The second parliament of Charles II: Sixth session (Oxford) - begins 9/10/1665

Pages 85-92

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

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The sixth Session of the second Parliament, at Oxford.

The Plague raging in London and Westminster, the Parliament met Octob. 9, at Oxford, where the University-Schools were prepar'd for the Reception of both Houses: Notwithstanding which, the King commanded both Houses to attend him in the great-Hall at Christ-Church, and open'd the Session with the following Speech.

The King's Speech to both Houses.

'My Lords and Gentlemen,

'I Am confident you will believe, that if it had not been absolutely necessary to consult with you, I wou'd not have called you together at this time, when the Contagion hath so spread itself over so many parts of the Kingdom. I take it for a good Omen to see so good an appearance this Day; and I doubt not but every Day will add to your Number; and I give you all my thanks for your Compliance so far with my desires.

'The truth is, as I enter'd upon this War by your Advice and Encouragement, so I desire that you may as frequently as is possible receive information of the Conduct and Effects of it; and that I may have the Continuance of your chearful Supply for the carrying it on. I will not deny to you, that it hath prov'd more chargeable than I could imagine it would have been: The addition they still made to their Fleets beyond their first Purpose, made it unavoidably necessary for me to make proportionable Preparations, which God hath hitherto blessed with Success in all Encounters. And as the Enemies have used their utmost endeavours, by Calumnies and false Suggestions, to make themselves Friends, and to persuade others to assist them against Us; so I have not been wanting to encourage those Princes who have been wrong'd by the Dutch, to recover their own by Force: And in order thereunto, I have assisted the Bishop of Munster with a very great Sum of ready Money, and am to continue a Supply to him, who is now in the Bowels of their Country, with a powerful Army. These Issues, I may tell you, have been made with very good Conduct and Husbandry; nor indeed do I know, that any thing hath been spent, that could have been well and safely saved. I say this Expence will not suffer you to wonder that the great Supply which you gave me for this War, in so bountiful a Proportion, is upon the matter already spent. So that I must not only desire Assistance from you to carry on this War, but such an Assistance as may enable me to defend myself and you against a more powerful Neighbour, if he shall prefer the Friendship of the Dutch before mine. I told you when I enter'd upon this War, that I had not such a brutal Appetite, as to make War for War's sake. I am still of the same mind: I am ready to receive any Propositions that France hath thought fit to offer to that End; but hitherto nothing hath been offer'd worthy my acceptance; nor are the Dutch less insolent; tho' I know no advantage they have had but the continuance of the Contagion. God Almighty, I hope, will shortly deprive them of such encouragement: The Chancellor will inform you of all the particulars.'

The Substance of the Chancellor's Speech.

Accordingly the Lord Clarendon, running over the whole Process of State-Affairs from the King's Restoration to the present Juncture, observed, 'That notwithstanding the Indignities his Majesty had received from Holland, during the late Usurpation, where he had been little less proscrib'd than in England, he was still pleas'd to embark himself from thence, when he was press'd by two neighbour Kings, from whom he had receiv'd more Civilities, to have made use of their Ports. That, being return'd, he found one thing that exceedingly surpris'd him, a thing incredible to Posterity, that a triumphant Nation, which, by its numerous Sea-Fights had reign'd over the Ocean, and made itself formidable to all Christendom, should at that time not have in all their Magazines, in all their Stores, Arms enough to put into the hands of five thousand Men, nor Provisions enough to set out ten new Ships to Sea: All which his Majesty, tho' he then liv'd upon credit, did not desire shou'd be known to his best Neighbours, howsoever assur'd of their Affections; therefore he did not so much as make it known to his Parliament: But he made it his first Care, without the least Noise, and with all imaginable shifts, to provide for the full Supply of these important Magazines and Stores, which had been ever since replenish'd as they ought. His Majesty had not only done this, but also had provided several Fleets against the Pyrates in the Mediterranean Sea, which had happily and honourably brought them to Submission. Then he related the Dutch's deserting of him in those worthy Designs, and repeated the several Injuries and Insolencies committed by them; the necessity of vindicating the Rights and Honour of the Nation; the King's referring of this Cause to the Parliament, the Parliament's humble Desires of Redress; the States Preparations for War, in the whole Series and Success of the War, in which he represented the great Agony the King sustain'd upon the account of his Brother's Safety. Then speaking of the Mediation of the French, he says, 'The Dutch reproach them for interposing for Peace, instead of assisting them in the War, boldly insisting upon the advantage the Contagion gives them, alledging, that the King will be no longer able to maintain a Fleet against them; as if God had sent this heavy Visitation upon the Kingdom on their behalf, and to expose it to their Malice and Insolency. They load us with such Reproaches, as the civility of no other Language will admit the Relation. The truth is, they have a Dialect of Rudeness so peculiar to their Language, and their People, that it is high time for all Princes to oblige them to some Reformation, if they intend to hold Correspondence and Commerce with them.'

