صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

words might be inserted in that proviso before it passed. This was seconded by many of the fore-mentioned lords; and pressed upon those terms, that they desired not to countenance, or make in the least degree any thing lawful, that was not already so; but that they might not be deprived, by this dark way of proceeding, of that liberty, which was necessary to them as men, and without which parliaments would be rendered useless.

Upon this all the great officers showed themselves; nay, the duke of Lauderdale himself, though under the load of two addresses *, opened his mouth, and, together with the lord-keeper, and the lord treasurer, told the committee in plain terms, that they intended, and designed to prevent caballing and conspiracies against the government; that they knew no reason why any of the king's officers should consult with parliament-men about parliament-business; and particularly mentioned those of the army, treasury, and navy. And when it was objected to them, that the greatest part of the most knowing gentry were either justices of the peace, or of the militia ; and that this took away all converse, or discourse of any alteration, which was in truth of any business, in parliament; and that the officers of the navy and treasury might be best able to advise what should be fit in many cases ; and that withal none of their lordships did offer any thing to salve the inconvenience of parliament-men being deprived of discoursing one with another, upon the matters that were before them; besides it must be again remembered, that nothing was herein desired to be countenanced, or made lawful, but to preserve that which is already law, and avowedly justified by it; for, without this addition to the proviso, the oath rendered parliaments but a snare, not a security, to the people ; yet to all this was answered, sometimes with passion and high words, sometimes with jests and raillery, (the best they had) and at the last the major vote answered all objections, and laid aside the addition tendered.

* The house of commons addressed the king to remove the duke of Lauderdale from his employments, and from his majesty's presence and councils, for ever; as a man of arbitrary principles, and a person obnoxious and dangerous to the government.

There was another thing before the finishing of the oath, which I shall here also mention, which was an additional oath, tendered by the marquis of Winchester; who ought to have been mentioned in the first and chiefest place, for his conduct and support in the whole debate, being an expert parliament-man, and one, whose quality, parts, and fortune, and owning of good principles, concur to give him one of the greatest places in the esteem of good men.

The additional oath tendered was as followeth:

“ I do swear that I will never by threats, injunctions,

promises, advantages, or invitation, by or from any person whatsoever, nor from the hopes or prospect of any gift, place, office, or benefit whatsoever; give my vote other than according to my opinion and conscience, as I shall be truly and really persuaded upon the debate of any business in parliament. So help me, God.'

This oath was offered upon the occasion of swearing members of parliament; and upon this score only, that if any new oath was thought fit (which that noble lord declared his own judgment perfectly against) this certainly was (all considerations and circumstances taken in) most necessary to be a part; and the nature of it was not so strange, if they considered the judges' oath, which was not much different from this. To this the lord-keeper seemed very averse, and declared in a very fine speech, that it was an useless oath ; for all gifts, places, and offices were likeliest to come from the king; and no member of parliament in either house could do too much for the king, or be too much of his side; and that men might lawfully and worthily have in their prospect such offices or benefits from him. With this the lords against the bill were in no terms satisfied, but plainly spoke out, that men had been, might, and were likely to be, in either house, too much for the king, as they called it; and that whoever did endeavour to give more power to the king than the law and constitution of the government had given, especially if it tended to the introducing an absolute and arbitrary government; might justly be said to do too much for the king, and to be corrupted in his judgment by the prospect of advantages and rewards; though, when it is considered that every deviation of the crown towards absolute power lessens the king in the love and affection of his people, making him become less in their interest; a wise prince will not think it a service done him.

And now remains only the last part of the bill, which is the penalty, different according to the qualifications of the persons: “ all that are, or shall be privycounsellors, justices of the peace, or possessors of any beneficial office, ecclesiastical, civil, or military; are to take the oath when summoned, upon pain of 500l. and being made incapable of bearing office; the members of both houses are not made incapable, but liable to the penalty of 500l. if they take it not.” Upon all which, the considerations of the debate were, that those officers, and members of both houses, are, of all the nation, the most dangerous to be sworn into a mistake, or change of the government; and that, as to the members of both houses, the penalty of 5001. was directly against the latter of the two previous votes ; and although they had not applied the penalty of incapacity unto the members of both houses, because of the first previous vote in the case of the lords; neither durst they admit of a proposition made by some of themselves, that those that did not come up, and sit as members, should be liable to the taking the oath, or penalty, until they did so; yet their ends were not to be compassed without invading the latter previous vote, and, contrary to the rights and privileges of parliament, enforce them to swear, or pay 5001. every parliament. And this they carried through with so strong a resolution, that having experienced their misfortunes in replies for several hours, not one of the party could be provoked to speak one word.

