Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 1. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Saturday, November 16.
[The Vote of the Lords (fn. 1) concerning the impeachment of the Earl of Clarendon was taken into consideration.]
Earl of Torrington (fn. 2).] Moved, that the House would not depart from the privileges of the Commons of England.
Mr Waller.] The Lords stand upon some things they were not wont to do, as in the Militia.—Pray God it may be as useful as burthensome!—The Lords scarce touch that great burthen with one finger, assessing themselves by one another, the burthen lying upon the forty and fifty pound Members—The Court of Rome began their power in great humility, but at length grew great by their in ordine ad spiritualia—And so the Lords in ordine ad judicialia.—The Pope lost most part of the northern kingdoms by it.—Concludes, that to ramble too much into antiquity is as dangerous as to innovate.
Mr Vaughan.] When precedents were pressed, it was urged, that usage of Parliament was the properest way. Some of the precedents were not answered at all. They said to that in H. VI. they cared for no precedent, for the express law was against it.—Law, in a Lord's mouth, is like a sword in a Lady's hand; when to be used, managed awkwardly and uselessly.—The Bishops at the conference so full of common law, that they had forgotten canon law. —The Admiralty, as well as in canon law, commit without showing cause, Statute mechant, staple, law of honour, or law of arms, laws of the forest—All which do not proceed by way of presentment, only that of the forest, but very different.—Divers writs whereby persons are imprisoned by way of suggestion only, without indictment or presentment.—Writ de excommunicato capiendo.—An ancient writ de apostato capiendo, when any man ran out of his monastery.—A writ ne exeat regnum; this is colour sufficient to take a man, the suggestion not traversable, and the party imprisoned for want of security.—Writ de leproso amovendo, imprisoned in these cases without indictment. —By this course all impeachments in Parliament are taken away without information.—For contempt we may imprison in the Tower, and yet all these not against Magna Charta—For miscarriage, in the House, of a Member— All impeachments then for the future must be in Parliament by way of indictment, and so we are no way considerable, but as the "four hundred to give money (fn. 3)," and so rise up remedy, go to thy remedy; no way being left to bring any great person to justice.—If treason or felony be committed, it is lawful for any man to apprehend him; and in hue and cry, the party may have his action or Habeas Corpus, if innocent—The watchman may arrest a night walker.—Our law has a remedy for all injury.—Where the law gives no remedy, there is no right.—Damnum sine injuria.—No injury where the law gives no remedy.— Sometimes the Parliament is three states, as they are three powers.—Sometimes as in law-making, where the King is one.—If all the Commons accuse a man, it is impossible to call them to an account.—This judicial law is a taking away the whole right of England.—The Counsel the Earl of Clarendon gave, is not so dangerous as these proceedings.—The measures upon the House of Commons, may spread like a gangrene every where.—Whatever the ill is, the Upper House is the cause of it, that being the true name of it; a Grand Jury being Peers as well as they.—No such thing as Pares Regni.—Their greatest judicial power is from the House of Commons. —The Lords are Tryers, but like a Jury, the Lord High Steward being constituted by the King, for matters of fact.—Moves for a Committee of six to draw up a protestation against these proceedings, thereby to maintain our privileges.
Mr Prynne.] Writ de apostato capiendo, by certificate from the Abbot or Prior that the person is gone out of his monastery in secular habit, to the great scandal of religion.—All this is for particular cause; and the writs, he says, cited by Mr. Vaughan; the same law is for the Lords.
Sir Robert Howard.] That the House of Commons shall not be capable to judge of treason, not so much as a private Justice of Peace, is the question.—Moves for a protestation, to give an account of ourselves, in nature of a declaration or remonstrance.
Mr Waller.] The people are at home no where but in the House of Commons, knock when you will.—Strange that the Lords should take more care of the Commons in protesting, than the Commons do of themselves.—Many speak of the danger of protesting it, but none of not doing it, and so lay all upon our own backs.
Thursday, November 21.
Mr Vaughan.] Naturally a free conference should be desired.—If we admit, and they require, special cause, and if afterwards they require a free conference, where are we ?—They will insist upon what they did before.
The Speaker (fn. 4).] It is free for either House to demand a free conference.—The Lords have not voted any binding thing, nor we.
The Speaker.] In the legislative power we may demand a free conference, as upon the amendment of a Bill; but in the judicial, not.—It was denied in the case of Lord Mordaunt.—This a point of judicature.
Mr Vaughan.] If the Lords refuse free conference, we must never move them in the same nature again, and eternally no fruit of this business, but sending up the impeachment, and consequently we must make a protestation against the unjust proceedings of the Lords in this business (that it may not lie at our doors,) and a remonstrance of the injustice of that House.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] In Lord Strafford's case the Lords desire a Committee of both Houses, if the occasions of the House of Commons will give leave.—The Committee of both Houses not select, but in the nature of a free conference.
