Debates in 1671: March

Pages 401-415

Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 1. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.

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In this section

Wednesday, March 1.

The Petition of the Refiners of Sugar was presented by Mr Love, signed by no hand, "which," Love said, "he thought not necessary, because they were not a corporation, but the persons concerned were at the door (fn. 1)."

Sir Robert Howard.] If you hear the Refiners, you must also hear the Planters, the business of the Plantations being highly concerned in it.

Mr. Love.] It is essential to the liberties of the Commons to petition, and for us to receive them; he has got hands to the Petition.

Sir Wm Coventry.] Has communicated some things of the debate of the House, for which, if faulty, he asks pardon—He serves for a fishing town, and has acquainted his Corporation with the imposition upon salt, and thinks it his duty, unless checked from you—A Petition is proper from the Commons, if they apprehend a grievance; those who represent them ought to deliver their grievances, with the reasons of them, and you usually appoint a Committee to send for persons concerned. If their Petition can make the House understand it, knows not why their Representatives may not open the thing, and not receive it by way of Petition.

Sir Thomas Clifford.] Small innovations have too often been earthquakes to shake the Government.—He is very tender of the consequence—It is not a Petition against your tax, but the manner of it, and a Committee of the whole House may enquire into the thing—Desires to be instructed by Corporations, who he wishes would chuse men of parts; but it is more your right, and it is the greatest part of your preservation, to raise money. But should a Quarter-Sessions, or Jury, petition against a tax, you would be ruined in your constitution, and it was never known that a Petition against a tax was read. There is but one degree betwixt petitioning and commanding—Would have them heard at a Committee, but would not be guided by Petitions in your Councils. He may probably speak out of his compass in trade, having no knowledge in it but what he has learned here— Would not receive the Petition.

Mr Coleman.] It is said there is a rule for receiving Petitions; anciently there were tryers of Petitions, to see if they were modest and not seditious—No grievance but there is a person to represent the place—Is it reasonable to say, "Stay till we have a Law, and then petition?" This Petition moves not to take off the tax, but offers you instructions towards your Law; when you have heard it, you may reject it; but read it.

Sir Richard Temple.] Would be resolved, Whether a Committee can receive Petitions without the leave of the House? The Committee of the whole House cannot, without leave of the House, receive Petitions, as other Committees may do. You are not to disclose debates, but resolutions may be committed to the Journals, to which any man may have recourse. It is a man's duty to receive information from his Corporation, and to communicate resolutions of the House to them. If this Petition be against the tax, it ought to be rejected—In general aids you cannot receive Petitions, but where persons are particularly concerned, you may hear them, by enabling the Committee of the whole House; and it is all one whether by Petition, or no. Anciently some counties have petitioned that they have been impoverished by reason of the Scotch invasions; they have been heard, because a special occasion.

Sir John Birkenhead.] The great reason why you have Representatives is, because your people in numbers should not come to disturb the Counclls; you yourselves are the Petitioners—A Bill is Supplex libellus, "a Petition."

Sir Robert Howard.] Moves to hear both the Planters and Sugar-Bakers at the Committee.

Colonel Birch.] Is against laying the duty at the Custom-house. He that steals the Custom there, steals the duty also. We have all our ports open, when Holland is frozen up; we may come round England; ease the Custom-house, and you will support trade; set the ports free.

[March 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 15, omitted.]

Thursday, March 16.

Hearing of Counsel on the Petition of some of the Governors of the Corporation of the Poor.

