Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 5. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, Jan. 15.
The House being met, his Majesty sent the following Message by Mr Secretary Coventry, which was read by the Speaker:
"His Majesty hath matters of very great importance to communicate to both Houses, in order to the satisfaction of their late Addresses, for the preservation of Flanders. But it so happening that matters are not yet so ripe, as within a few days they will be, therefore his Majesty's Pleasure is, that this House be immediately adjourned till Monday, the 28th of this instant January (fn. 1)."
Several Members proffered to speak, but the Speaker would not suffer them, but adjourned the House.
Monday, January 28.
The House met, when his Majesty in his Speech, which was afterwards read by the Speaker, signified, "That he had made such Alliances with Holland, as were for the preservation of Flanders, and which with due assistance could not fail of that end: Acknowledged, that he had used all possible means, by a mediation, to have procured an honourable and safe Peace for Christendom; knowing how preferable such a Peace would have been to any War; especially to this Kingdom, which could not but be sensible of the vast benefits it had received by Peace, whilst its neighbours were such sufferers by the War: Declared, That since a Peace by fair means was no longer to be hoped for, it should not be his fault, if it was not obtained by force; and that he had recalled his Troops from France: Intimated, that, though the Dutch should do their parts, ninety capital ships would be necessary, and thirty or forty thousand land-forces with their dependences: Consented to have the money given for these services appropriated as strictly as could be desired: Made a merit of forwarding the new ships, (which he said had cost above 100,000 l. more than the Act allowed) and of repairing the old: In doing which, and furnishing them with Stores and Ordnance, he alledged, that he had expended a great deal more than the 200,000 l. that he had been by you enabled to borrow on the Excise: Mentioned the expence he had been at in reducing a rebellion in Virginia, and carrying on a new War with Algiers: Touched on his engagement to the Prince of Orange, for his niece's portion (fn. 2); and signified that he should not be able to maintain his constant necessary establishment, unless the new imposition upon Wines, &c. were continued to him: Put the Commons in mind (though not by particular Address) of their promises: Said he had done all he could to remove all sorts of jealousies; that by marrying his niece to the Prince of Orange, he had given full assurances that he should never suffer his interests to be ruined, if he could be assisted, as he ought, to preserve them, and that be expected a plentiful Supply, suitable to such great occasions, whereon depended not only the Honour, but, for ought he knew, the Being of the English nation, which would not be saved by finding faults afterwards, but might be prevented by avoiding the chief fault of doing weakly and by halves what could be only hoped from a vigorous and thorough Prosecution of what they undertook."]
Mr Piercy Goring.] Moves for a short day for consideration of the King's Speech.
Sir Robert Holt.] Moves for to-morrow for the consideration of it.
Lord Obrion.] The nation is so much concerned in what his Majesty has been pleased to communicate to us in his Speech, that I would have you presently fall upon the consideration of it, and, considering it is post night, I would lose no time.
Some said aloud "What! the French Post?"
Sir William Coventry.] That no affected delay may appear, I would have the Clerks give out copies of the King's Speech to the Members, that they may come fully informed how to speak to it.
Sir Edmund Jennings.] I would have nothing else to intervene.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I look upon it as the same reason for considering it to-morrow as to-day, in regard to the delay, for the Clerks cannot, in so short a time, give out Copies to Gentlemen. Therefore I move for Thursday for consideration of the King's Speech, that we may not do to-morrow what we may have cause to repent of the next day, to satisfy without doors, as well as within, to give the people satisfaction.
Col. Birch.] This is the greatest business the King has mentioned to us in his Speech, that has been in my time. He that does this great thing with most forethought, may possibly prove the best bowl, and will run to the mark, when out of your hand. The thing is long, and as yet no way considered by us; and I am not at all concerned "for the going away of the post this night." That we may do it seriously, as it ought to be, I move Thursday for consideration of the King's Speech.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] Our proceeding in this great matter is the expectation of all Europe. If we show not promptness to assist the King in what we have advised him to in this House, 'twill be a great prejudice to the honour of the nation. Haste will be of great consequence to the Confederates, now almost down, and towns would be soon delivered up in Flanders, but for their hopes that the Parliament will assist the King to support them. The putting off the consideration of this great affair for three days will seem strange, when a conquering Prince is marching, who considers neither holidays nor work-days. The things the King has communicated to you, in his Speech, are what you have formerly desired, viz. a league offensive and defensive for the preservation of Flanders. Therefore I move for a present consideration of the King's Speech.
