Debates in 1673: November (3rd-4th)

Pages 215-223

Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 2. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.

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In this section

Monday, November 3.

[Debate on Grievances.]

Sir Thomas Meres.] Several Grievances were enumerated the other day—For that of Popery directions were given for a Bill to be drawn, which is near finished—The next Grievance he thinks fit to propose is that of a "Standing army," taken by every one as a "Grievance." Some said it was to land to beat the Dutch (fn. 1); but it turned off, it seems, to take Harwich, as you have been told. He has been informed that they are of no service; the King's treasure is wasted by them, so that aids are asked twice in one year—Loves not to be the first man that moves a thing, but would now form you a Question, "That this Standing Army is a Grievance" The reasons for it—It brings in the billetting of soldiers, against the Petition of Right—The last Session they took five pence from persons to be exempted from quartering soldiers, and now it is raised to sixpence, not only in inns and alehouses, but in private houses (a man's house is his castle) contrary to the privileges of the English subjects—You are told also of Martial Law, made for the governing these men, against all the laws of England. Martial Law has arbitrary principles and arbitrary power—We like not these arbitrary principles in any Councils—This army has the youth of the nation; it debauches them, and fills them with such principles, that towns by them are debauched; common violences they commit; he will only remind you of that at Colchester (fn. 2) and in Surry. Besides the "French League" and "evil Counsellors," this is still a terror in our fears of Popery—If any one of these are left out, it will help to set up the other three—Asks, at last, That this may be voted "a Grievance;"—The others are "Grievances," but the army is a Legion; and, to follow the metaphor, hopes they shall not be choaked in the sea, nor cast away beyond sea, to support this alliance, but disbanded.

Sir Eliab Harvey.] Knows of abundance of Petitions that will be presented you, against these men—If you send them abroad, they must be turned Catholics, and so many sent us back again—Hopes you will vote it "a Grievance."

Mr Secretary Coventry.] Would have you agree upon terms, what is "an Army," and what "a Standing Army"—Knows not why they are called Legions, for among the Romans a Legion was a band of two thousand men—He is unwilling that his country should be exposed; but now you are in a war, thinks not that you intend that the King should fall down, and beg a peace of Holland—They know what your trained bands are, since the business of Landguard point—For the King to raise troops is not against law, but for those troops to be disorderly is against law; but if such a Captain, or company, has done ill without order, it is no "general Grievance"—Two Vintners killed two Gentlemen; shall Vintners therefore be "a Grievance?" Some Merchants robbed upon the highway; must all Merchants therefore be "a Grievance?" The Gentleman is not well informed about Martial Law; it is as it ever was—In Lord Strafford's command, and the Earl of Holland's, when he disbanded the Northern army, and those of Lord Essex's army (we may learn of our enemies) these were compared with all articles, and the best were extracted, and you will find them no French articles—Hopes you will not say, it is not in the King's power to raise men, but let Gentlemen show you any disorders owned by authority, and it is another case—But how will you vote this "a Grievance," when there is no illegality in it, only exorbitances of particular persons? Hopes you will not vote it "a Grievance."

Sir Thomas Lee.] Thought, that, though the practice of accumulative treason against Lord Strafford was condemned, yet his setting up Martial Law was justly disapproved then—The oaths in the articles, he is sure, are not legal—But you are told of "Vintners" and "Merchants," and "that these exorbitances are not allowed;" but if we have no Grievances till they are allowed by Authority, we shall never have any—But they are to have another sort of tryal than other men, and that makes them a terror—You have been told this morning, "that upon their marches they have been quartered in private houses in Hampshire, and that they made people bring out their provisions, or they would take them by force in their marches." They are taught to believe that they may do it; and should you make this Address to the King, he would find it "a Grievance" as well as you—You are now arming the King; nothing disarms him more than these exorbitances—But must these dragoons ride over the sea? We have no wooden horses to carry them, and by this you give the Dutch great advantage—We had success by the militia in 1588; you had no army but them at that time—It has ever been the custom, that when men have been thus raised they have been complained of as "a Grievance," especially we wanting hands and mouths now in the nation; and would now have it voted "a Grievance."

Sir Robert Howard.] Has heard a worthy Knight (Clarges) talk of things he did not understand—What attains your end, and that the King and you may ever be together, would consider as fit to present the King—If it was "a Grievance," possibly the condition of the thing was no Grievance when first raised, and the face of things [may be] now changed, and the use of those people not the same—The Hollanders may think any thing "a Grievance" done against them here—If there be not an intention of "a Standing army," which we know not, it is too hasty a Vote—Would not have any distrust betwixt the King and us, and would give no argument to the King to apprehend it—Present only "an army now in being and no occasion for it;" lay only your duty before his Majesty, "that it may be a terror to the people, as you apprehend," and tread in the easiest steps to him.

