Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1658-9. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1885.
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THE period of 13 months, comprised in the present volume, embraces events of great political importance—the death and funeral of the Protector Oliver; the peaceable succession of his son Richard; the meeting of Parliament; its failure, when no longer under the guidance of a strong and energetic hand, to hold its ground against formidable military power; its dissolution; the recall of the Long Parliament; the compulsory abdication of Richard Cromwell; and the return of the government as far as practicable into the groove in which it was made to run after the execution of Charles I. in 1649.
When the last volume closed, a High Court of Justice had just been appointed, as a Royalist relates, "comprising all the Judges, and the Commissioners of the Great Seal, and a rabble besides," to sit upon those implicated in designs against the Protector or Government; 17 were to form a quorum, but it was doubted whether many would sit "except such rogues as Bradshaw" (p. 5). "The grand news of the London prints," writes another Royalist correspondent, "is the threats of the formidable Court of Justice" (p. 12). Although legal authorities were "no friends to this High Court of Justice, it being so contrary to law, and the many Acts of Parliament quoted by them," yet Cromwell, having "beaten the market" and gained a sufficient number of the members, they set to work rigorously. The list of the persons to be tried for treason is given on p. 16; they were 13 in number, including Dr. John Hewett, Sir Hen. Slingsby, Sir Wm. Compton, Sir Rich. Willis, and Sir Hum. Bennett; two others were tried for misprision of treason. Slingsby and Bennett were beheaded, and for the rest, it was for some time doubtful whether they would lose their heads or their estates (pp. 21, 62).
The result of these stringent measures was the restoration of external tranquility, and on July 3, 1658, the Protector issued a declaration for a day of public thanksgiving for deliverance from " an army of Papists and Atheists," who, in conjunction with the King of Spain, had intended an invasion on behalf of Charles Stuart, bribing garrisons to receive them, and plotting insurrections against London, &c.; but this project had been checked by a defeat inflicted on the Spanish army in the Low Countries by the French, and it was noted that in the battle, the English Royalists, who fought for Spain, had been cowardly, whilst the Parliament troops, who assisted the French, had behaved well.
Again, the plague that had threatened England in several places, had disappeared, and therefore, the Protector adds, "though we have been like the burning bush these past 5 months, we are not consumed; we live in peace" (p. 82). The possession of Dunkirk by the English was also made matter of thanksgiving.
A few weeks later than this thanksgiving day, on 3 Sept. 1658, the Protector breathed his last. The regrets of the nation expressed themselves in sundry fashions, but they reach us chiefly through the letters addressed to the Admiralty Commissioners. One correspondent describes him as "that worthy and famous instrument of God's glory, and the comfort and happiness of the nation" (p. 133). "Surely," says another, "malice is not so ignorant, or at leastwise so impudent, but with some regret of spirit, if they will not sorrowfully confess his loss, yet they must acknowledge his worth, valour, wisdom, and piety" (p. 137).
England has probably neither before nor since witnessed such a spectacle as the obsequies of Oliver Cromwell. From the highest to the lowest, every person who held any office, civil, military, or naval, under Government, seems to have claimed and received allowance of cloth for mourning; and among them we read the names of the two Latin Secretaries, John Milton and And. Marvel, who had at first 9 yards of cloth each assigned to them, though the quantity was reduced to six; 68 poor men, as such, were recommended for gowns. Two committees were appointed, one to superintend the funeral arrangements, and the other the distribution of mourning. After the embalming, the body was conveyed from Hampton Court to Somerset House, which was draped with black—partly velvet, which was ordered to be preserved—and furnished with cloths of estate. The funeral was originally fixed for 9 Nov., but the preparations could not be completed in time, and it had to be postponed to 23 Nov. (pp. 129–132, 141–143, 152, 169, 175, 184), when with 13 standards, " the banner of Cromwell to be borne by a Cromwell," the chief mourner supported by 2 earls, his train borne by 5 peers, and 14 peers as assistants, with horses caparisoned, equerries and trumpets, and military as well as civil pomp, Oliver Cromwell was laid in the resting-place that was not his last, but where his ashes reposed till dragged out to be carried with ignominy to Tyburn.
The expenses of the funeral were enormous. The total of 18,600l. was voted in several sums in the present volume (pp. 132, 139, 145, 169, 190, 265), and in August 1659, after the cessation of the Protectorate, a Parliamentary Committee was appointed to examine what was still due for mourning for the late Lord Gen. Cromwell; the bills, signed by the Auditor or servants of Richard Cromwell, still unpaid, then amounted to 19,303l. 0s. 11d., and this sum was only for cloth and baize, velvet and fringes; it did not include any other items of expense. This sum represents more than 80,000l. of our present coinage, therefore the estimate of 150,000l. can hardly be too large for the entire expenses of the funeral.