Sir Thomas Meres.] In regard to the matters being so emergent, &c. I move to consider it to-morrow, and even then not to make more haste than good speed.
Resolved, Nem. con. That the King's Speech be taken into consideration to-morrow.
Mr Sacheverell.] I was unwilling to give interruption to this business, as long as I see the way before me, and now we have done the King right, 'tis time to right ourselves upon you, Mr Speaker. I was present when you adjourned the House twice (fn. 3), and you would not suffer any gentleman to speak. Because I would reduce things to a certainty, and leave no umbrage betwixt the King and us, of his Majesty's power of adjourning us, I will state the case betwixt the House and you, Mr Speaker. It seems you will undertake to be bigger than the House, and, contrary to four known rights of the House, will undertake to violate them upon your own authority. I have drawn up the heads of them, and I offer them, not as an impeachment, but a charge, and I offer them to be read, the substance whereof is, "That it is the standing Order and undoubted right of the House, that the House be not adjourned by the Speaker, but by consent of the House, and not by the Speaker only." And "that when any gentleman stands up to speak, the person is not to be silenced, unless the House over-rule him." But you, Mr Speaker, contrary to your duty, after several Members stood up to speak, would not suffer them to go on, and, though you acknowledged the right of Adjournment to be in the House, yet you hindered the House from proceeding in their Debates.
Sir John Ernly.] If I thought that the Crown was not concerned in these Adjournments, and had a right to command it, and the only business was chastising the Speaker for not doing his duty, I should be for maintaining my right as much as any man. But if there be a Message from the King, sent by one of the Secretaries, to adjourn, or the King sends for the House by the Black Rod, and signifies his pleasure of Adjournment, it is the undoubted right of the King, and you are, according to his pleasure signified, to adjourn immediately. Mr Sacheverell stood up to speak, and you obeyed the King's Order, and the House universally called out "Adjourn, Adjourn," and 'twas done accordingly. Though 'tis the undoubted right of every Member to speak, yet if the universal cry be to adjourn, you do it every day, "till to-morrow eight o'Clock," though Gentlemen stand up to speak.
Sir Robert Carr.] It has been the general sense of the House to-day, that no interruption be given to the consideration of the King's Speech. I move that a time may be taken for the consideration of this matter of adjourning the House by the Speaker, &c. and I believe the Speaker will submit to the House, if he cannot satisfy the House therein.
Lord Cavendish.] It did not appear to me, that, in the Adjournment of the House, in May last, 'twas the opinion of the House to adjourn. Here is a charge against the Speaker, and, according to Order of the House, if a charge be brought against a Member, it ought to be read. It is a business of so great importance, that you are not fit to sit in the Chair whilst it is debating, it concerning your self. The Gentleman that brought it in, has laid it upon the table, and I would have it read.
