The trial of Strafford: The thirteenth article

Pages 416-426

Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 8, 1640-41. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.

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In this section

The Thirteenth Article.

The Charge.


13. That Flax being one of the principal and Native Commodities of that Kingdom of Ireland, the said Earl having gotten Great Quantities thereof into his Hands, and growing on his own Lands, did Issue out several Proclamations, viz. The one Dated the One and Thirtieth of May, in the Twelfth of his Majesty's Reign; and the other Dated the One and Thirtieth Day of January, in the same Year; Thereby prescribing and enjoyning the Working of Flax into Yarn and Thread, and the ordering of the same in such waves, wherein the Natives of that Kingdom were unpractised and unskilful: Which Proclamations so Issued, were, by his Commands and Warrants to his Majesty's Justices of Peace, and other Officers, and, by other Rigorous Means put in Execution; and the Flax Wrought, or ordered in other manner then as the said Proclamation prescribed, was Seized and employed to the Use of him and his Agents: and thereby the said Earl endeavoured to gain, and did gain in effect the Sole Sale of that Native Commodity.

April 1. 1641

The Tirteenth Article was this Day Read and Opened by Mr. Maynard, concerning Flax, one of the Native Commodities of the Kingdom, which my Lord of Strafford, by several Proclamations, enjoyned the Natives to work into Yarn, in a way wherein they were Unskilful; and Prohibited the Buying of any Yarn of this Flax otherwise made; and upon this occasion, much was Seized: So that by the Complaints of the Commons, it appears, that Thousands were Undone, their Goods being taken away, and Converted to my Lord's Use.

For Proof,

The Second Proclamation of Deputy and Counsel was Read; wherein the first is Recited, Importing in effect, That by reason of the multiplicity of Ends in Yarn, there is much confusion; That for remedy, a Proclamation Issued the last of May last, which hath taken good effect: and, in regard some ill-disposed Persons have nevertheless Contracted for Yarn at cheap and low Rates, though not made according to the first Proclamation; That therefore the said first Proclamation be strictly observed, and that none presume to Buy any Linnen-Yarn, but shall be Reeled on one End, and no more, &c. That if any Person shall, after the first of April next, offend, contrary to this Proclamation, he shall he proceeded against at the Council-Board, or Castle-Chamber: Some are appointed to enquire of Contempts, to whom Recompence is promised. Given, &c. 31 Jan. 12 Car. 1638.

The Natives not being able to apply themselves to his Commands, a Warrant went to Seize the Goods, made, or brought contrary to this Proclamation; so that the People forbore the Markets, durst not Sell none openly, and so could not pay their Rents.

The Warrant was produced under my Lord of Strafford's Hand and Seal, which his Lordship affirmed, being in effect,

By the Lord Deputy Wentworth.

To all Justices of the Peace, &c. Whereas Benjamin Croky is Authorized to inform himself, and advertise the State, of Abuses and Contempts committed and done, against a Proclamation made for Reformation of the Abuse of Spinsters of Linnen Yarn, and to stay all Yarn made contrary, &c. till Our Pleasure be further known: And whereas he now informs us, he cannot discharge that Trust, in regard diverse Persons do privily, in their own Houses, and not in open Markets, make Sale of their Yarn; and though he hath desired Assistance of Publick Magistrates, yet they have failed to afford him the same, in that measure that is fitting: In Consideration whereof Our Pleasure is, and we do hereby require and authorize you, to be aiding and assisting to Benjamin Croky and his Deputy, To seize on, and take all Yarn which shall be found to be made contrary to the said Proclamation, and to cause diligent Search to be made in all Houses, &c. where you shall be informed any such Remains lie hidden, and the same to seize and bring to Dublin, to be disposed of, as We shall direct the Party delivering it, taking Croky's Hand for Receipt thereof, &c.

To prove Execution of it.

Benjamin Croky, Witness.

Benjamin Croky Sworn, was Interrogated, Whether he, by vertue hereof, hath Seized any Yarn, and how much? And how it was disposed of?

