Journal of the House of Commons: October 1597

Pages 548-551

The Journals of All the Parliaments During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Originally published by Irish University Press, Shannon, Ire, 1682.

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A Journal of the House of Commons in the Parliament holden at Westminster, Anno 39 Reginæ Eliz. Anno Domini 1597. which began there on Monday the 24th Day of October, and then and there continued until the Dissolution thereof, on Thursday the 9th Day of February Anno 40 Reginæ ejusdem.

This present Journal of the House of Commons is not only abundantly stored with many and sundry Passages touching the Orders, Use and Priviledge of the House it self; but containeth in it excellent matter touching the publick affairs of Church and State: in which also her Majesty was most graciously pleased to give the said House free Liberty to reform some abuses of the first, and to search into the dangers of the latter. And that this said Journal might be the more exact and copious, in some few places the defects thereof are supplied out of the Original Journal-Book of the Upper House, and out of a certain imperfect and fragmentary Journal of the House of Commons.

The ninth Parliament of our Soveraign Lady Elizabeth, by the Grace of God of England, France and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c. begun at Westminster upon Monday being the 24th day of October in the thirty ninth year of her Majesties Reign. Upon which day many of the Knights of the Shires, Citizens of Cities, Burgesses of Boroughs and Barons of Ports did make their appearance at Westminster, being returned into the same Parliament for the same Shires, Cities, Boroughs and Ports, before the Right Honourable the Earl of Nottingham, Lord Steward of her Majesties most honourable Household: And did then and there in the Room commonly called the Court of Requests, take the Oath of Supremacy, seven or eight at a time (being Enacted by and contained in the Statute de an. 1 Reginæ Eliz. Cap. 1.) before the said Lord Steward, and before Sir William Knolles Knight Comptroller of her Majesties Houshold, Sir John Fortescue Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sir Robert Cecill Principal Secretary, his Lordships Deputies. And thereupon the said Knights, Citizens, Burgesses and Barons entring into their own House, and expecting her Majesties further Pleasure, her Highness then being in her Royal Seat in the Higher House of Parliament, the said Commons were commanded to come before her Highness, and being there Assembled, the Right Honourable Sir Thomas Egerton Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, delivered unto the said Commons the Causes of her Majesties Calling of this Parliament; and so in the end willed them to repair again into the said House of Commons, and there to make choice of their Speaker according to the former laudable usage and custom of the same House in that Case accustomed; and willed them to present him unto her Majesty upon the Thursday next following. Which done, the said Commons presently repaired unto their own House, and there being Assembled and sitting some space of time very silent, at last the Right Honourable Sir William Knolls one of her Highness most Honourable Privy Council and Comptroller of her Majesties Household, stood up and spake to the effect following.

Necessity constraineth me to break off this silence, and to give others cause for speech. According to the usual Custom we are to chuse our Speaker, and though I am least able and therefore unfit to speak in this place, yet better I deem it to discover my own Imperfections, than that her most sacred Majesties Commandment to me delivered should not be fulfilled, or your Expectation of this first days work by all our silences to be in any sort frustrate. First therefore I think it very expedient to remember the Excellent and Learned Speech of that good man my Lord Keeper, (at which all of us, or the most part of us at the least, were present) who very wisely shewed the Cause of calling this Honourable Assembly, shewing unto us that it is partly for the reforming those Laws which be amiss, partly quite to repeal others, partly to augment those that be good, and partly to Enact new Laws, both for the Honour and profit of her Majesty and for the benefit of the Commonwealth. And in conclusion wished us to depart from whence we came and there to chuse our Speaker, who ought to be the Mouth of us all, and to whom we might commit such weighty affairs as in this place should be debated amongst us. For unfit it is if we have occasion to go unto the Sacred presence of her Majesty, to go either confusedly without order, or unorderly without Judgment. Now because that knowledge doth rest in certainty, I will with the more speed set afoot this motion, deliver my opinion unto you, who is most fit for this place, being a member of this House, and those good abilities which I know to be in him (here he made a little pause, and the House hawked, and spat, and after silence made he proceeded) unto this place of dignity and calling in my opinion (here he stayed a little) Mr Serjeant Yelverton (looking upon him) is the fittest man to be preferred (after which words Mr Yelverton blushed, and put off his Hat and after sate bare-headed) for I am assured that he is yea, (and I dare avow it) I know him to be a man wise and learned, secret and circumspect, Religious and faithful, no way disable but every way able to supply this place. Wherefore in my Judgment I deem him (though I will not say, best worthy amongst us, yet) sufficient enough to supply this place; and herein if any man think I err, I wish him to deliver his mind as freely as I have done; if not, that we all join together in giving general consent and approbation to this motion.

