« PreviousContinue »
His Highness weald not in all circumstances be inexorable, one would think! — No; he is groping his way through a very intricate business, which grows as he gropes; the final shape of which is not yet disclosed to any soul. The actual shape of it on this Friday afternoon, 3d April 1657, I suppose he has, in his own manner, pretty faithfully, and not without sufficient skill and dignity, contrived to express. Many considerations weigh upon his Highness; and in itself it is a most unexampled matter, this of negotiating about being made a Kingl Need of wise speech; of wise reticence no less. Nay it is of the nature of a Courtship withal: the young lady cannot answer on the first blush of the business; if you insist on her answering, why then she must even answer, No! —
Wednesday, 8tk April 1657. The Parliament, justly interpreting thisiV» of his Highness, has decided that it will adhere to its Petition and Advice, and that it will "present reasons to his Highness;" has got, thanks to our learned Bulstrode and others, its reasons ready; — and, this day, "at three in the afternoon," walks over in a body to the Banqueting-House, Speaker Widdrington carrying in his hand the Engrossed Vellum, and a Written Paper of "Reasons," to present the same.* What Speaker Widdrington spoke on the occasion is happily lost; but his "Reasons," which are very brief, remain on the Record;** and will require to be transcribed. They are in the form of a Vote or Resolution, of date yesterday, 7th April 1657:
"Resolved, That the Parliament having lately presented "their Humble Petition and Ad vice to your Highness, where"unto they have not as yet received satisfaction; and the "matters contained in that Petition and Advice being agreed"upon by the Great Council and Representative of the Three ".Nations; which matters, in their judgment, are most condu"«mg to the good of the People thereof both in Spiritual and "Civil concernments: They have therefore thought fit.
* Commons Journals, ii. 520-1 (6th, 8th April); Barton, I. til. ** Ibid.
Carlyf, Cromwell. IV. 3
"To adhere to this Advice; and to put your Highness in "mind of the great obligation which rests upon you in respect "of this Advice; and again to desire you to give your Assent "thereunto."
Which brief Paper of Reasons, Speaker Widdrington having read, and then delivered to this Highness, with some brief touches of mellifluous eloquence now happily lost, — his Highness, with a look I think of more than usual seriousness, thus answers the Assembled Parliament and him:
No man can put a greater value than I hope I do, and shall do, upon the desires and advices of the Parliament. I could in my own heart aggravate, both concerning the Persons advising and concerning the Advice; — readily acknowledging that it is the Advice of the Parliament of these Three Nations. And if a man could suppose it were not a Parliament to some; [Malignants there are who have such notions] — yet doubtless it should be to me, and to us all that are engaged in this common Cause wherein we have been engaged. I say, surely it ought to be a Parliament to us! Because it arises as a result of those issues, and determinations of Settlement, that we have laboured to arrive at! And therefore I do most readily acknowledge the weight of authority 'you have' in advising these things.
I can aggravate also to myself the general notion of the Things Advised-to; as being things which tend to the settlement of the chiefest Interests * that can fall into the hearts of men to devise or endeavour-after. And at such a time, 'too;' when truly, I may think,
• "things" again, in orig.
the Nation is big with expectation of something that may add to their 'security of Being. — I therefore must needs put a very high esteem 'upon,' and have a very reverent opinion of anything that comes from you.
And so I have had of this Instrument: — and, I hope, so I have expressed. And what I have expressed, hath been, — if I flatter not myself, — from a very honest heart towards the Parliament and the Public. I say not these things to compliment you. For we are all past complimenting, and all considerations of that kind! [Serious enough his Highness is, and we all are; the Nations and the Ages, and indeed the Maker of the Nations and the Ages, looking on us here!] We must all be very real now, if ever we will be so! —
Now, howbeit your title and name you give to this Paper [Looking on the Vellum] makes me think you intended "Advice;" and I should transgress against all reason, should I make any other construction than that you did intend Advice: 'yet'—!— [Still hesitates, then?] — I would not lay a burden on my beast but I would consider his strength to bear it! And if you lay a burden upon a man that is conscious of his own infirmity and disabilities, and doth make some measure of counsels which may seem to come from Heaven, counsels from the Word of God (who leaves room for charity, and for men to consider their own strength), — I hope it will be no evil in me to measure your "Advice" with my own Infirmities. And truly these will have some influence upon conscience! Conscience in him that receives talents* to know how he may an
• Meaning "charges," "offices."
swer the trust of them. And such a conscience have I had 'in this matter;' and still have; and therefore when I thought I had an opportunity to make an Answer, I made that Answer [The unemphatic Negative; truest "Answer" Highness then had: — can it not grow an Affirmative?] — and am a person that have been, before and then and since, lifting up my heart to God, To know what might be my duty at such a time as this, and upon such an occasion and trial as this was to me! [Deep silence: Old Parliament casts down its eyes.] —
Truly, Mr. Speaker, it hath been heretofore, I think, a matter of philosophical discourse, That great places, great authority, are a great burden. I know it so. And I know a man that is convinced in his conscience, Nothing less will enable him to the discharge of it than Assistance from Above. And it may very well require in such a one, so convinced and so persuaded, That he be right with the Lord in such an undertaking! — And therefore, to speak very clearly and plainly to you: I had, and I have, my hesitations as to that individual thing. [Still Negative, your Highness?] If I undertake anything not in Faith, I shall serve you in my own Unbelief; — and I shall then be the most unprofitable Servant that People or Nation ever had!
Give me leave, therefore, to ask counsel. I am ready to render a reason of my apprehensions; which haply may be overswayed by better apprehensions. I think, so far I have deserved no blame; nor do I take it you will lay any upon me. Only you mind me of the duty that is incumbent upon me. And truly the same answer I have a9 to the point of duty one way, the same consideration have I as to duty another way.* — I would
• Bound to regard your "Advice;" and yet in doing so, sot to dieregard a Higher.
not urge to you the point of "Liberty." Surely you have provided for Liberty, — I have borne my witness to it, — Civil and Spiritual! The greatest provision that ever was made have you made, 'for Liberty' to all, — and I know that you do not intend to exclude me. The "Liberty" I ask is, To vent my own doubts, and my own fears, and my scruples. And though haply, in such cases as these are, the world hath judged that a man's conscience ought to know no scruples; yet surely mine doth, and I dare not dissemble. And therefore —! —
They that are knowing in the ground of their own Action will be best able to measure advice to others. [TPi'M have us reason, in Free Conference, with him?] There are many things in this 'Instrument of Government besides that one of the Name and Title, that deserve much to be elucidated* as to my judgment. It is you that can capacitate me to receive satisfaction in them! Otherwise, I say truly, — I must say, I am not persuaded to the performance of 'this' as my trust and duty, nor 'sufficiently' informed. 'Not persuaded or informed;' and so not actuated 'by a call of duty,1 as I know you intend I should be, — and as every man in the Nation should be. You have provided for 'every one of them as a Free Man, as a man that is to act possibly,** rationally and conscientiously! — And therefore I cannot tell what other return to make to you than this:
I am ready to give a reason, if you will, I say, capacitate me to do it; and 'capacitate' yourselves to receive it; — and to do what other things may in
* "deserve much information," in orig. ** Means "in a way possible for him;" "does possibly" is the phrase in