Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 9. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Monday, July 1.
Sir Leveson Gower.] I have spoken with several of the Bishops about their Prosecution. They are better Christians than to desire any body should be prosecuted upon their Account. I think therefore the House may pass upon some other Head.
Mr Garroway.] I think, if you proceed upon the Debate of this Head, that it will puzzle the Lawyers to make it capital. Though the High-Commission Court is down by Act of Parliament, yet the King has a great Power in Ecclesiastical Affairs. As for Mr Johnson, I would make him satisfaction for his Sufferings (fn. 1); and then the Question will be, Whether you will proceed any farther upon this Article?
Sir Richard Temple.] The Bishops were proceeded against for addressing the King about the Declaration, that cut up all your Laws by the Roots. I take this occasion to venture a Motion, to except some Persons. If you go head, by Head, you will nominate so many, that you will alarm the whole Nation, and never be at an end, and be much entangled in the Business.
Mr Hawles.] I am for excepting few as to life suppose four or two. You know a dead man for one, one in the Prison for another; some are at liberty, and the most guilty persons escape. If the ministerial Persons be excepted, and escape, if that be so, do as you please, and except as few as you please.
Mr Howe.] I think what you are now doing is in consideration of what has been done before, so as to secure you for the future. Some have gone so far as to justify King James in what he has done; if you exempt those, you arraign what you have done already. The first rise and spring of the Bill of Exclusion was the Popish Plot, and for maintaining Popery you rejected him out of the Kingdom. Kings do no wrong, but if Ministers do no wrong—Therefore for our own Justification, either yield that King James is wrongfully put out of his Kingdom;— if you proceed not against his Counsellors we must conclude either that we have done wrong, or that King James has done none at all.
Mr Harbord.] I am for catching the great Fishes; to catch little Rogues is not worth your while. I would not fall into this same misfortune by not making Examples. This Ecclesiastical Court was not managed by Jenner; he is a little fellow. But for a Secretary of State (Lord Sunderland) to renounce his God, and act in that Commission, you had as good give up all as not to question him. Mr Johnson's wounds smart upon us. If he escape thus, what security can we have? I am not for sweeping all the Commissioners, but go on upon this Head, and make some Examples.
Sir William Williams.] Consider this Commission in its Constitution. Nothing in itself, these seven or eight years, has been so pernicious, that Ecclesiastics should be constituted, not only to suspend this or that Bishop, but to unbishop and unecclesiastic them! Things grow on by steps and degrees; when they found that the Bishops and Temporal Peers came into the Commission, they would be felo de se. 'Tis fit to make an Example of these Persons, who have violated their own Function and their own Law. Make one Example of him, as you have done of the Judges.
Mr Coningsby.] This is lumping indeed. If we must lump, I would do it in mercy; do in this as in the other Heads. Here are but ten, and as you have exempted but two out of the former, pray exempt but two out of this.
Mr Smith.] None of these acted according to their Commissions, but set up a Law-making Power. This did subvert both Church and State; but to say, that some favoured the Protestants—but I would have it showed, what Protestants, unless their private Friends, to excuse them. I would favour as much as any man; some that have gone farthest, as those in the first and second Commission, I would lay some Punishment on lightly, but remark those that acted in the latter; I would not so much as exempt the Clerks. If I make Enemies of them, I care not. I am not for being an Enemy to my Country. I would put some mark upon them all.
Mr Howe.] This Power was certainly unlawful. In those who modestly withdrew from the Commission, it shows Repentance. Those who are dead, are past your Justice. If you please, let all their Names be read, and then distinguish them.
