The Diary of Thomas Burton: 7 April 1659

Pages 361-368

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

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Thursday, April 7, 1659.

Prayers by a Scotch or Yorkshire minister.

Mr. Speaker took the chair at nine.

Resolved, that Mr. Morrice, one of the members of this House, by reason of his indisposition of health, shall have leave to go into the country for a month, notwithstanding the order for calling over of the House.

It had many negatives, they being loth to want him.

Lord Fairfax presented a petition on behalf of lame soldiers and widows, for the payment of their weekly pensions. (fn. 1)

Sir William Wheeler. See the state of your money first, and have Mr. Scawen's report from the Committee of Inspections.

Mr. Jenkinson. There is a double portion allowed the lame soldiers, by the justices at sessions.

A Committee was appointed (T. B. and others (fn. 2) ) to consider of it, and report their opinion therein to the House; to meet to-morrow.

Mr. Hewley offered a report for Mr. Povey instead of Mr. Nichols, dead.

Mr. Speaker said it would hold debate. He, therefore, called for Mr. Scawen's report.

Mr. Scawen reported from the Committee for the Inspections into the Accounts and Public Revenue: (fn. 3)

A brief view of the public revenue, both certain and casual, with the ordinary expence of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, respectively in the three nations, for one year, together with a state of the public debts, as the same doth appear to the Committee.

He was called upon to bring it up, but made signs that the clerk might fetch it, he having not done his report, and the clerk fetched it. The Report was read. (fn. 4)

Mr. Scawen. Your Committee have not entered upon the other part of their directions, as to bringing in the revenue and retrenching your charge.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I never saw any thing done so exactly and so speedily as this. I have seen the sense of the House, of their kind acceptance of the report. Let them have the thanks of the House.

Sir Henry Vane. The best acceptance is, to give directions about retrenching your charge. The chairman deserves your thanks with the others that served you there.

Resolved, thanks accordingly. (fn. 5)

The gentlemen of the Committee stood up bare, and

Mr. Speaker gave them thanks, and said they had done it fully.

Mr. Annesley. This is one of the saddest mornings that ever I had in my life. I see an incurable disease, unless you apply a cure presently. I beg you will refer it back. I would have some general resolution, before you commit it.

That the charge of the nation is grown so great, you think it necessary that such a balance, should be made as it may not exceed your incomes; else our children shall, in fine, be bond slaves.

A debt increasing 400,000l. per annum must needs undermine all, in conclusion. I will instance in one case. The charge of ships in dock is almost 50,000l. per annum. (fn. 6) I know no need of this. I doubt much has gone by in the—. (fn. 7) I would have but sixpence per pound allowed for discovering; which haply may pay all your debts. There will be enough to undertake the search.

Captain Baynes. A great deal of money comes in, not charged here. Not that the knowledge of it will bring any thing. The people pay more than you can have account of.

I would have a self-denial, both here and without doors.

Judges had once but 300l. per annum, now 500l. They had then fees, and they take them now, notwithstanding. Officers in Ireland have high salaries. I would not have your civil charge mixed with your military. Let them be divided. The civil has eaten it out.

Sir John Northcote. You are in an incurable consumption. You are not bound to pay the debts that are accrued without your consent. The modesty of the soldiers is great. I would have them paid off; but, before you espouse it, inquire who contracted it; and whatever any Parliament contracted, let us set our shoulders to pay it.

Mr. Trevor. If the proverb be true, "a disease one knows, is half-cured." I shall not enter into how much we owe: we are engaged to pay it. I would have it cared for how to retrench your charge. I would have it referred back to your Committee, to propound the remedies.

Colonel White. The best way to obviate is to take away the cause, the great root, foreign war. Preserve the power of making war in the consultative power, the single person and Parliament.

Consider also, whether it is not for your service to make a speedy and honourable peace. Trade decays.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. Though you have heard of a great debt, you have not yet made it yours. It is exceedingly necessary to retrench so as to balance your income and charge. Refer it back to the Committee. Officers are multiplied. Consider what it was before: so much in the pound; now constant salaries.

We have lost at least 1200 ships, and have scarce twenty merchant ships considerable. Four hundred lie by the walls.

We can get no rents from our tenants. They are exceedingly scarce, both in city and country. I had no hand, many of us had none, in making war, nor the Dutch peace. (fn. 8)

I would have one added to the Committee for Ireland, and one for Scotland.

He named Lord Marquis Argyle and Mr. Annesley.

