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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TO THE READER.
THE Importance of these Debates may be easily conjectured by the Dates from 1667 to 1694; a Period of Time remarkable for the Multitude of Schemes which were formed, the Variety of Events produced, the Diversity of Interests which prevailed; the Struggles between Prerogative and Privilege, the Out-cries of Abhorrence and Prosecution, Efforts against Popery and arbitrary Power, the Number of Plots and Conspiracies, either real or imaginary; Impeachments of Ministers, Attempts to set aside the Heir of the Crown, the Expulsion of a King, and the Re-establishment of the Constitution.
An authentic Representation, therefore, of the Part, which the House of Commons bore in those momentous Affairs, must naturally fix the Attention, and raise the Expectation, of every Man of Fortune in the Kingdom, who desires to view the Gradations of these memorable Events, to trace Revolutions to their Causes, and to know to what Names the Nation is indebted for its Honour and its Liberty: Informations that cannot be easily obtained but from the following Collection; in which the Names of the Speakers are at length, and the Reader is led forward from Day to Day, and from Question to Question, and enjoys the View of all the Variations of that uncertain Time; observes the Birth, the Progress, the Maturity of Designs, sees the Colours of Party change before him, and Patriotism sink in one Year, and rise in another.
Besides the Preference to be given to this Work for its Regularity, its Excellence and Authority will appear from the Character of the Collector, who was a Person of eminent Rank and Distinction, of remarkable Sobriety and Diligence, of strict Honour and Piety, greatly respected in the Senate, and beloved and adored as a Magistrate. He was present at all the Transactions which he relates except a very few, communicated to him by Members, whom he generally names; and as he wrote them without any View of Publication, cannot be supposed to have added or suppressed any thing by Design.
Another Excellence is, the artless and concise Manner of Expression, without Circumlocution, or the Embellishments which even an extempore Discourse might admit; preserving only the naked Arguments, but so as not to conceal the Ability and Spirit of the Speaker.
Together with these Advantages, the Bulk of this Collection is another Recommendation. For, though Brevity is much consulted, it con tains fifty Times more of the secret Deliberations of the House, than all the Accounts of Debates for the same Time yet published; for, were any Part of them genuine, yet, for several Sessions, they have no Debate at all; whereas the Conviction which the Reader here finds that he is not misled, but enters on every Day's real Business, induces him to consider himself present in this active and honourable Assembly, partaking the Ardour and Anxiety of the unbiassed Englishman, and resenting the Subtleties and Evasions of his Opponent.
Thus no Objection can be made to this Work, in Point of Authority, which in former Collections may be doubted, because they appear to have been drawn up for Publication, and might, therefore, be intended for the Service of a Party, and because the Writers were either unknown, or for the most Part obliged to receive their Information from others. But as the honourable Collector of these Volumes set himself the Task of taking the Notes, only for his own Use or Amusement, he was under no Temptation either to suppress or misrepresent any Argument or Occurrence. He appears, indeed, to have been sollicitous that nothing either of greater or less Importance might escape him, and accordingly has preserved the minutest Circumstances at the Bar, though they relate chiefly to private Persons; and of the Precedents, Rules, and Customs of Parliament, perhaps, there is no where to be found so accurate an Account.
For all these Reasons it is imagined that no Compilation can be met with of greater, or of equal Use, for giving Light to the Journals of the Commons, for clearing up the History of the Reign of Charles II. and for shewing the Progress of the Settlement of the Nation at the Revolution.
But notwithstanding the Writer's Diligence and undoubted Integrity, it hath been necessary to make some Insertions, (chiefly from the Journals) for the Sake of the Connection; but that the Reader may not suspect a Design of leading him aside from the Truth, when it is only intended to smooth his Way, every Addition is distinguished from the Words of the Original by being inserted within Crotchets.
Several Notes also are added by the Editor, illustrating from the Histories of the Times, the Characters of the principal Speakers, and explaining (where necessary) the Subject of the Debates. And, that Reference may easily be had to any particular Incident, a large Table of Contents is annexed to the End of the Work, containing, in a regular Series, the Subject of every Debate.