Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 6. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Debates in the House of Commons. From the Year 1667 to the Year 1694.
Monday, October 21, 1678.
The two Houses being met, his Majesty, in his Speech, gave them to understand, "That for the well-securing what was left of Flanders, and the keeping his neighbours from despair, he had been obliged to keep up his troops: That both the honour and interest of the nation were so far improved by it, that, he was confident, no man would repine at it, or think the money, raised for their disbanding, to have been ill employed in their continuance: That he was so much out of purse for that service, that he expected they should supply it: That how far it would be necessary, considering the present state of Christendom, to reduce the Land and Sea Forces, or to what degree, was worthy of all their serious considerations." He then proceeded to signify, "That he had been informed of a design against his person, by the Jesuits (fn. 1); but said, he forbore to give his own opinion, lest he should seem to say too much, or too little: That he should leave the matter to the Law (fn. 2); and that, in the mean time, he would take as much care as he could, to prevent all manner of practices by that sort of men; and of others too, who had been tampering in a high degree with foreigners, and contriving how to introduce Popery amongst us." He concluded, with recommending his other concerns to their consideration: said, "he had been under great disappointments by the defects of the Poll Bill: That his Revenue was under great anticipations: That, at the best, it was never equal to the constant and necessary expence of the Government; and that he intended to have the whole state laid before them, that they might consider of it with that duty and affection which he was sure he should always find in them." The rest he left to the Lord Chancellor.
[Both Houses sat out with a joint Address to his Majesty for a solemn Fast, to implore the mercy and protection of Almighty God to his Majesty's Royal Person, and in him, to all his loyal subjects, &c. and Nov. 13th was accordingly appointed.]
Saturday, October 26.
"We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords [Spiritual and Temporal] and Commons in Parliament assembled, having taken into our serious consideration the bloody and traiterous designs of Popish Recusants against your Majesty's sacred Person and Government, and the Protestant Religion, wherewith your Majesty hath been graciously pleased to acquaint us; [See p. 112.] for the preventing thereof we do most humbly beseech your Majesty, that your Majesty would graciously please, by your Royal Proclamation, to command all and every person and persons, being Popish Recusants, or so reputed, forthwith, under pain of your Majesty's highest displeasure, and severe execution of the Law against them, to depart and retire themselves and their families from your Royal Palaces of Whitehall, Somerset-House, St James's, the Cities of London and Westminster, and from all other places within ten miles of the same; and that no such person or persons do presume, at any time hereafter, to repair or return to your Majesty's said Palaces, or the said Cities, or either of them, or within ten miles of the same, other than housholders, being tradesmen exercising some trade, or manual occupation, and settled for twelve months last [past] in houses of their own, and not having a habitation elsewhere, giving in their own names, and the names of all other persons in their families, to the two next Justices of the Peace: And that it may be inserted in the said Proclamation, that, immediately after the day limited for their departure, the Constables, Churchwardens, and other the parish officers, go from house to house, in their several parishes, hamlets, constableries, and divisions, respectively, and there take an account of the names and surnames of all such persons as are Popish Recusants, or suspected so to be, as well housholders as lodgers and servants; and to carry a list of their names to the two next Justices of the Peace, who are to be thereby required and enjoined to send for them, and every of them, and to tender them, and every of them, the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy; and to commit to prison, till the next succeeding Sessions [of the Peace,] all such persons as shall refuse the said Oaths; and at the said Sessions to proceed against them, according to Law: And that your Majesty will be pleased to direct Commissions to be forthwith issued, under the Great Seal of England, to all Justices within the Cities of London and Westminster, and within ten miles of the same, to authorize and require them, or any two of them, to administer the said Oaths accordingly: And that your Majesty would farther please to command, that no Warrant or Licence be granted but what shall be signed by six of your Majesty's most honourable Privy Council [or otherwise than at the Council Board,] for the stay, return, or repair of any such person or persons into any of the said places, till some more effectual Law be passed for preventing the said Popish Conspiracies, and for the preservation of your Majesty's sacred Person, and the Religion and Government by Law established; for which we your Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects will always employ our utmost endeavours and daily prayers."
[Mr Oates, Mr Michael Godfrey, and Mr Mulys, having given in their Informations to the House, (who on this occasion sent for Lord Chief Justice Scroggs from off the Bench to sign certain Warrants) concerning the Plot, and the death of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey, the following Clause was added to the Address.]
