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Listening from a distance of two Centuries, across the Deathchasms, and howling kingdoms of Decay, it is not easy to catch everything! But let us faithfully do the best we can. Having once packed Dryasdust, and his unedifying cries of “ Nonsense! Mere Hypocrisy! Ambitious Dupery !" &c. &c. about his business; closed him safe under hatches, and got silence established, -we shall perhaps hear a word or two; have a real glimpse or two of things long vanished ; and see for moments this fabulous Barebones's Parliament itself, standing dim in the heart of the extinct Centuries, as a recognisable fact, once flesh and blood, now air and memory; not untragical to us!
Read this first, from the old Newspapers; and then the Speech itself, which a laborious Editor has, with all industry, copied and corrected from Two Contemporaneous Reports by different hands, and various editions of these. Note, however : The Italic sentences in brackets, most part of which, and yet perhaps not enough of which I have suppressed, are evidently by an altogether modern hand!
July 4th, 1653. This being the day appointed by the Let• ters of Summons from his Excellency the Lord General, for the meeting of the Persons called to the Supreme Authority, there came about a Hundred-and-twenty of them to the Council• Chamber in Whitehall. After each person had given-in a Ticket of his Name, they all entered the room, and sat down in chairs appointed for them, round about the table. Then his Excel* lency the Lord General, standing by the window opposite to the • middle of the table, and as many of the Officers of the Army as the room could well contain, some on his right hand and others on his left, and about him,-made the following Speech to the Assembly:
I suppose the Summons that hath been instrumental to bring you hither gives you well to understand the occasion of your being here. Howbeit, I have something farther to impart to you, which is an Instrument drawn up by the consent and advice of the prin
cipal Officers of the Army; which is a little (as we conceive) more significant than the Letter of the Summons. have that here to tender you; and somewhat likewise to say farther for our own exoneration ;' which we hope may be somewhat farther for your satisfaction. And withal seeing you sit here somewhat uneasily by reason of the scantness of the room, and heat of the weather, I shall contract myself with respect thereunto.
We have not thought it amiss a little to remind you of that Series of Providences wherein the Lord hath appeared, dispensing wonderful things to these Nations from the beginning of our Troubles to this very day.
If I should look much backward, we might remind you of the state of affairs as they were before the Short, that is the last, Parliament,-in what posture the things of this Nation then stood: but they do so well, I presume, occur
Ι to all your memories and knowledge, that I shall not need to look so far backward. Nor yet to those hostile occasions which arose between the King that was and the Parliament that then followed. And indeed should I begin much later, the things that would fall very necessarily before you, would rather be for a History than for a verbal Discourse at this present.
But thus far we may look back. You very well know, it pleased God, much about the midst of this War, to winnow (if I may so say) the Forces of this Nation ;3 and
Ι to put them into the hands of other men of other principles than those that did engage at the first. By what ways and means that was brought about, would ask more time
16 exoneration' does not here mean “excuse' or “ shifting away of blame,' but mere laying down of office with due form.
2 The Long Parliament. 3 Self-denying Ordinance; beginning of 1645; see vol. i. p. 214 et seq.
than is allotted me to mind you of it. Indeed there are Stories that do recite those Transactions, and give you narratives of matters of fact : but those things wherein the life and power of them lay; those strange windings and turnings of Providence; those very great appearances of God, in crossing and thwarting the purposes of men, that He might raise up a poor and contemptible company of men,' neither versed in military affairs, nor having much natural prospensity to them, “into wonderful success - !' Simply by their owning a Principle of Godliness and Religion ; which so soon as it came to be owned, and the state of affairs put upon the foot of that account, how God blessed them, furthering all undertakings, yet using the most improbable and the most contemptible and despicable means (for that we shall ever own): is very well known to you.
What the several Successes and Issues have been, is not fit to mention at this time neither;—though I confess I thought to have enlarged myself upon that subject; forasmuch as Considering the works of God, and the operations of His hands, is a principal part of our duty; and a great encouragement to the strengthening of our hands and of our faith, for that which is behind.3 And among other ends which those marvellous Dispensations have been given us for, that's a principal end, which ought to be minded by us.
• Certainly' in this revolution of affairs, as the issue of those Successes which God was pleased to give to the Army, and 'to' the Authority that then stood, there were very great things brought about;-besides those dints that came upon the Nations and places where the War itself was, very great things in Civil matters too. As first, the
1 Fairfax's Army.
upon that footing.
bringing of Offenders to justice,-and the Greatest of them. Bringing of the State of this Government to the name (at least) of a Commonwealth. Searching and sifting of all
) persons and places. The King removed, and brought to justice ; and many great ones with him. The House of Peers laid aside. The House of Commons itself, the representative of the People of England, winnowed, sifted, and brought to a handful; as you very well remember.
And truly God would not rest there :--for by the way, although it's fit for us to ascribe our failings and miscarriages to ourselves, yet the gloriousness of the work may
well be attributed to God Himself, and may be called His strange work. You remember well that at the Change of the Government there was not an end of our Troubles, [No!]-although in that year were such high things trans-, acted as indeed made it to be the most memorable
year 1648) that this Nation ever saw. Insurrections,? Invasions, secret Designs, open and public Attempts, all quashed in so short a time, and this by the very signal appearance of God Himself; which, I hope, we shall never forget !-You know also, as I said before, that, as the first effect of that memorable year of 1648 was to lay a foundation, by bringing Offenders to Punishment, so it brought us likewise to the Change of Government:although it were worth the time perhaps, if one had time,' to speak of the carriage of some in places of trust, in most eminent places of trust, which was such as (had not God miraculously appeared) would have frustrated us of the hopes of all our undertakings. I mean by the closure of the Treaty that was endeavoured with the King ;3
1 • intitle' in orig.
2 Kent, St. Neot’s, Colchester, Welsh Poyer at Pembroke, Scotch Hamilton at Preston, &c. &c..
3 Treaty of the Isle of Wight, again and again endeavoured.
whereby they would have put into his hands all that we had engaged for, and all our security should have been a little piece of Paper! That thing going off, you very well know how it kept this Nation still in broils by sea and land. And yet what God wrought in Ireland and Scotland you likewise know; until He had finished these Troubles, upon the matter, by His marvellous salvation wrought at Worcester.
I confess to you, that I am very much troubled in my own spirit that the necessity of affairs requires I should be so short in those things : because, as I told you, this is the leanest part of the Transactions, this mere historical Narrative of them; there being in every particular; in the King's first going from the Parliament, in the pulling-down of the Bishops, the House of Peers, in every step towards that Change of the Government,--I say there is not any one of these things, thus removed and reformed, but hath an evident print of Providence set upon it, so that he who runs may read it. I am sorry I have not an opportunity to be more particular on these points, which I prin
Ι cipally designed, this day; thereby to stir up your hearts and mine to gratitude and confidence.
I shall now begin a little to remind you of the passages that have been transacted since Worcester. Coming from whence, with the rest of my fellow Officers and Soldiers, we did expect, and had some reasonable confidence our expectations would not be frustrated, That, having such an history to look back unto, such a God, so eminently visible, even our enemies confessing that “God Himself was cer
tainly engaged against them, else they should never have “ been disappointed in every engagement,”—and that may
80 to speak;' a common phrase of those times ; a perpetual one with Clarendon, for instance,