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Evidence ended ; Mr. Thompson, after the very justly odious as he was to the majority of evidence given by every particular person, face his subjects—without a House of Commons to to face, was asked to every one, if he had any carry on his government during the four last questions to ask before they called another 1 years of his life. Who answered, he should not say any thing at In his . Declaration to all his loving subjects, present. When the witnesses before-mention- touching the causes and reasons that moved ed were all examined, Mr. Thompson being de him to dissolve the two last parliaments' (which sired to make his defence, and declare whether Declaration, his majesty in council, on the 8th he were guilty of the matters laid to his charge, of April, 1681, ordered to be printed and pub. did for the greatest part confess words spoken lished, and read in all churches and chapels to that effect; and in other things endeavoured throughout the kingdom, and which, as it apto turn the words with more favour towards pears, was drawn up by lord chief justice himself; but the witnesses being of great cre- North) he specially mentions in the catalogue dit, and many more being ready to have made of the vicious measures of the House of Comgood the same things, the Committee looked mons, ' arbitrary orders for taking our subupon the business to be of a high nature; and jects into custody, for matters that had no retherefore ordered the matter to be reported lation to Privileges of Parliament.' specially, leaving it to the wisdom of the The mention of this matter by two of the Hlouse.
contemporaneous historians, Roger Coke and A debate arising in the House thereupon;
Roger North, is curious and perhaps instrue
tive : Resolvedl, nem. con., That Richard 'l'homp801, clerk, hath publicly defamed his sacred majesty; preached Sedition ; vilified the Reo of the two last parliaments, when they were
“The Commons, heated by the Dissolutions formation; promoted Popery, by asserting popish principles, decrying the Popish Ploi, searching into the discovery of the Popish and turning the same upon the protestants ;
Plot, and exasperated against the Tories, for and endeavoured to subvert the liberty and pro' ridiculing the Popish Plot
, and for abhorring perty of the subject, and the rights and privi- petitioning the king to let the parliament sit, leges of parliament! And that he is a scandal in order to prosecute and secure the nation and reproach to his function.
against it, &c. proceeded in another temper, Resolved, &c. That the said Richard in truth, I do not desire the prosecution of
I think, than any other ever before; and, Thompson be impeached, upon the said Report the Commons in the Long Parliament, in the and Resolutions of the House.
first ten years, against the Protestant DissenOrdered, That a Committee be appointed to ters, and of the Commons of this parliament prepare the said Impeachment. And it is re- against the Tories, should be taken for preceferred to sir Wm. Jones, and others: And the dents by any parliament in time to come. said Committee is impowered to receive further “ When parliaments met annually, or at informations against the said Richard Thomp- least frequently, I think complaint cannot be son: And to send for persons, papers, and records. found against any man for Breach of Privilege: January 5, 1681.
but when there were long intervals of parlia
ments, from whence the consequence resolved A Petition of Richard Thompson, clerk, in into long, sittings of parliaments, which began custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this in the reign of Henry 8, then the inconvenience House, was read.
of privilege first began; nor do I find any be. Ordered, That the said Serjeant at Arms before the latter end of Henry 8, nor does Mr. impowered to receive sufficient security for the Petit, in his Precedents (of Exemptions] from fortlıcoming of the said Richard Thompson, to arrests, and other privileges of parliamentanswer to the Impeachment of this House men, cite any before the 34th of Henry 8, in against him.
case of Mr. George Ferrers, burgess for the The Parliament was soon afterwards dis- town of Plymouth, being arrested for debt; solved, and I have not found in the Journals and this was taken for such a novelty, that he
takes any subsequent proceedings against this
up near seven pages to recite the proThompson.
