There is something magical about pamphlets and political ephemera from the era of the English Civil War. This is a really wonderful six-page tract from the run-up to the breach between King and Parliament which led to war and eventually the execution of Charles I in 1649.
John Pym was a champion of the Parliamentary cause and an opponent or arbitrary rule. He was one of the five MPs whose attempted arrest in Parliament in 1642 led directly to civil war. As you can see, this pamphlet is from the previous year - June 1641 to be precise.
Pym here addresses his demands to Charles, calling for the King to disband his army, give his assent to disputed bills and to remove Catholics from the queen's retinue. It also calls for the king to guarantee the safety of Pym and his family.
John Pym died in 1643, probably from cancer, and didn't see the full depths of the turmoil into which the nation plunged.
What a fantastic piece of political ephemera! It dates from the early 1640s, when tension was rising between King Charles 1 and Parliament. (Spoiler alert: it didn't end well for the king).
This broadside dates from 3 January 1642 (yes, I know it says 1641 but at this time England used 'Lady Day' dating when the date moved forward from one year to the next on Lady Day, that's 25th March). Although it cites a resolution of the House of Commons and was published over the name of Henry Elsynge, the clerk to the House, it's not an offiicial Parliamentary publication but the work of a small publisher/bookseller in the Old Bailey district of London.
The content of the broadside is remarkable - a bold assertion that MPs have the right to resist arrest unless that detention is authorised by Parliament itself.
'And this House doth further declare, That if any person whatsoever shall offer to arrest or detain the Person of any Member of this House, without first acquainting this House therewith, and receiving further Order from this House: That it is lawful for such Member, or any Person, to assist him, and to stand upon his, and their guard of defence, and to make resistance, according to the Protestation taken to defend the Priviledges of Parliament.'
At this time, Parliament was concerned about the King's determination to raise funds for the developing war in Scotland and his reluctance to call Parliament. The king reckoned that some outspoken Puritan MPs were in league with his enemies in Scotland and were intent on a prosecution of the Queen.
The day after the broadside, the king - accompanied by about eighty armed soldiers - violated Parliamentary privilege and entered the chamber of the House of Commons. He was seeking the arrest of five MPs he regarded as particularly troublesome, including John Pym and John Hampden. They had all been tipped off by the French ambassador and had hopped on a barge and travelled downriver to the City. As word of the king's action spread, some Londoners came onto the streets bearing arms to resist the king and his troops if, as rumoured, he headed to the City in pursuit of his Parliamentary quarry.
When Charles asked Speaker Lenthall about the whereabouts of the five members, the Speaker replied in one of the bravest - and most renowned - remarks ever uttered in Parliament : "May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this House is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and I humbly beg your majesty's pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me."
The king failed to arrest any of the five MPs - and they returned in triumph to Westminster the following day. Within a week or so, the king withdrew from London to Hampton Court and later to Oxford. He had lost his capital. Charles only returned to London seven years later, having lost the war with the army of Parliament, for his trial and execution.
So this broadside is from the moment that the row between monarch and Parliament started veering towards civil war.
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