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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Thursday, February 20.
[A Bill sent from the Lords, for the better execution of the laws concerning prices of wines, was read the second time; and an order was made for taking into consideration a petition of the Spanish merchants after the debate of the bill.]
Sir George Downing.] Setting of prices of wines is prejudicial to the King in point of his revenue; the customs will have an abatement of their rent—The same pretence in this as in the Canary company—That there is no law upon the vintner; but for setting of prices there is a law; for the Lord Chancellor may enter his cellar, and sell at statute rate, and remedy abuses—To heighten the prices will occasion great defalcation in the customs—It will be an inconvenience to the country; none of their commodities will be taken off, and so petitions will be from the country for dispensations, and so the inconveniency runs round.
Sir William Coventry.] The intention of the Canary company was good, the trade being driven by the corporation, that might keep the trade moderate in prices: But the inference from the patent was not liked here —It is not probable, that this Bill should do a new thing in the prices of wines; for the law sets it already by the Lord Keeper.
[The Debate was adjourned till Saturday, and then the House resumed the business of Miscarriages, when the paper was read relating to the Miscarriage in not prosecuting the victory in the first summer's engagement, according to the orders of his Royal Highness.]
Capt. Elliott (being examined at the Bar) gave evidence] That Sir John Harman did nothing, in commanding the sails to be slacked, but what he had orders for; that the orders were not from the Duke of York; and that if that had not been done, our fleet might have been between the Dutch and the shore—This, he said, Sir John Harman told him when he was sick, and in a dying condition.
Mr Vaughan.] If the fleet was drawn off without order, then it was a miscarriage of the General, Lord Sandwich; but if for other causes, as the want of provisions, then not to make any vote to lay a particular charge upon Lord Sandwich before he be heard.
[The House then proceeded to the reading and debate of the fourth paper, relating to the Miscarriage in drawing in the fleet about October 1665, which was recommitted to the Committee of Miscarriages.]
Friday, February 21.
Mr Richard Ford.] Speaking about Impositions, said, in ptivate discourse, That in Holland they permit plays and all other shows; but the hospital officers gather the money, and have half for the use of the hospital—only the rest to the players, &c. The Domine, as they call their minister, inveighing in the pulpit against the permitting them, the burghers called him before them, and checked him for reflecting upon what they permitted and allowed; and he must forbear, at his peril; they got 40 l. a day by the plays and shows, and if he could find them a project for charitable uses worth 42 l. they would accept of it, but no reflections on their actions in the pulpit.]
[Mr Coleman made report of a breach of privilege committed by one John Lewen, in insulting Stephen Carr, who was ordered to attend as a witness by the Committee, to which a petition of Mr Fitton was committed.]
Sir Thomas Lee.] This Lewen is a servant to a Peer, and care should be taken not to clash with the Lords in securing him for threatening the witness, and calling him Rogue—Moves that the Lords be sent to, to secure him.
Mr Vaughan.] Suppose any gentleman of us should call a witness Rogue, &c. that is to give evidence at the Lords Bar, and this witness complains, and the member is imprisoned, you would certainly release him—If the Lords should take a servant from our side into custody, we should release him—We may have right against a Peer—If he be a servant we may send to the Lords about him, and if not released, we may release him.
A Petition of William Carr was presented to the House, by Sir Nicholas Carew. It alleged, "That Lord Gerrard caused the petitioner to be summoned to the House of Lords, and he was, for his printed petition to the Commons, committed to the Fleet, and suffered the pillory, and could not be heard by his council—And that Lord Gerrard had preferred several Indictments against him, to his utter ruin.]
Mr Coventry.] The law will not approve of printing a scandalous petition against a great man; and for that, Carr was sentenced in the House of Lords—As to Grievances, he or any man may regularly complain of them.
Sir Hum. Winch.] Moves to know what is expended of the 1,600,000 l. since Mich. 1666 untill this time— Possibly so much may remain, as will make the proportion now to be raised; likewise of the poll-money, something may remain.
[A Committee was accordingly appointed, to take an account of the proceed of the poll-money, as also to take an account of the moneys registered upon the eleven months assessment, and what part of the money was expended towards the war, betwixt Michaelmas 1666 and Michaelmas 1667, and what money, arising by the poll-bill, hath been applied to the use of the war within the said time.]
Saturday, February 22.
[Mr Coleman reported from the Committee, to which Mr Fitton's business was committed, that they had come to a resolution that the matter of the petitioner's complaint, concerning the jurisdiction of the House of Lords, is fit to be argued at the Bar of this House.