Sir Henry Capel.] You have been told how difficult it is for armies and properties to stand together—Is not of that opinion that they are a security to us at home; knows nothing of affairs at abroad—Our security is the militia; that will defend us and never conquer us—Our defence abroad is our ships, the seaman's pay, and peas, and his coarse diet, well given him—Moves to vote this army "a Grievance." Is indifferent whether the army be disbanded now, or after the War—Abroad they are of little use, and at home wholly useless—Therefore would have it "a Grievance."

Lord St. John.] In the former King's time, a much less thing than this was voted "a Grievance;" and now an army in our bowels all this summer and no employment for them, and for the county he serves, [Hampshire] he is particularly obliged to represent it as "a Grievance."

Sir Thomas Clarges.] Howard began his discourse with a reflection upon him, "as meddling in a business he did not understand." If what he said of donatives of four hundred thousand pounds since May last, gave him the occasion, he is ready to prove it by several warrants, if required—At the Restoration of the King, after that army (which was once against him) was disbanded, the King did raise some men to be kept in pay till men's judgments were quieted; but now so many new-raised forces, with their consequences and their demeanours, are such, that it is "a great Grievance"—Will not say it is fit now to disband them all; but at the conclusion of the last War some were made standing regiments, and fears now, after the War, it will be the same again—But the King is not minded of his promises by those that should do it; he is persuaded that the King would do it, but forgets it—But the raising money, and fifteen or sixteen to quarter in a poor alehouse, full of children, is "a Grievance;" and those regiments that did this, the Scotch and Irish regiments, would have them, however, disbanded.

Mr Harwood.] The King has many things laid upon him that he has not done—The King raised not these men but his Counsellors, who have got by these things—How many Addresses against Popery, and yet Papists put into command! He that commands our men in chief is a stranger (fn. 3), and he next in command a Papist (fn. 4) —Cannot wonder at those persons that have spoke against these things as "Grievances." Were he as they, possibly he should say so too; but they cannot think so—We are come to that pass, that no Law can restrain these people; houses taken from us, our lives in danger; he cannot say one has suffered death by them, but some have been soundly swinged—Would vote it a "Grievance."

Sir Robert Carr.] No man can say, that a Standing army, in a time of peace, was ever attempted—Most of the forces were about Norfolk and Suffolk, where the Dutch have attempted landing—Your Addresses formerly were "to disband them, when the war should be ended," and will you now do it "the war in being?" It is not for your service—Some persons gave this six-pence a day to the soldiers, by their own choice, to avoid quartering—The articles, mentioned, are only to keep them in order—If you will make an Address to the King, and not a Grievance till redressed, he is not against it.

Sir Richard Temple.] The practice of these men is "a Grievance"—He knows no Law that can empower them to raise money; the continuance of them will be more "a Grievance," and what is an oppression, is "a Grievance"—Would have it voted only, "that the billetting and continuance of them is a Grievance," but not "the raising them."

Sir Nicholas Carew.] These new-raised forces are but raw men; the Militia is full as serviceable.

Mr Powle.] Answers Mr Secretary Coventry—Whatever body of men are raised for no use, are "a Grievance;" he thinks "the raising them a Grievance"—These forces were not raised for the war, but the war made for raising these people—He is no soldier, but has conversed with such as are, and they hold a descent into Zealand impossible; for the enemy might, at any time, get betwixt them and the land with their fleet, and, if landed, hinder recruits—They are glad that the Militia may be useless, and the Gentlemen that serve in it are put upon chargeable employments, but in Chatham business were not thought fit to command them; which has been such a discouragement, that many have laid down their commissions: When money or honour [was] to be got, then they were put out of command—As for the fleet, we are in a naval war, at least we are told so, and hopes it so, but the money is all spent upon land soldiers—You know that in your (fn. 5) Office, the seamen are not paid; the money being diverted to pay those landmen. Part of those men are drawn out of Ireland, and the Papists, last Session, were grown formidable there—Why are they not sent back thither? We desire them not here, and they want them there—Our Laws to be thus awed! The Law of England will protect the King—Knows not what these men will do; but the veteran bands, at last, chopped, and changed, and sold the Roman Empire—The King himself may be no longer King, but at the choice of this army—Let the soldiers be paid, and you may have them again when you will—Quartering of soldiers, or buying them off, is an intolerable oppression—Why should an Alehouse-keeper, a subject, buy off his oppressions? Soldiers to present their muskets in the face of a Court! Would have it voted "a Grievance."

Colonel Kirby.] Hears it said, "that these men were raised to no purpose." Had you not had landmen, you would have had none to man your guns, and they would have been much put to it; but for our regiment, you might have had no fleet—Before you move the King for disbanding, consider how you will maintain the war.

Colonel Birch.] Kirby has given you the greatest reason imaginable for disbanding these men; he calls the men aboard a ship, "our regiment;" and he commands none of the new-raised men—He has ever told you, that this war was against the grain of the people, and then against their interest, and we were prorogued on, till the war was so far entered into, that we could not come out of it —No people can be governed but by perfect love, or perfect fear—We are asked, "why this army is a Grievance now, and not when we were here last?"—We saw not then what we see now. He saw them at Blackheath with their swords drawn; it terrified him then, but, thank God, he is pretty well recovered since he came into the House—If this vote makes the Dutch insolent, "giving Money" will be the consequence, and then all is well—The great River of Babylon was cut into small rivulets, and that destroyed the City, when nothing else could; so has our Money been diverted, he fears—Would have the Standing Army voted "a Grievance."