"And whereas the safety and preservation of your Majesty's most sacred Person is of so great consequence and concernment to the Protestant Religion, and to all your subjects, we do farther most humbly beseech your Majesty to command the Lord Chamberlain, and all other Officers of your Majesty's Houshold, to take a strict care that no unknown or suspicious persons may have access near your Majesty's Person; and that your Majesty will likewise please to command the Lord Mayor and the Lieutenancy of London, to appoint sufficient Guards of the Trained Bands within the City of London, during this Session of Parliament; and likewise the Lord Lieutenants of Middlesex and Surry, to appoint the like Guards of the Trained Bands in Middlesex, Westminster, Southwark, and other places adjacent, as shall be thought necessary (fn. 3)."
Monday, October 28.
Mr Oates (fn. 4) gave information against several persons concerned in the Plot, particularly against the Dutchess of Mazarine: "That she was a spy here, under a pretence of a difference with her husband, for France (fn. 5); and for this assertion, gives this reason, that all agents here resort unto her; and Mr Coleman can, if he will, say as much as I have done."
Mr Goring.] (Upon Mr Oates's saying that Sir William Goring had received a Commission from his band to be a Captain of Horse in the Plot, and had been an instrument to procure an hundred thousand crowns to be transmitted into Ireland, for carrying on the Plot) I believe they are a parcel of fools to employ a boy in the Plot, to manage such a design.
Colonel Birch.] That the clearness of what you do may appear, I would have that examination concerning Mr Wilde, your Member (fn. 6), read.
The Speaker.] This is an examination without doors concerning a Member within doors, and not orderly to be read. In the case of Mr Mallet, he was charged without doors, and you sent for him hither upon his petition, and you did remit him to the Tower. But for a Member charged within doors, you always order him to make answer in his place.
The Speaker.] If the examination be without doors, you must let it be proceeded in without doors; if the examination be taken within doors, then you must proceed here, and he must answer it in his place.
Mr Williams.] The first discovery I heard against Mr Wilde, was at the Bar, by Mr Oates; and, as I take it, the House is in some measure possessed of it. You must either examine it here, or out of the House, to come to judgment one way or other. You are in some measure possessed of it, and you must proceed.
Sir John Talbot.] I have heard that both Lord Stafford and Lord Petre, after my Lord Chief Justice's Warrant was out against them (fn. 7), took their places in the Lords House, and the Lords did not think fit to let them be amongst them; and I would not have you show more favour to your Member, than the Lords showed to theirs.
Sir Robert Southwell reports the Letters found at Mr. Coleman's house, which were preserved, of which the Lords of the Council commanded him to make extracts after he had decyphered them; and they are from the Internuncio at Brussels; some of the French King's Confessor's letters sent by Sir William Throgmarton's hands; and Letters to Monsieur Pompone, the French King's Secretary. The Lords commanded him to make extracts of the matters criminal in them, but they were so involved, it was hard to do it, so he translated the whole Letters; but he supposes the House will not be content with that broken manner he proceeded in."
Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to translate the Letters of Mr Coleman, and the several Papers be sent for by the Committee, which were received by the Clerks of the Council (fn. 8).
Tuesday, October 29.
The person was brought to the Bar, who said, "he lives at one Mr Smith's house, who belongs to the Wardrobe, and lives in Black Fryars. He acknowledges the papers taken upon him. He had them from one Cole, who commonly distributed such papers, and he, coming there as a stranger, had one."
Answer.] I did it to satisfy the curiosity of friends. I have had of those papers for one Mr Osborn, from the same person, sometimes for 6d. sometimes for 12d. according as they were considerable. Cole delivered the Votes to one Smith, and I had them from him about five or six o'clock at night. Mr Osborn is a Counsellor at Law, and I brought them to him, but I make it not my business, only at the desire of persons. He withdrew.
Sir Richard Temple.] The Votes of this House are a Record, and people must have notice of Committees, to give their attendance. Speeches and Debates have been published, and that has always been criminal.
The thing went off without farther Proceeding (fn. 9).
Mr Sacheverell.] No Court ever took the matter before them when any part of the evidence was behind. When you see the Catalogue of the Letters in the Clerk of the Council's hands, and the rest, then you may go upon them. One letter is an historical account of four years formerly—Those Letters Knight reports are but subsequent —Will you not have the whole matter, before you give judgment upon it? I move, therefore; that you may see what is wanting; and that the Order may be general, to give in the List, before you proceed.