He Answered, That his Deputy did Seize Yarn, and it was taken from him by means of Joseph Carpenter the Steward, who received the Yarn into his Custody, and converted it into my Lord's Looms. He doth not know what Quantities, but it was a great Parcel; And, he thinks, it was to Carpenter's Use, but most Part of it unto my Lord's. Further, this Steward did employ John Townesend to Buy Yarn, contrary to the Proclamation; He also imployed others to Buy some for my Lord's Use and his own. This he knows.

Sir John Clotworthy Witness.

Sir John Clotworthy Interrogated, What he hath known done in Execution of these Commands, being a Justice of Peace ?

He Answered, That he had formerly heard of this Proclamation; and another Dated in May, concerning the Yarn Business, That there was this same, or the Copy of this same Warrant, under my Lord Deputy's Hand, brought to him, being a Justice of Peace; and he required to give Assistance in it: That he sent for the People that had been Distressed in the, Business, and likewise the Party employed by this Crooky, and one White named in the Proclamation, to know, by what Authority they put this in Execution? Thereupon they produced both the Proclamation and this Warrant.

That he conceived, there was an Extrajudicial proceeding in it, and therefore took Examination of it; and found, in the putting of the thing in Execution, That whereas there was a Clause in the Proclamation, They should Seize on all Yarn, that was not an Hundred Threads every Skean, and should Seize on it when they found it short of this.

That having taken the Examinations, he sent them up to my Lord Deputy (they being now out of his Head) with a Letter, Declaring the Abuse of the Business: That he heard, nothing in Return of the Business; but was severely Threatned; and received a Letter from Mr. Secretary Little, then my Lord Lieutenants Secretary: That it was very ill taken, that he interposed in any thing, wherein my Lord was concerned: And my Lord Rainalaugh had much ado to keep off a Serjeant at Arms to be sent for him.

E. of Strafford.

My Lord of Strafford desired the Letter might be shown: But, Sir John Answered, That it was Written four or five Years ago, and he did not keep it; but, if Mr. Secretary Little be Interrogated, he doubts not but he will acknowledge it.

L. Rainalaugh.

Lord Rainalaugh being Interrogated to the same effect?

He Answered, It is true, he was at Dublin when some Information had been given Sir John clotworthy, for something had been done in the Yarn. Business, and that he apply'd himself to Sir George Ratcliffe, to desire him to preserve Sir George from an ill Office, and Sir George moved in it accordingly, so that Sir John escaped trouble at that time: For the Execution of the Warrant about the Flax, that he knows is this White, or his Fellow, or one of them, he knows not whether; but, he coming to the Fair of Athlone (where, the Lord Rainalaugh's Residence is) gave a Deputation to John Dennis, a Soldier of my Lord Wilmot's; and, that within little time after, several Complaints were brought to him, as well by some of the Townsmen of Athlone, or divers of the Countrey, that this Dennis had seized on a great deal of Yarn in the Shops in the Town, and abroad in the Country.

That he sent for the Soldier, and Asked him, By what Authority he did so? Who thereupon shewed the Proclamation, a Warrant from my Lord Deputy, and such a kind of Warrant as this; (whether a Warrant, or a Copy, he cannot say) That he Examined what proportion of Yarn he had taken; and, he told the Lord Rainalaugh, he had as much as a Cart could carry: Asking him what he would do with it ? The said Dennis Answered, He would carry it to Dublin: And he asking him farther, What he would do with it there ? He told him (the Lord Rainalaugh) he had direction to deliver it to Mr. Carpenter, my Lord Deputy's Steward: That he, the Lord Rainalaugh, meddled not with it, but thereupon Posted a Gentleman to Dublin, that he had ready Access to the Deputy, and told him the Complaints, and this Abuse, by Execution of that Warrant: and, that though it was not agreeable to my Lord of Strafford's Intentions (he conceived) to have them used, he thought fit to Represent them: Thereupon, He the Lord Rainalaugh went to Dublin.

Sir John Clotworthy Witness.

Sir John Clotworthy being Interrogated, What he knows about breaking open of Chests, for finding of Flax, or any thing of that Nature.

