The Diary of Thomas Burton: 10 December 1656

Pages 93-107

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

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Wednesday, December 10, 1656.

The House being moved in the behalf of divers persons, who did, in the year 1642, lend freely upon the first proposition, upon the public faith, that are reduced to great need and extremity, having received no part thereof; and considering how much public faith hath been paid, by doubling upon silks and otherwise, wherein the state hath been defrauded of very great sums of money by counterfeit bills, and thereby the persons to whom public faith was due, and should have been duly satisfied, have been defeated; and to the end such abuses may be discovered and prevented for the future, and the accounts stated in the country, did resolve, ut infra.

A Petition of Lord Salisbury, about 5,000l. public faith due to him. Read and committed. It was offered, that the same Committee might find out a way to satisfy it.

The House divided upon it, and resolved the Committee should not.

Yea 44. Mr. Bond and Colonel White [Tellers.]
No 77. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Dunch [Tellers.]

The Master of the Rolls. Pray let me now bring in my clients. I have met with a great many old friends. I am mightily called upon by the public faith men. You are executors to the Long Parliament.

Major-General Disbrowe. We may be executors, but, I am sure, we have no assets. I wish this gentleman could find out some.

Mr. Robinson and Colonel Wilton. The business of the public faith should be considered by the same Committee. The people are ready to starve. It was given to me in command from the county I serve for. I hope you account not these creditors heretics, that you will not keep faith with them, and that it shall never be said of a Parliament that they borrowed and paid not again. Some lands in Ireland and England are unsold.

Colonel Shapcot. You will add but to the oppression of the people, to call them up here about you, in hopes to be satisfied forthwith. The last order for satisfying public faith, had the same effect. First find monies to satisfy it, and then receive their complaints.

Major-General Disbrowe. Fraudulent bills have taken the meat out of the mouths of those that should have been satisfied. I would have us all zealous in it; but I doubt we can do nothing till we be stored for our own occasions. It were an easy thing for your members to ascertain the debts of every county, that we might once say, we owe such a county nothing.

Captain Baynes. The only way to prevent frauds for the future, is to ascertain the debt first. If you had done so at first, you had owed none at this day; for frauds and cheats have eaten out a great many just debts. There are lands and forests in England and Ireland unsold, which you may sell at fifty years' purchase, and reserve a fee farm rent, which will be as great a revenue as you now make.

Mr. Butler. The Parliament's debts are your debts, and you ought to satisfy them, as is well propounded to you. Some persons chose rather to want their debts than enter them at Worcester House, and frauds and cheats interposed.

Colonel Clarke. I believe you have paid more public faith bills than ever you did owe. I would have it referred to a Committee to state the account of the debts before ever I shall give my consent to satisfy it.

Much debt is charged upon the public faith, which never was intended. You must take some course to prevent frauds, else the clamour will follow you to all generations: it will never be satisfied. I would not have malignants' and neuters' debts. These two qualifications to be considered; the debts and persons.

Sir Christopher Pack. Let not this go off till you take some course herein. You will never be quiet, but followed perpetually.

Mr. Robinson. Something should be signified in the vote, to let the people know that this must be done in the country; lest you draw greater charge upon poor people, to call them up. You may find out such persons fit to be intrusted, such as have been faithful from the beginning, that understand who are malignants and who neuters. You have lost above 500,000l. by this means. Persons not only sequestrable; but actually sequestered;y et their losses satisfied under the motion of public faith, by means of the sheriffs whose hands they produce, and none knows whether counterfeit or no.

Sir Thomas Wroth made a long story of the bodkins, spoons, and thimbles, that were freely cast into the Treasury. (fn. 1)

Many are undone by it. Some lost their lives. One gentleman lost his wits and memory, and died. I was hard put to it to answer a gentleman what the public faith was, wherein I could give no account.

Major-General Howard and Colonel Whetham proposed, that Sir William Dick's debts might be considered by this Committee.

Resolved, That it be referred to the same Committee to consider of a way of stating the public-faith debts in the country; and to consider the persons to whom due, and how a way may be found out for satisfying the same; and report it to this House with all convenient speed

Resolved, That all that come shall have votes.

