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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Saturday, March 8.
Sir Thomas Lee.] It is now eleven of the clock, and it is necessary we propose what to do before the Black Rod comes; whether you will do something previous; whether you will acquaint the King what we suffer for want of a Speaker; or whether you will propose somebody to say something at the Lords Bar to the King? I move you to consider which you will do.
Sir Harbottle Grimstone.] I second that Gentleman that spoke last. Two things he proposed; Whether to send to the King to represent what we suffer for want of a Speaker; or whether you will propose somebody to say something to the King at the Lords Bar, when the Black Rod comes to call us up? Some of the Long Robe, I believe, have taken pains to search for Precedents. My eyes are not good, and I am infirm, and not able to search. But thus much I shall say to the rational part. The Question is, Whether the King's approbation of a Speaker is the substance and essence of the matter? For my part I never took it to be so. When you wait upon the King with your Speaker, he is your Speaker so soon as you have chosen him, and you may lay the Mace upon the Table. When you go up with the Speaker to the Lords House, you go up to tell the King, that, according to his direction, you have chosen a Speaker. It has been a thing of course to give the King notice of the person you have chosen, that he may know him; and we stand by, and give the Speaker leave modestly to deny, and exercise his oratory. If the King's approbation must be the essence of your choice, if you part with this, you part with all. Shall we not have the liberty to chuse our own servant, fit to do our own work? Other people would destroy our work, if we part with that which must enable us to do the work of them that trusted us and sent us hither. If any one man may be imposed upon us, who will not do our work, it may be he will put what question he pleases, and tire you out—This I have seen done. I would ask any man, who has influence upon this action, now we have chosen a Speaker, that he should be refused? Whoever broke the last Parliament, without the desire of this House, or the advice of the Privy Council, that man or men, that broke that Parliament, will break this too, to the utter undoing of the Nation. Our time is short, if you please to think of it. If Seymour be not in the Lords House (as it is said he is) or if he be in the country; if the person be in the country and not here, that we shall choose, then let us set up another to rule for him till he comes, as in the absence of a Knight of the Shire that is chosen. Mr Seymour is a person of great experience for the place, and he is the fittest to go on where you left off; but he being not here, let somebody sit in his Chair to represent his person, till he comes. And then we will offer our Reasons to the King, why we cannot recede from our first Election of Mr Seymour for our Speaker.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I was glad yesterday to find that moderation in this great matter. Though we were then satisfied in our Right, yet, by this night's consideration, Gentlemen have looked over Precedents—But though one of the Long Robe be more proper for Speaker, yet there are Precedents of others that have been in that place. I find anciently that the Commons have chosen their Speaker without presenting him to the King for approbation. Some have made excuses to the King, and some none (1 Hen. IV.) and in 7 Hen. VIII. he was presented before the ordinary Privileges were asked, viz. of Access to the King's Person, Liberty of Speech, &c. But it is notorious that all these things were our birthrights before. But if this Argument be used against our Right, because, in respect to the King, we make a formality of the King's Approbation, all our Rights will fall with that. This matter before us is that which all the Commons of England have a Right to, and I hope we shall not impair those Rights that they have entrusted to us. R. II. Sir John Cheyney was chosen Speaker, and went up to the King, &c. to be confirmed. The next day he fell sick, and desired the House to chuse another, and they chose Dorwood, and notified it to the King that they had chosen him. Popham was chosen 28 Hen. VI. (a troublesome time.) He was sick and unable to perform the office, and the Commons had leave granted to chuse another. But there are upon Record many Speakers that have been chosen, and were ready to serve, without making any excuse. It is a strange thing that we should hear nothing of this for two hundred years, and now the Kingdom is in danger, that this Parliament should have an interruption. I hope that, in the consideration of this matter, we shall take such steps as are worthy of the great trust reposed in us.
Mr Sacheverell.] This matter is of great importance, and therefore we ought to take wary steps in it to the King, that those who advised him to this, may have no colour against us. The first Question stands thus, "Whether a Speaker chosen stands good to the service of the House, before he has the King's approbation?" The second Question is, "If the King can reject a Speaker, chosen by the House, and qualified?" If that be so, there is an end of your business. 1st King James, after Sir Robert Philips was chosen Speaker by the Commons, he sent out Warrants for Writs, as Speaker, without the King's Approbation of him; and I can tell many more Precedents—But perhaps we may have Papers pinned upon our backs, as the former Parliament had, and be sent home. I move, that we may have some Persons nominated, of eminence about the King (though not Privy Councellors, for they have not the sole Privilege of carrying our Messages) humbly to acquaint the King, "That the matter delivered by my Lord Chancellor, in his name, is of so great importance, that we desire some farther time to consider of it:" And then, no doubt, but we shall acquit ourselves as we ought to do. I move this way, because it should not be said that we come to a hasty Resolution in so important a matter. I move that Sir Robert Carr, the Chancellor of the Dutchy, may go with the Message to the King; and I doubt not but we shall make out our Rights with all duty to the King.
Sir Robert Carr.] I humbly move you, that the Privy Counsellors may carry the Message to the King. I was one, but I am not now. I hope you will dispense with me. There are none of the Council here now, but I suppose they will be here.
Mr Sacheverell.] If you stay for the Privy Councellors, the Black Rod will come to call you up, &c. and those Gentlemen of the Privy Council are not here, and then what will become of you? We have sent those to attend the King formerly who were no Privy Counsellors, and I would have Carr for one now.
Mr Leveson Gower.] I would have any man cite a Precedent, whether ever any Address was made to the King without a Speaker? (He spoke it roughly, and several younger Gentlemen called aloud, "To the Bar.")
Mr Vaughan.] Something must be done; and in this case we must create a Precedent primæ impressionis. Was there ever any Precedent that so many met together and did nothing? It is fit to make a Precedent, when such a body of men are met together, and do nothing. I move you to make an Address to the King.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] I conceive your proper Question is, "Whether an Address shall be made to the King for some longer time, &c.?" And when that is over, then you are to nominate persons to attend the King; and I shall name a third.
