The second parliament of Charles II: Fourth session - begins 16/3/1664

Pages 72-80

The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 1, 1660-1680. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.

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The fourth Session of the second Parliament.

March 16, after an interval of near eight Months, the Parliament assembled again, and the King open'd the Session with a Speech from the Throne as follows.

The King's Speech to both Houses.

'My Lords and Gentlemen,

You see, God be thanked, we have met together again at the Time appointed; and I do assure you, I have been so far from ever intending it shou'd be otherwise, that I do not know one Person who ever wish'd it shou'd be otherwise. Think therefore, I pray, what good meaning those Men cou'd have, who from the time of the Prorogation to the Day of your meeting, have continually whisper'd and industriously infus'd into the Minds of the People, that the Parliament shou'd meet no more; that it shou'd either be presently dissolv'd, or so continued by Prorogation, that they should be kept without a Parliament. I pray watch these Whisperers all you can, as Men who use their utmost endeavours to sow Jealousies between You and Me; and I do promise you they shall not prevail with me; and I do promise myself, they shall not prevail with you: And the truth is, we are both concern'd they shou'd not; and we shall then, with God's Blessing, prevent all the mischief they intend.

'You may judge by the late Treason in the North, for which so many Men have been executed, how active the Spirits of many of our old Enemies still are, notwithstanding all our Mercy. I do assure you, we are not yet at the bottom of that Business. Thus much appears manifestly, that this Conspiracy was but a branch of that which I discover'd, as well as I cou'd, to you about two years since: and had been then executed nearer hand, if I had not, by God's Goodness come to the Knowledge of some of the principal Contrivers, and so secur'd them from doing the mischief they intended. And if I had not, by the like Providence, had timely notice of the very Hour, and several places of their Rendevouz in the North, and provided for them accordingly. by sending some of my own Troops, as well as by drawing the Train'd-Bands together, their Conjunction wou'd have been in greater numbers than had been convenient. You will wonder, but I tell true, they are, even now in those parts, and at this time, when they see their Friends under Tryal and Execution, still pursuing the same Consultations: and it is evident they have Correspondence with desperate Persons in most Counties, and a standing Council in this Town, from which they receive their Directions, and by whom they were advis'd to defer their last intended Insurrection. But those Orders serv'd only to distract them, and came too late to prevent their Destruction. I know more of their Intrigues than they think I do; and I hope I shall shortly discover the bottom: In the mean time, I pray let us all be as watchful to prevent, as they are to contrive their Mischief. I cannot omit upon this occasion to tell you, that these desperate Men, as appears by several Examinations, have not been all of one mind in the ways of carrying on their wicked Resolutions. Some wou'd still insist upon the authority of the Long Parliament, of which they say they have Members enough willing to meet: Others have fancied to themselves, by some computation of their own, upon some clause in the Triennial Bill, that this present Parliament was at end some Months since; and that for want of new Writs, they may assemble themselves, and chuse Members for Parliament: And this is the best expedient to bring themselves together for their own purposes. For the Long Parliament, You and I can do no more to inform and compose the minds of all Men; let them proceed upon their Peril. But methinks there is nothing done to disabuse them in respect of the Triennial Bill. I confess, my Lords and Gentlemen, I have often myself read over that Bill; and tho' there is no Colour for the Fancy of the Determination of this Parliament, yet I will not deny to you, that I have always expected you would, and even admired you have not consider'd the wonderful Clauses in that Bill, which pass'd in a time very uncareful for the Dignity of the Crown, or Security of the People. I pray, Mr. Speaker, and you Gentlemen of the House of Commons, give that Triennial Bill once a reading in your House; and then, in God's Name, do what you think fit for me, and yourselves, and the whole Kingdom. I need not tell you Low much I love Parliaments: Never King was so much beholden to Parliaments as I have been: nor do I think the Crown can ever be happy without frequent Parliaments. But assure yourselves, if I did think otherwise, I would never suffer a Parliament to come together by the means prescribed by that Bill.

