Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 8. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Debates in the House of Commons, From the Year 1667 to the Year 1694.
[Monday, March 21, 1680,
The Parliament met at Oxford, when his Majesty spoke to both Houses to the following effect: "That the unwarrantable Proceedings of the last House of Commons were the reason of his parting with them; for that he, who would never use Arbitrary Government himself, would not suffer it in others: That whoever calmly considered the assurances he had renewed to that last Parliament, and what he had recommended to them, his Foreign Alliances, the Examination of the Plot, and the Preservation of Tangier, and reflect upon the strange unsuitable returns made to such Propositions, by men assembled to consult, might rather wonder at his Patience, than that he grew weary of their Proceedings: That he had thought it necessary to say thus much, that he might not have any new occasion to recollect more of the late miscarriages: That it was his interest, and should be as much his cause as theirs, to preserve the Liberty of the Subject; the Crown not being safe when that is in danger: That by calling this Parliament so soon, he let them see, that no irregularities of Parliaments should make him out of love with them, by which means he gave them another opportunity to provide for the public security, and had given one evidence more, that he had not neglected his part.
"That he hoped the ill success of former heats would dispose them to a better temper: That as for the farther Prosecution of the Plot, Tryals of the Lords, &c. he omitted to press them, as being obvious to consideration, and so necessary to the public safety; but desired them not to lay so much weight upon any one Expedient against Popery, as to determine that all others were ineffectual.
"That as to what he had so often declared, touching the Succession, he should not depart from it; but that, to remove all reasonable fears of what might arise from the possibility of a Popish Successor, if means could be found, that, in such a case, the Administration should remain in Protestant hands, he should be ready to hearken to any such Expedient, by which Religion might be secured, and Monarchy not destroyed."
Lastly, he advised them "to make the known and established Laws of the Land the Rules and Measures of their Votes; which neither could, nor ought to be departed from, nor changed, but by Act of Parliament:" And for a conclusion of all, he made use of these words: "And I may the more reasonably require, that you make the Laws of the Land your Rule, because I am resolved they shall be mine."
Thursday, March 24.
Sir John Hotham.] Mr Speaker, what I am about to move concerns us all. The last Parliament, when you were moved to print your Votes, it was for the security of the Nation, and you found it so; it prevented ill repre sentations of us to the World by false copies of our Votes, and none doubted your honour in the care of it; and I am confident that this House will be no more ashamed of their actions than the last was. Printing our Votes will be for the honour of the King, and the safety of the Nation. I am confident, if it had been necessary, you would have had Petitions from the parts I come from, that your actions might be made public. As I came hither, every body almost that I met upon the road, cried, "God bless you!" I move, therefore, "That your Votes may be ordered to be printed, with the rest of your Proceedings." And I shall only add, that yourself has done so well in taking that care upon you the last Parliament, that the House will desire you to continue them in the same method.
Sir William Cowper.] That which put me upon moving the printing your Votes, the last Parliament, was false Papers that went about, in former Parliaments, of the Votes and Transactions of the House—Let men think what they please, the weight of England is the People, and the World will find, that they will sink Popery at last. Therefore I second the Motion "for printing the Votes."
Mr Secretary Jenkins.] I beg pardon, if I consent not to the Motion of "printing the Votes, &c." Consider the Gravity of this Assembly; there is no great Assembly in Christendom that does it—It is against the Gravity of this Assembly, and it is a fort of Appeal to the People. It is against your Gravity, and I am against it.
Mr Boscawen.] If you had been a Privy-Council, then it were fit what you do should be kept secret; but your Journal-Books are open, and copies of your Votes in every Coffee-house, and if you print them not, half Votes will be dispersed, to your prejudice. This printing is like plain Englishmen, who are not ashamed of what they do, and the People you represent will have a true account of what you do. You may prevent publishing what parts of your Transactions you will, and print the rest.
Mr Leveson Gower.] I find that those who write our Votes and Transactions, and send them all England over, are favoured, and I believe that no Gentleman in the House will be against printing them, but Jenkins. I hope you will not be ashamed of what you do; therefore I am for printing your Votes.