Mr Powle.] I would have the Question be, "That an application shall be made to the King that the Matter delivered by the Lord Chancellor yesterday is of such great importance relating to the Speaker, that we desire some time to consider of it."
The Message was this: "That the Matter delivered by the Lord Chancellor yesterday is of such great importance, that this House cannot immediately come to a Resolution therein; therefore do humbly desire that his Majesty would graciously be pleased to grant some farther time to take the matter into consideration."
Colonel Birch.] I hope this course is not taken about our Speaker to make those that sent us hitherto mistrust us. Therefore I desire, that presently three or four Gentlemen may be chosen, to draw up an humble Petition to the King, in few words, to represent to his Majesty with what heart we came up to serve him and those that chose us, and in order to that we have chosen a Speaker; and then hope that we may not be made a Precedent of a thing that was never done before, in rejecting our Speaker, that so we may go about the business of the Nation.
Mr Hampden.] Suppose the King makes you no Answer. Can you give your Country a better account and Answer of what you have done already, than that you were about to make an humble Representation to the King? I know no reason why we should not go about it presently; and that three or four may withdraw to prepare it, let the issue be what it will.
Sir Edward Dering.] If Mr Seymour be our Speaker, we may lie under the Penalty of 500l. for acting before we are qualified, by taking the Oaths, and subscribing the Test, &c. at the Table. I would stay this matter moved for, till you have an Answer from the King.
Lord Russel reports, That, according to command, they have attended the King, and his Majesty is pleased to make this Answer to the Message, viz. "I have considered your Message, and do consent to a farther time for you to consider, till Tuesday next: And as I would not have my Prerogative encroached upon, so I would not encroach upon your Privilege; if a third person cannot be found out for an Expedient in the mean time."
Serjeant Streete.] When the difference was between the Lords and Commons, in the case of Sir Samuel Barnardiston, which you laboured under, the King found out an Expepient. That being the case, I will presume to name a third Person for Speaker. (But he was not suffered.)
Mr Garroway.] You have had a gracious Answer from the King. If in this time we have not lessened his Prerogative in what we have done, we may consider farther of it; and as long as the King has given us time, I would consider of it, and you may consider of it.
Mr Williams.] I wonder that now it should be proposed to name a third person, since the King has given you great time for deliberation. If you name a third person, you give up your Right. I am as ready for Mr Powle (named by Streete) as any man; but your Answer yesterday from the Chancellor was about rejecting your Speaker by the King's Prerogative. And will you sit down and give up your Right for a compliment? If so, farewell chusing a Speaker for the future! Mr Powle is a Gentleman of great value; but let every man consider the Right of the Commons of England.
Sir John Knight.] It is all one, if you name a second or third person; it is equally giving up your Right to name a third or a second. Here were two in contest, and both were equally named. I move, therefore, that, as the King is pleased to give us till Tuesday next, to consider, &c. to chuse some person, &c. that we may draw a Petition to the King, to set out our Right in chusing a Speaker.
Mr Sacheverell.] I am not for any Question at this time; because many Gentlemen know not what was said by the Chancellor to us yesterday. In this case, I would send to search the Lords Books, to know whether a refusal or dismissing our Speaker is there entered. And as the King has given you time, so I would make use of it to search the Lords Books for what the King has said by the Chancellor, to shape your Answer accordingly.
Sir John Ernly.] Now you are putting yourselves in a way to inform yourselves of the Chancellor's Speech, &c. and now it is so freely declared on both sides, I think it is well moved to adjourn till Monday.
Monday, March 10.
Sir Tho. Lee.] I am one of those whom you commanded to search the Lords Journal, and, according to the Order of the House, we went to the Lords House, where we searched the Journal, but we found no Entry made, but some Minutes of the Lord Chancellor's Speech in a Paper; but the Lord Chancellor had taken the Paper to correct, and we should have them as soon as they were done.
Mr Sacheverell.] Seeing you can no nothing with these Minutes, I would do something without them, and not sit still till the Lords have adjourned till Tuesday. Though I am confident of our Right, yet at this time I would give the least occasion of offence that might be; and proceed by such gentle steps as may give the King no cause of offence; nor those near the King, to possess him that we have done so. I would look a little back, and yet put no Question upon it. For this reason, I have taken some pains to look back how the House has proceeded in things of this nature; and of those, the gentlest Proceedings. This is owned on all hands, that anciently the Speaker made no Excuse, nor had the House Order from the King to chuse a Speaker. 5 Rich. II. and 2 Hen. IV. was the first Excuse that was made. But I would take notice of one thing. Though, of late, Speakers, it is true, have made Excuses, &c. yet it is as true, that the King has admitted them Speakers. But they have made none, but by leave of this House of Commons.—1 James, out of the Journal: Before the Speaker was approved by the King, two or three days, the House not only made an Order to elect another Speaker instead of Sir Francis Bacon, but in this Session 1 James, the King was advised, "That Freedom of Speech, and the use of the rest of the Privileges of the House of Commons, were ex gratiâ, and not ex debito;" and the King sent them a Letter, "That he was satisfied with it." But the Commons addressed farther, by way of Representation, how the Usage of Parliament had been, in that matter, in an humble Petition, "that their Privileges might be continued by way of Decency, but not to yield their Right." But as to the matter now before us, I would only state the Case to the King, by way of Representation, "how Usage of Parliament has been," and wait his gracious Answer; and I doubt not but the King will see that he is wrongfully informed in the matter, and will give such an Answer as will satisfy the Kingdom—And I propose that the Question may be for a Representation, &c.
