To the Reader

Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 4, 1640-42. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.

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To The Reader.

Difficilis est rerum gestarum narratio: quæ absentem fugiunt, præsentem trahunt, Grot.

It is observed by a very Learned Historian of this Age, That it is a hard Matter to write a good History; because, if the Author be an Eye-witness, he is apt to lean to a Party; if not, be can hardly attain a true knowledge of Affairs. The latter of these Difficulties Mr. Rushworth, the Author of these Historical Collections, could not possibly labour under, since be was not only present when these Things were transacted, but had all Opportunities of gaining due Information, and made it the chief Business of his Life to gain it. Nora was it possible for him to take a better Course than he has done, to avoid all suspicion of Partiality: For he seldom speaks in his own Person, because he would not have the Truth of his History to depend upon his own Credit. The Proceedings in Parliament, he has from the Journals of both Houses. The Reasons of both Sides for betaking themselves to Arms, and their several Justifications, are delivered in their own Words, expressed in their Declarations, Remonstrances, Petitions, Addresses, and their Answers. Actions in the Field are related from Letters of Persons concerned in the Actions themselves, or from Such Prints as were then published, and not in the least suspected of Falshood. And wherever the Contending Parties gave out different Relations, those different Relations are published at large in their own Words.

Those two Difficulties therefore of Ignorance and Partiality, being here surmounted, the former by God's Providence and the Author's Industry and the latter by his Integrity, which appears in his Method of Writing, with which Partiality is inconsistent; the Benefit of these Collections to Posterity is not only the same with that of all True History, but is such as must needs yield us more useful Observations than any other History can do; Since the Subject Matter of them so nearly concerns us (it being no other than the Preservation of our Ancient Laws and Government, that was then pretended to be fought for on both Sides); and the Time in which these Things were transacted, is so very late, that the same Laws and Government, which through God's Blessing we now enjoy the Fruits of, did, or ought to have obtained when these Distractions began. That violent Inroads were made upon them, and the very Frame of the Government unhing'd, we all know: But by whose, and what Means, and by what Steps the Misunderstandings betwixt the King and His Parliament grew to such a Height, as to involve Three Nations in so many years War, the Judicious Reader must observe and judge for himself by the Matter of Fact disclosed, as it were in a Special Verdict, and by the Arguments on both Sides.

None can find fault with the Publishing such a History as this, be their Judgments or Prejudices what they will in favour of either Party, who are not unwilling or afraid of having Truth brought to Light.

  • A very few Things the Reader is to be advertised of; As Ist, That whereas some few Things are referred to an Appendix, which were intened to have been added at the End of the Second Volume; the same has upon some Considerations been declined; and that at the End of the Last Volume of the Next Part, there will be inserted an Appendix both to this Part, and that, all under one.
  • 2. That whereas in the Title of this History, Things are mentioned to be delivered in order of Time: Where the History proceeds by way of Diary, the Series of Time is pursed, and Matters of Fact represented in order of Time as they happened; but some Important Affairs and Occurrences of one and the same kind are ranked together in their particular Classes, which compose the several Chapters, where such Occurrences are related apart, as a separte, distinct History by themselves; and was done to avoid Confusion, which must needs have been occasioned by the perpetual interfering of so Remarkable Affairs with each other.
  • 3. That the Copy having been distributed to several Presses, there are in two or three Places Mistakes committed in the Paging, though there be no Breach in the History.
  • 4. That these Collections are all Mr. Rushworth's own, and with great Care and Pains methodized by him in his Life-time, and designed for the Press; but the Circumstances of the Times hindred him from making them Publick before his Death.