Debates in 1678: December (19th-20th)

Pages 337-364

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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In this section

Thursday, December 19.

Sir John Ernly, Chancellor of the Exchequer, acquainted the House, That he was commanded by the King to deliver this Message to them, viz.

"That his Majesty having received Information, that his late Ambassador in France, Mr Montagu (fn. 1), a Member of this House, had held several private Conferences with the Pope's Nuncio there, has, to the end that he may discover the truth of the matter, given order for the seizing Mr Montagu's Papers (fn. 2)."

Serjeant Maynard.] I wish the like proceedings had been in other cases. Coleman had time to sort his Papers, and this diligence would have prevented it. I would let this matter alone awhile. The charge against Mr Montagu, of corresponding with the Pope's Nuncio, borders upon Treason very near; at least looks that way. (Quicquid necessitas cogit, defendit.) Correspondence of this nature sometimes may be justifiable.

Sir Thomas Lee.] This is a high charge against your Member. I would hear your Member in his place. Because he is a Member of the House, he is not exempt from crimes. I would have Montagu heard what he can say, in his place.

Mr Vaughan.] His charge is "Correspondence with the Pope's Nuncio." That may have several interpretations. Possibly he may have had it for the good of the nation, and possibly to destroy the kingdom. You cannot do your Member less right, than to hear him. It may be, he will tell you who else has done it, if he has not.

Sir John Ernly.] I said, "the King was informed that Montagu had private Conferences with the Pope's Nuncio."

Mr Powle.] No man can defend an Ambassador's having Correspondences, or Conferences, with the Pope's Nuncio. Montagu is a Member of Parliament; and it is an old rule, that, in Treason, no private man, nor Member's person, can be seized, before the accusation be given in upon oath: If not, any Member may be taken from Parliament. I would know, whether any legal Information has been given against your Member. This was a fatal case in the last King's time, of seizing Members and their Papers. I hope never to see the like again. If a great Minister has a quarrel against a Gentleman, and one go and tell the King a story of him to his prejudice, and his Papers thereupon must be seized, I know not whither that will go. In the first place, I would be instructed from Ernly, who brought the Message from the King, &c. whether there be any legal Information against your Member? And, if there be not, then you may consider what to do.

Mr Hampden.] I would have the notice from the King, by the Honourable Person, written down, as the very words delivered by him, by the Clerk.

Sir John Ernly.] I know not whether I was fully heard; but I said, "The King had commanded me to let you know, that he having received Information from abroad, that Mr Montagu, his late Ambassador, contrary to his instructions, had held private Conferences with the Pope's Nuncio, he had caused his Papers to be seized, to the end that he may discover the matter."

Sir Thomas Clarges.] I am glad to hear that the Ambassador had instructions not to correspond with the Pope's Nuncio. I am very glad to hear it indeed. (Jeering.) Sir William Godolphin, the Spanish Ambassador, is accused of High Treason by Mr Oates, and yet we hear nothing of him. Montagu's instructions will appear in the Secretary's minutes. I would have Ernly answer, whether this Information be upon oath?

Sir John Ernly.] I have told you what the King has commanded me; but I cannot be free to say farther, without leave. I do not say "contrary to any instructions," but "without any instructions," from his Majesty.

Sir William Coventry.] The whole business will turn upon this hinge. The Devil is as bad as the broth he is boiled in, the proverb is. Some of us, it may be, have sons at Rome, and they have kissed the Pope's toe, and may be guilty of Treason for that. I would have that explained.

Sir John Ernly.] I have told you the Message, as I received it. The first time, I said, "without instructions, &c. Montagu had Conference, &c. I say now, "without any instructions from his Majesty."

Colonel Titus.] If it be "without instructions, &c." we that have been abroad may be in the danger of Sir Richard Berling, who went to the Pope for a Cardinal's cap for the Cardinal of Norfolk, one of the King's subjects. He may be guilty of High Treason, and so may we all, at this rate, that have been abroad.

Mr Powle.] Correspondence with the Pope's Nuncio, or his Internuncio, as Coleman had at Brussels, is as much Treason. I shall acquaint you from Mr Montagu, that he will deliver all his own Papers himself; else Papers for his own private defence may be embezzled. He will resign them to any hand this House shall appoint.

Mr Bennet.] If his Papers are seized, Papers may be put into his Cabinet, as well as taken out, to his great prejudice.

Mr Powle.] Five or six Gentlemen, from Whitehall, have seized all the passages to Mr Montagu's house, and his Lady has sent him a letter of it.

Colonel Birch.] This is a mighty mystery, and the greatest business I have heard here. I should be very loth to make a wrong step in it here. I have always taken it for granted, that no Member's Papers can be seized. I know not what haste they are in, in this matter, nor where it will end. Forty more Members Papers may be seized, at this rate, and the House garbled; and then the game is up. You have Information from Ernly of the thing, &c. and you may have as good Information as this, against another Member. The Kingdom of France is in Secretary Coventry's province; and I would have Members go to his Office, to search the Minutes for Ambassador Montagu's Instructions, when he was sent into France.

Sir Thomas Lee.] I would, in this matter, make tender steps. I see there is no harm in making an Address to the King about it, "That he may let the House know whether there is any Information upon oath against Mr Montagu." If there be such Information as the Law warrants, I would sit down under it; if not, I would look to our Privileges. I would presently make application to the King, without delay.

Colonel Titus.] I second the Motion "to address the King, to know whether the Information against Montagu be upon oath; and next, if it be upon oath, whether that Conference was beyond the sea." If there be no Information upon oath, then it is a Breach of Privilege.

