Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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Friday, March 25, 1659.
I came late. It seems several reports had been offered, and a petition from Ireland read and committed. Query, the Diurnal and Journals for all ? (fn. 1)
He sets forth his being prisoner ever since 48. (fn. 2)
The petition of one Marcellus Rivers, and Oxenbridge Foyle, as well on the behalf of themselves as of three score and ten more freeborn people of this nation now in slavery in the Barbadoes; setting forth most unchristian and barbarous usage of them.
That your distressed petitioners and the others, became prisoners at Exeter and Ilchester, in the west, upon pretence of Salisbury rising, in the end of the year 1654, (fn. 3) although many of them never saw Salisbury, nor "bore arms in their lives. Your petitioners, and divers of the others, were picked up as they travelled upon their lawful occasions.
Afterwards, upon an indictment preferred against your petitioner Rivers, ignoramus was found; your petitioner Foyle never being indicted: and all the rest were either quitted by the jury of life and death, or never so much as tried or examined. Yet your petitioners, and the others, were all kept prisoners by the space of one whole year, and then on a sudden, (without the least provocation,) snatched out of their prisons; the greatest number by the command and pleasure of the then High-Sheriff, Coplestone, and others in power in the county of Devon, and driven through the streets of the city of Exon, (which is witness to this truth,) by a guard of horse and foot, (none being suffered to take leave of them,) and so hurried to Plymouth, aboard the ship John, of London, Captain John Cole, Master, where, after they had lain aboard fourteen days, the Captain hoisted sail; and at the end of five weeks and four days more, anchored at the Isle of Barbadoes, in the West Indies, being (in sailing) four thousand and five hundred miles distant from their native country, wives, children, parents, friends, and whatever is near and dear unto them; the captive prisoners being all the way locked up under decks, (and guards,) amongst horses, that their souls, through heat and steam, under the tropic, fainted in them; and they never till they came to the island knew whither they were going.
Being sadly arrived there on the May 7. 1656, the master of the ship sold your miserable petitioners, and the others; the generality of them to most inhuman and barbarous persons, for one thousand five hundred and fifty pound weight of sugar a-piece, more or less, according to their working faculties, as the goods and chattels of Martin Noell and Major Thomas, Aldermen of London, and Captain H. Hatsell, of Plymouth; neither sparing the aged of seventy-six years old, nor divines, nor officers, nor gentlemen, nor any age or condition of men, but rendering all alike in this inseparable captivity, they now generally grinding at the mills and attending at the furnaces, or digging in this scorching island; having nought to feed on (notwithstanding their hard labour) but potatoe roots, nor to drink, but water with such roots washed in it, besides the bread and tears of their own afflictions; being bought and sold still from one planter to another, or attached as horses and beasts for the debts of their masters, being whipped at the whipping-posts (as rogues,) for their masters' pleasure, and sleeping in sties worse than hogs in England, and many other ways made miserable, beyond expression or Christian imagination.
Humbly your Petitioners do remonstrate on behalf of themselves and others, their most deplorable, and (as to Englishmen) their unparalleled condition; and earnestly beg that this High Court, since they are not under any pretended conviction of law, will be pleased to examine this arbitrary power, and to question by what authority so great a breach is made upon the free people of England, they having never seen the faces of these their pretended owners, merchants that deal in slaves and souls of men, nor ever heard of their names before Mr. Cole made affidavit in the office of Barbadoes, that he sold them as their goods; but whence they derived their authority for the sale and slavery of your poor petitioners, and the rest, they are wholly ignorant to this very day. That this High Court will be farther pleased to interest their power for the redemption and reparation of your distressed petitioners, and the rest; or if the names of your petitioners, and the number of the rest, be so inconsiderable as not to be worthy of relief or your tender compassion, yet, at least, that this Court would be pleased on die behalf of themselves and all the free-born people of England, by whose suffrages they sit in Parliament, any of whose cases it may be next, whenever a like force shall be laid on them, to take course to curb the unlimited power under which the petitioners and others suffer; that neither you nor any of their brethren, upon these miserable terms, may come into this miserable place of torment. A thing not known amongst the cruel Turks, to sell and enslave those of their own country and religion, much less the innocent. These things being granted as they hope, their souls shall pray, &c. (fn. 4)
Another petition was read, of one Rowland Thomas, who, by Mr. Secretary, in 1655, was sold into the Barbadoes, as Mr. Noell's goods. (fn. 5) His price was one hundred pounds, and that might have redeemed him. He was barbarously used, and made his escape. He dares not appear abroad, lest he be re-delivered to captivity.
