Musing # 5: Samuel Pepys and WikiLeaks

Since January 1st, 2003, Phil Gyford (actor, website designer and “Alpha Geek”) has been posting an entry a day of Samuel Pepys’ 19th century diary. The site is viewable at http://www.pepysdiary.com. Today’s entry, which follows below, provides an insider’s perspective on the current WikiLeaks saga. Samuel Pepys still has much to teach us. Pepys and hemp, anyone?

Sunday 8 December 1667

(Lord’s day). All the morning at my chamber doing something towards the settling of my papers and accounts, which have been out of order a great while. At noon to dinner, where W. How with us, and after dinner, he being gone, I to my chamber again till almost night, and then took boat, the tide serving, and so to White Hall, where I saw the Duchesse of York, in a fine dress of second mourning for her mother, being black, edged with ermine, go to make her first visit to the Queene since the Duke of York was sick; and by and by, she being returned, the Queene come and visited her. But it was pretty to observe that Sir W. Coventry and I, walking an hour and more together in the Matted Gallery, he observed, and so did I, how the Duchesse, as soon as she spied him, turned her head a one side. Here he and I walked thus long, which we have not done a great while before. Our discourse was upon everything: the unhappiness of having our matters examined by people that understand them not; that it was better for us in the Navy to have men that do understand the whole, and that are not passionate; that we that have taken the most pains are called upon to answer for all crimes, while those that, like Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes, did sit and do nothing, do lie still without any trouble; that, if it were to serve the King and kingdom again in a war, neither of us could do more, though upon this experience we might do better than we did; that the commanders, the gentlemen that could never be brought to order, but undid all, are now the men that find fault and abuse others; that it had been much better for the King to have given Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten 1000l. a-year to have sat still, than to have had them in his business this war: that the serving a Prince that minds not his business is most unhappy for them that serve him well, and an unhappiness so great that he declares he will never have more to do with a war, under him. That he hath papers which do flatly contradict the Duke of Albemarle’s Narrative; and that he hath been with the Duke of Albemarle and shewed him them, to prevent his falling into another like fault: that the Duke of Albemarle seems to be able to answer them; but he thinks that the Duke of Albemarle and the Prince are contented to let their Narratives sleep, they being not only contradictory in some things (as he observed about the business of the Duke of Albemarle’s being to follow the Prince upon dividing the fleete, in case the enemy come out), but neither of them to be maintained in others. That the business the other night of my Lord Anglesey at the Council was happily got over for my Lord, by his dexterous silencing it, and the rest, not urging it further; forasmuch as, had the Duke of Buckingham come in time enough, and had got it by the end, he, would have toused him in it; Sir W. Coventry telling me that my Lord Anglesey did, with such impudence, maintain the quarrel against the Commons and some of the Lords, in the business of my Lord Clarendon, that he believes there are enough would be glad but of this occasion to be revenged of him. He tells me that he hears some of the Thomsons are like to be of the Commission for the Accounts, and Wildman, which he much wonders at, as having been a false fellow to every body, and in prison most of the time since the King’s coming in. But he do tell me that the House is in such a condition that nobody can tell what to make of them, and, he thinks, they were never in before; that every body leads, and nobody follows; and that he do now think that, since a great many are defeated in their expectation of being of the Commission, now they would put it into such hands as it shall get no credit from: for, if they do look to the bottom and see the King’s case, they think they are then bound to give the King money; whereas, they would be excused from that, and therefore endeavour to make this business of the Accounts to signify little. I spoke with him about my Lord Sandwich’s business, in which he is very friendly, and do say that the unhappy business of the prizes is it that hath brought all this trouble upon him, and the only thing that made any thing else mentioned, and it is true. So having discoursed with him, I spent some time with Sir Stephen Fox about the business of our adjusting the new method of the Excise between the Guards household and Tangier, the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury being now resolved to bring all their management into a course of payment by orders, and not by tallies, and I am glad of it, and so by water home late, and very dark, and when come home there I got my wife to read, and then come Captain Cocke to me; and there he tells me, to my great satisfaction, that Sir Robert Brookes did dine with him today; and that he told him, speaking of me, that he would make me the darling of the House of Commons, so much he is satisfied concerning me. And this Cocke did tell me that I might give him thanks for it; and I do think it may do me good, for he do happen to be held a considerable person, of a young man, both for sobriety and ability. Then to discourse of business of his own about some hemp of his that is come home to receive it into the King’s stores, and then parted, and by and by my wife and I to supper, she not being well, her flux being great upon her, and so to bed.

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