Mr Hampden.] I with this matter was come to such an end as might give satisfaction both to the King and the House. I am not yet so clear as stifly to assert our Right, nor keep up our Claim. The King gave us a gracious Answer, and it took exceedingly with me, and I would have you acknowlege it. The Right of Election of our Speaker no man can contradict. If the King has a Right to chuse our Speaker, it had been most proper when we were before the King. But there is no distinction of Privy Counsellors from others in the House, that their presence is necessary when a Speaker is chosen, or that they must propose him; unless they make a distinction of themselves. You have now chosen a Gentleman for your Speaker unanimously; one whom you thought qualified for the Employment, and who, you had reason to think, would have been acceptable to the King. But if Privy Counsellors must propose a Speaker, and necessarily be present at the choice; if there be no Privy Counsellors of the House, by that consequence you must have no Speaker. But the Chancellor said, "The King had other Employment for him." Surely that was an extemporary excuse, for a Member of Parliament ought not to be employed elsewhere. I hope that, in this matter, you will make such a Representation to the King, as may have a favourable Answer, and so you may be let into the service of the King and Kingdom; and I would have some Gentlemen withdraw and pen it.
Sir John Ernly.] You have an undoubted Right of Election of your Speaker. It was hinted here, and confirmed by practice, "That no man was ever named here for Speaker by the Secretaries of State, or the Privy Counsellors, in the King's name;" for the Choice is in the Commons, and it is undoubted that the Refusal of a Speaker, when chosen, is of right in the King. I will give you the Opinion of Lawyers; that Election is in one place, and Approbation in another; as in choice of Bishops. When a person is named, probably he is approved of by the King; it is a thing compounded, and generally there is such an intimation that he is acceptable both to the King and the House. The King has declared, "That he will not touch a hair of your Privileges;" but as good Lawyers as any in England are of opinion, that the King has and may disapprove of your choice. As to that cited, I James, of Serjeant Philips, who was chosen Speaker, some things preparatory might be done, in order to filling the House, &c. But the Broad Seal for the Writs was not issued out for some time after. Assert the Privilege of your Election as much as you please, but I would make no more matter of it than to state the thing. But as to the Speaker's being constantly approved by the King, you have chosen a person that has always been acceptable to him, and therefore he has been always approved: As Sir Edward Turner, and Mr Seymour twice chosen, Sir Robert Sawyer, and Sir Job Charlton were.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Ernly has moved you for a third person to be Speaker; but that cannot be, because there is no second person appears; so that can be no Expedient. But what has been proposed about the Representation is most modest. Ernly says, "That in 1 James, &c. the Broad Seal was not issued out for some time after;" but yet the Broad Seal was issued out upon the authority of the Speaker's Warrant precedent. The best thing you can do is, to leave the thing as it was before you stirred it by the Representation. I doubt not but when you bring not the King in question, the King will let it stand as it did. How in the world could we chuse a person more likely to satisfy the King than Mr Seymour, who, as Ernly says, has been twice approved? Popham had been a soldier, and was disabled by his wounds for the service; and there a cause was assigned for disapproving the choice. If it be the King's Prerogative to reject, &c. as is pretended, such an Expedient, by Representation, may be found out. If you do otherwise, you have spent so much time very ill, if you present another Speaker, and give all up.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] No nonclaimer, no disuser, can take away Right of Parliament, because all the people have an interest in it. A Borough complains, "That they have Right of Election of Members of Parliament, but it has been disused:" The Speaker thereupon sends his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to issue out a Writ for Election, &c. As for the opinion of the Long Robe, &c. they may easily be mistaken in this matter, though they be very learned in the Law, for they are not versed in Law of Parliament; that is another thing. Lord Coke, though a very learned Lawyer, was much mistaken in Law of Parliament: Mr Prynne has rectified him in several mistakes. In the Journal, 1 King James, you will find that the King did think, that the usual Petitions, at the beginning of a Parliament, of Access to his Person, &c. were only Acts of Grace, and that he might deny them; but the House humbly represented to him, "That those things were Petitions of Right, and not of Grace." We have a gracious Prince, and I hope he will not diminish our Rights and Privileges—Petitions of Right every ordinary person claims. If a man be dispossessed of his estate, he moves the Court by way of Petition of Right, and the King cannot deny Writs of Error, and Petitions of Right, when demanded. In R. II's time, there is no mention upon Record, that the House attended the King, because the King can take notice of no proceeding of the House, till the House communicates it to him. The Commons usually gave notice to the King of their choice of a Speaker, that the King might know who applied to him. I doubt not but the King is as gracious as his Grandfather was, and will be convinced of our Right in the matter of a Speaker.
Mr Goring.] Some worthy persons have taken pains to search Precedents. I would know, whether any person but a Privy Counsellor usually proposes a Speaker? and then the King, without doubt, knows before-hand who the Speaker is. I have heard Gentlemen formerly allege it, as an exception against Mr Seymour, that he was a Privy Counsellor, and therefore excepted against him for being Speaker.
Sir John Cloberry.] I am glad to see the House in so excellent a temper to hear a Debate of as great a concernment as can come before you. First it is said, "That the Speaker ought to be presented by some of the Privy Council," but I take it to be the Right of every Member to present whom he pleases. Secondly, "Whether it be our undoubted Right?" That is indubitable, the Modification of the choice. It has been asserted by the Master of the Rolls, and he is pleased to call the presenting of a Speaker to the King "a compliment only;" which doctrine, if true, then we have a consummate Speaker; as in Materia prima there is a capacity of receiving various forms. The choice of the Speaker is our undoubted Right, but the manner totally and integrally in our Choice. I will begin with Mr Seymour, who sat in the Chair but a while; he made a modest Excuse, and then said, "The House cannot make a Speaker but by the King's Approbation, and he hoped that would be the only thing the King would deny this House." Then, as soon as the King's Negative came down upon Mr Seymour, it was thought an Infringement of your Privileges. There were never any such Precedents as for us to adhere to our first choice. In Hen. VI's time, the Speaker was refused, at his own request (Popham.) The Law is tender of creating a difference between the King and his people, and it may be the King will not deny any Law you advise him, only under this Modification, "That he has Employment for Mr Seymour." The ceremony of excusing was omitted by Mr Seymour—Now you will reduce the King to such a strait, as either to give up his Prerogative, or discontent his people. I will not say that we have power in this matter; but that we have Right is not yet proved. I had rather give my eyes, hands, and head, than part with this power, if it be your Right; but if it be a flower of the Crown, I would rather die than take it away. A blot is no blot till it be hit. Therefore I move, that the thing may be thoroughly debated, and see our own title to it, and not carry a doughbaked Representation to the King, that we cannot maintain.
