Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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Speech by the Speaker regarding the humble Petition and Advice
Mr. Speaker's speech to the Lord Protector in the Banquetting House, the 31st March, 1657, at the tendering of the humble Petition and Advice, as it was at first tendered in the presence of the House of Parliament.
I am commanded by the Parliament of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in their name, to present this humble Petition and Advice, unto your Highness. I shall only acquaint your Highness with several grounds, (of the House) of this Petition before you enter into it. I am sensible that I speak before a great person, the exactness of whose judgment ought to scatter and chase away all unnecessary speeches, as the sun doth the vapours. I may begin, as the poet began his metamorphosis. In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas. But my case is far different from that of the poet. His was fictitious, and a total change of persons and things. This is a real, but not a total change, and more of form than matter. This, in many particulars, is rather a remitter and restitution, than a change. His was the fruit of a poetical fancy—this, the labour and resolution of a Parliament.
The Parliament hath been in travail almost forty days, and after great deliberation, at last this is the production, a creature of one body, but many parts. As soon as it was produced, the pains of travail were soon forgotten, and yet the travail could not be but great; for, behold there was in it the government of three great nations. I am a servant, and a man not to vent my own conceits, but to declare the things which I have in command from the Parliament. I am not unlike a gardener, who gathers flowers in his master's garden, and out of them composeth a nosegay. I shall offer nothing but what I have collected in the garden of the Parliament, and what did arise out of that excellent discourse and debate, which was there used, upon framing of this Petition, and of the Government presented by it.
I shall first be bold to take the frame of it in pieces, and then look upon it as an entire body. The first part of the body of this is the head, which they did well approve of, but liked not the name, they desire to give it a new name, which is of King, and that your Highness would be pleased to assume that name. It is a change of name only, and you are desired to take it by the agreement of the representatives of three nations in Parliament. It is the ancient way by which good Kings were ever made. All Israel gathered themselves together at Hebron to make David King.
The Parliament, did apprehend this name more congruous for the body than that of Protector, which was not formerly known in these nations, but in the minority or absence of the present King, as was the Duke of Bedford, in the minority of Henry VI., and the Duke of Somerset, in the minority of that young Saint and King, Edward VI. The name and office of a King is better known, and more suitable to the laws and constitutions of these nations than that of a Protector. That name is ancient in this land; and taken notice of in Holy Writ, which is far more ancient, and there looked upon in a very good sense. It is a promise to Abraham that Kings should come of his loins; (fn. 1) and in another place, Kings are called nursing fathers. (fn. 2) The wise man, who was a King himself, to his precept (fear God), in the next place, adds, honour to the King. But the Israelites were rebuked for asking a King, and that very justly.
2. In the manner of it. Give us a King to rule over us, after the manner of other nations; and other nations, at that time had Kings who exercised tyrannical government. The Parliament desireth no such King, but a King, as that article well expressed him, to rule according to the laws of the land.
Aristotle, in his Politics, speaketh of two sorts of Kings. He calleth one an absolute King, Tyrannus, who had no rule but his own will. These nations never acknowledged such a King. And secondly, a King secundum legem, according to the law. (fn. 3) The Kings of England were, in their constitutions, such Kings, however some of them in the exercise of their power made their will the law. Kings here are the guides of the people, but the laws are their guides. They are above the people, but the laws are above them. (fn. 4) Kings (as King Saul was) may be taller than the people, they ought not to be taller than the laws.
The law is the safeguard and custody of all private interests. The lives, liberties, and estates of the people, are all in the keeping of the law; without this, every man hath the like right to every thing, et cum teneant omnes omnia, nemo suum. The people of these nations were never out of love with the name of King, but have been, with some of their persons, for their mal-administration. King Edward II. and King Richard II. of England, felt the smart of this truth. They were swayed with their will: they were deposed; but the son of the one, and the cousin-germain of the other, was made King; so the person, and not the King, was destroyed.
