The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 6, 1714-1727. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES and DEBATES In the Seventh Session of the First Parliament of King George I.
ON the 19th of October the Parliament being met, the King came to the House of Peers, and the Commons attending, his Majesty, by the Mouth of the Lord High Chancellor, made the following Speech to both Houses.
King's Speech at opening the Seventh Session.
"I Acquainted you, when we parted last, with our having renew'd all our Treaties of Commerce with Spain; since which, Peace is happily restor'd in the North, by the Conclusion of the Treaty between the Czar and the King of Sweden; and by that which I have made with the Moors, a great Number of my Subjects are deliver'd from Slavery; and all such of them as trade to those Parts of the World, are, for the future, secur'd from falling under that dreadful Calamity.
"In this Situation of Affairs we should be extremely wanting to ourselves, if we neglected to improve the favourable Opportunity, which this general Tranquility gives us, of extending our Commerce, upon which the Riches and Grandeur of this Nation chiesfly depend. It is very obvious, that nothing would more conduce to the obtaining so publick a Good, than to make the Exportation of our own Manufactures, and the Importation of the Commodities used in the Manufacturing of them, as practicable and easy as may be; by this Means, the Balance of Trade may be preserv'd in our Favour, our Navigation increas'd, and greater Numbers of our Poor employ'd.
"I must therefore recommend it to you, Gentlemen of the House of Commons, to consider how far the Duties upon these Branches may be taken off, and replac'd, without any Violation of publick Faith, or laying any new Burthen upon my People. And I promise myself, that by a due Consideration of this Matter, the Produce of those Duties, compar'd with the infinite Advantages that will accrue to the Kingdom by their being taken off, will be found so inconsiderable, as to leave little Room for any Difficulties or Objections.
"The supplying ourselves with naval Stores, upon Terms the most easy and least precarious, seems highly to deserve the Care and Attention of Parliament. Our Plantations in America naturally abound with most of the proper Materials for this necessary and essential Part of our Trade and Maritime Strength; and if, by due Encouragement, we could be furnish'd from thence with those naval Stores, which we are now oblig'd to purchase, and bring from foreign Countries, it would not only greatly contribute to the Riches, Influence, and Power of this Nation, but, by employing our own Colonies in this useful and advantageous Service, divert them from setting up, and carrying on Manufactures which directly interfere with those of Great-Britain.
"It will be a great Pleasure to me, if, in raising the Supplies of this Year, it may be so order'd, that my People may reap some immediate Benefit from the present Circumstances of Affairs Abroad. I have order'd Estimates to be prepar'd for the Service of the ensuing Year, and likewise an Account of the Debts of the Navy, to be laid before you. You cannot but be sensible of the ill Consequences that arise from such a large Debt remaining unprovided for; and that as long as the Navy and Victualling Bills are at a very high Discount, they do not only affect all other publick Credit, but greatly increase the Charge and Expence of the current Service. It is therefore very much to be wish'd, that you could find a Method of discharging this Part of the National Debt, which, of all others, is the most heavy and burthensome, and by that Means have it in your Power to ease your Country of some Part of the Taxes, which from an absolute Necessity, they have been oblig'd to pay.
"The unspeakable Misery and Desolation that has of late rag'd in some Parts of Europe, cannot but be a sufficient Warning to us, to use all possible Precautions to prevent the Contagion from being brought in among us; or if these Kingdoms should be visited with such a fatal Calamity, to be in a Condition, with the Blessing of God, to stop its farther Progress. And as all other Provisions will be altogether vain and fruitless, if the abominable Practice of running of Goods be not, at once, totally suppress'd, I most earnestly recommend to you, to let no other Consideration stand in Competition with a due Care of preserving so many thousand Lives.
"The several Affairs which I have mention'd to you, being of the highest and most immediate Concern to the whole Kingdom, I doubt not but you will enter into the Consideration of them with that Temper, Unanimity, and Dispatch, that the Necessity and Importance of them require."
Sir George Oxenden moves for an Address,
Which being reported Mr Arthur Moore makes some Objections thereto.
Oct. 20. Sir George Oxenden, Chairman of the Committee appointed to draw up the said Address, reported the same to the House, and upon the Speaker's putting the Question, Whether this should pass as the Address of the House? Mr Arthur Moore, Member for Grimsby, said, 'He thought the Expressions relating to the preventing Running of Goods were too general; and that, in his Opinion, the best Way to prevent that pernicions Practice, was to take off some of the high Duties, whereby the Temptation to Smuggling would very much abate; since People would not think it worth their while to run great Hazards for a small Gain. And besides, if the Duties were lessen'd, the Importation, in all Probability, would increase proportionably; so that the Customs might amount to as much, with a smaller Duty, as they do at present; and if they did not, Ways might be found to make up the Deficiency to the Crown.' Nothing of Moment was offer'd against this Speech; but, the House not thinking it proper to enter then upon the Consideration of that Matter, the Address, as it had been drawn up, was approv'd, and the next Day presented to the King by the whole House, as follows:
The Commons Address.
'WE your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great-Britain in Parliament assembled, beg Leave to return your Majesty our unfeigned Thanks for your most gracious Speech from the Throne.
