The second parliament of Charles II: Fifth session - begins 24/11/1664

Pages 80-85

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section

The fifth Session of the second Parliament.

After a Recess of above six Months, the Parliament met again on November 24. When the Session was open'd by his Majesty, in a Speech from the Throne, as follows:

The King's Speech to both Houses.

'My Lords, and Gentlemen,

When we parted last in this Place, I did not think we should meet here again till November, though I prorogu'd you but to a Day in August: But must now tell you, that if I could have suspected, or rezsonably have imagined, that our Neighbours would have dealt so unneighbourly with me, and have forced me to make such Preparations, as they have done, for my Defence, at so vast an Expence; I say, if I could have have foreseen in August, that they would have treated me thus, I should not have prevented your coming together then. Yet truly I have reason to be glad that it hath been deferred thus long: You have had leisure to attend your own Conveniencies in the Country, and the public Service there; and I have been able to let our Neighbours see that I can defend myself and my Subjects against their Insolence, upon the Stock of my own Credit and Reputation: And that, when I find it necessary for the Good of my People, I can set out a Fleet to Sea, which will not decline meeting with all their Naval Power, even before the Parliament come together; which I am persuaded if they had believ'd possible, they would not so importunately have press'd me to it. I will not deny to you, I have done more than I thought I could have done, which I impute to the Credit your Vote gave me, and to the Opinion all Men had, That I did what you wish'd I should do; by borrowing very liberally for my self out of my own Stores, and by the kind and chearful Assistance the City of London hath given me, I have a Fleet now at Sea, worthy of the English Nation; and, to say no more, not inferior to any that hath been set out in any Age; and which (if I may use all freedom with you) to discharge to-morrow, and to replenish all my Stores would cost me little less than Eight Hundred Thousand Pounds. What hath pass'd between me and the Dutch, and by what Degrees, Accidents and Provocations, I have been necessitated to the Preparation and Expence I have made, you shall be told when I have done; I shall only tell you, that if I had proceeded more slowly, I should have expos'd my own Honour, and the Honour of the Nation, and should have seem'd not confident of your Affections, and the Assurance you gave me to stand by me on this Occasion. That which I am now very earnestly to desire, and indeed expect from you, is, that you will use all possible Expedition in your Resolutions, left that by unnecessary Formalities the World should think that I have not your chearful Concurrence in what is done; and that you are not forward enough in the Support of it, which I am sure you will be: And that in raising the Supplies you take such Order, that when the Expence is obvious and certain, the Supply be as real and substantial, not imaginary, as the last Subsidies were, which you will all well enough understand.

'Mr. Speaker, and you Gentlemen of the House of Commons, I know not whether it be worth my pains to endeavour to remove a vile Jealousy which some ill Men scarter abroad, and which I am sure, will never sink into the Breast of any Man who is worthy to sit upon your Benches; That when you have given me a noble and proportionable Supply for the Support of a War, I may be induced by some evil Counsellors (for they will be thought to think very respectfully of my own Person) to make a sudden Peace, and get all that Money for my own private Occasions. I am sure you all think it an unworthy Jealousy, and not to deserve an Answer. I would not be thought to have so brutish an Inclination to love War for War's sake: God knows, I desire no Blessing in the World so much as that I may live to see a firm Peace between all Christian Princes and States. But let me tell you, and you may be confident of it, That when I am compell'd to enter into a War for the Protection, Honour and Benefit of my Subjects; I will, God-willing, not make a Peace, but upon the obtaining and securing those Ends for which the War is enter'd into: And when that can be done, no good Man will be sorry for the Determination of it. To conclude, my Lords and Gentlemen, I conjure you all, in your several Stations, to use all possible Expedition, That our Friends and our Enemies may see, That I am possess'd of your Hearts, and that we move with one Soul, and I am sure you will not deceive my Expectation.'

This Speech was accompanied with a Narrative, concerning the Treaty and Manner of Proceedings with the Dutch; drawn up by the Lord Chancellor, and sign'd by his Majesty: which, as it seems, put the House in such good humour, that the very next Day they came to these two Resolutions, viz.

The Parliament unanimous for War.

First, 'That the humble Thanks of both Houses be presented to his Majesty for his most gracious Speech and Narrative, to his two Houses of Parliament, and his great Care of the Preservation of the Honour and Safety, and Trade of the Nation, by his Preparations for the Defence thereof against the Dutch; and that his Majesty would give leave that his Speech may be printed.' The next was, 'That the Thanks of both Houses of Parliament be given to the City of London for their Forwardness in assisting his Majesty; and in particular by furnishing him with several great Sums of Money towards his Preparations for the Honour, Safety, and Trade of this Nation.'

The great Resolve of the Commons for the raising 2,500,000 l. ; The Speaker's Speech at the passing the Money-Bill.