'My Lords and Gentlemen, I must renew my thanks to you, for the free Supply you gave me the last Session of four Subsidies; yet I cannot but tell you, that the Supply is fallen much short of what I expected, or you intended. It will hardly be believed, yet you know it to be true, that very many Persons who have Estates of three and four thousand Pounds a Year, do not pay for these four Subsidies sixteen Pounds: So that whereas you intended and declared, that they should be collected according to former Precedents, they do not now arise to half the proportion they did in the time of Queen Elizabeth; and yet sure the Crown wants more now than it did then, and the Subject is at least as able to give. The truth is, by the Licence of the late ill Times, and ill Humour of this, too many of the People, and even of those who make fair promises, believe it to be no Sin to defraud the Crown of any thing that is due to it. You no sooner gave me Tonnage and Poundage, than men were devising all the ways they could to steal Custom; nor can the Farmers be so vigilant for the Collection, as others are to steal the Duties. You gave me the Excise, which all people abroad believe to be the most insensible Imposition that can be laid upon a People: What Conspiracies and Combinations are enter'd into against it by the Brewers, who I am sure bear not that Burden themselves, to bring that Revenue to nothing, you may hear in Westminster-Hall. You have given me Chimney-Mony, which you have reason to believe is a growing Revenue, for Men build at least fast enough; and you will therefore wonder that it is already declined, and this half Year brought in less than the former did. I pray therefore review that Bill; and since I am sure you wou'd have me receive whatsoever you give me, let me have the collecting and husbanding of it by my own Officers, and then I doubt not but to improve that Receipt, and will be cozen'd of as little as I can.

'I will conclude with conjuring you, my Lords and Gentlemen, to keep a very good Correspondence together, that it may not be in the power of any seditious or factious Spirits to make you jealous of each other, or either of you jealous of me; till you see me pretend one thing, and do another, which I am sure you have never yet done. Trust me, it shall be in no body's power to make me jealous of you. I pray contrive any good short Bills, that may improve the Industry of the Nation; and since the Season of the Year will invite us shortly to take the Country Air, I desire you wou'd be ready for a Session, within two Months or thereabouts, and we will meet next earlier in the Year. And so God bless your Counsels!'

In compliance with these Instructions from the Throne, the House immediately set about repealing the obnoxious Triennial Bill, which they stigmatiz'd as derogatory to the Prerogative of the Crown, and, as a sort of compensation, prepar'd another short one, which provided that Parliaments should not be intermitted above three Years. This was no sooner ready, tho' the only one, but his Majesty went to the House on purpose to give the royal Assent to it: which he accompanied with the ensuing Speech.

The King's Speech upon the repealing the Triennial Acts.

'My Lords and Gentlemen,

You will easily believe that I have come very willing to give my Assent to this Bill. I do thank you very heartily for your so unanimous concurrence in it, and for your desiring me speedily to finish it. And if I understand any thing that concerns the Peace and Security of the Kingdom, and the Welfare of my Subjects (all which I study more than my Prerogative, and indeed I consider my Prerogative in order only to preserving the other) every good Englishman will thank you for it: For the Act you have repeal'd could only serve to discredit Parliaments, and to make the Crown jealous of Parliaments, and Parliaments of the Crown, and persuade neighbour Princes that England was not govern'd under a Monarch. It cou'd never have been the occasion of frequent Parliaments. I do promise you, I will not be an Hour the less without one for this Act of Repeal; nor I am sure will you be the less kind to me in Parliament. I do again thank you for your excellent Temper and Respect to me, and desire you so to proceed, that the Session may be within the time I proposed to you last. And I do assure you upon my word, and I pray believe me, that I will have no other thoughts or designs in my Heart, but to make you all happy in the support of the Religion and Laws established: And if my own wants and necessities are at any time grievous to me, it is only as I apprehend I may not be able sufficiently to provide for those, and for the Peace and Security of the Kingdom. And therefore I am confident, that you and I, who agree in the End, shall never differ in the Way.'

Resolution of the Lords and Commons against the Dutch. ; The King's Answer.

