The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 1, 1660-1680. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The Ninth Session of the Second Parliament.
The King's Speech to both Houses.
'I Am very glad to see you here at this time; and I hope this will be a happy Session: For I have had great experience of your Affections and Loyalty to me, and am very confident of the Continuance of it. It is now almost a Year and a half since your last Sitting: And tho' my Debts have press'd me much, yet I was unwilling to call for your Assistance till this Time: What you gave last, was wholly employ'd to the Navy, and that extraordinary Fleet for which it was intended. I desire that you would now take my Debts effectually into your Consideration. Something I have to propose to you of great Importance, concerning the uniting of England and Scotland, but it will require some length; and I have left that, and some other things, to the Lord-Keeper, to open them more fully to you.
The Lord-Keeper Bridgeman's Speech.
Accordingly the Lord-Keeper Bridgeman made the following Speech: 'My Lords, and you the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of the House of Commons, his Majesty in his most gracious Speech hath expressed his great Satisfaction in seeing you here at this time; and his Hopes of a happy Issue of this Meeting: To obtain which, nothing can induce more than a good Correspondency and Union among your selves. He hath reason to believe, that you all come with the same common Affections for the general Good, and therefore persuades himself, there will be no Difference between the two Houses; but, if there should be any such, he earnestly recommends it to you, that, by your Moderation and Wisdom, such Expedients may be found out, as may compose them, and that thereby no Delay or Obstruction be to your other Proceedings. His Majesty hath also desired you to take his Debts effectually into Consideration. I need not mention to you the Uneasiness of his Condition with that Burden, nor the Inconveniencies or Mischiefs which might fall out, if he should continue under it. It is not unknown to you, that his Majesty hath been a happy Instrument, by the Treaty at Aix, and by the Triple-Alliance, to procure Peace between the two Neighbouring Crowns: The securing of that Peace (wherein our own Peace is concern'd, and his Majesty's Reputation abroad) will also much depend upon your Kindness to him: And therefore he hopes you will consider of how great an importance it is at this time, that his Majesty be enabled to bear such a Part in the Affairs of Europe, as may contribute most to his own Honour, and the Safety, Benefit and Glory of this Nation.
My Lords and Gentlemen, you may remember that, upon his Majesty's Recommendation, an Act was lately made for settling Freedom and Intercourse of Trade between England and Scotland, which was occasion'd upon Complaints of new Duties impos'd in each Kingdom upon divers Commodities of the Growth, Production, or Manufacture of the other. According to this Act, Commissioners were appointed by his Majesty for both Kingdoms to treat upon that Affair; and they had several Meetings, which produc'd no Effect, unless it were a Conviction of the Difficulty, if not Impossibility of settling it in any other way than by a nearer and more compleat Union of the two Kingdoms. His Majesty is fully persuaded that nothing can tend more to the Good and Security of both Nations, than such an Union; and finds that his Royal Grandfather King James, of blessed Memory, went so far on towards this good Work, that, by an Act of Parliament in the first Year of his Reign, Commissioners were authorized to treat and consult with Commissioners from Scotland concerning it. And in pursuance of their treating, in the fourth Year of his Reign, an Act was made for the Repeal of hostile Laws, and the Abolition of the Memory of Hostility between the two Nations: And after the End of that Session, about the seventh Year of his Reign, it was by the Judges of all the Courts at Westminster-Hall solemnly adjudg'd in the Case of the Post-Nati, That those who, after the Descent of the Crown to King James, were born in Scotland, were no Aliens in England; and consequently were capable not only of Lands, but all other Immunities, as if they had been born here. By these Steps so great an Advance hath been made towards this Union, that his Majesty well hopes that what is yet wanting to the perfecting of it, may be now accomplish'd; the Continuance under the same Obedience and Subjection for near Threescore and seven Years, having begotten the same common Friends, and common Enemies to both Nations, and taken off a great Part of those Difficulties, which, at the first, stood in the way. And therefore his Majesty doth most heartily recommend it unto you, That Commissioners may be nominated to treat and consult with Commissioners from Scotland, concerning this Union. His Majesty hath given Directions to the Earl of Lauderdale, his Commissioner for Scotland, to make the like Proposal to the Parliament which is now sitting there; and doubts not but, upon the Meeting of such Commissioners of both Kingdoms, those things will be offer'd to your Considerations, in order to the Union, as shall tend to the Honour of his Majesty, and the common Good of all his Subjects.'