The widow of the late Protector was also dowered to the extent of 20,000l. at once, and 20,000l. a year, and St. James's Palace was cleared and assigned to her as a residence (pp. 130, 142, 200, 222).
The old French proclamation, "Le roi est mort; vive le roi," was not more true to fact in reference to the heir of dynasties that had ruled for centuries than to the heir of the short-lived Protectorate. When in 1657 the right to nominate a successor was granted to Oliver Cromwell, on his declining the proffered crown, no record seems to exist of his exercising the power; but at the same time, the nomination of Richard was certainly taken for granted; for in a letter dating 13/23 Jan. 1657–58, the term "Protector" was used in anticipation in reference to him. From that time also, the tone adopted towards him was that belonging to a prince of the blood royal; he became "the most illustrious Lord," and the succession was assumed to be his birthright.
If therefore the tradition of Richard's formal nomination by the Protector Oliver on his deathbed be correct, it was only the enunciation of an appointment already recognized in the diplomatic circle, if not familiar to the people. Proclamation was at once made by order of Council, by the Lord Mayor and four heralds in the City of London (p. 129), and in the several counties, of his succession, and Richard took the needful oaths, and assumed the reins of government (p. 130). The nation generally and the army officers in particular accepted the appointment, "admitting that, whether according to law, their duty to his father, his own merits, or the security of the whole nation, nothing could have been pitched on more universally acceptable and necessary than this succession" (pp. 136, 235). The commanders of the ships in the fleet concerted together to subscribe a paper signifying their allegiance, which was formally presented to the new Protector (pp. 139, 154).
These halcyon days of domestic tranquility were not destined to last. The generals and officers at sea complained of the continuance of a standing army, when there was no internal foe to combat, and urged that the militia amply sufficed, for that the seamen were really those who had to fight and run risks for the State (p. 262).
The Parliament summoned for January 1659 consisted to a large extent of new members, (fn. 1) whose election had been sharply contested in many instances, but still the party in favour of the Protectorate was strong (pp. 221, 225, 262, 336).
But the army did not require many months to discover that the hand which held the rein had no longer the iron grasp of the first Protector, and like a restive horse, they took advantage of feebleness. The officers began to hold secret meetings, which Parliament discovered and forbade. The outcome of this was that in April 1659, Fleetwood, who was at the head of the opposing cabal, with many other officers, waited on Richard, and compelled him to sign a bill for the dissolution of Parliament, without even giving him time to take the opinion of his Council. The dissolution, whether legal or not, was carried out by force.
An intelligencer writes that "the Protector is in ill condition; he rages against Fleetwood, whom the army have declared General, and Desborow Lieut.-General, and it is not yet known who will be master. The people are in strange consternation" (pp. 335, 336).
The step from dishonour to dismissal was a short one, and rapidly taken. The army officers, always at heart enemies to rule by a single person, whether styled King or Protector, had submitted to Oliver through the sheer force of his personal character, but they resolved to discard Richard. Yet wishing to keep up the semblance of constitutional government, they resolved to recall the Long Parliament, as it was when dismissed by Cromwell, and through Parliament, to end the Protectorate, proposing to allow Richard 20,000l. a year, and Somerset House (pp. 337–340).
The first act of the restored Parliament was to settle the State "without a single person, Kingship, or House of Peers;" the next was to take upon itself the formation of a Committee of Safety and for nomination of officers, thus taking care that those who held the sword should be indebted to themselves for office, and therefore be liable to be disbanded at pleasure.
The primary object of the Committee of Safety was to see that all places of trust, civil and military, were in the hands of persons on whom Parliament could rely, and no commissions were considered valid, unless sanctioned by their approval. The lists of officers of one regiment after another were laid before them, and any suspected of disaffection or immorality removed, and substitutes found chiefly from the yeomen of the guard; the remaining officers were confirmed in their places, and recommended to Parliament for fresh commissions. The lists of many of the regimental officers are printed in the Journals of the House of Commons, and are therefore not reprinted here, but in those cases where in the Commons' Journals the names are omitted, the lists of the officers are here given in full.