Though, besides the former arguments, it was strongly urged, that this oath ought not to be put upon officers with a heavier penalty than the test was in the act of the immediate preceding session against the papists; by which any man might sit down with the loss of his office, without being in the danger of the penalty

of 5001. And also that this act had a direct retrospect, which ought never to be in penal laws; for this act punishes men for having an office without taking this oath ; which office, before this law pass, they may lawfully enjoy without it. Yet notwithstanding it provides not a power, in many cases, for them to part with it, before this oath overtake them. For the clause, “ whoever is in office the 1st of September,” will not relieve a justice of the peace, who, being once sworn, is not in his own power to be left out of commission. And so might be instanced in several other cases. As also the members of the house of commons were not in their own power to be unchosen ; and as to the lords, they were subjected by it to the meanest condition of mankind, if they could not enjoy their birthright, without playing tricks suitable to the humour of every age, and be enforced to swear to every fancy of the present times. Three years ago it was all liberty and indulgence, and now it is strict and rigid conformity; and what it may be, in some short time hereafter, without the spirit of prophesying, might be shrewdly guessed by a considering man.

This being answered with silence, the duke of Buckingham, whose quality, admirable wit, and unusual pains that he took all along in the debate against this bill, makes me mention him in this place, as general of the party, and coming last out of the field; made a speech late at night of eloquent and well-placed nonsense ; showing how excellently well he could do both ways, and hoping that might do, when sense (which he often before used with the highest advantage of wit and reason) would not. But the earl of Winchelsea, readily apprehending the dialect, in a short reply put an end to the debate ; and the major vote, “ultima ratio senatuum et conciliorum,” carried the question as the court and bishops would have it*.

* Mr. Echard, in his History of England (Vol. III. ad an. 1675, page 383), hath transcribed several paragraphs out of this letter, though he never cites it; and ends his account of the debate thus : “ The debate,” says he, “ lasted sixteen or seventeen whole days, the house often sitting till nine at night, and sometimes till midnight; in the conclusion of which the duke of Buckingham, as general of the party, and last in the field, made a it as an infringement of their privileges; and this occasioned a contest between the two houses, which ran so high, that the king thought fit to put a stop to it, by proroguing the parliament, on the 9th of June 1675, after they had sat near two months.

This was the last act of this tragi-comedy, which had taken

up sixteen or seventeen whole days debate ; the house sitting many times till eight or nine of the clock at night, and sometimes till midnight; but the business of privilege between the two houses * gave such an interruption, that this bill was never reported from the committee to the house.

I have mentioned to you divers lords, that were speakers, as it fell in the debate ; but I have not distributed the arguments of the debate to every particular lord. Now you know the speakers, your curiosity may be satisfied, and the lords I am sure will not quarrel about the division. I must not forget to mention those great lords, Bedford, Devonshire, and Burlington, for the countenance and support they gave to the English interest. The earl of Bedford was so brave in it, that he joined in three of the protests; so also did the earl of Dorset; and the earl of Stamford, a young nobleman of great hopes; the lord viscount Say and Seal and the lord Pagitt in two; the lord Audley and the lord Fitzwalter in the third ; and the lord Peter, a nobleman of great estate, and always true to the maintenance of liberty and property, in the first. And I should not have omitted the earl of Dorset, lord Audley, and the lord Peter, amongst the speakers; for I will assure you

famous speech, consisting of eloquent, regular, and well-placed nonsense, hoping that that might prevail, when nothing else would; and so brought confusion into the house;" where, besides the inaccuracy of bringing into his narrative and making his own the expressions, which the author of the letter hath used, by way of compliment or encomium, and thereby misrepresenting the matter, he affirms, that the debate was put to an end, by the confusion, which the duke of Buckingham's speech brought into the house ; whereas it appears by the letter itself, that no confusion was brought into the house by that speech; but, on the contrary, that, after a short reply of the earl of Winchelsea, the question was put regularly to the vote, and carried as the court and bishops would have it.

# Dr. Shirley having brought an appeal in the house of lords, from a decree in chancery, against sir John Flagg, a member of the house of commons; the commons looked upon

« السابقةمتابعة »