Sir George Carteret expell'd.
Instead of taking these Speeches into Consideration, the Commons enquired into the Points of Privileges, with relation to the two Houses, and were strict in the Examination of the Accounts of the Monies expended by the Public; in the passing of which, they found Sir (fn. 1) George Carteret, who had the keeping of some of the Books, so blameable, that they expell'd him the House. But being much oblig'd with the King's last Proclamation, they soon resolv'd, 'That the humble and hearty Thanks of this House be return'd to the King's Majesty for issuing out his Proclamation for putting in execution the Laws against Nonconformists, and for suppressing Conventicles, with the humble Desire of this House for his Majesty's Continuance of the same Care for suppressing of them for the future.' The Concurrence of the Lords being desired, and readily obtain'd, on the 6th of November both Houses, in pursuance of this Vote, attended his Majesty in the Banqueting-House in White-hall, where the Lord-Chief-Justice Vaughan, supplying the Room of the Lord-Keeper then indispos'd, in the Name of both Houses return'd his Majesty the fore-mentioned Thanks: For which he return'd them this particular Answer, 'My Lords and Gentlemen, I thank you for this Mark of your Affection to me: I doubt not of the Continuance and Concurrence of it in other things, as well as in this of my Proclamation: I recommend to you, that you would well weigh all that I say and desire in it towards the Welfare and Peace of the Nation; in order to which, as I shall always be ready to contribute my ulmost Endeavours, so I hope you will never be failing in yours to enable me to do in. After which the Commons appointed a Committee to enquire into the Behaviour of the Dissenters, who reported, 'That there were divers Conventicles and other seditious Meetings near the Parliament, where great Numbers of evil-affected Persons frequently meet; which they conceiv'd, was not only an Affront to the present Government, but also of imminent Danger to both Houses of Parliament, and the Peace of the Kingdom.' Upon which the whole House made this Declaration and Resolution, That they will adhere to his Majesty in the Maintenance of the Government of the Church and State, as it is now establish'd, against all Enemics whatsoevers Shortly after, Information was given to the House from General Monk, 'Of the great Resort of dangerous and disaffected Persons to this Town, and of their Meetings and Endeavours to disturb the public Peace; and that he had, and would take care what he could to prevent their Attempts.' Upon which the Commons immediately resolv'd, 'That the Thanks of the House be return'd to the Lord-General, for his care in preserving the Peace of the Kingdom.' So that the suppressing or restraining of Conventicles was now look'd upon not so much a matter of Religion, as of Necessity and Safety to the Government.
Sir S. Bernardiston's Narrative to the House.
As to point of Privilege, the Commons, not having satisfaction in the last Session, reviv'd the Debate of the Difference between the two Houses, as it stood upon the Case of the East-India Company, and Skinner the Merchant; and, understanding that Sir Samuel Bernardiston was a particular Sufferer by the Lords in this case, they examin'd him in the matter, who, at the Bar of the House, gave them this short Account: 'Mr. Speaker, as soon as the Commons, according to his Majesty's Command, had adjourn'd themselves on the 8th of May, 1668, I was presently call'd as a Delinquent upon my Knees to the Bar of the Lords House, and demanded, What I had to say for my self why the Judgment of that House should not pass upon me, for having a hand in, and being one of the Contrivers of a scandalous Libel against that House: To which my Reply was, That I knew not my self to be concern'd in any scandalous Libel; but true it was, I did deliver a Petition to the House of Commons, in behalf of the East-India Company by their Order, being Deputy-Governour; and I did it out of no other design, than to preserve the Company's Interest and Estate, according to my Oath and Duty of my Place. Then I was commanded to withdraw, and others were call'd in: Soon after some of the Lords came to me in their Lobby, and told me, the House was highly incens'd against me; that I should presently be call'd in again, and if I did not then submit my self, and own my Fault, I must expect the Indignation of the House of Peers to fall upon me. And being call'd in again the second time, it was demanded, What further I had to say for my self, before Judgment should pass against me. When repeating my former Discourse, adding, That I had no design to create any Difference between the two Houses, but to preserve the Company's Estate: yet if I had offended their Lordships, I humbly begg'd their pardon. Being then commanded to withdraw again, I was afterwards call'd in: And, being upon my Knees, Sentence was pronounc'd against me, to pay Three Hundred Pounds Fine to his Majesty, and to lie in Custody of the Black-Rod till the Money was paid. And accordingly, Sir John Eyton, Usher of the Black-Rod, kept me in his Custody till the 10th of August following, when, at nine at Night, he came to me and said, Sir Samuel, I am come to discharge you from your Imprisonment, and you may go when, and where you please. I then demanded how this unexpected Releasement came to pass, and to whom I was beholden for the same. He reply'd, You are discharg'd upon honourable Terms, but pray ask me no Questions, for I must make you no Answer: Yet if I see you to-morrow, after the House is adjourn'd, I will tell you more; there is a Mystery, but I have sufficient Authority for what I do.'