Sir Robert Southwell.] The Letters in my hand are eighteen; they go from 1674 to 1675, and these go to Letters that have preceded those. As for the list of the Letters before the Lords, I was charged with them, and I have my discharge in my pocket; they are not yet transmitted to this House; there are forty or fifty of them. Sir Philip Lloyd promised me to make them ready by this morning; he knew the command of the House, and promised to obey it, but he is gone with the Lords to Newgate.
Ordered, That his Majesty be [humbly] desired by such Members as are of the Privy Council, that [an Inventory, or List, of] all Papers, which have been sorted [by the Clerks of the Council, may be communicated to this House;] and that all those Papers which are not sorted, may be delivered over to a Committee [of this House] to sort them.
The Letters then were read, dated 1674, which contained several passages for promoting the Catholic cause, and endeavours to dissolve this Parliament at any rate, with frequent touches at the Duke's desire of it at any rate; the most material are printed in Coleman's Tryal, and in other pamphlets, &c. See also the Journals.
Mr Powle.] If Coleman had a reward and his life given him, or something beyond it, he would deserve it upon a full discovery of what he knows—What you do I would have done presently, of offers and invitation for discovery, &c. You know not else how soon he may be disposed of; therefore I move that you will send a Committee to him, to ask him, whether he will make any discovery, &c.
Colonel Titus.] You may proceed as far as those Letters direct you, and farther as you see occasion; and, lest you should be prevented by any making him away, do it quickly; and, no doubt, if he deserve it, the intercession of this House may prevail with his Majesty for a pardon.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] I am afraid we are too nice in this matter—I would go plainly to work. Perhaps, to promise him pardon is in the method of dealing with a highwayman; perhaps, it is an abatement of his testimony—But you do not incapacitate him for evidence by promising your interceding for his pardon: He may accept it from the Commons of England, and I believe he will be so abandoned by his party, that you may know all.
Wednesday, October 30.
Mr Sacheverell reports [from the Committee, appointed as above,] "That, according to Order, the Committee had been with Mr Coleman in Newgate; and they told him what favour he might reasonably hope for, upon his full and plain discovery of things, and that he must needs know, without such a discovery, the danger he was in;—to see how far his hopes and his fears would lead him—Coleman said, "As to any design against the King's person, or taking away his life, [or the lessening of his power] he never knew, nor heard of any such design, nor knew of any Commissions for raising an Army." This he said voluntarily of himself: This he made an absolute denial of; and he directly denied "any intention of change of the Government by introducing Popery; but that he did design an attempt of dissolving this Parliament, for liberty of conscience; for he did not doubt but that if Popery was upon an equal foot with Protestantism, Popery would be established. He thought that 300,000l. from France would be more certain than a Supply from the Parliament, &c.—Not three men in the world knew of this design, but the Duke of York knew of it, and communicated it to Lord Arundel of Wardour; and why this dissolving of the Parliament would not be ungrateful to the King he had his private reasons---The first correspondence he had abroad was with Sir William Throgmorton (fn. 10), who got him a correspondence with Monsieur La Ferrier (fn. 11). That correspondence fell, after three or four letters: He held correspondence likewise with the Pope's Nuncio [at Brussels,] which was introduced by a proposition brought by Father Patrick; but the proposition was unintelligible, and the Duke of York sent him to the Nuncio, who denied the propositions from Rome about money, which Father Patrick brought, which propositions were the Nuncio's own; but the Nuncio going to Rome, promised to do what he could with the Pope in that affair. He had no farther correspondence with the Nuncio as to this matter." He said, "he always wrote to the Nuncio in plain hand, not in cypher. The cypher was used in the correspondence with St Germain, and one Blankart, who was Secretary to M. Rouvigny."
Sir Nicholas Carew.] This Report appears to me as if what you say goes to Newgate. Coleman will confess no more than what you know already; therefore I would send for Captain Richardson, (the Keeper of Newgate,) to know what persons have been with him besides the Lords and Commons.
The Speaker.] Coleman is committed close prisoner, and no man is to see him but in the presence of Captain Richardson, and his very wife is not to speak with him without two witnesses be by, by Order from the Lords of the Council.
Sir Thomas Meres.] By this interrogatory, you ask Richardson, Whether he has committed a fault? You ask your servant, Whether he has broke the glasses? I expect as little effect now by sending for Richardson, as I did yesterday by sending the Committee.