He Answered, That (as it hath been laid open) immediately on the Issuing of these Proclamations, and these Mens going abroad. The Markets were deserted, and little came to the Markets at all though it were the most Native Commodity of the Kingdom, and paid most Part of the May Rents; For, it is That the Women Work on all the Winter-Season: And, when the Markets were deserted, People were fain to bring their Yarn into Houses, and Sell it under shelter, where they might not be seen, nor these Fellows Seize on it; That thereupon these Men would come to Justices of Peace, and Officers, and they came to Sir John himself, and though he would not assist, they would threaten the Constables, and break open Chests, and thereupon he the said Sir John Clotworthy took away Yarn from them, and restored it to the Proprietors. This was done in the Town and County of Antrim: that he cannot tell how long it is since; but, it was in pursuance of this Proclamation and Warrant.

Being Asked, Whether the People were not ready to rise in Tumults and Uproars, where these were Executed?

He Answered, That it made very great Disorder, and great Reason for it; for, they took away all they had provided for their Half Year's Rent, and many People, even Multitudes, starved.

Lord Rainalaugh Witness.

Lord Rainalaugh being Interrogated the Time, Answered, He could not tell the certain Time; but, my Lord of Strafford did withdraw it himself.

Mr. Gough, Witness.

Patrick Gough being Interrogated, Where he had the Remonstrance of the House of Commons?

He Answered, It was delivered him the 25th of February, in the Commons House of Parliament in Ireland, the whole House Sitting: To be transmitted to the Committee for Irish Affaires here, with many other things.

Which Remonstrance was Read, being, in effect, the most Lamentable Complaint of the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses chosen for the Provinces of Conaught, and Ulster, touching that most Cruel Extortion, or rather Robbery committed by a Company of Pursivants, sent abroad to Seize Yarne, by Colour of divers Proclamations by the Lord Deputy, Jannuary and May, 1636.

  • I. The said Pursivants came into all the Publick Markets, and seized on all the Linnen-Yarne and Clothing, by which the Markets were destroyed.
  • II. The Merchant was forced to meet the People at their private Houses; which they understanding, way-layed the People, and took away their Yarne, and Cloth, and Seized on what the Merchants had bought.
  • III. When any came to the Markets, they went to the Houses of poor People, and took up the Hutches where their Cloth lay, and seized on all, leaving not so much as to cover their Nakedness.
  • IV. They took away all the poor Peoples Iron Pots, on pretence of another Proclamation, so that on this great Cruelty, which exceeded Pharaoh's, the poor Children were forced to go into the Fields, to eat Grass with the Beasts of the Field, where they lay down and Died by Thousands; If it be deny'd, it will be proved by Twenty Thousand: and the Judges of Assize, &c. procured my Lord Lieutenant to recall all the foresaid Praclamations.

Mr. Fitzgarret Witness.

Mr. Fitzgarret being Interrogated, as to the Value of this Commodity, to the Kingdom of Ireland ?

He Answered, That he hath known the Province of Ulster, and had occasion to converse with the best of it for 24 Years last past: That he was for 8 Years imployed in the Circuit for these Parts, and observed, the Natives made a very great Commodity of Yarne and Lennen-Cloth: That he may safely call it the Staple-Commodity of that Part of the Kingdom; That the Merchants Buying their Yarne, and transporting it to Lancaster, it was a very great Commodity, and many lived on it; That the Proclamation and Execution of it (as he was informed by a Man of very good rank, Impoverished the whole Province, especially the Irish Natives, of whom few have Lands or Estates, but live as Tenants; and the Lands there not yielding Wheat or Barley in abundance (as other Countries) they convert the best Lands to the Sowing of Flax, and make a very great Commodity of it; That he had continual Conference, especially in Term-time, with the best in those Parts, and especially Mr. Robert Braithwait, Agent for my Lord of Essex, and Dr. Cook, of whose two Towns, one is supported by this Commodity, and Dr. Cook said, there hath been a Hundred Pounds worth of Yarn in a Day sold and bought in that Place, and by this means the Markets are wasted, the People impoverished, and that he the said Dr. Cook thinks in his Conscience, many thousands are farnished by the scarcity of Money that ensued on the Seizing of this; and the Extremity was such, that one of the Deputies of those Mens authorizing, went into the House of a Scotchman in the Parts of Ulster (himself being in England or Scotland) would open the Chests, and used such Cruelty, that they thrust a stick into the Woman's Throat, and the dy'd of it, and the Man was Tried for it, as he was informed.

