Thurloe, John, Esq.

, secretary of state to the two protectors Oliver and Richard Cromwell, was son of Thomas Thurloe, rector of Abbots- Roding, Essex, where he was born in 1616. He was educated to the law, and afterwards recommended to the patronage of Oliver St. John, esq. a person of great eminence in that profession, and successively solicitor-general to Charles I. and lord chief justice of the common pleas; by whose interest, Jan. 1645, he was appointed one of the secretaries to the parliament commissioners at the treaty of Uxbridge. In 1647, he was admitted of LincolnVinn; and, March 1648, made receiver or clerk of the cursitor fines, under the earl of Kent, lord Grey of Werke, sir Thomas Widdrington, and Bulstrode Whitelocke, esq. commissioners of the great seal. | Though his attachments were entirely on the side of the parliament, yet, with regard to the death of king Charles, he declares himself, that he was altogether a stranger to the fact, and to all the counsels about it; having 1 not had the least communication with any person whatsoever on that affair. Yet, after that extraordinary event, and the establishment of the new commonwealth, he was diverted from his employments in the law, and engaged in public business. In March 1651, he attended the lord chief justice St. John, and Walter Strickland, esq. ambassadors to the states of the United Provinces, as their secretary, with whom he returned to England in 1651, and, April 1652, was preferred to the office of secretary to the council of state; and, upon Cromwell’s assuming the protectorship in 1653, became secretary of state. In Feb. 1654, he was chosen one of the masters of the upper bench of the society of Lincoln’s-inn; and, in Aug. 1655, had the care and charge of the postage, both foreign and inland, committed to him by the protector. In 1656, he was chosen member of parliament for the Isle of Ely; and in April 1657 received the thanks of the parliament, for his vigilance in detecting the plot of Harrison and other fifth-monarchymen, and for many great services to the public. On July 13 of the same year, he was sworn one of the privy council to the protector, according to the "humble petition and advice 7> and in November was elected one of the governors of the Charter-house. Burnet relates a story, which probably happened about this time, of his having nearly forfeited Cromwell’s good opinion, by not being vigilant enough in listening to accounts of plots against his (Cromwell’s) life, but he soon effected a reconciliation, and appears to have induced Cromwell to think as he did, that too much curiosity after such matters argued an undignified fear.

In Feb. 1658 he was made chancellor of the university of Glasgow; and, in June following, concurred with Whitelocke in advising the protector to leave the persons who had been detected in a plot, to be proceeded against in the ordinary course of trials at the common law, and not by an high court of justice; it being always his opinion, that the forms and rules of the old constitution should, on every occasion, be inviolably preserved, especially in the administration of justice. Upon the death of Oliver, he was continued in the post of secretary and privy counsellor | to his successor Richard; though he was very obnoxious to the principal persons of the army, to whose interests, whenever they interfered with those of the civil government, he was a declared enemy: and their resentment against him on that account was carried to so great a height, that they accused him as an evil counsellor, and one who was justly formidable by the ascendant he had gained over the new protector. For this reason, in Nov. 1658, he desired leave to retire from public business; in hopes that this might tend to quiet things, and facilitate the protector’s affairs with the army: but he was induced still to continue in his employment; and, in December, was chosen member of parliament for the university of Cambridge. He was returned likewise for the tpwn and borough of Wisbech, and for the borough of Huntingdon; but made his election for Cambridge, where he had a greater number of votes than had ever been known on a similar occasion. In April 1659, he used his utmost efforts to dissuade the protector from dissolving the parliament; a step which proved fatal to his authority, though, upon his quitting it, Thurloe still continued in his office of secretary till Jan. 14, 1660. It was then conferred on Thomas Scott, esq.; but on Feb. 27, upon a report of the council of state, the parliament resolved, that Thurloe should be again one of the secretaries of state, and John Thomson, esq. the other. In April 1660, he made an offer of his service for the restoration of Charles II. as appears from a letter of chancellor Hyde to sir John Grenville, in which his lordship observes, that Mr. Thurloe' s offers were very frank, and accompanied with many great professions of resolving to serve his majesty, not only in his own endeavours, but likewise by the services of his friends; but that these offers were mixed with somewhat of curiosity in Mr. Thurloe, who was very inquisitive to know whether his majesty had any confidence in general Monk, or had approached him in the right way: which he desired to know, only to finish what was left undone, or be able the better to advise his majesty. The king returned such answers as were proper, and desired to see some effects of his good affection; and that then he would find his services more acceptable. However, on May 15 following, he was committed by the House of Commons to the custody of their serjeant at arms, upon a charge of high treason; but was soon released, and retired to Great Milton in Oxfordshire, where he generally | resided, except in term-time, when he came to his c;, bers at Lincoln’s-inn. He was of great use occasionally to the chancellor Clarendon, by the instructions he gave him with respect to the state of foreign affairs; of which there is a very remarkable instance among his state-papers, in the recapitulation he drew up of all the nei>ociations between England, France, and Spain, from the lime of Cromwell’s taking upon him the protectorship till the restoration. He was likewise often solicited by Charles II. to engage in the administration of public business, but thought proper to decline those offers. He died suddenly, at his chambers in Lincoln’s-inn, Feb. 21, 1668, aged fifty-one; and was interred under the chapel there with an inscription over his grave. He was twice married, first to a lady of the name of Peyton, by whom he had two sons who died before him; and secondly to Anne, third daughter of sir John Lytcote of East Moulsey in Surrey, by whom he had four sons and two daughters.

He was a man of a very amiable character in private life; and in the height of his power exercised all possible moderation towards persons of every party. In his manner of writing he is remarkable above most of his contemporaries for conciseness, perspicuity, and strength. But the most Authentic testimony of his abilities is that vast collection of his “State Papers,” in 7 vols. folio, published by Dr. Birch in 1742, which places the history of Europe in general, as well as that of Great Britain and its dominions, during that remarkable period, in the clearest light; and shews at the same time his astonishing industry and application in the management of so great a variety of important affairs, which passed entirely through his hands, with secrecy and success not to be paralleled under any other government. 1


Life by Birch.—Biog. Brit. Appeudix.—Burnet’s Own Times.