His Highness's speech to Parliament [8 May 1657]

Pages 507-509

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

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No. IV.

His Highness's Speech to the Parliament in the Banquetting House at Whitehall, May 8, 1657.

Mr. Speaker,

I came hither to answer that, that was in your last paper to your Committee you sent to me, which was in relation to the desires which were offered to me by the House, in that they called their Petition. I confess, that business hath put the House, the Parliament, to a great deal of trouble, and spent much time. I am very sorry that it hath cost me some, and some thoughts; and because I have been the unhappy occasion of the expense of so much time, I shall spend little of it now.

I have, the best I can, resolved the whole business in my thoughts, and I have said so much already in testimony of the whole, that I think I shall not need to repeat any thing that I have said. I think it is a Government that, as to the aim of it, seeks much a settling the nation on a good foot, in relation to civil rights and liberties, which are the rights of the nation, and I hope I shall never be found to be of them that shall go about to rob the nation of those rights; but to serve them, what I can, to the attaining of them. It hath also exceedingly well provided for the safety and security of honest men, in that great, natural, and religious liberty, which is liberty of conscience. These are great fundamentals, and I must bear my testimony to them, (as I have and shall do still so long as God lets me live in this world,) that the intentions of the things are very honourable and honest, and the product worthy of a Parliament. I have only had the unhappiness, both in my conferences with your Committees, and in the best thoughts I could take to myself, not to be convicted of the neces sity of that thing, that hath been so often insisted upon by you, to wit, the Title of King, as in itself so necessary, as it seems to be apprehended by yourselves. And I do, with all honour and respect to the judgement of the Parliament, testify that (cœteris paribus) no private judgement is to lie in the balance with the judgement of a Parliament; but in things that respect particular persons: every man that is to give an account to God of his actions, he must in some measure be able to prove his own work, to have an approbation in his own conscience of that he is to do, or forbear. And, whilst you are granting others' liberties, surely you will not deny me this; it being not only a liberty, but a duty (and such a duty as I cannot, without sinning, forbear) to examine my own heart, and thoughts, and judgement, in every work which I am to set mine hand to, or to appear in, or for.

I must confess, therefore, that, though I do acknowledge all the other, yet I must be a little confident in this, that what with the circumstances that accompany human actions, whether they be circumstances of time, or persons, whether circumstances that relate to the whole, or private or particular circumstances, that compass any person that is to render an account of his own actions; I have truly thought, and do still think, that if I should (at the best) do any thing on this account to answer your expectation, it would be, at the best, doubtingly. And, certainly, what is so is not of faith. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin to him that doth it, whether it be with relation to the substance of the action, about which the consideration is conversant, or whether to circumstances about it, which make all think indifferent actions good or evil to him that doth it.

I, lying under this consideration, think it my duty, only I could have wished I had done it sooner, for the sake of the House, who have laid so infinite obligations on me, I wish I had done it sooner for your sake, for saving time and trouble; and indeed for the Committee's sake, to whom I must acknowledge, publicly, I have been unseasonably troublesome, I say, I could have wished I had given it sooner. But, truly, this is my answer, that although I think the government doth consist of very excellent parts in all, but in that one thing, the title, as to me, I should not be an honest man, if I should not tell you, that I cannot accept of the government, nor undertake the trouble or charge of it, which I have a little more experimented than every man; what troubles, and difficulties do befal men under such trusts, and in such undertakings. I say, I am persuaded to return this answer to you, that I cannot undertake this Government with the title of a King, and that is mine answer to this great and weighty business. (fn. 1)


  • 1. Monarchy Asserted, pp. 111, 112.