'We congratulate your Majesty upon the Success that has attended your unwearied Application for restoring Tranquility to Europe, for securing our Commerce by Treaties, and for releasing great Numbers of your Subjects from Slavery among the Moors, and for delivering the trading Part of the Nation from the Apprehensions of the like Calamity for the future; which are so many Instances of your Majesty's Goodness, in which all your Subjects are so nearly concern'd, that we are no less bound by Interest, than led by Inclination and Duty, most thankfully to acknowledge these happy Effects of your Majesty's Care for your People.
'Your Majesty's recommending to us to improve the general Tranquility Abroad, towards extending and enlarging our Commerce, is an additional Proof, how much your Majesty has the real Interest of Great-Britain at Heart, in all your Counsels and Undertakings.
'Your Commons are throughly sensible that our Poor cannot be sufficiently employ'd, nor the Balance of Trade be long preserv'd in our Favour, while such Duties are continu'd, as either clog the Exportation of our own Manufactures, or render the Manufacturing of them at Home less easy and practicable; and they will most chearfully apply themselves to consider how far such Duties can be taken off and replac'd, without laying any new Burthen on your People, or violating the publick Faith; having great Reason to promise themselves, that the free Circulation of Trade, which must naturally succeed upon the taking off this Pressure, will, in a short Space of Time, compensate any Diminution of the Customs, which this Alteration may occasion for the present.
'And since the Trade, Navigation, and Safety of this Nation must remain, in some Measure, precarious, as long as we are under the Necessity of purchasing and importing all our naval Stores from foreign Countries, your Majesty's most faithful Commons will do their utmost Endeavours, that this important and beneficial Branch of Trade may be supply'd from your Majesty's Plantations in America, and thereby divert our Colonies from setting up Manufactures, which directly interfere with those of their Mother-Country.
'Your Majesty's tender Concern to have the Supplies of this Session so order'd, that your Subjects may be among the earliest in reaping the happy Effects of the general Tranquility Abroad, cannot fail of exciting in your faithful Commons a Desire of making suitable Returns, by proceeding, with all Alacrity, to grant the necessary Supplies for the current Service of the Year, and for discharging the heavy Debt of the Navy: And we find ourselves engag'd, by all the Ties of Duty and Interest, to second your Majesty's provident Intentions, for suppressing the infamous and pernicious Practice of Running Goods; which, besides that it defrauds the publick Revenues and discourages the honest Trader, may, at this Juncture, indanger the Health and Lives of many Thousands of your Majesty's innocent Subjects.
'The several Points which your Majesty has been graciously pleas'd to recommend to us, carry in them such evident Marks of your Majesty's paternal and most affectionate Concern for your People, and are of such lasting Consequence to the Welfare and Safety of this Nation, that we should be inexcusable, if we did not, by a ready Concurrence on our Parts, do all in our Power to render these your Majesty's most gracious Purposes effectual; and proceed in the Consideration of them with such Temper, Unanimity, and Dispatch, as may fully answer your Majesty's Expectations, and defeat the Designs of those who hope for any other Contentions amongst us, but of Zeal and Affection towards your Majesty's sacred Person and Government.'
The King's Answer there to.
"I Return you my Thanks for this dutiful and loyal Address, and for the Assurances you give me of going through the weighty Affairs now before you with Unanimity and Dispatch; and I promise myself, from your experienc'd Zeal and Application, that my good Wishes for the Welfare and Prosperity of my People, will be render'd effectual."
Debate in the Committee of Supply concerning the Debts of the Navy. ; One Million granted towards paying the Debts of the Navy: And an address on that Occasion.
Oct. 27. The Commons, in a Grand Committee, consider'd of the Supply to be granted to his Majesty; and, in the first Place, went upon the State of the Debt of the Navy, as it stood on the 30th of September 1721, which amounted to about 1,700,000£. Hereupon Mr Freeman stood up, and with some Warmth animadverted upon the Persons concern'd in that Part of the Administration, saying, among other Things, 'It was Matter of Wonder, how so great a Debt could be incurr'd, when the Parliament had provided for what had been desir'd upon that Head.' He was seconded by Mr Shippen, who hinted, 'That such extraordinary Expences could not be for the immediate Service of Great-Britain, but in all Probability, for the Preservation of some foreign Acquisitions.' Mr Plummer answer'd them. Upon which Sir Joseph Jekyll said, 'That he was not against providing for any just publick Debt; but that, in his Opinion, they could not answer it, either to themselves, or those they had the Honour to represent, if they gave away the Nation's Money blindfold; and therefore he desir'd, that the House might be inform'd, how so great a Debt had been contracted?' To this Mr R. Walpole replied, 'Nothing in the World was more reasonable; and therefore he back'd the Motion for having a particular Account of that Debt laid before the House; but, in the mean Time, he might assure them, that near 1,100,000£. of it was contracted in the last Reign; and as the Persons now in the Administration, were not answerable for that Part, neither did they desire that above one Million of it should be this Year provided for.' Hereupon the Question being put, That one Million be granted towards paying off the Debt of the Navy, it was carry'd without dividing: Then the Speaker having resum'd the Chair, it was resolv'd, according to Sir Joseph Jekyll's Motion, to address his Majesty for an Account of all Money granted by Parliament for the Service of the Navy, from the first Day of January 1710; and how far the said Money has been issued for that Purpose, and what the Excess of the Expence above the Provision made by Parliament has every Year amounted to, and what were the Causes of such Excess.
