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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Monday, November 18.
Mr Sacheverell.] I move you to consider, whether, in honour, you can put Mr Bedlow upon naming persons concerned in the Plot, till he has his Pardon from the King. Now I doubt whether, if the King gives him his Pardon, that can do him good, his Confession being to the Parliament; and we know not how those great persons he may accuse may interpose to prevent his Pardon. Now consider whether it is for your honour to put this man into danger, before you secure him his Pardon. You may, in a few lines, in an Act of Parliament, assure him of his Pardon.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I oppose not what the Speaker says, "That none be suffered to go out of the House." You saw, the other day, that Colonel Macarty knew what you were doing. There are windows, as well as doors. I would have the outward doors shut.
Ordered, That the doors be shut, and no Members go out (fn. 1), &c.
Mr Bedlow.] I had sooner informed the House of what I know, but I had no assurance of my Pardon. I have drawn a Narrative of what I can inform you; and I give it upon the Oath I have taken before the Lords.—And then he gave an account of the several Lords, and Gentlemen, and Priests engaged in the Plot, the numbers of men, and sums of money they were to bring in; and that all the Catholics of England were engaged to be ready, upon the Sacrament (as is to be fully seen in the printed relations) at the King's death; and then said, I hope I am sure of my Pardon, for I have many great men my enemies."
Sir Nicholas Carew.] After such an Information as this, I would not sit still, and let those persons, he has accused, escape. I move that Mr Bedlow may go to my Lord Chief Justice, and make Oath of the Information he has given here, that the persons may be seized.
Sir Thomas Lee.] In all matters about the town, within the Chief Justice's eye, his Warrants have been sent out; but for persons out of town I cannot yet hear he has sent any. I know not whether Sir Francis Ratcliffe (one accused) is yet seized. The Lord Chief Justice has not such Messengers as others of the Ministers have.
Sir Trevor Williams.] I move to have Lord Carrington (fn. 2) seized and secured, and that you would address the Lords to have it done.
Mr Bennet.] I would have those secured that are particularly named, under good security for their appearance. As for the Lords accused that are at liberty, I would either impeach them, or send to the Lords to secure them.
Mr Williams.] You find several persons accused of High Treason, and now you have more confirmation. You took a method some time since, and you are not just to those in prison, if you go not the same way as you have done with them. You sent to the Lord Chief Justice to issue out his Warrants for them, and I would do so now.
Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] If those particulars that Mr Bedlow has communicated to you, had been to the Lords, then it had been proper for you to have gone another way; but they having been first communicated to us, we must do our duty. One part of Mr Bedlow's Information is very particular, the other is general, of the Conspiracy all over England. If you will direct that this man may give Oath of his Information, or what expedient you will use if it can be, it may be better than before —If any man swears Treason against another, any Magistrate may commit the greatest subject as well as the beggar—Therefore I move that you will send to my Lord Chief Justice, to give him notice to come hither, and give Mr Bedlow his Oath.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Though the House of Commons cannot give an Oath, yet they may go to the Lords, and immediately impeach the persons accused, without Justices of the Peace taking the accusation upon Oath— The method of Parliament is, that if any man say otherwise, upon Oath, to the House of Peers, than he has said to you, you may punish him—In the case of Lord Clarendon, he was accused generally, without special matter; though then there was some little dispute with the Lords about it, yet this is a ground of special matter, and you may go up to the Lords with it.
Colonel Titus.] I had rather that these persons accused should not be punished, than that they should have power of punishing me—I would have their horses secured, and a farther search for arms—I would not have the way changed we were in. Let my Lord Chief Justice give Mr Bedlow his Oath; you have had good success in it, and I would go the same way.
Sir John Ernly.] This Information of Mr Bedlow agrees so well with Mr Oates, that it confirms his testimony. (And then be gave an account of some parties that were seen in Gloucestershire, armed and well borsed, &c.) I would therefore go the same way as we did before, by my Lord Chief Justice's issuing out his Warrants to apprehend these persons accused.
Sir Gilbert Gerrard.] I speak to another point. The King is in greater danger than ever; the Papists are universally in the Plot. This is not the way, to take horses from them; they are all gone—I move that an Address be made to the King, that he command at least half of the Militia of England to be in readiness, till we are in some measure secure from the attempts of the Papists.
Mr Bennet.] Now to speak plain, if ever Whitehall has a ready guard in pay, you will not have the Militia. Why cannot the Militia be ready as well as men for 8d. a day? Let the Militia be in order, and then consider of dismissing the Army.
Mr Sollicitor General reports, That, in obedience to the above Order, Mr Williams and himself gave intimation to my Lord Chief Justice, &c. who did immediately repair to the House, and, according to his wonted diligence and chearfulness, is ready at the door to attend you. He was called in. Then
The Speaker said,] We have had farther Information and discovery of the Plot, which is the occasion of your Lordship's presence here—The House has full experience of your Lordship, and they need use no arguments to awaken your zeal, whose actions have been one continued act of duty and loyalty to his Majesty—That there may be no discovery of the evidence, there is a person in the Speaker's Chamber, who does desire your Lordship to take his Oath to an Information relating to the Plot.
Lord Chief Justice.] Mr Speaker, you shall find me the same man, and nothing, on my part, shall be wanting—When a knife is at my throat, I will pluck it away, and I shall not stand upon usual forms—I shall do your commands with all chearfulness.
Sir Samuel Barnardiston.] You have had several motions made; pray give me leave to make one. Mr Arthur, the Merchant, has 100,000 l. to lend them for the Conspiracy. I desire a particular Warrant to search his house, to seize his person, and his papers. I believe it may be for your service.