ceedings of the Commons upon it; and how the king being advertised thereof, called the Chancellor, the Judges, the Speaker of the Commons, and the gravest persons of them wherein he commended the wisdom of the
Commons in maintaining their privileges, an It should be noticed, that at the time when that the privileges of parliament extend to th this Case occurred, the House of Commons servants of the Commons from arrests, as wel practised commitments, as for Breach of Pri- as to the persons of the Commons. It is wor vilege, with a frequency and extent which seem thy observation with what sobriety and justic to have excited much disgust and discontent; the Commons proceeded herein : they ordere and it is not improbable that the prevalence of their serjeant forthwith to repair to the Compte those feelings thus excited greatly contributed in Bread-street, wherein Mr. Ferrers was com to enable king Charles the Second--odious, and mitted, with his mace, to demand bis delivery which the serjeant did to the officers of the pear before them, to answer for themselves Compter, who notwithstanding refused to do before the House passed any censure upon it, and beat and hurt some of the serjeant's them. 3. That in none of these censures they officers, and broke his mace; and during the enjoined the delinquent to pay their fees io brawl, the sheriffs of London came in, who their serjeant, for the serjeant is the king's emaintenanced the officers of the Compter, and officer; and by the 26th West. 1, no officer of refused to deliver Mr. Ferrers, and gave the the king's shall take any fee or reward for sajeaat proud language, and contemptuously doing his office, but what he receives from the rejected his message: Hereupon the Commons king, upon penalty of rendering double to the commanded the serjeant to require the sheriff's plaintift, and be further punished at the will of of London to deliver Mr. Ferrers by shewing the king. And sir Edward Coke in his first them his mace, which was his warrant for so Inst. lib. 3. sect. 701, tit. Extortioners, says, doing. Whereupon the sheriffs delivered him this was the antient common law, and the peaccordingly; but then the serjcant having fur- nalties added by the statutes ; and that, though ther cunmand from the Commons, charged some statutes since have allowed the king's the sheriffs to appear personaliy on the morrow officers in some cases to take fees for executing by eight of the clock, before the Speaker, in their offices, yet none other can be taken but the nether House, to bring thither the Clerks what such statutes allow; and that all officers of the Compter, and such other of their officers of the king, who take fees otherwise, are guilty *s were parties in the fray, and to take into of perjury. I would know by what law the custody one White, who had wittingly pro- Cominons' serjeant takes his fees, and how the cured ihe said arrest in contempt of the privi- Commons can absolve him from perjury for lege of parliament.
taking such fees. ** Next day the two sheriffs, with one of the “ Whereas in this parliament rarely a day elaks and White, appeared in the Commons passed wherein men upon bare suggestions, House; where the Speaker charging them and absent, were not jinged, and execution with their contempt and misdemeanor, they ordered for high and notorious breaches of the were compelled to make immediate answer, Commons' privileges, yet most of these not without being admitted to council (qu. to have foreknown, and ordered to be taken into cuscounsel] ; and in conclusion the sheriffs and tody, though in Northumberland and York, White were committed to the Tower, and the shire : and rarely I think any of them were clerk (which was the occasion of the fray) to a discharged without paying their fees; nay, place called Little Ease, and the officer which they outrun all that was ever thought of before; did the arrest, called Taylor, with four other for on the 14th of December, having voted one officers, to Newgate, where they remained Mr. Herbert Herring to be taken into custody, from the 28th to the 31st March, and then were and Herring absconding, the House resolved, delivered at the humble suit of the mayor and • That if he did not render himself by a certheir other friends.
• tain day they would proceed against him " The next breach of privilege reported by · by bill in parliament for endeavouring by Petit, is eight years after, viz. ille 4th of Li- · his absconding to avoid the justice of thie Ward 6, by one Withrington, who made an assant upon the person of one Brandling, Bur- “ It was strange methought that the Comgess of Newcastle ; but the parliament drawing mons should be so zealous against any arbitowards an end, the Commons sent Withring- trary power in the king, and take such a latitan to the privy council, but the council would tude to themselves, which puts me in mind of a no meddle in it, and sent the bill of Mr. Brand-story I have heard of an old usurer, who had a ling's complaint back again to the Commons nephew who had got a licence to preach, and sceording to the antient custom of the House;, the uncle having never done any thing for his whereupon the bill was sent to the Lords from nephew, he resolved to be revenged upon his the Commons, when Withrington confessed he uncle in a sermon which he would preach bebegan the fray upon Dr. Brandling, upon which fore his uncle in the parish where he lived : be was committed to the Tower. This was in he made a most invective sermon against the year 1550.
