The Speech or Declaration of John Pym

Pages 661-671

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

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The Speech or Declaration of John Pym, Esq;

Many Days have been spent, in maintenance of the Impeachment of the Earl of Strafford, by the House of Commons, whereby he stands charged with High-Treason; and your Lordships have heard his Defence with Patience, and with as much Favour as Justice would allow. We have passed through our Evidence, and the Result of all this is, that it remains clearly proved, That the Earl of Strafford hath endeavoured, by his Words, Actions, and Counsels, to Subvert the Fundamental Laws of England and Ireland, and to introduce an Arbitrary and Tyrannical Government.

This is the Evenom'd Arrow for which he enquired, in the beginning of his Replication this Day, which hath infected all his Blood; This is that Intoxicating Cup, (to use his own Metaphor) which hath tainted his Judgment, and poysoned his Heart: from hence was infused that specifical difference, which turned his Speeches, his Actions, his Counsels, into Treason; not cumulative, as he express'd it, as if many Misdemeanors could make one Treason; but formally and essentially. It is the End that doth inform Actions, and doth specificate the nature of them, making not only Criminal, but even indifferent Words and Actions to be Treason, being done and spoken with a Treasonable Intention.

That which is given to me in Charge, is, to shew the quality of the Offence, how heinous it is in the Nature, how mischievous in the Effect of it; which will best appear, if it be examined by that Law, to which he himself appealed, that Universal, that Supreme Law, Salus Populi: This is the Element of all Laws; out of which they are derived, the End of all Laws, to which they are designed, and in which they are perfected. How far it stands in opposition to this Law, I shall endeavour to shew in some Considerations, which I shall present to your Lordships, all arising out of the Evidence which hath been opened.

The First is this, It is an Offence comprehending all other Offences; here you shall find several Treasons, Murthers, Rapines, Oppressions, Perjuries.

The Earth hath a Seminary Virtue, whereby it doth produce all Herbs and Plants, and other Vegitables: There is in this Crime a Seminary of all Evils hurtful to a State; and if you consider the Reasons of it, it must needs be so: 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 Confusion, every Man will become a Law to himself, which in the depraved condition of Human Nature, must needs produce many great Enormities; Lust will become a Law, and Envy will become a Law Covetousness and Ambition will become Laws; and what Dictates, what decisions such Laws will produce, may easily be discerned in the late Government of Ireland: The Law hath a Power to prevent, to restrain, to repair Evils; without this, all kind of Mischief and Distempers will break in upon a State.

It is the Law that doth entitle the King to the Allegiance and Service of his People; it entitles the People to the Protection and Justice of the King. It is God alone who subsists by himself, all other things subsist in a mutual Dependence, and Relation. He was a Wise Man that said, That the King subsisted by the Field that is tilled: It is the Labour of the People that supports the Crown: If you take away the Protection of the King, the Vigor and Chearfulness of Allegiance will be taken away, though the Obligation remain.

The Law is the Boundary, the Measure betwixt the King's Prerogative, and the Peoples Liberty; whilst these move in their own Orbs, they are a support and a security to one another; the Prerogative a Cover and Defence to the Liberty of the People; and the People, by their Liberty, are enabled to be a Foundation to the Prerogative: but if these Bounds be so removed, that they enter into Contestation and Conflict, one of these Mischiefs must ensue: If the Prerogative of the King overwhelm the Liberty of the People, it will be turned into Tyranny; if Liberty undermine the Prerogative, it will grow into Anarchy.

The Law is the Safeguard, the Custody of all private Interest; your Honours, your Lives, your Liberties and Estates, are all in the keeping of the Law; without this, every Man hath a like Right to any thing, and this is the Condition into which the Irish were brought by the Earl of Strafford: And, the Reason which he gave for it, hath more Mischief in it, than the thing it self, They were a Conquered Nation. There cannot be a word more pregnant and fruitful in Treason, than that word is. There are few Nations in the World, that have not been Conquered, and no doubt but the Conqueror may give what Laws he pleases to those that are conquered: but if the succeeding Pacts, and Agreements, do not limit and restrain that Right, What People can be secure? England hath been Conquered, and Wales hath been Conquered, and, by this Reason, will be in little better Case than Ireland: If the King, by the Right of a Conqueror gives Laws to his People, by the same reason, be restored to the Right of the Conquered, to recover their Liberty, if they can? What can be more hurtful, more pernicious to both, than such Propositions as these? And in these Particulars is determined the First Consideration.