Mr Ayliffe, Counsel and Treasurer for that Corporation.] If a farthing has been spent but upon the public occasion, hopes they have not ill administered the business; but these persons that complain have been the obstructors themselves, and leaves it to the wisdom of this House. Of 1000l. laid by the Sessions, not 500l. [has been] gathered. They have 80l. in their hands. Some dead, some money lost; the money they have gathered, not paid, though threatened to be sent to Newgate; and they, instead of giving an account for what money they have received, pray an Act for the money the Justices have charged. When the account was presented to the Sessions, they printed it, and exposed it to examination by an audit. They insist upon it that they are not ashamed to be called to an account. They waited upon the Judges for directions and advice, and followed it prudently and carefully. In January, 1663, the Act came out; they took several of the Corporation, of all professions, to advise; they resolved to build a Workhouse for the Poor; 4445l. stock. Though this assessment was granted, there was 1315l. lost, yet between Trinity-Monday and the 13th of October, they built a house that cost 4000l. and put Poor into it, and made this by-law, "that none should be put in under seven, nor above sixteen years old."—They sent to St. Giles's to bring in their Poor; a few they sent in under seven years old, and some decrepid and lame, and unable to work. To this they said, "that this is not an hospital or nursery, but a workhouse; if they would not send in such as are allowed by the Act, they would not receive them." Now the parish of St. Giles's clamour against them, though they have taken in forty-two about October, and kept them the best part of the year. Two of the Corporation were appointed to buy in cheap but wholsome provision. In 1664 a proposition was made, by a person, to bring in tapestry-work for hangings; that in combing, spinning, and winding, so many shall be employed, and that, which is in the hands of a few Dutchmen, shall be in many hands. The person continued, but in 1665 the Plague broke out, and a covenant was, that the Corporation should maintain all that should have any pestilential disease, or be disabled. When the Plague broke out, they had 150 persons in the house, and they bought a house for the sick, and they agreed with a Doctor for every person recovered of the Plague, 20s. for physic, &c. and nothing if he died; one Doctor went away, but another staid and did his duty. The Plague was so fatal, that he called for money, or he must let all out to be destroyed. Several sums of money were furnished him, but none from the public. Fifty-six persons were actually visited, and actually recovered, and the Doctor had his money, but some time after. And having thus run betwixt 8 or 900l. out of their own purses, they made a rate, by consent of the Justices and the Judges; who, inspecting the accounts, told the people they deserved it for their industry; but 675l. of 2000l. was levied, and no more. The Lord Chief Justice advised them to confer. The thing was undertaken, but some jars falling out, they would turn the poor upon them again. The Mechanics would not advance any money, and they amongst themselves laid out some money. They came to the Sessions, and represented that the undertaking was forsaken. The King sent in 1000l. the Archbishop of Canterbury 50l. Justice Hyde 20l. Knows not else the value of a shilling given by any body, not of the Corporation, unless some odd 20s. to buy linnen, given by some gentlewomen—4000l. laid, and not above 670l. brought in. Of every penny of the two first assessments they have given an account. Ayliffe did receive 400l. and is ready to give an account, and the rest are willing to do it at an hour's warning. He and they have vouchers for every payment. 'Till the contrary shall be proved, hopes he shall not be prejudged, but that they have done like men of worth.

Mr Reading, for the Parishes.] Will disprove every particular of Mr Ayliffe's discourse. Ayliffe named himself Commissioner, and with his party governed all things. Two or three to make a Court, which ought to be seven or eight. Ayliffe and two more have taken this money, and put it into the hands of one gone to the Indies, who can make no account according to the Statute. Ayliffe says, "there is 1300l. in arrear," but he says they have received it. The poor they took in was not as alleged; they found out people in the highways, and kept them prisoners. Ayliffe says, "the King gave 1000l." but that was before they rated a penny. Mr Poyns, a particular hand, maintained the poor some time. Mr Ayliffe reported he had bought a sick house for 50l. for which he himself paid 60l. and now it is an Alehouse. Ayliffe charges in some places 30l. when he has had 60l. The poor have not been maintained by the Corporation, but either by Mr Poyns, or Sir Robert Vyner. Mr Ayliffe has kept above twenty Courts, with three or four persons, where he has had the sole inspection. The sick house is turned into an alehouse, the workhouse into a tent-house. They might have had 402 as well as 42 persons. While this affair was under consideration here, those gentlemen, in defiance of your order, proceeded to call for the money. One Welsh said, that "a vote of the House of Commons is like a Bill in Chancery without injunction."

