The Diary of Thomas Burton: 22 April 1659, with editorial commentary appended

Pages 482-486

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.


In this section

Friday, April 22, 1659.

Prayers. (fn. 1)

The House taking notice, that some of the members of the House went out of the House; it was

Resolved, that those gentlemen, members of this House, who now went out of the House, be called in again, to give their attendance in the House.

Resolved, that none of the members of the House, do depart out of the House, without the leave of the House.

Resolved, that all strangers be commanded forthwith to depart out of the lobby, or outward room, before the Parliament-door; and that none but such as are members of the House be suffered to come in; and the door of the said outward room be kept shut.

Resolved, that this House be adjourned until Monday morning next.

The House adjourned itself until Monday morning next, at eight o'clock.

Westminster, April 22.

This day, by a commission under the great Seal of England, the Parliament was dissolved. (fn. 2)

"By the Lord Protector,

"A Proclamation about dissolving the Parliament.

"Whereas, we summoned our high court of Parliament, to assemble and meet together at our City of Westminster, the twenty-seventh day of January last, which hath continued until this present day: And, whereas, we did, by our commission under our great seal of England, bearing date at Westminster, this present twenty-second day of April, for divers weighty reasons, declare our pleasure and resolution to dissolve the said Parliament, and to that end did thereby constitute and appoint our right trusty and right well-beloved counsellor, Nathaniel Lord Fiennes, one of the Lords Keepers of our Great Seal of England, and others, our commissioners in our name, this said present twenty-second day of April, to dissolve our said Parliament, which was by them done according to the tenor, of the said commission, in the usual place; and by virtue thereof our said Parliament is absolutely dissolved. Nevertheless, we have thought it necessary, with the advice of our Privy Council, by this our proclamation, to publish and make known the same, to the end all persons whom it may concern, may take notice thereof.

"Given at Whitehall, the twenty-second of April, in the year of our Lord; 1659." (fn. 3)

This exertion of prerogative, on the policy of which his counsellors had disagreed, (fn. 4) was almost the last public transaction during the Protectorate of Richard Cromwell. He removed, in a few weeks, from, the palace of Whitehall; and returned, probably with little reluctance, to a private condition. (fn. 5)

The interval which now elapsed, previous to the re-establishment of regal Government, is beyond the design of this undertaking, which proposes to preserve and connect what may still be recovered of Parliamentary History, during the Protectorates. That interval, varied and tumultuous, was yet highly important for its inauspicious termination, in the restoration of the Stuart race, (fn. 6) the bitter bane of England during the larger part of a century. It will, I trust, soon be illustrated in the interesting and instructive manner, to be expected, from the patient research and discriminating judgment, already discovered in "The History of the Commonwealth."

Richard Cromwell was only in his thirty-second year, when he assumed the Protectoral authority. After the Restoration, he passed several years on the Continent; till released from pecuniary embarrassments, the high price of his transient elevation, he returned to England. There he survived, for many years, in the enjoyment of a competent estate, and the security of a private station, another and a final expulsion of the Stuarts.

The second Protector, placed for a few months in the seat of government, which his father's administration had rendered illustrious, especially to the observation of foreign states, has been sometimes described as a weak man, (fn. 7) for no reason that appears, but because he was happily free from the selfish, and, too often, sanguinary ambition of sovereign authority. Yet those rare talents, requisite, at once to occupy and to adorn a public station; such qualifications as make the place a candidate for the man, he neither possessed nor affected. But for his connexion, by the accident of birth, with the fame and fortunes of his father, the life of Richard Cromwell might have passed, uninterruptedly; as, after an extended and vigorous old age, it calmly concluded; (fn. 8) honourably and usefully sustaining the character, which a disciplined ambition might learn to envy, of an educated, independent, private gentleman.


