Venice
February 1657

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Institute of Historical Research

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Allen B. Hinds (editor)

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1931

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11-20

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'Venice: February 1657', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 31: 1657-1659 (1931), pp. 11-20. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=89995 Date accessed: 24 July 2014.


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February 1657

Feb. 2.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
7. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Men at Court are still engaged in investigating the conspiracy. They do not slacken their interrogations which produce wonderful results since the accomplices and criminals are indicated. Many are accused who have never loved the king and who have even shown a liking for the present government, serving and bearing arms for it whom one would never have supposed capable to mixing themselves is such an affair. Some are in prison and it is believed that before long an example will be made.
The Speaker having recovered his health parliament resumed its sittings on Monday when the Protector through the secretary of state, sent them a written account of the affair. Yesterday an abridgment of this was printed in the Gazette which is issued weekly. This was read and considered by parliament which at once appointed some of its members to congratulate his Highness. They are to go Whitehall to day to perform this duty in the name of the whole assembly and the 13th has been appointed as a general fast in all three kingdoms to return thanks to God for delivering the Protector from peril and for preventing the confusion which might have occurred had the plot succeeded. (fn. 1) Those who believe the whole affair a sham, invented by the Court for the reasons given, still maintain their opinion. But there is no longer room for doubt that something happened, though possibly much less than is represented. If it was a pure fiction they would not imprison so many people, they would not allow so many innocent persons to suffer and the conclusion and settlement of the affair would not be so long drawn out. In conjunction with the royalists some officers of the Protector's own guard had a part in this affair. This seems clear not only from the talk one hears, but from the depositions of those arrested and from the imprisonment of the individuals. The reason is that they have grown tired of the ill adjusted form of the present government, which is rather feared than loved, which pleases no one and offends all indifferently, whether native or foreign, and which cares for nothing except what suits itself; and they never think of other forms which might satisfy the people, whose goodwill they are unable to gain. If trouble arises among the troops Cromwell will surely be in bad case and the remedy will not be easy. Now that members of the army have resorted to such devices to shake off the yoke which they support and endure from fear alone, it is greatly to be feared that like attempts will be made by other disaffected officers. These are abundant and they only dissimulate their feelings from motives of interest; but if they could feel sure of being loyally supported they would lose no time in making some bold attempt capable of upsetting the present state and of overthrowing him who dominates these three powerful kingdoms with so little satisfaction to the people and without the slightest approval of any kind.
Parliament has laboured all this week on the questions of the persecution of the royalists and of the major generals. They have discussed the subjects but as they lead to long disputes no decision has yet been reached. If they decide to levy the tenth nothing will be done in favour of the major generals, seeing that they serve for their pay. But parliament would have to find some other source for their support unless they wish to abolish the office altogether, as the great authority they exercise gives the autocrat constant apprehension. There are eight of them, each of whom governs more than one province. The money from the tenths is appropriated for their pay, and as this realises more than is required for the purpose the surplus is employed for maintaining troops. Each major general has under him a proportionate body of troops to look after any machinations of the royalists in the province. It rests with him to find out or suspect those who are not well affected to the government, to secure their persons and take proceedings against them and their goods; very great powers which would be rendered greater if they were to enjoy their offices for life, as at present they are changed from time to time. Whether the powers of these governors shall be increased or be abolished altogether is openly discussed by some members of parliament or the extinction for ever of such offices. The resolution upon this will disclose clearly the favourable or unfavourable disposition of the members towards his Highness and whether they are really devoted to him or only feign to be. If the first should happen it would be highly detrimental to the Protector leaving him under constant apprehension as any slight offence he might give to one of them would suffice to upset and overthrow him seeing that