Speech by the Speaker regarding the humble Petition and Advice
Mr. Speaker's speech to the Lord Protector in the Banquetting House, the 31st March, 1657, at the tendering of
the humble Petition and Advice, as it was at first tendered
in the presence of the House of Parliament.
May it please your Highness,
I am commanded by the Parliament of England, Scotland,
and Ireland, and in their name, to present this humble Petition and Advice, unto your Highness. I shall only acquaint your Highness with several grounds, (of the House)
of this Petition before you enter into it. I am sensible
that I speak before a great person, the exactness of whose
judgment ought to scatter and chase away all unnecessary
speeches, as the sun doth the vapours. I may begin, as the
poet began his metamorphosis. In nova fert animus mutatas
dicere formas. But my case is far different from that of
the poet. His was fictitious, and a total change of persons
and things. This is a real, but not a total change, and more
of form than matter. This, in many particulars, is rather a
remitter and restitution, than a change. His was the fruit
of a poetical fancy—this, the labour and resolution of a Parliament.
The Parliament hath been in travail almost forty days,
and after great deliberation, at last this is the production, a
creature of one body, but many parts. As soon as it was produced, the pains of travail were soon forgotten, and yet the
travail could not be but great; for, behold there was in it
the government of three great nations. I am a servant, and
a man not to vent my own conceits, but to declare the things
which I have in command from the Parliament. I am not unlike a gardener, who gathers flowers in his master's garden,
and out of them composeth a nosegay. I shall offer nothing
but what I have collected in the garden of the Parliament,
and what did arise out of that excellent discourse and debate,
which was there used, upon framing of this Petition, and of
the Government presented by it.
I shall first be bold to take the frame of it in pieces, and
then look upon it as an entire body. The first part of the
body of this is the head, which they did well approve of,
but liked not the name, they desire to give it a new name,
which is of King, and that your Highness would be pleased
to assume that name. It is a change of name only, and you
are desired to take it by the agreement of the representatives of three nations in Parliament. It is the ancient way
by which good Kings were ever made. All Israel gathered
themselves together at Hebron to make David King.
The Parliament, did apprehend this name more congruous
for the body than that of Protector, which was not formerly
known in these nations, but in the minority or absence of the
present King, as was the Duke of Bedford, in the minority
of Henry VI., and the Duke of Somerset, in the minority of
that young Saint and King, Edward VI. The name and
office of a King is better known, and more suitable to the
laws and constitutions of these nations than that of a Protector. That name is ancient in this land; and taken notice of
in Holy Writ, which is far more ancient, and there looked
upon in a very good sense. It is a promise to Abraham that
Kings should come of his loins; (fn. 1) and in another place, Kings
are called nursing fathers. (fn. 2) The wise man, who was a King
himself, to his precept (fear God), in the next place, adds,
honour to the King. But the Israelites were rebuked for
asking a King, and that very justly.
1. In the time. It was when the good prophet Samuel
ruled over them, under God, and in this they rejected God
himself, as the text saith.
2. In the manner of it. Give us a King to rule over us,
after the manner of other nations; and other nations, at that
time had Kings who exercised tyrannical government. The
Parliament desireth no such King, but a King, as that article
well expressed him, to rule according to the laws of the land.
Aristotle, in his Politics, speaketh of two sorts of Kings.
He calleth one an absolute King, Tyrannus, who had no rule
but his own will. These nations never acknowledged such a
King. And secondly, a King secundum legem, according to
the law. (fn. 3) The Kings of England were, in their constitutions,
such Kings, however some of them in the exercise of their
power made their will the law. Kings here are the guides
of the people, but the laws are their guides. They are above
the people, but the laws are above them. (fn. 4) Kings (as King
Saul was) may be taller than the people, they ought not to
be taller than the laws.
The law is the safeguard and custody of all private interests. The lives, liberties, and estates of the people, are
all in the keeping of the law; without this, every man hath
the like right to every thing, et cum teneant omnes omnia,
nemo suum. The people of these nations were never out of
love with the name of King, but have been, with some of their
persons, for their mal-administration. King Edward II.
and King Richard II. of England, felt the smart of this truth.
They were swayed with their will: they were deposed; but
the son of the one, and the cousin-germain of the other, was
made King; so the person, and not the King, was destroyed.