About this time, the Dutch growing out of favour at Court, it was represented in the House, that by the Advances they had lately made in Trade; our own was become in danger; which gave place to the following Resolution both of Lords and Commons, viz. 'That the Wrongs, Dishonours, and Indignities done to his Majesty by the Subjects of the United Provinces, by invading his Rights in India, Africa, and elsewhere; and the Damages, Affronts, and Injuries done by them to our Merchants, are the greatest Obstructions of our foreign Trade: and that the same be humbly and speedily presented to his Majesty; and that he be most humbly mov'd to take some speedy and effectual Course for Redress thereof, and all other of the like nature, and for prevention of the like in future: And in prosecution thereof, they will, with their Lives and Fortunes, assist his Majesty against all Oppositions whatsoever.' Upon this Occasion both Houses waited upon his Majesty at the Banquetting House on the 27th of April, and the next day received this following Answer in Writing: 'His Majesty, having consider'd the Address made to him by his two Houses of Parliament, is very well pleas'd with the great Zeal they have express'd for the Advancement of the Trade of this Kingdom, and removing all Obstructions which may hinder the same; being wholly convinc'd, That it is that which contributes most to the Honour and Glory of the Nation, and the Prosperity of his People: And therefore his Majesty will examine and peruse the particular Complaints which have been represented to his Parliament; and thereupon, according to their Advice, appoint his Minister at the Hague to demand speedy Justice and Reparation from the StatesGeneral, and also use his utmost Endeavours to secure his Subjects from the like Violences for the future: In the prosecution of which, or upon the Denials of Justice, he depends upon the Promises of both Houses to stand by him, and returns them his hearty Thanks for their frank Declaration therein.' For which Royal Assurance, both Houses return'd their humble and hearty Thanks; and here was the Foundation, and the first Step towards the first Dutch War.

Mr. Prynne censured.

Soon after this Mr. Prynne, having taken the liberty to alter the Draught of a Bill relating to Public-Houses, having urged in his Excuse, That he did not do it out of any ill Intent, but to rectify some Matters mistaken in it, and to make the Bill agree with the Sense of the House; the House order'd him to withdraw, and after Debate, being again called in, the Speaker acquainted him, That the House was very sensible of this great Error and Mistake in so ancient and knowing a Member as he was, to break so material and essential an Order of the House, as to alter, amend, or interline a Bill after Commitment, without Order, Knowledge, or Direction of the Committee: But the House, had consider'd of his Answer and Submission, and were content at this time, in respect thereof, to remit the Offence.

The Speaker's Speech to the King at the Prorogation.

The Business of the Session being now brought to a period, the King came to the House of Peers; May 17, and, being seated on the Throne, the Speaker made the following Speech to his Majesty: 'At the Opening this Session, your Majesty was pleas'd to recommend several things to the Care of your two Houses of Parliament; which we deliberately consider'd, and unanimously presented our humble Advice thereupon. The first thing we took into Consideration, was the Act made in the 16th of the late King of glorious Memory for Triennial Parliaments: When we had given it a Reading, we found it derogatory to the essential Prerogative of the Crown; of Calling, Holding, and Dissolving Parliaments: We found it unpracticable, and only useful to learn the People how to rebel; therefore we melted it down, extracted the pure Metal from the counterfeit and drossy Allays, and then presented it to your Majesty to be new stamp'd, and made current Coin for the Use of the Nation. We do return our most humble Thanks to your Majesty; that you were pleas'd to accept our Advice, and to pass our Bill: but more especially for those gracious Expressious your Majesty was pleas'd to use at that Solemnity, whereby we are assured not only of your personal Affection to Parliaments, but of your Judgment also, That the Happiness of the Crown consists in the Frequency of Parliaments. In the next place we review'd the Act for Chimney-Money, which we intended a great Branch of your Majesty's Revenue, although by some Mistakes it is fallen short: And, in hopes your Majesty may improve that Receipt, we have prepar'd a Bill for Collecting that Duty, by such Officers as your Majesty and your Successors shall from time to time think fit to appoint.'