Colonel Mildmay.] By experience we have found, that, when former Parliaments have been prorogued or dissolved, they have been sent away with a Declaration against them. If our actions be naught, let the World judge of them; if they be good, let them have their virtue. It is fit that all Christendom should have notice of what you do, and Posterity of what you have done; and I hope they will do as you do; therefore I am for printing the Votes.
Sir Francis Winnington.] Because what has been said by Jenkins is a single Opinion, for he says, "Printing is an Appeal to the People," I hope the House will take notice that printing our Votes is not contrary to Law. But pray who sent us hither? The Privy-Council is constituted by the King, but the House of Commons is by the choice of the People. I think it not natural, nor rational, that the People, who sent us hither, should not be informed of our actions. In the Long Parliament it was a trade amongst Clerks to write Votes, and it was then said, by a learned Gentleman, "That it was no offence to inform the People of Votes of Parliament, &c. and they ought to have notice of them." The Long Parliament were wife in their generation to conceal many things they did from the People; and the Clerk, who dispersed the Votes, was sent away, and nothing done to him. The Popish Party dread nothing more than printing what you do, and I dread that a man in Jenkins's Post, (and such an Accusation upon him, as was in the last Parliament) should hold such a position, "That printing your Votes is an Appeal to the People."
Mr Harbord.] Now you have passed this Vote for printing, I would graft something upon it. I move, "That the care of printing the Votes may be committed to the Speaker," who so well acquitted himself in it the last Parliament.
Mr Hopkins made a Motion to enquire into the miscarriage of the Bill of Repeal of a Statute of 35 Elizabeth, which, in the last Parliament, had passed both Houses (fn. 1).
Mr Hampden.] I think the Motion is to enquire after the shipping of that Act the last Parliament, and not presenting it for the Royal Assent. For my own part, I look upon it as a breach of the Constitution of the Government. We are told that we are Publicans, and would change the Government. But such as are about to do so, it is a natural fear in them to be thought so, and they will cast it upon others. In a crowd, it is frequent for pickpockets to cry out, "Gentlemen, have a care of your pockets," that they may be more safe themselves, and have the less suspicion upon them. I will not offer this to your consideration to-day, but move you to adjourn it till to-morrow.
Sir Nicholas Carew.] I move, That, for the preservation of the Protestant Religion, and the King's Person, a Bill be brought in to prevent a Popish Successor, &c. and in particular against James Duke of York, the same Bill which passed the last Parliament.
Mr Secretary Jenkins.] You are upon rising, and I shall not detain you long. I must give my Negative to this Motion; and my reason why I do so, is, because the King has declared, in his Speech, "That, as to the point of the Succession, he will not depart from what he has so often declared." The King has given his Vote against it; and therefore I must do so too.
Mr Leveson Gower.] The Duke of York is in Scotland, and I hope the King will now come up to what he has said in his Speech. My Liberty and Property are dear to me, and I will support the King's Prerogative too; and those People that are Bryars and Thorns scratch you in your intentions against Popery; which, I see, we cannot prevent without this Bill, and therefore I am for it.
Colonel Birch.] I am heartily glad to find that the zeal of the House still continues for the Protestant Religion. My opinion is, that we cannot preserve the Protestant Religion with a Popish Successor to the Crown, any more than water can be kept cold in a hot pot. But I would do it in all the decent ways to come at it. The King recommends to you, in his Speech, "to look back to what he formerly said as to the Succession, &c." If there be no other way to prevent Popery, my opinion is, that it will be more decent to our Prince, and better for those who sent us hither, before the Bill be brought in, to give it the Honour of a Day, to consider of Expedients to save Religion, &c. for that I shall expect from some Honourable Persons; if none come, then you may proceed to this Bill with more Honour; therefore appoint a Day for consideration, &c.
Sir John Ernly.] I should not have troubled you but from what was spoken last. By all means just and lawful, we are to secure our Religion and Properties; we see the great attempts made upon us from Rome, and we must do something for our farther security. I will not speak of the former Bill against the Duke, &c. nor of the King's Speech: That gives you latitude for Expedients, and I would not offer any if I thought they would not do as well as that Bill, which is but an Expedient; but because the King has declared against that Bill, and invited you to Expedients, I would not put that Bill any more to the hazard of rejection, but think of some Expedients.