[Resolved, That this House is satisfied, for any thing yet appearing, that the Justices of the Peace for the county of Middlesex have behaved themselves faithfully, in pursuance of the powers given them by the Act of Parliament for the relief of the poor.

Resolved, That this House is satisfied that the Governors for the Corporations for the poor have behaved themselves well in the execution of the powers given them by the former Act, for any thing that appeared to the House this day.

Resolved, That it be an instruction to the Committee, to which the Bill touching the Corporation for the Poor is committed, that the power of nomination of the Governors for the Corporations for relief of the poor shall continue, as it is now established by the former Law; and that it be referred to the Committee to rectify the Bill accordingly.]

[March 17, 18, 20, and 21, omitted.]

Wednesday, March 22.

Mr Crouch reports from the Committee, to which the Bill against Conventicles was committed, some clauses, agreed by the Committee to be added to the Bill.

Colonel Titus.] You have provided against christenings; he would have marriages and burials also.

Sir John Talbot.] Complained of a Copyholder of his, who, after twice asking in the Church, got himself married, and his wife had her widow's estate.

Occasionally on fining of Juries.

Mr Attorney Finch.] An indictment at Newgate for a riot with a Conventicle is without your Act. The Habeas Corpus was upon a Jury's judging Law as well as fact. This indemnity alters not the case as to the Judges, but this is to set a brand of infamy upon the Judges, and your votes bind not the Judges; for if what this House votes must be a direction of the Law, and take away the power of the Judges, it is to alter the Law, and all proceedings. Your vote must be his opinion here, but out of doors he is of another mind, and will hold the contrary.

Sir Thomas Lee.] Your votes, being the opinion of the Commons of England, are a ground for you to impeach the Judges. The case of ship-money, alleged, was only to take away a little money; but fining the Juries takes away all the use you have of them, both for lives and fortunes. Looks upon it as destructive of what we have to hold lives and fortunes by. This clause is necessary that the Juries may not, for the future, be fined; you are told it is a pardoning, not justifying, the thing.

Sir Thomas Clifford.] Shall not enter into the debate of the power of fining Juries by the Judges; that came in by a collateral side-wind. Would ask any man whether it would not be a great prejudice for any man to have an exception in an Act of Pardon. Lord Chief Justice Keeling was here impeachable for telling the Jury he would fine them, if they found it not murder (at Somerset Assize.) The foolishness, the passion, and choler of the man in doing it was his crime. If the thing be right, make a Law for it. If you pardon the Judges, does that say, they may do it again? It is a thing yet in suspence. If we are bigger than any people in the world, by being tryed by Juries, never exclude that.

Mr Powle (fn. 2).] Juries have been fined, but rarely, at the Star-chamber, not at Common Law; but they have been indicted.

Mr Boscawen.] Agrees that your votes are not binding after a Session; but remembers that the Law was then, as the votes are. An Act in the case—Henry VIII. For the corruptions of Juries in Wales, there was a Court in the nature of the Star-chamber, who had appeal from it only to the Lords of the Council.

Lord St. John.] At the same time we give liberty to fine Juries, we put our lives and fortunes into one man's hands. The Judge bid the Jury find it special, and the Judge in Law found it murder, and the man was hanged. The vote formerly concerning Lord Chief Justice Keeling, "Resolved, That the fining and imprisoning Juries is illegal." If you have voted it, and ordered a Bill for it, surely you will not justify the thing now.

Sir John Duncombe.] There may be extremes on both sides. If then thought reasonable to bring in a Bill, would not crowd it in here; leave the thing as it is, without putting a mark on it. The gentlemen did well; it was prudent and legal; secure those gentlemen as largely as you can, but name not the thing here.

Sir William Lowther.] It is harder to corrupt twelve men than one Judge, and he would not have such a thing left to posterity; therefore would have the thing particularly named in the clause, and not generally.

