Some heads of speech spoken by Mr Speaker

Pages 488-493

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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No. II. (Vol. i. p. 369.)

Some heads of the Speech spoken by Mr. Speaker, to his Highness, in the name of the Parliament. (fn. 1)

He was but short, because of his infirmity of body, by sickness. Applying himself to his Highness, he, in the first place, took notice of the advertisement that had been given to the Parliament, touching the happy deliverance of his Highness from the late bloody attempt designed upon his Highness's person, for which the Parliament was now come to congratulate with his Highness.

He considered the greatness of the mercy in itself, and as it was heightened in its circumstances.

1. He considered it as a business that the welfare and safety, not only of the people of this nation, but of all the Reformed Churches, was involved in.

2. That it was carried on by few hands, and so the more dangerous, because less subject to discovery.

3. He observed the cruelty in the intents of the actors, in the intended manner of the execution.

4. The extensiveness of the wicked design, that it was not laid in one place only, but in many; and if opportunity served not in one place, then to have attempted the execution in another.

So that, take it in all its circumstances, (he said) no orator could be sufficient to set it forth; and that, if Cicero were alive, his eloquence would fall short upon the subject.

And, therefore, that the great thing to be looked unto, upon the present occasion, was, the re turning of praise to God; and to say with the Psalmist, Cantemus canticum novum, "Let us sing a new song." New mercies require new returns, new deliverances, new thanksgivings. And here he desired to put a question, not a new one, but an old one, which was put by the best of kings, David, Ps. 116, What shall I render to the Lord for all his mercies ? To which (he said) he needed not make an answer, for that David himself had done it long before. We will take the cup of salcation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

He observed, moreover, that this deliverance was matter of great rejoicing not only to these nations, but to the whole body of Protestants, throughout the world; for, though the design was particularly against his Highness, yet, in his person, against them all. That, in the preservation of his Highness's person, their's doth consist, and in his destruction, the destruction of them.

He concluded, that such designs as these must be expected; plots, conspiracies, and all that is wicked, out of the bottomless pit, seeing the Devil, who is the Prince of Darkness, (fn. 2) the fountain and father of mischief, will not let his emissaries be idle, but be always contriving, since this design would not take, how another may be laid, that what one could not effect, another may. Adding withal, that it was the humble and earnest prayer of the Parliament to Almighty God, and their great hope, that God will, according to his wonted grace and mercy, preserve his Highness, and watch over him for good, that all the plots of the enemy, like the counsel of Achitophel, may be turned into foolishness, and so order things, that the best of the adversary's productions may be but to produce wind, and that wind prove a means to scatter them and all their contrivances. (fn. 3)

The Protector's Reply.

Mr. Speaker,

I confess, with much respect, that you have put this trouble on yourselves upon this occasion; but I perceive there be two things that fill me full of sense. One is, the mercy on a poor un worthy creature: the second is, this great, (and, as I said,) unexpected kindness of Parliament, in manifesting such a sense thereof, as this is, which you have now expressed. I speak not this with compliment, that that detracts from the thing (in some sense,) is the inconsiderableness and unworthiness of the person that hath been the object and subject of this deliverance, to wit, myself. I confess ingenuously to you, I do lie under the daily sense of my unworthiness and unprofitableness, as I have expressed to you; and if there be, as I must readily acknowledge there is, a mercy in it to me, I wish I may never reckon it on any other account, than this, that the life that is lengthened, may be spent and improved to his honour, that hath vouchsafed the mercy, and to the service of you, and those you represent.

I do not know, nor did I think it would be very seasonable for me to say much to you upon this occasion, being a thing that ariseth from yourselves. Yet, methinks, the kindness you bear, both should kindle a little desire in me, even at this present, to make a short return. And, as you have been disposed hither by the Providence of God, to congratulate my mercy; so give me leave, in a very word or two, to congratulate with you. Congratulations are ever conversant about good, bestowed upon men, or possessed by them. Truly, I shall in a word or two congratulate you with good you are in possession of, and in some respect, I also with you. God hath bestowed upon you (and you are in possession of it,) three nations, and all that appertains to them, which, in either a geographical, nor topical consideration, are nations, in which also there are places of honour and consideration, not inferior to any in the known world (without vanity it may be spoken;) truly God hath not made so much soil, furnished with so many blessings, in vain. But it is a goodly sight, if a man behold it, uno intuitu, and, therefore, this is a possession of yours, worthy of congratulation.

This is furnished (give me leave to say) for I believe it is true, with the best people in the world possessing so much soil; a people in civil rights, (in respect of their rights and privileges,) very ancient and honourable. And in this people, in the midst of this people, a people (I know every one will hear it,) that are to God as the apple of his eye, and he says so of them, be they many, or be they few. But they are many, a people of the blessing of God, a people under his safety and protection: a people calling upon the name of the Lord, which the heathen do not, a people knowing God, and a people (according to the ordinary expressions) fearing God. And you have of this no parallel, no, not in all the world. You have in the midst of you glorious things. Glorious things, for you have laws and statutes, and ordinances, which, though not so, (all of them) conformable, as were to be wished to the law of God, yet, on all hands, pretend not to he long rested in further, than as they are conformable to the just and righteous laws of God. Therefore, I am persuaded, there is a heart and spirit in every good man, to wish they did all of them answer the pattern. I cannot doubt but that which is in the heart, will in due time break forth; that endeavours will be that way, is another of your good things, with which in my heart you are worthily to be congratulated.