Mr Powle.] I shall revive the Motion for securing ourselves by the Militia. The last resort of our safety is the power of the Laws, else they are but so many pieces of parchment—Your legal force I would have countenanced—I desire that we may move the King to have a third part of the Militia in a posture to defend us, and so to go round England.
Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] My Lord Chief Justice craves leave to have one of his Clerks to assist him, one very dextrous at taking examinations. He desires leave that he may come to him. The doors are shut, and without your leave he cannot come in. Leave was granted.
Sir Adam Brown.] Most Papists resort to Epsom, and if you have but one third part of the Militia of that county in readiness, they may rise and beat them—I am loth to put the county to more charges than need. But though our county (Surry) has but one Militia Troop, yet Prince Rupert, who is Lord Lieutenant, will, I am sure, take all the care he can to keep them quiet.
Sir Richard Ingoldshy.] I think the horse of the Militia are most convenient to be employed. That charge lies upon the Gentlemen only. The foot are useless, and mostly lying upon the poorer sort—The horse can be every where in the country.
Mr Hampden.] You cannot do too much for your safety, and no man is more ready to contribute to it than I am. But I desire you not to go an arbitrary way in this. Appoint a Committee to know how the Law of the Militia stands, and then you may resolve upon something.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Upon imminent danger no man will grudge doing something extraordinary. I may tell you, that the King, Lords, and Commons can make an Ordinance (which has the power of a Law) for the present use of the Militia, till a Law may be made. You cannot make a shoe to fit every foot.
Mr Sacheverell.] I am ever for that, in all we do, not to go beyond the Law. In some counties this cannot be done. I would therefore inspect the Law of the Militia; and if you will cause an inspection to be made into the Law, as is moved, I am for it; else against it.
Colonel Titus.] Can there be a greater Law broken than blowing up a man's house to prevent spreading of a fire? Your danger is great. If you stay for a Law, you may have your throats cut in the mean time; therefore I move that you would address the King, &c.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] If you cannot give the kingdom an account in forty days that they are in safety, it will be past remedy, and one third part of the Militia may do it. I would also have the Sheriff, with the Posse Comitatus of the county, be ready to seize upon Papists, and help the Militia upon occasion. And, as it was done in Queen Elizabeth's time, the principal Members of the Popish body in all counties may be seized—By Law, when the Kingdom is in danger, those persons who are the authors of that danger should be secured.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I am not of opinion, that, whilst the Parliament is sitting, you may go beyond Law. You may advise one thing, and the Lords of the Council another, and both against Law. The Law of the Militia is, "That they are to be upon service so many days, unless the King and the Privy Council think it necessary to be continued longer, &c. and then they are to be reimbursed, &c." If at your request the Militia should proceed to more days, before this goes round, you may make an Act of Parliament to supply the defect of the power of keeping them together—I hope this extraordinary duty of the Militia will not be done in our county (Bucks) for we have already three troops of horse quartered upon us, and that is sufficient to secure us, I hope, and we need not raise the Militia.
Resolved, That an humble Address be made to his Majesty, that the Militia of the several counties may be in readiness, and that a third part of them may be raised for a fortnight, and that there be a farther search for Papists arms.
Mr Powle.] What is done, by the advice of the Lords and Commons to the King, has the force of a Law, and there is a great deal of difference, in the force, from what is done by the Privy Council—I would have the Committee instructed for power to pay the Militia upon extraordinary occasions.
Mr Sacheverell.] Now that persons are constituted into several Offices and Employments by the Pope, I have a letter in my hand, that gives an account of several Popish Officers that have received Commissions since the House sat down; and several Commissions were signed by a Member of the House, a Secretary of State, [Williamson.] The Recorder of Chester (fn. 3) can give you a farther account of it. If this be true, all you can do for your safety is to no purpose—Sixty Commissions to Popish Officers have been signed since the 20th of October.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Those persons that had the Commissions were dismissed; and there was no use of them in England, and, by the King's command, they were sent into Ireland. They were persons turned out by the Duke of Monmouth, and were to be taken notice of as persons dismissed. It is true, that, upon examination, in my Office, Macarty's, which had been Dungan's, four regiments, the Commissions were given out free, without fee. It is not possible to know, nor is it our part to know, who they are that have the Commissions, but the Ceneral sent the Commissions to the Secretaries, and what the men are must be answered elsewhere.
Mr Sacheverell.] Since the matter is before you, I desire to know what need these men had for Commissions, being dismissed from their employments? Next, whether there are not Commissions granted with Warrants of Dispensation from the Oaths and Test to several Officers quartered here about town?
Mr Secretary Williamson.] There was an Order from the King, since the Plot, to dismiss all the Popish Officers. All Orders are signed by the King, since the Duke of Albemarle's death, and the Secretaries do countersign them: The Orders are all concerted betwixt the King and the Duke of Monmouth. I must own the countersigning them, as I received them from the Secretary at War. The Secretary of State never concerns himself to look into the inside of any of them—This, I told the Duke of Monmouth, he must answer for, if I was called upon.
Mr Sacheverell.] I am not answered to matter of fact, viz. whether Commissions were not granted to Popish Officers since the 20th of October, and Commissions of Dispensation granted out for taking the Oaths, &c.?
Mr Williams.] The Mayor of Chester, ever since the Proclamation, has been very watchful in stopping suspected persons. In October there came a person to Chester, well armed and mounted. He had a Commission about him for Captain, Lieutenant, and Ensign, delivered him out the last Sunday in October. Some pay they had upon this Commission. Upon his confession, he appeared to be a Papist, and the Secretaries were acquainted with it: Whether the Mayor delivered the Commission back again, I cannot tell. The men have their liberty, though their arms are in custody.
