Debates in 1694: January

Pages 374-382

Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 10. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.

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In this section

[Tuesday, January 16.

The Lords having desired a Conference in the PaintedChamber, to communicate to this House Matters of Importance relating to the last Summer's Expedition at Sea;

Col. Granville reported, That the Duke of Bolton managed the same for the Lords, and acquainted the Managers, "That the Lords having had laid before them, by the Earl of Nottingham, an Extract of a Letter, dated from Paris, June 1, N. S. received May 30, O. S. 1693, as follows: "There are sixtyeight Ships, in which there are 30,118 Men, and 4876 Guns.

"We have news since, that this Fleet is sailed, and out of sight."

"And it not appearing clearly, whether the Intelligence therein contained was communicated, or not, to the Admirals of the Fleet, their Lordships do desire of this House, That they will enquire, by the most proper methods, of the Members of this House that are of the Privy-Council, "Whether this Intelligence of the French Fleet's being failed out of Brest was communicated to the Admirals of the Fleet; and when it was so communicated."

Friday, January 19.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that his Majesty will be pleased to command, that a Copy of a Letter, dated from Paris, June 1, N. S. and received May 30, O.S. 1693, by the Earl of Nottingham, may be laid before this House: And also, That his Majesty will be pleased to give permission to the Privy-Counsellors of this House, to acquaint this House what Intelligence was received of the French Fleet's being sailed out of Brest; and whether the same was communicated to the Admirals of the Fleet; and when the same was communicated (fn. 1).]

Friday, January 26.

[In a Grand Committee. On the State of the Kingdom.]

On the King's rejecting the Bill for frequent Parliaments.

(Sent to the Compiler by Mr Wilmot.)

Sir Thomas Clarges.] I am sorry for the occasion of the Committee. I will not say any thing concerning his Majesty, only of the evil Counsellors that presumed so to advise the King. Former practice hath been to have the Bills to be passed, read, and debated, in Council; neither ought a Parliament to be called without a Council. Formerly, just Bills and Grievances were first passed; and after that, the Money given. Now, in great respect to his Majesty, the order is inverted, and our Grievances denied redress. I cannot think the King to blame, since his Declaration hath been to concur with us in any thing to make us happy. I should have been glad if the Counsel lors, or some of them, would have given some reason for the Rejection of this Bill. I believe, the People that sent us up will hate us for doing nothing but giving away their Money, in effect, one to another, as in the Rump, which was their ruin and may be ours. I conclude with a Motion, "That the Advisers of the Rejection of this Bill are Enemies to the King and Kingdom."

Mr Brewer.] All agree, that the King hath a Negative Voice to Bills: Nobody hath a greater reverence to Parliaments than myself; but the Bill rejected was liable to exceptions. I gave my Vote to make the Prince of Orange King, but will never give my Vote to unking him. I think it proper, in this case, for the King to exercise his Negative Voice.

Sir John Thompson.] When I gave my Voice to make the Prince of Orange King, I thought to have seen better times than these. If this matter go, and nothing be done, I expect nothing but that we shall be underlings to Courtiers. It is fit to consider the State of the Nation in all parts of it; as in your Quota's; so if you consider your Fleet, your Convoys: Look upon all Miscarriages, and you may hunt them to the Cabinet; but there we must leave it, for we cannot find the hand that does the mischief. King Charles the Ist was the first that set up the Cabinet, but he was taken down for it; so was King James, his son, and made a vagabond. All Debates should be in Council; now all things are huddled up. Our Affairs are secret, but our Miscarriages open. The Admiralty told us where the Miscarriage lay: I hope that, by an Address, that will be laid open with the rest; and I conclude with the same Motion that Clarges made.

Mr Bromley.] I shall be careful not to speak about the Negative Voice. I would have Gentlemen consider the confidence the House put in his Majesty, and the vast Sums given, and yet this Bill rejected. The Preamble of the Bill declared former Corruptions, and suspicion of the like now: The Bill offers Remedy, but we are denied it; which speaks this language, "That the King will have us still corrupt." We have done well for Religion, but all in vain, if we enjoy not our Liberties.

