The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 3, 1695-1706. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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A new Parliament met the 30th of December, when the King came to the House of Peers, and sending for the Commons, the Lord-Keeper signified his Majesty's Pleasure, that they should forthwith proceed to the Choice of a Speaker, and present him next Morning: The Competition was between Mr. Harley and Sir Thomas Littleton, to which latter the King and Court inclined; but the former was elected by a Majority of fourteen Votes; who being the next Day presented and approved, his Majesty made this memorable Speech to both Houses.
The King's last Speech in Parliament.
I Promise myself you are met together full of the just Sense of the common Danger of Europe, and that Resentment of the late Proceeding of the French King, which has been so fully and universally exprest in the loyal and seasonable Addresses of my People.
The owning and setting up the pretended Prince of Wales for King of England, is not only the highest Indignity offered to me and the whole Nation, but does so nearly concern every Man, who has a regard for the Protestant Religion, or the present and future Quiet and Happiness of your Country, that I need not press you to lay it seriously to heart, and to consider what further effectual means may be used, for securing the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line, and extinguishing the Hopes of all Pretenders, and their open or secret Abettors.
'By the French King's placing his Grandson on the Throne of Spain, he is in a Condition to oppress the rest of Europe, unless speedy and effectual measures be taken. Under this Pretence he is become the real Master of the whole Spanish Monarchy; he has made it to be entirely depending on France, and disposes of it as of his own Dominions; and by that means he has surrounded his Neighbours in such a manner, that though the Name of Peace may be said to continue, yet they are put to the Expence and Inconveniencies of War. This must affect England in the nearest and most sensible manner, in respect to our Trade, which will soon become precarious in all the valuable Branches of it; in respect to our Peace and Safety at home, which we cannot hope should long continue; and in respect to that part which England ought to take, in the Preservation of the Liberty of Europe.
'In order to obviate the general Calamity, with which the rest of Christendom is threatned by this exorbitant Power of France, I have concluded several Alliances, according to the encouragement given me by both Houses of Parliament; which I will direct shall be laid before you, and which I do not doubt you will enable me to make good.
'You have yet an Opportunity by God's Blessing, to secure to you and your Posterity the quiet Enjoyment of your Religion and Liberties, if you are not wanting to yourselves, but will exert the ancient Vigour of the English Nation: But I tell you plainly my Opinion is, if you do not lay hold on this Occasion, you have no reason to hope for another.
'In order to do your part, it will be necessary to have a great Strength at Sea, and to provide for the Security of our Ships in Harbour; and also, that there be such a Force at Land as is expected in proportion to the Forces of our Allies.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons, I do recommend these Matters to you with that concern and earnestness, which their Importance requires: At the same time I cannot but press you to take care of the Public Credit, which cannot be preserved but by keeping sacred that Maxim, that they shall never be Losers, who trust to a Parliamentary Security.
'It is always with regret when I do ask Aids of my People; but you will observe, that I desire nothing which relates to any personal expence of mine; I am only pressing you to do all you can for your own Safety and Honour, at so critical and dangerous a time; and am willing that what is given shall be wholly appropriated to the purposes for which it is intended.
'And since I am speaking on this Head, I think it proper to put you in mind, that, during the late War, I ordered the Accounts to be laid Yearly before the Parliament, and also gave my Assent to several Bills for taking the Public Accounts, that my Subjects might have Satisfaction how the Money given for the War was applied: And I am willing that Matter may be put in any farther Way of Examination; that it may appear whether there were any misapplications and mismanagements, or whether the Debt that remains upon us, has really arisen from the shortness of the Supplies, or the Deficiency of the Funds.
'I have already told you how necessary Dispatch will be, for carrying on that great Public Business, whereon our Safety, and all that is valuable to us depends. I hope, what time can be spared, will be employed about those other very desirable things, which I have so often recommended from the Throne; I mean, the forming some good Bills for employing the Poor, for encouraging Trade, and the farther suppressing of Vice.
'My Lords and Gentlemen, I hope you are come together, determined to avoid all manner of Disputes and Differences, and resolved to act with a general and hearty Concurrence, for promoting the common Cause; which alone can make this a happy Session.
'I should think it as great a Blessing as could besal England, if I could observe you as much inclined to lay aside those unhappy, fatal Animosities, which divide and weaken you, as I am disposed to make all my Subjects safe and easy, as to any, even the highest, Offences committed against me.
'Let me conjure you to disappoint the only Hopes of our Enemies, by your Unanimity. I have shewn, and will always shew, how desirous I am to be the common Father of all my People: Do you in like manner lay aside all Parties and Divisions; let there be no other Distinction heard of among us for the future, but of those who are for the Protestant Religion, and the present Establishment, and of those who mean a Popish Prince and a French Government.