Soon after Sir John Cloberry had made an end of his Speech, some merrily-disposed Gentlemen sent a Note from hand to hand about the House, sealed up, with this superscription: "To the Right Honourable Lord Cloberio, Baron Dough-baked, Earl of Consummation and Modification, Marquess of Materia Prima. Frank Danby."
Sir Harbottle Grimstone.] Something fell from Cloberry that does a little concern me, of a word slipped from me, "That the presenting the Speaker to the King was a compliment, &c." I spoke what I meant, viz. "That the Choice of a Speaker is an Act done by the House, and there needed nothing more to be done." When we are called by the Authority of the King's Writ, surely it is to do some work, and I believe there never was more work to do than now. Nothing but an Act of Omnipotence can carry us through it. We carry the Speaker up to the Lords Bar, to let the King know whom we have made choice of; and he is as much accomplished to do our work, to collect Debates for a Question, that every man may say Aye or No, clearly to the Question, as if he was presented to the King, &c. It is not how things will be construed elsewhere, but naturally here. When I had the honour to serve here as Speaker, in the Convention,  (though the King called it a Parliament, it has not had since so great a Reputation,) I was then weak in my health; but thus much I remember, that when we were in Debates, before the King came hither, I was commanded to wait upon the King with the Submission of the House, and after I had been at the Lords Bar, &c. we had occasion to carry up Votes. If ever the Speaker had made Excuse, and presented himself for the King's Approbation, the transport of joy for the King's coming might have put us upon it. Mr William Pierpoint took exceptions at what I then said at the Lords Bar, viz. "That I had not full order for what I said, and was too lavish of my tongue." If a Speaker, carried up to the Lords House, as Mr Seymour was, and though he excused not the accepting of the Employment, yet said, "He stood for the King's Approbation," which he was not instructed to do, he might well be reprimanded. I am willing to comply with any Expedient in this matter; but I would not part with our Right.
Serjeant Maynard.] Gentlemen, I will tell you what I have observed in my time. Cloberry did well to distribute what he had to discourse of; but it is not now seasonable to make a formal determination of the thing. When I heard the Question first, I thought it out of all question, but it is not so clear and satisfactory to me, though I am the King's Serjeant, and so sworn to maintain the King's Prerogative.—Hannibal ad portas, Catilina intra mænia. In Haman's Conspiracy against the Jews, Ahasuerus gave them liberty to speak for themselves, and Haman was hanged upon the same gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. But as to the point in question, I had a clear opinion, led by my Lord Coke, of two hundred years practice, that in that time there was no such thing as a public Speaker till 15 Edw. III. He said so, but I find it not. 5 R. II. there was a presentment of a Speaker. I do but observe this, though I do not make any conclusion on one side or other. Sometimes it is found that the Speaker goes up to the Lords House, and exercises his Oratory in excusing himself, and sometimes not: But never that the Speaker desired the King's Approbation, anciently. This Speaker, Seymour, after you have chosen him, makes his Excuse, and you refuse it, and he goes up to the King and makes it, and carries his Excuse to another place—This is a Breach of your Privilege. That of Sir John Popham was a real Excuse, and there was a necessity to constitute another Speaker, for it is impossible that a Body of this nature can be without a Speaker. It may be, I may change my opinion with that modesty which becomes me. I know not what clearly to say in it. It is hard that it should be the King's Prerogative, and yet never exercised; and to be called "a Compliment," we may be complimented out of our Right, and this Speaker in his Speech has done it. I know not that ever any one Speaker was refused by the King, nor ever any anciently that desired Approbation. Pardon me if I say it, we have had such great disorders intra mænia, of Sheriffs Double Returns, &c. that these things spend your time; and your enemies, and Popery, will grow upon you. Therefore I move, that you will not wave your Privilege, nor determine the thing, but take such consideration in it that you desert not your Right, nor impose upon the King. I am afraid of that objection against Mr Seymour, his being of the Privy Council—He is so much your servant as to be your Speaker. May not the King show you the reason why he approves not of your choice, viz. "That he has designed him for an Embassy?"—As yet he has showed you no reason. I would not so much press upon the King, but lay aside your Right rather than hazard him and the Kingdom.
Sir Henry Capel.] Some Rights are more in nature than others: That cannot be denied. This Right of our Speaker, &c. is so in its own nature. What the Speaker desires of the King, "Access to his Person," is in the nature of Parliament, whether it be asked, or no. Whether this be of that nature, now the Commons have chosen a Speaker, that we have Right to him, &c. I offer not to determine. Whatever that Right is, there is a time of declaring that Right, and I think it the prudence of the House not to declare it now the King is coming towards you. As to what is moved, "to appoint some Gentlemen to draw an humble Address and Representation to the King," we come hither to serve our King and Country, and I am not against it.
Mr Vaughan.] This is an unlucky omen, to stumble at the threshold, and I rather wonder that from such excellent causes should proceed such pernicious effects. We have elected a Speaker, that, one would think, the King had elected himself; so acceptable to the King! You seem to assert your Right in the choice of your Speaker. I would know if the King's Answer in this manner, without any cause shown, may be repeated ad infinitum? The 17th of Richard II. was the first time a Speaker was presented to the King on Record —2 Hen. IV. was the first time the King required you to chuse a Speaker. There is a great difference betwixt rejection of a Speaker by the King, and admitting his Excuse. That being the case, where do we impose on the King? It is advised, "That some Gentlemen may withdraw to make a Petition by way of Representation, &c;" but in that I would assert our Right, and I doubt not, but if the King consults his own Royal Heart, it will have good effect. But by a Gentleman's Argument, if you have no Privy Counsellors to propose, &c. you can have no Speaker chosen, and it is not necessary a Privy Counsellor should propose, &c.
