Page images

wanted for the church, for liberty or property, he came prepared on his part to assent to every reasonable request; and therefore he called on them also to do their duty by avoiding the causes of dissension between the houses, by making provision for the increase of the navy, by continuing the additional excise, and by granting a moderate supply towards the extinction of the public debt. Thus they would promote the peace, the safety, and the prosperity of the kingdom; and, if any of these ends were disappointed, he called on God and man to witness that he at least was free from the blame*.

In both houses the first question introduced was the effect of the long prorogation. In the commons the popular leaders proceeded with caution. Aware how unpalatable their new doctrine must be to the majority of the members, they contented themselves with suggesting an address for a dissolution, as the most eligible means of setting at rest the doubts which had arisen respecting the legality of their existence as an estate of parliament: but the house, after a long conversation, read a bill the first time according to custom, and postponed the consideration of the question to the following day p. In the lords the opponents of the court assumed a bolder tone. They promised themselves the support of the duke of York, of the catholic peers, and of all who, at the conclusion of the last session, had voted in favour of dissolution. Buckingham rose, and in a speech of considerable ingenuity and eloquence contended that the parliament had ceased to exist. As soon as he sate down, lord Frescheville moved that he should be called to the bar for the insult which he had offered to the house. The earl of Salisbury answered Frescheville with warmth and asperity, and was answered in his turn by lord Arundell of Trerice. Shaftesbury and Wharton supported the motion of Buckingham, and Finch, who had lately been raised to the

# L. Journ. xiii. 36.

+ Parl. Hist. iv. 825. 834. Marvel, i. 278.

A.D. 1677.]



higher dignity of chancellor, opposed it in a long and laboured harangue. His assertion that the qualification, " if need be,” referred to both parts of the act of Ed. ward III. savoured of special pleading: but he had certainly the advantage over his opponents, when he contended, that by the triennial act of the 16th of Charles I., the vacations of parliament had been extended to three years; and that, if that act had been repealed, another of similar import had been substituted for it, and was at that very moment the law of the land. The debate continued five hours: but, as soon as the proceedings in the house of commons were known, the ministerial lords called for the question: the motion of Buckingham was negatived; and he, with Salisbury, Shaftesbury, and Feb Wharton, were ordered to retract their opinion, to ac- 16 knowledge that their conduct was “ill-advised,” and to beg pardon of the king and the house. On their re- 17. fusal all four were committed to the Tower, to remain there till they should be discharged by the order of those whom they had offended. This decision had a considerable influence on the debate of the following day in the house of commons, where the popular party found themselves in a minority of 142 to 193 *.

The arbitrary imprisonment of the four peers spread dismay through the ranks of the opposition, while it freed the lord treasurer from the most formidable of his opponents in the upper house. He knew that it was their object to remove him from office, and to force on the king a new administration formed out of their own party; and he therefore made it his policy to defeat their intrigues, by seeking to retain the favour of the sovereign, and to acquire that of the people. For the first he had only to relieve the royal indigence by competent supplies of money : with a view to the second he had all along

• Parl. Hist. iv. 814. 824. Hatsell, ii. App. 5. Life of James, i. 504. 557. North, 65. Macpherson, 84. Burnet, ii. 105. 109. Marvel, i. 280. 530. 532. Buckingham slipped out of the house, but surrendered himself the next day.

displayed an ardent zeal for the suppression of popery, and now obtained permission to bring forward a plan for the security of the established church. His adver. saries on the contrary resolved to embarrass all his measures by the obstinacy of their opposition, to cast doubts and ridicule on his zeal against popery, and to urge the popular cry for a war with France, at the same time refusing the necessary supplies, as long as they would have to pass through the hands of a minister who possessed not the confidence of parliament. These remarks will enable the reader to understand the mancuvres of the

two parties during this session*. Feb.

