Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 4. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Saturday, March 10.
Mr Powle reports the Address resolved March 6, relating to the growing greatness of the French King.
Sir William Coventry.] He would not have this Address sent up to the Lords, to have it mangled there, and so create a difference betwixt us—But let us go on with speed here with things which else will go on but slowly (without this Address) our safety so much depending upon it.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] He is afraid of this Address in the Lords House, that it should receive alterations, as it must be sent up with a blank to be filled up. But now 'tis voted, you cannot change the quality of the paper.
Resolved, That the concurrence of the Lords be desired to the said Address.
The Address was accordingly sent up for the Lords concurrence, and was as follows:
"We your Majesty's most loyal Subjects, the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses, in Parliament assembled, find ourselves obliged, in duty and faithfulness to your Majesty, and in discharge of the trust reposed in us by those whom we represent, most humbly to offer to your Majesty's serious consideration, That the minds of your people are much disquieted with the manifest danger arising to your Majesty's Kingdoms by the growth and power of the French King; especially by the acquisitions already made, and the farther progress likely to be made by him, in the Spanish Netherlands; in the preservation and security whereof, we humbly conceive, the interest of your Majesty, and the safety of your people, are highly concerned: And therefore we most humbly beseech your Majesty to take the same into your Royal care, and to strengthen yourself with such stricter Alliances as may secure your Majesty's Kingdoms, and preserve and secure the said Netherlands, and thereby quiet your Majesty's people."
Monday, March 12.
Mr Love brought in a Petition from the Brewers of London, [and Westminster,] against the additional duty of Excise, as ruinous to their trade, and the consumption of malt, &c.
The Speaker said] This Petition is against Law, (but reading the printed Statute concerning Petitions, said,) The Print does not agree with the Roll—(For there it was otherwise.)
Mr Secretary Williamson.] For any person without doors to take notice of what you are doing within doors, is not to be offered in a Petition, nor so much as touched at here—The catalogue of names they pretend have been ruined by the additional duty—Moves you would not let it pass to the Committee.
Sir William Coventry.] Will speak to the regularity of bringing in the Petition, objected against. It is objected, it seems, that they thwart or interpose in the matter of Supply. They do not petition whether the King shall have a Supply; but that the thing is detrimental to the Public. They have other grounds than rumours concerning this of the additional duty; they have the King's Speech printed, that calls it a revenue. And as to the regularity of taking notice of it here, he speaks for instruction to himself; his borough (Yarmouth) apprehends something to be destructive to them. Shall not he send to his Borough about it? The matter of red Herrings is particular to his Borough of Yarmouth— Suppose an imposition on Salt, a thing necessary to their livelihood, &c. And may not he send to them, without offence, to know what may be destructive to them in such a case? The Petition of the Brewers is justifiable, and he sees not matter or form in it irregular, and they may not be abridged of those liberties. It is their birth right.
Mr Love.] He did not tender the Petition with intent to disturb the House. He has had it in his pocket this week, and he thought it fitter for this House to reject it than himself.
It was referred to the Committee.
In a Grand Committee on farther Supply. Sir Richard Temple in the Chair.
The Brewers Petition was read.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] This Committee is to take into consideration that part of the King's Speech relating to the Supply. He desires in it a continuation of the additional duty of Excise. His affairs are such as require the kindness of his people at present. When all things shall be considered, there is nothing more easy for the people than this of Excise, though 'tis not without its troubles. He moves a continuation of the additional duty of three pence upon small beer, and six pence upon strong beer and ale, on the barrel, for three years more.
Sir John Ernly.] He hopes you will think this a moderate request, when you are told the King asks nothing else, and expects it not as a Revenue. His Revenue is strait, and his condition is so too. His debts are great, and he hopes one time or another to conquer them too. This of the additional Excise, &c. was granted for a debt, and the King has paid that debt, as far as the Excise would go. The rebellion of Virginia has cost the King 100,000 l. Algiers and several other things make his Revenue fall short, and he hopes you will not think this a great matter, when you take nothing but from those men who have been raised to the greatest estates of any sort of men by the Excise—Then this is but an addition of nine pence, and he knows not an easier way than this to raise the money. He knows not else how it can be laid more easily. 'Tis a modest request of the King, and he hopes you will not deny it.
The Speaker taking the Chair upon a Message from the Lords,
Sir Thomas Meres said,] The motions before made at the Committee are as of six days old, and must be renewed at the Committee, as if never made.