Serjeant Gregory.] The Committee sent to the Commissary of the Musters to know what Officers had not received the Sacrament, &c. They gave us an account of several regiments lately mustered, that had not taken the Oaths, nor the Sacrament, &c. And the Muster-master brought their Dispensation. There were commissioned, and non-commissioned, Officers, that were dispensed with for the Oaths and Sacrament, &c. Catholics and Protestants that have not had opportunity to take them, &c. The Earl of Dunbarton's regiment, that was called from France, had this Order, &c. viz. "As you shall receive instructions from the Duke of Monmouth, you are to dispense with, though they have not taken the Oaths." Signed, "Williamson." Lord Douglas's eight companies of the Scotch regiment were to pass the rolls of the Offices, and to pass the musters; though they have not raised their men, they are to allow and pass them as before July 3, 1678. "To Henry Howard, Esquire, and Sir Cecil Howard, Knight."
Mr Secretary Williamson.] I do not deny, but that, during our sitting, and during the Conspiracy, Commissions have been given out to Popish Officers, and they are dispensed with for the Oaths, &c. but wherever persons are found out, that are the authors of it, they deserve to be made an example.
Sir Francis Drake.] It appears plainly, that the Secretary, your Member (and you sitting) has given out Warrants contrary to Law, with non obstantes for taking the Oaths, &c. and in this time of danger, when the King's life is concerned—I would have him withdraw, that you may consider what to do with him.
Sir Gilbert Gerrard.] I am sorry to stand up upon this occasion, that I must see a Minister of State, who should be a bulwark against Popery, sign Commissions and dispensations, &c. to Popish Officers. If you allow not that the King can do no wrong, there is an end of the Government; it is the Ministers that do the wrong—You can do no less than send Williamson to the Tower—And that is my Motion.
Sir Eliah Harvey.] We now see pretty well what condition all Protestant Officers are in, the City being surrounded with Popish Officers. We have heard of Dispensations for taking the Oaths, at a Chapel, from the Pope, &c. and yet all Oaths and Tests are dispensed with here too—If the Ministers do at this rate, you must not only send one Minister to the Tower, but all.
Colonel Titus.] Under this notion, all the Ministers may be sent to the Tower, and we shall have none—You have one Minister before you now. No doubt, all matters of Law the Judges must answer, and all matters of State the Ministers—This is plain matter of fact: The person concerned is in the House; and, according to Order of Parliament, he must withdraw.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] I hear Gentlemen call "withdraw," but before the matter of fact be stated—Secretary Williamson's part may have been little in this matter of the Commissions. The King can do no wrong, and if Williamson did not advise this, he has done no fault. He did not advise the Dispensation, nor prepare it. I have been with him, when several Orders have been brought. His chamber-keeper told him, "they came from the Commissary at War." He said, "he knew them not, but signs them of course." If he was neither the adviser nor promoter of them, lay the fault where it is.
Sir John Birkenhead.] Forty years ago, a Commission was issued out to the Governor of Ludlow, that no man should be paramount over him: Lord Capel's Commission was to supersede all: Lord Digby moved the late King, that no Commission might be valid that was not signed by a Secretary of State—I have known particularly that they have been first shaped and formed by the Secretary at War, and allowed by the Secretary of State, to avoid clashing about it.
Sir Robert Howard.] I will not repeat Birkenhead's argument, for fear of doing Williamson more hurt than I design him. We must search out, it seems, who advised the King [to grant] these Commissions, and the King must be a witness against him—Matter of fact is stated, and it is hard that Honourable Gentleman should be singled out, in the middle, betwixt the original and the execution; but it is strange, that such things as these Commissions, &c. should go in a cluster of things not examined: Now come crowds of things against Law, in an ill time; but on the other side, these things came to Williamson from a superior hand, and he but intermediate. It is hard to bid him yet withdraw, before you go to the bottom of it.
Mr Vaughan.] At a time when the King's Life is at stake, and a Rebellion intended, and this done now, an Act of Parliament against it, when all this is in motion, and you examining the Plot, and such Commissions signed, who is criminal? Williamson is a Privy Counsellor, and he might have advised the King not to have done it. He cannot sit here to judge in his own cause; and he is visibly criminal to us, till it be made out upon other persons, and he must withdraw.
Colonel Birch.] The best argument I have heard is, "that this thing has been done formerly;" but if these things had not been done, we had not had them again now. Williamson might have said, "if it was thus formerly, I dare not sign them nor allow of them." Here are Popish commissioned Officers sent into Ireland, and that kingdom is not free from the Plot—Shall this be said to be the Law of the land, that they must take the Oaths, and Williamson has heard it debated forty times here, and shall he say that it was the King's Command? I am ashamed of it. Were he my father, let him withdraw.
Sir Nicholas Carew.] You hear a worthy Member accused, but I cannot be silent, though I would willingly in personal things. These commissioned Popish Officers are to go into Ireland. I have heard it was laid to the charge of the late old King, that he was the cause of the Rebellion in Ireland; for aught I know, people may say by these Commissions as they did then—I move that he may withdraw.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] I believe you will make a difference between a man's taking the King's hand, and bringing it to the King's hand—For myself, it would be hard upon Secretaries. Papers brought all in a bundle, and not to be read scarce in a day, and I must countersign them. I tell it you, only, for matter of fact.
Mr Vaughan.] I am sorry distinctions are made to break Laws, and not to keep them—Suppose there should be an Order from the King's hand, that so many, men should be killed; shall the Secretary set his hand to it? He ought to tell the King, that it is against Law.
Lord Cavendish.] By the Orders of the House, "a Gentleman that is accused is to be heard in his place, and then he is to withdraw;" but I have heard nobody say that Williamson is chiefly or only guilty, but all agree he is guilty of signing these Commissions—But yet they are of no value till they are countersigned. If we had been so happy as to have removed Ministers, according to our Addresses, we should not have had ill Counsellors, nor been miserable in them. Williamson does not deny what he is charged with, and I see no reason why he should not withdraw.
