Venice: September 1654

Pages 253-264

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 29, 1653-1654. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1929.

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September 1654

Sept. 1.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
310. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The dispute about the exclusion of the Prince of Orange from the command of the forces still rages in the United Provinces. Some zealous patriots are trying to arrange matters and prevent a schism, but it has not yet been possible to devise a way, as it is extremely difficult to retract the article arranged with Cromwell and equally so to uproot the popular gratitude to the House of Orange. The women and children march in serried ranks cheering for that House and compel all they meet to join with them. Holland, although alone in her opinion, maintains it pertinaciously, relying not merely on her own strength, but also on her friendship with Cromwell, who has declared that he will support her against the efforts and attempts of all the rest.
Compiègne, the 1st September, 1654.
Sept. 2.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
311. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
With regard to the relations with England, the Spaniards are encouraging loose talk (calzanti discorsi) about a marriage between Don John of Austria and a daughter of the Protector Cromuel. Although the conduct of such an affair will always be difficult to carry out and involve serious considerations, yet the business will be kept alive by Spain, even if there is no intention to clinch it, at least for cherishing confidential relations over a project for mutual satisfaction and by this means to increase the uneasiness and jealousy of France.
The ministers here are further apprehensive that, at the assembling of parliament, Cromwell may be inclined to put forward some enterprise to please the people, to whom he will always be able to hold out the inducement of trade and navigation, not in the Levant, but in the Indies of Castile, for the passage to which the English have capacious ports and islands that are adequate.
The sentence carried out in London on the brother of the Portuguese ambassador has comforted the government here in a political sense, because of the bitter feeling that may arise between the two nations, although the Ambassador Cardines exerted himself on his behalf.
Madrid, the 2nd September, 1654.
Sept. 5.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
312. To the Ambassador in France.
Commendation of Pauluzzi's office in presenting the public letter to Cromwell. You will inform him of the state's satisfaction encouraging him to continue in what he has begun so well and particularly in looking for opportunities to cultivate in the Protector the most friendly disposition towards our affairs, stimulating him by suggesting the motives of piety and glory in a cause so privileged and so just and one in which he will have so many ways to afford a dazzling display of his own good qualities.
Ayes, 121. Noes, 0. Neutral, 2.
Sept. 5.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
313. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 1)
I have had another visit this week from Fleming, who told me that the Mediterranean squadron had sailed and General Blach took letters addressed to the princes of Italy. But in the first place he is to demand satisfaction from the pirates of Tunis and, if necessary, of the Porte itself. So in spite of the remonstrances of the Levant Company the Protector has given orders for the honour of the flag, not forgetting the interests of the most serene republic. He said that Cromwell and his Council have often referred to the importance of Candia and the injury to Christendom if it should fall under the Ottoman yoke. The Senate should act frankly and I should find no difficulty about conferring with the Secretary of State, who was the soul of the government and of the Protector. In spite of his ceaseless occupations he would willingly appoint an hour for an interview, at which Fleming would be present. I accepted the offer and said I felt sure the private interests of the Levant Company would not deter the Protector from his generous ideas in the interests of Christendom. Fleming replied that his Highness was of the best possible disposition but he is really thwarted by the merchants concerned in the Levant trade who would never give offence to the Turks, but if necessary the Protector will prove that he thinks more of essentials than of any minor considerations. I promised to make a suitable report and to assure the Secretary of the Senate's desire for the best possible understanding with this country. He promised that any proposals through me would receive immediate attention since the importance of the matter forbad delay. I report this so that your Excellency may judge whether his language was induced by any real intention to help the most serene republic or only to further the ends of the Mediterranean squadron by the circulation of such reports. I could get nothing more out of Fleming, but tried to create a favourable impression. I shall now contrive to see the Secretary of State and do my utmost to realise the wishes of the Signory.
A good number of troops have been marched to Portsmouth to sail in the Mediterranean squadron. The length of their voyage to the Strait of Gibraltar will depend largely on the weather. Some think that while the English really mean to obtain satisfaction from Tunis they also have an idea of establishing themselves in the Mediterranean, and so they propose, if possible, to seize some good harbour in order to confirm their sovereignty of the sea, or at least to render its trade dependent on them. So perhaps this squadron may act less in accordance with the common report of London than with the secret instructions given to General Blach.