Mr Hutchinson.] Neither our zeal for the King, nor the Sums given, can oblige so much as the false Counsellors, who are worse than Jacobites—They may now object, "That we have only changed our Prince, but not for the better, at so many Millions expence."—I will not dispute the Negative Voice—The nature of the Bill was to take off Scandal, to show the World that we give our Votes, and do not sell them. Our own actions have given occasion hereto, by carrying on the Bill in former Sessions with fondness of it, but in this we were very cool: It may give the King occasion to think that we know not what to do; that the Members of this House are so made, for their ingenuity and skill to manage us, rather than their Offices, which they either mind not, or know little of.—

Sir John Lowther.] I find it difficult to say any thing, in my Post. I know myself to be an honest man, and I am an Englishman too. I neither have gotten by the Court, nor ever will—I believe there may be evil Counsellors, but who they are will be a dispute for ever. We are ever unfortunate, because of different Parties, two at least, so that one dares not trust the other, nor speak plain; and what can be done by the King, when one side informs him evil of the other? Now, cure you but this, and all will be well; all will speak plain. I would propose to you, to contrive some way that the King may have a Council that both you and he may confide in.

Mr Peregrine Bertie, jun. (fn. 2) ] What was proposed by the Member before, makes me think the Question first moved most necessary; since the matter is so amongst the Counsellors.

Mr Harley.] I think Lowther has told you the true state of the case. I think the greatness of his estate and mind makes him too great to be suspected in this matter. I hope that, in due time, something may be done therein. At the first Revolution, if care had been taken, Parties might have been prevented, and we should have had but one, and that for the good of England; but industry was used by some to the contrary. I conclude, that we can do no less than put a mark on some, by our Resolution on the Question.

The Question passed, (with only two or three "Noes" to the contrary,) [as follows:

Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Committee, that whoever advised the King not to give the Royal Assent to the Act touching free and impartial Proceedings in Parliament, which was to redress a Grievance, and take off a Scandal upon the Proceedings of the Commons in Parliament, is an Enemy to their Majesties and the Kingdom:

Which was agreed to by the House.]

Mr Jeffreys.] If the Council be so divided, it may be presumed that one Party is in the right, and the other in the wrong. I would have the House address the King, That he would please to discover by what Advice the Bill was rejected."

But there was a general "No" thereto.

Mr Harley.] The House has been pleased to give their Opinion in the former Question, but you ought also to take some care of yourselves. You are disappointed of Remedy against Corruption. The King, indeed, hath a Negative Voice; so have you in Money; and when the People give, their minds should be free, that they are in condition to give. We ought, therefore, to make some Representation to his Majesty, "That, whereas we lay under great imputation of Bribery, we were endeavouring to clear ourselves of it, by the Bill rejected." I move, therefore, "That we humbly represent to his Majesty how rare the instances are, in former times, of Bills being rejected; more especially where Money has been plentifully granted."

Sir Francis Winnington.] The last Gentleman calls me up. I am for the Negative Voice, and Prerogative; but if the Negative Voice shall extend to all good Bills, it is very much misused. We have been always busy in giving Money, and have always come up to that which has been required—I think very well of many Gentlemen that have Offices; but I believe they would not have had Offices, if they had not been Members of Parliament. This Bill, and the Triennial Bill, tend immediately to keep ourselves uncorrupt; and if the King shall make use of his Negative Voice, in such a case, it is very hard. I humbly propose, "That we may address, that such Rejection may be a means to alienate the hearts of the People." —I would not have farther proceeding in Money yet; now we have given two Millions for present occasion, we may have some breath.

Mr Paul Foley.] I believe the King hath a Negative Voice, and 'tis necessary it should be so; but if this be made use of to turn by all Bills, and things the Court likes not, it is misused; for such a Prerogative is committed to him for the good of us all. It hath been a great Scandal to us, and this Bill was for clearing us in some measure, and yet divided in so small an instance! I conclude with the Motion that Harley made, "To represent how few the instances have been to deny Assent, when so much Money has been given."