Rivers had been Prince Maurice's quarter-master, and was taken in arms in the business of Salisbury. He counterfeited my hand to a pass, and was taken by the constable. I caused him to be searched, and found fifteen cases of pistols about him. One Mr. Rennel, a young gentleman then with him, confessed that they were going to the insurrection at Salisbury, but were prevented by the discovering of it.
An indictment was brought against him, and because laid at Salisbury, and he not there, he was acquitted. I received an order from his late Highness, to convey to Plymouth all such persons as had been in the insurrection, and were in custody. I sent them thither; but to what purpose they came there I know not.
Mr. Noell. I trade into those parts. Merchants send to me to procure such artificers to be sent over as I might think fit for them. I have had several persons out of Bridewell and other prisons, that I have sent over, and I had to do in sending those; but I had only the recommending of them to that Mr. Chamberlain.
I abhor the thoughts of setting 100l. upon any man's person. It is false and scandalous. I indent with all persons that I send over. Indeed, the work is hard, but none are sent without their consent. They were civilly used, and had horses to ride on.
They serve most commonly five years, and then have the yearly salary of the island. They have four times of refreshing, and work but from six to six: so it is not so hard as is represented to you; not so much as the common husbandman here. The work is mostly carried on by the Negroes. It is a place as grateful to you for trade as any part of the world. It is not so odious as is represented.
Serjeant Maynard. This is a gross breach of privilege of Parliament, and against your oath. We are not at Committees, masters of one another. No Committee ought to judge of members without your leave, unless it be at a Committee of Privileges, which is by your order. This comes in very irregularly, and the chairman ought to have rejected this petition. I shall not speak to the matter, that it is a Cavalier's petition. (fn. 6)
Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I am not, and have not been, a friend to Cavaliers; and am as much for privileges of this House as any man. Yet I cannot agree but that this comes in regularly, and I challenge all the Long Robe to answer me. If any person offer me a Petition at the door against a member, shall I hot present it ? Much more may a Committee of Grievances.
The high breach of privilege in the King, was that fie brought the charge against the five members (fn. 7) to the Lords' House, and not to you. We might have answered it here, and if brought hither, it had been no breach.
As to these Petitions, the Committee have made no judgment, but in wisdom to bring the Petitions hither. I would have no discouragement given to your Committee, to receive grievances, though they concern a member. I have heard of divers Petitions against members for Ireland, which, rather than they be not presented, I said I would offer them. You have, in a prudential way, taken the Scotch and Irish members. You will, I hope, in prudence, also hear complaints against them.
Colonel Clark. The privilege of Parliament was highly broken, for the Committee did debate it as well as read the petition. It was done but last night. It was too hard and quick. They gave Rivers a protection to give evidence.
The case concerns a Cavalier. You ought to be tender how you encourage that party. I understand Sir Arthur Haslerigge's argument, that a Committee may debate a charge against a member, because a single member may present a Petition to you.
Mr. Secretary. I hear myself named in the Petition. I must agree with those gentlemen that say it comes in against a fundamental order. It is a Cavalier petition brought in against your members. We might well have been heard, before your Committee had made a judgment in it. It is the first time that I heard of it. I am much surprised to see this Petition brought in. I never thought to have lived to see this day, while we have an army in the field and the cause a-foot.
Your Committee gave Rivers a protection to come here to prosecute. I know of something of the matter; but shall only speak to Thomas's petition. He is mistaken in matter-offact. I did not commit him to the Tower. (fn. 8)
He was the King's agent here; and pretended relation to Sir Robert Shirley. (fn. 9) He bought several trunks of arms, and sent them into the country in that great plot; and it was said it was so subtilely and dangerously laid, that it was impossible to prevent it, if divers of them had not been committed. It was for your service. A justice of peace may send any man to prison that cannot find bail.
Encouraging petitions of this nature, in complaint of oppressions, is to set you at division. It comes in by combination with the King's party. It has almost set the nation in a flame. While you are about hearing their complaints here, I doubt, they are preparing themselves for arms against you. This fellow, under your, wings and colour of this protection, may better carry on his master's business, as Reed did, who came over to solicit Lord Craven's business. (fn. 10) I pray that you would order his commitment, that he be not at his liberty, to set a flame among you.