Sir William Coventry.] If we address the King, to know whether the Information be upon oath, it will so turn the thing upon us, that we shall know it. I agree with Birkenhead, that it is a great fault in an Ambassador, an omission to give the King an account of public transactions that have passed through his hands. It may be through forgetfulness; but unpardonable, if the King calls for it, and the person does not give it. I have been abroad myself in Popish countries, and may have conversed with Nuncios. I have had the King's Pardon, and my share in the last Act of Indemnity. An Ambassador has nothing for his justification, but his Papers; and his neck may go for it, if he has not his Papers to justify himself. I should be loth to have my Papers seized, though but for matter of reputation. I had rather have my shirt, than my Papers, taken from me. Montagu desires only sorting of his Papers, and that he may mark them, and he will deliver them to such as you shall approve of, and that he may mark them, and set them in order, to make his defence the better. Otherwise any Minister, employed in foreign Negotiations, is in a desperate condition.

Mr Powle.] I would not do the second thing before the first. I would not have his Papers tumbled and tossed about, before you know whether the Information against him be upon oath. The Ministers heretofore answered for ill actions in the Government, but now they put them all upon the King. I pursue the first Motion, "to send to the King, to know whether the Information be upon oath, &c." And when you have this answer, then to consider whether the Papers shall be seized. Else you give up your rights to fatal consequence.

Mr Vaughan.] If Papers are seized at this rate, a great many of your Members Papers may be seized, because some men are guilty of High Treason.

The Speaker.] The thing is of great moment, and the King has told you why he has caused the Papers to be seized; and Montagu has told you, "He has received a letter from his Lady, that his house is guarded, &c." but they are not to be seized till Montagu comes to his house to sort the Papers. You concern not yourselves in matters of State, but matters of Privilege. Till you know that his charge is not upon oath, you ought to believe that the matter is upon oath. It is a nice thing, and I know the stress and consequence of it. It may be, I know the thing and matter of it. And if no-body is more capable to advise than myself, I would have you expect the issue.

Mr Powle.] What I moved is, because the thing yet is in possibility of recall. It is plain that his Papers are sent to be seized. The Rights and Privileges of Parliament are the greatest strength and security of the King and the nation. I think it a very dutiful way to know what the thing is. Therefore you cannot go a better than to send to the King, &c. before we rise.

Mr Williams.] If you adjourn, you submit your Privilege to the King's pleasure. I cannot give my opinion, whether it is a breach of Privilege, or not, till you have the thing entirely before you. I would know what this Information is against your Member. I know, by the Law of England, there is no distinction of State-Treason, Felony, or Breach of the Peace, against which there is no Privilege. It is not every Breach of the Peace that a Member may be seized upon, &c. where there is no more required than security, &c.—And he ought to have the Privilege of an Englishman. He that will be ridden shall be ridden. Therefore I would address, &c.

Sir Robert Howard.] The Pope's Nuncio is no other than Ambassador. It is the same thing with Legate a latere. Suppose you go to the King, and say, "What is it you know of Montagu?" That is too early, and yet your Member has his house seized—In this there is difficulty every way. It seems, a reference is made by Montagu to see whether the charge be true in his Papers. Shall your Member forbear, and give up his Papers? That you will not do. Your Member has offered to give up his Papers, and to mark them, that they may be no injury to him. Therefore I would have some of your Members accompany Montagu, that he may sort his Papers.

Colonel Titus.] If the Information be upon oath, and it be neither Felony, Treason, nor Breach of the Peace, your Privilege is violated. With this Message moved for, I would have another, viz. "Of what nature this Conference with the Pope's Nuncio was."

Sir John Knight.] Conferences have been held at Whitehall with Father Patrick, and Father Howard, and other Priests. I would have that enquired into likewise.

Sir Thomas Meres.] Whoever has had private Conference with the Pope's Nuncio, now in the Tower, I would seize all their Papers, one and all—of whom I will tell you to-morrow; some of their Papers, upon what I say, will be laid aside. Let it go where it will; let the subject-matter against Montagu be seen, if proved true; that this may not be a Precedent upon this House for the future. I would therefore beseech the King to suspend any farther proceeding upon Montagu, till this House be satisfied whether the Information be given upon oath; and whether the subject of that Conference was Treason.

Sir William Coventry.] I am against the whole thing; either sending to the King to know what the crimes are, or whether upon oath. I believe there are persons that put the King upon this (as I believe it done by advice) and I believe it is not Treason he is charged with, because they have not seized Mr Montagu's Person, as well as his Papers, which was the properest thing to be done. He may be guilty, he may be innocent; possibly the thing will be put farther. But to take away his armour that must defend him, a little thrust will destroy him. The very Law gives him his Papers for his defence, to justify himself by, not only for his Commissions but Omissions. His Papers to be delivered out of his hands clearly away, is a very dangerous thing. I would be glad to hear something from the Gentleman (Montagu) himself. It has been proposed, "that some of the Members may go with him to sort his Papers." If there be any Papers relating to the Pope's Nuncio, they may be copied out, and Montagu may keep the originals and the rest of the Papers.

Sir John Ernly.] The Gentleman (Montagu) knows something of the nature. In all these cases there are warrants of the same nature. You may send for the warrant, and you will find these Papers are to be seized before reasonable Evidence, and that the Papers be so scheduled, as that the Gentleman may have no prejudice.

Sir Thomas Lee.] The Papers being seized by the King's warrant, may be looked upon as in the King's actual possession. By the King's Order so much appears, that persons are at Montagu's house, &c. This is your tenderness to them that have advised the King to this, or some others, that may hereafter, that you may avoid all occasion of offence. You are told of a Conference with the Pope's Nuncio, that he has had. Therefore the Papers were ordered to be seized, to know the truth of the matter Then it seems, those Papers are seized to see whether those Informations are Treason, or no; therefore in this you go the most moderate way. The consequence will be, you will see your Member tryed, and sit still till it be done; and no matter how soon you see Montagu guilty or not guilty. And so there will be nothing upon your Books to hurt Parliaments in eternal consequence. Therefore I would have this Message sent to the King, to prevent declaring what your Privileges are in this matter.