The office of the King standeth with the liberty of the
people, else certainly it would not have been used so long
here. Anglica gens, libera gens. They are a free people:
their liberties have ever been precious unto them. Witness
the multiplied confirmations of Magnet Charta; the great
charter of their liberties. (fn. 5) And, comparatively, England
is more free than any other of their neighbour nations, and
yet they have been governed by Kings; and I never heard
that that office was presented as a grievance in any Parliament; et difficile est tacere, cum doleas. And it standeth
with Christian liberty. Consider the promise before mentioned to Abraham, and the prophecy that Kings should be
their nursing fathers. Kings, in this very nation, have been
introducers and advancers of Christianity; and in this respect may be called procreating fathers. Lucius, the British
King, brought in Christianity to this nation. (fn. 6) But it may
be objected, it was planted here before, by Joseph of Arimathea. (fn. 7) I will not dispute this, for besides the monks of
Glassenbury, many other learned men do affirm it; but it is
doubtful and uncertain, for others deny it. But, admit the
truth of it, yet Christianity was much besmeared, and lost
amongst the Britons, before the time of Lucius. The dial of
Christianity was so far gone back, that no shadow of Christianity could be found. I need no proof of this; it is apparent to such as have looked upon the history of Britain, and
from Basingstochius, (fn. 8) and some other writers. King Edwin
of Northumberland was converted by Paulinus, in the year
622. How readily and how soon, and thereupon a number
of people converted! I may, with alteration of one word,
make use of the old verse,
Regis ad exen lum totus convertitur orbis. (fn. 9)
Paulinus, upon this, for thirty days together, did baptize
the people in the city of York, and in the river of Swayle,
and those of Nottinghamshire in the river of Trent.
The examples of Kings are the most prevalent sermons to
the people. And also King Oswald of Northumberland, being converted to Christianity, most of the people became
Christians. There is yet some memory of him in the county
of Northumberland, (fn. 10) where he fought his last battle with
the Picts. The place to this day is called Hallow Down, or
Hallow Field, which is a holy field; and there was a chapel
built, called St. Oswald's chapel, standing there at this day.
This name is a great security to your person, and so to the
laws of the nation, and so to the liberties and properties of
But it may be said, that the King hath many prerogatives,
and it is hard to know them, and harder to limit them. For
this, I say, that the prerogatives of the King are bounded by
the laws, and it hath been seen by experience, that those
Kings who have wound up prerogatives to too high a pin,
have not only lost them, but themselves also. (fn. 11) The King's
prerogative, and the laws, are not two distinct things, and if
you can find no prerogatives by the law, you can expect
none. The King's prerogative is part of the law. It is in
the politic body as in the natural. There is not in the body
of man one law in the head, and another of the body, but
is one entire law.
You will find, when you hear this article read, the reasons
of the Parliament's desire to your Highness, to accept this
office. I shall forbear to mention them. Your virtues are
so resplendent, that they [need] no tapers, (fn. 12) nor shall I take
upon me to be a panegyrist, to extol you in your presence,
nor can my weak expressions do it, if I should essay it. The
Parliament cannot be suspected of flattery, therefore I shall
leave your Highness to the expressions of the Parliament in
Next to that of the King, the Parliament took into their
consideration Parliaments. And in this considered of two
things, the one old, the other new. The old is, the calling
of Parliaments every third year, which is an excellent law,
made by the Long Parliament (fn. 13) by whom many excellent
laws were made; but there is a law more ancient than that;
for a Parliament every year was enacted in Edward III.'s
time. (fn. 14)
The people of England have ever delighted in the course
of Parliaments, it being the only place where they can complain, and have redress of their grievances; the only place
where they may put out their bad laws, and get a stock of
better; the only place where they can speak freely of the oppression of great men, and injustice of Courts.
The other part of the article is new, which is for another
House of Parliament. I may call this a self-denying request,
a modest condescension to admit others into the bosom of so
great a trust as that of legislative, (a very jealous point)
therefore the desire of the Parliament may not be deemed
unreasonable, to have the approbation of those persons thus intromitted, that they may know whom they trust. And the other
may seem as just, that bounds be set to their judicial proceedings, as appears in the fifth article. (fn. 15)
Next to this, care is taken to preserve the privileges of
Parliament. I may call this, the life of Parliaments. If the
privileges be invaded, the Parliament itself is invaded.
Next to this, they have added the qualifications of persons
elected, and electing members of Parliament; and it is very
necessary, at the conclusion of a civil war, to have it so; for
though the war be ended, yet the difference of affections and
opinions is hot ended. Persons may be overcome in the
field, passions and affections cannot. These qualifications
are of two sorts; the one, moral, for their lives and conversations; the other, politic, for their affections. Then, for the
triers of these qualifications; the determination of that question, scopa latissima, an hard and knotty question; this being
to be done before they sat in Parliament; so that the House,
of which they are members, could not try them. In this the
Parliament have taken such course, as you will see in the
Article. Although they try them not themselves, yet themselves will elect the tryers. (fn. 16)
They have added qualifications also for the members of the
other. House, which are in effect the same with the other.