Sir Richard Temple.] It gives no interruption.
Sir Robert Carr.] Moved for the Excise, again; and so did Sir John Ernly.
Sir Thomas Meres.] This is a complete Question. 1st, If you will continue this additional duty on the Excise at all. And, 2dly, for what time. He should be glad if we never had either Question. But he should have them put in order, if they must be put. But he would not at all have it continued. His first reason he has against it is that which Ernly gave for it. "Because it is so easy," he fears 'twill be a continuance, and so be nailed upon us and our posterlty. Land tax goes hard, but when we give it, it breaks off in time. 'Tis said, "this of Excise is paid insensibly, and therefore let it pass." But therefore let it not pass. Children take aloes with sugar, to swallow it the easier. Rents do fall, and because the Excise is not a plain reason of it, therefore is it none at all? This is an enemy that lies sculking behind the hedge, and may prevent another Session of Parliament, if we give it now. "If no money-business, then prorogue the Parliament." In this Government, as it is, nothing can keep great Ministers in awe but Parliaments—No man will tell him, that a Parliament is for nothing but giving money. The Excise, &c. has got the reputation of "a Revenue" in the King's Speech, and so printed in the King's Speech. 1,300,000l. was given (by it) to pay debts, and build ships, not for "a Revenue." And he would not give it again for the purpose of "a Revenue." Now we have given money upon land, for building of ships; never done before. Though for ships, so vital a matter, yet little obligation upon us for payment of debts—'Twas once given for debts, and shall we do so again? And still debts are not paid, and so ad infinitum. At the same time that this additional duty upon the Excise was given, there was twelve pence in the pound upon land, and that debt was never lessened, and no more ships were built. 1,200,000l. was given for a War with Holland, and half of it was sufficient to discharge that War, it ended so soon, and yet no debt was paid. He sees, give how you please, here is 1,500,000l. debt not paid. Possibly he may be answered by those that keep the books, which he understands not, and they do their own figures. This Excise, &c. will be a double tax on land. Those that live here, perhaps, find it not. The Petition is ready to avow "600,000 quarters of corn less expended, after this additional duty granted;" and we must abate rent, when the product cannot be wasted. He supposes the Question will be, "Whether to continue this duty of Excise," and he will give his negative to it.
Sir William D'oyly.] The subject has advantage by this additional duty of Excise. As to the Act of exportation of corn, he appeals, whether any man of five pounds per ann. gains not by it. The King has deducted out of his Customs 80,000l. for abatements, according to that Act. He moves "that we may continue the additional duty, &c." that the King may continue his favour to us in this particular of transportation of corn.
Mr Garroway.] None but know how vexatious the Excise is in the country, being taken double by the officers. 'Tis burthensome, not only in the manner of collecting it, but money slips from you more insensibly than in any thing. He fears this granting it for longer time may be usage upon you, as the Custom upon the currency in the late King's time. Where the Judges found the King in possession, they could not dispossess him; as in Alderman Chambers's case. He is not against the King's Supply for his occasions, but he fears this will be turned into a Revenue. No body desires to streighter the King, but these are his fears, and therefore what you give, give in a day, to have occasion thereby, for your meeting again to supply the King with money; lest there shall be no occasion for your meeting, when there is none for money. Moves therefore "against giving Excise, &c."
Mr Vaughan.] The reason given by Meres against the Excise, is "That it smiles in your face, and cuts your throat"—To convert temporary aids into a Revenue—Either the Treasury is so full as to require no aids, or if not, the Prince puts as divine justice and protection to subjects—remuneration. As Corporations entitle themselves to many things by usage and custom, so the Crown may do to grants in Parliament repeated. Wools, and Woolfells, in Richard II's time.—'Twas a great while before the people could get their right again. Their right is to give, and the King to take. This of Wool, &c. was granted in 9 Richard II. only betwixt Christmas and Candlemas, to interrupt the King's claim of it as due; but, notwithstanding, there are two precedents that they were extorted. Henry V's tonnage and poundage were granted for life, but not an example for years. The greater felicity we now have, perhaps the greater infelicity hereafter—We stand not upon this for ourselves only, but posterity. 1 King James, Subsidies (Customs) were granted. 1 Char.Not only Counsel, but the Judges, found out a new title to it. If the laws cannot divest what is illegally vested in the Crown, property is but a sound. The true support of the prerogative of the Crown is honour and justice. Many Bills are contracts from the people— Had not this obligation been overlooked, the subjects would not have been so cautious in the manner, nor parsimonious in the matter, of their aids: Though this Parliament has not been so. This of Excise is one of the worst things this Parliament has done, having taken the precedent from the democratical government, and he is not for the continuance of it.