Sir Charles Wheeler.] Are we not imposed upon to have that Paper thrown upon the table, without the Consent of the House by a Vote? The charge is, Whether you can adjourn the House? But the Adjournment was the King's Adjournment, and I desire to have it fairly stated, and the King's Message for Adjournment read. But supposing 'twas not the King's Adjournment, the thing is done every day, and you take the sense of the House by the noise of the House calling "Adjourn, Adjourn." Three parts in four of the House, in May last, were for adjourning, and your declaration of it was good, till excepted against. When the King sends to adjourn, the Question is between the King and us, and not between the Speaker and us. Therefore I move that a day may be set apart to debate this thing, that Gentlemen may be ready to speak to it. The whole world will know this Debate to-day, and will be apt to say, Why did not the House debate the great business in the King's Speech? They put that off always for weighty considerations, and now (they will say) "The Commons fall into other matters." I desire this Debate may be put off to Thursday.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] I am sorry for this Debate, without making a compliment to you, Mr Speaker, or any other. The matter in question is concerning the charge delivered in by Sacheverell, and I will speak only to what can be the issue of the Debate of it in this House. The King's power of adjourning the House is denied by no man. The Question is then, de modo only. If you put the King upon other ways of Adjournment of the House, than by the Speaker, there is disadvantage on the other side. The consequence will be delay of your proceedings; and the French King's advantages are so great in this conjuncture, that if we should be left alone, we are no equal match for him. He is now upon his Campaign, and if the Confederates hearts fail, by our delay, and the King of France takes two or three more important places, he may quickly end his Campaign, before the Spaniards begin theirs. This Debate will draw many circumstances along with it. And, whilst we come to our Privileges, we shall, I hope, be tender of the King's Prerogative. In the 19th of K. James, there was a jealousy, in the Parliament, of the power of the Spanish Ambassador Gondamar at Court, concerning the Spanish match, then depending—The House of Commons sent a very rough Message then to the King, and the King did adjourn the Parliament by Writ. The Commons sent to the Lords, "that they could not adjourn unless the Writ was read in their House," and they entered a protestation into their books accordingly. King James was offended at it, and sent for the Journal, and in the Privy Council tore out the protestation with his own hands. I desire only to show you; by this, how great jealousy and discontent it occasioned betwixt the King and the Commons. A year and a half after, the King called a Parliament, and altered his Councils about the Spanish match, and told the Parliament how he was abused by Spain, and made other complaints about breaking the Treaty of the match, and of war in the Palatinate. Did the Commons then go back to all those things of Privilege about their Adjournment of their House? No; they went on to the matter of the Palatinate war. They were not a body of men too easy to give up their privileges and the liberties of their Country, but they laid them aside for that time, and entertained themselves about the Palatinate. At the Diet of Ratisbon, the Electors themselves met. The Elector of Mentz was their Speaker. The Duke of Lunenburgh sent his credentials to the Bishop of Cologn, by his Secretaries; but being no Elector, he was not received by his deputation; for the Diet said, "he must come himself, for they would not receive them." Upon which, Lunenburgh made his protest, that nothing should stand good to oblige him in that Diet, which occasioned a great disorder and delay in the proceedings of that Diet. I speak this so much from the bottom of my heart, that I think these delays, which this Debate will occasion, extremely dangerous; and, I vow to God, though I hate murder, yet I had rather be guilty of twenty murders than hinder our proceedings now (fn. 4); and I would be guilty of all the cruelties of Alsace rather than hinder our progress in this great Conjuncture. Therefore I humbly move that this Debate be laid aside.
Sir Henry Capel.] There is nothing of so great importance as to keep ourselves, in a body, of one sense. What will be the end of this, if you enter into the Debate to-day of this difference? What will the consequence be? Naturally it will be to see precedents of Adjournments of the House, and a Committee must sit, and you have tacitly implied, that no Committee shall sit, because you have ordered to-morrow for the Consideration of the King's Speech, and some time must be to think of it. I am for the setting this thing of Adjournment right, and believe it will corroborate us in what we shall do. When we parted last, we addressed the King to enter into Alliances with the Dutch, &c. to prevent the growth of the power of France. When we were adjourned, if the King had sent for us, and told us his pleasure, I believe nothing else would have intervened. I would not hinder this great affair now before us, but would adjourn this Debate to Thursday next.
