Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Thursday, December 25, 1656.
Major-General Disbrowe reported amendments to the Bill for the Forest of Deane, and mitigation of the laws, &c. (fn. 1)
Mr. Robinson. I am against the re-foresting of it. It is to turn the people of England into wild beasts. It is too long time to keep the commoners out, 12 years, till the woods be grown up. We promised Englishmen freedom, equal freedom. If this was actually de-forested, let not us re-forest it. Did we not make the people believe that we fought for their liberty. Let us not deceive them of their expectation. Is it not by their hands and successes that our interest remains; that we sit here ? Let us not forget it, lest we be laid aside ourselves, upon the same account that former powers were laid aside. I desire this Bill may not be ingrossed.
Major-General Disbrowe. This gentleman assigns no inconvenience particularly to the people by this Bill. It is not to turn men into wild beasts, or to make wild beasts men; but to make wild men tame men; to restrain extravagancies in destroying the timber. It takes away the rigour of the forest law. I believe it will not be denied but a justice-seat in a forest, is law: else it had not been continued in those peeping times, when it would have been strictly looked to, to set up any jurisdiction contrary to law. It gives the people more liberty than they have had these hundred years. They expect no benefit by these eighteen thousand acres, but think themselves wholly excluded; but this, after a time, restores the commoner's right.
Colonel Mathews. I am against this Bill. It ought to be well considered. Provide what you will for timber, not only there, but in general; but I would have us careful of ushering in former oppressions and extravagancies. Those were very strict, and tended to depopulation. I am against receiving any thing like the former forest laws. I desire it may not be ingrossed.
Sir William Strickland. It is a very fit time to offer the Bill, this day, to bear your testimony against it, since people observe it with more solemnity than they do the Lord's-day. I desire it may be read.
Major-General Kelsey and Major Morgan. If this had been ten days since, it might have been in good time; but let not this business jostle out great and eminent business, you having a twelve-months' time to provide this law. It is too late now to make a law against it.
Major-General Packer, Major Audley, and Sir Gilbert Pickering. If ever bill was well timed this bill is. You see how the people keep up these superstitious observations to your face; stricter, in many places, than they do the Lord'sday. One may pass from the Tower to Westminster and not a shop open, nor a creature stirring. It is a fit time now.
Mr. Godfrey. If this Bill had not been moved to be read, I should not have pressed it; but seeing you have admitted it to a debate, and at this time, I hope we shall all witness against it: otherwise it will be said abroad that these superstitious days have favourites in this House.
Sir Christopher Pack. I am as much for this Bill as any man, but I would not have us, under the notion of taking away festivals, take away the Lord's-day, for in the Bill the festival of Easter and Pentecost are abolished. Yet this Bill may be made good by the commitment. I desire it may be committed
Major-General Disbrowe. I have a short Bill to offer you, for continuance of a tax upon some people, for the maintenance of the militia. It will be for the security of your peace. It can fall upon no persons so fitly as those that occasion the charge. Let us lay the saddle upon the right horse. Your friends and enemies have hitherto borne an equal share. There ought to be a discrimination; for if your enemies should have prevailed, they would have freed themselves.
Mr. Bond. It is not wisdom for you to give leave to any person to bring in a Bill to lay any charge upon the people, till you have gone through with what you have under consideration concerning it. The gentleman offers it very properly to ask your leave, but I hope you will not give it.
Mr. Robinson. This motion is very properly offered. The Cavaliers are the cause of this war, (fn. 2) considering how near they are a kin to the Spaniard. You protect them. They do not protect you. They keep together, waiting an opportunity to supplant you. In the late insurrections few of that party but had a younger brother, or some relation engaged in the plot, at that time, in every family, especially in the North parts. This may be demonstrated to you at. the Committee. I confess, when the declaration came out, I could not believe the rising was within three miles of me. Till I saw the arms (fn. 3) I could not credit it. There were ridings in the night from East to North, to South, &c. Sir Richard Maleverer, before Lord Wilmot came, rode from family to family. They met under pretence of huntings and the like. I believe hardly a family in the North— (fn. 4) I know what it was in the South. But they had correspondency in the plot. I took some examination as a justice of peace, before other authority came out.