Lord Marquis Argyle. There are two things in this report, income and out-going. It is a good motion to take such course as that your debt may not increase. Let your first step be, a good previous vote.

Major-general Kelsey. There is a further attendance upon that vote than you are aware of; that is, to call home your fleet. Your readiest way to make peace with Spain, is to de clare to prosecute the war with effect. I would have it referred back to a Committee.

Sir Henry Vane. To send it back to the Committee, will not give a remedy. Let it be debated in a Grand Committee, some days in the week; every member to lay it to heart. Let the report be fully debated. You take it up upon trust.

The very 1,300,000l. will sink us. It was weak, ever to think otherwise. The blessing of God will never go along with it. It is impossible for the Committee to serve you there. (fn. 9) This is your very blood, and ought to be as precious as blood. It is a bad time to set up with a debt of two millions and a half. (fn. 10) A rot has got amongst the merchants. They break every day, ten at a time.

1. Ascertain the three months' pay to the army, till you can debate this fully. Be sure of that; else you may be in destruction before you are aware.

2. Sit upon the whole report in a Grand Committee.

I wish all gentlemen would come out of the country. They cannot attend a better service. I would have you set seriously to it.

Mr. Secretary. This account is fully stated. It is the first full account that has, come in, these eighteen years. I am glad you will take this into consideration. It is well said, "it is your life and blood."

It is happy, that after so many great things passed, and so many millions lost, you come now to understand the state of your affairs fully. I dare not oppose any thing of my own knowledge to the report. My business never was to meddle with money.

I find not the debt so great; nor all risen since his Highness had to do with the Government. A great part of the debt was upon the old footing. The officers brought it into the Commonwealth; otherwise, how the mistake comes I know not.

There is not above 5 or 600,000l. since 1653. Such re ductions have since been made, as have saved you many millions; upon the new buildings, 23,000l. (fn. 11) Those warrants I saw. I only speak by what I hear.

The Report makes Ireland 70,000l. more than it is. The debts of Scotland and the navy are dear, as is the debt upon Jamaica. (fn. 12) Care is taken to pay the soldiers' arrears and growing pay. Less than half, there, will defray it. They must have acres. The debt of Flanders, as it is reported; (fn. 13) the Excise debt the same. There is due from the Excise 100,000l. So that, by these defalcations, the whole debt will be but 1,384,000l. or thereabouts.

There was, in December 1652, a debt upon the navy of 50,000l.; in April 1653, of 600,000l. and odd; so it is not much more increased than 400,000l.

For the revenue, they make it 1,800,000l. It appears by my particulars, but 1,700,000l.

The Committee have estimated the summer ships at 50, and the winter ships at 35. There are upwards of 16,000 men now at sea; so that the charge will be more as the ships are more. There was nothing undertaken but for your safety. Your officers have not increased- your charge. They have been good husbands.

The Long Parliament had great actions. The armies in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in 1652, came to thrice the sum. It is hard to make it good that 1200 ships are lost. (fn. 14) Your charge then, was upwards of seven millions; now, four millions.

Customs and Excise were not so much as now, by 120,000l. per annum; so that your incomes then fell short, two millions almost. I say not that it was not necessary. I cannot find that, in any case, we have been in the whole above 800,000l. besides the Spanish war. There are revenues of Dunkirk, as Excise and customs and contributions. That, in a short time, may go a great way in the charge.

Every man will, no doubt, set his hand and heart to it to bring your charge down to your revenue. About a year since, a reducement was agreed on, which would have saved a great deal, and have brought the yearly charge to near 600,000l.; but we could not do it without money to pay off, nor was it so proper for the Council as for the Parliament. Another consideration was, to abate the charge of collecting the Excise, which in farming has much lessened it.

If the debt be no more than we understand, a less sum will serve. Before the year go about, you may think of a considerable retrenchment. All your revenue is charged already by warrants.

I hope we are all clear of misemploying your money. I would have it sifted to the bottom. If any be faulty, let them be punished. I would have this considered, and some present course taken to raise some money.

I went to dinner. The debate continued till after one.

Resolved, that the debate upon this report be adjourned until Saturday morning next, and then taken up again; and that nothing else do then intervene. (fn. 15)

Complaint was made against Thomas Boulron, a bailiff, for arresting one Joseph Drew, who had the protection of the House, (fn. 16) and he was ordered to be sent for in safe custody. (fn. 17)

The House rose at past one.

The Committee of Privileges sat in the Star-Chamber upon the business of Newcastle, and heard counsel on both sides.

