Debates in 1681: March 28th

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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'Debates in 1681: March 28th', in Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 8, (London, 1769) pp. 338-340. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

Monday, March 28.

The Bill for excluding the Duke of York, &c. was read the first time.

Sir Leoline Jenkins.] This Bill before you is very extraordinary. There was never the like before in Parliament. No Bill was ever offered in Parliament so much against the Justice of the Nation. Here is a great Prince condemned before he is heard. Next, it is ex post facto, very extraordinary, and against the Justice of the Nation; and not only so, but against the Wisdom of the Nation too; for it will introduce a change in the Government. If the Duke should try to cut this Law with his sword, and he should overcome, the same Power that can set aside this Law will set aside all Laws both of our Religion and Property; the Power will be in the hands of a Conqueror, and he will certainly change the Government. This is against the Religion of the Nation. We ought to pay obedience to our Governors, whether good or bad, be they ever so faulty or criminal. Heathen Princes were obeyed by Christians in licitis et honestis. And we are not to do evil that good may come of it, or for any prospect of good. One word more: This Bill is against the Oaths of the Nation, the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy. We are bound by those Oaths, in the eye of the Law, to the Duke, and I am consequentially sworn to him. Every Oath is to be taken in the sense of the Lawgiver; and if this Bill pass into a Law, who can dispense with me from that Oath to the King? Possibly I am too tedious, and not willingly heard. This Bill is against our Religion, against the Government and Wisdom of the Nation; and I hope you will throw it out. (Jenkins's Argument being the same with that of the last Parliament, which was then fully answered, passed off without notice.)

Mr Bennet.] Jenkins moved to throw out this Bill, and that he might be heard patiently. Nobody, it seems, seconds him; therefore pray let him go on.

The Bill was ordered to be read a second time [next day, in a full House.]

Sir William Jones.] As to the Votes you passed on Saturday, upon occasion of the Lords rejecting your Impeachment against Fitzharris, because there has been discourse of them in the Town, and I believe will be, in time, in the Nation, though what has been done will be made good, let us give all men satisfaction that we are in the right. Amongst our other misfortunes, in this Place we are far from Records and Books, and so it will not be easy to prepare ourselves to argue this. But according to the little I have looked into this matter, I find that it is the undeniable Right of the Commons to bring Impeachments in Parliament not only against Lords but Commoners; and Magna Charta says not only that Subjects shall be tryed per Judicium Parium Suorum, but per Legem Terræ. And Tryal in Parliament is Lex Terræ. I have heard of a Record of 4 Edward III, where when a Lord, the Earl of March——

The Black-Rod knocked at the Door, and gave notice that the King commanded the attendance of the House immediately in the House of Lords,

The House went up accordingly; where his Majesty dissolved this Parliament (fn. 1).


  • 1. By the steps which the Commons had already made, the King saw what might be expected from them; so very suddenly, and not very decently, he came to the House of Lords, the Crown being carried between his feet in a sedan: And he put on his Robes in haste, without any previous notice, and called up the Commons, and dissolved the Parliament; and went with such haste to Windsor, that it looked as if he was afraid of the Crowds that this meeting had brought to Oxford. Burnet. Ferguson asserts, "That the Conspirators (meaning the Court) having received intelligence that Fitzharris's Wife and Maid were come to Oxford, in order to discover what they knew, resolved to put a stop to the career of the Commons early on Monday morning by a Dissolution; which was resolved on late the night before, in the CabinetCouncil at Christ-Church." Growth of Popery, part ii. p. 194. And Mr North gives the following detail both of the cause and manner of this extraordinary event: "The Commons complained, that the Convocation-House was too strait for them to sit and transact in; and, at their desire, orders were given for the immediate fitting up the Theatre for their use. The King concerned himself much about the disposition of it, viewed the design, gave his judgment, and came in Person among the workmen; and particularly, on Saturday, March 26, 1681, I had the honour of seeing him there, and observed his taking notice of every thing. On Sunday next his Majesty was pleased, especially towards the evening, to entertain himself and his Court with discourse of the wonderful accommodations the House of Commons would find in that place; and by his observations and descriptions showed how it was to be. All this while the spies and eves-droppers could find no symptom of a Dissolution, but rather of the contrary, that the Parliament was likely to make a long Session of it. The next morning, which was Monday, the King came to the House of Lords, as he was wont, in a Chair, and another Chair followed, with the curtains drawn; but instead of a Lord, as was thought to be in it, there were only the King's Robes. Thus they went and sat down in a withdrawing room. When the Robe-Chair was opened, a gross mistake appeared, for the Garter-Robes were put up instead of the Robes of State; so the Chair must go back with an Officer to bring the right. A Lord happened to be in the room, who, upon this discovery, was stepping out (as they thought) to give the alarm; upon which, those with the King prevailed to continue his Lordship in the room till the Chair returned, and matters were fixed, and then he had his liberty." Examen, p. 104, 105. The Commons no sooner presented themselves at the Lords Bar, than his Majesty expressed himself to this effect; "That he perceived there were heats between the two Houses; that from such beginnings nothing good could be expected; and that therefore he thought fit to dissolve them." Ralph.