Tuesday, March 11.
"We your Majesty's most loyal and dutiful Subjects, the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, do, with all obedience, return your Majesty most hearty Thanks for the favourable reception and gracious Answer your Majesty was pleased to return to our late Message, wherein your Majesty was pleased not only to allow us longer time to deliberate of what was delivered to us by the Lord Chancellor, relating to the choice of a Speaker, but likewise to express so great a care not to infringe our Privileges: And we desire your Majesty to believe, that no Subjects ever had a more tender regard, than ourselves, of the Rights of your Majesty, and your Royal Prerogative; which we shall always acknowlege to be vested in the Crown, for the benefit and protection of your people. And therefore, for the clearing all doubts that may arise in your Royal Mind, upon this occasion now before us, we crave leave humbly to represent to your Majesty, that it is the undoubted Right of the Commons to have the free Election of one of their Members to be their Speaker, and to perform the service of the House, and that the Speaker, so elected, and presented, according to custom, hath, by the constant practice of all former ages, been continued Speaker, and executed that employment, unless such persons have been excused for some corporal disease, which hath been alleged by themselves, or some others in their behalf, in full Parliament. According to this usage, Mr Edward Seymour was unanimously chosen, upon the consideration of his great abilities and sufficiency for that Place, of which we had large experience in the last Parliament, and was presented by us to your Majesty as a person we conceived would every way be most acceptable to your Majesty's Royal judgment: This being the true state of the case, we do in all humility lay it before your Majesty's view, hoping that your Majesty, upon due consideration of former Precedents, will rest satisfied with our proceedings, and will not think fit to deprive us of so necessary a Member, by employing him in any other service; but to give us such a gracious Answer, as your Majesty and your Royal Predecessors have always done heretofore, upon the like occasions; that so we may, without more loss of time, proceed to the dispatch of those important affairs, for which we were called hither, wherein we doubt not but we shall so behave ourselves, as to give an ample testimony to the whole World of our duty and affection to your Majesty's service, and of our care of the Peace and Prosperity of your Kingdoms."
Mr Sacheverell.] I never knew before that such a Representation was "loss of time." I took this Representation to be as modest and dutiful as could be. Divers Representations have been formerly made to his Majesty, upon several occasions, and I did expect that we should have had such an Answer to this; and we might reasonably expect as gracious an Answer as formerly, there being nothing but duty in it. But the Gentlemen that gave us this Answer, would not let the King give us a direct Answer, because it would be under examination here. Therefore they have taken this course. It seems, they think it "loss of time" to inform his Majesty of the state of the case about a Speaker. But I would address the King again. In the case of the Declaration, some time since, we did not make one Address, but three, and had some rougher Answers from his Majesty than this. Let us justify it to the World, that we have done nothing, but in all duty to maintain our Rights. And I move, that we may address the King, that he would please to take our Representation into farther consideration, and give us a gracious Answer.
Lord Cavendish.] I am not of opinion that this interruption proceeds from the same Counsels, &c.— The last dissolved Parliament was uneasy to them; and in this, here are too many men of quality and estates to diminish the Rights of the Crown. On the one side, I do not fear this will break this Parliament; and on the other side, I would not gratify the designs of ill men. It is most proper for us now to consider, whether this thing will admit an Expedient. The Speaker may be made a Lord, a Judge, or an Ambassador; and that ends the dispute. Whereas some men fancy that the Speaker is not made without the King's Approbation; if so, we give up our Right—Till the King approves, or rejects, it is his choice of the Speaker, and not ours. I would have some Gentleman propose whether there may not be an Expedient in this case.
Mr Bennet.] This is playing at French hot-cockles. I would not, in this, gratify the designs of ill men, who have thrown this bone amongst us. This is to back and mount the colt with a snaffle, and then to bring him on to a bitt and curb. This great Assembly is not to be bought nor sold, but, I fear, the last was. It is an Expedient, that Mr Seymour comes not to the House; his absence is an Expedient; but still assert your Right. I would not have him that is named by the Privy Council, (Meres) but some other.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I never took that for an Expedient, that was a total quitting of your Right. I think, Time is precious; but I do not think that if this matter be not quieted, the Parliament will be dissolved. I have seen Answers from the King much blacker than this. This case is of a very great nature, and if once things of this kind come to be refined by distinctions in Debate, we may refine away the greatest Privileges we have. One Parliament called so soon after another has not been for some time. That called in 1640 sat but three weeks, and the King repented half an hour after he had dissolved it, and then another was called; and there is no danger to the Kingdom though we are sent away. And wherein does a new Parliament differ? They are the People still in another Parliament, and I hope no man will be alarmed with that. I wonder not that Mr Seymour is absent; he knows not what place to sit in, without displeasing the King. The King answers your Representation, "that this is losing time," and there is nothing remaining upon your Books whom you have chosen for Speaker (for till you are qualified by the Tests you can enter nothing;) but it is entered upon the Lords Books, "That your choice of Mr Seymour is discharged, and you are directed to chuse another man." And what Privilege will you gain by an Expedient? When the practice has been always with you of chusing, you will get no reputation by an Expedient. I would address the King again in this, &c. and hope for success. When Secretary Williamson was committed to the Tower, the last Parliament, the Commons had an Answer, &c. and rougher things followed: The Act for the Militia was rejected. But if you address again, I hope the King will answer you by the advice of his Council.
Mr Vaughan.] Your Question is not now, whether you shall insist upon Mr Seymour for Speaker, &c. but your being called hither to consult de arduis regni negotiis. When your Privileges are invaded, what way have you to do what you came hither for? I speak now because the Parliament is ruining—Perhaps our Prince is misinformed, and he does not look upon our Paper, nor consider it. Whatever you do afterwards, press your Paper now; but at the beginning of a Parliament, do not give up your Right.