Debate concerning the Number of Land-Forces.
Oct. 31. The Order of the Day being read, for the House to resolve itself into a Grand Committee, to consider farther of the Supply granted to his Majesty, the several Estimates and Accounts relating to the Land-Forces, Chelsea-Hospital and reduc'd Officers, were referr'd to the said Committee: But a Motion being made by Mr Treby, that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, the same was oppos'd by Mr Freeman, who desir'd that this Affair might be put off, at least till the Friday following, urging, 'That there had not been sufficient Time allow'd to the Members to peruse the several Accounts and Estimates, and, consequently, they were not prepar'd to give their Opinion thereupon.' He was seconded by Mr Heysham; but Mr Yonge answer'd them both; Mr Jefferies having replied to Mr Yonge, he was answer'd by Mr Treby, the latter by Mr Shippen; to whom Mr R. Walpole having replied, the Question was, at last, put upon Mr Treby's Motion, and carry'd in the Affirmative, by 120 against 40. The House having thereupon resolv'd itself into a Grand Committee, Mr Farrer in the Chair, Mr Treby mov'd, 'That a Supply be granted for the same Number of Forces as were provided for last Year, viz. 14,294 Men, including Commission and Non-Commission Officers, and 1859 Invalids. This was again oppos'd by Mr Freeman, who alledg'd, 'That considering the general Tranquility, both at Home and Abroad, the Number of Land-Forces might be reduc'd, and Part of that Expence apply'd to more important Uses:' But he was answer'd by Mr Horatio Walpole; and the Question being put, Mr Treby's Motion was, upon a Division, carry'd by a Majority of 121 Votes against 37.
A Bill to forbid Commerce with any Country infected with the Plague.
November 9. A Bill, To enable his Majesty effectually to prohibit Commerce with any Country, as be shall think necessary, in order to prevent the Contagion being brought into this Kingdom, was read the first Time.
Sir G. Heathcote's Motion for a Bill for the encouraging the Importation of Naval Stores.
Nov. 17. Sir Gilbert Heathcote stood up, and set forth, 'That since the Russia Company had engross'd the Trade to that Country, the Tar was rais'd above double the Price it bore when the Trade was open. That, besides, while we fetch'd our naval Stores from Russia, it was in the Power of the Czar, not only to set what Price he pleas'd upon them, but even to prevent our having them at all, in Case we should be at War, either with him, or any of his Allies; or, at least, to hinder our having them, unless brought over and imported in his own Vessels; which, he said, that he was inform'd the Czar now insisted upon. That therefore, since these Commodities were so absolutely necessary for our Navy, it was not fitting we should lie at the Mercy of a foreign Prince for them; especially, since we could be supply'd with them from our own Plantations, and upon easier Terms: For whereas we now pay for the naval Stores from Russia mostly in ready Money, we might have them from New-England, and other English Plantations in America, in Exchange for our own Manufactures; whereby we should not only encourage his Majesty's Subjects abroad, and divert them from setting up and carrying on Manufactures which directly interfere with those of Great Britain, but also employ our Poor at Home:' Concluding, with a Motion for bringing in a Bill, For giving farther Encouragement for the Importation of Naval Stores; which being seconded, the said Bill was order'd to be brought in.
Debate on the Bill relating to the Plague.
Then the House resolv'd itself into a Grand Committee, upon the Bill, To prevent the Contagion being brought into this Kingdom, Mr Sandys in the Chair. A Clause being offer'd to be inserted in the Bill, impowering the King to order his Officers to fire upon, and sink any Ship coming from an infected Place, Sir Gilbert Heathcote mov'd, and was seconded by Sir Nathaniel Gould, and Mr Chiswell, Member for Calne, all Turky Merchants, 'That there might be an Exception as to the Ships of the Turky Company; alledging, that many of them were abroad, which they expected home very speedily, and which could not have Notice of this Law. They urg'd besides, that to allow the sinking and destroying all Ships coming from infected Places, was, in Effect, to prohibit all Commerce with Turky, where it was known by every Body, that the Plague was always in some Part or other; whereby we should lose the most beneficial Branch of our Trade, and which took off so much of our Woollen Ma nufacture.' To this it was answer'd, by Sir Philip Yorke, and Mr Yonge, 'That there was a vast Difference between the common Plague, which is Epidemical in Turky, and the Contagion which at present rages in the South Parts of France, to prevent the bringing over of which this Bill was chiefly intended. That therefore it might be left to the Discretion of the King and his Ministers to act in that Matter as they should see Occasion, and to give Directions accordingly by Proclamation:' And Mr Thomas Broderick, added, 'That for his Part, he was more afraid, that in this Case, as on other Occasions, the King would be too merciful, rather than too severe.' Hereupon the Bill was gone through. Then, upon the Question, when the Amendment made thereto should be reported, Sir Gilbert Heathcote and they who were against the Bill insisted to have it put off, that there might be more Time to consider of any Objections that might be made against it: But Mr Broderick said, 'He thought no Time ought to be lost in a Case of this Nature, wherein the Lives of us all were concern'd: That for his Part he wish'd the Bill could obtain the Royal Assent that very Day; and therefore mov'd, 'That it be reported the next Day, which being order'd accordingly, the said Amendments were then agreed to, and the Bill order'd to be engross'd.