Sir John Ernly.] I would distinguish this thing; for I find the Commissions and Dispensations, &c. as valid without Williamson's hand, as with it. The thing was brought in use first by my Lord of Bristol, in the time of the War at Oxford, for a 5 l. fee; but Williamson had no fee for countersigning the Commissions—I shall only say, that an officer, in the station in which he stands, must stay a great while if he reads every Commission before he dispatches it—Why should you extend to this severity, before you have examined the whole matter?
Sir Robert Carr.] Examine the matter. I see not what force Williamson's hand is of more than without it, to strengthen the Commissions. It was unfortunate that his hand was at them, but I would have the matter fully examined, before you come to a resolution.
Col. Titus.] It is nobody's intention, that those who are as faulty as Williamson should go scot-free. It is said, "that it is a great task to look over all the Papers;" but I cannot believe that the Secretaries will commit so great a fault as to sign they know not what, though they advised it not. I suppose that if the Lord Chancellor have a thing brought to him that is very illegal, and he advises the King that it is illegal, yet if he sets the Seal to it, he is answerable. If this be no fault in Williamson, your Acts may be all broken, at this rate. If these Commissions be of the same validity without signing, as with it, why does he sign them? If he has nothing farther to say, it is the Order of the House that he must withdraw.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] I am very unhappy to be brought under this Question; but I would prevent the Question. The fact is plain, and for apology I cannot say much—All dispatches have been under this method. I found them so, and I continue them so; they are singly done by the General and by the King—They are brought to the King, and he signs them, and in that office, singly, they are entered, and no where else—Then they are sent to me, and it is a trouble, and no advantage, to me, to sign them, and I see, by the consequence, the danger too. This is the practice, and the constant practice, and it has been in the judgment of the House formerly, as matter of form—I know not whether I have done my duty, but I am sure, it is in the simplicity and integrity of it. I shall only add, that this thing seemed to me of such consequence, that I told the General, "I could not do it, without his owning it, and he did own it; and that I must say so much, if I was questioned for it in the House."
Sir Philip Warwick.] I cannot answer the doing this thing. The same course was taken; all Commissions were countersigned by the Secretary; and they always passed so: And the late Lord Treasurer, Southampton, wherever he found the General's hand, (Albemarle) he signed it.
Sir Thomas Meres.] I cannot let it pass, that a Secretary of State shall sign Commissions without reading them. All things may pass, at that rate. If they have not strength to read them, let them lay them aside. That is not a just and reasonable argument for not countersigning, and I must say so.
Sir George Hungerford.] I am against any thing of pardoning Williamson upon his submission, and setting it only so upon your books, in such a dangerous thing as this where the King's Person is concerned by Commissions to Popish Officers—I would send Williamson to the Tower, for an example.
Mr Bennet.] Shall it be said, that your Laws are broken ex officio? Though I would have you do something, yet, in this case, I would not be so very severe, because of the influence great men have upon the Secretaries. They must comply, else they lose their places: They must lose the profits of their dispatches, unless they do this—All Papists may be put in Commission, at this rate, in the very Guards. The danger considered, &c. sending Williamson to the Tower is no great punishment.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] "The Secretaries signing to prevent surprize," I know not the meaning of it, unless to put checks upon things. If it be as he says, "that it was through ignorance, and the thing had been long used," let his punishment be the less—I have seen a letter from Yarmouth, where some Grenadiers were quartered, and they said, "they came to secure that place because the King was ill, if the King should die." I know not how the King can possibly be safe, as long as a sword, or a dagger, is in a Papist's hand—I hope you will reap good from this Debate. It is time to give a check to this signing of Commissions. But whether you will send Williamson to the Tower, or no, I leave to you. But the least thing you can do is a rebuke, &c. and I hope you will address the King that all such Commissions may be superseded.
Mr Harbord.] I think these Officers of State (as Secretaries, &c.) are placed by the King, to remind him of things. They are set there as watchmen, that the King may have no wrong: The King's Council can tell you whether they advised these Commissions, or no—If we do not something in punishing and reforming these things, I expect very little success of this Session—You have been told of a War with France, and I know not what; this man has employed his parts to help all that on, the last Session: He has deluded you several times; and now he has done the greatest Act. I would not send him to the Tower, being the King's Minister, as the King may have present use of him, but I would have him put out of the House.
Sir Nicholas Carew.] There was a time when there should have been but one Secretary of State. Mr Coleman was to have been the single Secretary of State, and I believe the King may be very well without Williamson, and I move to send him to the Tower.
Mr Papillon.] I have been pondering this matter of the Commissions in my thoughts, and I am in great apprehensions that Williamson should have signed he knows not what. It might have been to destroy my life and fortune. I have heard mention made of the Act of the Militia, wherein the Lord-Lieutenants and Deputies are obliged to swear not to oppose persons commissioned by the King, in pursuance of such Military Commissions. Therefore great care should be taken of those Commissions, how they are granted out that must not be disobeyed. Therefore you must show your displeasure against this Minister, who signs he knows not what—Formerly we had no standing Army; only the King's Gentlemen attended him; and what may become of us, now we have a standing Army and a Plot, if such Commissions be granted out? At this rate, Williamson might have commissioned the Pope's Army, and these Commissions were granted out in October, in the height of the Plot. If you will not do something in this, the people will believe that you apprehend no danger of Popery—This is in your power to punish, and you may do it, though you could not remove ill Ministers. Therefore I move, that Secretary Williamson may be made an example.