Mr Williams.] This is no "loss of time," but will be "loss of Right," if you insist not upon your Privileges. And plainly, if the Right be with us, shall we sit still, and let it be invaded? And you, in Parliament give away the Right of Parliament? Acquiesce in your Right, one way or other, and have a fair Question for it, and part not with it so easily.
Colonel Birch.] I speak at this time under some disorder and great fear. This matter before us requires as great and serious consideration as any thing that has happened in my time. When the last Parliament left things, many things concerning the Gentlemen in the Tower were undiscovered; and many were under the fear of it. This is so plain a thing, that scarce a man but will be descanting upon this point. Undoubtedly your Speaker is chosen, and ought not to be rejected without cause shown why; but those are not true consequences, "That the King may, by the same reason, refuse all Speakers and Bills too." I desire to do that here, that, if any mischief follows upon it, we may answer it. We have shown our opinion of Mr Seymour, and have stuck to him as long as we could. It seems, the King has occasion for him, and you may chuse a third person; whoever does this, I am apt to think, will do more. I desire none will prejudge— Greater things than this must be debated. Whoever threw in the bone, the King will see that we step over this to oblige him—I hope he will let us go currently in our business. The King's Answer to me looks as if something was resolved on, and then I doubt whether we are able to answer to God and those that sent us hither, in the result, if we too much insist upon our Right, &c. In the choice of a third person, it loses not our liberty, but, I believe gains a step.
Mr William Harbord.] I was never reduced to so great a strait how to give my opinion, as I am now. Did I think this was giving up your Rights, I would be the last man that should give my consent to it. I think the King has power to deny his approbation of a Speaker. Suppose it should so fall out that any Parliament should make choice of a Speaker to-day, and that Gentleman should be so unhappy as to wound any man, and that man be in danger of his life, and the King should say, "I am informed of such a thing:"—Or that the Speaker you had chosen had had a hand in this Conspiracy of the Papists—He was taken down to Order by
Sir Harbottle Grimstone.] Really we are in great disorder, as to Arguments, on both sides. The point in Debate is the King's Approbation and Reprobation of a Speaker chosen—As well give it up and monstrari digitis—The Speaker we have chosen, Mr Seymour, has declared his abilities—And some Speakers may so spoil a Question that you may never do any business. If the King has such a Prerogative, that the King may say "No" to our choice, it may serve a turn to knock another Speaker down as well as this, and so we shall become utterly useless to the intent we were sent hither for. In this great strait, if an Expedient could be found out, if we could make our Claim on Record, as well as the King's Refusal on the Lords Book;—but that appears there, and ours does not, and is no where for us. As this now stands, were there not something else in the case, we would easily part with it. It is a great advantage for the King to set up his Throne in the hearts of his people—There will be great difficulty in an Expedient in this matter; and that must be with great patience and kindness to hear one another. If the King pleases to call Mr Seymour to the Lords House, all is free and at liberty, and we may proceed to the choice of another, and our Privileges will be safe, &c. But since we are between two rocks, it becomes prudent men to go where the least danger is—But I know not what to propose.
Sir Edward Dering.] I am not so superstitious, that, because we stumbled at the threshold, we should leave off our journey; and I hope we shall be at our journey's end. I hoped, that, after two or three days, and the consideration of the merits of the person, and our choice, the King would have admitted Mr Seymour, &c. But seeing he does not, I would proceed to another choice. There is no Precedent directly in the case, of our power, &c. In this doubtful case, I would consider in prudence what is to be done. All know our dissatisfactions at home, and that we have a powerful enemy abroad. We have a restless faction at home of Papists. We are in a very bad and helpless condition. Suppose the King should dissolve this Parliament, upon 'this point, and call another, it will be a discouragement to Gentlemen to come again; and if there be no other consequence of our pains than to sit but a week, Gentlemen will not be ambitioas or that trust, Consider, whether we can answer it to the Country, if we break upon this point. If it be said, "That if the King refuses one Speaker, he may refuse five hundred, and has not refused any, these hundreds of years," that is a strange inference. I think it the best Expedient to chuse a third Person.
Mr Garroway.] I am not much frighted, nor much invited to sit, since I find, at the beginning, what entertainment you are likely to have at the latter end of the Parliament. We are only unhappy that the King does not consider our Representation—Let us try the King, whether he will or no, for one day. I would not yield up our Right, and, I believe, the King will find out an Expedient, and neither infringe your Liberty nor his own Prerogative. I have known whole Sessions defeated in a day, by a Prorogation, and if this be done, by the same Counsel it may be again. I pray that, with all duty imaginable, the King may be farther addressed in the matter; and if he will not give us an Answer, then I would put the Question of our Right.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] This point of Prerogative, that has stuck these hundreds of years, will raise that other scruple to break you. There is great difference betwixt matters of Grace and matters of Right. This of chusing our Speaker, &c. is so much of the Essence of Parliament, that we cannot part with it. When was any Speaker, that was presented, ever refused? If nothing of that be, but absolute power in the King; suppose five or six Subsidies should be demanded, and you make application to the King, and represent, "That the Commons are poor and cannot raise them all," and the King should answer, "Go your ways, consider what I have said, and raise them"—I am afraid that, when you have chosen your Speaker, and that is over, still you will have blocks and interpositions in the way, and ill Counsellors will be encouraged to advise yet worse. The same Answer may be given to our three requests of "Freedom of Speech, &c." which are usually made by the Speaker, &c. In 1 James, the Commons made a long Representation of their Right to those three Privileges of Parliament. If my Borough that I serve for should ask me, "Why we did not chuse another Speaker?" I will answer, "Because I will not part with their Right." I advise, therefore, that we do as was done in the former King's time, in the Petition of Right; that we apply to the King for a better Answer to our Representation.