Sir Robert Atkins.] The business of Fitton not coming duly before the Lords, by way of writ of error from the courts of Westminster, and they having judged it, if that must be, all our liberties are struck off at a blow, and then no way to be redressed but by King, Lords, and Commons, by way of Bill—If the matter be wrong judgment of other courts, or if the Lords have usurped a jurisdiction, he would have it well enquired into, the Lords daily enlarging their jurisdiction; therefore it being of so great consequence, would have the matter asserted.
The Lords take cognizance of things before them, either by accusation, or impeachment—29 H. VI. Duke of Somerset, and Dutchess of Suffolk, Alice de la Pole, were removed from the King, only because they had an ill same; the people spoke ill of them—But now they take original causes before them without tryal per Pares. —This case concerns only one person, but involves all the Commons of England.
Sir George Carteret (fn. 1).] Gives an account of Granger's counterfeiting orders for debenture moneys into Ireland —His counterfeiting a Patent for a Barony; and a grant of the house-keeper's place at Hampton Court, and brought the keys and a person to take possession of the house, whom he had sold the place to—There was a great scuffle about it, with a northern gentleman (Samuel Bordman) who was the house-keeper, and in possession— When his keys were tryed, never a one would fit—Upon his examination he confessed he had never seen Lord Gerrard, and had done him much wrong, and craved his pardon. This he (Sir George) heard him say.
Col. Birch.] If speaking ill of men must be a cause of turning out (reflecting upon what Mr Seymour last said) who can go free?—He would rather have a lye told of him in a hundred words than in a few; he can sooner disprove the person.
Mr Vaughan.] Supposing all be proved false, then 'tis as great a libel as can be—Then this was brought before the Lords, who say all is proved to be false before them —If it be examined whether this was proved before the Lords, or what conclusions they made upon it; how can we do it?—The witnesses may be dead, or not to be found —This can never be remedied by Bill, nor any way— The very syllables must be proved; it cannot else be asserted to be the same the Lords passed sentence upon.
Sir William Lewis.] Would have a Committee of the Long Robe to enquire into the right of the Commons; how the Lords are used to proceed in matters of Judicature of this nature; that our reasons may be guided by the best helps we can.
Mr Steward.] The Lords have no jurisdiction at the first instance, but it ought to come from the inferior courts. 25 Edward III. in the business of York and Lancaster, the declaratory statute—By way of Bill.
[The Resolution of the Committee being agreed to by the House, the hearing was resolved to be on Tuesday the 3d of March, and a Committee was appointed to search precedents, and to enquire into the privileges of the House.]
Monday, February 24.
Sir Robert Brooke.] Gives an account of a paper sent to him by a person that would give information of the sale of offices, and if he might receive the countenance of the House, would declare his name.
Mr Sollicitor Finch.] Who would have his name up, though afterwards cleared, in the House of Commons? They are dark and doubtful things, when ashamed to be owned—Let not papers come in at your windows to occasion a proclamation upon a man, if any man will accuse him. Si quis, &c.
Should you throw it aside, people would wonder— Should you revive a Committee upon it, you value it too much.—Would have the Committee revived generally, but not upon this occasion—He himself may be libelied for an Undertaker, and thinks a man wants honour and courage that will not subscribe a paper he gives in, or make it appear he is one.
Mr Waller.] Without probabilem causam accusandi et litigandi, an accusation of felony is actionable—Liberty of accusing, and no liberty of calumniating, the security of all rights—Rewards were in the Romens time given to accusers. If the dogs that guarded the Capitol should have set upon and bit all the worshippers that came, none would have come to worship—Would have the Committee revived, but not upon this occasion.
Wednesday, February 26.
The poll-money of the Lords comes to but 6000 l. and of that, 1300 l. paid in—The money granted for the last year's fleet, and none set out, upon computation, would have maintained a fleet of 35,000 men, wear and tear, &c.—Upon computation of those that inspected, 400,000 l. remains unemployed.
Mr Waller.] 'Tis a strange thing that we should put a question, whether we should redeem ourselves from a danger, or no. But the question is, Whether there be an occasion or not?—He thinks more of the money would have remained if the fleet had been set out—The managers of that business not dreaming of accounts, many faults may be found, yet he fears no money will— The council of war (he remembers) and the treasurers of the Palatinate war, gave their account of that money here in the House.—He ever resisted both extremes of giving and not giving; he had no thanks before, and expects to have as little now.