Mr Howe.] I believe our mischief arises from what an honourable Member (Lowther) observed, from Parties in Council, who thereby raise themselves upon one another. I have never changed Party. If others have left me, let them answer for it. Why should we meet here, if what we do for the good of our Country be to no purpose? I was for deposing King James, and for setting up King William: But we have committed a great villainy, if we settle not our Liberties on a true foundation; but if we do that, we have done a glorious work. A Bill in Richard's time was presented; the Bishops protested against it, but the King passed it, "Because, (he said) he was bound by his Coronation-Oath." A Petition in Parliament was presented in Henry IV's time, wherein it was said "That what was desired was not against the Prerogative, because for the good of the Commons"—I hope we say nothing here amiss, since we have so lately asserted the Divine Right of this House. I say, it was no news anciently to oblige the King to call a Parliament, and to force Kings to call them, and to swear to them after; and so Magna Charta, and Charta de Foresta, were given. In the reign of ***** (fn. 3) the Archbishop of Canterbury (for then the Bishops were for the People's good) advised the King to pass the Bills tendered. I conclude with Harley's Motion, and others, "That an humble Representation be made to his Majesty, &c."

Sir Walter Yonge.] I would have Gentlemen consider whether this is the only Bill rejected for our good—I would not have the Triennial Bill named in the Question, but I desire the words "other public Bills," in general, may be in the Question.

Mr Clarke.] I second the same.

Sir Henry Goodrick.] To agree so solemnly, in such an Address, is so severe upon the King, that I cannot agree to it. His Majesty being so much abroad for our service, venturing his life almost ever since his coming to the Crown, hath made him not so acquainted with Methods of Parliament. I would humbly move therefore, "That an Address be made upon the first Vote only."

Mr Charles Montagu.] I shall always be for the Liberties of the People, and for the Prerogative of the Crown. If the Crown hath a Negative Voice, then why not exercised on this Bill, as well as on any other? It was formerly only, and that in the highest times, and by the highest men, that the King cannot deny us Bills of right and justice. But this is for altering your Constitution, not to allow the King a Negative Voice.

None spoke in the Debate, but those before, only Sir Charles Sedley, who was not heard—But almost all before, and many others also, spoke to the stating the Questions, about which there was very much Debate. The Questions at last were agreed to, the first as above, the second as follows. Some Debate also was, "That it should be an humble Address," which was taken to be of a softer nature than "a Representation," though this was not so hard a word as "a Remonstrance."

[Resolved, That a Representation be made to his Majesty, humbly to lay before him, how few the Instances have been, in former Reigns, of denying the Royal Assent to Bills for Redress of Grievances; and the great Grief of the Commons for his not having given the Royal Assent to several public Bills; and particularly to the Bill touching free and impartial Proceedings in Parliament, which tended so much to the clearing the Reputation of this House; after their having so freely voted to supply the public Occasions: Which was agreed to by the House, and a Committee was appointed to draw it up.]

Saturday, January 27.

Col. Granville reports the following humble Representation to his Majesty, &c.

"We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons in Parliament assembled, think ourselves bound in duty to your Majesty, humbly to represent, that the usage of Parliament in all times hath been, that what Bills have been agreed by both Houses for the redress of Grievances, or other public good, have, when tendered to the Throne, obtained the Royal Assent; and that there are very few instances, in former reigns, where such Assent, in such cases, has not been given; and those attended with great inconveniences to the Crown of England; especially where the same has been withheld by insinuations of particular Persons, without the Advice of the Privy-Council, thereby creating great Dissatisfactions and Jealousies in the minds of the People.

"Your Commons therefore, out of their sincere desire of the welfare of your Majesty and your Government, and that you may always reign in prosperity and happiness in the affection of your Subjects, cannot, without great grief of heart, reflect, that, since your Majesty's Accession to the Crown, several public Bills, made by Advice of both Houses of Parliament, have not obtained the Royal Assent; and, in particular, a Bill entituled, "An Act touching free and impartial Proceedings in Parliament," which was made to redress a Grievance, and take off a Scandal relating to the proceedings of your Commons in Parliament, after they had freely voted great supplies for the public occasions; which they can impute to no other cause than [your Majesty's being unacquainted with the Constitutions of Parliament, and] the insinuations of particular persons, who take upon them, for their own particular ends, to advise your Majesty contrary to the Advice of Parliament; and therefore cannot look upon them but as Enemies to your Majesty and your Government.

