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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Thursday, November 25.
The Speaker.] It is in your power, Mr Staples, to dispose the House to mercy or severity; and as you make an ingenuous and frank discovery, you will be used accordingly. From whom proceeded this? Declare those Persons of Quality that advised and encouraged you to it. Be ingenuous, and you may dispose the House to mercy; if not, it will go hard with you. And now you are in your own power.
Mr Staples.] At the rising of the Court of Sessions, I asked the meaning of the Petition? They said, "It was for the sitting of the Parliament." Whereupon the Petition was delivered to the Chairman, Serjeant Holt, and put into the hands of a Member of Parliament. The next day, several Justices desired me to move the Court, "That the Petition might not be upon the Rolls of the County." And then I moved Serjeant Holt, " That that Presentment might not be entered into the Records of the County."
Sir Francis Winnington.] I hope the House will think, that I will not carry an easier hand upon a man than the nature of the Crime requires. What made me deliver this Petition from Staples was, the straitness of his fortune. This man came to me after the Complaint. I knew him not to be of the profoundest judgment; and he thought he might get Preferment by it. I move more for his discharge, for the sake of his wife and children, than for himself. Pray call him in, and reprimand him.
The Speaker.] You have offended against the Commons of England, Mr Staples; and what you have offered for excuse, does much inflame your offence. The House understands, that you are the husband of a wife, and father of children; they will have more compassion for them, than you have had for England. You have offended against your own bowels. You have taken from the Rights of the Subject, by defrauding him of his Right. You have not stayed there, but you take the Diadem of the Crown, and give it to the Pope, to promote Popery. Perhaps you had not this consideration, but those that set you on work. Return home, and make your peace with your wife and children, and your country, who have followed you with an Hue and Cry hither: And you are discharged, paying your Fees.
Mr Seymour.] You did appoint this time for me to present my Answer to the Charge against me. I am ready to answer. I only wait your Method how I shall proceed; whether I shall give my Answer in writing, or answer the Articles as they are read.
To the first Article: I do allow, that, by virtue of that Act, I received, as Treasurer of the Navy, 498,251l. 1s. 10d. and no more. That was the total for Rigging and Equipage of Ships. What was more, was for the Ordnance, which was above 20,000l. but by virtue of that, I received no more than the former sum. That sum Lord Danby paid, according to the intention of the Act, and none of the Money was diverted to any other use; as appears by the Accounts. So that the Balance of the Total is 9l. 5s. and that is all in my hands. The other sum for that Service was 20,000l. which the King assigned out of his Treasury. Several sums of Money were lent to Mr Kingdon; but what were so lent were before the Act for disbanding the Army. As to the lending 90,000l. &c. I never lent above 10, or 20,000l. and none of those sums were for building Ships, but of my own proper money, and the money of my friends: And frequently the Treasurer of the Navy does make use of his credit for the King's service. And this is my Answer to the first Article.
To the second Article, I humbly present this Answer: That it was in my power to dispose of Money till Bills were brought signed, which they did not do as long as the Money was in my hands. The 40,000l. I did issue and pay accordingly, which will appear by the Merchants, who are now ready, at the Door, to affirm it; and they did never call for Money, till it was out of my hands. The Time of Contract and Delivery of the Goods was so long, that all the Money in my hands was gone: All was done by the Navy-Board, and before the Merchants came with their Bills, it was so long, that all the Money was paid out. What will make this manifest, will be the Merchants Complaint, the last Parliament. I am so far from prejudicing them, that I did serve them what I could, by reflecting on the hardship of their Case; and I humbly offer you their Petition.
Mr Harbord.] You cannot receive this Paper. If Seymour insists upon it, he must withdraw whilst you debate it. This is not the Place to hear the Merchants; that must be in another Place. That Seymour should produce this Paper, and desire that the Merchants should be heard, is a strange Motion to come from Seymour, who has managed so many Impeachments.