Resolved, That the Committee for the Union of Ireland be upon Friday; supporters of the motion Sir William Strickland and Major Ashton.

Resolved, That the Grand Committee for Scotland, be upon Saturday, on the motion of Major-General Howard. He had the other petition in his hand.

Per Sir Charles Wolseley, that the Committee for four Colleges in Cambridge, are sine die. I desired a new day.

Per Lord Richard Cromwell, that Mr. Hampden and Mr. Bodurda be added to the public faith Committee.

Mr. Speaker minded us of the order of the day, which was read; and also the question for the moderater punishment.

Mr. Speaker was going to put it, but they cried "No! the questions." He should be whipped from place to place, ride backwards on horseback, and be imprisoned till released by Parliament, kept to hard labour, &c.

Colonel Milton. By this question it seems you have forgot what you voted the night before. This is like condemning a man for high treason, and punishing him with the pillory.

When the life of a man and the honour of God conies in competition, I cannot but say we ought to prefer God's glory. Surely we ought.

These vipers are crept into the bowels of your Commonwealth, and the government too. They grow numerous, and swarm all the nation over; every county, every parish. I shall turn Quaker too; but not in that sense.

I remember what an honourable person in my eye, MajorGeneral Skippon, said of the growth of these. He feared more the growth of these, than all the foreign and intestine enemies. Remember Eli's case. What will it be said abroad, if you pass this heinous crime without your due resentment of it ? You may guess my conclusion from my premises. It is your duty to vindicate the honour of God and of Christ Jesus. I desire that a Bill of Attainder may be brought in, not with a blank, but with a full punishment, that is, death. That is my humble motion.

Colonel Cooper. I shall not speak to lessen or extenuate James Nayler's crime, I see the House inclined to a division upon the manner of punishment. I should be loth, but we should be unanimous in it. It is no wonder to find this fellow acting these practices; for he is in Satan's hands, being cast out of a church for his opinions and lewd carriage.

I dare not say he has blasphemed. It is grievous to me to see the crime so magnified; There is certainly a blasphemy greater than this, as the denying or cursing of Christ.

His suffering himself to be worshipped; I would have the House consider of that distinction. This is a nice distinction, a vast difference between Christ dwelling in us, and being worshipped in a creature. I confess I never heard of the like of him. The like distinction of his assuming the attributes. I must agree, if the spirit of Christ had been in him, as he pretended, his carriage had been otherwise. It is certainly darkness and a strong delusion.

I cannot say this is horrid blasphemy, though there may be blasphemy horrid, and more horrid, and most horrid. I offer it to you, whether it were not a greater blasphemy to say he were very Christ.

I have observed much division in the manner of punishment, and some alteration in men's judgments, that were once against a Bill of Attainder, because of the tediousness of it. They talked of three days time of sitting, now they scruple not to take up three weeks time, having no more assurance of sitting than we had before.

I cannot but say it is blasphemy. But admit it were horrid blasphemy, as my judgment is now involved in your vote, yet I cannot be satisfied that the House are any way led to pass such a heinous punishment as death. I understand no such obligation upon us. That is something extreme, and it is hard to lead this House into such a judgment, as to pass sentence of death against such a person as fears God, by what we have heard.

Precedents are urged, but nothing relating to this business, I am satisfied that the House may exercise their legislative power for a matter ex post facto; for if you do any thing in this business, it must be by this power, and no other.

I know some part of the land mourns for the innocent blood already shed upon this account. I cannot say this person is innocent; yet if we take his life where God does not require it, that is a shedding of innocent blood. I fear as much a judgment upon us, if we take his blood, as they fear if we go less.

This House may proceed to fine, imprisonment, and corporal punishment, and this in a judicial way, without preparing a Bill. In my opinion there needs no Bill. His fine will signify nothing; but he has a body. I would have you use some endeavour to suppress the growth of them in general. If you take this man's blood, you do certainly lay a foundation for them. Instead of taking away Quakerism, you establish it.