The civil strife in Holland will possibly afford employment for part of the naval forces now ready for sea, as Cromwell hears with regret that of all the seven Provinces Holland alone opposes the House of Orange, and it is understood that the Count of Nassau has placed cavalry garrisons in several small towns there, and that the negotiations of the ambassadors here have been vigorously condemned. They are certainly much embarrassed and hesitate to return under the accusation of having prejudiced the interests of their masters by private arrangements made with the Protector to the detriment of the House of Orange. The English are bent on this and seem inclined to send some of their ships in that direction, a step calculated to frustrate the late amicable arrangements, though so far everything is uncertain.
The news of the raising of the siege of Arras and the defeat of the Spaniards aroused no enthusiasm here. (fn. 2) When it came M. de Bordeaux went to audience of the Protector and conferred a long while with him, all the bystanders having to withdraw. He has had another audience since though nothing is yet settled about the adjustment. This victory may help it, as the indemnity claimed by the English merchants constitutes the sole obstacle.
During the last few days, besides embarking troops they have also disbursed money for their pay. To this end the customary assessment has been levied in advance, thus rendering the army more subservient to the Protector's wishes. But the idea gains ground that the definite measures will be deferred until after his declaration as king or emperor, on the meeting of parliament which every one here expects to be earlier.
I have your Excellency's letter of the 30th ult. about treating with captains of fire ships and sailors, to which I will attend at once.
If I do not receive the usual supplies I shall be unable to continue my service here, since the best of good will cannot achieve the impossible.
London, the 5th September, 1654.
Sept. 9.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
314. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
An English ship which has arrived at Cadiz reports that a squadron of Cromwell is going to clear the Mediterranean of pirates, and the English consul (fn. 3) there is buying a great quantity of provisions. Anxiety is felt here over the relations of the northern powers with Portugal, as Sweden is giving Braganza the royal title and England is making a commercial treaty.
Madrid, the 9th September, 1654.
Sept. 12.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
315. To the Ambassador in France.
You will write to Pauluzzi to seize a favourable opportunity to see Fleming again, or some other minister whom he considers suitable, to inform him again that the Signory is still of the same mind in wishing to cherish a perfect understanding, and to announce openly that when we are certain that England will respond we shall proceed without further delay to the appointment of an ambassador, as a more distinguished testimony to the public esteem for that renowned government. You will also direct Pauluzzi to endeavour, with the customary favour, to secure that positive orders are given to the squadron which they are sending to the Mediterranean, to co-operate for our advantage, a thing which it will be possible for that squadron to do in several ways.
Ayes, 123. Noes, 1. Neutral, 1.
Sept. 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
316. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 1)
I have seen the Secretary of State who promptly gave me audience. I said I expected he would be able to tell me something about the answer to the ducal missive, and what his Highness might be expected to do for the most serene republic. I felt sure that England of to-day had it in her power to give the boon of quiet to Christendom, chastising the Turks and earning the gratitude of the most serene republic, to the great renown of his Highness. I asked him to use his influence in so good a cause and to tell me what hopes there were. The Secretary seemed gratified and said he would do what was requisite about a reply. But before entering upon further details he must communicate the whole to the Protector, and then he would either send me word or appoint another interview. In order that my office might have due weight and reach his Highness I left a written note of it, but I must admit that the forms of government here and the changes which constantly overhang it render such efforts of scant use and frequently preclude all hope.
Parliament will meet on Sunday next, the period appointed having arrived. The event is anxiously awaited by everybody, and above all and with reason by Cromwell, though he seems to have so arranged everything that he has nothing left to fear. The general belief is that, exercising absolute sway as he already does, he will merely change his title, though some of his chief confidants have already remonstrated with him on the subject, urging him to consider well before taking action. But the star of his ascendant urges him to attempt anything, renders every thing easy and promises additional glory and renown even from opposition. Meanwhile orders have already been issued for every commission and warrant to be stamped with his own seal, which has been recently cut for the purpose. A new coinage is also to be issued, bearing his effigy or arms. Everything will tend to his exaltation, unless the wheel of Fortune take a sudden turn as sometimes happens to those who rely too much on it. Yet Cromwell's external demeanour is always very humble and modest, nor does he display any vainglory over the submission and obedience constantly shown to him by persons of all ranks.
