Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1667-1687. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1802.
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Lunæ, 11 die Novembris, 1678.
Commissions for administering Oaths.
MR. Powle reports from the Committee appointed to prepare the Matter to be offered at the Conference to be had with the Lords, concerning the not Issuing out the Commissions for administering the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, That the Committee had agreed upon a Report: Which he read in his Place, and afterwards delivered the same in at the Clerk's Table: Where the same was twice read; and, upon the Question, agreed: And is as followeth;
"Upon Examination of the Clerk of the Crown, touching the Neglect in Issuing out of Commissions to the Justices of the Peace, pursuant to his Majesty's late Royal Proclamation, and the Address of both Houses, for administering the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy to Popish Recusants; and Persons suspected so to be; and the Clerk of the Crown having informed the House of Commons, That a Draught of such Commissions was prepared by the Attorney General, and ingrossed by the said Clerk of the Crown; and by him tendered last Thursday Morning to be sealed by the Lord Chancellor; and that, nevertheless, the said Commissions neither then, nor at any time since, to the time of his Examination on Saturday last, at Five of the Clock in the Afternoon, were, or have been, sealed: And the House of Commons, being very sensible of the great Danger that may ensue to his Majesty and this Kingdom, by such Delay; and his Lordship being a Member of your House; have thought fit to represent it to your Lordships; desiring, That your Lordships will speedily inquire into the Reason of this great Neglect and Contempt of his Majesty's said Proclamation; and to do therein as to Justice shall appertain."
And, upon Examination of the Matter, it appearing to the House, that the Precept, from the Sheriff, was directed to the Mayor and Justices for the Borough of Northampton; and that the Indenture, annexed to the Writ, whereby Sir Wm. Temple is returned to serve for the said Borough, is not signed by the Mayor, nor the Seal of the Corporation fixed thereto; and that the Indenture, whereby Ralph Montague Esquire is returned, is signed by the Mayor, and the Seal of the Corporation fixed thereto; and that the same is annexed to the Precept from the Sheriff;
Resolved, &c. Nemine contradicente, That the Indenture signed by the Mayor of Northampton, and sealed with the Common Seal of the Corporation, and which is annexed to the Sheriff's Precept; whereby Ralph Montague Esquire is returned to serve for the said Borough; is a due Return; and ought to be annexed to the Writ.
Ordered, That the Sheriff of the County of Northampton do take off the Indenture annexed to the Writ, whereby Sir William Temple is returned; and do receive the Indenture annexed to the Precept, whereby Mr. Montague is returned; and do annex the same to the Writ.
King appoints to be attended.
Mr. Speaker, We are commanded to acquaint you, That the Lords of the White Staff have attended his Majesty, to know his Pleasure, when both Houses may attend his Majesty with the last Address of this House: And that his Majesty had appointed this Afternoon at Three of the Clock, for both Houses to attend Him, in the Banqueting House at Whitehall.
Conference on Commissions for administering Oaths.
"He delivered all by Word of Mouth, without the Help of any Paper: And therefore I must crave Pardon, if what I report, be not exactly according to his Words; though, I hope, I shall not omit any material Passage."
"He began with telling us, That the Lords were very well pleased with the Representation made to them by the Commons, about the Neglect in issuing out the Commissions for taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy: That it was a Zeal well becoming the House of Commons, not to suffer it to be defeated by any Person whatsoever."
"That there was no Time yet lost in this Business: For, had the Commissions been sealed; yet, till the Returns had been made by the several Constables, it would have been hard to find out the Persons to whom the Oaths were to be applied: And that the Constables were still employed about that Work, and had not yet made their Returns."
"That, nevertheless, the Lords thought it not enough to shew the Commons, that there was no Negligence; but that, on the contrary, all Diligence had been used in the Expediting these Commissions: And that, therefore, their Lordships had commanded him to acquaint us with the whole Progress of these Commissions."
"That is was true, that the Commissions had been drawn and perused by the Attorney General, and brought to the Seal, and not sealed, as the Clerk of the Crown had informed us: But that it was great Pity, that the Clerk of the Crown was not then in Court, that he might have acquainted us with the whole Truth of what passed at that Time, as well as with that Part of the Truth he had acquainted us withal."
"That it had been in Debate in the House of Peers, the Day before, What Regulation and Limits should be inserted in the Commissions: For that their Lordships conceived it hard, that Persons aged, infirm, and not able to go out of Town with Safety of their Lives, should not be excepted from taking the Oaths: And This, they thought, was a Severity beyond the Intention of the Commons."
"Their Lordships, likewise, observed, that there was a prudential Power reserved in Six Privy Counsellors (whereof the Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, or Principal Secretary, to be One) to grant Licenses: And they thought it reasonable, that Persons so licensed should be excepted; else the Hardship would be greater on those that stayed, than those that went."
"Their Lordships likewise thought, That the Peers of this Realm, who are excepted by the Law from taking the Oath of Supremacy, were fit to be excepted out of this Commission; as also, that Foreign Merchants and Aliens, being no Subjects, were not within the Law, and could not be thought dangerous; because they were such as did frequent the Exchange, and of whom my Lord Mayor might have an Account, and deliver a List of them to the Council Table.
"That the Lords thought it fit, that these Exceptions should be inserted into the Commissions, that the Justices of Peace may see whom not to trouble: And thereupon their Lordships gave him Directions to make such Exceptions."
"That the Attorney General sitting in Court when the Commissions were brought the next Day to be sealed, he advised the Officer that had the Seal to hold his Hand: Whereupon the Officer, stepping to him, asked him, What he should do? And he told him, They must be altered."
"That, this Morning, He had acquainted the Lords, What just Cause he had to complain of the great difficulty that lay upon him, either by their not obeying their Lordships, or disobliging the whole Kingdom."
"That he had brought before them Commissions for Six Counties; which comprehended all the Counties within Ten Miles of London, to which the Proclamation did extend: And he produced before them Two Forms of Commissions; one a general Form, extending to all; the other a particular Form, with the aforesaid Exceptions; desiring their Resolution, In which of the said Forms their Lordships would have the said Commissions passed."
"That the Lords, though they thought the Exceptions most reasonable, yet, because their Lordships considered, that these Commissions had issued out upon the Address of both Houses; and that therefore to make Explanations by themselves which had not been communicated to the Commons, might not agree with that good Correspondency which their Lordships should always endeavour to maintain between the Two Houses; their Lordships gave him Directions to pass the Commissions in the General Form, let the Hardship light where it would: And they gave him Leave to withdraw presently, to seal the Commissions; which, accordingly, are all sealed."
Lords reminded of a Bill.
Resolved, &c. That a Message be sent to the Lords, to remind them of the Bill, intituled, An Act for the more effectual Preserving the King's Person and Government, by disabling Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament; it being a Bill upon which the Safety of the King and Kingdom, and the Protestant Religion, do depend: And that Serjeant Mainard do go up with the Message.