Mr. Knightley. No complaint may come in against a member, but by the hands of a member. When this report was agreed on, it was done with much tenderness to your member. This complaint is not only by Rivers, but on behalf of several others, aged gentlemen, that have been taken up in their way, and sold.
Sir William Morton, a long-robe man, (fn. 11) writ a book. I would have it examined. I would have all petitions read as they come in.
Captain Hatsell. I was present at Plymouth when these persons were shipped. I never saw any go with more cheerfulness. There were two old men and a minister. The minister had heard my name. He acquainted me that he had no desire to go. I took upon me to release him, and another that had no will to go. They went home to their own houses. I gave bills of exchange for 4l. 10s. a man for their passing over. The master of the ship told me that Rivers feigned himself mad, and he was much troubled with him, and told him that if he could make friends when he came over, to get so much as his passage cost, he might be released.
Colonel White. These petitions come before you by the name of Cavaliers, and when it appears to be so, you will I hope make a distinction, as to those persons. If every justice may commit a man because he cannot give a good account of himself, I hope it will be considered. But in regard it appears to be against the free-born people of England, you can do no less than refer them to a Committee to examine matterof-fact.
Colonel Birch. I must say with them, that it is a breach of a fundamental order of this House to bring in this Petition thus. This is clear and manifest to me, that this will endanger all that ever have faithfully served you, and that they must be forced to look to themselves. This could not come in, they durst not do it, but by being encouraged from some place. I doubt you will raise such a flame as you will hardly quench. I would have this Thomas committed again to the Tower, and from henceforward I would have no petitions of this nature come in, but such as are signed by a member who will answer it.
I am glad to hear the old cause so well resented; that we have a sense and loathing of the tyranny of the late King, and of all that tread in his steps, to impose on liberty and property. As I should be glad to see any discouragement upon the Cavaliers, so I should be glad to see any discouragement and indignation of yours against such persons as tread in Charles Stuart's steps, whoever they be. The end of the Major-generals was good as to keeping down that party, but the precedent was dangerous.
Let us not be led away, that whenever the tables turn, the same will be imposed upon your best men, that is now designed to the worst. There is a fallacy and subtilty on both hands. I would have you be as vigilant against that party as you can; but if you find the liberty and property of the people of England thus violated, take occasion from these ill precedents to make good laws.
That which makes me hate the Cavaliers, is their cause, and when I see others hate their cause, I shall believe them, that they hate their persons. I detest and abhor them as much as any. Let us not have new Cavaliers and old. Let us hate it in those that tread in their steps, as well as in the other. Be not cozened by popularity on the one hand by complaints of this nature, nor on the other hand to swallow up your liberties and properties. Do not that which is bonwm only, but boné (fn. 12)
Major-general Browne. I thought to have been silent till your great business was over; but as you hear cases of Car valiers, I hope you will hear those that have fought against them. (fn. 13) I was used worse than a Cavalier; taken and sent away prisoner to Wales; used with more cruelty than if in Newgate; in a worse prison than common prisoners. My wife and children could not come, under 200l., to see me. My letters could not pass. The governor demanded my letters; I said he should have my life as soon. I defended them with my weapon.
The remainder of the Long Parliament, without hearing, voted me (fn. 14) to be no member, no longer an alderman of London, nor sheriff. They kept me five years in prison, and never laid aught to my charge.
Money was ordered me upon the excise, which Mr. Edward Ashe offered me, 8000l. Then they took off that, and placed it upon the dean and chapters' lands. Then one comes and offers me 2,000l. for 4,000l. I was content to accept it, but no lands could be purchased with Browne's money. Then they took it wholly away.
I was always faithful to you, and never broke my trust. I would die first. As you are hearing the grievances of others, will you appoint a day to hear mine ? I have served you with as much faithfulness as any, though haply not with so much success.
Mr. Disbrowe. I hope you will, 'in due time, consider that gentleman's grievances. That those that have fought against you, should be taken into equal freedom with you, I understand not. The petition is brought in and signed by your enemies. Can you believe their testimony before that of four of your members ? Give the least encouragement to these persons, they will kindle such a fire as you will hardly quench.