Sir Richard Temple.] Would not be engaged to give by a previous vote, unless we know where to give— The manner, the reason of the thing, and the supply, always debated at the Committee—Before voted, would have the necessity of the thing enquired into, and the money to be found out, and to be put into hands to manage it—Would have it represented to the King, not to put his moneys and affairs into hands that have so miscarried in the management of them—The Dutch cannot reasonably expect an aid from us this year, who the last year were not able to help ourselves—They desire our friendship only—If we save our neighbour's house from fire, it is reasonable we should be paid for it—They want no ships, they outvye the French already —No necessity appears to him that the Dutch must break with us for want of our assistance at sea—Would have the accounts of moneys in bank, and the necessity by the treaty of raising any, stated, and then that it may be done without grinding the face of the people—Would have this determined before any question put.
Sir Ch. Harbord.] If this House had not been, the necessity of money had not been—If you give him not now, you are never like to aid him more—Weakening of ourselves and our allies, is strengthening of our enemies— Flanders must never be in a strong Prince's hand, nor the Sound of Denmark—The Dutch understand well this necessity of state, and do pursue it.
Mr Swynfin.] Would not have the sum exceeded for this summer's fleet, which will set forth, one ship of the first rate, six of the second rate, fourteen of the third rate, twenty-nine of the fourth rate, with 11,000 men for six months, besides the ordnance.
Sir Thomas Osborne.] Would not have the money managed by Commissioners of the House, but deposited in the hands of some of the House—He is for raising the money, that the French may not now embrace the opportunity the Dutch offer us—Would have the manner of raising it, named, before the sum.
Thursday, February 27.
Sir John Morton, and Sir John Fitz-James, brought in a libel, subscribed by a person whom he (Morton) knew, and his hand, subscribed William Constantine, to the mayor of Pool, to this effect, "It grieves him, that those that may, do not help off Taxes; if he be chosen, for the future, he would help it." This was thought a reflection on the Parliament, and a poisoning of the [minds of the] people. Mr Constantine was ordered to be sent for, but not by the Serjeant, only summoned.
Sir Walter Yonge.] Instead of paying 300,000 l. the subject will by this tax pay six; for this must erect an office of excise in every town—If upon wines, we give the King with one hand, and take it from him with the other—Before the additional custom, much more was brought in than now—The excise is now in the customs.
Col. Birch.] We cannot lay this tax of wines in the cellar, because of constant waiting it; but you may enact that wine shall pay so much per pint; if four pence French, it may in one year amount to 100,000 l.; but then it will hinder the consumption for the future—In trade we are already over-ballanced—We want nothing but manufactures; we are most conveniently placed for it—Linnens we have imported to the value of 800,000 l. the year; he drives at settling that manufacture—The farmer starves now things are cheap, the poor when things are dear—This manufacture will remedy both—This would make trade even, and flourish—Would have an impost upon all foreign linnen upon the retailer.
Mr Jones.] By the same reason we impose upon Spanish wines, the King of Spain may impose upon us— The Norwich and Essex trade will be lost—The Dutch case all commodities inwards in the customs, which invites all trade to them.
Col. Birch.] You may lay at the custom-house upon coarse linnen in bales; the poor make most use of that, and none but the poor will bear it—The gross commodities will be only hit, and the extravagancies in fine linnen, not; our enemies cannot advise us better — Would have it raised upon the retailer, without one officer of the army of excise-officers spoken of—Suppose three officers in London, and they to depute five or more Justices in every county, who may compound with every country retailer at two meetings in the year; by this all the army of excise-men [will be] gone.
Mr Swynfin.] The last retailer cannot be found, being retailed from hand to hand; and the duty, where it should be, not to be found—This trade cannot be carried on; in this all shop-books must be exposed, and an officer, to the great hindrance of trade, will know every man's estate; then the chief tradesman, that has the greatest stock, shall get licence, and so trade [be] destroyed—If a man will not compound the duty, he must be forced, and you must have multiplicity of officers—The gentleman buys all at London, and little trade of this nature is driven in the country.
Col. Birch again.] The certainty of the persons retailing, and the value, is as well known as any man's estate upon the poll, and better—Eight parts in ten in other matters are not hit, in this all are—No officer in the case, only the Justices of the neighbourhood to be Commissioners.