the major generals would doubtless unite, forming a formidable body of all the troops under their commands, with whom they are popular, and who would readily contribute their pay. Their good will is fostered with every sort of blandishment and the same treatment is used towards the people under their rule, who in every case would do everything for their own governor especially against a person who may be said to be detested by them and whom they respect from fear alone, and they would do anything to ruin and eradicate the present autocracy. But in any case Cromwell will move cautiously and try to keep the major generals well disposed by flattery and caresses, especially as he knows that more than one of them does not altogether wish him well and would gladly embrace an opportunity to show his malign intentions which remain cloaked for lack of assistance and support and it would be easier to find these with increased authority.
If the other should happen, as is expected, the Protector would suffer no prejudice and he might feel more at ease, with nothing to fear. So it is probable that he will prefer to see this dignity abolished rather than continued. For the same reason he will prefer to see the cavaliers charged with the tenths, and parliament would come to this decision in any case not to favour royalists but to protect and maintain its own privileges. However that may be Cromwell will never be at a loss for a way to reduce them whether in person or goods, when he wishes to do so, or for a pretext, whether real or imagined.
Letters have come from Colonel Loccart at Paris reporting his arrival at that Court. Nothing more can be gathered about their contents, which are guarded with the usual secrecy. Despatches have also arrived this week from the fleet. Blake writes that he has received the reinforcement of ships and provisions sent to him and is now strong enough to fear nothing except the weather, and the fierce storms which they frequently have to endure, with no small danger and considerable damage to the craft and even to the personnel. He adds that they are cruising off Spain on the watch for the Catholic's fleet. He feels sure that even if they do not succeed in capturing it, of which he does not despair, he will at least prevent its passing the Strait or getting safely into any of their ports. That would be a very damaging blow to the Spaniards and an advantage to the English, although not altogether profitable, as a favourable issue or the reverse for either side depends entirely upon this money which may bring most serious injury and advantages.
The payment in Flanders to the king of Scotland of a certain amount of cash will serve for no more than his support as it will not suffice to put vigour into any of the designs he is meditating, and it seems probable that these are more likely to be executed in the imagination than in actual fact. All his plans are made known to the Protector, who guards them with more secrecy than his Majesty, and learns the most recondite through the gold which he contributes to some who stand about the king. These are acquainted with all his secrets and betray him by revealing them to Cromwell. The knowledge which has reached his Majesty of the considerable sum of 150,000 crowns which is being provided for him at Madrid, to be forwarded speedily in notes of exchange, may delay the embassy which he proposed to send to the Catholic, as this money will supply his wants for some time and he may think it more prudent to spare the expense of this mission until such time as he is in greater and more urgent need.
London, the 2nd February, 1657.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 6.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
8. Francesco Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The gentleman sent by Cromwell who went to London some weeks ago has just got back to Court again. It is reported that he will take the character of ambassador in ordinary to his Majesty and that he has come to arrange the alliance with this crown. The negotiations proceed most secretly, and as he has never met the foreign ministers in the past it is most difficult to find out anything for certain.
Some members of the new sect of Quakers (trambleur) as they call themselves, have arrived in Rotterdam from London. Scattering about the country they began to preach their religion, so the heads of the Province were obliged to arrest four of their leaders, as the States do not want to permit the exercise of new faiths.
Paris, the 6th February, 1657.
[Italian.]
Feb. 9.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
9. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.
