Rushworth, John (1612?-1690) (DNB00)

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RUSHWORTH, JOHN (1612?–1690), historian, born about 1612, was the son of Laurence Rushworth of Acklington Park in the parish of Warkworth, Northumberland. His father was a younger son of Alexander Rushworth of Coley Hall in the parish of Halifax, Yorkshire. John is said by Wood to have been educated at Oxford, but his name does not appear in the matriculation lists. He was created M.A. on 21 May 1649, being described as a member of Queen's College, and secretary to Lord Fairfax (Wood, Athenæ, iv. 280; Fasti, ii. 137). Rushworth was bred to the law, and on 13 April 1638 was appointed solicitor to the town of Berwick-on-Tweed at a salary of 4l. per annum (Berwick Records). On 14 Aug. 1641 he was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn, and in 1647 he was called to the bar (Admission Book of Lincoln's Inn; Foster, Alumni Oxon. early ser. iii. 1290). From the outset of his career state affairs had more attraction for him than the study of the common law. He began to collect information about them during the eleven years' intermission of parliaments which preceded the summoning of the Long parliament in November 1640. In the preface to his ‘Collections’ he states: ‘I did personally attend and observe all occurrences of moment during that interval in the Star Chamber, Court of Honour, and Exchequer Chamber, when all the Judges of England met there upon extraordinary cases; at the Council-table when great cases were heard before the king and council. And when matters were agitated at a greater distance, I was there also, and went on purpose out of a curiosity to see and observe the passages of the camp at Berwick, at the fight at Newburn, at the treaty at Ripon, at the great council at York, and at the meeting of the Long parliament, and present every day at the trial of the Earl of Strafford.’ He took down verbatim the arguments of the counsel and of the judges at Hampden's trial (Historical Collections, i. preface, ii. 480, iii. 1237).

On 25 April 1640 Rushworth was appointed clerk-assistant to the House of Commons at the request of Henry Elsing, the clerk (Commons' Journals, ii. 12). He was prohibited, however, from taking notes except under the orders of the house (ib. ii. 12, 42). On 4 Jan. 1642, when the king came to the house to demand the five members, Rushworth, without orders, took down his speech in shorthand, which Charles seeing, sent for Rushworth, and required a copy. After vainly excusing himself and citing the case of a member who was sent to the Tower for reporting to the king words spoken in the house, Rushworth was obliged to comply, and the king at once had the speech printed (ib. ii. 368; Historical Collections, iv. 478). In August 1641, in May 1642, and on many other occasions during 1642 and 1643, Rushworth was employed as a messenger between the parliament and its committees at York, Oxford, and elsewhere. ‘His diligence and speed in observing the commands of the parliament,’ observes a newspaper, ‘hath been well known, for he was employed near twenty times this last summer between York and London, and seldom more than twenty-four hours in riding of it’ (Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer, March 21–8, 1643; cf. Commons' Journals, ii. 265, 269). On one of these journeys Rushworth met Tom Elliot, who was secretly carrying the great seal to the king, and lent the parliament's messenger his horse in order to avoid suspicion and arrest (Historical Collections, v. 718). Parliament rewarded these services by small grants of money, by gifts of horses belonging to delinquents, and by recommending Rushworth for employment under the excise commissioners (Commons' Journals, ii. 360, iii. 130, 145; Lords' Journals, v. 296). The commons also appointed him cursitor of the county of York, but the lords do not appear to have agreed to the vote (Commons' Journals, iii. 170, 180). On 11 April 1644 the house ordered that no pamphlets should be published unless licensed by Rushworth, which order was revoked on 9 March 1647 (ib. iii. 457, v. 109).

