Debates in 1678: Addendum - December 27th

Pages 404-408

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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Friday, December 27.

The Speaker thus chosen, the Commons went up to the Lords Bar to present him to his Majesty, where Mr Seymour spoke to this effect:

"May it please your Majesty, The Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses, in Parliament assembled, in obedience to your Majesty's command, have made choice of a Speaker, and have unanimously chosen me: And now I am come hither for your Majesty's Approbation, which if your Majesty please to grant, I shall do them and you the best service I can."

The Lord Chancellor's Answer:

"Mr Seymour, The approbation which is given by his Majesty to the choice of a Speaker, would not be thought such a favour as it is and ought to be received, if his Majesty were not at liberty to deny as well as to grant it. It is an essential Prerogative of the King to refuse, as well as approve of, a Speaker. This is a matter which by mistake may be liable to misinterpretation, as if the King did dislike the persons that chose, or the person chosen. As to the first, there can be no doubt. They are old Representatives of his people, whom he hath a desire to meet; and there can be no doubt of the latter; nor has his Majesty any reason to dislike you, having had great experience of your ability and service. But the King is the best judge of men and things. He knows when and where to employ. He thinks fit to reserve you for other service, and to ease you of this. It is his Majesty's pleasure to discharge this choice; and accordingly, by his Majesty's command, I do discharge you of this place you are chosen for; and in his Majesty's name command the House of Commons to make another choice, and command them to attend here to-morrow at eleven o'clock (fn. 1)."

The Commons then came back to their House; where

Sir John Ernly said,] I shall propose a Gentleman of experience, and without exception, Sir Robert Meres (by a mistake for Sir Thomas.)

Mr Sacheverell.] I take it to be a great misfortune, that, after a House had made choice of a Speaker, the King, by any information, to promote and carry on the designs of particular persons, should gratify them, rather than this House in their choice of Seymour, &c. And I am the rather induced to believe it, because no exceptions have been made against Seymour in the Chancellor's Speech. But if it be proved that the King has always granted, and never denied the choice, I suppose the thing will be given up. There is but one Precedent of the King's denial, and that was in the case of Thorp. It is strange that this House must be made a second. I see many worthy faces that were not here the last Parliament: And therefore I shall say, it is very hard, there having, for an hundred years together, never been so much as one excuse made by a Speaker chosen by the Commons, nor one allowance or disallowance made in Parliament, that it should be so now. It was usually excused by compliment, and this Parliament has complimented itself out of its Right. But I would not lose a hair's breadth of the King's Right, nor the subjects. They are enemies to the Nation, that, at this time, throw a bone betwixt the King and us—After all this danger and distraction we are are in, must this House be made the next Precedent? I would not take the least Right from the King. I move, "that the Clerk may put the Question for adjourning the House till to-morrow," and in the interim the Records may be searched for Precedents in this matter, and then we may inform the King how much this manner of proceeding is to his prejudice and yours.

Mr Williams.] This is now a Question of Right. I am sorry that our time, at the beginning of a Session, should be thus lost, by the starting this Question. Here is a worthy person named, Sir Thomas Meres, and we named and presented to the King a worthy one too. The Commons have been without a Speaker, nor was their having a Speaker originally from the Crown, but by the Commons—Till Hen. IV's time, not one Precedent of presenting a Speaker, &c. The Chancellor tells us, "That the King's favour may not turn to his prejudice, &c." This being put to a Question of Right, we must stand upon our Right. There is no Reason from the Electors or the Elected, why he should be rejected; therefore I adhere to Mr Seymour.

Sir Thomas Clarges.] I desire to inform the House, because there are a great many new Members that were not of the last Parliament; that we have power of adjourning ourselves by the Clerk—In time of sickness of the Speaker, it has been done from day to day. Gentlemen, our lives and liberties are preserved by this House, and the Privileges of it are inheritable to us. I must inform you; that Mr Seymour attended the King yesterday, and he acquainted his Majesty with the unanimous choice of him to be Speaker, "and that he hoped to have the King's good liking." The King said, "He liked very well the choice."—If so, this alteration of the King's mind must be from evil-disposed people about the King, who would create discontent between the King and his people. The King said once, "He would have no favourites but the Commons of England." If you will not think fit to cause Mr Seymour to declare what the King said to him, I acquiesce. But I move that you will adjourn.