So that the whole House cried I, I, I, let him be. And then Master Comptroller made a low reverence, and sat down; and after a little pause and silence, Mr Serjeant Yelverton rose up, and after a very humble reverence made spake in effect thus much.

Whence your unexpected choice of me to be your Mouth or Speaker should proceed, I am utterly ignorant. If from my merits, strange it were that so few deserts should purchase suddenly so great an Honour. Nor from my ability doth this your choice proceed; for well known it is to a great number in this place now assembled, that my Estate is nothing correspondent for the maintenance of this dignity: For my Father dying left me a younger Brother, and nothing to me but my bare Annuity. Then growing to mans estate and some small practice of the Law, I took a Wise by whom I have had many Children, the keeping of us all being a great impoverishing to my Estate, and the daily living of us all nothing but my daily Industry. Neither from my Person or Nature doth this choice arise; for he that supplieth this place ought to be a man bigg and comely, stately and well spoken, his voice great, his carriage Majestical, his Nature haughty and his Purse plentiful and heavy: but contrarily, the stature of my body is small, my self not so well spoken, my voice low, my carriage Lawyer-like and of the common fashion, my Nature soft and bashful, my Purse thin, light and never yet plentiful. Wherefore I now see the only cause of this choice is a gracious and favourable censure of your good and undeserved Opinions of me. But I most humbly beseech you recal this your sudden Election; And therefore because the more sudden, the sooner to be recalled. But if this cannot move your sudden choice, yet let this one thing perswade you, that my self not being gracious in the Eye of her Majesty, neither ever yet in account with any great Personages, shall deceive your expectation in those weighty matters and great affairs which should be committed unto me. For if Demosthenes being so learned and eloquent as he was one whom none surpassed, trembled to speak before Phocion at Athens, how much more shall I being unlearned and unskillful, supply this place of dignity, charge and trouble to speak before so many Phocions as here be? yea, which is the greatest, before the unspeakable Majesty and Sacred Personage of our dread and dear Soveraign; The terror of whose countenance will appall and abase even the stoutest heart; yea whose very name will pull down the greatest courage. For how mightily doth the estate and name of a Prince deject the haughtiest Stomach even of their greatest Subjects? I beseech you therefore again and again to proceed unto a new Election, here being many better able, more sufficient and far more worthy than my self, both for the Honour of this Assembly and general good to the publick State.

Thus far out of the aforesaid fragmentary and imperfect Journal, the rest that follows is out of the Original Journal-Book it self.

After which Speech of Serjeant Yelverton's, the Right Honourable Sir John Fortescue Knight, one other of her Highness said most Honourable Privy-Council and Chancellor of her Majesties Exchequer, stood up and affirming all the said former Speech of the said Mr Comptroller in the Commendation and good parts of the said Mr Serjeant Yelverton; and inferring further that he the said Mr Chancellor had well perceived by the said Mr Serjeants own Speech, tending to the disabling of himself to the said place, that he was thereby so much the more sufficient and meet for the same. And so for his part likewise nominating the said Mr Serjeant Yelverton to be their Speaker, moved the House further for their liking and resolution therein, who all with one accord and consent yielded unto the said Election. Whereupon the said Mr Comptroller and Mr Chancellor did rise up and place the said Mr Serjeant Yelverton in the Chair. Which done, the said Mr Serjeant after some small pause stood up, and giving unto the whole House most hearty thanks for their good opinions and conceit of him, signified unto them nevertheless, that by their good favours he would endeavour when he should come before her Majesty, to be an humble Suitor unto her Highness to be discharged of the said place, if he so could. And immediately the House did rise, and were to meet there again upon the Thursday next following.

On Thursday the 27th day of October, the House being set, and before Mr Speaker went up to her Majesty in the Upper House, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer moved and admonished that none of this House should after this present day enter into the same House with their Spurs on, for offending of others, and withal that none do come into this House before they have paid the Serjeants Fees of this House due unto him according to the accustomed usage of this House in that case.