Sir William Coventry.] All taxes must have some coercion—In the subsidy and monthly tax the Commissioners do tax traders, and in the subsidy, if over-rated, a man may discharge himself by his oath—All the proceedings will be as by subsidy, only, by this, consined to foreign commodities.—He is for foreign; for nothing will more help the keeping our money than retaliating, if it be true that the French King has banished almost all foreign commodities, by laying great charges upon them—Is retaliation then upon him dangerous?—It is not what we pay in England for, as a nation; that does not impoverish us; it may be, that some particular men may—But money moves within the nation, it goes not out if it prevents the excesses of particular men—Ale, cyder, and cloth, do not hurt us in the excess, like that of linnen and wine—We have more land by improvements of all sorts, as fens drained, woods stocked, wastes inclosed —Our people are not sufficient to consume it, together with the plantations—Therefore to all national effects let this imposition be laid upon foreign commodities.
Friday, February 28.
[Several Informations were given of insolent Carriage and Abuses, committed by persons in many places, in interrupting and disturbing Ministers in their Churches, and holding Meetings of their own, contrary to law.]
Sir Hum. Winch.] Thinks the miscarriage of tickets deserves an Act of Parliament to punish the offenders, by having them made to refund; and would have the poor seamen secured for the future by a method by law. The hazard by these miscarriages so great, that it hazarded our being a nation.
Saturday, February 29.
Mr Vaughan.] The grievance arises from the officers, mean fellows—Justice finds the offence, but seldom the offender, and Justices of the Peace will not meddle, being exposed to the trouble of messengers from the Lord Treasurer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—He would have some of the offenders sent for and punished whilst we are sitting; for multiplying of Laws for it is but multiplying of riddles.
Sir Tho. Allen.] Would not have it voted upon what we should not lay it by way of negative Vote—King James said of the negative confession in Scotland, proposed in his time, that it would be as long as the Bible.
Sir Tho. Lee.] Would have such a rate made upon wines as to extinguish that trade totally—But the way of excise will do us more injury than the money will do the Crown good, by vexatious proceedings of officers.
Sir Robert Howard.] The same officers that do one excise may do the other, and so no multiplying of officers—Presumes we really intend to give money, which the laying it upon the customs will take away from the King as we give—The same officers that search for beer may search for wine, without multiplying any.
Sir Richard Temple.] Excise is a more chargeable way of collection—It creates an army of officers—The King will be certain of the collection of the duty at the customhouse—There were but three excises in Holland for three years, and they have kept it for ever—France, by one for five years, has for ever since been a slave—Hollana consumes little of their own growth, which makes it not so grievous to them.
Mr Sollicitor Finch.] The Act of 12 Car. did lower the rate of the customs, and increased the duty by more coming-in; for before that the estranging of customs was frequent in fine commodities—He looks not upon this tax as only pro bac vice.
Mr Love.] Looks upon the impösition upon the retailer as a Spanish inquisition.—If the shop-keeper denies, the Commissioner will assess him—But 'tis said, an oath will remedy the man; but this is putting trade upon its last legs, that now people cannot get by trading they will do it by swearing—This course will tend to a contrary end, people will drive a night-trade, and be low assessed—A man is not assessed for his gains, but what he visibly trades for.
Most of the merchants are Spanish traders and young men, and they must certainly lay aside one fifth part of their stock for the duty of the trade; so that, unless their friends supply them again, their trade must fall—For these few years most merchants of that trade have not kept up their stocks—The spoiling of this Spanish trade will come home to the country-gentlemen at last.
Sir George Downing.] All new ways prove short of what they are proposed—The Duke's licences come not to 14,000 l. per annum, and affirms that one per cent. would be a better revenue at the custom-house than all that.—He dares say, that for linnens now we shall never get 10,000 l. being assessed by the neighbourhood, who will not assess according to proportion—In this of wines no discouragement to foreign trade, the commodities being already brought in, and what is to come till such a day.
Sir John Knight.] There are 150 thousand ton of shipping in England employed in merchants affairs. —Proposes the owner of the ship to pay 10 or 20 s. per ton, this to be rated upon the owners; the master of the ship, when his voyage is finished, to pay it.
Sir William Coventry.] Against the tonnage, as prejudicial to trade—The Hollanders grow rich by being the universal carriers of the world, and very little consumers. —This will be a great discouragement to navigation, searing the landed gentlemen, which this part consists most of, finding this way of laying it, will for the future do it, and so discourage trade.
[A Committee was appointed to consider, what foreign commodities were fit to receive an additional duty, and to estimate what the same would raise in a year's time, and to inspect the Custom-house books for that purpose.]