The Commons Resolves upon it.
Upon hearing of this, the House fell into a warm Debate about some Expedients for settling the Difference in point of Privilege and Jurisdiction of the two Houses, which cou'd not be ended that Night; and after that they resolved to bring in a Bill for that purpose. This appear'd to be a Matter of too great Nicety and Difficulty to be effected in a short time. However, after Conferences with the House of Lords, they came to these five grand Resolurions. 'I. That it is an inherent Right of every Commoner of England to prepare and present Petitions to the House of Commons in Case of Grievance, and the House of Commons to receive the same; In evidence whereof, it is one of the first Works that is done by the Commons, to appoint a grand Committee to receive Petitions and Informations of Grievances. II That it is the undoubted Right and Privilege of the Commons to judge and determine concerning the Nature and Matter of such Petitions, how far they are fit or unfit to be receiv'd; and that in no Age they found any Person presenting a Grievance by way of Petition to the House of Commons, and received by them, that was ever censur'd by the Lords, without Complaint by the Commons. III. That no Court whatsoever hath Power to judge or censure any Petition presented to the House of Commons, and received by them, unless transmitted from thence, or the Matter complained of by them: And that no Suitors for Justice in any inferior Court in Law or Equity, are therefore punishable Criminally, tho' untrue, or suable by way of Action in any other Court; but are only subject to a moderate Fine or Amercement by that Court, unless in some Cases specially provided by Act of Parliament, as Appeals, or the like. In case Men should be punishable in other Courts for presenting Petitions to the House of Commons, it may deter his Majesty's Subjects from seeking Redress of their Grievances, and frustrate the principal End for which Parliaments were ordain'd. IV. Whereas a Petition from the East-India Company was presented to the House by Sir Samuel Bernardiston and others, complaining of Grievances therein, which the Lords have cersured under the Notion of a Scandalous Paper or Libel: The said Censure, and Proceeding of the Lords against the said Sir Samuel Bernardiston, are contrary to, and a Subversion of the Rights and Privileges of the House of Commons, and Liberties of the Commons of England; and further, no Petition, or any Matter depending in the House of Commons, can be taken notice of by the Lords, without Breach of Privilege, unless permitted by the House of Commons. V. That the Continuance upon Record of the Judgment given by the Lords, and complain'd of by the Commons, in the last Session of this Parliament, in the Case of Thomas Skinner and the East-India Company, is prejudicial to the Rights of the Commons of England.' In conclusion they added this further Allegation, 'That the House of Peers, as well as all other Courts, are in all their Judicial Proceedings to be guided and governed by Law: But if they shall give a wrongful Sentence contrary to Law, and the Party griev'd might not seek Redress thereof in full Parliament, and for that End repair to the House of Commons, (who are Part of the Legistative Power) That either they may interpose with their Lordships for the Reversal of such Sentence, or prepare a Bill for that purpose, and for the prevendng the like Grievances for the Time to come; the Consequence thereof wou'd plainly be, That their Lordships Judicature is boundless and above Law, and that the Party grieved shall be without Remedy.' Therefore, as a present Remedy, they resolved upon these two following Propositions to be presented to their Lordships: 'First, That the Lords be desired to vacate the Judgment against Sir Samuel Bernardiston, given the last Session of this present Parliament. Secondly, That the Lords be also desired to vacate the Judgment against the East-India Company, given by them the last Session of this Parliament.
The End of the Ninth Session of the Second Parliament.
On the 11th Day of December, the King, by Commission suddenly put a stop to all Proceedings, by proroguing both Houses to the 14th Day of February next. Thus ended the ninth Session, or rather tenth, without passing one Act; tho' a Supply of four hundred thousand Pounds, had been Voted for his Majesty's Special Occasions.