Mr Powle.] Would not be too liberal of the purses of the people, but when necessity requires; and there is not a necessity when the King is in Peace, and lives upon his ordinary Revenue; and in War, and, on extraordinary occasions, he has recourse to the people for Supply. But when we do otherwise, we destroy the Government. The Question is singly, "Whether the King's Revenue be not sufficient for the charge of the Government, now in time of Peace." He has reason to believe the ordinary Revenue super-abundant. The single Question is, "Whether the Revenue be more plentiful than in former ages, and the necessity of the Crown greater"—He has some reason to believe the present Revenue sufficient, &c. but the King's Speech calling it "a Revenue," he is not well informed in it. 1,200,000 l. per ann. is the ordinary Revenue. He has a paper, and he believes it a true copy, out of the Privy Council book, "That, 22d of July, 1668, 'twas proposed in the Council that all the Revenue might be cast up, and the officers of the Revenue were consulted in it." The charge upon the Revenue was then 740,000l. (and 40,000l. is since gone off by the death of the Queen Mother.) The provision for the houshold, the summer and winter guard at sea, included. This last summer the King's houshold expence was reduced—Scarce honourable for a private person—No winter, nor summer sea-guards, and our ships taken away in our ports, and 300,000 l. per ann. additional Revenue—Would know what becomes of all the rest of the Revenue? Will there not be 500,000l. a year to live upon, and no need of these retrenchments of his family? He believes that the King is so informed of his Revenue, that he must call for Aids, &c. But if we burthen the people thus in Peace, what shall we do in War? It seems there are some bye channels that convey away this Revenue. He would have a reason given him of these things. A learned French Lawyer tells us, "That the first grants of Aids in France were only temporary Supplies, and were perpetuated for ever after; as in Charles VII's and Lewis XI's time. Charles VII. prayed a law of the States to order him to raise money but till their next meeting, and that neither unless there were occasion; which the Parliament, by inadvertency, granted, and have never met since. Upon the whole, he must give his Negative to "the continuation of this duty of Excise."
Sir John Ernly.] Powle says; "That the Revenue now is greater than in the late King's time." But when you see the particulars of that Revenue, possibly 'twill be found as great as the present Revenue. But we must consider what infinite vast defalcations there are in it. But he affirms, that for some years, of late, the necessary expences of the Crown exceed the Revenue. 'Tis said, "this of the additional duty upon Excise was given to pay debts and build ships, and no debts have been paid, nor ships built." But some debts are paid, and the King sincerely professes he will pay the rest, and he has built as able ships, and does exceed his predecessors in number. But there is no setting up of offices (as is said) which divert this Revenue. In Edward III's time, though there was a discontinuance of the tax upon Wools and Woolfells, yet they were granted again in the same Parliament—Having done nothing for the King this Session but for your own safety, what is desired of you is moderate—And if you grant not the Excise for three years, you do the King no good, and leave him in the greatest exigency.
Mr Powle.] He takes it, that the King is bound by his royalty to protect his people almost always; is sure, generally, and not particularly, in the safety of the sea. But, he fears, such wastes are made in the King's Revenue, and it is diverted to other purposes, that it may come to more than this grant. The first matter of charge upon it is pensions charged upon the Customhouse, and some to persons formerly not acceptable to this House (fn. 1). A custom is introduced now of pensions paid by officers of the Revenue, and not out of the Exchequer, where pensions are to be paid in the last place. But now if any thing wants, 'tis the public, and not private persons, and he hears that of pensions is a great sum. The next is petty farms of the Customs—And particularly men are not to be gratified out of the public money. He has a copy of a grant in 1674—The great Patent of Smalt, Pot-ashes, and Barillia (fn. 2) (out of consideration of services past) to the Earl of Kinnoul. And it grants all the duty arising, or which shall be, by patent for thirty one years, for the payment of 240l. per ann. to the King, which is worth 1000l.—The King is deceived in his grant; and perhaps, what we now give may be to the benefit of private persons, as this Patent is. Next would have it considered, whether there have not been great and extraordinary bounties in these great exigencies for money; 30,000l. given away at one clap, and because the Commissioners of the Customs would not do it, they were turned out to make way for them that would. Other bounties of the like kind. Before we give more, we ought to give the King what we have given.