Mr Speaker with the greatest number of the Members of this House after their abiding along time silent, and attending her Majesties Pleasure, from the Upper House to be sent for thither, did go out of this House towards the said Upper House, there to be the more near and ready to come before her Highness in the said Upper House, at such time as her Majesty should please to send for them. And afterwards being admitted, and the said Speaker presented and allowed by her Majesty according to the usual form in that case accustomed, and returning back again from the said Upper House, attended by the Serjeant of this House, bearing the Mace before him, upon his aforesaid allowance in the Upper House in the said place of Prolocutor he took his place in the Chair, and being there set signified unto the House, that whereas in former times the Order was to have a Bill read before the House did rise, the same could not be so done at this time, because her Majesty had in the Upper House Adjourned this Parliament till Saturday next come seven-night, being the 5th of November next coming, at eight of the Clock in the Forenoon of the same day, till which time he and all the Members of this House might depart and take their ease. And so then every man went his way.

Nota, That this was a mistake of Mr Serjeant Yelverton now Speaker of the House of Commons, for the Adjournment in the Upper House did not nor could not hinder the reading of a Bill in the House of Commons, upon the allowance of their Speaker in the said Upper House, and their return from it, according to the antient use and custom, although the Adjournment of the Parliament by her Majesty being present in the said House is for the most part accounted an Adjournment of both the Houses. To make which truth more clear, there shall need no other Precedent to be cited than that in the last Parliament de An. 35 Regin. Eliz. where Edward Cooke Esquire the Queens Sollicitor being chosen Speaker of the beforementioned Commons House was presented unto her Majesty upon Thursday the 22th day of February, and the words there were, Dominus Custos magni Sigilli ex mandato Dominæ Reginæ continuavit præsens Parliamentum, &c. to the next Saturday following; (by which very words the Parliament was also continued at this time unto the Saturday seven-night after.) And then upon the return of the said Mr Cooke their Speaker to the House of Commons in the said thirty fifth year of her Majesty, an ordinary Bill touching the pleading of a Bar at large in an Ejectione firmæ, had its first reading; although after the reading he there declared, that it was her Majesties pleasure that the said House should be Adjourned and not meet again until the said Saturday, on which the Upper House met again also. And therefore it is plain, that Mr Serjeant Yelverton did at this time not only commit a great error in omitting to read some one Bill or other according to the usual Custom, but was also much mistaken in informing the House that it had been Adjourned and so now stood Adjourned by those words which the Lord Keeper had spoken in the Upper House; for his Lordship at this time, as appears plainly by the Original Journal-Book of that House, did only continue the Parliament and not Adjourn it; which words although spoken by the Queens Commandment being personally present, do only concern the said Upper House, and reach not at all unto the House of Commons, as was directly declared by the Lord Keeper himself in the next Parliament ensuing, in An. 43 Regin. Eliz. after that Mr John Crooke, Mr Recorder of London, their Speaker, upon his allowance in and return from the said Upper House, on Friday the 30th day of October in An. eodem, had by a like mistake misinformed the House that it was Adjourned, and so caused it to rise without the reading of any Bill.

And therefore here once for all I have caused the true differences as I conceive in this kind to be here inserted, viz. If the Lord Keeper by the Queens Commandment being personally present, had either prolonged or Adjourned the Parliament, or that her Majesty with her own Mouth had pronounced the said words, or had caused the same to have been done by a Commission under the Great Seal in her absence; in all these Cases it had reached alike both unto the Upper House, and unto the House of Commons.

But if the Queens Majesty had with her own Mouth continued the Parliament, as she did here command the Lord Keeper to do it; yet this had only concerned the Upper House, so that the Lords could not have met again until the day to which the said Parliament had been continued; but the said House of Commons, whom the said continuance concerned not, might have met each day without intermission, and have agitated such businesses, and have given reading to such Bills, as offered themselves.

And lastly, If the Lord Keeper or Lord Chancellor for the time being do at any time Adjourn or continue the Parliament to a further day, as of course he doth one of them for longer or shorter time, every day the Upper House riseth, and that he doth it not by Command or Commission from the Soveraign for the time being, but do it of course as is aforesaid, this concerns only the Upper House, and the House of Commons are neither bound to take notice of it nor to surcease any of their daily Proceedings upon it.