The Diary of Thomas Burton: 12 January 1656-7

Pages 337-344

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

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Monday, January 12, 1656–7.

We stayed till after ten before the Speaker came. He was brought in a sedan to the lobby door, not being able to come up stairs. After prayers, with much ado, he got into the chair; but looked most piteously, and very ill he was, scarcely able to sit or speak; whereof the House were generally sensible, and so hasted to move for an adjournment.

Major Beake stood up, but was prevented from speaking, by Lord Fleetwood, who said, that the Committee for Irish Affairs had prepared a Bill of Attainder of the rebels of Ireland, without which no purchaser or adventurer could be secured, and this was a bill of great concernment to that nation, and of absolute necessity. He desired it might be now read.

Mr. Bond. I see you are very ill, and not able to sit in that chair. I hope, in a week's time, you may recover your spirits and strength, so that we may go on with the public business of the Commonwealth more cheerfully. I desire you would adjourn for a week's time, and settle all your Bills so, that, in the mean time, they may be debated in Grand Committees, and prepared for you, or otherwise, that some other person of the long robe may be appointed, for the present, to sit in that chair, for I see you are not able to undergo it.

Sir William Strickland. I rise up to second that motion, that, in respect of your ease, for I see you are not able to sit in that chair, you would adjourn for a week: and I hope that ease may the better fit you for carrying on the great affairs. In all other purposes, we say, we will do this if God will. God is pleased to put a stop to our affairs, for the present, and we ought to tender your health and ease.

Major Morgan. While we are debating what to do, we lose time, and so shall do nothing. The Committee for Irish affairs have taken a great deal of pains to serve you, and have prepared that Bill which the honourable person offered you. It is of great importance; no greater can be in the whole nation, than to unite your interests and people together. It costs you now 1700l. per mensem to protect your interest there. The Irish interest grows, the English is at a stand. It is but a short bill. I desire you would give it the first reading.

Lord Whitlock. I rise up to second the motion made before, that you would adjourn for a week, in regard of your own ease, in which time your physicians are hopeful you may recover your strength. There may be some inconvenience, or loss of time, but the House may, in the interim, be framed into Grand Committees, which may do you as much service in preparing business for you against the next week, that then you may go on more cheerfully and orderly in your affairs before you.

Mr. Robinson. These motions may do well, but, I fear me, you have so much public business before you, that you cannot conveniently admit of this delay. There is a difference between those that live here and have their families in town, and us that are distant from our business, and have more need to be at home upon our own occasions, than trifling away the time thus. Let us either say we will go on with our public business, or let us say, not; that we may go look after our husbandry, which draws on now.

I doubt the state of your health will not, at present, afford to sit it out. The more you adjourn, the longer our attendance we are tied to. I desire that some might be appointed to sit in that place, till it please God to enable you for the work. It was usual in the House of Lords to appoint a speaker pro tempore. I would have you chuse some of the long robe for the present, that our business may not be at a stand thus, from time to time.

Dr. Clarges. Adjourn for a week, and I doubt not but in that time you may so recover your health, as that we may join to the dispatch of the business before us. And, in the meantime, there may be as good service done in Grand Committees, by preparing business for you, as that Bill for the Scotch Union, which has laid a long time on your hands, (fn. 1) and other bills, will the better pass when you are united. Especially when you are going to lay a tax upon the people, it is fit you should be unanimous.

Mr. Ashe the elder. I desire, Mr. Speaker, that you would deal plainly with us in your condition; that you would declare to the House what is your indisposition; The House may think that you are in good health now, and able to sit. If you be so indisposed that you cannot sit, or that in a short time you may be able, that you would appoint some other person to be Speaker pro tempore, &c.

Sir Thomas Wroth. It seems to me that you are unfit to sit in that chair; but it were good it were examined how your condition is, that the House might understand your indisposition: and either chuse one in that place, pro tempore, or otherwise that you would adjourn for a week, and go into Grand Committees, if your physicians tell you that such a time of ease would recover your strength.

Mr. Speaker stood up, and, with tears in his eyes, said, Gentlemen, I am sorry it should be doubted, my being sick.

If you please to go on, I shall sit till twelve o'clock.

Major-General Disbrowe, Lord Strickland, and Captain Baynes, seeing the Speaker so very ill, hastened the question, and desired the House might be adjourned for a week, and resolved into Grand Committees upon the Excise Bill, and the two Bills for the Union.

