The Diary of Thomas Burton: 30 March 1658-9

Pages 300-309

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Wednesday, March 30, 1659.

Mr. Bulkeley I found moving upon a debate about a fast; and in that to declare against erroneous opinions and practices, and to bear that testimony against them, as you would against famine and pestilence. He told a story of his committing one Smith, and other two Quakers.

We ought to deprecate these evils as famine and pestilence, and other temporal judgments. It will be satisfactory to the nation, and call a blessing from Heaven, and as much prevail for a blessing upon this Parliament. I would have all these declared the grounds of your fast; and no censure, as that this motion proceeds from a spirit of persecution or rigid presbytery, as it is called.

Mr. Grove, it seems, had moved it.

Resolved, that a day be set apart for public fasting and humiliation throughout the three nations, of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions and territories thereunto belonging.

It was moved to appoint this day month. There was not one negative as to the thing, but the day was not agreed on. Some moved that the question might be divided; one day for England, and another for Scotland and Ireland; but by the sense of the House, it was fit to be both one day.

Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. Let it pass rather by a Bill, than by a declaration.

It was moved for the first Wednesday in May.

Colonel Birch. I am against ascertaining any day. It may take up your time for five weeks, before it pass the other House.

Resolved, that a Committee be named, to prepare a Declaration, to set forth, the grounds and reasons of appointing of a day of fasting and public humiliation through the three nations.

A Committee (fn. 1) was accordingly appointed for drawing up the said Declaration; any three of them to bring it in by Friday morning.

Mr. Secretary. I move upon the debate left the other day, upon the petition of one Thomas. (fn. 2)

The petition came in, per saltum, leaped over the heads of above fourscore petitions. He sets forth, that he was committed to the Tower by my order, and sold as a slave to the Barbadoes. This is insinuated in the petition, and by gentlemen that brought it in. These things are noised abroad, as if the Secretary of State could enslave, and had enslaved, the people of England, at his pleasure.

It is also insinuated abroad, as if fourscore members of this House are brought in by my letters. (fn. 3) I know not of three members thus chosen into this House. If I say not truth, those fourscore can contradict me. They hear me.

These reports have caused me to look out my papers for my own defence. I have found my papers, as to the examination of this Thomas, by a justice of peace. He went sometimes under the name of Tomlins, sometimes of Green.

One Custis and one Norwood, merchants, that transacted with them, under pretence to buy arms for the plantations, put them up in deal trunks, and put bottles in the top of them, and carried them under the name of bottles of wine and bedding, sent from several inns, by the carriers, to several gentlemen's houses.

This Thomas was intrusted with this business, from top to toe. He paid 150l. to this Norwood, by buying of. these arms. He was committed to the Tower, whether by my order or not, or how long, I know not. All means were used to make him discover, but he proved a peremptory fellow, and would not confess. The witness was then out of the way. He is better persuaded since. One witness was not then sufficient to convict a man of High Treason at Common Law.

He was afterwards sent to the Barbadoes to work. He could give no account of himself. Instead of sending him to Bridewell, which by the law might have been done, he was sent to the Barbadoes.

How he has been dealt with at the Barbadoes, I do not know.

He is here come to hand, and he is upon the stage again. I hope you will secure him, and if there was aught of irregularity in that exigency of affairs, I hope you will easily forgive us, it being for the good of the whole. Nought else could have induced us to have acted, if we did aught against law. Therefore, I hope you will, upon proof of this, issue your order to secure this person. I hope you will not take bail. None will bail life for life. He gives out, there was but one carrier that would swear against him, and he is dead. The proofs were taken in January, 1654. Here they are. I hope you will not refer his petition only, but refer the business to an examination.

Mr. Reynolds. Be the petition true or false, I would have the fellow secured. It is fit we should take this alarm. Our enemies are flocking to town, and take an advantage of a Parliament sitting, to act all their plots. In one printed speech, I find it that the occasion of the breaking up of one Parliament was, these plots growing under a Parliament. I would not have us countenance them, so as to deserve that character, lest Parliaments be accounted mischievous.