  • 1. For the first resolution, for remuneration to the chaplain, see vol. iii. p. 17, note.
  • 2. The circumstances immediately connected with this dissolution are thus described by Ludlow, commencing April 21, and serving to supply the deficiency of the Journals on the confusion evident from the aforesaid resolutions:— "About noon, Colonel Disbrowe went to Mr. Richard Cromwell, at Whitehall, and told him, that if he would dissolve his Parliament, the officers would take care of him; but that if he refused so to do, they would do it without him, and leave him to shift for himself. Having taken a little time to consider of it, and finding no other way left to do better, he consented to what was demanded. "This great alteration was made with so little noise, that very few were alarmed at it. The next morning, the House met. Few knew of the resolution taken to put a period to them; or, if they did, were unwilling to take notice of it; so that, when the Usher of the Black Rod, who attended the other House, came to let the Serjeant-at-arms know, that it was the pleasure of the Protector, that the House of Commons should attend him at the other House, many of them were unwilling to admit the Serjeant into the House, to deliver the message; but the Commonwealth party demanded and obtained, that he should give the House an account of what the Gentleman of the Black Rod had said to him. "The Assembly, being under this confusion, adjourned themselves till eight of the clock, the next [Monday] morning; but care was taken to prevent their meeting again, by publishing a proclamation, declaring them to be dissolved; by setting a padlock on the door of the House, and by placing a guard in the Court of Requests, with orders to refuse admittance to all those who should demand it." Memoirs, (1698,) ii. 641, 642.
  • 3. Mercurius Politicus, No. 564, p. 391.
  • 4. "Richard advised," says Whitlock, "with the Lord Broghill, Fiennes, Thurloe, Wolselsy, myself, and some others, whether it were not fit to dissolve the present Parliament. "Most of them were for it. I doubted the success of it, and wished a little longer permission of their sitting, especially now they had begun to consider of raising money, whereby they would engage the soldiery; but most were for the dissolving of the Parliament, in regard of the present great dangers from them, and from the Cavaliers, who now flocked to London, and, underhand, fomented the divisions." Memorials, (1732,) p. 677.
  • 5. "Without any struggle," says Bishop Burnet, "he withdrew, and became a private man. And as he had done hurt to nobody, so nobody did ever study to hurt him, by a rare instance of the instability of human greatness, and the security of innocence." Own Time, (1724,) i. 83. Dr. Priestley, on "the advantage of preferring a private situation," gives the instance of "Richard Cromwell, who lived to a great age, contented and happy, whereas his father never knew what happiness was." See "Lectures on History," (iii.); Works, (1826,) xxiv. 50.
  • 6. Of the royal representative of that race, in 1660, Scotland's 110th king from Fergus, (See vol. iii. p. 374, note.) "Mr. Livingstone, one of the Scotch ministers sent to attend him in Holland, is reported to have said," (as if more gifted than his deluded brethren, with the second-sight,) "when they forced him on board with his Majesty, that they were bringing God's heavy wrath to Britain." See "A Memorial of the Reformation. By Benjamin Bennet," (1721,) p. 310.
  • 7. Lord Clarendon has indulged to unusual pleasantry, in relating a gossip's tale, or, at best, an unauthenticated anecdote of a "Prince of Conti, Governor of Languedoc," through whose province the late Protector was travelling, incog. "The Prince having received him with great civility and grace," and "began to discourse of the affairs of England," thus proceeded in the vulgar tongue; unless the noble historian, incautiously, or, for an insidious purpose, (occasionally to be detected, notwithstanding mottoes from the Bible to every book of the history,) has rendered the Prince of Conti's French into English Billingsgate:— "Oliver, though he was a traitor and a villain, was a brave fellow; had great parts, great courage, and was worthy to command. But that Richard, that coxcomb, coquin, poltroon, was, surely, the basest fellow alive. What has become of that fool ? How was it possible he could be such a sot ?" History, (1712,) iii. 663. "Richard," said Dr. Harris, "by reason of his quiet resignation and submission to the Parliament, has been treated as a man ' without spirit to discern what was best for him,' as extremely 'pusillanimous; in fine, as 'a fool and a sot,' by such men as Lord Clarendon and his copyists. "But, in the name of common sense, what was there weak or foolish in laying down a burden too heavy for the shoulders ? What, in preferring the peace and welfare of men, to blood and confusion, the necessary consequences of retaining the Government?" Lives, (1814,) iv. 202. The eminent Nonconformist, Mr. Howe, who had been chaplain to the Protectors, having "heard Richard reflected on as a weak man," says Dr. Calamy, "he, with some warmth, made this return; 'how could he be a weak man, when upon the remonstrance that was brought from the army, by his brother Fleetwood, he stood it out all night, against his whole Council, till four o'clock in the morning, having none but Thurloe to abet him; maintaining, the dissolving that Parliament would be both his ruin and theirs.'" Ibid. p. 203. "The Lords Howard, Broghill, and some other officers," says Budgell, "advised him to remember that he was Cromwell's son, and to act as his father would have done, on such an occasion. They lastly offered, that if he would not be wanting to himself, and would give them a sufficient authority to act under him, they would either force his enemies to obey him, or cut them off. "Richard, startled at this proposition, answered, in a consternation, ' he thanked them for their friendship; but that he neither had done, nor would do any person any harm; and that, rather than a drop of blood should be spilt on his account, he would lay down that greatness which was but a burthen to him.' He was so fixed in this resolution, that, whatever the Lords could say, was not capable of making him alter it." See "Memoirs of the Boyles," (1737,) pp. 75, 76. There is a similar relation, in a "dialogue between the Protector Richard and Colonel Howard." House of Cromwell, i. 330–332: Mrs. Hutchinson says, "he was a meeke, temperate, and quiett man, but had not a spiritt fit to succeed his father, or to manage such a perplexed government."Memoirs, (1810,) ii. 218,219.
  • 8. At Cheshunt, Herts, July 12, 1712, in the 86th year of his age. Mr. Noble says, "He chiefly resided at a house near the church, in Cheshunt; where he courted privacy, but did not live the life of a recluse, making occasional visits to his friends; but he cautiously avoided speaking of his former elevation, to his most intimate acquaintance. Dr Watts, who was frequently with him, says,' he never knew him glance at his former station but once, and that in a very distant manner.'" House of Cromwell, (1787,) i. 173.