Colonel White moved that some course might be taken with the women that came from Exeter. (fn. 2) They are not able to maintain themselves. He desired that they might be transferred over to the justices of peace, to take care of them, and dispose of them as they see occasion.

Major Beake. The company of Turkey merchants (fn. 3) are waiting at the door with a petition. I desire they may be called in.

Resolved, that the House be resolved into a Grand Committee, to sit all this week, de die in diem, upon several businesses.

Resolved, that, notwithstanding the adjournment of the House, the Grand Committee do sit.

Resolved, that on this day, and on Tuesday and Thursday next, the Grand Committee do sit upon the Bill touching the excise and new impost.

Resolved, that on Wednesday next, the House be resolved into a grand Committee upon the Act for uniting of Scotland into one Commonwealth with England.

Resolved, that on Saturday next the House be resolved into a Grand Committee, upon the Bill for uniting Ireland into one Commonwealth with England.

Resolved, that on Friday morning next the House be resolved into a Grand Committee upon matters of religion.

Resolved, that all other Committees may sit and act every afternoon, notwithstanding the adjournment of the House.

Resolved, that the debate upon the Bill for continuing and assessing of a tax for maintaining of the militia forces be adjourned until Monday morning next.

Ordered, that the Bill of Attainder of the rebels in Ireland, be read the first time to-morrow se'nnight.

Ordered, that the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Caryl, for his pains taken in assisting and carrying on the work of humiliation in this House, on Friday last, (fn. 4) and that Mr. Maidstone be desired to give him the thanks of this House accordingly.

Ordered, that the thanks of this House be given to Dr. Reynolds, for his great pains taken in his sermon preached before this House on Friday last, being a day set apart for humiliation to be kept in this House, and that he be desired to print his sermon, and that he have the like privilege in printing thereof, as bath been formerly allowed to others in the like case. And that Sir Christopher Pack do give him the thanks of this House accordingly.

Ordered, in the same manner, mutatis mutandis, (in clerk's book,) for Mr. Barker. And that Major-General Bridge be desired to give him the thanks of this House accordingly.

Resolved, that the House be adjourned until Monday morning next.

The House did adjourn itself until Monday morning next, accordingly.

Mr. Speaker left the chair.

Mr. Fowell took the chair.

The House, according to former order, was resolved into a Grand Committee, upon the additional Bill for the excise and new impost, and proceeded therein.

Mr. Robinson asked me this morning, before the Speaker came, if I took notes at Scot's Committee: I said yea. He told me he had much ado to forbear moving against my taking notes, for it was expressly against the orders of the House. (fn. 5) I told him how Mr. Davy took notes all the Long Parliament, and that Sir Symons D'Ewes wrote great volumes; as well his own speeches as other men's, when he was prevented in speaking. (fn. 6)

I said, "How should young men learn arguments without their notes;" but I answered civilly. He said Mr. Solicitor Ellis was highly ruffled one time for taking notes, and was commanded to tear them in the face of the House. "It takes away," quoth he, "the freedom and liberty of men's speaking, for fear their arguments be told abroad. It was well known at Oxford that Mr. Robinson never spoke any thing against the King," (fn. 7) and a great deal to this purpose, which I evaded as well as I could.

In the Inner Court of Wards sat the Committee upon the petition of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of London, (fn. 8) where Mr. Goodwin had the chair.

Two counsellors were heard on each side. The city desired that those that had the freedom to trade amongst them, might also bear offices amongst them, or fine for alderman and sheriffs, &c., they alleging that privilege and duty were so married together that they could not be separated, qui sentit commodum, &c.

The defendants said, it was their birth-right to be free to trade, and none ought to be compelled to accept any privilege to his detriment, and urged three chapters in Magna Charta, and the 29th chapter, ubi nullus liber homo disseisiatur de libertatibus, &c. (fn. 9)

This Committee was adjourned, but they waited a long time for Alderman Foot, which Mr. Bond took heavily out, that a Committee of Parliament should be so cheap as to wait for any one man in England.

Those that serve for the City stick close to this privilege, but I believe they will be worsted. It was said there, that this nation was falling into the rickets, the head bigger than the body. One nod of the head would command all the members. This is the high way to it, if they have an arbitrary power over men's estates, to fine them at pleasure. It is a strange power to put in one corporation.