usury and usurers ; but after the sermon was "Mr. Petit finds not another breach of privi- done, the uncle thanks his nephew for his good lege till the 14th of Elizabeth which was done sermon, and gave bim two 20s. pieces : the by one Arthur Hall, for sundry lewd speeches nephew was confounded at this, and begged his used as well in the Commons House, as abroad; uncle's pardon for what he had done, for he who was warned by the serjeant to appear be thought he had given bin great offence: “ No,' fore the bar of the Commons to answer for the said the uncle, Nephew, go on and preach same, and upon his knees, upon the humble other fools out of the conceit of usury, and I confession of his folly, he was remitted with a shall have the better opportunity of putting good exhortation given him by the Speaker. out my money.'” 2 Coke's Detection, p. 255. Here I observe these three particulars : i. The rarity of these breaches of privileges of “ Afterwards lie” (Kennett] “ comes to the parliament in former times. 2. The justice of great work of mortifying these Abhorrers, and the Commons in their proceedings of breach of there he is full as copious and honest; for he privilege, to cite the person or persons to ap- tells only of nine or ten, in a naked list of gen
tlemen, sent for by the serjeant at arms, and presented to the judge of assize the grand jury's committed by the House of Commons, without Address to his majesty in the tenor of an Abhorany distinction of cases or circumstances, but rence. Upon naming him in the House of only for detesting and abhorring petitioning for Commons, for the leader of this Abhorrence, he the sitting of the parliament. That is his tune was ordered to be taken into custody of the upon all occasions. And here he is forced to serjeant at arms. And the serjeant sent down croud in by the by, that it was a breach of the his deputy to bring the gentleman up; but he privilege of parliament; which vote did indeed would not submit to the arrest, the officer come forth at last, otherwise this committing might take his course. For which he alledged folks had gone with less colour. But, withal, that he knew no law for the taking away his that the proceeding raised a great clamour in liberty on account of what he did as a grand the country; for it had not been usual to send jury man, in a court of justice, sworn, or to for gentlemen in custody for what they did some such effect; whereupon the officer reupon grand juries, and in way of duty, as well turned without his prey. This was a dash of in giving testimony of their loyalty to the king, cold water, and took down the terment of the as in resisting a tumultuous tråde of hand whole business. And the matter was hushed gathering in the country, to the very great dis- up, some saying that he was indisposed, others turbance of the neighbourhood and the public that he could not be found ; and so nothing peace, only because they happened to be mis- was farther done against him. And no more understood in the House of Commons. It men of any sort were sent for into custody certainly was prejudicial to the authority of the upon this account; for the wisest of the facHouse of Commons, and added to the dispo- tion began to perceive there had been too sition in the kingdom of relying upon the king's many sent for already. I remember well that good government; and many said, Shall the name of this Mr. Stowell was famous, and they take away the liberties of the king's peo- cried up in and about London, and all over ple, who are entrusted to defend them against England, and celebrated in healths of course, all arbitrary powers whatsoever ? And it gave as of a general after victory, or rather a solemn occasion to the king to justify the dissolving, assertor of the people's liberty. I never knew saying, as in his declaration, That they re- the like in the case of a private person, except turned arbitrary orders for taking our subjects that of Dr. Sacheverel ; the latter run higher, into custody for matters that had no relation but the difference was only in majus et minus.
to privileges of parliament.–Strange illegal It was impossible a faction (without doors) "votes !- declaring divers persons to be ene should rage and tyrannise, as the party did
mies to the king and kingdom, without any about the beginning of this parliament, and • order or process of law, any hearing of their not lose the hold they had of the people, whom offence, or any proof so much as offered they had led into a tolerable opinion of them. against them.'
