The Diary of Thomas Burton: 31 March 1658-9

Pages 309-318

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 4, March - April 1659. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Thursday, March 31, 1659.

I came late, (fn. 1) and found a Bill for restoring members for Durham, (fn. 2) in debate.

Colonel White had offered it immediately upon a petition (fn. 3) read to the purpose.

It was moved that it was irregular.

Lord Lambert was for it.

Mr. Trevor was for it, if well timed.

Colonel Birch was loth to spend time. He moved to the orders of the day, touching the lessening or shortening of the Excise, and to let the business be considered in the general.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge was against the Bill, as come in irregularly. He would have the distribution considered in general.

Mr. Goodrick. This county is the most considerable in the nation.

Mr. Bodurda moved that the Bill might be read now.

Mr. Broughton. If they could so long be content with a Bishop, (fn. 4) and never complain, let them stay awhile. I would have the generality considered. Divers members are sent upon the account of thatchers and thrashers.

Mr. Bulkeley. I am against reading the Bill now. I would have a more equal distribution. (fn. 5) As I hear, there is one Papist has sent you thirteen members. (fn. 6) I know not how true it is. If you please, refer the petition to a Committee. I shall not be against it.

Colonel Bennet moved for reading the Bill now.

Colonel Briscoe. You will not hinder the settling it in a public way. We must consider our neighbours as ourselves. It is as considerable as any part of the nation. The business is just.

Sir Walter Earle. Here have sixteen spoken against it. I would have you spend no more time, but refer the petition to a Committee.

Resolved, that this petition be referred to a Committee; and they do bring in a Bill for an equal representative, to serve in this present Parliament for the county and city of Durham. A Committee was named.

Colonel White moved, that the members for the four northern counties be of that Committee; but it was not liked.

Mr. Reynolds was against that. He would have it both numerous and equal; because he would have this Committee to consider the business in general.

Mr. Trevor moved, to have this Committee consider of a general distribution.

Mr. Manley. This is a business of the greatest concernment. Let every one that comes have a voice.

Sir Henry Vane. I would not that all have voices. It is the first time that ever I heard of the whole House being appointed to bring in a Bill. There never were above nine. It is but one man's work to draw it.

His Highness might as well have done it for Durham, as for Ireland and Scotland.

Mr. Turner. In the Parliament of 54, you spent a month's time at a Grand Committee, at distribution. There is need of taking many away. The distribution is now very unequal. (fn. 7)

The Committee being named, to meet to-morrow, at two in the afternoon in the Star-chamber.

Mr. Goodrick moved that the care of it might be referred to Mr. Shaftoe.

Mr. Speaker. There are either far too many, (fn. 8) or far too few; and if you will not refer it for a general distribution, then the first six will be enough.

Mr. Goodrick moved again, that Mr. Shaftoe take the care of it.

Mr. Speaker. You cannot move twice.

Mr. Starkey. I can offer reasons why the distribution should not be altered.

Mr. Attorney-general. Appoint a day, that you be first possessed of it, before you refer it to a Committee touching a more equal distribution of the members.

Sir William Wheeler. I move, before you debate this, to call the House.

Mr. Annesley moved for this day month, and to call the House a day before.

Mr. Scot. I would not have it put off so long. Hot weather will come on, and you will have time left to despatch this before you rise.

Mr. Bulkeley. I am glad to see this self-denial in the House; for a more equal distribution, even to part with their own right. If you please to appoint it for this day fortnight.

It was offered that this day three weeks the House be called; and that to-morrow three weeks be a day appointed for this House to take into consideration an equal distribution for the three nations.

Mr. Annesley (fn. 9) moved to alter the words "three nations" for "Commonwealth."

Mr. Hewley seconded it, rather to have it for the Commonwealth.

Resolved, that this House be called over on this day three weeks.

Mr. Swinfen. The business of the Scotch and Irish members will ask too long a debate; therefore, I would have it at present extend no farther than to England, and would have the order of the day read touching the abating the time of the Excise and Customs. The people listen very willingly after any thing that may give them ease.

Resolved, that to-morrow three weeks be appointed for this House to take into consideration the business of an equal representative for this nation.

The order of the day was read, and the bill touching Excise and Customs, &c. was read the second time, accordingly.

Mr. Swinfen. I wish they had been distinct Bills. I would have you now debate what time you will have them to continue.

Mr. Bulkeley. Debate, first, the time of the Excise.

Mr. Reynolds. I was, and am still, of opinion that the Bill came in, disorderly.

Mr. Swinfen took him down.

He ought not to have excepted against it, because you have returned it.

Mr. Reynolds went on, and insisted that it was disorderly to take him down.

I shall speak to rejecting it, and then I hope you will think it was not moved disorderly.

It is clearly an imposition on the nation. There is no brief brought in with it. Therefore, you might justly have rejected it.

Nothing but an unavoidable necessity could have laid excise upon the people. (fn. 10) It was not. intended to be continual.

A gentleman laughs, but it will be no laughing matter in the conclusion. Haply, when we have passed this, some will say there may be no more occasion for our sitting.