Mr. Maynard.

And so Mr. Maynard concluded the Charge, supposing it to be sufficiently Proved.

After a little Respite, my Lord of Strafford made his Defence in Substance as followeth.

That in this Charge, he hears somethings tending to Oppression, but nothing at all towards Treason, for which he is only to Answer.

That the Intention of these Proclamation touching Yarn, was certainly very good, and he thinks the Power very Lawfully Executed, being but Temporary, to take away an Abuse, and make it better for the Common-wealth.

That he conceives not, how these Proclamations should be particularly laid on him, for he hath very good Company goes along with him, being set out by the Deputies and Council, and affixed to them the Hands of my Lord Loftus, the Lord Primate, the Archbishop of Dublin, Earl of Ormond, Lord Dillon, Sir Adam Loftus, the two Chief justices, and others: That he had rather Answer all, than impute any thing to any body else, but he believes their Lordships will conceive he is not particularly Answerable, for things done by the advice of the Council, as for the best.

That he conceives they had Power to issue these Proclamations, as in other things was frequent, as in Drawing by the Horse Taill, Burning the Straw, and so taking the Corn from it; to bring them from these Irish Customs to the English Manners: So in this, that their winding of Thread might be brought off with more conveniency, as being of so much more Value; for the unwinding was as much trouble as the thing was worth, so that the Authority was Lawful, and well Executed in the granting of it.

He craved leave to tell their Lordships wherefore it was, being desirous to regulate this Business more than any other thing whatsoever; And it was out of that Duty and Service he did, and ever should owe to the English Nation; however for the present, he may not be thought one, he had those affections, and shall have to his Death, to wish the Kingdom all Prosperity and Happiness, in all the Parts of it.

That at his coming over, he did Observe, the Wooll of that Kingdom did increase very much, that if it should there be wrought into Cloth, it would be a very great prejudice in time to the Clothing Trade of England, and therefore he was willing, as much as he might Lawfully and fairly, to discourage that Trade: That on the other side, he was desirous to set up the Trade of Linnen Cloth, which would be beneficial there, and not prejudice the Trade in England; But it was extreamly to his loss, for he says he lost 3000 l. and the Steward's Chamber being searched, and it appearing so, the Accounts were delivered back again; so that he conceives they had Lawful Power so to do, till a Law might make it more certain and settled; and then he is Answerable for nothing in all the rest, because the execution was nothing to him, and the abuses of the Officers he is not to Answer for, of whom Crcky was the principal Executor, and if there was an Offender, he is the greatest Offender himself, and my Lord Rainalaugh tells their Lordships plainly and truly, that upon Complaint of the ill Execution of it, it was absolutely recalled, and that within two Years: so if it were a Fault he was not incorrigible, but willing to amend it on the first notice.

For the Warrant, there is nothing proved of any thing amiss in him, but it goes only to second the Proclamation, and that there should be assistance in the due and just Execution of it: only it says the Yarn shall be brought to Dublin, there to be disposed of, as he should direct; but there is no Proof of any brought to him, only my Lord Rainalaugh mentions a Cart-load brought to Dublin, as the Fellow told him; and Crcky says, some was brought to Dublin (but he knows not how much) and it was converted partly to his Use, partly to Carpenter's, but he is a single Witness; whereas my Lord Rainalaugh says, there was taken at Athlone(as he was told) a Cart-load of Yarn, and Sir John Clotworthy says, they starved by Multitudes in Ulster; my Lord of Stafford said, He could not conceive how so litte Quantity taken in Conaught, should be an occasion of starving Multitudes in Ulster, nor the small Quantities taken by Croky; but if there were so many starved, it must be occasioned by some other Means than this.