Mr Garroway.] I am one that have sat here long, and have seen great Miscarriages, Prorogations, and Dissolutions. I am not afraid of it now, and I hope no man else here is afraid of it. I would not give the King offence, but not part with one hair of our Right. If you will not stand to it here, you will have a great many things put upon you. I am satisfied that we could not fix upon a fitter person for Speaker than Mr Seymour; he is a Privy Counsellor, Treasurer of the Navy, and has done the King very good service here, which makes me wonder he should not be approved of by the King. I thought we could not have obliged the King more. The King said, "He would have no favourite but his people"—And thus to have your Speaker rejected, what will you think of it! Pray, Gentlemen, let us sleep upon it, and let the Clerk put the Question for adjourning till to-morrow.

Sir Thomas Lee.] I see it is the universal opinion to adjourn, &c. therefore I shall say but a little. The last Parliament, a little before the Prorogation, information was given the House of the danger of the King's Person, and the House addressed the King, "To have a care of his Person, &c." The Answer was, "The King was then busy, but we should have an account of our Message;" but for three weeks we heard nothing, and we were prorogued. I take notice only how things grow by degrees. We came up to this Parliament with great joy, and expectation of doing good, and now we are thus interrupted! This being our condition, and we having Precedents plain in the case for us, I would adjourn till tomorrow, and then make a Representation of the thing to the King.

Colonel Birch.] I am heartily sorry this has happened. This is an unlucky stumble at the threshold, before we get into the House. I came hither with an intention (God is my witness) to make this "a healing Parliament." I have always heard here, that it is the undoubted Right of this House to chuse their Speaker, &c. I have reason to believe Mr Seymour very proper for the employment, and that he would be acceptable to his Majesty; but he that did this with the King may do more. I would adjourn till to-morrow, and make a Representation of our Right to the King.

Mr Powle.] This gives me apprehension that there is some person too near the King, who is afraid of this Parliament. I have observed that, of late, those things of the greatest moment are done without any Council at all; done in a corner. As for the Prorogation and the Dissolution of the last Parliament, there was not one word of the advice of the Privy Council in it. I fear no advice was asked, but given for supporting the designs of private men. I have ever taken the Record to be, that no man was ever refused being Speaker when presented to the King, but for some disability of body; as in Sir John Popham's case, who desired to be excused from that service by reason of disability of body from wounds he had received in the wars, 28 Hen. VI. And lately Sir Job Charlton, not being able to endure the employment, by reason of disability of body—But nothing of this can be objected against Mr Seymour. Must any private person inform the King of his unfitness, &c. without any cause assigned? I know not what may come of it. Corruption, in the former Parliament, was complained of for private malice, but I doubt not but Gentlemen come to this with clear thoughts. I do protest before God, that I think the greatness of the Nation is under the Privileges of this House. A people can never heartily support that Government that does not protect them—A slavish people can never heartily support the Government. Those that come after us here, if we are dissolved upon this point, will speak the same language—I fear not Dissolution. Let us adjourn till to-morrow morning, and consult our own hearts what is fit to be done.

Then the Clerk put the Question for adjourning, &c.


  • 1. Concerning this transaction Ferguson writes as follows: "There being a Council that night, and notice coming that Mr Seymour was chosen, the Treasurer persuaded the King from accepting him, to show his Prerogative-Right of rejecting; so that the next day, when the House came to present their Speaker, he was rejected; but the House having some intimation that he would be rejected, ordered him, or he himself resolved, not to make the common formal apology of insufficiency, at the Lords Bar, but instead thereof he roundly told the King, "That he was unanimously chosen, by the suffrages of all the Commons of England, to be their Speaker; and that he was resolved to serve his Majesty in that station, to the utmost of his power." So that the Chancellor, who had orders to accept of his excuses, now had not a word to say: At last, upon deliberating and whispering, he recollected himself, and told the House, &c. Growth of Popery, part ii. p. 235.