As directed by parliament the selected members went to Whitehall a week ago to congratulate the Protector on his escape. But they were not able to execute this mission in the manner intended owing to an unexpected accident which has upset everyone and caused no little harm and confusion to the delegates themselves and to others. They were to be received by his Highness in the great hall of public audience and he had proceeded thither for the purpose from his ordinary apartments. The deputies arrived and mounted a large wooden staircase which leads up from the Court of the palace to this hall. They had reached the top and were approaching the door when the staircase collapsed, involving all the members as well as all those present to see them. No one was killed on the spot but great numbers have suffered injury in the legs, arms and other parts of the body. One of the Protector's sons is seriously injured, (fn. 2) with other persons of quality. One councillor has already expired and others are on the point of doing so, while many are in a desperate condition and likely to pay the debt of nature. It was undoubtedly a serious accident and at Court they do not hesitate to state what they want believed: that it was contrived by the malice of those who are always plotting disorders and who expect to obtain considerable advantages by fishing in troubled waters. But the truth is that the staircase was crowded by the great throng gathered there out of curiosity to see the deputies appear, and being unable to bear the strain it inevitably collapsed and caused the accident.
The President of parliament, having recovered, as reported, was chosen as one of the deputation and was injured so seriously that there is fear for his life. Accordingly it has been necessary to nominate another in his place and the choice has fallen on Senator Whitelock, a member of the Council of State, formerly ambassador to the king of Sweden. He will occupy the post until the old one recovers and if the latter dies, a successor will be chosen for Whitelock, who has too much to attend to as there are too many affairs of consequence which require his attention and ripe counsel for the advantage of the state.
Not one of the questions discussed for so long in parliament has been settled. Disputes are constantly taking place over that of the major generals. This was noisily discussed all day yesterday and a good part of the night as well, but as they could not come to an agreement the decision has been postponed to a better opportunity. Many assert and those particularly who profess to foretell affairs of state infallibly, that they will be entirely abolished.
Nothing is yet heard of the transactions of Colonel Locart at Paris. Apparently he is preparing his equipage, as affairs of state are having a rest at that Court this carnival tide and they attend to nothing but dancing and amusement. As it rests with him to assume the character of ambassador it is assumed that he will soon do this and produce his credentials although he knows it is not necessary, if only for the stipend, as if he possesses that rank and publicly exercises its functions that should be raised above the 3000l. a year at present assigned to him, although the title merely involves the necessity for heavy expenditure.
Reports have come that some Dutch war ships bought by the Spaniards for their service have joined the fleet bringing treasure from the West Indies. If this is true it will be a powerful reinforcement to help them to get safely home, besides the help which Ruiter may give who is said to be going to join them for the purpose and not proceeding to the Mediterranean to root out the Barbary pirates according to the Dutch statement. Indeed the merchants here report that they have recent news of an encounter between Blake and Ruiter. The latter would not allow the English to search his ships or give the customary salute by lowering his flag, so Blake fired a gun killing three men, forcing Ruiter to respond to the same tune; an engagement ensued of no great length in which the English had the worse having a ship sunk and losing many men. Nothing is known of this at the palace, from what they say, so further information is eagerly awaited. It is true that if it had reached the Court they never would have published it, being unfavourable, though they do not lose a moment in publishing favourable news in every quarter of London, with the amplifications usual in places where they desire to gain advantage by such reports, although not entirely true.
Letters from Flanders arrived yesterday report the reconciliation of the duke of York with his brother, the king of Scotland, and that he has left Cologne to return to his Majesty. He is momentarily expected at Antwerp and will go on thence to Bruges. There is no doubt that the chief motive for this adjustment has been the money recently received by the king and the hope of receiving a much greater sum very soon, adjusted to the misfortunes which surround that unfortunate family.
London, the 9th February, 1657.
[Italian.]
Feb. 13.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
10. Francesco Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Colonel Lockhart still remains incognito at Paris and it has not yet been possible to discover what character he will take. He has brought his wife and all his household with him, which alone shows that he means to continue his residence at the Court.
Paris, the 13th February, 1657.
[Italian.]
Feb. 16.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
11. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.
At length, after many quarrels and disputes parliament has decided upon the questions of abolishing the major generals and the tenth from the royalist. The former are abolished, the three nearest having already resigned their charge in blind obedience to the washes of parliament. (fn. 3) The others who are farther from the capital will do the same. The decimations are also abolished, and so the cavaliers are sensibly relieved of burdens which were extremely irksome and too heavy for their backs, rendered ever weaker by the insufferable charges laid upon them from time to time without the slightest measure or discretion.
