Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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Tuesday, June 23, 1657. (fn. 1)
Mayor Aston pressed very much to get in Lord Aberga veny's report, (fn. 2) according to former order, but it seems there were divers petitions, to cross it, and the House, fearing the trouble of it, laid it aside.
After some debate, the prisoner was called in. At the bar, on his knees, he denied utterly the matter of fact. (fn. 3) He withdrew.
I had a petition in my hand on behalf of Sir Robert Collingwood, the father, but there was no need to present it; for the House were pleased to suspend the warrant till the second Thursday of next sessions, and then Sir Robert to appear. (fn. 4)
Mr. Burton. I move against the clause. You will destroy the revenue by it, and discontent the parties that pay it. I move to have a clause for merchants' convoys. (fn. 5)
Judge Lawrence. It is impossible to break the great coal into small, for then the coal will not cake; whereas Newcastle coal will cake though never so small. You always made a distinction, and therefore I hope you will also do it now.
Major-General Whalley. It is not, I hope, against the orders of the House, to offer a proviso in this case. You did yesterday abate 30s. per ton to the vintners in 3l. by a proviso. (fn. 6) There is nothing offered in it but what was formerly. It is only reasonable.
Lord Strickland. If you pass this proviso, you must never look for other than small coal to come from Scotland. I hope you will also consider Newcastle, for the pan-coal, which pays as much as the other coal, without any abatement.
The Yeas going out, it was yielded by the Noes. (fn. 7)
Major-General Disbrowe. Your time of rising draws near. I desire to know, now, upon what foundation we are; how we shall know how to act ? His Highness is under the obligation of an oath to the former government, (fn. 8) and you have in your Petition and Advice declared, that his Highness shall take an oath. I would have some course taken in that, to absolve his Highness from his former oath; and that you declare to the people, in some solemn way, your alteration, and that an oath may also be prepared for the people to take, on the other hand; otherwise his Highness is in a pretty dangerous case. I would have a Committee appointed to consider of some way to propound to you of this nature.
Colonel Shapcott. There is more in that which you have done. People talk of your having brought the power from without doors. You have altered the constitution of the government. We are not all one man's children. It is more than stepping from Protector to Protector. I would have some solemnity, to show that the government takes its foundation by Act of Parliament. I mean not unction, and the like; but a solemn publication and proclamation of your Chief Magistrate, and that likewise an oath be prepared to oblige his Highness to the people, as well as we are bound to him.
Colonel Sydenham. This is a new motion to me, so you will pardon me if I speak without premeditation. I am confident it is made with a good intention. As to that of an oath, this nation has had no great settlement by oaths. We ought to be tender in such cases. I had rather live under a magistrate that is under no oath. If it once begin, it will go through. Some, haply, will stick at nothing; others will be left behind. There will be a great discrimination.
Promissory oaths to me are not so safe. How often have governments been well thought on for a time, and afterwards pulled up. To swear to things that are so alterable! It is said they bind but to honest things; a Parliament may alter it. If it bind not as to that, I pray what does it bind to. I doubt it will prove a stumbling-block. I wish I may be a very false prophet, that you may not, find it a snare to the people of God. I wish it may be my single opinion. If you will have an oath, I would have it congruous to former oaths. I doubt it will otherwise be but to appoint a Committee to ensnare men, good men. I must bear my testimony against it.
Sir Charles Wolseley. I should be as tender in point of oaths as any man. I am against introducing a promissory oath all the nation over. I shall only speak to what you have done. You have agreed of an oath, so that the motion against that is irregular. The oath is to be agreed upon by the Parliament and his Highness; and if the Parliament part, how can his Highness act upon the Petition and Advice containing a new government, and nothing to put him in a capacity to act upon it ?
I would have the oath as general as may be, to govern us by the laws. The motion cannot be denied. I take it for granted that my Lord is disobliged from his former oath; for if the new Instrument be of force, the other is null. Now as to that of the Council, their oath is also at an end. I wish this present motion had been made sooner. I would have a Committee appointed to this purpose, that every man may know where he is, and what is his duty.
Lord Lambert. That which, I think, is propounded to you is, that it be examined upon what foundation you are. Many things in the Petition and Advice are of great concernment, but this which is pitched upon is, in my opinion, none of the greatest, but the least. The fruits of oaths promissory have not been so much formerly, that they are now to be insisted upon. Suppose it have its ends, so as to crush or strain the conscience of those that have faithfully served you, and will still go on to serve you. If it should light upon a few such, I do not think it will either do you, or his Highness, or the nation, service. If any thing can be done that tends to oneness or unify, I would fain be at that Committee; but I think that which is moved may well stay now, and it is no best season for it.
Sir Richard Onslow. If ever a season, certainly now. The people abroad conceive that two governments are now a-foot; and his Highness may be obliged to either. This was always done upon a new settlement. All justices, judges, &c. are sworn, and why the Chief Magistrate should be disobliged, I know no reason. It is the greatest obligation the people can have. What the oath shall be is not now in debate; or whether it shall be general, to all, or to all persons in trust. But for that oath of his Highness, it must be done, because in your petition. I would have a Committee to prepare.
Mr. Highland. I doubt they are oaths that make the land mourn: what need of any more? His Highness was once sworn as Protector: he is no more, now. After a justice of peace is once sworn, be the commission never so often renewed, he shall swear no more, unless he have been put out. His Highness is not put out, or deposed. I find not that magisstrates in Scripture did often take oaths. His Highness is under as great an obligation as you can tie him to. Your best friends expect no oaths, though it be told you the people expect it. The learned judges attended at that time, and swore his Highness. (fn. 9) I know not what you swear him to more. It was their opinion, that they were upon a good foundation. I shall humbly move, no further oaths may be taken by my Lord Protector.