Mr Powle.] This I observe, that now we have a standing Army, it seems, care is taken we shall have Popish Officers. I will not aggravate nor extenuate this Gentleman's crime, but if you pass by this, you make no difference betwixt acting by, and procuring, these Commissions—This is certainly a matter of the highest nature. The Officer that did execute this Warrant (the Mustermaster) had no Warrant to justify him but the Sign-manual, which can give no authority for suspension of your Laws; and these Commissions (thus granted) are equal to the late Declaration which suspended so many Laws— I wish you could spare this Gentleman's expulsion of the House, which is the highest punishment, next to life, that can be inflicted. But you cannot do less than send him to the Tower. And if he will confess the whole progress of this matter, I shall be as willing to extenuate his punishment, as any body.
Lord Cavendish.] Here is one expression in the Duke of Monmouth's Commissions, viz. "To our dear and entirely beloved son, James Duke of Monmouth." I know no Prince of Wales, though I have a great honour for the Duke, &c.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] What Lord Cavendish has moved is of great consequence. I am sorry for the expression in the direction of the Duke's Commission—I know not what after ages will say to it. Neither do I know what to say—I would have you send for Mr Lock (he is called Secretary at War, but I know no such Officer in Law) to attend you to-morrow, and the Muster-master, that you may know whether the Officers, with these Commissions and Dispensations, were mustered, and at what time.
Sir John Pettus produced a letter from one who met a grenadier, who halted behind his company, who said, "he had double pay, &c."—A man also in black, who said, "that the King was sick, and if he were not dead, he was likely to be so in two or three days, and that they were sent to secure Yarmouth, if that should be."
Tuesday, November 19.
"That he was much surprized to hear, that the last night the House had sent his Secretary to the Tower; but that he would deal more kindly with them, than they had done with him, who gave him no notice of his commitment; but he gives you notice that he has sent for him forth. As to the Commissions granted out, &c. he had examined the books of Entries, which were occasioned thus. These men that had the Commissions, came out of the French King's service, and, to say no worse, they were hardly dealt with. They came away without money, and in great want. He had no way to gratify them, but by dating their Commissions from the time they left the French service, and these persons had not convenient time to take the Oaths and Test, &c. before they went for Flanders, and that the Muster-masters, &c. should pay them from the time of the date of their Commissions, and that he going to Newmarket, they had not time to take the Oaths, &c."
The Speaker, being called upon to report the King's Speech, said,] What was spoken by the King was said to the whole House, and it is supposed all were there present. The Speech being long, I am unwilling to trust to my memory to report it, for I may pretermit several things the King said. But the Speaker reported it as above.
The Speaker.] The King said, "he had no other way to provide for them but by dating their Commissions in that manner." And more the King said, "they wanted money to pay the Secretary's fees, who was ordered that they should pay nothing for their Commissions countersigning."
Sir Thomas Lee.] The matter before you does as much concern you as the Plot. I observe, that a Commission to be a soldier is a reward for a Papist. The Crown is not so poor, sure, but that there might have been ways found out to gratify these men, without breaking so essential a Law as this; and not to tell the King of these Commissions!—I will not dispute the King's power in pardoning Williamson, but if you commit a man, in respect of Justice, &c. I know not how he can be taken out of custody, without the King's pardon—I would have the Committee consider of your Privilege. In this matter of so great moment, I would not sit still. It ought not to be slided over.
Mr Williams.] By what I hear, as the commitment is made, it is a question whether Williamson may not be delivered out of custody by the King, being committed by the Commons. The question is a tender question, and a tender time to put it in. I remember the commitment of the Lords, from the House of Lords, was "during the King's pleasure, and the pleasure of that House." One of the Lords (Shaftsbury) had a Habeas Corpus, the King's Writ, and it was a question amongst the Judges, whether a Member committed by the Lords could be released by any Court but the Lords that committed him, and it was resolved that the King, by his Writ, could not deliver a person committed by either House of Parliament. If the King cannot do it by his Writ, how is the King to do it? It must be by his immediate Warrant, or by Order from the Lords of the Council, if the King cannot do it by Writ from the King's Bench. If the King cannot do it by Law, then it must be by his Prerogative. But I know no such Prerogative, if not coram Domino Rege, &c. Now will it be more proper or wise to debate the thing now, than when it is done? Whether not more proper to say something to it now, than to sleep upon it?
Sir Thomas Clarges.] This is a great argument; upon this depends all the Privilege of this House. Else we are not able to serve our King and Country—I said nothing to Williamson's commitment yesterday, for I would have had it in order to his impeachment, and so the Commons may commit their Members. Had we been truly represented to the King (but we have back friends, that misrepresent us) they might have stayed till to-day to have seen our farther proceedings—It is strange that in the Popish Plot twenty two Officers should be sent into Ireland, who, by the King's Commission, may raise 2100 men, which may alter the Government, and we by Oath must not resist them, because commissioned by the King, and so both the King and the Government may be destroyed; and shall we sit passive in it? It is the duty of the King's Ministers, by Privy Seal, or some other lawful way, to command these men to come over again: These men committing act upon act of disobedience, must they be favoured? If they had obeyed the King's Proclamation, and come over from the French King's service at the first, they might have been rewarded, and had a piece of money given them. I would have them sent abroad. They are soldiers. There is action enough abroad to employ them, and they need not have been sent for home.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] Divers of these Officers came not over till this summer, and then they were so necessitated, they had not money to pay the Secretary's fees for their Commissions—The Duke of Monmouth's regiment and Colonel Macarty's were designed for the War in Flanders—Colonel Dungan's Commission was to raise a regiment in Ireland. They were barely intended for the War in Flanders, but that not going on, the Duke of Ormond did press disbanding them, for fear they should become Tories. As for their staying in France after the King's Proclamation, the King has pardoned whole Kingdoms of men, and no wonder if he pardons so few. Was it prudent in the King to call these men away without any promise of reward? Our House seldom punishes a man for doing against Law, and not against reason. But why did you not express in your Warrant the true reason why Williamson was sent to the Tower? And so he is sent not for Breach of your Privilege, or in order to an impeachment, but for doing an Act against Law—I would hear precedents for such a commitment.