While the first has pleased the Protector as being entirely in accordance with his wishes and favouring his seat, as reported, the second is not altogether acceptable as consoling and strengthening the supporters of King Charles who from this decision in their favour may conceive hopes of further satisfaction furthering their interests and proportionately disserving those of the state. But parliament arrived at this decision solely to preserve its own privileges, which it does not wish to be usurped by the Council of State, and with no idea of benefiting the royalists, for reducing whom there are other ways.
To mitigate in part the dissatisfaction given to his Highness by this decision about the decimation parliament has voted a subsidy for once only, to be levied at once in all three kingdoms from persons of every condition without distinction. This should bring in 400,000l. and a committee has been set up to decide how best it may be exacted. It has definite orders from parliament to hasten the procedure as they propose to collect the money in a moment, so to speak, making the burden insensible to the people and to avoid exciting disturbance. Two proposals have so far been advanced for collecting the money, but nothing has yet been decided. The first is the payment of so much per head of the people, no one being exempted. The second is to impose a tax of so much per hearth, the number of which in all the houses of this country is out of all proportion. The amount in each case will not exceed a shilling of their money per head or hearth, or about 30 of our soldi; a small sum easily borne, which can be speedily collected and promptly paid without disturbance or outcry among the people.
The means for raising the other 120,000l. a month already granted by parliament have never been found. The committee established for the purpose does not relax its efforts to find a way, but before they have made up their minds the entire subsidy will have been spent; it is to be devoted to the war with Spain and to other pressing affairs of state. They decided on this course for greater despatch, the collection of the other sum being too subject to delay and disturbance, and to supply their immediate requirements, which will not wait, but demand the utmost despatch as the opening of the new campaign is rapidly approaching from which they hope to derive great advantage to draw rich profit. If fortune favours the vigorous and formidable preparations they are making to this end there is good reason for believing that the English will not be disappointed. But all depends upon the Spanish fleet the arrival or failure of which will make an enormous difference; rendering it difficult for either side to recover a favourable posture.
Nothing comes from the fleet and in the absence of confirmation of the news reported in my last everyone is eagerly waiting for information; it being probable that this was due more to imagination stimulated by private sympathies than to any foundation in fact.
A very large ship laden with munitions of war and provisions left here for Jamaica but encountered the Dunkirkers immediately after leaving these shores. After a vigorous resistance it had to yield to superior force and became the prize of those pirates. (fn. 4)
The peace concluded and ratified between England and Portugal, but never published has just been proclaimed by trumpet and celebrated with the usual formalities, bonfires and other rejoicings customary in the county in which the Portuguese minister took part. The gist of the proclamation consists of the following articles: every kind of war and all acts of hostility between the two nations shall cease; the people of both countries shall behave in friendly fashion to each other; neither state nor its subjects shall attack the other's fortresses, ports or rivers; they shall not assist rebels or fugitives or receive them in their dominions; there shall be free commerce and trade between this republic and Portugal and their peoples, by sea and land and in all their dominions, colonies and ports with liberty to go and come and dwell there without hindrance, while observing the laws and customs of each place, respectively. (fn. 5) These are the published articles; the secret ones remain hidden for the present nor will it ever be possible to discover them. So far as one may conjecture they only deal with an offensive and defensive alliance and a close and mutual union of interests; time will make this more clear.
London, the 16th February, 1657.
[Italian.]
Feb. 23.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
12. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Among those suspected and arrested for the conspiracy against his Highness was one Sindercomb, who formerly served in their army in Scotland but was cashiered by General Monk as a turbulent spirit likely to stir up mutinies. He was found to be the chief delinquent who induced the others to take part in this hazardous affair, involving many others whom they have not yet been able to find out and who, presumably persist in their wicked designs, thus keeping the autocrat in constant apprehension and giving him cause to remain constantly on the watch to preserve himself from some sinister blow which might unexpectedly surprise and destroy him. On Monday Sindercomb was condemned to be drawn at the horse's tail, hanged, drawn and quartered, the parts set up at the principal gates of London and the head on a tower in the middle of the bridge, as is usually done here with traitors and with the priests and friars who are considered rebels and are condemned and executed as such if found exercising the profession of priest. The execution was to have taken place yesterday but it was countermanded the evening before for reasons not yet made known except to him who gave the order. The delay is believed to be largely due to the wish to make this assassin pay dear for his crimes and from the discovery of an arrangement between him and the keeper of the prisons to take him poison and enable him to escape in that way from the ignominious fate of his sentence. This being discovered the keeper was immediately secured and they are examining him to find out who persuaded him to give poison to the convict.
