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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Thursday, November 28.
[Mr Secretary Coventry acquainted the House, That he had attended his Majesty with the Address relating to Mr Bedlow's Pardon for Misprision of Treason; and that his Majesty was pleased to return this Answer: "That Mr Bedlow should have his Pardon, according to the Address." And likewise with the Address for disbanding the Army; "which being a matter of great moment, he would consult and advise with his House of Lords before he would give an Answer."]
[Ordered, That Mr Bedlow be forthwith sent for.]
Sir Charles Cotterell gave the House an account that there had been a Letter sent to the Dutch Ambassador, that a Jesuit discoursing with a Merchant at Francfort, who was going for England, told him, "That before he could get into England, there would be a great change there, and their design for setting up the Catholic Religion would take effect; and that there were above a thousand Jesuits engaged in it." During this discourse the news arrived, that the Plot was discovered in England, &c. The Jesuit thereupon went aside, and was seen no more (fn. 1).
[An ingrossed Bill from the Lords, for the better Discovery and speedy Conviction of Popish Recusants, was read the first time.]
Mr Sacheverell.] I know that, at the first reading of a Bill, by Order, I am not to make any exceptions to particulars. By this Bill, it is in the election of the Exchequer how to convict a Papist. And no part of the penalty (as the Bill is penned) is to go to public uses; but all the same way as by the former conviction.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] I would forbear this Bill awhile; you have an effectual Bill towards this of your own, and let this lie upon the table. And in time, out of this Bill and that, you may have some effect. Justices of Peace have formerly had ill will for acting; therefore I would, in this Bill, have something of compulsion upon them. By the former Laws, when a Papist was returned into the Exchequer, and the Estate was to be gone upon, a man of 1000l. a year, may be was returned 28l. a year. This Bill is infinitely short of what you intended in the former Bill.
[Resolved, That the Bill be read a second time.]
The Speaker.] I have intimation, from a Member of the House, that Mr Pepys has granted Passes to some Jesuits to go beyond sea, &c. (fn. 2)
Mr Pepys.] I am much more beholden to you, Mr Speaker, than to the Member that informed you. I challenge any man that can say I ever conversed with a Jesuit, spoke with, or granted him a Pass, in my life.
Mr Bennet.] One Dr Conquest got a Pass by means of Mr Atkins, Pepys's Clerk, for Mr Thimbleby, a Jesuit, to go beyond sea.
Mr Pepys.] As for Thimbleby, I never granted him a Pass, and he never asked me a Pass; and granting of Passes is wholly foreign to my employment.
Colonel Birch.] Pepys says, "that he never conversed with a Jesuit, nor granted him a Pass, &c." It lies on the other side to prove it. Atkins is said to be a servant to Pepys. I believe he can give you an account where Atkins was Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, when Godfrey was missing.
Mr Pepys.] Atkins was servant to my head-clerk, and is one year out of his apprenticeship. Where he was Saturday, &c. I know not, for I was those three days with the King at Newmarket. If you ask me of his deportment, I can bring those of my family who will be ready to tell you.
[Ordered, That the Door of the House be locked, and that Mr Bedlow be called in, &c.]
Mr Bedlow at the Bar.
The Speaker.] The House has information, that you have something of moment to inform them. You made doubt of your Pardon the other day; but now you have assurance from the King, that your Pardon is as full as the thing requires.