The Bill to prevent the Plague read the third Time, and pass'd.
Nov. 20. The Commons read the third Time, pass'd, and sent up to the Lords, the Bill, To enable his Majesty effectually to prohibit Commerce, for the Space of one Year, with any Country that is, or shall be, infected with the Plague.
A Bill order'd to be brought in, in favour of the Quakers.
December 13. A Petition of the Quakers, in Behalf of their Friends, who scruple the Form of solemn Affirmation, viz. the Words, In the Presence of Almighty God, was presented to the House, and read, praying, that Leave be given to bring in a Bill, For granting the said People such Form of Affirmation or Declaration, as may remove those Difficulties which many of them lie under; or such other Relief as to the House should seem meet: This Petition was spoke to by Sir John Ward, and Mr Heysham, Members for London, who were back'd by the Lord William Paulet, Mr Sloper, Mr Horatio Walpole, and Sir Wilfrid Lawson (fn. 1); whereupon a Bill was order'd to be brought in, according to the Prayer of the said Petition.
A Bill order'd to be brought in, For the better securing the Freedom of Elections.
The Quaker's Bill passes the House.
January 9. The Bill, For granting the People call'd Quakers, such Form of Affirmation or Declaration, as may remove the Difficulties which many of them lie under, was read the third Time, pass'd, and sent up to the Lords.
Mr Hutcheson's Speech for committing the Bill, For the better securing the Freedom of Elections, &c.
'Tho' I think the Necessity of the Bill which has been read to you, is of itself a sufficient Argument for it, yet since I was one of those who had the Honour of your Commands for bringing it in, it may, perhaps, be expected that I should say something upon it. As therefore there is too much Reason to apprehend, that this is the last Struggle you are ever like to have for the Preservation of your Rights and Liberties; so certainly the Efforts of every honest Man are more than ordinarily requisite at this critical Juncture, to procure, if it be possible, the Choice of a free and independent Parliament, that being the only Means, under Providence, which can save you from that State of Ruin and Confusion, which seems so immediately to threaten, and to be hanging over you. If you should have the Misfortune to miscarry, and that the Majority of this House should hereafter be compos'd of Persons, who have Views and Schemes to pursue repugnant to the common Good and Ease of their Country, what else must you then expect but the Continuance at least, if not the Increase, of those heavy Burthens you have already upon you, and at every Turn to see the Honour and Sanction of Parliament basely prostituted to the destructive Measures of those, who shall then happen to be in Power, which, without other Means of Violence, could not be justify'd and supported? If you should be plung'd into an unnecessary and expensive War, if your Trade and Interest should be sacrific'd for the Service of other Princes, and it may be, that done too, only to engage them to the Concession of foreign Provinces and Acquisitions, in which Britain has not the least Concern, what Redress could our Country hope for, even under such Grievances, from Patriots who had themselves contributed towards them, or were the mercenary Tools and Dependents of those who had? All Manner of Licentiousness and publick Frauds would then have their open and avow'd Advocates; and it would be no Wonder to see the greatest Criminals escape unpunish'd, when the Power of Remission and Pardon of Crimes were so much in their own Hands.
'It is too notorious what Attempts are now carrying on to invade the Freedom of your approaching Elections; in some Places by Threats, to fill and over-awe them with the quartering of Troops, if they do not comply; in others, by the corrupt Sollicitations of Agents and Undertakers, employ'd by those, who, from the incredible Sums which are dispers'd, one must imagine, have more than private Purses at their Command.
'But what, in God's Name, can all this tend to? What other Construction can any Man in common Sense put upon all these Things, but that there seems to have been a form'd Design, by Violence and Oppression, first to humble you and to make your Necks pliable to the Yoke that is design'd for You, and then to finish the Work by tempting the Poverty and Necessities of the People, to sell themselves into the most abject and detestable Slavery, for that very Money which had been either unnecessarily rais'd, or mercilesly and unjustly plunder'd and torn from their very Bowels? And thus you may be in a fair Way of being subdu'd by your own Weapons. Nor can I imagine what Inducement Men can have, who run from Borough to Borough, and purchase their Elections at such extravagant Rates, unless it be from a strong Expectation of being well repaid for their Votes, and of receiving ample Recompence and Rewards for the secret Service they have covenanted to perform here. In this Situation, it is high Time for Gentlemen to put themselves upon their Guard; and if it be not already too late, to endeavour to put a Stop to the Course of those Evils, which are otherwise likely so soon to overtake them. It is for these Purposes that this Bill is now before you, and I hope it either is, or by your Assistance will be made such, as may fully answer the Ends for which you were pleas'd to order it to be brought in.