The Second Consideration is this; This Arbitrary Power is dangerous to the King's Person, and dangerous to his Crown: it is apt to cherish Ambition, Usurpation, and Oppression in Great Men, and to beget Sedition and Discontent in the People; and both these have been, and in reason I must ever be, causes of great Trouble and Alteration to Princes and States.

If the Histories of those Eastern Countries be perused, where Princes order their Affairs according to the mischievous Principles of the Earl of Strafford, loose and observed from all Rules of Government, they will be found to be frequent in Combustions, full of Massacres, and of the tragical Ends of Princes. If any Man shall look into our own Stories, in the Times when the Laws were most neglected, he shall find them full of Commotions, of Civil Distempers; whereby the Kings that then reigned, were always kept in Want and Distress; the People consumed with Civil Wars; and by such wicked Counsels as these, some of our Princes have been brought to such miserable Ends, as no honest Heart can remember, without Horror, and earnest Prayer, that it may never be so again.

The Third Consideration is this; The Subversion of the Laws; and this Arbitrary Power, as it is dangerous to the King's Person, and to his Crown, so is it in other respects, very prejudicial to His Majesty in His Honour, Profit, and Greatness; and yet these are the Gildings and Paintings that are put upon such Counsels; These are for your Honour, for your Service, whereas in truth they are contrary to both: But if I shall take off this Varnish, I hope they shall then appear in their own native Deformity; and therefore I desire to consider them by these Rules.

It cannot be for the Honour of the King, that His sacred Authority should be used in the Practice of Injustice and Oppression; That His Name should be applied to patronise such horrid Crimes, as have been represented in Evidence against the Earl of Strafford: And yet how frequently, how presumptuously his Commands, his Letters, have been vouched throughout the Course of this Defence, your Lordships have heard. When the Judges do Justice, it is the King's Justice, and this is for His Honour, because He is the Fountain of Justice: But when they do Injustice, the Offence is their own; but those Officers and Ministers of the King, who are most officious in the exercise of this Arbitrary Power, they do it commonly for their Advantages; and when they are questioned for it, then they flie to the King's Interest, to his Direction: And, truly my Lords, this is a very unequal Distribution for the King, that the Dishonour of evil Courses should be cast upon Him, and they to have the Advantage.

The Prejudice which it brings to him in regard of his Profit, is no less apparent, it deprives him of the most beneficial, and most certain Revenue of His Crown, that is, The voluntary Aids and Supplies of His People; His other Revenues, consisting of goodly Demesns, and great Manours, have, by Grants, been alienated from the Crown, and are now exceedingly diminished and impaired: But this Revenue, it cannot be fold, it cannot be burdened with any Pensions or Annuities, but comes entirely to the Crown. It is now almost Fifteen Years since His Majesty had any Assistance from His People; and these illegal Ways of supplying the King were never prest with more Violence and Art, than they have been in this Time; and yet I may, upon very good grounds, affirm, That in the last Fifteen Years of Queen Elizabeth, She Received more, by the Bounty and Affection of Her Subjects, than hath come to His Majesty's Coffers, by all the inordinate and rigorous Courses which have been taken. And, as those Supplies were more beneficial in the Receipt of them, so were they likewise in the Use and Imployment of them.