The office of the King standeth with the liberty of the people, else certainly it would not have been used so long here. Anglica gens, libera gens. They are a free people: their liberties have ever been precious unto them. Witness the multiplied confirmations of Magnet Charta; the great charter of their liberties. (fn. 5) And, comparatively, England is more free than any other of their neighbour nations, and yet they have been governed by Kings; and I never heard that that office was presented as a grievance in any Parliament; et difficile est tacere, cum doleas. And it standeth with Christian liberty. Consider the promise before mentioned to Abraham, and the prophecy that Kings should be their nursing fathers. Kings, in this very nation, have been introducers and advancers of Christianity; and in this respect may be called procreating fathers. Lucius, the British King, brought in Christianity to this nation. (fn. 6) But it may be objected, it was planted here before, by Joseph of Arimathea. (fn. 7) I will not dispute this, for besides the monks of Glassenbury, many other learned men do affirm it; but it is doubtful and uncertain, for others deny it. But, admit the truth of it, yet Christianity was much besmeared, and lost amongst the Britons, before the time of Lucius. The dial of Christianity was so far gone back, that no shadow of Christianity could be found. I need no proof of this; it is apparent to such as have looked upon the history of Britain, and from Basingstochius, (fn. 8) and some other writers. King Edwin of Northumberland was converted by Paulinus, in the year 622. How readily and how soon, and thereupon a number of people converted! I may, with alteration of one word, make use of the old verse,
Regis ad exen lum totus convertitur orbis. (fn. 9)
The examples of Kings are the most prevalent sermons to the people. And also King Oswald of Northumberland, being converted to Christianity, most of the people became Christians. There is yet some memory of him in the county of Northumberland, (fn. 10) where he fought his last battle with the Picts. The place to this day is called Hallow Down, or Hallow Field, which is a holy field; and there was a chapel built, called St. Oswald's chapel, standing there at this day. This name is a great security to your person, and so to the laws of the nation, and so to the liberties and properties of the people.
But it may be said, that the King hath many prerogatives, and it is hard to know them, and harder to limit them. For this, I say, that the prerogatives of the King are bounded by the laws, and it hath been seen by experience, that those Kings who have wound up prerogatives to too high a pin, have not only lost them, but themselves also. (fn. 11) The King's prerogative, and the laws, are not two distinct things, and if you can find no prerogatives by the law, you can expect none. The King's prerogative is part of the law. It is in the politic body as in the natural. There is not in the body of man one law in the head, and another of the body, but is one entire law.
You will find, when you hear this article read, the reasons of the Parliament's desire to your Highness, to accept this office. I shall forbear to mention them. Your virtues are so resplendent, that they [need] no tapers, (fn. 12) nor shall I take upon me to be a panegyrist, to extol you in your presence, nor can my weak expressions do it, if I should essay it. The Parliament cannot be suspected of flattery, therefore I shall leave your Highness to the expressions of the Parliament in this particular.
Next to that of the King, the Parliament took into their consideration Parliaments. And in this considered of two things, the one old, the other new. The old is, the calling of Parliaments every third year, which is an excellent law, made by the Long Parliament (fn. 13) by whom many excellent laws were made; but there is a law more ancient than that; for a Parliament every year was enacted in Edward III.'s time. (fn. 14)
The people of England have ever delighted in the course of Parliaments, it being the only place where they can complain, and have redress of their grievances; the only place where they may put out their bad laws, and get a stock of better; the only place where they can speak freely of the oppression of great men, and injustice of Courts.
The other part of the article is new, which is for another House of Parliament. I may call this a self-denying request, a modest condescension to admit others into the bosom of so great a trust as that of legislative, (a very jealous point) therefore the desire of the Parliament may not be deemed unreasonable, to have the approbation of those persons thus intromitted, that they may know whom they trust. And the other may seem as just, that bounds be set to their judicial proceedings, as appears in the fifth article. (fn. 15)
Next to this, they have added the qualifications of persons elected, and electing members of Parliament; and it is very necessary, at the conclusion of a civil war, to have it so; for though the war be ended, yet the difference of affections and opinions is hot ended. Persons may be overcome in the field, passions and affections cannot. These qualifications are of two sorts; the one, moral, for their lives and conversations; the other, politic, for their affections. Then, for the triers of these qualifications; the determination of that question, scopa latissima, an hard and knotty question; this being to be done before they sat in Parliament; so that the House, of which they are members, could not try them. In this the Parliament have taken such course, as you will see in the Article. Although they try them not themselves, yet themselves will elect the tryers. (fn. 16)
They have added qualifications also for the members of the other. House, which are in effect the same with the other. The other House is to consist of the number of seventy, at the most, and forty the least; the quorum twenty-one. (fn. 17)
The trust committed to them is personal, and not to be executed by deputies or proxies. (fn. 18)
Their judicial power is also limited and circumscribed, and it is necessary to be so; for it is so natural for all men to be lovers' and promoters of the latitude of their own jurisdictions, that it is now believed by many to be a very honest maxim, which the civilians have, Boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem. For other particulars, they are to observe the course, of Parliaments. (fn. 19)
The next thing in consideration, is the revenue, to support the charge of this government; for the feet of government ought not to be of clay, but of silver or gold. It must be built upon the rock of a revenue, or else it cannot stand. The revenue here may seem considerable, and yet not above the expenses. Two hands are sufficient for any of us who have but one belly to feed, but Briareus, who had fifty bellies to feed, stood in need of one hundred hands.