And you have a magistracy, that in outward profession, in pretence, in endeavour, doth desire to put life into these laws. And I am confident, that among you will rest nothing, but a desire to promote every desire in others, and every endeavour that hath tended or shall tend to the putting of these laws in execution. I do for this congratulate you, you have a gospel ministry among you. That have you; such an one, as, without vanity I speak it, or without caring at all for any favour, or respect from them, save what I have upon an account above flattery, or good words, such an one, as hath excelled itself, and I am persuaded, to speak with confidence before the Lord, is the most growing blessing, one of them, on the face of this nation.

You have a good eye, and in that I will share with your good favours, a good God, a God that hath watched over you and us, a God that hath visited these nations with a stretched out arm, and bore his witness against the unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, against those that have abused such nations, such mercies throughout, as I have reckoned up to you; a God that hath not only withstood such to the face, but a God that hath abundantly blessed you, with the evidences of his goodness and presence. And he hath done things wonderful amongst us, by terrible things inrighteousness; he hath visited us by wonderful things. In mercy and compassion hath he given us this day of freedom and liberty to speak this, one to another, and to speak of his mercies, as he hath been pleased to put into our hearts.

"Truly, this word of conclusion, if this be so, give me leave to remember you hut one word, which I offered to you with great love and affection, the first day of meeting with you, this Parliament. It pleased God to put into my heart, then, to mention a scripture to you, which would be a good conclusion of my speech now at this time to you. It was that we being met to seek the good of so great an interest, as I have mentioned, and the glory of that God who is both yours and mine, how could we better do it than by thinking of such words as these: "His salvation is nigh them that fear him," that glory may dwell in our land. I would not comment upon it. I hope I fear him, and let us more fear him. If this mercy at all doth concern you as I see it doth, let me, and I hope you will with me, labour more to fear him. Then we have done; seeing such a blessing as his salvation is nigh them that fear him, seeing we are all of us representatives of all the good of all these lands, that glory may dwell in our land. If it be so, "Mercy and Truth shall meet together, Righteousness and Peace shall kiss each other." We shall know, you and I, (as the father of this family) how to dispose our mercies to God's glory: how to dispose our severity; how to distinguish betwixt obedient and rebellious children, and not to do as Eli did; who told his sons, he did not hear well of them, when, perhaps, he saw ill by them. And we know the severity of that. And, therefore, let me say, that, though I will not descant upon the words, mercy must be joined with truth, truth, in that respect, that we think it our duty, to exercise a just severity, as well as to apply kindness and mercy. And, truly, Righteousness and Peace must kiss each other. If we will have peace without a worm in it, lay we foundations of justice and righteousness. And if it shall please God so to move you, as that you marry this redoubtable couple together, Mercy and Truth, Righteousness and Peace, you will, (if I may be free to say so,) be blessed, whether you will or no. And that you and I may for the time the Lord shall continue us together, set our hearts upon this, which shall be my daily prayer, and I heartily and humbly acknowledge my thankfulness to you." (fn. 4)


  • 1. "A late pamphlet tells us of a great design discovered against the person of his Highness, and of the Parliament's coming (for so does that junto profane that name,) to congratulate with his Highness, his happy deliverance from that wicked and bloody attempt. Besides this, that they have ordered that God Almighty shall be mocked with a day of thanksgiving, (as I think the world is with the plot,) and that the people shall give public thanks for the public calamity, that God is yet pleased to continue his judgments upon them, and to frustrate all means that are used for their deliverance. Certainly none will now deny that the English are a very thankful people. "But I think, if we had read in Scripture that the Israelites had cried unto the Lord, not for their own deliverance, but the preservation of their task-masters, and that they had thanked God with solemnity, that Pharoah was yet living, and that there were still great hopes of the daily increase of the number of their bricks; we should have thought that Moses had done them a great deal of wrong, if he had not suffered them to enjoy their slavery, and left them to their tasks and garlick." Killing no Murder, p. 6.
  • 2. "My design is, to examine whether, if there hath been such a plot as we hear of, and that it was contrived by Mr. Sindercomb against my Lord Protector, and not by my Lord Protector against Mr. Sindercomb, (which is doubtful,) whether it deserves those epithets Mr. Speaker is pleased to give it, of bloody, wicked, and proceeding from the prince of darkness. "I know very well, how incapable the vulgar are of considering what is extraordinary and singular in every case; and that they judge of things, and name them by their exterior appearances, without penetrating at all into their causes or natures: and without doubt, when they hear the Protector was to be killed, they straight conclude a man was to be murdered, not a malefactor punished; for they think the formalities do always make the things themselves, and that it is the judge and the crier that make the justice, and the gaol the criminal. And therefore, when they read in the pamphlet Mr. Speaker's speech, they certainly think he gives these plotters their right titles; and, as readily as a high court of justice, they condemn them, without ever examining whether they would have killed a magistrate or destroyed a tyrant, over whom every man is naturally a judge and an executioner, and whom the laws of God, of nature, and of nations expose, like beasts of prey, to be destroyed as they are met." Killing no Murder, pp. 6, 7.
  • 3. Mercurius Politicus, No. 346.
  • 4. Lansdown MSS. 755, No. 244; (Pell Papers); see vol. ii. pp. 351, 352, note.