Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 1, 1618-29. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
My Business in this ensuing Work, is to render a faithful Account of several Traverses of State, and of the most important Passages in debate, between the respective Advocates for Prerogative and Liberty. The Dispute (in the Event) was Tragical and Fatal, as being the Introduction, and that which gave the Alarm to the Civil War; a War, fierce, unnatural, and full of wonderful Coincidences, both in the Causes and Consequences of it. Humanum est Humanis casibus ingemiscere. Therefore If I studied to please my self, and gratifie the Inclination of my own Temper and Affection, you might peradventure hear from me of the Courage, Exploits and Success of my Country-men in Forreign Expeditions, but not of their Animosities in Domestick Encounters: Yet certainly, of some use it may be to us, and of concernment also to those that may come after us, Infandum renovare dolorem, to consider indifferently how we came to fall out among our selves, and so to learn the true Causes, the rises and growths of our late Miseries, the strange Alterations and Revolutions; with the Characters of divers eminent Persons, the Mutability of Councils, the Remarkableness of Actions, the Subtilty of Pretentions, and the Drifts of several Interests. From such Premisses, the best Deduction which, can be made, is, to look up to, and acknowledge God, who only is unchangeable, and to admire his Wisdom and Providence, even in Humane Miscarriages: For Empires, and Kingdoms, and Common-wealths, every where in the World, have their Periods, but the Histories thereof remain and live, for the Instruction of Men, and Glory of God.
I find an Expression in Sir Walter Rawleigh's Preface to his History of the World, which seems to suit well with these Collections. I shall make so far bold with that Memorable Person, whose Death bears a sad part in this Story, as to borrow his own words.
It is not the least debt (faith he) which we owe unto History, that it hath made us acquainted with our dead Ancestors, and delivered us their Memory and Fame: Besides, we gather out of it a Policy no less Wise than Eternal by the Comparison and Application of other Men's forepassed Miseries, with our own-like Errors and Ill-deservings; but it is neither of Examples the most lively Instructions, nor the Words of the wisest Men, nor the Terror of future Torments, that hath yet so wrought in our blind and stupified Minds, as to make us remember, That the infinite Eye and Wisdom of God doth so pierce through all our pretences, as to make us remember, That the justice of God doth require no other Accuser than our own Consciences.
And though it hath pleased God to reserve the Art of reading Men's Thoughts to himself; yet as the Fruit tells the name of the Tree, so do the outward Works of Men, so far as their Cogitations are acted, give us whereof to guess at the rest: No Man can long continue masqued in a counterfeit behaviour; the things that are forced for pretences, having no ground of Truth, cannot long dissemble their own natures.
And although Religion (faith he) and the Truth thereof be in every Man's Mouth, what is it other than an universal dissimulation? We profess that we know God, but by Works we deny him: Beatitudo non est divinorum cognitio, sed vita divina. There is nothing more to be admired, nothing more to be lamented, than the private contention, the passionate dispute, the personal hatred, &c. about Religion amongst Christians, insomuch as it hath well near driven the practice thereof out of the World: So that we are in effect (faith he) become Comedians in Religion: For Charity, Justice and Truth have but their being in Terms amongst us.
In the close of his Preface, he adviseth the Reader to take heed how he follows Truth too close at the heels, left it strike out his Teeth. I hope this Story begins with a distance of Time, not so far off, as the Footstepts of Truth are worn out; nor yet so near, as the heels of it need to be feared. But this I am sure, That had I not gone so far back as I do, I had not reached the Fundamentals to the History of these Times. It hath been observed by some, That most Historians speak too much, and say too little: I doubt others will think, I speak too little and say too much. So it will be difficult to please all.
I know very well, the Collections which I publish will receive no advantage nor commendation from the Collector: And that it may likewise receive no prejudice, I am as ready to confess, as any Man in the World is to object, my wants and inabilities; which indeed, to Men of sober Discourse, may render me unfit to be entertained in the Council, but not unqualified to be Impanelled of the Jury: For I began early to take in Characters, Speeches and passages at Conferences in Parliament, and from the King's own Mouth, when he spake to both the Houses; and have been upon the Stage continually, and an Eye and Ear-witnses of the greatest Transactions; imployed as an Agent in, and intrusted with the Affairs of weightiest Concernment; Privy also both to the Debates in Parliament, and to the most secret results of Councils of War, in times of Action. Which I mention without ostentation; only to qualifie me to report to Posterity, what will rather be their wonder at first, than their belief: It is pity they should altogether be deprived of the advantages which they may reap from our Misfortunes. Hereafter they will hear, that every Man almost in this Generation durst fight for what either was, or pretended to be Truth: They should also know, that some durst write the Truth: whilst other Men's Fancies were more busie than their Hands, forging Relations, building and battering Castles in the Air; publishing Speeches as spoken in Parliament, which were never spoken there; printing Declarations which were never passed, relating Battels which were never fought, and Victories which were never obtained; dispersing Letters which were never writ by the Authors; together with many such Contrivances, to abet a Party or Interest. Pudet heœ opprobria. Such practises, and the experience I had thereof, and the impossibility for any Man in After-ages to ground a true History, by relying on the Printed Pamphlets in our days, which passed the Press whilst it was without controul, obliged me to all the pains and charge I have been at for many years together, to make a great Collection; and whilst things were fresh in memory, to separate Truth from Falshood, things real from thing fictitious or imaginary. Whereof I shall not at all repent, if I may but prove an ordinary Instrument to undeceive those that come after us.
