Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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No. III. (Vol. ii. p. 2.)
His Highness's Answer at the Conference at the Committee, at Whitehall, April 13th, 1657. (fn. 1)
I think I have a very hard task upon my head, though it be but to give an account of myself; yet I see I am beset on all hands here. I say, but to give an account of myself; but it is in a business that is very comprehensive of others; in some sense, to us, and, as the Parliament hath been pleased to make it, to all the interest of these three nations.
I confess, I consider two things: first, to return some wary answer to the things that were so ably, and well said, the other day, on behalf of the Parliament's putting that title in the Instrument of Settlement. I hope it will not be expected that I should answer to every thing that was then said; because I suppose the main things that were spoken, were arguments from ancient constitutions, and settlement by the laws, of which I am sure I could never be well skilled, and therefore must ask the more pardon in what I have transgressed in my practice, or shall now transgress, through my ignorance of them, in my answer to you.
Your arguments, (fn. 2) which I say were chiefly upon the law, seem to carry with them a great deal of necessary conclusion, to inforce that one thing of kingship; and if your arguments come upon me to inforce upon the ground of necessity, why then I have no room to answer, for what must be, must be. And therefore, I did reckon it much of my business to consider whether there were such a necessity, or would arise such a necessity from those arguments.
It was said that kingship is not a title but an office; so interwoven with the fundamental laws of this nation, as if they could not, or well could not be executed, and exercised without; partly (if I may say so), upon a supposed ignorance of the law, that it hath of any other title. It knows no other, neither doth any other know it. This title, or name, or office, as you please to say, is understood in the dimensions of it, in the power and prerogatives of it, which are by the law made certain, and the law can tell when it keeps within compass, and when it exceeds its limits. And the law knowing this, the people can know it also, and people do love what they know, and it will neither be pro salute populi, nor for our safety, to obtrude upon them, names; that they do not, nor cannot understand.
It is said also, that the people have been always by their representatives in Parliament, unwilling to vary names, for as much, as hath been said before, as they love settlement. And there were two good instances given of that, the one in King James's time, about his desire to alter somewhat of the title, (fn. 3) and another in the Long Parliament, wherein they being otherwise rationally moved to admit of the word Representive instead of Parliament, they refused it for the same reason. (fn. 4) It hath been said also, that the holding to this word doth strengthen the settlement, because it doth not any thing de novo, but resolves things in their old current. It is said, it is the security of the Chief Magistrate, and that it secures all that act under him.
Truly these are the principal of those grounds that were offered the last day, so far as I do recollect. I cannot take upon me to refell those grounds, for they are so strong and rational; but if I shall be able to make any answer to them, I must not grant that they are necessarily concluding, but take them only as arguments, that they have perhaps much of conveniency; and probability towards concluding; for if a remedy or expedient may be found, then they are not necessary. They are not inevitable grounds, and if not necessary and concluding, why then they will hang upon the reason of expediency or conveniency, and if so, I shall have a little liberty. Otherwise I am concluded, before I speak, and therefore it will behove me to say what I have, why they are not necessary conclusions, not that they are, nor that it is (I should say) so interwoven in the laws, but that the laws may not possibly be executed to equal justice and equal satisfaction of the people and equally to answer all objections as well without it as with it. And then when I have done that, I shall only take the liberty to say a word or two for my own grounds, and when I have said what I can say as to that, I hope you will think a great deal more than I say.
Truly, though kingship be not a title but a name of office that runs through the law, yet it is not so ratione nominis, but from what is signified. It is a name of office, plainly implying a Supreme Authority. Is it more, or can it be stretched to more ? I say, it is a name of office, plainly implying the Supreme Authority, and if it be so, why then I would suppose, (I am not peremptory in any thing that is matter of deduction or inference of my own,) why then I should suppose that whatsoever name hath been or shall be the name, in which the Supreme Authority shall act; why, (I say) if it had been those four or five letters, or whatsoever else it had been, that signification goes to the thing. Certainly it does, and not to the name. Why then, there can be no more said, but this, why this hath been fixt, so it may have been unfixt; and, certainly, in the right of the authority; I mean as a legislative power, in the right of the legislative power. I think the authority that could christen it with such a name, could have called it by another name, and therefore it was but derived from that. And certainly they had the disposal of it and might have had it. They might have detracted or changed. And I hope it will be no offence to you, to say, (as the case now stands,) so may you. And if it be so that you may, why then, I say, there is nothing of necessity in your argument, but consideration of expedience of it. I had rather (if I were to chuse) it were the natural question; which, I hope, is altogether out of the question.
