13 July 1653 a warrant was issued for his arrest (Cal. State Papers, 1653, p. 428), and he was examined by order of the privy council (ib. pp. 73, 101). His fate is uncertain. On 29 March 1660 a certain Thomas Ramsey received a pass to France (ib. 1659–60, p. 572), but his identity with the catholic agent is doubtful.

[A False Jew, by Th. Welde, C. Sidenham, W. Hammond, Th. Durant; Th. Tellam's Banners of Love Displaied; Confession of Joseph Ben Israel; Examination of Thomas Ramsey, Statement of Christopher Shadforth (British Museum).]

E. I. C.