Lord Wilmot lay three nights at Sir William Ingrain's, and solicited people very strongly, and threatened some. Lord Wilmot, when he went to Hessam-moor, expected 4,000 in arms there, with a design upon York; but he said some had deceived them. Wilmot being the wisest man amongst them, would not have come in upon slender grounds. He fully stinted to have been in York that night, rifling such a man's bags. The design was universally known amongst them. I am satisfied. (fn. 5)
But you will say the Act of Oblivion (fn. 6) is against it.
I wish it had been reciprocally kept on their part. How many of that party have declared for you ? Haply not above two or three in a country. They wait all occasions to overthrow you, and close with any design to destroy. Will you make no distinction between your friends and your enemies ? What witness have they borne for you. How have they declared against their own interest ? Do they not keep Charles Stewart's interest warm still amongst them; agents and letters amongst them ? What public declaration have they made against that party ?
I appeal to some gentlemen here, and without too, if that Act was not drawn by the consultation and counsel of the Cavalier party. I was against it at the first. We needed rather an Act of Commemoration. The honest party look upon it as a great favour, that there is a distinction made, a character set upon him, that you may know a Cavalier from a Roundhead. I may haply be unsatisfied as well as other men, but I believe it as much my Lord Protector's interest as any thing.
If you bear your witness to that distinction, it will encourage your friends, though it be but a small tax. They grow fat and live at home;—we decrease; they increase. I should be sorry to see your strength discouraged by your own friends, and build up an army of Cavaliers, of untempered mortar, that will not consist with your interest. Most certain if the power were in their hands, they would spare their friends, and lay it upon us. Though I was least believing or sensible of the plot, yet it was within three miles of me; and I am sure my throat had been cut in the first place. It is but just they should feel it.
Major-General Jephson. This gentleman has given you a large narration of the late insurrection, more particularly, I confess, than I have heard before; and, certainly, those honourable persons that laid the tax, know more of the particulars. He has told you much of the utile, but not a word of the honestum, which the philosopher said were to be concomitants. I shall speak nothing against the Bill as to the merit of it. You may bring one in; but I would first have you consider how it will stand with your honour to admit an act against an act. First, let a day be appointed to consider of repealing all or part of the former Act of Parliament, and then give way, to read this Bill. But I doubt it will hardly be for your honour to break the faith of a Parliament. If it appear that any of them have been really in the plot, let them not pay part, but all.
Colonel Sydenham. It is not so much against morality and honesty as this gentleman speaks of. It is well enough known what plots were laid; how implacable and inveterate that party are against you; how they separate themselves to this day. They have not relinquished their party; not one of them declared against Charles Stewart. The tax was laid upon good consideration, and I hope this Parliament will never think it unreasonable, to continue it.
The Master of the Rolls. Till there be a further debate upon the grounds of this tax, before the Bill be brought in, for order's sake I would have you debate the particulars, how and upon whom this tax must be laid. If any, since the Act of Oblivion, have acted or plotted any thing against the public peace, let them suffer severely; but it is not for the honour of a Parliament to break the faith of Parliaments. Never was an Act of Oblivion violated by a Parliament in any age of the world.
Sir Gilbert Pickering. I believe few within these walls but have seen declarations of this business at large, as full as tongue or pen can express it. If it be not honest, I pray God it may not be done; but I doubt it will appear both before God and man, that it is but too honest and just, too apparent cause to lay this tax. They keep their interest up in a body. Your friends are sure to hear of their malice, when they can have power to exercise it. It is implacable, and irreconcileable to our interest, till time out-date it.
Lord Whitlock. You are not ripe for a question, to lay a tax upon the people, upon a bare motion, without further debate. I do believe, with those gentlemen that have spoken, that there is an inveterate hate of that party against us. Some other way, haply, may be found out to restrain them. There was never any act of oblivion, or any part of it broken by a Parliament. It is of dangerous consequence. The way has been, first to debate the grounds and reasons of a tax before it be laid, and that in a Grand Committee; but not so seasonable to bring in a Bill now. I shall humbly move that a day shall be appointed.
Colonel Holland. I always observed that the rule of all Commonwealths was salus populi suprema lex. Anciently it was the rule held forth in our Commonwealth. In the Long Parliament, this Act of Oblivion was highly debated. For my part, I was utterly against it, as foreseeing the Cavaliers were a party not to be obliged by it. I know the Act was drawn and driven on by the counsel and advice of that party. This plot was universally contrived by them.