"Upon these considerations, we humbly beseech your Majesty to believe, that none can have so great a concern and interest in the prosperity and happiness of your Majesty, and your Government, as your two Houses of Parliament; and do therefore humbly pray, that, for the future, you will be graciously pleased to hearken to the Advice of your Parliament, and not to the secret Advice of particular persons, who may have private interests of their own, separate from the true interest of your Majesty, and your People (fn. 4)."

[Monday, January 29.

On the Articles against Lord Coningsby and Sir Charles Porter, the House Resolved, on the first Article, That the imposing the Oath mentioned in this Article was illegal; but that, considering the State of Affairs in Ireland at that Time, this House doth not think fit to ground an Impeachment upon it. On the second and third Articles, no ground of Impecahment appeared. On the fourth, Resolved, That the Order for the Execution of Gafney, without Tryal, was arbitrary and illegal; but, for the same reason as before, they declined to impeach Lord Coningsby upon it. On the fifth, sixth, and seventh, no ground of Impeachment appeared. And Lord Coningsby, and Sir Charles Porter were allowed to take their Places in the House.

The Speaker, and the whole House, attended the King with their Representation; which, his Majesty said, he would consider of, and give them an Answer on Wednesday.]

Wednesday, January 31.

The Speaker reported, That his Majesty had been pleased to give the following Answer to the Representation:


" I am [very] sensible of the good Affections you have expressed to me, upon many Occasions, and of the Zeal you have shown for our common Interest: I shall make use of this Opportunity to tell you, that no Prince ever had a higher esteem for the Constitution of the English Government than myself; and that I shall ever have a great regard to the Advice of Parliaments. I am persuaded that nothing can so much conduce to the happiness and welfare of this Kingdom, as an entire confidence between the King and People; which I shall, by all means, endeavour to preserve: And I assure you, I shall look upon such Persons to be my Enemies, who shall advise any thing that may lessen it."


  • 1. The Lords had Resolved, on January 10, "That the Admirals who commanded the Fleet last summer, had done well in the execution of the Orders they received;" though some Lords entered their Protest. And on February 10, Mr Secretary Trenchard presented to the Commons an account, in writing, of the above requested Letter and Intelligence; viz. "That he believed the Earl of Nottingham did, on May 31, bring to a Committee of the Council a Letter dated from Paris, June 1, N. S. and received May 30, O. S. an Extract of which the Lords had communicated to the House, but he did not remember that this Letter was publickly read at the Committee, though several of the Lords might read it singly; but that it remained in the hands of the Earl of Nottingham; there being no Resolution taken at the said Council, that the said Letter should be communicated to the Admirals of the Fleet: That, to the best of his remembrance, a List of the French Fleet, being part of the said Letter, was, the same day, sent to him from the Earl of Nottingham; a Copy of which List he sent to the Admirals, as appeared by comparing it with the Papers delivered by them into the House. That the same day there likewise came a Letter from Scilly, dated May 27, with advice that the French Fleet was seen off that Island; which Letter being publickly read at the Committee, a Copy there of, together with the before mentioned List, was immediately sent to the Admirals by two Expresses, and received by them." It was Resolved, therefore. That the same be communicated to the Lords, at a Conference; which was done accordingly. But it does not appear that it was attended with any extraordinary consequences.
  • 2. Second son of the Earl of Lindsey, and Vice-Chamberlain.
  • 3. Sic. Orig.
  • 4. Instead of this last Paragraph, the following was originally drawn up by the Committee, but, on the Report, rejected by the House: "We beg, Sir, you will be pleased to consider us as answerable to those we represent; and it is from your Goodness we must expect arguments to soften to them, in some measure, the necessary Hardships they are forced to undergo in the present Conjuncture; and therefore humbly beseech your Majesty, for the removing all Jealousies from your People, (without which the Parliament will be less able to serve your Majesty, or to support the Government) to be pleased to follow the Course of the best of your Predecessors; and to direct some expedient, whereby your Majesty, your Parliament, and People may reap the Fruit designed by that Bill, to which your Majesty, by ill advice, was pleased so lately to deny the Royal Assent."