Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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The Speech of his Highness the Lord Protector. (fn. 1)
My Lords and Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
I had very comfortable expectations that God would make the meeting of this Parliament a blessing; and, the Lord be my witness, I desired the carrying on the affairs of the nation to these ends. The blessing which I mean, and which we ever climbed at, was mercy, truth, righteousness, and peace, which I desire may be improved.
That which brought me into the capacity I now stand in, was the Petition and Advice given me by you, (fn. 2) who, in reference to the ancient Constitution, did draw me to accept of the place of Protector. (fn. 3) There is not a man living can say I sought it, (fn. 4) no not a man, nor woman, treading upon English ground; but, contemplating the sad condition of these nations, relieved from an intestine war, into a six or seven years peace, I did think the nation happy therein. But, to be petitioned thereunto, and advised by you to undertake such a Government, a burden too heavy for any creature, and this to be done by the House that then had the legislative capacity, I did look that the same men (fn. 5) that made the frame, should make it good unto me. I can say, in the presence of God, in comparison of whom we are but like poor creeping ants upon the earth, I would have been glad to have lived under my wood side, to have kept a flock of sheep, (fn. 6) rather than undertook such a Government as this is, but undertaking it by the Advice and Petition of you, I did look that you, that had offered it unto me, should make it good.
I did tell you at a conference (fn. 7) concerning it, that I would not undertake it, unless there might be some other persons that might interpose between me and the House of Commons, who then had the power, to prevent tumultuary and popular spirits; (fn. 8) and it was granted I should name another House I named it of men that shall meet you wheresoever you go, and shake hands with you, (fn. 9) and tell you it is not titles, nor lords, nor party, that they value, hut a Christian and an English interest; men of your own rank and quality, who will not only be a balance unto you, but to themselves, while you love England and religion.
Having proceeded upon these terms, and finding such a spirit as is too much predominant, every thing being too high or too low, where virtue, honesty, piety and justice, are omitted, I thought 1 had been doing that which was my duty, and thought it would have satisfied you; but if every thing must be too high or too low, you are not to be satisfied.
Again, I would not have accepted of the Government, unless I knew there would be a just accord between the governor and the governed; unless they would take an oath to make good what the Parliament's Petition and Advice advised me unto; upon that I took an oath, (fn. 10) and they took another oath, (fn. 11) upon their part answerable to mine, and did not every one know upon what condition they swore ? God knows, I took it upon the conditions expressed in the Government. And I did think we had been upon a foundation, and upon a bottom; and, thereupon, I thought myself bound to take it, and to be advised by the two Houses of Parliament; and we, standing unsettled till we were arrived at that, the consequences would necessarily have been confusion, if that had not been settled. Yet there are not constituted hereditary lords, nor hereditary kings; the power consisting in the two Houses and myself. I do not say that was the meaning of your oath, to you; that were to go against my own principles, to enter upon another man's conscience. God will judge between me and you; if there had been in you any intention of settlement, you would have settled upon this basis, and have offered your judgment and opinion.
God is my witness, I speak it, it is evident to all the world and people living, that a new business hath been seeking in the army against this actual settlement, made by your consent. I do not speak to these, gentlemen, or Lords, (fn. 12) whatsoever you will call them. I speak not this to them, but to you. You advised me to come into this place, to be in a capacity by your Advice; yet, instead of owning a thing taken for granted, some must have I know not what; and you have not only disjointed yourselves, but the whole nation, which is in likelihood of running into more confusion in these fifteen or sixteen days that you have sat, than it hath been from the rising of the last session to this day, through the intention of devising a Commonwealth, again; that some of the people might be the men that might rule all, and they are endeavouring to engage the army to carry that thing. And, hath that man been true to this nation, whosoever he be, especially that hath taken an oath, thus to prevaricate ? These designs have been made among the army, to break and divide us. I speak this in the presence of some of the army, that these things have not been according to God, nor according to truth, pretend what you will. These things tend to nothing else, but the playing the King of Scot's game, if I may so call him, (fn. 13) and I think myself bound, before God, to do what I can to prevent it.
That which I told you in the Banquetting House, (fn. 14) was true, that there were preparations of force to invade us. God is my witness, it hath been confirmed to me since, within a day that the King of Scots hath an army at the water's side, ready to be shipped for England. I have it from those who have been eye-witnesses of it. And, while it is doing, there are endeavours from some, who are not far from this place, to stir up the people of this town into a tumulting. What if I said, into a rebellion ? And I hope I shall make it appear to be no better, if God assist me.
It hath been not only your endeavour to pervert the army, while you have been sitting, and to draw them to state the question about a Commonwealth; but some of you have been listing of persons, by commission of Charles Stuart, to join with any insurrection that may be made; (fn. 15) and what is like to come upon this, the enemy being ready to invade us, but even present blood and confusion. And, if this be so, I do assign to this cause your not assenting to what you did invite me to by the Petition and Advice, as that which might be the settlement of the nation; and if this be the end of your sitting, and this be your carriage, I think it high time that an end be put unto your sitting, and I do dissolve this Parliament: and let God judge between me and you. (fn. 16)