Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 1. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Monday, April 4.
Sir Thomas Meres reports the Conference with the Lords [on the alterations made by the House to the Lords Amendments to the Bill of Conventicles.]
The Earl of Anglesea (fn. 1) managed, who said,] That the Lords agreed that the "24th of June," in their amend ments, should be the "10th of May." They agreed that the "ten" they amended should be "five," as we first sent it up. They agreed to "the Justices discharge of the fine in the Exchequer," and to "the Appeal." They do not agree to "the Proviso concerning themselves." To our amendments of "the Proviso of the Prerogative" they agree. Their reasons why they agree not to "from 10s. to 40s." because our ancestors were tender to preserve the Law that tryals might be by Juries. Although that fwearing, nor yet drunkenness, must be tryed by Juries, he would not have the penalty be, but by Jury, in this spiritual drunkenness. As to the "40s." it gives way to partiality amongst our tenants. If the House of Commons would have it "40s." they would agree, but exempting themselves. He hoped that all the other Provisos would hinder the Justices from impertinent trouble. This Law is perpetual; the former was temporary, and therefore the Lords cannot agree. The Lords use to have no Conventicles in their Houses. In the Statute of Queen Elizabeth, the Lords were exempted from the oath of Supremacy, by reason of the confidence she had in the Peers. (Birkenhead said, "There was no such thing in the Statute.") To "the attachment" there needs none of that, for the notoriety of the fact is more than that. The Peers are public persons, and baulk not. In case of Felony, a Peer may be attached, which they take to be sufficient. Lastly, the Peers have conceded much this Parliament, as in the Militia, Highways, and Taxes to be rated by the Commons.
The Lord Chamberlain, Earl of Manchester (fn. 2).] They agreed to our amendments of the last Proviso about the Prerogative and Supremacy. It was far from their thoughts to alter any thing by it in the Government. Lord Coke said, "General words (as this Proviso is) bind not." They were not guilty of the least umbrage of a subtle contrivance. They do agree with us.
Lord Ashley (fn. 3), to the Proviso for the Peers.] The King had always taken great care of the Peers, &c. To the last Proviso. The Commons have done very well in their amendments of it.
Mr Sollicitor Finch.] The exemption of the Peers makes their houses a Sanctuary for Conventicles.
Sir Robert Howard.] By Common Law a Peer was as liable to be arrested as a Commoner—Knows not, in any case of search, where the houses of Peers have exemption.
Mr Seymour.] This looks as if we were not both under the government of one person—He would have one Law for the same subjects.
Sir Robert Holt.] A Lord may let his house to any person who may keep Conventicles in it.
Sir Thomas Clifford.] Knows no reason why mortar, stone, and timber should have an exemption one more than another. From their houses they may at last come to their lands. To what they say, "that in the Bill of Printing-presses they are exempted from search, but by the King's Warrant, &c." 'tis answered, that Printing-presses are not easily portable, and the King's Warrant may be had timely. This is a perfect setting up toleration in Peers houses.
[Resolved, That this House is not satisfied with the Lords Reasons, in not agreeing with this House, in altering their amendment, relating to the search of their houses. And that this House is not satisfied with the Lords Reasons for retaining the Proviso, relating to attaching the Lords persons. A free Conference was desired.]
Sir Thomas Meres reported the Lords reasons for having three horses and not five. The House adhered to five.
In the Afternoon.
A Bill [from the Lords] for advancing the sale of his Majesty's Fee-farm Rents, and other Rents, [was read the first time (fn. 4).]
Sir Thomas Clifford.] The fee-farms saleable by this Bill are about 32,000 l. yearly value. The Queen-Mother had 20,000 l. a year of them; to the Queen-Confort never 10,000 l. of them came in. The Dutchy of Cornwall is 15,000 l. yearly, whereof 5000 l. of them yearly goes off in charges of collecting. Assures the House that there is no Chapman provided. Every purchaser has six months. No man has contracted or sued for them; but there is a debt charged upon them.
Sir Henry Pickering.] Hopes that by to-morrow morning an Act of Re-assumption may be brought in.
Mr Coleman.] For the town of Salisbury they have 25 l. a year paid out of the Fee-farms of Wiltshire in general; this being not in particular charged, knows not where they shall have it.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The King runs in debt now, and when this is gone, we must supply again.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Thinks it an ill thing for the King to sell lands. This takes away a great regality, and the purchaser has that. He perceives now that these Regalias may be given to subjects. For the King, who was the best freeholder, to part with this!—An Act of Re-assumption may be a much better remedy to pay the King's debts.
Sir Robert Carr.] Knows nothing more vexatious than the collection of these rents. Thinks it an ease to the subject.
Sir William Coventry.] Thinks it but a sad prospect for the King to sell his lands. We have passed Acts for persons to sell their lands, not because they are weary of their lands, but of their debts. But this topic he speaks principally upon, that the hindrance of trade in the country, is because we have no banks in the country, who will let moneys be payable again at six per cent. This will take off the King's debts, and destroy the Banking at London—Thinks by that to have better trade and fewer fanatics; by this the King has power of obliging, which these rents, by vexatious collection, do disoblige. A gentleman gives six per cent. and is uneasy. The King gives 10 per cent. If any other way for payment can be more eligible, he would take it.
