Debates in 1680: December 7th-10th

Pages 109-127

Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 8. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.

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In this section

Tuesday, December 7.

[Debate on demanding Judgment against Lord Stafford.]

Sir William Jones.] Demanding a Conference with the Lords, about the place of giving Judgment, will be nothing but delay; it may be, eight days more may be spent, as we have done already in the Tryal. The Lords cannot alter the place of Judgment.

Mr Powle.] The business is of great consequence; and let not your zeal bring you into errors. Admitting this a Precedent, it will be of great importance. What is visible is in the Lords Message, "That they have appointed, &c. to give Judgment against Lord Stafford to-morrow morning," and you demand it; will not that put you upon a Precedent, that you must send and wait for their Judgment? I should be loth to stay and wait here for it. I would not have it in the Lords Power to stop Judgment. The Precedents are thus, "That the Lords send you word, they are ready for Judgment, if you are ready to demand it." I desire, that, at a Conference, the Lords may have such a Message sent them. Though the Lords will not confer with you about Judicature, yet they cannot deny you to confer about Forms. I would send up for a Conference, and the Lords will not deny it you, I am confident.

Sir Thomas Lee.] I would send some Message to adjust this matter, and a Conference is the easiest way. Im peachments of capital matters have been rare, and the methods so dark, that we have little guide. I suppose you will go down to hear Judgment—You go upon this notification, and if you make not a demand of Judgment, they will follow the course of Justice. According to the Judgment of this day, depends the Plot. Whoever thinks Lord Stafford not guilty, thinks there is no Plot. That being the weight, makes the difficulty. If you will send to the Lords for a Conference, three or four Gentlemen may withdraw, and show you some soft way of keeping up your Right, without giving the Lords occasion of offence.

The Speaker reads out of the Journal, in the Case of Sir Francis Mitchell's Impeachment, "The Lords sent the Commons word, they were ready to give Judgment, if the Commons were ready to demand it."

Colonel Birch.] I would consider what I am afraid of. I am so dull, that I cannot see the danger in demanding Judgment, &c. But there is vast danger in demanding a Conference. You would not demand it, till you know that the Lords are ready for it. If you go now and demand Judgment, and they give it at their own Bar, you may take notice of their intention of doing it in Westminster-Hall.

Sir John Trevor.] Words and accidents may arise at a Conference, which may occasion disputes, and it is not a time for us to dispute. Upon the Evidence, I am satisfied clearly that this Lord is guilty, and so I would make no manner of bones to demand Judgment. If you demand Judgment, you demand your Privilege, and in that you explain their Message. I would have no more delay, but go up and demand Judgment.

Sir Francis Winnington.] A little thing is apt to make a disturbance, when God knows what state our Religion is in. The Message is, "That the Lords will bring Lord Stafford, &c. to hear his Judgment, &c." If a final one, it is strange, before having determined the fact. I believe there is no Precedent that the Lords have passed Judgment the same day they find Guilty, or Not guilty. Similitudinarily, it is like a Verdict; else they will have nothing to give Judgment upon. If the Lords should delay Judgment a week, or longer, we may demand Judgment; therefore it is rational to demand Justice quite through the cause. But if presently you should go and demand Judgment, it would look as if some difference did arise betwixt the two Houses. I am absolutely against Conference; we must have regard to Religion and substance of things. I do not find that the Commons demand Judgment till the Lords have determined the Fact, or if it looks like delay.

Mr Paul Foley.] You have vindicated your Right to demand Judgment before the Lords give it, and the Order last night does presume that Right. If you stay till the Lords have found Lord Stafford Guilty, or Not guilty, they may give Judgment before you demand it. By their Message, it seems, they intend to give final Judgment to-morrow. Therefore I would pursue your Order made last night.

Serjeant Maynard.] It would be wonderfully unreasonable, should we demand a Conference of the Lords, before we have any thing to ask it upon, in a thing of this vast consequence. "To demand Judgment"—What is that? To demand Death, without Precedent. We demand Judgment against Lord Stafford, as a man guilty. But it is said, "If the Lords delay it, then we should ask it;" but there has been no delay, but now instantly to go upon them upon that supposition! If you go and demand it before they are ready to do it—Upon demand of Money, I may pay it before he ask it, but I am not bound to do it.

