The Diary of Thomas Burton: 29 March 1658-9

Pages 294-299

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Tuesday, March 29, 1659.

I came late.

Colonel White. I move to call in the old Peers, and to advise with these persons that you have now voted to transact with, how it may be practicable, and to consider the constitution.

It seems the bill touching the perpetuity of the revenue had been offered as the bill to transact upon.

Mr. Neville. I move to debate the negative voice, before you transact; and also, whether you will stand bare or no. It is likely I shall not stand bare. This may beget differences between us. Transact is a new word.

Mr. Annesley. I am as much against catching cold as any body; but would not now have us debate upon a ceremony. When I see any of the old Peers there, it may be then I shall consider whether I will stand bare or no.

Sir Henry Vane. The state of your affairs is no more than going upon prudential conclusions, as in this case, and in the cases of Ireland and Scotland. And before you make a law now, you change from the writ that brought you hither and the constitution in being.

Before you make laws, I would have you consider it, and clear your constitution.

Lord Falkland. If it only concerned myself, I should stand bare to the meanest servants of those persons; but as a member of this House, I would take off my head sooner than my hat. Therefore, clear circumstances first, to prevent heats and differences.

Mr. Grove. I move that Sir Henry Vane be called to the bar for saying, you go upon prudentials. It is an arraigning of all your votes, and be a person never so great, I believe it would not be borne abroad; and why you should bear it here, I know not, be he never so wise.

Mr. Bulkeley. I second that he be called to the bar. Be he never so wise or great, it will not be borne. I would never have such a thing pass here, without bearing testimony against it. I would have him called to the bar; or, at least, that he may be forewarned not to let fall the like expression again.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I pray we may be preserved from heats, and answer one another with reason. We are in an extraordinary time as ever was in England. We sit partly upon a legal, and partly upon a prudential footing. I have no mind to disturbances. This time of year requires to look about us. Our enemies are watchful. We ought not to quarrel with one another. It is neither for our honour nor safety.

I thank God, it is otherwise with me than when I came to the Long Parliament, first. I could not then endure any body that differed from me in judgment; but I am now come to that spirit, through the fear of God, and more discretion than I had then. We must bear with one another in meekness, and it is better for us to debate in what manner we will transact, before the messengers be at the doors.

Mr. Knightley. I move that heats be forborne, and that you bear with one another. I would have you consider whether you will go up, bare, or no.

Colonel Birch. (Some cried Sir Thomas Birch.) I am as much against heats as any. Whence came that heat? It was averred unto you that what you did was upon a prudential account; that you are a prudential constitution, as the little Parliament, (fn. 1) who voted themselves a Parliament. (fn. 2) If what the gentleman moved from the bar, had not been moved, I would have done it.

Sir John Northcote. I move that you receive the bill that is offered, and consider how you will proceed with that other House, as to your members behaving themselves.

Dr. Charges. I move to resume the debate upon the Bill of Recognition, and then to refer it to a grand or select Committee. But as to legal and prudential right, if I should ask Sir Arthur Haslerigge, whether he who serves for a borough be a prudential or legal member, he will say, he serves upon a legal right. (fn. 3) I think upon a prudential; for there is no Act of Parliament for it, no law since Henry V., but what may be questioned. All since have been upon prudential. All laws made by one House of Parliament have no precedent. It was but an assumption or declaration of their power, as was said in case of the little Parliament. It was much of one nature.

Lord Marquis Argyle. I cannot speak to the order of your House, nor to the manner of your proceedings, uno dato incommodo. When a bill is offered, you may take it in or reject it: I would therefore have it taken in and read.

Mr. Bulkeley offered the said bill, which was read. It was for taking away all laws, statutes, and ordinances, concerning the excise, and new impost, after— (fn. 4) years, and concerning customs, tonnage, and poundage, after — (fn. 4) months, after the death of his Highness, the Lord Protector; and all laws concerning the same to be after that time null.

Mr. Knightley. I move not to cast it out; but I dislike part of it as to the customs, for life, and excise. They may be for fifty or sixty years. (fn. 5)

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. We cannot be in a worse condition by the bill than we are; but I would not have it done hastily, nor a day appointed for the second reading. Therefore, let it lay by till a fit opportunity, that in the mean time we may consider of it.

Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. There is nought can destroy us like that which we like. I am apt to suspect this bill. It is an admitting all those laws to be good, for settling tonnage and poundage. The bill ought not to have been brought in, but by your order. I would have a bill brought in that may settle and establish the tonnage and poundage for so many years, lest this be a precedent, to admit so many laws together. Therefore reject this bill, and bring in another bill.

Sir William Wheeler. True, no member ought to bring in a bill concerning money, because it is an imposing upon the subject. But he has answered himself. It is no bill for money; but to take off that law which must be admitted for a law. It brings back our purses again into the Commons.

Appoint this day se'nnight for the second reading.

Sir Walter Earle. I would have this bill rejected. If you do ought, do it by a positive and an affirmative act. Tonnage and poundage was ever granted so. I would therefore have another bill, as offered to you.

