The Diary of Thomas Burton: 23 December 1656

Pages 208-221

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Tuesday, December 23,1656.

Lord Eure brought in a petition from a great many persons (well affected to the present Government) of the North Riding of Yorkshire; consisting of many particulars, as to the abating of Assessments and the Excise, (if it stand with conveniency of affairs) and proposing to lay all the burthen of the war upon them that are the cause of it, that the old army may be encouraged, and the new charges laid aside. It recommends that no delinquents may bear office in civil or military places, and that they be especially purged out of the House; that a Court may be erected at York, and a Court for Probate of Wills, and that no certioraris may lie, &c.

Lord Lambert, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Bampfield, Mr. Downing, Captain Baynes, Major-General Diibrowe, and Sir William Sfrickland, spoke for the reading of it; and that the Lord that brought it in might have the thanks of the House given him for it.

Colonel Sydenham and Mr. Bodurda excepted against some parts of the petition, as tending too much, at this time, to discourage assessments, and to encourage others to petition for the taking off Assessments, &c.

After half an hour's debate upon it,

Major-General Lilburn for it.

Resolved, that the noble Lord that brought in the petition, da let the petitioners know that their petition had the good acceptance of the House.

It was moved to give thanks; but passed off with a compliment much like a laying it aside, &c.

Colonel Jones. Divers Londoners are attending at the door with a petition. I desire the petitioners may be received.

It seems it was a petition touching James Nayler, for remitting his punishment, &c., as Mr. Downing apprehended it. Nobody seconded the motion, but the orders of the day were called for.

Debate upon Captain Baynes' Report resumed. (fn. 1)

Second Article, upon the 2000l. assessments; arrear upon the Temple.

Mr. Fowell. It is very unreasonable to lay any assessments upon the Inns of. Court. The inhabitants there are young gentlemen, that have nothing but their books and clothes, &c., and may say with Bias, omnia mea mecum porto. They are Universities of the law, and surely ought to have the privileges of the Universities. I believe they are not all worth 200l. How then can they pay 2000l. assessments ? I cannot agree with the Committee in the Report, as to that part.

Sir Thomas Wroth made a long story to excuse the Inns of Court from paying this tax.

It will put a discouragement upon the students of the law, and affright the Universities. It will pull up the laws by the roots. The long-robe men may do you good service. They are good swords-men, as well as book-men. I desire this part of the Report may not be agreed with.

He fetched a long preamble from the Conqueror, and talked of the boughs of Kent. (fn. 2)

Colonel Sydenham. This is a new precedent, and it will be very inconvenient to lay an assessment upon the young students. Let us deal with the City of London as we do with the country; where, if assessments be laid upon such as are not able to pay, the country cannot be excused for that. It is very inconvenient that the assessment should be laid upon Inns of Court. I desire the City may pay this arrear.

Alderman Foot. There is an ordinance of Parliament for what the City has done in this business. It is no new thing. Assessments have been laid there long since, only they have not been paid. It is not laid upon the students.

Mr. Attorney-General. This assessment is very unreasonably laid upon the Inns of Court. The City ought to pay it. The students have nothing wherewithal to pay it. I am sure that I pay, to the purpose, assessments for my living in the City.

Lord Chief-Justice. This is a very hard case. It would never have been offered in former times. I never knew it in all my time. We that have many children, must, by this means, have their charge increased; for though this be laid upon our sons, the parents must bear it. I. desire you would put this to the question. I question not but it will be thought unreasonable that this, tax should be laid.

Captain Baynes. We were much divided at the Committee in this business. True, in the country, if they lay assessments upon the non-solvent, the county must answer it; but in this case we consider that the Inns of Court may be solvent enough, and the right was best to be determined here.

Lord Whitlock. Inns of Court never paid any assessments hitherto. You may as well make men pay for their lodgings; and men that come to inns to lodge, may as well pay. There is no precedent for it, in any age. I know the City lose nothing by the gentlemen of the Inns of Court. It is most fit, therefore, it should be sent back to where it was first laid.

Major-General Disbrowe. If this charge should be merely upon the gentlemen, or upon the clothes, or the like, I should be against it. But, methinks, they might as well pay, or abate of their ribbons and other extravagancies, as the farmer pays for every cow or sheep that he has.