General Blach having left for the command of the Mediterranean squadron another of 50 sail is now being fitted out under the command of General Penn, though its destination is a secret. The report that it has cavalry on board is confirmed and during these last days a careful choice has been made of officers to command the troops to be embarked on this expedition. Some still think it is meant for the West Indies while others believe it means hostilities against France, if the negotiations for an agreement fail. Others again point to the United Provinces, should the present disturbances there continue, as it becomes daily more manifest that, with the support of England Holland alone will be able to carry through the arrangements made against the Prince of Orange and his party, notwithstanding the support of all the other Provinces.
When the news of the French victory at Arras reached here the creditors of the Prince of Condé's agent seized him for a debt of 16,000 francs, incurred for his maintenance here. Being unable to pay it he applied to the Catholic ambassador, alleging his own credits with the Prince and the money due to Condé from Spain. Thereupon the ambassador voluntarily became surety for the debt and the agent was set at liberty.
I implore your Excellency to send me supplies for lack of which I do not know what to do or how to provide for the most necessary requirements. The need would not be so pressing if funds did not take so long in coming and if the changes here did not render everybody mistrustful, even of their own relations and countrymen, and much more of foreigners.
London, the 13th September, 1654.
Sept. 15.
Senato, Secreta, Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
317. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The clause about the House of Orange conceded by the Dutch ambassadors in London is still causing violent altercation in the United Provinces. Holland has suspended the usual grant for the Stadthouder's guard and is fortifying and provisioning her towns. Yet in spite of these disputes the States General have all agreed to the contribution of 140,000l. sterling which the Province of Holland bound itself to pay to the English by virtue of the peace arranged with Cromwell.
Encloses letters of England.
Paris, the 15th September, 1654.
Sept. 19.
Senato, Secreta, Dispacci, Firenze. Venetian Archives.
318. Giovanni Ambrosio Sarotti, Venetian Resident at Florence, to the Doge and Senate.
In expectation of the squadron of English ships in the Mediterranean the Grand Duke, who keeps growing more and more uneasy, has this week sent 36 gunners and 200 Germans from those at Leghorn, to Porto Ferraio on a galley to reinforce the garrison there.
Florence, the 19th September, 1654.
Sept. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
319. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 4)
The 300 members returned to parliament assembled in the old hall of Westminster on Sunday last, as arranged. Because of the day no other business was transacted beyond registering the names. The rest of the morning and the afternoon were spent in praying and preaching, according to their ritual to invoke the aid of the Almighty at the beginning of an assembly convened for so important an object as that of maintaining the electoral privileges of the country, the quiet of the state and the welfare of the people.
On the Monday the members sat again in the same place, and in a chamber adjoining a royal throne was prepared for the Protector. (fn. 5) To this he betook himself that same morning, going in a very gorgeous coach accompanied by 100 gentlemen, bareheaded and by his guard of horse and foot, the captains being all on foot and also uncovered. In his Highness's own coach there were only, besides himself, Maj. Gen. Lambert and the President of the Council of State, (fn. 6) both bareheaded. With this pompous retinue he went to the chamber prepared for his reception, from whence he sent a message desiring the attendance of the Commons. They obeyed at once, though some of the leading members marvelled internally at this new fashion. On their arrival and after they had seated themselves, Cromwell uncovered and resuming his hat immediately said that he rejoiced at seeing them assembled to assume the care of the interests of the three nations and especially those of the entire Protestant religion. He prayed that the Lord would assist them, so that everything might redound to the glory of God and the welfare of the people. He went on to inform them of the reasons for the dissolution of the first parliament, of the necessity for convening the late representative and of the cause which led him to dismiss that body also. He then alluded to the treaties with foreign powers, to the peace made with Sweden, Denmark, Holland and the Swiss and to the negotiations for a good understanding with France. He exhorted them to take the whole in good part and approve it for the welfare and quiet of the commonwealth of England, exerting themselves for its maintenance and for the propagation of the true evangelical religion. After speaking a long while his Highness concluded by telling them that he had no intention soever of assuming any power over the parliament, his aim being to serve it, for the benefit of all business and the advantage of the commonwealth. Accordingly he desired them to return to their place of meeting and exercise their right to elect a speaker with whom he might always be united in the bonds of love to decide upon the questions for which they had been summoned and were now assembled.
The Protector then left them in the same state with which he had entered and the members returned to Westminster hall. After discussing Cromwell's speech there they adjourned until the following Tuesday, when they elected their Speaker, choosing the same person who long served the first parliament in that capacity. (fn. 7) The other officials of the House were also confirmed, in virtue of their patents.