The committee set up to decide how to raise the money for the war and other requirements has not adopted either of the two means suggested. It has decreed that for 3 months, from 25 March next to the 24th June, England shall pay 60,000l. a month in the form of tax, Scotland 15,000l. and Ireland 20,000l. As all these together do not come to the 400,000l. in the three months, the tax will be confirmed for three months longer, and in this way an amount in excess of the grant will be collected, making ordinary a tax that was called extraordinary and which they gave the people to understand was to be for one occasion only. This method of raising so large an amount is more likely to inflame the people than any of the others proposed before and will make them grumble the more because they will clearly perceive that the only reason why it was preferred to others which might have been more agreeable, seeing that they had to pay, was to charge them with this insufferable burden for ever. Appearances clearly indicate that it will be continued as they have to find an equal sum monthly for old impositions and new ones are expected to meet the other resolution of parliament to raise 120,000l. a month from the three kingdoms, for the raising of which no method has yet been devised. Perhaps they will let it drop and will prefer to go on with the first to avoid loading the people with so many outrageous charges, one upon the other and to prevent them from being driven by despair to take some virile resolution to rid themselves of all these burdens at one stroke and shake off the heavy yoke to which they must bow their necks.
It is considered certain that the present parliament will have to continue until September at which time another should be summoned in accordance with the terms of the Instrument of Government that a fresh one shall be chosen or the old one confirmed, the decision being left with the Protector and his Council. As the term of this one expires in September and as its measures chime in so well with the desires of his Highness, men anticipate its confirmation for another 12 months and even more; if it continues the same course in its decrees and deliberations.
They labour incessantly at the equipment of the new fleet which they intend to send to sea as soon as it is ready. Owing to the shortage of sailors they are taking by force all those who arrive in the ports here in merchantmen and transfer them to the men of war. They did the same last year to provide crews for the fleet which was then about to sail and which is now off Spain waiting for the fleet from the Indies with the silver.
Your Serenity's missives of the 20th January reached me last week, with particulars about the readmission of the Jesuit fathers, which will serve to guide me in any discussion on the subject.
London, the 23rd February, 1657.
Postscript: I have just received a letter from the secretary of state on behalf of Thomas Galilee, which I enclose herewith.
[Italian.]
Enclosure.13. John Thurloe, Secretary of State, to Francesco Giavarina.
Asks for payment of the money due to the son of the bearer, Thomas Galilee, whose son was captured by the Turks about 4 years ago when in the Venetian service, and is now in slavery; and that he may be exchanged for some Turkish prisoner.
Dated at Whitehall, the 12th February, 1656–7.
[Latin and English.]
Feb. 24.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Germania.
Venetian
Archives.
14. Gio. Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The king of England had many devices and high hopes of bringing off some important stroke against Cromwell; but all is languishing, because the money which should come from Spain for the purpose delays the realisation, or rather it is in suspense, because at present all the attention of that Court is firmly rivetted on the design against Portugal.
Vienna, the 24th February, 1656 [M.V.]
Italian.]

Footnotes

1 Apparently the date was old style. Mercurius Politicus, Jan. 15–22, 1667.
2 Richard's shoulder was much bruised. Camden Soc.: Clarke Papers, Vol. iii., page 87.
3 The Militia Bill was defeated on 29 January, o.s., Journal of the House of Commons, Vol. VII, page 483. The three nearest major generals would presumably be Barkstead for Middlesex, Fleetwood for the Eastern Counties and Kelsey for Kent.
4 The William, Capt. Robert Gurling, taken off Land's End two hours after being left by her convoying ship the Fagon. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1656–7, pp. 538, 543.
5 The proclamation was made on January 24, o.s. The articles are printed in the Publick Intelligencer for Jan. 19–26. See also Cal. S.P. Dom., 1656–7, page 244.