Having rous'd them with respect to foreign Enemies, he proceeded to take notice of their domestic Foes, 'Those unquiet, restless Spirits in their own Bowels, in whose Fidelity their Enemies abroad had more Dependance than upon their own Fleets. I must appeal, added he, to every one of your Observations, whether the Countenances of these Men have not appeared to you more erected, and more insolent in all places, since the beginning of this War, than they were before. In what readiness they were, if any Misfortune had befallen the King's Fleet, which they promised themselves, to have brought the Calamity into your Fields, and into your Houses, is notoriously known. The horrid Murderers of our late Royal Master have been received into the most secret Counsels in Holland; and other infamous prostituted Persons of our Nation are admitted to share in the Conduct of their Affairs, and maintain their Correspondence here upon liberal Allowances and Pensions. Too many of his Majesty's Subjects, who were sent by this Crown to assist and defend this ungrateful State against their Enemies, have been miserably wrought upon, for the keeping a vile, mean Subsistence, rather than their Livelihood, to renounce their Allegiance and become Enemies to their native Country; some of whom have wantonly put themselves on board the Enemy's Fleet, without Command or Office, purely out of appetite and delight to rebel against their King, and to worry their Country. Their Friends at home, impatient of further delays for the Success they had promised themselves, and for the Succours which others had promis'd to them, made no doubt of doing the Business themselves, if they could but appoint a lucky day to begin the work. And you had heard of them in all places upon the third of last Month, their so much celebrated third of September, if the great Vigilance and indefatigable Industry of the good General, had not two days before apprehended the seditious Leaders, and given Advertisements for the Security of others in most Parts of the Kingdom; by the Consessions of many of whom, their wicked Design is enough manifested, and ready for Justice: Yet some of the principal Persons are not yet taken, and some others got themselves rescued after they were apprehended.— If you carefully provide for the suppressing your Enemies at home, which will put you to little other Expence than of Courage, Constancy and Circumspection, you will find your Enemies abroad less exalted, and in a short time more inclined to live in Amity with you, than to make War upon you; especially when they see you do In Bello Pacis gerere Negotium, and that you take the carrying on the War to heart, as the best and only Expedient to produce a happy and honest Peace.

The Unanimity of both Houses. ; 1,250,000 Pounds voted.

Upon this, and the King's Speech, the House of Commons with great Unanimity came to these two present Resolutions: 'First, That the humble and hearty Thanks of this House be return'd to his Majesty for his Care and Conduct in the Preservation of his People, and the Honour of this Nation: And that this House will assist his Majesty with their Lives and Fortunes against the Dutch, or any other that shall assist them in Opposition to his Majesty. Secondly, That the humble Thanks of this House be return'd to his Majesty for the Care he hath had of the Person of his Royal Highness, the Duke of York.' To both which Votes the Lords gave their chearful Concurrence; and so both Houses went in a full Body to attend his Majesty upon this Occasion. The Commons, to make good their Promise, voted a new Supply of twelve hundred and fifty thousand Pounds, to be rais'd by a proportionable Addition to the Monthly Assessment to begin at Christmas next; all which they soon turn'd into a Bill. After which they brought in another Bill for a Month's further Assessment of a hundred and twenty thousand Pounds, to commence from the Expiration of the former Assessment, to be granted to his Majesty, with a desire to his Majesty to dispose of it to his Royal Highness the Duke of York.