Mr Powle.] You are past that consideration. Now the Question is, whether you will go with this second part—It is not so decent to go often to the King. You are not yet ripe to desire the King to desist proceeding, for you know not what the thing is yet, and that may be quickly done, when you know.

Mr Harbord was sent to Mr Montagu's house to inform the House of the Proceedings, &c. who gave this account: "That, by Order of Council, Montagu's Cabinets were seized, but were not to be opened till Montagu was present. And that they were taken away, and set in a chamber near the Councilchamber."

Mr Montagu.] I believe, that the seizing my Cabinets and Papers was to get into their hands some Letters of great consequence, that I have to produce, of the designs of a Great Minister of State (fn. 3).

Mr Harbord.] This has been intended three or four days, but, I believe, they have missed of their aims; and I would not for 40,000l. they had those Papers. And, freely, this was my great inducement to stir so much to make Mr Montagu a Member of this House (fn. 4). In due time you will see what those Papers are. They will open your eyes, and though too late to cure the evil, yet they will tell you who to proceed against, as the authors of our misfortunes. I desire that some persons of honour and worth may be present at the opening these Cabinets, lest some of these Letters should be there. For they are of the greatest consequence that ever you saw.

Mr Bennet.] The sum the Gentleman speaks of, 40,000l. is a great deal of money. But pray let these Papers be forth-coming for your use. As for the Breach of our Privileges, &c. this thing was thrown in to blind us. I know my share of transactions too, and you shall in time know of it.

Sir Gilbert Gerrard.] This business is of great consequence, and I hope may save us. I would address the King, "That these Cabinets may not be opened, but may be produced here to-morrow, that we may proceed upon them."

Colonel Titus.] To seize Papers thus is very illegal. Any man's may be seized at this rate. I look upon this as one of the wisest actions the Ministers have done. Were I one of them, right or wrong I would have seized Montagu's Papers. I second the Motion, "That the Papers, &c. may be produced here to-morrow." And then I believe you will see why those Papers were seized at Montagu's.

Sir Nicholas Carew.] I would sit on, and let the Papers in Montagu's hands be brought now, and if they concern any man, under his Majesty himself, I would prosecute the thing now. I know not whether we shall be here to-morrow morning, or no. It may be, we shall be all clapped up by to-morrow. Let Montagu therefore be commanded to bring in his Papers now, before you rise.

Sir John Lowther (fn. 5).] For ought I know, Montagu may be served as Sir Edmundbury Godfrey was; therefore I would not have him go out of the House for the Papers. He knows by what practices these negotiations with France have been done. I am of opinion that we shall not sit here to-morrow. I move therefore "to have the Papers sent for now."

Sir Henry Capel.] I second that Motion. We know what practices have been in the late times, &c. how Papers of Members have been seized. The King has power on his subjects, but it is according to Law. I wondered at the proceeding of the Sheriff of Northamptonshire at this Gentleman (Montagu's) Election (fn. 6); but now it is all out; we know the reason of it—He may give us much light into transactions. Lowther has awakened you with the case of Godfrey, which is of great importance. I know not what may become of us tomorrow; therefore I would have Montagu's Papers brought to-night.

Lord Cavendish.] I believe, it will appear by those Papers, that the War with France was pretended, for the sake of an Army, and that a great man carried on the interest of an Army and Popery; and Montagu gives you the convenience of this discovery. I move therefore, "That he bring the Papers in as soon as can be."

Colonel Titus.] I suppose Montagu has those Papers in his custody; else neither he nor his friends would have informed you of them. I would therefore have some Members go with him to fetch them.

Lord Russel.] Montagu has imparted some of the contents of those Papers to me; and I was required by him not to impart them to any body; but now it is no secret. Montagu cannot come at the originals, for the present, but he has a copy of them.

Mr Harbord and some others were ordered (Mr Montagu having acquainted the House that he had [in his custody] some Papers which concern the Peace of the Government) to receive directions from Mr Montagu where to find those Papers.

The House sat till the Gentlemen returned with Mr Montagu's Papers. Then

Mr Harbord reported, That they had repaired to the place where Mr Montagu directed them, and had brought the Box of Papers which Mr Montagu mentioned; but that the key is carried to Whitehall, locked up in the Cabinets; and that they have sent for a smith to break it open.

Mr Montagu went up to sort the Papers.

Mr Montagu] I am sorry that so great a Minister has brought this guilt upon himself. It was my intention (making reflections upon your apprehension of a standing Army) to have acquainted Mr Secretary Coventry with the Papers. I will now only tell you, that the King has been as much deluded as the Dutch or Spain; and you have been deluded too by this great Minister. This I should not have done, out of duty and respect to the King, but by command of the House.

[The Box being ordered to be opened,] Mr Montagu [selected and] presented to the House two Letters (fn. 7), which were read [by the Speaker,] the one dated [January 16, 1677–8; the other,] March 25, 1678. The principal matter therein is contained in these words: "In case the conditions of Peace shall be accepted, the King expects to have six millions of livres [300,000l.] yearly, for three years, from the time that this agreement shall be signed between his Majesty and the King of France; because it will be two or three years before he can hope to find his Parliament in humour to give him supplies, after your having made any Peace with France, &c."

Subscribed "Danby."

"To the Secretary you must not mention one syllable of the money (fn. 7)."

[At the bottom of this Letter were these words: "This Letter is writ by my Order. C. R."]

Mr Bennet.] I wonder the House sits so silent when they see themselves sold for six millions of livres to the French. Some things come home to Treason in construction. I would have the Lawyers tell you, whether this you have heard be not worthy impeaching the Treasurer of Treason. Now we see who has played all this game; who has repeated all the sharp Answers to our Addresses, and raised an Army for no War. You know now who passes by the Secretaries of State. I would impeach the Treasurer of High Treason.