Sir Robert Howard.] Some have moved that all things relating to the Act of Conventicles, or colour of it, may be indemnified—No Law could be produced by the Chief Justice for fining Juries; but that Jury was fined for first bringing in one verdict, and then another.

Mr Hampden.] Whoever is of opinion that the Juries may be fined, he hopes, may never be convinced, by sad experience, that he gives up his life and fortune to one Judge. Suppose a fine of 5s. and he distrains for 5l. and brings the Justice the money, and keeps the rest, and accounts for the overplus, says the Act; the poor man, it may be, not able to sue—Would have that mended.

Mr Attorney Finch.] They are nugatory words in an Act of Parliament. If I overpay or overlay at Common Law, he must render the overplus; he may sue for it. If we perplex this indemnity, we give men occasion to rejoice who have not executed it. If it be worthy your countenance, let it appear that you own them that act in it; the consequence will be delivering up a man to be starved only, for murdering his father, or brother, by the dexterity of corrupting Juries and Under-Sheriffs.

Mr Henry Coventry.] He supposes you indemnify such as have acted upon ambiguity of the words; if the person hath offered payment, and by stubborness of the person distrained, he will not take it again, hopes you will not punish the officer.

Mr Steward.] Would not have a Law brought in by way of parenthesis, but would have a Law, in all its Formalities, expressly made.

[Resolved, That the additional Bill against Conventicles be re-committed.]

[March 23 and 24 omitted. Adjourned to the 27th.]

Monday, March 27, 1671.

[The Bill for laying an imposition on proceedings in Courts of Law, and other Courts, was read the second time.]


Sir Robert Howard.] The same arguments for the imposition upon trade, as upon the Law; freedom of justice the same as freedom of ports. The poor Merchant will suffer by the oppression of the rich, by the foreign Bill, as well as the poor by the rich man, in point of chargeableness of the Law—Could wish, as Powle said, it could have the effect of lessening Law-suits. If any man will frame arguments against taxes, there is sufficient against this as against all other taxes. We have sunk much in the other Bills, and if you sink this, you may do it to nothing.

Sir Thomas Meres.] Have you done once ill, and must you do so again? If this will give little to the King, and much trouble to the people, it is no matter what we have sunk, for it was thought expedient by the King's officers, as prejudicial to the former revenue, and therefore sunk—Pray God we can raise what we have given! —We had better give 160,000l. any way than by this Bill—Suppose it may be for eight or nine years, this is not the Bill intended; it is perfectly a Bill of sealed paper—Here are vast penalties upon persons and offices set up—Wishes it may be altogether laid aside, and some other way by consent thought of.

Mr Boscawen.] Likes the Bill the worse for having an office in the body of it—Would buy off his share of it —Thinks it blacker than the Chimney-Bill—Looks upon the Law of England to be five times more chargeable than it was two hundred years since; and if you pass this Bill, you shut the door for ever to reforming the Law —The Hundred-Courts, Corporation, Tin-Courts, do punish the country more than the Law itself, for the extravagance is such, that once in an age they must have a reformation. There is no exception for those that sue in formâ pauperis—This is like to Rehoboam, whose little finger was heavier than his father's loins—No man can find a more uncouth thing than this Bill, to put the Kingdom to charge; it is unequal in itself. He that mortgages pays as much as he that suffers a fine and recovery to alienate—Queen Elizabeth bought the fines out of Lord Leicester's executors hands, as grievous to the subject—You confirm all the Chancery practice, and preclude a Parliament from ever considering. The House of Commons is naturally to relieve the oppressed, and now will the people say we rather oppress—Would pay the money any other way.

Mr Attorney Finch.] Here is no man proposes an expedient instead of this Bill—From Parliament came the King's revenue in the Alienation-Office, which was much more before dissolution of Monasteries than now. Formerly the Law was in real action, but since the dissolution of Monasteries, the way is by ejectione firmâ, and an English Bill, by reason of trusts, made the revenue much less—The King may withdraw his seal for alienation, and will a man think much to have this privilege granted him?—Would not have the Clerk that cozens the King, to cozen the person of his cause—Would not have an Attorney lose his place for stealing a sixpenny writ, that another officer may be in his place—Would have the Bill committed, that these, and other things, may be remedied.