The other House is to consist of the number of seventy, at
the most, and forty the least; the quorum twenty-one. (fn. 17)
The trust committed to them is personal, and not to be
executed by deputies or proxies. (fn. 18)
Their judicial power is also limited and circumscribed, and
it is necessary to be so; for it is so natural for all men to be
lovers' and promoters of the latitude of their own jurisdictions,
that it is now believed by many to be a very honest maxim,
which the civilians have, Boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem. For other particulars, they are to observe the course,
of Parliaments. (fn. 19)
The next thing in consideration, is the revenue, to support
the charge of this government; for the feet of government
ought not to be of clay, but of silver or gold. It must be
built upon the rock of a revenue, or else it cannot stand. The
revenue here may seem considerable, and yet not above the
expenses. Two hands are sufficient for any of us who have
but one belly to feed, but Briareus, who had fifty bellies to
feed, stood in need of one hundred hands.
The Parliament are very tender of the purses of the people,
and therefore are unwilling to open them wider than the necessities of affairs shall require; and really when their purses
are opened too wide, not only their money, but their hearts
fly out; nor shall this burden rest upon their lands, but be
raised in another way.
The other part of the Article doth provide, that no tax or
tallage be laid (with other words contained in the Petition of
Right, (fn. 20) ) but by consent of Parliament. This guardeth the
people's property, and is no new thing; and is the privilege
of the people of England, expressed in Magna Charta, (fn. 21)
but it is far more ancient, as may appear by the ancient records of this nation.
It is true, there have been invasions made by some of the
Kings of England upon this; but they had commonly several
gains by it in the conclusion.
The people have been always jealous and tender in this
point; which may appear by several complaints, and the frequent super-sanction of Magna Charta. (fn. 22) I may call this the
people's Noli me tangere. They will not be touched in any
part of their estate; for if any part be not free, then is not
the whole free. The charge for Ship-money (fn. 23) upon Mr.
Hampden, a gentleman of a fair fortune, was but 20s. (fn. 24) but it
is well known what that occasioned, and what might be the
consequence; for if the King had power to impose 20s., the
same power might have gone to 20,000l.
For the management of this great government, the Parliament is to be the King's Great Council, and in the intervals of
Parliament, a Council is appointed. Therefore you will see
great care taken in the choice of the Council. The number is
great and considerable; and you will find that the quorum is
such, as they cannot all ride upon one horse, as it was said of
the Council of Lewis, the French King.
Next to this the government is to be assisted by Officers of
State and Judges. There is a special provision for their
approbation, (fn. 25) and it is very necessary it should be so.
These are like the Lions, that did support the throne of
Solomon, (fn. 26) and have a great stroke in the frame of this government. And, besides this, these are the copies by which the
people, for the most part, guide their actions; and they are
not fit to be copies, except they be fair written, without blots,
or any thing unworthy their authority.
Then for religion, they thought fit the true Christian Protestant religion be held forth and asserted, and a Confession
of Faith to be agreed upon. And, to keep and preserve the
esteem of the ministers of the Gospel and themselves, from
the virulent tongues of petty and disorderly persons, it is
provided that the punishment of these persons shall be according to the law; and if the law be defective, new laws
to be provided in that behalf.
And then for tender consciences, there is a provision for
them, for this government would not press upon them.
There are two extremities in state, concerning the causes of
faith and religion, (that is to say) the permission of the exercise of more religions than one, which is a dangerous indulgence and toleration, and is not introduced by this government, nor I hope shall never be in these nations. (fn. 27) The
other is the entering and sifting into men's consciences, when
no overt scandal is given, which is a vigorous and strainable
inquisition, as one calls it, and which is desired to.be provided against in this Frame.
The Church hath been in all ages subject to contentions
and schisms. There is scarce any one Epistle of Paul to the
Churches but containeth some reprehension of unnecessary
and schismatical controversies, and there will still be such
controversies; but as they extend not to any point of faith,
the persons differing are by this Article not excluded, out
of fellowship, or out of preferment. (fn. 28)
In the next place, the Parliament thought fit that the Acts
and Ordinances, for sale of lands, should be confirmed. This
is for the present public peace, and the quiet of purchasers,
and the honour of the nations.
Next, for places of trust. They are not to be committed
to persons who have lifted up their hands against the Parliament or your Highness. This the Parliament hold necessary, in the conclusion of a civil war; and this I may call the
hedge or wall of this government.
In the next place, the Parliament humbly propounds their
own preservation, (fn. 29) nor can they be blamed in the tendering
of this, especially when it is for the performance and achievement of public services.