But I had rather have any name from this Parliament than any name without it, so much do I value the authority of the Parliament; and I believe all men are of my mind. In that, I believe, the nation is very much of my mind; though that be an uncertain way of arguing what mind they are of. I think we may say it without offence, (for I would give none,) though the Parliament be the truest way to know what the mind of the nation is; yet if the Parliament will be pleased to give me a liberty to reason for myself; and that that be made one argument, I hope I may urge against that. Else I cannot freely give a reason of my own mind. But I say, undoubtingly, (let us think what we will,) what the Parliament settles, is that which will run through the law, and will lead the thread of Government through the land, as well as what hath been, considering what hath been upon the same account. Save that there hath been some long continuance of the thing, it is but upon the same account. It had its original somewhere, and it was in consent of the whole. There was the original of it; and consent of the whole will, I say, be the needle that will lead the thread through all; and I think no man will pretend right against it, or wrong, and (if so) then under favour to me, I think all those arguments from the law are (as said before) not necessary, but are to be understood upon the account of conveniency. It is in your power to dispose and settle; and before we can have confidence that what you do settle, will be as authentic as those things that were before, (especially, as to the individual thing,) the name or title upon Parliamentary account; upon Parliamentary, why then I say, there will be way made, (with leave,) for me to offer a reason or two, to all that hath else been said. Otherwise, I say, my mouth is stopt.
There are very many inforcements to carry on this thing. I suppose it will stand upon a way of expediency and fitness. Truly, I should have urged one consideration more that I had forgotten; and that is, not only to urge the things for reason, but for experience. Perhaps it is a short one, but it is a true one, (under favour,) and is known to you all in the fact of it, (under favour;) although there hath been no Parliamentary declarations, that the supreme authority going in another name, and under another title than King; why it hath been complied with twice without it. That is under the Custodes Libertates Angliæ. (fn. 5) It hath, since I exercised the place; and truly, I may say, that almost universal obedience hath been given by all the ranks, and sorts of men to both. And to begin with the highest degree of magistracy at the first alteration; and when that was the name, and though it was the name of an invisible thing, yet the very name, (though a new name) was obeyed, did pass for current, and was received, and did carry on the justice of the nation. I remember very well, that my Lords, the Judges, were somewhat startled; and yet, upon consideration, (if I mistake not,) I believe so, there being of them, without reflection, as able and as learned as have sat there, (though they did, I confess, at first, demur a little,) yet they did receive satisfaction, and did act (fn. 6) as I said before.
I profess it, for my own part, I think I may say it, since the beginning of that change, I would be loth to speak any thing vainly; but since the beginning of that change unto this day, I do not think in so many years those that were called, (and worthily so accounted,) halcyon days of peace in 20 Eliz. and King James's and King Charles's time. I do not think but that the laws did proceed with as much freedom and justice, with less private solicitation either from that, that was called then so, or since I came to the Government; I do not think (under favour) that the laws have had a more free exercise; more uninterrupted by any hand of power; the judge less solicited by letters or private interpositions, either of my own or other men's, in double so many years, in all those times of peace; and if more of my Lords, the Judges, were here then now are, they could tell what to say, to what had been done since. And therefore, I say, (under favour,) these two experiences do manifestly show, that it is not a title; though so interwoven with the laws, that makes the law to have its free passage, and do its office without interruption, (as we think,) but that if a Parliament shall determine that another name shall run through the laws, I believe it may run with as free a passage as this; which is all that I have to say upon that head.