The Parliament are very tender of the purses of the people, and therefore are unwilling to open them wider than the necessities of affairs shall require; and really when their purses are opened too wide, not only their money, but their hearts fly out; nor shall this burden rest upon their lands, but be raised in another way.
The other part of the Article doth provide, that no tax or tallage be laid (with other words contained in the Petition of Right, (fn. 20) ) but by consent of Parliament. This guardeth the people's property, and is no new thing; and is the privilege of the people of England, expressed in Magna Charta, (fn. 21) but it is far more ancient, as may appear by the ancient records of this nation.
The people have been always jealous and tender in this point; which may appear by several complaints, and the frequent super-sanction of Magna Charta. (fn. 22) I may call this the people's Noli me tangere. They will not be touched in any part of their estate; for if any part be not free, then is not the whole free. The charge for Ship-money (fn. 23) upon Mr. Hampden, a gentleman of a fair fortune, was but 20s. (fn. 24) but it is well known what that occasioned, and what might be the consequence; for if the King had power to impose 20s., the same power might have gone to 20,000l.
For the management of this great government, the Parliament is to be the King's Great Council, and in the intervals of Parliament, a Council is appointed. Therefore you will see great care taken in the choice of the Council. The number is great and considerable; and you will find that the quorum is such, as they cannot all ride upon one horse, as it was said of the Council of Lewis, the French King.
Next to this the government is to be assisted by Officers of State and Judges. There is a special provision for their approbation, (fn. 25) and it is very necessary it should be so.
These are like the Lions, that did support the throne of Solomon, (fn. 26) and have a great stroke in the frame of this government. And, besides this, these are the copies by which the people, for the most part, guide their actions; and they are not fit to be copies, except they be fair written, without blots, or any thing unworthy their authority.
Then for religion, they thought fit the true Christian Protestant religion be held forth and asserted, and a Confession of Faith to be agreed upon. And, to keep and preserve the esteem of the ministers of the Gospel and themselves, from the virulent tongues of petty and disorderly persons, it is provided that the punishment of these persons shall be according to the law; and if the law be defective, new laws to be provided in that behalf.
There are two extremities in state, concerning the causes of faith and religion, (that is to say) the permission of the exercise of more religions than one, which is a dangerous indulgence and toleration, and is not introduced by this government, nor I hope shall never be in these nations. (fn. 27) The other is the entering and sifting into men's consciences, when no overt scandal is given, which is a vigorous and strainable inquisition, as one calls it, and which is desired to.be provided against in this Frame.
The Church hath been in all ages subject to contentions and schisms. There is scarce any one Epistle of Paul to the Churches but containeth some reprehension of unnecessary and schismatical controversies, and there will still be such controversies; but as they extend not to any point of faith, the persons differing are by this Article not excluded, out of fellowship, or out of preferment. (fn. 28)
In the next place, the Parliament thought fit that the Acts and Ordinances, for sale of lands, should be confirmed. This is for the present public peace, and the quiet of purchasers, and the honour of the nations.
Next, for places of trust. They are not to be committed to persons who have lifted up their hands against the Parliament or your Highness. This the Parliament hold necessary, in the conclusion of a civil war; and this I may call the hedge or wall of this government.
In the next place, the Parliament humbly propounds their own preservation, (fn. 29) nor can they be blamed in the tendering of this, especially when it is for the performance and achievement of public services.