For my part, I think, next to life, you cannot pass a greater punishment than perpetual imprisonment, where he may not spread his leprosy. If you cut out his tongue, he may write, for he writes all their books. If you cut off his right hand, he may write with his left. The other punishments will certainly answer your ends more than if you take his life, and be a better expedient to suppress that generation of them.

Mr. Bond. My memory will not serve to repeat all the arguments that have been used in this case. The Earl of Strafford's was a complicated offence; so the Archbishop of Canterbury's. He was tried in the same way for innovating a new religion. That Parliament left two precedents. I am not afraid of a precedent in this case; but I would have this Parliament to leave such a precedent in this very case. I shall tell you a relation from very good hands, merchants, &c. The Parliament of Burgos [Bourdeaux] have hanged, drawn and quartered a Quaker for these very opinions. (fn. 2) That Parliament will rise up in judgment against you. I would have you consider what vote you have made, and how you can go less than the punishment equivalent.

I would have you go the same way with this man as they did with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Resume the power of Parliament in this case, and trouble not the Lord Protector with it. Cut off this fellow, and you will destroy the sect. The like issue was in that statute (fn. 3) for restraint of Egyptians, [Gipsies] and they quickly vanished.

I would have you take the judgment of this business upon yourselves, and never go to try him without doors. I shall freely give my vote that the fellow shall die for this offence, and I know not how you can, with honour and safety to this nation, do any thing less. I would have you lay aside the other question, and put this.

Major-General Packer. It has been alleged that God himself directed the punishment of an offender, in this kind, with death. Are we as equal judges herein as God was ?

You have voted this person guilty of horrid blasphemy; but you have not brought it home to that case wherein God directed the punishment: for he cursed God, (fn. 4) which this man hath not done. Few of us but are blasphemers in one sense. Job and his three friends were blāsphemers. (fn. 5) This person tells you there is but one God, Father, Son, and Spirit. A strange notion that the Holy Spirit dwells personally and essentially in them, (fn. 6) yet I know many godly men of this opinion.

He does not vilify Christ, deny his doctrine, miracles, sufferings, and looking for his coming; though he draws dangerous principles from this. This is no parallel. That man's blasphemy was cursing God. This is of a lesser nature, though an offence very high.

Magistrates in the Jewish commonwealth, and in Christian commonwealths, do very much differ in their jurisdiction, in matters of religion. To them it was more peculiar; for by that text we are safe. God has not declared that we should put this man to death. I would have him live to repent; nay, if it be but to make a show of repentance.

We may commit a crime, and trespass upon the common law, by introducing the Jewish law, which does not agree with us, with our tempora. The martial law is a good law in its own body; but apply it to other purposes, it is a bad and tyrannical law. Going a mile from one's colours is death by that law. "God forbid," will a conscientious man say, "to hang a man for going a mile from his colours."

A good law in one nation is a bad one in another. Our law makes burglary and theft death; which is a good law for this nation: (fn. 7) yet God's judgment was otherwise. The like for breach of the Sabbath. It was death by that law to gather sticks; and by your law, a man may work all day, and pay but his ten shillings or five shillings, so that it is no example for us to keep to those Jewish laws, seeing we differ from them in other cases.

But it is said, was not Darius a heathen king, and he made a law against blaspheming our God ? How can we do too much for God ? Had he caused that God to be preached through all his kingdom he had done God better service; but he lived and died a heathen.

That text in Zech. (xiii. 3.) "He that speaks lies in the name of God, his parents shall thrust him through." This cannot come near our case. For if so, we must destroy all sects, Socinians, Arminians, Quakers, and what not; nay, every man that speaks a lie. Few will escape this law.

It is the strain of the Gospel all along, to use meekness and moderation; (instanced in tares and wheat, and "Ye know not what spirit ye are of" &c.; and the like old texts.) Did Paul make any complaint to the magistrate against Elymas, the sorcerer, who was a blasphemer indeed ?

