« PreviousContinue »
off all superfluous charges, disband all needless armies, disarm all papists, and banish all priests and jesuits; and then we shall thrive and prosper.
Provided always, that we deny ourselves, and trust not too much in the arm of flesh; but be careful to preserve brotherly love and concord, lest discord and faction, break, divide, and ruin us, But I hope God will make vs all of one mind and one public spirit, that, as we are descended from that ancient and noble English quiver, we may prove ourselves a right sheaf of English arrows, well united, well feathered, and sharply filed for public use, stoutly to defend and preserve the public good and safety of this famous island of Great Britain--and that is my humble prayer and motion,
We are now upon the point of giving, (as much as in us lies) the final sentence unto death or life, on a great mi. nister of state, and peer of this kingdom, Thomas, earl of Strafford; a name of hatred in the present age, by his prac. tices, and fit to be made a terror to future ages by his punishment.
I have had the honour to be employed by the house in this great business, from the first hour that it was taken into consideration. It was a matter of great trust, and I will say
with confidence, that I have served the house in it not only with industry, according to iny ability, but with most exact faithfulness and justice.
And as I have hitherto discharged my duty to this house, and to my country, in the progress of this great cause, so I trust I shall do now in the last period of it, to God and to a good conscience. I do wish the peace of that unto myself, and the blessings of Almighty God to me and my posterity, according as my judgment on the life of this man shall be consonant with my heart, and the best of my understanding, in all integrity.
I know well, Mr. Speaker, that by some things I have said of late, whilst this bill was in agitation, I have raised some prejudices upon me in the cause. Yea, some (I thank them for their plain dealing) have been so free as to tell me, that I have suffered much by the backwardness I have shewn in the bill of attainder of the earl of Straf. ford, against whom I have formerly been so keen, soactive.
I beg of you and the rest, but a suspension of judgment concerning me, till I have opened my heart unto you, clearly and freely, in this business. Truly, sir, I am still the same in my opinion and affections, as to the earl of Strafford. I confidently believe him to be the most dangerous minister, the most insupportable to free subjects, that can be charactered. I believe his practices in themselves as high, as tyrannical as any subject ever ventured on, and the malignity of them hugely aggravated by those rare abilities of his, whereof God hath given him the use, but the devil the application. In a word, I believe him to be still that grand apostate to the commonwealth, who must not expect to be pardoned in this world, till he be dispatched to the other. And yet let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, my hand must not be to that dispatch. I protest, as my conscience stands informed, I had rather it were off.
Let me unfold to you the mystery, Mr. Speaker : I will not dwell much upon justifying unto you my seeming variance at this time, from what I was formerly, by putting you in mind of the difference between prosecutors and judges. How misbecoming that fervour would be in a judge, which, perhaps, was commendable in a prosecutor. Judges we are now, and must put on another personage. It is honest and noble to be earnest, in order to the discovery of truth; but when that hath been brought so far as it can to light, our judgment thereupon ought to be calm and cautious. In prosecution upon probable grounds, we are accountable only for our industry or remissness; but in judgment we are deeply responsible to God Almighty for its rectitude or obliquity. In
cases of life, the judge is God's steward of the party's blood, and must give a strict account for every drop.
But as I told you, Mr. Speaker, I will not insist long upon this ground of difference in me now, from what I was formerly.
The truth of it is, sir, the same ground whereupon I, with the rest of the few to whom you first committed the consideration of my lord Strafford, brought down our opinion that it was fit he should be accused of treason ; upon the same ground I was engaged with earnestness in his prosecution, and had the same ground remained in that force of belief with me, which till very lately it did, I should not have been tender in his condemnation. But truly, sir, to deal plainly with you, that ground of our accusation, that spur to our prosecution, and that which should be the basis of my judgment of the earl of Strafford as to treason, is, to my understanding, quite vanished away.