Mr Bedlow.] I was last night at the Council-board, where I had the King's word for my Pardon; and that in all things he could, he would preserve me. And I had the King's thanks for my clear evidence against Mr Coleman, where I proved the Letters from 1677. What I am to inform you now, is of a late Consultation held at Somerset-house, the 11th of May last. The Consultation was held in a room near the Chapel, where were present Lord Bellasis, Lord Powis, Mr Sheldon, and two French Abbots, with Mr Coleman and Mr Pritchard, and two more, who, by the respect that was given them, I believe were Persons of Quality. The Queen was with them; and Father Welsh and myself were in the Chapel. Coleman and Pritchard told me, "They made the Queen weep with the proposition of taking off the King; but at last she consented to it (fn. 3)." I was sent to Doway, with a letter to the Monks there, which was a final answer to Father Le Chaise—They hoped by that time the execution of the Plot would be. Stapleton opened the letter, and by it understood that all went well in England; "that they were stronger and stronger; and that at last they had brought the Queen to consent, &c." At supper, at Terroune, Stapleton said, "it was the Queen that was at the Consultation at Somerset-house; and that he and I knew that before." I have given the King and the Lords of the Council a copy of all this—I will presently copy out what I have said, and give it you more clear. Only I have this more to say of the Persons of Quality, that had their backs towards me; they were the Duke of York, and the Duke of Norfolk. The Abbots were, Carolo Le Phaire, and Carolo La Rochc.
[Ordered, That Mr Bedlow do take his information, and write a fair copy, and deliver the same into the House.]
On Mr Fleetwood's information about one Douglas, a Scotch Officer, of some words against the King, &c.
Sir John Ernly.] I would have my Lord General sent to, to find this man out. (There was a loud cry, "We know no Lord General, and no Army.")
Debate on Mr Bedlow's information.
Sir Richard Temple.] In Queen Elizabeth's time care was taken, if she should die, that things should not be better for the Papists. I would have it made their interest to keep the King alive. And if there be any Protestants children that turn Papists, that they shall be made incapable to inherit any estates.
Mr Bennet.] Let such a Bill be without Provisos (meaning "not to exempt the Duke," as in the other Bill) and then you will have some good of it.
Sir Henry Littleton and Mr Goring were with Mr Bedlow, copying out his Information, in the Speaker's Chamber. Upon intimation of it to the Speaker, the Serjeant was sent up for them; who informed the Speaker, "That he could not tell who the Gentlemen were, but he had brought down as much of their paper as was copied;" which the Speaker (by Order) did tear. The thing went no farther.
Sir William Coventry.] I think, there was one single word in Mr Fleetwood's Information, viz. "Have patience, and the Plot will be effected;" that is of some moment. Men of temper and patience are more dangerous than those of heat, in things of this nature. I would secure men, and do these things by the Civil Magistrates, and according to Law. Douglas is a single person, and may slip away. But for the General to strengthen the Lord Chief Justice's hands in this, is not besides the business. I would acquaint the King with it, and desire him to give assistance to the Lord Chief Justice in apprehending the man.
Sir Thomas Byde.] This Ensign, for the present, is out of office, but not out of pay. And he keeps within five miles of the company, and says, "he shall shortly be taken in again."
Ordered, That Mr Secretary Coventry go out to sign a Warrant for taking of Ensign Douglas into custody; and that no Member [else] presume to go out of the House without leave.
Four Members only were ordered to attend the Lords with a Message, viz. Lord Cavendish, Lord Russel, Sir William Portman, and Mr Montagu, "To let the Lords know, that this House will sit this afternoon, on matters that relate to the preservation of his Majesty's Person and Government, and to desire their Lordships to do the like."
Mr Bedlow then brought in his Paper signed, and the Speaker read it. And Bedlow owned every word of it to be true as the Gospel. And withdrew.
Mr Oates at the Bar.
The Speaker.] Mr Oates, as the House has information that you can make farther discovery of the Plot, they have sent for you, to know what you have farther to say of any matter of moment for the preservation of the King's Person and the Government.
Mr Oates.] I have an unjust restraint upon me, and my Papers have been taken from me, contrary to the known Laws of the Kingdom. And I fear, if I discover any thing here, I may be kept straighter. I desire I may be discharged from my restraint at Whitehall. If they intend by it the security of my person, I undervalue it. I can secure myself better in another place. I cannot speak with my friends; I have my writings taken from me, and my servants; my pockets have been picked; and I will charge that man that did it with felony. Though I intended to make no great noise, yet now I shall speak aloud. They need not fear that I'll run away; I'll be under any recognizance to prosecute the Conspirators. I desire my liberty. I can speak to my friends here, though I cannot at Whitehall. [He withdrew.]