To the third Article: I had the Honour to be Speaker of the House before I was Treasurer of the Navy; and I was in the condition of a private Gentleman; but though it was not great, yet it did support my Quality; but it would not maintain the principal Commoner of England. I had the favour from the King to receive 3000l. a year, as for Secret Service, to avoid paying the Fees in the Exchequer; which was all the favour I ever received from Lord Danby.
To the fourth Article: This Article is of matters done fifteen years ago, and so uncertain a Charge, that there remain not any footsteps. For the Prizes, I never received the Money, nor ever was an Accountant for the Prizes. I acted no otherwise than as the other Commissioners. In the Article it is called "a certain Ship," without name: When it has a more certain name, and is a more certain Charge, I shall make a more certain Answer to it. Since the Commissioners of the Prizes were under a misfortune, the Great Men at Brook-House never spoke of it; and since that, there has been an Act of Oblivion. But I disclaim any benefit from Acts of Oblivion. This Article is of matters done fifteen years since, and as there are no footsteps of it, when Persons will charge me more particularly, I shall give a more particular Answer.
Mr Seymour.] I know what becomes me in point of Duty. I acknowlege the Justice of the House in their proceeding with me, in granting me a copy of my Charge, and convenient time to make my Answer; and I hope to make my Defence plain to the House, if not to every particular Member.—It is my misfortune to answer as criminal, but I do not misdoubt my Cause, or apprehend a Censure from the Commons of England, who will do according to Justice. The Gentleman that brought in the Articles, had another, carried on by the Wings of Fame, "That I was a Person of no Fortune," and "That I advised the King to prorogue or dissolve this Parliament, that I was popishly affected, and had given Popish Counsels." Things of this nature make impression, when we are involved in common Danger—And I can scarce promise myself to be equally heard, and not hardly judged. That prompts me to my Vindication. If any thing looks like Vanity in me, the good a man has done, or endeavoured to do, may be made use of, when there is a presumption of doing ill. My Family were instrumental in the Reformation, and not any have been pointed out for Popery. The first step I ever made in Public, was being a Member of Parliament, and what my carriage has been is no secret; and when, in continuance of time, I had wearied that Service, I had the Honour to be called to the Chair, not fought for, either to the King, or the House. I affirm, I was indifferent whether—In that Parliament, I cannot justify, but that I was subject to mistakes, and those were questioned; but Reasons and Precedents were produced, which made the House doubt, by letting fall the Debate. I knew that the Chair could not wander, but in Paths untrodden; but the Resolution of the House once taken was punctually observed by me. At that time there was an extraordinary Question in the Lords House in relation to Judiciary Causes. I remember that the Chair was not altogether positive in that Question. I will give you one instance more. The King was on the Throne, and the last moment of the Session, the House expected that the Money-Bill should be brought down from the Lords. It was denied, and several Messages passed betwixt the Houses. At last, it was not brought down, but met me at the Bar. The King was angry at it. I said, "I would be torn out of the Chair with wild Horses, before I would stir without the Bill." The House, at the latter end of a Session, were jealous of something that might be offered, and the House thin; they were pleased to lay their trust in me, I was to hinder it. But the matter of discharging the Bankers Debt was brought in here, and in the Lords House, and if I could have been prevailed with, that Bill had been an Act. Had I been a corrupt man, that Bill might have passed. You have heard of it in Mr Coleman's Papers. A Gentleman brought me a present from the City of London, and how that Gentleman and his Message were received, he will tell you: He is a Man of Honour. I have taken no indirect way. In the latter end of the Parliament that the Plot was discovered in, I suppose it will be admitted that nothing was wanting in the Chair for the discovery of it. It was dissolved, but by whose Counsels I know not. I had the Honour to be of it, and a greater Honour, to exercise your Place. I was placed in the Chair by Persons not used to flatter, and, I believe, not me. (Colonel Birch.) And in my carriage in that Employment, I hope, I gave up no Right nor Privilege of the House. I have the Honour to be named a Manager at the Tryal of the Lords in the Tower; and that Lord that shall fall into my hands shall have little reason to think I should favour Popery. I knew nothing of the dissolving of the last Parliament, but I am sure I advised the calling this. I had a great sickness, and went into the Country, and returned