At the same time the House of Commons let the King know, 'That they could not sufficiently express their Loyalty and Affection to his Majesty, nor the deep Sense which they all had of the Injuries and Violations committed by the Dutch: That they had considered the Burden of his Majesty's Expences, and the Necessity of his Naval Preparations; and begg'd leave to assure him of their Readiness and Constancy to yield him all the Duties of Assistance and Obedience, with their Lives and Fortunes Accordingly they resolved, That Five and Twenty Hundred Thousand Pounds Supply shall be raised for his Majesty, in three Years, and applied towards the Maintenance of the Dutch War.' After which, both Houses adjourn'd till the 12th Day of January; when they again met, and the grand Money-Bill being ready for the Royal Assent, his Majesty came to the House of Peers, where Sir Edward Turner, the Commons Speaker, presented him with the Bill, with the following Speech: 'May it please your most excellent Majesty, The last Session of this present Parliament, the Lords and Commons did humbly present unto your Majesty the many Wrongs and Indiguities done to your Majesty, and the many Injuries done to your Merchants by the Subjects of the States-General of the United Provinces; and did most humbly beseech your Majesty, That some effectual Course might be taken for Redress thereof. Your Majesty at the Opening of this Session was graciously pleased to acquaint your two Houses, That in pursuance of their Desires, you had by your Agent required Satisfaction: But that Way prov'd ineffectual, and many fresh Provocations given, whereby your Majesty was necessitated to a Warlike Preparation; by the speedy Dispatch whereof you had let your Neighbours see, That you could defend your self and your Subjects against their Insolence upon the Stock of your own Credit, before your Parliament came together. And now, Sir, give me leave to say; Your Neighbours may see, how a great King may be made greater by his Parliament. Your loyal Commons, after they had convened, did not suffer four and twenty Hours to pass, before they most chearfully gave your Majesty more than Four and Twenty Hundred Thousand Pounds.—Great Sir, your Lords and Commons will not only yield Obedience with their Bodies, but with their Purses also: In token whereof, I do, in the Name of all the Commons of England, present unto your Majesty this Bill, whereby we have given unto your Majesty a Royal Aid of Four and Twenty Hundred Seventyseven Thousand and Five Hundred Pounds, to be paid in three Years by twelve Quarterly Payments, to begin from the 25th of December last. And we do humbly beseech your Majesty to accept it as a pregnant Demonstration of our most unfeigned Duty and Thankfulness to your Majesty'. To which his Majesty, in a short Reply, 'return'd his hearty Thanks, with a generous Assurance, That the Money should be expended to the Advantage and Satisfaction of his People.'

The Speaker's Speech at the Prorogation of the Parliament.

After this, several other Bills being got ready for the Royal Assent, and a Prorogation being resolv'd on, the King came to the House of Peers, where Sir Edward Turner, the Commons Speaker, presented the Bills with the following Speech, which best shews the Nature of them. 'May it please your most excellent Majesty, The Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of the Commons House of Parliament, having in the Beginning of this Session apply'd themselves to the Aiding of your Majesty in your Naval Preparations, have of late consider'd of some Bills that may be most grateful to the People, either in redressing things that are grievous to them, or in advancing their Trade and Commerce; which are the Life and Soul of the Nation. Evil Manners produce good Laws; but the best Laws in time may grow obsolete: And such is the wicked Nature of Man, that when he cannot by Force break through a Law, he will by Fraud and Tricks endeavour to evade it. I may with great truth affirm, the Common Law of England, is the best Municipal Law in the World; and yet if the Legislative Power were not ready to countermine the Works, and make up the Breaches that are daily made upon it, the Sons of Zerviah would be too strong for us. We have now presented to your Majesty several Bills for the Regulation of the Law which will serve to prune some exuberant Branches, and so pull away the Ivy that robb'd this Tree of her just Nourishment: And if your Majesty be now pleased graciously to shine upon her, she will flourish in great abundance, to the Content of your Majesty, and all your People.

'Cosmographers do agree, That this Island is incomparably furnished with pleasant Rivers, like Veins in the natural Body, which convey the Blood into all the Parts, whereby the whole is nourish'd and made useful. Therefore we have prepared some Bills for making small Rivers navigable; a thing that in other Countries hath been more experienced, and hath been found very advantageous: It caseth the People of their great Charge of Land-Carriages, preserves the High-ways, which are daily worn out with Waggons carrying excessive Burthens; It breeds up a Nursery of Watermen, which upon occasion will prove good Seamen, and with much more facility maintains Intercourse and Communication between Cities and Countries. We have been very much affected with the Cries and Wants of the Poor this hard Season, especially those who are about this Town, who are ready to starve for want of Fewel, the Price of Coals being so unreasonably enhanc'd by the exorting Engrossers. We have therefore, for their present and future Ease, prepared a Bill, authorizing the Lord-Mayor and Court of Aldermen of the City of London, and three Justices of Peace within the County, from time to time to set the Prices of Coals, having regard to the Price paid by the Importer, and other emergent Charges. And now, great Sir, having finished our present Counsels, we hope your Majesty will give us leave to return for a time into our Countries, where in our several Spheres we shall be ready to serve you with our Persons and our Purses, and also with our Prayers to the great God of Hosts, That he will be pleased to strengthen your Hands in the Day of Battel, and make you victorious over all your Enemies, both at home and abroad.'

In passing these Bills, the King, in a short Speech, gave in special Charge to the Members of the House of Commons,

The King's Speech, on the Prorogation.

That upon their Return into their respective Countries, they would as well make it their business to see the Supply, they had now granted this Session, equally laid upon Particulars, that there might be no cause of Complaint; as he himself had made it his Royal Care that there might be no Disproportion upon the Countries themselves, by making an Abatement, where any of them appear'd overburden'd.' After which, he prorogu'd both Houses till the 21st of June, then to the first of August, and lastly to the 9th of October.

In this place, it ought to be observed, that, whereas, before this Session of Parliament (excepting during the Civil Wars and the military Government which follow'd it) the Clergy used to tax themselves in Convocation, they were now included, like the rest of their Fellow-Subjects, in every Money-Bill which pass'd the House of Commons; in consideration of which, the parochial Clergy received the Privilege of voting like other Freeholders, in the choice of Members of Parliament.