'Whilst we were intent upon these weighty Affairs, we were often interrupted by Petitions, and Letters, and Motions, representing the unsettled Condition of some Counties, by reason of Fanatics, Sectaries, and Nonconformists: They differ in their Shapes and Species, and accordingly are more or less dangerous; but in this they all agree, they are no Friends to the Establish'd Government either in Church or State. And if the old Rule be true, Qui Ecclesiæ contradicit, non est pacificus, we have great reason to prevent their Growth, and to punish their Practice To this purpose we have prepared a Bill against their frequenting of Conventicles, the Seedplots and Nurseries of their Opininous, under pretence of religious Worship. "The first Offence is made punishable with five Pounds, or three Months Imprisonment, and ten Pounds for a Peer: The second Offence with ten Pounds, or six Months Imprisonment, and twenty Pounds for a Peer; but the third Offence, after a Tryal by a Jury, and the Tryal of a Peer by his Peers, the Party convicted shall be transported to some foreign Plantation, unless he lays down a hundred Pounds." Immedicable Vulnus Ense rescindendum, ne Pars sincera srahatur. We have had much Thought how to improve the Industry of the Nation, and prevent that Idleness and Licentiousness which too fast grow upon us, especially by excessive and disorderly Gaming: Men are not content to sport away their precious Time, and play away their ready Money, but to lose or pawn their Houses and Lands, their Manors, and their Honours also. For the Prevention of the Growth of this Disease, we have prepared a Bill to make Securities for Money won at Play, whether Real or Personal, to be void.

'We have examin'd also the Reasons of the Decay of Trade: In the first place, we found our Merchants undermin'd by Fraud and Practice, and sometimes beaten out in the East and West-Indies, in Turky, and in Africa, by our Neighbours the Dutch; who, besides the insufferable Indignities offer'd to your Royal Majesty and the Crown of England, have in a few years spoil'd your Subjects, to the Value of Seven or Eight Hundred Thousand Pounds. For Remedy whereof we have made our humble Address to your Majesty, and receiv'd a gracious Answer; and have no cause to fear but a short time will produce a just and honourable Satisfaction. The next Obstruction to our Trade, hath been a base degenerous Practice of some Seamen, who are willing to be robb'd by Pirates, that they may share in the Prize: We have therefore prepared a Bill for the Punishment of such traitorous Actions, and for the just Reward of those honest Seamen that shall preserve their Owners Goods, and manfully maintain the Honour of the English Nation. Some other Discoveries we have made, which may be the Subject Matter of future Bills; but in respect to your Majesty's Intimation of a short Session, we were not willing to attempt more than we could reasonably dispatch. And now, great Sir, give me leave with Joy, to remember the unparallel'd Unanimity that hath this Session attended our Counsels: Our Constancy and Resolution hath been try'd beyond the Precedent of former Parliaments, or any other Session of this Parliament. The Heathens were wont to observe and envy the Christians for their Unity and Love of one another, Ecce ut invicem se diligunt CHRISTIANI! And may the happy Correspondence between your Majesty, and your two Houses of Parliament, increase and grow to be the Envy of the World, till all your Majesty's Enemies are forced to cry, Ecce ut invicem se diligunt ANGLICANI.'

In passing these Bills mention'd by the Speaker, the King made the following Speech to both Houses:

The King's Speech to both Houses at the Prorogation.

'My Lords and Gentlemen,

I Did desire and conjure you at the Opening this Session, that you would keep a very good Correspondence together, that it might not be in the power of any seditious and factious Spirits to make you jealous of each other, or either of you jealous of me: And I desired you to be ready for a Session within two Months, or thereabouts. I must confess to you, you have comply'd very fully with me, for which I can never thank you enough: You have perform'd those good Respects towards me, and kept so very good Correspondence towards each other, that you have exceedingly disappointed those ill Men, who both at home and abroad had raised great Hopes and Expectations of new Troubles and Confusions. You have gratified me in all I desired, and are now ready for a Session within the time proposed. This Harmony will, with God's Blessing, make us all esteem'd abroad, and secure at home; and these Obligations cannot but make me think the time long till we meet again.

'This Season of the Year, and your own Affairs, will invite you into the Country; and your Presence there is of great Importance to my Service, and to the public Peace. You will watch those unquiet Spirits which are still lurking, and ready to embrace all Opportunities to involve the Nation in new Distractions, under what specious Pretences soever: And you will carefully inform the People how much it is in their own power to be as happy as they can wish to be. Indeed, if they are truly sensible of their present Happiness, it will quickly be improved. I will add no more, but that I thank you all, and every one of you. And if God bless us till November, we will meet here again: I name November to you, because, if nothing extraordinary fall out, I resolve not to meet till then: But because somewhat extraordinary may fall out, you shall be at present prorogu'd but till August; and before that Day you shall have seasonable notice by Proclamation not to give your Attendance, except there be occasion, and then November will be the time.'