Mr Harbord.] I can see no Expedient to save Religion, and preserve the King's Person, but the Bill to exclude the Duke, &c. All Gentlemen, I believe, would be willing as to the manner, and save the matter; but when our Prince is encompassed with all the Duke's creatures, the Duke's safety is because of their dependencies. The danger is not from Popery, but from the King's being encompassed with the Duke's creatures. I would proceed in this matter with all decency; and since a Day is moved for, pray let us have time to consider.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] You are invited, by the King's gracious Motion, to consider how to preserve Religion, &c. I desire that we may not now put a Question for bringing in a Bill to exclude the Duke, else properly we cannot consider any Expedients for preservation of Religion, &c.
Mr Whorwood.] The consideration of preserving the Protestant Religion is a thing of that weight, that, though we have showed our zeal to it, yet I would not run upon a thing of this nature, without consideration. They who advised the King's Speech, must answer for it. The words of the Speech are, "If any other way can be found out, &c." I think those about the King have done enough to ruin him and us. But I would have the King see, that we are so far from putting him upon that stress, that we would help him out. I think that Speech, which the King did read to us, had nothing of the King's in it. He is a better man, and a better Protestant, than to do it of himself; therefore I would not put on a Resolution, here, as flat and as short as the King's Speech. The King has gone as far as this Resolution comes to, in his Declaration about Dissenters formerly, and yet he was persuaded to revoke it—If Persons have been so prevalent about the King, as to put the King upon this Speech, let me see those Persons so forward to bring the King into a thing, to help him out; if they do not, I hope the King will lay the blame at their Doors, and not at ours. If they could have told us what Expedients were necessary, they would have put them into the King's Speech, and the Resolution-part, of "not altering the Succession," would have been left out. A little consideration, in this great matter, can do us no hurt, and will satisfy the People without doors. But if they about the King can find no Expedients, I hope he will lay them aside, and take their Counsel no more. Put not off the consideration farther than Saturday, and if they can find us out an Expedient betwixt this and then, it is very well.
Mr Powle.] I have always observed, that the most deliberate Proceedings have had the best success here, and the best reputation abroad. I am as willing as any man to come to this, but with deliberate steps. For my share, though I hear of Expedients abroad, yet I cannot conceive that a Title or Name can destroy the nature of Expedients. But the King, in his Speech, has held you out a handle, &c. and I would not give those about the King occasion to say, that this House is running into a breach with him. I would pay the King all the respect in the World; and you cannot avoid setting a time apart to consider Expedients, and I would not mix any thing with the Debate that Day—I think to-morrow is too soon to debate it. I shall propose Saturday for that consideration, and then let us do what is fit.
Mr Hampden.] This is a matter of great weight, and I would adjourn it till to-morrow. As for the Reason of proposing Expedients, I do not move to adjourn for that, for it is as little Reason to me to expect any as it was the last Parliament. That Parliament gave Reasons why no Expedients could be of any effect but this Bill of Exclusion, and that Parliament saw enough of Expedients. There are a great many talked of abroad in the strcets, and will not you hear Expedients? What can a man say less, with any modesty? But no man can say but that we are in danger, if the Duke should come to the Crown. But the Question is, Whether you will put off this Debate? Therefore I move, "That the House will take into consideration the security of the Protestant Religion to-morrow."
Sir Francis Winnington.] All that I shall propose is, that you would so word the Question as to have no diminution to the Motion made for the Bill, &c. upon your Books, nor any prejudice or reflection. When this Bill passed the last Parliament, it was Nemine contradicente, and most of this Parliament were of the last. As for "Expedient," it is a word mightily used, and talked of, and willingly embraced; but none have been proposed. Let this matter be re-assumed on Saturday morning, and so taken into consideration, to secure the Protestant Religion, and not to let any thing appear upon your Books, relating to Expedients, or preventing a Popish Successor.
Mr Trenchard.] I was much surprized at the King's Speech, considering your weighty Reasons for the Bill, &c. the last Parliament, and that the Lords found no Expedients effectual for preservation of Religion; but that the King may see that what we do is out of a real sense of the danger we are in, &c. and not in contradiction to him, and when nothing is found effectual to save us, that we may justify ourselves in what we do, therefore I am for adjourning the Debate.
Friday, March 25, 1681.