There was scarce a day past, but they were * The effect of these harsh proceedings ap- gratified with hearing some person was sent peared in the case of one Mr. Stavel, or Stowel,* for in custody for abhorring:
Sir George a gentleman of a good family in Devonshire. Treby said, they (meaning the House of ComHe was foreman of a grand jury at Exeter, and mons) kept an hawk, (which was their ser
jeant at arms) and they must every day proCommons Journal, “Sabbati, 4to die De- vide flesh for their hawk. I can better relate cembris, 1680, p. m. The House being in this for truth, because it was spoke to myself. formed that Mr. William Stawell, in custody The serjeant's name was Topham, and the of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House much work he had upon his hands, at this is sick, and not able to appear before this House, time, ad terrorem populi Regis,'had made Ordered, That Mr. Stawell have a month's time it proverbial, on all discourse of peremptory given him for such his appearance.” It seems commitments, to say take him Topham; probable that this entry relates to the person which, for ought I know to the contrary, mentioned by North. "Mr. Hume, indeed, 8 may, from that authentic original, continue Hist. 131. Ed. of 1807. tells us, that “ the a proverb at this day. Whatever the comvigour and courage of one Stowel, of Exeter, mitments were, the dread was almost unian Abhorrer, put an end to the practice” [of ar- versal; for after the vote, that traducing bitary and capricious commitments]. “He re- petitioning should be punished as a Breach fused to obey the serjeant at arms, stood upon of Privilege, who could say his liberty was his defence, and said, that he knew of no law his own? For, being named in the ilouse by which they pretended to coinmit him. The for an Abhorrer, take himn Topham.' But House finding it equally dangerous to proceed the consequence of this proceeding, as I have or to recede, got off by an evasion ; they insert- hinted it, may be a lesson to all powers, on ed in their vores that Stowel was indisposed, whatsoever foot they are erected, that they and that a month time was allowed him for take care to perform their duty according to the recovery of luis health.” He quotes no the intent of their institution, thereby making authority ; so that he “stood upon his defence,” themselves useful, and not a terror to the peo. and “ got clear off by an evasion," (no very ple under them; for it, instead of that, out of dignified historical phraseology), may perhaps private regards, they grow intemperate, irrebe mere inventive decoration.
gular, and injurious, they will lose ground, and at length be humbled, if not wholly lost.” North's Examen, p. 560.
These Reports are as follows: So, too, Burnet, 1 Own Times, 484, fol. ed. REPORTS from the Select COMMITTEE apof 1794:
pointed to consider of the Proceedings * The House did likewise send their serjeant had, and to be had, with reference to to many parts of England, to bring up abhor- the several Papers signed “ Francis Burrers as delinquents: upon which the right that DETT;" the Contents of which relate to they had to imprison any besides their own his being apprehended, and committed to members came to be much questioned, since the Tower of London. Together with an they could not receive an information upon APPENDIX. [As amended on Recommitcath, nor proceed against such, as refused to ment.] appear before them. In many places, those for
FIRST REPORT. whom they sent their serjeant refused to come up. It was found that such practices were
appears to your Committee, after referring grounded on no law, and were no elder than to the Order of the House of the 5th day of queen Elizabeth's time. While the House of April last, for the commitment of sir Francis Commons used that power gently it was sub- Burdett to the Tower ; the Warrants of the mitted to in respect to it; but now it grew to Speaker for that purpose; the Letter of sir be so much extended, that many resolved not Francis Burdett to the Speaker, dated the 17th to submit to it.” [Query, as to what Burnet day of April last; the Report and Examination Rys of the House of Commons not proceeding of the Serjeant at Arms, touching his proceedagainst such as refused to appear before them, ings in the execution of such warrants; the see the Proceedings in the Case of Jay and notices to the Speaker referred to your ComTepham, A. D. 1689, infra.] See, too, Ralph, mittee; the demand made upon the Serjeant 516, 517.