Mr. Speaker. In all taxes that I ever knew, the quantum and quo modo were first propounded. It was so in the tax of 4000l. upon the northern contribution. It is not worthy of the House to give directions to bring in a Bill for laying a tax, till you first understand what, and upon whom, it must be laid; which ought to be debated first in a Grand Committee.
Lord Lambert. By orders of the House, as I understand them, no bill can be brought in with a quantum, but always with a blank. It is talked of a debate in a Grand Committee. Must every Bill pass a Grand Committee before it is read in the House. Here is a contradiction in the orders. In a business of this nature, that concerns the safety of the Commonwealth, we should go the nearest way. But if it be thought fit to debate it first in a Grand Committee, I shall not be against it; that every thing may be weighed to the full, and, if it be not both bonum and utile, I shall not be for it.
Mr. Godfrey. It is not a proper season, the House being so thin. I would have it suspended till the House be called, for it is fit before a tax be laid upon all, or any part of the people, that it should be first freely debated in a Grand Committee. I shall say nothing to the merit of the thing, but to the orders of your proceedings. A matter of this nature ought certainly to undergo a serious consideration, and to agree of the quantum and quo modo, before the Bill be brought in.
Mr. Speaker. I hear many call for a question. I understand no particulars. I must put a general question, whether liberty shall be given to bring in a Bill for laying a tax for maintenance of the forces.
Lord-Chief-Justice. The gentlemen moved, very properly, for leave to bring in a Bill. But I never knew any Bill received to lay any tax, till it was first debated in the particulars; as how many subsidies or fifteenths. The matters were always debated, very leisurely, and in a full House. The motion is very general, to charge some persons, not knowing who, nor how. This ought to have a full debate. You ought to ascertain the thing. If it be for decimation, or the like, to ascertain upon what persons it must lie. Let a day be appointed, that all may know of it; as this day sennight. I shall not be against the Bill. But it is fit for our honour that serve here for the nation, to do things regularly and fairly.
Major-General Whalley. I wonder to hear that honourable person speak to put it off for a sennight. I shall not pretend much to understand the orders of the House. This is not to lay a tax upon all the people, but only upon such a party as have been active, and are yet active against you; such as are now decimated. (fn. 7) It is not upon all that party; not upon them that have laid down their arms, and lived peaceably; or have given signal testimony of their affection to you. I know no reason why you should defer this business, to make so long a debate.
Colonel Hewitson. You are not laying a tax upon the people, but upon your enemies, whose estates are at the devotion of your enemies. They are active people, whom they well employ to your destruction. I grant the Act of Oblivion is a sacred thing, and your public faith ought to be kept; but I hope you only pardon offences, not what is to come. If they have digged pits or laid snares since, against the honest party, that you will not be asleep, but look about you. You are disobliged from the Act of Oblivion. I desire that a Bill may be brought in, to lay an assessment upon the Cavaliers.
Colonel Jones. The plainer your question is, the better; for the intent is to confirm what is past, and what is to come, as to continuing the charge of decimation. I am for a day to be appointed to debate this business fully, and that the honourable persons of the Council may give you satisfaction, upon what terms, grounds, and reasons, the tax was laid upon that party, that the justice and honesty of the business may be debated.
Mr. Reynell proposed, that for all men's satisfaction, a day might be appointed to debate the justice, right, and reason of the business. It is fit we should as well have a regard to the honestum and justum as to the utile and tutum. If the Cavaliers be never so wicked, let us be just to them, and keep our faith. I never heard that a Parliament did ever violate or repeal an Act of Oblivion.
Major-General Disbrowe. I offer a question more general, not to include all persons sequestered, or have been aiding, &c. Some have given testimony of their affection to you, both before and since the decimation. It is known upon whom it is aimed to lay the tax, so that you may put your question more generally. It is far from me to offer to lay a tax upon any of them that either have, or shall come into a cheerful compliance with us, and disclaiming their party. It is their reformation, not their ruin, is desired. If they become our friends, let them benefit by their change.
