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JOHN PYM (1584-1643)
HEN Pym, as a leader in the Parliamentary opposition, went with
some fellow-members to present a petition to James I., this
Scotch King of England cried out in his native dialect, “ Chairs ! chairs ! here be twal kyngs comin.” And as King Pym he was known till the day of his death. In the Parliaments of Charles I. Pym was one of the most active of the members in opposition to the arbitrary acts of the king. In 1628 he ably supported Sir John Eliot in the debate on the Petition of Right, and in the Short Parliament of 1640 he opened the session in a short and sharp summing up of the unsupportable state of affairs. In the Long Parliament that followed, Pym was the leader in the movement which led to the impeachment and execution of the Earl of Strafford, and in all the other crises of the times till war became inevitable. Before it began he died, and was buried with great pomp and magnificence in Westminster Abbey. When Charles II. came to the throne his remains were taken
and cast into a churchyard pit—a pitiful piece of ineffective vengeance.
LAW THE BASIS OF LIBERTY
[Pym, the leader of Parliament in the revolution against the Stuarts, was the support and successor of Eliot in this movement, and much the ablest orator in the Long Parliament. John Hampden, whose name is almost a synonym for English liberty, was no orator, but was an earnest seconder of Pym in the proceedings against Strafford, who had acted as the chief agent of Charles I. in his arbitrary acts, and paid for this on the scaffold. We give the opening of the reply to Strafford in the Parliament of 1641.]
Many days have been spent in maintenance of the impeachment of the Earl of Strafford by the House of Commons, whereby he stands charged with high treason; and your lordships have heard his defence
with patience, and with as much favor as justice will allow. We have passed through our evidence, and the result is that it remains clearly proved that the Earl of Strafford hath endeavored, by his words, actions, and counsels, to subvert the fundamental laws of England and Ireland, and to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government. This will best appear if the quality of the offense be examined by that law to which he himself appealed, that universal, that supreme law,-salus populi,—the welfare of the people! This is the element of all laws, out of which they are derived ; the end of all laws to which they are designed, and in which they are perfected. The offense comprehends all other offenses. you shall find several treasons, murders, rapines, oppressions, perjuries. The earth hath a seminary virtue, whereby it doth produce all herbs and plants and other vegetables ; there is in this crime a seminary of all evils hurtful to the State; and if you consider the reason of it, it must needs be so.
The law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evil; betwixt just and unjust. If you take away the law, all things will fall into a confusion. Every man will become a law to himself, which, in the depraved condition of human nature, must needs produce many great enormities. Lust will become a law, and envy will become a law; covetousness and ambition will become laws; and what dictates, what decisions, such laws will produce may easily be discerned in the late government of Ireland! The law hath a power to prevent, to restrain, to repair evils; without this, all kind of mischief and distempers will break in
upon a State.
It is the law that doth entitle the King to the allegiance and service of his people; it entitles the people to the protection and justice of the King. It is God alone who subsists by Himself, all other things subsist in a mutual dependence and relation. He was a wise man who said that the King subsisted by the field that is tilled; it is the labor of the people that supports the Crown; if you take away the protection of the King, the vigor and cheerfulness of allegiance will be taken away, though the obligation remains.
The law is the boundary, the measure between the King's prerogative and the people's liberty. While these move in their own orbs, they are a support and a security to one another—the prerogative a cover and defence to the liberty of the people, and the people by their liberty are enabled to be a foundation to the prerogative,—but if these bounds be so removed that they enter into contention and conflict, one of these mischiefs must ensue:-if the prerogative of the King overwhelm the liberty of the people, it will be turned into tyranny; if liberty undermine the prerogative, it will grow into anarchy.
The doctrine of the Papists, Fides non est servanda cum hereticis*, is an abominable doctrine ; yet that other tenet, more peculiar to the Jesuits, is more pernicious, whereby subjects are discharged from their oath of allegiance to their prince, whensoever the Pope pleaseth ; this may be added to make the third no less mischievous and destructive to human society than either of the rest. That the King is not bound by that oath which he hath taken to observe the laws of the kingdom ; but may, when he sees cause, lay taxes and burdens upon them without their consent, contrary to the laws and liberties of the kingdom—this hath been preached and published by divers persons, and this is that which hath been practiced in Ireland by the Earl of Strafford, in his government there, and endeavored to be brought into England by his counsel here...
It is the end of government that all accidents and events, all counsels and designs, should be improved to the public good; but this arbitrary power is apt to dispose all to the maintenance of itself. The wisdom of the council-table, the authority of the courts of justice, the industry of all the officers of the Crown, have been most carefully exercised in this ; the learning of our divines, the jurisdiction of our bishops have been molded and disposed to the same effect, which though it were begun before the Earl of Strafford's employment, yet it hath been exceedingly furthered and advanced by him.