Serjeant Maynard.] This is not a Question to put the ruin of a Nation upon. The last Parliament, pursuing things with zeal and truth, yet were dissolved. I could not have believed it. I believe that Gentlemen have in this matter spoken their hearts, and I believe I shall speak mine too. What is your evidence for this Right that you pretend to? From R. II's and Hen. IV's time, there has been no denial of the Speaker that you have chosen, &c. Because it has not been denied, cannot it be denied? Why do you let the Speaker excuse himself at the Lords Bar, and not accept his Excuse here? If a man can show the fruits of his ancient possession, though his evidence be lost, yet that goes a great way. It is said, "By this we shall lose our Privilege, and Speakers may be rejected without end." It cannot be presumed that our Speakers will be rejected till one be got for the turn; that will be too gross. We come here for the good of the King's Crown, and the Government, and Posterity, as well as for our own present good. If we demand just Laws of the King, he grants or rejects them, and it is matter of Grace, and not of Right; and that is a greater Prerogative than rejecting or accepting a Speaker. That which astonishes me is, we have dangers at home and abroad—This matter of Right is not clear to me. But it is clear that we shall be ruined by a breach with the King.
Mr Sollicitor Finch.] I think it a good Expedient to chuse a third person for Speaker, and I think it not fit to represent to the King what he has twice denied us. The King's negative power is as much as chusing a Speaker —Not all one.—
Mr Vaughan.] What higher Testimony can a Subject have for all he has than Records?—I would not show the way here to cancell Records. When we consider that thirty Laws were broken by the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, and Money given for a Fleet, and we had no Fleet, Money for an Army, and no War, what cannot we suppose? What remedy can we have, when the King will not so much as look upon our Petition, that has all our Rights?—The same Counsel put him upon this. This is but beginning to ride a Parliament. Languishing persons take physic, not out of hopes to be cured, but to prolong their life some time. I fear that may be our case.
Colonel Titus.] There are not worse Counsels than have been given by those about the King, and I expect no better from them. Nobody will deny that the choice of a Speaker is in the House. Lord Coke grants that the choice of a Speaker is a Congé d'elire—But the Bishop is chosen, in effect, and named by the King; but the Speaker is not. Let Gentlemen shew me any Law or usage to the contrary. If there be none, we have reason to think the King has no Right, &c. and something is at the bottom that we know not of. A Speaker has been chosen, and laid aside; but never but incase of disability; as in Sir John Popham's case. Cheney was chosen here, and was excused, and Sir John Dorwood was chosen in his place, and till he came up to the Lords to be presented, &c. the King did not know of any body that was chosen. We all know that anciently the first demand from the Commons was, "That the King would be pleased to confirm Magna Charta and Charta de Foresta." I would know whether the King had a Right to annull those Laws; and that the people were not punished for breaking them? I suppose this to be our Right (for all are not of equal moment) and all are bound to assert it, yet not to venture their necks upon it. This matter is not of that last importance as to venture the Kingdom upon it. If the King denies one or two Speakers, he may deny ten, till he have one to serve a turn: It is possible, but not probable. The words of the Writ that calls us hither are, "to consult de quibusdam arduis Regni negotiis"—and all that is to give Money: An empty Exchequer, and a full House! Will the King lose his Money, do you think, by putting by forty Speakers? I would not have that Argument pass, that if we chuse not another Speaker, we shall be dissolved. When once a Parliament is so fond of their places, and so fearful of a Dissolution, that Parliament did never do any good. Gentlemen did not expect such an Answer from the King; but when I consider who was the Counsellor of it, I wonder not at all at it. I move you to adjourn till to-morrow morning eight of the clock.
Wednesday, March 12.
Mr Trenchard.] The King has no right to reject our Speaker, but ancient usage has been to the contrary. Consider the nature of the thing; if the case be doubtful, we ought to insist upon it. It is a great inconvenience to the House to have no Speaker; and more for the King; and where it is so, it ought to turn the scales. We are told of "dangers abroad and at home." But that is more to give Warrant for us to give our Rights away. Those persons who formerly have made misunderstandings betwixt the King and Parliament, I see, will continue it: As yet you cannot honourably admit of an Expedient. At present, you have humbly addressed the King, by way of Representation of your Case; and the King has given you such an Answer as was never yet given to any House of Commons. You expose the honour of the House to censure, if you give up your Right upon such a slight Answer. I would therefore address the King for a farther Answer
Sir Hugh Cholmondeley.] As far as I can guess, this Question is better to be left undetermined than determined. If the King can refuse a Speaker, he may refuse several. If the King has not liberty, &c. he cannot displace, upon excuse of infirmity. We had better begin anew, and leave it as it was. It was moved, "That the King might cause nothing of this matter to be entered upon the Lords Journal." I propose that way as most expedient.
Sir Harbottle Grimstone.] It has been our work four or five days to find out an Expedient in this matter, and we cannot. The King has been so advised, that we chuse any Member but one; which is as much as to say, "Chuse whom you will but twenty." Except one, and except twenty. It was a saying of King James, "That when he called a Parliament, he let down his Prerogative to his people; but when he dissolved a Parliament, he took it up again; not for his pleasure, but for his power." If one Address will not do, I am for a second and a third to the King.