Another way of Prejudice to His Majesty's Profit, is this: Such Arbitrary Courses Exhaust the People, and Disable them, when there shall be Occasion, to give such plentiful Supplies, as otherwise they would do. I shall need no other Proof of this, than the Irish Goverment under my Lord of Strafford, where the Wealth of the Kingdom is so consumed, by those horrible Exactions and Burdens, that it is thought, the Subsidies lately granted, will amount to little more than half the Proportion of the last Subsidies. The two former Ways are hurtful to the King's Profit, in that respect which they call Lucrum Cessans, by diminishing his Receipts; But, there is a third, fuller of Mischief; and, it is in that respect, which they call Damnum emergens, by encreasing his Disbursements: such irregular and exorbitant Attempts upon the Liberties of the People, are apt to produce such miserable Distraction and Distempers, as will put the King and Kingdoms to such vast Expences and Losses in a short time, as will not be recovered in many Years: We need not go far to seek a Proof of this, these two last Years will be a sufficient Evidence, within which time, I assure my self, it may be proved, that more Treasure hath heen wasted, more Loss sustain'd by His Majesty and His Subjects, than was spent by Queen Elizabeth in the War of Tyron, and in those many brave Attempts against the King of Spain, and the Royal Assistance: which She gave to France, and the Low Countries, during all Her Reign.

As for Greatness; this Arbitrary Power is apt to hinder and impair it, not only at Home, but Abroad. A Kingdom is a Society of Men conjoyned under one Government, for the Common Good: The World is a Society of Kingdoms and States. The King's Greatness consists not only in His Dominion over His Subjects at Home, but in the Influence which He hath upon States Abroad; That He should be great ev'n among Kings; and by His Wisdom and Authority,: so to incline and dispose the Affairs of other States and Nations, and those Great Events which fall out in the World, as shall be for the Good of Mankind, sand for the peculiar Advantage of His own People. This is the most glorious: and magnificent Greatness, to be able to relieve distressed Princes, to support his own Friends and Allies, to prevent the Ambitious Designs of other Kings; and; how much this Kingdom hath been impaired in this kind; by the late mischievous Counsels, your Lordships best know; who, at a near distance, and with a more clear fight, do apprehend these Publick and great Affairs, than I can do. Yet thus much I dare boldly say, That if His Majesty had not with great Wisdom and Goodness, forsaken that way, wherein the Earl of Strafford had put Him, we should, within a short time, have been brought into that miserable Condition, as to have been useless to our Friends, contemptible to our Enemies, and uncapable of undertaking any great Design either at Home or Abroad.

A Fourth Consideration, is, That this Arbitrary and Tyrannical Power, which the Earl of Strafford did exercise in his own Person, and to which he did advise His Majesty, is inconsistent with the Peace, the Wealth, the Prosperity of a Nation; It is destructive to Justice, the Mother of Peace; to Industry, the Spring of Wealth; to Valour, which is the active Virtue, whereby the Prosperity of a Nation can only be procured, confirmed, and enlarged.

It's not only apt to take away Peace, and so intangle the Nation with Wars, but doth corrupt Peace, and puts such a Malignity into it, as produceth the Effects of War. We need seek no other Proof of this, but the Earl of Strafford's Government, where the Irish, both Nobility and Others, had as little Security of their Persons or Estates in this Peaceable time, as if the Kingdom had been under the Rage and Fury of War.

And as for Industry and Valour, who will take Pains for that, which when he hath gotten, is not his own ? or who sight for that wherein he hath no other Interest, but such as is subject to the Will of another ? The ancient Encouragement to Men, that were to defend their Countries, was this, That they were to hazard their Person, pro Aris & Focis, for their Religion, and for their Houses; But by this Arbitrary Way which was practised in Ireland, and counselled here, no Man had any certainty either of Religion, or of his House, or any thing else to be his own; But besides this, such Arbitrary Courses have an ill Operation upon the Courage of a Nation, by embasing the Hearts of the People: A Servile Condition, does, for the most part, beget in Men a Slavish Temper and Disposition. Those that live so much under the Whip and the Pillory, and such servile Engines, as were frequently used by the Earl of Strafford, they may have the dregs of Valour, Sullenness and Stubborness, which may make them prone to Mutinies and Discontents; But those noble and gallant Affections, which put Men to brave Designs and Attempts for the Preservation or Enlargement of a Kingdom, they are hardly capable of. Shall it be Treason to embase the King's Coin, though but a piece of Twelvepence, or Six-pence? and must it not needs be the Effect of a greater Treason, to embase the Spirits of his Subjects, and to set a Stamp and Character of Servitude upon them, whereby they shall be disabled to do any thing for the Service of the King and Common-wealth?

