Venice: November 1654

Pages 273-280

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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November 1654

Nov. 2.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
334. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 1)
The Protector, still lame from his recent accident, was unable to attend parliament, which has been discussing his interests very scrupulously. His chief supporters made amends for his absence. They represented the prosperous state of England at the moment, her formidable naval and military forces which secured for her the respect and dread of all her neighbours and the treaties of peace which added so much to her repute. They attributed these results to the present form of government and said they at once proclaimed the merits and ability of Cromwell and the prudence of his Council. Accordingly they urged parliament to take steps to express their approval and consolidate so wise and profitable a government. These sentiments were echoed by the majority who have since discussed the matter repeatedly, in order to establish the present form of government and guard against such inconvenience as might arise from the Protector's death.
Parliament has therefore been canvassing the important point of an hereditary or elective protectorate and much has been said on both sides, the majority being always in harmony with the Protector's views, as they will always be. It is hoped that in a few days some decision will be formed in this essential matter as well as on some others affecting the duration and authority of the existing government. Although it is expected that Cromwell will carry this point also, yet the following circumstance must be borne in mind. A number of army leaders appeared before him asserting boldly that the present rule did not give entire satisfaction ; that the promises made had been broken and that so much bloodshed had been ill requited. Feeble in frame but strong in spirit Cromwell expressed surprise at such language from military men who were bound to give energetic support to the government in which they held the principal part, if not the whole executive. This consideration alone ought to stand in lieu of all claims. To satisfy these he had already risked everything and should continue to do so. But he must add that if they themselves were dissatisfied with this military supremacy he was always ready to shed his own blood for the quiet of the kingdom and the welfare of the people. The officers went away astonished rather than dismayed at these words and have not taken any further steps, although a section of the army would certainly approve, who resent Cromwell's despotism.
In spite of his efforts for popularity and notwithstanding threats and punishments the Protector cannot prevent ebullitions of ill will. The malcontents did not neglect even so trifling an opportunity as the late accident for venting their spleen and sent notes to the preachers requesting them to pray and implore the prayers of their congregations for an ill advised coachman who had undertaken to manage three kingdoms, with other satirical expressions. The authors are unlikely to be discovered, in spite of the strictest enquiries, although the notes were immediately suppressed. Meanwhile Cromwell dissembles, watching an opportunity for revenge on this license of speech and punishing those who deserve his wrath.
Nothing has been heard lately either for or against the negotiations with France, though as news is constantly arriving of the seizure of French bottoms by English cruisers the hopes of a good issue seem to vanish. There is now a fresh act of aggression to report. Some English frigates have landed troops in Canada and expelled the French, making themselves masters of the most important ports and of considerable booty. They continue in possession of the country and mean to annex it to the English colonies. The news is of consequence and confirmation is awaited.
Much has been said of late in parliament about religion, especially about Catholicism. This gains ground daily in this city in spite of severe penalties, and the house has therefore set apart two days in the week for the exclusive discussion of the matter, to remedy the abuses already caused by letting things slide, so some new regulation will probably result for the greater persecution of the Papists, who are extremely hated here.
In reply to your Excellency's letter of the 29th ult. I hope that the Senate's friendliness will be reciprocated here but circumstances prove clearly that they are more prone to talk than to decide here and they put off foreign affairs, however important, for the most trifling domestic occurrence. But this neglect, the result of inexperience, is shown to all sovereigns and the English are so impressed with their own importance and their own usages that they expect any form of negotiation adopted by them to be admitted, nor can it be denied that friendly proposals, such as those alluded to by your Excellency, pour in upon them from every side.
London, the 2nd November, 1654.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 4.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
335. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Monsieur Mazerol, a gentleman of the Prince of Condé (fn. 2) who has arrived at Madrid from England, says that in London they are talking a great deal about demanding of the Spaniards the release of Duke Charles of Lorraine in return for a money payment. The truth is that for some days the secretary of the duke has been in close conference with Don Luis.
Madrid, the 4th November, 1654.