at Arms of a copy of the warrant under which
he arrested sir Francis Burdett; the writ: Much attention has been lately (I write in served upon the Serjeant, and the summons. the month of June 1810) directed to the topic served upon the Speaker, and the notice of Deof commitment by the House of Commons, claration filed against the Serjeant; which said in consequence of the publication of a Letter, notices, demand, writ and summons, are all at from “ Šir Francis Burdett to his Constituents the suit or on behalf of the said sir Francis Burdenying the power of the House of Commons dett, and all bear the name of the same solicitor, to imprison the people of England.” And in John Elis ; That the said proceedings have addition to the copious discussion of the sub- been brought against the Speaker, and the Serject in parliament, it has been ventilated from jeant, on account of what was done by them the press with much erudition. Mr. Williams respectively in obedience to the Order of the Wyan has published a learned “ Argument upon House; and for the purpose of bringing into the jurisdiction of the House of Commons to question, before a court of law, the legality of cornmit in cases of Breach of Privilege,” and the proceedings of the House in ordering the a powerful writer, (Mr.Evans) under the signa- commitment of sir Francis Burdett, and of the ture of Publicola' has published “ Six Letters conduct of the Speaker, and the Serjeant, in on the Liberty of the Subject and the Privileges obedience to that Order. of the House of Commons.” So likewise have 1. Your Committee, not in consequence of been published, “ The Speech of Mr. Ponsonby any doubt upon the question so intended to be on the question relative to the Privileges of the raised, but for the purpose of collecting into House of Commons as conected with the one view such Precedents of the proceedings committal of Sir Francis Burdett and Gale of the House upon cases of Breach of Privilege Jones; " " Speech of William Adam,'esq. &c.;" as might afford light upon this important sub* A Concise Account of the Origin of the two ject, have in the first place examined the JourHouses of Parliament, with an impartial State-nals, with relation to the practice of the House ment of the Privileges of the House of Com- in commitment of persons, whether members pions, and of the Liberty of the Subject, by or others, for Breaches of Privilege, by offenEdward Christian, esq. &c.”; “ The Law and sive words or writings derogatory to the honour Usage of Parliament in cases of Privileges and and character of the House, or of any of its Contempt, &c. by Francis Ludlow Holt, esq. ;" members; and they have found numerous in"A Vindication of the Privileges of the House stances, in the history of Parliament, so far as of Commons, &c. by Henry Madock, jun. the Journals extend, of the frequent, uniform, esq. ;" * The Qnestion considered: Has the and uninterrupted practice of the House of House of Commons a right of committal to Commons to commit to different custodies, prison, &c. by E. A. Burnaby, esq. ;” and an persons whom they have adjudged guilty of a anonymous "Short Examination into the power Breach of their Privileges by so offending. of the House of Commons to commit, in a Let- The statement of these Precedents, which ber to Sir Francis Burdett, bart.” The House establish the Law of Parliament upon this point of Commons also has, by Votes of 11th and 23d by the usage of Parliament: the utility of such May, 1910, caused to be printed the following law, and the necessity which exists for its condocuments :
tinuance, in order to maintain the dignity and
independence of the House of Commons ; its | 1640, the House of Commons, after a Report Analogy to the acknowledged powers of courts made of the state of the cases of Mr. Holles of justice, and the recognition of such right in and the rest of the imprisoned members, in the various instances, by legal authorities, by judi- 3rd of Charles, came to several Resolutions ; cial decisions, and by the other branch of the by which they resolved, That these proceedings legislature; as well as the invariable assertion were against the law and privilege of Parliaand maintenance of it by the House of Com- ment; and condemned the authors and actors mons, are topics which may be reserved for a in them as persons guilty of a breach of the further Report. And although there are some privilege of Parliament. [ü. Com. Jour. July instances in which the House has thought 6 and 8, 1641. State Trials, vol. 3, p. 310, of proper to direct prosecutions for such offences, this Collection.]. yet the Committee confidently state that the In the reign of Charles 2, these proceedings more frequent practice of the House, at all were again taken into consideration; and the times, has been to vindicate its own Privileges House of Commons came to several Resoluby its own authority.
