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bation of the parliament:all which
their being posted in every parish, have the advantage of a quick dispersing their orders, and a sudden and universal insinuation of whatever they please), raised such a cry, that those good and sober men, who had really long feared the increase and continuance popery had hitherto received, began to believe the bishops were in earnest, their eyes open though late, and therefore joined heartily with them; so that, at the next meeting of parliament, the protestant interest was run so high, as an act came up from the commons to the house of lords in favour of the dissenting protestants, and had passed the lords but for want of time: besides, another excellent act passed the royal assent, for the exeluding all papists from office; in opposition of which the lord treasurer Clifford fell, and yet to prevent his ruin this sessions had the speedier end. Notwithstanding the bishops attained their ends, the declaration being cancelled, and the great seal being brokeri off from it; the parliament having passed no act in favour of the dissenters, and yet the sense of both houses sufficiently declared against all indulgence but by act of parliament. Having got this point, they used it at first with seeming moderation ; there were no general directions given for persecuting the non-conformists, but here and there some of the most confiding justices were made use of to try how they could revive the old prosecution : for as yet the zeal raised against the papists was so great, that the worthiest and the soberest of the episcopal party thought it necessary to unite with the dissenting protestants, and not to divide their party when all their forces were little enough“.
• Letter to a Person of Quality, in Torbuck's Parliamentary Debates, vol. I. p. 78.
were, through various causes, rendered in
It appears, indeed, by Grey's Parliamentary Debates, that this declaration was warmly debated and greatly opposed in the house; even by such as were foes to persecution, on account of the dispensing power on which it was founded. Mr. Powle “would comply with the king to do, in a legal way, as now the declaration did in an illegal.He conceived, if the king can dispense with all penal laws; he may dispense with all laws with a non obstante.The consequence of this,” said he, “ is direful: the king, by this, may change religion as he pleases: we are confident of him, but know not what succession may be.” The majority of the house, being of like sentiments, concurred in an address, Feb. 14th following; in which they say, “ we find ourselves bound in duty to inform your majesty, that penal statutes, in matters ecclesiastical, cannot be suspended but by act of parliament.”
The king was not well pleased with this address, but seemed to insist on his dispensing power. The commons, notwithstanding, being fixed; and a supply for his majesty under consideration; he at length told both houses, “ that if there was any scruple remained yet with them, concerning the suspension of penal laws; he faithfully promised them, that what had been done in that particular, should not, for the future, be drawn into consequence or example b.” Thus was the indulgence quashed. But as the cominons now. were not averse to a legal toleration, they “resolved, upon the question, nemine contradicente, that a bill be brought in for the ease of his majesty's subjects that are dis
• Journal, 8th
Grey's Parliamentary Debates, vol. II. p. 15. March, 1672.
effectual for the purposes intended. During
senters, in matters of religion, from the church of England“.” A bill, after long deliberation, was framed; and being read, it was resolved, 19th March, 1672, 0.S. “ that the bill do pass; and Mr. Powle was to carry up the bill to the lords b.” The lords proposed some amendments; and conferences were held between the houses : but it came to nothing. In 1680, the lords and commons passed a bill, intitled, “ An act for the repeal of a statute made in the 25th year of queen Elizabeth, in order to give ease to the dissenters," but the court, being mad against them for their adherence to the interest of their country and their activity in opposing the destructive schemes then on foot, by an almost unheard-of trick, got the bill stole from the table, when it was, in course, to have received the royal assent. This was taken notice of, in the next parliament, by many very considerable members; and, among others, by Sir William Jones, who said, “ This matter deserves material consideration; whether in respect of the loss of the bill, or the shaking the very constitution of parliament. The bill that is lost,” continued he, “ is of great moment; and of great use to secure the country, and, perhaps, their lives too, in the time of a popish successor.
Those men that hindered the passing that bill, had a prospect of that; and if it be sent up again, we are like to meet with great opposition. But be the bill what it will, the precedent is. of the highest consequence. The king has bis negative to all bills; but I never knew that the clerk of the parliament had a negative, if he laid it aside, or not. But consider, if we send up many good bills, if this be not.
* Id. 25 Dec. 1680...
these transactions, the attention of the na
searched into, we may be deprived of them. No man, that knows law or history, but can tell, that to bills grateful and popular the king gives his consent; but if this way be found out, that bills shall be thrown by, it may be hereafter said, they were forgotten and laid by; and so we shall never know whether the king would pass them or not. If this be suffered, it is in vain to spend time here, and it will be a great matter to find time to redress it. I move, therefore, that a message be sent to the lords for a conference, that some way may be found out to give us satisfaction in this great matter a.” A message, accordingly, was resolved to be sent to the lords, to desire a conference; and a committee appointed, to consider of and prepare the subject-matter to be offered at the said conference But this, and every other thing in agitation in the house, was soon put an end to by the sudden dissolution of the parliament. After this, the penal laws, against the dissenters, were executed in their full rigour. As to the bills of comprehension, mentioned in the text, these were projected by Bridgman and Hale, assisted by Tillotson, Stillingfleet, and Burton, on the one hand; and by Bates, Manton, and Baxter, on the other. Their design was, by alterations and amendments, to take in as many as possible into the establishment, and give a toleration to all others who remained unsatisfied. But though more than one attempt was made; and times, under this reign, greatly varied ; nothing was done to any purpose, through the zeal and bigotry of some of the ecclesiastics, who were alarmed at the least talk of such matters. * Grey's Parliamentary Debates, vol. VIII. p. 300. • Journal, 23
See Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 42. 8vo. Lond. 1752. VOL. V.
tion was drawn to the popish plot", dis
is the attention of the nation was drawn to the popish plot.] Never any thing made more noise than this affair: never any thing, perhaps, in the opinion of some persons, had less foundation. That I may be impartial, I will, however, consider the evidence for and against it with all the care that is in my power.
- The popish plot, it is to be observed, was founded, chiefly, on the testimony of Titus Oates ; thougla afterwards supported by that of several other persons. Now if he himself was a nran unworthy of belief, or the testimony given by him false or incredible, it is very certain, no regard ought to have been paid unto him.
1. Oates himself was a bad man. Insincerity, in the profession of religion, is a proof of this : and Oates's insincerity is allowed by himself, and, as far as appears, without blushing, at the bar of the house of Jords. “In the year (76)," says he, “I was admitted into the service of the duke of Norfolk, as chaplain in his house; and there I came acquainted with one Bing, that was a priest in the house. And being acquainted with him, there came one Kemish very often to visit him, and one Singleton; who told me, that I should find that the protestant religion was upon its last leggs; and that it would become me, and all men of my coat (for then I professed myself a minister of the Church of England), to hasten betimes home to the Church of Rome. My lords, having had strong suspicions for some years before, of the great and apparent growth of popery, to satisfy my curiosity, I pretended some doubts in my mind. My lords, after some time had passed over, and I had had some conversation with these men, I found they were not men for my turn;