Lord Cavendish reports, That the Lords intend to sit this Afternoon, according to the desire of this House.
Sir Nicholas Carew.] Though you are told that Mr Oates is released from his restraint at Whitehall, by Order of Council; yet to be restrained by some great persons, and so disheartened—I would know, who has restrained him, that he may be called to account.
Mr Williams.] Pen, ink, and paper to be forbidden a man, is an extraordinary restraint! What! is it to prevent discovery of the Plot? If this be true, it must be from great men, it may be, too big for him. Pray let that be looked into.
Sir John Ernly.] I was not at the Council, when Oates made complaint of his restraint. But I have heard that my Lord Chancellor should say, "he should have pen, ink, and paper, but not liberty to send out letters; and that no man should be with him, but in the presence of a Clerk of the Council."
Sir Thomas Clarges.] We are unhappy, if this thing be too big for us. I know not what the matter is, that Oates has not the liberty of any subject. "He will give any security (he tells you) to prosecute." I hear that sport was made at the 200l. that was given him, in the Lords House. I would have 200,000l. given him. The saving the King's life, by the discovery of the Plot, is above the Restoration of the King. He cannot be too well rewarded. I would have you address the King for his liberty, and an honourable maintenance for him.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I would know how long this confinement has been upon Mr Oates, and why it has been so; and how the House has been misinformed, as well as Oates misused?
The Speaker.] To understand the matter of fact, pray call Mr Oates in.
Sir Winston Churchill.] Mr Oates was busy writing, as if he intended to print something. This was a week since. (He was laughed at.)
Sir Thomas Meres.] After both King and Kingdom have had so great a deliverance by Mr Oates's discovery, that he should be used like a rogue for it, at the Lords Bar! It was considered whether he should have money for shoes and stockings. The next news, Mr Bedlow may be used so. An hundred pound is as little as can be thought of for his present use.
Mr Oates was brought to the Bar.
The Speaker.] Mr Oates, the House is under a great surprize that you should be under any restraint, or durance. They desire to be informed, from yourself, of matter of fact.
Mr Oates.] On Sunday night, after I gave my Information to the King about the Queen (fn. 4), the substance whereof you know, pen, ink, and paper were taken from me, my servants were sent away, and the Yeomen of the Guard were smoking tobacco in my chamber. My own friends were denied access to me, and forbid to speak to me, unless in the presence of one of the Clerks of the Council, and my Counsel was taken from me. I know the privilege of an Englishman, to have no restraint upon him unless there be criminal informations against him, and I have none against me. From this restraint at Whitehall, I may be carried to Newgate. I know I was guilty of Misprision of Treason, and I would have given in my Information against the Queen sooner, if I durst have trusted. One of the persons I revealed some circumstances to was taken from me—I desire I may have my Pardon to the first of November, for Misprision of Treason. My restraint continues upon me still. I have my papers, but I have no privilege to speak to my father, or other persons, and have no liberty for my Counsel to come to me. The Marquess of Winchester did but ask me a question, and had a rub from one of the Officers that guarded me. Till I have my liberty, if I suffer ten thousand deaths, I will not open my mouth any farther of what I know. He withdrew.
Mr Williams.] You have information plainly from Mr Oates of his restraint. If he be not contradicted in what he has said, we ought to believe him. The persons present, at the time he mentions, may disprove much of it, if not true. You have the man that gave the first discovery of the Plot, and him that discovered the murdering of Godfrey. I value it, upon the account of discovery, that that should not stop by this discouragement, to be handled thus like a rogue. If a man be of a gentleman-like spirit, he'll rather go to Newgate than be under them at Whitehall. If you will not search into this, I will search farther into nothing.
Sir John Ernly.] I see here is a contrary apprehension of the thing. What restraint Mr Oates had, was in order to his safety, for his person and papers. I say there ought to be some consideration had, how Mr Oates shall be forthcoming, to prosecute the Plotters; and that our zeal may not transport us beyond our end. For his subsistence, he has wanted nothing.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] We owe much to this man. I would have him tell you what he will propose for his security and subsistence.
