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Cromwell’s letter concerning the prisoners

Here we explore what Haselrigge wrote to Cromwell regarding the prisoners
© Durham University

This is the original text of a letter written by Oliver Cromwell to the honourable Sir Arthur Haselrigge, Governor of Newcastle, from Dunbar, 5th September 1650.

Written in the 17th century, some parts of the language are different to how English speakers write today. We have provided you with a ‘modern interpretation’ of the letter at the end of the step (PDF in the Downloads section), so if you get stuck, please refer to that.


After much deliberacion, we can find no way how to dispose of these prisoners that wilbe consisting with these two ends, (to witt, the not loosing, them, & the not starving them neither of which would we willingly incurr) but by sending them into England, where the Councell of State may exercise their wisedom & better judgment in so dispersing & disposing of them, as that they may not suddeinly return to your prejudice. We have dispatched away neer 5000 poore wretches of them, verie many of which its probable will dye of their wounds or be rendered unserviceable for time to come by reason thereof. I have written to the Councell of State desiring them to direct how they shalbe disposed of, and I make no question, but you will hastne the prisoners up southward, and second my desires with your owne to the Councell. I know you are a man of busines, this not being every dayes worke, will willingly be performed by you, especially considering you have the commannds of your supervisers. Sir, I judge it exceeding necessary you send us up what horse & foot you can with all possible expedicion, especially considering that indeed our men fall verie sicke, & if the Lord shall please to enable us effectually to prosecute this busines to the which he hath opened so gratious a way, no man knowes but that it may produce a peace to England, & much securitie & comfort to God’s people, wherefore I pray you continue to give what furtherance you can to this worke, by speeding such supplies to us as you can possibly spare, not having more at present, I rest

Your affectionate friend, & servant

O. Cromwell

(This letter is held by the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office under reference DG21/275/p)

© Durham University
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