Colonel Titus.] Consider the matter, and if it be possible, avoid all difference with the Lords. Suppose the Lords should say, "It is true the Commons have a Right to demand Judgment, but it is when we have found the matter, whether Guilty, or Not guilty, and then the Commons may demand Judgment." If we demand it before it be ready, we cannot have it. The objection is, that the Lords should come and find him Not guilty, and give Judgment before you demand it.

The Speaker.] The Lords tell you they have appointed the Prisoner to-morrow to hear Judgment, now are you debating what Judgment. You are interpreting the Lords Judgment. If this be taken for a Verdict, then it is right, but it is a Judgment.

Col. Birch.] By the Message, there is sufficient implication that it is a Judgment, and your Right is, to demand it; others say, it is unreasonable. I would therefore send to the Lords, to say, if they be ready to give Judgment, you are ready to demand it.

Mr Harwood.] I believe not that the Lords will take away our Privilege. What will be the consequence of taking it away, but to save a person, that any man that heard the Tryal, who ever found him not guilty, would have had the King's life taken away? I am not in fear of the Contest between the Lords and us; let us not be so timorous of a bug-bear. We need not be so timorous to justify the Rights of the People. If the Lords be ready to give Judgment, you come and demand it.

Mr Finch.] By the Arguments and Precedents I have heard, you must have information from the Lords, whether the person be Guilty, or Not guilty. Till the Lords have determined any thing in Arrest of Judgment, you are not ripe for it. We ought to go into the Hall. If upon Judgment the Lord Steward proceeds to Sentence, we had better right ourselves afterwards.

Mr Paul Foley.] If you send such a Message to the Lords, you put them upon altering their own Order. I see no inconvenience in demanding Judgment presently, you having had intimation from the Lords, that they are ready to give it.

Sir Thomas Clarges] Finch has said, "He has heard that the Lord Steward's direction is, that as soon as the Lords Verdict is pronounced, he is to give Judgment upon the Prisoner." Consider where you are. You demand Judgment, upon intimation to the Lords, "That you are ready to demand it." And it is to be supposed you are present there; else your dignity will be impaired. Therefore I would have a Message to the Lords, "That if they are ready to give Judgment, you are ready to demand it."

Mr Montagu.] Pray put the Question, for the Lords are just now going into Westminster-Hall.

Sir Robert Carr.] If the Lords will pretend to give Sentence after the Verdict, before you demand Judgment, I wish the Managers may quit their Box, and leave the Lords by themselves.

Mr Powle.] I wave my Motion for a Conference with the Lords; you ought to presume that the Lords will do things regularly; if they do not, you may take a course to right yourselves. If the Lords should proceed to Sentence before Judgment be demanded, the Managers may have order to interpose, "That the Commons expect that Sentence should not be given, till it be demanded." If they will not, the Managers may retire; if they do, you come upon better advantages afterwards.

Mr Trenchard.] I wonder why the Prosecutors should demand Judgment before they know whether the Lords have found the Prisoner Guilty, or Not guilty. But if the Lords proceed to Judgment before it be demanded, I would have the Managers retire.

Sir Thomas Lee.] I would warily consider the Message, before we send to the Lords. I fear that such a Message was never sent before; no Precedent of it; and the Lords take exception at it, and where are you then? May not the Lords take exceptions, when they tell you, they are ready to give Judgment? I am afraid, if you go this way, which is quite new, it may create a difference with the Lords.

Serjeant Maynard.] I like that of the Managers retiring worst of all. It is not Judgment, unless it be demanded. In Lord St Albans's Case, the Lords gave Judgment upon the proof, and the Commons did not demand it; they did the same in Sir John Bennet's Case. All we have, is at stake now; our Laws, our Lives, our Religion. When you sent a Charge against this Lord, it was in order to Tryal, and the Lords send to you to demand Judgment: What will the World say, if you demand it not? I hope the Lords will not give Sentence before you demand it.