This it was, Mr. Speaker ; his advising the king to employ the army in Ireland to reduce England. This I was assured would be proved before I gave my consent to his accusation. I was confirmed in the same belief, during the prosecution, and fortified most of all in it, since sir Henry Vane's preparatory examination, by assurances which that worthy member, Mr. Pymme, gave me, that his testimony would be made convincing by some notes of what passed at the juncto, concurrent with it ; which I ever understanding to be of some other counsellor, you see now, prove but a copy of the same secretary's notes, discovered and produced in the manner you have heard ; and those such disjointed fragments of the venemous part of discourses ; no results, no conclusions of councils; which are the only things that secretaries should register; there being no use of the other, but to accuse and bring men into danger.
But, sir, this is not that which overthrows the evidence with me concerning the army in Ireland, nor yet that all the rest of the juncto remember nothing of it; but this,
sir, which I shall tell you, is that which works with me under favour, to an utter overthrow of his evidence, as unto that of the army of Ireland. Before, whilst I was prosecutor, and under tie of secrecy, I might not disco
I ver any weakness of the cause, which now, as a judge. I must. Mr. Secretary was examined thrice upon outh, at the preparatory committee. The first time he was questioned to all the interrogatories ; and to that part of the seventh which concerns the army in Ireland, he said positively these words: “I cannot charge him with that,"
: but for the rest, he desired time to recollect himself, which was granted him.
Some days after, he was examined a second time, and then deposed these words concerning the king's being ab. solved from rules of government, and so forth, very clearly. But being pressed to that part concerning the Irish army, again, he said he could say nothing to that.
Here we thought we had done with him, till divers weeks after, my lord of Northumberland, and all others of the juncto, denying to have heard any thing concerning those words of reducing England by the Irish army, it was thought fit to examine the secretary once more; and then he deposed these words to have been spoken by the earl of Strafford to his majesty: “ You have an army in Ireland which you may employ here to reduce, (or some words to that sense) this kingdom.” Mr. Speaker, these are the circumstances which I confess, with my conscience, thrust quite out of doors that grand article of our charge concerning his desperate advice to the king, of employing the Irish army here.
Let not this, I beseech you, be driven to an aspersion upon Mr. Secretary, as if he should have sworn otherwise than he knew or believed ; he is too worthy to do that; only let this much be inferred from it, that he, who twice upon oath, with time of recollection, could not reinember any thing of such a business, might well, a third time, misremember, somewhat; and in this business the difference of one word, here for there, or that for this, quite
alters the case ; the latter also being the more probable, since it is confessed on all hands, that the debate then was concerning a war with Scotland. And you may remem. ber, that at the bar, he once said "employ there." And thus, Mr. Speaker, have I faithfully given you an account what it is that hath blunted the edge of the hatchet, or bill, with me, towards my lord Strafford.
This was that whereupon I accused him with a free heart, prosecuted him with earnestness ; and had it to my understanding been proved, should have condemned him with innocence ; whereas now I cannot satisfy my conscience to do it. I profess I can have no notion of any body's intent to subvert the laws treasonably, but by force ; and this design of force not appearing, all his other wicked practices cannot amount so high with me.
I can find a more easy and more natural spring from whence to derive all his other crimes ; than from an intent to bring in tyranny, and to make his own posterity, as well as us, slaves; as from revenge, from pride, from passion, and from insolence of nature.
But had this of the Irish army been proved, it would have diffused a complexion of treason over all ; it would have been a withe indeed, to bind all those other scattered and lesser branches, as it were, into a faggot of treason.
I do not say but the rest may represent him a man as worthy to die, and perhaps worthier, than many a traitor, I do not say but they may justly direct us to enact that they shall be treason for the future.
But God keep me from giving judgment of death on any man, and of ruin to his innocent posterity, upon a law made a posteriori.
Let the mark be set on the door where the plague is, and then let him that will enter, die.
I know, Mr. Speaker, there is in parliament, a double power of life and death by bill; a judicial power, and a legislative. The measure of the one is, what is legally just ; of the other, what is prudentially and politicly fic VOL. I.