Mr Garroway.] I am sorry to hear some honourable persons put so great stress upon two days time. We have been fourteen days in town; and when our liberties are concerned, and this matter of money must go abroad, for reputation's sake, I would willingly have had time to consider, whether we shall be undone by Peace or War. If this great affair had been taken in time, according to our reiterated advices, something might have been done. But still we are put off to the last moment. A Paper is now offered, and I am sorry 'tis a Charge against yourself, Mr Speaker. I mean clearly, as the gentleman said who brought in the Paper, the point of Adjournment is not betwixt the King and us, but betwixt you and us. Therefore put a Question to lodge it fairly, before we adjourn the Debate. I think, that, if it appear to be your encroaching upon the House, it may be of as ill consequence as the war with France; if your power encroach upon us more than ever was intended you. If you'll put the Question, Whether the Paper shall be read, and adjourn the consideration of it to Thursday, I am well contented.
Sir Richard Temple.] For Order sake, I would not have the Question put for the reading the Paper given in by Sacheverell. 'Tis a Charge, and no Impeachment, against the Speaker. I never saw any thing of this nature before. If the gentleman that brought it in will recall it, and give it in as an Impeachment, 'tis another thing. The Question about this matter of adjourning the House will necessarily arise betwixt the King and the House. The giving in the Paper is not regular; and no person can go about to make that the Speaker's case, which is wholly the King's.
Mr Powle.] He that delivered this Paper in, did well to make a difference in the case betwixt the King's and the Speaker's Adjournment of the House. In the King's Speech, in the Gazette of the 28th of May, 1677, his Majesty directed himself to the "Gentlemen of the House," and not to "Mr Speaker." How has the Speaker then the authority of adjourning the House? If this be admitted, I need not tell you how dangerous the consequence would be. The former practice of Adjournment was, that the King did do it in the Lords House, and we were called up to that Bar. The King may grant away a manor under his signet, but Westminster-Hall will void that Grant, being not under the Great Seal. If we do not preserve form, we shall lose substance. The Question is plainly, by what authority you assume to yourself to do what the King commands us to do? I am sorry to have seen us on a precipice, and that that should be an argument against us of losing no time in preventing the growing greatness of the French King, which might have been prevented, in a great measure, had our advice been taken in time. The fault is somewhere. I never yet saw a Pocket-Order of adjourning the House admitted, and the whole liberty of the House is concerned. By the same reason that you adjourned the House, you may put by any Question. 'Tis in vain to think of conquests abroad, when we lose our liberty at home. Suppose to-morrow we come to a Question in this great affair we have adjourned, you may adjourn the House to Friday, and prevent the Question. The gentleman that brought in the Paper, does not call it "an Impeachment," because it is not to be sent up to the Lords. He calls it "a Charge," because we have liberty to judge of the misdemeanors of our own Members. By word of mouth, or in writing, the Charge may be given in. Let the Paper be read, and admitted, and then adjourn the Debate of it, if you please.
The Speaker.] What is charged within doors, by word of mouth, against any Member, or what is charged without doors, is at the election of the gentleman that brings it, to take his own method. I assure you, I sit uneasily till I answer to any thing relating to this Charge. As many artifices have been used as may be, to report me to have spoken what I never did, and to have done what I never did. But, I hope, no discourses will make impression upon the House, of things neither said nor done. I have received many undeserved favours from the House, which I acknowledge with all thankfulness. My coming to this place at first was as unexpected as your displeasure in what I did. Whatever my proceedings were in adjourning the House, when duly considered, the House, I believe, will see nothing in them inconsistent with the Order of the House. That power, which is lodged in the Chair, is not to be dislodged untill the House dislodge it. When the King commands an Adjournment, 'tis the House's right to adjourn themselves. But, I say, the House has always exercised Adjournment in that method I did it. The reason is, because, in executing the King's commands, the House goes out of the ordinary method. The King seems not to doubt any obedience in the House; which, putting a Question for Adjournment, after the King's command signified, will do. I desire to have your Order for what I shall do. There was never any Debate, but once, of Adjournment, and then it was about executing a Commission of Adjournment not directed to the House; and I ought to continue in the practice of what I have done, till you have altered it; else I should commit a greater offence than I am now charged with. Matter of form is only the case. If I have the honour to serve you, I must observe the same method I have done, till you order it otherwise.