Mr Cheney.] Possibly an account of the King's moneys may help out his debts. When for 2s. rent to the King, it has put the party to 36 l. charge in the Exchequer. If a retrospect might find out 150,000 l. that might do it, he would be glad of it. But when the 10 per cent. eats off the hundred, wonders that it should be received in this House.
Sir Thomas Clifford.] The Treasurer of the Navy paid 40 per cent. for commodities, when he had no money; and the question in Council was, whether 10 per cent. ready money, or 40 per cent. on trust. The Bankers ought to be commended and encouraged, for they have not 40s. per cent. gain, when Clerks are paid, and Brass money deducted.
Sir Robert Howard.] The Nation's revenue upon lands, and the King's upon Excise, is a sad prospect. When good store of beef and mutton was stirring, it was a happy time. But if nothing will help the King but this Bill, he has nothing to say against it, but to be sad.
Mr Henry Coventry.] It is both lawful and convenient for the King to sell these lands. It is lawful, for the King has mortgaged them, and therefore must sell; it is convenient, for the King parts only with dry rents, and no Regalias at all. The Court of Wards and Purveyance were Regalias, and we parted with them. You are told of great vexation upon the subject by it; therefore it is convenient. We that depend upon the King would have him live. If a Merchant be thought in debt more than he can pay, his credit is spoiled. If the King was beforehand in money, the Exchequer would be safer than Banks. These great sums of the Bankers are made up of little sums, and the Bankers are put upon hazard of having it lie in their hands, and yet must pay interest. The King pays none to them till he receives it. The King asks nothing by Parliament now, but what his ancestors might, and have done without Parliament, as he may do in this. For he might sell it, it may be, at ten years value; the assurance of an Act of Parliament will make the Purchaser give twenty.
Mr Vaughan.] The revenue was a help to a good King in bad times. Of what nature is the King's revenue when this is gone? Excise and Custom, which depend upon the luxury of the subject. We in the Country must suppress drunkenness in álehouses, so that the King's Laws and his Revenue are at war. 'Tis the only certain Revenue of the Crown, and would not have the Bill read again.
Mr Sollicitor Finch.] The question is not, whether they shall be sold, but whether well sold. The King will be a richer man, twice told, by the Bill. The Bill could not begin otherwise than with the Lords, who knew the King's pleasure. The Kings have formerly signed Bills for sale of their revenue, and with these steps the Bill came into the Lords House.
Mr Steward.] After taking away the pillars of the Crown, he is sorry to see it supported by crutches. He is rather persuaded to a Re-assumption than this Bill— Would rather that those persons who have such lands may have long leases, that so they may depend on the Crown. It is said, "that they are dry rents;" he thinks that's but a dry exception.
[The Bill was ordered to be read a second time.]
Tuesday, April 5.
[The Fee-farm Bill was read the second time.]
Sir George Downing.] This revenue has not for many years come to 10,000 l. a year, the Queen-Mother's jointure and Queen-Consort's excepted. The Exchequer debts 600,000 l. Navy debts 500,000 l. and this debt not contracted in time of peace. When you was come to last for a supply, it was 3,000,000 l. The fleet you gave 300,000 l. upon Wine to set out—It cost 1,300,000 l. The King has borrowed all for meat and drink, and every thing, as high.—As we are in Peace, the Navy comes to 400,000 l. a year, and he cannot, by all his Arithmetic, make the King's revenue above 900,000 l. a year.—140,000 l. this Act will make, and no more. How can this debt be paid, and the Crown stand, by this Act of Wine?
Sir Richard Temple.] On this subject, knows not what to offer you, to extricate you out of the difficulties. Some propose an Act of Re-assumption, and that will not near do neither. Some cankers there must be in the revenue. The King of France, who was nine years revenue behindhand, by looking into his accounts has recovered himself, and filled his coffers; and that has fired his zeal in the business of accounts. The Crown of France has likewise re-assumed.
Sir Robert Howard.] Thinks that the discourse of the King's condition has been too large. Would have the Bill committed, rather than a new tax instead of it.
[The Bill was ordered to be committed.]
[The House sat April 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11; and then, by his Majesty's pleasure, adjourned to October 24.
October 24.] The House met, when the King, in a short Speech, referred all to the Lord Keeper Bridgeman, who acquainted them with "the several Leagues his Majesty had made since the late war, to his own honour, and the nation's advantage, as 1. The Triple Alliance between England, Sweden, and Holland. 2. That between his Majesty and the States, for a mutual assistance. 3. One with the Duke of Savoy; 4. Another with the King of Denmark; and, 5. A treaty of commerce with Spain. And concluded with asking such a Supply, as might enable the King to take off his debts upon interest, and to set out a powerful navy against the spring."
The House then adjourned to