Mr. Lilburne prayed longer time, for want of witnesses; but the Committee was sensible it was but delay, and would not grant it, but appointed to proceed on Saturday next.

The Committee of Grievances sat, but I could not attend it, in regard of Blackiston's business.


  • 1. "The humble petition of 2500 sick and maimed soldiers, belonging to Ely House and the Savoy Hospital, on the behalf of themselves, and about 4000 widows and orphans, who receive pensions from thence, to have the arrears of their pensions speedily satisfied; and the weekly allowance granted for their relief and maintenance, to be established and duly paid." Journals.
  • 2. Lord Fairfax and thirty-nine more. See Journals.
  • 3. See vol. iii. p. 347.
  • 4. "The whole annual income of England was 1,517, 274l. 17s. 1d. of Scotland, 143,652l. 11s. 11d. of Ireland, 207, 790l. "The whole issues of England for a year, were 1,547,788l. 4s. 4½d.; Scotland, 307,271l 12s. 8½d.; of Ireland, 346,480l. 18s. 3d." Journals; Parl. Hist. (1760,) xxi. 326–338.
  • 5. "The House, taking notice of the great pains taken by the Committee who brought in this report, and of their faithfulness and exactness in the stating of this account, it was "Resolved, that the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Scawen, and to the rest of the members of this House of the said Committee, for their great pains, care, and faithfulness in this service." Journals.
  • 6. See vol. iii. p. 261, ad fin.
  • 7. Blank in the MS.
  • 8. See vol. iii. pp. 389–391.
  • 9. See supra, p. 234, ad fin.
  • 10. See vol. iii. p. 257.
  • 11. "Compositions for new buildings. 30,229l. 19s. 7½d. "Parl. Hist. xxi. 328.
  • 12. "Pay of the forces of Jamaica, consisting of 1597 soldiers, with officers, 49,837l. 4s. 0d. "Ibid. p. 330.
  • 13. "73,815l. 8s. 0d." Ibid. p. 331.
  • 14. See supra, p. 364.
  • 15. "Mr. Mordaunt," (See infra p. 392, note) thus writes to the King April 7, 1659. "May it please your Majesty, "Upon the vote for transacting, the general opinion was, whatsoever Cromwell's party pretended to, they would succeed in. The joy of this success soon turned to insolence, which displeased universally; and your poor servants were threatened with ruin upon ruin. "Truly, Sir, it was a sad week, and what to do to put a stop to the bowl that was tumbling down-lull appeared difficult. But, from this feared and sudden calamity, motions of a self-denying Act [See Vol. iii. p. 443.] for the present relieved us, which though it took no place, yet it resolved into a day of humiliation for the sins of the Chief Magistrate, his suffering the increase of many heresies and schisms." (See supra, pp. 300, 328, ad fin.) "The heads and reasons of this humiliation are not all agreed on, the breach of the late solemn covenant being one. How this choked, your Majesty will easily believe. The Commonwealth's men were most piqued at it; but, now it appears a likely occasion of division, they digest it well enough; for, Sir, we suppose, of necessity, this will make Cromwell either disoblige the soldiery, who are concerned in this, or the whole moderate party. "Sir,—I cannot say I think the Presbyters what they ought to be, neither dare I advise your Majesty to rely too far upon them. But, Sir, as your condition was lately, and yet is, this seemed our best hope, and the belief we have of the integrity of some of the leading men of them, made us the more willing to try their power. Many of Cromwell's party apprehend the effects of this; for, if the Presbyterians get up, and Browne [See supra, p. 263,] into command, the city will be able to give law to the army, and then they sit not fast. "Last night a concerned person for Cromwell and his interest, told me we were instrumental in buoying up the Presbyters, and began to declaim much against them; and to assure me, our ruin was likelier to proceed from them, than from the Court, as he called it. To this, I durst not answer, knowing too well, the snares are laid every where to catch me; but in great heat, he pursued his discourse, and told me the former falseness of them, and their aversion to. us. In this I closed with him, but said we were so inconsiderable every way, we could no ways prejudice or advance any interest. He told me plainly that Cromwell would secure us if we sought it. "Sir,—I give you this relation, though in itself not considerable, yet, as it tends to give you additional light of their own opinion of themselves and their own interest, I suppose it may be useful; and certainly, Sir, they apprehend themselves in danger. The person I had it from is so great a villain, that on no terms I durst open myself to him, being a great intimate with Thurloe; but withal, I verily believe he spoke his fears." See "Clarendon State Papers," (1786.) iii. 449, 450.
  • 16. See supra, p. 1.
  • 17. See Journals.