When the new model army was organised, Rushworth was appointed secretary to the general and the council of war. In that capacity he accompanied Sir Thomas Fairfax through the campaigns of 1645 and 1646. At Naseby he was with the baggage train in the rear, and wrote an account of Rupert's attack upon it (Markham, Life of Fairfax, pp. 223, 229). Fairfax frequently employed Rushworth to write narratives of his operations to the speaker, which were usually printed by order of the house (Old Parliamentary History, xiv. 210, 289, 358; Vicars, Burning Bush, 374, 379, 383, 388, 400; Report on the Manuscripts of the Duke of Portland, i. 242, 331, &c.). At the same time Rushworth kept the general's father, Lord Fairfax, constantly informed of the political and military proceedings of his son (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 261–95). In 1647, by virtue of his influence with Fairfax and his position as secretary to the council of the army, Rushworth became a personage of political importance. His name was habitually appended to all the manifestoes published by the army ‘by the appointment of his Excellency, Sir Thomas Fairfax, and the council of war.’ The signature, ‘John Rushworth, secretary,’ scornfully observes Holles, was ‘now far above John Brown or Henry Elsing,’ the clerks of the two houses of parliament (Memoir of Denzil, Lord Holles; Maseres, Select Tracts, i. 291). A private letter from Rushworth was, according to the same authority, the cause of Speaker Lenthall's flight to the army (ib. i. 275; cf. Clarke Papers, i. 219, ii. 146). Rushworth accompanied Fairfax again through the campaign of 1648, and wrote accounts of the siege of Colchester and the battle of Maidstone.

When Fairfax resigned his post as general rather than invade Scotland, he charged Rushworth with the duty of delivering up his commissions to the speaker (Commons' Journals, 26 June 1650). For a few months Rushworth acted as Cromwell's secretary, signed the declarations published by his army when they entered Scotland, and wrote a narrative of the battle of Dunbar (Old Parliamentary History, xix. 309, 312, 341). He probably resigned his post as secretary about the end of 1650. In 1651 Rushworth was employed by the council of state to keep them supplied with intelligence on the progress of the campaign (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, pp. 317, 426). On 17 Jan. 1652 he was appointed a member of the committee for the reformation of the law, and in May 1657 he was one of the visitors named in the act founding the college of Durham (Commons' Journals, vii. 74; Burton, Parliamentary Diary, ii. 536). On 14 March 1652 Rushworth had been made free of the borough of Newcastle, and he was for many years agent for the corporation at a salary of 30l. per annum (Brand, History of Newcastle, p. 482). He was also agent for the town of Berwick, which on 2 April 1657 elected him as its member in place of Colonel George Fenwick, deceased, and re-elected him to Richard Cromwell's parliament in January 1659 (Guild Book of Berwick-upon-Tweed).

As early as 1650 Rushworth's influence with Fairfax had led royalist intriguers to seek to gain him to the king's cause (Report on the Duke of Portland's Manuscripts, i. 587; Tanner MS. liv. 14). In the winter of 1659–60 he was again approached, and Lord Mordaunt obtained through him a knowledge of Monck's conferences with Fairfax (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 651). When Monck restored the ‘secluded members’ to their seats, Rushworth as ‘the darling agent of the secluded members’ became secretary to the new council of state (February, 1660; ib. iii. 694). In the Convention parliament of 1660 he again represented Berwick. On 7 June 1660 he presented to the privy council certain volumes of its records, which he claimed to have preserved from plunder ‘during the late unhappy times,’ and received the king's thanks for their restoration (Kennet, Register, p. 176; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 231). Reports were spread, however, of Rushworth's complicity in the late king's death, and he was called before the lords to give an account of the deliberations of the regicides, but professed to know nothing except by hearsay (Autobiography of Alice Thornton, Surtees Society, 1875, p. 347; Lords' Journals, xi. 104). Rushworth was not re-elected to the parliament of 1661, but continued to act as agent for the town of Berwick, although complaints were made that the king could look for little obedience so long as such men were agents for corporations (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1667, pp. 188, 290).

In September 1667, when Sir Orlando Bridgeman was made lord-keeper, he appointed Rushworth his secretary (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1894, ii. 495). The colony of Massachusetts also employed him as its agent at a salary of twelve guineas a year and his expenses, but it was scoffingly said in 1674 that all he had done for the colony was ‘not worth a rush’ (Hutchinson Papers, Prince Society, ii. 174, 183, 206). In the parliaments of March 1679, October 1679, and March 1681, Rushworth again represented Berwick, and seems to have supported the whig leaders. Though he had held lucrative posts and had inherited an estate from his cousin, Sir Richard Tempest, Rushworth's affairs were greatly embarrassed (Tempest's will, dated 14 Nov. 1657, is printed by the Yorkshire Archæological Society, Record Ser. ix. 105). He spent the last six years of his life in the king's bench prison in Southwark, ‘where, being reduced to his second childship, for his memory was quite decayed by taking too much brandy to keep up his spirits, he quietly gave up the ghost in his lodging in a certain alley there, called Rules Court, on 12 May 1690’ (Wood). He was buried in St. George's Church, Southwark. Wood states that Rushworth died at the age of eighty-three, but in a letter written in 1675 Rushworth describes himself as sixty-three at that date (Report on the Duke of Portland's Manuscripts, ii. 151). He left four daughters: (1) Hannah, married, February 1664, to Sir Francis Fane of Fulbeck, Lincolnshire (Harl. Soc. Publications, xxiv. 77); (2) Rebecca, married, August 1667, Robert Blaney of Kinsham, Herefordshire (ib. xxiii. 138); (3) Margaret (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 263); (4) Katherine, whose letter to the Duke of Newcastle on her father's death is printed in the ‘Report on the Duke of Portland's Manuscripts’ (ii. 164).