Sir Francis Winnington.] I propose only Substance and Form; Form, to be aiding to Substance, to have the thing done. I would preserve the Form, and not have the Substance interrupted. There is no Precedent that ever Judgment was demanded before the Fact was found; if that be so, I would not run untimely to demand Judgment. The Commons demand Judgment, either because they have a Right to it, or because they fear delay. I would desire Judgment in a Parliamentary way. All I fear is this, to have Forms entangled to hinder Substance. The Managers may say, they desire, in this Cause, the way and method of Parliament, that Judgment may not be given, till it be demanded.

Sir Henry Capel.] I think you are in the dark, because you know not the Lords Order. If they give Judgment as a Verdict, and pass Judgment immediately, we are precluded, and the consequence may be great. If you see we are precluded, the Managers may desire to be heard.

[Resolved, That the Committee be impowered, in case the House of Lords shall proceed, immediately after the Fact found, to give Judgment, to insist upon it, "That it is not Parliamentary for their Lordships to give Judgment, untill the same be first demanded by this House.]

The Committee of Commons were present at the Court in Westminster-Hall, when the Lords found William Viscount Stafford Guilty of the High Treason whereof he stands impeached; and then the whole House went up with the Speaker to demand Judgment (fn. 1).

[December 8. omitted.]

Thursday, December 9.

Colonel Birch reports the matter of the Information given to the House by Mr Peter Norris (fn. 2).

Mr Hyde.] The Letter from my Lord of Essex will give a clear account of Mr Secretary Jenkins's proceedings in this matter; but because he is a Peer, your Reporter was tender in reading it.

Colonel Birch.] I have in my hand a Letter from my Lord of Essex, where his Lordship has given a Narrative of so much of this matter as concerns himself, viz. "There was one Dowdall, a correspondent of Dr Tongue, an Irish Priest in Flanders, who was one that did manage the Plot in England and Ireland. I have seen several Letters of his, and have had a character of him from a Merchant, to be an honest man. I sent a Letter to Mr Hyde for money to bring this person over, that we might see the reality of this matter. I had twenty pounds, and my directions were only to bring over this man. Mr Secretary Jenkins sent to have him apprehended at Dover, where Norris was apprehended that went to fetch him over. I know nothing of Instructions, Paper, nor Cyphers found upon Norris; but Dowdall came not over: I suppose brought to his end by the Priests."

Mr Colt.] I would know how the Privy Council came to have a description of this man. It may be, the French Ambassador has had some influence in Councils. They are of two minds, it seems.

Sir Leoline Jenkins.] It is my duty to give you an account of this matter, and I shall do it as near as I can. A few days before the 29th of May last, Dr Tongue came to me, and told me, "There was a Person in France, that knew much of the Plot." I asked his name, or the Person that knew him; but he said, "He could not do it." I desired a Description of the Person in writing; he gave it me (fn. 3). There being a Committee of Council sitting next day, it was a caution that became me, to give them an account of it. I had a verbal Order to seize him. The first Order refers to this leave to seize this man. I sent a Letter, to that purpose, not only to Dover but to Rye (fn. 4). They stopped the Person at Dover. If any thing has been done unjustifiable, I must answer it. The Letter was written the 29th of May, and arrived at Dover the 8th of June. He was taken and carried before the Mayor of Dover, who thought it reasonable to commit him, and he took Papers upon him. Legget, the Messenger, had Order to bring him before the Council, in Custody, to justify the detention of him. The Papers were ordered to remain in the Council-chest. Upon the whole matter, I never heard of Dowdall till I saw Norris's Papers. I thought it my duty to do what I did. I thought it Treason for a Romish Priest to be upon English ground, and Felony in Norris to receive him. In my Post, I could do no otherwise than obey my superiors. I never heard of them till the Papers were sent over, and Norris was detained at Dover.

Colonel Birch.] Says Jenkins, "The Description of this man was sent to Dover." He can only know what use he made of it. The Description does not appear to the Committee when made, or whether ever sent.

Mr Dubois.] Here appears to me to be foul play in this matter. If Norris had not disguised himself, he must have been served as Dowdall was. There was a Design from the beginning to discover Dowdall.