not till six or seven days within this Parliament; and how these unprecedented Prorogations have been made, I know not. Concerning the Duke of York, how he came to be called back, when gone away, I know not; but being here, and in two or three days sent away, my observation was, "That playing tricks with the Parliament would not do." But I could not justify it, that by Royal Authority any man should be banished; but sending Delinquents away is a greater crime than I have to answer for. Having made this Declaration of my part, in the next place I hope there will be a happy issue of this Parliament, and I think it not in the power of any man to step betwixt the King and the Parliament, and those about him know how much he believes his safety is in the Parliament. I cannot say I have made so good use of my knees as I ought to do, but not as I hear I am reported to have done, to beg of his Majesty for a Prorogation of this Parliamont; but I should do it to establish Peace in the Kingdom. But I am unhappy to fall into the displeasure of some whom I have no great veneration for. Let those men walk abroad with what penitential words they please. They that have broken the Triple League, shut up the Exchequer, because I would not trust their Counsels—When the Parliament is dismissed, they will do the same thing again. That the Protestant Religion may be preserved, I am for the preservation of the Crown. There remains my Charge with you. Do as you think fit, I will do as an honest man, and never depart from my Resolutions of my sincerity in the Protestant Religion, and service to my Country.
Mr Miles Fleetwood.] He answered not to the Article, "That he misemployed the public Money." I do justify it, and will prove it by good Testimony, that the Money granted for an actual War with France was not so disposed of, but to a contrary use. Pray read the Charge, Article by Article, that we may know your opinion of it.
Mr Vernon.] To the last Article " of Money received for Secret Service," what Secret Service he did that Parliament, he that received the Money knows better than I. Unless leaping out of the Chair (fn. 1) was "Secret Service," and that needs no proof. Though he denies selling the King's Prizes under the notion of coarse Sugars for Indigo, and Cochineal. As for the Act of Indemnity, I know not how that can clear him, since he is impeached; it is not proper here to determine, but in the Lords House. If we have not Justice against him in the Lords House, I know not where we can have it any where else. In the Courts of Westminster, where the Judges stop all Proceedings, I expect it not. The Duke of York was indicted for a Papist, and in other Present ments of Papists, they stopped the Courts of Law, because they were too big for the Law. This man is in so much favour at Court, and has so much Money to manage, that he can make all of his side. See the effect of your Address to the King; you had put the King upon a most grateful act to the City, and done good service to the Nation in the Country, yet he, Jeffreys, is Chief Justice of Chester still. This Address was not granted, nor your Addresses for Pardon of such as should come in to discover the Plot; if ever men deserved Pardon, they did, when the King's Life and Nation were in danger, and an exception of "Perjury" was put into one of the Pardons. What have you had of effect from your Addresses, by means of such Counsellors as Seymour near the King? I move you to put the Question, "That there is matter of Impeachment in this Charge."
Mr Harbord.] So great care the Parliament took to provide Money for Ships, and punishment for diverting that Money—Now, in short, whether can this Article be proved? It may be said, here is nothing but an affirmative and a negative, and so perhaps men may not be able to give a Judgment, to say what to do. From Precedents in your Ancestors time, and in the Long Parliament, of Impeachments, the Question is now, "Whether Mr Seymour is so far guilty of this Charge, as in your judgment to proceed to Impeachment." Though he has answered all the four Articles, and endeavoured to clear himself from other aspersions. When he was in the Speaker's Chair (as you said very well in your Speech, "the Chair had been so vitiated,") I have seen him cast his eye about, and he was come to that perfection, as to a man to tell you how a Vote would pass, and Spies and Emissaries were sent out, to fetch men in: This I have seen an hundred times. This Article two Gentlemen undertake to prove, and no man can say, but that if he be guilty of it, he has made a great Breach of his Trust. The Witness that can prove this Article, had his hand in putting out the Money. When a Member cannot make good the Article, he names Witnesses. The first Article can be proved by a man that had his hand for it, and Seymour has threatened the man to ruin him, if he gave Evidence. (Some called out, "Name the man.") They that bid me name him, are as ill men as he (Seymour.) If Gentlemen bid me name a Witness, that an Offender may escape, they are as guilty as the Person accused.
