« PreviousContinue »
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 Staw 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 these same 'Known Persons, Men fearing God, and cf 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 now no Fag-end of a corrupt Parliament to prevent just men from choosing with their best ability. Conceive all this, and read the following
Forasmuch as, upon the dissolution of the late Parliament, it became necessary, that the peace, safety and good government of this Commonwealth should be 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 CouncilChamber, commonly known or called by the name of the CouncilChamber at Whitehall, within the City of Westminster, upon the Fourth day of July next ensuing the date hereof; Then and there to ake upon you the said Trust: unto which you are hereby called, and
*ppointed 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.
• Newspapers (in Cromwelliana, p. 125).
A Hundred-and-forty of these Summonses were issued; and of all the Parties so summoned, 'only two' did not attend. Disconsolate Bulstrode says, 'Many of this Assembly being persons of fortune and knowledge, it was much wondered at 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 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 characterized this Convention as containing in it 'divers Gentlemen who had estates, and such a proportion of credit' in the world as might give some color 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 WhiClccKe mtimates, 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 revision, and solemn consideration in all kinds, on the part of men adequate enough for such a work, and desirous enough to do it well. The List of the Assembly exists ;| not vet entirely gone dark for
mankind. A fair proportion of them still recognizable to man. iind. Actual Peers one or two: founders of Peerage Families, wo or three, which still exist among us,—Colonel Edward Mon. ague, Colonel Charles Howard, Anthony Ashley Cooper. And jetter than King'3 Peers, certain Peers of Nature; whom if not he King and his pasteboard Norroys have had the luck to make Jeers of, the living heart of England has since raised to the Peer»ge, and means to keep there,—Colonel Robert Blake the Sealing, for one. 'Known persons,' I do think j 'of approved intejrity, men fearing God ;' and perhaps not entirely destitute of ,ense any one of them! Truly it seems rather a distinguished -"arliament,—even though Mr. Praisegod Barbone, 'the Leather, nerchant in Fleet-street,' be, as all mortals must admit, a memjer of it. The fault, I hope, is forgivable? Praisegod, though le deals in leather, and has a name which can be misspelt, one liscerns to be the son of pious parents; to be himself a man of fiety, of understanding and weight,—and even of considerable jrivate capital, my witty flunkey friends! We will leave Praisejod to do the best he can, I think.—And old Francis Rouse is here from Devonshire; once member for Truro; Provost of •Ston College; whom by and by they make Speaker; whose Psalms the Northern Kirks still sing. Richard Mayor of Hursey 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, Parliamenlum, 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 hustings 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 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 recognizable 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 the laborious Editor has with all industry copied and corrected from Two Contemporaneons 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 Letters 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 CouncilChamber 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 Excellency 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 principal Officers of the Army; which is a little (as we conceive) more significant than the Letter of the Summons. We 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 ot 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 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 ;J and 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 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 cross:ng 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 propensity to them,' into wonderful success—!' Simply by their owning a Principle of Godliness and Religion; which Bo 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.
* ' exoneration' does not here mean ' excuse' or ' shifting away of blams, nut mere laying down of office with due form, t The Long Parliament.
X Self-denying Ordinance; beginning of 1645: see vol. i., p. 153 et §eq 5 Fairfax's Army. || upon that footing