It was said that they fined forty-four or forty-five in one year for Alderman and sheriffs, and 400l. or 500l. a-piece is ordinary. They, most an end, pitch upon such as they know will not stand; go a birding for sheriffs (as Mr. Highland said) Vide supra, in. the debate when the petition came in.

The counsel on the defendants part, said, if the Committee knew all, they had more need restrain than enlarge the privilege of this corporation. They instanced in several unreasonable laws and customs that they had, which, if not confirmed by Act of Parliament, were unreasonable. Whereunto Mr. Allen, by the way, replied, that no unreasonable custom could be confirmed by Act of. Parliament, for if unreasonable, the confirmation, as well as the custom, was void.

First grievance in the customs of London was

That of the Court of. Orphans, (fn. 10) (which was worse than the Court of Wards) where a man can dispose of neither wife, estate, nor children, but after his death that Court questions it. (fn. 11)

2d. That custom of foreign bought, and foreign sold, where if a man both buy from, and sell to, a stranger, his goods so bought and sold are confiscate.

3d. Where a man may be arrested for a debt before the day of payment, upon suggestion that the security grows faint, and not sufficient, therefore the obligee may arrest the obliger for better security.

4th. Superseding of actions and judgments in the courts of justice there, and other things qua nunc proscribre, &c.

In the Speaker's chamber sat the Committee for the Bill for high-ways, (fn. 12) Colonel Mathews in the chair.

In the middle room the Committee for Drury-house (fn. 13) sat, and Colonel Twisleton in the chair. Major-Generals Goffe and Whalley constant attendants. No grand Committee for religion could be got together.

Captain Lister was gathering up Mr. Acklam's Committee. (fn. 14)


  • 1. See supra, p. 12, note †.
  • 2. See supra, pp. 167, 173;
  • 3. Turkey, or Levant Company, incorporated by Queen Elizabeth.
  • 4. See supra, p. 334.
  • 5. See Lu. R. (Luke Robinson), supra, pp. 296–299. I am not aware of any order against taking notes. Among the numerous "Ordens against the printing the votes and proceedings of the House," are the following, which, with many later orders, are now every day violated. "1641,13th July, Ordered, that no member of this House shall either give a copy, or publish in print, any thing that he shall speak here, without leave of the House." "1642, 22d March. Resolved, &c., that whatsoever person shall print any act or passages of this House, under the name of Diurnal, or otherwise, without the particular licence of this House, shall be reputed a high contemner and breaker of the privilege of Parliament, and to be punished accordingly." Orders (1756) p. 176.
  • 6. Sir Symonds D'Ewes, who was a member of the Long Parliament, died in 1650, aged 48. His collection of the "Journals of all the Parliaments, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth," was published in 1682." Mr. Robinson, probably, here refers to Sir Symonds D'Ewes MSS. now "preserved in the British Museum," which are said to contain "a Journal of his own Life, even to very minute particulars." See Brit. Biog. (1769) v. 190; Biog. Brit. (1793) v. 174. Three of Sir Symonds D'Ewes's speeches have been preserved; the first "Concerning the Precedence of the University of Cambridge to that of Oxford." See Parl. Hist. ix. 183, 397, 427.
  • 7. So in MS., perhaps it should have been written "that Mr. Robinson never spoke, &c. but it was well known at Oxford."
  • 8. See supra, p. 176.
  • 9. Cap. xxix. of Magna Charta, is on a different subject. This writer, probably, designed the renewal of the Great Charter by Hen. III. as confinned by Edw. I. There, chap. xxix. ordains, among other privileges, that "No freeman shall be disseised of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs." See English Liberties (1719) p. 26.
  • 10. "For. the management of the affairs of Orphans, which is by law under the inspection and care of the Lord Mayor and aldermen." See Hatton's "New View of London," (1708) ii. 645.
  • 11. "When any freeman of London dies, leaving children under the age of twenty-one years, the clerks of the respective parishes are to give the names of such freemen to the common crier of this city, who, thereupon, summoneth the widow or executor to appear before the Court of Aldermen, and there to be bound to bring in an inventory of the testator's estate which they commonly allow two months time for. And, in case of non-appearance, the Lord Mayor may send his warrant, and, if such executor refuse to become bound, the court may commit him to Newgate." See "New View of London," ii. 645.
  • 12. See supra, p. 11.
  • 13. See supra, p. 148.
  • 14. See supra, p. 159.