Introduction

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History of Parliament Trust

Publication

Year published

1742

Pages

1-2

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'Introduction', The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons : volume 1: 1660-1680 (1742), pp. 1-2. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=37613 Date accessed: 20 September 2014.


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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.