Mr Harbord.] I do not think that the blame lies upon Jenkins. He who wrote the Letter (the Under-Secretary, Cooke) is a good Protestant; but something lies hid still. I would have Birch asked the Question, "Whether my Lord of Essex knew the man?" This Dowdall, without doubt, came to his end with violence. If Birch can tell you of no Character that my Lord of Essex gave of this man, I will tell you.

Colonel Birch.] I took Mr Sheridan (fn. 5) to be a dangerous person, but I had it from the report of others. Sheridan was driven as far as well the Committee could drive him.

Mr Hampden.] Sheridan had the Description of this man (which he gave Jenkins) from Dr Day (fn. 5). But what need Sheridan to be so officious to discover the Plot? How came he to intermeddle, since a man that knows the Plot was gone over to fetch Dowdall? Sheridan was not examined: What made him so forward?

Colonel Birch.] I wonder why we should go so long about the bush. Doctor Day tells Mr Sheridan, "That the whole Plot was laid open, for one was gone for beyond sea, that knows all the Plot." Sheridan acquaints the Secretary, and says, "I am come to tell you there is one sent over for a Priest, that knows all the Plot." Now the life of the thing is here. Why should this man, who discovers the Plot, be described at all? And why should such care be taken to secure him? There is the life of it.

Mr Foley.] This matter is of several parts. First, how Dowdall came to his death, and the Discovery not found out? And another part of it is, how far Mr Secretary Jenkins is concerned in this? The Secretary told you, "He knew nothing of this, but that a man was to fetch a Priest, and he thought sit to secure that Priest." This stands thus: Now he was told Norris was sent for the Priest; but this Priest was to discover the Plot, and give Evidence. Jenkins tells you of an Order from the Committee of Council that Dowdall, should have leave to come over; and I think the Secretary knew this person to be a Priest, and an Informer. Sheridan was twice with the Secretary. It must be either the Secretary, or Sheridan, that prevented Dowdall's coming over. Upon the whole matter it appears plain to me, that it was to stifle the Plot. Sheridan says, "He heard such a thing, as that a person was gone over to fetch a Priest that could discover, &c. but had no legal Information of it."

Mr Garroway.] I think you are in a labyrinth. Here is an Information, &c. and doubts how it came to the Secretary. The issue will be, if Sheridan can be immediately brought to give you a full account of this matter, that there may be no tampering.

Mr Harbord.] When I was in Ireland, this Sheridan lay under an ill character; my Lord of Essex (fn. 6), as far as he was able (in those times) did support the Protestant Religion. He has a brother, a Clergyman, so supported here by a great Clergyman, that my Lord was forced to prove him the worst of men, and was scarce able to keep him out of Preferment, though he had preached Atheism and Blasphemy. I would have this man seized presently; let the matter be answered, and you will come to the bottom of it.

Ordered, That Doctor Day and Mr Sheridan be forthwith brought, in custody of the Serjeant at Arms, to the Bar of this House.

Sir Nicholas Carew.] I am informed that Sheridan stands in Coleman's Post. I would have his Papers searched.

A Committee, consisting of Lord Annesley, and others, were sent to search his Chambers for Papers, who report, That they found a Paper, in effect thus: "The Duke depends upon his Brother's resolutions—What shocks me most is, that the Duke mistakes himself in men, Sunderland, Godolphin, and Hyde— One to retrieve his Fortune, the other to make Romances—But he should have Persons that love Honour—I see no room for the Duke to be served in this occasion— "which is to ask Pears from an Elm Tree," according to the Spanish Proverb."—No Name nor Place to the Paper; the Date, October the 1st, 1680. There were other Papers, as a Reference about Lord Inchiquin, relating to Tangier.

[Mr Sheridan at the Bar.]

The Speaker.] Did you ever see that Paper?

Mr Sheridan.] I saw it just now. I do not know whose hand-writing it is, nor whose the Paper is: I am sure it is not mine; whether it be a Copy, or an Original, I know not, nor how it came thither. I think it some foul Paper, thrown in by chance. I read the Paper last night, and know not when I first read it. I read it alone, and never, that I remember, did I read it to any person. I own two lines at the bottom to be of my own hand-writing. About the beginning of October, at the beginning of the Parliament, I lodged in York Buildings. I was about a night or two from my lodgings. Afterwards I lodged at Brunetti's, and was not out of Town, to my knowlege, in October. When the Court was at Newmarket, I was not a night out of Town, only one day at Windsor, and came home at night, the beginning of October. I believe it was before the Parliament met, because I was at the same lodging I am in now.