Colonel Titus.] We are told, "that this restraint is for Mr Oates's safety," for his father must not speak with him. I know not the meaning of that, unless they apprehend danger that his father should cut his throat. Deprived of his pen, &c! That is but an ill instrument to make himself away with. I know not what disease Oates has to be cured of, by smoking him with tobacco.
Sir John Ernly.] People do skulk into Mr Oates's chamber; and if any accident had happened to him, what would you have thought of it?
The Speaker.] Mr Oates's first coming into Whitehall was at his own desire, and that he might not stir without guards. But how far this has been improved upon him as to restraint, I know not. But I doubt how far his evidence will be good in Law, if he be under restraint.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The security of his person was good, right, and just, till Sunday; but neither Ernly nor any man can answer why he should be debarred speaking with his Counsel, and his father, or his friend. Let the intention of the Privy Council be what it will, they are weak, or we are so. All the wisdom of the nation is not collected in the Privy Council. This is not to be told to all the Commons of England. I would hear Oates again, and then you may make some resolution.
Mr Oates was called in again.
The Speaker.] Mr Oates, when you first made a discovery of the Plot, you desired to be at Whitehall, and to have a guard for your security; and you thought yourself safe at Whitehall; but now you think otherwise. If you now be discharged from Whitehall and your guards, what method will you propose, yourself, if you be discharged of your guards, and go from Whitehall, for your security for giving evidence, and of your person?
Mr Oates.] The Lords ordered me three servants for my attendance and guard, for my safety, in whose hands I durst adventure my life. I can serve the King and Kingdom, without the King's daily maintenance. But if this House will help me, I will accept it thankfully. But if this House cannot prevail for my freedom, &c. I had rather be without Whitehallbread, than to have no liberty—My safety is not in Whitehall.—But I am in some danger of being poisoned, as I was before of being stabbed. Those that put the King upon this way of securing evidence, will find it all discovered. No man can be restrained of his liberty, without good evidence against him. My Treason is not so great, as in the person that I now discover. Must not the King's evidence see one another? For it is Treason (it seems) to look one another in the face. I desire first, that my father, and my Counsel (who is an honest man, and of good repute, and known) may have liberty to come to me. I plot not with my Counsel, nor they with me, with those who would smother this Plot. I desire that Dr Tongue may be sent for; for the House was short in something they should have asked him. I desire I may provide my own lodgings, near the House, and that I may provide for myself. If I cannot be permitted, I'll tell you. My Lord Chancellor made me the proposition of allowance for boots and shoes, &c. I looked upon it as a sore disgrace, though I believe the Chancellor meant honestly. My fortune would be better, if I should not discover any farther, &c. but I will endeavour to save three Kingdoms, but not disserve one; though my Lord Treasurer spoke ill of a Letter of mine. I never knew security to prosecute, &c. more than one's single bond only; but if it be required, I'll endeavour to get other security, that I shall prosecute the persons accused. He withdrew.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] At the Council there was some Debate about Mr Oates's liberty, and his papers. There was an addition to the Order, "that he should not speak to any persons but in the presence of a Clerk of the Council (fn. 5). But what was done after I went away, I know not.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I find now, that Oates's liberty is the same with Mr Coleman's in Newgate. He might speak with his wife, but in the presence only of the Keeper of Newgate.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] The Abbey-church-yard is a convenient place for Oates's lodging. There is a company of foot of the Militia upon guard. He may have two or three centries to guard him. I am for taking all these men in their own way. And that he may have 200l. for his occasions; and secure himself to his content. But one thing sticks with me. Whether it is advisable to go upon his own recognizance only, to prosecute, &c.? In a very great case, as this is, if his father, or any one person be bound with him, I am very well satisfied. There is a way of spiriting men away, and you may never know what is become of him. And, in that case, it is hard to be bound for a man. Do what you please. I would venture to take his own security to prosecute.
The Speaker.] I have not heard of any person that is a prosecutor, that has been obliged to give security with him to prosecute. If he does refuse to prosecute, after he has given information upon oath, a Justice of Peace may commit him to prison.