I am so far from not having this fellow secured, that I would also have a declaration, to banish all maliguants twenty miles out of town.

For the other part, as to the electing members to this House, I shall speak afterwards, to what I hear abroad, in relation to what that gentleman says. I would have this also examined, that we may vindicate one another, and come together to fast, with a spirit of union indeed.

Lord Lambert. I have heard much of that about electing members to this House by letters. (fn. 4) I hope you will take a time to examine it, and take care to prevent it for the future.

For the other business, I would have as little looking back as may be. If all actions be questioned, that have been done in these late transactions, who of your friends that have served you fourteen years, can excuse his. I would not have those that came in after the heat of the day, to look back with so much severity.

Remember the whole business of Norwood and Custis. There were arms at that time sent to one Mr. Vernon, and to another gentleman in Staffordshire. Sixty cases of pistols were found in a well. These arms were sent down in trunks, as bottles of wine, to make merry against Christmas. I do not so well remember this Thomas, as the rest. The carrier's packs were seized, and these arms found. I am afraid Sir Robert Shirley (fn. 5) was too busy at that time.

I would have this man secured, and also a Committee appointed to examine this, about perpetual imprisonment. This is worse than death. And if it be so, that divers persons are flocked to the town, you should make such a declaration as is mentioned; but go over the other question first.

Captain Watson. I am a Justice of Peace in Staffordshire. (fn. 6) I examined this business. Several trunks were found in a forest there. They were gallants' arms, and sent by letter into the county, by this Thomas, to a gentleman that was then your enemy. I thought it my duty to acquaint you with matter-of-fact.

Mr. Knightley. That is a levying of arms. I would have him presently tried by his Peers; and, in the meantime, be secured.

Colonel Terrill. If this fellow be an offender, he is a very bold one. He has attended at the door ever since, and offers bail to prosecute. Let him be secured, and brought to his trial next term. I believe he is now at the door.

I would not have these reflections on your Committee. They did not proceed upon it, after once they found members concerned; nor did they know it to be a Cavalier's business.

It was moved, by order of this House, to commit him to Newgate.

Captain Baynes and Mr. Neville moved, that he be committed by some Justice of Peace. Then, if he be not tried at Sessions, a Habeas Corpus lies for him. But, if he be committed by this House, he may lie perpetually in prison, and there is no law to perpetuate a man in prison.

Mr. Broughton. I move, that not only Thomas, but Rivers (fn. 7) be secured, and that by order of this House. There is no danger of perpetual imprisonment; for, unless there be a judgment of this House, his imprisonment ceases with the Parliament, and a Habeas Corpus lies.

I would have the declaration speedily drawn, to exclude them forty miles off London, for twenty miles is but an hour's riding, and they may have influence upon this city.

Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. I move, that your order be for his commitment to Newgate, in order to a speedy trial, according to law.

Mr. Gewen. Call him in, and see what he can say for himself. Let not him nor his companions have occasion to complain of the justice of this House. I would have his petition heard. I would not have men sold like bullocks and horses. The selling a man is an offence of a high nature; (fn. 8) and if he falsely accuse, let him be punished. The law of Moses was lex talionis, to false accusers; eye for eye, tooth for tooth, (fn. 9) &c.

Let his petition be therefore examined.

Lord Marquis Argyle. I am very unwilling to speak in matters of this nature; yet it is necessary to speak one word. I am glad to see this unanimity now. I hope it will fare so in other things, though there have been differences.

I was here at the Committee, and several members de clared, that as soon as ever members were found to be concerned, they ceased.

I am glad that you have no mind to look back. There is a known maxim, inter arma silent leges. More ill would occur, if in exigency such courses, though extraordinary, should not be done. I hope, in time to come, unless there be particular necessity, it will be amended.

From the relation I have heard, this person ought to be hardly dealt with; but, as the first step, let him be brought to the bar, and hear him. Then examine, and put the business in a way of trial.