The Papers in his pockets were ordered to be searched, and the Serjeant to stand by.

The Speaker.] You have not answered clearly. You have the character of a cunning man. It is expected that you should answer clearly.

Mr Sheridan.] When Lord Annesley asked me "how I came by that Paper," I told him, "I would give the House an answer." I know not how I came by that Paper. Had I thought it material, I could have put it under lock and key. I believe I did read it before last night; but I cannot tell when.

Colonel Titus.] When Sir William Roberts asked him "Whether this Paper was of his own hand-writing," he said, "He had it from somebody else."

The Speaker interrogated Sheridan concerning Dowdall the Priest, &c.

Mr Sheridan.] I know not nor ever heard of Dowdall the Priest, before I was examined at the Committee, and I never saw Peter Norris till at the Committee. I heard of Norris about May: Doctor Day told me his name two or three days before I spoke with Secretary Jenkins. I asked him what news? He said, "There was one Norris did tell him of a Priest that he was to fetch over, that knew as much as any man of the Plot." I thereupon went and told Secretary Jenkins. Day said, "Norris was to go into France to fetch the Priest." I cannot tell whether he said "He was gone," or "going." I never heard any discourse about Dowdall, but about Norris. I believe Norris went to fetch somebody over: I suppose so, because Day told me. I only told Jenkins that he might enquire of Norris what he knew of the Plot. He withdrew.

The Speaker.] The Description of the Person of Dowdall must be from the Committee of the Council, or the Secretary, or the Commissioners of the Treasury.

Dr Day, at the Bar.] I never heard of Dowdall, nor do I know him to be a Popish Priest. I have had discourse with Sheridan, of a Priest that would discover the Plot. It may be, I might have heard of him. In May last, about the 8th or 9th, I was in Sheridan's Chamber. I asked him what news? He told me, "There was one Norris was to go into Flanders for a Priest that could tell more of the Plot, and that the Plot now would be brought to an end." Says Sheridan, " Enquire what kind of man Norris is." He described him by one John But ler, and Butler gave me a Description of Norris. Butler sold brandy and tobacco. Butler died about the 14th of August. I desire I may be permitted to go about my business, and I will wait upon you again.

Ordered, That Sheridan and Day do severally continue in Custody of the Serjeant at Arms, during the pleasure of this House; [and that no Person be admitted to come to them, but such as shall have occasion to bring them necessaries.]

Friday, December 10.

Mr Papillon reports Sheridan's Papers.] There was one Letter signed "Peterborough," without date, supposed to be written the day Sheridan was at the Committee, of what passed. Some other Papers, of no consequence. The Letter Lord Annesley brought, &c. viz. "If I could do the Duke service, I would do more than I will say. His safety depends upon his Brother's resolutions. Every one knows his constancy and steadiness, but his mistakes in men shock me. As for Sunderland and Godolphin, no man thinks but they will sacrifice him; they are men of Court Education. They do not depend on Love and Honour, and are not acquainted with Philosophy. One is for retrieving his Fortune, and the other for making Plays. No room for the Duke to be secured, unless from his Brother, from whom I never expect any thing, no more than from an Elm, Pears."

Mr Paul Foley.] I would know, Whether that Letter be Doctor Day's hand? I would have him called in.

Mr Hampden.] Your true punishment is imprisonment; not as in other Courts, where it is but for custody. Bringing a man upon his knees is but a Ceremony; your true punishment is Custody. Now you have given your Opinion of the Fact, it will appear no more than that he has offended against your Vote, and is discharged. Pray let the Punishment follow the Judgment.

The Speaker thus spoke to Doctor Day.] By a Letter there appears a correspondence betwixt you and Mr Sheridan. If by writing, how often? If by message, by whom? What familiarity had you with the person said to be dead? And if you had correspondence by Letters, show some of those Letters—Look on that Paper, wherein the Duke is mentioned, to know whether you know that hand-writing.