Mr Swynfin.] When there has been a general corruption, and all have not done their duty, you should distinguish and give Thanks to them that have. As you have done to Officers for doing their duty in suppression of Popery, when, through the corruption of the times, some have not done their duty. Nothing is more parliamentary than to return Thanks, &c. and I desire that those Members so elected should send their Thanks to those who chose them.
Debate on the Loss of the Bill passed last Parliament, for Repeal of a Statute of 35 Elizabeth (fn. 2).
Sir William Jones.] This matter deserves material consideration, whether in respect of the Loss of the Bill, or the shaking the very Constitution of Parliament. The Bill that is lost, is of great moment, and of great use to secure the Country, and perhaps their lives too, in the time of a Popish Successor. Those men that hindered the passing that Bill had a prospect of that, and if it be sent up again, we are like to meet with great opposition. But be the Bill what it will, the Precedent is of the highest consequence. The King has his Negative to all Bills, but I never knew that the Clerk of the Parliament had a Negative, if he laid it aside, or not. But consider, if we send up many good Bills, if this be not searched into, we may be deprived of them. No man that knows Law or History but can tell, that to Bills grateful and popular the King gives his consent; but if this way be found out, that Bills shall be thrown by, it may be hereafter said they were forgotten and laid by, and so we shall never know whether the King would pass them, or not. If this be suffered, it is vain to spend time here, and it will be a great matter to find time to redress it. I move, therefore, "That a Message be sent to the Lords, for a Conference, that some way may be found out to give us satisfaction in this great matter."
Mr Boscawen.] I do concur with Jones, that Parliaments are prorogued and dissolved by the King, and now here is a new way found out to frustrate Bills. The King cannot take one part of a Bill and reject another, but gives a direct Answer to the whole. But to avoid that, this Bill was never presented to the King; a thing never done before! I desire that we may send to the Lords for a Conference, to represent this innovation, and that a Committee be appointed to draw up Reasons for the Managers.
Mr Garroway.] I was a friend to this Bill, and I agree in all things concerning the weight of it. The laying this Bill aside is such a Breach of the Constitution of Parliament, that it is in vain to pass any Bill if this be not searched into. By the Constitution of Parliament all Bills, but Money Bills, after they have passed both Houses, are deposited in the Lords hands, and it is below you to look after the Clerks for this Bill. If the Lords give you no Answer for the loss of this Bill, that is satisfactory, I would then send to them to know the reason why the Bill was not tendered to his Majesty with the other Bills.
Sir Richard Temple.] I have not much to offer you, but I fully concur in the weight and consequence of this matter, and you are to take all the care that can be to secure it for the future. Never any thing of this nature was done before, but the Bill for the better observation of the Sabbath, in the late Long Parliament; it was left upon the Table, at a Conference, and stolen away. It is not proper to take notice of this in a Message to the Lords, because the miscarriage of this Bill was in another Parliament. The matter must go upon the desire of a Conference, concerning the Rights and Privileges of both Houses of Parliament, and then you may appoint a Committee to inform you of the progress of this matter.
Mr Vaughan.] I think the passing over the enquiry after the loss of the Bill of the Sabbath was the great occasion of the loss of this. Consider how many interruptions Parliaments have had, of late, in the greatest businesses, by Prorogations and Dissolutions; and another way to gratify your Enemies is to stifle your Laws when they have a mind the People should have no benefit of them, though they have passed both Houses; therefore I move, &c. as before.
Sir Henry Capel.] I only differ as to the words of the Message. I do agree to desire a Conference of the Lords, where I would have no more said, than "to desire to know what is become of the Bill." The Lords are the depositaries of all Bills, but those of Money; and without any other words, I would send for a Conference, to know what is become of the Bill. I know of but three Negatives to Bills, but by this, there is a fourth; which will destroy the Government.
Sir Francis Winnington.] You are not ripe yet for the Debate, only for enquiring after this Bill, which had no Answer from the King after it had passed both Houses. Therefore I would only desire to know of the Lords what is become of it. Put the Question, therefore, plainly upon the Bill.
Colonel Titus.] In things of this nature, it is the best way to observe old methods, and the best method to know one another's mind is by Conference. I remember, the Lords once sent to us for a Conference, where they told us the House was falling on our heads. The Lords sent us not a Message, "That the Roof was falling and dangerous," but they sent for a Conference "on a matter of great consequence;" therefore I would now send to the Lords for a Conference "about matters relating to the Nation."