Mr Williams.] Will any Member aver this to be the Treasurer's Letter?

Mr Montagu.] I conceive it to be the Treasurer's hand. I have had several Letters from him of the same hand.

Mr Williams.] If this be his Letter, there cannot be a more constructive Treason than is contained in it. You have heard of Religion and Property apprehended in danger, in several speeches. But when your Laws are contemned by a Great Minister, and they miscarry and are laid dead—(A great cry of the House, "Name him, name him.") The Letters name the person sufficiently. Nothing ought to be imputed to the King—But this man, unless he clears himself upon some body else, must take this crime upon him. This project of Peace is what you have prophesied all along. This agrees with Coleman's Letters, this great engine Money. Now when this great person is on this point to make Parliaments useless, it is Treason. And the Parliament may declare a Treason, without making any. For any Minister to destroy a confederacy, and to make the King a Pensioner to France, I would impeach him of Treason.

Mr Harbord.] I hope now Gentlemens eyes are open, by the design on foot to destroy the Government and our Liberties. I believe, if the House will command Mr Montagu, he will tell you more now. But I would not press it now upon him, because poisoning and stabbing are in use. Therefore I would not examine him farther now, but let him reserve himself till the matter comes to Tryal before the Lords. As to the danger of the King's person, there is something much more extraordinary. But I will not name him yet—The thing has taken wind— A witness has been taken off with 300l. and denies his hand. I protest, I am afraid that the King will be murdered every night. A Peer, and an intimate of this Earl's, said, "There would be a change in the Government in a year." He has poisons both liquid and in powders—But I would ask Montagu no more questions now, but have an Impeachment drawn up, and I doubt not but this great man will have condign punishment, when the matter comes before the Lords.

Sir Henry Goodrick.] We now come upon Impeachment of a noble Peer, who deserves well of the nation, and, I assure you, has promoted the Protestant Religion, and has honour for the Government. I put Harbord upon it, that all the Evidence against him may be produced, and make it out who converses with this Nobleman, that has "the poisons" he mentions. For the King's security, I would have the persons named.

Mr Bennet.] I accuse my Lord Treasurer of High Treason, and I will bring other matters against him.

Sir John Hanmer.] The King's life is concerned, and I cannot sit still when I hear "poison" spoken of. I would find "this poisoner" out; else he betrays the nation and the King.

Mr Harbord.] If you please, I will tell Mr Secretary Coventry who it is; but I assure you, it is told the King already.

Sir John Knight.] This Army was raised for a French War, and so many hundred thousand pounds given for that purpose, and yet we had no War! Money given to disband the Army, and that not done! The Popish Plot discovered at that time! And all runs parallel. Take such evil Counsellors from the King, that have done these things, and he, and his posterity, and we all shall flourish; else we shall be destroyed. I move for Impeachment, &c.

Sir Thomas Higgins.] So great a Minister of the King's to be impeached!—I desire to see better reasons than yet have been offered, before he be impeached. One thing is objected against him, "His treating of Peace with the King of France." It seems, by the Letter, that the conditions were for an honourable Peace, and why should any man be ashamed of it? For it is a very ordinary thing for Kings to get money from one another, as in E. IV's and H. VII's time, and there is no ground of this accusation of Treason against this Lord. Another thing that concerns the safety of the King's Person—"A friend of this Lord's that has poisons." This concerns us all. Let us not go out of the House till this person be known.

Sir John Birkenhead.] If this be Treason, this Letter has been concealed since March, and that is Misprision of Treason. I tremble that the person should be concealed. I would have this Lord named.

Mr Stanhope (fn. 9).] I am not so much for naming him now, for the Gentleman tells you, "The King has had notice of it, and he has been named to the King."

Lord Cavendish.] Will you publish this, when so many friends of my Lord Treasurer's are present that may discover it? For the sake of the King I would not, but I move, that the Secret Committee may enquire into it.

Mr Powle.] What my opinion is of this great Lord is no news to you, so that what I shall say is not out of malice or revenge. I am no accuser of him, but I desire that what he is accused of may be fairly debated, and not diverted by what is moved about "revealing the poisoning, &c." One crime against this Lord is, encroaching upon Royal Power. When one, two, or three Counsellors undertake the management of all affairs, without communicating them to the rest of the Lords of the Council, it was the Treason of the Spencers, and the Duke of Ireland, in R. II's time. And then in the Parliament of those times it was so adjudged. Now whether this person who forbids Montagu to reveal this, and concealing it from the Secretaries, and by consequence from the Lords of the Council; now whether these private advices are not the cause of your ruin, that you have been so near and are still in danger of, [is the Question.] Now there is a Treaty with a foreign Prince for Peace, whilst the Parliament was giving Money for an actual War with that Prince; and a Treaty, for which he makes a bargain for six millions of livres yearly. Now consider whether that could be for our advantage, and the French King pay so dear for it, and concludes, that this Money was, "That the King might not meet the Parliament in two or three years." Now they must desert this War; and pray consider what use this Money must be for. I would have the Long Robe tell you what they think of it. I know what I think of it.

Sir Edmund Jennings.] As to the matter in the Lord Treasurer's Letter, thus I will state the Question: "Whether there be matter in that Letter to ground an Impeachment against this Lord." As to the other thing, "of poisoning," the King's Person is so nearly concerned, that I would have the person known for the King's sake, and all our own sakes. If not, then let us adjourn.