Sir Thomas Meres.] 'Tis granted that the King's debts are not paid, but as for ships, 600,000l. was given to build us some ships. The last Session the Revenue was valued at 1,500,000l.
Sir William Coventry.] The regulation of the Revenue (spoken of) by the Lords of the Council, is that which calls him up. He was once one of the Commissioners of the Revenue—And was ever of opinion that 'twas for the interest of the King and People, that the expences of the Crown should be within as reasonable bounds as may be, and was then willing to reduce the King's expences—Because no man can tell you that thing, as perhaps he can. The grounds of reducing the expences then were, that the King had run into a very great debt, and in this House 'twas said, "What it had given the King was put into a bottomless bag" The Commissioners of the Treasury, to remove that doubt, considered how to take it away. The thing was great, and not out of memory, though he has no paper of it here. The Revenue was one Million. The Steps the Commissioners went by were, regulating the expences to 740,000 l. per ann. The Question was how to pay a debt of a Million, and 40,000l. So that the present expence was 700,000l. They went on this ground—That regulation was not made, because the King's convenience required no more. But they must cut the coat according to the cloth—The King must pinch so as to live upon this, to redeem his credit—No man in a private family but provides for events—They thought the Government not to be maintained without the King's credit, if they borrowed not of one to pay another. There was no credit: (The shutting up of the Exchequer was not thought of.) 150,000l. due for interest—But offices were to be pinched; the guards and garrisons were not, for they, if not paid, it was feared, would pay themselves, and they must not (the most of all others) be put to a strait. There was not left out of this Regulation, for the King's bounty, 100,000l. So that if half the King's Revenue might be lived upon, there was enough for occasion—He fears this of the Excise will work more on land than we think; but whether on this or that brewer, is not our concern; but if the brewer has not his profit one way, he will have it another. They will certainly make drink smaller, and thereby Barley will fall at the Market, by the less Consumption, and land must sink. He has been in the Country these five years, and has observed that the last year was not very plentiful. Three or four, or more people, of good estates, who had their land in their hands, affirmed, that the fourth part of their crop was wanting; but still corn was as cheap; (It may be said, brewing with sugar may be one reason, but that was not much) and so this duty upon the Excise will still influence the land. He must give his negative to this, given for Aid, but avowed as "a Revenue" in the King's Speech in print, and it is as good authority as from any Gentleman here. We have seen Gentlemen here undertake to secure you from Land-tax, and were afterwards able to perform it, and did great things. Sir Thomas Clifford, afterwards Lord Treasurer, said here, "Once more give Land-tax, and I will secure you from ever hearing of Land-tax, or ever hearing of debts again." When this of Excise was made a Revenue, though the Exchequer was full enough, without consent of Parliament, a Declaration was put out, to stop the payments, which this House sufficiently expressed itself sensible of. This of the Excise is an unfortunate Revenue with such untoward circumstances—And he would see a little farther how the Address concerning France will succeed, before we give such a considerable matter out of our hands. If the King do any thing in that Address, in order to the safety of the people, who can tell what that may draw upon us, whether War or not? And he would have salve, out of this very thing that set the King of France on horseback, to cut his stirrups by it, and pull him down again, by this reserve of the Excise, when he is put to a stand, or is alone, or any thing else happens—'Tis prudence to keep something in reserve—something to assist the King with. There are two ways of bringing the expence of the Crown conformable to the Revenue. But he knows nothing particular of the Revenue, but believes it 1,200,000 l. per ann. which may afford plentiful provision for all things. Speaking long is painful to him, and tedious to you, and he will trouble you no farther; but for these reasons he must give his Negative to the "continuation of this additional duty on the Excise."
Sir William Coventry, occasionally by what fell from Downing, said,] He must infinitely applaud the Administration of them that managed the King's Revenue, to make the King spend 14 out of 1200,000l. per ann. The King could hardly run 400,000l. out upon credit. This is not the expence of War, but disbursements —The army disbanded, and the navy dismissed, and the arrears of Poll money, and the Tax to receive. But the natural expence to be 1,400,000l. per ann! He could not have believed it, but by so good authority for it as Downing. The regulation of the King's revenue in Council, a reserved 400,000l. per ann. for emergencies—In July after he was removed, but what after that was done, he knows not, but he has heard those regulations were passed by, and greater expences followed.