'The Abuses in the Manner of dispatching your Writs to the Sheriffs, were the Motives which first led you into this Consideration. I am persuaded the Method here prescrib'd to regulate that Matter, will be found so easy and practicable, and so little liable to any Objection, that it would be needless in me to take up your Time in enlarging upon that Head: But for the Penalties upon false Returns, unless they are settled on the severest and most rigorous Terms, it will be in vain for you to contend with Sheriffs and returning Officers, who, instead of the People in whom the Right is and ought to be lodg'd, will draw the whole Power of Elections into their own Hands, and therefore they ought to be tyed up to such strict Rules, as that they shall never dare, upon any Account whatsoever, to depart from them, much less to be subject to those Sort of Influences, which, of all others, you have most Reason to be jealous of. We know, that Persons heretofore have not only brib'd the returning Officer, but have even indemnify'd him against the whole Penalty of Five Hundred Pounds, rather than not get the Return, right or wrong, in Favour of themselves; depending, I suppose, upon the Strength and Partiality of their Friends, to maintain them, at any Rate, in the unjustifiable Possession of a Seat here; this has been practis'd upon former Occasions, and therefore there is always just Grounds to suspect it will be attempted again. And it is now come to such a Pass, that if you were even to double that Penalty, without doing something else, I am afraid it would have little or no Effect. But when all those Bonds of Indemnity are declar'd null and void, when the Securities usually given and taken upon these Occasions are withdrawn, they may then, perhaps, be deterr'd, at least from so barefac'd a Practice of these arbitrary and illegal Proceedings for the future.
'Another Expedient for securing the Freedom of your Elections, and which, I think, will more effectually contribute towards it, than any one Thing whatsoever, is the annulling the Votes of those Swarms of Officers in the Customs and Excise; they are already subjected to the Penalty of one hundred Pounds, if they shall presume to intermeddle; this therefore is no more than a natural Consequence, and a necessary Enforcement of what you have done before. The Commissioners themselves of those Branches of the Revenue have been for some Time under a legal Incapacity of sitting here, as being thought under such strong Ties and Influences, in regard to their Employments, as were inconsistent with that Freedom with which Men ought to act in Parliament; certainly then the same Reason will hold good as to the Votes of them and their inferior Officers, especially in Matters that so nearly relate to it. There is likewise a Proviso, that no Person shall be capable of possessing any of these Offices, for a certain Time to be limited, after they shall have tender'd their Votes in any Election; and the Reason of that is very plain; without it all this Disability would signify nothing; for by displacing them just to serve a Turn, and restoring them again immediately after, the whole Force of this Clause would be entirely defeated.
'I make no doubt but the Intention was very just and commendable of the Gentlemen who brought in the Qualification Act, which was certainly design'd to establish a landed Property in Parliament, without which, I will venture to say, it will be impossible you should be safe; but that Matter stands at present upon so loose a Foot, that I am afraid it has hitherto been of very little Use or Service to you. What Dependence, for Instance, can you have upon a Man who has no more than three hundred Pounds a Year in Land, or, perhaps, only an Annuity of that Value for Life, and has at the same Time thirty or forty thousand Pounds in the Funds, or an Employment of two or three thousand Pounds a Year civil or military from the Crown? And even that small Qualification is no otherwise obligatory upon him, but merely to swear to his having it, if it be requir'd, at the Time of his Election; for tho' he sells it, or otherwise divests himself of it immediately after, yet it remains a Doubt, whether, by so doing, he shall vacate his Seat in Parliament. This is certainly such an Omission as requires to be better regulated and explain'd. There is likewise a Saving in that Act in Favour of eldest Sons of Peers, and the same for those of Commoners of six hundred Pounds a Year; but I confess I am at a Loss to find cut upon what Grounds the latter was inserted, unless Care had been taken at the same Time to have oblig'd the Father or the Son to have prov'd the Possession of such an Estate; for at present, let the Circumstances of the Family be what they will, if the eldest Son can procure himself to be elected, I cannot see but he is intitled to a Seat here, without any farther Examination whatsoever. This is another Defect so gross in your former Act, and opens a Back-Door to so many Persons, so entirely contrary to the Intent and Meaning of it, that it very well justifies the Repeal of it by this Bill, I mean so far only as it relates to the eldest Sons of Commoners.
'Whether the House will be willing to enact it by a Clause, must be submitted to them, I only take the Liberty to mention, that it were very much to be wish'd, that Gentlemen of Estates and Families in the Country would heartily unite in this Particular, of keeping the Elections in their several Counties among themselves; that they would resolve inviolably to support each other's Interest against the Incroachments and corrupt Applications of Strangers, let them come from what Quarter they will. If this were done, it would, in a great Measure, put an End to those dangerous and infamous Practices that are now on Foot, and we might hope once more to see this House fill'd with Gentlemen of free and independent Fortunes, such as would be above making their Court any where at the Expence of their Country, and would despise all Manner of slavish Concessions to Men in Power; Ministers would then be neither able to skreen themselves, or their Friends, against your Inquiries; and the boldest and most enterprising of them would be made to tremble at the Apprehensions of your Animadversions upon them; nor should we then, it is to be hop'd, sit tamely here, and see our Country harrass'd with the Expences of fruitless Expeditious abroad, and with the Maintenance of a standing Army at home, dangerous to our Constitution and Liberties.