The Committee for nomination of officers, consisting of all the members of the Committee of Safety who were also members of Parliament, formulated the nominations that were made, for presentation to Parliament; their orders, as well as the orders relating to Ireland and Dunkirk, are copied into separate Books; but as the orders all originated in the Committee of Safety, they are amalgamated in its daily proceedings (pp. 343–4, 347, 352, 375, 382, 383, 387, 392, 394). (fn. 2)
Parliament also nominated a fresh Council, reverting to the original title of Council of State; four only of its members, Desborow, Fleetwood, Sydenham, and Jones, had belonged to the Protector's Privy Council, and of these the three first had been active in unseating the second Protector. Twelve of the number had sat in the Council of State in 1649, and several others in succeeding Councils, so that they were familiar with the general routine of business.
Parliament also revised all legal and civil offices, retaining those whom they judged fitting, and appointing substitutes for the rest (pp. 340–344, 388).
On 12 May 1659 appeared an important petition of the army officers to Parliament, which really contains a programme of the work which they expected to be done, one item of which was the payment of all debts contracted by both Protectors since 15 December 1653, the gift to Richard of 10,000l. at once, and 10,000l. a year more, with a "convenient house" for life; and the settlement of 8,000l. a year intead of the 20,000l. before named for Oliver's widow (pp. 345, 346). A deputation was appointed to "consider the condition of the eldest son of the late Lord General Cromwell, learn his estate, his debts, and how they were contracted, how far he acquiesces in the present Government, and offer what on the whole they conceive expedient on his behalf" (p. 347).
Richard replied in a few days, giving an account of his debts, stating that he values the peace of the Commonwealth above his own concerns, that he acquiesces in the present Government, will demean himself peaceably under it, and expects its protection. On this Parliament undertook to pay the debts, and requested him to retire from Whitehall "and dispose of himself as his private occasions require," and ordered him 2,000l. for the expenses of his removal (p. 356). He lingered on for some days, and ventured on a day's excursion to shoot deer at Hampton Court; but after he had shot one deer, he was informed that Parliament sent word that none were to be killed, and so his sport ended, and he retired to the life of a country gentleman (p. 367, 388).
The Cavaliers had watched these transitions of government with keen anxiety, hoping that some turn of fortune's wheel might be friendly to the Royalist cause, but the time was not yet come (pp. 339, 341, 347, 387, 388).
In November 1658, the rumour of an intended peace between Spain and England, possibly invented to alarm France, then at war with Spain,—disquieted the Royalists lest their King should be "deserted and thrust out by Spain, as he was by France" (pp. 194, 247, 254), but the change of rule in England in May 1659 put a stop to any project of foreign negotiations, until the home government should be settled (p. 339).
The Council of State records after Oliver Cromwell's death are extremely imperfect. When perfect they should consist of 5 series, viz.:—
Council of State Order Books.
Indexes to ditto.
Council of State Letter Books.
" " Warrant Books general.
" " " " for payment of money.
But the following table will show their defectiveness.
By this table it will be perceived that there is a hiatus in the Council Order Books from August 1658 to August 1659, and again from October 1659 to the restoration. For the first of these periods, the only records extant of the proceedings of Council are Indexes to the missing order books, in which the entries are of course extremely bald; but this notwithstanding, in a period so important, and where authentic information is so scanty, it was thought better to attempt from them a re-construction of the missing books. Skeleton Order Books were prepared and paginated, and then from each column of the index, all the entries were transferred to the pages indicated, excepting a few petitions of persons of names unknown, where there was no clue to the subject of the petition.
In this way the outlines of the missing books were reconstructed, but the next difficulty was that of dating the entries. The dates have been supplied from four sources—
1st. Orders to the Admiralty Commissioners, copies of which have been found among the Admiralty papers, in the ratio of 12 to 20 per month, which fix the dates of almost all the orders indexed as issued to that Committee.
2nd. Endorsements on petitions. These give the date of the reference or order on the petitions; the index gives the page, and therefore the dates can be affixed with certainty to many pages.
3rd. Books of warrants, passes, &c., issued by Council.
4th. Books of warrants for payment of money.
In the latter of the two periods, there is the further aid of two Letter Books. Warrants and letters were sometimes written on the day on which they were ordered in Council, sometimes a few days later, therefore the dates given by them are not exact.
From these sources combined, the entries have been carefully dated; sometimes the dates are absolutely correct, sometimes they may be only proximately so, but the divergence cannot in any case be more than that of a few days. The entries are headed in the Calendar "Index entries of Proceedings in Council," and references are given to the columns of the index book, in which the entries occur, while a note at foot states the pages in the missing order book which would include the entries for the several days.