A portrait of Rushworth, by R. White, is prefixed to the third part of his ‘Historical Collections.’ The eight volumes of ‘Historical Collections,’ to which Rushworth owes his fame, appeared at different dates between 1659 and 1701. The first part was published in 1659 with a dedication to Richard Cromwell, which was afterwards suppressed (reprinted in Old Parliamentary History, xxiii. 216). Bulstrode Whitelocke [q. v.] assisted Rushworth by the loan of manuscripts, and supervised the volume before it was sent to press (Whitelocke, Memorials, ed. 1853, iv. 315). He was also helped, according to Wood, by John Corbet (Athenæ, iii. 1267). The second part, containing the history of the years 1629–40, was published in 1680, in two volumes. Certain passages of the manuscript were suppressed to satisfy the scruples of the secretary of state (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 231, 5th Rep. p. 318). In the same year appeared Rushworth's ‘Trial of the Earl of Strafford, dedicated to George Savile, earl of Halifax. It was mainly based on Rushworth's own shorthand notes taken during the trial (Cal. of the Manuscripts of Mr. Alfred Morrison, v. 327). The third part, which contained the history of the period, 1640–4, was printed in 1692, after the author's death, and the fourth and last part, covering the years 1645–8, in 1701. A second edition, in eight volumes folio, appeared in 1721, and an abridgment in six volumes 8vo in 1703.

Rushworth's collection was vehemently attacked by royalist writers for partiality and inaccuracy. John Nalson [q. v.], who published his ‘Impartial Collection of the Great Affairs of State,’ &c., as a counterblast, undertook to make it appear ‘that Mr. Rushworth hath concealed truth, endeavoured to vindicate the prevailing detractions of the late times, as well as their barbarous actions, and with a kind of rebound libelled the government at second hand’ (Introduction, p. 5). The authors of the ‘Old Parliamentary History of England’ (24 vols. 8vo, 1751–61) point out a number of errors and omissions made in the documents printed by Rushworth (cf. vol. xxiii. p. 216). These criticisms are summarised in a note to the life of Rushworth in ‘Biographia Britannica’ (ed. 1760, v. 3533). It is evident, however, that most of these mistakes are due to careless editing or to the adoption of inferior versions of the documents printed. The editor's partiality reveals itself mainly in the selection of the documents chosen for republication. Rushworth is defended by Roger Coke (Detection of the Court and State of England, 1694, Apology to the Reader), and by Rapin (History of England, ed. 1743, ii. 347).

Except in compiling the earlier part of his collections, Rushworth had not the free access to official documents enjoyed by Nalson, and was obliged to rely on printed sources. In part two he made free use of Burnet's ‘Lives of the Dukes of Hamilton,’ and consulted also the contemporary histories of Sanderson and L'Estrange, and the Duchess of Newcastle's life of her husband. The speeches delivered in the Long parliament, and its declarations and ordinances, are simply reprinted from copies published at the time. In Rushworth's narrative of the civil war, he compiles from the newspapers and pamphlets of the period, and sometimes abridges Sprigg's ‘Anglia Rediviva.’ In his account of the events of 1647–8, he reprints almost verbatim about eighteen months of the ‘Perfect Diurnal.’ The most valuable part of the eight volumes consists of the shorthand notes taken by Rushworth himself. For contemporaries, the ‘Historical Collections’ had a value which they do not possess now that so many other materials for the history of the reign of Charles I have been published, but as a convenient work for reference they still retain their usefulness.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 280; Biographia Britannica, ed. 1760, v. 3531; Notes communicated by G. McN. Rushworth, esq.]

C. H. F.