Mr Williams.] There was a Habeas Corpus granted to Lord Shaftsbury from the King's Bench, and a return made of it. But the question was not, whether his commitment was legal or illegal. The Judges were of opinion, "that, since he was committed by the Lords, they could not examine the cause of his commitment." If you erred yesterday in the Order for Williamson's commitment, you may mend it to day. But shall any Court examine your commitment? It is too big for any Court to do it, and that I stand by.
Sir Thomas Meres.] It looks strangely to me what is said, "that this commitment is only for Breach of a Law." It is the only Law we have had any effect of, against Popery—Every body said, again and again, there was a Plot, and we have had very little help in the discovery of it from the greatest Ministers. It was laid by for six weeks, and instead of help to discover it, we have had helping it on. What acting has here been to set up men to tear us in pieces and cut our throats! Is not this an offence against the House? Show me that Law for restraining the liberty of the House in this commitment—Do we not turn Papists out of the House? These are plain things, and we may turn Williamson out of the House—It is a very ill thing to call our power in question, and of ill consequence. I am sorry that this presses on the thing, it may be, more than you intended it. But plainly this commitment is in order to impeachment, though nothing was said of it. Probably, on his Petition he might have been heard. But if you will lose your right and privilege of Commitment, there is an end. So that here are two motions, one for an Address to the King to prevent any farther proceedings, &c. and to set down methods of Privilege of this House as to commitments; the other may be for an impeachment against him.
The Speaker.] To the question, Whether a person may be committed by the House for actions not relating to the House, I give my opinion you cannot commit. On the other side, you have committed Williamson, but this ought to be according to custom of Parliament—Special cause of commitment is not necessary here, though it is in inferior Courts.
Mr Bennet.] I am sorry that yesterday, when the matter was between the Member committed and us, you gave us no advice, Mr Speaker; and now, when it is between the King and us, you advise. We are still told, the King commands it. Though it be any thing against Law, Law of arms, still the King, we are told, commanded it. Serjeant Streete said, "that the Lords did not complain of their Privilege being broken by the King's releasing one Lord out of the Tower, and not another." These Commissions, &c. are no less than tolerating Popery in an Army of 22,000 men; but if the Speaker had minded us of this yesterday, it might have been better. There is a great deal of business upon our hands, and this put off a greater Debate yesterday. It is not the Ministers do this, but he that made them, (the Duke;) from thence they have their succour and assistance—No wonder this Gentleman (Williamson) has risen, step by step, to preferment, and he must obey. I move not for any severity upon him. You did this in order to prevent greater punishment; and if it will not bear it a day or two, you may have his Petition—I would address the King not to release him, or adjourn the Debate.
Mr Powle.] I do not find directly, but obliquely, that the King touches at his Prerogative. We have no power to commit our Members, but for Breach of Privilege; but when notorious crimes are done, we may commit, in order to farther proceeding. No other Court can commit him, and if you cannot commit him, he has only warning to run away. In the 18th of King James, Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Mitchell were committed about monopolies. Mompesson was a Member of the House: He had a Patent for licensing Inns, &c. He was committed by the House, and yet not impeached, for he ran away. If a Member be committed to the Serjeant, (as he was,) it is the same thing as if committed to the Tower. As for the cause of commitment to be expressed in the Warrant, though we are a supreme Court, and no other can contradict our commitments, yet it is very necessary to express the cause of commitment, to prevent running into excesses, if not expressing the cause—I know not well what to say to the King's Speech, because there is no direct charge in it from the King against us; but this is an extraordinary way of releasing Williamson. The King's commands are not deliveries in Law—I should be glad there might be some vindication of the House in this matter, for I find mists and representations always of us to the King. I see that this of the Commissions to these Popish Officers is excused by some. I was always of opinion, that Popery could never come into England without force. These Popish Officers are used to French government, and quartered here, and the new-raised men are sent into Flanders to corrupt them in Religion. What the House has done in this commitment, if amiss, I would confess it, but I think as yet we are not in the wrong.
Colonel Titus.] It was my fortune to speak in this matter of your Member, before you committed him. The case of Mr Mallet (who was committed by the Lords of the Council) was supposed for a high breach of the Peace, and so your Member is but as other men, he has no Privilege; but the thing of Privilege came not in dispute. But now I am up, I will say something of the matter before you. The House saw the Law dispensed with, and we were very angry; if we had not been so, they that sent us hither would have been angry with us—We saw the danger, and were apprehensive of it, and had just indignation against the Gentleman. I rose early (says Solomon) to kiss my friend, and behold I curse him. The not reading over the Commissions was a worse thing than the thing itself. I could wish that the Gentlemen of the Long Robe had told us yesterday what they have said of the commitment, if it be an error. But I make a question, whether that man can be released, though error be in the commitment, but by course of Law. Let us seriously consider the consequence; if the King by his Royal Command can discharge a man upon erroneous commitment, whether he cannot do it if the commitment be not erroneous—I would have the Long Robe give us their opinion.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] I was afraid yesterday that you would go too far. Consider whether the person is not twice punished, and whether he can plead it in bar, that he has been punished already by you, for his offence, &c. I doubt it cannot be pleaded in bar, for that great reason of being not twice punished. I fear your commitment is void in that matter. I am heartily sorry this has fallen out, since your very being depends upon this, and what to say more I cannot tell you.