The Fifth Consideration is this, that the Exercise of this Arbitrary Government in times of sudden Danger, by the Invasion of an Enemy, will disable His Majesty to preserve Himself and His Subjects from that Danger. This is the only Pretence, by which the Earl of Strafford, and such other mischievous Counsellors, would induce His Majesty to make use of it; and if it be unfit for such an Occasion, I know nothing that can be alledged in maintenance of it.

When War threatens a Kingdom, by the coming of a Foreign Enemy, it is no time then to discontent the People, to make them weary of the present Government, and more inclinable to a Change; The Supplies which are to come in this Way, will be unready, uncertain; there can be no assurance of them, no dependance upon them, either for Time or Proportion: And if some Money be gotten in such Way, the Distractions, Divisions, Distempers, which this Course is apt to produce, will be more prejudicial to the Publick Safety, than the Supply can be advantagious to it, and of this we have had sufficient Experience the last Summer.

The Sixth, That this Crime of subverting the Laws, and introducing an Arbitrary and Tyrannical Government, is contrary to the Pact and Covenant betwixt the King and his People; that which was spoken of before, was the Legal Union of Allegiance and Protection; this is a Personal Union by mutual Agreement and Stipulation, confirmed by Oath on both sides: The King and his People are obliged to one another in the nearest Relations; He is a Father and a Child; is called, in Law, Pars Patris: He is the Husband of the Commonwealth, they have the same Interests, they are inseparable in their Condition, be it Good or Evil; He is the Head, They are the Body; there is such an Incorporation as cannot be dissolved, without the Destruction of both.

When Justice Thorp. in Edward the Third's time, was by the Parliament condemned to Death for Bribery, the reason of that Judgement is given, because he had broken the King's Oath; not that he had broke his own Oath, but he had broken the King's Oath, that solemn and great Obligation, which is the Security of the whole Kingdom: If for a Judge to take a small Sum, in a private Cause, was adjudged Capital; how much greater was this Offence, whereby the Earl of Strafford hath broken the King's Oath in the whole course of his Government in Ireland, to the Prejudice of so many of His Majesty's Subjects in their Lives, Liberties, and Estates, and to the Danger of all the rest!

The Doctrine of the Papists, Fides non est servanda cum Hæreticis, is an abominable Doctrine; yet that other Tenet, more peculiar to the Jesuits, is more pernicious, whereby Subjects are discharged from their Oath of Allegiance to their Prince, whensoever the Pope pleaseth; This may be added, to make the third no less mischievous and destructive to Human Society, than either of the rest. That the King is not bound by that Oath which he hath taken, to observe the Laws of the Kingdom, but may, when he sees cause, lay Taxes and Burthens upon them, without their Consent, contrary to the Laws and Liberties of the Kingdom. This hath been preached and published by divers; And this is that which hath been practised in Ireland by the Earl of Strafford, in his Government there, and endeavoured to be brought into England, by his Counsel here.

The Seventh is this; It is an Offence that is contrary to the End of Government; The End of Government, was to prevent Oppressions; to limit and restrain the excessive Power and Violence of great Men; to open the passages of Justice, with Indifferency towards all; This Arbitrary Power is apt to induce and encourage all kind of Insolencies.

Another End of the Government, is, To preserve Men in their Estates, to secure them in their Lives and Liberties; but if this design had taken Effect, and could have been settled in England, as it was practised in Ireland, no Man would have had more certainty in his own, than Power would have allowed him: But these two have been spoken of before; there are two behind more important, which have not yet been touched.

It is the End of Government, that Virtue should be cherish'd, Vice suppress'd; but where this Arbitrary and Unlimited Power is set up, a Way is open, not only for the Security, but for the Advancement and Encouragement of Evil; such Men as are apt for the Execution and Maintenance of this Power, are only capable of Preferment; and others who will not be Instruments of any Unjust Commands, who make a Conscience to do nothing against the Laws of the Kingdom, and Liberties of the Subject, are not only not passable for Employment, but subject to much Jealousy and Danger.