And if this be so, then truly other things may fall under a more indifferent consideration, and then I shall arrive at some issue, to answer for myself in this great matter; and all this while nothing that I shall say doth any way determine my resolution, or thoughts against the Parliament, but really arid honestly, and plainly, considering what is fit for me to answer. The Parliament desires to have this title. It hath stuck with me, and yet doth stick. And truly, although I hinted the other day, that your arguments to me did partly give positive grounds for what was to be done: and comparative grounds, saying, that which you were pleased to do; and I gave no cause for, that I knew of; that is, to compare the effects of kingship, with such a name as I for the present bear, with Protectorship; I say, I hope it will not be understood, that I do contend for the name, or any name, or any thing; but truly and plainly, (if I speak as in the Lord's presence,) in all things, as a person under the disposition of the providence of God, neither naming one thing nor other; but only answering to this name or title. For, I hope, I do not desire to give a rule to any body; because I have professed I have not been able; and, I have said truly, I have not been able to give one to myself.
But I would be understood in this. I am a man standing in the place I am in; which place, I undertook not so much out of the hope of doing any good, as out of a desire to prevent mischief and evil, which I did see was eminent in the nation. I say we were running headlong into confusion and disorder, and would necessarily run into blood; and I was passive to those that desired me to undertake the place which now I have. (fn. 7) I say, not so much of doing good, which a man may lawfully, if he deal deliberately with God and his own conscience, a man may, I say, lawfully, as the case may be, (though the case is very tickle,) desire a great place to do good in.
I profess I had not that apprehension when I undertook the place that I could do much good; but I did think that I might prevent eminent cvil; and therefore, I am not contending for one name compared with another, and have nothing to answer to any arguments, that were used in giving preference to Kingship or Protectorship; for I should almost think that any name were better than my name; and I should altogether think any person fitter than I am, for any such business. And I compliment not (God knows it); but this I should say, that I do think from my very heart, that in your settling of the peace and liberties of this nation, which cries as loud upon you as ever nation did; for somewhat that may beget a consistence: otherwise the nation will fall to pieces; in that, as far as I can, (fn. 8) I am as ready to serve not as a king, but as a constable. For, truly, I have, as before God, thought it often, that I could not tell what my business was, nor what I was in the place I stood, save comparing it with a good constable, to keep the peace of the parish. And, truly, this hath been my content and satisfaction in the troubles that I have undergone, that yet you have peace. (fn. 9) Why now truly, (if I may advise,) I wish to God you may but be so happy as to keep peace, still. I wish to God we may have peace, (that do I;) but the fruits of righteousness are shown in meekness, a better thing than we are aware of.
I say, therefore, I do judge for myself, there is no such necessity of the thing, for the other names may do as well. I judge for myself, I must say a little. I think I have somewhat of conscience to answer as to this matter, why I cannot undertake this name. Truly I must needs go a little out of the way to come to my reasons, and you will be able to judge of them, when I have told you them, and I shall deal seriously, as before God. If you do not all of you, I am sure some of you do, and it behoves me to say, I know my calling from the first to this day. I was a person that, from my first employment, was suddenly preferred and lifted up from lesser trusts to greater; from my first being a Captain of a troop of horse; (fn. 10) and I did labour (as well as I could) to discharge my trust, and God blessed me as it pleased him. And I did truly and plainly, and then in a way of foolish simplicity, (as it was judged by very great and wise men, and good men too,) desire to make of my instruments to help me in this work; and I will deal plainly with you, I had a very worthy friend then, and he was a very noble person, and I know his memory was very grateful to you all. Mr. John Hampden. (fn. 11)
At my first going out into this engagement, I saw their men were beaten at every hand. I did, indeed, see, and I desired him that he would make some additions to my Lord Essex's army, of some new regiments, and I told him I would be serviceable to him, in bringing such men in, as I thought had a spirit that would do something in the work. This is very true that I tell you; God knows I lie not. Your troops, said I, are most of them old, decayed serving men, and tapsters, and such kind of fellows; and, said I, their troops are gentlemen's sons, younger sons, and persons of quality. Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will be ever able to encounter gentlemen, that have honour, and courage, and resolution in them. Truly, I presented him in this manner conscientiously, and truly I did tell him, you must get men of a spirit, and take it not ill what I say, (I know you will not,) of a spirit that is likely to go on as far as gentlemen will go, or else I am sure you will be beaten still. I told him so, I did truly.