Owing to the loss of the Council Book of Richard Cromwell's protectorate, the attendances at the Privy Council cannot be given at all from Sept. 1658 to May 1659.
When the new Council of State was formed in May 1659, it became customary that not merely the President as formerly, but some of the members, varying in number from 6 to 14, should sign the warrants; therefore from these signatures a table has been formed, which may be regarded as proximately, not absolutely correct. It may not represent the entire number of the sittings of Council, because there were days on which Council met, and no documents had to be signed. Again, members might be present who did not sign any of the warrants.
The names most frequently occurring as president are Sir Jas. Harrington, Sir Arch. Johnston, laird of Wariston, Bulstrode Whitelock, Sir Art. Heselrigge, and Sir Hen. Vane. This Council had sat only two months when the present volume closes.
The general toleration exercised towards Christians of all denominations during the Protectorate was but imperfectly extended to Quakers. It is true that this now peace-loving community were highly provoking in their frequent disturbances of public worship, and in the absence of that toleration towards others which they claimed for themselves. Their only power was that of the tongue, but they exercised it unsparingly in their fierce denunciations of the religious opinions of others. Then the old grievances of refusing to remove the hat or to swear in a court of justice gave a handle to their opponents of which unfair advantage was often taken.
Yet even these circumstances can hardly account for the widespread persecution of which details occur in the present volume. Lists are given of 123 "Friends" imprisoned for conscience sake, some of whom had been hunted out of their meetings and whipped, and some had been confined 2 years. They make a pathetic appeal to those who have "cast off the burden of oppression," and have "so much pretended liberty of conscience." "What have we done?" say they; "what laws have we broken? what plots have we engaged in? Have we not patiently borne the greatest sufferings ever since Queen Mary's days? We have been beaten, stoned, stocked, hauled out of our synagogues, cast into dungeons and noisome vaults, denied food for days together, not allowed pen, ink, and paper, and a legal trial refused or postponed for months or years, during which some have died" (pp. 146–148). There is an instructive paper giving, in parallel columns, the grounds assigned by Quakers themselves for their committal, and the explanations of the magistrates thereupon. The majority of the cases committed were for non-payment of tithes, and in two instances, goods to the value of 99l. were seized for tithes. The appeal concludes, "Now ye that be in authority, consider these things; search the records, for you will hardly find so many in prison for conscience sake since the days of Queen Mary as now is in your day; and if you do not release them, but harden your heart against them, and let them lie and die in prison, it is a sign you are without pity and without feeling" (pp. 148–150).
This appeal was not without effect. Council ordered enquiries to be made from the keepers of 36 prisons, in each of which from 1 to 12 Quakers were imprisoned, as to the cause of their commitment and detention, and copies of their committal warrants were ordered to be sent up (p. 156). The answers to this mandate give many particulars of the "trespasses and contempts" of which the Quakers were accused, and of their frequent refusal to give the securities which would have obtained their liberation (pp. 157–160, 164–166, 213). Those who were in the Fleet Prison presented their own statement of their case, alleging refusal to swear as the chief cause why some have been two years in prison. "All we were willing to appear and to give in our answers," they say, "but because we would not swear, they cast us into prison, which they call a contempt, but we are obedient to the doctrine of Christ and the Apostle, who saith, `Swear `not at all.' Is not this a sad thing among you, that obedience to Christ's commands is called a contempt? and thus the righteous suffer, and few lays it to heart, not only we, but many more in other prisons" (p. 163).
The result of the investigation was the appointment of a Committee of Council to sit upon the case of the Quakers, and especially to respond to an appeal made by them for pardon of seven still in prison on account of non-payment of tithes. In this document they pleaded also that 34 Quakers, still in prison for contempt by warrant from the late Protector, are virtually liberated by his decease. They suggested, as a means for preventing further mischief, that the Protector and Council should issue a circular letter to the judges, suggesting to them that they should order the removal of the hats of Quakers before they came into court, and thus prevent the frequent accusations of contempt of court (pp. 199, 200). These questions were still under consideration, but nothing was decided upon at the time of the change of government in May 1659.
When the commissions of all the civil officers were renewed, the Quakers made strenuous efforts to obtain the election of justices of peace who should either be favourable to their cause, or at least impartial; they endeavoured to influence their members on this point, returning lists from several counties of those who have been persecutors, those who are judged moderate, and those who are friendly (pp. 354, 358–360); but still, even in this juncture, they lacked discretion, for on June 1, 1659, we hear of a number of Quakers entering Canterbury Cathedral, disturbing the minister during the service, and causing a tumult afterwards (p. 364).