Mr Neale.] He hears it said, "That the continuing this additional duty upon the Excise will lower Corn, and in consequence will affect land, by hindering the consumption of Corn." But he will convince you, by experience, of the contrary—Barley has borne as good a price since the additional duty, &c. as for twenty years last past. The consumption of it arises from this: Beer and Ale ever since have been so strong, the Brewers else would have lost their customers. So the consumption is as much as before. He has found it by woeful experience. He lost 9,000l. in one year by brewing smaller drink. To the convenience, or inconvenience, 'tis said, "the retailer is unconcerned in some countries, they selling by what measure they will"—Though it is not so about London. If the victualler and retailer have it at the same price from the Brewer, the customer has it so too. When the duty was first laid, drink was cheap, it being looked upon only as a temporary Act, and no clause in it that makes it otherwise, and the charge was wholly upon the Brewer, and the drink still had the same strength and goodness. 'Tis objected "that some Brewers make their customers pay more since the duty, &c." but they are such as by their debts must be kept in good order. But able customers never paid nine-pence on six-shilling Beer, but that bears so small a proportion, 'tis not worth naming. Upon the whole he has made it out, that, now Corn is cheap, Beer may well bear this duty, &c.
Col. Birch.] Neale has made it out so clea, "by his own experience," he tells you, &c. When a gentleman of his activity and management lost in three years 10,000l. it makes him afraid of the rest. He finds this on a Brewer's book, "that since the nine-pence upon the barrel, &c. there has been much less drink spent, and 6000 quarters of Malt less than before spent". How much within the kingdom is less spent, he leaves you to judge. Consider this year's exportation. Suppose 80,000 quarters of Corn. Exportation of Beer and Corn too cannot make out the conclusion as Neale does. Twelve-pence turns three or four hundred weight in the scales. This duty cannot be borne, without the ruin of the Brewers, and hindering consumption of Corn. Another gentleman told you, "it was an easy way of raising the money," and therefore moved to grant it. It has been told him, he has been so free formerly, and what ails him now? He was here when the Convention solemnly debated the thing, and it was then said 1,200,000l. per ann. was a convenient Revenue to maintain the government. He was so convinced then of it, that he thought it his duty to acquiesce; and, out of that, extraordinary occasions and building ships might be done too. Clifford told you (he remembers) "Give this duty of Excise, and you shall never be troubled with Land-Tax more;" and was likely to make good what he said. And he concurred, out of the intention of his soul, that the King should be easy, to fetch him out of his debts. But it was when he paid interest upon interest, and he appeals to you if ever we can see the bottom of that debt, and what cost the King 600,000l. might have been honourably and victoriously done with 400,000l. Another thing he has been forced to take the word of honourable persons (fn. 3) for, viz. That the navy has cost the King 400,000l. per ann. and had you seen winter guards, 20,000l. per mensem must have done it, and summer guards 40,000l. per mensem. But the water has been stopped before it came to the mill. Eight, nine, or ten thousand pounds upon petty farms of the Customs. Were such sums ever known, contrary to express laws, to come to private hands, and the Patent upon our Coals which makes your seamen? That the King must strip himself of tables at Court, to set up other mens tables—These are things which dishonour the whole kingdom. When he saw this money given for debts, then comes the additional duty upon Excise, and the French wine, and that begat the French alliance, and we went into a War with Holland, without advice of Parliament: Had it not been for this, would ever the Parliament have advised that the French King should see our ports, and a conjunction with him? And had other things hit, we should never have had Parliaments—And these men are left to govern affairs, who should have been called to account for this, if men were not out of their wits—Therefore he would not go into the same snare again—Some think this a kind of mistrust of the King, but whence did that bear date? From that time what Prorogations of the Parliament have we had !—He would ask the Question, whether we have not the same Council still, that entered us into the French league? Can any man believe that those persons have less strength? At our last meeting, we would have given the King twenty ships, and we were in no danger, and now we are in the same danger as then, and must give thirty. Would therefore know what the meaning of our Prorogation fifteen months was—This is not the intention of the King— But when the House meet, (perhaps what he says here is repeated to the King, and would the King heard him!) his mark he sets up is, the King and people to be all of a piece—He fears none yet will deliver him from one sort of French; and he fears not the other—There are forty ways better then this—But to call the additional duty of Excise "a Revenue!" If Corn be cheap, every thing comes down in the price accordingly, and, if it were not for exportation, it comes to nothing. He would have it understood that the King can never want money, when he has need of it—But make "no farther continuation of this duty upon Excise, &c." to increase new jealousies among the people.