Resolved, That a Message be sent to the Lords, desiring a Conference with their Lordships in matters relating to the Constitution of Parliaments in passing of Bills: [And a Committee was appointed to prepare the subject-matter.]
Sir Thomas Lee.] This is a thing of as high weight as you can confer upon; therefore I would not do less in this than in a thing of lesser moment. Let your Committee meet, and you agree on the subject-matter. Till then, I know not what to say at a Conference, and that will be Monday, at soonest. I would offer another thing to the Lords at the Conference, the consequence of this way of proceeding; and desire that their Lordships would put this thing into examination, and find out the accomplices for punishment, and, at the same time, to desire a Committee of both Houses to consider where the miscarriage lies.
Sir William Waller gives an account of the Discovery of Fitzharris's Plot (fn. 3); and Sir George Treby reads his Examination.
Sir William Jones.] I like the Motion well for printing Fitzharri's Examination. There is nothing in this Paper, but what is sit to be printed; and what fully makes out what we have heard before, and because we all know, that, since Lord Stafford's Tryal, People have been prevailed upon to believe the Plot not true. This Paper confirms Oates's, Bedlow's, and Prance's Informations; but I would not have that Paper printed which reflects upon the King.
Mr Secretary Jenkins.] I will not trouble you, but with what part I had in this affair. The scandalous Paper reflecting upon the King was read over to his Majesty by Waller; whereupon I issued out Warrants to apprehend Fitzharris, &c. and Waller saw the Execution of them.
Sir Francis Winnington.] This is of great importance, and in it we ought to acquit ourselves like wise men. We, that come out of the Country, hear that the treasonable Paper should have been sent to many Gentlemen, and then they should have been seized upon as Traytors in the Conspiracy in this Plot. All is now at stake; therefore how long or short a time we are to sit here, (the Trooper, Harrison, that was seized, said, "We should have other Guards at Oxford than we had at Westminster,") let not our courage lessen. This being our case, let us go to the bottom of this business of Fitzharris. It has been moved, "That he should be sent for hither;" but we have experience, that, when once an Accusation in Parliament is against a man upon Record, and in the greatest Court in the Kingdom made known, malefactors have not been cleared, and have not had Justice; therefore I move, "That you will take care that this man be impeached of High-Treason," and, it may be, then he will tell you all.
Sir Robert Clayton.] When Mr Recorder and myself examined Fitzharris in Newgate, he asked us, "Whether he had said enough to save his life?" We told him, "We thought not; but if he would ingenuously confess what counsel he had for drawing and modeling his treasonable Paper, and be ingenuous in the whole, we would take his farther Examination;" and wished him to consider of it. But, the next day after he promised he would, he was removed out of our reach to the Tower.
Resolved, That Edward Fitzharris be impeached of HighTreason, [in the name of all the Commons of England;] and that Mr Secretary Jenkins do, to-morrow morning, go up, and impeach him at the Bar of the Lords House.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I would not have said one word, but that the very being of the Parliament is in the case. It is to no end to sit here any longer, if this be suffered. Jenkins had no ground or reason to bring the King's name in question, nor was there any reflection upon his Majesty, or Jenkins, in sending him with the Impeachment. But, for Jenkins to say, "Do what you will with me, I will not go with the Message!" Let his words be first asserted, and read to you, before he explain them, according to the Order of the House.
Sir George Hungerford.] I never heard such words uttered in Parliament before, "That the whole House of Commons should reflect upon the King in sending him with the Message," and "that he will not obey your commands." Pray call him to the Bar.
Mr Trenchard.] The House will grow contemptible to the extremest degree, at this rate. Such a thing was never before in Parliament, "That the whole House should reflect upon the King," and for him to say, "Do what you will with me, I will not go."