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] You state not the case right. When any doubt, or question, arises about a thing, 'tis otherwise than when the thing goes off fairly by consent. This adjourning the House has been usurped by you, more than by any Speaker before you; and gentlemen stand up to speak, and you adjourn the House, and will not hear them; and you adjourn. He who was Speaker before you, would not patter out of the Chair with that precipitancy. He would sit till eight or nine o'clock at night, as long as any gentleman would speak. If the opinion of the Speaker must be the sense of the House, the ships and men the King speaks of may be doubled. 'Tis our birth-right to speak; and we are not so much as a part of a Parliament, if that be lost. Many worthy men, who are the King's servants, went on fast for money; but when Privilege was but mentioned, all was laid aside. The then Attorney General, (Finch) now Lord Chancellor, when the King's Declaration, &c. was excepted against here, and the King told us, "he would not have the Declaration touched upon," did worthily give his opinion of it. Though his zeal, at that time, was great for money; yet he laid all that aside, and did bravely defend it at a Conference. If it had been so in the Declaration, &c. freedom of speech had gone off; and if we cannot debate things with freedom, all is gone. The Black Rod knocked the last Session, and then we must go to attend the King. "But hold, (said you, Mr Speaker) we cannot stir without the Money-Bill;" and the Money-Bill was sent down to you from the Lords, before you would go up. The King may adjourn us in person, or by his Commission. 1 Charles I. there was a Commission of Adjournment sent to the Lords House, and 'twas signified to the Commons; but the Commons answered, "if the Commission be sent down to their House, they would consider of it." It was then debated, though under the Broad Seal; which is above all Paper Commands. And the House was set in Order first. And must you assume to yourself to adjourn without Debate? "To adjourn immediately" is with a salvo jure, that we may sit that day to set the House in Order. 19 James, there was a kind of Protestation before the House adjourned; and when the King razed the Protestation out of the Journal, there was no Privilege lost. The Adjournment is only obeyed here, where we have freedom of speech. When any exception is taken at words that fall from a gentleman, they are to be put into writing, and you snapped us off by your usurpation; so that there was no time to debate the exception we had against it. I move it, because it lies hard upon my heart; for, without this freedom, we are no House of Commons; and I would have the Paper read.
The Speaker.] I sent up for the Tax-Bill, and the Bill was actually brought down before the Black Rod knocked at the door. The 11th of July, 1 Charles I. the House desired the Lords to join with them in an Address to the King for a Recess; a Commission accordingly was sent to the Lords House by the King. The Lords sent to the Commons, to come up to their House to hear the Commission read; the Commons returned, "That they would send Answer by Messengers of their own." The Commission was sent down to the Commons, and they did adjourn themselves to Oxford. Their Adjournment was by the King's Command; and so is this complained of now; and I will put upon that the issue of the cause. In all the Journals, I cannot find, that, when the King commanded an immediate Adjournment, the House proceeded in one tittle of business.
Mr Sacheverell.] If any such thing as a Commission, &c. had been, I had done you, Mr Speaker, much wrong in complaining. But I have Precedents to show, when the matter comes to be debated, that the course of Parliament is quite otherwise.
Mr Waller.] The gentleman that spoke last tells you of Precedents, &c. but I have sat here fifty years, and never saw the matter done as you, Mr Speaker, speak of. There is a confusion in the Debate, whether the matter in question be betwixt the Speaker and us, or the King and us. When a man speaks against his duty, or we speak against one another, or the King, the words are stated, and the person is to withdraw. You, Mr Speaker, bring us Precedents overgrown with weeds. I believe the matter must be stated betwixt the King and us, or else the trumpet will give an uncertain sound. No tribunal can judge of the Privilege of this House but itself. I'll tell you the practice for fifty years here. The King, without doubt, has the sole power of calling and suspending the states of the kingdom. But if the King should descend so low as to come to us, and adjourn us, I never knew but that we complied with the King. For Writs to supply defects of Members, a Committee has been sent to desire leave of the King to sit on. And when the King would have prorogued, the House has interposed to sit on. Besides, we have obscured our own light by our own fault. We should have called the Speaker to the Chair again. We send the Speaker to the Chair, when we chuse him, to show you that you are in potestate Senatus, both in the Chair, and out of it. The measure of our obedience to the King in all things is law; and I move that a Committee may be appointed to recover our ancient right. We say, "hear the Chair;" but no body says, "obey the Chair." I would have Precedents searched betwixt the Crown and us, that we may not play a lesson before we tune the instrument.
