The Diary of Thomas Burton: 24 March 1658-9

Pages 244-253

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


Thursday, March 24, 1658–9.

I came late. The report touching Mr. Streete (fn. 1) was made and recommitted; on pretence of the Petitioners to offer new matter.

Mr. Streete offered to speak; but was not heard.

Query, how the debate was carried ? and see per Diurnal what reports were made: If I do omit it in this, see there. (fn. 2)

Sir Jerome Sankey. I open the highest charge against a member of this House that ever was; such news has not been of a long time; a high breach of trust. It is against a great person.

The charge consists of several articles. 1. Bribery. 2. Ingrossing monies and lands. He is both cook, caterer, and hunt; is commissioner and surveyor; has had the disposing of two millions of acres of land. He is a man of great parts, but has highly wronged them. His name is Dr. Petty.

He brought the charge up to the table.

Colonel Birch moved not to receive it, unless there was a hand at it.

Sir Jerome Sarikey said he knew the danger, to bring in a charge of this nature without signing it. He owned it.

Colonel Fielder and Serjeaut Maynard moved that, in regard the member was not here it might not be read, till he was here to make his answer.

Colonel White moved not to discountenance a charge of this nature.

Mr. Knightley moved to have it read, and it was read accordingly.

Articles of misdemeanour and breach of trust against Dr.

William Petty, elected to serve this House as a member of Parliament.

1. Oppression by great bribery. 2. He fraudulently purchased lands and debentures. 8. He got great sums of public money into his hands; and used many foul practices in his office. He got lands that he had neither by lot nor —, (fn. 3) and placed debentures upon security where lands are not.

Major-general Kelsey. I never hoped to hear this charge against this person. He is a civil, ingenious gentleman. Appoint him this day month to appear, or six weeks, and let him have a copy of this charge.

Mr. Annesley. We have had much of this there. (fn. 4) He hath stood resolutely upon his innocency. Still he defends it there; for these things were against him at the council in Ireland.

Sir Jerome Sankey. As to method of proceedings. Whether will you have the charge made ready against that time, or only hear his answer ? He has all the records in his Hands, so it is no wonder why it was not looked into before; and if there had never been a Parliament, I should never have meddled in it. A month's time is little enough for him to make his answer; but I suppose that, in the mean time, you will prepare the business.

Captain Baynes. The charge is a general charge, to which a man cannot well answer. You must be satisfied in particulars. I doubt that land is ill shared in Ireland. Four counties in it (fn. 5) are excepted from the adventurers and soldiers, by the Instrument of Government, (fn. 6) I believe lands of at least 100,000l. per annum were given away last Parliament; 40,000l. in a morning, (fn. 7) 500l. per annum, worth (fn. 8) 1500l. You must have a review of this business. Some have got all, some none.

Mr. Annesley took him down, as speaking what was foreign to the business.

Sir Henry Vane. Appoint a day. The summons ought to be under your hand; and say that there is a charge of misdemeanour against him depending in this House, and that you require his attendance here by such a day to answer it.

Serjeant Maynard. There is no particular charge to which he cannot make a defence. Be he never so guilty he will excuse himself; because you put an impossibility upon him to make himself innocent. I have as much reason to complain as any man; for I paid my money the first, and have got no lands yet.

Mr. Reynolds. Appoint a Committee of three or four to prepare the charge in particular against Saturday, and then let him have a copy of it, and a day appointed to appear to make his defence.

Sir Jerome Sankey. Bribery is a plain case. The evidence lies in Ireland. You may haply think fit to direct a Committee to examine witnesses.

Mr. Trevor. The charge is general: bribery in general, not when, nor where, nor of whom. He can never answer this, unless you descend to particulars.

Mr. Knightley. There is a crime in the bribe given, as in the bribe taken. Will you then think fit to set forth of whom he received bribes ?

Lord Lambert. I move that he have a month's time appointed to answer this charge, though it be general.

Colonel Bennet. The charge is particular enough. Six weeks' time is little enough for him to prepare himself to answer.

Mr. Bayles. If you send a copy of his charge, he will keep all the records that are in his custody, and which you must make good the charge by. I would have the records secured.

