SPEECHES, DEBATES, &c. IN THE House of Commons, FROM THE RESTORATION.
Not to enter into the Controversy, if it will admit
of one, whether the Representatives of a People
are accountable to their Constituents; or scrutinize whether it ought to be deem'd an Offence,
to lay the Proceedings of our Representatives before those
they represent; this is certain, that no History, or Dissertation on State-Affairs of any Kind whatever, is, in any Respect, so serviceable, as a View of our Parliamentary Transactions; especially, if diligently collected, regularly digested, and deliver'd with Candour and Perspicuity. For, by
this Means we examine Parties by their own Light, adjust
their Characters by their Actions, not their Pretensions, and
enable ourselves to form a right Judgment of the Present
by the Past: Arguments appear with more Force in the
Mouths of the Speakers, than in the most lively Narration: We become acquainted with the Men, their Motives, Prejudices, Capacities and Virtues, as well as the Subjects they canvass; nay, we seem present, become Parties
in the most important Debates, and have the Pleasure of approving, or opposing both Patriot, and Minister in turn, as
Artifice or Prejudice discovers itself in either, to the Dishonour of Truth, and the Detriment of the Commonwealth. Here, likewise, the true Grounds and Reasons of
every new Law are to be found; the Necessities, real or
pretended, for annual and incidental Supplies, together
with their Use and Application: The Progress, or Redress
of Grievances: And, in fine, whatever serves to impair
or preserve the Constitution.
Of this comprehensive Nature is the noble Work before
us; and, consequently, how much is it to be lamented, that it
was not set on foot long ago: That the Good and Ill of every
Parliament, nay every Session, might have been more particularly known; and the principal Actors in each, branded
with the Infamy, or rewarded with the Honour which their
honest, or corrupt Behaviour deserv'd?
No Cost, or Diligence, however, has been spar'd to glean
up every valuable Relique that Time has left us, either to
illustrate or adorn this Collection; which we hope, we
may, without Vanity, affirm to be the most perfect extant.
The Period from whence we set out, is that most remarkble one of the Restoration: When the Wheels of Government return'd to their antient Track; and from whence, as
will appear in the Course of these Papers, they again deviated
by Degrees, till the Appearance of a new System of arbitrary
Power brought on the Revolution. This Interval contains
one complete Section of the British Story. That from the
Proclamation of William and Mary to the Death of the late
Queen Anne, another. And as to the Determination of the
next which ensued, it must be left to some future Historian.
The fluctuating State of the Public Affairs, after the
Death of the great Cromwell, having, at last, lodg'd all
Power in the Army; and Monk, their General, having
either too much Honesty, or too little Genius to sway the
Sceptre himself; a way was open'd for the hitherto-unfortunate King Charles, to become a Sovereign in Fact, as
well as Name: Previous to which extraordinary Event,
he was pleas'd to send Sir John Greenvil from Breda,
with several Dispatches, and among the rest, the following
Letter to (Sir Harbottle Grimstone) the Speaker of the
House of Commons.