'There are other Parts of this Bill, which I had like to have omitted to have spoken to, which are design'd, if possible, to put a Stop to that Torrent of Bribery and Corruption, which the Iniquity of the Times has let in upon you; and tho' I have very little Prospect of any good Effect that Way, and whatsoever the Fate of this Bill may be, every Gentleman, I dare swear, will so far agree, that some Method should be taken to prevent such Practices, or the Kingdom must be undone. If at this Time you had Men at the Head of your Administration, who had ever been charg'd with, or any Way convicted of such Crimes, I own it would be in vain to propose this, or any other Method, to punish and discourage it. Were it possible to believe, that the Influences of such Men could prevail here, or in any other Branch of the Legislature, it would then be no Wonder to see this Bill miscarry, or to hear it treated as a Composition of Absurdities, or as a Violation of the Birthrights of great Numbers of his Majesty's best Subjects. But at present this shall be no Reason with me to anticipate so much ill Fortune to it, since it is plain it could come before you with no other View, but to restore the Freedom and Honour of Parliament, to rescue the Rights and Liberties of our Country, and to save, if it be possible, the poor Remnant of our Constitution. These are the Considerations which occur to me in Favour of this Bill; and I humbly move you that it may be committed.'
Sir John Cope charges Mr Baron Page with endeavouring to corrupt the Borough of Banbury. ; Debate thereon. ; Debate on the Bill, For securing the Freedom of Elections, &c.
February 1. Sir John Cope, Bart. Member for Tavistock, charg'd Sir Francis Page, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, with endeavouring to corrupt the Borough of Banbury in the County of Oxon, in order to procure Sir William Codrington to be chosen a Representative for the said Borough in the ensuing Election. The Sum of this Charge was, that Mr Baron Page had not only offer'd to the said Corporation to forgive them six or seven hundred Pounds, they ow'd him for their new Charter, but likewise to give them another large Sum in ready Money, which Sir John Cope having offer'd to prove by undeniable Evidence, set the whole House into a Flame; and some Members were for censuring the Baron immediately; but Mr Robert Walpole moderated that Heat, representing, 'That it was unreasonable to arraign, condemn, and censure a Man, especially one in so eminent a Station, before they heard what he had to say in his own Vindication; and besides, that it would look like prejudging the Merits of the Election of that Borough; and therefore he was of Opinion, they ought not to take any Notice of that Complaint, until the Election was over, and then, if any Thing of that Nature appear'd, the House might proceed to censure as they should think fit.' He was supported by several other Members of the Court-Party, who alledg'd, 'That when they should hear what Mr Baron Page had to say for himself, the Matter might appear quite otherwise; and that the Gentleman who accus'd him, might be either misinform'd, or impos'd upon.' Hereupon the Matter of the said Charge was order'd to be heard at the Bar of the House the 13th. Then in a Committee of the whole House, the Commons went upon the Bill, For better securing the Freedom of Elections of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament; upon which there were great Debates about several Clauses that were offer'd to be inserted in the Bill: One of them was, that no Officer of the Customs, or Excise, should have any Vote at any Election for Parliament-Men; which was strenuously oppos'd by the Court Party, as taking away from the said Officers their Birthright, as Englishmen and Freeholders; so that after some Speeches made on both Sides, the Country-Party were contented to drop that Clause. Another was propos'd, importing, That no Person who did not pay Scot and Lot, should have a Vote in a Corporation; but this was also oppos'd by the Courtiers, who urg'd, 'That it had already been adjudg'd, at Committees of Elections, and agreed to by the House, in several Cases, that such Persons, in some Places, should have no Votes; and that in other Places they should be allow'd to vote, provided they did not receive Alms from the Parish.' The other Party, in order to give the Bill a more easy Passage, did not think fit to insist upon this second Clause neither; and so the Bill was gone through, and order'd to be reported on the 6th.
The House order Sir John Cope and Mr Baron Page to be heard by their Counsel.
Feb. 2. The House order'd, That the Complaint made the Day before by Sir John Cope, Bart. against Mr Baron Page, be by him put into Writing, and deliver'd to Mr Baron Page; and, That Sir John Cope, Bart. and Mr Baron Page be heard at the Bar of this House by their Counsel, upon the Matter of the said Charge.
The Bill, For securing the Freedom of Elections, passes the House, and is rejected by the Lords.
Farther Proceeding on the Complaint of Sir John Cope against Mr Baron Page. ; The House resolve that Sir John Cope had not made good his Charge against Mr Baron Page.