Mr Waller.] I was not here when the commitment of this person was made. You have been told of the commitment of Sir Giles Momposson, 18th of King James. I came into Parliament the 21st of King James, when this thing was fresh. In the Long Parliament, complaint was made of a great many monopolies, and some were turned out of the House for them: It was a kind of garbling the House, and a troublesome time. Mr Brunkard and Sir William Penn (fn. 4), if I remember, kept their places when you accused them. You gave Penn a day, but be appeared not; Brunkard you expelled. This is a doubtful case, and may be of ill consequence. You were told you were angry when you committed Williamson, and it may be the commitment was the effect of the anger of the House. I know nothing to cure that wound. As I told you that you did it in anger, so take time now to consider of it, and let the Debate be adjourned, and go to something else now.
Colonel Birch.] I am not for adjourning the Debate. I would endeavour, by all means, to have a perfect understanding betwixt the King and this House—Adjourn the Debate, and the King will send for your Member out of the Tower—Waller said, "this commitment was the effect of anger;" but nothing will lay us so low as to do things out of anger; and it is not reason, when we are one day pleased, and another displeased, at the same thing; it shows weakness. It may be Law, that the King may discharge Williamson, but it is against my little reason. In such a time as this, such a number of Popish Officers to be sent into Ireland, on Sunday fortnight! Whether this tree has no root I leave you to judge—If once we come to say that this crime of your Member is not under the cognizance of this House, what must the Treasurer of War, or Muster-master do here? I fear the King is not rightly possessed of our reasons for our doings—I would have a Committee to draw up reasons for what we have done, that it was for the King and Kingdom's safety, and then I would proceed to impeachment, if you will.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] Unless you impeach this Gentleman, he may have his Habeas Corpus. But if an impeachment be depending, he cannot have his Habeas Corpus. I see no reason from the nature of the offence, but that he may have his bail, and the King's business he is employed in not hindered: For offences done without doors, unless the crime be against the House, and in order to impeachment, he whom we commit, may have his Habeas Corpus. As for expelling a man for breaking a Law, I am not very fond of that. We all offend the Law, in some measure or other, and we may be all expelled at that rate. Therefore I like the Address to request his Majesty, with reasons for our commitment of Williamson, not to release him: If you stay too long, there may be inconvenience. But which way Williamson can be discharged, I am at a loss, for it will be a greater force of the Law to discharge him, than commit him, and the last error will be worse than the first. But whether will you tarry so long for the making a formal Address? In the mean time, I would declare such an Address by Vote, and for the present, I would acquaint the King in general, "that Williamson is committed by the House in order to an impeachment," and then make a Vote for an impeachment accordingly —This is a kind of double Address, and is not usual; but if you delay the matter some days, without doing any thing, there may be great inconvenience in it.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] This is your reason for committing Secretary Williamson to day, but I heard nothing yesterday of commitment of him "in order to impeachment." In Sir William Penn's case, you ordered an impeachment, because he had his hand in blood, and for risling the East India ships before adjudication of prize, and then you resolved not to give him any punishment, for you were but accusers, and could not punish him—Adjourn the consideration of it to another day. I would not have you clash with the Prerogative.
Mr Sacheverell.] It becomes every man here not to give the King offence. But we are drawing in question, whether we have done right, or not, and the King barely lays it before you as matter of unkindness only. Are we not more highly concerned to lay it before the King, that we have reason for what we have done, and to let the King know, that those who have advised him the contrary are more unkind to him than we? You have committed Williamson, and now the King tells you, "He takes him not to be guilty of the crime, and he will release him." We have done nothing but for the King's interest, honour, and safety, and those who advise the contrary have not done so. If those persons are continued about the King that first advised him to this, neither he nor we can be safe.
Mr Papillon.] I will not speak to point of Law, in this matter. I am convinced that it is your best way to represent to the King your reasons for what you did. What can endanger the King's life, but the Papists? It has been said, "to secure the King's life, it is the best way to put it in no man's power to change the Government, should he die." It is a Popish Army and Officers that put the King's life in danger, though the Magistrates be Protestants—I would neither dispute the King's power, nor question our own, in this matter. For I take not the King's Speech to be so bitter as some do—I would address the King not to release Williamson, and show our reasons why we committed him.
Mr Vaughan.] The united strength of the Government is little enough to defend itself, if these practices are suffered. The King says not "that we have committed Williamson illegally," but "that he will release him." Consider this Gentleman's crime; signing Commissions to Papists. Consider the circumstance of time; and it makes it more dangerous—And the Papists believe that the Pope may depose a heretic King—They almost all do so. These things considered, is it fit to pass Commissions now to such persons? I think it highly criminal; for by dispensing with the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, he robs the Crown of a great part of its jurisdiction. Castles may be put into the Pope's hands, now Commissions are given to such people. I think this highly criminal—You ought to set this force upon your Address, and no doubt the King will not release him.
Sir William Coventry.] I should not have sat so long silent, if I could think of any thing, or hear from others, to bring me to a clear sense in this matter. I am glad to see that the general sense of the House is for union with the King, and that the King is willing to decline all contest of jurisdiction with us. I think you are well advised in the great matter of the Address, &c. If you proceed in it, I would have it done with all imaginable temper, and to go no farther than this; to shew him the motives and reasons that induced you to commit Williamson, &c. and to say nothing of your jurisdiction—Your reasons will warrant what you have done, viz. "That, in such a time as this, so dangerous to the King, by reason of the Popish Plot, such Commissions may no longer be in those hands, but may be taken away from them."
Lord Cavendish.] I do not like any compounding motion. If you address the King to remove these Commissions, we, in effect, authorize the rest; nor do we express any care to disband the rest. The Duke of York's being a Papist is a great encouragement to the rest. It is but of late that we have heard of assassinations, &c. We may fear them, especially when the Papists are encouraged by a Popish Successor and a standing Army. Those who designed raising the Army are guilty, &c. And those that commission Popish Officers are more to blame. Williamson is guilty of both, and I would impeach him.
Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] This is an offence which nobody can deny to be a great one; and Williamson did confess it, and that, without his signing the Commissions, they were ineffectual. We are not now disputing, whether this be an offence or no—But the King is pleased, by his kind expressions in his Speech, to put no harsh expressions upon what we have done. If we run now into disputes of jurisdiction with the King, &c. we may sink under it —I move therefore that we may make an Address to the King, and represent to him the reasons why we committed our Member, and then give him thanks for the gracious expressions in his Speech; and shew him our care of his Person and Government.
Colonel Titus.] When persons are accused to have done against Law and the interest of the nation, shall we say, "Let us condemn the thing, but say nothing to the persons that have done it?" When things so abominable and deteseable are done, for the thing itself you must call persons in question, to prevent such designing for the future. Therefore I cannot agree with Coventry's Motion— Let a Committee draw reasons for what we have done, with an Address to the King not to release Williamson, and all exceptions will be taken away.
Serjeant Maynard.] You having passed the Debate of the great danger of any appearance of difference betwixt the House and the King. As the King does not take it kindly that you have committed Williamson, &c. I would say the same thing to the King, and represent to him, "that all that is dear to us is at stake when this occasion happens, and that here were Commissions granted to such Papists." And in the Address show the King the reasons for what you have done, and leave the whole matter to him, without aggravating.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Whilst we smooth the way to the King, let us not smooth ourselves out of our religion. The present circumstances considered, I agree to follow the King's method. As the King gives you reasons for granting the Commissions, so I would give the King reasons why we have committed Williamson, with all smoothness; else whenever the greatest offence is committed, it will go unpunished, and when no Parliament is sitting, there will be no punishment.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] When there was a design to murder the King, and an army was raised in England and Ireland, now to be said that the King was advised to release Williamson for giving twenty-one Commissions to Popish Officers to raise men in Ireland, &c. for God's sake consider this!
Mr Sacheverell.] If you do not lay before the King these pernicious counsels, and desire him to prevent them for the future, and not make this man an example, you give up the government—And I move that the King may be addressed not to release him.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] In the case of the criminals in the Plot, my Lord Chief Justice did commit, you did not. The question is, whether you may not commit for any matter of Law, as well as this—That breach then will be fatal.
Col. Birch.] I know nothing that can reflect higher upon the King than the discharging of Williamson, especially when he is committed for giving Commissions to Popish Officers in this time of danger. It may be to destroy both King and Kingdom. Nothing can so ferment in the minds of the people as this. As the King takes no notice of our Privilege or Power, so in the Address I would take no notice of his, but let the Address be "that the King would be pleased not to release Williamson, nor hearken to the advice of them that counsel him to it, which tends so much both to his and our ruin."
Mr Sacheverell.] I take these persons commissioned to be persons established against the Law of disbanding the Army; and the Attorney General may proceed against them. But I would rather order a Bill to make it penal to take any Commissions with Dispensations, &c. for the future.
Sir William Coventry.] It is not these men receiving their pay that makes them criminal, but receiving these Commissions, by virtue of which they raise these men. If Sir Edmundbury Godfrey's ghost should appear, and say, "he was murdered against Law," that would not make him alive again. When we are turned out of doors by these men, it will be in vain to dispute, that we are turned out against Law. The Attorney General may proceed against Williamson, but there may be nicety in the point of resisting the King's Commission, &c. Yesterday we were about providing one third part of the Militia to be ready, for the safety of the nation, and now would you have such Commissions as these in Papists hands to fight against your Militia? It is a wonderful thing to me, that people should stay to have these Commissions taken out of their hands by the Attorney General.
Mr Sacheverell.] I think, Coventry did mistake me—I did ask the question, whether there was not as much danger of the non-commissioned Officers with pay, as those commissioned Officers without pay?—I would therefore make it part of the Address, "that the King would be pleased to recall all Commissions to Papists, and suspected Papists, in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland, and other of his Dominions."
"May it please your Majesty, We your Majesty's most loyal and dutiful Subjects, your Commons assembled in Parliament, having taken into our serious consideration what your Majesty was pleased to deliver to us this day in the Banquetting-house, and being most desirous, not only to express our loyalty and affections to your Majesty's service, but also to preserve your Majesty's good opinion of the manner of our Proceedings, do humbly represent to your Majesty, the reason of our Proceedings in the commitment of Sir Joseph Williamson, a Member of our House; viz. that divers Commissions were granted to Popish Officers, and countersigned by the said Sir Joseph Williamson, and delivered out in October last, since the meeting of this House, and the discovery of the present Popish conspiracy. Divers Warrants have also been produced before us, of Dispensations, contrary to Law, for Popish Officers to continue in their commands, and to be passed in muster, notwithstanding they have not taken the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and received the [blessed] Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the late Act of Parliament in that behalf: All which said Warrants were [likewise] countersigned by the said Sir Joseph Williamson. Which being complained of to us, and confessed by the said Sir Joseph Williamson, in the House of Commons, We your Majesty's most dutiful subjects, having the immediate consideration before us of the imminent danger of your Majesty's Person, (the safety whereof is above all things most dear) and likewise the dangers, from Popish Plots, so nearly threatening the peace and safety of your Majesty's Government and the Protestant Religion, were humbly of opinion, we could not discharge our duties to your Majesty and the whole Kingdom, without the committing Sir Joseph Williamson; and therefore most humbly desire that he may not be discharged by your Maesty. And we do farther most humbly desire your Majesty to recall all Commissions granted to all Papists, or reputed Papists, within the Kingdoms of England and Ireland, or any other your Majesty's dominions and territories."