Serjeant Maynard. I would not have, you, by this precedent, to bring an inconvenience afterwards upon innocent persons. 1 cannot admit this general charge to be a good charge to make a defence final upon. Lord Stratford and Canterbury's charges were at first general, to which they demurred; and then we came to particulars. I would have you use this method in this case.

Sir Jerome Sankey. I second Mr. Bayles's motion, that the records be secured.

Colonel Allured seconded it.

Sir Anthony Morgan. I know nought of the matter.

Those records are not in his custody, solely. Other two gentlemen are joined with him in the custody of them. He is an ingenious person, and has done you good service. I will not justify him at all. I believe he will wait upon you, as soon as he can. I desire he may have a copy of his charge sent, and a month's time to answer it.

Resolved, that William Petty, Doctor of Physic, a member of this House, be appointed to attend this House, on this day month, (fn. 9) to answer this charge.

Mr. Speaker desired to know if he might send him a letter.

Resolved, that a copy of the articles now brought in against Dr. Petty be sent unto him into Ireland, and that Mr. Speaker do sign a letter, directed to Dr. Petty, with a copy of the articles to be inclosed therein, and sent to him. (fn. 10)

Sir Jerome Sankey and Mr. Reynolds moved that Sir Je rome Sankey have an order to have recourse to the records, to take copies, in order to make good this charge. This was ordered accordingly. (fn. 11)

Mr. . (fn. 12) In regard you hear he is an ingenious man you had need, in the mean time, to be better prepared. I would therefore have some gentlemen to make the charge so plain as that he may make a plain defence.

Colonel Terrill offered a report, and moved that reports from the Grand Committee should, per order of the House, be heard first.

Mr. Speaker, a report from the Committee of Privileges must of course precede all other reports.

Colonel Morley. I move to proceed upon the business of transacting. (fn. 13) I have stayed in town about a fortnight about it. (fn. 14)

Mr. Weaver seconded it.

Colonel White and Colonel West move to take up this debate. It is now eleven o'clock, and a fit time to take it up.

I suppose it was to prevent Packer's report from coming in.

Mr. Bodurda moved that the report might be heard first, for, till this be determined, not only sixty but three hundred depend upon this question of Major General Packer. The question was put if the report shall be heard.

Mr. Speaker declared for the yeas.

Mr. Weaver declared for the noes.

Mr. Speaker declared for the Noes to go out, because it was natural to receive a report.

Sir Walter Earle agreed to it.

Mr. Knightley and Mr. Weaver. Though they were yeas, they ought to go out. There is no day appointed for this report, so that it comes not in by your order. If the question should be whether a member should speak or no, it is all one as if whether he should report or no.

Mr. Speaker still insisted on it that the Noes should go out.

Sir Richard Temple. The report is new, and the yeas ought to fetch it.

After a little debate,

Mr. Weaver stood up, and said he was better satisfied; so there was no division.

Serjeant Waller made the report. It was short.

1. That Isaac Fuller, Esq. was clearly chosen. 2. That James Cooper, Esq. was elected the other burgess by the major part of such as had votes, he being not resident nor freeman of the said borough. 3. That Major General Packer was resident, and was chosen by a less number of voices than Mr. Cooper was.

Upon the whole they voted Mr. Cooper's election good. (fn. 15)

Major-general Packer. I judge myself a member, and that by the letter of the law; both positive and negative law. The best counsel tell me so. Lord Coke says so. But for this I had not presumed to sit, though it is my honour. I am beholden to those gentlemen that pressed me oh so far.

I had a learned, elegant gentleman at the Committee, that offered to make out the law in this case. The Journals were searched, and they found but one case, and that was the case of Catlin at Norwich. My case differs, being free, resident, and returned, and the other not. The Recorder of London yesterday at the bar gave it for law. If there be ought omitted, as to my inadvertency or failure of witnesses, I hope you will hear it.