Sir John Morton.] He believes that Neale has lost by brewing, formerly, and now he gains; but believes that it is by something else.
Sir George Downing.] There is not one clear proposition in what Birch said as to Barley. In R. II's. time, the interruption of the Customs upon Wool and Woolfells, was but an interval of five days, ex abundante cautelâ. The giving this duty upon Excise, but seven years ago, cannot be construed so as to be a Revenue. The duty cannot commence, but by consent of the people in Parliament. It is said to be "a Land-Tax". But any tax affects land, and may affect your land more than this does. In Virginia, the King has a considerable loss. The neglect of one year's planting there, by reason of the rebellion, is a very considerable dimunition of the King's revenue.
Sir George Hungerford.] Jestingly desired the Question might be—"That the Excise might be continued for three years, for payment of Pensions, and nothing else".
Resolved, That, for a farther Supply to his Majesty, the additional duty of Excise be continued for three years, 189 to 156. [Agreed to by the House (fn. 4).]
Tuesday, March 13.
The Bill for releasing the Counties, &c. from all Wages due to Members, &c. was read the first time.
Mr Powle.] Now there is so great an arrear run into by Boroughs to their Burgesses, that the payment will be inconvenient to many, and will ruin some; and may have such an influence that if the Borough will not make such a man an Officer, or chuse such a man Member, &c, they will sue them for Wages, and so they may be subjected to particular persons. As to what's objected "of a Parliament every year," the sum may be as great in Wages, but then it will be in different hands. But now the whole arrear is in one man's hands. He conceives the inconvenience is so great, that he would give the Bill a second reading.
Sir John Birkenhead.] 'Tis dishonourable in the House to do this, when no Petition is sent from any Borough to desire it, representing it as prejudicial to them. Let them that desire it have that self-denying ordinance, Boroughs complaining not of it. The best remedy for the fears of the Boroughs is, for every man to forgive the Wages they owe him. The loss of Wages is the only punishment the law has made for the absence of Parliament-men from their attendance. He fears there is a worse end in it, that men should be posted who are against the Bill. We may, by the next post, oblige our Boroughs, by a letter, to release Wages, without this Bill, and, he supposes, that unless we demand Wages by a writ, after the Session is over, we cannot have it.
Sir Henry Ford.] When he considers letters sent to the Borough he serves for, by eighteen great men, for some persons perhaps no better men than himself, most that are for this Bill, he observes, were not for taxing the people; they would ease the people as well as themselves, and would ease them by their own gift.
Sir Thomas Meres.] There is a jealousy that you will take Wages, if you throw the Bill out, and it will be very ill taken by those you represent.
Mr Crouch.] He never received Wages for the place he serves for, and never will: But the Bill is not fit to pass. Will you take away any man's land? Why will you take away his Wages?
Mr Boscawen.] The Bill was ordered to be brought in, and wonders at the motions to throw it out. Some are not paid, who have been here from the beginning; others have not an equal foundation, who came in but lately. Would have the Bill read a second tiine, and then Gentlemen may bring in particular Provisoes, if they please, for themselves.
Sir Philip Warwick.] He is unwilling to make incision upon a standing law of the nation, and "because Corporations may have an awe upon them, by the Wages they owe Gentlemen, therefore that it will be so", is no reason for it. He moves that as many Gentlemen as will may release their Wages.
Sir Richard Temple.] Would have the Bill go, without a day for a second reading. 'Tis a reflection on the House, to discharge the Wages by law; but he would have it a free-will offering. It looks as if the House would have taken it, and you make an Act to restrain it.
Mr Powle.] Consider how an action at law stands; when men have right of action, it may, if inconvenient, be taken away—As the Act of Oblivion, and the late Act of Pardon; and it is the same as in Acts of Limitation, for the inconvenience of disquieting possessions; and so right of action is taken away.