Dr Day.] My acquaintance began with Sheridan, in Leicester-fields, at my Lord Chancellor of Ireland's son's Chamber, he not being well. I had seen him in Flanders, at Brussels, in July and August last was twelve-month. I had not a word of correspondence but what I showed Colonel Birch. I never in my life did write to him from Flanders. I know not the hand-writing wherein the Duke is mentioned. As for Dowdall and Norris, &c. I had the Description from Butler, when I was with him about a distemper. He complained, "That the Plot beat down all trade, but, he said, he hoped it would be now discovered, for Peter Norris knew one that could discover all the Plot." I went home, and wrote this in a Paper, and gave it to Sheridan. He employed me to get the Description of Norris, and as a common thing I gave it him.

Mr Sheridan.] I take the Paper, wherein the Duke is mentioned, to be the hand-writing of one Mr Wilson, who lived formerly with me. I saw him yesterday at my own lodging. He lodges in the same house. The Paper with the figures is a computation of the People of England, by Sir Peter Pett, two years ago, and is of my own hand-writing, and that taken ten years ago by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury. (And gave account of some other Papers.)

Mr Harbord.] I would know, from whom this Description of Dowdall came?

After Sheridan had repeated what he had said before, relating to Norris, &c.

Sir Nicholas Carew.] Now the matter comes home to the Secretary. I desire he may be heard.

Sir Leoline Jenkins.] I have nothing to say, but to repeat what I said yesterday. Sheridan came to me, and told me of this Norris, who knew one that could discover much of the Plot. I asked Sheridan, "Whether he would make Oath of it?" which I thought a proper Question. He said, "He had the information from another;" but whether from Dr Day, I do not remember. His information was imperfect. On the twenty-ninth of May, he brought it more perfect. Thereupon I thought it my duty to inform the Committee of Council, in order to prove it; and I had a verbal Order from the Clerk of the Council. My part was not to make the Information better or worse: My part was to do my duty. The Committee of Council, to take Informations of the Plot, sat one Day in a Week, and I thought it my duty to give them information of what I had heard, and they commanded me to stop Norris at Dover. The Letter was written by my Substitute. I thought it incumbent on me, when I was informed of one that knew of the Plot, and was gone out of England without the Council's knowlege—On consideration of the whole matter, Norris was thought fit to be seized, and was so accordingly; and my Lord of Essex was present, who said, "Possibly, it may be one employed by Dr Tongue." Upon examining Norris, he was dismissed, and it was declared, there was no farther cause of detaining him. As to the Murder of the Priest, Dowdall, and the Description of him, and that he came to a violent Death, there is nothing of it in Norris's Papers.

Lord Russel.] Norris went over, because he knew one beyond sea, that could discover the Plot. At this rate, any man may suffer imprisonment, upon hear-say.

Mr Papillon.] Norris went over, and did not acquaint the Lords of the Council. I would be satisfied why it was Jenkins's duty to stop this man, because he had not acquainted the Lords of the Council?

Sir Leoline Jenkins.] I was but ministerial in this. My duty was to acquaint the Lords, &c. and to receive their direction, or advice at least, to command the Mayor of Dover to stop him. My business was to carry the Information.

Mr Papillon.] This Description was near costing Norris his life. Several Descriptions were given of Norris. To the first Description, Jenkins is clear. To the second, he is charged by Sheridan. I do not know what stopping a man on the way, or road is, if ordered to be immediately sent up to the Council by a Mayor, or Officer, upon verbal Order, &c. But here is something lies hid (not to be discovered) from the eyes of the World— Without, they are Protestants; within, they carry on the Plot. (I speak not of Jenkins)—The manner of penning this Letter, to take Norris, looks like disguise. Consider the nature of it, how this Letter is penned. It sends a Description of Norris, &c. If he went to discover the Plot, the service was not great, to stop him. The Officer was to tender him the Oaths, &c. which if he refused, to stop him. "Let all the World know that; but if not, find a handsome way to detain him." Stop him, and not stop him; imprison him, and not imprison him. It looks with a Popish face upon a Protestant Business. I know not what it is.