Mr Vaughan.] This Bill will deter men from justice; when the market is too dear, a man will come home barefoot rather than buy shoes. So you take from the King, with one hand, what you give him with another; to supply with a penny what you take away by a pound, is a monstrous Bill. Our charges at Law are our greatest; you may as well expect figs from thistles, and grapes from thorns. If we have imposed upon lands, because we would leave nothing untouched, we raise money on very justice. If he thought this Bill would conduce to the King's advantage, he would not say a word against it; but it looks not so much to supply the King, as to impoverish the subjects—Thinks it so odious, that it cannot be grateful to the King, and therefore would have it thrown out.

Sir Robert Howard.] Many have great fees, and do little; let them be charged, and the rest spared.

Colonel Birch.] Is not satisfied from any thing he has heard yet. Some things will remedy themselves; and if the charge of Law be left, because great, it is what you desire. After people are weary at Law, they refer it to some gentlemen in the country; after all physic is taken, then at last our own native fresh air—He hears nothing proposed instead, and therefore would commit it.

Sir John Ernly.] Would rather have an additional duty on foreign commodities—We shall reduce this Bill of the Law to the terms of the Gospel; He that will sue for my cloak, let him take my coat also; for he already, in suing for 2000l. has spent as much before he could get it; therefore would not have the Law more chargeable than it is.

Sir Thomas Clifford.] This is the last Bill, and hopes we shall not cool in it—Shall we, after six months Session, launch into the sea again of foreign commodities? Merchants say it has its load; the Excise has its; the land you think too heavy. Mr Attorney said, "it is one of the most ancient duties that does belong to the Crown" (the Fine and Alienation Office.) Make it as little burthensome as you can, and commit it.

Sir Robert Atkins.] Proposed a Clause for Commissioners to be joined with the Judges, to bring the Courts to their ancient fees, and to reduce encroachments, and determine the fees, and set them up in tables where they may be resorted to, which will sweeten the Bill, that it may be acceptable to the people.

[Resolved, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.]

[March 28 and 29 omitted.]

Thursday, March 30.

[Mr Crouch reports from the Committee, to which the additional Bill against Conventicles was re-committed, some Amendments, agreed to by the Committee, to be made to the Bill. A Clause being tendered, to forbear the imposing of the Clauses in the Act of Uniformity, for subscribing a form of Assent and Consent, and abjuring the Covenant; and being to repeal part of an Act, and brought in without leave; the question being put, That leave be given to bring in a Proviso of this nature, it passed in the Negative. The question then was put, That were be an addition for the offenders against the Act, to be included in the clause of indemnity, as well as those that have over-acted.]


Mr Waller.] Great reason not to permit people into a Church, who are against it. Does not remember that amongst the reasons for growth of Popery, he finds want of union amongst Protestant subjects, all the world over. These Bills have driven men out of the Kingdom, and not into the Church—Some of Paul, and some of Apollos, but St Paul was pleased they were of Christ—Italian policy spread the Prayers, Bible, and Creed, in Latin, an unknown tongue (all colours being alike in the dark.)— Our Reformers, an hundred years ago, translated the Bible, that the people might read and judge, and so differences came, and in some measure you must bear with that in judging. Something of Indemnity in this Bill. The Speaker told us of Pardon, to be but once read. This Indemnity remits rights of fellow subjects, one against another, after great concussions and civil wars. At Athens the Romans had got an amnesty; so we after the war. These men have their houses taken; no man to be sued; though goods taken away, no wrong done. Here we take part with the injurious against the oppressed; if reason for it, you must do it again—Imagines not the consequences, therefore would have the Bill recommitted.