Mr Swynfin.] If you think of casting this Bill out, then he would have a Bill brought in to make a law that Wages shall be taken—He is sure, now the thing is here in question, it will put such an awe upon Corporations. for fear of having Wages called for, who never thought of it before, that he thinks it a point of honesty in the House to declare they will not call for Wages from the Corporations, who else would be so universally deceived in so much expectation they should not pay Wages. If we should now lay aside this Bill, it would be scarce honourable, or honest. These eighty or hundred years Wages have been scarce received, and now, that, for fourteen years and upwards, Members have not called for any, this is an intimation between man and man that they will never call for it. As if no Rent has been paid for eighty years, and now we will fall on with all that weight. It is an implied promise, that they will not be called for, and that they are forgiven; and the throwing out the Bill will revive a jealousy that they will be demanded. That which obliges Corporations, in this, must oblige as the King's Act, by Act of Grace, by taking away the punishment of penal laws. You would take it as a danger, if asked and denied.
Sir Thomas Lee.] He knows not how long the Parliament will last, and he knows not how his executors will deal with the Borough he serves for, when he is dead; and therefore he is for the Bill.
Mr Waller.] By this Bill, we ask the Lords leave to be bountiful to the people; by making it a law, we do it. We have ordered money for the servants here that attend us—He had rather forty times give it to the Boroughs, than ask the Lords leave. Some in the House are so poor, and some of the Boroughs so rich, that to force men not to take Wages would not be equal justice.
The Lords sent to desire a Conference, whereupon
Mr Sacheverell] Moved, That the Debate might be adjourned.
Sir Thomas Lee.] The House is not adjourned, but in case you agree to a Conference; and then you go on in the Debate where you left off.
The Conference from the Lords, reported by Sir William Coventry: "That the Lords do fully concur with the House of Commons, in the matter of the Address sent up to their Lordships on Saturday last; and do only apprehend, that it may not altogether answer the ends designed; their Lordships very much doubting this Address may not sufficiently encourage his Majesty to pursue the necessary methods for compassing so great a work, unless the humble advice of his two Houses be backed with such assurances as may let the world see, that if our security cannot be attained by such Alliances as his Majesty shall think fit to make, nothing will be left unattempted to procure it, by our utmost assistances."
"The Lords do farther offer to your consideration, that the words "and in Sicily" be added after the word "Netherlands" in the fourteenth line (fn. 5), and in the twenty second line, after the same word, may be added "and Sicily;" it being of great importance to our trade, that Sicily be not in the hands of the French King".
Debate on the Conference.
Sir John Mallet.] He would agree with the Lords as to "Sicily;" to that Amendment, but not to the other.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The first part of the Conference, is an intimation of what they would have done, rather than an Amendment of ours. He supposes they have left it to you, but as to "Sicily," 'tis regular, by the line cited, and he has not seen the same done before.
Sir William Coventry.] No man can think him backward in a thing of this nature. He wonders at the Lords inserting "Sicily". 'Tis indeed beneficial for trade, and the interest of the Spaniards, but if the Question be, Whether it shall be put into this Address, or not, he cannot agree to it. This Address of yours will be the whole mark of the negotiation to steer by, and the King will be tender how he departs from any part of it. Consider whether Flanders and Sicily are equal matter of your care, and whether one may not be the care of others better than ours, who are to take the thorn out of their own feet. He thus explains himself; the preservation of Flanders is important to us, to our very being, and if gone from the Spaniards, the coasting lands upon Flanders will not give five years purchase; but we are not concerned in Sicily, but by trade. 'Tis indifferent to us who has Sicily. As for Flanders, Germany is concerned in the same point with us, but he knows not whether they are equally concerned for Sicily, so as to make alliances—Italy is concerned for Sicily; but it is not so necessary for us to concern ourselves about whom the Princes of Italy would have masters of Sicily, as it is for Flanders, for us to have it in whose hands we would. Suppose a War should be the issue of this Address; it may please the King to encourage the Confederates, by permiting them to levy men here, and that will not be against the Articles of France neither. If money must be their support, he believes that every man would be willing to pay money towards it. If towards the end of the War, the French would more willingly give up Sicily than Flanders, he should be loth that an abatement should be made of Flanders, and that our compensation should be resigning Sicily. We are not a jot safer for the restoration of Sicily; (though he would have it restored, but not on an equal foot with Flanders) therefore he disagrees to the adding "Sicily" in the Address.