My counsel, of his own accord, put it upon that point of law, that if eligible, Mr. Cooper was not elected. I have something of matter-of-fact to offer. Divers of his electors, and of mine too, were not capable. He had one hundred and forty, and I one hundred and twenty. There are no more in Hertford persons capable to elect, but two hundred and thirteen persons, whereof I have one hundred and seven, he has one hundred and six.

My company or service is not so considerable as to give you a further trouble. I have got as near the door as I can, that I may withdraw. I crave your pardon for being too particular in my own case. If you throw me out, I should advise you, as they do on Thames, when you cast anchor, to throw out a buoy.

There is another thing touching Sir Henry Wroth. (fn. 16) His relation was very false. I rather looked on it as a crime to be a biter or striker, or to kill a man. I pray that Committee may be the Committee.

I have spent my blood publicly. I shall go home and plough for it, and plead for your cause, however you do in it. I hope I stand right before God, before the Church, and. before you. I hope that I have been faithful to your cause.

That said, he presently withdrew, being just at the post.

Sir Walter Earle. It is an adjudged case, that the law touching residency and freeman is an obsolete law. If this be admitted for law, I must go out, and a great many more.

Mr. Broughton. He is a modest man. The Lord has been pleased to give him repentance. He offers you fresh matter: that there are but two hundred and thirteen capable electors, and he had one hundred and seven. I therefore pray that it be recommitted.

Colonel Cox. I have heard it from divers honest men of the town, that this Major-general Packer had the majority of electors capable. I move that it be recommitted.

Mr. Bodurda. I was at the Committee both days, and it appeared that Mr. Cooper had one hundred and forty votes. As to that of Major-general Packer, he was made free but the night before, and had taken a house for a month only. Mr. Turner was present at the election. The Mayor denied to make Mr. Cooper free.

Mr. Turner. Seeing I am called up, I am bound to declare my knowledge in this business.

I serve that town in matters of law. They sent for me to prevent disorder and blood. They thought to have chosen me, but that my country called me to their service. Mr. Cooper had the greater number of votes. My opinion was desired upon the statute. I told him the letter of law was clear; but the course of Parliament otherwise.

I had occasion, in this case, to tell you my, thoughts before, upon this statute. Before the statute 5 Henry V. the Sheriff always took bail of members to appear. It was so troublesome to sit in Parliament, and the boroughs not able to pay wages; (fn. 17) therefore, they got strangers chosen, that were able to bear their own charges. I advised the mayor to make a special return, and leave it to the Parliament to judge; to send up both indentures: but he would not take my advice.

Mr. Knightley. I cannot agree with that gentleman's reading upon the statute, unless it appeared in the preamble. He says the reason of that statute was because men were chosen against their wills, and therefore it tied them to choose of themselves.

There is a penalty by that statute against the officer, and if he be sued, I cannot tell how he can excuse himself from the penalty. The law is plain, and whoever be concerned in it, let your judgment be according to law, and a rule hereafter to walk by.

Sir John Northcote. I would have you pass such a judgment in this case, as may determine it for the future, in all cases of this nature.

I observe something which has not been yet observed. Though Major-general Packer was resident and free, yet he was neither, at the tests of the writ, which the statute directs. You have not proceeded at any time in these cases upon the law, but upon the prudential; and all the Judges in Westminster Hall daré not judge, nor ever have interpreted, against the judgment of the House of Commons.

I would have you declare, that all that are willing, and fit, and chosen to serve, may serve, notwithstanding the statute.

Colonel Parsons. I agree to have that judgment declared to he a rule for the future: hut I would have it recommitted as to matter-of-fact; in regard it is offered that he had one hundred and seven of two hundred and thirteen persons capable to elect.

Mr. Chaloner moved to recommit it.

Mr. Annesley was against recommitting it, upon any thing offered by the member.

I went away at twelve. The debate held till two. At last, it was resolved to agree with the Committee, and exclude Major-general Packer.

Lord Argyle sat next Lord Fairfax and Sir Arthur Haslerigge.

The Committee of Grievances sat in the afternoon, Colonel Terrill was in the chair.

Mr. Baldwin made a Report for Lady Worcester, touching Worcester House. (fn. 18)

Resolved to agree with the Committee.