We should not trust our old enemies, till they appear to be real friends. Many petitions are before you, that have not been read, that concern persons that have faithfully served you. You ejected two members upon bare report of two members, (fn. 15) and now here are Cavaliers complaining to you, and you will believe them before four of your members.
Major Beake. I hear naught offered of weight, that these petitions come in irregularly. Let us compare cases. Slavery is slavery, as well in a Commonwealth as under another form. As great an instance as can be, has been offered by Major-general Browne.
I would not have your doors shut to any complaints. If you cease to hear them, none but God in heaven can. Let us all lay our hands on our hearts, and consider what mal-administration and recess from law have been in all times, and compare them together. I hope you will think of Major-general Browne's case.
Captain Baynes. I have had too great a zeal against Cavaliers, till I saw how that which was against law was turned upon our friends. If they deserve hanging or imprisonment, let them have it. It is put upon that, issue, that they went with their consent, so a man may be sent to the galleys, or any place of banishment. However, if they be sent against law, I would have it referred to a Committee to examine it thoroughly.
Mr. Annesley. I shall ever appear as much a Cavalier as any, (fn. 16) but not under colour of that, lose my own liberties. In case of the Thirty Tyrants, (fn. 17) while mean people were only questioned it was never looked on, till it came to the greater. I am sorry to hear Magna Charta moved against this House. If he be an Englishman, why should he not have the benefit of it ? There are laws will take hold of any that transgress. I know no law for banishment. The Commons of England will, I hope, be cautious how they make any such acts. You cannot pass it without some resolutions. To make men delinquents for petitioning, let it never be said here! You will not discourage grievances, so as to cast out petitions handed to you by them. I hope your Committee will consider upon this debate, to bring them, in more regularly. On one hand, bo careful of your safety. That is fittest for those that sit at the stern; his Highness and the Council. On the other hand, be careful your liberties be not invaded on any pretence whatsoever.
That gentleman says this petition came in irregularly, and yet he moves for retaining it. When a petition comes in regularly, I shall not be against it. This Parliament had not now been sitting; it had been impossible to have preserved us from blood and confusion; if, in all proceedings, his late Highness and Council had been guided according to the strict rules of law.
I hear it said (fn. 18) if we hate Charles Stuart and his party, hate his practices. I would have this driven to the head. Tyranny is tyranny, wherever it be. Distinguish between times of peace and war. Divers have been in prison ever since 41; as for instance, Bishop Wren, (fn. 19) who was com Ely, and he was voted 'unworthy and unfit to hold or exercise any ofmitted by the Long Parliament. Why should our doors be so open to hear that party, that, as often as you have thrust them down, have rose up again? I shall be as ready to do Major-general Browne right, as any. I do make a distinction between persons that have been led aside through dissatisfaction in some cases, and those that have been your notorious enemies.
I am informed, that your Cavaliers have taken heart in the country, from your hearing their complaints here. Silenced priests preach publicly. You will put the nation into such a flame as you will hardly quench. There is Lady —'s petition, and other petitions. I doubt, the next petition will be from Charles Stuart. I know no law for his banishment, if there has been no law of force since 48.
Colonel Terrill. There did nought appear to the Committee that it was against members, or that Cavaliers were concerned in it. There was no debate at all about it, but only as on Englishmen imprisoned and banished contrary to law; so that all that have spoken to that have gone on a mistake.
Mr. Boscawen. I am as much against the Cavalier party as any man in these walls, and shall as zealously assert the old cause; but you have Paul's case (fn. 20) before you. A Roman ought not to be beaten. We are miserable slaves, if we may not have this liberty secured to us.
These persons come to justify themselves. If you pass this, our lives will be as cheap as those negroes. They look upon them as their goods, horses, &c., and rack them only to make their time out of them, and cherish them to perform their work. It may be my case. I would have you consider the trade of buying and selling men. (fn. 21)
Mr. Broughton. My actings speak me no Cavalier. Be
they what they will, I would have justice done them, and
their liberties preserved to them. But nought appears to me,
that aught is done against their consent, and consentus tollit
errorem. I could give my yea to cast out this petition, but cannot consent to commit them. Let them enter bail, and refer the business to a Committee.
Sir John Lenthall. I hope it is not the effect of our war to make merchandize of men. I consider them as Englishmen. I so much love my own liberty as to part with aught to redeem these people out of captivity. We are the freest people in the world. Let us remember when we go out of these doors, we know not what may become of us if we omit this. They are put to such hardships, to heats and colds, and converse with horses. If my zeal carry me beyond its bounds, it is to plead for the liberty of an Englishman, which I cannot hear mentioned but I must defend it.