The Commons Thanks to the University.

These, and several other Bills being finish'd, on the last day of the Session, the Commons resolved, That the Thanks of the House be given to the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the famous University of Oxford, for their eminent Loyalty to his Majesty, and his Father of ever-blessed Memory, during the late Rebellion; especially for their unparallel'd Zeal and Courage in refusing to submit to be visited by the usurped Powers, and to subscribe the Solemn League and Covenant, and for those excellent Reasons they publish'd to the World to justify their Refusal, and to assert his Majesty's righteous Cause.' These Thanks were, in a very solemn Manner, presented to the University in full Convocation by four of the House of Commons, (fn. 1) Mr. Laurence Hyde, and Sir Heneage Finch, Members for the University, and (fn. 2) Sir John Berkenhead, and (fn. 3) Colonel Giles Strangewich; and all four were either now, or a little before, honour'd by the University with the Titles of Doctors of the Civil Law.

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

The same day that this Vote was made, October the 31st, the King came to the House of Peers in order to pass the several Bills, and to make a Prorogation: At which Time, the Commons being sent for, their Speaker, Sir Edward Turner, in presenting the Bills, deliver'd himself thus: 'May it please your most Excellent Majesty, The Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses of the Commons House of Parliament, in Obedience to your Majesty's Writ of Adjournment, came chearfully to this City of Oxford to receive your royal Commands. And when your Majesty was pleas'd to acquaint them with your great Expences this Summer, and the continuing Insolencies of the Dutch, they were so inflamed with an Affection and Zeal for your Majesty's Service, that they could not suffer the least Juncto of Time to pass before they had made a Return suitable to their Engagements, That they would assist your Majesty with their Lives and Fortunes against the Dutch, or any other that should assist them in opposition to your Majesty. The English Man useth to speak as he writes, and the English Parliament to speak as they think: No Security upon the Earth can be greater than the Engagement of your two Houses of Parliament; Sed quid Verba audiam, dum Facta videam! As a Demonstration of their Fidelity, I am commanded to present unto your Majesty this Bill, whereby they have given your Majesty twelve hundred and fifty thousand Pounds, to be levy'd in two Years, beginning from Christmas next, by quarterly Payments added to the former royal Aid: And that your Majesty's Occasions may be supply'd with ready Money, before the additional Aid can be rais'd, we have by the Bill prepared an undoubted Security for all such Persons as shall bring their Moneys into the public Bank of the Exchequer. As the Rivers do naturally empty /?/ into the Sea, so we hope the Veins of Gold and Silver in this Nation will plentifully run into this Ocean, for the Maintenance of your Majesty's just Sovereignty on the Seas.

'Great Sir, When first we besought your Majesty to correct the Insolencies, and to repair your Subjects against the Raires of the Dutch, we did reasonably suppose, That the Justice of your Majesty's Demands would at least have had a fair and ingenuous Reception: but the Dutch resolv'd with Machiavel, to keep by Force what they had got by Fraud, and to return their Answer by the thundering Noise of their Cannon: The great God of Hosts, to whom Vengeance belongeth, hath eminently appeared in your Majesty's Quarrel, and sharply rebuk'd the Insolence of that proud People. It is true, our Sins do cry aloud, as well as theirs; but God is pleased in Mercy to correct us himself, while by our hands he punishes them, and makes them fly before us: I hope his Mercy will invite us to a national Repentance, and 'if he be with us, who can be against us?' We can but take notice of the sordid Defection of some English Fugitives, who have traitorously join'd with the Dutch, both in their Counsels and Actions, against your Majesty, and this their native Country: We therefore have prepared a Bill, whereby they are enjoin'd to return by a Day, and answer to the Law, or else they shall be attainted of High-Treason. It hath been an old Observation, That scandalous Livings make scandalous Ministers; and this most frequently falls out in Cities and CorporateTowns, where are little or no predial Tythes, and therefore for mere Want they are forc'd to chant such Tunes as may please the rich Men in their Parishes: For prevention of this for the future, there is a Bill prepared for the Uniting of small Churches and Chapels in Cities and Towns-Corporate, by the Consent of the Patron, reserving other Parochial Rights distinct as they were before. This being a Time wherein your Majesty needs great Supply, we held it our Duty to ease the People in some unnecessary Expences; and therefore we have prepared a Bill for the more effectual Proceeding upon Distresses and Avowries for Rent; another to avoid Circuity of Actions; a Third to lessen the Charge of necessary Suits in Law; and a Fourth to take away an ancient and burdensome Fee in the Courts of Judicature, call'd Damage Cleer, or Damna Clericorum.