Religious intolerance was not shown merely to Quakers. We find complaints of a Congregationalist being fined 2s. 6d. for every day's absence from his parish church (p. 31); articles against the minister of Frodsham on doctrinal points (p. 43); a quarrel between the minister of Tewkesbury and a Malignant or Royalist lecturer who was intruded upon him, and an attempt made by him to stop the lecturer, resulting in the imprisonment of his agent (p. 117). Again we find at Bury St. Edmunds the Congregationalists petitioning against the Presbyterian party, for engrossing the use of the two principal places of worship in the town, and begging that the chancel of the church in Mary's parish may be appropriated to them, the place being so large that two congregations can meet without disturbing each other (p. 176). In Coventry a "gathered church," whose principles are not stated, begs the use of a vacant corporation church, but not a parish church, for their gatherings, hitherto held in a private house (p. 175).
At Badington, in Gloucester, a minister who had been appointed by the Protector Oliver was persecuted on his death by the adherents of the former minister, who broke into the church by force, and the minister took possession of the pulpit (p. 189).
A minister in Luton refused to permit the burial of a lady in his church if the Common Prayer Book service were used, when the church was forcibly broken into by friends of the deceased, who persisted in the performance of the old burial rites (p. 37.)
The Common Prayer book was rigidly disallowed, and its use was classified with drunkenness and fighting in the articles preferred against John Owsley, minister of Claypoole, in Lincolnshire, by his parishioners (p. 30). Council also issued formal letters to abolish the celebration of Christmas, and the use of the Common Prayer book (p. 225).
The mayor of Boston and other gentlemen of Lincolnshire complained that some of their brethren were persecuted last Lincoln assizes, for not administering the Lord's Supper to all their parishioners, according to the statute of 1 Edward VI., which proceeding raised hopes of indiscriminate admission to the sacraments, as in the time of the late bishops; but the petitioners plead that "liberty of conscience being the chiefest jewel lately purchased so dearly, ministers should not be punished for making a distinction between the precious and the vile" (p. 194).
On shipboard, discussions occasionally arose between the captain and superior officers and the chaplain, when his religious opinions differed from theirs; we have two instances of appeal in such cases to the Admiralty Commissioners to settle the disputes (pp. 283, 312).
The present volume comes down to June 1659, within 12 months of the restoration of Charles II. It is expected that the next volume will conclude the historical series of the Interregnum papers.
M. A. E. G.
100, Gower Street,
12 August 1885.
|NAMES.||JULY 1658.||AUGUST 1658.||SEPT. 1658.|
|1||6||8||13||15 (fn. 3)||20*||22*||27 (fn. 4)||29*||Totals 9.||3†||3||5*||12||17†||19*||24†||26||31||Totals 9.||2|
|Lord Protector Cromwell||—||—||p||—||p||—||—||—||p||3||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0||—|
|Lord Rich. Cromwell||—||—||—||—||—||p||p||p||p||4||p||p||p||p||p||p||p||p||—||8||—|
|Desborough, Maj.-Gen. John||—||p||p||p||—||—||—||—||—||3||p||p||p||p||p||p||p||p||p||9||p|
|Fiennes, Col. John||p||p||—||p||p||—||—||—||—||4||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0||p|
|Jones, Col. Phil., Comptroller||p||p||—||p||p||p||p||—||p||7||—||—||p||p||p||—||—||p||p||5||—|
|Montague, Col. Edw.||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0||—||—||p||p||p||p||p||p||—||6||p|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||0||—|
|Pickering, Sir Gilbert, Lord Chamberlain||p||—||—||p||p||p||p||—||p||6||p||p||p||p||—||p||p||—||—||6||—|
|Rouse, Col. Ant.||—||—||p||p||—||—||—||—||—||2||p||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||1||—|
|Skippon, Maj.-Gen. Phil.||p||—||—||p||p||p||p||p||p||7||—||—||—||—||—||—||p||p||—||2||p|
|Sydenham, Col. Wm.||p||p||—||p||p||p||p||—||—||6||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||p||1||p|
|Thurloe, John, Secretary of State||p||p||p||—||p||p||p||p||p||8||—||—||p||p||p||p||—||p||p||6||p|
|Wolsley, Sir Chas.||p||p||p||—||—||—||—||—||—||3||—||—||—||p||p||p||—||p||p||5||p|