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Associates Program

In grateful recognition
of

arier H. 1109910, Jr.
CCdssoJ 1964

for generous support of the
Harvard College Fund

1992-1993

The Harvard Q>llege Library



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THE

HISTORY

OF THE

PARLIAMENT OF

ENGLAND

H' H> H'

THOMAS MAY



UNIVERSITY PRESS

OXFORD

1854



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Br l^ZO-liO.IO



HARVARD

I UNIVERSITY]

LIBRARY



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ADVERTISEMENT.



IHE Histoiy of the railiauieiit of England by
ThomaB May Esq. has been printed twice previously
to the present edition.* ''The first edition appeared
in small folio in the year 1647. ^^^^ second was
published in the year 1812 in 4to, under the super-
intendance of Baron Maseres. Upon comparing the
two editions Baron Maseres was found to have al-
tered the phraseology in very numerous places
without any warrant, which variations have been
noticed and enclosed between [ ] as far as p. 1 1 1
of the present edition. After that page the original
edition has been strictly followed, disregarding alto-
gether the Baron's interpolations.

The papera at the end which were appended by
Baron Maseres to his edition have also been com-
pared with those contained in Husbands* Collection,
(which was published at London with the title ol
Jtemonstrances &c. &c. between (lie King and Parliamen
from Dec, 1641 to March 1643. Lowdon, 1643. 4to.) an
corrected thereby.

November 1H53.



a2



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niEFACE

TO THE EDITION OF 1812.



^



1 HE foUowiog history of the parliament of England, which
begun on the 3rd day of November in the year 1640, and
which has since been usually distinguished by the name of the
long parliament^ was written by Thomas May, esquire, a gen-
tleman of great genius and literary attainments, who flourished
in the reign of king Charles the First. He was bom at May-
field, in the county of Sussex, in the year 1595, and was the
eldest son of sir Thomas May, a knight, who lived at that
place, and who seems to have been possessed of a competent
estate in that neighbourhood, which was sufficient to miun-
tain him in the condition of an independent gentleman ; as it
does not appear that he was engaged in any of the profes-
sions. And the liberal education which he gave his eldest
son, our author, seems to confirm this supposition of the in-
dependence of sir Thomas May's circumstances: for, after
having sent him to some good school in the neighbourhood of
Mayfield, in the early part of his youth, (in which he made an
uncommon progress in the acquisition of the learned lan-
guages,) sir Thomas May entered him at Sidney-Sussex
college, in the university of Cambridge, in the rank of a fellow
commoner, which is the upper class of students there, into
which the eldest sons of the affluent and independent gentle-
men of England are usually admitted. And here our author
continued his classical studies with great assiduity and suc-
cess, and laid in a copious stock of that elegant literature
and familiar acquaintance with the best poets and historians
of antiquity, for which he was afterwards so much celebrated.
And in the year 1612 he took the degree of bachelor of arte,



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vi PREFACE TO

being then only seventeen years of age ; it being the custom
in those days to remove young scholars from grammar schools
to the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge about three
years earlier than is done at present, or for the last sixty or
seventy years. But, after taking the degree of bachelor of
arts in the university of Cambridge, it does not appear that
our author ever took any other degree there.

From the year i6i2 (when he was seventeen years old) to
the year 1615, (when he was twenty years of age,) it does not
appear where Mr. May resided : though it seems reasonable
to suppose that it was partly at Cambridge and partly with
his father in Sussex. But in the month of August 1615 he
was admitted a student of the law in the society of Gray's
Inn. And from that time he resided chiefly either at that inn
of court, or in some other port of Ix>ndon, for more than
twenty years ; during which time he devoted himself much to
the study and cultivation of poetry, and, in consequence of
his success in that elegant art, became familiarly acquaintc<l
with the most eminent courtiers and wits of those times, and
particularly with sir Kenelm Digby^ sir Richard Fanshaw, sir
John Suckling, sir Aston Cokaine, Mr. Thomas Carew^ (one of
the gentlemen of the privy-chamber to king Charles^) and
Endymion Porter, (one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber^
besides Ben Johnson^ (the celebrated dramatic poet,) and
many other persons of higher quality, who were poets them-
selves, and lovers of poetry in others, amongst whom they
admitted Mr. May to have a strong claim to be distinguished.
And it was in the course of these twenty years (from the year
1 6 15 to the year 1635) that Mr. May made an excellent
translation in verse of Lucon^s noble historical poem on the
civil war of Rome, between Pompey the Great and Julius
Caesar, entitled Pharsalia; which translation was first pub-
lished in the year 1627, or the second year of the reign of
king Charles the First, and when Mr. May was thii*ty-two
years old ; and was published a second time in the year 1630,
or when Mr. May was thirty-five years old ; and was then
accompanied with a continuation of the poem in seven addi-
tional books, in English verse, (like the translation of Lucan'^s
work,) which carry the history of that destructive civil war
to the death of Julius Ctcsar in the Capitol, by the hands of