Colonel Birch.] I would thus far let Mr Oates have his desires, viz. "to have his own servants and his own diet, and to be where he will." But I had rather have him at Whitehall, and his guard out of doors. "Two hundred pound" is proposed for subsistence-money; I would have it ten hundred pounds. It is strange, that, after all his discovery of the Plot, of a Navy, and an Army, &c. and we are told he has his liberty again (fn. 6). We may in time talk of that.
Serjeant Maynard.] To what degree this Mr Oates has made his Information, I would have you consider. What did this man get by it? He has forfeited his own life, if he be not pardoned. Something extraordinary, sure, induced him to this discovery. There was little prosecution of the Plot, till Sir Edmundbury Godfrey's death. What ground was there for Godfrey's death? Nothing, but in relation to Mr Oates's Information. How many lies and stories were made, to persuade the world about it? But when the murder was discovered, the world was awakened. That which was examined before, every one had notice of. But Oates could not imagine Coleman's papers, to confirm his evidence against him. Every man's mouth was full of Oates's single evidence; but when Coleman's papers were discovered, and Coleman could not deny them to be his own; then Oates having gone so far, it looked [like] a countertally in the Exchequer. That justifies that Oates is not a liar. Now Mr Oates is under restraint for all this. It is great prudence for him to be secured, but it is not justifiable for him to be punished, by with-holding pen, ink, and paper from him, his father, and his counsel. Quis custodit custodem? He tells you he is in danger of his very keepers. As for temptation to retract his evidence, if there be any thing in that, he would have had it before now. I move, therefore, that he may be still at Whitehall, but let him have his own servants, friends, &c. I never knew in story, but that Princes have had information of dangers designed against them some way before-hand. Gedalia told the person who informed him his throat was designed to be cut, "he lied," and believed it not, and his throat was cut. The Duke of Guise, who was killed at Blois, by Order of Henry III. of France, would never believe it, though he had a letter sent him in a handkerchief into the Council, to give him notice of the design against him. Examples are frequent, where informations of this nature have been slighted. The Information of this Plot comes from all hands. I pray God we be not as the commonwealth of Jerusalem, That hearing we will not hear, and understanding we will not understand. What Oates has said, has hitherto been true. I would therefore take care that the man may be at ease, and have his own servants, &c.
[Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to desire his Majesty, that Mr Oates may be under no manner of restraint whatsoever; and that he may be allowed his own servants to attend him, and the liberty of providing his own necessaries; and that his Majesty would be graciously pleased to give order, that he may have a present sum of money in hand, and a competent weekly allowance for his maintenance; and that his friends and relations may have free access to him: And that his Majesty would be farther graciously pleased, that Mr Oates's Pardon may extend and relate to this day, for Misprision of Treason.]
Mr Oates was brought to the Bar.
After having preambled something about his Pardon, which the Compiler did not well hear, he said, I do accuse the Queen for conspiring the death of the King, and contriving how to compass it (fn. 7). I saw a Letter, in May last, from Sir George Wake man, the Queen's Physician, to Ashby, alias Thimbleby, a Jesuit, &c. (which is spoken of at large in Wakeman's Tryal.) In that Letter, Wakeman liked well the proposal of killing the King, if it could be, and the Queen had engaged him in that work. Upon mature deliberation, finding this was a thing not to be concealed, I feared that the Queen, the wife of the King's bosom, might have opportunity—And for another reason, I did not give evidence of it in Court, till I told the King of it. In July last there was a Message from the Queen for three or four Jesuits to attend her at Somerset-House, and I had order to wait on them. They went into the chamber. I followed them, and stood in an anti-chamber. I heard the Queen then say, "She would no longer endure the affronts she had received, but would revenge the violation of her bed." (I have been oppressed by my restraint, and I cannot say the very words, but I refer myself to the Minutes taken before the Lords of the Council.) I desired to be introduced by the Jesuits to the Queen, after the Conference at Somerset-House; and, upon my salvation, I saw no woman in the room but the Queen. She gave the Fathers 4000l. for the Society of Jesus. Of this I have evidence, by a Letter of Thanks for it from them. This Letter I saw, and, in that Letter, the Queen's resolution to stand by them in propagation of Popery. In another Letter, &c. That there were several occasions for great sums of money, to encourage people to continue in their perverted estate." Another I have forgot; it is in the Minutes of the Council; and, I think, Mr Speaker was then at the Council. I went to Somerset-House lately; and though I cannot swear to the very room where the Queen was, so as to satisfy a Judge, yet I satisfy myself (fn. 8). You may see a perfect account I gave of all this to the Lords of the Council, and those papers I am willing to live and die by. He withdrew.
