John Rushworth

John Rushworth (c. 1612-May 12, 1690) was born at Acklington Park in the parish of Warkworth, Northumberland, England. He compiled a series of works called "Historical Collections" (which are also referred to as the "Rushworth Papers"), concerning the period of history covering the English Civil Wars throughout the 1600s.

Brief biography

Background

John Rushworth was born c. 1612 in Northumberland, England and was a contemporary of John Lilburne whose writings, like those of Rushworth, had a profound impact on the history of the English Civil Wars of the 1600s. Although his senior, he also shared much in common with Oliver Cromwell (born 1599), because they were evangelical Christians who believed that the Church of England should undergo a total reformation, contrary to the wishes of King Charles I.

Early life

His paternal line were descendants of a family which first settled on the Yorkshire moors in 1068. Lawrence Rushworth (his father) was an extensive landowner and Justice of the Peace at Heath, Yorkshire. His mother was Margaret Cuthbert, daughter of the vicar of Carnaby in Humberside. John Rushworth is reported to have been a good pupil who left school to study law at The Queen's College, Oxford. He graduated in 1640 and then became a student barrister at Lincoln's Inn where Oliver Cromwell had previously studied in the 1620s and then commenced work as assistant clerk at the House of Commons. He married Hannah Widdrington, daughter of Lewis Widdrington, and sister of Member of Parliament Sir Thomas Widdrington, who was the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Political involvement

Following the lead of MP John Pymn, who in a speech at the House of Commons on April 17, 1640 attacked the king and his government for problems within the country, both Cromwell and Rushworth identified themselves with the same sentiments. Charles I reacted by declaring war on Parliament from the grounds of Nottingham Castle on August 22, 1642, and this act is said to have commenced a succession of three English civil wars.

Rushworth's papers

Once the wars got underway in earnest, Rushworth became the Secretary of the New Model Army and served General Fairfax. This gave John Rushworth an "embedded journalist" view of the wars then in progress. Rushworth followed the battles of Edge Hill; Newbury; Marston Moor; Naseby; Battle of Preston and Worcester.

When Charles I was captured, Rushworth began to record details of events leading up to, during and following the trial and execution of the king. His views of Charles I as a king who had declared war on his own people, were later echoed in words by Thomas Jefferson and others when writing about the reign of George III in the Declaration of Independence.

Legal authority

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Rushworth became personal secretary to Oliver Cromwell. It was Rushworth who then began drafting plans for the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and the establishment of an English Republic under the leadership of Cromwell. When Cromwell became Lord Protector in 1653, Rushworth was promoted to Registrar of the Court of Admiralty. In 1657 he became the Member of Parliament for Berwick, a seat to which he was reelected many times. As a member of the Cromwellian government he enjoyed the friendships of John Milton (who served Cromwell as the official State Censor); John Owen; John Bunyan and many other well known people of that period.

Death of Cromwell

When Oliver Cromwell died on September 3, 1658 at age 59, his son Richard Cromwell became Lord Protector. Rushworth completed his written histories of the period and dedicated them to Richard Cromwell. However, due to the inability of Richard Cromwell to continue the office established by his father as Lord Protector, by 1660 real power had shifted to the Council of State and John Rusworth, MP, became its Secretary.

Restoration of the monarchy

Negotiations were then undertaken with the son of Charles I to return to England as its king, subject to the rule of Parliament. (He had already been crowned King Charles II in and of Scotland.) When Charles II took to the throne and restored the monarchy, Rushworth was reassigned to the office of Treasury Solicitor.

During the following years Rushworth lived through the Great Plague that hit London in 1665 and which lasted until the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed many of its rat-infested buildings. These two events were recorded in the Diary (1660-1669) of his friend Samuel Pepys. For a time Rushworth retained his seat in Parliament. He was repeatedly elected from 1659 to 1681.

However, his past association with Cromwell and the execution of Charles I eventually drew his fortunes to a close. When Charles II began to regain the full power of the monarchy, he also began to strike out at everyone who had a hand in the execution of his father. John Rushworth and all others branded as regicides, was arrested and sent to the King's Bench Prison in Rule's Court, Southwark where he died aged 78 on May 12, 1690. His body was buried following a small funeral service in the churchyard of St George, Southwark.

Legacy

In 1890, King's Bench Prison in Rule's Court was demolished. Rushworth School was then built on the site and the court was renamed Rushworth Street. While John Rushworth was remembered as a person, his writings found favor in America where they served as a source of inspiration for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson bought a copy of "Rushworth's Historical Collections" for use in his own library and he often quoted from them.

References

*"Historical Collections", by John Rushworth of Lincolns-Inn, Esq. London.

External links

* [http://www.rushworth.com/jr/ Portrait and biography of John Rushworth]
* [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.aspx?type=2&gid=116 Rushworth's 'Historical Collections' on British History Online] : full-text version of volume 1 (as at February 2008), with the remainder to follow.)


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