Sir Francis Winnington.] This matter is of mighty Importance, disheartening Witnesses. Every one of us may be, at this rate, in the Case of Dowdall. I shall not impute this matter to the Secretary, if he be not guilty of it, but I think he should withdraw, during the Debate. That Letter is the strangest—to discover the Plot!—but methinks it is to stifle it. The Under-Secretary is no more to answer for the Letter; then respondeat superior. Read the Letter to the Mayor of Dover, &c. and you will find it thus: "The Secretary commanded me thus and thus." It may be, it was too venturous for the Under-Secretary to do it of himself. I know nothing of a verbal Order of Council. If the Secretary can produce an Order from the Council, it will go a great way in the Case. He is too learned and wife, to do a thing that may burn any man's fingers. As for Mr Sheridan, he is a second Coleman, and has been in great Transactions. But I will do the Secretary justice; he gave account to the House of what he did communicate to the Lords of the Council, and what Order they gave upon it.

Colonel Birch.] I will rectify a mistake. The time of Dowdall's Death was long before this Description. The Certificate of Dowdall's Death was "the 25th May, 1680, between Dunkirk and Paris." There was a first and a second Description. It looks to me like a strange suppression of the Plot. He had Secretary Coventry's Pass for Dowdall's stay at London for a month—A Pass for Gilbert Spence—He was to fetch over Dowdall. He finds himself described, but yet went to Dowdall, and came back; and in two or three months Dowdall died, not without suspicion of violent death. My Lord of Essex told me, "He did acquaint the Committee of Council with it, and they, by Mr Hyde, ordered Norris twenty pounds to bring over Dowdall." But here lies the stress. Day tells Sheridan the News; Norris goes over, and Sheridan confessed to Jenkins, "That a Person was gone over to fetch a Priest that knew all the Plot." Now what reason was there, that the Person that went should be thus described? But whether this single Information of Sheridan may be a ground for all this, is my Query.

Sir Leoline Jenkins.] I have had little acquaintance or commerce with Sheridan, but about the State of Ireland. He gave me this Information, without an Oath of it. It was necessary, being a Priest, and to come into England, and such a Description of him—I had a verbal Order from the Lords, and nothing final, but to bring him to examination. When this Norris came on shore, the Lords sent to the Mayor of Dover to commit him, and the Messenger to take him into custody. The first Order is verbal; "To stop Norris, till their Lordships pleasure be known." When that was done, there were two other Orders from the Council to the Mayor of Dover, to stop and deliver him to a Messenger. The verbal Order from the Council was before Mr Cooke did write the Letter to the Mayor, &c. Sheridan did not declare this man a Witness to me, upon the Faith of a Christian. I humbly take leave to aver, that that is a verbal Order in a Committee of Council, where it is not entered into the Minutes of the Council. I may err in Forms, being but newly come into my Office.

Mr Harbord.] I think this is not so slight a matter (fn. 7) as that Jenkins should not withdraw. I believe it will appear otherwise upon the Debate.

Sir Leoline Jenkins withdrew.

Colonel Titus.] If Debates had not been free, if Clarges had said out of the House what he has said in, he would deserve as great a punishment as the Secretary. He looks upon this as no fault, unless through malice. Suppose the King's Farrier should give the King physic, if he were sick, would that be no crime? "In cases of necessity to commit illegal actions"—These are strange assertions for what has been done, or what may be done. Now to the matter itself. I am sorry for Jenkins, but not much surprized. The thing is all of a piece, for some great Persons are concerned in it, that we should not come to any light of the Plot. Here is a Description; and the Priest who would discover made away. What way is there for them, but to suppress the Plot? Suppose a Hue and Cry should go out for Thieves, and I that am Justice will grant no Warrant for the Thieves: Will the Justice get the Thieves, with describing the Witnesses against them, to have them knocked on the head? How many thousand Priests are there! But when one comes over to make Discovery, then all the pains in the world are taken to secure him! But suppose there be no malignity;—yet, though he will take the Oaths, still he must be clapped up. Let Gentlemen make it their own case. I see not who is to blame, but he that signs the Warrant; nothing appears to you else; therefore put a brand upon it, by voting it "illegal and arbitrary, and tending to stifle the Evidence of the Plot."