He was a wise and worthy person, and he did think that I talked a good notion, but an impracticable one. Truly, I told him, I could do somewhat in it. I did so, and truly I must needs say that to you, (impute it to what you please) I raised such men as had the fear of God before them, and made some conscience of what they did; (fn. 12) and from that day forward, I must say to you, they were never beaten, and wherever they were engaged against the enemy, they beat continually. And truly, this is matter of praise to God, and it hath some instruction in it, to own men that are religious and godly, and so many of them as are peaceably, and honestly, and quietly disposed to live within government, as will be subject to those Gospel rules, of obeying magistrates, and living under authority. I reckon no godliness without this circle; but without this spirit, let it pretend what it will, it is diabolical, it is devilish, it is from diabolical spirits, from the height of Jathan's wickedness. (fn. 13) Why, truly, I need not say more than to apply it thus.
I will be bold to apply this to this purpose, because it is my all. I could say, as all the world says, and run headily upon any thing. I must tender this to you, as a thing that sways with my conscience, or else I were a knave and a deceiver. I tell you, there are such men in this nation, godly men of the same spirit, men that will not be beaten down with a worldly nor carnal spirit, while they keep their integrity. I deal plainly and faithfully with you. I cannot think that God would bless in undertaking of any thing that will justly and with cause grieve them, or that they will be troubled without cause. I must be a slave, if I should comply with any such humour. I say, they are honest men, and faithful men, and true to the great things of the Government, to wit, the liberty of the people, giving them that is due to them, and protecting this interest. I think, verily, God will bless you for it; but if that I know, (as, indeed, I do) that very generally good men do not swallow this title, (though really, it is no part of their goodness to be unwilling to submit to what a Parliament shall settle over them,) yet I must say, that it is my duty and my conscience to beg of you, that there may be no hard things put upon me; things I mean hard to them, that they cannot swallow.
If the nation may as well be provided for without these things that I have pointed to you, (as, according to my apprehension, it may,) I think truly it will be no sin in you. It will be to you as it was to David, in another case; no grief of heart, that you have a tenderness, (even, possibly, if it be their weakness), to the weakness of those that have integrity, and honesty, and uprightness, and are not carried away with the hurries that I sec some are, who think that their virtue lies in despising authority, and opposing it. I think you will be the better able to root out of this nation that spirit and principle; and it is as desirable as any thing in this world, by complying with, indulging, and being patient to, the weakness and infirmities of men that have been faithful, and have bled all along in this cause and are faithful, and will oppose all oppositions (I am confident of it) to the things that are the fundamentals in your Government, in your sentlement for civil and gospel liberties.
I confess, for it behoves me to deal plainly with you, I must confess, I would say, I hope I may be understood in this, for indeed I must be tender in what I say to such an audience as this is; I say, I would be understood, that in this argument I do not make parallel between men of a different mind and a Parliament, which shall have their desires. I know there is no comparison, nor can it be urged upon me, that my words have the least colour that way, because the Parliament seems to give liberty to me to say any thing to you; as that is a tender of my humble reasons, and judgment, and opinion to them. And if I think they are such, and will be such to them, and are faithful servants, and will be so to the Supreme Authority and the Legislative, wheresover it is: if, I say, I should not tell you, knowing their minds to be so, I should not be faithful, if I should not tell you so, to the end you may report it to the Parliament.
I will say something for myself. For my own mind I do profess it, I am not a man scrupulous about words, or names, or such things. I am not: but as I have the word of God, and I hope I shall ever have, for the rule of my conscience, for my informations: so truly, men have been led in dark paths, through the providence and dispensation of God. Why, surely it is not to be objected to a man, for who can love to walk in the dark, but Providence doth often so dispose. And though a man may impute his own folly and blindness to Providence, sinfully, yet it must be at my peril. The case may be, that it is the Providence of God that doth lead men in darkness.