Colonel Titus.] Improbable things from a credible man I cannot believe, and probable things from an in credible man I cannot believe—When I consider what the Papists teach and practise—I do not believe a story, because Mr Oates and Mr Bedlow say it is true; but because it is probable to be true, therefore I believe it. There have been Queens that have been impeached. The first step you can make to secure the King's Person, is to secure all the Papists at Whitehall; not only men, but women, should be removed. Unless you separate them from the King, the Plot will go on still. The first thing we do should be to address the King, "that all Papists at Whitehall may be removed from thence."
Mr William Harbord.] I second the Motion, and will graft something on it. Though they are virtuous people, of themselves, yet their ghostly father is near them, and prevails upon them. The late Queen was by her Confessor made to go barefoot to Tyburn for her penance; and seeing that one fatal stroke upon the King may be our destruction, and that Proclamations are ineffectual to send the Papists out of town, I move to have a Law made, and the Bill brought in to-morrow morning, "to make it penal for Papists to come to town, and felony to approach the King's Person."
Colonel Birch.] You have been told, "that you cannot have the Minutes of Mr Oates's Information from the Council." This is reasonable to ask, if Impeachment was to be. But it is not a plaister for the sore yet. I have not yet seen one step to prevent a fatal stroke upon the King, but by the two Houses. Pardon me, if I say, they have rather encouraged it, that have been near the King. I do not think that we are ready yet for impeaching the Queen; but when we do it, in plain speaking, I would address the King, "that the Queen may withdraw to some of his Majesty's Houses." This is as gentle a step as we can make. If evil should come of it, and you not address the King, &c. you can never wipe the aspersion from you. I would have a Law made, "that, if the King should fall by the hands of violence, no man should enjoy an Estate if he were a Papist, but the next a-kin that was a Protestant."
Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] If there be several propositions on foot, no man can speak to them. It is, by Law, Treason to kill the Queen, she being in a high station; though Queens have been tryed for Treason, and found guilty of it. If you address the King "for removal of all Papists from the Court," it will not be interpreted "the Queen;" but if the matter before you be sufficient against her, then you may name her to be removed. It is time now to be plain. Since the tryal of Coleman (fn. 9), my apprehensions increase daily. I observe from Mr Oates, that, in this Information, he comes not up positively to the Queen. Mr Bedlow does. Oates says, "he heard a woman's voice, that said, "she would be revenged of the violation of her bed:" And when he was introduced into the room where they were in consultation, he saw no woman there but the Queen. I would be glad to have Oates's evidence written down, as well as Bedlow's. "That she would be revenged of the violation of her bed" possibly may not extend to murdering the King. Therefore the Question will be, this concerning the King so nearly, "Whether the King shall be addressed unto that the Queen may retire to Somerset-House," where she goes sometimes for a week together for her devotion, and it will be no punishment to her. This Information is possible to be true: And if we neglect it, it may put people upon extremity. If you intend to proceed criminally against the Queen, there must be great consideration had upon it, and we must consult our Books. But if you are of opinion, and have good ground, to advise the King to remove the Queen from Court, do as you please; but Mr Oates comes not up to the charge so directly as Mr Bedlow. But if the House thinks, that Mr Oates comes up to Mr Bedlow in his Evidence, it is the duty of the House to address the King, "That, for the safety of his Person, the Queen may be removed to Somerset-House, and all other Papists put from the Court, in this time of imminent danger."