The business of Mr. Scurr, touching a title, was heard by counsel upon a cross Petition. I left it, and dined at the Three Tuns Gracechurch-street.

There was, towards night, a Petition preferred on behalf of one Rivers, and one Foyle, and seventy persons sold into slavery in the Barbadoes by the Major-generals.

The Petition concerned several members, as namely, Captain Hatsell, Sir John Coplestone, and Mr. Noell. Therefore, the Committee thought fit to proceed no farther in it, but report the petition to the House.

Another Petition was presented to the same purpose by one Rowland Thomas, wherein Mr. Secretary was concerned, as to committing him to the Tower, and Mr. Noell in selling him into slavery.


  • 1. See vol. iii. p. 435. Journals.
  • 2. Nothing farther appears in the Journals.
  • 3. Blank in the MS.
  • 4. In Ireland;
  • 5. "Dublin, Cork, Kildare, and Catherlaugh."
  • 6. No. xxzi. See Part. Hist. (1763,) xx. 259.
  • 7. See vol. i. p. 259; ii. 175, ad fin.
  • 8. Valued at.
  • 9. Journals.
  • 10. Ibid. "Dr. Thomas Clarges to H. Cromwell, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. London, March 29, 1659. "Since my last, my Lord Broghill, and some other of your Excellency's friends have had a more serious consultation concerning Lyll, of which his Lordship promises me to give your Excellency intimation. "On Friday [Thursday] last, Sir Jerome Zanchey brought a charge into the House, of bribery and breach of trust, against Dr. Petty, to which he set his hand; and amongst other expressions, he told us, he knew so well the danger of bringing in a charge of that nature against a member of Parliament, that he would not have done it but in confidence to make it good. Many of the Long Robe were against the receiving of it, till it was digested into particulars; (for the charge was general;) but at last it was resolved he should be summoned to attend the House, that day month; and I believe Sir Jerome finds the sense of the House so much inclines to particularizing his charge that he is gone post to Ireland, to inable him to do it, and yesterday he began his journey. "I humbly beseech your Excellency's pardon for inclosing a few lines to the Doctor in this letter, which the extraordinariness of the occasion makes me not to doubt of. The speech Sir Jerome made, before he delivered his charge, made the business seeme very great; but when the thing itself was read, it gave but little impression. Mr. Annesley told us, the Doctor had been used to things of this nature; but never yet, upon any examination, could any thing be fastened on him; and he doubted not but he would well acquitt himself of this. "As I was sealing my letter, the Speaker sent the letter of summons of Dr. Petty to me, and desired, for the better security of it, that I would inclose it in your Excellence's packett." See "Thurloe State Papers," vii. 639, 640. "H. Cromwell, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to Secretary Thurloe, April 11th, 1659." "I have heretofore told you my thoughts of Dr. Petty, and I am still of the same opinion; and if Sir Hierome Sankey do not run him down with numbers and noise of adventurers, and such other like concerned persons, I believe the Parliament will find him as I have represented him. He has curiously deluded me these four years if he be a knave, I am sure the juntoes of them, who are most busie, are not men of the quiettest temper. I doe not expect you will have leizure, or see cause, to appeare much for him. Wherefore, this is only to let you understand my present thoughts of him. The activeness of Robert Reynolds, and others, in this business, shews that Petty is not the only marke aimed at: but God's will be done, in all things!" Ibid. p. 651.
  • 11. "Resolved, that Sir Jerome Sankey, or such as he shall think fit to employ into that behalf, shall have recourse to such records as are in Ireland; and may have true and authentic copies of such of them as shall be desired and thought necessary, to make good the articles now brought in against Dr. Petty." Journals.
  • 12. Blank in the MS.
  • 13. See supra, p. 88, ad fin.
  • 14. "March 24, 1658–9. Resolved that Colonel Herbert Morley have, leave to go into the country for ten days." Journals.
  • 15. "And that the mayor of the said borough should forthwith amend his return accordingly." Journals.
  • 16. See supra, p..7.
  • 17. See supra, p. 194, note §.
  • 18. See supra, p. 244.