That his Looms should be an occasion of starving so many Men, he conceives very strange, for in Truth, the Value of Cloth made in those Looms in a Year (which he left his Tenants to manage) was not, as he remembers, above 16 or 1700 l. and if their Lordships consider the Value of the Yarn with the Labour, they would wonder the making of such a Quantity in a Year should starve so many Thousands.

It is very true, (he said) he's sorry for that Remonstrance, read of the Commons House in Ireland, thinking he had merited a better Opinion in that Kingdom; but howsoever they have been informed, he doubts not, but when things are shewed them more clearly, than they have been hitherto, he shall have their good Opinion still; he never in Truth, doing or saying any thing in all his Life, but with very clear and faithful Intentions to the Good and Prosperity of that Common-wealth and Kingdom; his Lordships added, That he had some little Fortune amongst them, not great indeed, nothing near that which is reported, hardly the Fifth Part, but something he had there, honestly and justly come by, and for that reason he had cause to wish well to the Kingdom; and it grieved him extreamly to hear such a Remonstrance read: There would be a time he hoped, when he should have Means to give them better satisfaction; but it is but a Charge, and cannot (under favour) be the Proof of a Charge, being only received by Information and Witnesses, and no Oath being given by the Commons-House, he conceived it could not be made a Proof against him, but the Truth of the Charge comes to be Examined; for the Remonstrance says, That these Things will be Proved by 20000. To which he can say nothing, but that he is infinitely sorry, he should be so mistaken in that Kingdom, where (to his best understanding, his Conscience tells him he hath deserved very well (with Modesty be it spoken, his Lordship added) of them all, and desired to do Justice amongst them, and there would come a time when he should be better understood, as well there, as here he hoped.

For the Testimony of Mr. Fitzgarret, he speaks nothing of knowledge, but what he hath been informed and heard, and what hath been credibly reported to him, and those are no Proofs to be Judicially taken, as he conceived, nothing being by Mr. Fitzgarret spoken, but by Report; and their Lordships have heard this reported as well as he, yet knew not whether it be true, further than is proved.

So he concluded where he began, Something may look like an Oppression in them that did Execute it, but nothing as to himself and the rest of the Counsel, who issued the Proclamation on just and warrantable Grounds, and according to that Power they had from the King, which he conceived was a full and clear Acquittal of him (humbly submitting to their Lordships better Judgments) of this Article, so far forth, as it amounts in any kind, to convince him of High-Treason.

Mr. Maynard.

To which Mr. Maynard made Reply in substance as Followeth, And first he observed,

That my Lord of Strafford was still striking on the same string, here (said he) is no Treason, though something tending to Oppression, and so at this rate, he can never want an Answer: for if this be not (in this particular) as high and wilful an overthrow of the Fundamental Rules and Justice of the Kingdom, as can be imagined, I appeal to your Lordships: and that it is wherewith he is Charged, not as if this singly would amount to Treason: And

Whereas his Lordship says, his Intention was good, if (when an Oppression of High Justice is committed) it be enough to say, he had a good Intention, it is a good Defence to take away Mens Goods, and apply them to his own Use; and so this being practis'd by him universally, on a whole Kingdom, may be excused by a good Intention: But God knows the Heart, your Lordships are Judges of his Actions and Oppressions. He says the Proclamation was a Temporary Law to take away Goods, break open Houses, forbid and annihilate Contracts; this he says in the Face of the Kingdom; so that there cannot be better Evidence given against him, than comes from his own Mouth: for that, which is put upon him, is, That he would erect a Government that depends meerly upon Will, and take away that which is obliged to Laws. To say a Proclamation is a Temporary Law, is to make a Law, as long as it pleases them that award the Proclamation to continue: for when shall it have an End, but by the Pleasure of them that send it forth? He would excuse himself, that he hath gone in good Company: Did the Commons insist on this, as a single Misdemeanor, my Lord might say, He is not the only Man that deserves Punishment, but he cannot say, but that he is the principal Man, and indeed, and in effect the sole Man, as it will appear in the Answer to therest. They are too blame that follow his Misguidance, but he is not innocent that draws others into such Actions with him.