I must need say, I have had a great deal of experience of Providence, and though it is no rule without or against the word, yet it is a very good expositor of the word, in many cases. Truly, the Providence of God hath laid aside this title, providentially, de facto, and this not by sudden humour or passion, but it hath been by issue of as great deliberation as ever was in a nation. (fn. 14) It hath been the issue of ten or twelve years' civil war, wherein much blood hath been shed. I will not dispute the justice of it, when it was done, nor need I now tell you what my opinion is in the case, were it de novo to be done. But if it be at all disputable, a man comes and finds that God in his severity hath not only eradicated a whole family, and thrust them out of the land, for reasons best known to himself, and hath made the issue and close of that to be the very eradication of a name or title which de facto is. It was not done by me, nor by them that tendered me the government, that now I act in. It was done by the Long Parliament. That was it, and God hath seemed, providentially, not only to strike at the family, but at the name, and, as I said before, de facto it is blotted out. It is a thing cast out by an Act of Parliament. It is a thing that hath been kept out to this day, and (as Jude saith in another case,) speaking of abominable sins that should be in the latter times, when he comes to exhort the saints, he tells them they should hate even the garments spotted with the flesh. I beseech you, think not that I bring this as an argument to prove any thing. God hath seemed so to deal with the persons, and with the family; but he blasted the title; and, you know, when a man comes (d parte post) to reflect, and see this is done, and laid in the dust, I can make no conclusion but this. They may have strong impressions upon such weak men as I am; and, perhaps, (if there be any such,) upon weaker men it will be stronger. I will not seek to set up that which Providence hath destroyed, and laid in the dust, and I would not build Jericho again; and this is somewhat to me, and to my judgment and conscience.
True, it is that that hath an awe upon my spirit, and I must confess, as the times are, they are very fickle, very uncertain, Nay, (God knows,) you had need have a great deal of faith, to strengthen you in your work, and all assistance. You had need to look at settlement. I would rather I were in my grave, than hinder you in any thing that may be for settlement for the nation. For the nation needs, and never needed it more; and therefore, out of the love and honour I bear you, I am for ever bound to do, whatever becomes of me, I am ever bound to acknowledge you have dealt most honourably and worthily with me, and lovingly, and had respect for one that deserves nothing. (fn. 15) Indeed, out of the love and faithfulness I bear you, and out of the sense I have of the difficulty of your work, I would not have you lose any help that may serve you, that may stand in stead to you; but would be a sacrifice, that there might be, (so long as God shall please to let this Parliament sit) a harmony, and better and good understanding between all of you. And (whatsoever any man thinks) it equally concerns one man as another, to go on to settlement, and where I meet with any that is of another mind, indeed, I could almost curse him in my heart. And therefore, to the end I may deal heartily and freely, I would have you lose nothing that may stand you in stead in this way. I would advise you, that if there be any of a froward and unmannerly, or womanish spirit, I would not have you lose them. I would not that you should lose any servant or friend, that may help in this work, that they should be offended by that, that signifies no more to me, than as I told you. That is, I do not think the thing necessary. I do not. I would not that you should lose a friend for it. If I could help you to many, and multiply myself into many, I would, to serve you in settlement, and therefore would not that any, especially any of these, that indeed, perhaps, are men that do think themselves engaged to continue to you, and to serve you, should be any ways disobliged from you.
The truth is, I did make that my conclusion to you at the first, when I told you what method I would speak to you in, I may say, that I cannot with conveniency to myself, nor good to this service, that I wish so well to, speak out all my arguments in order to safety, and in order in tendency to an effectual carrying on of this work. I say, I do not think it fit to use all the thoughts I have in my mind, as to that point of safety; but I shall pray to God Almighty, that he would direct you to do what is according to his will, and this is that poor account I am able to give of myself in this thing. (fn. 16)