'Tacitus has a Saving, Such as are false in their Love, are true in their Hatred; and this we find verify'd in our Nonconformists: While they were in the Boson of the Church of England, they were like inward Vapours, and inward Bleedings, always oppressing and strangling the Body of the Church; and now they are rejected and excluded from the Ministerial Function, they have more Malice, and no less Opportunity to propagate their Principles than they had before. Some of them are Objects of Pity; they submitted their Reason to their Leaders of a higher Class, who failed them in their Hopes, and left them to the Rigour of the Law. Those poor Creatures have seen their Errors, and felt the Smart, and would live peaceably; but their Jesuitical Leaders keep up their Spirits, and herd with them in Cities and Corporate-Towns, where, by the Pretence of Persecution and Self-denial, they move the Pity of good-natur'd People, who with their Charity keep up the Party, lessen the Maintenance of Conforming Ministers, and spread their Contagion amongst the Youth of the Nation. For the Prevention of this growing Mischief, we have prepared a Shiboleth, a Test, to distinguish amongst them who will be peaceable, and give hopes of a future Conformity, and who, of Malice and evil Disposition, remain obdurate: The one, we shall keep amongst us with all Love and Charity; the other we shall exclude from Cities and Corporation-Towns, like those that have an infectious Disease upon them.

'It is not unusual for the Commons, at the Close of a Session of Parliament, by their Speaker to present a Petition to their Sovereign; and, with your Majesty's Leave, I am now commanded that Service: We do, with all humble Thankfulness, acknowledge to God our great Happiness, That we are govern'd by a Prince, whose Prudence in Council, whose Valour in Action, and whose Fatherly Care in Protection of his People is eminent in all the World; and it is not the least Mercy, both to your Majesty and your People, That God has bless'd you with a Brother so like yourself. The Name of his Royal Highness is already enroll'd amongst the Heroes of other Nations; but his native Country had not so great Experience of him, till your Majesty was pleas'd, in this Summer's Expedition, to trust him with the Conduct of the most royal Fleet that ever sail'd upon the British Seas; wherein he shew'd that Prowess and that Prudence, and, by the Blessing of Almighty God, was crown'd with that Success against the Dutch, that we cannot pass it by in Silence; and yet we are at a loss how to express our Thanks both to your Majesty and him. I am commanded therefore to beseech your Majesty, That you will vouchsafe to let us make a Present to you of a Month's Tax, to come in the Rear after the twenty four Months of your Majesty's royal Aid; and that your Majesty will be pleased to bestow it upon his Royal Highness. And now, Great Sir, I have no more, but to beseech Almighty God, who hath so miraculously preserv'd your royal Person, and your two Houses of Parliament, from all Sickness and Contagion during this Session, that he will be pleased to send Health throughout all the Nation; that he will crown all your Designs against your Enemies with Victory and Success, and give your Majesty a long and happy Reign over us.'


  • 1. Master of the Robes.
  • 2. Vid. Appendix.
  • 3. One of the Masters of the Request, and Faculty Office.