Mr Harbord.] The Debate is of great consequence, and requires time for men to think of it. As to the leaving out "Sicily" in the Address, it is indeed of consequence to trade, and belongs to the care of the Dutch, as well as us, and yet they would send no succours but what the King of Spain paid for, when De Ruyter lost his life there (fn. 6). Therefore he would not add an unnecessary engagement upon ourselves. The thing is of weight, and he would consider of it, and our judgment is not yet fit to come to resolution.
Sir Henry Goodrick.] Though Sicily deserves your care, it does not your protection equal with Flanders. France abounding in ships, if we engage to defend Sicily, it will be above our effect. Burgundy is, (most of it) in the French hands, and now Flanders is conquering, being our so very immediate concern, we should look to it. Naples is near Sicily, a populous and rich Kingdom, and Milan also, that in time may settle Sicily. He moves not to respite the consideration of this matter, but to leave out "Sicily" in the Address, and to let the Lords know your opinion.
Sir Thomas Meres.] He is of opinion to adjourn the Debate for a day, till to morrow, ten of the clock. He is wholly against "Sicily" in that place of the Address where the Lords have put it. Possibly it will be more proper in another Clause. The word "assistances" that the Lords mention, is a tender point, and there is little need of it in our Address. "Assistance" of our offering is "Money"; and he startles at the Lords meddling with any thing of that. As for "Sicily" if the Lords propound War, or a ground of War, by that word, the consequence will be "Money proposed from the Lords". The Address went fair from this House, and the Lords need not add any thing of this nature to it.
Col. Birch.] He differs from Meres. He is as careful of losing that power of "Money" as any man, for when you have lost that, you have lost all. It seems to him that the Lords are tender in the matter, and he cannot but construe these words of "assistance, &c." so, that the Lords would not touch upon "Money". He knows not what to call it, but it seems to him an intimation of something the Lords had farther to say. He would always say as little, and do as much, as he can, especially when it has been told you "that Sicily is our well-being, but Flanders our being." He is not of opinion to put off the Debate, but if you have reason to alter your opinion, you have a second concoction by Conference. But to the inserting "Sicily, &c." he would disagree.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] Some were for inserting "Sicily" in the Address, before it went up to the Lords, but he is not for rejecting it, (no man will) because the Lords sent that Amendment to us. Sicily worthily holds the second place in our consideration, but it is remote. But because now we have concern for Holland, Germany, and Flanders, therefore shall we not for the same arguments have concern for Sicily? We cannot part with it, such is our concern for Sicily. The inland Princes of Germany have a league with them, and are to make no Peace till Sicily be set free—This is an opportunity you have for it, not to be had at another time. It will not follow that you must have immediate recourse to the place concerned—He is not yet convinced to leave "Sicily" out of the Address; but would have the whole matter linked together—'Twill else be a great disappointment to the Confederates, and a lessening the honour of this House in going less in this Address than the Lords have proposed; and he is for agreeing with the Lords for "Sicily," in the manner he has proposed.
Mr Vaughan.] Our concern for Sicily is to have it in the weakest hands rather than the strongest, be it France or Spain; and he is for adjourning the Debate.
Col. Titus.] Whoever makes Flanders and Sicily of equal concern to us, he knows not where they lye. He will sooner fight for his life, than for his coat or girdle. If a fire be in Palace Yard, he would sooner go to quench it than if it were at Wapping; but would do both if he could. The other part of the Lords Answer is as difficult as this, and of as great moment; and therefore he would adjourn the Debate.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] This whole matter will appear of such weight, that it deserves your consideration. There is behind yet a more difficult point than that of Sicily. That is but a gradual difference, and 'tis not much material whether you have the word, but you must have the thing in your prospect of the measures you intend to take; that is, the growing greatness of the French King. Considering the weight of the whole matter, and how one thing will work into another, he would adjourn the Debate.
[It was adjourned, accordingly, to the next day.]
Debate on the Bill of Wages, &c. resumed.
Release of the Wages due from Boroughs, &c. was proposed.
Mr Sacheverell.] The change of Officers in a town, and the change of Sheriffs, being frequent, who shall have the custody of this Release? How shall so many persons concerned have recourse to this Release?
Mr Hale.] Reasoning has not been very lucky lately in our Debates (fn. 7); therefore he would debate the thing no farther, but speak our reasons all at once in a Vote.
The Bill was ordered to be read a second time.