Colonel Egerton.] As I was coming to the House I met Lord Castlemaine (fn. 12), who asking what news, I said, "I suspected that Coleman would prove false to his party." He presently replied, "I hope he will not serve us so."
Sir Edward Dering.] We sit silent, as if we had nothing to do. I think it worth your consideration that some Justice of the Peace examine this matter, and one Bateman, who kept Coleman's papers and wrote his letters: You may possibly by him know what is become of his papers.
Sir Robert Howard.] You have been told of a magistrate murdered, (Godfrey,) and it is disputed in every street, whether it was done by Papists, or others, and they have produced reasons for both: The discovery of that would set mens minds at ease—Five hundred pounds are offered in the Proclamation; it is a poor combination that cannot give 600l. to stifle the discovery: I would have 5000l. reward for him that shall discover the murderers, and secured to him by this House, by Act of Parliament, and if he was an actor in it, a pardon; the money to be paid to him or his Executors—I have made a motion suitable to my infirmity, and I leave it to you.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] I concur with the motion, but not that the pardon should extend but to one person. There may be two brothers; or a father and son, or a niece, that may be comrades in the fact, that would not impeach one another: A man, sometimes, desires to preserve one man's life as much as his own; therefore I would not have the pardon too narrow.
Mr Boscawen.] The 5000l. reward is not proposed only for the sake of the discovery of the murder, &c. If you take it that all England is concerned in the discovery, the reward is not so much. As Birkenhead says, he that discovers one, in all probability will discover all the murderers, and if you give 5000l. it will be little enough to discover this business.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] Those that did the murder are men surely of that quality that they would give 50,000l. and more, to stifle it—Will you have Gough and Whalley pardoned for murdering the late King? If they discover this Plot, will you make the murder of Godfrey more than the mnrder of the late King? I believe this to be a murder, and a horrid murder, and I believe that it is upon the brink of discovery.
Serjeant Maynard.] The man that discovers this murder will never be able to walk out of his house again for danger, and if the reward of 500l. by the Proclamation will not discover this, 5000l. will not.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] Perhaps, Justices of the Peace think the persons they are to examine too great for them: Your Members ought to give you informations for that reason, that you may proceed upon them.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The Dutchess of Mazarine is accused, "that La Chaise, the French King's Confessor, corresponds with her, and he directs the Society of Jesuits here to correspond with her." If you are satisfied to put this up, I am so, but I think the House is not to put it up.
The Speaker.] Those that acted as Justices, &c. did it not as Members of the House, but as Justices, who were at their own discretion. If you receive an account from them here, it must be to what proceedings you have had in the House, and it is the first time such a thing has been done.
Mr Williams.] You may examine matter of Treason in Parliament, by 25 E. III. These are extraordinary ways, and not the common course of justice; if this be an Evidence in a Court of Law, a Justice of Peace's examination is a Judicature. I take it plainly, you have a Judicature in this—It may be read in any Court of Record, and may be used by you.
The Speaker.] In the Case of Mr Mallet, the House would not read the examination, but remitted it to the Law. The declared Treasons by 25 Edw. III. are with reservation of what shall afterwards be made Treason by Parliament. That was the reason of accumulative comes made Treason in the Earl of Strafford's case—It is my duty to inform the House in point of Law, and I wish I had more Law. I would do it truly.
Captain Richardson attending, according to Order, and being called in, upon the Speaker's charging him that Mr Coleman had information of what was done in the House, said, "That since Mr Coleman had been committed to him, none came to him but his servant, and, by Order of the King and Council, his wife, in his presence, and he heard all the discourse that passed betwixt them; and the Committee of the Lords and the Commons---He is kept four lofts high, and, except the rattling of coaches, or hearing a Proclamation cried, he can hear nothing."
Sir Nicholas Carew.] By this it appears, that Coleman hopes to be saved by some other ways than your mediation. There was one Colonel Grice in a Plot, since the King came in, who was let down into a vault in the Tower, which was so terrible to him, that he confessed all—I move that Coleman may be removed thither.
Thursday, October 31.
The Speaker gave the House information, "That a Member of the House, Mr Wright, the Lawyer, had conversed with Mr Coleman, at his Chamber at the Temple, three hours, the day before Mr Coleman was apprehended, and that he brought a quantity of papers in with him, and carried none away with him: Dr Short, a Papist, was with him; and Mr Wright, and the Doctor, dined that day together at my Lord Chief Justice Scroggs's, and Mr Wright came to town but that morning."