Mr Williams.] There is no such matter as Prerogative in the case. The King's Message was, "That the House should adjourn itself." The Question is between the Speaker and the House, whether you have not imposed upon the House, by adjourning, without their consent by a Question. You have declared the right to be in the House, and yet you have done the contrary. When a Member stood up to speak, you silenced him, and would not suffer him to go on. The Paper delivered in at the Table ought to be read presently. You, Mr Speaker, have repeated this Adjournment, without a Question, or consent of the House, four times over. The Privileges of the House are, by course of Parliament, first to be considered; and there can be no greater Privilege than this of freedom of speech. I have heard and read of propositions to bridle Parliaments, and they were censured in the Star-Chamber. This action of yours, Mr Speaker, is gagging the Parliament; and you, by skipping out of the Chair, prevented speaking in Parliament. I desire the Paper delivered in may be read.
Sir Thomas Lee.] We are all out of the way in matter of Order. Here is a Paper tendered, and called for to be read; and 'tis moved below to be adjourned to Thursday; and now the Debate is entered into, which is moved to be on Thursday. Your proper Question is, first, Whether the Paper proposed to be read, shall be now read; and the next Question, Whether Thursday shall be appointed to debate the manner of your adjourning the House.
Sir Robert Thomas.] Mr Speaker, you have gone about to answer the Paper, before the House was possessed of it.
Lord Cavendish.] The Speaker put us first out of Order, by answering the Paper before it was read. I doubt not but Precedents are to the contrary of what you, Mr Speaker, pretend. In this Parliament there have been several to the contrary, and you yourself was of a contrary opinion formerly to what you are of now. I desire the Paper may be read; and when that is done, I will give reasons why this Debate should not be adjourned to Thursday, but proceeded in now.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The Debate is, whether the Paper shall be read, or no. My opinion is, that all forms in this House ought to be cautiously preserved, else we destroy the Commons of England. Whenever you search into this matter, I believe you will find there have been mistakes. I know that the matter lies in a short compass. When the King commands us to adjourn, may we not bring it to a Question? If our books show it, and that we divided upon that Question, the matter in question is out of doors. But by no means would I have this Debate adjourned, to lose it. Men may let it alone now, and take it up another time, to do mischief in unquiet times. As for laying it by as a troublesome thing, it may be laid asleep to trouble you more. Near Precedents of things are better than those of an hundred years since. If you think fit, let seven or eight gentlemen search books for Precedents, else you may be put to it on Thursday. I speak this to have the matter settled with dispatch.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] I look upon the thing particularly as between the House and the Crown, and not the Speaker; and I move for Thursday to debate it.
Col. Birch.] Whether the matter be betwixt the House and the Speaker, or the Crown and the House, 'tis of absolute necessity to be determined. If it had been determined in May last, we had not been troubled with it now, to lose our time. I remember the Precedent of the Tax-Bill, that Clarges mentioned, &c. 'Tis for the service of the Crown and us, in uniting us; and I would have this thing set right. If the banks be good, the channel will go right. I would have such steps made in this as would give it dispatch. The Question the Speaker put is a fair Question, viz. Whether the Paper delivered at the table shall be read. I would have that put to the Question; but I would have any one show me a Precedent, whether a Paper given in at the table, and not then read, was read ever after. Then if any gentleman be of opinion not to have the Paper read, and be of opinion to adjourn to Thursday, and in the mean time would have you search Precedents, you will lose Thursday. Read the Paper now, and after that search Precedents.
The Question being put for reading the Paper now, it passed in the negative.
Ordered, That this Debate of the irregular Adjournment of the House, by the Speaker, be adjourned till Thursday.