Major Knight. I move to reject the petition; for if you sit twelve months you will not have time to hear all petitions from Cavaliers. What will you do with the Scots taken at Dunbar, and at Durham and Worcester ? Many of them were sent to Barbadoes. Will you hear all their petitions ?
Mr. Attorney-general. The petition comes in irregularly. The person that offers any complaint against your members, must come to your bar and own it. Here are before you the case of a Cavalier, and the privilege of a member. You have liberty and privilege. Preserve them both. Let the petition be presented, and these come to the bar, own, and avow it. I doubt these things are only framed in London, and that the case is not so in fact as is represented. I would have it laid aside till it come in regularly. This petitioner has been a notorious active enemy.
Sir Arthur Haslerigge went on, and said, by the law of the land, no Englishman ought to be imprisoned but in order to a trial. We have assizes, commissions of Oyer and Terminer, that any Englishman may have death or liberty, which he deserves. Our ancestors have ever been tender of the liberties of Englishmen. If after a man be condemned, his keeper kill him, he shall be hanged for it. The keeper cannot, ought, not, to abuse him in any kind. Nor can any man, by the law of the land, banish any man. Some of these had sentence of death. So might the rest have had, and not be kept in prison twelve months after, and then sent to banishment. The time of war and the time of peace are different.
We have had no war these seven years. True, a little rebellion, and some suffered. (fn. 22) Blessed be God, we have had none since.
These men deny that they were ever sentenced, charged, or in arms. Some were acquitted by ignoramus. These men are now sold into slavery amongst beasts. I could hardly hold weeping when I heard the petition:
That which is the Cavalier's case, to-day, may be the Roundhead's a year hence. I desire not to live if they prevail. I never sought them, but we must be careful of suffering such precedents. We are likely to be governed by an army. When the army went to the Isle of Rhee, (fn. 23) one was hanged up by martial law. The Parliament so abhorred it, that, if it had sat, he that caused it to be done had lost his head.
I would have every man be careful how he acts any man's commands against law. If there be thirty in a crowd, ten may be guilty; the rest innocent: and haply but one innocent, and forty guilty. Were not divers of them hanged ? Was not that an argument that the rest are clear ?
I have never yet done aught, nor I hope shall, to give a suspicion that I have any countenance for the Cavaliers in this business. If our liberties be come to this, we have fought fair and caught a frog.
I would have this business referred back to the Grand Committee. I hope the gentlemen will be dear, and that they will be warier hereafter. Our ancestors left us free men. If we have fought our sons into slavery, we are of all men most miserable.
Sir George Booth. I do much approve of that gentleman's tender-heartedness. That gentleman may remember how, in the Long Parliament, two or three thousand Protestants were sent to the Barbadoes against their consent. (fn. 24) I hope all that died by that plot died by law, and not by a High Court of Justice.
The petition came in irregularly. It cannot be excused; but now it is before you. There are things of justice, so there is a thing of good report. It will clear the gentlemen that are concerned, and clear the business, if you refer it back to a Grand Committee.
Serjeant Dendy. I am ignorant of the privileges of this House, and the liberty of the people; more shame for me. I am glad to hear that you so well assert it; and that this spirit will live when we are dead.
Mr. Starkey. I am an Englishman, (fn. 25) and an inheritor of the laws, but I came hither with a resolution not to retrospect. The breaking of laws has preserved your being. If extraordinary methods had not sometimes been taken we had not been here at this day. It is enough that the Petitioners have their lives assigned them in any place.
Mr.Trevor. I move to reject it. It came in irregularly, and, it is said, the Committee did entertain the debate upon it, though they saw it concerned your members. It appears they were possessed of it, else how could the chairman report it ? This discourages your friends, heightens your enemies, and will set. such a flame in the nation as will hardly be quenched.
Captain — (fn. 26) moved to remand them to prison. He stated matter of fact at large, and proved one of them to be a dangerous enemy and active.
— (fn. 26) moved that the Serjeant-at-arms take them into custody, and that the Petition, in the meantime, be examined.
Five or six counsel were heard on both sides, the Brewers against the Commissioners and Officers of Excise. (fn. 27)