Next, the Parliament hath taken care not to destroy old laws, nor ordinances, where they are not contrary to the new ones, but that both may stand together. (fn. 30)
In the securing of the government they have been careful not to give the least remora or interruption to the course of justice. Justice is in the nation as the sun in the firmament; it cannot stand still, and justice, it must run as a stream, a constant stream. The stopping of the stream of justice may occasion an inundation of wrongs and oppressions, and sweep away the course of relief which the parties wronged were prosecuting.
In the next place, they are humble suitors that your Highness may be pleased to take an oath to govern according to law. The Kings of this nation have formerly done so, and it is only to request you to do that, which by the law you are bound to do.
Arbitrary government hath always been a terrible thing to the people of this nation. If the laws should not be upheld, all things would fall into confusion. I will use Mr. Pym's words in full Parliament, upon the arraignment of the Earl of Stratford: "The law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evil, betwixt just and unjust. If you take away the law, all things will fall into a confusion, every man will become a law to himself. Lust will become a law, and envy will become a law. Covetousness and ambition will become laws;" and it is not difficult to determine "what decisions such laws will produce." (fn. 31) The laws of this nation are the flowers of it, which have been so dear to the people, that they have not stuck (when need required) to water them with their blood.
I have now done with the several pieces of the government, but not with the articles. There remaineth yet one. The Parliament hath so good an apprehension of this frame of government, in all the articles of it, that it is their humble desire, that you may be pleased to accept of them all. They are bound up in one link or chain; or like a building well knit and cemented, if one stone be taken "out, it loosens the whole; The rejection of one may make all the rest unsuitable and impracticable. They are all offered unto you, with, the same heart and affection, and we hope they will be received by you in the same manner. They are all the children of one mother, the Parliament, and we expect from your Highness an adoption of them all. The Parliament hath put the word (nothing) into this article, (fn. 32) aut nihil aut totum dabit. This proceedeth out of the fulness of their affections. They make the word (nothing) part of this article, that you may be induced to accept of the whole.
Now give me leave to put all the pieces of this government together, and to speak a word or two of the whole frame. I hope the entire frame of government thus offered is such as may be of good satisfaction to the people, and such as in which no envious eye may spy a fault or blot. Yet even the best government is always like the fairest crystal, in which every little grain is seen, which in a fouler stone is not perceived.
Next, give me leave to observe the time of the tender of this government as a very considerable circumstance. It comes in, attended with three benedictions, with peace at home, plenty, and health; and that of health, notwithstanding the great multitude of people flocking to this place. (fn. 33) The health universal of the people was never so good.
There is in this government a medley or mixture of regality and liberty, which Tacitus observes, were res olim insociabiles. It is made for the conservation of the regality of the Crown, and of lawful freedom in the people.
3. In abridging the delays and charges in law suits, and this latter is no very easy work; for there is a sort of people who much oppose this, and, which is the grief, those people are as many in number as the suits are. I shall not be afraid to name them; they are the defendants in every suit, the plaintiff and defendant, they are linked in one yoke, in one suit, yet they draw in contrary ways, one to the other, One motto may serve both plaintiff and defendant, which is expressed in an old adage Festina Lentè. The plaintiff will ride post with Festina, but Lentè, quoth the defendant, and puts the plaintiff's foot many times besides the stirrup by Essoins, Importances, Arrests of Judgment, Vouchers, or the like, but the same may be capable of amendments.
May it please your Highness, I am commanded by the Parliament to offer unto your Highness this Frame of Government, expressed in this humble Petition, which is a present sent unto your Highness from the Parliament. Give me leave to use the words of Jacob to his brother Esau, when he offered his droves of cattle unto him. We pray you, if we have found grace in your sight, then receive this present at our hands: we hope to feel the effect of your goodness, in your good answer to this Petition.
There resteth only now, that I most humbly crave a pardon for myself, that having detained your Highness so long from hearing the Petition, which can best speak itself; and if I have expressed my self otherwise than I should, or would, that your Highness would cover it, and cast the veil of your grace upon it. If my weakness and infirmities had not been formerly known to your Highness, I am sure you know them now by this. I humbly beseech your Highness to help them by your benign interpretation.