Mr. Thomas Noell. This person in the Barbadoes had equal freedom with any person, to ride on horseback, and had a footman. He has run away, (fn. 10) 200l. in debt. He has been since in France, and with Charles Stuart. I am able to aver, on my own knowledge, that what he affirms, as to his usage in that island, is very false.

I would therefore have him secured.

Sir Henry Vane. It is difficult for you to call him in, unless he be at the door. I am very well satisfied of the vigilancy of those that are entrusted with those affairs, both in finding out this man's actions and others. They deserve your notice.

It appears not whether he owns this Petition, nor what his answer will be; but I perceive, by Mr. Secretary's information, that there has been threatening in the case. He was forced to accuse himself, for want of evidence, and sending to the Barbadoes, which I say is not adequate to the offence.

I would not look back, nor would I have innovations upon the people's rights and liberties. There has been indemnity lately granted. Be exceedingly cautious. That party are apt to blemish your justice. As I would have them discouraged, so I would not that the rights of the people should be discouraged.

Divers foul things have been done since the last Act of Indemnity, (fn. 11) which I hope you will consider. I would have the person secured, and, in the mean time, the Petition examined, that he may not have cause to challenge you for injustice, but the crime may appear clear at his own doors; that this House may not hear the blame of the arbitrary actings of others.

Mr. Secretary. This gentleman is mistaken in matter-offact. I think it was not an intended mistake. If I had said so, I had said ill, and done worse. There were no threats upon him, other than to discover the whole plot. I wish your tenderness to him may not be of dangerous consequence.

Mr. Trevor. This is a charge of high treason. That person was mistaken when he called it a recrimination. I would have him secured, in order to his trial.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I am to speak on a different point. There is no question but extraordinary things have been done. An Act of Oblivion passed one year and two years since; and since that time divers that sit in this House have done extraordinary things, and I think it is an extraordinary thing now moved to you. If this offence be four years old, I doubt it cannot be high treason, it being the law that it must be prosecuted within one year. He petitions you as a person wronged. May not he be prosecuted for his treason ?

I hope not to be taken as a pleader for that party. So long as I am able to be helped into a saddle, I shall fight against that line that has been declared against as your enemies; but under pretence of this, do not irregular things against the. liberties of the people.

Wherefore have we an army kept up, but that we may enjoy our liberties; that no Englishman maybe used contrary to the law. I see no cause of lessening this army. I am against it, unless your sense be otherwise. I. speak what I think, pro hîc et nunc. The main end of our army is to keep us from arbitrary and tyrannical actings. We are now in peace. And by doing these irregularities, we become the patterns of those things which we formerly decried.

I would not have you to take up high treason upon a complaint here. Justices of peace may do it without you.

Secure this man in your Serjeant's custody, and appoint a Committee to examine him, and what can be said against him. Here are great complaints against him. Proceed against him according to law.

Sir Walter Earle. I believe he has bid you either goodnight or good-morrow.

Serjeant Dendy. I am against committing him till you find him. He was at the door and is now gone.

Resolved, upon the information given this day to this House, by divers members of the House, of several great offences committed by one Rowland Thomas, that the said Rowland Thomas be forthwith taken into safe custody by the Serjeant-at-arms attending on this House; and that Mr. Speaker do sign a warrant accordingly.

Colonel, Clark. Whatever we think here, the designs of the Cavaliers are as high on foot as ever. I would therefore have some declaration or proclamation prepared by a Committee, to send all the Cavaliers so many miles out of town under severe penalties.

Mr. Solicitor-general. I move to the last business, that the commitment of the party be in order to a trial. The objection was weighty as to that of treason, that it must be prosecuted in twelve months; but that statute of 25 Henry III., against raising of arms, has no limitation of time, but may be prosecuted at any time. Therefore leave it to law.

Mr. Annesley. Your business is but half done. The petition is modest. It will be hard to appear upon your books, that one day you receive a petition, and another day commit the petitioner for a misdemeanour.