Sir William Jones.] I have attended the Debate, and this is not the time to bring that in question. Seymour is a man of great eloquence, and has showed you that he is an able man. If he be good, he is able to do much good by it; if otherwise, much hurt. He has answered the Articles, one by one, and it is not much matter whether his Answer had been "Not guilty" only, and he could not make a better Answer. I take it, that, as to the great sum given by Act of Parliament for building of ships, his Charge is, "That he diverted that to another purpose, and indeed to an ill purpose, to keep up the Army." His Answer is, "That he received so much, and the rest was the Ordnance, and was paid according to the Act;" and he has referred you to his Account, and there remains 9l. &c. It may be, the Money lent for keeping up the Army was other mens money, upon the credit of himself and his friends. With all fairness I do represent the effect of the Charge, and his Answer. I do not deny but that this is a good Answer, but all in effect amounts to no more than, "Not guilty of the Charge." I did observe, that he has deceived no man's expectation in his Abilities. He introduced his Speech to this effect, "That he was unfortunate to have a Charge against him, but it would be less so, because he should be heard in Parliament, and would call an Eastland Merchant to testify for him, &c." But that is a mistake. I am afraid this House cannot judge this matter. I could wish they had that Power. It may be, it would be more secure for the Nation, that this House had a several Judicature; but I am afraid this House has none. I rise not to aggravate one point of the Charge. If he be guilty, let him be condemned; if not, acquitted. You (under favour) have nothing to consider, but whether this Article be a Crime, if proved. Seymour did not take upon him to tell you this Article was no Crime, though proved. No doubt, if proved, it is a Crime against several Acts of Parliament, appropriating sums of Money, &c. that they should not be misapplied. If he, as Treasurer of the Navy, has mispent it, to another use, it is a Crime; the Penalties and Forfeitures are Fine, and Loss of his Place, if he be guilty of a new Crime—The next Article is of great consideration: There was an Act of Parliament for a War with France, and that Army had the ill luck to go off with pay, and not fighting. That Money was not fit to pay them, but Money was borrowed to keep the Army up. No man can think but that this was a Crime to continue the Army against an Act, though he lent the King his own Money; especially considering the hazard the Nation did run, by that Army's being kept up, when there was no work for them. It was well done for Seymour to mention his good actions; it may a little mitigate his punishment in the Lords Court; but this is not so proper, to tell you any other aggravations not in the Article. If they be Crimes, let them add them as Articles; let right be done, and proceed with that gravity as in other places. If any Member will say that this matter contained in the Article is an offence, let him rise up and say so. Two Members have said, that they do undertake to prove it.
Mr Kingdon.] I should not rise up to speak, unless it were in my power to give the House some Information; and it is only because I am named by Mr Seymour, to whom I lent Money. This Money he lent to me; but whether it was misemployed, I know not. He has offered to produce his Accounts. Some part of this Money he lent me not, for some part he borrowed of me. As to the other part, said to be lent for continuance of the Army, I lent none for that purpose; for those great sums were lent long before the matter of disbanding the Army entered into Debate, or whether you should continue them. Long before the Act for disbanding the Army, there was a necessity that the Army in Flanders should have ten thousand pounds, to prevent them from starving. The other Money I took out of his House to disband the Army with, which might else have cost the Kingdom eighty thousand pounds more.
