History of Parliament Trust



Sir Simonds d'Ewes

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'Preface', The Journals of all the Parliaments during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1682), pp. VII-XII. URL: Date accessed: 19 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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THE PREFACE OF Sir Simonds D'Ewes

BEFORE THE ENSUING JOURNALS OF ALL THE Parliaments and Sessions of Parliament during the Reign of Queen ELIZABETH: Wherein are expressed the several Materials and Authorities out of which the said Journals were extracted and drawn; As also what Method and Form bath been observed in the transcribing of them, together with the excellency and use of them.

In respect that these ensuing Journals both of the Upper House and House of Commons, during the Reign of that Incomparable Princess, and Virgin Queen, Queen Elizabeth, whose memory will ever remain dear and precious to the Church of God, are Collected and Framed up by my exceeding great pains and diligence out of several Materials, and do contain in them Incomparable Historical matters both touching the Church and State, as well as matters of rarity and Precedent incident to the Orders, Priviledges, or Usages of either House; It shall not be amiss shortly to touch those Heads, that so they may serve as a Key for the better Direction and Guidance in the use of the Journals themselves. First therefore I will set down briefly all those Materials out of which I have Collected these ensuing Journals. Secondly, the Method I have constantly observed in the cansing them to be Penned or Transcribed. And thirdly, the rich Treasures of rarity and knowledge contained in them.

First, for the Materials out of which I drew these ensuing Journals of either House, they were for the most part rare and invulgar, viz.

1. The Original Manuscript or Journal-Books of the Upper House of every Parliament and Session of Parliament of the Queens Reign, remaining in the Office of the Clerk of the same House; and these are absolute and undeniable Records, and therefore could not be removed out of the said Office, but I was inforced as often as I had occasion to use them, to repair unto the same, to which I had most free and respectful access always offered me (as also to the Bundles of Original Acts and Petitions reserved there.)

2. A large Manuscript Abridgment in Folio of all the said Original Journal Books of the Upper House during her Majesties Reign, very faithfully for the most part collected and transcribed with his own hands by Robert Bowyer Esquire, who continued Clerk of the said House ab an. 6 Jacobi Regis until the eighteenth year of the same King.

3. The Original Journal-Book Manufacripts of the House of Commons of every Parliament and Session of Parliament during her Majesties Raign.

4. Another help which I had for the perfecting of these Journals were the two Manuscript Volumes of Fragmentary and Imperfect Journals, or rather Collections of the Parliaments and Sessions of Parliament of Queen Elizabeth's Reign, which remained in Sir Robert Cottons well known and much famoused Library, in the said Years 1629, and 1630. out of which I had most of the Speeches of Sir Nicholas Bacon Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. Out of these also I had passages which did excellently serve to enlarge and beautify some of the Journals of the House of Commons, as is fully mentioned in their proper places. In which two Volumes of Parliamentary Collections which then remained in Sir Robert Cottons Library as aforesaid (who since Deceased on Friday the 6. day of May, Anno Domini 1631.) many things being either ignorantly or negligently referred to other times than in truth they belonged unto, are here rectified and enlarged according as the occasion it self required.

5. And another means to enlarge these Ensuing Volumes were Manuscripts or written Fragments I had by me of Parliamentary Speeches, Petitions and such like Passages, especially touching the House of Commons, all which served most fitly in their due places to supply those things and matters in which the Original Journal-Books themselves were defective.

6. A further material for the furtherance of this present work was a Manuscript Treatise which I had by me Intituled Modus tenendi Parliamentum apud Anglos, Complied especially as I conceive by Robert Bowyer Esquire, and afterwards enlarged by Henry Elsing Esquire, at this present Clerk of the Upper House of Parliament, in which were many good Collections touching Proxies, Summons, Receivors and Tryors of Petitions, the Commons Prolocutor, and other matters incident to the Passages of the Journals of either House, and those especially gathered out of Records; of which Treatise there is very much use chiefly made in the two Journals of the Upper House and House of Commons in the Parliament held in An. 1 Regin. Eliz.

7. And lastly one other unusual or invulgar help for the raising up of this ensuing Structure was a Manuscript Diary I had in my Custody of the greatest part of Queen Elizabeths Reign penned by the Lord Burleigh first Principal Secretary and afterwards Lord Treasurer; which said Diary did serve very well to the clearing of some things needful to the perfecting of these ensuing Journals.

And for Printed helps I made especially use of William Camdens Annals of Queen Elizabeths Reign, penned by him in a fluent and good Latine Stile (the errors where of in these Journals are likewise discovered in their due places) and of the Printed Books of Statutes as often as occasion requireth, in which also some errors and mistakings which escaped in them are fully and plainly convicted and rectified.