But it is said, what will people say ? It matters not what they say, so we do our duty: That is, to give every man his native liberty, which is given in Holland, (fn. 8) Poland, and other countries, a free exercise of their consciences. What have we to do with what a company of Papists in the Parliament of Burgos [Bourdeaux] did? It may as well be said, the Spanish Inquisition may rise up in judgment against us. Tares may turn to wheat, he may be converted, saving with fear, plucking him out of the fire; let us not cast him into hell. You had as good cut off his head as his hand or his tongue. That tongue that has blasphemed, may glorify God, as it was the case of Paul. He may write to glorify God.

I could name a man that has been a far more horrid blasphemer than this man, yet he is reclaimed, and become a very useful instrument in the Church.

You may as well condemn a Papist for worshipping Christ in the bread and wine, as in this case of Nayler's.

I desire you would put the question for the moderater punishment, and that without a Bill, which is a tedious way, and you may rise without doing any thing at all.

Major-General Skippon. I did not speak to this business. I am not fond of speaking. I shall not trouble you with answering what that gentleman said, though, for my part, I am altogether unsatisfied with what arguments he used to extenuate the offence. I have been much divided in myself between duty and pity. It laboured much to cast something upon your late vote. For my part, I hear nothing said against it, that can convince my judgment but that the person is clearly guilty of blasphemy, horrid blasphemy. All sober Christians will so conclude it.

It seems there is a paper offered at the door, that we would assign what is blasphemy, that others may beware of it. I think it is no hard thing to assign, so that this House need not be at a stand in this case. I am, from these arguments, already much confirmed in my judgment, against that conflict I had between pity and duty.

If any should assume the tide or honour of the supreme magistrate, should he not be hanged, drawn, and quartered. This is the case. God has brought this business before you, and if you let it slip, take heed of a judgment. I would have a Bill of Attainder, with a blank, brought in. If God give you not time to do what you would do, it is sufficient that you endeavour what you should do.

Major-General Whalley. Here have been long debates in this business, occasioned by the rambling into the matter of fact, which I hope we are over. I shall speak to the punishment, and I would have this agreed on in peace and charity; that those that are for a low punishment might not be censured for coldness, nor those for a higher punishment censured for a preposterous zeal. I premise this.

I beseech you, consider what the offence is; it is blasphemy, horrid blasphemy. We are now to consider a proportionable punishment, which, in short, in my opinion, cannot be less than death. It is told you by the long robe, we have no law in being against such offenders. I am sorry for it. But where any law is against blasphemy, what is the punishment, is it less than death ?

The Turks (though I propound them not to be imitated by us) put men to death for speaking against Mahomet, who is but a prophet.

It was Nebuchadnezzar's law, and a good law, against those that should speak evil against the God of Shadrach, (fn. 9) &c. The example of God himself, against the blasphemer, and then the precept upon it.

Examples, though they are not obliging as precepts, yet certainly they are imitable where they are good. The paraphrase of the Assembly of Divines upon the text, interprets it both blasphemy and cursing. God provides a law both against cursing and blasphemy to meet with our object. "The curser shall bear his sin, and the blasphemer shall surely die;" so that both cursing and blasphemy are there made capital.

But, if guilty of blasphemy, some object, why to be put to death? If it be a law of God, a moral law of God, I would fain know how it is repealed. Some, from the comprehensiveness of the word blasphemy; others, that it is ex post facto; others, a ceremonial; others, a judicial law, others, that we are now under Gospel administrations. They have been all fully spoken to, so that I shall not trouble you to answer it. If men will commit unheard-of sins, is it not just that they suffer by an unheard of law and punishment? Else it may be said, we want a law.

If it be ceremonial, I desire to know of what it is a type, or where abolished.

If a judicial law, ought not we to be as careful of suffering blasphemy as the Jews were.

But the great noising argument is, That we are under Gospel dispensation. Pardon my comparison. This is but like ignis fatuus. Does this Gospel-liberty give us a freedom of sinning. Nay, is it not said, (Hebrews ii.) "How much more ought we to walk more closely and uprightly before God." If not to commit sin, then certainly not to connive at, not to tolerate sin.

James and John's calling down fire from heaven was not for blasphemy. It was for not receiving Christ. Should we put every man to death that will not receive Christ.