Mr Waller.] Conference from us is precarious.—The Lords have denied it; we may deny it also.—Both they and we may, when bars are against us, by votes, or otherwise.—In cases of adhering, that a Bill falls to the ground, conferences are denied.
[The answer of the House was, that, being in a great debate, they would send an answer by Messengers of their own. Sir Robert Howard went up to the Lords to desire a conference, and acquainted the Lords, that the House conceived there was a mistake in the last message, and that it should have been for a free conference, by the usual course of proceeding between the two Houses.—Sir Robert Howard reports from the Lords, that they had consented to a present conference, and it was agreed to by the Commons.]
Friday, November 22.
[On the examination of the French Merchants in relation to Mr Ashburnham, a Member, who received a gratuity from them for promoting their business (fn. 5).]
Sir Job Charlton said] Concerning his accusation, (meaning that light which Mr Hartlibb, the French Merchants Sollicitor, gave of the 500l. the Merchants gave him) they were like the Devil, both tempters and accusers.
[The resolves of the House, in this case, were these, That Mr John Ashburnham, in receiving the 500 l. from the French Merchants, hath committed an offence to the dishonour of the House, and contrary to his duty as a Member thereof:—That he be discharged from his service in this House, and a warrant issued for a new election in his place.—The House having notice by Mr Cofferer (Colonel William Ashburnham) that his brother, Mr John Ashburnham, was gone home to his house ill of the gout, the House thought fit to forbear to send to him to receive his sentence at the bar:—And it was ordered, That the Clerk should give Mr John Ashburnham notice of the resolves of the House concerning him.
The persons that were accused of receiving wine from the French Merchants, were spoken of, viz. Lord Fanshaw, Col. Kirby, and Mr Crouch: Some were in the Merchants lists that never had any, as Sir John Birkenhead, Col. Kirby, and others. The Serjeant had fifty guineas, and Golesborow the Clerk, and March his assistant, twelve guineas. The Serjeant said, his was due to him, part upon fees, and part as he was a Barrister, for assisting the Merchants at the Lords House.]
Mr Waller, speaking against receiving in this nature by Members] Qui leges fixit, leges refixit, a man takes not so much as is given in a small bribe.—Sir Thomas More, when Chancellor, caused the silver flaggons that were sent him to be filled up with wine, and desired the man that brought them, that if his master liked the wine he might send for more.—Vitium temporis non hominis.
Saturday, November 23.
Mr Sollicitor Finch] Presumes that this Debate is only to establish the ancient freedom of speech in Parliament.— Would not build any thing on the vote of another Parliament.—We may be safe in voting them now, and having the Lords concurrence, which will wipe away all former stains of this nature.—Perhaps we are much safer in an unknown limitation, than in describing the bounds of this freedom of speech.—An Act in this case may be subject to constriction, and so restrain the liberty we have already.—The votes are not subject to constriction, but do sufficiently condemn the former proceedings by the Lords declaratory concurrence.
[Resolved, That the judgment given, 5 Car. I. against Sir John Elliot, Denzil Holles, and Benjamin Valentine, Esquires, in the King's Bench, was an illegal judgment, and against the freedom and privileges of Parliament.]
Monday, November 25.
Sir Thomas Littleton, when he brought in the Bill for settling the Heralds Office, (the substance, to make descents matter of record) said] A descent cannot be made out upon record but by Offices, tho' not now of much use tenures cease.
[Report was made from the conference, at which the reasons (fn. 6) of the House, for their proceedings concerning the Earl of Clarendon, were delivered to the Lords.]
At this conference Mr Swynfin, who was one of the managers, asserted to their Lordships—Reasons grounded upon usage of Parliament.—When the Commons accuse they have a charge.—Lord Strafford's case.—Finch and Ratcliffe.—Bishop of Canterbury, (Laud)—The manner of proceedings not annulled by the Act of repeal of Lord Strafford's attainder.—Things in it relating to the attainder only repealed, the method of proceedings not repealed; and for the other three precedents, they took them to be good.—They called that a clear precedent, when the thing has been done.—Michael de la Pole imprisoned, not for a charge, but by his own words.—He desired to be cleared in Parliament.—The particular charge was common same, which was less matter than in the Earl of Clarendon's case.
Bishop of Rochester (Dolben (fn. 7) ) said] These were recent, not ancient precedents.
Mr Vaughan, a manager.] The 3 Car. Parliament's objection when the Petition of Right was urged.—No precedents against law.—Inferred, if they were against the law, of no force, which was assented to; and if so, not to be made precedents by the Commons.
Replies, to the petition of right.] The occasion of getting it, was, that some persons were committed by the King without special cause; the Judges could not bail, release, nor try, not knowing the cause of commitment; so it was remedied by Habeas Corpus.—Should be awarded, and if high treason, the Judge, without special cause, may bail.
Answered.] If they meant the Scotish disturbance, in that time good laws were past and in force.—If faulty to one, then to the other.—War, was never in law, but when the King's writs could not proceed.—At this time the Courts were open, and it is strange their Court should be invalid at that time, and none else.—There was a war in Holland one hundred years, and no obstruction of justice. This the Lords replied not to.—The precedent of 14 Ed. II.—Spencer could not be committed by the King without cause shown.—By special commitment from the King.