These foregoing materials both in Manuscripts and Print I made use of in a general nature for all these ensuing Journals more or less. Now there were also many particular helps I used for several occasions.

And first for the Journals of either House in An. 1 Regin. Eliz. they are all Illustrated with so many quotations of all manner of Records, that it would be too tedious to discuss or treat of them at large; only it shall here suffice to have given this touch upon it, that such as are most frequently vouched are Parliament Rolls, Patent Rolls and Foreign Rolls kept within the Tower of London, all which will best appear in the perusal of them. Where also I had some help out of two Transcripts, the one in Latine, the other in French, of an old Treatise Intituled De modo tenendi Parliamentum in Anglia tempore Regis Edwardi filii Etheldredi.

For Sundry Parliaments also I had several private Journals of the House of Commons, in An. 13 Regin. Eliz. very imperfect, and another in An. 35 Regin. ejusdem moderately exact, each of them taken by some Member of the House. Two other I had, the first a Journal of the Passages of the same House in An. 39, & 40 Reg. Eliz. exceedingly defective, and the last de an. 43, & 44. of the same Queen stored with excellent matters. Out of all which, not only the Journals of the said House of Commons, but even of the Upper House also of those Parliaments, are much augmented. And for the Lord De la Wares Petitions inserted verbatim in the Journal of the Upper House, de an. 39, & 40 Regin. Eliz. I caused it to be transcribed out of the Bundle of Acts of that Parliament remaining in the Office aforesaid of the Clerk of the Upper House, and carefully examined it thereby.

And thus much shall serve for the materials out of which these ensuing Volumes were collected and transcribed, which are all of them for the most part so authentick, but especially the Original Journal-Books of either House, as there can be no Exception against any thing that doth follow out of them.

For the Second thing, touching the Method I have constantly used, it hath been thus. First before every Journal I have prefixed the just dayes or times of the Beginning, Proroguing, Dissolving or Adjourning the Parliament or Session of Parliament; and next under it a Summary draught of the chief scope or Argument thereof, or at least of some special matter that concerned it. I have in like manner placed all actions of the first day of the Parliament, as Commissions of Prorogation or Adjournment, or the solemn passing of her Majesty to the Upper House, in the Journal of the same, as most properly belonging unto it; as likewise all Speeches of that day which passed in the said House, on that day on which the Speaker was presented. And I have in the third place constantly inserted into the Journals of the said Upper House also all Commissions of note at large, all Proxies that were more rare, the presence of the Lords on some special days, and the names of the Receivers and Tryors of Petitions; and there is no one day on which the House sate and did any thing, but some Passages thereof are mentioned.

In the Journals of the House of Commons also are all things inserted and referred unto their due dayes, and I know not any thing that is doubly set down in the two Journals of both the Houses in the same Parliament, or Session of Parliament, but only the Titles sometimes of such Bills as were sent up from one House to another; and that constantly the manner of the beginning and ending of the Parliament, and of the Presentment of the Speaker, which is largely set down in the Journal of the Upper House, is shortly touched in the House of Commons.

And because I know the Original Journal-Book of either House to be more judiciously observed, and more to be esteemed than the Collections of any private men, therefore I have distinguished by some Annotation or Animadversion what is taken out of them, or what out of any other material whatsoever. Nor are those Animadversions of mine own at any time added without some necessary motive, or upon some good ground. Very Copious indeed they are in the two first Journals of the Upper House and House of Commons in An. 1 Regin Eliz. because all matters of form were to be once for all discussed : In all the other Journals they are more succinct and infrequent.

I confess it cost me many days besides other expences to bring these ensuing Volumes to that perfection, in which I now enjoy them. In which besides the abundance of the knowledge in this kind especially gained by it, which Sir Edward Cooke Knight a Learned Writer of this Age calls Lex Parliamentaria, I have as I much desired, done some Honour to the Memory of that Glorious Queen England's Royal Elizabeth, in that I have Collected in one body the sum of the agitations of all her Parliaments, or at least so much of them as could possibly be gotten, being a work not only fingular in respect that I am the sole enjoyer of it, but also because I rest confident that never any other man attempted it, much less brought it to perfection. Which I the rather believe, because when I was one day discoursing with Sir Robert Cotten the Prime Antiquary of this our Age not long before his Decease, touching the two aforesaid Volumes he had of the Journals of this Queens Reign, that I wondred he would treasure up in his Library such Fragmentary and Imperfect stuff, he made me no other Answer, but that he was compelled to store up them, because he knew not how to come by any better. And certainly if this work which I have now by Gods Providence finished, had been performed by any other, it could not have been hid from him who was a very sedulous gatherer, as of other rarities, so especially of Parliamentary Passages for about the space of forty Years before his Death.