Mr. Downing. What would the city do if the lawyers were gone. How would they pay their rents, much less their assessments. The study of the law is of more advantage to the nation, both to the gentry and others, than the mathematics, or their datur vacuums. (fn. 3) Assessments were never paid by the Inns of Court before. St. Dunstan's parish pays but 100l. per mensem, which is a great parish; and the Temple pays 200l. per mensem. It is not the farmer that bears any part of the excise, custom, or assessments. The gentry bear all the burthen.

This encouragement to tax the Inns of Court was by a Parliament that had no great love either to .law or learning.

I am sure, where I have any land, the tenants pay no assessment, but I pay all. It is a very unequal charge and unusual, to lay it upon the Inns of Court. I desire it may be re-assessed upon the city.

Sir Christopher Pack. The city had a law for what they did in laying this assessment. No privileged place was to be exempted, by the act, in express terms. And it is impossible, now, to lay it back again upon the city. It can never be done. I desire if you take it off where it is laid, that you will remit it.

Sir William Strickland. When the city was in a greater strait than now, Inns of Court never paid any assessments. It is strange how it comes to be laid now. I am sure the city loses nothing by the gentlemen of the Inns of Court. They spend all they have allowed, and more sometimes. It is unequal, to lay it upon them. I desire it may be charged upon the city.

Lord Fiennes. By this rule, the city may as well tax Guildhall, and all the halls and hospitals in the city. It was much against the sense of the Common Council that those Inns of Court were taxed; and I believe some that serve now for the city were against it. I desire the tax may not lay upon the Inns of Court, but that it may be re-assessed upon the city.

Alderman Foot stood up and said, that all halls, societies, and companys in the city were taxed, &c. He was going on, but Lord Whitiock called him down, for he had spoken before.

Mr. Robinson. It is just every man should bear his burthens. Many that live in the Inns of Court, have great estates and great places. It is fit they should contribute to the public charge of the nation. I would not have them privileged more than other places. They are fallen from their first constitution: No readings, nor exercises, now performed: in former times, readings were twice or thrice a year. Again, there are great rents taken for chambers there, which ought to be liable. I desire that you would agree with the Com. mittee.

Lord President. It is very unequal to lay this tax upon the Inns of Court. This is the way to usher in this charge upon Universities. We ought to give all possible encouragement to the study of the law. These gentlemen have nothing but their cloaths on their backs. I desire that it may be charged upon the city.

Mr. Baron Parker. I hope you will not charge the students for the exhibitions allowed them by their parents. Those monies were once taxed in the country, as part of the father's estate, before they came to be allowed to the son. It is unreasonable to pay twice for one thing. It was never known in any age that Inns of Court paid. I hope you will not begin now.

Resolved, that the Temples be discharged from the arrear of 2325l. charged upon them for arrears of assessments.

Captain Baynes. Now that you do not agree with the Committee in this article, I desire you will resolve where this shall be laid, whether upon the city, or elsewhere.

Lord Strickland. It is fit you should put your sense upon it, whether the city shall bear it or some other place. Otherwise it will still remain controvertible. I desire you would put your issue to it. For my part, I think, inasmuch as the city has mislaid it, that they should pay it again.

Mr. Lloyd proposed, that it may be abated in the Exchequer, as it was in cases of subsidies; and that the city may be freed.

Mr. Attorney-General. I know no place so fit to pay it as where it was first laid. I pay both for my house, and estate, and profession, where I live in the city. I pay a third part of the assessments in White Friars; and that is a good share, I am sure.

Alderman Foot. Unless you abate this arrear, it is impossible for the city to pay it. It is lost. We know not how to levy it. It will be more troublesome than all we have paid. I know not how it is possible to get it up.

Mr. Highland. This assessment was laid by law, which was as good a law as others, for all the reflections. You sit here to do justice to the nation in general. And, seeing the assessment was justly laid, it is but just you should abate it, seeing you have put your negative upon that law, which said it ought to be laid so as no place should be privileged nor persons.

Mr. Young. The city must needs presume, if the Inns of Court ought not to pay it they would dispute it. The city must therefore pay it. The commonwealth must not lose it.

Lord Lambert. I know no remedy but the city must pay this assessment, for it is so, all counties over, and in all cities and places, where taxes are laid upon people unable to pay. The assessment must be made up.

The Master of the Rolls. I have some tenements in the city, and do pay 12l. out of 18l. They are sure to use strangers like strangers. I desire they may pay this assessment.