That of pardoning the woman taken in adultery; might not he that was Lord of all pardon her; as well as he gave directions to spoil the Egyptians; must we undertake to pardon sins, and imitate God in this.

Gathering sticks upon the Sabbath day: it was not death for breach of the Sabbath, but for working on the Sabbath. I know no reason, but we may make the same law against working on the Sabbath.

But it is against the tenour of the Gospel, they say. It is true we ought to love one another, but not so as to exclude our love to God. Have we not as well the example of Ananias and Saphira's being put to death.

God has made a law to punish blasphemy, and what are we poor worms going about to repeal that law. Where do we find it repealed.

But I had forgot to answer the objections as to the comprehensiveness of the word. True it is male dicere. To speak evil of any man is blasphemy; but we must go to the common acceptation of the word. We call nothing blasphemy, but what is a speaking against God, and assuming his worship, which, take this person's principles and practices together, he is guilty of the horridest blasphemy that ever was. It was told you of a great blasphemer that was brought home. It was Mr. Sedgwick. (fn. 10) Before his Highness, and Lord Ireton, and others, and myself, he said he was God; and divers horrid things, which we went out, and could not bear. I met him afterwards, and did not salute him, for I thought I ought not to do it. But a while after he thanked me for it, and did acknowledge his error, and that he was but a man, &c. He was not so great a blasphemer as this person. That was but the effects of his frenzy; but this man doth it upon sober and deliberate grounds; and, take practice and principles completed, it is higher by much than any I ever yet heard. Let the sentence of death pass upon him, and then use all means possible to reclaim. Give him six weeks or a longer reprieve, and execute no sentence upon him till his obstinacy do fully appear.

Colonel Shapcot and Major-General Disbrowe. Lest you kill yourselves, by voting by what death he shall die, I would have you adjourn till to-morrow morning.

Mr. Church. I would not have us adjourn till to-morrow: Take it up this afternoon, not to delay a business which you have sat nine times about. It is time now to resolve.

Major-General Skippon. You are very near a question. I am not willing to rise till we do something in it. The question, whether death, or not, will determine it, and declare your sense.

Mr. Nathaniel Bacon. It is more than you can. promise yourselves, to-morrow. This is the East day of sitting for ought I know. (fn. 11) I would have you bear as much testimony against it as you can, in the time you have allotted you.

Captain Hatsel. I would have you adjourn till to-morrow; for I would say something to the business, before your question, and I believe so would others. But make it so that nothing should intervene. You spend much time in the morning.

Mr. Speaker. Truly, I am not able to sit out these long debates, forenoon and afternoon; but, if it be your pleasure, I shall be willing to spend my life in your service.

Colonel Hewitson. Though the business before you be a work of darkness, yet I would not have your debate or determination to be so; but do it in the day, in the light, that all the world may see you bear your testimony against it.

Resolved, That this debate be adjourned till to-morrow morning at eight, and no business to intervene.

This afternoon, in the painted chamber, sat the Committee for the Appeal of Rodney against Cole. (fn. 12)

There Lord Lisle was hardly put to it, to justify himself in the charge laid against him and old Keeble in the petition.

The case, in short, was thus, Cole had a statute against Rodney for 500l. A great part, if not all, of the debt was paid; and, either purposely, or casually, the statute was cancelled, viz. the seal was taken or lost off, viz. the seal of the Counsellor. The Lord Chief Justice's seal, and the other seal, were on.

Cole repairs with this statute, to the clerk of the statutes, to get him to certify it; but he, finding the seal off, refused it; and about three or four months after, Cole brought the same statute to the clerk with a little wax upon it; but the clerk would not yet certify. Whereupon, Cole petitions the Lords Commissioners, viz. Lords Whitlock, Lisle, and Keeble, who decree the statute to be certified, upon Cole's affidavit; notwithstanding the information of Turner, the clerk of the statute, touching the abuse to the seal as above said.

Lord Whitlock dissented, but the other two Commissioners passed the order. Whereupon, by the statute, all Rodney's goods and lands, to above eighty pounds per annum, were extented, and in the possession of Cole for these seven or eight years. Rodney was hung up, he could not be relieved against that decree in any place but a Parliament.