Sir John Trevor.] The Law of England makes no distinction between the Queen and the meanest person, in point of Treason, &c. I am loth to say what is in my heart. The Queen is nearest to the King's Person at Court. There is but a wall between them. Therefore I would satisfy the loyal subjects of England, and pass a Vote in plain English, "to make an Address to the King, that the Queen and her family, together with all reputed or suspected Papists, may be removed from Whitehall." [Which was voted.]
The Commons desired a Conference with the Lords, at which they delivered the following Address, and desired the concurrence of the Lords:
"We your Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects the ***** and Commons in Parliament assembled, having received informations, by several witnesses, of a most desperate and traiterous [design and] conspiracy against the life of your [most] sacred Majesty; wherein, to our great astonishment, the Queen is particularly charged and accused; in discharge of our Allegiance, and [out of our] affection and care for the preservation of your Majesty's [sacred] Person, and consequently of the whole Kingdom, do most humbly beseech your Majesty, that the Queen, and all her family, and all Papists, and [reputed or] suspected Papists, be forthwith removed from your Majesty's Court at Whitehall.
[Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to desire his Majesty, that all Papists, and suspected Papists, within England, Wales, and town of Berwick upon Tweed, may be apprehended and secured.]
Friday, November 29.
[Mr Secretary Coventry acquainted the House, That his Majesty had been attended with the Address concerning Mr Oates; and that his Majesty would take time to consider, and return an Answer.]
Saturday, November 30.
The King commanded the House to attend him in the House of Lords, where [after passing the Bill for disabling Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament] he thus spoke:
"That, as to the Bill for raising the Militia, he did not pass it, because it put the Militia out of his power for a time. For though it were but for half an hour, it was the same thing; for the right of the Militia being in the Crown, he would not consent to any Act that might put it out, though but for half an hour. But that, if you would enable him with money, he would raise such a part of the Militia, as should secure the peace of the Nation, and his own Person. As to the other Bill, it was a Bill of great importance, and might hereafter be of ill consequence; but nevertheless, for allaying the present apprehensions and jealousies, and securing the People against their fears, he was content to pass it into a Law. And now, having done so much for your satisfaction, at your desire; he did expect that you should take into consideration what he had formerly communicated to you in this Session, and answer his desires (fn. 10)."
Sir William Coventry.] I am not superstitious, but the rejecting this Bill by his Majesty looks strange—That we should do so little, in this dangerous conjuncture, towards our security, and that little we do should prove abortive—That such a fatality should be upon us, that, in this Bill for raising the Militia, there should be something redundant, or deficient, to cause the King to reject it—That we should be so circumspect in our Address, and the Lords to make no objection against it; this could be no objection from the Lords of the Council—We were so circumspect, that, if the raising the Militia should draw any charge upon the King, we would supply that with this Bill. And yet these Lords of the Council, present in the House, who were so circumspect in preparing the Bill, not to remind us of the defects of the Bill, till the King told us why he would not pass it! This looks fatal. If there be an error in the Bill, let us look it over, and see where we have erred—And let a copy of it be read, to see where we have been defective, and to mend it.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] I would have that Bill we sent to the Lords, read, to see what defects we may find in it, and what may remedy it now.
(Lord Russel said privately to the Compiler, "That his Motion was in favour of the Duke, to take the blame from him of the King's rejecting the Bill.")
Sir John Ernly.] I doubt you may not do any thing upon this Act, in the same Session of Parliament. But yet you may have a Bill that may have somewhat of the Militia to secure us.
Mr Bennet.] When there are so many of the King's Council, both here and in the Lords House, and not to remind us sooner of it!—Make what Bill you will, I am afraid those hands do all still—There was an Act made for disbanding the Army, but the Army was kept up; and, it seems, the Militia "must not be out of the King's hand"—I think our danger is at home; it is about Whitehall, I mean. And till you clear all here, all the rest will be to no purpose.
Mr Swynfin.] This is a new case. Both Houses thought nothing amiss in the Bill. Pray let some Counsel withdraw to view it.