Feb. 13. The House went upon the Complaint of Sir John Cope, Bart. against Mr Baron Page, for endeavouring to corrupt several of the leading Members of the Corporation of Banbury against the next Election; and to aggravate the Matter, Sir John Cope acquainted the House, that he was inform'd, that some of his Evidences had been tamper'd with; and that there was one Mr Gregory at the Door, who could give the House an Account thereof. Mr Gregory having thereupon been call'd in, and examin'd, Sir John Cope mov'd, That the Matter of the said Charge might be referr'd to the Consideration of a Committee, upon Oath; but this was oppos'd by the Courtiers, who urg'd, That the said Complaint was already order'd to be heard at the Bar of this House this Day, and the Question being put, that the hearing the Matter of the said Charge at the Bar of this House be discharg'd, it was carry'd in the Negative by 176 Voices against 135. Then Sir John Cope mov'd, and the Question was propos'd, that the Witnesses to be examin'd in the Matter of this Charge, be examin'd at the Bar of this House in the most solemn Manner; but the previous Question being put, that the Question be now put, it pass'd in the Negative by 144 Votes against 142. Then the Counsel for Mr Baron Page being call'd in, and the Charge of Sir John Cope against him read, the Mayor of Banbury, and other Witnesses, were call'd in, and examin'd by Sir John Cope; after which, the Counsel for Mr Baron Page was heard, and a Witness examin'd. The Witnesses for Sir John Cope declar'd, 'That Mr Baron Page being with Sir Adolphus Oughton, and Sir William Coddrington in the Town-Hall at Banbury, Mr Baron Page call'd the Mayor and two or three of the Aldermen into another Room, and discoursing with them about a Person to be set up at the next Election to represent the Corporation, he propos'd to them Sir William Codrington. That they answer'd, They would be very glad to accept one of his Recommendation; but added, that most other Corporations made a considerable Advantage of their Elections; and they knew no Reason why they should not do it as well as their Neighbours; that they wanted to have their Streets pav'd, an Augmentation to their Vicarage, and a School to be built; which the Corporation not being able to do of themselves, their Stock being very low, they therefore expected, that the Person who should be chosen should be at that Expence, which, in all, might amount to 500£. or 600£. That thereupon the Baron told them, he did not expect such an Answer; that they knew he had been very kind to the Corporation, and had been at a great Charge, no less than 600£. or 700£. to procure them a new Charter; that he never intended to ask that Money of them, and if they would order a Release for it to be drawn up, he would readily sign it, which he did accordingly on the 22d of December last. That this was all that pass'd then; but that the Baron came afterwards to them, and offer'd them first 100£. and then came up to 500£.' It being late, the House adjourn'd the farther hearing of that Matter to the next Day.
Feb. 14. After the farther examining of Witnesses, and hearing of Mr Baron Page's Counsel, a Motion being made, and the Question put, that it appear'd to this House, that Sir John Cope, Bart. had made good his Charge against Sir Francis Page, one of the Barons of his Majesty's Exchequer, it was, after a long Debate, carry'd in the Negative, by 128 Votes only against 124.
Debate concerning a Bill, To impower the S. S. Company to dispose of Part of their Capital Fund to pay their Debts.
Feb. 16. The House went into a Committee upon a Bill, To enable the South-Sea Company to dispose of the Effects in their Hands by Way of Lottery or Subscription, in order to pay the Debts of the said Company. Sir Thomas Cross being in the Chair, Mr Robert Walpole offer'd a Clause to be added to the Bill, To impower the South-Sea Company to dispose of Part of their Capital Fund, not exceeding two Hundred Thousand Pounds per Annum, to any Persons, Body Politick or Corporate, to enable them to pay their Debts. This Clause was very strenuously oppos'd by Mr Archibald Hutcheson, the Lord Morpeth, General Ross, and Mr Pulteney; who suggested, 'That this was but an Ingraftment in other Terms: That the South-Sea Company had desir'd no such Power; but if they had it, the Directors would not fail making Use of it, whether there was any Occasion for it or not.' To this Mr Walpole replied, 'He perceiv'd, that because he had once declar'd himself in Favour of an Ingraftment, every Thing he propos'd since appear'd frightful, as tho' he were in the Interest of another Company, and not in that of the South-Sea; but that he took that Opportunity to declare, that he had no Manner of Concern in the Bank, where, for a long Time, he had not had one Penny; whereas he had, at this very Juncture, a considerable Stock in the South-Sea Company, and therefore had Reason to be for the Interest of the latter, if he consider'd only his own; but that in this whole Affair, he had the publick Good principally in View: And altho' he had been so much reflected on for being for an Ingraftment, yet he would undertake to prove to any two unprejudic'd Gentlemen in that House, as plainly as Figures could do, that an Ingraftment had been for the Interest and Advantage of the South-Sea Company. That as to this Clause, he could not imagine, why any one concern'd in the said Company, should be against their having as much Power as they could, since it was in their Choice, whether they would make Use of it or not: That considering the present Circumstances of Affairs, the lowness of Publick Credit, the Parliament's drawing to an End, and how many Accidents might happen before another Session, he thought it could not hurt the Company to have Power from the present Parliament, to do what they might have Occasion to apply for to a Parliament, when, perhaps, none were sitting.' Hereupon the said Clause was agreed to, and the Bill gone through.
Which is pass'd.
March 7. The King went to the House of Peers with the usual State and Solemnity, and the Commons attending, their Speaker, upon presenting the Money-Bill, made the following Speech to his Majesty, viz.
The Speakers's Speech to the King on presenting the Money-Bill.