It is the End of Goverment, that all Accidents and Events, all Counsels and Designs should be improved to the Publick Good: But this Arbitrary Power is apt to dispose all, to the maintenance of it self. The Wisdom of the Council-Table; The Authority of the Courts of Justice; The Industry of all the Officers of the Crown, have been most carefully exercised in this; The Learning of our Divines, the Jurisdiction of our Bishops, have been moulded and disposed to the same Effect, which though it were begun before the Earl of Strafford's Employment, yet it hath been exceedingly furthered and advanced by him.

Under this colour and pretence of maintaining the King's Power and Prerogative, many dangerous Practices against the Peace and Safety of the Kingdom, have been undertaken and promoted. The Increase of Popery, and the Favours and Encouragement of Papists, have been, and still are a great Grievance and Danger to the Kingdom: The Innovation in Matters of Religion, the Usurpations of the Clergy, the manifold Burthens and Taxations upon the People, have been a great Cause of our present Distempers and Disorders; and yet those who have been chief Furtherers and Actors of such Mischiefs, have had their Credit and Authority from this; that they were forward to Maintain this Power. The Earl of Strafford had the first Rise of his Greatness from this; and in his Apology and Defence, as your Lordships have heard, this hath had a main part.

The Royal Power and Majesty of Kings is most Glorious in the Prosperity and Happiness of the People; the Perfection of all Things consists in the End for which they were ordained, God only in his own End; all other things have a further End beyond themselves, in attaining whereof, their own Happiness consists: If the Means and the End be set in opposition to one another, it must needs cause an Impotency and Defect of both.

The Eighth Consideration, is, the Vanity and Absurdity of those Excuses and Justifications, which he made for himself, whereof divers Particulars have been mention'd in the Course of this Defence.

1. That he is a Councillor, and might not be questioned for any thing which he advised according to his Conscience; The ground is true, there is a Liberty belongs to Councillors, and nothing corrupts Councils more than Fear; He that will have the Privilege of a Councillor, must keep within the just Bounds of a Councillor; those Matters are the proper Subjects of Counsels, which in their Times and Occasions may be good or beneficial to the King or Commonwealth; But such Treasons as these, the Subversion of the Laws, Violation of Liberties, they can never be good or justifiable by any Circumstance, or Occasion; and therefore, his being a Councillor, makes his Fault much more hainous, as being committed against a greater Trust, and in a way of much Mischief and Danger, lest His Majesty's Conscience and Judgment (upon which, the whole Course and Frame of His Government, do much depend) should be poysoned and infected with such wicked Principles and Designs: And this he hath endeavoured to do; which by all Laws, and in all Times, hath in this Kingdom been reckoned a Crime of an high nature.

2. He labours to interest your Lordships in his Cause, by alledging it may be dangerous to your Selves, and your Posterity, who by your Birth are fittest to be near His Majesty, in Places of Trust and Authority, if you should be subject to be questioned for Matters delivered in Council. To this was Answered, That it was hoped their Lordships would rather labour to secure Themselves, and their Posterity, in the exercise of their Virtues, than of their Vices, that so they might, together with their own Honour and, Greatness, preserve the Honour and Greatness both of the King and Kingdom.

3. Another Excuse was this; That whatsoever he hath spoken, was out of good Intention. Sometimes Good and Evil, Truth and Falshood, lie so near together, that they are hardly to be distinguished: Matters hurtful and dangerous, may be accompanied with such Circumstances, as may make it appear useful and convenient; and in all such Cases, good Intention will justifie evil Counsel; But where the Matters propounded are evil in their own nature, such as the Matters are wherewith the Earl of Strafford is charged, To break a Publick Faith, To subvert Laws and Government; they can never be justified by any Intentions, how good soever they be pretended.

4. He alledgeth, lt was a time of great Necessity and Danger, when such Counsels were necessary for Preservation of the State. Necessity hath been spoken of before, as it relates to the Cause: Now it it is considered as it relates to the Person; if there were any Necessity, it was of his own making; he, by his evil Counsel, had brought the King into a Necessity, and by no rules of Justice can be allowed to gain this Advantage by his own Fault, as to make that a ground of his Justification, which is a great part of his Offence.