Nov. 7.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
336. To the Resident at Florence.
Insist upon the necessity for close observation above everything of the proceedings of Guise's force and of the English squadron commanded by General Blach, as he has done hitherto.
Ayes, 166. Noes, 4. Neutral, 0.
Nov. 7.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
337. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 3)
Cromwell is now perfectly recovered and has returned to the helm, but I am still waiting for a reply to my overtures and can report no decision from the government which is entirely guided by the bias of the Protector. All the foreign ministers complain more of these delays than of any other grievance, but there is no remedy but patience, for the system is unalterable. In the present case there is some excuse as attention has been of late directed exclusively to the settlement of the succession. After protracted debates in the Commons the majority have voted in favour of an elective protectorate in preference to an hereditary one, but with certain restrictions touching services rendered to the commonwealth by the future nominee and his deserts and prerogatives. The Protector adapts himself to this vote and he would not insist on the right of succession for his sons to avoid increasing the odium which he might draw on himself by perpetuating the supreme control of England in the persons of himself and his heirs. He is satisfied to enjoy it for his own life and hopes in this way more easily to compass his ends, than if he opposed the decisions of parliament. This will not prove difficult as he exercises absolute sway over the soldiers and on the dissolution of the parliament, now near at hand, he will enact what laws he pleases, unrestrained ; so his present supremacy may be expected to last for life, whereas, if he falls, his own statutes and those of parliament as well will be equally disregarded in the confusion caused by a fresh struggle for the sweets of power. This vote is especially unpalatable to his two sons but particularly the elder, who already shares the Protector's dignity and gives outward signs of his thirst for domination and command. The younger son is secretly devoted to the memory of the late king and to the royal family. He thinks of little but of living privately and enjoying the ease and liberty conceded him by his father, but neither of them has inherited the high spirit and deep knowledge of their parent in the important affairs of state or of war.
The French minister and the commonwealth commissioners have again resumed their negotiations sedulously, but although their conferences have been frequent and protracted nothing has transpired in favour of a satisfactory result. But the longer the affair remains under discussion the greater is the alarm of the Spanish ambassador as he fully realises that any friendly arrangement between England and France must prove deeply injurious to Spain. So these two ministers may be said to be watching each other and manoeuvring as rivals, though if France does not grant the demands of the English the treaty may easily be broken off and they will persevere in their aggression here. The news of the seizure of the approach to Canada by a few English ships is confirmed, by which means this country makes itself practically mistress of the French colonies.
Possibly on this account and certainly because of the present negotiations between France and Spain this country continues to bear the cost of more than 60 men of war. After much uncertainty and expectation these are still without any fixed destination. Time shows that the real object of the squadron is to use it to cull benefits from the current negotiations of both France and Spain and to secure Cromwell himself in his seat, princes both near and far being thus made to ponder and dread the policy and power of the present government of England.
Captain Gallilee's father has been to thank me with tears in his eyes for the release of his son, as ordered by the Senate, of which he had heard from Consul Hobson. He assured me that he had drawn up a statement of the whole to present to the Protector and his Council. He added that on the payment of the money owed him he hoped the public favour would enable him to help his son and family, for which he had been obliged to use half the amount already, as the consul would certify.
The ordinary has not arrived this week.
London, the 7th November, 1654.
Nov. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
338. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Luis volunteered the information that Cromwell had established his supremacy in England by force ; there was a great scarcity of money in London ; the fleet for the Mediterranean was detained in port, and that from now forward every one might hope that this great savage beast would be devouring itself.
Madrid, the 11th November, 1654.
Nov. 14.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian. Archives.
339. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 4)
I am awaiting the reply to my offices, but it is rendered difficult by the increasing turmoil in the government, which cannot yet be considered stable, and although it may appear so for a moment the scene is subject to sudden changes, as now. The malady seems to be rather internal than on the surface and the embarrassment is supposed to be due to the independent supremacy claimed by the Protector and to the party spirit in parliament. The majority signed the test but it is now evident that most of the signatures were given with the covert object of investigating the present state of affairs and enabling parliament to meet and confer and to sift matters to the uttermost. The house has consequently been occupied with the reform of the present government and apparently does not intend to leave the 43 articles drawn up by the Protector's authority at his absolute discretion or to leave him absolute command of the army. This appears to be the real sentiment of the parliament which may easily be confirmed by reason and by truth. But they find more open support and encouragement from the military in opposition to Cromwell's arbitrary rule. A number of colonels and other officers have again presented the Protector with a remonstrance bearing several signatures asserting their right to complain because, after all the miseries of the civil war they find things taking a worse turn than ever. Some add that if this is not stopped and parliamentary liberty respected they are ready to shed the rest of their blood for the freedom of the commonwealth and the privileges of the nation, now abolished by the violence of personal government.
The Protector perused this paper and answered it briefly and gravely, trying to soothe rather than to irritate the petitioners. He is now intent on the suppression of these humours for if they continue and increase they cannot fail to lead to deplorable events most injurious to him personally. Meanwhile parliament sits daily and there can be no doubt about its having an understanding with a section of the army as otherwise any attempt to uphold the national privileges in opposition to the Protector must necessarily fail.
During these events a variety of pamphlets hostile to the government have circulated in London denouncing the present rule as tyrannical ; that regardless of all the blood that has been shed, of the death of the late innocent and legitimate king and of the privileges and liberties of the nation, everything is now made to depend on the will of a single individual, who deems all past oaths, promises and pledges null, and only aims at absolute rule, for the sole purpose of gratifying his personal ambition and vain glory, which are masked by extreme hypocrisy and the semblance of religious zeal. Such is the tenor of printed pamphlets which have appeared these last few days. Although they were seized and suppressed at once, search being made for both authors and printers, there is no doubt that their contents and the justice of the cause have made a great impression on the excited minds of the people here. But the public prefers silence to clamour and while these outbursts serve to disclose the malcontents Cromwell seeks to stifle discontent in all quarters by address rather than by violence. He also takes into account the brief authority of parliament. But if the plots against him continue he probably intends to use force and crush them entirely. This will not be difficult so long as he can depend on the main body of the army ; though if the soldiers favour parliament and insist on security for their arrears the Protector will find it difficult to keep his seat. He certainly seems to have more need of caution at this moment than at any former period. Others assert that his immense talents and good fortune will dispel all these clouds and establish him more firmly than ever. Thus what he may do in self defence against the parliament and the possible attacks to which that body may subject him excite extraordinary interest so that the present state of affairs promises some notable event ere long.
Owing to these domestic events all negotiations are suspended, especially those with France which still seem remote from any amicable settlement especially as both in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean mutual acts of hostility are constantly occurring. It was stated recently that the French fleet in the Mediterranean is constantly chasing all the English ships it encounters, so the merchants concerned as well as the nation generally are anxious for the advance of Blach's squadron and if it falls in with the French fleet there is little doubt but that the salute will be given with shotted guns.
The only news from Scotland is that although the insurgents are weak they keep the generals of the Commonwealth constantly busy and on the alert to prevent the Highlanders from making head and raising fresh levies and gatherings.
Two full regiments of horse marched into London lately, the Protector having ordered up reinforcements. I have nothing more to report as the course of events here does not permit of any sure inferences, changes taking place when least expected, as shown by the past and present history of this commonwealth.
London, the 14th November, 1654.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 23.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
340. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 5)
Home affairs still monopolise their attention here and these last days great agitation has been caused by the excessive demands presented to the Protector by the fleet, and by the free speech of some of its commanders as well as of certain military officers. Great excitement also prevails in London about the form of the present government, and parliament does not fail to discuss the question at every sitting, undoubtedly with a view to take some definite step before the dissolution.
Cromwell is on the watch listening to everything as what is now brewing undoubtedly affects him personally. But his interests are supported by the votes of his adherents in the House and with their aid and time he hopes to attain his private ends and preserve the supreme authority he now exercises. His enemies, on the other hand, lose no opportunity of assailing him with satire. Besides the pamphlets reported other libels have been printed more recently of a most seditious nature, pouring the grossest abuse on him and the government. When this came to the notice of parliament a vote of censure was passed, orders and ample powers being given for the discovery of the authors or at least of some of the accomplices.