Mr Harbord.] If I was not well satisfied that the King had known of it, I would have found means to acquaint the King. But the design of moving this is to divert the Question. The design I had, in not naming the person, was, that it might be impossible for the person to avoid being taken off, since the King knows it already, and a Member knows the thing, and I have seen the things. But the party fell off from his Evidence. The King knows it, and if you will know him too, I am not afraid to name him. He had the poison, and tryed it upon dogs with good success. The first thing I said was, "Does the King know of it?" He told me "he did, and he had been offered a sum of money to conceal it." There has been 200,000l. in thirteen months paid out of the Exchequer, for secret service; and vast sums of money diverted out of the course of payment in the Exchequer.

Lord Cavendish.] This can be no secret. The Treasurer having so many friends here—Interrupted by Goodrick.

Colonel Titus] I find it a hard matter, and very dangerous, to accuse a Treasurer. The righteous or unrighteous Mammon makes friends. There has been 197,000l. issued out of the 200,000l. we gave, by one person that is a Member. This Lord had once an Impeachment against him upon an illegal Patent (fn. 10). First, we could get no Witnesses, &c. And all we got by it; was to vote, "That this Patent was not illegal." Never any thing prospered in his Ministry. There is not a penny of Money in the Exchequer, and I am sure he is Treasurer. Now whether this Lord, with the interest of France; has not carried on his own? When the King of Spain was in the circumstances the King of France now is, if Walsingham and Burleigh, instead of supporting H. IV. of France, had supported the League, and made the King of Spain greater than he was, (who was ten times too great for us,) had not they been good Counsellors for Philip II. and ill Counsellors for Queen Elizabeth? It was said by Philip de Comines, "That all King Lewis of France's Ministers did ride upon one horse." Now we were told of "a War," and "an actual War with France," an Army was raised for it, and a shameful Peace made up with France. And the Lord Treasurer thinks he deserves six millions of livres for doing it; and so no occasion for the Parliament to meet in three years. The Lord Treasurer, it seems, was of one opinion; the Parliament and the Law of another. His crime is great, and tends to the subversion of the nation, and so it is, when the King shall have no Parliaments. Some fear the Treasurer, and some love him; I do neither, and would impeach him.

Sir John Ernly.] Titus tells you, "That nothing has prospered under the Lord Treasurer's Ministry." He has paid, I am sure, a great part of the debt of two millions upon the Exchequer. As for his Ministry, pray God send we have no worse French Counsellors! And if we had had War then, God knows what would have become of us. If this Lord has hatched these Counsels, France is hot for him. But I am the most mistaken, if he has not been opposite to France. Now for the Letter that speaks of the Money; if it had been ten times as much, I could have wished it with France. As for the Peace, it was made by the Confederates, and not the King. The Confederates have, all along, importuned the King not to lay aside the Army, for all Flanders would be lost. I am as little for an Army as any man; and am for having it disbanded, if the King had Money to pay them off. Does not this Letter come by way of recrimination? It is necessary to see Mr Montagu's Answer to this Letter. I would have the Lawyers debate it, before you come to this matter as a charge against this Lord, barely given you by recrimination. The King's safety is concerned—And I desire, that the person that should have poisoned him, may be named. You cannot absolve yourselves from it.

Mr Charles Bertie *.] I affirm that my Lord Treasurer paid 600,000l. of old arrears out of the Exchequer. And I appeal to the Speaker's Office in the Navy. So in this he has not squandered the Treasury in secret service.

Mr Montagu.] My Lord Treasurer has my Answer to his Letter. And let him, if he please, produce a copy of that Letter, and you will find, that if my advice had been followed, the Army had not been raised, and a better Peace made. And I aver, that the French King offered our King some money, and more towns, than when we were in conjunction with France. "I find my Lord Treasurer has so much the sweet of being Treasurer of England, that he would be Treasurer of France too." This the King of France said, and so would treat no longer. I was for Peace, because I saw no intention of our Ministers for War, and so would have had no Army. I brought the conditions so far as that the French should deliver Valenciennes and Conde to the Spaniards; far better conditions than now they have; but after the Army was raised, they were for Peace. If I have done ill in this, impeach me for it.

In the other Letter which was read, subscribed "Danby," were the following passages.

"Your intelligence concerning Mons. Rouvigny has not been the least of your favours.—For my part, I will contribute to the friendship of the two Kings. We depend upon an Adjournment of thirteen days, to see if there can be any expedient for the Peace in that time. And the effect of that Adjournment has been, that every body apprehended Peace, &c."

Youngest brother to the Earl of Lindsey.

Lord Dumblain (fn. 11).] Montagu, in his discourse in France, has given the nation great discommendations. I have heard him say, "the House of Commons had a company of logger-heads and boobies in it"—For what my father is accused of, if proved, I would not spare him nor pardon him more than the greatest rascal that had done me the most injury.

Mr Peregrine Bertie.] Put the Question first, about "poisoning the King."

Sir Henry Capel.] I have no Article against any man, but only from my observations of the Government. We have sat here all seasons of the year to no purpose. I have something to say, let it fall where it will; and I will serve no man here, but my King and my country. We that are of common understanding, know not foreign notions, nor mysteries of State at home. If Religion, the Government, and Property be safe, we sit down and enjoy what we have, and thank God for it. If foreign negotiations have been prosperous, let it be spoken of. Has the Protestant Religion gone forward? I would gladly know, whether the Exchequer is in so good order as we have been told. I know what sums we have given; but if it be not in such order, are we to sit still? Does not France increase upon us? We were no sooner got out of the War with Holland, but assistances of men were sent into France to greaten the French King—We can get no Bills of Popery passed. These last four or five years, we have had nothing but Prorogations and Adjournments of the Parliament, without doing any thing to purpose. If we had lived well with this great man, and not made the Vote the last Session, "That till the Tax, &c. be expired, and the Protestant Religion secured, and ill Ministers, &c. removed, we could give no more Money, &c." But the King has been persuaded that a Prince must depend upon a party, and he is told that we proceed as in 1641 and 1642. If this Gentleman (Danby) would then have relieved us, I said, save him, the last Session; but I cannot trust this Gentleman, though I would supply the King. Is any thing more clear than the concurrence of the Letters, that have been produced you (by Montagu) with Coleman's Papers? This Minister has let the French King grow upon us, and let our King take Money from him, to lay aside his people; this has been Danby's advice. If the Gentlemen of the Long Robe will say this is Treason, I say so too, and shall think this a ground to impeach him.

Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] Before I meddle with the Treasurer's Letters, I will speak to the point of declaratory Treason. I have a wife and children, and some estate, and loyalty to my Prince, and I hope to leave it to my posterity. In this matter I shall deliver my opinion, and I fear no man alive, let it fall where it will. By 25 E. III. declaratory Treason is only in Parliament, where those things shall be declared Treason, for the Judges to proceed upon, and no other. I will put you a familiar example—The killing of John Imperial, the Genoa Ambassador, was declared Treason. It was Treason at Common Law before, but after that Statute they had recourse to Parliament for the same crime, and they declared it so. It has been the wisdom of Parliament to keep the power of declaring Treason in themselves, to bridle great men, who, by friendship and authority, may avoid Justice. Since I came into this House, which is about three years since, I have been present at several Addresses, &c. and I would not show unkindness, in the post I am in, to my superior Officer. If a Member does undertake to prove an Article, &c. though it be but probable, it is a ground for a Grand Jury to find the Bill, (and in Impeachments you are of that nature,) but the judgment is still in the Lords." If any subject impeach any man, it is our duty to receive it, as a Grand Jury. But Gentlemen put a hard thing on the Long kebe, in this case. The Treasurer, in his Letters to Mr Montagu, says, "He must not communicate it to the Secretary of State. He must not know of the six millions of livres yearly, &c. that so there may be no need of a Parliament." If this be given as a case to a Lawyer, and if this be to destroy Parliament, and the fundamental Laws of the Kingdom; if there be concomitant Evidence that the thing was done ed intentione; if you have power of declaratory Treason, and do not declare this to be Treason, you will declare nothing. I have heard Montagu say he has more Letters to produce. Suppose you should vote not to impeach the Treasurer upon these Letters; the common people will say, "Have not the House impeached him?" How can any Member look the world in the face? sinding that this is in order to Tryal, and in order to Impeachment. The Lord Treasurer is my superior, but if you pass by this, you may have more such Letters and such practices. There have been other matters alleged against this Lord, as diverting the Money, &c. from the usual course of payment in the Exchequer, &c. This is but a small matter in comparison of Treason; but such as have done these things, the Parliament has either broken their backs, or they have ran for it. As for giving Money to Members, to vote in this House, he will have the shame of it, and I hope it will be seen by the Vote this night, that no man has received any Money. Certainly these things are not so mean as to be put off. Without probable Evidence, you have no ground of accusation. As for conviction, that is to be done in another place. And I am for impeaching him.

Mr Sacheverell.] I have observed the Debate; and I take notice that no fault is found out that it is too forward. No man denies these Letters to be the Treasurer's, and yet Gentlemen say, "There is no matter of charge in them against him." I have not been a man much for shifting hands in the Ministry: I see all that come after are as bad as those that went before. By way of defence of the Treasurer, it is said, "That he found much debt upon the Crown, and has paid off a great deal." It is true—But there was 1,250,000l. granted to the King, &c. before he came in to be Treasurer, but he received a great share of it. I would not now charge him singly upon these Letters, but upon the whole pursuance of the thing; he shows you, that, as the rest of the Ministers have done great kindnesses to France, he will do nothing to break that friendship. When we had given a great sum of Money for a War with France, then he takes Coleman's way. And it was a great sum of Money for England to pay. I told you a story of H. VII, &c. the last Session, &c. Give Money hastily and no War, and there will be no need of a Parliament.—This is the only difference; Pensions are not now matter of Record. It seems by the Treasurer's Letter, that it is the King's ease to have no Parliament. Hereafter let us keep our purses, and we shall have good Ministers in time. And let us remember we shall not then have Ministers to prorogue us at their pleasure, at the same time that the King was told that War was necessary; and that he might have had a better Peace, and an Army was raised, to the great charge of the nation. Let Gentlemen give their No to the Impeachment, I will give my Aye to it.

Mr Vaughan.] I envy no man's greatness nor fortune that lessens not his Prince's, &c. From the grounds of this Letter of the Treasurer on "the 20th of March," the King passed an Act for a War with France, and an Army was raised accordingly. This Letter is dated "the 25th of March," to stipulate Peace with the French —And is this matter of recrimination by Montagu, as is said? You give Money for an actual War, and the Treasurer stipulates for a Peace, and the Ministers make Peace. The Papists would have a Dissolution of the Parliament, and these men make it useless—I know very little difference in it. King John's Ministers made him a Pensioner to the Pope, and it is as great a crime to make our King Pensioner to the French King. I am therefore for impeaching the Treasurer.

The Question being put, That there is matter sufficient in these Letters, &c. to impeach Thomas Earl of Danby; the previous Question was put and carried, 179 to 116.

The main Question was then carried in the Affirmative, [and a Committee was appointed to prepare and draw up Articles of Impeachment.]

Resolved, That Mr Speaker shall not, at any time, adjourn the House, without a Question first put, if it be insisted upon. And that this be entered in the Journal, as a standing Order of the House. See Vol. V. p. 5, and 122.

Friday, December 20.

Two Letters were produced by Mr Charles Bertie from Mr Montagu to the Lord Treasurer. One was signed, but the other not. He said, "he be believed them to his hand and seal (fn. 12)."