Under this color and pretence of maintaining the King's power and prerogative, many dangerous practices against the peace and safety of the kingdom have been undertaken and promoted. The increase of popery and the favors and encouragement of papists have been, and still are, a great grievance and danger to the kingdom ; the innovation, in matters of religion, the usurpations of the clergy, the manifold burdens and taxations upon the people, have been a great cause of our present distempers and disorders ; and yet those who have been chief furtherers and actors of such mischiefs have had their credit and authority from this that they were forward to maintain this power. The Earl of Strafford had the first rise of his greatness from this, and in his apology and defense, as your lordships have heard, this hath had a main part.
The royal power and majesty of kings is most glorious in the prosperity and happiness of the people; the perfection of all things consists in the end for which they were ordained ; God only is his own end; all other things have a further end beyond themselves, in attaining whereof their own happiness consists. If the means and end be set in opposition to one another, it must needs cause impotency and defect of both.
* You ought not to keep faith with heretics.
OLIVER CROMWELL (1599-1658)
THE LORD PROTECTOR OF ENGLAND
HE story of Cromwell's life is too well known to need
record here, where we have to do with him in the one aspect of
orator. For this role the great soldier was not well equipped by nature. He was much better adapted to face an army in the field than an audience from the rostrum. Carlyle says that his speeches “excel human belief in their unlikeness to all other speeches, in their utter disregard of all standards of oratory and logical sequence of thought. . . . But the time was when they had as much weight in England as the most polished orations of Demosthenes in Athens.” But as this might come less from the character of the speeches than from the position of the speaker we must suffice ourselves with a brief example of his style.
THE KINGLY TITLE (We quote from Cromwell's speech in 1657 before the Committee of Ninetynine, nt Whitehall. It is characteristic in its careful avoidance of sentiments that would commit him to a fixed conclusion. As in the older case of Cæsar, the Puritan conqueror was offered the title of king. Some of his reasons for refusing it are here indicated. He declined less from his own inclination, than from the hostility to the name of king among the Puritan soldiery.]
I will now say something for myself. As for my own mind, I do profess it, I am not a man scrupulous about words, or names, or such things. I have not hitherto clear direction, but as I have the Word of God, and I hope I shall ever have, for the rule of my conscience, for my information and direction, so truly, if men have been led into dark paths through the providence and dispensations of God-why surely it is not to be objected to a man. For who can love to walk in the dark ? But Providence doth often so dispose, and though a man may impute his own folly and blindness to Providence sinfully, yet this must be at a man's own peril. The
case may be that it is the providence of God that doth lead men in darkness. I must needs say I have had a great deal of experience of providence; and though such experience is no rule without or against the Word, yet it is a very good expounder of the Word in many cases.
Truly the providence of God has laid aside this title of king providentially de facto ; and that not by sudden humor or passion ; but it hath been by issue of as great deliberation as ever was in a nation. It hath been by issue of ten or twelve years' civil war, wherein much blood hath been shed. I will not dispute the justice of it when it was done, nor need I tell you what my opinion was in the case were it de novo to be done. But if it is at all disputable, and a man come and find that God in His severity hath not only eradicated a whole family, and thrust them out of the land, for reasons best known to Himself, but also hath made the issue and close of that to be the very eradication of a name and title ! Which de facto is the case.
It was not done by me, nor by them that tendered me the government I now act in; it was done by the Long Parliament,—that was it. And God hath seemed providential, not only in striking at the family, but at the name. And, as I said before, it is blotted out; it is a thing cast out by an Act of Parliament; it hath been kept out to this day. And as Jude saith in another case, speaking of abominable sins that should be in the latter times,—he doth further say, when he comes to exhort the saints, he tells them they should “hate even the garments spotted with the flesh.”
I beseech you think not I bring this as an argument to prove anything. God hath seemed so to deal with the person and the family that He blasted the very title. And you know when a man comes, a parte post, to reflect, and see this done, this title laid in the dust,-I confess I can come to no other conclusion. The like of this may make a strong impression upon such weak men as I am ;—and perhaps upon weaker men, if there be any such, it will make a stronger. I will not seek to set up that which Providence hath destroyed and laid in the dust; I would not build Jericho again. .
I have now no more to say. The truth is, I did indicate this to you as my conclusion at the first, when I told you what method I would speak to you in. I may say I cannot, with conveniency to myself, nor good to this service which I wish so well to, speak out all my arguments as to the safety of your proposal, as to its tendency to the effectual carrying out of this work. I say I do not think it fit to use all the thoughts I have in my mind as to that point of safety. But I shall pray to God Almighty that He will direct you to do what is according to His will. And this is the poor account I am able to give of myself in this thing.