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THE EDITION OF 1812. vii

several senators of Roine^ who had conspired against him ;
who, for the most part, (or with the exception of only Marcus
Brutus and Gains Oassius, and perhaps two or three persons
more,) were officers of his own army, but yet thought it to be
their duty to put him to death, when they found that he was
resolved to terminate the long series of victories which they
had helped him to gain, with a total suppression of the liber-
ties of their country. With this grand and awful event, (which
afforded an example of the punishment due to ambitious men,
who employ their great talents to the destruction of public
liberty), Mr. May thought the poem ought to end : and it
may reasonably be supposed that he thought that Lucan him-
self would have closed his poem with the description of that
catastrophe, if he had lived to bring it to a conclusion.

And after having published this continuation of Lucan's
poem, in seven additional books in English verse, in the year
1630, he translated it into Latin verse, and caused the trans-
lation to be printed at Leyden in Holland, where it was much
admired by learned foreigners, and thought to be not inferior,
in the purity of the Latin and the harmony of the verses, to
the verses of Lucan himself.

This translation of Lucan'^s Pharsalia, with the continuation
of it in English verse, and the translation of the said continua-
tion into Latin verse, are the principal works that have con.
tributed to the reputation of Mr. May as a poet. But they
are not the only ones. For he also distinguished himself as a
dramatic writer, by writing five plays, two comedies and three
tragedies. The first of his comedies was entitled The Heir,
and was acted at London in the reign of king James the
First, in the year 1620, when our author was but twenty-five
years old ; and it was afterwards published in the year 1633 ;
and it is spoken of by the writers of those times as an ex-
cellent performance. And his other comedy, which was called
The Old Couple, is thought to have been written about the
same time as the former, and was also brought upon the
stage at London, and well received by the public, and it is
said to have been esteemed but little inferior to his former
comedy. His three tragedies were entitled Cleopatra, queen
of Egypt ; Agrippina, empress of Rome ; and Antigone, the
Theban princess : but they seem to have been less admired



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viii PEEFACE TO

than his oomedieB. And he distinguished himself by other
elegant publications^ both in verse and prose^ before the be-
ginning of the long parliament, of which he wrote the follow-
ing history. He lived somewhat above a year after the death
of king Charles the Firsts in January 1 648-49, and died, al-
most suddenly, in the year 1650, in the fifty-fifth or fifty-sixth
year of his age.

More particulars concerning the life and writings of this
eminent author may be seen under the article of his name, in
the Biographia Britannica. But those that have been here
set forth are sufficient to show that he must have had ex-
cellent opportunities of knowing the several public events
that happened throughout the whole reign of king Charles the
First, which began in the year 1625, (when Mr. May was
thirty years of age,) and ended in the year 1648-49, when
Mr. May was fifty-four years old. And therefore Mr. May
seems to have been admirably well fitted to become the his-
torian of the transactions of this whole reign, and especially
of the proceedings of the three first years of this parliament,
which met in November 1640, if he possessed the grand re-
quisite of a good historian, which is impartiality, or the love
of truth. Now that he had this important requisite seems to
be highly probable from the following considerations :

As his history of this parliament was published so early as
the year 1 647, that is, less than seven years after the first
meeting of it in November 1640, there must have been great
numbers of persons living at the time of its publication, who
had been witnesses of the several transactions recorded in it,
and perfectly acquainted with all the circumstances belonging
to them ; and many of these persons would no doubt have
been ready enough to contradict the accounts he had given of
them in this history, and to point out to the public the parti-
cular points in which he had misrepresented them, if those
accounts had not been faithful. And yet I do not find that
any writers of that time, from the month of May 1 647, when
this history was published, to the month of May 1660, when
king Charles the Second was restored to his father^s throne,
have ever contested the truth of the facts related in this his-
tory. And therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that
those facts arc true.