Mr Powle.] You ought to consider that the case of your Member may be every man's case. The one is subscribed, and the other not—Under this kind of method, I know not where this may end. To put Montagu upon declaring whether they be his hand, or no, is to accuse himself. Till you are clear in that Letter not subscribed, I would not read it.

Sir Edmund Jennings.] If you will observe your own Precedent, you will read it without a hand to it—You read one sent out of Cornwall.

The subscribed Letter was read, dated "Paris, Jan. 11 (fn. 13).

Mr Montagu.] No man doubts but that I have a respect to Lord Russel. But at the same time I wrote this Letter to the Treasurer, another was written by my wife to Lady Vaughan to admonish her that Rouvigny brought no inconvenience upon her husband, Lord Russel.

Sir Henry Capel.] There was no great harm in trusting Lord Russel with matters relating to France. He may well be trusted in that.

Sir Thomas Lee.] This Letter is much for your service. It shows you plainly, that Montagu did you service last night; for by these Letters produced to-day, Montagu has done his duty to give the King an account. And this has fallen out fortunately for this noble Lord.

Lord Russel.] I defy any man alive to charge me with any dealing with the French. My actions here have given sufficient testimony to the contrary.

Sir William Hickman.] I cannot agree to entering these Letters into the Journal, because Lord Russel's name is used in them; unless, at the same time, you enter his justification.

Sir Robert Howard.] In some Letters we are called, "The scum of the House;" and in these, "Malecontents."

Mr Bennet.] I hope that Montagu will give the Treasurer thanks for producing this Letter; the greatest kindness he could do him!

Sir Robert Sawyer.] I would read the Letter; people may suspect else that it is worse than the other. It is objected, "That it is not signed." You have read all the Letters of the Plot unsubscribed; you have allowed that it is your Member's hand—If you read it not, he may lie under a great suspicion.

Mr Montagu.] I desire the Letter may be read without a Question.

The Letter was read, viz. "Rouvigny hopes the King so firm for Peace, that the Treasurer will not lead him into a War with FranceBarillon's business is to get the market as low as he can, &c."

Sir William Coventry.] I collect by the Letter, that Montagu informs the Treasurer, "That Rouvigny's journey was to gain upon Lord Russel, and other Malecontents of the Court." We are all witnesses for this noble Lord, of his deportment to the French interest.

Mr Montagu.] An Ambassador's business is to send intelligence, and I sent what I could get.

Sir Thomas Clarges.] The Ambassador was so abused by that great man, who acted for the French at the Cabal, and spoke against them at his table, that we find the effects; for at the beginning of March the Secret Council was held at Lord St Albans's chamber. There goes a story, that a young fellow, who turns Gipsey, cannot come before their King unless he speaks their gibberish— He must cant, else there is no being for him at Court. Montagu has served the King well, and I would have the Thanks of the House given him for his great care of the Nation.

Sir Charles Wheeler.] It is plain in that Paper, that the Treasurer did what he could to advance War with France. Pray read the words of the Letter.

Mr Montagu.] All that Ambassadors write for news, is not Gospel. I give not these Letters in, as certificates of the Lord Treasurer's, for other Letters will show the contrary.

Sir Richard Temple.] In the latter part of the Letter, you will find that Montagu is very ready to get you Money for a Peace.

Mr Powle.] The Treasurer spoke against France at his table, for his own ostentation. All I can say is, you may observe who has been the sole manager of affairs—Neither Secretaries of State, nor Lords of the Council. And reflect, whether they have been well managed by the Treasurer, whether a real War with France was intended, and all things to your satisfaction. Then you may know whether to thank the Treasurer, or impeach him.

Mr Montagu.] I neither desire nor deserve the Thanks of the House for what I have done, for all was but my duty.

Colonel Titus.] I am very well content that Montagu's Letters should be printed, as well as those of the Treasurer, and see which will sell best. The King of France did never deserve such a character from the Treasurer as he gives him. The King of France did misapprehend the Treasurer—But what Evidence could he give greater in this Plot? If the King of France be angry, or think himself ill used by the Treasurer, he is as ungrateful a man as ever lived.

Mr Peregrine Bertie.] Titus told me, this morning, "That what made him so against the Treasurer was, because he paid him not his 4000l. that the King owed him."

Colonel Titus.] It is true what Bertie has said. And it is a great instance of the Treasurer's impartiality, that he serves all men alike. But I do not say he has served all "women" so. I was a Bed-chamber-man, and of the Council of the Plantations; and I had 500l. per annum for each—And on the Treasurer's single authority he paid me not a farthing.

Sir Thomas Clarges.] Here was Money given for a War with France, and here is a Peace made, and six millions of livres yearly to be given for it, to prevent the meeting of the Parliament. This is plainly.

Lord Cavendish.] I was not afraid of the Treasurer for a War, but to raise an Army to fright the French to give us a greater sum of Money for a Peace. These Letters, that the Treasurer has produced, are either to recriminate upon Montagu, or to justify himself. What Montagu says in his Letter was intelligence only, what Rouvigny came into England about. As to that, whether the Treasurer be a friend to France—We ought rather to go upon what is under the Treasurer's own hand, than Rouvigny's negotiation, which Montagu gives as intelligence only.

Colonel Stroud.] I would have Montagu give you an account of the whole thing, and then he can tell you who broke the Triple League—He transacted the whole thing.

Sir William Coventry.] It is manifest that the Treasurer relies not upon these Letters for his defence, nor for any man to make a charge against your Member upon these Letters. I see it is to no purpose for you to sit with these Letters in your hands; therefore take so much consideration of your health, as to adjourn.

Mr Sollicitor Winnington.] We are beholden to the Lord Treasurer for sending us these Letters, to fortify you in what you did last night. I know not any farther use of those Letters, unless you would ask the Treasurer any questions.

