Thomas Pearsall: England and Virginia


Thomas Pearsall, son of Edmund Pearsall, was the manager of the tobacco business in America. At his father's death, he was named one of the executor's of his father's estate. There was very little estate left to consider. The American enterprise was proceeding well, but in England, aside from the demise of Edmund's fortune at the end of his life, the Staffordshire family lost most of their lands as a result of their loyalty to the Catholic church and to the Stuarts to whom they owed the loyalty of family connection as well as the religious bond of the church.

On June 24, 1649 young Prince Charles was crowned Charles II by Scotland. Cromwell's forces defeated the Scots:

"Cromwell was at least spared the anxiety of deciding what was to be done with a second royal prisoner. Charles threw himself upon the loyalty of a Royalist gentleman I the neighborhood and he was not deceived. In after days men told how he had been seated in the branches of an oak whilst the troopers who were searching for him rode below. Dressed as a servant he rode to Bristol, with a lading riding on a pillion behind. At Charmouth he hoped to find a vessel to carry him to France. But the master of the ship refused to go. It was not till he reached Brighton, then a small fishing village, that he found the help that he wanted, and made is escape from England in safety."

"Almost immediately the spies of the Commonwealth discovered evidence of a meeting of royal supporters having been held in Staffordshire, and a warrant was issued to commit Sir John Pershall Bart. As a prisoner to the Tower for holding correspondence with enemies of the Commonwealth...." (Ibid. p. 941)

Sir John's property was seized by the Commonwealth in portions of two thirds. Two thirds of the remaining third and so forth.

"In the meantime the Commonwealth had been successful against its foreign foes and the navy reorganized by Vane had cleared the seas of Royalists and privateers. This marked the last of the great fleet of merchant ships, sailing under the English flag, belonging to Thomas Pearsall, the Brents, and other Virginia, Maryland and New Amsterdam supporters of the House of Stuart." [The Puritan Revolution, by Gardiner, p.169}

"In January 1652 England declared war against Holland and the seizure of Dutch ships began...This greatly if not entirely depleted the fleet of merchantmen belonging to the family in America." [ The Puritan Revolution, by S. R. Gardiner, page 169]

"Thus we see that all the vast fortunes made out of the tobacco patent and the tobacco trade, together with all the inherited landed estate of the Pershall family, which inheritance it had enjoyed for centuries, had gone to pay the cost of running the Commonwealth of England." {Pearsalls p.944]

At the accession to the throne of England of Charles II, and the return of the House of Stuart, in due season Sir John Pershall was made Keeper and Justice of the Peace for Stafford. (State Papers, Domestic, G. 144, 523.) His son, Sir Thomas Pershall was born in 1647 and died without an heir. At his death in February 1712, the baronetcy became extinct. He is buried in the family vault at Eccleshall Church.

Seventeen years of heavy losses associated with supporting the Royalist cause in England had extensive effects in the New World as well. "It is a serious thing to destroy seventeen years in the life of a pioneer. For example, Henry Pearsall of Hempstead only lived seven years after the restoration of King Charles II." [Pearsalls p.945}

Thomas Pearsall assumed the management of his father's tobacco business in Virginia in 1613. He took over this business in his own name at his father's retirement in 1615. After 1621, most of his time was spent in Virginia and in 1630 he settled there.

The persecutions that resulted from Elizabeth's Anglican rule confiscated goods or fined these "recusants". Support for Charles the First and then of his son caused vengeance against the family to extend even to the confiscating of lands and goods in Virginia and the destruction of merchant ships at sea.

"Sir John Pershall, senior had been interested in the tobacco venture in Virginia together with his cousin Thomas Pearsall. We have already seen how vastly his estate grew during his lifetime by the influx of wealth from the tobacco trading. Now two-thirds of it was sequestered to the Commonwealth {Cromwell's English government}. It must have been a rich plum. The officers of the Commonwealth did not confine themselves to what they could lay their hands on in England, but reached out for the property of the associates in Virginia as well. There lands, boats, equipment, stores, supplies and all went into the insatiable maw of the Cromwellian Dragon. Fortunately the settlement on Long Island being in a Dutch colony was beyond the reach of the Commonwealth of England. Nevertheless such of the vessels, not only of the Pearsalls, but of any of the king's followers, as were on the open sea or in English ports were speedily destroyed by the English navy or confiscated and sold under the English sequestration laws"(Pearsalls v. 2 p.940)

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