Next, the Parliament hath taken care not to destroy old
laws, nor ordinances, where they are not contrary to the new
ones, but that both may stand together. (fn. 30)
In the securing of the government they have been careful
not to give the least remora or interruption to the course of
justice. Justice is in the nation as the sun in the firmament;
it cannot stand still, and justice, it must run as a stream, a
constant stream. The stopping of the stream of justice may
occasion an inundation of wrongs and oppressions, and sweep
away the course of relief which the parties wronged were
In the next place, they are humble suitors that your
Highness may be pleased to take an oath to govern according
to law. The Kings of this nation have formerly done so,
and it is only to request you to do that, which by the law
you are bound to do.
Arbitrary government hath always been a terrible thing to
the people of this nation. If the laws should not be upheld,
all things would fall into confusion. I will use Mr. Pym's
words in full Parliament, upon the arraignment of the Earl of
Stratford: "The law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evil, betwixt just and unjust. If you take
away the law, all things will fall into a confusion, every man
will become a law to himself. Lust will become a law, and
envy will become a law. Covetousness and ambition will
become laws;" and it is not difficult to determine "what decisions such laws will produce." (fn. 31) The laws of this nation are
the flowers of it, which have been so dear to the people, that
they have not stuck (when need required) to water them with
I have now done with the several pieces of the government, but not with the articles. There remaineth yet one.
The Parliament hath so good an apprehension of this frame
of government, in all the articles of it, that it is their humble
desire, that you may be pleased to accept of them all. They
are bound up in one link or chain; or like a building well
knit and cemented, if one stone be taken "out, it loosens the
whole; The rejection of one may make all the rest unsuitable
and impracticable. They are all offered unto you, with, the
same heart and affection, and we hope they will be received
by you in the same manner. They are all the children
of one mother, the Parliament, and we expect from your
Highness an adoption of them all. The Parliament hath
put the word (nothing) into this article, (fn. 32)
aut nihil aut totum
dabit. This proceedeth out of the fulness of their affections. They make the word (nothing) part of this article,
that you may be induced to accept of the whole.
Now give me leave to put all the pieces of this government
together, and to speak a word or two of the whole frame. I
hope the entire frame of government thus offered is such as
may be of good satisfaction to the people, and such as in
which no envious eye may spy a fault or blot. Yet even the
best government is always like the fairest crystal, in which
every little grain is seen, which in a fouler stone is not perceived.
Next, give me leave to observe the time of the tender of
this government as a very considerable circumstance. It
comes in, attended with three benedictions, with peace at
home, plenty, and health; and that of health, notwithstanding the great multitude of people flocking to this place. (fn. 33) The
health universal of the people was never so good.
There is in this government a medley or mixture of regality
and liberty, which Tacitus observes, were res olim insociabiles.
It is made for the conservation of the regality of the Crown,
and of lawful freedom in the people.
If you shall be pleased to accept of our humble desires,
thus tendered to yourself, these are the spondences and undertakings of the Parliament,
1. They will readily and heartily join with you in the great
work of reformation, a work happily begun by your Highness, and it is a blessed work.
2. In regulation of the Courts of Justice.
3. In abridging the delays and charges in law suits,
and this latter is no very easy work; for there is a sort of
people who much oppose this, and, which is the grief, those
people are as many in number as the suits are. I shall not
be afraid to name them; they are the defendants in every
suit, the plaintiff and defendant, they are linked in one yoke,
in one suit, yet they draw in contrary ways, one to the other,
One motto may serve both plaintiff and defendant, which is
expressed in an old adage Festina Lentè. The plaintiff will
ride post with Festina, but Lentè, quoth the defendant, and
puts the plaintiff's foot many times besides the stirrup by
Essoins, Importances, Arrests of Judgment, Vouchers, or
the like, but the same may be capable of amendments.
And, lastly, they will join in other courses and councils,
which may advance the good of these nations, that being the
great and true end and scope of all their endeavours.
May it please your Highness, I am commanded by the
Parliament to offer unto your Highness this Frame of Government, expressed in this humble Petition, which is a present
sent unto your Highness from the Parliament. Give me
leave to use the words of Jacob to his brother Esau, when he
offered his droves of cattle unto him. We pray you, if we
have found grace in your sight, then receive this present at
our hands: we hope to feel the effect of your goodness, in
your good answer to this Petition.
There resteth only now, that I most humbly crave a pardon for myself, that having detained your Highness so long
from hearing the Petition, which can best speak itself; and if
I have expressed my self otherwise than I should, or would,
that your Highness would cover it, and cast the veil of your
grace upon it. If my weakness and infirmities had not been
formerly known to your Highness, I am sure you know them
now by this. I humbly beseech your Highness to help them
by your benign interpretation.