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TO AND FROM
1. From Algernon Sidney, in answer to one persuading his return
to England soon after the Restoration. SIR, I AM
sorry I cannot in all things conform myself to the advice of my friends. If theirs had any joint concernment with mine, I would willingly submit my interest to theirs ; but when I alone am interested, and they only advise me to come over as soon as the act of indemnity is past, because they think it is best for me; I cannot wholly lay aside my own judgment and choice. I confess, we are naturally inclined to delight in our own country, and I have a particular love to nine: I hope I have given some testimony of it. I think that being exiled from it is a great evil, and would redeein myself from it with the loss of a great deal of my blood. But when that country of mine, which used to be esteemed a paradise, is now like to be made a stage of injury; the liberty which we hoped to establish, oppressed; all manner of profaneness, looseness, luxury, and lewdness, set up in its height, instead of piety, virtue, sobriety, and modesty, which we hoped God, by our hands, would have introduced ; the best of our nation made a prey to the worst; the parliament, court, and army corrupted'; the people enslaved; all things vendible; and no man safe but by such evil and infamous means as flattery and bribery; what joy can I have in my own country in this condition? Is it a pleasure to see all that I love in the world sold and destroyed ? Shall I renounce all my old principles, learn the vile court arts, and make my peace by bribing some of them? Shall their corruption and vice be my safety ? Ah! no; better is a life among strangers, than in my own country upon such conditions. Whilst I live, I will endeavour
to preserve my liberty; or, at least, not consent to the dem stroying of it. I hope I shall die in the same principles in which I have lived, and will live no longer than they can preserve me. I have in my life beeň guilty of many follies; but, as I think, of no meanness. I will not blot and defile that which is past by endeavouring to provide for the future. I have ever had in my mind, that when God should cast me into such a condition as that I cannot save my life but by doing an indecent thing, he shews me, the time is come wherein I should resign it. And when I cannot live in my own country but by such means as are worse than dying in it, I think he shews me, that I ought to keep myself out of it. Let them please themselves with making the king glorious, who think a whole people may justly be sacrificed for the interest and pleasure of one man and a few of his followers. Let them rejoice in their subtilty, who, by betraying the former powers, have gained the fac vour of this, and not only preserved but advanced themselves in these dangerous changes. Nevertheless, perhaps, they may find the king's glory is their shame: his plenty, the people's misery; and that the gaining an office, or a little money, is a poor reward for destroying a nation, which, if it were preserved in liberty and virtue, would truly be the most glorious in the world: and others may find, they have, with much pains, purchased their own shame and misery; a dear price paid for that which is not worth keeping, nor the life that is accompanied with it. The honour of English parliaments has ever been in making the nation glorious and happy; not in selling and destroying the interest of it to satisfy the lust of one man. Miserable nation! that from so great a height of glory is fallen into the most despicable condition in the world, of having all its good depending upon the breath and will of the vilest persons in it! Cheated and sold by them they trusted! Infamous traffick, equal almost in guilt to that of Judas! In all preceding ages parliaments have been the pillars of our liberty; the sure defenders of the oppressed. They who formerly could bridle kings, and keep the balance equal between them and the people, are now become the instruments of all our oppressions, and a sword in his hand to destroy us. They are led by a few interested persons, who are willing to buy offices for themselves by the misery of the whole nation, and the blood of the most worthy and eminent persons in it. Detestable bribes! worse than the oaths now in fashion in this mercenary court! I mean to owe neither my life nor liberty to any such means. When the innocence of my actions will not protect me, I will stay away till the storm be overpast. In short, where Vane, Lambert, and Haslerigge cannot live in safety, I cannot live at all. If I had been in England I should have expected a lodging with them : or, though they may be the first, as being more eminent than I, I must expect to follow their example in suffering, as I have been their companion in acting. I am most in amaze at the mistaken informations that were sent to me by my friends, full of expectations of favours and employ
Who can think, that they who imprison them, would employ me; or suffer me to live, when they are put to death! If I might live and be employed, can it be expected, that I should serve a government that seeks such detestable ways of establishing itself? Ah! no-I have not learned to make my own peace by persecuting and betraying my brethren more innocent and worthy than myself. I must live by just means, and serve to just ends, or not at all. After such a manifestation of the ways by which it is intended the king shall govern, I should have renounced any place of favour, into which the kindness and industry of my friends might have advanced me, when I found those that were better than I, were only fit to be destroyed. I had formerly some jealousies, the fraudulent proclamation for indemnity increased them. The imprisoning those three men and turning out all the officers of the army, contrary to promise, confirmed me in my resolutions not to return.
To conclude, the tide is not to be diverted, nor the oppressed delivered ; but God in his time will have mercy on his people. He will save and defend them, and avenge the blood of those who shall now perish, upon the heads of those who in their pride think nothing is able to oppose them. Happy are those whom God shall make instruments of his justice, in so blessed a work; if I can live to see that day, I shall be ripe for the grave, and able to say with joy, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, &c.
Farewell; my thoughts as to king and state, depending upon their actions, no man shall be a more faithful servant to him than I, if he make the good and prosperity of his people his glory; none more his enemy if he does the contrary. To my particular friends I shall be constant in all occasions, and to you,
A most affectionate Servant, 1756, Sept.
II. Oliver Cromwell to his Son-in-law, Gen. Fleetwood.
Aug. 22, 1653. DEAR CHARLES, ALTHOUGH I doe not soe often as is desired (by mee) acquaint you how it is with me, yet I doubt not of your prayers on my behalfe, that in all things I may walk as becometh the gospel. Truly I never more needed all helps from my christian friendes than nowe; fain would I have my service accepted of the saincts (if the Lord will) but it is not soe, beinge of different judgments, and of each sort some seekinge to propagate their owne, that spirit of kind. nesse that is to them all, is hardly accepted of any. I hope I can say it, my life has been a willing sacrifice, and my hope is for them all, yet it much falls out, as when the two Hebrews were rebuked, you knowe upon whome they turned their despleasure: but the Lord is wise, and will I trust make manifest that I am no enemie.
O howe easie is mercie to be abused ! Persuade friendes with you to be very sober; if the day of the Lord be so neare (as some say) howe should our moderation appear! If every one instead of contendinge, would justifie bis forme by love and meeknesse, wisdom would be justified of ber children ; but, alass! I am in my temptation ready to say I would I had winges like a dove, then would I flie away and be at rest! But this I feare is
haste. I'blesse the Lord, I have somewhat keepes me alive, some sparkes of the light of his countenance, and some synceritye above man's judgment. Excuse mee thus unbowelling myselfe to you, and pray for mee, and desire my friendes to doe soe also. My love to thy dear wife, whome I indeed entyrely love both naturally, and upon the best account; and my blessinge, if it be worth any thinge, upon thy little babe.
Sir George Ascough having occasions with you, desired my letters to you on his behalfe; if hee come or send, I pray you show him what favoure you can; indeed bis services have been considerable for the state, and I doubt he has not beene answered with suitable respect; therefore againe I desire you and the commissioners to take him into a very peculiar care, and help him soe farr as justice and reason will any waies afford. Remember my hearty affections to all the officers; the Lord blesse you all, soe prayeth, Your truly loving father,
O. CROMWELL, 1761, May.