Sir Christopher Pack. This gentleman is mistaken mightily. I am sure the city do not, nor cannot, assess at any such unreasonable rates. They have a constant rule to go by; never above fourpence per pound for every month; so it is impossible to be as is said.

Mr. Fowell. It is most just and reasonable that this assessment should lie upon the city. If you abate it now, they will lay it somewhere where it should not be laid. I desire it may be laid back again upon the city.

Resolved, that the 2325l. be charged back again upon the city of London.

Third Article, Upon the 2517l. and odd, upon the officers.

Captain Baynes. Offices of profit are assessed both in the City and in Middlesex; and that which the Committee has done, is to regulate where the offices shall be liable.

Mr. Robinson. It is most reasonable where the profit of the office arises, that there it should be charged. This was debated in the Long Parliament.

Mr. Baron Parker. I understand not the question. It seems you lay it upon the places, and not upon the persons; whereas an office is a transitory thing, and follows the person.

Resolved, that the Committee be agreed withal, in this clause.

Resolved, to agree with the Committee in the fourth article, as to the remitting of 6685l. and odd, to the city, pardoned by the Act of Oblivion, provided that the remainder of the said arrear be paid to the treasurers at war, on or before the 25th of March next.

Captain Baynes delivered the Excise Bill, to be read on Thursday.

Per Colonel Whetham and Dr. Clarges.

Resolved, that the Bill for the Scotch Union be taken up on Friday next.

Per Sir John Reynolds and Lord Deputy.

Resolved, That the Bill for the Union of Ireland be taken up on Friday.

Lord Claypole proposed that Mr. Drake and Colonel Grosvenor be added to the Earl of Derby's commission, and Lord Richard, and Lord Claypoole, and Colonel Fitz-James.

Resolved, that these five be added to this Committee.

Colonel Holland. I desire you would call in the petitioners at the door. They are honest men, and ought not to be discouraged.

Lord Strickland and Sir Gilbert Picketing. Whatever the petition be, though it be concerning the Quakers, you must not let them go home without being heard.

Colonel Cooper. These petitioners have been desired to be heard, by two or three. I desire the petitioners may be called in.

Major-General Skippon. For any thing I understand by the petition, it may take you ten days longer. I desire you would not begin with it at this time of the day.

Mr. Robinson. You ought not to discourage petitions by judging them before hearing.

Major Audley. It is the right of the people of England to petition this House, and I perceive this petition comes not only from the people, but the good people of this nation.

Lord Lambert. I know none of the petitioners, but I perceive they are very honest men, and faithful to the interest all along. We ought not to forejudge the petition. I believe they are far from favouring of the Quakers. You may call them in, and take your own time for reading it.

Lord Whitlock. Receive it now, and read it to-morrow.

Colonel Sydenham. In the Long Parliament, and all Parliaments, petitions were ever granted, or passed off with all favour. It was said by a worthy knight, that it was an honour for a Parliament to be petitioned. I think it is our honour now. Let us call in the petitioners, I perceive they are very honest men. The least we can do is to hear them, not to prejudge the business.

Lord Chief Justice. The petitioners may come again tomorrow. The time of the day sticks with me; for, to receive the petition and not to read it, will be all one.

Mr. Pedley and Mr. Westlake proposed that the petition should be read on Monday next, which was the proper day for petitions. This was to put off the business.

Mr. Bond. It is a very improper time to offer any business after twelve o'clock, and against the orders of the House.

The Question being put, whether the petitioners should be called in or no, and, if that Question should be put or no, Mr. Barrington declared himself unsatisfied, and the House divided.

Colonel Sydenham and Colonel Clarke, Tellers. Yeas, 108, sate.

Mr. Barrington and Colonel Berkley, Tellers. Noes, 74, went out.

Upon the main Question being put, the House divided again.

Lord President and Lord Strickland, Tellers. Yeas, 91 went out.

Colonel Berkley and the Attorney-General, Tellers. Noes, 90, sate.

The petitioners were called in, to the number of thirty. One of them (fn. 4) made a short speech: " They are but a few in number that signed the petition; but such persons as have done very faithful service, and have honest hearts for you. They are not any countenancers of wicked persons, or desirous to indulge any offences that you declare to be so; no partakers of the crime: but upon the common account of liberty found it upon our spirits to become petitioners to you in this thing, leaving it to Gpd to direct you in it."