Sir John Bramstone.] Does not take men to be Christians, unless they are so as our Saviour has appointed them to be.

Mr Vaughan.] One said, "ensnared by ambiguity of words" (Boscawen.) All prudent men act not when there is not a clear Law in the case—This Clause of Indemnity will subject all your Laws; those fly to you that have done things by colour of justice—Had they killed a man, would you have indemnified them for acting in this case?

Colonel Sandys.] The Judges are fit to be turned out of their places for saying, some, it is Law, and others, it is not Law; who must the country gentlemen fly to? If the Judges of the Law, bred up in ill principles, are against a thing, hopes he may have an indemnity.

Mr Boscawen.] If you had made your Law so equal, as that those who had overdone might have been punished, as well as those who are remiss, he would be for it.

Mr Crouch.] You have made a Law to indemnify persons for Treasons, and Murders, and Robberies, &c. this is for indemnifying persons for executing the Laws. Suits are commenced upon account of this Law; you are tied in justice to do it, therefore do it.

Sir Adam Brown.] Some Judges thought you must break open doors, some not—Knows not what to do in this case—If the Judges cannot then determine, you may very well give an Indemnity. The Act saying "that we cannot distrain for the King's part," distinct, but it must be for the whole, and so doors cannot be broken open.

Sir Thomas Littleton.] Would have all that is passed on both sides pardoned.

Sir Robert Carr.] They have once had an indemnity; suppress them now, to be upon equal terms.

Mr Hampden.] It is but one man's opinion, that persons should, by an Indemnity for acting against Law, do the same thing again. Our ancestors were of another opinion, and hopes we shall; for Judges differing in opinion, a man may then let the thing alone. If the Parliament hath omitted, shall it be justice to supply it? The Subsidy-Bill will fall upon these men, and there are many ambiguities in it, and shall the prudence of the Commissioners supply it?—Thinks this will be the consequence.

Colonel Titus.] By indemnifying these people, you make them in effect Law-makers; but you may keep your Laws till you destroy your Government, if upon all emergencies you must be bound up straitly to them, as in the case of fire, &c.—Would have indemnity given to both, and so encourage both sides.

Mr Attorney Finch.] The Indemnity is moved for over and under-actors. The Indemnity to under-actors is as if you were weary of your Law; that of over-actors as if you would maintain it—Has no more to say to it.

Sir Job Charlton.] Wherever the King's part is to be levied, the house may be broken; no Judge, he believes, will be of a contrary opinion, though possibly doubtful for the informers, and the poor's part. If you cast this Clause out, you do in effect discourage all persons from acting for the future. It is congruous to the Common Law; for if an army be raised against the King, no General ever yet was punished for exercising Martial Law.

Mr Waller.] The peace of the Kingdom cannot be concerned in five or six men. Something of Conscience in the case—Empson and Dudley did not exceed the Law, only put old Statutes in execution; and these you would pardon for over-acting the Law.

It was afterwards moved, "That a Committee might be appointed to look into precedents relating to general pardons from his Majesty, for that Justices of the Peace, and several other officers, might stand in need of it, and in severity might be called in question, that so we might be out of reach of informers; it would wonderfully quiet the minds of the people, and somewhat sweeten this great Tax." To which it was answered by

Sir Thomas Clifford.] That pardons come always freely from the King; and that King James denied a pardon to the Commons, for its being asked of him.—Who knows, whether, by asking so general a pardon as is discoursed of, it may not extend to the pardoning Lord Clarendon, Sandys, and Obrien?—Is persuaded that the King thinks his Ministers do not desire a pardon.

[It was pressed to adjourn the Debate, but it went off silently without a question (fn. 3).]

March 31 omitted.


  • 1. There is no mention of this in the Journal.
  • 2. Powle was very learned in Precedents and Parliament-Journals, which goes a great way in their Debates; and when he had time to prepare himself, he was a clear and strong speaker. Burnet.
  • 3. This is mistake, for the House divided on the question, mentioned P. 412, 77 to 53.