Mr. Swinfen. I thought this bill would have been more welcome to you. That which did most scorch the debate of transacting, was that those laws should be perpetuated, and now they say, those are no laws. This makes me shake. Their mind is to let us come to no settlement.

I hearkened, to hear the danger of the precedent. He tells you of ill precedents coming out of good subjects. I see no ill precedent in it. To take away the charge of the nation will never do the nation harm. This does neither make them laws nor not laws. Therefore, I would have this read a second time, now.

Mr. Scot. None doubts but this law is better than the other. To retrench the time is very acceptable; but why we should go to it so switched and spurred, I know not. I would have it brought in to-morrow; and let it come in by your order.

Mr. Reynolds. I move for Mr. Knightley to be heard again. In 16 Caroli, a bill was offered by Lord St. John, who, though a favourite for agreeing against ship-money (fn. 6), yet for bringing in a bill touching the customs, (it was to continue it, being within three months of expiration,) he had a check for it, so just was Parliament.

I would have this bill laid aside, and the Attorney-general or the Solicitor-general to bring in another bill.

Colonel Birch. This quite differs. One was to continue the customs; this is to take off the time. It is not for the service of any of us to acknowledge that for law at one time, and not law at another time; as, to serve the interest. You must now either speak to the rejecting of it or not at all.

Sir Robert Goodwin. I shall not speak for rejecting the bill; but it comes in irregularly. It came in with good intentions. A bill must not only be bonum, but bonè. (fn. 7) If you will bring in a bill for a grant of it, I shall consent to it; otherwise, it may be for forty or fifty years. (fn. 8) A precedent in the people may amount to a law; but in the single person it signifies nought.

Mr. Bulkeley. I did bring in this bill with a good intention, and shall not be satisfied till this fundamental right of the people be settled.

I looked on it as the privilege of any member to bring in a bill. It does not dispute whether they be laws or no. It will be a means to prevent future fighting, whether they shall be laws or no. We have felt the danger of leaving these things so doubtful. If you please to let it be brought in by some person from whose hands it will be more acceptable. I offered you the substance before I offered it.

Mr. Raleigh. I do not take this to be a bill for money. I believe the laws that settle these things to be of force, till you repeal them.

I would not have this bill read the second time now; but appoint another day. It may be made a good bill, to retrench the time, which is perpetual, for ought I know.

Mr. Neville. There being no law of force for the excise, as I think in my conscience there is none, I would have a bill brought in for granting the excise, and another bill for the customs for some time. There must be words of granting.

Mr. Fowell. It will not sound well abroad to reject a bill of this nature. How will the commoners of England take it? It may be made a good bill. I pray to read it presently.

I went to write letters, and found them in hand still with the debate till one o'clock, and then the House rose and adjourned the debate.

Mr. William Turner, mayor of the borough of Hertford, had been that morning at the bar, where, in the presence of the House, he did rase and put out of the indenture, the name of William Packer, Esquire; and, instead thereof, did insert, and put into the said indenture, the name of James Cooper, Esquire; (fn. 9) which being done, the said Mayor, and deputy to the Commonwealth in Chancery withdrew.

Resolved, that the bill (fn. 10) be read the second time on Thursday next. (fn. 11)

The Committee of Privileges sat and heard out Colonel Gorges and Sir William Wyndham's election to Taunton, against Bovett and Palmer. The business was very foul on Bovett's side, but clear, nemine contradicente, on the other side. It put out the business of Newcastle, which was appointed for the same day.


  • 1. See vol. ii. p. 67, ad fin.
  • 2. "We do declare ourselves to be the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England." Declaration, (12th July,) "printed 1653."
  • 3. For the borough of Leicester.
  • 4. Blank in the MS. and Journals.
  • 5. Such had been the case, if Richard had maintained himself in the Protectorate; for he lived till 1712.
  • 6. See Parl. Hist. (1763,) ix. 82, 92, 196.
  • 7. See supra, p. 263.
  • 8. See supra, p. 296, note †.
  • 9. See supra, p. 253.
  • 10. Ut supra, p. 296.
  • 11. "Dr. Thomas Clarges, to H. Cromwell, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. London, 29th March, 1659. "Yesterday, we passed a question that had been many days before the subject of our debates; which was, that this House will transact with the members of the Other House, as an House of Parliament, during this present Parliament; and that it is not intended hereby to exclude such Peers as have been faithful to the Parliament, from their privilege of being duly summoned to be members of that House. At the passing of this vote, the affirmatives were one hundred and ninety. eight, and the negatives one hundred and twenty-five, in which number, (to the wonder of many,) the Knight for Eildare was a negative and a loud one." (The members for Kildare and Wicklow, were Dr. Loftus and Colonel Markham.) "This day, a bill was brought in, intituled, 'An Act for taking away all laws, statutes, and ordinances, concerning excise, and new impost of — years; and concerning customs, tonnage, and poundage, after — months, after the death of his Highness the Lord Protector.' It was read the first time this day, and ordered to be read again a second time on Thursday next." See "Thurloe State Papers," vii. 640.