Major-General Jephson. I was loath to take down that gentleman, whose whole speech tended against both the Orders of the House, and an Act of Parliament. I shall not enter into the merits of the case; but it is expressly against what you have ordered. We ought to be tender in doing and undoing.
Captain Baynes. We ought to be tender in putting contrary oaths upon his Highness. He has already taken an oath to rule according to the laws; and is not your Petition and Advice now a law ? I wish you would not put any inconsistency upon what his Highness has sworn to, with this you now intend.
There are many things yet unpresented in the Petition, as the nomination of the other House, &c. If you will have any, this may stay as well as the other. It is not so seasonable now. The House is thin now, and next meeting may he as well.
Colonel Jones. I agree with that worthy gentleman, in being tender in putting inconsistent oaths upon his Highness; but I cannot agree about the time. Certainly, now is the best season; rather than to leave his Highness in a doubt that he is obliged by his former oath, and yet must take a new one; or that another government is a-foot, and the Chief Magistrate in suspense which to act by. I had rather, avowedly, go back to the former government.
Colonel Sydenham. We are under a great mistake; whence it comes, I know not. I only spoke to be tender of putting oaths upon his Highness. He is already obliged by an oath. There is never a word in that book, (fn. 10) to impose an oath upon Parliaments, or upon the people. I said, I had rather be under a magistrate that is under no oath, than have, by an oath, all the nation and people consequently drawn in. I may say, at any time, my cloak is mine; but I need not always swear it. His Highness and the Council, upon taking away the Engage ment, (fn. 11) published a declaration against all oaths. (fn. 12) It was a sad thing of that cavalier who denied a Parliament could do any thing. Answer: They could not make such an oath as he could not swallow.
Lord Strickland. I would be sorry, that it should be so impossible as that gentleman moves, to make the oath congruous. I hope it will be so carefully penned as to absolve his Highness from that part which cannot be made congruous.
Lord Whitlock. It is strange logic to say, because we have been a month under an inter-regnum, we must therefore be longer so. As to that of one oath serving for both, it is clear, though his Highness be sworn to act according to the laws, yet he is also bound to the old government; and this is clearly a new government, and so, consequently, requires a new oath. By the setting up a new government, he is disobliged from the former. It is but ad subjectum materiæ: otherwise it would be hardly authorized by most gentlemen here that have taken former oaths.
The Master of the Rolls. If I had not a near friend, and my heart, that prompt me to speak, I would speak plainly. I always thought that by the Petition and Advice, the Instrument was out of doors. To prevent all ugly suspicions and jealousies, I would have it quite pulled down, and declared so. Some persons will ask us, by what government we sit ? But, as to the time of this oath, I cannot think it is so fit. I look upon this as but an embrio, very imperfect yet. What shall his Highness be sworn to ? I would speak as if it were my own case. I should not take an oath till it were perfect.
As to that of his Highness being obliged by his former oath, it is clearly to be understood that he is discharged from it, really and clearly. As I shall answer it before God, I believe it, he is absolved from the tie by the former government; it being taken away. I cannot conceive, as the case stands now before you, but that either you must prepare an oath for his Highness, or a reciprocal oath.
Colonel Cox. My respect for his Highness makes me speak one word, why I think this is not a season to put this oath upon his Highness. He is under one already; and though it is true he was by that oath obliged to the government, yet he is now free as to that; and I think those that contrived the government were soonest weary of it. It looks like as if his Highness had betrayed his former trust, and you must now rebind him. Like two persons that are legally divorced, if they come together again, they must be married again. I grant it is the custom of all countries, upon change of government, to take an oath: but I think you are not at present prepared for it.
Sir William Strickland. Of late, we have had a very great weight of oaths upon us. We had an oath used to stand here, the Covenant; (fn. 13) I wish it had not been taken away. I would not have us to think of an oath without trembling. This is a thing not of such haste. Sudden doing may offend God; deliberation cannot. We are but a thin House: not having the number, I would have the greatest advice that may be in this matter. I am sorry I have taken up so much of your time. My motion is, that you would not think of it at this season.
Mr. Bampfield. It cannot be conceived that a person bound by a former oath is disobliged by taking another. If by setting up a new government, and without an oath he be disobliged from former oaths, what present need is there of it?
In all History that I have read, I never found that oaths have been any great tie upon the Chief Magistrate, not to reflect upon all. But if the persons were not bound by a principle of conscience, it will be hard to find that an oath bound. If you see that the tie of conscience will do without an oath, what need have you to impose it ? Whether such an oath as this may not weaken your hands ?
Probably, in the Council, some may scruple, and so elsewhere. If it keep but one good able man out of the Council, or the Parliament, the nation may have need of that one. Perhaps the desire of doing good may strain and force men to sin. I do not see but his Highness is bound sufficiently by his consent to the Petition and Advice, without an oath. For that it may be an occasion of evil, a weakening of your hands, I beseech you that you would not do it now.
The question being put upon the first part, as to preparing of an oath, the House was divided. The Yeas went forth, for though it was already by Act of Parliament declared that an oath should be taken, yet it was new to appoint a Committee to prepare that oath.
The other two questions were put and passed, without any debate. (fn. 14)
Mr. Fenwick moved that the Bill for the borders (fn. 15) might be read now, which was short and would ask no debate.
Sir William Strickland and Mr. Vincent moved for a day for the Bill of Probate of Wills. (fn. 16)
It was again moved to read the Bill of Indemnity, (fn. 17) which was read accordingly; and, after some amendments and alterations, agreed to pass for a law.
Vide what was done more. (fn. 18) I went out.
Richard Stayner, captain of the Speaker's frigate, received the honour of knighthood at Whitehall, for his several good services at sea, &c. See the Diurnal. (fn. 19)