Hen. VI. 1. Lord Stanley's case.—The Commons upon articles moved for imprisonment; but the King answered, vult adviser.—This they could not allege to be treason.— It is trespass only to the King.—When the offence is only against the King, he may do what he pleases.—But it is otherwise when impeached.
Arundel Bishop of Canterbury was, by the Commons, accused for being put into a certain commission, which the Commons would have treason, which was none, and therefore not strange that there was no commitment; but all this was repealed, 1 H. IV. and so as much annihilated as if never in nature.
The repeal of the Act of Attainder of the Earl of Strafford cannot take away any thing that strengthens the supposition of itself, it being recited in the preamble, that he was impeached.—Mr Vaughan adds farther, that the House of Commons must assume to themselves the knowledge of treason.—We have many amongst us Justices of the Peace, who have power of committing, for treason, a Peer out of Parliament.—The ignorance of the law excuses no man.
Answered.] The Lords have power in judicial proceedings, and must know what is treason; but it follows not because the Commons know it, they have judiciary power.—Leak's case cited, about counterfeiting the great seal, out of Lord Coke.
Sir Robert Howard.] The Lords told us we must have a care of the liberties of the subject.—Bishop of Canterbury (Laud) lay under a long imprisonment by a general impeachment, and it might be no treason at last.
Mr Waller.] Lord Ashley urged, that if the Commons had been then urged for special matter, Lord Strafford had been safe, their accusation being constructive and accumulative treason.—He answered, For matter of fact the inducements were strong, for persons of good quality undertook the proof; so that none of his friends could be against his impeachment to clear him, so no heat was in the House.—Case of the five Members urged, but that was a perfect war, they being brought down by the trained bands, and great guns discharged, and wondered they should bring such a precedent from turbulent times.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] The discretion of the Parliament ought to be unconfined.—Precedents in the beginning of the Long Parliament, before any tumults.—Message by Mr Holles, to accuse the Bishop of Canterbury of high treason, and to be sequestered from Parliament, Dec. 22, the message 18th.—In Lord Finch, prout ante, he was not to be found, but ordered to be committed when found.—The Commons so answered.—Nov. 19, against the Earl of Strafford the Lord Keeper reported.
Answer.] The Lords doubt not but the Commons have taken the matter into their consideration, and the Lords resolved that the Earl be sequestered upon the charge of treason.—Dec. 29, Sir George Ratcliffe's case. —There was no desire of commitment; but the Lords sent to know whether the Commons would commit him.— Sir George was sent for from the Gatehouse, where the Commons had committed him.
[The report was, that "upon the precedents and reasons of the House of Commons, and the whole Debates thereupon, the Lords are not satisfied to comply with the desires of the House of Commons for sequestring from the House, and committing, the Earl of Clarendon, without any particular treason assigned or specified." The consideration of it was adjourned till to-morrow.]
Tuesday, November 26.
[Consideration of the report from the conference (fn. 8).]
Mr Prynne.] What was done only by one Parliament cannot be called custom of Parliament; Tertullian says, Illud verius quod antiquius.—Thomas Arundel, Bishop of Canterbury, was not secured till the first protestation was made.—He was afterwards banished.—William de la Pole, his charge, an untrue man.—The impeachment was general, and the Lords could not commit him.
Mr Waller.] Commitment for high treason in general a good commitment.—The person may have his Habeas Corpus—Approved.—If the matter declared be specified before commitment, the person might escape justice.— Speaking to the business of Lord Strafford, for whom he was in the long Parliament, said, they would take an order with him, they were men of honour and as good as their words.—They laid him by the heels.
Sir Thomas Bloudworth said] That a person would discover, that ships were sent out full stored, and yet recruited in ports soon after.—Mr *** of Bristol acquainted Sir William Batty with it, who bid him meddle with his own business.
Mr Love.] One Gilsthorpe, a servant to Sir William Batty, and Clerk in the Office, discovers things of this nature.—The sick person, on whose conscience these informations lay, desiring, before he died, to discharge his conscience, caused this information to be given him, and Sir Thomas Bloudworth, who, if he could have his books, which he was not able to peruse, he could discover much of this—His brothers and others said, they were afraid of discovering for fear of being put out of the payment of what is owing him for waste cloaths, 500 l. value—His brother was sent down to survey the ships, who found 3000 men wanting; he conjectured that the commanders connived at their running away, and so had their tickets—A master's boy enlisted for a midshipman, and entered for an able seaman, at 24s. per month, and he but a boy at a noble per month—Other persons, he desires their names may be concealed, untill the bill of accounts be in practice—Sir William Warren brings not materials, as masts and other things against the war, as he had contracted for, but long after—Other things stood the King in eight times as much as they were worth, and they dare not speak of higher values for fear of losing their moneys due to them.