5. He hath often insinuated this, That it was for His Majesty's Service, in maintenance of that Sovereign Power with which He is intrusted by God, for the Good of His People. The Answer is this, No doubt but that Sovereign Power wherewith His Majesty is intrusted for the Publick Good, hath many glorious Effects, the better to enable him thereunto; But, without doubt, this is none of them, That by his own Will, he may lay any Tax or Imposition upon his People, without their Consent in Parliament. This hath now been five times Adjudged by both Houses; In the Case of the Loans; In Condemning Commissions of Excise; In the Resolution upon the Saving offered to be saved to the Petition of Right, in the Sentence against Manwaring; And now Lutell, in Condemning the Ship-Money. And if the Soverein Power of the King can produce no such Effect as this, the Allegation of it is an Aggravation, and no Diminution of his Offence, because thereby he doth labour to interest the King against the just Grievance and Complaint of the People.

6. This Counsel was propounded with divers Limitations and Provisions; For Securing and Repairing the Liberty of the People. This implies a Contradiction, to maintain an Arbitrary and Absolute Power, and yet to restrain it with Limitations and Provisions; for ev'n those Limitations and Provisions will be subject to the same Absolute Power, and to be dispensed in such manner, and at such time, as it self shall determine; let the Grievances and Oppressions be never so heavy, the Subject is left without all remedy, but at His Majesty's own Pleasure.

7. He alledgeth, They were but Words, and no Effect followed; this needs no Answer. But, that the miserable Distempers into which he hath brought all the Three Kingdoms, will be Evidence sufficient, that his wicked Counsels have had such mischievous Effects within these two or three last Years, that many Years Peace will hardly repair those Losses, and other great Mischiefs which the Commonwealth hath sustained.

8. These Excuses have been collected out of the several Parts of his Defence; perchance some others are omitted, which, I doubt not, have been Answered by some of my Collegues, and are of no Importance, either to perplex or to hinder your Lordships Judgment touching the Hainousness of this Crime.

The 9th Consideration is this, That if this be Treason in the Nature of it, it doth exceed all other Treasons, in this, That in the Design and Endeavour of the Author, it was to be a constant and permanent Treason: Other Treasons are transient, as being confined within those particular Actions and Proportions wherein they did consist, and those being past, the Treason ceaseth.

The Powder-Treason was full of Horror and Malignity, yet it is past many Years since: The Murder of that Magnanimous and Glorious King, Henry the Fourth of France, was a great and horrid Treason; and so were those manifold Attempts against Queen Elizabeth of blessed Memory; but they are long since past; the Destation of them only remains in Histories, and in the Minds of Men, and will ever remain: But, this Treason, if it had taken effect, was to be a standing, perpetual Treason, which would have been in continual Act, not determined within one Time or Age, but transmitted to Posterity, ev'n from one Generation to another.

The 10th Consideration, is this, That as it is a Crime odious in the Nature of it, so it is odious in the Judgment and Estimation of the Law: To Alter the setled Frame and Constitution of Government, is Treason in any State. The Laws, whereby all other parts of a Kingdom are preserved, should be very vain and defective, if they had not a Power to secure and preserve themselves.

The Forfeitures inflicted for Treason, by our Law, are of Life, Honour, and Estate, ev'n all that can be forfeited; and, this Prisoner having committed so many Treasons, although he should pay all these Forfeitures, will be still a Debtor to the Commonwealth: Nothing can be more equal, than that he should Perish by the Justice of that Law, which he would have Subverted; neither will this be a new way of Blood, There are Marks enough to trace this Law to the very Original of this Kingdom: And if it hath not been put in execution, as he alledgeth, this 240 Years, it was not for want of Law, but, that all that time hath not bred a Man bold enough to commit such Crimes as these; which is a Circumstance much aggravating his Offence, and making him no whit less liable to Punishment, because he is the only Man, that, in so long a time, hath ventured upon such a Treason as this.

It belongs to the Charge of another, to make it appear to your Lordships, that the Crimes and Offences proved against the Earl of Strafford, are High-Treason, by the Laws and Statutes of this Realm, whose Learning and other Abilities are much better for that Service: But, for the Time and Manner of performing this, we are to resort to the Direction of the House Commons, having in this, which is already done, dispatch all those Instructions which we have received; and, concerning further Proceedings, for clearing all Questions and Objections in Law, your Lordships will hear from the House of Commons, in convenient time.