The Petition of divers peaceable and well-affected persons in and about the City of London, in the behalf of themselves and others.

The contents were to remit the remainder of punishment to be inflicted upon James Nayler, and leave him to Gospel remedies, as the proper, way to reclaim.

Colonel Holland. The way to make the blessing of God upon a nation is to leave every man to the liberty of his conscience. The king sometimes published declarations to this purpose, that he would give liberty to tender consciences. If he had been ingenuous in it (as I believe he was not), I am confident we could not have stood two months before him. I say it again, it is the only means to make a nation blessed, to let every one have the free exercise of his conscience. I understand not any power the civil magistrate has to inflict censures, &c.

Mr. Downing. I should be glad to hear anything of James Nayler's change of mind or repentance. What then shall be the rise of your mercy. You have debated this ten days, very solemnly, before God, angels, and men. I have heard nothing from the divines as to what good they have done of him. I was one of those that voted for his smaller punishment I confess I was not clear about the boring him through the tongue and branding him; but if it had gone higher, I should now have been very well satisfied, since no better effect is wrought upon the person than has been. That text works much with me, which is in Hebrews x. 28. (fn. 5) This scripture is a quotation out of Deut. xxxii. 35. There he speaks altogether of vengeance which God executed by man. We are God's executioners, and ought to be tender of his honour. Can any man call this liberty of conscience, a permission to commit such high blasphemy and impiety. Are these your honest men, that petition for a horrid blasphemer, an imposter, and a seducer ? Consider what vote you have passed; and how, in honour, you can recede from it. Had you anything from himself, of recantation, it were something. But, as the case is, if ten thousand should come to the door and petition, I would die upon the place before I would remit the sentence you have already passed.

Lord Lambert. It is not the number of petitioners that should work with you. I speak not of the person before you; but of the petitioners. I know few of them, but I understand them to be very honest, godly persons, who, I am confident, disown the crime; yet think themselves obliged to bear their testimony for their liberty, &c.

Mr. Bampfield. I move you, that, by the orders of your House, this petition ought to be rejected. No man ought, without leave, to speak against our votes: it is expressly against your orders. Though you have received the petition, as not knowing the contents, yet now you are possessed of them, you are to proceed according to your orders, not to suffer any man to speak without asking leave. For that very reason, I desire it may be rejected. I shall speak nothing to the merits of the petition. I cannot but wonder at the impudence of some to dare to misinform this House. I know it was untrue, what was confidently affirmed here, concerning Nayler's being so indisposed on Saturday last.

Lord-Chief-Justice. The thing is very considerable to be debated, and not to be taken up at this time of the day. I desire you would adjourn this debate till to-morrow morning. I presume that gentleman thinks not we are tied up, not to speak against a law now in force, much more against a vote.

Major-General Skippon. Unless it be to check the petitioners, I know not why you should admit this debate. To talk of liberty of conscience, upon such an account as this, so dishonourable to God and this House. I was always of opinion in the Long Parliament, the more liberty the greater mischief. I shall speak nothing as to the merit of the business. It is dull enough. I speak it, as I shall answer it, before God; and as I shall discharge my conscience before him and man, by voting that the petition be rejected.

Colonel Sydenham. It were the greatest oppression and restraint to the people that ever was, to stop the mouths of petitioners, though against your vote and judgment, if they find a grievance in it. I desire the debate may be adjourned, till to-morrow. I shall speak nothing to the merits of the cause.

Mr. Highland. I hope the people may petition against any of your laws, much more against your vote, which they find to be grievous. Haply, you may lay a higher, it may be, a lower, punishment upon him. It is the common right of Englishmen to petition against grievances in general.

Colonel Mathews. The proper question is, whether you will alter the judgment and votes of the House, or no. I desire you would not enter into further debate, but put the Question to reject it.

Major-General Boteler. It is against the orders of the House to admit of any debates after a judgment is passed. I knew before what the petition was, and therefore was against it. Now I am up, I shall speak to the merit of the case. (But he was called down.)

Mr. Moody. The proper question is, to reject the petition.

Mr. Attorney-General. This business is far differing from complaints against a law. It was never orderly to admit this to a debate, to alter your judgment or vote, without leave. We ought not to fetch more power from without, than we have within. If any member knew the petition, he ought to have asked leave.

