Open main menu


TAYLOR, ZACHARY (1653–1705), the ‘Lancashire Levite,’ was born at Bolton, Lancashire, on 20 April 1653, and baptised at the parish church on 24 April. His father, Zachary Taylor (1619–1693), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, had held preferment in Ireland, and been chaplain in the royal army. About 1649 he held the rectory of Grappenhall, Cheshire; in 1651 he was incumbent of Gorton chapel, Lancashire; he became master of the grammar school at Bolton in 1653, and joined the second presbyterian classis of Lancashire, officiating at Cockey chapel, 1653–7; he then became assistant to Robert Bathe (1604–1674), vicar of Rochdale, with whom he suffered ejection in 1662; he again became schoolmaster successively at Rochdale and (from 1673–4) at the grammar school of Kirkham; he married (before 1644) Abigail Ward. He is mentioned in the diary of Henry Newcome [q. v.], but must not be confused with Zachary Taylor (b. 1606) of Holt Hall, Rusholme, mentioned also as Newcome's neighbour.

Zachary, the son, was admitted at Jesus College, Cambridge, on 19 April 1671, and graduated B.A. in 1675, and M.A. in 1678; he was incorporated at Oxford on 13 July 1678. He was appointed vicar of Ormskirk on 9 March 1680, and resigned in 1693, becoming curate to the rector of Wigan. On 10 Dec. 1695 he was appointed by the crown to the rectory of Croston, Lancashire, still retaining the curacy of Wigan. He died in 1705, probably in May; his will, dated 30 April, was proved at Chester on 19 June 1705. He married, first, on 12 July 1685, Barbara (d. September 1689), daughter of Sir Edward Stanley, baronet, of Bickerstaff. His second wife, Anne, survived him, with several children.

Taylor, a hard-headed whig, was the first to ‘demonstrate’ in an anonymous tract, ‘Submission and Obedience to the Present Government,’ 1690, 4to, the duty of taking the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary from ‘Bishop Overall's Convocation Book.’ This work had lately been published for the first time by Archbishop Sancroft in order to justify the attitude of non-jurors, but Taylor interpreted the argument of the book in quite an opposite sense. The author, John Overall [q. v.], had drawn up the manuscript in 1606, but had not published it. It consisted of a series of canons which had been submitted to convocation and accepted by it early in James I's reign in regard to the right of subjects to resist oppressive government. The canons, which were ambiguous in temper, denied the subjects' right of resistance, but at the same time recognised that a government originating in successful rebellion might acquire the stamp of divine authority. To the latter doctrine James I objected, and the canons were suffered to drop before they received official confirmation. Sancroft had brought the matter to public notice by insisting on Overall's doctrine of non-resistance to the exclusion of the conflicting corollary. Taylor's pamphlet put the opposite construction on Overall's argument, and his interpretation seems to have influenced the course of William Sherlock, D.D. [q. v.], who forsook his previous scruples and took the oaths to the new government of William III and Mary. Taylor added a ‘Vindication,’ 1691, 4to (anon.). A local religious controversy drew from him ‘The Devil turn'd Casuist; or the Cheats of Rome,’ 1696, 4to. He is remembered for the prominent part he took in exposing the foibles of dissenters in the case of Richard Dugdale [q. v.], the ‘Surey demoniac,’ by publishing ‘The Surey Impostor,’ 1697, 4to. It had been claimed for Dugdale, a humble youth of Surey, near Whalley in Lancashire, who was subject to epileptic seizures, that he was ‘possessed,’ in the Gospel sense, and many nonconformist divines in Lancashire, including Thomas Jollie [q. v.], the ejected minister of Altham, stoudly declared their belief in the miraculous nature of Dugdale's condition. Taylor denounced the affair as a mere imposture on the credulous. Jollie replied. Taylor rejoined in ‘Popery, Superstition, Ignorance, and Knavery … very fully proved,’ 1698, 4to. He was then attacked in ‘The Lancashire Levite Rebuk'd,’ 1698, 4to (anon.), probably by John Carrington of Lancaster. Hence his nickname, which deceived Calamy (followed by Halley and Nightingale) into supposing that Taylor, the object of the tract, was its author. Taylor retorted in ‘Popery, Superstition, Ignorance, and Knavery confess'd and fully proved,’ 1699, 4to. His published discourses include funeral sermons for Lady Elizabeth Bradshaigh (1695) and John Risley (1705).

[Calamy's Account, 1713, pp. 399 seq.; Halley's Lancashire, 1869, ii. 179; Fishwick's Kirkham (Chetham Soc.), 1874, pp. 145 seq.; Scholes's Bolton Bibliogr. 1886, pp. 37 seq.; Minutes of Manchester Presbyterian Classis (Chetham Soc.), 1890, i. 81, iii. 446; Minutes of Bury Presbyterian Classis (Chetham Soc.), 1896, i. 133; Nightingale's Lancashire Nonconformity [1892], iii. 240; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714.]

A. G.