Serjeant Maynard.] The business of the Impeachments of the Lords in the Tower is now impending. And your Committee will be streightened in time, and Christmas is coming on, and then the Term—And whilst you hunt this one hare, you will lose five.

Mr Powle.] That which gives a tenderness to enter the Letters into the Journal is, that there is mention made in Montagu's Letter of Lord Russel to be tampered with by the Ambassador Rouvigny; so at the same time, if you enter Lord Russel's justification, we shall all be for entering the Letters, viz. "That he has had no undue practice or dealing with Rouvigny, nor any indirect practice against the King or Kingdom."

Mr Montagu.] My wife and family at Paris were laughing at Rouvigny's project, of doing France any service by his relation to that noble Lord.

Sir Robert Howard.] To enter a dark paraphrase upon this noble Lord's actions into the Journal, I am not for it. The world will talk otherwise of him. I would now adjourn.

Sir William Coventry.] It is pressed that these Letters of Montagu's should be entered into the Journal. Yesterday the Treasurer's were entered, because we voted an Impeachment upon it. We are all convinced that Lord Russel is most remarkable in his affections to the good of the Nation; and I would now adjourn. But if not, pray put the Question, "Whether in those Letters that the Treasurer has produced, there is matter of Impeachment against Montagu."

Mr Swynfin.] The Treasurer, in his Letter to the Speaker, says, "He has some other Letters to make his defence;" but only sends you these Letters, and no manner of intimation that he will send them; but rather an implication that he will not produce them in his defence. You are not showed what use Gentlemen will make of these Letters, nor the Lord Treasurer neither. The best vindication you can make the noble Lord (Russel,) is, slightly to return the Letters from whence they came.

Sir Robert Sawyer.] By this Letter, you see the French were in pain for the sitting of the Parliament. This came from France, and that is my main reason for entering it, that the world may see how the whole series of affairs has been carried on. Whether you enter them or not, these Letters will be seen without doors. Therefore, I would order them to be entered, and adjourn.

Colonel Titus.] These Letters were, doubtless, brought in, with some design against your Member, (Russel.) It is plain, that in January last, the Lord Treasurer was the French King's enemy, and in March he was his friend. All we here very well understand Lord Russel's character. —But how after ages may understand it, I know not. There fore I am against entering the Letters in the Journal.

They were not entered.


  • 1. Son of Lord Montagu of Boughton, to which Title he succeeded (on his Father's death) in 1683: He was afterwards, for his eminent services, created by King William Earl, and by Queen Anne Duke, of Montagu. He had been twice Ambassador to the Court of France, and in the House of Commons was as zealous in promoting the Bill of Exclusion, as he was in the House of Lords in forwarding the Revolution; soon after which he was appointed Master of the Great Wardrobe. He died in 1708, and was Father of the late Duke.
  • 2. The Earl of Danby had broke with Montagu, but knowing what Letters he had wrote to him, and with what secrets he had trusted him, was apprehensive Montagu might accuse him; so he resolved to prevent him. Jenkins, who was then at Nimeguen, wrote over (according to a direction sent him, as was believed) "that he understood Montagu had been in a secret correspondence, and in dangerous practices, with the Pope's Nuncio at Paris." Montagu, it seems, had made use of him, and given him money, which he loved, for such secrets as he could draw from him. Upon Jenkins's Letter the King sent the above Message to the Commons. This was a device of Lord Danby's, to find his own Letters, and destroy them; and then to let the prosecution fall. But Montagu understood the arts of a Court too well to be easily catched, and had put a box, in which those Letters were, in sure hands, out of the way. A great Debate rose upon this matter in the House of Commons. Burnet.
  • 3. See the last Note.
  • 4. Mr Montagu aspiring to the Office of Secretary of State, took it very ill that the Treasurer had engaged to bring in Sir William Temple. Mr Montagu was the Treasurer's most dangerous enemy, because he had private Letters in his hands from that Minister; and though he could not divulge them without great injury to the King, this gave him no uneasiness, because resolving to throw himself into the party against the Court, which was most prevalent in the Parliament, he knew he should be protected even against the King himself. To this end he got himself elected Member for Northampton, and suddenly leaving Paris without the King's consent or knowledge, came to London, and took his seat in the House. Rapin. See p. 186.
  • 5. Created Lord Viscount Lonsdale by King William, in 1696, having been very instrumental in the Revolution, by securing the city of Carlisle, and bringing over the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. He was also in that reign Vice-Chamberlain of the Houshold, Lord Privy Seal, &c. and died in 1700, aged 45. The last Lord Lonsdale was his second son.
  • 6. See p. 186.
  • 7. See them at large in the Journal.
  • 8. These last words made very much for Mr Secretary Coventry; since now it appeared that he was not trusted with these ill practices. Burnet.
  • 9. Youngest son to the first Earl of Chesterfield.
  • 10. See Vol. III. p. 49, &c.
  • 11. The Lord Treasurer's son, called up to the House of Lords in 1690, by the Title of Lord Kiveton. He succeeded to the Dukedom of Leeds (on his father's death) in 1712, distingnished himself in the sea-service, being Vice Admiral of the Red, and died in 1729, aged 71. He was grandfather to the present Duke.
  • 12. The Journal says, "That the Lord Treasurer by Letter informed the Speaker, "That he had sent two Letters inclosed, written by Mr Montagu, which he conceived to be for the service of the House." The first of these Letters gave notice of young Rouvigny's journey into England, and his practices among the Malecontents; and the last, among other things mentioned old Rouvigny's maxim, "That they, the French, must first diminish the Lord Treasurer's credit, before they could do any good in England."
  • 13. His Lordship himself affirms, that the House of Commons would not permit these Letters to be read. See his Memorirs, Vol. II. p. 234. But the contrary is asserted by Sir John Reresby, and is confirmed both by these Debates and by the Journals of the House.