If you demand why my Collections commence so early, and start at such a distance of time so remote, I must answer, That it was at first in my purpose to begin with the Parliament which met Nov. 3. 1640. But after I had perused, ordered, and compared my Printed and Manuscript-Relations of the First year of that Parliament, I found they pointed at, and were bottom'd upon some Actions of the late King, in dissolving four preceding Parliaments: And thereupon, the zeal I had to clear the truth of the Differences between the King and Parliament, forced me to a longer Adventure; especially seeing the Essay had been very imperfect, and but a meer fragment, if I had only writ the Death, and not the Life of a Prince, who, in the first Speech that ever he made in his first Parliament, did reflect upon some Passages in a former Parliament, that advised his Father to break off the two Treaties with Spain, touching a Marriage, and the Restitution of the Palatinate; and so engaged the Father in a War, which the Son was by him left to prosecute. And this Consideration put me upon a further enquiry concerning the aforesaid Treaties, the Causes and Grounds of the War in the Palatinate; and how far the same concerned England, and the oppressed Protestants in Germany: And finding those Proceedings to have their rise in the Year 1618. (in which Year the Blazing-Star appeared) I resolved that very instant should be the Ne plus ultra of my Retrospect.
I allow and accept it as a good Memento, which I meet with in a late Author, That most Writers now adays appear in Publick, not crook-backed (as it is reported of the fews) but crook-sided, warped, and bowed to the right, or to the left. For I have heartily studied to declare my self unbiassed, and to give an instance, that it is possible for an Ingenuous Man to be of a Party, and yet not Partial.
I pretend only in this Work to a bare Narrative of matter of Fact, digested in order of time; not interposing my own Opinion, or interpretation of Actions. I infuse neither Vinegar nor Gall in my Ink: If I mention a Charge or Impeachment, it relates also the Defence that was made by the Accused. And though in these latter times, Titles, Names, and Dignities are altered; yet I use the Language of that Time of which I write, speaking as the then Parliaments spake, and not robbing any Man of the Honour or Epithete which they then pleased to give him. If I speak of any transactions which I my self did not fee or hear, I do so with all the caution imaginable, having first consulted Records, conferred with Persons of unquestionable esteem, interessed in the very Actions, or perused their known Hand-writings of those Times; and where I make mention of any Letters or Passages scattered in Print, I first well weighed the same, and out of whose Closets they came, and found many of them concredited before I inserted them.
Here you will have an intermixture of Secrets of State useful for States-men, and of matters of Law, which be of some use, not only to the professors of it, but to every Englishman: for though few profess the Law, yet all live by it; for it hedges in, and upholds the Rights, Liberties, and Properties: The matters of Law are not all bound up in one bundle, but you will find them dispersed in interlocutory Speeches and Discourses; some of them in Historical Narrations; and lastly, in Polemical Debates and Arguments, taken by a Gentleman, then a young Student in the Law, which you will find in an Appendix placed at the end of the Book; and I hope the Reader will not think his minutes ill-bestowed in reading of them, though out of place.
A great part of the Work is filled up with remarkable Transactions in Parliament, and the Course and Proceedings thereof, wherein you will find, not only great Wit and Wisdom, but choice Eloquence, and excellent Orators, Diggs, Wentworth, Philips, Elliot, Glanvile, and others, not much inferiour to the chiefest of the Roman Demagogues. I durst not presume to contract them to an Epitome or Abridgment, left by essaying that, I might trespass too much upon the Soil of other Men's Inventions and Judgments, or prejudice Truth, or the Persons, whose natural Offsprings they are. Here you have Debates, Shiftings, and Consultations of each House apart; and also by Conferences with each other (Alterius sic Altera poscit opem Domus & consultat Amice) and Resolutions of Parliaments, and some Laws which were the ultimate production of these Counsels and Debates.
The Second Part of my Collections, commencing with the Year 1630. and ending in November 1640. (where in is contained the Transactions of Eleven years interval of Parliament) makes but the Second Part of my Introduction to the History of the Civil War, which afterwards happened, but it is not intended to be published, but at a greater distance of time, which I shall write with the more confidence, because I did personally attend and observe all Occurrences of moment during that Interval in the Star-Chamber, Court of Honour, and Excbequer-Chamber, when all the Judges of England met there upon extraordinary Cases; at the Council-Table, when great Causes were heard before the King and Council: And when matters were agitated at a greater distance, I was there also, and went on purpose out of a curiosity to fee and observe the passages at the Camp at Barwick, at the Fight at Newborn, at the Treaty at Rippon, at the Great Council at York, and at the Meeting of the Long Parliament, and present every day at the Trial of the Earl of Strafford. The Observations I made during all the said time shall be further known, if I be encouraged to proceed, and that this my Forlorn be not repelled and defeated.
Thus have I (good Reader) acquainted thee in plain English, with the Lines and rude Draughts of what hath been, and what is like to be multorum annorum opus; in which, as I never did approve, so neither could I perswade my self to tread in their Steps, who intermingle their Passion with their Stories, and are not content to write of, unless they write also for a Party, or to serve an Interest; and so declare themselves far better Advocates than Historians: I profess that in singleness of heart, I aim at Truth, which to me has always seemed hugely amiable, even without the tires and advantages of Wit and Eloquence: And therefore, in order to my greatest purpose, I have esteemed the most unaffected and familiar Stile the best; Altum alii teneant. And so irresistable is the force of Truth, and the Divine Providence so great, that howsoever all possible diligence may have been used to carry things in secret, and to act by colourable Pretences (Men often acting like Tumblers, that are squint-eyed, looking one way, and aiming another) yet in these our days hath God brought great things to light, discovering many secrets and close contrivances, many private consultations and hidden designs, which otherwise probably, neither we nor our posterity should have ever known. I conclude this my Preface with the Remark of a Learned Spaniard, on History in general: Satis est Historie, si sit vera; quœ ut reliqua habeat omnia, si veritatem non habeat, obtinere nomen suum non potest.