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The Draining of the Fens had been resumed under better auspices when the War ended;* and a new Company of Adventurers, among whom Oliver himself is one, are vigorously proceeding with a New Bedford Level, – the same that yet continues. A “Petition” of theirs addressed “To the Lord General," in these hasty hours, sets forth that upon the “20th of this instant April” (exactly while Oliver was turning out the Parliament), “about a Hundred-and-fifty persons," from the Towns of Swaffham and Botsham, — which Towns had petitioned about certain rights of theirs, and got clear promise of redress in fit time, - did “tumultuously assemble," to seek redress for themselves; did “by force expel your Petitioners' workmen from their diking and working in the said Fens;' did tumble-in again “the dikes by them made;" and in fine did peremptorily signify that if they or any other came again to dike in these Fens, it would be worse for them. “The evil effects of which” — are very apparent indeed. Whereupon
of much other business.
*To Mr. Parker, Agent for the Company of Adventurers for
Draining the Great Level of the Fens.'
“Whitehall,' 23d April 1653. I hear some unruly persons have lately committed great outrages in Cambridgeshire, about Swaffham and Botsham, in throwing down the works making by the Adventurers, and menacing those they employ thereabout. Wherefore I desire you to send one of my Troops, with a Captain, who may by all means persuade the people to quiet, by letting them know, They must not riotously do anything, for that must not be suffered: but 'that' if there be any wrong done by the Adventurers, – upon complaint, such course shall be
* Act for that object (Scobell, ii. 33), 29th May 1649.
taken as appertains to justice, and right will be done. I rest,
Your loving friend,
OLIVER CROMWELL. S The Declaration of the Lord General and his Council of Officers, * which came out on the Friday following the grand Catastrophe, does not seem to be of Oliver's composition: it is a Narrative of calm pious tone, of considerable length; promises, as a second Declaration still more explicitly does, * a Real Assembly of the Puritan Notables; - and on the whole can be imagined by the reader; nay we shall hear the entire substance of it from Oliver's own mouth, before long. These Declarations and other details we omit. Conceive that all manner of Authorities, with or without some little preambling, agree to go on as heretofore; that adherences arrive from Land-Generals and Sea-Generals by return of post; that the old Council of State having vanished with its Mother, a new Interim Council of State, with “ Oliver Cromwell Captain General" at the head of it, answers equally well; in a word, that all people are looking eagerly forward to those same “Known Persons, Men fearing God, and of approved Integrity," who are now to be got together from all quarters of England, to say what shall be done with this Commonwealth, — whom there is
read the following
TO FORASMUCH as, upon the dissolution of the late Parliament, it became necessary, that the peace, safety and good government of this Commonwealth should be
$ From the Records of the Fen Office, in Sergeants' Inn, London ; communicated, with other Papers relating thereto, by Samuel Wells, Esq.
* 220 April, Cromwelliana, p. 120. ** 30th April, Cromwelliana, p. 122
provided for: And in order thereunto, divers Persons fearing God, and of approved Fidelity and Honesty, are, by myself with the advice of my Council of Officers, nominated; to whom the great charge and trust of so weighty affairs is to be committed: And having good assurance of your love to, and courage for, God and the interest of His Cause, and that' of the good People of this Commonwealth:
I, Oliver Cromwell, Captain General and Commander in-Chief of all the Armies and Forces raised and to be raised within this Commonwealth, do hereby summon and require You, —-, being one of the Persons nominated,
- Personally to be and appear at the Council-Chamber, commonly known or called by the name of the Council-Chamber at Whitehall, within the City of Westminster, upon the Fourth day of July next ensuing the date hereof; Then and there to take upon you the said Trust; unto which you are hereby called, and appointed to serve as a Member for the County of And hereof you are not to fail.
Given under my hand and seal the 6th day of June 1653.
OLIVER CROMWELL. &
of all the Parties so summoned, “only two" did not attend. Disconsolate Bulstrode says, “Many of this Assembly being
" by some that they would, at this Summons, and from such “hands, take upon them the Supreme Authority of this Nation: “considering how little right Cromwell and his Officers had to
§ Newspapers (in Cromwelliana, p. 125).
"give it, or those Gentlemen to take it."* My disconsolate friend, it is a sign that Puritan England in general accepts this action of Cromwell and his Officers, and thanks them for it, in such a case of extremity; saying as audibly as the means permitted: Yea, we did wish it so! Rather mournful to the disconsolate official mind! - Lord Clarendon again, writing with much latitude, has characterised this Convention as containing in it“divers Gentlemen who had estates, and such a proportion of credit” in the world as might give some colour to the business; but consisting on the whole of a very miserable beggarly sort of persons, acquainted with nothing but the art of praying; "artificers of the meanest trades,” if they even had any trade: - all which the reader shall, if he please, add to the general guano-mountains, and pass on not regarding.
The undeniable fact is, these men were, as Whitlocke intimates, a quite reputable Assembly; got together by anxious "consultation of the godly Clergy" and chief Puritan lights in their respective Counties; not without much earnest revi
adequate enough for such a work, and desirous enough to do it well. The List of the Assembly exists; ** not yet entirely gone dark for mankind. A fair proportion of them still recognisable to mankind. Actual Peers one or two: founders of Peerage. Families, two or three, which still exist among us, - Colonel Edward Montague, Colonel Charles Howard, Anthony Ashley Cooper. And better than King's Peers, certain Peers of Nature; whom if not the King and his pasteboard Norroys have had the luck to make Peers of, the living heart of England has since raised to the Peerage, and means to keep there, - Colonel Robert Blake the Sea-King, for one. “Known persons," I do think; "of approved integrity,men fearing God;" and perhaps not entirely destitute of sense any one of them! Truly it seems rather a distinguished Parliament, - even though Mr. Praisegod Barbone, “the Leather-merchant in Fleet-street," be, as all mortals must admit, a member of it. The fault, I hope, is forgivable? Praisegod, though he deals in leather, and has a * Whitlocke, p. 534.
** Somers Tracts, i. 216.
name which can be misspelt, one discerns to be the son of pious parents; to be himself a man of piety, of understanding and weight, and even of considerable private capital, my witty flunkey friends! We will leave Praisegod to do the best he can, I think. — And old Francis Rouse is there from Devonshire; once member for Truro ; Provost of Eton College; whom by and by they make Speaker; — whose Psalms the Northern Kirks still sing. Richard Mayor of Hursley is there, and even idle Dick Norton; Alexander Jaffray of Aberdeen, Laird Swinton of the College of Justice in Edinburgh; Alderman Ireton, brother of the late Lord Deputy, colleague of Praisegod in London. In fact, a real Assembly of the Notables in Puritan England; a Parliament, Parliamentum, or real Speaking-Apparatus for the now dominant Interest in England, as exact as could well be got, – much more exact, I suppose, than any ballot-box, free bustings or ale-barrel election usually yields.
Such is the Assembly called the Little Parliament, and wittily Barebones's Parliament; which meets on the 4th of July. Their witty name survives; but their history is gone all dark; and no man, for the present, has in his head or in his heart the faintest intimation of what they did, or what they aimed to do." They are very dark to us; and will never be illuminated much! Here is one glance of them face to face; here in this Speech of Oliver's, - if we can read it, and listen along with them to it. There is this one glance; and for six generations, we may say, in the English mind there has not been another.
Listening from a distance of two Centuries, across the Death-chasms, 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