The period of English history, from the opening of the
Long Parliament to the Restoration, has been justly regarded
as the most eventful and interesting which had occurred
during the century. It was distinguished by the patriotic
deeds of men, whom knowledge, energy, and discretion, had
eminently qualified to dispute the claims of the crown, to an
unlimited and irresponsible authority. Such had been, too
long, the extravagant pretensions of that royal race, which
an absurd notion of hereditary right, the intrigues of Elizabeth's courtiers, in her declining years, (fn. 1) and the Queen's
dying donation, (fn. 2) (as if aggrandizing the son, to atone for the
mother's blood,) had entailed on the acquiescing people of
That people were too little prepared to entertain the comprehensive views of their more enlightened advocates, to
profit by their wisdom or to estimate their deserts. Yet
they bore right onward. Neither dismayed by adverse
fortune, nor deluded into security by success, they had at
length disarmed the despotism of the Crown, and practically
applied the maxim, to which a Prince endued with the
spirit of a Trajan, (fn. 3) would have listened without emotion,
that "kings may be cashiered for misconduct."
Among those statesmen and.warriors, Oliver Cromwell had
become conspicuous. He might still have maintained himself on that good eminence, beloved and honoured as the
first of citizens. Allured by ambition, he seized the opportunity to seat himself on the throne of kings ; (fn. 4) with most of
whom, as a soldier or a sovereign, he could have been compared, only to enhance his reputation.
During six years of the period I have described, England
and its dependencies were governed by the family of Cromwell. To those years, especially to preserve and illustrate
what can now be recovered of their Parliamentary History,
these volumes are devoted. I could not, however, have contemplated such an extent, when first preparing for the press
the curious manuscript which has formed the principal part
of this publication.
The Parliamentary Diary is ascertained, by various internal evidences, which will occur to the attentive reader, to
have been written, in the House of Commons, by Thomas
Burton, Esquire, M. P. for Westmoreland. It is _ now first
printed from his original note-books, which came, a few years
since, into the possession of Mr. Upcot, of the London
Institution, (together with the lately published Correspondence
of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon,) and will be found to
supply, to a considerable extent, the want of all Parliamentary
Debates during the Protectorates.
Some part of this Diary had passed through the press,
when I found in the British Museum, among the manuscripts
there so liberally devoted to the advancement of literature
and science, several speeches of the first Protector, apparently
never printed. I also discovered a MS. volume, presented to
the Museum by Mr. Tyrwhiti, the learned editor of Chaucer.
This contained the diaries of Mr. Goddard, another member
of the Protectoral Parliaments. In the following Introduction, I have preserved, verbatim, his summary report of the
debates in the Parliament of 1654, and several Parliamentary
papers; the existing printed notices of both, being few and
very imperfect. Mr. Goddard's MS. has also enabled me
to correct and complete, in numerous instances, Mr. Burton's
report of the Parliamentary debates under the second Protectorate.
These valuable historical documents I have connected,
by very concise notices of the more important political passages, during the intervals of Parliament; referring, in
the notes, as led by the remarks or arguments of the
speakers, to various events, chiefly political, through a period
not less interesting, and more extended. The whole, indeed,
of that portion of British history so long neglected, at first
in compliment to the restored Royalty, has now begun to
attract, among liberal-minded and judicious enquirers, the
laudable curiosity, which its national importance always
To an alphabetical list of speakers, with the places they
represented, during the Interregnum, I purposed to have
added some biographical notices. The pursuit of this
design, which would form no unpleasing occupation, has been
abandoned; or, could I allow myself to presume on "life's
futurities," postponed, as extending too far, and unavoidably
delaying, the present publication.
It would have been difficult, nor indeed, has it been attempted, to conceal the opinions which I have been able to
form, on the theory or administration of government; great
questions, which, in the age of the Protectorates, as they must
continue in every age; were intimately connected with the
happiness and improvement of human society. I have also
allowed myself to expose, with a freedom for which I should
be ashamed to apologize, that time-serving versatility, too
often discovered in the story of the period which these
volumes are designed to illustrate. Yet, even if charged with
a disposition to "extenuate nothing," I shall not, I trust,
be found to have "set down aught in malice."
J. T. R.
Clapton, Jan. 25, 1828.