Brearley, J. D.
Master of Arts, Durham University (1974)
For the realisation of the Restoration settlement of Church and State, it was essential that the central authorities received the co-operation of local officials who shared their aims and interests, and were prepared to re-establish and maintain order in the provinces. Cosin, Bishop of Durham, 1661-72, was the chief instrument of the government in the North East of England. Within the Diocese he attempted to enforce universal compliance with the Church of England. As Lord-Lieutenant, he worked to maintain religious and political order and discipline. He did not regard himself as a government agent, but recognised the interdependence of the Church and the political order, believing neither could be strong if the other were weak. For his jurisdiction to be efficacious, the loyal service of similarly-minded ecclesiatical and secular deputies was imperative, as was the moral and military support of the gentry. Whilst the interests of the central government, the Church and the gentry seemed coincident, the complicated and finely-balanced arrangement could function successfully.
Cosin was dedicated and industrious. His single-mindedness and obstinacy was apparent. He believed in the righteousness of the restored social and political order.His conviction that nonconformity threatened both the Church and State caused him to undertake measures to eradicate religious opposition. He was never successful; the large Nonconformist element in Newcastle was a particular irritation to him. The possibility of political revolt was a constant fear. Its roots were discerned in religious unorthodoxy. Cosin acted promptly when an uprising seemed imminent in Durham in 1663 and later. In eliminating seditious designs and withstanding Dutch attack, he relied on gentry support. When Cosin proved that his allegiance to his interpretation of the privileges of the County Palatine and the position of the Bishop was greater than his regard for the gentry’s demand for parliamentary representation, the alliance was disrupted. His lasting success was in restoring the dignity of the Anglican Church and respect for the Bishop.