Sir Thomas Lee.] I have been long acquainted, and have had a friendship with Mr Seymour, but what I shall say shall be for your service, which will be, to commit this matter at large, because Seymour is charged with having employed the Money to different uses, and Kingdon says it was not employed to the uses in the Article mentioned, but on the contrary. It is no light thing for the Commons to make Complaint to the Lords of one of their own Members. This will be but a mean recompence of your credit, to lose your proof, when Witnesses shall go back in the Lords House, and the Commons use not to fail in their Prosecution. For that reason the Commons have given notice to Offenders, as to the Duke of Buckingham, &c. because they would be so well informed, that they may never complain but the person may be found guilty. It is a matter of so great weight, an Impeachment, that the Commons ought not lightly to accuse. Impeachment is your weapon, and you must not blunt it. If you are mistaken in one part of it, you may be in another; and it will be a fatal thing to go to the Lords with a mistake. You have heard Seymour's Defence and Kingdon's Evidence.
Mr Harbord.] Vice-Admiral Penn and Commissioner Pett were accused at Brooke-House before the Commissioners of Accounts (fn. 2). Penn was accused, that he had embezzled Prize-goods. He was summoned hither, and answered his Charge; and then the Question was, "Whether, upon that Complaint, there was ground for Impeachment?" And it was resolved in the affirmative. You have the same grounds now against Seymour. I can undertake for myself, but not for another man, to make good what I have asserted. Mrs Cellier disposed of an hundred pounds to get the Evidence against the Lords in the Tower taken off. If Evidence against Seymour be named, they may be taken off. We see Money has ruined us, but hereafter I shall propose a way to make the Kingdom happy.
Mr Booth.] I rise up to undeceive Gentlemen. I hear it said abroad, "That friendship guides me in this matter, and not reason and honour." Whoever says so, is guilty of prejudice. If Seymour be guilty, condemn him; if innocent, acquit him. If we be baffled in this Impeachment in the Lords House, it will be a prejudice to all you shall do; therefore I would commit the Articles to be well considered. In the last Parliament these Articles were let slip, and I doubt it will be said, there is something of revenge in it, more than upon public account. And if that appear, it will be a damp to all you do. Therefore commit the Articles.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] An Impeachment has been brought in, and your Member has answered it. What is before you is, the Ground of Impeachment in this Article. The Members that brought in the Articles may have ground to believe them, yet they may be deceived, and so you expose the Honour of the House. In the Impeachment of Lord Mordaunt, several Witnesses were examined, and several days were heard; and next, you have done so in the case of Sir William Penn. Several Persons did enquire into Miscarriages, and it was so difficult to make them out, that the House did, by Act, &c. commission Persons to enquire into them. They examined Witnesses upon Oath at Brooke-House, and they made a particular Report of the Evidence. Could any thing be clearer? But here it is said, "Gentlemen will make this Charge good;" but yet no proof is made of them. Seymour produces his Account, and will stand and fall by it. Kingdon tells you, "That that of the Money borrowed was a mistake, and that Money was not so employed as in the Charge." I move, therefore, that it be committed.
Mr Love.] I sat in great awe in the Long Parliament; but Seymour, I remember, accused Lord Clarendon in the Long Parliament (fn. 3). It was then said, "To charge that great Lord, and prove nothing, would be a dishonour to the House." A great Gentleman then of the House (it may be, I can produce the very Speeches I then took, in short-hand, both those against him and for him; those who were for Clarendon were for discovering Witnesses, that they might be taken off,) Lord Vaughan, upon his Honour, did undertake to prove the Article "of betraying the King's secret Counsels to his Enemies (fn. 4); and that was all that was expected, that a Gentleman should rise up and say, "I undertake to prove that Article."