These preliminaries being despatched some members proceded to expound the authority and jurisdiction of the parliament. Others boldly asserted that the new forms militated against its power and prestige, as it was not recorded that parliament had ever deferred to the late kings, who, on the contrary, always went to its place of meeting. These remarks made an impression on the majority and were much applauded, and it is supposed that they have already rendered the arrogance of his Highness extremely unpopular. A third party discussed the constitution of the present government and the privileges and ancient institutions of the kingdom, debating whether they should allow the disposal of the laws and every decision to depend on the will of a single individual and whether parliament ought not to govern itself and act according to ancient custom. This demand was also applauded, so it already appears that at the very beginning of the session seeds of rancour and dissatisfaction are being sown between parliament and the Protector. It is said that if the House is debarred its full rights and made to depend on a single individual, the majority of the members intend to refuse to meet again, without waiting for a dissolution, and thus vindicate the offended dignity and authority of the parliament. Meanwhile, however, the House continues to meet ; but if it perseveres in resenting dependence on Cromwell and he insists on carrying out his original plan, matters will not proceed so quietly and prosperously as he expected, though he will use moderation and diplomacy at the outset, because if confusion arises thus early it will be difficult to re-establish order without some serious conflict.
Owing to these unforeseen events the general expectation I reported has vanished and the Protector himself, warned by his friends and foreseeing the evil consequences of the step, has possibly renounced the idea of being proclaimed king or emperor, and moderating his ambition he will continue to exercise supreme authority under his former title, if no other catastrophe occurs either by the action of parliament or by its dissolution, though the life of this empire rests with the army, and therefore Cromwell shows sound policy by always endeavouring to have it on his side.
General Penn's squadron has been ordered to assemble off Portsmouth, wind and weather permitting, and will sail from thence. It is still stated that these 50 ships will carry a double complement of hands, as required in the West Indies, though as it is known that arrangements have been made for receiving cavalry on board a reasonable impression prevails that this squadron may be meant for Holland, as here they show an increasing disposition to support that Province.
The conferences between the French minister and the commissioners are more frequent than ever, so the adjustment is supposed to be nearly concluded, a result by no means improbable if France finds sufficient funds for the indemnity claimed by the English merchants. Without this the talk of peace will prove easier than its conclusion.
Nothing of importance is heard from Scotland, beyond forays and burning on both sides to intimidate the population. Both take prisoners and despite the Protector's desire for the subjection of that country the armed insurgents there remain steadfast. Deep is the aversion entertained both by the Scots and by the majority in England from the existing government, which is solely intent on increasing the army and above all on strengthening the navy, nor does it deceive itself in thinking that such measures may procure for it obedience at home and prestige and alliances abroad, and I can frankly tell your Excellency that they think of little else.
Acknowledges letters of the 12th. Is still without the means of subsistence. No supplies for over two months. In urgent need of assistance, without which cannot hold out longer.
London, the 20th September, 1654.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 22.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
320. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The embarcation of horse and foot in England keeps them in a state of apprehension here until they see where this cloud will burst.
Encloses letter from England.
Meaux, the 22nd September, 1654.
Sept. 28.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
321. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 8)
I have written of the changes anticipated on the meeting of parliament and have now to state that subsequent events show that Cromwell is bent on retaining his despotic authority in spite of all obstacles. To effect this he has narrowly scanned the intentions of the parliament. His chief adherents also keep close watch upon the House, Being thus made aware that its first acts openly sought to demolish his supremacy he has considered it advisable to apply a remedy at the outset and shut the door against greater inconvenience. At its last sittings the House insisted that the legislative power, the form of government and the control of the revenue and the army should depend absolutely on the many and not on one alone and that the Protector should present commissions for another general dependent on parliament. Cromwell determined to offer a vigorous resistance to this procedure. He went on Monday with a numerous retinue to the chamber prepared for him, having previously issued orders for a considerable force of troops to attend. He then despatched an officer to Westminster hall to see how many members were there and desire them to come to him, closing the doors and bringing the keys to his Highness, so that any members arriving subsequently might be prevented from entering and be notified to proceed straight to him. This commission being executed and over 300 members appearing before him, his Highness made a brief but authoritative speech. He told them of the obligation they were all under to contribute their utmost in support of the present government and not to think of making changes calculated to disturb the present quiet of the commonwealth and of the people. This quiet was confided to him and he was ready to shed the last drop of his blood for its defence and increase. It was not a question of how he held his present position or how he exercised his actual sway, since it was well known that his powers had been conferred upon him step by step by parliament itself and confirmed by the army, which, under every circumstance would now maintain his authority. He meant invariably to act in unison with it for the welfare of the commonwealth of England and for the liberty of the people. He said he had no intention of resisting the authority of parliament, in proof of which he meant it to be free, all members being at liberty to speak and propose, and when necessary for the common weal, to remonstrate. During the session of parliament the power of legislating and of reducing or imposing taxes was vested in the House which had also the right of disposing of the revenue, to supply the want and secure the tranquillity of the state. But the army had been entrusted to him alone, the control of the troops belonged to him and he could never renounce it without openly injuring his reputation and disparaging the merit of those important services the direction of which had hitherto rested entirely in himself. On this point Cromwell spoke with more feeling and energy than on the others and then having finished his speech for the maintenance of his despotic authority he produced a paper for signature by the members in the following terms :
I do hereby freely promise and engage myself to be true and faithful to the Lord Protector of the (fn. 9) Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland ; and shall not (according to the tenor of this indenture whereby I am returned to serve in parliament) propose or give my consent to alter the government as it is settled in a single person and a parliament.
