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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 500%. 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 500l. 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 500l. 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
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 it as an infringe ment 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.
they did their parts excellently well. The lord viscount Hereford was a steady man among the country lords; so also was the lord Townshend, a man justly of great esteem and power in his own country, and amongst all those that well know him. The earl of Carnarvon ought not to be mentioned in the last place; for he came out of the country on purpose to oppose the bill, stuck very fast to the country party, and spoke many excellent things against it. I dare not mention the Roman catholic lords, and some others, for fear I hurt them; but thus much I shall say of the Roman catholic peers, that if they were safe in their estates, and yet kept out of office, their votes in that house would not be the most unsafe to England of any sort of men in it. As for the absent lords, the earl of Rutland, lord Sandys, lord Herbert of Cherbury, lord North, and lord Crew, ought to be mentioned with honour; having taken care their votes should maintain their own interest and opinions. But the earls of Exeter and Chesterfield, that gave no proxies this session; the lord Montague of Boughton, that gave his to the treasurer; and the lord Roberts his to the earl of Northampton; are not easily to be understood. If you ask after the earl of Carlisle, the lord viscount Falconberg, and the lord Berkley of BerkleyCastle, because you find them not mentioned amongst all their old friends; all I have to say is, that the earl of Carlisle stepped aside to receive his pension; the lord Berkley to dine with the lord-treasurer; but the lord viscount Falconberg, like the nobleman in the gospel, went away sorrowful, for he had a great office at court. But I despair not of giving you a better account of them next session, for it is not possible, when they consider, that Cromwell's major-general, son-in-law, and friend, should think to find their accounts amongst men that set up on such a bottom.
Thus, sir, you see the standard of the new party is not yet set up, but must be the work of another session; though it be admirable to me, how the king can be induced to venture his affairs upon such weak counsels, and of so fatal consequences. For I believe it is the first time in the world, that ever it was thought advisable,
after fifteen years of the highest peace, quiet, and obedience, that ever was in any country, that there should be a pretence taken up, and a reviving of former miscarriages, especially after so many promises and declarations, as well as acts of oblivion, and so much merit of the offending party, in being the instruments of the king's happy return; besides the putting so vast a number of the king's subjects in utter despair of having their crimes ever forgotten. And it must be a great mistake in counsels, or worse, that there should be so much pains taken by the court to debase and bring low the house of peers, if a military government be not intended by some. For the power of the peerage, and a standing army, are like two buckets, in the proportion that one goes down, the other exactly goes up. And I refer you to the consideration of all the histories of ours, or any of our neighbour northern monarchies; whether standing forces, military and arbitrary government, came not plainly in by the same steps that the nobility were lessened; and whether, whenever they were in power and greatness, they permitted the least shadow of any of them. Our own country is a clear instance of it; for though the white rose and the red changed fortunes often, to the ruin, slaughter, and beheading the great men of the other side; yet nothing could enforce them to secure themselves by a standing force. But I cannot believe that the king himself will ever design any such thing; for he is not of a temper robust and laborious enough to deal with such a sort of men, or reap the advantages, if there be any, of such a government. And I think he can hardly have forgot the treatment his father received from the officers of his army, both at Oxford and Newark; it was an hard, but almost an even choice, to be the parliament's prisoner, or their slave; but I am sure the greatest prosperity of his arms could have brought him to no happier condition, than our king his son has before him, whenever he pleases. However, this may be said for the honour of this session, that there is no prince in Christendom hath, at a greater expense of money, maintained for two months space a nobler or more useful dispute of the