Colonel Birch.] Love tells you, "he sat under great awe in the Long Parliament;" and I under great fear; for that I thought never to see the Dissolution of that Parliament. I remember that business of the Impeachment of Lord Clarendon. In short, I did not believe one word of that which Clarendon was accused of. I pressed no Witnesses to be examined, but farther to examine the matter. We know which wind blew Clarendon over sea, and what wind blows now. Seymour has said, "he is a lover of his King and Country, &c." but I cannot but observe the hand of God in this Charge against Clarendon. When Seymour was in the Chair, no man was more sharp upon me, and I sometimes as smartly replied. But as to the last Parliament, I think he did believe the Plot in the Long Parliament, and therefore I did recommend him to the Chair. If he be guilty of this Charge, no man shall prosecute him with more warmth than I will do. When you resolved that Money should be given upon a Poll-Bill, for the French War (which I was convinced of) an hundred thousand pounds for some things was to be provided in a few days; I said to Sir R. Howard, "You have fifty thousand pound remaining, &c. in your hands; " he replied, "I would be taxing, &c." I told you formerly of "a Cudgel, that would break that glittering Bottle, the French King (fn. 5);" but you must have a sharp sword to do it now. Sir Robert Howard said, "He had Orders for issuing out that Money, &c." I never heard but that if a Member said, he was mistaken in an Article, it was no farther insisted on; as in Clarendon's case. The Money might be lent, and possibly the individual Money for Ships that were to be built; but can any man have satisfaction, unless a Committee enquire? And so your Honour will be saved. Be upon sure ground, and, that the Evidence may be clear, commit it.
Mr Papillon.] There were two Acts for disbanding the Army, but the Parliament had a trick put upon them. There was two hundred thousand pound given for disbanding the Army, and it was employed to keep it up. I am afraid, this Money lent by Seymour was that which kept it up. He should not have parted with the Money till it was effected. I do not lay so much weight upon what is said by Mr Kingdon, as to carry this Charge to a Committee.
Mr Kingdon.] I speak to Orders. I should not have troubled you, but that I find myself reflected on by Papillon. All that Money went to disband the Army, and what was lent to Mr Seymour was before the disbanding the Army.
Sir Francis Winnington.] I look upon this Article, and I find it mentions not one word of Kingdon, but "that Seymour directed eighty thousand pounds, &c. (fn. 5)" But that Kingdon's Money was not this Money, is more than any man can say. Kingdon is complained of for mispaying the Money. Proximus ardet, &c. I should be glad if Seymour was not impeached; but there is a particeps criminis, &c. I affirm, that, when the Committee sat for Enquiry after the Pensioners of the Long Parliament, a Gentleman of Quality gave Evidence, it worked so hard. And that was the reason the Charge came not in that Parliament against Seymour, that Parliament being soon discharged. I would know, when a man is impeached, if any man shall stand up and say, "he does not believe the Articles," whether this shall destroy any Impeachment? But Gentlemen say still, it may be committed, which is a gentle rejection of the thing. If this Gentleman be guilty, it is more glorious for him to be tryed in the greatest Place of the Kingdom, and to justify himself, than to stifle it here by Commitment; and then the next thing will be, Witnesses will run away, because this great Man is too great for the Commons of England. If you take away the Means, you take away the End. The Court ever calls for Prosecutors, but never for Witnesses, till issue be joined. Seymour has committed a great Crime, and he will commit a greater to keep himself from Justice. I was Counsel for Lord Mordaunt in his Impeachment; and I remember the House would not let me produce one Witness for him, and he was impeached. We know what constitution the Long Parliament was of, and what Precedents they made; but at the latter end of it, when it began to be filled with brave men, Articles were presented against Lord Danby, and there was nothing but Prosecution, no recommitment. If the Articles be not proved upon Tryal, it is no reflection upon the House of Commons, but on particular men who undertook them; but if Gentlemen undertake to prove the Articles, and you do not impeach thereupon, this will be a great discouragement to call Great Men to account. Kingdon borders upon the same offence with Mr Seymour, if it be one, and so what he says is of no weight.
Colonel Birch.] I will begin where he ended. He tells me, "I will look to my interest." I say, that Winnington pleaded for Lord Mordaunt, and then you know where his interest was. So he grounded that old Maxim of mine. I think myself not well dealt withal, to tell me of my nibbling about Money. I am Auditor of the Excise, and can any man charge me with ever taking six-pence bribe? Lately I was one appointed to disband the Army, and I meddled with no Money but what I gave account of; because I am told of "nibbling." I did not say "that it was impossible to prove these Articles," but no man can but he that keeps the cash. If, after all this, this individual Money was given for this use, &c. it is an Article to impeach upon; if not, you cannot.