Touching the rarities and treasures of knowledge contained in these ensuing Volumes, to omit many things, thus much it shall not be amiss to premise, that there may not only hence be gathered whatsoever almost concerns the Priviledges, Customs and Usages of either House, but Historical matter also touching the Church and State; and in the whole frame may be frequently seen the admirable wisdom of her Majesty and this her Great Council in the happy quenching of such emergent differences as arose, and in their timely provision against the ambitious Spaniard, the restless and irreconcileable Enemy of her Majesties Religion, Person and Realms.

In all Parliaments and Sessions of Parliaments the Journals of the House of Commons do for the most part much excel those of the Upper House in variety and abundance of observable matter, and in their copious and orderly relating each dayes Passages.

I shall not need further to enlarge my self, but here to shut up this present Discourse, this instant Friday the 3. day of February Anno Domini 1631. That though through Gods Providence I have finished these Volumes, which are intended chiefly for my own private use, and my Posterities, yet I have already entred upon other and greater labours, conceiving my self not to be born for my self alone, according to that old saying, Melius mori quám sibi vivere; Or this ensuing Distich:

Qui vivat sibi solus, Homo nequit esse beatus.


But before I speak further of any future works intended, it shall not be amiss to add somewhat touching the true transcription of these ensuing Volumes; for I am not ignorant, that not only the greatest part of our ancient Manuscripts, but all new written materials, for want of able Writers, and especially for lack of comparing the new Copy written, with that out of which it was taken, are exceedingly faulty and defective: and therefore it was my care to examine with my own Eye, the presence of the Lords, the Returns of the Proxies, the Tryors and Receivors of Petitions, the Commissions and such like entire and most material things.

Neither wanted there just cause of my frequent assistance for the true discovery of the very Hand-writing it self of all the Journals of the House of Commons during her Majesties Reign, except of those in the thirteenth, fourteenth, eighteenth and twenty third Years of the same Queen, which four Journals were very fairly written into one Volume in Folio; but as for the three first Journals of the same House de An. 1, 5, & 8 dictæ Regin. they were written in a hand of that time, and had also many obscure abbreviations in them. And as touching all the other Journals of the House of Commons, with some part also of the said Journal of the twenty third Year of her Majesties Reign, being entred and bound up together in one Volume, they were exceeding difficult to be read, and were certainly the very notes taken and entred into the said Volume by Fulk Onslow Esquire then Clerk of the said House during the Continuance of the Parliament, or Session of Parliament. In all which the said Notes being written in a fast running hand, and in every Page almost much interlined, and sometimes enlarged by several Additions, disposed into such vacant places as the page afforded, often distant each from other, it required and took up much time to discover, and find out not only what was written, but also how each particular was to be disposed into its due place and order. The like difficulty happened in the transcription of some Speeches I had my self by me, being the very Autographs or first Copies penned by such as spake them, as did evidently appear by their many interlinings. But for all other materials out of which these said Journals or those of the Upper House were Collected, there was no difficulty at all in reading of them, but only what to collect and insert out of each dayes Passages, and what to omit, as matter not worthy the transcribing.

The chief of the Works before mentioned, and by me intended for the publick good, are these ensuing.

A general History of Great Britain from the first Inhabitants to the present Times, to be drawn especially out of Record and other abstruse and exotick Monuments, for the reformation of all the Chronicles or Histories of this kind yet extant, which will require several Volumes.

The Survey of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire, out of Records or Original Deeds.

The Antiquity of the Municipal or Common Laws of the Realm before the Norman Conquest, out of Record also for the greatest part, or other invulgar materials: To which I have a desire also if my time will suffice for Collection, to add a second part out of the Itinerant and Plea Rolls, chiefly remaining in the Treasury at Westminster.

These I have proposed to my self to labour in, besides divers other maller works as well Theological as Moral, like him that shoots at the Sun, not in hopes to reach it, but to shoot as high as possibly his strength, art, or skill will permit. So though I know it impossible to finish all these during my short and incertain Life, having already entred into the thirtieth Year of my Age, and having many unavoidable imployments and cares of an Estate and Family, yet if I can but finish a little in each kind, it may hereafter stir up some able Judgements to add an end to the whole, in the same way and search I shall have waded in before them. In the mean time I shall always pray as I do sincerely desire, that by all my endeavours God may be glorified, the truth divine or humane vindicated, and the publick benefited.

Sic mihi contingat vivere, Sicque mori.