'I will only add this, if you do in good earnest desire to see England hold the Balance of Europe, and to be indeed at the head of the Protestant Interest, it will appear by your right improving the present Opportunity.'
Address of the Commons.
'Most gracious Sovereign, We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of England in Parliament assembled, do return our most humble and hearty Thanks to your Majesty, for your most gracious Speech from the Throne; and humbly crave leave to assure your Majesty, that this House will support and defend your Majesty's lawful and rightful Title to the Crown of these Realms, against the pretended Prince of Wales, and all his open and secret Abettors and Adherents, and all other your Majesty's Enemies whatsoever. And we will enable your Majesty, to shew your just Resentment of the Affront and Indignity offered to your Majesty and this Nation, by the French King, in taking upon him to declare the pretended Prince of Wales King of England, Scotland and Ireland: And we are firmly and unanimously resolved to maintain and support the Succession to the Imperial Crown of this Realm, and the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging, in the Protestant Line, as the same is settled by an Act declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, and settling the Succession of the Crown; and farther provided for, by an Act of the last Parliament, entitled, An Act for the farther Limitation of the Crown, and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject. And for the better effecting the same, we will, to the utmost of our power, enable your Majesty to make good all those Alliances your Majesty has made, or shall make, pursuant to the Addresses and Advice of your most dutiful and loyal Commons of the last Parliament, for the preserving the Liberties of Europe, and reducing the exorbitant Power of France.
'Gentlemen, I give you my hearty Thanks for this Address, which I look upon as a good Omen for the Session. The Unanimity with which it passed, adds greatly to the Satisfaction I receive from it; so good a step at your first entrance upon Business, cannot but raise the hopes of all who wish well to England and to the common Cause I can desire no more of you than to proceed as you have begun; and I depend upon it: For when I consider how chearfully and universally you concurred in this Address, I cannot doubt but every one of you will sincerely endeavour, to make it effectual in all the Parts of it.'
Treaties laid before the House. ; Vote of Supply. ; Further Resolutions with regard to the Protestant Succession. ; Votes for the Land and Sea Service.
In the mean time, Mr. Secretary Vernon, by Command, laid before the House Copies of the Treaties of the Grand Alliance: 1. A Treaty between the King of Denmark and the States-General, 15 June 1701. 2. Secret Articles of Treaty with Denmark, 15 June 1701. 3. Treaty between the Emperor, his Majesty, and the States-General, 7 Sept. 1701. 4. A Convention between the King of England, the King of Sweden and the States-General, 26 April 1701. 5. A Treaty between the King of England and the StatesGeneral. All which were so well approv'd, that the House immediately resolv'd, on the 7th of January, That a Supply be granted to his Majesty. And that whosoever shall advance or lend unto his Majesty's Exchequer, the Sum of 600,000£. for the Service of the Fleet, shall be repaid the same with Interest at 6 per Cent. out of the first Aids to be granted this Session. There was 50,000£. added to this Vote for Guards and Garrisons. They order'd an Account of the Debts of the Nation unprovided for to be laid before them, and on Jan. 9, Resolv'd Nemine Contradicente, 'That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the farther Security of his Majesty's Person, and the Succession of the Crown in the Protestant Line, and extinguishing the Hopes of the pretended Prince of Wales, and all other Pretenders, and their open and secret Abettors.' And on the next Day they farther resolv'd, 'That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, that he will be graciously pleas'd to take care that it be an Article in the several Treaties of Alliance with his Majesty and other Potentates, That no Peace shall be made with France, until his Majesty and the Nation have Reparation for the great Indignity offered by the French King, in owning and declaring the pretended Prince of Wales, King of England, Scotland and Ireland. To which the King gave a chearful Answer, 'I will take care of what you desire.' The House agreed at the same time, That the Proportion of Land-Forces to act in conjunction with the Forces of the Allies for making good the Alliances, be forty Thousand Men, and forty Thousand more for SeaService. They proceeded to a Bill for the Attainder of the pretended Prince of Wales. The Lords were intent upon the same Measures, and passed a Bill for the Security of his Majesty's Person and Government, and for maintaining the Succession of the Crown, according to the two late Acts of Parliament, which they sent down to the Commons, who, after twice reading, let it lie upon their Table, as thinking their own depending Bills more effectual; yet the chief of these Bills, that for Security of his Majesty's Person, &c. was likely to have miscarry'd by an Instruction to the Committee, that they take care that the Oath in the said Bill mention'd be voluntary. But this Offer being put to the Question, it pass'd in the Negative.
And on the 22d of January, they gave a much better Instruction to the same Committee, 'That they do take care to make it equally penal to compass or imagine the Death of her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark, as it is to compass or imagine the Death of the King's eldest Son and Heir, by the Statute of 25 Edward III.' They also order'd a Bill to be brought in for continuing the Quaker's Bill, by which their solemn Affirmation and Declaration should be accepted instead of an Oath.