Some of the members, even in the Protector's presence, made bold comments on this document but none the less it was signed by his Highness's partisans, 180 in number. As the others showed some hesitation they were allowed two days to consider the matter and then dismissed. It is reported that the Protector has sent some of the most violent to the Tower as a warning to other malcontents, who must also sign the test if they wish to sit with the more complacent section of the parliament. Thus by his authority Cromwell will either render all the members completely subservient to him or dissolve the parliament leaving himself with absolute power. Yet one hears suppressed murmurs against these violent proceedings which affect electoral rights and the liberty of parliament so that it is thought that the counties themselves may be inclined to assert their rights and privileges and protect their members, who are some of their leading men and able. But with the troops at his disposal the Protector cares little for this even if the counties showed resentment and contemplated vigorous resistance, though many are of opinion that matters will not remain thus and that England may witness another civil war. But I imagine that the dread of such a calamity would make them submit to an even harsher tyranny than Cromwell's, as he knows by experience that they deserve to be governed by severity rather than by affection, the death of King Charles affording him the best possible example.
In consequence of these conditions patrols of horse and foot have been constantly parading about London during the last few days, to prevent any disturbance, but the people meet the policy of the Protector with torpor rather than with open abuse, as even freedom of speech incurs a penalty. So your Excellency may infer that aided by the good Fortune which has caused his recognition by the great powers Cromwell will remain paramount and possibly even add to his titles if he cares to. Meanwhile people are curious to see what the members of parliament will do about meeting or dissolving, and whether they will sign the submission or not.
While these events were exercising the Protector's mind his Highness was much cheered by news from Scotland that the greater part of the insurgents there have laid down their arms by virtue of a composition with Gen. Monch. Gen. Middleton has disappeared and the Scots, having lost all hope of the assistance promised them from abroad on behalf of the king of England, were compelled to accept terms, the constant reinforcements of the government reducing them to the utmost possible straits.
In consequence of this pacification the Protector has allowed various commanders to take over some Scottish regiments for the service of foreign sovereigns, the friends of England, and several have made their appearance here with offers to the ministers of both France and Spain, each of whom will avail themselves of this good opportunity and seek to deprive his rival of a similar accession of strength.
A leading Scot also came to me with a licence from the Protector offering troops for the most serene republic, whose service he professed to prefer to that of all other powers. He expressed a wish to settle speedily, but as I had no authority I merely expressed my thanks. From what I gathered I suspect the terms would be high owing to the quality of the troops, who are ready and by this time inured to war. If I obtain further light on the subject I will forward more precise details to Venice by the shorter route of Flanders, if Your Excellency permits.
Encloses accounts for August, and begs for consideration having gone four months without supplies. Cannot continue without assistance as though demands for rent and food are promptly met, no credit is given, in the general upset of things, even for a few days.
London, the 28th September, 1654.


  • 1. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 15th September.
  • 2. Turenne forced the Spanish lines at Arras on the 25th August.
  • 3. James Wilson.
  • 4. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 22nd.
  • 5. The painted chamber.
  • 6. Henry Lawrence.
  • 7. Lenthall.
  • 8. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 29th September.
  • 9. della. The English text reads and to.