1. The securities for the church, which had been de24.

vised in a meeting with the bishops at Lambeth, were embodied in two bills, of which the first applied to the succession of a catholic prince, and proposed to enact that on the demise of a king regnant the bishops should tender a declaration against transubstantiation to the new sovereign, and at the end of fourteen days should certify into chancery, whether he had subscribed it or not. If he had not, 1. They were empowered, on every vacancy of a bishopric, to name three persons, of whom, unless the king should select one within thirty days, the first on the list should take possession of course: 2. The two archbishops were authorised to present to al benefices in the gift of the crown lying within their respective provinces : 3. The children of the king from the age of seven to fourteen were to be placed under the guardianship of the two primates, and of the bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, and after that age to be attended only by persons approved by the major part of the same prelates. The other bill, under the title of an act for the more effectual conviction and prosecution of

• Charles in a conversation with Temple ackuowledged that among his opponents there were many that meant honestly, but said that “the heats " and distem pers of late had been raised by some factious leaders, who " thought more of themselves than of anything else, and had a mind to

engage him in a war, and then leave him in it, anless they might have " their terms in removing and filling of places.” Temple, ii. 411.

A.D. 1677.]



popish recusants, provided that all catholics, who should enrol themselves as recusants, should pay a yearly fine of the twentieth part of their incomes, to form a fund for the support of poor converts to the protestant faith; and should, on that condition, be exempt from all other penalties except the incapacity of executing any office civil or military, of being guardians or executors, or of entering the court without licence; that laymen, the perverters of protestants, should have the option of abjuring the realm; that clergymen, convicted of having received orders in the church of Rome, might at his majesty's pleasure be imprisoned for life, instead of suffering the punishment of treason; and that the children of catholic parents deceased should be educated in the reformed faith*.

When these bills were transmitted to the lower house, Mar, they met with an indignant reception. The first, by ad- 15. mitting the possibility of a catholic successor, tended to subvert the projects of those, who sought the exclusion of the duke of York. They suddenly became supporters of the rights of the crown. The bill, they maintained, despoiled the sovereign of his ecclesiastical supremacy, and vested it in the bishops ; their objections were echoed by the friends of the duke; and the house, having honoured the bill with two readings, allowed it to sleep 27. unnoticed during the remainder of the session. The second was treated with less ceremony. Fortunately for the catholics it had alarmed the prejudices of the zealots, who could not be persuaded that by mitigating the severity, they might ensure the execution, of the penal laws. They insisted that the catholic clergyman should con- April tinue to be subject to the penalty of death, and the ca- 4. tholic layman to the forfeiture of two-thirds of his property: these were barriers to restrain the diffusion of popery erected by the wisdom of their ancestors, and to * L. Journ. xiii. 48, et seq: Macpherson, 83. Marvell, i. 313. 554. 369. Against the first of these bills James and twelve other peers entered their protests, and lord Stafford his against the second. Journ. 75. 92.



remove them would be to concur in the toleration of a false and idolatrous worship. • Is there a man in this house," exclaimed a voice, “that dares to open his mouth in support of such a measure?" A pause ensued; the advocates of the bill were silent; it was accordingly rejected; and as an additional stigma, the cause of rejection, contrary to all parliamentary precedent, was

entered on the journals, that the title of the bill meant April one thing, and the body another. At the same time

they passed and sent to the house of lords a bill devised by themselves, " to prevent the growth of popery,” enacting that the refusal to subscribe the test against transubstantiation should be taken for a conviction of

recusancy. But the lords resented the manner in which 13. they had been treated; and though the commons sent May two messages to call their attention to the bill, declined 26.

to give it so much as a single reading*.

2. When the king received in January a portion of his annual pension from France, the whole sum was immediately devoted to the purchase of votes in the house of commons. The consequence was that, on questions of finance, the minister commanded a majority of about thirty voices. The additional excise, which Charles had mentioned in his speech, was voted to continue for three years, and the sum of 600,000l. was granted towards the support of the navy. The French ministers received the intelligence with some uneasiness; for they were aware of Danby's engagements to the prince of Orange, and feared that, with so large a sum of money at his disposal, he might induce the king to join the allies. But they were undeceived by Ruvigny; and the event justified his predictions. Before the bill passed the house, the whole was appropriated to particular purposes, the receivers were instructed to pay the money to certain officers, and these

• C. Journ. March 27, April 4. L. Journ. xiii. 114. 126. Parl. Hist, iv. 853. 861. Marvell, i. 285. 314. Both houses, however, concurred in one point respecting religion, which was the abolition of the writ de hæretico comburendo L. Journ. 120.

« PreviousContinue »