Lord Whitlock. It is clear to me, for all that is said to the contrary, that any member may speak against any law or vote that the Parliament has made; if, upon experience, it be found that it is a grievance. But I would have you adjourn.

Lord Strickland. I never knew it before, but that after a petition was received and read in the House, every member might have leave to speak for or against it; yet I desire that you would adjourn this debate till to-morrow.

Lord Fiennes. Rise for the present, in regard you are not likely to come to any Question, and if to-morrow any member has a mind to speak to the rejecting or continuing this petition, he may.

Mr. Westlake. I see nothing in the petition that deserves any debate. It relates nothing at all to James Nayler, for Colonel Holland says he continues still obdurate. He proposed to reject the petition.

Lord Deputy. I have something to offer to you, as my own thoughts, on these proceedings. You are not an authority, of yourselves, but you ought to have had his Highnesse's concurrence in it. Pardon me, it is not to lessen your judicature, but by the Instrument I am unsatisfied. I desire that this business may be put off till to-morrow, or rise without a question.

Sir Thomas Wroth. Rise without a question, and come to this debate when better refreshed.

Mr. Bond and Major-General Boteler. The proper question is to reject this petition.

Sir William Strickland. It is sunshine makes these horrid things grow. I wish they were not tolerated. I doubt it is impunity principally makes impiety of this kind. I was not satisfied as to the passing sentence of death upon this person; but, as it falls out, by his continuing so obdurate, if the punishment had been higher, it might, haply, have wrought better effect. Could I understand any thing, either from James Nayler or the ministers, that he is a new man, I could say something; but I am for the rejecting this petition.

Captain Baynes. Rise without a question, and see what becomes of the divines going to him, whether any reformation is wrought upon him or no.

Major-General Disbrowe and Sir Gilbert Pickering. Adjourn till to-morrow at eight, for I have several things to say to you in this business, which, I hope, may be for the service of the people of England. I have much upon me to speak to it. To reject the petition, would not effect any thing at all; for the members will be upon you every day.

Mr. Ashe, jun. The proper question is, whether the petition shall be rejected. I desire that may be your question.

Mr. Godfrey. Rise without a question, for you are not likely to come to any question, till further debate.

Mr. Bedford. You ought first to resolve, whether you will give leave to speak against your vote or no.

Mr. Attorney-General. Your best way is to rise without a question.

The sense of the House inclining this way, being weary of it; the Speaker left the chair without a question.

This afternoon, and till after eight, we were at the Committee of Trade, arguing the great case upon the petition of the cloth-workers, whereof Mr. Highmore was against the merchant-adventurers. After long debate, we were out-voted by the merchant-adventurers' party, though, it was clear to me, the vote was hard to the cloth-workers and the general wealth of the nation; (fn. 6) so that, unless we recover it on Thursday next, in the business of free-trade, the poor clothworkers may turn tankard-bearers, &c.

Votes for cloth-workers, 7: Mr. Disbrowe, Mr. West, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Collins, Mr. Bodurda, Mr.—, (fn. 7) and Mr. Burton; in all seven.

Votes for merchant-adventurers, 9: Sir Christopher Pack, Alderman Foot, Mr. Rolle, Mr. Moody, Mr. Noel, Colonel Mathews, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Pickering, and Mr. —, (fn. 7) in all nine; [doubtful Mr. Downing].


  • 1. See supra, p. 179.
  • 2. "As the King (William I.) was riding towards Dover, at Swanescombe, two miles from Gravesend, the Kentish men came towards him, armed, and bearing boughes in their hands, as if it had been a moving wood. They enclosed him upon the sudden, and with a firme countenance, but words well-tempered with modestie and respect, they demanded of him the use of their antient liberties and lawes; that in other matters they would yield obedience unto him; that without this, they desired not to live. The King was content to strike saile to the storm, and to give them a vain satisfaction for the present; knowing right well, that the general customes and lawes of the residue of the realme, would in short time, overflow these particular places."—See Sir John Haywood's "Lives of the Three Normans, Kings of England." (1613.) p. 97; Sir W. Temple's Introduction (1695), p. 121.
  • 3. Perhaps an allusion to Hobbes's Problemata de Vacuo, or, moregenerally, to the philosophical disputes between the vacuists and the plenists.
  • 4. Mr. Joshua Sprigge. Journals.
  • 5. " He that despised Moses's law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses."
  • 6. See supra, p. 115–117.
  • 7. Blank in MS.