tions. On the 19th of November, 1667, they 2. The subject which appears to your Com- resolved, That the act of Parliament in the 4th mittee to press most urgently for an immediate year of the reign of Henry 8, above referred report, is, The state of the law and the prac- to, is a declaratory law of the ancient and netice of the House in cases either of criminal cessary rights and privileges of Parliament. prosecution or civil action against any of its On the 23rd of November, 1667, they resolved, members, for any thing spoken or done in the That the Judgment above referred to against House of Commons ; or for any proceeding sir J. Elliot, D. Holles, and B. Valentine, esagainst any of its officers or other persons act- quires, in the King's-Bench, was an illegal ing under its authority.
Judgment; and on the 7th of December, 1667, The principal instances to be found under they desired the concurrence of the Lords. this head arose out of those proceedings, which, The Lords on the 19th of December agreed in the time of Charles the 1st, Charles the 2nd, with the Commons in these Votes. and James the 2nd, were instituted by the of
Your Committee next refer to the case of ficers of the crown, in derogation of the Rights sir William Williams; the detail of which tbey and Privileges of the Commons of England. proceed to insert from the Report of a former Those proceedings were resisted, and resented Committee of this House. [27 Mar. 1771. ii. by the House of Commons; were condemned Com. Rep. p. 11.) by the whole legislature, as utterly and di
• The Case of sir William Williams, against rectly contrary to the known laws and statutes
whom after the dissolution of the Parliament and freedom of this realm ; and led directly to • held at Oxford, an Information was brought the Declaration of the Bill of Rights, “ That by the Attorney General, in the King'sthe freedom of speech, and debates or proceed
Bench, in Trin. Term 36 Car. 2, for a misings in Parliament, ought not to be impeach- demeanor, for having printed the Information ed or questioned in any court or place out of against Thomas Dangerfield, which he had Parliament;" and your Committee have no
ordered to be printed when he was Speaker, hesitation in stating, that this article in the Billby Order of the House. Judgment passed of Rights extends as clearly to Actions or In- against him on this Information, in the 2nd dictments brought, or prosecutions by indivi- year of king James the 2nd. This proceedJuals, as to Informations or other proceedings ing the Convention Parliament deemed so directly instituted by the authority of the great a grievance, and so high an infringecrown.
•ment of the rights of Parliament, that it apThe Law of Parliament on this subject, so pears to your Committee to be the principal, far as relates to words spoken in Parliament,
• if not the sole object of the first part of the was legislatively declared in a statute to be eighth head of the means used by king James found in the Parliament Roll of the 4th of H.
" to subvert the laws and liberties of this king8: By that act, the rights and privileges of
• dom, as set forth in the Declaration of the free speech in Parliament are established, and
• two Houses; which will appear evident from & special action is given in favour of the party
• the account given in the Journal, 8th of Feb. injured by any action brought against him for * 1688, of the forming of that Declaration, the words spoken in Parliament. And, from this eighth head of which was at first conceived statute, it appears that Parliament at that time, in these words ; viz.“ By causing Inwhen the case occurred which seemed to shew
"s formations to be brought and prosecuted in the expediency of legislative provision to give
“ the Court of King's-Bench, for matters and faller force and protection to its privileges, made
“ causes cognizable only in Parliament, and hy it the subject of such provision.
“ divers other arbitrary and illegal courses." - In the 5th of Charles 1, an Information was 11th February 1688. “To this Article the filed against sir J. Elliot, Denzel Holles, esq. “ Lords disagreed; and gave for a reason, Beand Benjamin Valentine, for their speeches and “cause they do not fully apprehend what is conduct in the House of Commons; Judgment “ meant by it, nor what instances there have was given against them in the King's-Bench,
« been of it; which therefore they desire may they were sentenced to imprisonment, and
“ be explained, if the House shall think it to Were fined: In the Parliament which met in “ insist further on it.”