This is the seventh Year in which your Majesty's faithful Commons, without burthening your People with any new or unusual Taxes, have readily and chearfully granted to your Majesty the necessary Supplies, not only for carrying on the ordinary Expences of the Government, but for maintaining the Honour and Dignity of the Crown; and, at the same Time, they have omitted no Opportunity of easing the publick Incumbrances, and of putting the National Debt into a Method of Payment; for no sooner had your Majesty, by the Vigilance of your Councils, and the Success of your Arms, restor'd and secur'd the publick Peace and Tranquility, but your Commons immediately found Means to reduce the Interest of the National Debt, and thereby set apart a Fund, which, by a farther Reduction of Interest since made by your Commons, will, in a few Years, be considerably increas'd, and the Payment of the Principal become practicable; and from which your Majesty's trading Subjects have already reap'd this immediate Benefit, that your Commons have been enabled, during this Session, without endangering the Security of any Parliamentary Engagements, to take off such Duties as were found by Experience to be most prejudicial to the Trade and Manufactures of your Kingdoms. And as your Commons were apprehensive, that the Debt of the Navy was rising to such an Height, as would, if not timely prevented, necessarily affect and depreciate all other publick Credit, and which would inevitably increase the Charge and Expence of the current Service; they have therefore unanimously agreed on such Methods of discharging so much of that Debt, as will effectually prevent the Mischiefs they apprehend, and can be no Ways burthensome to their Fellow-Subjects.
'Thus have your Commons fully and happily compleated every Thing which your Majesty was graciously pleas'd to recommend to them at the Beginning of this Session; and whenever your Majesty, in your Royal Wisdom, shall again think it proper to meet your People in Parliament, may they imitate your present House of Commons in our Duty and Affection to your Majesty, in our Steadiness and Resolution to support your Government; may they continue, with like Application and Diligence, to extend Trade and Commerce, the true and natural Source of Wealth and Plenty in these Kingdoms; and we should think ourselves happy, if even our Mistakes might be of Service to your Majesty, by being a Warning to those that come after us: And that when the Wisdom of your Majesty's Councils, and the Steadiness of your Administration, shall have restor'd Credit to its former flourishing Condition, they may not grow wanton with too much Prosperity, but may proceed with such Caution and Prudence in their Endeavours to lessen the National Debt, as may put it out of the Power of any Set of Men to produce Misery and Distress, from what shall be propos'd for the Ease and Benefit of your People: And that, by the Blessing and Assistance of Divine Providence, they may so effectually unite the Affections of your People, and firmly establish your Majesty's Throne, That the Scepter may not depart from your Royal House, nor a Lawgiver from between your Feet! that the ancient legal Constitution of this Kingdom, in King, Lords, and Commons, may be perpetuated in your Majesty and your Royal Posterity, till Time shall be no more.
'Your Majesty having been, at different Times, in the Course of this Session, graciously pleas'd to accept such Supplies, as your Commons offer'd to your Majesty for the Service of this Year, they do now humbly pray your Majesty's like gracious Acceptance of a Bill they have prepar'd for discharging the Debt of the Navy, intitled, An Act for paying off and cancelling one Million of Exchequer Bills, &c.'
After this the King gave the Royal Assent to the said Bill; also to a Bill, To enable the South-Sea Company to dispose of the Effects in their Hands by Way of Lottery or Subscription, &c. Also to several other publick, and private Bills.
The King's Speech at putting an End to his first Parliament.
"You could not have given me a more acceptable Instance of your Zeal and Affection, than by dispatching, with so much Unanimity, the several Particulars I recommended to you at the Beginning of this Session, for the Ease and Advantage of my People.
"The many and great Encouragements you have given to our Trade and Manufactures, and the Provision you have made for our being supply'd with naval Stores from our own Plantations, will, I make no doubt, excite the Industry of my Subjects, employ a greater Number of the Poor, encrease our Navigation, and be a considerable Addition to the Riches and Strength of this Nation.
"The raising the current Supplies of the Year, and the making a Provision for the Discharge of so considerable a Part of the Debt of the Navy, is a farther Proof of your Affection to me, and your Regard for the Publick; and doing it in a Manner so little burthensome to my People gives me the greatest Satisfaction.
"I cannot in Justice part with this Parliament, without returning you my sincerest Thanks, for your steady and resolute Adherence to my Person and Government, and to the Interest of the Protestant Cause, both at Home and Abroad. The Enemies of our happy Constitution have given the strongest and most honourable Testimony of your Behaviour in these Particulars, by the implacable Malice, which they have, upon all Occasions, express'd against you.
"You must all be sensible, that they are, at this Juncture, reviving, with the greatest Industry, the same wicked Arts of Calumny and Defamation, which have been the constant Preludes to publick Troubles and Disorders; and such is their Infatuation, that they flatter themselves the grossest Misrepresentations will turn to their Advantage, and give them an Opportunity of recommending themselves to the Favour and good Opinion of my People; but I have so just a Confidence in the Affection of my Subjects, and in their Regard for their own Welfare, that I am persuaded they will not suffer themselves to be thus impos'd upon, and betray'd into their own Destruction.
"For my Part, as the Preservation of the Constitution in Church and State shall always be my Care, I am firmly determin'd to continue to countenance such as have manifested their Zeal for the present Establishment, and have the religious and civil Rights of all my Subjects truly at Heart; and I question not but that Behaviour, which has justly recommended them to me, will effectually secure to them the Good-will of all that are well affected to my Government; and will convince the World, that the Expectations of those are very ill grounded, who hope to prevail with a Protestant free People, to give up their Religion and Liberties into the Hands of such as are Enemies to both."
The Parliament Dissolv'd.
And then the Lord Chancellor, by his Majesty's Command, prorogued the Parliament to the 15th of March: But on the 10th of the same Month, a Proclamation was issued for the Dissolution of this Parliament, and the Calling another.