Lord-Chief-Justice. Appoint Tuesday next to debate this business, for it ought to be seriously weighed how far this Act shall extend, and the quantum and quo modo, which is the regular way in all such matters.
Mr. Secretary. I have known precedents both ways, as to what is urged, for or against the debating; whether leave should be given to bring in a Bill to tax the nation or no. Your danger of delaying it is not so far off, haply, as some think. I desire the question may be put, to lay the tax upon all such as have been sequestered for delinquency, or have aided, assisted, &c. with such exceptions, &c.
Mr. Butler. What will be said without doors, that you have had a debate upon this business, whether a Bill shall be brought in or no, and you have done nothing in it. I desire you would put the Question, whether a tax Bill shall be brought in to lay a tax upon the Cavaliers, with some proviso and limitations, as the Parliament shall agree on.
Mr. Bampfield. This question will wholly determine your debate upon the force of the Act of Oblivion. If I were satisfied in my conscience, that this tax could be laid without a violation of the Act, without breach of your faith, I should not say a word on it. I have as little to plead for the Cavaliers as any man. I believe some are as bad as can be. Admit they be as bad as can be, we ought to be honest to them. I hope we shall not take up that principle, fides cum hereticis, &c.; our faith is at stake. It was told you Acts of Oblivion were never broken in Parliament.
Admit some have been actually in the insurrection against us: but to draw the whole party under punishment for the offence of some, is a justice that I cannot understand. I remember what a very sober person said of this business. While the general tax continued they had no justice against us, but now God will plead for them, in regard we have violated those rules, and exceeded that square of justice, which ought to bound all men.
In Samuel xxi. 1, we read that there was a great famine for three years. The reason being inquired, it was because Saul " slew the Gibeonites." This may run parallel with the case of the Cavaliers. There was deceit used to gain that league. More so is the Cavaliers' case.
The benefit of the Act of Oblivion was reciprocal. It tended to the quieting of men's spirits upon the change of the government. We had advantage by it as well as they. In the Gibeonites' case no removing of the judgment, till justice was done upon Saul's sons. They increased, and Saul in great prudence slew them, in zeal to the house of Israel, in regard of their enmity, and increase of them; but we find God of another mind. If we keep to our promise, our greatest safety is to keep faith. It is God's rule; David's precept. Most honest to keep the public faith to those that have not actually broke that faith. I have heard that it was Machiavel's policy to place honesty only in safety, (fn. 8) but God's rules are otherwise. Let us pursue those and we may expect a blessing. Otherwise, God will punish us as he did Saul's sons. It is best to deal plainly with God in those things. I hope this Parliament will never think fit to exceed those rules. We are upon a sure foundation if that be done.
The Papists have as much, nay more, to say against the tax laid upon them. (fn. 11)
You have a civil quarrel with the Cavaliers, and the question is, whether you will maintain it out of your own purses, or your enemies'. I am sure they are the sole occasion, both of your foreign and intestine broils, and it is but reasonable they should bear the burthen. They are very irreconcileable.
Mr. Bedford. The bringing in a Bill does not give the question away, upon the public faith of the nation. It rather opens a way for the debate of it. I am not of their principle, who say quicquid tutum, est honestum. I hope it will appear to be honestum to lay this tax upon these people without breach of your faith. I was very well satisfied to act in the laying of this extraordinary tax. I know your friends were much satisfied that you put that distinction. If a Bill be brought in, it will make way for every man to speak his conscience; which may be done in a Grand Committee upon the Bill committed, as well as if it were debated beforehand. I cannot understand the necessity of debating it in a Grand Committee first. I have observed the orders of this House to be otherwise. I desire the question may be put to give leave to bring in a Bill.
Sir John Hobart. If I had been satisfied that this tax might be laid without a breach of your faith, I should not have risen up to trouble you. I would have the question plainly put, whether the Act of Oblivion be taken away. If you punish men, it must either have a retrospect beyond the Act of Oblivion for some offence committed before. If any offence be committed since, and proved, I am so great an enemy to your enemies, that I would not only have a part, but all taken away. Let us have a prospect as well to the honour of a Parliament and the liberty of Englishmen, as to the safety of the nation. I have an equal respect to all, but let us do things that are just and honest. Must we confirm all that passed, or continue that tax upon them without examining the merits. I would have a day appointed, that we may plainly and clearly debate the business.