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THE EDITION OF 1812. ix

Aiid^ fuHlicr, we may observe that the facts related in this
history are found to agree with the accounts given of them by
Mr. VVkitolock in his Memorials, and by others of the most
sedate and exact historical writers of those times : which is
an additioniU ground for supposing him to have been a very
impartial, as well as a very well informed and judicious re-
later of the proceedings of that important period of our
history.

And, lastly, this History of the Parliament almost speaks
for itself in support of the impartiality of its author. For it
is written in so calm and temperate a style, is so free from
invective and animosity, and has every where such an air of
candour and moderation, that it seems to be almost impossi-
ble for a reader of it not to suppose it to be impartial.

And, accordingly, this is the character that has generally
been aUowed to belong to this work, by the most diligent and
critical inquirers into the English history: of which I will
here give two examples by citing the opinions of two very
eminent persons to this purpose, namely, the late very learned
Dr. Warburton, bishop of Oloucester, and the late very great
minister of state, in the three last years of the reign of king
George the Second, Mr. William Pitt, who was afterwards
created earl of Chatham.

Dr. Warburton, bishop of Oloucester, in his familiar letters
to his intimate friend Dr. Hurd, (who was afterwards bishop
of Worcester,) has two very remarkable passages relating to
this work of Mr. May, which I will here transcribe from the
collection of those letters which was published a few years
ago, soon after the death of Dr. Hurd.

The first of these passages occurs in a letter of bishop
Warburton to Dr. Hurd, dated on the 30th day of June, in
the year 1753, ^^^ ^^ '° these words:

As to the History of the Long Parliament, the principal authors
are, May's History of the Parliament. Clarendon, Whitelock, Ludlow,
Rush worth's Collections, and Walker's History of Independency.
The first is an extraordinary performance, little known ; written with
great temper, good sense, and spirit ; and has the qaalities of a re-
gular composition.

The second passage is in a letter to Dr. Hurd, dated on the
16th of August of the same year 1 753, and is in these words :



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X PREFACE TO

May's History of the Parliament is a just composition, accord-
ing to the rules of history. It is written with much judgment, pene-
tration, manliness, and spirit ; and with a candour that will greatly
increase your esteem, when you understand that he wrote by the
order of his masters, the parliament

The opinion of the great Mr. "William Pitt (afterwards earl
of Chatham) oocurs in a letter to his nephew, Thomas Pitt,
esquire, (his elder brother^s son,) who was then a young man
and a student at Clare-hall, in the university of Cambridge,
and who was afterwards created lord Camelford ; which letter
was dated on the 5th of September. 1754. The passage con-
taining it is in these words :

I desired yon, some time since, to read Lord Clarendon's His-
tory of the Civil Wars. I have lately read a much honester and
more instructive book, of the same period of history. It is the
History of the Parliament, by Thomas May, esquire. I will send
it to you as soon as you return to Cambridge.

These passages of the letters of these two very eminent
persons are strong testimonies in favour of this excellent
history, of which, however, I cannot find that there has ever
been published any second edition : and the copies of this first
edition of it (which is printed in a thin folio volume in a very
large type) are now grown very soaroe. I therefore hope
that this new edition of it, in the more commodious size of a
quarto volume, and with the addition of short abstracts of its
contents, printed in a smaller character in the margins of the
pages, (which, though it is a practice that is now grown much
out of fashion, appears to me a most important article for
the convenience .of the reader,) will be aoceptable to the
public >.

At the end of this history I have printed an Appendix to
it, which contains all the declarations and votes and mes-
sages of both houses of parliament to the king, with the
king'^s answers to them, from the month of November 1641,
(when the king had returned from Scotland to London,) to
the 7th of the following month of March 1641-42, when ho
had refused to reside at Westminster, near the parliament,
(in consequence of some popular tumults that had arisen

» In the present edition the abstracts are printed at the head of the page.