Mr Harbord.] Jenkins was unhappy at making the Peace at Nimeguen, when the Parliament was for an actual War, that very Day the Prince of Orange was fighting for his own. The King's Revenue was never greater, which they have pawned to the Bankers, and yet they starve the King's Family, and pay no money to Servants, and all this to keep off the Parliament. A parcel of men there is, who abuse the King, and still you must be tender of them, and these men must still be about the King. Pray put the Question.

Mr Hyde.] I understand not how "pawning the King's Revenue to the Bankers, and the Prince of Orange," come into this Debate.

Resolved, That the late Imprisonment of Peter Norris, at Dover, was illegal; and that the Proceedings of Sir Leoline Jenkins, Knight, one of the Principal Secretaries of State, by describing the Person of the said Norris, and directing such his Imprisonment, was illegal, and arbitrary, and an obstruction to the Evidence for the Discovery of the horrid Popish Plot.

(See the Case of Peter Norris at large, printed by Order of the House.)

[The farther consideration of this Debate was adjourned till, Monday.]


  • 1. The Tryal of Lord Stafford was very august. The Earl of Nottingham was the Lord High-Steward. When it came to the giving of Judgment, fifty five of the Peers gave it against Lord Stafford, and thirty one acquitted him. Four of the Howards, his kinsmen, condemned him. Lord Arundel, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, though in enmity with him, did acquit him. Duke Lauderdale condemned him; and so did both the Earls of Nottingham and Anglesea. Lord Halisax acquitted him. Lord Nottingham, when he gave Judgment, de-livered it with one of the best Speeches he had ever made. But he committed one great indecency in it; for he said, "Who can doubt any longer that London was burnt by Papists?" though there was not one word in the whole Tryal relating to that matter. Lord Stafford behaved himself during the whole time, and at the receiving his Sentence, with much more constancy than was expected from him. Burnet.
  • 2. About his being detained Prisoner at Dover, being sent to France, to bring over one Dowdall, a Priest, who could discover much both of the Irish and English Plot. See Vol. VII. p. 459, 60.
  • 3. Viz. "Peter Norris, some call him Morris, a Scotchman, handsome, neat face, sanguine complexion, short nose, bald-pated, white wig, slender body, little stature, civil and smooth in discourse, speaking French, aged 34 years, more or less, Taylor by trade." And under this Description, written with another hand and ink, these words, "Went into France on Wednesday was three weeks, to bring with him a Priest. Delivered to Secretary Jenkins, May 29, 1680."
  • 4. The Letter was as follows: "Sir, "The Right Honourable Mr Secretary Jenkins, being hastily called this day to wait upon his Majesty at Windsor, hath commanded me to send you the inclosed Description of a Person, who, if he shall happen to come from France, and land at your Port, Mr Secretary faith, you will do the King and Kingdom a great service, if you will keep a strict eye upon him, and the company that shall arrive with him, till they be all brought before Mr Mayor, or other Chief Magistrate of your Town, whom Mr Secretary desires to offer the said Persons the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy; and, in case of their or any of their refusal of the same, to secure them, and deal with them according to Law; giving Mr Secretary an account, with what speed may be, of all the Proceedings in this affair. If such a Person as is here described should come, and make no bones of taking the aforesaid oaths, yet, in case Mr Mayor, or other Chief Magistrate, before whom they are brought, shall have reasonable ground to suspect, that he is the man so described, and that he hath one or more in his company, who may be reasonably suspected to be Priests, some handsome course is to be taken to detain them, till Mr Secretary can be acquainted with what is done, and send such farther directions as shall be thought necessary. Mr Mayor's authority, with your prudence and zeal in this matter, will, I hope, produce a good effect upon this command. I am, Sir, Your very humble servant, John Cooke."
  • 5. These Persons, in the Report of the Committee, are thus described: " Thomas Sheridan, a Gentleman, who affirmed himself a Protestant, born in Ireland; heretofore employed in collecting the Revenues there, and lately with the Duke at his Court at Brussels, and came over with him in the same yatch." "Anthony Day, Doctor of Physic to the late Army in Flanders." The latter confessed himself a Papist.
  • 6. He was Lord Lieutenant, &c.
  • 7. Upon Meres's saying, "It was a fight matter."