Lord Lambert. I am as guilty of the Act of Oblivion as any man. I have laboured to oblige that party; to win them, as much as may be; but find it impossible till time wear out the memory. They are as careful to breed up their children in the memory of the quarrel as can be. They are, haply, now merry over their Christmas pies, drinking the King of Scots' health, or your confusion. The Gibeonites' case is not at all parallel with this. I never read that they made any insurrection against Israel, or disturbed the peace, or you had found them otherwise dealt with. If the Act of Oblivion was not reciprocal, and they be not tied to keep their part as well as we, it is an ill bargain for us. They were actually in arms in all parts of the nation. Salus populi suprema lex. I hope you will have a special care to be serious in this thing. I could say much in it, if it were proper to speak to it now. They are a party not to be slighted. They may do you more mischief than you, haply, are aware of. I desire leave may be given to bring in a Bill.
Mr. Fowell. I am as much against the Cavaliers as any man within these walls. I believe there was a necessity for laying the decimation, and haply, I shall give my vote to continue it. Quod necessitas cogit, &c., but I Would have us be as unanimous in the thing as can be; but if you put the question to bring in the Bill, you will divide. I desire you would rather appoint a day to debate it. It is a begging of the question, and implicitly dispensing with the Act of Oblivion, with the faith of Parliaments, which ought to be preserved.
Lord Lisle. It doth not conclude the Act of Oblivion. If I thought so, I should be against it; but it is the intention to ease our friends, and lay it upon our enemies. Appoint a short day for reading the Bill, that the honesty and justice of the business might be fully debated.
Mr. Godfrey. I should not trouble you if I were not clearly satisfied that by this salvo to the Act of Oblivion, you wholly run the faith of the nation upon a rock. I know it is the care of every man here to tender the faith of the nation. It may be broken, as well by a vote as by a law. You vote expressly that a Bill should be brought in on that plan, but you say with such restrictions as the Parliament shall agree. If you agree upon any restriction, your order, your vote, stands de facto. The Bill must be received.
I desire a vote may not pass so general, not knowing what may be the fruits of it. I would have you appoint a day to debate it at large, whether it be just or honest to lay such a tax, considering your faith, which you ought to have a special respect for. It is told you, how the faith of a Parliament was never broken, in any age of the world. (fn. 12)
Mr. Puller. I would not have you put the question so hastily. There is no necessity, at present, for it. This tax is already upon them, upon whom you would lay it. I desire it may not be read till the House be full, that all men may speak their conscience.
Lord Fiennes. I think jus non est violandum, upon any terms; but I understand not how this question will intrench upon your public faith. There are other reasons why this tax should be laid more upon them than upon others. They are exempted from public employments, and are at no other charge. You have eased or charged some men more than others. It is frequent, and I am clear that this Bill may be brought in without debating it in a Grand Committee before hand.
Mr. Bodurda. I shall heartily concur with the laying this tax, if it be just, or appear to be so. If you intend not to encroach upon the public faith, I wish it were so expressed. It is a matter of great consequence, and ought to have a serious debate, haply not so seasonable now. I desire something to be added to your question, viz. after you speak of the limitations and restrictions, with respect had to the public faith of the nation. But I could rather wish this debate might be adjourned.
Major-General Kelsey. I am not against keeping faith with the Cavaliers, so they keep faith with you. We are very tender of them. We are not so to our friends. They could never have indemnity, but are daily sued in all courts, for things done for your service. I desire the Bill may be brought in, and that you would then take a time to debate at large the profit and honesty and justice of the business; in the which I doubt not but a right understanding will be amongst us.
Sir John Hobart and Mr. Grove, (fn. 13) Tellers, for Noes, 63 sate.
Resolved, that leave be given by the House to bring in a Bill of Assessments for the maintenance of the militia forces; the same to be laid upon such persons as have been in arms against the Parliament, or sequestered for their delinquency in the late wars, with due restrictions, exceptions, and provisos to be contained therein, for some persons and in some cases.
Resolved, that this Bill be brought in to-morrow morning. (fn. 14)
At the Committee of Trade was the business between the merchant adventurers and the free merchants to be heard; but in regard both parties were not prepared for a hearing, it was put off till Thursday next.