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THE EDITION OF 1818. xi

there, from whioh he apprehended danger to his person,) and
was retiring to the city of York, to raise a body of troops
there for his defence, under the name of a life-guard;
whioh measure was soon after followed by an open civil war.
Amongst these parliamentary papers will be found, first, the
famous grand remonstrance of the house of commons, pre-
sented to the king in December 1641, which contains a just
picture of the several grievances of the nation, arising from
the king's misgovernment, from the beginning of his reign,
and the king's answer to it ; and, secondly, an account of the
king^s violent entry into the house of commons on the 4th of
January 1641-42, attended by a body of 300 armed men, to
seize the persons of five of the most eminent members of the
house, (Mr. Denzil Hollis, sir Arthur Haslerig, Mr. Pym,
Mr. Ilambden, and Mr. Strode,) in order to have them tried
for high treason for what they had said and done as members
of that house ; together with an account of the altercation
that took place between the king and the parliament in con-
sequence of that violent measure ; and, thirdly, an account of
several informations that had been given to the parliament,
of licenses that had been granted, under the king^s hand, to
several Irish officers of the popish religion, (some of whom
had been bred in the wars in Flanders and Holland, in the
service of the king of Spain,) to go over to Ireland, where it
was much to be feared that they would engage in the Irish
rebellion; and some of them had actually done so: from
which information the parliament could not but entertain
some suspicions that the king, though be might not have at
first authorized and encouraged the Irish papists to enter
into this rebellion, as those rebels declared that he had done,
yet now that the rebellion was on foot was unwilling that it
should be speedily suppressed, and was in hopes that he
should receive some assistance from those rebels against the
English parliament. These informations received by the par-
liament, and set forth in some of the latter papers in this
Appendix, are very positive and particular, and seem fully
sufficient to justify the suspicions entertained by the parlia-
ment of the king's secret sentiments on this subject, and did
certainly contribute very much to increase the jealousy they
had conceived of his design to revoke all his late concessions,



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xii PREFACE TO

ai\' to resume his former absolute authority, by any means
that he could employ for that purpose. And if that horrid
Irish rebellion had not happened at the time it did, and
Ireland had continued for a year or two in the same state of
peace and tranquillity in which it was when the king went to
Scotland in August 1641, to meet his parliament there, and
settle the affisiirs of that kingdom both in church and state^
(which he did to the thorough satisfaction of his Scottish
subjects,) it seems probable that, upon his return to London
in the following month of November 1641, he would have
complied in like manner with his English parliament, in all
the further measures they would have proposed to him, for
the complete correction of the former abuses in the govern-
ment, both in church and state, and for the rendering all
these corrections and concessions permanent after the disso-
lution of the present parliament, so as to put them out of all
danger of being rescinded or revoked, either by the king
himself or any of his successors to the crown. And if this
opinion is well founded, it will follow that that horrid rebellion
in Ireland must be considered as having been the cause, not
only of all the bloodshed and robbery and desolation which
it immediately spread over that island, but also of all the
misery in which England was overwhelmed during the whole
of the English civil war, or for the space of more than nine
years, to wit, from the summer of the year 164a, when it
b^un, to the end of the year 1651, when (after the great
victory gained at Worcester, by the army of the conunon-
wealth of England, under the command of Oliver Cromwell,
over the Scottish army, commanded by king Charles the
Second) the whole island of Great Britain was restored to
peace.

It appears from the last paragraph of this History, in page
228 of this edition, that Mr. May had intended to pub-
lish a continuation of it, in which, as he informs us, he
proposed to give a large account of the cessation of arms
made by the king with the Irish rebels, (soon after the relief
of the city of Gloucester by the earl of Essex in the summer
of the year 1643,) and of the great victories which small
numbers of the English forces had obtained over great multi-
tudes of those Irish rebels, before the time of that cessation ;



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THE EDITION OF 1812. xiii

as also of the oovenant, which the EngUsh parliament, and
that part of the nation that adhered to it, entered into^ about
this time^ with their brethren of ScoUand, for the maintenance
of tiie religion and liberties of the two kingdoms. But this
design Mr. May did not carry into execution, though the
reason of his declining to do so is not apparent. This omis-
sion is much to be regretted ; as a clear and faithful account
of these two subjects, the state of Ireland, after the massa-
cre of the protestants, on the 23d of October 1641, to the
cessation of arms made with them, by the king'^s command, in
the autunm of 1643, ^^^ ^^® treaty of the covenant between
the parliaments of England and ScoUand entered into about
the same time, given us by the impartial pen of this in-
telligent writer, would have afforded great satisfaction to his
readers. But our loss on this occasion may be in some de-
gree repaired, with respect to the state of Ireland during
those two years, or at least during the first part of them, by
having recourse to the excellent History of the Irish Rebel-
lion and Massacre, in October 1643, written by sir John
Temple, who was master of the rolls in Ireland, and a member
of the king^s privy council in Dublin at the very time of its
breaking out, and took a zealous and active part in the mea-
sures that were immediately employed for the preservation of
that important city. This account of that horrid event is



Online LibraryThomas MayThe history of the Parliament of England, which began November 3, 1640: with ... → online text (page 1 of 43)