I would have other bills distinctly brought in, and have the powers by you. Strange representations are abroad of our proceedings. They are not for your service.

Colonel Birch. This is plainly to clog the business, and to say as much as that you will have none at all.

Sir Henry Vane. All you have done these two months is to settle all power without you, but nothing is done for the people. In former Parliaments the grievances of the people were always heard first. This will make the people that sent you, think you came not to do their business, but the business of the single person.

I never knew the like, to settle this for life. It is to settle it to perpetuation; for you can do no less for one than for another. I wonder who dare levy the excise upon any law now in force, unless you settle it by this law.

If the settlement be to settle tyranny and slavery, I hope you will not give money to maintain it.

First, see what you have fought for. Be sensible you have somewhat left. We are not so ready to fill up those blanks. The Bill came in irregularly, against order. It is surely to serve some interest; else he durst not have done it.

Mr. Turner. I must in many things disagree from this gentleman. The government by a single person and Lords and Commons, was never the quarrel. Great necessity brought in the excise. That Government (fn. 11) brought it in, and causes the continuance of it. All king's and public lands are sold. Shall your single person, that you have voted, live on the air. I wish it could be done without.

The Bill came in regularly.

Serjeant Maynard. I except to the words, (fn. 12) "dare levy it." Who dare not levy it, if there be a law ? We are loose from all rules of government, if we admit any thing to be no law till you have declared it no law. For any judge to have done as much as has been said, I know what you would do with him. (fn. 13)

I will not dispute the necessity of laying it on. We would have it taken off, but some will not hear of that way. I look upon this bill as a redress rather than an imposition.

It looks strangely now, as it seems settled to perpetuity. I hear nothing offered to ease us; positively, nothing offered, but to bring us to that Government that laid on the excise.

I think it to be a very good Bill, and would have it committed.

Sir Arthur Haslerigge. I thank the knight in the corner for speaking so plainly. I hope to hear no more of comparing any judge with this House. We may make laws, or repeal or alter laws, which a judge cannot do.

I stand amazed how this Bill came in. You know how the Bill of Recognition came in; (fn. 14) how the Petition and Ad vice was made out a law, you know; a possessory right, to all intents and purposes, as was learnedly said.

This Bill brings a double lash with it. If I had brought in this Bill without your command, I should have expected to be sent to the Tower. To the word "dare," I may say, who dare do any thing against law, especially in the sitting of a Parliament? If there had been a law to maintain it, I believe it had not been now brought in to you. There have been so many brought in by side-winds from step to step.

This is a most terrible double-axe Bill, a brown and a black one; brought in instead of a redress of our grievances. It is not to be made a good Bill. I would, therefore, have it reversed. A matter of twelve or thirteen lines is to settle the greatest revenue that ever was.

It is now managed with so much opposition, that I wish not only my tongue cut, but my hand off when I consented; but there was necessity. The butchers rose up upon us, so that else all flesh had perished. I hope this will take you up time enough. I would have it disputed, if any law be of force.

The gentlemen brought it in with good affection, Many times have I brought in things that I have thought good; but when laid by the wisdom of the House, I have been ashamed and acknowledge it.

Let us see what we can do about settlement. We go from step to step, to forget what belongs to the liberties of the people. Any three lines in it would do it. I would have it in two bills. Refer it to a Grand Committee to bring in these Bills.

Mr. Speaker. The arguments for rejecting it ought to answer the Bill, and not turn upon the manner of bringing it in; which ought not now to be called a disorderly bringing it in.

Mr. Drake. I am against rejecting it. If it had not been a law, and that to perpetuity, it had not come in here to retrench the time. The greatest grievance is free quarter; and if this were no law, free quarter must follow.

Mr. Annesley. It came in against order, and I must not but assert it, what is a known order of the House. That word "dare," was mistaken. He said, if there was no law, who dare ? The excise was not brought in in the time of a Commonwealth. (fn. 15) It was settled by both Houses before a Commonwealth was. (fn. 16)

This can never be made a good Bill. I would not have us confirm laws by the lump. It was the error of last Parliament. Sixty Acts were confirmed without reading. (fn. 17) If we mention the continuance of it, we admit it already settled by law. The words, "unless continued," imply as if it might be now continued by Act of Parliament.

A diligent Committee may dispatch this business. Both these Bills, and your business of settlement may also be going on.

Mr, Bulkeley. I will not be pertinacious in any thing, but I think I had your leave to bring in this Bill.

That bill in tertio Caroli, was brought in, not with a blank as this. The word, "continue," is much excepted against. I would have nobody flatter themselves that the excise shall not be continued, unless you will come to a knd tax.

If I have deserved a check, let me have it at once, and not forty times repeated upon me. I brought it in by your leave. I grant the laws are not so good as if they had your confirmation.

Mr. Boscawen. I would have it understood whether we confirm it as a law, or help a lame dog over a stile.

Too great excise upon cloth, fish, and tin, destroys trade. This is like the man that wanted a stock, and proposed that living in a great town, every man would give him 5l. They thought he might deserve sixpence a-piece. I know not whether you will think so of this.