On the 3d of February, the House resolved that 350,000£. be granted to his Majesty for Guards, and Garrisons, and Half-Pay Officers; as also that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty that he will be pleas'd to interpose with his Allies, that they may increase their Quota's of LandForces to be put on board the Fleet. His Majesty's Answer was, ' I will do it.' And upon their Address to employ the Half-Pay Officers in the new Levies, he was pleas'd to say, 'It was always my Intention.'
The Commons assert their Privileges.
In the controverted Election at Maidston, between Thomas Blisse and Thomas Colepepper, Esqrs; the House of Commons resolved, 'That the latter had been guilty of corrupt, scandalous and indirect Practices, in endeavouring to procure himself to be elected a Burgess; and being one of the Instruments in promoting and presenting the scandalous, insolent and seditious Petition, commonly called the Kentish Petition, to the last House of Commons, was guilty of promoting a scandalous, villanous and groundless Reflection upon the said House of Commons, by aspersing the Members with receiving French Money, or being in the Interest of France; for which Offence he should be committed to Newgate, and his Majesty's Attorney-General should prosecute him for the said Crimes.'
Under this Indignation, they resolved, on February the 26th, That, agreeable to the Opinions of a Committee appointed to consider of the Rights, Liberties and Privileges of the House of Commons, to assert that the House of Commons is not the only Representative of the Commons of England, tends to the Subversion of the Rights and Privileges of the House of Commons, and the fundamental Constitution of the Government of this Kingdom. 2d, That to assert that the House of Commons have no Power of Commitment, but of their own Members, tends to the Subversion of the Constitution of the House of Commons. 3d, That to print or publish any Books or Libels reflecting upon the Proceedings of the House of Commons, or any Member thereof, for, or relating to his Service therein, is a high Violation of the Rights and Privileges of the House of Commons. 4th, That it is the undoubted Right of the People of England, to petition to address to the King for the calling, sitting or dissolving of Parliaments, and for the redressing of Grievances. 5th, That it the undoubted Right of every Subject of England, under any Accusation, either by Impeachment or otherwise, to be brought to a speedy Trial, in order to be acquitted or condemned.
King's Message to the Commons for an Union with Scotland.
'His Majesty being hinder'd by an unhappy (fn. 1) Accident from coming in Person to his Parliament, is pleased to signify to the House of Commons, by Message, what he designed to have spoken to both Houses from the Throne. His Majesty, in the first Year of his Reign, did acquaint the Parliament, that Commissioners were authoris'd in Scotland to treat with such Commissioners as should be appointed in England, of proper Terms for uniting the two Kingdoms, and at the same time express'd his great Desire of such an Union. His Majesty is fully satisfy'd, that nothing can more contribute to the present and future Happiness of England and Scotland, than a firm and entire Union between them, and he cannot but hope that upon a due Consideration of our present Circumstances, there will be found a general Disposition to this Union. His Majesty would, esteem it a peculiar Felicity, if, during his Reign, some happy Expedient for making both Kingdoms one, might take place; and is therefore extremely desirous that a Treaty for that Purpose might be set on foot, and does in the most earnest Manner recommend this Affair to the Consideration of the House.'
The King seem'd in a fair way of doing well, till on Sunday the first of March a Defluxion fell upon his Knee, which was a great Pain and Weakness to him, and taken for a very ill Symptom: he thought it so himself, and took it for a Warning for Dispatch of Public Affairs. Therefore the next Morning this Message was sent from the House of Peers to the House of Commons.
Message from the Lords.
Mr. Speaker, The King has granted a Commission under the Great-Seal for passing the Royal Assent to those Bills, which have been agreed to by both Houses of Parliament, and the Lords commission'd by the King do desire that this House would presently come up with their Speaker, to be present at the passing thereof.
Acts pass'd by Commission. ; The Pretender attainted.
Then the Speaker with the House went up, and the LordKeeper acquainted both Houses, That his Majesty by an unhappy Accident had been prevented from coming in Person, and had granted a Commission to several Peers for passing the Bills therein mentioned. The Lords so commission'd were Sir Nathan Wright Lord-Keeper, the Earl of Pembroke Lord High-Admiral, the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Carlisle, and the Earl of Jersey, who, March the second, the Commons being at the Lords-Bar, gave the Royal-Assent to An Act for Attainting the Pretended Prince of Wales: An Act for punishing Mutiny and Desertion: An Act for the solemn Affirmation of the People called Quakers, and to some private Acts. On the 7th of March, the Lord-Keeper went to Kensington with a Commission to be sign'd by his Majesty for the passing of the Abjuration-Bill, the Malt-Tax Bill, and what other Bills were ready for the Royal Assent. Which was done accordingly; being one of the last public Acts of his Majesty's Life.