Mr. Attorney-general. The petition is neither owned nor avowed. Till then, it is not proper to take notice of it.

Mr. Fowell. I move that, in order to law, he be committed to Newgate.

Mr. Chaloner. Appoint a Committee to examine the business before you proceed further.

Colonel Terrill and Mr. Moyle heard the person own the petition.

Mr. Bacon. His solicitor desired a petition, to prosecute.

It was moved, on one hand, to examine the business.

Colonel Allured would have justice done to a Cavalier as well as to another.

On the other hand, it was moved that the person ought to come to the bar and own it, in regard a member was concerned.

Mr. Speaker. You never used to receive a charge against a member, unless the petitioner owned it at the bar.

Others said, How can he now own it, when you have frighted him away with another charge; and though he was never so well used at Barbadoes it was not just to send him thither.

Colonel Birch. You never spent two days so ill. I would not have further time spent in it, but have a general declaration against all that party, to banish them twenty miles.

Mr. Godfrey seconded it.

Sir Henry Vane. You are not bound to make every man own a petition at the bar. If he own it at your Committee it is enough.

Major-general Kelsey offered another petition against a member. Query, what is it ? It lies upon the table.

It seems Moyle delivered Thomas's petition.

Mr. Disbrowe was against the Petition.

Mr. Young and Sir John Lenthall were for the Petition.

Some would leave it to a trial at law.

The debate was thus tugged to and again till one o'clock, and at last ended in no result, as formerly; and the House rose at one.

The House being informed that in pursuance of the order of this House, of March 22, the indenture whereby John Fitz-James and Samuel Bond, Esqs. were returned to serve as members in the present Parliament, for the town and county of Poole, was taken off the file and withdrawn; and that the indenture whereby Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, and the said Mr. Bond were elected to serve for the said town and county, was returned and received and filed, by the clerk of the Commonwealth in Chancery:—

Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper declared that he was likewise chosen to serve in this present Parliament, for one of the knights for the county of Wilts: and that he made his choice to serve for the county of Wilts, and waved his election for the town and county of Poole.

Resolved, that a new writ be issued, for the election of a burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the town and county of Poole, in the place of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, doubly elected and returned: and that Mr. Speaker do send his warrant unto the clerk of the Commonwealth in Chancery, for the issuing of a new writ for the election of a burgess to serve for the said town and county of Poole, accordingly.

The Grand Committee of Grievances sat.

Colonel Terrill was in the chair.

Counsel was heard on all sides, touching the Register's Office: (fn. 12) viz. on Long's, Edward's, Jermin's, and Sir R. Goodwin's claims.

I left the Committee inclined, after six days spent in it, to leave it as they found it, without any resolution upon it, but report it generally to the House; but Lady Jermin's title was clearest in the sense of the Committee.

Mr. Shaftoe spoke well and long to it.


  • 1. "Mr. Bulkeley, Mr. Grove, Sir Henry Vane, Mr. Morrice, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Mr. Trevor, Mr. Annesley, Mr. Nathaniel Bacon, Mr. Dixwell, Colonel Clark, Mr. Godfrey, Colonel Birch, Mr. Knightley, Lord Marquis of Argyle, Major Beake, Mr. Swinfen, Mr. Cary Raleigh." Journals.
  • 2. See supra, pp. 253, 257, 260, 273.
  • 3. See on Scotch and Irish members, chosen at Whitehall, supra, p. 220, note. "Mr. Howard, a papist," says Mr. Bethel, "had boasted, that at the instance of the Pretender and his Secretary, he had sent twenty members to Parliament." Brief Narrative, p. 341.
  • 4. See vol. iii. p. 323.
  • 5. See supra, p. 261.
  • 6. He was now member for Litchfield.
  • 7. See supra, pp. 253, 255.
  • 8. Ibid. p. 268.
  • 9. Levit. xxiv. 20.
  • 10. From Barbadoes.
  • 11. In 1657.
  • 12. See supra, p. 244.