Resolved, That the Standing Army is a Grievance.

Sir Thomas Meres.] Moves that some Gentlemen may draw [up] an Address to the King, showing "in what manner" this army is "a Grievance."

[A Committee was appointed accordingly.]

[In the afternoon Mr Speaker reports, That, in pursuance of their commands, he had read, and presented to his Majesty, the Address of the House, concerning his Royal Highness's Match with the Princess of Modena; and that his Majesty was pleased to declare, "That it was a matter that he would take into his present consideration, and return a speedy Answer."]

Tuesday, November 4.

After the Speaker, who came not to the House till ten of the clock, though the House was the day before adjourned to eight, had been called to the Chair by a great voice, he at last took the Chair; and then Sir Robert Thomas moved to take into consideration the business of "evil Counsellors, as "a Grievance," hinted the other day, and would name one, "the Duke of Lauderdale (fn. 6)." The word was no sooner out of his mouth, but the [Usher of the] Black Rod knocked at the door, and the Serjeant gave notice of it to the Speaker, who forbade Sir Robert proceeding any farther (fn. 7).

[The King, in a short Speech, informed them of "his intentions to make a short recess, that all good men might recollect themselves;" and added, "and consider whether the present posture of affairs would not rather require their application to matters of Religion, and support against our only competitors at sea, than to things of less importance."]

The Parliament was then prorogued by his Majesty to


  • 1. See p. 208.
  • 2. See p. 206.
  • 3. Count (afterwards Duke) Schomberg, killed at the battle of the Boyne, in 1690.
  • 4. Earl of Feversham, a Frenchman by birth, and nephew to Marshal Turenne.
  • 5. The Speaker's.
  • 6. The Duke of Lauderdale had been for many years a zealous Covenanter: But in 1647 he turned to the King's interest; and had continued a prisoner all the while after Worcester fight, where he was taken. He was kept for some years in the Tower of Leader, in Portland Castle, and in other prisons, till he was set at liberty by those who called home the King. He was very learned, not only in Latin, in which he was a master, but in Greek and Hebrew. He was a man, (as the Duke of Buckingham called him to me) of a blundering understanding. He was haughty beyond expression, abject to those he saw he must stoop to, but imperious to all others. He had a violence of passion, which carried him often to fits like madness, in which he had no temper. He was the colded friend, and the violentest enemy I ever knew. He at first seemed to despise wealth; but he delivered himself up afterwards to luxury and seniuality. He was in his principles much against Popery and arbitrary government; and yet, by a fatal train of passions and interests, he made way for the former, and had almost established the latter; and whereas some, by a smooth deportment, made the first beginnings of tyranny less discernible and unacceptable; he, by the fury of his behaviour, heightened the severity of his Ministry, which was liker the cruelty of an Inquisition than the legality of Justice. With all this, he was a Presbyterian, and retained his aversion to King Charles I. and his party to his death [which happened in 1682.] Burnet. Many years after his death there was published a translation by him of Virgil's Æneid, which had been shewn in MS. to Dryden, and from which he has borrowed many lines.
  • 7. The Address (agreed to the day before) was to have been presented this afternoon; but the King disappointed all by coming unexpectedly to the House of Lords, and ordering the Commons to attend him. It happened that the Speaker and the Usher both met at the door of the House of Commons, and the Speaker being got within the House, some of the Members suddenly shut the door, and cried out, "To the Chair! To the Chair!" while others cried, "The Black Rod is at the door." The Speaker was immediately hurried to the Chair, and then it was moved, 1. That our Alliance with France was a Grievance. 2. That the evil Counsellors about the King were a Grievance. And 3. That the Duke of Lauderdale was a Grievance, and not fit to be trusted or employed in any office or place of trust. Upon which there was a general cry, "To the Question! To the Question!" But the Black Rod knocking earnestly at the door, the Speaker leaped out of the chair and the House rose in great confusion. Echard What a dreadful picture have we here of the disorders of these times! Though there was sufficient cause for a close enquiry into the state of the nation, and a firm opposition to the favourite views of the Court; and though the alliance with France, and the ruin of Holland, were equally inconsistent with the interest and safety of England; yet surely such violence and fury, without any previous remonstrances or endeavours to bring the Court to reason, more resembled the turbulence of a faction, than the regularity and decorum of a Senate. Ralph. Next1 day a Sermon was to have been preached before them by Dr. Stilling fleet. And Oldmixon asserts, "That some time this Session, a wooden shoe, such as the peasants wear in France, with the arms of England drawn at one end of it, and those of France at the other, with these words in the interval, Utrum borum mavis accipe, was laid in the House, near the Speaker's Chair."