Sir William Jones.] I am sorry to see any Member behave himself at this rate. This confirms me in the opinion of the design some men have to depress the honour of this House. A Book has been written by a Member of this House (fn. 4) (which, in time, I hope, you will consider of) "That the House of Commons, in Hen. III's time, sprung out of Rebellion." This goes on this day in the same method. Let a man be of what Quality he will, if he be too big to carry your Message, he is too big to be your Member, and not fit to be chosen for one. Thus to scorn the commands of the House, and to be too big for a Messenger of the House of Commons! Secretaries are sent on Messages every day, and is he too big for this, to accuse a person of the Popish Plot? If this be so, sit no longer here, but go home. His character is great, but he may be privy to things hid from us, possibly, by this extraordinary carriage. Is it come to that pass, for us to be dealt withall as none of our predecessors ever were before. If my brother, or son, dealt with the House thus, I would have him made an example; and, for aught I see, he provokes you more by his explanation; therefore pray go on.
Mr Secretary Jenkins.] I am ready, and I think myself as much obliged as any man, to obey the Commands of the House. The Office I have under his Ma jesty excludes me not; but the thing I stand upon is, That the Motion was carried on in Ridicule. I have an honour for this, and ever have had for all Houses of Commons, but in this Message I must and will be excused.
Sir Henry Capel.] "Ridicule" is not a word proper for a House of Commons: What is appointed by them is with all gravity, especially where the life of a man is concerned, as it is in an Impeachment. We are in an unfortunate age; now things come to light, more than we were before; that now it must be said, "Impeachments of Treason strike at the King," and "the Bill of excluding the Duke, &c. is levelled at the King," I am sorry it is said here, as well as in other places. This that we put upon Jenkins is an Employment for the King's Service, and he tells us, "It reflects upon the King, and he will not go." All the Commons do will be reversed, if this must pass for doctrine, "That what we do reflects upon the King." But, Sir, we are in a Ship, and we have to do with the Master, and he with us. If this Gentleman would make any sort of Excuse for himself, I would, for my share, pass it by; but he has not taken it off, but rather aggravated it. If he has nothing farther to say for himself, he must withdraw, and then I shall make a Motion, for the Honour of the House.
Sir Thomas Meres.] I know no difference of any persons here; if Jenkins said, "I thought sending me with the Impeachment reflected on the King; and in case it be so, I will suffer any thing under that reflection," a man may be mistaken in his thoughts: But, as I take it, he said, "It was his thoughts that the Message was a reflection upon the King, and in that case he would suffer any thing rather than a reflection upon the King in the Character he bears."
Sir John Ernly, after be bad inspired Jenkins with a whisper, said,] It is an ill thing to stumble at the entrance. I do hope that Jenkins intended no disservice to the House, in what he said, but on a perfect mistake. I did apprehend, and so did some others, that he was put upon it, by the Gentleman that moved it, in jest (Mr Coningsby.) But be it in jest, or in earnest, he ought to obey your Order; but every man cannot subdue his own heart. But I would know of Jenkins, whether, upon farther consideration, he will undertake this Service, or no? I am the worst advocate in the world for an obstinate Person; but I humbly offer it to your consideration to put the Gentleman upon it, whether he will go, or no, before he withdraw.
Mr Secretary Jenkins.] Since the House is so favourable as to hear me, I must say I did apprehend it a reflection upon the King, which was the reason why I refused the Message: But if I apprehend it a reflection upon the King my Master, I am heartily sorry I should incur the displeasure of the House, and I hope you will pardon the freedom of the Expression, of reflection upon the King. I had no other consideration whatsoever that induced me to say the words.
Mr Boscawen.] We are all subject to infirmities. Seeing the thing is so, Jenkins could not apprehend any reflection upon the King in the Message, but he might upon himself. The thing was a little smilingly moved; but since he has explained himself, I would have this passed by, as I should desire for myself, upon the like occasion.
Lord Cavendish.] The Gentleman's fault is a great one; but after he has now begged the pardon of the House, and that he is ready to obey the Order of the House, I am willing to pass it over. Though it be a great fault, yet it is too little to give occasion for a breach, at this time.
Colonel Birch.] For the discovery of this Plot of Fitzharris we ought all to give God Thanks, next to the discovery of the Popish Plot. This is a great service to the Nation, and it is not the first service that Sir William Waller has done the Nation. If ever the Thanks of the House were deserved, it is for this discovery; therefore I move, "That he may have the Thanks of the House."
The Thanks of the House were accordingly ordered to Sir William Waller (fn. 5).