Mr. Scot. This is either the best or worst time to bring this in. This is not properly for the maintenance of his Highness. There is another revenue for him. It is for your army. Forty of them now live in the other House. (fn. 18) It is a well rivetted favour to them at first.

I have heard it said that never a good motion in Parliament died. Parliament was never called these one hundred years, but to repair the exhausted charge of the Chief Magistrate. I would see things at ease before you settle this.

The law is not without its flaws. Make it something sweeter, as well in the time as the thing. To settle it for a year will be long; but, it may be, the contracts will lead you out to a further time. The burthen is grievous. There are horrid barbarities in the levying this, which it will probably come to my share to report from the Committee.

I have observed a flaw in the Act of Confirmation, as to 8th Dec. 52, the ordinance of his late Highness. I question if it do not invalidate it. I would have a pennyworth for a penny.

Observe and you will find the Government, since 53, more chargeable than in five years of that of 48. Your expense will be found by the business of Spain and Flanders, and not for want of a provision for your army.

The debate held such tug that it was moved to adjourn.

Resolved, that the debate upon this bill be adjourned until to-morrow morning, and that nothing else do then intervene.

The Committee of Grievances sat.

Colonel Terril was in the chair.

There were several Petitions, three or four were rejected, as improper for the Committee; several were committed.

The Committee for the maintainance of ministers (fn. 19) met, and sat in the Inner Court of Wards.

T. B. (fn. 20) was in the chair, upon the desire of Mr. Hewley, who could not attend.

There were brought in the accounts from the trustees for —, (fn. 21) but so imperfect that they were returned to them again, to be brought in more perfect on Wednesday next.

The Committee of Privileges sat in the Star Chamber.

Mr. Serjeant Waller was in the chair.

Counsel were heard long in the business of Castle Rising, Colonel Fielder, (fn. 22) against Colonel Jeremy. The election was very foully carried by the Mayor, as influenced from Court, from Mr. Secretary by name, on Mr. Harry Howe, who was lord of the manor, and forced the mayor to return Fielder and Goddard, (fn. 23) as he had done in twelve boroughs more. It was not long since moved in the House, by the by, that a Papist had chosen twenty-six members. (fn. 24)

The Court party were so afraid of the consequence, that they durst not venture it upon a report to the House; so chose, rather than lay things at Court open to the House, to move to have the election void as to both, and it was so resolved accordingly, wherein Mr. Trevor, being Fielder's brother-in-law, did very discreetly.

It was agreed at the Committee, then, that if either the poll was not legally taken, or any force was used at the election, the election was wholly void.

Serjeant Maynard moved, that a parson had no vote; and

Mr. Gewen was of the same opinion. He cited 17 Car., and one act of the Long Parliament.

Mr. Turner was contra.

I take the law to be the parsons have votes; and the practice is so to this day.

The Committee sat till nine at night.


  • 1. "The bailif of the borough of Haslemere," (see supra, p. 243) and "the Deputy to the Clerk of the Commonwealth in Chancery," had been previously introduced to amend "the indenture and return." Also, a Committee had been appointed "to examine the case of John Lambert, of Wimbledon, in the county of Surry, Esquire, [Lord Lambert,] concerning a yearly rent of 1228l. 17s. issuing out of Hatfield Chase, in the counties of York, Lincoln, and Nottingham." Journals.
  • 2. See vol. iii. p. 335, note †.
  • 3. "Of the knights, justices of peace, grand jury, gentlemen, ministers, and freeholders, of the County-Palatine of Durham, to have like privilege as other counties, in electing of knights and burgesses to sit in Parliament for the said county." Ibid.
  • 4. It does not appear "that the Bishop called any Parliaments of his own," after "the Act of Parliament made in the reign of Henry VIII." Mag. Brit. (1720,) i. 636.
  • 5. See vol. iii. pp. 74, 126, 147, 148.
  • 6. See supra, p. 301, note†.
  • 7. See supra, p. 310, note†.
  • 8. Seventy-five. See Journals.
  • 9. Latet anguis in herbâ. See supra, p. 265, note*.
  • 10. See vol. i. pp. 292, 323, 351; ii. 270.
  • 11. The Commonwealth. See infra, p. 316.
  • 12. By Sir Henry Vane.
  • 13. This learned lawyer, prepared, as soon as his restored royal master should "cry havock," to assist in worrying out of life that inflexible patriot, Sir Henry Vane, (see vol. iii. p. 175,) appears already, to mark his future prey.
  • 14. See vol. iii. pp. 25, 26.
  • 15. See supra, p. 314.
  • 16. In 1643. See Scobel.
  • 17. See vol. ii. p. 248.
  • 18. See vol. iii. p. 588, note †.
  • 19. See supra, p. 20.
  • 20. Thomas Barton, the writer of the MS.
  • 21. Blank in the MS.
  • 22. See supra, p. 235.
  • 23. See vol. iii. p. 11, note †.
  • 24. See supra, p. 310.