Major Wildman.] I must speak against my own nature and disposition now. It is natural to spare all, but of necessity we must vindicate our Country's Liberties. I have sat here with astonishment, to hear excuses for any that sat in that Commission. It was called "the Ecclesiastical Commission," but it laid the Axe to the Root of all our Properties, Goods, and Land in England. In one Clause of the last Commission they were more modest than in the first. It gave a Power to make all the Noblemen and Gentlemen in England dance attendance upon them, and Power to examine every man's conscience concerning his whole life against God or Man; upon pain of Excommunication they must answer every question, or else the Chancellor was ready to grant out the Writ De excommunicato capiendo; whatever the crime was, though against himself. This gave a Liberty to all Informers; they might give what Costs and Damages they pleased. As the Commission gave Power of all Persons, so also of Colleges and Cathedrals, to dispose of all the Lands in England of all Bodies Corporate at their discretion, however confirmed by Acts of Parliament. They had Power to cause Mass to be said in Churches; they might turn out all Incumbents, and take their Lands for Popish uses. By this it is most apparent that King James broke the original Contract with the People, and violated all the Laws that were made to protect our Liberty and Property. They executed these Powers in part; they caused all Colleges to bring in their Statutes. In Sidney College, the Founders took especial care, and did abhor the Errors of Popery, and to have free Elections in the College; they called for the StatuteBook, and razed those out for ever, and, when they could not get Mass to be said in the College, they set it up in the Porter's Lodge, that at length it might come into the College. Never was there such a thing done in the face of the Sun, to bring in Popery, and to discourage the Protestant Religion, giving Costs and Damages, and all mens Estates at their Will. The Duke of Norfolk was not excepted; he had a Writ De excommunicatio capiendo issued against him, if he did not obey them, in an Order about his Lady. All was at their will. If you excuse these men, except all the rest without ceremony. Our Ancestors, when they came to reform the Goverment in Henry VIII's time, made Examples of Empson and Dudley, who cunningly got a Patent to punish men in a summary way, without Juries. Empson and Dudley were attainted for Treason, for so the Record is entered in the Parliament Bill. Their Decree was without any Remedy; by that cursed Non obstante to the Laws of England, all was laid level before these Commissioners. As that prosecution of Empson and Dudley, who were the Instrument of the ill Government, cost them their lives, so severe was their punishment—But when Queen Elizabeth gave but a poor Patent for a place, and sent it to the Judges to pass it, they said they durst not; examples were fresh of those who advised against the Laws, although the Queen commanded it too in person. They saw the Shipwreck, where our Ancestors had set up Buoys, and it was avoided. You need look no farther to find their proceeding than into their own Books, how they unfunctioned the Clergy. I leave them to your Justice. All they have done has been proved before you.
Sir John Guise.] I should not pretend to exaggerate this Commission, but am of Opinion that there can be no degrees in it; but I observe one thing in it, that it principally arises from the Privy-Council, who first ordered it, and then executed it themselves. I speak plainly, I think it of so high a nature, that whoever does own such a Commission is never fit to serve the Nation in any public capacity. I know not their Names, but begin first with the Privy Counsellors, and their Actions; that if any be employed now, to take care they shall never be for the future.
Mr Estrick.] Being named of this Commission, and acting upon it, are very different. I am for making as many friends as we can; so many as you except, so many enemies you make to the Government. To take all who were named in the Commission, you must take the Archbishop of Camerbury (fn. 2). Many that were not versed in Law knew not the saving in taking away the High-Commission Court. When they saw it gone, they could not apprehend the consequence. Those who acted upon the third, fourth, and fifth Commission plainly acted against the Laws. You did take several Commissions, and read several Names in them; all of them did not act in it. I would not put blots upon persons who have been and may be useful to you. Lord Rochester quitted the Staff purely because he would not go on in the Popish Interest. It is plain that this lumping them takes him in. Therefore I would have them that acted in the Commission, excepted by Name.
On Lord Chancellor Jeffreys.
On the Earl of Rochester.
Mr Smith.] I am ready to excuse this Gentleman, if by Vote, but not to excuse him by a Vote will seem to the World as if he was guilty of no Crime. I am satisfied he has deserved great punishment if his merits had not atoned for him. He has served the Nation well in the Bishops case, and is a good Protestant.
