The Diary of Thomas Burton: 7 March 1656-7

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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'The Diary of Thomas Burton: 7 March 1656-7', in Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657, (London, 1828) pp. 382-385. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

March 7, 1666–7.

Passages between the Protector and the hundred Officers of the Army touching Kingship.

I suppose you have heard of the Address made by one hundred officers, to his Highness, yesterday se'nnight, that his Highness would not hearken to the title (King) because it was not pleasing to his army, and was matter of scandal to the people of God, of great rejoicing to the enemy; that it was hazardous to his own person, and of great danger to the three nations; such an assumption making way for Charles Stewart to come in again.

His Highness returned answer presently to this effect,— that the first man that told him of it, was he, the mouth of the officers then present, (meaning Colonel Mills); that, for his part, he had never been at any cabal about the same, (hinting by that, the frequent cabals that were against Kingship by certain officers). He said, the time was, when they boggled not at the word, (King), for the Instrument by which the Government now stands, was presented to his Highness with the title (King) in it, as some there present could witness, pointing at a principal officer, then in his eye, and he refused to accept of the title. (fn. 1) But, how it comes to pass that they now startle at that title, they best knew. That, for his part, he loved the title, a feather in a hat, (fn. 2) as little as they did. That they had made him their drudge, upon all occasions; to dissolve the Long Parliament, who had contracted evil enough by long sitting; (fn. 3) to call a Parliament, or Convention of their naming, (fn. 4) who met; and what did they ? fly at liberty and property, insomuch as if one man had twelve cows, they held another that wanted cows ought to take share with his neighbour. Who could have said any thing was their own, if they had gone on ? (fn. 5) After their dissolution, how was I pressed by you (said he) for the rooting out of the ministry; nay, rather than fail, to starve them out.

A Parliament was afterwards called; they sat five months; (fn. 6) it is true we hardly heard of them in all that time. They took the Instrument into debate, and they must needs be dissolved; and yet stood not the Instrument in need of mending ? Was not the case hard with me, to be put upon to swear to that which was so hard to be kept ?

Some time after that, you thought it was necessary to have Major-Generals; (fn. 7) and the first rise to that motion (then was the late general insurrections) was justifiable; and you, Major-Generals, did your parts well. You might have gone on. Who bid you go to the House with a Bill, and there receive a foil.

After you had exercised this power a while, impatient were you till a Parliament was called. I gave my vote against it; but you [were] confident, by your own strength and interest, to get men chosen to your heart's desire. (fn. 8) How you have failed therein, and how much the country hath been disobliged, is well known.

That it is time to come to a settlement, and lay aside arbitrary proceedings, so unacceptable to the nation. And by the proceedings of this Parliament, you see they stand in need of a check, or balancing power, (meaning the House of Lords, or a House so constituted) for the case of James Naylor (fn. 9) might happen to be your own case. By their judicial power they fall upon life and member, and doth the Instrument enable me to control it ?

These were some of the heads insisted on in his speech, though perhaps not the same words, yet the full sense; and the officers since that time are quieted, (fn. 10) and many fallen from the rest."

Three Major-Generals are come about for a second House, and a successor; and the Parliament having passed a previous vote, that no part of this writing or Remonstrance, which shall be passed, shall be binding, till all be done and postponed, the word (King) to be last of all.

They have gone on with much unity, and have voted, 1. That the Supreme Magistrate that now is, shall nominate the successor.

2. That his Highness will, for the future, be pleased to call a Parliament, consisting of two Houses, in such manner and way as shall afterwards be agreed and declared in this Remonstrance, once in three years at the furthest, or oftener, if the affairs of this nation shall require it, that being his great Council, in whose affections and advice, himself and this nation will be most happy.

This vote was carried without any division, (fn. 11)


  • 1. I have not found before, so fully established, this curious fact of secret history; though Ludlow remarks, (Mem. ii. 477) that "some were said to have moved that the title might be King." Father Orleans also, in his Revolutions d'Angleterre, (1694, iii. 291) speaking of this period, (1653) says, "plusieurs vouloient qu'on luy déferast la Royauté." He commends Cromwell's policy in refusing the distinction, because "la haine qu'il avoit inspirée au peuple pour le gouvermnent des Rois, luy avoit acquis le credit qu'il avoit parmi les Anglois; qu'ainsi en se faisant Roy luy-même, il ruinoit le fondement de sa puissance." Dr. Bates, referring to the same subject, says in his Elenchus (1676, p. 271) speaking of the Supreme Magistracy, "Nec id tamen Regio sub nomine in se recipere, multis licèt suadentibus, Cromwellio adlubescebat." (Yet Cromwell, though much persuaded, would not assume the title of King.) The Protector refers, no doubt, to the transactions immediately succeeding the very mysterious resignation (December 12, 1653) of "the Little Parliament," as that Convention is called in this Diary; a re signation, on the notice of which, Cromwell "lifted up his eyes with astonishment, and with no less seeming modesty refused to receive it." Parl. Hist. xx. 244. This first proposal of Kingship must have occurred during a short interval, for, on Dec. 16, "Major-General Lambert did, in the name of the army, and of the three nations, desire the Lord-General to accept the Protectorship, to which, with seeming great reluctance, he gave his consent."
  • 2. "Cromwell," says Ludlow, "said it was but a feather in a man's cap, and therefore wondered that men would not please the children, and permit them to enjoy their rattle." Memoirs, ii. 586, 587.
  • 3. The following is a specimen of the manner in which the flatterers of a successful Usurper, not supposing him to have been the army's drudge, excused, or rather applauded to his face, this deed of military violence:— "You discovered certain tokens of a perpetual domination. You found more among them like Cæsar, who retained the dictatorship, than like Sylla who laid it down. Fired with a love of virtue, and of your country, you flew to help it; and because the thing was full of hazard, you added might to right, and entering the Court with the authority of General, broke up a great, a rich, a full, a solemn Parliament, in a moment." See "A Panegyric of the Lord-General Oliver Cromwell, as presented to him by the Portuguese Ambassador," in "A Critical Review of the Life of Oliver Cromwell," (1747) p. 357. The panegyric is there said to have been "written in Latin, as pretended by a learned Jesuit; but as more probably supposed, by the celebrated Mr. John Milton, Latin Secretary to Cromwell." This must, surely, have been a calumny on the pen of Milton.
  • 4. See Vol. ii. p. 67, note *.
  • 5. I have in my possession a Collection of their proceedings, "printed by John Field, 1653." After examining these with some attention, as well as the Journals of the Commons, I may, I think, venture to assert, that there is no hint of any proposal for a community of property; so that this accusation, for any thing that appears, was entirely groundless.
  • 6. From September 3, 1654, to January 22, 1654–5. See Parl. Hist. xx. 316–431.
  • 7. See their names and districts. Ibid. p. 433.
  • 8. See supra p. 262, note ‡.
  • 9. See supra p. 370, note†.
  • 10. It appears, that about this time the Protector's friends had great reliance on the military, in reference to this question. Thus, Mr. Moreland, of the Secretary's Office, in a Letter to Mr. Pell, the resident at Zurich, dated "Whitehall, March 19, 1656–7," speaking of Thurloe; says, "He is hardly at leisure to read or think of any thing else, but the business of Kingly Government, which the Parliament has already very far advanced. The soldiery remain very faithful to his Highness, and say they will live or die with him." Lansdowne MSS. 755, No. 61. For the eventual interference of the military, to disappoint this project of royalty, See Vol. ii. pp. 116–119.
  • 11. Additional MSS. No. 6125. pp. 285–289.