In addition to the freedom shown by the officers, as mentioned, some of the troops have been guilty of insubordination and have disobeyed the Protector's commands, claiming several months' pay in advance in the event of their leaving the harbours of England. They also insist on knowing their destination. Upon this Cromwell, in conjunction with parliament sent one of the three admirals (fn. 6) to them with orders to ascertain the real object of the squadron, which expressed its entire devotion to the orders of parliament, and to return with all speed. As a salve for the present ill-humour and without loss of time Cromwell sent down a considerable sum of money for the fleet. In this affair the Protector has shown every mark of deference for parliament, throughout in conjunction with it, though he made the house understand suavely that as the entire care of the army and navy was vested in him, he must provide and distribute such sums as are necessary for the maintenance and satisfaction of the forces. Many of the members resented this most warmly, considering that everything connected with supply depended on parliament alone, but Cromwell's partisans in the house supported his views. Nothing has yet been settled and this is still one of the chief questions for decision, because if the revenue is confided to him as well as the army and navy, he becomes at once master of the entire resources of the country.
Before dissolving parliament will doubtless settle many political questions as well as many of the Protector's claims, whose prerogative may be more or less curtailed.
The fleet, which certainly prefers parliament to the Protector, is expected to remain at anchor. This seems more probable in view of the approaching dissolution, for not only did it hesitate to obey Cromwell's orders to put to sea, but remonstrated freely, so that it became absolutely necessary to obtain funds for its satisfaction. Many think that unless something fresh happens it will not leave port this winter as the government may need its support at home or even against the Dutch, as the news from Holland relates that Friesland has joined some of the other Provinces in favour of the Prince of Orange, with some shadow of support from France, against the Province of Holland, which, linked with England, is the only one of the States opposed to the House of Nassau, which thus seems more likely to be established than overthrown.
The more definite the reports of the strength of the French fleet in the Mediterranean the greater the satisfaction felt here at the advance of Blach in that direction, who is supposed to be strong enough to engage it at the first opportunity. There is talk of sending out reinforcements to him and there can be no doubt that any extension or increase of the French forces at sea will render the English more anxious for supremacy both in the Ocean and the Mediterranean.
I have nothing favourable to report about any adjustment between the two nations as all negotiation seems suspended, the unsettled state of this government offering scant security for the observance of treaties. Captures at sea are more frequent than ever and in 40 days the English have taken as many French vessels large and small.
London, the 23rd November, 1654.
Nov. 25.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
341. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
General Blach with 23 ships of war provisioned for a year, has entered the port of Cadiz. Although by agreement between the two countries they are not allowed to approach fortifications with more than ten ships at a time, the Duke of Medina Celi has laid aside all punctilio and shown them every possible courtesy, sending them refreshments and compliments with exceedingly friendly words.
Blach has sailed towards the Strait and news of his arrival in the Mediterranean is expected. The General is supposed to be going against the Levant, although others maintain that he intends to restore the prestige of the arms and name of England in the hearts and in the ports of the princes of our province.
Madrid, the 25th November, 1654.
Nov. 28.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Firenze. Venetian Archives.
342. Giovanni Ambrosio Sarotti, Venetian Resident at Florence, to the Doge and Senate.
An English ship has arrived at Leghorn from Algiers in twelve days. It came from London, laden with all kinds of munitions of war. With these it set at liberty and has brought here all the English slaves who were in that place.
General Blach with his numerous squadron of ships of war is believed to have arrived in the Mediterranean by now, indeed all the merchants of Leghorn write that they think he cannot be far off. Nothing is known about the orders which he brings with him, only that he may go first of all to Barbary and more particularly, to Tunis.
Florence, the 28th November, 1654.


  • 1. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 3rd November.
  • 2. Louis du Pas, Signeur de Marzerolles.
  • 3. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 17th November.
  • 4. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 24th November.
  • 5. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 1st December.
  • 6. Desborough. See Cal. S.P. Dom., 1654, pp. 404, 573.