Colonel Birch.] That Coleman should so readily know that Wright was come to town, and at dinner at my Lord Chief Justice's, the same day Coleman was apprehended, and when the Plot was so well known to Coleman, and he that day searched for!—I believe my part of it, and every Gentleman does so too. That this should be a meeting, as Wright says, of merriment only at his chamber for three hours, in the case Coleman was in, is not probable.
Resolved, Nemine contradicente, That, upon the Evidence that has already appeared to this House, this House is of opinion that there has been, and still is, a damnable and hellish Plot contrived and carried on by the Popish Recusants, for the assassinating and murdering the King, and for subverting the Government, [and rooting out] and destroying the Protestant Religion.
Ordered, That this Vote be communicated to the Lords at a Conference; and that the Lords be desired to join with this House in providing remedies for the preservation of his Majesty's Person and Government, and the Protestant Religion.
Sir Henry Capel reports from Newgate, That he asked Mr Coleman how he disposed of himself on Sunday? [that day he was with Mr Wright.] Coleman answered, "he went out in his coach, and in Covent Garden he met with Sir Robert Thomas; from thence he went to Lord Arundel of Wardour's, about a horse he had of him; from thence he went to St. James's Park to walk, and then went home to dinner. Then he went out and called upon Dr Short; they told him, he was at dinner at my Lord Chief Justice Scroggs's; he went not up stairs, but desired two Gentlemen to tell Short he would speak with him; his intention was to excuse himself [he said] to my Lord Chief Justice, about some passages in a Letter that seemed to reflect upon him—Then [he said] he went away with Mr Wright to his chamber, where they talked of nothing but news of the times—He remembered no particulars, nor had they any discourse about Law matters; he had no sort of papers with him in his coach, but trivial matters in his pocket, and he left none with Mr Wright—In Mr Wright's chamber [he says] lay a sick boy, and an apothecary went in and out; and having stayed there some time, he carried Dr Short to a patient of his, and from thence he went to Sir John Babere's"— And then he seemed to stop, and said, "he could not well tell whether he went to Lord Arundel of Wardour's; but hearing that his papers were searched, he went to advise with him what to do; from thence he went to his mother's, and from thence he went to lie at one Mr Whitehall's, a Goldsmith."
Sir Robert Thomas.] I found all my people, at home, in a consternation about the Plot, &c. and I went to the coffee-house in Covent Garden, to hear what news. And as I went, I met Mr Coleman. I told him, "he was up to the shoulders in it." Coleman said, "he discovered it three weeks ago."
Dr Short, at the Bar.] "I dined the 29th of September with Mr Wright, at my Lord Chief Justice Scroggs's, who was under my care, and it was about a week before that I had seen Mr Coleman. I had been with his Lady, but saw not Mr Coleman till that day in all that time. Mr Wright asked me to drink a bottle of wine with him at his chamber with Mr Coleman, where I was from three or four of the clock till seven at night. I went away with Mr Coleman, who set me down at a patient's house. Whilst we were together we had no serious discourse, but there was something said of the Plot, and I named Mr Oates and Dr Tongue, and who had been under examination. I was carried directly to my patient in Southampton Buildings; and I heard Mr Coleman bid his coachman go home. I remember no other particulars, only general discourse of the Plot. I suppose Mr Coleman called on me, to give me an account of his wife; she was ill on Monday, and the servant that came for me told me that his master's house had been searched—Mr Coleman never gave me any papers to keep for him in his whole life." He withdrew.
Sir Henry Capel.] Mr Coleman said, upon his examination, "That as for going to Dr Short, he had occasion to take physic, the time of the year calling for it;" but he said nothing concerning Dr Short's coming to his wife.
Sir Edmund Wyndham, the Knight Marshal, makes report of his search of Mr Wright's chamber and study: "I found nothing in his chamber, study, or scrutore relating to any thing but his profession; and the servants say they never saw Mr Coleman there with their master, but that day with Dr Short."
Mr Wright.] I hope the House hath opinion of me, that I am a Protestant, and not a Papist. It is hard that a man should have his Papers searched. I have many clients, and such reflections may ruin me. I hope you will be pleased to justify me in this matter, that I may not lie under reflection.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Because your Warrant for search of Mr Wright's study, &c. is upon your Books, I hope you will be pleased to declare your satisfaction with your Member upon your Books likewise.