Sir John Hewley.] I would serve my King and my Country, but cannot be in a capacity to give up this, now we have debated the matter, and give up the cause for ever. Shall not we have our tongue to speak our own words? As for that Precedent in Lord Coke, &c. Judges do not concern themselves in Parliament, and that is the reason they look not into those cases. But I believe, if Lord Coke had been here at this Debate, he would have changed his opinion. For continuance of this Privilege for two hundred years is great authority. But it is said, "Ab initio non fuit sic"—It is a voluntary Act, and no positive Law; a thing done only out of respect to the King. It is said, "That a Speaker has been rejected by the King, and that is an evidence of the King's Power"—But that is materially on our side; exceptio probat regulam in non exceptis. Sir John Popham, who was rejected, was sick. This person, Mr Seymour, not disabling himself by any excuse, and being a person so near the King as a Counsellor, it is no breach of respect to the King to make another Address, &c. I look upon it as an undoubted Privilege of the people, and it may prove fatal to give it up, when for two hundred years never any Speaker was presented to the King, but Popham, and he for the cause of his disability, &c. When Serjeant Philips was chosen Speaker, and placed in the Chair, he issued out his Warrant for Writs, and the Great Seal obeyed them, before he was confirmed by the King. The King says, or generally by the Lord Chancellor, "Go, and chuse your Speaker;" not "Go to your House, and chuse whom I nominate," but "Chuse your Speaker:" Shall this be taken away by a side-wind? A facto ad jus non valet consequentia. The Speaker is our servant, and is he to obey his master, or no? Though the Speaker be the greatest Commoner of England, yet he is not the greatest Community of England. To have a servant imposed upon a man, though by the King himself, will not be suffered by any private master, or merchant; and shall the Commons of England endure it? The reason of it will give you light. The case of Mitton, in Lord Coke's fourth Reports: The King created a Sheriff of a County; the Sheriff, by virtue of his Office, makes his Under-Sheriff; but the King created an Under-Sheriff. The Judges agreed that the King could not do it, because the High Sheriff was to answer for his Deputies, if the King cannot. Shall the King put a tongue into our mouths, to speak for us? I would make a Re-Address to the King, as has been moved.
Sir John Reresby.] If you put the King upon a Dissolution of the Parliament upon this point, though some Gentlemen say, "they do not fear it, because of the King's necessity for Money;" the King's necessity is his people's necessity; and if we have so little consideration of the King's necessity, the King may have as little of ours; therefore I move that you will nominate a second or third person, &c.
Sir Thomas Exton.] I shall not enter into the Debate of the King's Prerogative in this matter. That has been sufficiently spoken to, and I can add nothing. I am not of opinion, that to wave it now is to give it up for ever. The City is on fire, and one comes and blows up my House, which is my Right, but upon that extremity I wave it. No man will say that this is our Right; and as the King has given up his Right by our free choice of a Speaker, as he has directed you, it is no yielding the point.
Sir Edward Dering.] It seems to me, all circumstances considered, the constant practice to the contrary—The Mace comes down from the Lords House before the Speaker, and does not go up before him. It came not down now before him; and I believe Mr Seymour did not think himself well settled in the Chair without the King's allowance; and what difficulty would the Gentleman be in, were he here? Many of those Privileges we now enjoy are of later date than this we now pretend to. That the King can refuse a Speaker, upon reason given, we see has been, and the King has now given a reason, why he approves not of your choice; "Because he has employment for Mr Seymour in another place." In some books, we find we have asked the Lords consent. Onslow, when Speaker here, was called by Writ to the Lords House to assist there, and he was sent down hither again upon request of the Commons. I move that a third man may be chosen.
Mr Bennet.] It is your Right to chuse your Speaker, and to turn him out too. When you re-address the King, I would consider who put this bone amongst us; and put that into the Address. I am not afraid of dissolving. He that did this will keep it inch by inch, and upon Hue and Cry; this man (Danby) is as remarkable in the North, as somebody (Clifford,) was in the West.
Mr Williams.] Your Debates ought to be applied to your Question. To debate, that it is the Right of the House to chuse, and the King to refuse a Speaker, I am sorry to hear that now, when your Representation to the King has plainly asserted the thing. When that appears to be your general Opinion, I take it to be a very strange thing now to debate the contrary. But since you are gone out of the way, pray come in again and assert your Right. Prerogative does and must consist, and the essence of it, as much in Custom as any of our Privileges. Now the business of the five days is to make a Precedent in your House against yourselves as it were. Dr Exton, who is in another orb of the Law, would let your Right sleep now, to resume (fn. 1) it another time. Now Popery and foreign fears are upon us! I have ever observed, that Prerogative once gained was never got back again, and our Privileges lost are never restored. What will become of you when a Popish Successor comes, when in King Charles II's time, the best of Princes, you gave up this Privilege? When you have the oppression of a Tyrant upon you, and all ill Counsels upon you, what will become of you? Now you have none to struggle with, but ill Counsellors and a good Prince. I will lay this as heavy upon Counsellors as any man can lay it upon man. I am as willing to heal as any man, but can you lay this aside with ho nour, having represented it already? He that made this Question cannot want another to play with, and then you will be sent home maimed in your Privileges, wounded in your body. This is gagging the Commons of England, and like an Italian revenge, damning the soul first, and then killing the body. The Representation you have delivered, is very moderately penned; and will you receive this manner of answering? When you have presented an humble Petition, what sort of Answer do you receive? Do you not, by laying this aside, set up a worse Precedent than you have had an Answer? I have that in my mind which I cannot so well express, but Gentlemen may easily imagine. By good Counsel, the King may heal all this, but it will never be in the power of the House of Commons to retrieve it, if you give up your Right.
"Whereas by the gracious Answer your Majesty was pleased to give to our first Message in Council, whereby your Majesty was pleased to declare a resolution not to infringe our just Rights and Privileges, we, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Commons, were encouraged to make an humble Representation to your Majesty upon the choice of our Speaker, which on Tuesday last was presented to your Majesty by some of our Members, we do, with great trouble and infinite sorrow, find by the Report that was made to us, by those Members at their return, that your Majesty was pleased to give an immediate Answer to the same, without taking any farther consideration thereof; which, we are persuaded, if your Majesty had done, what we then offered to your Majesty would have so far prevailed upon your Royal Judgment, as to have given your Majesty satisfaction, as to the reasonableness thereof, and preserved us in your Majesty's favourable opinion of our Proceedings: And since we do humbly conceive, that the occasion of this Question hath arisen from your Majesty's not being truly informed of the state of the case, we humbly beseech your Majesty to take the said Representation into your farther consideration, and to give us such a gracious Answer, that we may be put into a capacity to manifest our readiness to enter into those consultations which necessarily tend to the preservation and welfare of your Majesty and your Kingdoms."