The question was, whether this statute was well certified or no, and whether the order was a good order. Lord-ChiefJustice, the Master of the Rolls, and Lord Fiennes, laboured to excuse the Lords Commissioners, and lay it upon Cole's misinformation of the Court: but Colonels Sydenham and White, and Clarke, were of another opinion, and would have it personal miscarriage in the Commissioners.

Resolved, per all the long robe, and per Lord-Chief-Justice, That if there was but any of the wax of the seal remaining, it was a good statute and well certified. But if all the wax was gone off the label, whether casually or otherwise, the statute was a void statute, and ought not to have been certified; and Turner's testimony was clear, that, when he first saw the statute, there was no wax at all upon it.

Resolved, If a deed be once void, it can never be made good without consent of the party; for, if I lose my bonds or statutes, or the seals come any way to be perished, the chancery can never set those a foot again, as to making them good deeds; but the chancery may relieve the counsee, or obligee, in such cases, and decree the payment of the monies due in arrear, whether it be in whole or part. They cannot compel the party to renew it.

And all obligations and statutes, though of an after date, shall be served before any of these that happen this mischance, or come casually to be cancelled.

Yet Lord Fiennes and Lord Lisle seemed to differ, and said such statute, though casually defaced or perished, should be served first, if first dated, &c.; no difference between a statute defaced and cancelled, (i. e.) without any part of the seal.

Mr. Cole's counsel, viz. Mr. Churchil, cited four or five precedents, where former Lords Commissioners had ordered defaced statutes to be certified. And Lord Fiennes said, that lately, one brought a statute that was desired to be certified. The seal was fresh, but the parchment turned to a jelly; and that what the Lords Commissioners do in such cases, they do it only ministerially, and not judicially. But it was not clear to the Committee that the Commissioners were clear, or that the precedents agreed. One of the precedents was in Christopher Clapham's case.

The case was learnedly opened, and better by the Committee than by the counsel. Mr. Wentfoorth was for Rodney. The Committee adjourned the debate till Saturday.

In the Army Chamber sat the Committee for York Courts, and the Court of Probate of Wills, &c. (fn. 13)


  • 1. "Unusual voluntary contributions," says Howell, "were made, both in town and country. The seamstress brought in her silver thimble, the chambermaid her bodkin, the cook his silver spoon, the vintner his bowl, into the common treasury of war. Some females would part with their rings and ear-rings."—Philanglus, (1658.) pp. 125, 126.—See Dr. Grey's Note on Hudibras, part ii. c. ii., where Women "Brought in their children's spoons and whistles, To purchase swords, carbines, and pistols."
  • 2. Whitlock says, "The Parliament of Bourdeaux lately adjudged an Englishman to death, upon the complaint of the Protestants there, for blasphemy, in saying that he was Christ." See the reference, infra, p. 188, note.
  • 3. In 1554. See Parl. Hist. iii. 332.
  • 4. See supra, p. 55.
  • 5. Job. xlii. 7.
  • 6. The Quakers.
  • 7. The goodness of this law has been justly disputed.
  • 8. "The Hollanders," says Sir W. Petty, a near and accurate observer, "knowing themselves not to be an infallible church, and that others had the same Scriptures for guides as themselves, and withal the same intérest to save their souls, did not think fit to make this matter their business; not more than to take bonds of the seamen they employ, not to cast away their own ships and lives."—Political Arithmetic, (1751.) p. 28, 29. Osborn remarks, that "the Dutch allowed a general mart for all religions, the papacy excepted, without any nicer limitation than obedience to the magistrate in things purely civil." Works (1673) p. 452. " An Amsterdam of religions" had become a proverbial expression in the 17th century.
  • 9. Daniel iii. 29. The translation of 1591, says, "speak any blasphemie," and, in a note, describes "this heathen king" as "mooved by God's Spirit."
  • 10. See supra, pp. 76, 101.
  • 11. See supra, p. 92, note.
  • 12. See supra, p. 19, note *, infra, p. 135.
  • 13. See supra, pp. 8,17, notes.