Sir Robert Howard.] I have heard from the Bishop of London the great tenderness this Lord showed in his Case, and how he behaved himself in the public dispute, managed by Dr Jane and Dr Patrick, with the Jesuits. I would never put it to the Question, but to have it marked as an ill thing to sit in the Ecclesiastical Commission, but to say it is no crime, that is a fault—I would have these things applied to his pardon, not to his justification; therefore I would put no Question upon him.
Earl of Ranelagh.] There is nobody in the House, but will say this was a crime in this Lord, &c. but whether he shall not be excepted out of the Indemnity for having sat in the Ecclesiastical Commission, ['tis the Question,]
On the Bishop of Durham (fn. 3).
Sir Robert Howard.] The Bishop has gone through stitch with all the Commissioners. He understood little Law, and less Gospel, but he was an ecclesiastical knowing man, who gave Counsel to the Lay Lords. He went through all the Commissions, and in the last Commission of such an exorbitant Nature, where every Man's Estate, Liberty, and Wise, were at their disposal. I was a Trustee for the Duke of Norfolk—In that Court he took great consideration of the Dutchess. In that Court he gave her more than the Marriage Settlement. This Prelate stuck to this Commission, from first to last, with equal Violence.
On the Bishop of Rochester (fn. 4).
Sir William Pulteney.] It is known to most how this Bishop behaved himself. He was intreated by the Bishop of London to stay in the Commission. He protected the Protestant Religion, and I cannot reckon him so highly criminal.
Sir Robert Cotton.] He was a Friend to the University and the Vice-Chancellor. He argued the injustice and unreasonableness of the Proceedings of the Commissioners. He opposed every thing in the Proceedings against Magdalen-College.
Mr Dolben.] He acted with great Zeal for the Protestant Religion. He never gave his consent to one Vote or Decree of that Commission against the Protestant Religion. He made it his Business to defend it. Except acting in that Commission, he is guilty of no fault.
On Lord Chief Justice Herbert.
On the second Ecclesiastical Commission.
On the Earl of Mulgrave (fn. 5).
Mr Howe.] Nobody can think I can have had long acquaintance with this Lord, but I have been well informed that all his life he has voted for his Country's Interest, though he was in Court. He came in to the Government in the late Change, and did this King service. Let him pass.
Mr Smith.] His name is in the last Commission, and I know those Injuries you have heard have been from those Commissioners. If it appears that he was in the Business of Magdalen-College, I am not for excusing him. Let his Quality be ever so great, if the Country be concerned, I would not except him. Let any Gentleman tell what he has done for the good of the Nation, and I am for excusing him.
On the Earl of Huntingdon (fn. 6).
Mr Carter.] I hope this Lord will not appear to be the greatest Offender. He came in to act in this Commission when the Lawyers and Bishops thought it safe to act. He was well assured before he acted, and advised with several Lawyers, who gave him Encouragement to proceed. (He was called upon to name those Lawyers) He dissented in divers things that they acted against the Church; and before the Bishop of Rochester came in, he dissented. I move, That he may not be excepted in the Bill.
Mr Harbord.] I could tell a Story of this Lord, how that three days after the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay, he went post to Plymouth, to take Possession of it, to keep the Prince out with his Regiment, which was then quartered there.
Sir John Guise.] I am for the series of the Inclinations of men. This Lord was once a great Patriot. He acted in the three last Ecclesiastical Commissions. He did go through Devonshire to raise the Country against this King, and has done no service since: Surely you will not exempt him for that.
The Earl of Huntingdon, and the Bishop of Chester (fn. 7); were excepted.
On Sir Thomas Jenner.
The Compiler went out of Town some days before the end of this Session (fn. 8), [which was on August 20, when both Houses, by his Majesty's pleasure, adjourned themselves to September 20,] and from thence to