TONGE, Israel : Tonge or Tongue, Israel or Ezerel [Ezreel]
(1621 – 1680). Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. LVII, Tom Tytler,
920.042 STE. Extract incomplete.
TONGE or TONGUE, ISRAEL or EZEREL [EZREEL] (1621 – 1680), divine and ally of Titus Oates in the fabrication of the ‘popish plot,’ son of Henry Tongue, minister of Holtby, Yorkshire, was born at Tickhill, near Doncaster, on 11 Nov. 1621. After attending school at Doncaster, he matriculated from University College, Oxford, on 3 May 1639, and graduated B.A. early in 1643. Being ‘puritanically inclined’ he preferred to leave Oxford rather than bear arms for the king. He retired, therefore, to the small parish of Churchill, near Chipping Norton, where he taught a school. He returned to Oxford early in 1648, took him M.A. degree, settled once more in University College, and, submitting to the authority of the parliamentary visitors, was constituted a fellow in place of Henry Watkins. Next year, having married Jane Simpson, he succeeded his father-in-law, Dr. Edward Simpson or Simson [q.v.], as rector of Pluckley in Kent. He graduated D.D. in July 1656, and in the following spring, being much vexed with factious parishioners and quakers, he decided to leave Pluckley upon his appointment to a fellowship in the newly erected college at Durham. There, having been selected to teach grammar, he ‘followed precisely the Jesuits’ method.’ When Durham College was dissolved at the close of 1659, he moved to Islington, near London, where for a short while he taught a grammar class with conspicuous success in a large gallery of Sir Thomas Fisher’s house. He had also there, says Wood, a little academy for girls to be taught Latin and Greek, one of whom at fourteen could construe a Greek gospel. The experiment was short lived , for Tonge, having a ‘restless and freakish head,’ accompanied Colonel Sir Edward Harley (q.v.) to Dunkirk as chaplain to the English garrison in 1660. His stay there was cut short by the sale of Dunkirk to the French in 1661, whereupon Tonge obtained from Harley the small vicarage of Leintwardine in Herefordshire. On 26 June 1666, upon the presentation of Bishop Henchman, he was admitted to the rectory of St. Mary Stayning, and had to flee three months later before the great fire, which burned both his church and parish to the ground. In his homeless condition he gladly accepted a chaplaincy at Tangier. He stayed there about two years, when he became rector of St. Michael’s Wood Street (demolished 1989), to which the parish of St. Mary Stayning was henceforth united. Subsequently, from 1672 to 1677, he held with the rectory of Aston, in Herefordshire.
Having studied the lucubrations of Anthony Munday, Habernfeld, Prynne, and other plot-mongers and writers against the jesuits, from the time of his return from Tangier, Tonge seems to have definitely formed the design of ekeing out his meagre income by compilations of a like tendency. He commenced upon some translations of polemics against the Society of Jesus by Port Royalists and others, but the market was already overstocked with wares of this kind. What seems to have given Tonge the necessary stimulus to proceed with his investigation was a rumour of a popish plot to murder the king and set up the Duke of York in his place, which he heard from one Richard Greene while he was in Herefordshire in 1675. Tonge was convinced of the genuineness of Greene’s allegations ‘because’ the alleged plot was hatched in 1675 during the ‘illegal prorogation’ of parliament (The Popish Massacre…. Being part of Dr. Tonge’s Collections on that Subject… published for his Vindication, 1679). During the winter of 1676, while residing in the Barbican at the house of Sir Richard Barker, one of the patrons whom he managed to infect with his own abnormal credulity upon the subject of catholic intrigues, Tonge came into contact with Titus Oates, who professed enthusiasm for his great aims. Having already convinced himself by his literary, astrological, and other occult researches that a vast jesuit plot was imending over England, Tonge became the willing dupe of Oates’s perjuries [see Oates, Titus]. During July and the early part of August 1678 Tonge incorporated Oates’s inventions with his own exaggerated suspicions into the fictitious narrative of the ‘popish plot’. The narrative was drawn up in a documentary form, with forty-three clauses or heads of indictment, and, copies having been made, Tonge handed the scroll to Danby in the middle of August. A few days later he called on Burnet and have him orally the alleged designs of the papists. Burnet wrote of his strange visitor: ‘He was a gardener and a chymist, and was full of projects and notions. He had got some credit in Cromwell’s time, and that kept him poor. He was a very mean divine, and seemed credulous and simple, but I looked on him as a sincere man.’
The affair was at first regarded as a device of Danby’s to obtain an augmentation of the king’s guards. At this period Tonge and Oates were living at at a bell-founder’s at Vauxhall, afterwards known as the ‘plot-house,’ and Tonge was busily occupied there during the remainder of August in communicating additional details of the conspiracy to Danby at Wimbledon. He had several interviews with the king himself both at Whitehall, upon the first announcement of the plot (13 Aug.), and afterwards at Windsor; but Charles was thoroughly sceptical as to the genuineness of the revelations. On 6 Sept., as an alternative means of giving publicity to the matter, Tonge applied to Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey [q.v.], a well-known justice of the peace, and prevailed upon him to take down Oates’s despositions upon oath. This created some stir, and on 27 Sept. Tonge was summoned to appear with Oates before the privy council. The alarmist view which they took of the narrative combined with the discovery of Coleman’s correspondence [see Coleman, Edward] and the murder of Godfrey in the middle of October to provoke acute panic among the loyal and bigoted protestants, who formed the bulk of the population of London. Tonge appears to have been bewildered by the reign of terror which his weak credulity had done so much to precipitate. From the close of September 1678 he was assigned rooms in Whitehall along with Oates, but after a few months he preferred to withdraw from all association with his quondam ally. He had, however, upon the motion of Sir Thomas Clarges, to appear with Oates at the bar of the House of Commons on 21 March 1678-9. He then gave a long account of his observations of the papists before the discovery of the plot, and of his writings upon the subject (see below). These works , so Oates informed him, ‘so gaul’d the jesuits at St. Omer’ that they despatched Titus to murder the author, but the intended murderer took the opportunity to escape from their clutches and to save his king and his country. This probably represented Tonge’s genuine belief in the matter.