The Militia Bill, rejected by the King, was read by the Speaker.
Sir William Coventry.] To acquiesce in the King's rejection of Bills, is our duty; but for the present consideration, I would not infringe method of Parliament, but establish the Militia in such a way as may defend us.
Mr Finch.] I am sorry, that, in the danger we are in, our friends have not helped us. The time will be long to-day in the Members taking the Test (fn. 11), but I would do something. It may be that another Bill may be brought in, with some alteration. If it be a Bill of the same nature, it must be done to-day, or not at all.
Mr Waller.] In 3 Charles, the Kingdom was so provoked by billetting of soldiers, and conduct-money, that it occasioned the Petition of Right; to which we had an Answer from the King, and we liked it not; but went to the King a second time, and had an Answer, and liked it not. We went to the King a third time, and had Answer, "Soit droit fait comme il est desiré." Some difference there is betwixt this and that. We had not then for Answer, "Le Roi s'avisera;" that was a thing of Right; but consider whether this is of Grace? I observe, that, when the Speaker male report of the King's Speech, he said, "This Bill was rejected. Le Roi s'avisera." But the King added more; he gave you a reason why he would not pass it. I ray put us in mind of that reason why the King rejected it.
Sir Robert Sawyer.] I am sorry the Bill is rejected, and the more, because it passed both Houses so unanimously, I think there can be no exception taken to it, unless to keeping the men together so many days. I desire that the King's Council, that are Members, would acquaint you, what the stop was in passing this Act. Surely, in this imminent danger, there is some great matter in it. For keeping the Militia together fourteen days is already in the power of the Deputy-Lieutenants. And why not now, in such a time, in such imminent danger? I cannot conceive why this Bill takes away the King's power in dismissing them, more than in the former fourteen days. It was not the design, nor intention of the House, but that the country should bear the charge. Were the King put upon it, it were another case. The people will say, "What! is a Law denied us for our safety?" I fear the Militia will have discouragement, and so those unlawful assemblies will be encouraged, and the true Protestant Religion discouraged. They will say, "We were armed, and you had no Law to keep us together." I would therefore address the King, "That a third part of the Militia may be ready, and those that the King shall for such a time employ." A private Bill of a worthy Member was brought in, the same Session, for altering a few words only of a Bill, &c. Something certainly must be done, or we are certainly ruined.
Sir Thomas Meres.] I perceive there is a wisdom somewhere more than in the Lords and Commons, that this Bill is denied us. There are finesses, that we understand not. It is plain, that what is in the Bill the King does, he enacts. Neither, it seems, can be done by a new Law, or without a new Law. Neither by Addresses nor Law. I acknowlege it is the King's Act, &c. and whoever advised the King to this Act, at this time, is neither a friend to the King nor the nation. The King's Act in Parliament is more eminent, and his own, than any thing elfe he does. I will not speak to two things at once, but to the first point. I am of opinion, that we are in some straits, that we cannot have that fame Law brought in, the same Session, after it has been rejected. But that of Hearth-Money was thought a necessary Law, but there was a great slip in it (two or three, I think.) It was thought necessary that some of it should pass. And another Bill (though the former was rejected) was brought in the same Session. I remember that Precedent only. I show you this, because this very Bill cannot come in, this Session, (seeing this is to be totally slighted, and another confirmed) that a Law may be made, to make the Militia useful, though not this way. I have nothing but safety and sincerity in my thoughts.
Mr Secretary Coventry.] The Bill went on universally here, and, in my own thoughts, I went along with it, and I had no exception to it. If I had known before the cause of exception the King would have taken at it, I should have been a villain not to have told you. The King has told you the reason of his rejecting the Bill, "because he will not have the Militia half an hour out of his hand;" he thinks, "that, by this Bill, 60,000 men are to be in arms, and are not in his power to make them lay down their arms, if he pleases." Now if you command the country to be in arms fourteen days more, that, in the whole Bill, makes up forty two.
The Debate broke off.
The Members, according to the Act just passed, were sworn at the table, &c. this day and Sunday.