Mr. Maynard Observed the nature of the Proclamation, it was not to appoint a Regulation, but to take away the Subjects Goods; neither giving them time to vend the Commodities in their Hands, nor to depart from that (if it were an ill Usage) but forthwith, as soon as the Proclamation was out, the Goods must be Seized, because they could not do the Things they could not do.

He faith the Execution is nothing to himself, but to his Agents. Surely, he that will command unjust and evil things, is not a whit less guilty, because he hath Ministers, that will apply themselves to his Pleasure, to execute unlawful Commands. He Commands, they execute it, and when they had executed it, they bring it to his Looms, that is, to his Profit.

He says it was recalled after two Years or thereabouts, but your Lordships may remember, on what Misfortune and Cruelty it was recalled, the Tumults, the Stirs, the Oppressions it did produce: and his recalling it after two Years, makes him not innocent before, when 1000 or 2000 or 3000 had perished by the Oppression of it; he was not innocent, because 10000 or 12000 did not perish; it was too long kept on foot, and he that doth unlawful Things in so great a measure, is not to be excused, because he cannot bring them wholly to pass. For that's all can be said, He could go no further, and therefore he leaves it off.

He says, his Warrant is not amiss, but it is extreamly amiss, for the Minister should Advertise the State touching the Subjects Conformities; but my Lord of Strafford will have them presently enter the House, and feize the Goods: the Proclamation puts them on it, but the Warrants Command Justices of Peace, and all Ministers of Justice, to come in and countenance this Cruelty; and when they did not conform to it, they had Reproofs from my Lord's Servants. And if the Point were only to produce Witness, that the Flax or Yarn came to my Lord's own Hands, it might be despaired of, but when the Profit comes to his Hands by his Agents, and those set on Work by him, it is no Excuse to say it was done by others.

Mr. Maynard said further; He wondred my Lord should say, There was no Proof, when there were two express Witnesses; my Lord said, he heard but of a Cart-load, Mr. Maynard Answered, he heard not the Word, but he heard of about a Cart-load, and could that starve 1000 Men? Yet if a Cart-load be not sufficient to starve 1000 Men, if there be more than 1000 starved, then more than a Cart-load was feized. At that time there came in but a Cart-load, but there came in by good Quantities, when it came in by Cart-loads.

He says the Remonstrance is but a Charge, but it comes in on good Proof, and it is concerning a whole Province, and (as it is likely) they were there that knew of the Miseries that befell the Provinces.

Mr. Maynard further observed, That heretofore in the matter of Tobacco, he told your Lordships, he had a Command; it was expected, he would have produced something to the Purpose now, but, God be thanked, he hath not: he says Tobacco is a superfluous, Thing, but these Things that are for Clothing are not superfluous, and being he hath gone into this Excess, Mr. Maynard concluded with this, that he must leave him to their Lordships Judgments, for he had made an Excuse, tho' that he said did not reach an Excuse.

And whereas my Lord said, the Cart-load of Yarn was taken in Conaught, not in Ulster.

Mr. Glyn.

Mr. Glyn added, That one thing was observable from my Lord Strafford's own Evidence, which seemed to convince him of what he deny'd. He pretends this was for advancement of Trade, not for his own Use, and that there was but 1700 l. worth made in a Year, but himself casting his Accompts says, he lost 3000 l. so he owns it by the Loss, but not by the Benefit; which convinces the principal Point himself denies.

Here my Lord of Strafford desired leave to explain himself, That (when he said he lost 3000 l. and 1700 l. a Year made of it) he said he made Cloth there 6 or 7 Years as he took it, and the Cloth it self, not the Yarn, was worth 1700 l. for the Yarn was not worth 400 l. and in that Time he might very well lose 3000 l.

And so the Thirteenth Article was concluded, and the Fourteenth Article being for the present laid aside, the Committee proceeded to the Fifteenth Article.